With Europa Universalis IV we get to ask these “what if” questions from the throne of anything from a minor power like Lüneburg, or a major player like France. Below are a list of mid-level powers that are both fun to play as and present opportunities to master different aspects of the game while still being manageable for beginning players. (For the record, the screenshots below have approximate theaters that these countries will be waging war in).
Protect the Shroud of Turin
Savoy in 1444 is the most powerful independent power in Italy. Your capital in Turin is protected by the treacherous Alps in the north and west, the Ligurian Sea to the south, and some Italian “buffer states” to the east. As Savoy you have a decent population and good enough economy to field a good-sized army. While Savoy has all of these things going for it, it also has a giant throbbing thorn in its side: France.
France believes that about half of Savoy’s territory rightly belongs to them and will have no problem taking it a step further by attempting to completely wipe your fledgling country off the map. Although war with France will be inevitable at some point or another, successful diplomacy can give you more time to prepare. Burgundy and England are the best nations to become chummy with. All three nations have a natural enemy in France and will likely sign an alliance with you, and if not would be likely candidates for a coalition force against the French.
Choosing Diplomatic, Quality, and Defensive ideas help improve on what will most likely be a small military force. The Alps provide superior defensive positioning for your troops, but it won’t be the end of the world should you choose to fall back to Cuneo as the besieging troops will incur a good amount of attrition damage.
On the other hand, becoming the Holy Roman Emperor is also an interesting option for Savoy. Although not the easiest task as the electors prefer German emperors, this pursuit may end up being a double edged sword as Burgundy likes to expand by attacking and annexing member states. However, being emperor allows Savoy an increase in the total number of diplomatic relations you may have as well as another advisor and free military leader.
It’s not unusual for Savoy to have the opportunity to become allied with Spain, Burgundy, Austria, the United Kingdom, Hungary, and, yes, even France in the late game. This advisor bonus when added to Savoy’s unique national ideas and investment in Diplomatic ideas can provide Savoy with a whopping 11 possible diplomatic relations. Managing these can be tricky however as you will often find yourself in a situation where two allies will decide to wage war with each other. Choose your allies wisely and fight wars that are beneficial to your long term plans.
The strategy early game as Savoy can easily be summed up with the age old advice “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Should you be able to secure and maintain alliances with France’s powerful rivals turn your eyes to the North African coast for some relatively easy territory gains then simply wait for the eventual Castille-Aragon-Sicily dismemberment to capture Sardinia and the Island of Sicily. This will unlock an event allowing you to create the nation of Sardinia-Piedmont. From there the stage should be set for Sardinia-Piedmont to fulfill its destiny and unite the Italian provinces.
Defy History Using Blood and Iron
Most of Czech history is a chapter in the history books of other nations. Bohemia is in a pretty bad spot in 1444 as it is surrounded by nations that would like to see the wealthy Czech lands under their banner. Luckily Bohemia starts off the game as an elector of the Holy Roman Empire, guaranteeing at least one vote for you as emperor. Improving your relations with the other electors is essential to your success as Bohemia.
As Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, you will be able to use the considerable power granted to you to influence and deter the nations around you from beginning the deluge for as long as possible. Maintaining your reign as emperor is incredibly important as without the manpower boost, there is no way to take on Poland, Austria, Hungary, and Brandenburg by yourself. To make matters worse, when one declares war, the others will seize the opportunity to also attack. However, you can always use this fragility to your advantage. Austria will frequently ally with Poland and while it is not in Bohemia’s best interests long term an alliance with Austria will prevent Poland from attacking you directly. If this is the case expansion into Hungary is the best option. This is a slow and expensive process, however, as Hungarian traditions increase the coring cost of land by 200% and Hungarian is not an accepted culture to the Czechs.
If the situation is right taking territory from Poland northeast of your province of Breslau should be of the highest priority and the highest priority province should be the port of Danzig. Although the provinces are generally fairly poor inching your way to Baltic is a good strategic decision and gives Bohemia the opportunity for more interesting expansion, whether it be in Scandinavia, or the acquisition of a few provinces in the Low Countries to create a jumping off point for American and African colonization.
If war with Poland seems unfavorable expansion in the southwest and the capturing of Hungarian Croatia will provide a port for further expansion. If this is the chosen route expansion into north Africa and Italy will be very tempting. Just be cautious and observe your overextension modifier and keep in mind that if you are not emperor the Italian provinces will be fiercely guarded and revolts will be an ever present issue with the large amount of time and resources required to core and convert the Italian provinces. Events may seem difficult to the Czech people from time to time, but there are few that are better at persevering.