Europa Universalis 3: A Song For Connacht

By Quintin Smith on December 14th, 2009 at 11:20 am.


Tis’ the season to be playing unwieldy grand strategy games! The Total War series has been losing my interest for a few years now (which is to say I now break for meals when playing them), but hope remains for my post-Christmas weight loss. I’ve finally found some time to check out the geektacular Europa Universalis III, and it just might just have what it takes to starve me down to size. Read about my attempt at steering the tiny Irish province of Connacht to glory, riches and global reknown after the jump. (Spoiler: It doesn’t go very well.)

Why Connacht? Well, I’ve just moved to the Irish “city” of Galway and, being English, people here keep jokily mentioning Oliver Cromwell to me. Cromwell being the gentleman who led the English invasion of Ireland in the 17th century and oversaw its subsequent brutal occupation. Between war, famine and plague /one half/ of the Irish population was killed in this period. One Catholic church in Galway even has jagged stumps where Cromwell famously shot off each of the gargoyles before throwing some hay on the floor and using the place as a stables.

But I like the Irish. As opposed to living in Scotland, where people would call me a bastard, finish their pint of Tennent’s and then call me a bastard again, in Ireland people make fun of me, moan about the price of a pint then make fun of themselves. It makes me sadder about their history and more interested in learning about it.

Despite Europa Universalis’ absurd scope (attempting to model world history from Iceland to Japan from 1399 to 1822) it has the kind of thick-glasses-and-elbow-patches approach to realism that makes it relatively educational experience. So for my first game I took control of the kingdom of Connacht, or Connaught as it was called then, of which Galway is the capital.

Let’s bring up the map.

I – okay, zoom in a bit.

Bit more.

There we go. Gaze upon my mighty holdings! That’s me in the upper left. You know, the mighty-looking one. It is the year of our Lord 1399. My first order of business: Stop laughing at the fact that one of the two seas I’m connected to is called Dingle Bay. Second order of business: Dislodge the English foothold in Meath! (That’s the province in the centre-right. In 1399 it’s under English control, and the game presents me with the sole mission of getting them off fair Éire.)

No problem. I’ve been playing strategy games all my life. Let’s do this.

When the game starts I’m given the chance to change one of my government sliders a touch, an opportunity that only comes about once every few years. I choose to nudge the manpower slider away from QUALITY towards QUANTITY, which in 1399 presumably means lowering the minimum age for the armed services from 11 to 9 years old. This’ll increase the rate at which I can build an army, and I get lucky too – a message pops up saying that far from making my army a “bit of a joke”, its new, larger size has “unlocked the talents of our military minds.” Presumably one of those 9 years olds was a genius we snatched off the spelling bee circuit.

But after this things start to go wrong. Maintaining the paltry 1,000 man army and single ship I started the game with is putting my monthly income into the negative, and it’s your income that determines the development of your society. It’s not that I’m exceptionally poor, I’m just a perfectly ordinary, very small kingdom in the early 15th century. There is no shunting resources into research or building ludicrous armies here. In real life those options require wealth, something Ireland was never exactly famous for. This leaves me with the unsettling realisation that unless I do something smart I’m going to become an idiot backwater.

No problem. One of the main features of Europa Universalis III is colonies, right? I’ll take my ship and start a little trading post in the new world. That’ll net me the wealth I, uh. Ah.

What you see here is my ship butting up against the edge of its range. The technology and maps required to reach the new world (or anywhere else worth colonising) simply doesn’t exist to my people. I’m stuck.

Options exhausted, I unpause the game and watch the game clock tick on. Unlike Total War, Europa models not seasons or months but individual days, and it’s oddly depressing to watch them tick past. Weeks turn to months turn to whole years, and through them all broken Éire lies sad and still, a torn painting nobody can put back together.

I watch in awe as England finishes building an army in Meath, then loads it onto a ship and carries it off to die on unfamiliar shores. There isn’t even an /garrison/ in Meath anymore. It’s a defenseless province. The gall here – they’re assuming we’ll just sit here and let the abuse of our brothers and sisters in Meath continue. But it does continue. I do nothing, and neither do the kingdoms of Munster, Leinster and Ulster around me. To upset mighty England would be to tip a bucket of horror over our heads.

In an idle October in 1402 I hire a great artist, one Jan Fryderyk Grosch, to join my board of advisors. His presence will give my Kingdom a boost in stability. Come January 1403 I notice my primitive government’s stability has been as high as it’d go for years. So I fire Grosch. Piss off, Grosch.

A messenger arrives in March that same year bringing interesting news.

Guaranteed, huh? That’s good of them, I guess. Now how can I– HEY!

Unforgivably, by the end of 1403 I find my eyes drifting towards the other miserable Irish kingdoms if I want to expand my holdings, but I quickly decide against it. The last thing this island needs is more blood spilled on it. Better to just bide my time and wait for my window of opportunity. Historically speaking, England didn’t conquer the rest of island until 1603. That’s 200 years of room for me to make my move.

OK, change of plan. If I’m playing the long game and can speed up the development of my society with money then I’m going ahead and disbanding my army. If the English are busy fighting France (among others) and I have good relations with my Irish neighbours, I’m safe.

I’m barely six months into this new, pacifist plan when everything changes. An army of Irish rebels appears in Meath and immediately sets to work sieging the capital. 12,000 men! Holy shit! This is my chance! How quickly can I get an army together? I send the order for 1,000 men to saddle up and form a regiment of cavalry, slap the button that converts my king into a general and declare war on England. My miniature force created, I march them over the border and into Meath, happy to join the siege and perhaps act as leader to this rabble. The rebels have the single trait of being Irish Culture, and were created because they were living under English Culture rule. I’m guessing that means they’ll count as allied troops to anything else with Irish Culture.

I guess wrong. My face drops everything unfolds – the rebels see my cavalry as a hostile presence, initiate a battle and butcher the outnumbered horsemen. Presumably they weren’t too keen on swapping one distant king for another, closer one. That king of mine does get home safe following the battle, but it’s for nothing. Turns out the English don’t take kindly to declarations of war.

As the game ends I’m informed that my King will be remembered for The Minor War of Connacht Aggression, 1405. Thank you for playing.

Well.

Aside from being an enjoyably bleak experience, what this got me thinking about is how grand strategy games so rarely gift us with a worthy objective when every other genre loves to. Shooters, RPGs and RTSs always seem to pit us as the underdog against a truly evil antagonist, and tease with sections where we have to run away, or protect somebody, or ask for help. By contrast, grand strategy seem heartless- we’re always tasked with conquering the entire continent, planet or galaxy, and we thrill at crushing opponents with superior numbers or technology. What on Earth is that about?

Why not take a cue from Lord of the Rings or Dragon Age and let the player try and unite a divided world against a terrifying, vast threat? Or you could borrow from Half-Life 2′s back-story, with the player needing to hold off a force of technologically advanced nation for as long as possible, always losing ground, always looking for a way to assassinate their mad leaders. It’s not asking a great deal, just something that doesn’t task us as a medieval/renaissance/space Hitler.

If anyone needs me on Boxing day you’ll find me having another shot at freeing Ireland from English oppression. In the mean time, why don’t you pick up the demo of Europa Universalis 3 and find your own worthy cause? Human history being what it is, I think there just might be enough to go around.

, .

71 Comments »

  1. Garg says:

    “Why not take a cue from Lord of the Rings or Dragon Age and let the player try and unite a divided world against a terrifying, vast threat?”

    Imperium Galactica 2 had you desperately try and unify all the warring races against one ridiculously powerful enemy as I remember. I agree it does make for a more interesting game, and lends extra importance to diplomacy other than some “diplomatic victory” type condition. Part of the problem with implementing something like that though is that more complicated diplomacy requires good AI, something that is often lacking (cough cough Total War cough).

  2. aldo says:

    As opposed to living in Scotland, where people would call me a bastard, finish their pint of Tennent’s and then call me a bastard again, in Ireland people make fun of me, moan about the price of a pint then make fun of themselves.

    Oi!

    cheeky bastard….

    ;)

    • aldo says:

      I’m just useless at replying, aren’t I? I bet this one won’t even be in the right place, under my previous quote-guffing-up one. Bah.

  3. Jae Armstrong says:

    Ireland, eh? I don’t think I’ve ever played an Ireland game. I have enough trouble putting the boot into the English as Scotland, who start with more provinces than there are in the entirety of Ireland. But let me see if I can offer some tips.

    1) Money is very very scarce at the beginning of the game. By the 18th Century, you’ll be swimming in it, but in 1399 your options are basically trade or throw money into production tech until you can build workshops.
    2) Get an alliance, preferably with someone big and scary. Against England, France is a nice option. Though be aware that the odds on an AI country building a fleet large enough to threaten the Home Isles are frankly laughable. Their use here will be providing another target for England to waste its manpower on. Scotland usually aren’t worth bothering with; England will walk all over them.
    3) The colonisation idea was a good one, but you’ll need the Quest For The New World NI before you can explore uncharted territory. You’re about a century away from Canada.
    4) Devour the other Irish minors. Do it quickly. Mint if you have to to buy the troops and steamroller the lot of them. If it helps any, remember that whenever presented with a choice between fighting the Saxon menace and fighting each other, the Celtic peoples always chose option B ;)

    That’s it, pretty much. An Irish OPM is pretty much the hardest starting position in the game, except maybe the Native Americans or the Africans. Good luck.

    • Quinns says:

      Right! Understood. Thank you. I might just publish my second attempt, too.

    • Jimmy says:

      This pretty much reflects the history of Ireland, and is similar to Scotland too.
      Different Irish factions sought the help of continental powers with the highlight being the invitation of the Spanish Armada to Ireland. Of course, they never fully came to port in Ireland, and unfortunately for the Irish and lucky for the English, the invasion was not a success.

      The Jacobite rebellion was also a pretext for Irish self-assertion, in which the Irish fought with King James but were defeated by the William of Orange, who promptly seized the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland, beginning the campaign of power replacement in Ireland with the Catholic (read Gaelic) natives displaced by English and Scottish planters.

      Ireland never achieved unity in the same sense that Scotland did, with the Stuart line of kings, and so only with great difficulty could rally all the hands to spill the blood of the Saxon foe :-) The last great hope for unity until the 20th century, when self-assertion for the 26 counties came about after more blood and piecemeal politics.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Fede says:

    Nice one, Quinns :)

    Some little suggestions:
    - reduce to half or less the funding of your armies and navies in times of peace, their morale will go down, but in one/two months of full funding it will again be maxed
    - AI guaranteeing you often means you’re their next target, and they don’t want anyone to conquer you before they do
    - if you have only one province (or you are pagan) you can be annexed in one war, so try to get a second province as soon as possible when you fear you’re going to get attacked, that will give you time
    - rebels usually have an allegiance, you see it on the tooltip you get when pointing at their army with your mouse, if there is only the rebel flag they’re hostile to anyone, if there is also another flag they are allied with them and will give what they conquer to that country (after some time, I think)
    - try something bigger or stronger than Connaught :)

  5. theleif says:

    One of the things i love most about the EU series is that it’s not about conquering th world. Unless you want it to, of course. The game has no set victory rules, you decide what you want to accomplish in the game.
    You can choose to build a trade empire with Venice, or unite Germany with Bavaria. You can try to conquer the world with the Mongols, or reestablish the Bysantian Empire. It’s up to you.
    Now, to turn Connacht into a global power house… well good luck.
    You’ll need it.

  6. gulag says:

    Grats for having a go at relieving us west of the Shannon types of English rule. We never made a good fist of it ourselves back in the day. Something to do with excessive malingering and a fondness of whiskey.

    Can’t wait to find out if you can pull off this sort of stunt in EU3. I’ve seen it done in Medievil: TW, and the Irish only get throwing sticks in that! “Tiocfiadh Ar La!” and all that old rubbish.

  7. Pamplemousse says:

    I remeber in Gal Civ II there was a type of game mode that allowed you to play humans in a galaxy full of races, and the dread lords. Now, you could unite the galaxy under one banner and attempt to destroy the dread lords or you could die… again and again and again until you decided to unite.

  8. cowthief skank says:

    I have been putting off reinstalling this for ages but I think I can resist no longer.

    My last game I played some Indian nation, I forget which, but I managed to conquer almost the entire subcontinent. Of course, my neighbours did not much like me, but none of them were really powerful enough to do anything about it…

    I would look forward to reading your second attempt at freeing the Irish from the tyrannical rule of the English.

  9. DMJ says:

    Maybe it says something about my skills, but I find that most strategy games become a battle to stave off defeat, sacrificing men an equipment to slow the unstoppable advance, snatching fleeting victories wherever I can but always losing ground to a relentless and superior enemy.

    It’s not as good as you make it sound.

  10. jalf says:

    I tried to get into EU.. Then I realized just how little fun the economy was. If you spend money on *anything* whatsoever, your economy falls over. If you try to save money up for spending later, it also falls over.

    I’m sure fans will defend it as being realistic, but I’d like to note that the real world has feature quite a lot of money-spending without empires collapsing in ruin. Anyway, if that’s realism, I don’t want any of it!.

    :D

    • DMJ says:

      @jalf: It appears to be rather realistic, if the current financial situation is anything to go by. And I agree, if that’s realism, I don’t want any of it. Unfortunately I can’t ALT-TAB out of real life…

    • jalf says:

      Well, the real world *also* features examples of some pretty astounding spending sprees, successful and otherwise. Of countries getting wealthy as well as countries borrowing money like there’s no tomorrow, and surviving and ending up with a strong economy in either case. EU3 seems to make it suicide to deviate much from a flat neutral zero. You’re dead if you go into debt, and you’re dead if you try to save up even a few coins.

      It’s obviously more realistic than the economy in most other games, but there’s got to be some kind of middle ground that models a bit more of the flexibility that real-world economies do have, and perhaps even makes enough compromises to give the player a small measure of *choice*.

      Oh well. The series has got its fans, and they like it, so I probably just don’t get it. Which is fair enough. :)

    • Railick says:

      (second try)

      @Jalf You may not know this but you can borrow money and go into Debt the right way ;) You can take out tons of loans and there are even advisors that allow you to get better rates on your loans. It is totally possible to take out a 3 or 4 loans to finance a war which will net you a huge gain in provinces and income then pay them off in a few years. Also you can give money to other countries either by offfering to lend it to them (Which some will take) or by giving them the money when they’re at war for free if you really want them to win.

      Lending people money is a great way to go to war with them without risking your own prestige or rep by sending spys to make up false claims. If they refuse to pay you back you have a reason to declare war :P (France NEVER pays me back!)

  11. TC27 says:

    Playing as a one province minor survival is a worthy enough goal (uniting Ireland and setting up some new world colonies would be the long term goals).

    World conquest ala Total War is now very difficult even for the traditonal ‘blobbers’ such as France and the new expansion pack makes it very difficult to get too big.

    I love EU games, I knew I was ready for them when i started auto resolving battles in Total War because i wanted to play the next campaign turn.

  12. Derf says:

    I’ve played Paradox’s comparatively “strategy-lite” medieval-RTS title, Knights of Honor. I love it to bits, but I must admit, I’ve only ever played as a Byzantines. The mission of reconquering the world as the last remnant of Roman glory dwarfs the prospect of doing the same with, say, Munster. If I were to play EU III, I would probably still only play as Byzantium … or China.

    I may give the demo a whirl.

  13. SKRONK! says:

    The Irish one province minors are maybe the hardest to play in the whole game and it’s madness to even try before you’re played quite a bit and learned the tricks of the trade.

    So many people have been turned off by the game because they started their first games as some weak one province nation or some uncivilized bunch in the middle of nowhere, got bored and decided that it’s just how the game is. Playing a small nation when you don’t know the game is indeed boring and usually ends with either you being annexed by some superpower or quitting because absolutely nothing has happened in 10 years.

    People like playing the underdog and I too started as a some 4 province Italian nation, did a whole lot of nothing for a while and then got my ass handed to me by Castille. I didn’t touch the game for a while but later started over as Austria after some armchair generals recommended it, started some wars, conquered some folk, fucked up my economy and got my ass handed to me by France. But it was a totally different experience because this time I actually had the manpower and the income to do stuff with.

    • SKRONK! says:

      tldr; New players of EUIII should start as a major power and it seems most of the options in the HttT demo fall into that category. The Hansa might be tricky with over-aggressive Denmark with scandinavian allies right next to you.

  14. Mik_in_Ohio_USA says:

    I would have loved to see Ireland invade and conquer England. Damn shame you got schnizzled over some fish and chips… btw for anyone in the U.S. I just ordered EU3 complete from Amazon.com for
    $7.00 + s/h. Brand new… can’t wait to play as Connaught….

  15. Hulk Hogan says:

    Haha. Treasonous rebel scum attacked your country and then started referring to it as “The War of Connact Aggression”

    Fuck The South

  16. Nimic says:

    First game? Play France.

    • Premium User Badge

      Fede says:

      Another good choice (more peaceful than playing France) for the first game could be England. If you sell your french provinces to France you can explore the game (both world and mechanics) without having to fight too many wars.

  17. Ian says:

    This sounds like it could be good fun. Will give the demo a bash. I’ve found that while these sorts of strategy games always looked offputting when I was younger I now get on with them much better than RTSes.

    “As opposed to living in Scotland, where people would call me a bastard, finish their pint of Tennent’s and then call me a bastard again”

    Sounds about right. ;-)

  18. Adam Whitehead says:

    Ah, spent a year living and working in Galway. Great ‘city’ indeed (the reason for the quote marks is that it is the third-biggest settlement in the Republic of Ireland and its permanant population is 75,000, or about half of my home ‘small town’ in the UK). Lots of excellent pubs over there :-)

    Might give EU3 a go some time. I have always fancied conquering the British Isles with Ireland in Med 2: Kingdoms as well, although I need to finish conquering Middle-earth a few more times before trying that :-)

  19. Daniel Klein says:

    Here’s a game I love to hate. Every few months I give it another go, every time I do I lose large chunks of time, and every time I come out swearing I’ll never touch this piece of crap again. Only then I will.

    First of, the UI is criminal. Seriously. Making something this bad and unleashing it on Actual Humans should be punishable by eye gouging. That would also help them understand the PAIN we feel when we try to interact with their product. It starts at step 1: the “tutorial”. The “tutorial” is a magically unhelpful collection of ugly videos that randomly touch on a few basic and a few not so basic aspects of the game, leaving out a few of the basic things you should REALLY know, but most of all boring you halfway to death. Pro-tip: a tutorial is something you play.

    Next there is the issue of information. Like dredg say, “just a little bit more information, to add to the confusion”. I would have liked to sit in on the meetings where it was decided which information to expose to the players and what to hide, only that I’m pretty sure there were no such meetings, and it was just one guy making it up as he went along. Wanna find out whether or not a province will be able to sustain the army you’re moving in? Good luck. Guess you’ll just have to move the army in and see if people start starving… only that won’t help either, because you don’t even get a notification of starvation (or maybe you do, and it’s buried somewhere in the 1000+ types of messages you can customize in that most epic of dialogs).

    Gamedesign-wise, this game is firmly in the school of “but that’s not how it happened! Make it realistic, we’re not here to have fun!” You are often so starved for options that you just sit there watching the days tick away, even as a major power. Sometimes you just cannot afford to go to war, and you’re all out of diplomats/traders to do interesting things with (not like you CAN do interesting things with traders anyway; you just send them to a CoT and pray), and so you wait. You get spammed with alliance offers, only to find that the “find a province” feature will not help you find a KINGDOM by name, and so if Tatjikistan doesn’t happen to have a main province named like their kingdom, well you’d better know WHERE they are by heart, because the game won’t show you.

    Then there’s wars. Oh my god, the wars. There has never been a more infuriatingly random combat resolution system in any game. I don’t think an indie developer setting out to produce a deliberately ANNOYING system could outdo EU3. The amount of factors that go into combat are ridiculous; and even after you think you understand most of them, there’s still good old chance, the friend of strategy games everywhere. Not.

    But Daniel, that’s how it was! Combat was random! Suddenly you’d lose, and no one would know why! THIS IS A GOOD FEATURE BECAUSE IT IS REALISTIC!

    Yes, well, I hope that EU4 will only update its map based on unreliable and time-delayed scout reports, that generals will ignore your commands every now and then, and that solar flare activity is properly taken into account. And that it will give you bubonic plague.

    Now, to install EU3 again…

    • Daniel Klein says:

      Have I mentioned that wars against the AI are 5% actual fighting and 95% chasing after armies and mopping them up? So much not fun.

    • Premium User Badge

      Fede says:

      Tutorials should be redone, yes, agree 100%

      UI is far from perfect, but it’s not simple to show all data when things get complex, so I do understand them. Some of it has been improved in the expansion (easier to see bad boy aka infamy, for example)

      You need some time to get used to the combat, the dice isn’t so important, but of course the game tells you only in part how you should act to win, and hides the rest. It takes a bit to learn the tricks. Also, it’s not so realistic, EU3 was blamed of being too unrealistic by some players (this is why there are mods to make it more realistic).

      Yes, the ping-pong of armies is annoying (very annoying at times), but it should have been reduced by patch 3.2 (yay!)

    • Rob Zacny says:

      I was really put off by the UI at first, but now I’m in love with the tool-tips. It took me about half a campaign to figure out what the hell was going on, but the game eventually pays you back for that investment.

      However, I think the wars a pretty damned good. I’ve rarely seen a game with so many astonishing swings of fortune as EU3, and while the battle resolution system is almost a complete mystery, the roles that leadership, troop type, army morale, and terrain all play are fairly clear.

      And the wars only degenerate to chasing and mopping-up when you don’t have enough armies. If you try and keep your forces together in large packs, the enemy will be able to run. Definitive victory comes when you have the troops to distribute your forces throughout the countryside so that the enemy has nowhere to run to. The goal is strategic victory, and EU3 is stingy with those. I really like that.

    • Jakkar says:

      You write too much like me to ignore your words. My curiosity is quashed; I return to Rome Total War and continue in my foolish optimism that when I return to Medieval 2, it won’t feel like the AI is programmed to simply declare war on someone nearby every five turns and declare war every time anyone else declares a ceasefire.

    • Elos says:

      Maybe this is all new stuff in In Nomine and Daniel Klein is playing the original, but starvation rate has always been shown in the unit info screen as a skull and a precentage next to it and the support amounts of a province is visible when you select one. I do agree with you on the tutorials though.

      The UI also lacks some information but HttT fixes quite a bit: you can see the real shock & fire amounts of units, there’s a list of decisions and events affecting your nation and you’re more or less clearly told when, why and how much prestige/infamy you get or lose. It also makes battles a lot more decisive with the “morale 0 = surrender” change and the new casus belli system makes everything a lot more interesting.

    • Serondal says:

      The random chance in battles really only has an effect when both sides are evenly matched and has equal generals. Generally speaking I never attack anyone unless I’ve got twice as many troops and an okay general, or 1.5 times more troops and a cracking general to sway the tide. Like was said above it shows how many of your people are dieing directly on the unit card when you select them and it shows the provinces ability to support troops when you click on it, I don’t know how they could be more simple, but like with all things you have to explore in order to discover new things, if you just assume they are hidden behind 1000 screens of info and never go looking you’l never realize they are right in front of you ;)

      My advice would be to play as Castile or Portugal, two of my favorite starting nations which can both end up extremely powerful if you play them right. (Or totally borked as I borked Portugal about 5 times before I got it right)

    • Serondal says:

      BTW you think the bouncing around is bad, try playing the native americans! I was playing as Cheroke (probably spelled wrong sorry) and had a noble revolt and I swear to you I had to attack them about 20-25 times to totally finish them off because their morale was very low and they’d run from the fight without losing hardly any troops. I could easily defeat them but didn’t have enough troops to out right destroy them. But others are saying that sort of thing is going to be fixed with the next expansion so I still have hope :)

  20. Ian says:

    @ Daniel: We’ve all got one. A game that we desperately want to hate but can’t quite bring ourselves to. :D

  21. Otso says:

    You might want to look up the HandDrawn map mod, as the original map gets kind of annoying after a while. At least for me.

  22. kvertiber says:

    Heh. When I played this thing for the first time I chose Tver. It is another OPM, except unlike Connacht, which has other OPMs for neighbors, Tver is sandwiched between the powerful Moscow and Novgorod with Teutons, Lithuania and Crimea also near by. And when Moscow went to war with one of my allies, I found nothing cleverer than to join the fight. I believe, in the end-game dialog my monarch had “…the Stupid” added to his name.

  23. Shadrach says:

    Why not take a cue from Lord of the Rings or Dragon Age and let the player try and unite a divided world against a terrifying, vast threat?

    Third Age Total War does the LOTR bit pretty nicely in my opinion, and its an epic fight. Why not do an AAR on that?
    http://www.twcenter.net/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=654

  24. Pijama says:

    Christ, Quinn. I was about to suggest you to try Victoria, but that game would break your soul. =D

    (pro-tip: tick your sliders toward centralization first, if you stay descentralized it will keep giving a lot of nasty penalties, then get your first national idea – National Bank – so you can mint money without inflation. Save up, gobble the Irish minors, then you go punch-out England with a decent army and some mercenaries to tag along. Also get allied to France.)

    • Elos says:

      National Trade Policy is much better because trade is the only way to make some real money as a poor Irish minor. You can actually grab the tech lead if you fill up the richest centers with your traders. When you have a decent income even a small amount of minting will be enough. A little inflation is nothing to worry about, you can always get rid of it later in the game. It’s much better to acquire some land with printed money right away than to sit around 20 years minting before making your move.

    • Pijama says:

      Considering that the limeys have a mission to conquer Ireland, trade is irrelevant until you solve that issue. And in that case, inflation rakes up pretty badly.

      Take military drill as your 2nd, and then shrewd commerce practice afterwards the war to get your merchants to STAY first. National trade policy is more useful later on.

  25. lePooch says:

    There is always option 3: Throwing endless waves of subpar troops at the Dread Lords until their superior ships die by a thousand little wounds. The way that Gal Civ 2 simulated combat meant that your basic ship would always cause AT LEAST 1 point of damage.

    I remember having nearly one hundred obsolete Drengin cruisers at one point(I forget what it is called, but each race gets a special ability, and the Drengin one was ‘free ships when you declare war’) and watching as half of them got wiped by two Dread Lord cruisers. The next turn, I lost 18 each cruisers for each DL cruiser, but I made it to their homeworld, where I sent in ten troop carriers to destroy the planet. Thats right, it took roughly the population of five other planets to kill the Dread Lord home planet.

    The worst part was that you dont even get any good tech from this venture. But i felt at the time that this was an appropriately Drengin-like response, and that made me happy.

  26. lePooch says:

    uhm my comment was aimed @ Pamplemousse. Grrr borked replies

  27. Web Cole says:

    Oi! Im Scottish and I resent the implication that… well, ok, you’re probably right enough there. :P

    Still, we’re not all bad!

  28. Mattress says:

    I sometimes find these history games comprise themselves for historical fidelity. In trying to achieve historical detail they run run into the problem that they’re over elaborately modeled or have terrible UI/basic game interactions that they’re hardly fun to actually play.
    Yet they don’t work as decent simple history tools either. I’m a history major currently writing my dissertation on the 16th century Irish political landscape, so I kinda half know what I’m talking about… ish.
    While England and France had fully developed notions of “The State” by the Renaissance, a lot of Europe (Ireland in particular) was hodgepodge. I don’t mean divided into neat little provinces like Ulster, Connacht, Leinster and Munster – Ireland looked more like this: http://www.emersonkent.com/images/ireland_16th.jpg – like Italian city states but without the cities! – and had no centralised govt (except for Dublin Castle which only really had jurisdiction over the Pale), each family/clan controlling local land of varying enormity, generally subscribing to Brehon Law and most peoples decentralised and mobile.
    -It’s very hard for a Risk type strategy game to represent anything amorphous like that. EU3 tries to conform to historically accurate rules that aren’t historically accurate.

    A note on the difficulty vs. realism aspect too. If there ever was to be a unified Irish state/nation in the late medieval period, the English would’ve had little business there – a full fledged conquest would’ve been impossible and any kind of union as accomplished with Scotland would’ve been out of the question. Whatever picture Europa paints (or orthodox history for that matter) Ireland wasn’t lacking in resources – it was the land after all where England’s greatest entrepreneurs like Walter Raleigh et al made their fortune and spent most of their time. The problem was one of Gaelic culture, divided and inheritance based. In the 1500s, the Tudor regime allied itself with many Irish clans (or at least Hibernicised “Old English” (like the Fitzgeralds etc.) against other Irish, supporting many proxy wars and gathering increased clout, removing the most influential families and eventually turning on their old allies until dominion had been achieved… might be interesting to see a game reflect such scenarios.

  29. Orange says:

    Will give the demo a try.

    Colonization is surely another example of a strategy game where fighting off a mega enemy is the end goal rather than global conquest, alliances can be as useful as outright militarism.

  30. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Connacht is a place I’m actually familiar with as I spent the summer holiday there a year ago. It’s interesting to see that the northwesten fringe of Ireland have the most remaining Gealtacht areas. Probably because they were both rugged and remote. Dingle (a town) itself is officially called by it’s Gaelic name. Duingean, I think. Nice little town, too.

    voice of dissent

    • roryok says:

      actually, now I’m tempted to play and play and play this until connacht conquers the world.

  31. Tagert says:

    Ah, Europa Universalis 3. One of my favourite games.

    Also, I did the Irish Supremacy thing in this game.

    Sadly the only -real- way to win as an Irish province is to attack your fellow Irish, and you need to do it rather quickly.

    Considering it as uniting the island against the English menace if you must justify it. The good thing about each Irish kingdom being only one province is the fact that you only have to occupy them once and they’re screwed.

    Once you’ve united the island, then and only then consider England. Generally a good way is to ally or provoke Scotland against England.

    Alternatively, conquer Scotland first.

    In the game I played I managed to have Ireland conquer most of the English isles, then I got distracted.

  32. Premium User Badge

    Tagert says:

    Hmm. Interesting. I’ve done 975 posts? :D

  33. GuyS says:

    Mattress, thanks for that informative post dude.

  34. feighnt says:

    i didnt play EU3 a huge amount, though a lot of that was because it ran kind of slow on my computer… i’ve a better one now, and reading this makes me want to reinstall it.

    throwing my hat in for “good nations to start out with” – i cant recall for sure how well it works for EU3, but i imagine it’s pretty similar to how it was with EU2… the Ottoman Empire is great fun for a not-too-difficult, war-mongering-focused (rather than colonisation, which is extremely unlikely for the Ottomans) game. a decent starting size, plenty of neighbouring not-so-tough countries, a highly multi-cultural state which makes conquering a bit easier (get ready for a lot of religious-favour-juggling, though), and the fairly simple, but thoroughly satisfying (historically speaking, at least) opening objective of wiping the Byzantines off the map… of course, you’ll be likely to eventually hit a wall later in the game with any westward expansion (excluding into Africa, of course), but there are so many ways you could expand otherwise, it’s not such a worry… just try not to piss off the Austrians (or, in some cases, the French).

  35. Trithemius says:

    Hey Quinns,

    Medieval Total War _one_ had a sort of prestige based victory that had conditions linked with your chosen “nation-thing”, however I never managed to pull one off myself. I nearly got to dominating North Sea trade, but the dodgy AI diplomacy model say people I kept stunning with bribes declare war on my, thereby ruining my trade empire because they closed their ports to me. Grr.

    This kind of thing, to my knowledge, hasn’t been seen again in the TW series so presumably it was unpopular. Which is a shame because, as you say, it is a great idea – just one that seemed to be poorly executed.

  36. roryok says:

    yay! connacht. or connaught. Thats where I am! woohoo!

  37. Eoin says:

    Dingle = Daingean Uí Chúis. Small bit of controversy over an enforced name change.

    I tried the EU3 demo playing as Munster and had a largly disappointing experience. I increased my treasury and waited until I could build a second unit of 1000 troops. Then invaded leinster. After a siege I was holding the territory but the leinster faction still existed? Is it a case of having to wait for their culture to be overridden as well?

    Overall I’m sure it’s a fun game and much wider and better simulation of economy, relegion, diplomacy but I enjoy the tactical combat in the total war series (even if the A.I. is dumber than a box of rocks).

    Some day someone will get sid meier a copy of a total war game and he’ll say “hey, I can do this better”.

  38. cowthief skank says:

    Eoin: You have to annex them. Once you control their final province, sue for peace via diplomacy and you should be able to annex. There are a bunch of rules and stuff to when they will agree, but if I remember right if it is their only province, you conquer it, they will agree. Could be wrong though as it has been awhile since I played much…

  39. Tagert says:

    As cowthief said, you need to annex the territory after you occupy it. I believe the rule is so long as the country has three or less provinces in total and you, or you and someone else, has conquered all those provinces you are allowed to outright annex the territories.

    Also, as a bit of a hint for how to quickly do it, you need to put yourself into debt pretty much straight out in order to win. Debt hurts, but it pays off in the future.

    As example of the above, I played the Byzantines and ended up with something like -300 gold right near the start. At the end I’d conquered most of Europe and had 4000+ gold. ;)

  40. Railick says:

    I would love an EU game with the tactical battles of Total War games, that would be a dream come true for many people I suspect :)

    • Vinraith says:

      My god, a single campaign would take one’s entire lifetime to actually play, though I have to admit I’ve heard worse ways to waste a life. :)

  41. Railick says:

    Personally if they just left the combat resolve the same I’d only take command of close battles I’m not certain of winning otherwise I’d just let the AI resolve it.

  42. sinister agent says:

    Had a crack at being Portugal in the demo of this onight. Once I worked out how to actually get my soldiers onto ships (which I’d had to steal, as the option to build the boats I needed wasn’t there, and I only discovered I could steal them by chance. Hm), I had a bit of a laugh. There really need to be more diplomatic options, though – chumming up to people appears to be impossible without basically bribing them, which is usually too expensive. A diplomatic gestureo f goodwill to match the ‘insult’ bit should be in there. Also, goading them into war is a pain. And it wasn’t until I had no merchants left that I figured out how to use them.

    Seemed quite promising, though. I climbed the ranks quickly despite my leaky treasury, thanks to some decent politicking and stomping on some innocent africans for fun and profit. The lack of a save feature, however, is ridiculous. Demo or not, it’s not a game you can just play for half an hour. A crash (not the game’s fault – my PC just got upset) wrecked my game just as I was starting to consider buying the full thing. Hmph.

  43. Eoin says:

    I’ve got to annex them you say? I’ll give it another go so.

    Technically is it actually a game? A game requires win conditions which would make this a simulation instead. Like sim city or football manager.

    The only other problem I had was when I recruited my second 1,000 troops they were in a separate army rather than joining the exisiting one. So I had two units with 1,000 troops. I guess a “so you want to be a warlike prick” tutorial would have given the wrong impression.

  44. Railick says:

    There are ways to make friendly Sinister Agent. The best free way is to offer a royal marriage. Words are cheap , money talks even back then, what can we say ? :P Goading people into war is easier than you think (really you can just keep insulting them until they attack you but it may be easier to attack someone they are protecting thus drawing them into the war. It would be easy to knock the small fry out then focus on the real target) With big targets like Castile you have to have MANY wars over decades to fully annex them and even after you do fully annex them you have to deal with all the reputation that generates for you and the fact that the citizens of your new empire still consider themselves Castillian ;p (hence random revolts normally at the time you need them the least)

  45. cowthief skank says:

    sinsiter agent: The merchants now should have ‘auto-send’, where you specify priority for each trade centre, and the computer does it all for you. In my game as Vijayanagar I have a merchant placed almost at the top (haven’t researched monopoly yet) so it seems to work OK. And in Heir to the Throne, the computer seems good at giving you reasonable missions and ways to declare war – when you select declare war now, it gives the option of your war having a specific aim. For example, I have cores provinces which are controlled by other states, so I can declare war on them with the sole aim of annexing those provinces. Dunno if the demo includes the new features though.

    Eoin: You can combine your armies, select them with a box, so long as they are in the same province there will be an icon available above the army details, click it to combine them into one army…

  46. Railick says:

    There are Win conditions, at the end of the game the country with the highest prestige wins. Like Cowthief says select both armies by dragging a box over the province and theirs an icon at the top that looks like two arrows pointing together that combines the armies. (I believe there are two arrows pointing away from each other to split them up which comes in handy if you have a mega stack and you want to split your armies)

    If you only want to concern yourself with defending your country it is best to always build cavalry at the start of the game. The reason for this is the way battle is resolved (Which is far from totally random) the first 5 rounds of fighting are the Shock phase in which cavalry does heavy damage and infantry does /none/ at the start of the game. This allows a equal force of cavalry to often totally route an army of just infantry giving them a huge advantage.

    If you want to actually take over another country you will need infantry because they are the only ones who can assault forts and the like and are good for maintaining a siege why your mounted armies run around routing enemy armies  If you can create a large standing army it is better than quickly recruiting mercs as they get reinforced during war where as Merc units don’t.

  47. Railick says:

    @Jalf You may not know this but you can borrow money and go into Debt the right way ;) You can take out tons of loans and there are even advisors that allow you to get better rates on your loans. It is totally possible to take out a 3 or 4 loans to finance a war which will net you a huge gain in provinces and income then pay them off in a few years. Also you can give money to other countries either by offfering to lend it to them (Which some will take) or by giving them the money when they’re at war for free if you really want them to win.

    Lending people money is a great way to go to war with them without risking your own prestige or rep by sending spys to make up false claims. If they refuse to pay you back you have a reason to declare war :P (France NEVER pays me back!)

  48. Eoin says:

    So I gave it another go with munster and had more fun. I took out a loan of 200 and procedeed to invest heavily in mercernaries and standing armies. Invaded Leinster (annexed thank you very much), Meath (declaring war on england in the process), Connaught and Ulster. Very briefly I had a united ireland. Then I sued for peace with england and in exchange for returning meath (one of englands core regions) they ceded connaught to me.

    This was fine until I realised that because of the interest on my loan and the upkeep on my armies I was losing money every turn. I set the ship builders to work to invade britian and attacked meath again.

    This was the point at which the english landed armies in all 4 of my provinces and proceded to wipe me off the map.

    So, just like the actual history of ireland then.

  49. Chris says:

    What the man above said. You’ll also find that, as soon as you can get explorers, it’s worth your while to send a few thousand cavalry to central or south America and steamroller the Inca, Aztec or some such nonsense. You don’t actually need colonists, and as they’re pagan, you can just seize their provinces outright.

    And I cannot overemphasize the importance of trading.

    By the way, if ever you get in a war with the English, don’t even dream of landing an army across the Irish sea. Assuming you control the island by that point, just deal with their armies as they disembark, building up warscore. Assuming you don’t, meh, just start a new campaign or reload. :P

  50. Seanchán says:

    As Tagert says above the only way for the Irish to do well is to attack the other Celts.

    In EUII I trounced England in this way:

    1. Ally with England (probably for at least 100 years)
    2. Take the other Irish Provinces
    3. Attack Scotland and Wales whenever they are at war with England and take as many provinces as possible. This works because they share culture with Ireland. More tax, less unrest.
    4. Once all the “Celtic/Gaelic” provinces are yours, hope that France lands a large army in England and switch allegiance when England have been at war for ages.
    5. Attack England when they are weak and make peace the minute you can annex a province or two.

    I ended this game after 500 years with Ireland owning the UK and Iceland and with a few colonies in Canada. Absolutely massively satisfying. It was a constant struggle with all sorts of nip and tuck battles and diplomacy.

    Europa is without a doubt the best strategy game I have ever played. It takes weeks to get into it, but is massively replayable.