I am playing out a game in Pax Renaissance, trying to analyze the end moves. Having just put some thought into the time surrounding the conquest of the Emirate of Granada, it leads me to consider how the various options for fit into a historical narrative (either similar to or departing from actual history.)
For this turn, we are considering the options of the Fuggers. In the late 1480s the Fugger family, while established in Augsburg, were not yet players on the world stage. They had only begun their financial relationship with the Habsburgs, a relationship that would soon see them financing Charles V’s election as emperor. Indeed, the card layout fairly represents the Fugger’s interests at the time, with some market concessions in Germany and some heavy investment in Hungary. The Fuggers actually did, within this same time frame, control copper mining operations in Hungary and mines elsewhere in Silesia and Tirol. Perhaps not enough to actually “control” the throne of Hungary, as in this game, but – well – close enough.
By contrast, my rivals (the Medici bank) dominate the Silk and Spice trade from the East with control of the trade routes through the Mediterranean. Despite heavy influence in the courts of the Ottomans and Byzantium (which quite ahistorically has not fallen to the Muslims), they are unable to substantialyl profit from the Silk Road trade, which is no longer fully reaching Europe. The Medici also have their fingers in the court of Portugal, but despite some exploration of the African coast, there is no alternate sea route to the east. The Medici do control the more accessible trade through the Black Sea port of Tana, although it is more difficult to profit from those investments.
In building this powerful position, the Medici let one opportunity slip by.
Recall that the victory conditions in Pax Renaissance are determined dynamically by the players. Within the theme of the game, a comet appeared in 1472. Rather than superstitiously dwelling on the portents, astronomer Regiomontanus of Nürnburg (Johannes Müller) used geometry and astronomy to estimate the size and distance of the comet from the earth. He failed by orders of magnitude, but at least he tried. Gamewise, the Fuggers were able to declare a “Renaissance Victory” which measures the advancement from the Medieval Age to the Early Modern Age by the ascendancy of Republican-ruled nations and city-states. It was largely a defensive move, as the Medici’s have two types of victory within their grasp. Their control of the Ottoman empire gives them a “Holy Victory” (for Islam) and their additional control of Portugal and Byzantium gives them an “Imperial Victory.” Fugger really didn’t have a Renaissance Victory in sight when choosing it, but there is now an opportunity for them in the West.
What Fugger does have some influence over is the clergy on the Iberian peninsula, particularly the zealots of the Office of the Inquisition in Castile and an anti-monarchy faction in Aragon. This can be deployed strategically to substantial advantage. By critiquing the pace and enthusiasm of Castile’s commitment to the reconquista I will provoke a new crusade to be declared charged with wiping out the Muslim occupation once and for all. In doing so, I can force a upheaval in the ruling powers of that nation (and, of course, replacing the Medici people with those loyal to myself). As an added bonus, a crusade will draw in knights from France and Aragon, potentially weakening those powers and making them vulnerable to the inquisitors of Castile and Portugal. Having gained control of Castile, Portugal, and perhaps France or Aragon, I can now go after the monarchs themselves. Shifting the power from those nations’ kings to republics will win me the game.
Given the choice between France and Aragon, it is France that presents a weakness. At first glance, they are the strongest of the three empires bordering Castile. However, in additional to co-opting their knights into my crusade, I have another card up my sleeve (almost literally, as we are talking about a card game here). In the north-west corner of the area of French influence, there are several provinces that have eschewed feudalism for centuries. It will be easy enough to provoke conflict between the republican sentiment in Friesland and Groningen and the nobility who see an opportunity to be granted hereditary control over those territories. Such a conflict would also draw in the forces of the French king and, combined with the crusade, leave France open to invading armies.
The Turn of a Friendly Card
That’s quite a tale and I’d like to walk through it again in gameplay terms. Cast in those terms, the Renaissance Victory is active and I already have 3 cards with “Law” prestige. That means to qualify for victory, I simply need to have more republics than my opponent. In this case, neither myself nor enemy control any Republics thus far. So as it stands right now, converting one of my monarchies to a republic will be sufficient to win.
There is one caveat in this. Claiming victory in itself is a move. Each player turn consists of two actions, so in a way one player takes two turns and then the other player takes two turns. If you are able to achieve conditions for victory in one move, you then use your second action of the turn to declare victory. If, on the other hand, it takes two actions to put you into a winning position, you then must allow two turns from your opponent. In a way, it disadvantages the “offensive” player in that “defender” always gets one extra move to stave off defeat. It also means that a victory is often a multi-turn plan that can go wrong any number of ways in the interim.
Considering this, although I only need to convert one empire to a republic, I’m going to target two to give my plan some redundancy. Target number one is Portugal, given that the card in my hand has the ability to capture that empire via a Crusade. Target number two, as I discussed above, is France. If you look at my tableau (the first picture in this article), I have a card for France with the “Siege” operation. With that, I have the ability to weaken the defenses in France to a point where I can invade and capture it. Assuming, of course, that I control an empire from which to invade. Like Portugal.
The Grand Inquisitor card is playable immediately and would transfer Portugal from the Medici tableau to my own. But there is a problem. I don’t need to just control the Portuguese government (and remember, back in the narrative, Portugal and Castile are both represented by the Portugal designation within the game), I need to further be able to unseat the monarchy. I have the means to do so in the form of two “Vote” operations in my tableau, but I can’t win that vote. To be successful with a vote, I need to have a plurality of the concessions bordering the empire where the vote is taking place. Right now, the Medici have the one and only concession. The black pirate blocks a second concession from being place. So while I am entitled to place one concession upon taking control of Portugal, that would require repressing the existing Medici merchant first. Repression costs money and, again looking at that top picture, I don’t have any money.
Therefore, before I consider playing that card I’m going to need to generate some cash. The Trade Fair is out because the Western market doesn’t have money and the Eastern market is completely under the Medici’s control. What I do have is a “Commerce” operation in my Tableau, courtesy of a secret organization of guilds based in Aragon which is anti-monarchist, anti-feudal, and anti-Islamic. The “Revolt of the Brotherhoods,” the event in “The Hidden” one-shot, will never take place in this game (and is anyway some decades in the future), but were they around already it might make sense that these folks would support my own play. If I play that Commerce operation before launching the Crusade, I’ll be able to fund the it properly.
As an action, executing operations is special. Rather than launching a single operation the player, using a single action, can play any or all of their operations within a single tableau (East or West). This obviously opens up the possibility of some complex moves, particularly in the end game when there are a lot of cards on the table. It also means for some complex interactions you have to not only carefully choose which operations to execute, but also the order.
My plan for the turn is to use three operations to pave the way for my use of the Grand Inquisitor for the crusade. First, I get some advantage from the existing Medici influence in Portugal/Castile. With the tax operation, I warn the Grenadians of the impending assault upon them and cause them to tax the Medici merchants to build up their defenses. It costs the Medici all of their remaining money and will make the impending crusade all the more bloody, which I think will be to my advantage. Next, as I suggested, I draw on the Brotherhoods to raise funding for my own army. Finally, the Frisian Freedom card is used to eliminate the rook from Lyon.
That opens up the play for the seizure of Portugal. With this setup, the ensuing battle will see the loss of the two defenders (the rook in Granada and the black pirates), and I will sacrifice the crusading knights from Paris and Valencia, thus preserving the Catholic army in Toledo. The Portugal empire card is transferred from the Medici tableau to my own, eliminating their influence via Elżbieta of Bohemia in the process. In order to facilitate the republican surge that I intend for the next turn, I will place my concession from the regime change on the border with England, repressing their existing merchant, and set up ready to support a vote.
That repressed merchant may cause problems going forward, as the residual influence of the Medici would try to block my disassembly of the Castile monarchy. Fortunately, I have the Spanish Inquisition and two operational cards to facilitate it. Upon placing the Grand Inquisitor in my tableau, I will deploy the bishop on that card. In the following turn, I can move the bishop to Portugal and pacify the Medici serf. With two inquisitor operations, which I have, I can also move the bishop back, freeing up the Kingdom of Portugal and its armies to pressure France into my camp.
These move are enough for me to set up a win for next turn, but the Medici has a turn to foil my plan. Indeed, they have a path to do so, even though it may not by obvious at first glance. (Actually, it is not obvious at all to you, because my screenshots don’t show my opponents hand, which holds two “one-shot” cards). The secret to saving himself relies, not on countering my moves and blocking my conversion of France and/or Portugal to be a republic. One of those two is enough for me to win and, anyway, there is no means for the Medici to influence either. Instead, he needs to control a Republic of his own, insuring that I need, not one, but at least two republics to claim victory.
But that drama is going to have to wait for another article.