The one guaranteed way to fizzle out in a game of Europa Universalis is wandering in without a plan on how you’ll deal with the various challenges that arise as the game goes on.
So what challenges will the Ottomans face?
First, let’s look at internal challenges. The historical period covered by the game start as the Ottoman Empire begins its rise to glory, and ends with it suffering through a period of… less impressive achievements (decline is probably too strong a word.)
In-game, this is modeled in two ways.
First, early Ottoman military units have a small statistical advantage over European units, with the advantage eventually going the other way. That’s something that I can’t do anything about in-game (beyond the usual strategies that I’d deploy to maximize army efficiency regardless of the country I play.)
Second, the Ottoman have access to a few decisions and events related to the administration of the Empire and the rise and fall of the Janissary military caste. One, adopting the Provincial Government System, is… discutable on it’s face (it increases revenue, at the cost of increasing unrest), but once you realize it also unlocks a ton of bad events it’s a strictly bad idea.
The other decision (Adopt the Devsirme System) opens up the Janissary mechanics. It’s an event chain that gives lots of military boosts early on, modelling the rise (and eventual fall) of the Janissary caste… if it ever falls. Since I want to keep the bonus, let’s see what I can do to prevent that.
If the wiki is accurate, the thing is, while the Janissary Decadence disaster countdown is nearly guaranteed to start (I’ll almost certainly have rulers with no stats at 5), it’s absolutely possible to have it not tick down. It requires me to manage my finances moderately well despite having to pay the occasional Janissary reward, and to keep my army tradition at 70 or more. Then, the disaster will only progress if my ruler doesn’t have a stat at five, and is also the ruler who had to allow or disallow the Janissaries from holding land (in either case, . It’s… manageable, especially with the Ottoman Sultanate’s Harem system which lets me have some control over my heirs.) Keeping up army tradition is relatively easy when you’re nearly always at war, so it’s really just a matter of keeping an eye out on a few variables.
As to external challenges, I imagine the game will be split into three phases:
1-In the early game, I’ll be playing essentially an aggressive, but otherwise normal, game of EU4. My goal there will be mainly to expand quickly and cheaply, so as to snowball into an unmatched blob of death. I’ll spread my advances in three zones: Eastern Europe (it’s basically impossible to make inroads through the HRE at this stage of the game, it generates way too much Aggressive Expansion), Asia and Africa. The idea is to grab as much land as feasibly possible, while forming large vassals as well.
There are two major dangers there: Coalitions and rival blobs. The Ottomans are big enough that they generally don’t have to deal with invaders looking to steal their land, but if a bunch of European countries decide I need to be cut down to size, well that’s a loss of time and ressource I can ill afford. But that’s something I can manage on my end.
The other risk is that another country will start blobbing, or form a strong union or something. A powerful Holy Roman Emperor could become an issue (making central Europe a nightmare to conquer), and Poland and Lithuania form the Commonwealth maybe two-third of the time if left unchecked. Other countries can form blobs as well (Muscovy is one of these) but these are the ones that matter in the early game.
Neutralizing the HRE is a matter of seizing a few HRE provinces early on. That’s generally enough to prevent the growth of Imperial Authority. Austria inheriting Burgundy (and keeping it) is also a problem there – if that happens, I really need to drop everything and mess with Austria enough that they lose the resulting war with France.
As to the Commonwealth, that’s harder to deal with. Poland gets an event very early on in the game that lets them form a Personal Union with Lithuania, eventually leading to the blob forming. If the union does form, I think fighting Poland early on becomes necessary (to cut it down to a smaller size, which will prevent Poland from eventually inheriting/integrating Lithuania.)
2-In the midgame, we should be bigger than anyone else (and big enough that there’s no such thing as a fair war anymore. That will be the time when I break and eat the other blobs I can reach. The goal is to ensure that no major power remains in Asia, Africa or anywhere east of the HRE.
3-Finally, the endgame will be smashing through the HRE, France, England, Spain and Portugal, while also fighting dozens of bullshit small wars to eat the remaining minor countries. Once I commit to the endgame, there’s no turning back – Coalitions are sure to form in Europe to counter me.
So that’s the plan. Let’s see how it turns out.