So… here’s my Special Project:
I’m a huge fan of Paradox’s Europa Universalis 4. It’s slow-paced and fiddly, it can be downright obtuse at time, but it’s such a wonderful sandbox to create stories that I keep coming back to it whenever I have some time.
There a many ways to play the game: you can play for score, set yourself some goals, or just try stuff out. If you need inspiration, well, there are achievements to get. Start as Kongo and try to conquer the entirety of Africa. Start as a one-province minor power in the depths of Southeast Asia and grow to have over a million available seamen to recruit.
Or, if you’re feeling brave, you can try to conquer the entire world. Which is what I’ll try to do in this series.
Apparently, it’s been done (by far better players than I) by starting as Ryukyu, a small, powerless province right next to Asia’s largest countries, but I’ll do it in easy mode, by playing as the Ottoman Empire. It’s still quite a challenge, and one that I haven’t successfully achieved yet.
(As of the time of this posting, I’m in the second half of the game, perhaps even the last third, and I’m nowhere near victory yet. So there’s a real chance I’ll fail at this project – in which case I’ll take the lessons of this playthrough and give it another go.)
One quick note: to complete achievements, you cannot lower the difficulty, and you must play on Ironman (i.e. Without the ability to load a save to undo poor decisions or to savescum, except almost immediately if you misclick.) I will avail myself to one little bit of save scumming right at the beginning, however: there’s an advisor I want to hire early on, and I’m not above restarting the game to get it from day one. But beyond that… I have to take what the game gives me (except in the case of misclicks. There’re plenty of ways a second of inattention can cost you a couple of years in EU4, so in those rare few cases when I do get to walk those back I’ll take the opportunity to do so.)
I won’t go too deeply into the mechanics of the game. Other Let’s Play on the internet have already done it, and there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. I will give a quick overview of major mechanics throughout the series (usually by adding a small addendum after each post.)
So, let’s see how far we can go!
A note on expansions: Buying the entire collection of EU4 DLC is expensive, even if you get it during a sale. So, for the budget-minded, here’s my recommendation on which DLC you should buy first.
1-Art of War: this unlocks the immensely valuable, and convenient, ability to transfer occupation of provinces to your vassals during a war, which in turns lets you give them the provinces in peace deals. Without going into details, this ability is vital to any big-conquest campaign.
2-Common Sense: this lets you spend monarch points to develop provinces, also letting you gain Institutions faster. Not vital per se, but extremely useful.
3-Rights of Man: This gives the Ottomans specifically a few nifty tricks, but it’s really for the Great Power abilities that you want this.
4-Mandate of Heaven: now we’re firmly into optional territory. The Ages and Splendor mechanics give you a few options to play with.
5-Conquest of Paradise/Wealth of Nations/Res Publica/El Dorado/Third Rome: strictly if you want to play games with the nations/goals introduced in those expansions.
6-The Cossacks/Mare Nostrum: if you really want an additional layer of micromanagement or if you really like the diplomatic game.
Mechanics overview : Provinces
Since we’re going to be conquering the world, let’s talk about land, shall we?
In EU4, the entire world is separated into provinces of various size and worth. A country is made up of one or many provinces, and draws money and men from them. There’s an enormous amount of variables associated with every province, but we’ll address those when they come up.
So, to conquer the world, I just have to seize every province? Well, not quite. First, provinces owned by nations subjects to us (vassals, marches and protectorates) count as “conquered” for our purposes.
But, more importantly, you can’t just grab the land. Well, technically you can, but there’s a mechanic in the game that simulates how you need to build a bureaucracy to manage your new lands. If you acquire land through war, it will generally not be considered one of your cores. An uncored province gives you a few percents of Overextension, which causes all sorts of minor negative effects… until you go over 100%, at which point your country will quickly spiral into a major catastrophe.
To counter that, you can core provinces, which costs you Admin points (one of your major ressources, which we’ll address in the next post.)