Let’s Play Europa Universalis IV – Getting Started

Well, it’s November 11th, 1444. We’re the Ottomans, the pale green network of provinces that occupy most of the visible part of the map.

Everyone else are obstacles to our glorious manifest destiny. Yeah, even those in parts of the world we can’t see.

Before we first unpause the game, let’s handle some housekeeping.

We have a few decisions to take. At this point, except for the obviously awesome Adopt the Devshirme System decision, they’re minor matters of administration in a Sunni country. Some of them have to be re-taken whenever we change ruler, but I doubt we’ll ever see a scenario where we don’t just adopt them all. Maaaaayyybbbee if I somehow end up changing rulers right at a time when I’m dealing with very high unrest, but that’s a stretch.

So we end up with an awesome bunch of minor positive modifiers as well as minor tweaks to our Piety (which will soon be wiped out by various declarations of war. More on the Sunni religion in a future post.)

I also choose a Mission at this time (the mission to conquer Constantinople.) As a rule, I don’t usually worry too much about grabbing very profitable urban provinces over poor rural backwaters, but Constantinople is a very, very rich province, taking it opens up the “Make Constantinople Capital” decision which brings in lots of good bonuses, and strategically I need to secure the straits to facilitate my troop movements. Plus it gives me a Casus Belli on Constantinople, which saves some diplomatic time.

I also set my national focus to Administrative. Changing the national focus means I will receive more Admin points, at the cost of receiving less Diplomatic and Military points. It’s a zero-sum game, but early on I want the admin points. I imagine I will switch the focus between administrative and diplomatic from time to time.

We also need to hire advisors. As a large, rich country, we have the luxury of actually having the budget to hire all three advisors, and even to pay for one level-2 advisor.

The big effect of advisors is to give us an increase in monarch points (one of the ressources I’ll discuss in the mechanics section at the end of this post.) They also each give a small bonus to something: with a few exceptions, those don’t matter very much. Eventually, I’ll only want level-3 advisors across the board regardless of what other bonuses they give, but that’s in the future. Right now, I do however have one specific requirement: a Diplomatic Advisor that gives a Better Relations Over Time bonus.

That’s because that bonus affects the speed at which my Aggressive Expansion penalty decays, and, in the early game, Aggressive Expansion is the biggest throttle on my expansion speed.

So in this case I hire the Diplomatic Advisor that gives me +1 to Diplomatic Power and the BROT bonus.

I also hire a +1 military adviser and a +1 admin adviser, giving me bonus Prestige and bonus Morale. The bonus to Prestige is nice in that over time it will also reduce my Aggressive Expansion. But it’s a small thing, and I almost elected to take a +2 admin adviser that gave me more money instead.

Then I micromanage my fleet, sending my light ships on trade protection missions and merging my military fleet into a big blob of ships. I send my merchants on trade missions (then forget about them for the balance of the game… or so I think at the time.)

Finally, I deal with my early game diplomacy. I send off an alliance offer to Bohemia, revoke the guarantee to Ragusa, and send someone to forge claims in Hungary. Typically, Hungary gets weakened by some wars at that point, and I figure any easy land grabs in Europe have to be made. Generally, I won’t detail what my diplomats are doing: they’ll spend their time building spy networks or schmoozing.

Then I unpause, and wait the long month before the game will let me declare wars. I move my troops and fleets where they will need to be, I assign one general to my army ready to march on Constantinople, hire another general to lead my armies into Albania, hire a couple extra regiments…

All minor things that are probably me micro-managing too much. As I mentionned, the big limiter on my growth in the early game is Aggressive Expansion, and I’m almost certain I’ll end up having to wait a couple of years without waging wars to let it decay.

So we let the month past, and on December 11 I declare war on Albania. It’s a priority target because Venice also wants it, and I need my armies to be sieging the province ASAP. Then I send my armies in, the obviously unfair fight resolves, and we set down to siege.

Meanwhile, a month passes and I can declare war on Byzantium. This also puts me at war with Athens, but who cares. The army of Albania (minus a siege contingent) can take care of Athens and the Byzantium provinces there.

Then it’s time to wait out the sieges. My fleet can blockade every single province currently under siege, so I use them well to speed up sieges. Without going into details, sieges work by repeated rolls, you need several successes on those rolls to win the siege, and each success increases the odds of another success. So an early blockade helps getting more successes earlier, which speeds up the siege.

Realistically, none of my opponent stand a chance. On March 12th, 1446, I annex Byzantium and their vassal Athens. Albania I swallowed a few months ago.

… and that’s enough words for now. Let’s take a break as we celebrate our victories (and subsequent Full Annexations of Byzantium, Athens and Albania. I do the post battle chores (building cores, making Constantinople our new capital, and consolidating my forces) but our next conquests will be in a further post.

Mechanics overview : Ressources

There are five important ressources in Europa Universalis 4, plus one that’s only really relevant in very specific scenarios.

The first is money (counted in ducats): it’s generated by your economy, it’s used to pay for maintenance of basically everything, and also to purchase stuff like ships and regiments, or to hire mercenaries.

As a rule, it’s not something I worry too much about beyond trying to run a balanced budget. Having an enormous treasury just isn’t much of a help or necessity (the one exception being paying to enforce the adoption of Institutions.) Even in those case, taking the occasionnal loan isn’t a major problem.

However… running at a deficit forever is a path to disaster. Eventually, you end up in a debt spiral that ends with bankruptcy, and while in a normal game you can recover from that, in a challenge situation you can’t afford the lost time.

The important second ressource is manpower: the number of men available for recruitment into your army or for reinforcements. That’s based on how many provinces you have, plus a bunch of modifiers. In a world conquest situation, you are going to be at war basically constantly, and this will remain relevant well into the second half of the game. I expect that at some point I’ll have enough land that my manpower will replenish faster than I can spend it, but by that point we’ll be in mop-up mode.

The third ressource is sailors: it’s the one ressource I called not really relevant. It’s basically manpower for ships. And since the Ottoman early and mid-game is entirely ground based, it’s never really something I think about. It may become important at some point (although I personnally doubt it) but even if it does, at that point it’ll be a pretty big number.

The fourth, fifth and sixth ressources are monarch points, split into three categories: Administrative, Diplomatic and Military.

You earn some every month, based mostly on your ruler and on your advisors. You spend them to buy technologies, Ideas, and for specific purposes related to their category. Beyond that, Admin points are mostly used to integrate provinces into your country (via a process called coring) and to increase your stability (which brings in lots of small bonuses.) Diplomatic points are used when enforcing peace deals and to integrate vassals into your country. Military points are used essentially to hire generals, to perform some military actions, and to “pacify” provinces that are close to rebellion.

By far, monarch points (and especially admin and diplo points) are the most valuable ressources. I will consistently take missions that give them as rewards over other missions that give me less relevant rewards. By the same token, bonuses that let me save on the amount of those points I have to spend are also at a premium.


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