A Tumultuous Century
This entry in the chronicle of the Mlechchha dynasty takes us from 824 through until 925. Through this century, the Mlechchha dynasty finds greatness in the form of the Bengal Empire, but it was hard fought for through four successions, political manoeuvring around an entitled council, and no fewer than 26 different wars, the majority of them internal revolts, and probably less than 20 uninterrupted years of peace.
The Lords of Kamarupa
While the ultimate prize of the century was the Bengal Empire, the real struggle was internal. In February 830 the trouble began when Balavarman III was blackmailed into empowering the council. Having just embarked on the journey of trying to improve his personal levies, he was in no position to fight back. It would be two successions later before this fateful decision would bite back; Bhutivarman II, inheriting the throne at the tender age of 12, had to deal first with loss of power and the subsequent clawing back of said power.
The council proceeded to grab power at every opportunity. When possible, the Maharaja fought his corner. This often required purchasing mercenaries. Thank goodness for the earlier focus on economic development, because a full complement of vassal levies, personal levies, and a band or two of mercenaries could often be sustained for a number of years.
Sometimes, though, the coffers dipped just too low to afford one of these often protracted wars. In 838, the Maharaja lost absolute power to declare wars, then, in 860, the absolute power to revoke titles, caving to the threat of an unwinnable war. This latter loss of power seemed innocuous enough, but I soon realised quite how much I leaned on it to deal with vassals after a revolt!
This was the first time in a game of CK2 I’ve spent any time in dealing with the council. It was entertaining – the backroom trickery, the favours, the plotting to off troublesome council members. There are a number of benefits from having an empowered council, including:
- You can enforce realm peace if you have an empowered council. This makes it simpler to change succession laws, which require the realm to be at peace. I’ve managed to change the succession laws for three different kingdoms without having to use this power, so can honestly say I don’t need this.
- An empowered council has one adviser slot for a kingdom, two for an empire, which gives a place to put powerful but incompetent vassals. Keeping vassals happy is hard, so I can see the appeal here.
- Without an empowered council, there are likely to be constant faction plots to empower it. However, there are constant plots to increase council power, even after they’re empowered!
- Empowered councils create higher vassal limits, but at the expense of a smaller demesne.
On balance, I’m not sure this is convincing enough to keep the council. Trying to rule around them was just too much. They had to go.
In 883, the lords of Kamarupa approved the institution of the Ruler Title Revocation Sovereignty Law, 23 years on from losing it. In 890, they approved the institution of the Ruler War Declaration Sovereignty Law, 52 years on from losing it. Finally, in October 895, the Absolute Rule Law was instituted, 65 years after my grandfather initially empowered the council.
This was a long game to play, and I had to do this as a drunk, depressed, disfigured leper. The real hero in all of this was the court physician, who was constantly coming up with concoctions to pull me out of dark places.
It was surprising that the impetus for securing military superiority came from within, but it was indeed the many revolts and civil wars that forced me to think hard about my demesne. A strong personal levy might make factions think twice before trying to blackmail me.
I’ve never quite decided what I think is the ideal demesne structure. I had heard it was best to keep counties in one or two duchies; you didn’t want your vassals clamouring for your capital county, after all. I’ve also heard it’s a good idea for these duchies to be geographically close so that your personal levies aren’t cut off from the main bulk of your army.
This game has seen a little more conflict for optimal demesne structure. I’ve since learned that it can be beneficial to build additional holdings in just a few counties. Certainly, building additional castles ended up boosting my personal levies. Further, though, some counties in my empire are more desirable because they lie along the Silk Road. This often had me wondering what the best choice was; I normally chose whatever was the easiest option (so I didn’t have to plot against some vassal that was holding a Silk Road county, for example). Perhaps the decision will become more critical in the future.
In the space of the 100 year period, I managed to bolster my personal levy by two times by building new castle holdings and improving them. This keeps the vast majority of plots below 100% relative power. Any time I’m blackmailed by factions stronger than that, I purchase a mercenary army or two, crush the revolt, imprison the perpetrators, and don’t look back. If I can revoke titles, I do, and hand them out to members of the court that might be a little more grateful!
Towards the end of the century, and setting my sights over the rest of the subcontinent, I manage to wrangle an alliance with perhaps the second most powerful ruler in India, Maharaja of Rashtrakuta.
The territory under the purview of this alliance probably represents 40% of India, and puts us both at a significant advantage for advancement. Of course, I need to watch my neighbour to the south-west; they’re friendly now, but they may well grow to rival my own burgeoning empire.
One of the great things about playing as an Indian ruler is the ability to switch between the Dharmic religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism once per lifetime, plus the ability to switch between branches of those religions as required.
Most of my realm is Hindu and members of my dynasty are Hindu, so I’ve been playing with Hindu advantages up until this point. Following Hinduism confers military advantages, such as the Followers of Arjuna, mentioned last time.
During this century of conflict, I found myself in dire need of a boost to my vassals’ opinions of me. Ruling as Bhutivarman II was hampered by the fact that he was horribly ill most of the time. At one point in his 30s, he had to deal with leprosy, depression, disfigurement, being a drunkard, and having the flu. This had a significant effect on the opinion of my vassals, prejudiced as they are. (It’s worth noting that the unsung heroes of the 9th century were the various court physicians that managed to keep this sickly man alive well into his 70s!)
After using my once-in-a-lifetime subjugation Casus Belli against Bhaumakara in the south (more later), I adopted Jainism in 869 as the more peaceful of the three Dharmic religions. This gives me +15 opinion with my vassals, although I lose 9 immediately as a result of religious differences, for an overall +6 opinion boost. Not much, but I needed all the help I could get.
Jain also increases the size of your demesne, which meant I could build more castles in the empty holding slots in some of my counties. This, in turn, increased the strength of my personal levy and reduced the threat from factions.
There are still a number of kingdoms in my vicinity of the Assamese culture which, as I explained in Part 4, means I can subjugate them using my once-in-a-lifetime Casus Belli. I try to do this with every ruler as a result, although sometimes their reigns are just too short, as for poor Suprastisthitavarman II, who had not even three years on the throne, although potentially for the best given what went down in the history books.
Bhutivarman II had a long reign of over 63 years. While he managed to usurp the Kingdom of Orissa to the south-west, his most substantial achievement was abolishing the council.
Bhutivarman II’s successor was his grandson, Vigrahastambha. (Alas, Bhutivarman II lived so long he outlived his own children.)
Vigrahastambha will be notably in the family chronicles as the Maharaja that finally became the Samrat of Bengal. He didn’t get to enjoy it for too long, though, with Sthitavarman inheriting the empire in 921.
The constant need to hire mercenaries meant that a lot of the money I was saving was going towards fighting wars and inwards investment fell. I also frequently had to deal with raiding from the steppes, with the raiders choosing their moments very carefully when I was otherwise occupied with wars.
Still, there was a little growth over the 100 year period.
I think the 25-year moving average is more descriptive than a linear trendline but, if I were to plot a linear trendline, it is sloping upwards at about 0.11 (gold/month)/year. This isn’t much, but it’s an extra 11 gold/month over a period of a century… Yeah, I probably need a bit of peace to bump this up some!
The Situation in 925
The below shows the difference between 823 and 925 India.
In approximately a century we’ve seen the following changes in India:
- Many of the small states to Mlechchha’s south-west in 823 were absorbed my Pala (later became Gupta), Ayudha, and Bhaumakara. Gupta and Bhaumakara were subsequently absorbed my Mlechchha to arguably become the subcontinent’s greatest power.
- My ally in the south-west Rashtrakuta has fractured approximately in half to produce Maharastra.
- There have been some dynasty shifts in the west, with Punjab inheriting most of Karkota and Chauhan becoming Bhatti.
- After a lengthy and violent civil war in Pratihara, it fractured to produce Chawda in central India and Rajgond, a disjointed state. The three counties surrounding the Ganges Delta now belong to House Rajgond (with Pratihara having inherited them from my vassals, somehow). A diminished country, I will one day begin pressing De Jure claims on these rich counties.
The difference between 823 and 925 for the rest of the world is shown below.
- There is a significant power growing in Scandinavia, owning Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and parts of Sweden and Finland.
- The Abbassids have still not crossed into India, but have made significant gains in Africa.
- The Byzantines are dealing with a major revolt.
- The Uyghur represent the greatest of the states on the steppes, although are dealing with their own revolt right now, too.
- The Iberian peninsula remains unified under the Abdelrahmanids.
- Europe continues to represent the best that CK2 bordergore has to offer.
My sights are now firmly set on unifying India under my banner. In the immediate-term, I’ll press my De Jure claims on the three counties around the Ganges Delta owned by the weak state of Rajgond. In the medium-term, I’ll take Ayudha using my once-in-a-lifetime subjugation CB, meaning pretty much half of India will fall within my borders.
Before conquering the rest of India, though, I need to continue to grow the size of my personal levies to discourage revolts. This may have the additional benefit of improving my economy as I expand Castle Towns and build Castle Walls.