Anthony "Tony" Magestro--or known on the field of battle as Metzge--is an avid writer, gamer, and entrepreneur. When he's not writing, gaming, or entrepreneuring, he enjoys cooking, trippy movies, and trying to be awesome to varying degrees of success. Feel free to check out his LinkedIn page, especially if you need freelance help with content writing or digital marketing. Or just like to network, that's fine too.
It’s crazy to think that it’s already been over two years since Europa Universalis IV was released upon the world in all its imperialistic glory. Granted, two years doesn’t seem like a long time, but much has changed since its debut, including a handful of expansions as well as a ton of content updates ranging from stat balances to new free features. With everything there is to do and the 200+ countries available to choose from (and that’s just at the start of a game), Europa can be daunting to the uninitiated. But you needn’t worry: that’s where we come in.
I didn’t think much of it but apparently, but a lot of you (at least, from what our site statistics are showing) come here looking for tips and tricks on how to be a better leader of your own digital 15th century state. And while I’m not as refined or gentlemanly as Rob–whose article from February of last year on choice mid-power nations has consistently been trending ever since–when it comes to grand strategy games like Europa Universalis IV, I have my own tricks and strategies for victory.
If being good at things is of interest, here’s six more countries and starter strategies in Europa to try out.
Become the Venice of the Baltic
If you’re looking for a somewhat easy country to play as, the Kingdom of Denmark starts in a rather advantageous position. Sitting right outside the Holy Roman Empire, Denmark leads unions with Sweden and Norway alongside Holstein vassalized to the south. To top it off, Denmark is not only in a naturally defensive position for land battles, but also acts as a gateway between the Baltic and North Seas, collecting tolls from passing merchants.
This monopoly on regional sea routes hasn’t gone unnoticed by neighboring countries, often provoking the attention and ire of the Hansa, Pomerania, and other Baltic powers. Despite laying outside the HRE’s sphere of influence, Denmark’s own projection of authority throughout Scandinavia (provided you maintain good relations with your subject nations) deters early war, allowing you to plan for the next few decades in relative peace. That said, Gotland–an island sitting in the Baltic east of your capital province–starts out in full rebellion and ought to be dealt with swiftly.
Once you rein in those dastardly rebels, you’re free to conquest in any way you wish; regardless of how you want to do it, whether by thrifty diplomatic negotiation or sheer military might, you’re in too blessed a position to not expand your realm. If you’re feeling super ambitious, you can always form the Scandinavian Empire by absorbing and coring Sweden and Norway, but to do this, you’ll need to claim more land first. Of course, this is assuming they don’t realize the sum of their own power and try to usurp your throne before you can even claim it.
Outside of Scandinavia, you have a number of options:
- Antagonize the Teutonic and Livonian Orders, spreading your domain throughout the Baltic. While they are often picked on by the local monarchies (such as Poland), expansion in this region is costly and difficult early in your tenure, as most amphibious invasions are. However, you can use this to your advantage and play into the power struggles between the holy orders and the nations of Eastern Europe.
- Go south and deal with the Hansa sooner than later. Though under the protection of the HRE, removing these pesky patricians will allow you to monopolize on trade in the region. As you can imagine, they’re as shrewd statesmen as they are merchants, having their hands in local politics reaching all the way up to Riga. Unless you can manage to remain in their good graces, conflict with the Hansa is inevitable; if you turn Holstein into a march (bolstering its manpower in exchange for tax income bonuses) and choose the Defensive Military policy early-game, you stand a better chance at buffering them on land–which, even if they blockade you, is necessary to claim territory. Moreover, if you fight defensively and win, you’re less likely to invoke the wrath of the Emperor.
- Finish what your forefathers started and invade the British Isles. Much like with the first suggested theater o’ war, amphibious invasions are costly, and provided the English and the Hansa haven’t allied themselves, you’ll have more sea to cover this time around. However, England might not mind you nibbling away at Scotland, spreading your influence past Norwegian Orkney and Iceland. If you can evade France’s retribution however (Scotland begins with a French guarantee of independence), maybe while they’re busy at war with the English, you can start pushing west, giving you a foothold if you decide to colonize North America later on.
If you prefer to expand diplomatically, you can absorb Holstein, claim a few nearby German provinces in some cleverly “defensive” wars, and then assert Danish authority over Norway and Sweden. Provided you can do this–and whether or not you choose to remain the Kingdom of Denmark or the Empire of Scandinavia–you’re well on your way to securing the safety of your lands, people, and throne.
Monopolize the North Sea… and Everything Else
UPDATE: Since The Cossacks DLC and its companion update in December 2015, the Hansa technically no longer exist… I’ll rework this section at a later date.
Where Denmark wields its power through monarchy and clever marriage ties, the Hansa draw theirs from trade and thrifty business practices. A small nation of three free (though separated) cities in northern Germany, the Hansa start with four alliances: Lüneburg, Magdeburg, and Oldenburg and then Riga further northeast along the Baltic coast–all one-province countries themselves. It might seem intimidating with Denmark to the north and other German states right at your doorstep, but the combination of the ‘burgs and an added factional bonus to army morale makes for a strong defense, despite your loose confederation.
Speaking of factions, the Hansa are lucky enough to have the unique faction system, divided into three groups:
- Aristocracy: the initial leading faction comprised of the Hansean “old money”; inflicts a -10.0% penalty to trade power abroad, but grants bonuses to army morale (5.0%) and land force limit (10.0%); best for players who want a military focus.
- Traders: boosts global trade power by 10.0% and lowers naval maintenance by 10.0%, though at a -5% penalty to national tax modifier; the ruling faction for those who want to focus on sea trade.
- Guilds: the faction of craftsmen and artisans, siding with the Guilds will cut building costs by 10.0% while increasing goods produced by 10.0%, though at the cost of national manpower (-10.0%); a great ruling faction during peace-time and for those who want to strengthen their economy.
While there are random events that shift factional control, you can also invest Military, Diplomatic, and Administrative points respectively to favor the faction of your choosing. To start, I’d stick with the Aristocracy to help defend your lands until your sovereignty is established.
In that same vein, your first objective should be to connect your territories–or, at least, Hamburg and Lübeck–by way of one of the lesser neighboring states. Saxe-Lauenburg, Mecklenburg, Pomerania, Verden, and Brunswick are all good places to start, but if you come to blows with Denmark, its vassal Holstein will do as well. Given the Hansa’s starting traditions favoring trade (+15.0% trade range and +10.0% trade steering), it’d be wise to focus on capturing coastal provinces to help bolster your trade power further, but again, don’t be picky.
As you’re within the Holy Roman Empire, it’s important to not be greedy while incorporating new lands into your realm. Your neighbors will tolerate annexing a province here and there, but tripling your country’s holdings in a single war will definitely raise some eyebrows. Moreover, the Emperor might feel it necessary to intervene and liberate these lands–something you just don’t want to deal with. So, like your countrymen, make sure to weigh out opportunity cost with each move until you grow confident enough that you can stand against the Emperor’s wrath should you provoke it.
As you twiddle your thumbs waiting for a reason to go to war, you can do the following:
- Lower army and navy maintenance during peace-time. Mothball some of your ships you’re not using and adjust your army maintenance to about 40-50% (some go even lower at 20%). As you can imagine, it takes longer to re-arm when you need to call up your troops, but it helps minimize costs while not leaving you completely defenseless–and you can use all that extra money.
- Maximize relationships with your allies. If you’re friends already, might as well be great friends. They’ll be more likely to fight alongside you in conflicts, funnel trade power towards your economic zones, and allow you to pass through their lands unmolested when you need to march your armies off to war. That said, if you’re unmotivated to spend the time to maximize your relationship scores with your allied countries, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate (for instance, if you’ve no interest in expanding up into the Baltic, you wouldn’t need Riga much).
- Fabricate claims. Europa Universalis 101: always have claims on the provinces you wish to claim–duh. It makes it easier to repair damaged relations of neighboring countries (you have better reasons), it costs less to negotiate for them, and you can turn them into core provinces faster. Take the time to justify your conflicts and it’ll go a lot smoother for you. Trust me.
- Establish (local) technological dominance. In other words, try to be conservative with your power points and spend them in technology until you’re at least a strong level, level and a half ahead of your neighbors. Some games are more difficult than others given random events, ruler traits, advisors, and other factors–but use that chaos to your advantage too, whenever you can.
Once you’ve melded your territories into one solid entity, the Hansa’s theater is pretty much the same as Denmark: you can go east up the Baltic along the coast or troll the English if that pleases you. You can meddle in German political machinations and press south, or reclaim the sound and oust the Danish monopoly on sea trade lanes to the north. Or just sit back and wait until you can explore the New World when the time comes.
So long as it makes you money, you’re playing this country well.
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