Power, Wealth, and Unity
Burgundy has incredible potential and is one of the few nations in the game that can successfully achieve glory with any strategy. Situated in what is modern day eastern France and the Low Countries, Burgundy is a nation that is geographically and culturally divided between the French-cultured Burgundians and Walloons, and the Germanic Dutch and Flemings. Although divided the economic potential of the lands of the golden fleece is second to none.
Trade power is the most important thing for Burgundy at game start. Dominance in the Burgundian controlled province of Antwerpen is a must as just about all of Burgundy’s national ideas revolve around money and mercenaries. Furthermore, the lands compromising the Low Countries produce above average ducats from taxation, and many hold in demand resources such as cloth and iron.
France is the most immediate and threatening rival to the Dukes of Burgundy, but at the start of the game, France will give its full attention to the ongoing Hundred Years War with England. Take advantage of this by capturing or vassalizing the smattering of small states, such as Liege, Gelre, and Utrecht, that are not part of the Burgundian-controlled low countries will greatly increase the potential opportunities for Burgundy in the future. Be forewarned however as Austria will most likely intervene in these wars, as all of the one-province states in the Low Countries are part of the Holy Roman Empire. Luckily for you though, Burgundy has a strong enough military to fight back, especially if the Emperor is preoccupied with war elsewhere.
Other useful things to do early in your campaign would include becoming friends with England, and attempt to wrest control of the land separating the two halves of Burgundy from Provence or Lorraine. From there on though the possibilities as Burgundy are endless.
Should you want to form the Netherlands, the pieces will easily fall in place (simply remember any lands in the French culture group will be ceded to France). Burgundy has some serious potential to make a colonial empire as well, and showing Austria who the boss really is in a few wars and vassalizing elector states can influence the German electors to elect you Emperor.
Land Before Faith
If any new player wants to get the hang of colonization Portugal is the nation to play as. Sitting on the western-most portion of Europe with no major military threats anywhere near you, and Castile as a powerful and very large buffer, you are poised to just sit back and build your middling economy up and use the offshore province of Madeira to launch a colonial assault on any place in range of your colonists. Look for provinces that traditionally have high demand luxury resources like tobacco, cocoa, and sugar. These are mainly found in the Caribbean and present day Brazil.
The key to playing as Portugal is to not overextend yourself; fast expansion can be worse than no expansion at all. Creating cores costs administration power and can slow Portugal’s technology and administrative gains. When colonizing, warfare with African or central American nations will be inevitable. Go after nations like the Aztec in the Americas or Mali in Africa as both these nations contain gold which will bring a nice boost to the economy.
Back home in the Eastern Hemisphere, Portugal has few opportunities to expand within Europe, with the two nations closest in the east outclassing Portugal both economically and militarily. There is the very good opportunity to expand within Morocco and Algeria. From here it is possible to expand into Italy and begin annexing or vassalizing the fragmented Italian states. Should this be one of your goals investment in naval ideas and controlling trade in the Mediterranean should be on top of your list of priorities.
A strong navy that can protect Portuguese trade is required for a global empire and after a sufficient foot hold is established with colonies in the Americas Lisbon can turn her eyes on the wealthy spice filled indian nations. A port near the Cape of Good Hope, or in eastern Africa will be essential as your troops will take massive attrition damage and will need to reorganize of friendly soil. Look for weakness in India and pay close attention to the alliances that dot the Indian political landscape. Ceylon is usually a good starting point for Portuguese Indian and East Asian ambitions.
Portugal offers great opportunities for new and veteran players alike. With its relative isolation and decent economic and military potential Portugal offers many ways to become acquainted with trade and exploration mechanics essential in Europa Universalis IV.
The Hakkapeliitta Way
Sweden starts off the game as the lower member of a personal union with Denmark, but one should never fret, as Denmark is weak and will bend to the will of of its more powerful northern neighbor.
Investing in your economy at game start will be incredibly useful to build your army to gain independence from Denmark and then create a navy equipped to gain control of the Baltic. Once the war for independence is won look to creating alliances with less isolated European powers such as the Hansa to stave off future Danish intervention in your affairs. Although a little tougher to secure, an alliance with Poland and Lithuania/the Commonwealth will created a combined force that can easily deal with an incredibly powerful and threatening rival in Moscow that luckily is still in its infancy at game start.
Once the alliances have been made the uniting of Scandinavia can be achieved. Norway and Denmark will remain relatively weak throughout the game, and with the help of the Hansa, the Commonwealth, and even Austria or Bohemia the Danish and Norwegian lands can easily be integrated into a new and more efficient union.
For the truly ambitious, or for those who simply want to reenact a chapter of Viking history an invasion of Scotland and from there expansion into the rest of the British Isles is an option. Look for an opening to attack when Scotland is engaged in what will be an inevitable war with England. Acquiring a province from one of the small Irish states could also prove to be useful. This would provide a base from which your navy and troops could wait for the opportunity to pounce and accrue significantly less attrition during travel.
With or without a conquest of the British Isles Sweden, or Scandinavia at this point is primed to colonize the Americas. An alliance with France here would prove to be useful as it would discourage Spain and her colonies from engaging violent acts with your fledgling colonies in a bid for colonial supremacy.
Whatever path through history you should choose, the possibilities as Sweden are incredibly numerous and by securing trade on the Baltic and the uniting of Scandinavia one should have no trouble in replacing Britain as the empire upon which the sun never sets.