Of all the great powers of the world, perhaps none are as skilled in the arts of political chicanery and deadly focused violence as the Italian League. The fractious Italian peninsula has long been the scene of wars, dynastic struggles and political infighting, and such matters still exist today, although to a lesser degree, as the one thing that unites the otherwise disparate forces in Italian politics is their desire for territorial expansion – the League fancies itself as the forerunners of a new Italian empire dominating the Mediterranean basin. The Italians spent many years capitalising upon the weaknesses of their neighbours, taking only what they could wrest without provoking outright war.
Now embroiled in a struggle for Mediterranean dominance with the Ottoman Dominion, the League has also been dragged into conflict with several other major powers thanks to its long-standing treaty with Prussia, as well as being compelled to ally with one of its natural enemies, France. This has left the League in a potentially perilous position, but none are better at playing off one power against another than the Italians, who have literally had a thousand years of practice in such arts.
World War historyEdit
The Italian League is one of the smallest of the great powers, its core territory consisting of only the Italian peninsula and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. However, since the early 1800s, the League has gradually been expanding its overseas holdings around the Mediterranean basin. The League’s forces took back much of the old Venetian territories on the eastern Adriatic coast, including the important trading port of Split, after the Habsburg submission to the Prussians in 1804, and seized the Balearic islands from a weakened Spain soon afterwards. The League’s greatest prizes, however, came when the Kingdoms of Sardinia and Sicily combined their forces and took the island of Corsica and the north African lands of Algeria and Tunisia from the French. These combined lands form the current extent of the Italian League’s holdings.
As well as their own lands, the Italians also sponsor the Free Hellenic Kingdom in western Greece and the Peloponnese, supporting the Greeks’ struggle for independence from the Ottomans, although for more pragmatic than idealistic reasons. The charismatic adventurer, idealist and general Giuseppe Garibaldi himself is currently leading the Italian efforts to assist the Greeks in freeing the island of Cyprus from Ottoman influence. This is a calculated measure on the part of the League, as it keeps the highly effective but politically risky Garibaldi away from the centres of power in Italy itself.
As well as their actual empire, the Italians have a considerable diaspora of citizenry living abroad, as far afield as the Americas, Free Australia and China. These communities form a widespread and very effective worldwide intelligence network for the League, allowing it to subtly influence affairs far beyond its immediate sphere.
As befits a place where independence of mind, backroom intrigue and cut-throat politics holds sway, the Italian League has no single leader. In fact, its homeland on the peninsula is divided into more than twenty independent duchies, republics and city-states. However, in practice, all of these smaller states owe allegiance to one or other of the four most powerful constituent states of the League. These are the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Kingdom of Sicily, the Kingdom of Lombardy and the Republic of Venice. Not only are these the four largest states in Italy itself, but it is they who have divided up the League’s overseas holdings between themselves. Only Lombardy lacks such prestige, but compensates by controlling the lucrative mountain trading routes into the Prussian empire, as well as the League’s major banking houses in Milan.
The Kings of Sardinia, Sicily and Lombardy, and the Doge of the Venetian Republic, form the so-called ‘Tetrarchy of Princes’ that governs the League as a whole, with the smaller states jostling and politicking for influence with one or other of them. In addition, although nominally supposed to act in unity for the greater good of the League, they also constantly strive for dominance within the Tetrarchy. However, all are united by the struggle against a common enemy, in this case the Ottoman Dominion. The Tetrarchy normally operates from the magnificent floating city of Venice, but in practice can and has met in Milan, Turin and Palermo when necessary.
Standing apart from the rest of the League is one very special state – Rome, the Eternal City, home of and controlled by the Catholic Church. Although no longer an imperial capital, Rome’s immense significance means that all Italians consider it to belong to them. While he has no official temporal power in the League outside of Rome itself, the Pope has immense moral authority with all of the League states, which he does not hesitate to exert when necessary.
The Italian League is heavily militarised despite its small size – all of the states maintain standing armed forces, as much to protect themselves from each other’s ambitions. Despite this, however, a lack of resources compared to the other powers means that the Italian military is still not especially numerous. However, what it lacks in numbers, it makes up for in skill and equipment.
The largest and most powerful branch of the Italian military is its navy, whose administration is shared primarily between Sardinia and Venice. It is a highly trained and motivated force, for it is the navy that most frequently runs up against the Ottoman enemy. Italian warships are quite lightly armoured, but they are swift and agile and carry massive firepower for their tonnage. Beauty and aesthetics are key features in all Italian design and this is especially apparent in their warships, which are made to resemble floating works of art. In fact, some say that Italian ships carry the longest ranged weapons possible in order to prevent the enemy from unsporting damaging their finely crafted decoration!
The armies of the states, which together comprise the land forces of the League, are comparatively small, but they consist of a great many crack formations. The most notable are the bersaglieri, with their distinctive plumed helmets, and the alpini or mountain troops. Most Italian land formations are organised into Legions, which strongly resemble those of the ancient Roman Empire in organisation, suitably updated for the rigours of modern war. Because Italian formations tend to be small, they are mostly heavily mechanised with tanks and armoured transports. Almost all Italian armour is amphibious, and the League’s forces are very adept at assault from the sea. Of special note is the Legion commanded by Garibaldi, currently fighting the Ottomans in Greece. This Legion, unlike almost all others, is made up of troops from all over the League.
The Italian Air Armada falls between the navy and army in terms of size, but considers itself even more elite. Air combat, especially that involving aeroplanes, lends itself well to the individualistic Italian character; one on one, Italian pilots are noted as being some of the best in the world, likely a match for even the dreaded Steel Interceptors of the Russian Coalition.
The Italian League stands at the crux every major conflict developing in Europe. From an outsider’s perspective, its situation looks exceptionally bleak. But where foreigners see only despair, the League sees opportunity. Power is about more than brute force and numbers. Often, perceptions and finesse render such things irrelevant, and none do these better than the Italians.
On the TabletopEdit
Signature Weaponry: Torpedoes, Long-range gunfire, fragile ships, heavy shields
Behind the ScenesEdit
The League is an in-game equivalent of the Italian City-States that existed until Italian unification in 1861.