Monday, April 25, 2016

Constitutions Oath

Barcelona, 6th March 1714

Princess Elisenda took advantage of a break in the Commons session for sitting in a quiet room and recap while sipping a cup of hot chocolate. The last days were being particularly stressful, not only for the endless and tense meetings with the French and Spanish delegates. Moreover, the political preparations for the investiture session had been quite exhausting too. The reason why was Her forecast oath of Catalonia's Constitutions, that had to be done prior to being solemnly crowned as Princess.

Since Middle Ages, it was a tradition that every new sovereign had to swear the Constitutions as a prerequisite to being crowned. The trick there was that the Commons used to take advantage of the opportunity for "updating" them --that is, for adding new rights and privileges proposals, that had to be negotiated by the new sovereign for obtaining the Parliament public support. And against all odds, negotiations were being harsh and rough.

Little trouble had Elisenda in gaining the full support of the Commons Military Arm, thanks to the joint efforts of Her many supporters there. Nor was too difficult to earn the Ecclesiastical Arm acquiescence, albeit in exchange for certain tax exemptions, as well as for granting to Tarragona and Urgell bishoprics political control of their respective Vegueries (=Shires). However, it was the Royal, or People's Arm under hegemony of the Busca Republicans, that proved more intransigent than expectable. Demands of Barcelona and Mataró Mayors were so distressing that Elisenda suspended negotiations with both; so that they retaliated by refusing to fund the infantry regiments traditionally belonging to them. The threat of a majority negative vote became ominously aparent.

However, tireless mediation of Her supporters was able to turn things around, adding to their ranges the Shires of Girona, Tortosa, Lleida and Berga in exchange for tax reductions; this allowed the Princess party to restore the balance between supporters and detractors. And last, Elisenda earned an ultimate majority vote thanks to a maneuver of Her own also securing the support of Manresa and Empordà Shires --in the latter case, after promising foundation of a Military Academy in Figueres.

Besides, several of the supporting Shires agreed to share the necessary fundings for the Army. An ultimate agreement was met in the end, so that Princess Elisenda had just sworn the renewed Constitutions and received the Parliament's approval. Coronation date had already been set for 21 March. She had succeeded, but felt now tired and discouraged.

Elisenda drained the cup from a last sip and stood up again. The Two Crowns Delegates would be already waiting for Her, probably. It would be wise not to let them wait.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Under inspection (1)

Barcelona, 2nd March 1714

Here you have the status of the Catalan Cavalry before and after the 1714 reform, shown as a uniforms and flags plates compared collection:

In the scene below, this is what Duke of Popoli sees after his cursory inspection.

Despite the lounge is large and beautifully illuminated through large windows, its atmosphere has become dense and thick. Around the large central oak table sit the delegates Duke of Berwick (France), Duke of Popoli (Spain) and Marshal Villarroel (the Principality), each one accompanied by a senior officer and several secretaries.

Courteous ways have been lost long ago, and delegates are heatedly, loudly arguing when Princess Elisenda enters the wide room. She discreetly stands there until the men notice Her. They then stand up and salute courteously at the young princess – all, except for the Duke of Popoli, who remains seated showing a surly air.

--Thanks Honorable Milords, please do not stop for me. Don't you get tired either, Signore Restaino –She answers to the gentlemen before interpellating the Duke of Popoli using his first name. The alluded blushes intensely but does nothing to mend the attitude.

Princess Elisenda seats by Marshall Villarroel and gracefully says: --Please, gentlemen. As if I wasn't here.

Duke of Popoli clenches teeth and resumes his talk to Marshall Villarroel, shaking a wad of printed paper before him: --Prior to the truce you Catalans had 8 regiments of horse, and after the reform there are 6 still. Might I know what do you mean for "a half"?

--I'd suggest you to read the full text body, rather than just taking a glance to the headline, Popoli –-Villarroel grimly replies--. Our regiments were 2 squadrons strong each, and are 1 now. So before the truce we had 12 full squadrons and 2 independent companies at hand; after the reform there are 6 squadrons left. Isn't it the half perhaps?

--Certainly, Sir. But don't forget to explain that your Hussars Regiment seems to have vanished from lists! --Popoli exclaims in turn.

Princess Elisenda then unexpectedly talks: --It has been transferred to Mallorca. The Regiment is no longer ours but under imperial service, flying the colours of Emperor Charles. The point is that the Principality once controlled 2,640 war horses, while now 1,320 only.

"... Besides of a 920 horses stock for breeding and Reserve, thanks to that same number of licensed or invalid veterans ...", Villarroel thinks shyly.

Duke of Popoli snorts soundly but keeps silent when realizes how the Duke of Berwick courteosly nods, giving as closed the discussion. The French marshal then says: -–I'm glad we've met an understanding on the matter, then. Let's start the infantry listings?

Something in Berwick's expression makes Elisenda understand he's caught the gamble. "He's aware I'm going to be appointed Vicereyne of Majorca, undoubtedly; but Popoli doesn't". She simply returns back to Berwick a winsome smile.

My Catalan Cavalry consisted of 66 figures. I first retired the Hussars Regiment from listings, so as to symbolize its transfer to Majorca. This meant 10 figures less. Then I rolled one D6 for each horseman figure left according to the table in my previous posting, with the following result:

  • Licensed: 16
  • Invalids: 7
  • Available: 33
One of the Dragoons Regiments was then disbanded (DR4) and 30 out of the 33 figures available were evenly distributed among the surviving units. Three remaining figures were used to create a new Guard Cuirassiers Squadron (which as a matter of fact is at half the theoretical strength of a squadron)

The gamble here is that Catalan Institutions are eluding the responsibility of including one Horse regiment in their compulsory reform, by transferring it into Imperial service in Majorca. However, as Princess Elisenda is to become Imperial Vicereyne of the island too, in the practice the unit keeps being at Her disposal. This doesn't prevent the forces in Majorca to be reformed too --but at the Viceroyalty's expense, not Catalonia's own.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Post-war (and 4): Next game!

I would reveal no secret if I stated that Gibraltar was taken in 1704 by an Anglo-Dutch fleet on behalf of Archduke Charles Habsburg. By virtue of Utrecht Treaty (1713) it was agreed the enclave to come under British sovereignty, as most already know for sure. But, did you know that Gibraltar kept being ruled by an Austro-Catalan governor until 1719, when he was finally substituted? Besides, I've recently learnt that right after the rock conquest, a group of Catalan businessmen created there a West Indies trading company, that was christened as Companyia Nova de Gibraltar (1709). We're going to combine and cook at will both curious stories as a starting point for an epic adventure in the Spanish Main, starred by an audacious band of Catalan settlers. Such campaign will be mostly RPG driven, with some wargaming sideshow around. Still doubtful about what RPG ruleset to use --however, GURPS keeps being a likely candidate for the job.

While the RPG campaign is being gamed, we'll start studying a wargaming campaign centered in an eventual What-if Catalan intervention in the Ottoman-Venetian War (one that nobody in this Imagi-Nation setting suspects is going to start, of course). We're planning to use some kind of campaign management software for handling the intervention strategical level, perhaps Berthier. Regular battles will be fought using Beneath the Lily Banners for sure; or if skirmishes, an adaption of Games Workshop's LOTR, probably.

Naval encounters are likely to happen in both campaigns, so we're in the need to choose an appropriate ruleset for them. Galleys and Galleons from Ganesha Games maybe? In any case, it's likely for the RPG campaign above to last some time --enough for taking decisions on the wargaming one, I hope.

However, none of both campaigns is going to be the next game we shall play; for we ought first to face the challenge of reducing an already small army. And how should it be done, I wondered at first? Well, what I finally devised consists of... throwing lots of dice! (quite original, don't you believe?).

Accordingly to the terms imposed by Louis XIV, the 1713 Catalan Army had to be halved in strength. Having this in mind, then I decided to check every unit in the Army, to see how many men would consent being demobilized, as well as how many of them ought to be withdrawn as invalids. For doing so, I chose the test to be done by the individual figure --ignoring how many real men one figure stands for.

So, I would throw a D6 for every figure in the army and determine results according to the table below:

Will be demobilized every Regular Troops figure getting the following result:

  • Guards: 6
  • Veterans: 5, 6
  • Drilled: 4, 5, 6
  • Raw: 3, 4, 5, 6
As for Miquelets Mountain Fusiliers, we'll follow this other table instead:
  • Drilled: 5, 6
  • Raw: 4, 5, 6
Whatever the kind of figure, a die result of 1 will mean the figure must be retired as invalid.

Depending on how the overall results turn out, several alternative decisions ought to be taken: either disbanding entire regiments, re-forming others into 2-battalion units, or in some rare cases to create new units --such as an Invalids Regiment, for instance. In the next few days, I'll explain you how did it all run (for it has been already gamed), in an easy to digest story telling form.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Post-war (3): 1714 Starting point

Please allow me a lighting quick review on the main challenges and troubles the Principality, and each of the countries most directly related to it, will have to face in the next months:

As for Spain, the first months of 1714 will be plentiful of challenges –a compulsory army downsizing for instance, but also a dramatical need to rebuild its naval power, crumbled down during the Succession War; not to say about restoring the Treasure Fleet route, apparently broken a couple of years ago. In the meantime, Spain will not do any step eventually worrying the European powers. Nevertheless, king Philip V's own plans in the long term include overtaking the terms of Utrecht and Rastatt treaties in two fronts: First of all, He'll secretly begin financing in France a party favourable to Himself --for he's still ambitioning to rejoin the Two Crowns under His own rule. Furthermore, under the excuse of restoring routes to America, the secret purpose under rebuilding a powerful fleet lies on using it for reverting territorial losses in the Mediterranean (not only Milan, Naples, Sicily and Sardinia as historically, but our what-if Catalonia and Majorca as well).

Regarding France, it is expected to live the last months of Louis XIV rule and the political struggle between Louis-Auguste de Bourbon and Philip d'Orléans for settling who is to perform as Regent in the age minority of Louis XV –with Philip of Spain intrigues behind. From a more practical point of view, France is exhausted after the long war, so that expense reduction measures are dramatically compulsory too: not just by means of the army reduction, but using the American colonies in a more profitable way –such as lending the whole French Louisiana in monopoly to Antoine Crozat's Compagnie de la Louisiane --an event just happened in 1712, BTW.

Not to forget, Austria: Vienna concerns in the second half of 1714 are going to focus suddenly on the escalation of tensions between Venice and the Ottoman Empire, that will eventually flow into open hostilities in December 1714. Then, a powerful Ottoman army will launch an invasion of Venetian territories in Greece. Bond to Venice by an alliance, Austria will have to take some action on the matter --an action still reluctant to take, due to being licking its own wounds yet.

And what about our Principality? First of all, it will have to start 1714 by endeavoring a substantial reduction of its army too --as formally required by king Louis XIV in a particular clause. In order to fulfill such requirement, all fictional units will be disbanded while many of the historical ones may suffer some kind of reform or merging. General Villarroel's staff will have to device a plan to minimize the effect of so a drastical reduction –whose extent has been already solo gamed by myself with quite surprising results! (it all will be explained soon, in due time). Such critical measures will of course relieve the young State asphyxiated finances, but will undoubtedly plunge the Catalan society into the issues of reabsorbing a mass of demobilized soldiers, or granting a pension to a number of war invalids. Here finances will be key too, and will require imaginative, bold solutions...

Monday, April 11, 2016

Post-war (2): The Principality emerges from Rastatt

According to our current fictional setup, Rastatt Treaty is finally signed on March 6, 1714 (just as historically happened), thereby confirming those general terms previously agreed among the Two Crowns, Britain and Netherland at Utrecht, except for one significant detail: following the Catalan military success described in my previous posting, combined with the clever diplomatic efforts concerted between Marquis of Vilana and Eugene of Savoy (this latter, also historical), our Defiant Principality formally becomes an independent nation recognized by all parties --although tied by a dense network of reciprocal guarantees between parties limiting the Principality external action, whose core strands are woven around Princess Elisenda herself.

By these, the Principality itself stands as fully sovereign in the person of Princess Elisenda, but she in turn is bond to King Louis XIV through the Viceroyalty upon Roussillon & Cerdagne counties She is appointed. Simultaneously, Emperor Charles VI also maintains a link to the Principality through the Majorca Viceroyalty Elisenda is too appointed by Him. The resulting balance of powers ensures some neutralization of the Principality to both parties, but it also allows the new Nation some safety degree face to King Philip V revengeful spirit. On the other hand, such undeniably dense and delicate network does satisfy European diplomacy needings, currently focused on guaranteeing the longest lasting peace possible... as long as current status quo is kept.

In addition to the Principality, Majorca and Roussillon as explained above, the other territory in our setting showing a status different from historical is Sardinia Kingdom. Such does not affect the sovereignty upon the island the Empire was historically granted; but to a formal commitment Elisenda extracted from Charles VI during Her visit to Vienna, by which Imperial viceroys in Sardinia would thereafter keep being Catalan subjects.

A further commitment envisages a significant reduction of the Catalan Army to be completed before Summer 1714, simultaneously to a Two Crowns escalated withdrawal from the Principality. Such massive demobilization will be our major challenge in the next few days --and this is to become one of the corner stones of the story to come.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Post-war (1): The decisive battle

El Bruc, 14th December 1713

In order to help understand the turning point our post-war setting starts from, it's compulsory to talk first a bit on the last main battle fought on Catalan soil. This is the battle of El Bruc, whose first volleys had ben shot the week before in a snowy battlefield. Just as the Spanish Commander-in-Chief Marquis of Aitona had feared the most, the vanguard of his division met the Catalan army heavily entrenched along a wide front, and enjoying the chance to extend the line for several miles at both flanks, from the fortress of Cardona at North to the also fortified catalan positions near the Mediterranean coast at South.

To the Spanish commanders, such situation was ominously recalling of the sad experience of Prats de Rei battle in 1711, where the Two Crowns army was dragged by the entrenched Allies into an ever-extending, long battle of attrition that lasted for two months. Uncapable of neither taking Prats de Rei town or flanking the Allied positions due to the stubborn resistance of Cardona fortress, the Duke of Vendôme had to desist invading Catalonia that year.

Things had been happening so far as if a carbon copy they were of that previous battle. The Spanish first assault had been repulsed last week, and Marquis of Aitona was determined not to let the Catalans repeat the feat, so that he ordered a new assault to be done on the morning of 14 December, from the tactical positions won to the defenders the week before --who in the meanwhile had their damaged entrenchments repaired.

To the Spaniards, their very first surprises of that day were not only the Catalan entrenchments complete repair, but also their unexpected deployment --a massive concentration of nearly all their Horse and Miquelets on their own left, behind the first line hills. Just as it could be expected, that combined force immediately started progressing fast toward the Spanish right. Marquis of Aitona had to derive one full infantry battalion from his center to support his own right flank, which at the start consisted just of a couple of heavy horse squadrons and a light battery.

Once the right flank secured, the Spaniards advanced their centre resolutely toward the Catalan entrenchments, awaiting the propitius moment to unleash a charge that would expel them from their positions. That moment seemed to arrive when a bitter quarrel erupted between two Catalan regiments at the line far left, due to a matter of deployment seniority (due to an event card from the Beneath the Lily Banners ruleset we used). For a lapse, things apparently turned quite bad for the Catalans.

However, discoordination among Spanish colonels made the first clash to happen at a different point of the line, where the Catalan defenders were steadily awaiting. It gave as a result the vaporization of an attacking battalion, while the rightmost Walloon Guards were still struggling to climb the steep slopes face to them.

There were no chances to change orders substantially, so the two battalions of Walloon Guards gallantly charged the quarreling Catalans they had in front --only that those had long ago stopped the internal fisticuffs at the sight of the so much feared Guards! The defenders quickly re-organized their own lines and started delivering a deadly series of volleys upon the still climbing Walloons... In a few turns, both Guard battalions had decimated themselves by ruthlessly charging against a wall of fire!

After this critical setback, the Spanish assault had virtually lost all of its fuel. Despite some reinforcements had already come from the neighbouring town of Igualada, the Spanish centre was definitely broken down and no chances were left to break the stubborn Catalan defence. In just a matter of days, the defending line would be reinforced in turn and extended several miles along thorugh both flanks. Winter was closing to its climax and supply routes had become more fragile than ever, so the whole Spanish offensive got aborted. It happened at El Bruc, between December 8 and 14.

With His invasion army severely affected, His Treasure Fleet mysteriously lost (historical facts), and deprived from the direct support of Louis XIV (due to the diplomatic efforts of our ineffable Marquis de Vilana,) king Philip V would have had no choice but "to show a good face on bad weather" (as commonly said here) and consent to a negotiated peace with the Catalan authorities, accordingly to Louis XIV's own pressure (influenced in turn by Marquis de Vilana's revelations over Duke of Vendôme's death).

Sunday, April 03, 2016

The Revenant Principality

Defiant Principality is going to ride again.

Yes, I know. That's right what I said two years ago. "Let's re-take the story", I said. Sadly it didn't happen, due to incidences and problems in our lives –some of these, actually serious to be honest.

This is why this time, despite having begun talking and working on The Defiant Principality a few weeks ago, I've preferred not to explain it until having got re-assured we'll be going to enjoy enough chances of success.

Now I'm pretty confident, enough to announce it publicly. The original team of gamers have gathered once again and are excited to re-start the game. Marc, Jordi and myself are ready and willing to resume the Defiant Principality story from the point we left it some years ago.

The main guideline behind our current project is to turn the War of Spanish Succession page and start a post-war setting on the hypotesis that Catalonia ultimately succeeds repelling the Bourbon Spanish invasion –or manages at least to bring it into a stalemate, not only preventing king Phillip V to take its capital city Barcelona in due time, but even aborting the offensive and making it pitifully sink amidst a specially cold winter.

So what we're dealing with now is a fully what-if story beginning in March 1714. Due to the Defiant Principality stubborn defence, the so-called Case of the Catalans has unavoidably been pressed into Rasttat agenda and earned a much needed recognition. It's time for peace now and for a while; it's the time for building a brand new Nation, to let the ship cast off and let it sail to whatever the port she wills –or whatever the troubled waters the fate is preparing for her...

Let us then start unrolling the basic plot in the next few days. I wish you like it enough for following it from time to time, in the confidence we're going to reward your patience with the best epics we are capable to weave using Shakespeare's language.