As I recently mentioned, I got Europa Universalis IV last week and I’m absolutely loving it so far. I’ve already started a bunch of games, but with the new patch, and some new DLC I got on sale (Art of War and Common Sense), I decided to begin a brand-new game, write it up, and share it with you all. Hopefully I don’t publicly fail horribly.
In EU4, you play as any one of hundreds of nations from 1444 to 1820. I like to start in 1444 just because. Plus, I’ve never finished up a playthrough, so it’d be nice to complete the entire timeline. You make alliances, declare wars, conquer provinces, found colonies, &c. There’s no winning condition, although you do gain points by being one of the top nations in administration, diplomacy, or war. You just play as long as you want. In my case, that’s usually until you accidentally piss off Poland, get invaded by a grand coalition, and find your nation humiliated, beaten, and dismembered.
I’m playing as Brandenburg. Of all the options, it’s my personal favorite as a historical nation, just because it will eventually form Prussia, and I love Frederick the Great and Prussia more generally. It’s not a powerhouse at first, but most of its neighbors are even smaller than it, giving you some nice places to expand at the beginning. Long-term, my biggest goals are to avoid pissing of Poland and to form either Germany or the Holy Roman Empire. I’ve never done either, so we’ll see how it goes.
That little patch of grey to the northeast is Neumark, owned by the Teutonic Order. It’s usually my first place to expand when playing as Brandenburg. When you declare a war in EU4, you need a reason to, or else you’ll suffer penalties. These reasons are known as casi belli. If you play as Brandenburg, you begin with a reconquest casus belli on Neumark, allowing you to declare war on the Teutonic Order without penalty. Even better, the Teutonic Knights have pissed off every neighbor they have, so they quickly become embroiled in enough wars to let you just sort of mosey in and pickpocket Neumark from them.
The important thing is to choose good allies, because alone, you’ll be completely unprepared to handle the coalitions that form. For Brandenburg, Bohemia and Poland both make for natural allies, and are stronger than you. But I have a sinister purpose in allying with Poland. See, usually Poland absorbs the Teutonic Knights and becomes an unstoppable juggernaut, making it impossible to ever grab those territories, like Königsberg, that I need to become Prussia.
But there are two important things about wars. One, whoever declared the war handles negotiations for the entire alliance. Two, after a war, there’s a truce that has a massive penalty for breaking it, and it’s the same length for everyone. So what I’m doing is allying with Poland, declaring war on the Teutonic Order, crushing them, getting territories for me and me alone in the negotiations, waiting for the truce to end, during which time Poland can’t do anything, and then starting a new war. Rinse and repeat. The Teutonic Order gets to live a lot longer, Poland gets nothing, I get Prussia. Everyone wins except for the Teutonic Order and Poland, so really it’s more only I win.
Anyways, my strategy works out pretty well. I’m able to keep Poland from making any gains while I slowly snake my way across the Baltic coast. The west stays peaceful. Every so often Saxony or Bohemia calls me in for a minor way among the Germanies, and I do my best to knock out the weakest powers one by one.
After another war with Pomerania and the Teutonic Order, I’ve got a respectably sized country. I’ve even got a coastline. Unfortunately, I also have a princess-elector for a ruler, which makes me ineligible for the imperial title, so the Austrians win it handily. I cast my vote for them, too. Maybe they’ll like me more if I vote for them.
Bavaria, meanwhile, seems to be launching a campaign against my allies, taking nibbles and bites out of Bohemia and Saxony. It’s annoying, since their alliance with Austria makes them untouchable to me, so I can’t join in any wars to put them down, but Poland is still strong, and soon, I’ve got a nice little system of alliances protecting me.
It’s even nicer than pictured, though, because Hungary is Austria’s vassal, Poland has a personal union with Lithuania, and Denmark has one with Norway and Sweden, meaning that Scandinavia and most of Eastern Europe are my allies.
Just before the century comes to a close, the time arrives for a final war with the Teutonic Order. They’re joined by a few minor allies, including Anhalt, Riga, and the Livonian Order, none of whom worry me. Anhalt sends an army of one thousand men to occupy one of my territories before vanishing for the rest of the war. It’s possible an ally of mine conquered them while I wasn’t paying attention, because out of nowhere, Anhalt begs to be made my vassal, an offer I gladly accept.
During all this, my princess-elector died, replaced by her male heir, and Austria did something to annoy the other elector, so I become the Holy Roman Emperor, as well.
For me, there are two big advantages to being emperor. Firstly, I get a huge boost to manpower and army size. Secondly, no one else is emperor, meaning I can pick on minor German princes without any imperial interference. I also inherited some nice imperial authority from the Habsburgs, so I’m hoping to be able to enact some reforms soon.
By the end of the century, I have a long snake of a country, reaching from Königsberg to Altmark. I give some scraps to Denmark and Lithuania from the Livonian Order in peace negotiations, but Poland still has nothing. The Teutonic Order has two provinces left, which I’ll try to take eventually, but I reached my goal. Königsberg belongs to its rightful owner Brandenburg. Once the Protestant Reformation arrives, I can become Prussia.
Now that I’ve reached my eastern border and I’m the emperor, I’ll probably turn west. Anhalt is my vassal, and Saxony and Mecklenburg are my allies, which squeezes me into a pretty narrow place if I want to expand at all. Cologne is an elector, that green blob to my left, so I’ll leave them alone. If I can reform the empire, I can get an automatic casus belli on anyone holding imperial territory. I have to be careful, though. Bohemia and Venice, the two big offenders, are both pretty strong, and a war with them will be risky. I’ll probably wait, digest my conquests, and recover.