The Franks

by Drakontos

Overview

The Franks were the predecessors of the modern-day French. Originally a loose confederation of Germanic tribes including the Salii, Bructeri, Chatti, and the Batavi, the Franks crossed the Rhine river during the fourth and fifth centuries and would later conquer Gaul, merging with the settled/established Gallo-Roman population already there. Through Charlemagne, the Franks would found not only France, but also the Holy Roman Empire, and indeed change the face of Europe forever.

The Rhine, border of the Roman Empire for centuries, was far from impermeable to cross-cultural transactions and this is reflected to an extent in the Franks. Able to build paved roads, stone walls and fifth level farms, for example, they are somewhat more 'civilised' than some of their neighbours and also reflect the feudal system that will later develop in France. With a mix of barbarian and Roman features, and true benefits to both remaining pagan and converting to Christianity, the Franks offer a truely unique style of gameplay.

The Lands:

The Franks control only a single territory at the start of the campaign- Vicus Franki, which within the first few turns will be ready to upgrade to a large city. Containing a Militia Barracks, Warlord's Stables, Practice Range, Great Market, Cesspool, Blacksmith and a Temple of Wodan within Vicus Franki's wooden walls, the nearby lands have developed crop rotation and are crisscrossed by paved roads- it is far from underdeveloped. Your king, Chlodio, garrisons the city with his bodyguard, two units of Levy Spearmen and some Peasants, while his son Merovaeus guards the northern border with some Hunters, Levy Spearmen and a unit of Axe Heerbann. Your assassin Lutgardis waits within the city walls, while Sigimer, the diplomat, waits to the east and the spy, Carolus, lurks on the easternmost border of your lands.

To the south lie the Alemanni, who begin the campaign at war with the Romans to your west. Perhaps too strong to challenge at first, your campaign goals (20 regions including Aquitania, Narbonensis and Lugdenensis) are going to take you across the border against the Romans eventually. Meanwhile, to the immediate north and east lie the independent settlements of Campus Chatti, Campus Marcomanni and Campus Quadi, although beyond the lands of the Chatti lie the Saxons, and north of the Marcomanni the Lombardi and the Burgundii. One must be careful not to overextend one's forces; luck is a fickle mistress.

While one might attempt to consolidate north of the Rhine and Danube before marching on Roman territory, the effort of dominating such a crowded and poor area may not be worthwhile. A less stubborn commander might choose to horde, and sack his way across wealthy Roman Gaul before settling again in a less crowded area of the map...

The Troops:

As with all factions, the Frankish player can train peasants from the government building, although being mere cannon fodder in combat and poor garrison troops besides, they are best reserved for population redistribution..

The Franks also share the Levy Spearmen and Hunters of the Saxons, although they lack a heavier spear unit. Your closest neighbours lack much cavalry, but should you find yourself matched in combat against other cavalry factions, you will find your best counter is cavalry of your own.

In the ranged tree, alongside the Germanic Hunters also available are the Ballistae and Onagers of the Romans. Slow on the campaign map, the commander which chooses to use this asset will find himself better able to successfully take a city than his other barbarian contemporaries.

The Frankish unique infantry, or Heerbann, are also one of the Frankish player's assets. Coming in three varieties, these heavy infantry can not only hold a line but cause some considerable damage in return. Both available at the Minor City level, the Axe and Sword Heerbann will be common in early armies- the difference lying in the contrast between the greater defensive capabilities of the Sword Heerbann and the armour piercing capabilities of the Axe. Later, at the Large City, the Francisca Heerbann comes into play. Able to use warcry, but not shieldwall like the other two, these warriors are also equipped with several throwing axes (the Francisca) which they can hurl at the enemy before nearing for mle combat.

For all of these strengths, it is in the realm of mounted combat in which the Franks truly shine- at least if the Frankish player chooses to convert to Christianity. As well as the basic router-chasing Raiders and the sword-bearing Noble Warriors, the Christian monastery not only permits the recruitment of Catholic priests, but the mighty Paladin cavalry. A true ancestor to the knights for which France shall later be famous, these heavy shock troops are almost a match for the clibinarii of the east in terms of sheer destructiveness. The unique 'Paladin Bodyguard' of the Frankish Generals is also capable of a truly powerful charge and prolonged combat. Long gone are the days of spearmen- now cavalry are truly the dominant forces of the era, and the Franks are uniquely placed to prove this true.

The Gods:

The Franks have 3 temples to different deities available to them; two pagan, the other Christian. The pagan temple to Donar grants morale bonuses, while Wodan offers additional experience to troops. The Christian church, meanwhile, is better adapted for the maintenance of large empires- granting law and happiness bonuses. However, the Christians of this era are not entirely pacifist- the construction of a sufficiently large Christian temple will unlock the ability to construct the Hermitage line of buildings- which will then permit the recruitment of the elite Paladins. A Frankish player must therefore juggle experience bonuses with the recruitment of his most elite cavalry unit, or risk unrest by having an empire divided by religion.

Keep these things in mind, and you will soon lead the Franks onto victory!

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