A Quick December Update

I was going to write about the political factions within the Tierran Cortes for this month’s blog post, but as it turns out, my supporters on Patreon voted for an article on the exact same topic.

As a result, you can find that article as the latest installment of A Soldier’s Guide to the Infinite Sea, which is now up alongside this month’s entry in An Adventurer’s Guide to the Fledgling Realms.

Happy Holidays.

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New Model Army: Military Reform in Lords of Infinity

This month, I’m going to be talking about one of the subplots in in Lords of Infinity: the Army Reform Commission. Unlike the Budget Crisis, participation in this subplot is more or less optional: it’ll run its course whether or not the player chooses to intervene in it. However, this subplot may well have widespread long-term effects. At some point later in the series, the player may find themselves wishing they’d taken the opportunity when they had the chance.

The King’s Army went to war in Antar as a more or less entirely untested force. Its institutions and regulations were either adopted from those of the Takaran Richshyr, or holdovers from the conflicts which unified Tierra a century before. It was an army built on assumptions which the experience of the Dozen Years War have often proven inaccurate, misguided, or downright harmful. The officers who suffered the inadequacy of the old system returned from Antar with a long list of lessons learned, and an even longer list of ideas for how a better, more effective army might be trained, equipped, organised and led. Having witnessed some of the shortcomings of his army firsthand, King Miguel has ordered the creation of a Royal Commission made up of veteran officers to suggest changes to the King’s Army, and to ensure that the hard lessons learned in wartime are not forgotten in peace.

The Army Reform Commission is not going to be an easy body to join. Getting in might mean currying favour with Grenadier Square, or leaning on the friendship of those with the influence to get you a seat on the Commission. If the Dragoon Officer managed to make the right friends within the army, or has earn enough of a reputation as a tactician or a fighting officer, then they might have a shot. Alternatively, they could try ingratiating themselves with one of the political players in the Cortes powerful enough to influence who gets to sit on the Commission. That being said, such methods will always carry a price, one which the Dragoon Officer might not be willing to pay.

If the Dragoon Officer is able to get a seat on the Commission, they then have a whole new set of issues to deal with. Not every officer who served in Antar had the same experiences, and not every one of them came to the same conclusions. In short, there is a split within the Commission itself over which direction the Commission should take:

The so-called “Infantry School” are members of the Commission who want to focus on organisation and logistics. Although matters of supply and administration might seem “boring” to some, they are the foundation of a functioning army. Infantry School proponents want to overhaul the ordinance board, create a dedicated logistics branch, institute larger permanent formations, and subject junior officers to standardised training. In short, they want to make the King’s Army a better supplied, and better organised force, with an emphasis on a more centralised command structure.

The commissioners belong to theĀ “Cavalry School”are proponents reforming and refining the “sharp end” of the King’s Army. They want an overhaul of the manual of arms, and a revision of drill and tactics from the battalion level down. Furthermore, Cavalry School proponents want a more permanent establishment of special purpose units (like the Experimental Corps of Riflemen) and an increase in the authority given to company/troop and battalion/squadron level officers to operate. The result would be a more decentralised army, composed of more independent units with more flexible tactics and commanded by officers with more freedom to respond quickly.

The terms are misnomers, of course. There are Infantry School proponents from the cavalry, and Cavalry School proponents who are infantry officers. However, the fact remains that if the Dragoon Officer joins the Army Reform Commision, they’ll have to choose a side to support, or try to walk the line between them.

The more astute readers among you might have noticed that most of the reforms advocated by the Infantry School and Cavalry School aren’t really mutually exclusive. A better supply infrastructure doesn’t mean that there can’t be a new manual of arms. Perhaps you’re thinking “why not both”?

That brings us to the last complication involved: the Army Reform Commission may have the King’s backing, but that doesn’t mean the Cortes has the political will to turn the Commission’s report into action. Tierra has just fought a long, expensive, and bloody war, and it has neither the resources or the inclination to spend a large amount of money overhauling its army. Not only will the members of the Commission need to lobby hard to get the Cortes to even consider funding their suggested reforms, but they’ll need to deliver a list of suggestions which enough of the Lords of the Cortes can be convinced to vote for. Given Tierra’s rolling budget crisis, that more or less means that the more expensive any list of reforms is going to be to implement, the harder it’ll be to get the funding for it.

If the Dragoon Officer manages to get a place on the Commission, the player will be able to make decisions regarding what reforms to back and what reforms to kill. But even if the player chooses other priorities, the Commission will still run its course, the decisions made will determine the shape of the Tierran Army in the years ahead. If Tierra goes to war again and the Dragoon Officer is recalled to service, then such matters may mean the difference between life and death.

P.S. I know, I know, I promised Cortes factions this month, but I wanted to get this one out of the way for more context. Next month, I swear.

As usual, new installments of A Soldier’s Guide to the Infinite Sea and An Adventurer’s Guide to the Fledgling Realms are now up, both funded by my supporters on Patreon. If you want to see more of this kind of content, feel free to donate. Patrons get early access, and the ability to decide what I write for next month at higher tiers.


Someone Who Is Good at the Economy Please Help Me, My Kingdom is Dying: The Budget Crisis in Lords of Infinity

Today I’d like to talk about one of the central elements of Lords of Infinity‘s plot: the Budget Crisis.

As the war with Antar ends and the Unified Kingdom of Tierra becomes reacquainted with a peace it hasn’t seen in more than a decade, the crown finds itself in an exceedingly precarious financial situation. Historically, the Rendower monarchs (with the exception of Edmund II) have been very thrifty rulers and their governments have followed suit, maintaining a carefully hoarded surplus to ensure that there is always cash on hand in the case of an emergency. This was the case in 601, when the League of Antar declared war. Unfortunately, three factors meant that this accumulated reserve quickly disappeared.

First of all, there was the fact that Tierra has trouble feeding itself, even at the best of times. This meant that traditionally, Tierra imported grain from Antar. Since this was no longer an option, grain had to be imported from Kian and Takaran merchants, who took advantage by raising their prices. To keep the population fed, the crown issued grain subsidies to keep the cost of bread affordable, which rapidly became a major expense.

Secondly, there was the simple fact that the war was ruinously expensive (as wars tend to be). Weapons, uniforms, supplies, and those needed to make, transport, and fight with them were all paid for at the expense of the crown. Every battle meant enormous sums of money had to be spent to replace lost equipment and fighting men. While individual soldiers of the King’s army could get rich off plundering Southern Antar, the King’s government got nothing.

Lastly, there was the matter of the debt that Tierra began to accumulate when its currency reserves ran out. To keep the war going, Tierra needed to borrow. A lot of this money came from Tierran banks, but a vast portion of it came from overseas. Only Kian and Takaran banks could lend the amount of money the crown needed, and neither the Kian nor the Takarans had any confidence that Tierra would survive a war with its larger, more populous neighbour. That meant the interest rates these overseas banking houses offered were far higher than normal, under the expectation that Unified Kingdom might not even exist to pay them before long. While this prediction was proven wrong, the debt, and the need to service it, remains.

With the war over, one of those expenses is gone: the King’s army has been reduced to its peacetime strength, with officers placed on half-pay and houseguard regiments being released from royal service. However, the crown still has to bear the cost of servicing the war debt and the grain subsidies (Antar isn’t going to be exporting much grain to Tierra any time soon), something which it can only really do with the help of war taxes which are only growing more and more unpopular by the day, especially now that the war they were purportedly paying for is over.

The upshot of this is that the Crown is in between a rock and a hard place. To service the debt and keep the people fed, the Exchequer needs to keep enough money coming in by maintaining war taxes. However, maintaining these taxes will invariably increase discontent, drive more Tierrans into poverty or personal bankruptcy, and possibly damage the Unified Kingdom’s economy in the long run. Alternatively, if the Crown scraps the war taxes, Tierra will be forced to declare state bankruptcy, not only destabilising the Tierran economy, but also giving the Kian and Takarans very good reasons to intervene diplomatically, economically, or militarily.

Next month, I’ll be talking about the political factions currently dominating the Cortes, and what (if anything) they plan to do to dig Tierra out of the hole it’s gotten itself into.

This month’s installments of A Soldier’s Guide to the Infinite Sea and An Adventurer’s Guide to the Fledgling Realms are now up. These worldbuilding articles are funded by my Patreon, so If you’d like to see more of this sort of content, then please feel free to contribute. Backers also get benefits like early access, and the ability to vote on the topics of future articles.


Gone Clubbing: Politicking in Lords of Infinity

Spoilers follow for Sabres of Infinity and Guns of Infinity. If you haven’t played them yet, go do that.

Today, I’d like to talk about what happens in Lords of Infinity if you choose to set your Dragoon Officer up in Aetoria, the political and cultural capital city of the Unified Kingdom. More precisely, I’d like to talk about how to take advantage of that proximity to power and social prestige, and the primary method of turning that proximity to power into genuine power and influence in its own right.

As a Lord of the Cortes, the Dragoon Officer already possesses a measure of political power tied to their birth and noble title, along with whatever his accumulated wealth and military repucation can get him. However, he is still a very small fish in a very large pond. There are nearly six hundred seats in the Cortes, and no matter what happens, the Dragoon Officer can only personally sit in one of them. If the Dragoon Officer wishes to acquire real political power, then he must find ways to influence others to follow his lead, so that he can not only control his single vote, but others as well. To do that, the Dragoon Officer must have access to his fellow Lords of the Cortes, not just physically, but socially as well. To amass and exert influence over others, he needs to make himself seen not just as one more face in a very large crowd, but as an individual player, one known to others as a figure worth trusting and working with.

He does this by joining a club.

Private clubs are a longtime and prominent fixture of Aetorian society. Located in private and well-furnished premises, they allow like-minded individuals of means (usually banebloods) to interact in a casual milieu. In the Cortes, the Dragoon Officer is one voice among hundreds, but in the sound-proofed rooms of a private club, he is able to speak privately and candidly with other club members, in places where they are almost certain not to be overheard. The outcomes of Cortes votes are often determined by backroom dealings, and private clubs are the backrooms.

The clubs themselves are well aware of this, of course, and most are very selective about who they allow as members. The more prestigious a club’s membership is, the more exclusive it becomes, as the great and the good take pains to ensure that they cannot be inconvenienced by the presence of their “lessers”. If the player intends for their Dragoon Officer to wield real political power, then they’ll have to find a way to meet, or sidestep the often-stringent requirements for membership in one of these private clubs. If they succeed, the Dragoon Officer could be rewarded with a level of access and influence among the major players of Cortes politics vastly disproportionate to his relatively humble standing within the Tierran aristocracy.

Likewise, the player will have to be careful of which club to pursue: the Dragoon Officer can only join one, and each club has its own requirements and advantages to membership. For example, the extremely exclusive Rendower Club will only accept members with royal blood, which means an Aetorian Dragoon Officer (with a distant, but certifiable link to the House of Rendower) would be able to get in far more easily than a Wulframite or Cunarian Dragoon. However, getting in means getting to interact on familiar terms with closer relations of the royal family, including major players within the Cortes.

Players preferring to amass wealth instead of political influence might find it a better idea to try and get themselves into the somewhat less-prestigious Shipowners Club, one of the few private clubs in Aetoria which allows membership to the baneless. A rather less hidebound organisation than the Rendower, the Shipowners are primarily business-oriented, and count among their members the heads of shipping companies, banking houses, and some of the foremost captains of Tierra’s naiscent industrial economy.

Of course, these are not the only choices. There is also the prestigious Admiralty Club, the firebrand Reform Club, and the newly-formed Overseas Club, the latter founded to allow veterans of the War in Antar to keep in touch. What club the Dragoon Officer chooses to join will determine the political players, factions, and ideas he is exposed to. It will make certain paths easier, and others much more difficult. It is a choice which will determine just how much the player will be able to access and influence the political leaders of the realm. As Tierra grapples with the repercussions of their long war with Antar and the very soul of a kingdom is debated and voted upon on the Cortes floor, it may become a choice which will determine whether the kingdom emerges from its postwar crisis better off, worse…

Or at all.

New installments of A Soldier’s Guide to the Infinite Sea and An Adventurer’s Guide to the Fledgling Realms are up. As usual, these worldbuilding articles are funded by my backers on Patreon. If you’d like to see more of this sort of content, or get perks like early access and the ability to vote on future articles, then please chip in if you can.


Out Now: Choice of Broadsides: HMS Foraker

Choice of Broadsides: HMS Foraker is now out for iOS, Android, and PC. It’s a free, ad-supported title on mobile, and an ad-free version is available for $3.41 CAD on Steam.. HMS Foraker is a short naval adventure set in the world of Choice of Broadsides. Command an Albionian frigate in an alternate history version of the War of 1812, patrol the coast of the New World, train your crew in the art and science of war at sea, and face down a powerful enemy warship in a battle which might decide the fate of the war.

I hope you enjoy this little side project of mine. I’ve had a lot of fun writing it.


Burden of Command Now Has a Steam Page

Just a quick update to inform everyone that Burden of Command now has a page on Steam, in preparation for release sometime in the next year or so.

For those of you unfamiliar, Burden of Command is a tactical RPG set in the Second World War, which puts you in the boots of a US Army rifle company commander as his unit fights through North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, and Germany. It features writing by both me, and Allen Gies (of Tin Star and Marine Raider fame). For more information, check out my previous posts about it, or the Burden of Command website.


Landed Gentry Simulator OIE 614: Estate Management in Lords of Infinity

Spoilers follow for Sabres of Infinity and Lords of Infinity. If you haven’t played them yet, go do that.

Today, I’ll be going into a bit more detail about one half of the first arc of Lords of Infinity; specifically, the “estate” branch. At the end of Chapter 1, after your Dragoon Officer returns to his estate and becomes reacquainted with the life he left behind him, he has the choice of returning to Aetoria to make his name in politics, high finance, or influence-peddling, or to remain home and tend to the estate he’s inherited from his father. While there is a definite high level plot weaving its way through this part of the story, a lot of the Dragoon Officer’s time will be spent managing his barony.

In the Unified Kingdom of Tierra, an estate is more than just a country house surrounded by a few hundred hectares of empty land. For a member of the baneblooded aristocracy, the estate is the primary source of income. The noble families of Tierra sustain themselves by subletting out their land to tenants, who in turn use that land to earn an income (usually through farming) and use that income to pay their rents. This means that the Dragoon Officer’s main means of earning money is through the labour and prosperity of other people. If the tenants can’t make money, they can’t pay rent. If the Dragoon Officer doesn’t receive sufficient income from his rents, he can’t pay interest on his debts. If the Dragoon Officer goes bankrupt…

The Dragoon Officer does not want to go bankrupt.

What this all means is that the Dragoon Officer has a vested interest in keeping the money flowing, and to increase the flow of that money. Whether that is to be through improving the profitability of the land, attracting more tenants, or outright extortion is up to the player. These disparate approaches to estate management are reflected by the new stat system which will be introduced in Lords of Infinity.

With the war over and the Royal Dragoons reduced to peacetime strength, the Dragoon Officer will begin the game on half-pay, a sort of reserve status which leaves him without a command. The unit stats (Discipline/Morale/Loyalty/Strength) will be replaced by a fresh set of Estate Stats:

Tenants and Income are self-explanatory enough. One reflects the number of households currently paying rents, and the other denotes the amount of money the estate brings the Dragoon Officer every year.

Next is Respectability, which serves as a reputation stat for your estate. It reflects how your estate is seen from the outside, especially by your Dragoon Officer’s social peers and superiors, which means Respectability also influences the Dragoon Officer’s personal reputation.

Prosperity reflects the financial well-being of the estate’s tenants. Low Prosperity means that they may be on the edge of starvation, whereas high Prosperity tenants might even commit their own resources if you decide to improve the infrastructure of the estate, pitching in with a public subscription to raise money for renovating the water mill or building a new road.

Contentment reflects how happy and loyal the Dragoon Officer’s tenants are. Tenants on an estate with high Contentment will rally around their lord enthusiastically in times of crisis or hardship, while tenants on an estate with low Contentment are one bad day away from rebellion.

These attributes are all influenced by the player’s choices in random events, by outside influence, and by each other. For example, Respectability, Prosperity, and Contentment are all needed to attract new Tenants to the Dragoon Officer’s estate, which in turn leads to more Income. Naturally, any player planning to increase their Dragoon Officer’s income would have to manage all three of the former stats to increase the latter two.

The main way to actually do this is by commissioning upgrades to the estate. Upgrades come in two classes. Minor upgrades are relatively straightforward. They require an initial investment in cash and a few specific prerequisites, provide a one-time boost to the estate’s stats, and can be completed in a season (a management “turn”, if you will). Major upgrades are subplots in their own right, endeavours which will require vast investment in time, money, and effort, but may entirely change the character of the Dragoon Officer’s fief. A successfully completed major upgrade may turn a parcel of sleepy hamlets to a bustling market town, a local industrial centre, or a disreputable (but highly profitable) hub of illicit activity. However, major upgrades bring their own challenges. The local weavers might not like seeing a new mill take their jobs, your tenants certainly won’t be pleased if you decide to enclose the commons, and the Intendancy is likely to take an interest if you end up dealing with the wrong people.

All of this, of course, serves as only one plate out of the many you’ll be spinning as the Dragoon Officer. There’s also the issue of marrying and producing an heir, of keeping up with local and Cortes politics, and of of dealing with your neighbouring landed aristocrats. As Tierra deals with political instability, diplomatic uncertainty, and the looming prospect of economic ruin, the Dragoon Officer would be well advised to prepare for a coming storm in whatever way he can.

His life may well depend on it.

As usual, new installments of A Soldier’s Guide to the Infinite Sea and An Adventurer’s Guide to the Fledgling Realms are up. In addition, HMS Foraker now has its own page, in anticipation for its release later in the year.