Sickle: A Fan-Made Scythe Megagame After-Action Report 2 (Gunter Von Duisburg of the Saxony Empire)

Sickle is a fan-made megagame set in the 1920’s alternate history universe created by Jakub Różalski and popularized by the Scythe board game (published by Stonemaier Games).  Players fight, negotiate, and harness powerful new technologies as prominent political factions, scientists, and industrialists involved in the power struggles of Eastern Europa.

In Sickle, I played the Saxony Empire folk hero Captain Gunter – an aristocratic military commander of Saxony’s elite mech squad.  As a folk hero, I had my own character missions to navigate in addition to contributing to the goals of my country (at least what I perceived to be the proper goals of my country).

As is the case with many megagames, innumerable conversations occur.  This is an accounting of those with the most significant impact.

Chapter 1- where a reclusive war hero is embroiled in politics

Saxony suffered after the Great War. That is the most important thing. But despite our significant loss, every Saxon knows who I am – Captain Gunter; every Saxon child would recognize my fierce but disciplined dire wolves, the black Nacht (“night”) and the white Tag (“day”).

In this time of humble recovery, preservation of the old military aristocracy is key to our Empire’s resurgence. And respect for the Emperor is key to keeping the populace on the proper path.  As such, I took this opportunity to re-avow myself to the Emperor and offer myself up for any service he so desired.

My first offer was to investigate the neighboring mysterious Factory in the hopes of acquiring more powerful mechs to regain our military might.  The Emperor readily agreed that as an elite mech squad captain, this was a fitting assignment.

Traveling to the Saxony – Factory border, I offered workers to help clear the rubble for where the Factory was being rebuilt.  Speaking to their chief inventor – the progeny of Nikola Tesla – and the new CEO Hiram, they declined my offer, suggesting they needed resources instead.

Bringing this message back to the Emperor, he sent me to discover what resources were needed. But once I had gained audience again with the Factory leadership, I was told they no longer required resources. Instead, they asked if we would be interested in providing military border protection for them; they were concerned about Albion spies.  I negotiated that such a service would allow us first access to military tech, to which the Factory agreed.

I returned to Saxony with the intention to speak to the head of the Imperial Saxon Army, but was waylaid by another conversation.  During that conversation, the Friekorps arrived – the incendiary, pro-terrorist, paramilitary faction within the Empire – seemingly in search of some way to get involved…not a comforting notion. On sudden inspiration, I asked the Friekorps if they would be interested in running border patrols for the Factory on behalf of Saxony – for which they showed enthusiasm. I nodded and said I would take the matter to the Emperor in private audience.

In the Emperor’s palace, I explained the case for using the Friekorps:  1) It would satisfy our agreement with the Factory and get us access to military tech, all without needing to distract our Imperial Army. 2) It would remove the terroristic Friekorps from the Empire and give them something to do, rather than be within the Empire with idle hands. 3) There is a decent chance that the Friekorps would listen to the famous and esteemed Captain Gunter, potentially keeping them in line.  The Emperor gave his blessing to the arrangement. Further, he showed his trust in my loyalty and judgement by deciding that I could keep the Friekorps engaged however I saw fit from then on, stressing the importance that I make sure they were kept busy.

I returned to the Factory border with the Friekorps.  The Factory revised their border patrol offer to a shared border patrol; they had natural concerns about giving full military provision to one nation. Their borders would be half patrolled by Saxony in exchange for first access to military tech, and half patrolled by the Crimean Khanate (their neighbor on the other side) in exchange for exclusive resource provision to the Factory. With this new agreement in place, the Factory told us our new military technology would be extra mech appendages.

As I crossed the border to return to Saxony, I was approached by a triumvirate including the Imperial Saxon Army and the powerful internal Catholic state of Autonomous Bavaria. They were upset about the lack of military spending by the Emperor and were intending to overthrow him. They wanted to know what corner I would be in. I was taken aback at this and requested they allow me to speak with the Emperor to discern his military intentions – without arousing suspicion.

In private audience with the Emperor, I informed him of our successful border patrol agreement with the Factory, then asked him what his vision was for the military. I returned to the triumvirate eagerly awaiting the news and told them what the Emperor had told me:  He was waiting until receiving the mech enhancements from the Factory to invest heavily in the military. Until then, he was attempting to not arouse suspicion of the other nations by keeping the military stable rather than growing it, and was willing to use the money normally invested there to aid the Factory, if needed, in order to receive this valuable military tech. Of course, this did not silence the grousing of these would-be insurgents, but it was reasonable enough to delay their rebellion. But when would the military tech be complete? they asked.

I returned to the Factory to discuss the timeline of our mech enhancements.  The Factory said they could use some scientists to help them develop it. With extra help they could turn it around quickly.

Returning to Saxony, I approched our Saxon scientists – Fredrich Bayer (of Bayer Pharmaceuticals) and Fritz Haber. Haber was either “The Man who saved a Billion lives” or the renounced “Father of Chemical Warfare” depending on your perspective of his actions during the Great War. I believe he did his duty to country, but nevertheless, our repentant inventor of poison gas looking for redemption was not enthused to work with the Factory on military technology. His work had taken a new direction – for example, he was spearheading a “swords to plowshares” initiative by augmenting mechs to be used to spread fertilizer (another of his inventions). But I appeased Haber by explaining that the extra appendages could be used for various purposes and that there would be room for other inventions than military at the Factory. For Bayer’s part, he had a special condition: he was willing to assist so long as the Factory hosted a subsidiary office for Bayer Pharmaceuticals.

I returned to the border with the scientists, but unfortunately, the Factory was quite busy at that moment and unable to speak.  After waiting a good amount of time, I told our scientists that I would retrieve them when the Factory was available. As I waited, I was approached by the Polonian folk hero Anna who was visiting the Saxony Empire. She requested assistance getting into the Factory for a mission. I declined, given the political impact that could occur if Saxony was implicated.

Finally, I was able to gain an audience with Factory leadership and gathered our scientists at the border.  The Factory CEO first let us know that their research had given unexpected results and that we would no longer be receiving extra mech appendages.  Instead, we would be receiving death ray technology as part of the agreement. In my eyes as an elite mech squad captain, this was far better. Unfortunately, this discussion nearly broke the agreement with the scientists, as Fritz Haber had already been reluctant to support development of tech that could be used militarily. So hearing the Factory CEO state that we would receive first access to the “death ray technology” as part of the agreement was decidedly not what Haber had in mind.  Seeing the immediate hesitation and skepticism on Haber’s face, I was able to maintain the accord by clarifying the Saxon stance to the Factory: “We would be happy to be the first to have death ray technology, specifically so no one could use it against us while we are unprepared, though we would like it to be known that we are interested in mech augmentation for non-military purposes as well, such as with Haber’s fertilizer-spreader.” The Factory seemed a bit nonplussed by this declaration, but accepted it and said they would keep this in mind.  Additionally, the agreement to have a subsidiary of Bayer located within the Factory grounds was agreed to, so long as any developments from that subsidiary were joint-ownership of the Factory and Bayer. The Factory let me know that the technology should be ready next season.

It was around this time that word spread the Friekorps had defected to become the official military of the Factory. Normally this would be an egregious breach of contract, but with all the chaos going on, with our own military a ticking timebomb ready to overthrow the Emperor, and the fact that the Friekorps were more considered a liability than an asset to Saxony, the move was allowed without any retribution.

I was also approached around this time by another folk hero who offered to take me on an Albion plane to spy on the Factory.  Sensing that perhaps I could call in a favor later on, I said I would not go on the plane as it would be terrible for Saxony if I was implicated. However, I would give them knowledge of where and when to fly to aid them. [Little did I know that the Albion’s were intent on sabotaging the Factory the entire game, so this perhaps was not a wise choice.]

Speaking of the military timebomb, as I returned from the border agreements with the Factory, the triumvirate approached me again – this time with the head of the Military Aristocracy who was titled as the Imperial Chancellor.  They said they had waited long enough, that the military was still neglected, and that the Emperor had too much power in his hands compared to the parliamentary houses of the Reichstag and the Bunderstadt. I told them that the death ray technology was expected soon now that the scientists had joined with the Factory and reminded them that the Emperor had said he would invest heavily in military after receiving that technology.  When they made it clear their intention was to continue regardless and that this was not a discussion but a question of whether I was in or out, I chastised them. This was not how the nobel Saxony acted. We did not cause chaos and disruption when we would be better as a unified strength. The Emperor is a key figurehead of our traditions, our nobility, and our undaunted power. I would not be joining their side in this coup. Despite my objections, they left to enact their plans.

I made quick haste to the Emperor, letting him know the update on the death ray technology and that he was about to be overthrown.  I filled him in on the plots against him, the accusations of his neglect, and encouraged him to go make peaceful assuasions with the disruptors before it was too late.  But alas, the protestations of the Emperor were feckless and the coup successfully executed.

The revolt’s intent was not to execute the Emperor, but simply to make him a powerless figurehead. The Emperor showed his disdain by temporarily taking residence at the nearby Factory.  He made it clear he had not abandoned his people, but that he was objecting to the undignified ill treatment put upon him by his government and military leaders.

The press came to speak to me soon after and I used my folk hero status to influence the situation. I took public my chastisement of the revolt, while also admonishing any further uprisings – as we are too noble of a country and too strong on the world stage to allow anything but a peaceful transition of power after these acts.  Saxony must be stable. I directed further comment to the Emperor himself, in the Factory.

Soon after, the death ray technology was received. Too late.

Chapter 2 – where a reclusive war hero takes a break from politics to pursue his personal missions, and alas – finds himself embroiled even further in politics

With the Factory agreement in place, the death ray technology delivered, and the military coup resolved (for better or worse), I found myself free to get back to my personal missions.  The first mission was information reconnaissance. Understand the new leadership structure and goals of the Factory? Check. Scavenge from there to understand their inventions? Hmm…I only knew of the death ray tech.  Understand the political and power structure of neighboring Polonia? I had neglected them.

I traveled to Polonia to find Anna. I offered to help her infiltrate the Factory and scavenge an item from there; something for which she had originally requested my assistance. I would aid her so long as she also scavenged an item for myself.  Unfortunately, she had already succeeded in infiltrating and stealing something from the Factory, but she did share news of the current Polonian political dealings – unlike Saxony, the Polonian state seemed relatively stable at the time.

With just the scavenging remaining, I approached my old allies, the Friekorps, now the official military of the Factory.  They agreed to cover me as I scavenged the only thing currently in the Factory stocks.

It was a Bayer aspirin.

At the completion of my first mission, I received unexpected news. I had become aware that certain papers existed showing that the old Rusvian Monarchy and the Saxony Empire had secretly funded the Rusviet communist revolutionaries during the Great War.  Apparently, despite being anti-communist, the Saxons and Rusviets felt a Communist threat would be a unifying strawman. Of course, this did not end up as planned, given that the communists overthrew the Rusviet monarchy during that war. These incendiary papers would bring great shame and global doubt to the nations of the Saxony Empire and the Rusviet Union should they come to light.  I was tasked to burn the papers held by both nations, to quell any additional rumors or evidence by any means necessary, and to keep my actions out of the press while doing so.

My first action was the easy one – I explained the situation to the Imperial Chancellor and was given access to the archives to burn the Saxony papers. But from there, it would be more difficult.

And made more difficult by the fact that the Emperor was not so keen to have me leave at that time, given that I was his only public ally.  In fact, he had cleverly discerned that while he had been overthrown by force, the constitution had not yet been changed. He intended to use this detail to publicly declare me the new Imperial Chancellor, free to redistribute the titles of power as I saw fit. I was not overly thrilled at this prospect, knowing it would embroil me further in the politics of the age. I suggested that he consider an agreement for his return that perhaps would regain some, but not all, of his former power.  He said he’d consider it, but he pressed more for me to take on the Imperial Chancellory. I asked that he wait a little while, as I had an important mission to attend to. He reluctantly agreed, but said he would work to draft up the details during my absence.

Happy to escape to the wilderness with my dire wolves Nacht and Tag, I traveled far across Europa to reach the borders of the Rusviet Union.  My intent was to find some of the old guard of proud aristocracy who perhaps were not fully pleased with the communistic power structure. While I did not think these papers would bother the communists, it would certainly shame the old guard. Unfortunately, I discovered I was unlikely to find any friendlies there.  In a bit of desperation, I spoke to a young Rusviet legend – Olga – and suggested there be a diplomatic banquet held of which she and I would take part (thinking I could do an infiltration mission once inside the government). Olga was suspicious, but told me that regardless there was no chance of this occurring for at least three seasons. I told her that three seasons, unfortunately, would be too long, but I did gain information to know that the old Rusviet Monarchy was exiled and in residence at the Nordic Kingdom.

With that lead, I headed again across the breadth of Europa to the Nordic Kingdom and found the old Rusviet Monarchy.  I explained the dire situation and was told that I would receive aid from the Nords if I spoke with the Nordic King.

Unfortunately, the Nordic King was engaged in a full council. Sensing I had been traveling a long time, I felt I could no longer put off my return to the Emperor if I wanted to consider myself loyal. Reluctantly, I returned and agreed to be Imperial Chancellor.  The Emperor was happy with the news, but also elated to share that he was drafting an agreement to try to join together the Factory and Saxony in a way that will restore him to power, though perhaps more limited.

After my official annointment, I headed back to Saxony and made a show of interrupting the former Imperial Chancellor’s council session to take his title and give it to myself. Declaring that the Emperor had given me that title as was his continuing constitutional right, I went about Saxony, taking the assigned titles away from the revolters and occasionally leaving a title (or even giving another) to those who had been loyal servants to the emperor before the coup. Flabbergasted, the revolters did not immediately think to simply ignore this and draft a new constitution with new roles, or to ignore the old political structure since it was no longer backed by power.

As expected, I now unhappily had many items channeled to me; I tried to defer judgement elsewhere wherever possible, and cannot even recall any of the issues brought to me in this role. My sole focus was to continue on my mission to quell the dishonorable papers. Meanwhile, a Nordic scientist was caught and arrested in Saxony, having stolen some gaseous tech that our scientists had discovered.  I desperately tried to seek audience with the Nordic King to take care of the papers. While waiting, the Nordic folk hero Bjorn noticed I was the Imperial Chancellor and pulled me aside. He had evidence of our papers. I told him that I would speak to his king about it. He said that the king was busy with the scientist captured in Saxony and that our nations were not currently on good terms. Sensing an opening, I responded that I was looking to speak to their king regarding the scientist as well. As the Nordic and Saxon governments argued and negotiated over the scientist and the evidence of his tech theft, I managed to have an audience with the Nordic king and the deposed Rusviet king.  We agreed to three terms: 1) Nords would provide resource and intelligence aid to the journey to infiltrate the Rusviet Union and destroy the papers, 2) The Nordic Kingdom would destroy the evidence in the hands of Bjorn, and 3) Saxony would release the Nordic scientist.

Just as the others in our governments felt they had reached an agreement, I as Imperial Chancellor announced that the agreement was already made with the Nordic King and the issue was resolved.  Shortly after, the Saxon Emperor gathered all of Saxony and the Factory together to ratify the unification of the Factory with the Saxony Empire. As part of this deal, the Emperor regained some of his political power, and the corporate board of the Factory was also incorporated into the official power structure.  With the schism healed, the Emperor returned to Saxony and I joyfully surrendered my status as Imperial Chancellor.

Free again, I traveled to the Rusviet Union.  Ironically, after all of the preparation to secretly infiltrate their government, a persuasive diplomatic argument struck me as I crossed through Polonia. Receiving audience with the Rusviet second in command, I explained the existence of the papers and how it would look if these surfaced.  It would undermine the “victory of the people” if it was known that they succeeded partially by the funding of the monarchy and nobility. This could damage their own populace’s morale – which, if rumors were true, was already flagging. The official immediately grasped the gravity of the situation and accepted my offer to burn the papers personally so that he would never be incriminated. Mission accomplished.

Chapter 3 – where a reclusive war hero returns to Saxony and looks forward to the familiarity of war

With little time and energy left, I considered accepting a third and final mission, but turned it down, instead retiring to Saxony to see how I could be of service to my new supercountry.  Soon enough, I ran into our scientists – Bayer and Haber. These gentlemen [who ironically had developed most of the gaseous weapons used in the game] had defected from the Saxony Empire and joined the Rusviet Union a few seasons ago, citing indifference from government toward the pursuits of science.  Apparently their situation in the Rusviet Union hadn’t satisfied them either, because they were wandering in Polonia now, looking for their next residence. I spoke to them on the border of Saxony and Polonia, where they told me they had never intended to stay at the Rusviet Union, but had defected as a cry for attention.  I offered to see if I could get them an audience with the Factory leadership to obtain them state backing, then went off to quickly arrange a two-tiered plan.

I returned to the border shortly after and said that they would need to come to the Factory CEO in Saxony to discuss the terms. Bayer, Haber, and I joined the Factory CEO, where the scientists explained for which research they were wanting financial backing to develop. It became quickly clear that the Factory CEO had no interest in it. The talks broke off abruptly – through no fault of Bayer and Haber – but nonetheless I enacted Plan B and arrested them before they could again leave Saxony.  I assured them it would not be terrible; they were simply under house and lab arrest. They could even continue their work. They just had no freedom to leave.

Perhaps I was unpersuasive, as Bayer tried sending a desperate message back to the Rusviet Union so they could be freed. Unfortunately for them, Bjorn intercepted the message and I leveraged our relationship to have it destroyed.

In summary, this was quite an active peace time for a war hero. In some ways more exhausting than war.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Nacht and Tag have an audience with the Imperial Chancellor to discuss why he is not sending our mech squadron to the Crimean front.

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