Note that some of the featured factions will not be included in the first release. These previews will be divided by factional groupings similar to Rome 2's style. Reposted from TWC team member Lord Giovanni.
Germanic Military Traditions: +2 XP ranks for heavy infantry recruits
Hanseatic League: +30% wealth from Trade Agreements
The Holy Roman Empire
Elector Counts: -20% Resistance to Conquest
German Craftsmanship: -15% upkeep costs on all non-mercenary units
Papal-Imperial Feuds: Public Order Penalty from presence of Catholic religion (-4 max)
The last decades have seen the Holy Roman Empire rise to heights of power that had not been seen for many centuries. Under the strong rule of Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa, the fractious German and Italian counties and duchies of the Holy Roman Empire were pacified and unified- more or less- and the foundations of a strong centralized state were laid. Barbarossa died in the Holy Land while on the Third Crusade, and his son, Emperor Henry VI, not only won a massive ransom for the empire by capturing King Richard the Lionhearted of England, but also invaded and conquered the Kingdom of Sicily. These developments would normally be a cause of rejoicing for the successor of such worthy monarchs. At present, it is not. The currently elected Emperor, Otto IV, loathes the legacies of Barbarossa and Henry even as he takes advantage of them. Otto's father, Henry the Lion, was a bitter rival to Barbarossa, and passed on this animosity of Barbarossa's family to his son.
Emperor Otto has other reasons to dislike the legacy of Barbarossa's family. Barbarossa had aggravated a long-running dispute with the papacy in Rome over investiture of bishops and other clerical issues. Barbarossa had grudgingly reached an understanding with Pope Alexander III on these matters, but his son Henry VI inflamed the tensions again by bringing the Kingdom of Sicily into the Empire, making the papacy feel threatened by being surrounded by the Empire on all sides. This has returned the tensions between the Emperor and Pope to fever pitch. This ongoing situation has spread a measure of discontent across the realm.
The empire's populace need something to take their minds off of the simmering tensions with Rome, and there is nothing like a foreign war to do just that. Emperor Otto has just pledged to support the County of Flanders against the dangerously ambitious French, and John I of England has also joined their alliance. However, the French knights and their powerful king, Philip II Augustus, will make the war an extremely difficult one, even with the Empire's English and Flemish allies. Still, this may be the best chance that the Empire has to reunify the heartland of Charlemagne's realm.
The Empire should also, however, keep close watch on the situation in Italy. Although Emperor Barbarossa had finally pacified the rebellious city-states, his death has caused imperial authority there to all but collapse once again. Venice, still unconquered by the Empire, is drunk with vainglory after its diverting the soldiers of the Fourth Crusade- including many fine German knights- off to Constantinople to give Venice trade hegemony in the Eastern Mediterranean. Flushed with pride and wealth, the Venetians may even think that they may be able to throw German influence out of Lombardy entirely. A strong presence must be maintained in Milan and Florence against a Venetian or Genoese attack, and to at last bring those pesky cities under permanent Imperial rule. Also, the last Holy Roman Emperor had added "King of Sicily" to his long list of imperial titles. Should not Emperor Otto crush the King of Sicily and bring that title within the empire once more? The fact that the current king of Sicily, Friedrich I, is the latest scion of Barbarossa's house is only an added bonus!
The Holy Roman Empire has just entered a period of great danger, but also great opportunity. The coming years will decide whether the Kaiser's realm will fall apart once more into quarreling duchies- or gain the power to rival the empire of Charlemagne, or even that of the Caesars of old.
The Kingdom of Denmark
Master Sailors: +2 XP ranks for all ship recruits
Stave Buildings: -20% building construction costs
Hanseatic Dominance: -50% Wealth from Ports
The Kingdom of Denmark has seen its fortunes rise in the last decades. For over a decade near the end of the previous century, the realm had been ripped apart by civil war, as three claimants for the Danish throne split the country into rival domains. It was King Valdemar I who defeated his two rivals and unified the country once more. Under his rule, Denmark has regained its former strength. His son, Valdemar II, now rules. Valdemar II is a young and ambitious king who seeks to build on his father's legacy. He has done this by subjugating the pagan lands of Pommerania and Estonia to Danish rule, and seeks to extend Denmark's influence over the entire Lower Baltic- the last den of European paganism. Adding these new lands for Danish settlement and conversion will increase the power and influence of the Danes far beyond Scandinavia. This additional power will be necessary, in order to form a bulwark against the mighty Holy Roman Empire to the south.
The territories that Valdemar II has acquired include the trading city of Lubeck, the home of the greatest merchant guild in Europe- the Hanseatic League. This international network of merchant guilds has great influence throughout the Baltic and North Seas, and have come to dominate trade in these areas as surely as the Venetians dominate trade in the Mediterranean. Having the Hanseatic League's home city under Denmark's control has given the kingdom a great deal of wealth from their trade connections, but Danish sea trade is now dependent on those same merchants- who take a substantial fee for their services.
The old Norse influence is still strong in the Danes. Although they do make use of knights, their infantry units are very powerful in the cut and thrust of melee. Their fleets still draw on the ancient strength of the Danes at sea, and their sailors are truly unmatched in the world. Using the might of its fleets and the power of its armies, Denmark could make its military might known across the Baltic and North Seas, just as surely as the Hanseatic merchants have made their commercial might known in those regions. Denmark could also try curbing the power of the Holy Roman Empire to the south by conquering additional German territory, though if this is to be done, it should be done very soon. The Empire will be preoccupied in the short term with wars in France and Italy, and will not be able to bring its full might to bear against a Danish attack. Denmark must gather the strength to be able to withstand the full attention of the Holy Roman Empire when it inevitably arrives.
The County of Flanders
Burghers: +30% Wealth from Commerce buildings
Tenacious Defenders: +20% Morale when fighting in own territory
Powerful Guilds: +30% building construction costs
A honeymoon is usually supposed to be a blissfully happy time for the newlyweds. This was not the case for Count Ferdinand and Countess Joan of Flanders.
Joan is the eldest child of the sonless Count Baldwin of Flanders, who had left his county to become the first ruler of the Latin Empire following the Fourth Crusade. Both Baldwin and his wife died shortly afterwards, leaving Joan as the sole heir to the County of Flanders when she came of age. In an attempt to maintain her family's independence from France's royal line, Joan agreed to marry Ferdinand, a prince of Portugal. In an apparent display of magnanimity, Philip II Augustus of France agreed to host their wedding in Paris. However, as the newlyweds were on their way back to Flanders, Philip's son Louis captured them. Louis was heir to the French throne, and demanded that some realms that were ruled by Flanders be handed over to French control. He would not let them go until they agreed to cede the provinces he coveted, so they were forced to do so. It was an affront of the highest degree.
It was impossible not to see the hand of Philip II in this. His ambition and hunger for conquest know no bounds. For a lord to act in this manner towards his vassal is simply unconscionable. Thus, Flanders has rebelled from French rule. While it would normally be impossible for a single county to prevail against a powerful kingdom, Philip II has made more than his share of enemies. John I of England, who has lost a great amount of territory to Philip II already, and Emperor Otto IV of the Holy Roman Empire have both joined forces with Flanders to curb the power of France once and for all.
Even though it is but a single county, Flanders has the strength to see it through the coming storm. It boasts some of the finest merchants in Christendom, easily a match for the Venetians or Genoese. These merchants have turned Flanders into the center of Europe's wool trade, and made the county fantastically wealthy. With so much wealth concentrated in such a small location, it is little surprise that the merchant militias of Flanders will fight with greater fervor in defense of their homes, as they have much more to lose than many others. The Flemish armies have a potent synthesis of French-influenced knights, as well as deceptively strong citizen infantry. The most notable examples of these forces are pike formations, as well as soldiers armed with the Goedendag: a unique Flemish polearm consisting of a large two-handed club with prominent spikes on the business end, which can repel charging horses and easily punch through even the best armor. The vaunted knights of France will learn to fear these weapons.
Even though Joan and Ferdinand's marriage did not get off to the best start, it is already shaping up to have a storybook ending.