Sunday, April 09, 2023

Age of Absolutism?! More Like Age of Revolution!!

My run of EU4 has ended much like my run of EU3: With me astonished at just how long it took. It's been a lot of fun! Way too much has happened for me to properly recap events, systems or my opinions of things, but I'd like to have some closure at least on this blog.

The balance of powers on the world stage were very dynamic throughout the game. For the early years I maintained a strong alliance with Spain and England/Britain, and built Power Projection through a meaningless rivalry with France. After the shattering of World War 0, I kept hostile relations with Spain for the rest of the game, and entered close partnership with France, which made England mad at me. I also flipped the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from a rivalry to an alliance; for whatever reason a lot of nations rivaled the PLC, but they were very geopolitically useful to me, blocking extension from Russia and the Ottomans into Europe.

I fought a series of successful wars against Spain. Early on I focused on taking provinces like Granada, Seville and Madrid to get advantage of powerful Monuments and trade nodes. France helped in this war, keeping Spain's huge Italian-based army busy while I cleaned up the peninsula. Subsequent wars were conducted solo to avoid French claims on Iberian provinces. By the end of the game Spain had a major New World presence: a giant Florida owned most of eastern North America, while the Spanish Indies controlled several Caribbean islands and a chunk of the South American coast; but Spain's continental holdings consisted just of southern Italy and Sicily. Oh, and they had permanent rebels in enclaves surrounded by me, which was pretty fun.

Africa was initially just a skipping stone on the way to Asia, but after I won the race to control the Spice Islands, I doubled back to strengthening my position there. My primary goal was to control the flow of trade through the Ivory Coast: I had already blocked out other European powers, but the African nations were locally skimming a small portion of the huge wealth flowing through. The big powers I faced were Kongo and Mali, along with some smaller satellite states. When the dust had settled, I had created a land bridge extending from Lisboa through Morocco, down through West Africa and through the Kongo interior into Somalia. From here, I launched another war against Hormuz to expand that land bridge through the Arabian peninsula to join up with my existing foothold on the island of Ormuz, gaining a new beachhead into Asia Minor. Future wars would eventually allow me to connect up with my subcontinental holdings in India. It's a long walk from India back to Portugal, but one I can do without needing any military access!

My economy and force limit has expanded to the level where there's no real limit on the armies I can field. As I headed into the second half of the game, I came to understand why many veteran players prefer to quit around 1650 or so. In early wars, you probably have a single stack of forces that you're strategically moving to attack and block. Later in the game, though, you'll have many larger stacks operating across a wide area. For optimal play, you also need to pay attention to the Supply Limit in their theaters, splitting armies to safely cross a desert and then re-combining on the other side, for example. Forts become increasingly annoying to crack. On the plus side, though, you can afford to constantly drill all of your armies in peacetime, which makes the wars faster and easier. I didn't really drill anyone until about 1600 and now wish that I had done so from the start: the Professionalism gain is based on the fraction of your army that is drilling, so even a couple of regiments could push your Professionalism high when done early.

In the second half of the game, the New World has been a lot quieter. Whenever I went to war with Spain it would drag in their colonies, and often Newfoundland as well; but by this point my own colonies were powerful enough that they could fight in this hemisphere on their own without a lot of support from me. Native tribes mostly stopped declaring on my colonies, but I did get a couple of attempts late in the game, which were always really fun: as soon as I try to Enforce Peace on the conflict, not only I will enter the war, but so will all of my subjects as well. Just imagine being a little 1-province North American tribe trying to take on Cascadia, and then suddenly facing the combined might of Portugal, California, Louisiana, Mexico, Cuba, Columbia, Brazil, Peru, and Rio del Prata. If the war goes on for long enough, even Australia will sail over and get in on the action!

As I continued to expand in the Old World, I continued my general strategy of personally claiming the most crucial provinces (those with monuments, centers of trade or estuaries). Other provinces would be given to vassals, who would take care of coring and converting the new territory. Once the vassal got up to around 300 dev or so I would annex them. I started annexing Demak and Ogadeen this way, trying to time it so they would finish around the same time and I could minimize the reputational penalty for annexation. It's really hard to time right because discounts (like a Cortes resolution and the Papal Legate curia power) will affect the cost of diplomatic power spent, but for long annexations you might need to start more than 10 years out, before you can get the Cortes issue. When I was ready for the Cortes proposal, it never appeared, even after waiting for a year, until I finally released a fourth vassal. Also, it turns out that if you're the Papal Controller then you can't take the Papal Legate ability, so I frustratingly had to wait for my pope to die before I could take it. It all worked out in terms of the cost of annexation, but the timeline was rougher than I'd hoped.

After Demak and Ogadeen were integrated, I created a new African vassal Dagbon and a new Indonesian vassal Aceh. I didn't let those grow quite as big before integrating them, since my previous vassals were starting to flirt with 50% Liberty Desire while being integrated.

Once I started having a dominant position in the game, one of my priorities was trying to spawn all of the remaining Institutions. I had pretty high hopes for starting Manufactories: it requires high dev on a province with an industrial Manufactory, but most of my actual Portuguese land was agricultural, so for nearly 100 years I had been developing the Maghreb. Most of northern Africa is hilly or mountainous or desert, so it was extra expensive to dev. I had high hopes for spawning the institution, and was frustrated to see that I didn't get it. I read more closely online about the requirements, and saw that each province has only a 10% chance of spawning, so there's a chance that my provinces weren't even considered as candidates. Also, one of the requirements is that the province is "connected to the capital". I'd fought wars against Spain specifically to a crossing between Gibraltar and Ceuta, linking my homeland to Africa. After investigating some Reddit threads, though, it sounds like "connected to the capital" also requires them being on the same continent. Boo!! So, most likely none of those Maghreb provinces were even eligible. I really wish I'd used all those monarch points somewhere else!

Late in the game, coalitions finally started to become a real problem. For most of the game it didn't matter at all: by the time I'd racked up enough Aggressive Expansion for it to be a possibility, I was also so strong that nobody dared join one. Then, when I would go to war against huge powers like Ming or Spain they would be brave and form up; and as soon as I signed a peace treaty they would dismantle. Eventually, though, I got enough people mad enough at me that the coalitions would stick around even when I wasn't at war and had no overextension. I had to tread carefully with Spain for a while: since they are a global power, my wars everywhere in the world tend to trigger their AE even if I'm, say, taking provinces in Indonesia. I had to be more cautious during this phase, but never really stopped expanding: I'd find a group that I hadn't picked on much yet, like Totemists in Africa or Shintos in Japan, and go to war with them; occasionally this would pull in a coalition member as a non-co-belligerant, which would remove them from the actual coalition. At some point I got strong enough to declare myself a Military Hegemon, and after that I went back to nobody daring to join a coalition against me regardless of how much AE I'd racked up.

Let's see, what else interesting happened...

One general game design observation I want to make is that, while it's true that micromanagement (in my wide game) became more annoying later on, I am pretty impressed by how the game changes to keep some tension and engagement in the later sections. The Revolution mechanic in particular was really effective. I chose to stay a Monarchy, so I was pretty invested in trying to curb revolutionary fervor. Spain eventually became the Revolutionary Target, which caused some massive unrest penalties in my provinces (coupled with ones where the Revolution was present). Dealing with rebellions is a pain, and you're incentivized to take action to prevent them. Going to war against the Revolutionary Target switches those penalties to bonuses, improving social cohesion. I think I fought this war with France and the PLC as my allies, Spain was allied with Britain, we wiped the floor with them and I took a juicy bite out of Italy while curbing the revolutionary threat.

There was a decade or so of peace, and then: France became revolutionary! Once again the world order went through upheaval. France's revolutionary fervor burned bright and they rapidly expanded eastward, often issuing calls to arms to me. I was typically a passive participant in these battles: on paper I massively ballooned the belligerant side, which led to favorable war calculations, but I rarely committed armies to the struggle, at most blockading some ports. This continued for some time until France declared on the Papal States. Nope. The one constant throughout my whole game has been remaining resolutely Catholic, and that was one straw too many. I rejected the Call and ended our alliance, setting up a tense standoff with my rival-turned-ally-turned-rival-again.

I was planning to play all the way through to the end of the game in 1821, but decided to finish early when I reached an unexpected milestone: being crowned the Holy Roman Emperor. This is very funny! I'm waaaay on the far end of Europe and don't have any HRE provinces. I have a stupid amount of Diplomats and had been idly improving relations with the Electors, not really expecting to be elected. I guess it does make sense: at the end of World War Zero I'd enforced Catholicism as the official faith of the HRE, but most of the Empire was still Protestant or Reformed. The only somewhat-powerful Catholic entity left had been Brandenburg, but they were swallowed up by the PLC a decade or so earlier, so all that was left inside the Empire were some one-or-two-province minors.


I started to read up on what I should do as the Emperor, dreaming of improbably restoring its greatness (declare religious wars to convert the heretic princes back to Catholicism! Go to war against France to return the unlawful territory)!, all of which sounds fun, but honestly way too much for the far end of the game.

On the one hand, I'm filled with good feelings for this game, impressed at the incredible depth of simulation and the intricate interconnection of its various systems. On the other hand, I feel very done with it and ready to move on to something else. It says something that I now think of Stellaris as being a simple, streamlined game! BUT I can't help thinking of all the other things I'd like to try in EU4, like properly playing in the HRE, or trying to survive as Byzantium, or unifying Japan, or restoring Ruthenia.

Some final stats:


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