Monday, March 25, 2013

Through the Ages - Card - Frederic Barbarossa

This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.
Frederic Barbarossa
It is the mid-1100's AD, and Germany is in disarray.  The "country", such as it is, consists of 100's of small fiefdoms.  Some of these are little larger than a town or hillside.  Just 300 years earlier Germany had been a unified nation under Charlemagne.  Now it was sinking in a quagmire of every increasing personal disputes and disunion.

In 1147, Frederic Barbarossa rose to the title of King of Germany, confirmed by the Princes Electorate.  Little is known of Barbarossa's early life, except for the fact he came from two of the strongest families of Germany, who were often at each other's throats.  And his flaming red beard.

But shortly after his ascension he began immediate reforms and reunification.  Unable to muster an large military force through his home province, he managed uniting the Germans through diplomacy and reasoning.  His judgments were fair and disputes settled fairly, if not equitably.

Once united, Germany became a force.  Frederic quickly raised armies and began a campaign into Italy.  His goal was the Papal state of Milan, a strongly fortified and virtually impregnable town.  Rather than assault Milan directly, Frederic struck all of its neighboring allies.  The towns fell one by one before his forces.  The final city in this campaign, Tortona, was not only burned to ashes, but he then had the ground leveled so it was as if the city didn't exist.  Milan capitulated, and Frederick was crowned Holy Roman Emperor.

Frederick's history is very long and intertwined with deceit and treachery, with Frederick being the victim.  He successfully navigated an unending number of military campaigns to extend its influence.  Despite betrayal after betrayal, with the world seemingly against him, Barbarossa rebuilt the Germanic tribes into a united and strong country.  His impact on European history is evident as the unified German nation he sought to restore would become a force to be reckoned with throughout history.  This stronger Germany would become the focus of religious change during the Protestant Reformation.  His territorial gains would become the focus for the Third Reich's claims to land in Poland, the Ukraine, and portions of France.  Barbarossa's impact on Germanic history, and the World's, would be profound, despite the fact he was not particularly inspired in military tactics.
Game Stats
Popularity wise, Barbarossa is liked just slightly more than Genghis Khan.  He sits near the bottom of the heap.  Unlike Genghis, Barbarossa at least has some statistically relevant effects on the game.  From the statistics, it can be said Barbarossa requires expert play as he either greatly benefits the player, or drags the player down.
I believe Frederick is somewhat underrated.  His ability to quickly build military units can be very useful, particularly if a player attempts to gain territories.  When playing Frederick and seeding the Event deck with Territories, I've found myself controlling the three territories.  Frederick allows me to quickly rebuild lost units.

Frederick Barbarossa: territory
capturing machine
The above strategy has an interesting effect on the game.  If a player can gain a resource territory and a farming territory, I can quickly build a giant military force of inexpensive warriors without unhappiness.  Not only does this place me in a strong military face, there is a pressure on the other players to not allow me to take additional territories.  At this point, it becomes more important to deftly let other player's win territory bids at the cost of reducing their military.  They are then exposed to military attacks from Frederick, and therefore spend resources on military units rather than infrastructure.

Frederick's drawback, in my opinion, is he comes one Age too late.  Like all Age I leaders, it is rarely worth it to replace an Age A leader until he dies.  Furthermore, the Age II leaders are ultimately more useful.  In some way, this resembles the 'time frame' of the Dark Ages which was occurring in Age I, the Age I leaders are individually nice with fairly impressive abilities, but they are overshadowed by their Age I and Age II counterparts.  Despite the fun of going for a "territorial victory", I can't recommend Barbarossa for many games.  If Age A leaders were removed for one reason or another, (an variant I recommend trying), I believe Barbarossa would not only see more game play, but would be much more useful.

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