(This has been sitting in my drafts since October 2022. Time to publish it and move on!)
As usual, my playing of Europa Universalis has outstripped my blogging and I should just accept it. Here we go:
World War Zero was probably the most fun, intense part of the game so far: a hugely complex war across several major theaters spread across the globe and fought by dozens of belligerent nations. Each participant has a +50 bonus to War Enthusiasm, so in practice nations won't accept peace offers until they are 100% occupied. Fortunately, many of the combatants are tiny one-province minors in Germany, so after a few years of successful campaigning the Emperor began knocking out opponents.
In the first year or so of the war I played very micro-manage-y, pausing every couple of days and checking in on each individual army and fleet of mine. Many of these were little 2k stacks of infantry, but doing important work like invading Spanish islands in the Pacific to cut down on their naval range. I was also carefully playing hide-and-seek with the Ottomans around the Arabian Peninsula, and more forcefully (but still slowly) occupying the Iberian Peninsula. I was able to drive the Spanish armies out of here, but they remained very powerful in Italy, which is mostly owned by Spain.
One exception is the Papal States, which hold the center of Italy. They were doing poorly for a while, fully occupied except for Rome proper, which was under siege. This led to one of the more exciting campaigns of the war: I drove the Spanish fleet back into their North African ports, then had galleons stand guard against Turkish galleys while I inserted infantry into Rome. We broke the siege, then managed to escape back to our transports just before the huge 60k Spanish stack made its way back down. This kept the Papal States and their sizable army in the war for several more years, and incidentally gave me some very valuable reputation with the Papal States to further boost my papal influence.
After most of the OPMs were knocked out, we moved on to mid-sized kingdoms and duchies like the Three Leagues and Munich, while trying to protect allies like Genoa from being fully occupied. I noticed that Bohemia was granting territory to war allies from defeated opponents. Which was a little funny, since those allies tended to be Protestant or Reformed, but whatever. This did give me some hope that I'd be able to get actual territory from Spain out of the war, but I also knew there was no way we'd be able to 100% occupy Spain. By this point in the war, though, I had fully occupied and destroyed the armies of Spanish Louisiana, Spanish Caribbean, Spanish Florida and British Newfoundland, as well as occupied the Iberian homeland, Spanish South Africa and all of their Pacific holdings, leaving them with very valuable Italian land and islands in the Atlantic.
As the war progressed, it began to seem feasible that we could 100% occupy Austria, the war leader: all of its smaller allies had surrendered, and France, Holland, the Commonwealth and myself were successfully holding the larger armies of Britain, Sweden, Hungary and the Ottomans out of central Europe. This phase took a lot of careful maneuvering, as Austria had a lot of Level 4 Mountain Forts, and both they and Spain had huge armies that could crush our sieging forces. That said, those huge armies had been pummeled by attrition for years and years, and around this point the manpower reserves had dropped to 0 and they were running on fumes.
From some light online Googling, I had learned that a war leader will unconditionally surrender if all of the following criteria are true:
- At least 5 years have passed since the start of the war.
- All of the war leader's provinces are occupied. (Which can include occupation from a separate war or by rebels.)
- The war leader does not control any provinces. (Which includes provinces that allies captured and then transferred control of.)
I focused my armies on retaking a couple of Venetian provinces that had been conquered by Albania and given to Austria before Albania surrendered. Around this time the Papal States finally gave in, which was slightly disappointing, but meant that we didn't need to recapture those provinces too.
Just a few days after Austria was fully occupied, Bohemia accepted the call for peace. I was delighted to see that I did receive some provinces in the deal (and rightfully so, as I had put up something like 45% of the War Contribution, while my vassals and colonies provided another 15% or so). The gains weren't huge; I got three provinces northeast of Portugal proper, and five South African provinces. But I wasn't really expecting anything at all, so I was pleased. There was a fair amount of other realignment as well, with France expanding east, the Commonwealth taking some of Hungary and so on. All this was the cherry on the top; my main goal had been to get the Age Objective and the Catholic buff, both of which were satisfied.
And, I had severely weakened Spain, eating up all of their Manpower, sinking 3/4 of their ships and probably driving them into debt. While I'd been happily allied with them so far, I was now starting to view them as an expansion target. If I could take Sevilla and a few other provinces, I could fully own the vast trade income flowing in from the Americas, Africa, India and Oceania. Spain also has several Great Projects with awesome benefits, including Admin Efficiency and lowering Liberty Desire. Finally, if I could own a "land bridge" to Gibraltar, all of my North African provinces would be considered connected to my capital, which in turn would put me in a good position for spawning the Manufactories Institution. I already had Global Trade in Beja, but the Portuguese home provinces are very agriculture-oriented and so not eligible to spawn Manufactories. But my African provinces had a lot of different types of Manufactories, and I'd been devving them with surplus monarch power for several decades, putting them in a good position for spawning if they could satisfy the connected requirement.
My immediate goal, though, was to focus on Absolutism. The timing of the League War had messed with my initial plans, as you can't lower autonomy or take many other actions while at war. I'd watched several videos and read guides about Absolutism; there are some well-documented strategies like allowing Particularists to enforce their demands, but more recent patches have decreased the effectiveness of this approach. A more recent guide suggested a semi-exploit-y strategy where you take a territory, raise the autonomy, turn it into a state and then back into a territory, and then lower the autonomy again, which bypasses the typical cooldown period for adjusting autonomy. You gain 1 point of Absolutism for every 20 dev you lower autonomy on.
I tried this out and, honestly, it was pretty underwhelming. Even though I had a huge empire with a ton of territories, I think I only got like maybe 10 or so points of absolutism. It might have been more effective if I'd been able to do it at the very start of the age, but because I had been accruing some ticking yearly Absolutism during the League War, I lost all of those points when raising Autonomy, then get a few more back when lowering it again, but still not a ton.
But, there is the "benefit" of increasing unrest when you lower Autonomy. I took the Splendor ability for half-price Harsh Treatment, which let me crush rebellions for as little as 20 Military Power. This proved a more reliable way to boost Absolutism.
(Why Absolutism? Based on what I've read, the main benefit is increasing your Administrative Efficiency, which in turn lets you take provinces for less War Score cost or more provinces for the same War Score, as well as lowering the impact of Overextension and Aggressive Expansion. Overall, it lets you grow more for any given war.)
I'd been planning to hold off on any wars until after finishing the "Court & Country" disaster and boosting my Absolutism, mostly so I could keep crownland high. However, my two remaining estates' Influence was really low by this point (just over 10% for Clergy and around 30% for the Burghers), and my Crownland was over 95% thanks to all the devving I was doing in North Africa, so I had some to play around with.
The Ottomans had been expanding into Arabia, and I was a bit concerned that they would cut off my African holdings from Asia, so I launched a war against Hormuz to link up the Horn of Africa with Ormuz. This was an easier war than my earlier conflict with Yemen and its allies. I destroyed the Hormuz navy and worked with my Oghadeen vassal to siege down Hormuz territory; their own vassals didn't contribute much to the war. I wasn't able to fully annex Hormuz, and in the end I opted to take western land to block Ottoman expansion instead of eastern land that would connect my holdings. That would ordinarily be risky, but since nobody else borders Hormuz now I don't need to worry about anyone "stealing" those provinces from me.
A much bigger conflict loomed in India. For nearly a century I'd had some available Missions around owning Ceylon and some provinces on the east coast of India. I'd been hesitant to launch this war, since Gujarat and Kotte were allied, Gujarat owned the subcontinental provinces and was allied with Bengal, a massive military force and recent Great Power. Unlike Bahmanis, these nations were doing a good job at keeping up-to-date in military and other tech. Still, I was pretty confident that I could at least take those provinces I needed for the mission.
By now I've gotten much better at selecting a primary target for a war. When dealing with an alliance network where you want to take provinces from multiple foes, I think you're usually better off declaring war on the biggest opponent. First of all, you're less likely to fully occupy them, so you're less likely to get unwanted Calls For Peace and/or unconditional surrender. Secondly, any War Score you get from battles, blockades, etc. only apply to the war leader and not to co-belligerants. If you can fully occupy a smaller nation, you'll automatically get 99-100% war score, so those extra values are wasted. For the bigger nation, you can use them to squeeze out a few more concessions.
My vassal Kothamud was actually doing pretty well by now and could hold its own in the war. I was surprised and happy to see Demak show up as well with a nice-sized stack that played aggressively in attacking armies and sieging provinces.
These regional wars are pretty interesting to play as. On paper, I vastly outnumber my opponents; but that includes allied armies that are hanging out in the Americas and home armies in Europe and elsewhere. So in practice we tend to be pretty evenly matched, at least when it comes to land forces (I always easily dominate the seas). I'll usually have a big stack of artillery with a high-siege General focusing on taking forts, while a stack of infantry and cavalry with high-shock-and-or-fire General lurks nearby to protect them and engage any enemy forces. The AI tends to be very cautious and spends a lot of time running away, occasionally looping back if it can get to a small stack or some undefended troops. The best opportunity, which rarely comes up, is to wait for an enemy to siege one of your forts; they're usually reluctant to abandon an in-progress siege, and you can easily beat them with an equally-sized army, especially if the fort is on favorable terrain.
My goals for the war kept expanding as it progressed. Kotte fell surprisingly easily, and I was able to move those troops back to the mainland before Bengal fully engaged. By this time Demak and Kotalund were active, giving us a slight numerical advantage. That said, we were squeezed between two large foes, and had a lot of territory to defend and long snaking routes connecting them.
For my War Goal I'd selected one of the provinces I needed for the mission, and I started getting ticking score relatively early. I soon reached the point where Gujarat would surrender those provinces to me, but by now we had that advantage and I decided to keep pressing, following my standard strategy of prioritizing the enemy capital and Centers Of Trade. I discovered that Gujarat also owned a Gold Province, and added that to my shopping list.
I hadn't co-belligerant-ed Bengal, since they were a much stronger force and would have brought in many more allies of their own. By the end I started to wish that I had, though: I had exceeded my expectations and was on track to 100% occupy Gujarat. (In a small, funny note: Gujarat was allied with the dessicated remnants of the once-grand Timurid Empire, which by now owned a since province and a whopping 1 infantry regiment. While I was fighting mighty battles against Bengal and Gujarat to the east, Timur waltzed across the border and recaptured several occupied Gujarat provinces, requiring me to send a whopping 2 regiments back to chase them away and reclaim them.) I hadn't planned on Bengal taking any part in the peace deal, but now I wanted to see what I could squeeze out of them.
You can take provinces from a non-co-belligerant, it's just very expensive. After taking nearly all of the Indian Ocean coast and getting up to something like 40% individual warscore against Bengal, I ended up settling for three non-contiguous provinces; but those three provinces were all high-trade-power CoTs in the Bengal node, which made them incredibly valuable to me. After that I settled up with Gujarat; having fully occupied them, it turns out I didn't really need warscore from battles or the war goal after all, and might have been better off to have declared on Bengal in the first place. Oh, well. I was able to pillage the capital and get a little more dev in Lisboa, take the provinces for my mission, take the Centers of Trade and the gold provinces, and then grab a few more minor provinces for myself and Kolamud to make our territory contiguous or (more amusingly) split Gujarat into non-contiguous chunks.
Oh! I forgot to mention revanchism. While World War Zero was a fun and successful conflict, one thing that surprised me was that all of the remaining Protestant League members got a large amount of Revanchism at the end of the war. The idea behind Revanchism is that if a nation loses provinces, they get 10 years of bonuses, including a significant boost to Manpower generation, lowered Unrest, and higher Tax revenues; the intent is to make them less of an easy target to "kick them while they're down". But it looks like, due to a bug or unusual design, all members will get revanchism, even if they personally didn't lose any provinces. So in this case, the Ottoman Empire ended up with a lot of Revanchism, despite not losing any significant territory.
Knowing this, I was extra-incentivized to make a separate peace with Bengal before wrapping up the main Gujarat part of the war: since I was going to be taking up to 100 War Score of provinces, I wanted to make sure Bengal didn't get the Revanchism. And in fact, I don't think they got any at all; I believe (but am not completely sure) that Revanchism isn't granted in separate peaces, only from the primary treaty.
I used this war to help trigger "Court And Country", a disaster that can be used to boost your maximum Absolutism. I don't think I really needed it in my campaign; due to a variety of bonuses I had (including Empire status, Great Power status, high Religious Unity, Legitimacy and Crown Land), my maximum was already around 100, even with two Estate Privileges granted for more Monarch Power. There isn't much benefit to raising Absolutism over 100; but doing so would increase my Crown Land Equilibrium, which would help me maintain high crownland while continuing military expansion; and going over 100 would also insulate me from temporary drops in Legitimacy or other modifiers I depended on.
Court & Country proved to be really hard to trigger. It starts when you have high National Unrest, non-maximum Stability, high Absolutism and are at war. My Unrest was high thanks to my long wars and nearly-crippling Overextension, but keeping it high proved difficult, and ironically I needed to save-scum after getting some beneficial events and ruler traits that lowered it. (Having an Unrest lower than 1 gives you -1 progress per month, which I thought I could overcome with the +2 progress from high Absolutism, but it turns out that having low Unrest for more than 1 month entirely cancels the disaster instead of just progressing more slowly.)
The disaster eventually fired. It proved to be pretty bursty: I had no events at all for the first year or so, then several months of back-to-back revolts from particularists, separatists and nobles. I'd planned to strategically give in to some of the demands, but ended up challenging all of them, mostly because of the higher Local Autonomy most of them give.
Beyond the event-based uprisings, I also had my hands full with regular old uprisings, due to my previous shenanigans with lowering autonomy: I think I had over a dozen revolts in the years leading up to and early in Court And Country. Fortunately my armies were well-positioned to respond, and I had Forts extending zones of control into most of my provinces, neutralizing the worst effects of rebels seizing provinces. By this point I was getting nervous about my near-zero Military Power, and started fighting rebels instead of using Harsh Treatment so I could get it high enough to take the next technology.
While it might be a bad idea, I also decided to start integrating my vassals. I'd lead them for over a century, and they had grown huge; Liberty Desire was still manageable, but I could see it getting out of hand if I continued feeding them. I'd initially planned to do it after finishing Court & Country, but since my Absolutism was already getting up near 80 or so this seemed to be as good a time as any. I intentionally lost a papal election so I could take the Papal Legate decision for cheaper annexation, and plan to start a Cortes debate for further reduction. I'm integrating Demak and Oghadeen at the same time, which costs a whopping 20 Diplomatic Power per month. I built my stockpile up to nearly 1000 before triggering the annexation; thanks to my advisors and all my other sources of mana, I'm only running a deficit of 4 per month, so I should be able to complete the annexation before running out. Kothamud is a bit smaller than Demak and Oghadeen, so my tentative plan is to keep them around for a bit longer, maybe using them to expand into Sindh and/or connect my Bengal holdings before annexation. I'll likely pick up another vassal in central or western Africa and probably another in Asia, either an Indonesian one to take Ternate's colonial empire or in Thailand or Vietnam to take more of the mainland.
Diplomatically, I replaced my old Spanish alliance with a French one, and my British alliance with the Commonwealth. It took a lot of trust-building to get the Commonwealth on board, but they're really good allies now, and I think I'm very well-positioned if Russia or the Ottomans ever try to start something. (I don't have much desire to expand into those lands, but if they're feeling bold they could try to go after mine.) Those allies are each weaker than the old one (Spain is #2, France #5, Britain #9 and the Commonwealth is no longer ranked), but more useful: Britain never wanted to join my wars, and I didn't usually want to involve Spain in my overseas adventures.
I am generating a ridiculous amount of Papal Influence. I have 4 missionaries, thanks to my Religious Idea and activities in the Counter-Reformation. For a while I was converting my vassals' lands, reasoning that doing so now would save me the hassle of converting after annexation; but Demak and Kothamud then granted Dhimi Autonomy, rendering provinces non-convertible. But I then realized that many New World colonial provinces were still heathen, including some very high-dev ones, so that's where I've been keeping busy. As a result I've been the Pope for a while, I keep the Papal abilities up, and have lately started dumping the surplus into Mercantilism.
More to come in the next post!
(Probably no images, though. I've lately been doing most of my EU4 play on a MacBook, and the screenshot key is just awkward enough there that I haven't been taking many shots at all. Not that the text is very readable on the web anyways!)