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Here's a link to Part 1 in case you missed it. The Kingdom of Graykeep has already plunged head first into a new age of progr...

Shadow Empire Preview: The Graykeep AAR Part 2 Shadow Empire Preview: The Graykeep AAR Part 2

Shadow Empire Preview: The Graykeep AAR Part 2

Shadow Empire Preview: The Graykeep AAR Part 2

The Kingdom of Graykeep has already plunged head first into a new age of progress, rapidly expanding its borders out from admittedly modest beginnings. As king, I have many decisions to make that will shape our future, but I am assisted by numerous advisors and staff. I plan to continue recruiting additional bureaucrats and using them to head new councils like one focused on foreign affairs, and another in charge of military research. The more funding we can provide to these councils, the more able they will be to provide me with stratagems, cards which I can play, at the cost of political points, to do things like improve diplomatic ties with a hostile neighbor, or change the tactics of individual military HQ's. Below you can see the world as we know it right now. There is much that is unknown to us, but we know that there is opportunity out in that darkness that exceeds the dangers.

Militarily, our situation is stable but still requiring my full attention. We face two points of contact with non-aligned rebel forces, and are being pressed by a minor power that has no respect for our expansion. Previously, I was able to secure basic diplomatic contact with my neighbors to the north, west, and south, and we all agreed to fix the borders in their current state. While future conflict is almost certainly still on the table, I feel comfortable enough to concentrate my forces to the east, where we have numerous active enemies, and several small towns up for grabs.

Amania (dark blue) makes a fatal error. Going beyond occupying the nominally unclaimed territory between us, they send their soldiers behind my lines, cutting off the bulk of my forces from supply just as we finish off the last of the rebels in the area. This will not stand! I have no choice but declare my first war. I had hoped to avoid this inevitability for as long as possible, at least until we had established a more robust economy, capable of replacing the losses we were sure to take. Fortunately, most of my forces still consist of militia, units which are able to replenish themselves without input from my government. On the downside, these forces are weak in terms of firepower. Our enemy appears to have two units of mechanized walkers to our single walker, but overall we have much greater numbers. 

First things first, I have my troopers breakthrough and take back control of the road leading back to Hawking, our capital. This will ensure my forces aren't soon starved for supplies. Then we begin working on turning the tables against the Amanians by cutting off a couple of their units and eliminating pockets one by one. Alas, the major power to the north, Zelaria, chooses this as an opportune time to shake us down for money. Their leader threatens war if we do not pay tribute. With their forces stationed on the border, immediately ready to attack my army from the rear if they so choose, I decide to pay the tribute that is demanded, and avoid a two front war. I've read that those never go well. 

Although it stings to lose a large portion of our hard earned cash, it will hopefully buy us time to deal with one enemy before facing another. My forces pounce on Amania forces and press them back. Unfortunately, their walkers are just as formidable as our lone steel beast, able to turn back entire companies of militia riflemen on their own. Our greater numbers soon tell, however, and we are able to isolate and defeat them piecemeal. The next turn, I notice that our borders in that area show only non-aligned rebel forces. Whether we have defeated them entirely, or if their rear was overrun by rebels, is unclear. The only thing that matters is that our front is secure and our forces can continue to advance and liberate more towns in the area. I order the expansion of our road network so that our supplies can flow to the front. With the foreign affairs situation relatively stable for the moment, more attention can be paid to internal matters. 

One matter , for example, is whether or not we should interact with an ancient AI computer found in some deep ruins back in Hawking. The machine predates all of our known histories and could give us some interesting revelations. It could cause us problems as well. In the spirit of boldness, I direct our scientists to turn it on and see what happens. The AI gives us a lengthy lecture on ethics, and then supplies the knowledge needed for us to produce more effective firearms. The ethics we take into consideration, the firearms we prepare for production.

Production, however, requires resources, and my advisors point out to me that we won't be able to build any of the nice new things they have been researching until we secure our own supplies of them. Namely, metal. Our militia army is fine for now, but if we want to build anything better, we need metal. Our dirt roads are fine for now, but if we want to build railroads, we need metal. If we want to expand our industrial base, again, metal. To that end I stop by the economic council meeting and direct them devote the vast majority of their funding to prospecting for resource deposits. The more passive approach I've taken so far has not yielded any results. I have the military continue to explore and bring more territory into our kingdom, hopefully increases the chances we will strike metal.

In the meantime I've begun buying metal on the limited open market. We have an excess of funds at the moment, since we aren't building much of anything (need metal!) and so buying it outright will get things moving for now.  I quickly learn that buying too much of one resource causes the price to sky rocket for a time, and vice versa, selling a large amount of food, something we have quite a lot of, causes its price to plummet. As a result, the amount of metal we can acquire at any one time is limited, but useful for finishing some construction projects we started long ago but never had the resources to complete.

There is one nice economic development, the first private construction pops up near the agricultural domes we built early on. A town to support the workers pops up on its own accord, and begins paying taxes. An excellent development indeed! 

Another internal matter comes across my desk. This one is a bit of a touchy subject. The Church of Syndic, by far the most popular cult within my kingdom, requests a hefty donation from the state to fund their ultimate project. They want to create some sort of super computer to solve all of our problems. Such cults are fairly common on our world, though each has its own objectives. Quite a few of my own staff are Syndic sympathizers, and they would be quite upset with me if I refuse, not to mention the church itself being cross with me. They point out that they have donated multiple priests to augment my forces by strengthening their resolve, at no cost at all to the state. In the back of my mind, I am wary of using such priests in our forces, I can't help but think that seeding too many of them among the companies might lead to some sort of insurrection. That said, they do greatly benefit the troops they accompany. 

I decide it is in the best interest of keeping everyone happy to make the hefty donation. That's money we could have used to buy more metal and other resources, but a kingdom is more than just buildings and roads, it must have a happy populace as well. Zelaria, our most powerful neighbor, is at it again with the demands for tribute. I can see their forces build up along our border at times, making everyone nervous. I tell them to shove off this time and the next. Not only because our forces now stand ready to repel any invasion, but also because I don't have that kind of money to spare at the moment.

Our investment in prospecting efforts finally pays off! A metal deposit is found in the southern region of the kingdom. Now I just need to order the construction of a metal mine and we will be in business! No more shortages, no more buying at exorbitant prices on the open market! We can really make some progress with a steady flow of materials. Oh, what's this? My construction chief is telling me that the site is too far away and outside of our logistics network. Apparently building such a facility in the middle of nowhere with no way to transport workers and construction equipment to the site is a problem. Ah, well, that makes sense. I consult the writings of my father (the game manual) and realize that I have indeed been neglecting the logistical side of things. Simply building dirt roads is not enough it seems. I order the construction of some transportation centers to get trucks on the road and supplies moving. Once again I'm forced to buy metal on the market to speed up the process. 

In the meantime, I look out across my kingdom. We have expanded further than I ever expected by this point. So far out in fact that our units can't be supplied and we begin losing contact with a few of them completely. Logistics really are important it seems! Being a king in this world is far more involved than simply ordering armies around. It requires management of trade, diplomacy, logistics, personal relationships, and more, in far greater detail than one might ever suspect. It looks like I've still got a lot to learn, but things are going quite well in the Kingdom of Graykeep. For now...

Shadow Empire is coming out soon from Slitherine Games. Stay tuned for more coverage of this fascinating title!

- Joe Beard