In Imperial Ambitions, think Game of Thrones meets Holy Roman Empire, players are part of a noble house looking to take control and influence an ever changing empire. Each team has three players- a noble of the court, ambassador, and general. As a live role playing and strategy game it is played out over a number of turns. With each team planning real time, making alliances, using spy-craft and taking to the field of battle.
Yours truly, being a wargaming enthusiast is playing the part of the General for the noble house of Essen.
At the start of the game Essen has one of the strongest standing armies- a full compliment of knights, infantry, and archers. The other houses would be pressed for a few turns to raise the coin needed to build armies, and at the same time it was going to cost Essen a good amount of gold to upkeep our army.
The dead cost nothing.
As the general my plan was to immediately take the field and attack into one of the weaker neighboring houses. Lightning war was the inspiration, roll in and take the entire house in two turns. See if we could hold it, if not loot what we can and fall back to our lands destroying the main bridge on the way back.
Pay some coin to the church to gain an indulgence, and pay off the Emperor of the realm to look the other way.
The invasion was a success with none of the other houses expecting an attack, I crushed my way in capturing all the territory short of the main noble citadel which was going to be attacked next turn.
Unexpectedly ALL of the other houses turned on us, or should we expected a united front? I figured a few would, but most would sit it out and see what other opportunities were created by our action. The Emperor ordered us to halt, and stop creating instability in the realm, the church had the audacity, and arrogance to accuse me of war crimes, and our noble”allies” to the north invaded our territory and took what they could.
Pulling back to our lands I dug in and worked to push out the other houses while our team ambassador and noble in court pushed our agenda of conquest through diplomacy and other means. Continuing to be attacked by all five houses, we petitioned the Emperor to halt the attack, that we had paid the price, and swear to do no more harm to the realm.
I even offered to put our armies at the command of the Emperor to subdue the pagan lands to the north as a way to keep our armed forces intact and buy time.
What choice was I given?
What would you have done?
With our military battered, but still strong, House Essen would march on the capital and replace the Emperor (below) with our own noble lady, crowing the first Empress of the realm and taking control of the realm with myself and our ambassador, until things could calm down a bit…
On the diplomatic side we first had to establish cause to remove the Emperor and protect the realm, and being a real-time game, our own ambassador had a BRILLIANT plan. We wrote up some fake letters, signing them from some of the other houses in the game, talking about plans to move on the Emperor and how he was illegitimate and part of a pagan cult, stealing gold from the church, and all that. Fold the letters up, and when nobody was looking leave them in the hall and other place for the other teams to “find”.
Others found them, never suspecting us, and began to doubt the Emperor and church.
Our lady to the court also stopped paying taxes to the Emperor in defiance and I marched on the capital laying siege to the walls of the palace itself- very Horus Heresy stuff.
But in the end, with literally everybody in the game against us, we just couldn’t pull it off. Retreating back into or lands, having our rival houses take key territories, and decimating our military.
If given the chance to rule supreme, would you not have taken it?
FIVE entire houses, and dozens of real players united against the three of us controlling House Essen.
We dealt one last blow by sending an assassin to kill the Emperor, and at least removed him from the throne to the great surprise of everybody.
NOW, twenty years later we begin the second game a few months later with the following briefing…
Essen is weak, gold poor, one of cities and citadels taken from us by our “friends”, and reduced to a back-water power.
Returning as the general with the same team of players, I have a NEW plan of conquest on the wargame side of the game.
First is raising the GOLD to pay for an army- buying it and up-keeping it. We don’t have the land resources to sell grain or other natural goods, and naturally the new Emperor will want his due in taxes.
What does that leave for rebuilding our military?
First order of military business is to establish a school in our domain to begin a MASSIVE counterfeiting operation: drilling out coins and filling with lead, shaving off gold, plating lead, and all that good stuff. Taxes, tithes, and upkeep will come from this, diverting the REAL gold to the military.
I’ll keep my starting units “as-is” on the map, but secretly build up more knights and heavy infantry, but keep them hidden, from the other generals on the map.
Hide them as farmers, workers, and vagabonds.
Essen will look weak, but in one turn can field overwhelming might.
Second order of business is to send word to the pagans in the north and hire their choicest alchemists and practitioners of the black arts and set up a secret biological weapons program- black plague, rat-flu, and the like.
Being a real time game of only X number of turns, when we move into the end game and there are not so many turns left to act and launch an effective counter attack, I will unleash our biological weapons onto the city and citadel taken from us last game before marching with my now revealed army to take them back in the name of what is rightfully ours and restoring order. I also plan to unleash it on the noble house to the south who lied to me in the last game, never coming to our aid, despite diplomatic ties as payback in kind.
What happens on the diplomatic and noble court side of my team I’ll have to let you know…
This is how it played out in the second part of the mega game…
Representing the noble House of Essen I was playing the role of the general- lord commander of the armies on the realm, my other team mates were play the role of ambassador to the court, and diplomat.
In the above map the red outlined territory is controlled by House Essen and our goals for the game were to reclaim the lost keep on the bottom, and to reclaim land from House Imbrose which is the yellow border to the right- both which were lost in the last game when we tried to take the throne from the Emperor by force and everybody turned against us.
As lord commander, my plan was to build up our army in secret, buying units and keeping them hidden as farmers, and commoners so they wouldn’t appear on the map. Over the course of the game I would secretly mass them on the border and towards the end of the game launch a massive end game attack to take back our keep and lands.
We needed money to do this, so turn one we spent what gold we had to set up a counterfeiting operation to produce faked coins. With the income we received from our lands we would pay our army, and with the fake money we would pay our imperial taxes and use to bribe traitors and turncoats in the other houses.
This solved the problem encountered in the first game- it was impossible to generate enough money from one’s land to pay both the army, and imperial taxes.
Slowly I rearmed in secret…
Surprisingly we were left totally alone for the first few turns. Nobody moved against us, invaded our lands, or considered us a threat- all of the other houses were busy vying for power or dealing with pushing other agendas to try and take the throne of the Emperor.
Our team was the same players who played last time, and we all know what Essen was capable of?
Being so weak, why not finish us off.
As we gained more coin it was time to start the second phase of our plan- biological weapons. One can’t be a proper super power city state if you don’t have nuclear weapons- and being the “middle ages” bio-weapons where the order of the day.
Sending word to the heretic lands of the south we hired the worst of the alchemists and necromancers skilled in the dark arts.
The deal was Faustian.
Develop the black-plague and the worst of the plagues of Pharaoh and in return whatever is needed for such “experiments” will be granted. Freed from the restrictions of the “church” such a visionary would be free to pursue the work in an matter, as long as Essen got its weapons.
As the general, once they were ready I planned to deploy them before marching in with our suddenly revealed army.
…while the other houses continued to ignore us, and a few of them even joining in the west to march of the capital and take the throne of the Emperor.
Which put us in a VERY difficult place politically…
Join the rebellion in the west and now have those in the east attack us, ruining our plans.
Join with the Emperor and resist the rebellion, but be forced to divert money and parts of or army (which were revealed), while making enemies of the other houses going against the Emperor.
We sided with the Emperor, with the promise of land in the west from one of the traitor houses when the rebellion was crushed.
We waited our time, saying we would help, but not really helping, saying we needed time to rearm since we didn’t have much of an army- despite sitting on one of the largest in the game- just in secret.
There was so much chaos from the other houses, the church, and something about prophets that again nobody really called us out, on well doing nothing- kind of like the ultimate politician.
But then things took a turn for the worst, the houses joined in rebellion had amassed a huge army, taking losses and refilling the ranks the next season and were at the palace gates, the Emperor was in trouble and was demanding we help. Our other “allies” were under attack, and it was only a matter of time before the rebellion marched on us…
Where were they getting the gold to maintain such a massive army?
(Turn out they bribed the royal treasurer with real time snacks to funnel them money from the treasury.)
It was time, a bit sooner vs. when planned, but there was also opportunity. With all the armies on the capital and all of the houses weakened, we gave the word to release our biological weapons, while secretly sealing our border with order to not let anybody in- or out.
One by one the lands in the other houses became infected and pox-ridden. The capital was laid to waste, armies fell ill, while the battle continued, yet weakened. Everybody was searching for a cure, plague had come to the realm and was consuming everything…
…but house Essen.
Now arriving at the last few game turns, we again launched the plague to retake our lost lands while our “hidden” army rose up and marched, but it really wasn’t needed, the land was laid to waste, and there wasn’t much of a resistance.
Nobody knew until the end of the game, when all is reveled that we started the plague.
In the end we regained or lost keep, secured new titles, and were granted extensive new lands in the West as a reward for the emperor…
The narrative write up is below from my excellent friends DAVE who ran the event. He and the entire GM team ran a flawless experience, and knowing his plans for continued big games and ambitious projects, I’m sure its only a matter of time for Imperial Ambitions 3.
For IA 3, how are we going to top a biological weapons program and counterfeiting ring?