The Sicilian War of Independence - from it's vassals - was a curious affair.
After a century of carping and plotting independence, no sooner was it granted than all the pygmies started bleating and wanting to come home to daddy.
And like most Empires, or indeed parents, I took a paternalist attitude to the separation. Not wanting to see the newly freed vassals immediately sink.
The African colonies, of Tunis, Tripolitania, and Cyrenica played the game, prefering to sit quiet and nation build, rather than see independence as an opportunity to flex their muscles. Perhaps because they were the most stable, and least contested.
The Greeks however took a very different attitude. No sooner had they been granted independence than they declared war on Phillopolis, an independent state, run by a Karling, which if truth be told had been an irritant for a number of years, through not so irritating that I felt the need to scratch it. However the Greeks received a bit of shock when the day after their declaration of war, I declared a de jure war for Bari, and as a short and sharp introduction the harsh world of power politics, sent an army of 20,000 to Greece to wipe out their army.
Things then got worse for them when Serbia and Bulgaria joined the war on the side of Phillopolis, leaving the Greeks with no army, facing an army of 20,000 in Phillopolis defying them to fight, and me in Italy sieging Bari, Syracuse and the Duchy of Spoleto - the two former counties having historical ties to Greece, the latter Duchy being apparently part of Greece - and later Africa, and Cyprus, for reasons best know to the game, and the way it deals with de jure and de facto realms.
Oh wait, more trouble for the Greek King, 20,000 Greek Indepence rebels sprung up in his home Duchy of Achia, so that's 40,000 troops in Greece he has to fight, and I have destroyed his army.
But paternalism kicked in, and while he kacked his pants, and desperately sent out calls for allies, I set a force to kill off the rebels - whilst scrupulously avoiding staying out of his wars - not that I could as I was one of those attacking him.
With Bari secured, a change of Duke allowed Syracuse to return to the fold.
This turned out to be doubly fortunate as it coincided with the administrative reformation within Sicily afforded by the acquisition of castles in the home provinces of Salerno and Naples/Capua, meant that Sicily could be formed into a Duchy, and ruled as a vassal Dukedom. The unfortunate thing about this was that it coincided with the reign of an Italian Anti-Pope, which combined with the ongoing Maltese iconoclastic movement would lead tot he isalnd of Sicily suffering a rather serious outbreak of heresy among the ruling elites.
Eventually the Greeks were forced to sue for peace with Phillopolis, and the king, Gentile, was forced to accept that though he might be called king, the chances of him actually being king and ruling a united realm were at best slim, Not least because of the states in Greece, his was in real terms the weakest. The real power lying in Nikea, both military and diplomatic. And the Nikeans, attitude to the new king was pretty much as it had been when the kingdom was held by the Sicilian Republic, they wanted independence.
The Greek Kings problems were further compounded when an outbreak of infighting in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, led to a number of deaths, which in turn led to the Duchy of Ephisus going to the King of Jeruslam, as well as a number of smaller Greek titles.
And then around 1210, it happened, the long awaited - by me, the newly independent kingdoms appeared to never heard the term Jihad - occured. And rather like my surreptitious descruction fo the Greek rebels, which saved the Greek kingdom from still-birth, I answered the call, and with papal money, and my own sent troops to the Holy land to stem the flood.
Having already successively fought off three Jihads, so I was aware of the magnitude of the task before me, so to be on the safe side I raised all my shipping - around 500 ships - and in 2 trips dispatched every available mercenary to the Holy land, with small forces being sent to Algeria, and Egypt to create a diversion.
Having 90,000+ men in a land in which the counties can only support @17.000, and moving them in a co-ordinated manner, to coalesce into big battles of 40,000+, and then disperse to not die of starvation through of lack of supply, was a huge task - made all the more difficult by allies marching to the sound of the guns, thus hampering the supply issues, and an outbreak of disease. After 18 months of semi successful campaigning which had beaten off three larges attacks on Jerusalem and driven the Islamic forces back in Egypt, it was obvious that the forces were spent. Some of the mercenary units were reduced to 10th of their starting size. And, having already raised all available forces, there wasn't an army of any size available for hire.
Money was certainly not an issue the Pope was happy to pay, sending 20,000 or 30,000 gold over the time period of this first active phase. And the arrival in the east of the Mongols had drawn off some troops, but not enough.
In a huff I did what no Polkarios Doge had done for 200 years, I scrolled into the map as tight as I could and sheltered beneath the imposing might of the Salerno mountains to hide from the world.
Only in Algeria was any progress made, with the forces sent to block troops from the western Abbasid empire being sent to the jihad - and make a bit of money from loot and ransom - more than holding their own. This combined with the Jihadis not sticking to their task, of sieging Jerusalem, instead preferring to chase units of 50 and 100 men around the general area with armies of 18,000.
And each time a holding fell in Algeria, the warscore went in our favour.
'Ok' I thought, 'let's destroy the western Abbasid empire.'
And that's what we did. 40, 000 men were sent, sieging 8 provinces at a time, in a rolling wave of destruction. The damage being further compounded when the Abbasids starting sending armies across the desert to challenge this systematic and total desolation of their lands. By the time these forces had crossed the desert, they were reduced to half of their number, and easily defeated by fresh units of mercenaries sent out to the add to plague of locusts eating the Abbasids from the inside out.
Even with the Holy land pretty much uncontested, bar the small forces raised by the pygmies and the Holy Orders, the warscore was in our favour, alternating between 20 and 30%, as couty after county fell in the west,
And all the while the Pope was happy to foot the bill.
It was not a quick task, but it was extremely effective. In an effort to put a stop to it, the Abbasids started sending men by sea, but they were dealt with in the same way as those who crossed the desert. There wasn't even any need to chase them. Once beaten they set off back towards their home land, and again suffering heavily through lack of supply.
It was an almost perfect method of warfare.
The Caliph must have been pulling out his hair, as what should have been a short campaign and easy victory against an ill prepared and fractious foe, dragged on for two years, and then five, and seven, and then a decade.
I started sending forces east when we reached the Morrocan border, to add to the swelling forces undertaking the same exercise in Egypt. In hindsight this was perhaps a mistake, as I should have disbanded and re-raised them and sent them by sea to Benghazi, But no matter after 12 years the Caliph might hold Jerusalem - or to be precise one holding in Jersualam - as the AI was still having problems sticking to it's task, prefering to run round with a giant newspaper trying to swat the flies of the small forces sent form the nearly independent states and Duchies, to aid their ally - but the warscore was no more than 10% in his favour - due to battle points - and the Mongols had taken Damascus.
At which point we come to the that dreaded words - over-confidence and impatience.
Having managed to drag the Jihad into the Trojan Wars - the war had now lasted around 18 years,
Once more I had employed every mercenary available. All the provinces of Northern Egypt were under siege, and the task was between 1/3 and 1/2 complete in taking every single holding. But I also had forces moving from the west - some having to come from as far as the Malian border - but now it was my turn to get distracted by the circling forces from sticking to the task.
I certainly held the upper hand. At the entrance to the Sinai I had a forces of 17,000, behind them, in the three connecting provinces, I had 17,000 men. In order to attack the Abbassids would have to pass through 2 connecting provinces to reach the bottle neck I was holding. Therefore, effectively, I could bring 68,000 into battle should the Abbasids be tempted into the attack.
A couple of times I sense they were going to go for, as forces moved down from the north and from the east to move into support of the 34,000 they had in the area. As many as 90,000 men were moving into attack positions, when suddenly they moved off to the east, disappearing intot he fog of war. This move co-incided with the news that two Sultans in that area had gone over to the Mngols.
Now was the chance I thought, after 18 years of war, now at last I had the chance to break through to Jerusalem, that that solitary siege, throw the warscore back in my favour, and force the Caliph to admit defeat.
I waitied, maybe six months, to give those forces that had moved away chance to get well away. and then I advanced - the troops from the west had by now reached the war-zone and were taking over the siege duties, freeing more troops to move up to join the attack. In all about 55,000 men were availble.
The plan was pure WWI, bite and hold tactics. The army would jump forward and lay siege to the two provinces, immediately to the front. A small force would take out a flanking province, in which there was a force of some 8,000 men who were rebels from a revolt in Baghdad. Then the rest of the army was to pass though and lay siege to the next two provinces. With the intention that as more men moved came in from the west, they would be fed through this rolling barrage, until our entire army - the fighting strength in the Holy land - if all went well would around 80,000 - with around 25,000 carrying on the siege in Egypt - and this 80,000 would be within easy march of each other.
And even better the only allies in the area were fighting in Anatolia, and Northern Syria, so they wouldn't get in the way and create problems with supply.
I even went to the trouble of timing marches so that units passing through the Sinai bottle neck would not drain each others supplies, thus arriving at their destination in top fighting condition.
Had I left things to run as planned, perhaps things would have worked. But as we moved forward the fog of war lifted, revealing medium to large troops units - nothing massive or that couldn't be handled - but instead of sticking to the plan, I started reacting to the threats, and soon there was no plan - just units moving in uncoordinated fashion, with the result that after a few units got isolated, and were not able to march in support of the battle, we were drawn into battle and despite inflicting heavy casualties, we were forced to retreat badly bloodied.
At which point after nearly twenty years of fighting, and with the prospect of twenty more looming, I decided enough was enough. I painted a huge box over all the troops in Egypt, and ordered them to march against the stack of shattered, exhausted - and victorious - Abbasids - claearly they did the same, because what resulted was an epic battle in which around 60-70,000 troops on each side were fed piece meal into a blender, in which never less that 25,000 were fighting at one time, and over the space of perhaps a month, the forces of Christendom came out victorious.
And totally incapable of continuing the fight.
Units that should have had 10,000 men were reduced to 200.
And as I looked towards Jerusalem I could see more Muslim units gathering, numbering several thousand. I checked the book strength of the Caliph's army, his top levy was around 160,000, he had available less than 15,000.
The warscore stood at 23% in his favour. So shattered were my mercenaries that I guessed it would take a year to 18 months to get a decent force together again.
I was by no means defeated,
But two things factors led me to dismiss my troops and retreat back behind the Salerno mountains - possibly to try again.
The first was the Mongols, who had by now taken Damascus, and on a broad front were within two and three counties of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. They were, and are, an unknown quantty, and not one that at time I wanted to face - particularly in defence of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
The second was the general childishness of my newly independent allies.
So focused had I been in the past twenty years fighting against the Jihad, that I had paid only passing interest in events at home. But when I discovered that the King of Greece, had taken the opportunity to take control of my castles in Capua and Naples, and that the King of Jerusalem had set up a merchant republic in Epiros, and that the Duchy of Tunis was now at war with the Ducjy of Tripolitania.... and on and on was this list of just pointless and stoopid this that this bunch of imbeciles had been up while my back was turned.
It was a joyful moment when I dismissed the troops and left them to it. And as luck would have it the Doge dropped down dead, and the new Doge did not inherit the Jihad - though he did get the Pope's money - and it was no problem at all to decline the request to join the fight againt the Jihad.
And then six months later it was all over, ironically at roughly the point the tax and levy penalties lapsed, the Kingdom of Jerusalem was reduced to a single county, in addition to the Duchy of Ephisus, with that Merchant republic in Epiros.
And given that the King of Jerisalem was the same whiney toe rag who all those years before had wound me up with his pointless plotting, it was no problem at all to declare an embargo war on him and flattent he Duchy of Ephisus, He gave in when I sent 30,000 troops to his sole county in Jerusalem, and he had the sense to shut down the merchant republic.
Next on my list was Greece, who had also been doing something with Merchant republic's though I am not sure what, because one of my trade posts had disappeared, and a new family had set themselves up, they were in my republic screen, but based in a county of Greece (sans trade post) - at one point two additional families appeared, both in this Greek province. Making them difficult to plot to kill.
I had long since had enough of the King of Greece, and this merchant business was the last straw. I declared war, probably for the kingdom of Greece, as by this time I still had plenty of people who had a claim on the independent kingdoms, including my Duke. The war was predictably short, and when I won I destroyed the title, thinking that it would be the end of it, and the Italian provinces, and the castles would return to Sicily.
But no, they now went to Africa, and instead all the Greek provinces were now part of the Kingdom of Sicily. Oh and you can't declare war on Africa, because you are on a truce with them due to their being the Kingdom of Greece in the last war.
So I gave independence once more to the Greeks - again.... if any of them wanted to be king of Greece, then it was up to them to win the wars and get the titles.
I did have a celebratory cigar when I learned the news that former King Gentile 'the Apostle' had died in the dungeon of some minor Sheik or another - I know he is family and all, but it couln't have happened to a nicer guy.
The next period of history bordered on the bizarre.
Despite the King of Cyprus and the King of Africa being feudal rulers, of independent kingdoms, instead of their eldest son or whoever being their heir, they had the same heir as me.
Now no doubt this is to do with their kingdoms being established as republics, and no doubt their is some way or another that I am to blame for not setting the succession laws, but whatever, it just made me more deteremined than ever to once and for all get rid of them.
Doing so was no big deal, because to win the war I needed only to siege the Duchy of Spoleto, the two castles, and defeat whatever forces they could put into the field, usually no more than five thousand men.
And so it was that in 1243, the Republic of Africa was destroyed, followed in 1244 by the Republic of Cyprus, I didn't bother about the whole breaking the truce thing, I wanted them gone, and I was less than impressed by their dance of the seven veils trick to stop me attacking them.
Everything and everything that was not in Italy, and could be made independent, was given independence, and finally, after 40 years Sicily was free.
Ironically, probably 3/4 of that 40 years had been taken up with fighting to save the states that I was now so glad to be rid of.
And as is the way with Crusader King II, no sooner did one problem reach a resolution, than a new and potentially more serious one raised it's head.... heresy....