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What a difference a chromosome makes.

Reading a history book, it is often remarkable how unlikely the historical outcome seems to have been, given the odd sequence of events that got us here. So it is with the unification of Spain under, first, Ferdinand and Isabella, and then, under Emperor Charles.

There is a note in the documentation for Pax Renaissance, explaining some of the “wrong” geography on the map cards. One of the explanations is justifying the cities of Toledo and Granada being located in Portugal, which takes up the better part of the Iberian peninsula. The designer explains that it was by no means forgone that Spain would form from a union between Castile and Aragon. Castile and Portugal could have easily been the basis for that empire.

I pondered this as I played another early-Renaissance scenario from Europa Universalis IV.

I EU/EU II, this historical timeline was heavily event driven. Events would triggered by a combination of the current situation and the date, roughly imposing a backdrop of history over your player-driven narrative. In some cases, those events would give the player a choice – do you support the Lancasters or the Yorkists?, for example. But particularly if you were striving for historical fidelity, you could probably follow right along with the history books.

In the latest version of EU, it has become a little more complicated. Yes, there are still the events and triggers, with the appropriate historical choices. But there are also a lot more little choices, and small randomly assigned variations, which potentially could have some real impact. In all, it feels a lot easier to wander away from the history books into an alternate reality.

Again, I thought I’d give EU IV another spin trying to reproduce the conditions that lead to the Charles V -led Holy Roman Empire, this time starting the game in 1444. EU IV has recently updated, obsoleting the Charles V mod that I was looking forward to, so I already started thinking maybe I should just concentrate on the 15th century rather than the 16th.

As soon as I could do so without blatantly violating various treaties, I relaunched the Reconquista for to take Granada from the ruling Moslem Emirate. The war went smoothly, but I only managed to grab about 2/3rds of the territory in the final treaty.

Then came a family squabble. The Trastámaras have their hands in the running of Castile, Aragon, and Navarre, but getting along with the cousins doesn’t seem to be a family trait. I had hoped to bring Navarre closer in to the Castile branch with some strategic marriages and even had some hope of a direct inheritance of the Navarrian crown. Unfortunately, Aragon’s King John (II) had similar ideas (along with, admittedly, a better historical basis for them) and, after a brief civil war within Navarre, he attacked the tiny country with the combined forces of Aragon and its puppet in Naples.

I felt compelled to defend my political and marital alliances in Navarre and was vaguely peeved by the lack of respect from my cousins. A rather destructive but ultimately fruitless war ensued, depleting the manpower of the Iberian peninsula without producing a clear winner.

All of this is to set the stage for what happens next in this alternate reality.

King Henry IV was a terrible king. This was both true in reality and true within the various numbers of the game. His own attack on Granada suffered from a lack of initiative and, rather achieving my own albeit partial victory, the real king fought several wars consisting mostly of cross-border raiding.

Despite rumors of impotence, homosexuality, or possibly both simultaneously, Henry finally managed  to produce a daughter with his second wife, himself at the advanced age of 37. When Henry proclaimed his new daughter to be his heir, it split the Castilian nobles. Or more accurately, the Castilian nobles, who were already split, found a cause to focus upon. A League of Nobles formed out of concern for Portuguese influence (through the personage of Juan Pacheco) in Henry’s court and who were backed by the newly ascendant John II of Aragorn, and they began questioning the legitimacy of Henry’s issue. Being either gay, impotent, or both, it seemed, to them, likely that the child was the offspring of Henry’s best friend Beltrán de la Cueva. She was also (with certainty) a girl. A better heir to the throne would be Henry’s half-brother Alfonso, with whom the League of Nobles happened to hold more influence. Henry initially agreed to this arrangement with the condition that Alfonso marry his own daughter (also Alfonso’s niece, assuming the rumors were not actually true). When Henry reneged on that commitment, Castile descended into civil war with 12-year-old Alfonso being declared ruler of Castile. In addition to being gay and impotent (possibly both), Henry stood accused of abiding Muslims and being something of a peacenik.


In this world, the League of Gentlemen are proposing Lope I of Nebrija as the legitimate heir to Castile. This cannot stand.

Within the game, some very minor variations changed the story in a big way.

I don’t know if the Henry of this world is gay, impotent, or both, but despite being an awful ruler, he has managed to produce a son and heir and named him Felipe. We’ve made arrangements with the cousins in Navarre as well as the Portuguese royal family to solidify our alliances with marriage. Aragon being left out of this arrangement, they propose advancing one Lope of Nebrija to the throne. The game does not supply a backstory, just a name.

The capitol and much of the southern coast joined the League of Nobles in supporting Lope. As the player, I could chose which version of history to champion, but the subtle changes meant I could not follow the historical narrative and back Lope. First, Lope doesn’t sound very regal to me. Sorry, Lope. Second, I had begun investing both practically and emotionally in Felipe in ways that became difficult to turn my back upon. I even had a fantasy that maybe Felipe could, though the marriage arrangements, gain claim to the throne of Navarre as well as Castile. It didn’t seem wise to give that up and back Aragon, with whom I had just been in a nasty war.

The forces of the League outnumbered the royal armies, but were not well coordinated. I was able to maintain a slight edge, locally, in numbers and defeat each rebel army in detail. Towards the end, I had to rely heavily on foreign banks and a large mercenary force, but I was able to prevail. The screenshot (several paragraphs above) shows the rebel armies making their final, pitiful stand as I lay siege to the fortresses in Granada with my main force.

With the rebellion soundly defeated, the nobility never again questioned the legitimacy of Felipe to inherit the crown of Castile.


Recall that one of my goals with EU IV is to integrate with a tactical engine to create what-if battles from the time period. You might also remember that I’ve had some luck with medieval period battles in Field of Glory. This War of the Castilian Succession perhaps could present another opportunity to indulge that impulse, but for a few problems. First, the supporting mods have not kept up with the releases of the EU IV engine, meaning that the integration I was attempting to use earlier is not available. Second, the operational nature of this fight – where I am first achieving local superiority before engaging – means that the battles are never matched. This is a particular problem for Field of Glory.

I speculated that perhaps Field of Glory might lend itself to the same sort of manipulating that I’ve used in Pike and Shot. That is, by editing the army definitions I might cause the randomly-generated battles to conform closer to the battle I wish to model. For example, I might force a cavalry heavy army onto a nation that, historically, wouldn’t have fielded such. I fiddled around with the data files a little bit, but I wasn’t able to get it working. In doing so, however, I found some other files that probably need to be modified as well, so I won’t give up just yet.


Brother against brother, the different noble factions within the Castilian kingdom line up against each other for battle.

The result of my battle was much in line with past experience. As expected, an even matchup (again, it seems to be the only choice in FoG) is going to favor the player. The unit mix, terrain, and other randomly generated components lack the personality that would make it a memorable fight. The AI isn’t terrible but, then again, I never really felt in fear of losing the battle. It wasn’t horrible, but also wasn’t quite worth the effort – doubly so because (at the moment) the results are not actually fed back to the strategic layer. I will say that the results were similar in both games, with solid victories in support of Felipe’s inheritance.


Back in the real world, the result was considerably more complicated. After Alfonso was crowned King of Aragon what was called the Farce of Ávila, war continued for four years with neither side gaining a clear victory. Then, at age 14, Alfonso died (circumstance unknown today). His backers intended his crown, such as it was, to pass to his sister (Henry’s half-sister) Isabella, under whose name the civil war could continue. Instead, Isabella agreed to cease hostilities in exchange for being named the rightful heir of Henry.

So it remained until Henry himself died, at the age of 49, in 1474.

With the world preferring to have male monarchs, Alfonso had a decent claim to the throne over Joanna simply by being a boy. That advantage was not shared by Isabella. Upon Henry’s death, those nobles who would be disadvantaged by Isabella’s succession (via her now marriage to her cousin Ferdinand of Aragon) joined with the King of Portugal in supporting the daughter of Henry over his half-sister, perhaps a reasonable succession claim. Assuming, that is, that Henry was not gay, impotent, or both.

Evidence to this day strongly supports the accusations that Joanna (known accordingly as la Beltraneja) was in fact illegitimate. Remember, however, that history is written by the victors – in this case Isabella, whose side ultimately prevailed in the war. It is interesting to cast doubt on the evidence in that the alliance between Isabella and Ferdinand and their subsequent uniting of Spain, the Netherlands, and Austria under Charles V, is one of the defining moments in European history.


Even still, EU4 is driven by events. Despite the fact that Portuguese interests prevailed in the Castilian civil war, the option to bind the Castilian and Aragonese branches of House Trastámara was still presented.

Back in the game, despite my shunning of Lope, the Trastámaras nevertheless arrange a union (screenshot above). As the game went on, it turned out to be a badly managed union. Aragon frequently felt slighted in our arrangement and, each time I fumbled in may kingdom management, England would egg them on to revolt against me. As unpleasant as it was, it gave me a chance to make one more comparison.

More Tactics


Carlos de Toledo leads the Guardia Real against the Aragonese invaders. We expect an easy victory.

One such rebellion occurred in December of 1533. By that time, Spain had adopted combined pike and shot formations and was transitioning to a firearm-based army. This allowed a fairly similar comparison to the match-up played out in Field of Glory, but this time using Pike and Shot solidly within its own period.


My Castilians deploy against the Aragonese, watched over by a ghost of Christmas-that-never-was, Charles V. My horse is deployed on my right, and I’m advancing it to hit the enemy flank.

Right away one can see that the graphics make a big difference. I used randomly generated “hilly” terrain, but the variety and the style gives it much more character than a Field of Glory generated battlefield. Likewise the units. Similar to FoG, the two armies are both minor variations of the same setup, but the style of the units in Pike and Shot just add a little bit more gusto to the whole affair.

I’ve mentioned it before, but the interface for Pike and Shot allows easy tailoring of the army size. I was able to match, with fair precision, the army sizes presented in the EU4 game with only a small amount of fiddling. Of course, outnumbering the enemy by some 3,000 men meant the outcome of the battle was never in question. Even still, the beginning of the fight was a little tense, as I was a little worried that my flanks would start to break before the enemy’s center. Again, while the AI isn’t exactly brilliant in the random match-ups, it seems to be a bit more talented than the Field of Glory AI.

One little hitch I ran across – it is the selection of armies that determines the flags, the names, and the portraits in use. So when I create a Spanish-on-Spanish skirmish, they both use the same Spanish flags. The mini-map (as you can see) shows the two sides in red and white, but the main map it can be difficult to determine which units are on which side. As far as I can tell, this is not configurable in the skirmish interface and would have to be edited in the army file ahead of time.

Something for next time.