LPEU4: To the End

Well, at some point, EUIV becomes an automatism. Find a target, smash the target, grab land, find another target.

By the time the Age of Absolutism rolls around, the only serious opposition left to a World Conqueror (regardless of who it is) are the few designed-to-be-powerful nations or group of nations: Ming, the HRE, either Russia or the Commonwealth, and the such.

And of those, usually only the HRE, Ming and a superstrong Russia can really remain a real threat after the first victorious war against them. Everybody else gets significantly easier to fight once you’ve beaten them once.

So the only real enemy left if you can defeat those large countries are the clock and rebels. Because if you play too conservatively, sticking to below 100% Overextension all the time, you won’t be able to conquer everything in time. But at over 100% Overextension, rebels are inevitable.

In my run, I fail to realize that until very late. So the last fifty years or so I need to accept stupid amounts of rebellions (even having to micromanage my armies just to kill separatists rebels before they break my empire in parts.) because I’m stuck going over 200% overextension (and of course, in the last few years I’m doomed to living at Stability -3, because respecting truces would prevent me from finishing in time.)

So yeah… the last few decades are an uneventful slog of moving armies around, stomping inferior opponents over and over and over again. Really more of a chore than anything else. And then I get the achievement and it’s over.

Really, nothing exciting at all.

Biggest lesson learned? It’s not interesting LP material. But it’s over, so whatever.

LPEU4: Taking Portugal

Well, Portugal’s mine now. At this point, anything that’s vassalizable by war is too small to be a threat. And in this case, Portugal’s allies dropped the ball too.

With Portugal now in the fold, I want to brutalize Castille again. The idea is to feed Portugal provinces so that it’s big enough to colonize efficiently, and to reduce Castille to a vassalizable size. Then it’ll be more than time to let the Christians forget about me.

This start a longer-than-expected sequence of wars. I weaken Castille enough that Aragon declares independence. Then I end up fighting Aragon, just to put them at truce since their AE is so high from my smashing of Portugal and Castille. In there, I also fight the Mamluks again, and Qara Qoyunlu. And some minor countries here and there. And then I do it again. And again, and again.

Eventually, I vassalize Castille (which will keep on hating me for a long, long time, what with their -450 or so AE against me.) I also start cutting Aragon just to keep them at truce.

Somewhere in there, France loses a war and ends up having to break our alliance – which means they now start to get pissed at me for conquering their neighbors. It’s not dramatic (they’ll calm down enough before our truce runs out) but it means we’re done pissing Europe off for a long, good while. Which means the puzzle becomes “how can I begin expanding in Asia without making more angry enemies.”

LPEU4: Settling Down

So I thought I wanted to go to war with the Mamluks, but I have a few years left to kill… and I really should grab a few specific provinces to complete a mission, which will grant me a lot of claims on Mamluks land. So I run a few quick wars, against Hisn Haifa (who call Qara Qoyunlu in, letting me take their remaining provinces) and then Trebizond. Then I prepare for war against the Mamluks again (meaning I squash some revolts, put my armies to drilling, allow my tech to advance, and so on and so forth.)

Winning against the Mamluks is easy this time around: after the last big war, they’re no longer in my weight class. I don’t go for the 100% warscore, however, settling for a 70-80% win just because of the timing.

After that, I grab the bull by the horn and declare war on Portugal. The following war goes smoothly, thank to my ally France. I end up cutting Portugal down to “make it a vassal next war” size, and taking another quick bite out of Castille.

And then it becomes complicated. My AE is high enough in the Christian world that I want to keep away from them for a few years at least. But conquering in the Muslim world will create more countries with high AE. So planning my next move is a bit more difficult than I’d like.

I decide to take more land from Qara Q, which works out to putting me near the limit of AE with a bunch of nations, then get ready for a war with Castille. That works out great… except it starts a coalition against me. Uh oh.

As usual, the first coalition that forms can easily be broken up by diplomatic means. Until it does, however, I worry. A lot. But it eventually dissolves, and I turn my attention back to less hostile pastures. Like the Mamluks.

I go for another quick war there, just to throw them back at truce. My next big step is the vassalization of Portugal, which is likely to be a high-AE affair. I can’t really afford to have too many countries pissed at me now. Besides, I can use a couple of years of peace.

Let’s Play Europa Universalis 4: Dealing with the Unexpected

Date: January 1464

Country Size: 46 Provinces (plus vassals Georgia, Syria and Wallachia)

Status: Perturbed.

So… we have two unforeseen problems. A stronger-than-usual Hungary and an Hungary/Mamluk alliance.

The alliance I can break pretty much whenever I want, for now. But a very strong Hungary is a really troublesome issue, mostly because it’s in my way in my usual invasion path for the HRE. Taking away HRE provinces would be very useful, as it’d eventually prevent the reformation of the HRE and ensure that it remains a patchwork of weak provinces.

We have time to act, but we don’t have forever.

(On the plus side, this particular game opening is VERY interesting to play through.)

So – war with the Mamluks, eh? Let’s get really, really ready for that before we make our move.

First, I can improve my fleet situation a bit by building a few more light ships. These tend to pay for themselves over time anyway. I also need to build my armies up, and to let my manpower recover. Finally, I need to wait until my claim on Cyprus has been fabricated.

Then I realize that by waiting a bit more, I can have a technological advantage over the Mamluks as well. So I wait until late 1467 to launch a war, after allying with one of the Mamluks’ southern neighbors just to ensure superiority.

The thing with a war like that is that I can’t really afford any mistake. I need to focus strictly on jacking up my war score, on ensuring that I can secure my objectives, and on avoiding taking crippling damage. Securing my cores, an additional province and breaking the alliance is the goal. If I can get some gravy by taking one or two Mamluk provinces too, great, but that’s not the goal.

So I wage a long war, end up taking Cyprus and removing a grand total of two provinces from the Mamluks and vassals. It’s unfortunate but inevitable (and I figure having stabbed the Mamluks that way, that they’ll end up drawn into dumb wars with their neighbors.) Plus, of course, I force them to break their alliance with Hungary.

In the meantime, while I’d like to recuperate… Qara Qoyunlu is at war with Persia. Time to eat some easy land!

So I end up taking a handful of provinces, fighting literally no battle for them. I really would have preferred to go for a 100% warscore win, but Qara Qoyunlu has a big rebel problem and I didn’t want to lose men fighting somebody else’s problem, especially since I still have a big, big manpower deficit to overcome.

Besides, there are other opportunities around. Like Hungary, which is currently embroiled in two wars while they have almost no allies left. So I join in, and grab some land for me and Wallachia while the grabbing is good. And then it becomes time to rest some more, because now I need men to join my new regiments of cannoneers.

MECHANICS: Ideas – Administrative Idea Group

So, a few years back I earned my first Idea Group. So what are Ideas?

They’re small buffs you can buy with monarch points. They’re split in fifteen Idea groups, five per type of monarch power. How it works is that at certain levels of administrative tech, you unlock a slot for a new Idea Group. You pick one group to fill the slot, and then you buy the Ideas in the group in order.

As you unlock ideas, you also unlock your national ideas as well.

Picking the right idea groups is vital to long-term success. As a would-be world conqueror, however, my first pick is unfortunately almost mandatory and is really more of a long-term investment

The Administrative Idea Group takes Administrative points as payment for Ideas, in exchange for:

1-A reduction in the cost of mercenaries, both to recruit and to maintain them;

2-A reduction in future Admin costs (by lowering coring costs and the cost of Administrative technology)

3-Small bonuses like lowered interests, increasing my number of possible advisors, etc.)

4-An increase in my max number of States (more on that later)

The real gamechanger is point 2. So far, my expansion hasn’t been spectacularly fast, but that’ll eventually change. And once I start really expanding, I’ll need to core many provinces…. which will cost me lots of admin points, which may force me to delay getting administrative tech levels… So over time I’ll recoup the admin point investment many times over.

Although mercenaries are important too. Right now my finances don’t really allow me to rely on mercenaries, but as I grow the ability to summon a sizeable army quickly in the middle of nowhere will be very useful in order to cut down on travelling time for my armies.

Let’s Play Europa Universalis IV: More Unexpected Weirdness

Date: March 1451

Country Size: 39 Provinces (plus vassal Georgia)

Status: Unsure on how to proceed.

As I half-expected, as soon as I fire up the game, the coalition against me dissolves for want of participants. A coalition needs at least four members to be viable, and the coalition against me had formed with too few members to sustain it (many were only technically eligible to join, and once their AE ticked down in January the coalition ceased to be even theoretically sustainable.)

Still, it’s a problem to consider, and one that probably means I’ll wait at least another year before going to war. It also means my next target is probably Wallachia, just to remove one high-AE country from the map. By my calculation, Hungary is not going to get into Coalition levels of AE if I vassalize Wallachia.

Wallachia has 39 development. Hungary adds a 25% for that value because they’re in the same culture group. Add to that 4.42% from my own development. So figure about 42 AE base, minus 6.6% from my prestige (so let’s call it 40 base AE)

Since I’m planning on vassalizing Wallachia, that’s a 50% reduction, taking it to 20 AE. Then a border hop should reduce that a bit.

Hungary has 30 AE already, and it’ll be a bit lower by the time I peace out with Wallachia. So I should be barely OK.

The war actually goes quicker than expected, but by a combination of improving relations with a bunch of faraway countries, and a lucky event that gives me a bunch of free prestige, I barely manage to vassalize Wallachia without risking a coalition forming.

But now it’s time to let Europe relax a bit, and to allow my armies to recover. We have one more easy core recovery, which I’ll get to right now, and then it’s war against Qara Qoyunlu… after a long, relaxing period of recovery (and possibly a quick invasion of Crimea.)

I swallow Crimea (again skirting the edge of a Coalition) then return my troops to prepare for an invasion of Qara Qoyunlu. In this case, I should be able to avoid the worst of the AE: my goal in that war is to recover some of my cores, and to force Qara Qoyunlu to release Syria as a free state (which I’ll then diplomatically vassalize.)

Unlike my other wars so far, Qara Q. is roughly my equal (at least in my current manpower-depleted state). Which means I need to fight smart. In this case, this means making sure not to engage the enemy without a significant numerical advantage, and otherwise not making dumb mistake. And by the by, I manage. I grab my objectives, liberate Syria, and grab an early peace deal (in this case willingly: I’m not up to grabbing too much aggressive expansion)

And then Hungary, now a world power, allies with the Mamluks. Ouch. That just became a small nightmare. Breaking that Alliance is a priority (it’s not complicated, I can fabricate a claim on Cyprus, which is guaranteed by the Mamluks, and drag them in a war. Then I just need to beat the Mamluks and get them to break their alliance with Hungary as part of the peace deal.)

If I don’t break that alliance, I will be stuck with two avenues of expansion blocked, and I’ll be at the mercy of any coalition forming that includes one of those two states. And such a coalition would be inevitable: either I expand in Christian lands which would make Hungary eventually go into Coalition, or in Muslim lands in which case the Mamluks would join..

But that means it’s time for a big war.


MECHANICS: Battles (pre-artillery)

You’d think that for a game about world conquest, battles would have been one of the subjects I’d have covered early. But EU4 combat is quite abstracted, and it’s not something that I bother micromanaging.

But let’s cover them now, while they’re still relatively simple.

Armies are made of thousand-men regiments. Regiments can be infantry, cavalry or artillery. We’ll cover artillery later, when it finally enters the fray, but for now I can only field infantry and cavalry.

Cavalry is more expensive, but much more powerful and durable than infantry. However, barring a few exceptions, you need lots of infantry to support your cavalry or your army will take a tactics penalty. Also, infantry takes the brunt of losses, so you need to have extra infantry to compensate for that.

To compound that, terrain also affect how many regiments can join the battle, as do your tech level, through a concept called combat width. Basically, your troops form a line of regiments (infantry covering most of the center position, and the last few spots on each side of the line being occupied by your cavalry.

The tech level determines the maximum possible width, and terrain reduces it. Once artillery enters the game, it can fire from a second row of regiments onto the enemy army, but otherwise you’re stuck with that line formation.

I imagine that with knowledge of the algorithms of the game, it would be possible to work out the very best army composition for any situation, but that would require a degree of micromanagement that would drive anyone insane. Instead, I usually just build a stack with a composition I like (in pre-artillery combat, I’ll have 4-6 cavalry and 10-16 infantry in a stack, with a few loose regiments of infantry following around to siege unforted provinces and to rejoin the main stack if the war goes long)

Now, there are tons of factor that go into figuring out an army’s strength and resilience. But again, it’s not something worth micromanaging. It’s a bunch of little modifiers that add up to something great.

Two exceptions:

First, armies intended to see combat need leaders. Leaderless armies can be broken completely (disappearing from the map entirely), while even on a defeat an army with a leader will almost always just retreat (thus saving some of your men). Plus leaders give significant bonuses, especially in the early game, so a good leader is one of the few ways to give a visible boost to your army.

Second, when at peace, it’s a good idea to drive down the army maintenance slider. Your soldiers’ morale will collapse, but who cares, we’re at peace. But when you do go back to war, make sure you’ve paid your soldiers in full for a few months, because low-morale units don’t last long in combat.

Now, this has barely touched upon all the little fiddly bits that make EU4 combat. But if you want more detail, head over to the wiki.

Let’s Play Europa Universalis IV: A New Start

Date: November

Country Size: 28 Provinces

Status: Depressed at my small, small size compared to how big I was last game.

Let’s get started quickly.

I have a couple of false starts (allying with Crimea and getting dragged into one of Crimea’s patented “let’s piss everyone off” war, overreaching and getting Europe angry at me) as I readjust to “not-monstrous-blob” play.

Then I start my real game. As with the previous attemot, I take my decisions, pick up advisors (ignoring the need for a Better Relations over time bonus. No save-scumming there, the minor boost it gives is pretty much irrelevant when compared to doing smart Aggressive Expansion management.)

Then I set up my alliance with Bohemia, and go with my usual opening of wiping away Albania and Byzantium. Then I take on Trebizond and Theodoro. Then Poland and Lithuania again decide not to form a personal union. Cool start.

And then Qara Qoyunlu eats Aq Qoyunlu. Whoa. That’s… actually a fairly significant development, setting me on a path to war against Qara Q early.

And then I get a random event that’s usually no big deal. I’m about to click it away then I realize it means I could get a development discount in Edirne, one of the province in Thrace, my capital region. Ergo… it’ll be cheaper to force the Renaissance there when it appears, meaning this isn’t an irrelevant event, it’s a major boon.

Then I notice that somehow, Ramazan, one of the minor countries on my south has allied with the Mamluks. It’s bothersome but not a huge issue – I think. It’s not something that usually happens, so hopefully this means the Mamluks failed to get one of their more significant alliances up, but I’ll need to check that out.

Really – this game just got interesting. That’s not how the early game usually pans out. Typically, Qara Qoyunlu will take its time vassalizing Georgia, letting me eat reconquer Aq Qoyunlu. And the Mamluks ignore Ramazan, letting me eat them without trouble. Interesting times.

Over the course of the next few wars, I slowly build up my territory, recovering cores and capturing the small local powers. Those wars are pretty much formalities: crush the small opposing force, siege everything, win. Then I vassalize Georgia, triggering the first coalition of minor powers against me. Time to let the men take a breather.

Oh, also, the Renaissance happened.

MECHANICS: Institutions

Institutions are the current system intended to simulate the evolution of technology. In the time period covered by EU4, Europe saw rapid technological development while most of the rest of the world didn’t. The idea behind Institutions is that they’re the cultural forces which made that fast technological progress possible.

How they work is that as soon as an Institution appears, technological costs go up for all countries that haven’t Embraced the institution. It’s a small tick (1% per year, topping at 50% per institution) that ends up being prohibitively expensive.

If you have the right expansion installed (Common Sense) you can spend monarch points to develop provinces, which also speeds up adoption of an institution in a province. It’s the only way you can affect Institution spread inside a province, with one exception.

Institutions are adopted over time by provinces – each province slowly ticking upward to adoption. And once provinces totalling 10% of your Development value have fully embraced an Institution, you can force the rest of your country to embrace it, erasing the tech cost penalty at a rather high cost in ducats.

Lots of factor affect institution spread (and they vary depending on the institution), but at least in the case of the early institutions like the Renaissance and Colonialism, you’ll want to force one of your provinces to adopt the institution as fast as possible, so that it can then spread more quickly to surrounding provinces.

The thing to understand is that institution spread is incredibly slow except for that Friendly province factor. Waiting for the spread to occur naturally means you’ll have to buy multiple tech levels at a large penalty. So it makes sense to throw monarch points at a province, just to get the institution in one province to start that faster spread.

Let’s Play Europa Universalis IV – Getting Re-started

… and we’re done. Great run, but we just couldn’t do it.

Heh. Actually, I made it to 1710, had my best game yet, but then I got greedy and triggered a coalition war. I could probably play the game out, but between that, a few other dumb mistakes and a lot of small, suboptimal plays, I don’t think that particular World Conquest is salvageable.

I learned a lot, though, and I’m not about to quit such an interesting project.

So I’ll restart in a couple of days. Meanwhile, here are some of the lessons I learned during this playthrough.

1-Fight wars to 100% warscore (or near to 100%) – in the early stages of the game, I wasted lots of time and manpower by going for early peace agreements. That’s a crushing mistake: by the time the enemy is willing to sign a peace deal at 35% or so, you’ve generally won the war anyway. Driving up the warscore higher is a formality by then.

2-Focus my aggression. It’s not always possible, but it’s better to kill off a nation completely than to have it stick around with 150 AE. That’s something I should absolutely have done throughout the entire run. The coalition that ruined me in the end wasn’t a huge European blob, it was a dozen country from all across the world.

3-Don’t ignore the economic game. In this playthrough I learned the importance of trade, but also that ignoring the invest-reap rewards value of buildings and ships was deadly.

… and tons and tons of nifty little tricks.

We’ll see how it works out.