Europa Universalis IV: How To Survive A Long War

First off, let’s not fall to finger-pointing of the laying of blame. It’s nobody’s business but your own why this article is suddenly relevant and important to your well-being. Europa Universalis IV [official site] is a game of ruthless caprice, where even slight mistakes, misjudgments, and lapses in attention can bring you to ruin.

Perhaps you declared war on someone the day before they hit a new level of military technology. Maybe you gambled that your enemy’s powerful ally wouldn’t actually bother to travel across Europe to fight you, but they did, and now they have arrived, unwanted and obligatory guests at your war, and they look hungry. Or maybe you just got unlucky, and your enemy had a military genius in their back pocket while you’re stuck with the equivalent of Ambrose Burnside.

The point is, you’re losing a major war in EUIV, and you’re losing it badly. And getting out isn’t going to be easy. If it were easy, if it were just a matter of agreeing to a minor settlement, you wouldn’t hesitate. But no, this is a war that poses an existential threat.

It seems like all is lost. But this is why EUIV is a game where it pays to never give up, and never reload. The chances are, you can not only survive this crisis, but come out of it almost unscathed.

You might be watching a rout unfold, but here is how you turn that into a victory.

First Principle: Stay Alive

If you can’t win pitched battles, you need to give up on the idea of fighting them. The most important thing you can do when a war is going wrong is to keep a credible army in existence.

It doesn’t have to fight. God no. That’s defeats the whole purpose. It’s more like the naval strategy of keeping a “fleet in being“. As long as you have an army in play, it’s something that forces the enemy to stay relatively concentrated in case you decide to fight. If your enemies spread out across the countryside to start dismantling your nation, your ineffectual little army can attack the small siege detachments and start whittling down their strength. If they group up to fight, you melt away.

Remember, siege progress resets once the besieging army moves, so just forcing them to respond to your army is a victory that causes the war to drag-on.

Playing a “where’s my army” shell-game is easy to do if you have a fairly extensive country. Russians can always withdraw deeper into Russia, for example. But what if you don’t have enough space to protect your army?

Easy: you create some.

Second Principle: Gaining Space

You can’t hold ground in battle, so you need places to run and hide. Your own territory is being overrun, so it’s time to look to your neighbors.

Find neighbors who don’t hate you, and ask for military access to their countries. If all your neighbors hate you (all of them?!) then we may need to talk about basic diplomacy. But chances are, you have some people next-door who are happy to lend you a cup of sugar, jump-start your car, or let you conduct guerilla warfare from their sovereign territory. In that case, you open the diplomatic relations window, go to “Access Action” and “Request military access”.

The trade-off here can be significant. Agreements with other countries count as “diplomatic relationships” against your country’s maximum. You can go over those limits, but each extra relationship costs you a monthly diplomatic monarch point. If the war drags on for a long time (and a long war is your best chance here), those lost points will add up, and cause you to fall behind on the naval and economic technologies that those points would have bought.

But getting military access is worth it when things are dire. The enemy can chase you and fight you on neutral ground, but they can never occupy the territory, and therefore they’ll have to contend with the fog of war. Neutral territory becomes a perfect place to hide.

Or from which to launch sneak attacks. Another way to pull enemy troops off your territory is to open a circuitous passage through neutral countries from your territory to theirs. If they’re running short on troops, you can usually force a significant recall of forces from your homeland simply by laying siege to their capital for a couple weeks. Even if you get caught out, your army will probably be able to retreat to safety and partially rebuild itself before the enemy’s pursuit catches up.

Of course, to rebuild an army requires soldiers, and here’s where we encounter some controversy.

Third Principle: Lives Are Cheap, so Buy Them

Mercenaries are as much a source of debate in EUIV as they were for statesmen in Machiavelli’s day. There are players who refuse to use them except in the most dire circumstances. If you wage an extended war via mercenaries, you will end up paying off the debt for decades. They are economy-crippling, game-stifling money-sinks.

But it’s all gone wrong? I love them.

There are a lot of negatives associated with mercenary troops: their upkeep is far higher than a standard national army. They cost a fortune when they’re replacing losses.

But those are problems for later. In the desperate short-term, mercenaries work. They will fight for you when there are no more able-bodied soldiers to recruit in the kingdom. Mercenary regiments will form within days of hiring, making them perfect for those times when your country is being overrun by enemy armies. They are an almost-bottomless resource if you don’t burn through them too quickly, and their deaths only cost you money. And even if you don’t have money, you can always borrow some.

Mercenaries enable you to keep bleeding your adversaries, harassing them, and denying them an ultimate victory.

The alternative is capitulation. I don’t recommend it.

Fourth Principle: No Surrender

If wars like this were easy to escape, we wouldn’t even be discussing them. What’s scary is when your enemy is coming after you and won’t accept even absurdly generous peace terms. At that point, you have no idea what you’ll be left with once the fighting stops.

For anyone less than a great power, a punishing peace settlement can be devastating. Your best provinces might be taken, your country split apart, and a hated, once-conquered enemy brought back to life. There are a lot of ways a peace settlement can undo hours and hours of work and deal your game a setback from which it is very hard to recover.

But you can only influence the outcome as long as you’re still able to resist. If you just “think of England” and try to get your defeat over with, you are basically risking your game on a peace settlement you will not be able to affect.

Fifth Principle: Know Your Enemies… and Their Enemies

Even when you’re only at war with one country (which is rare, given how often EUIV is a game of alliances), you need to identify the diplomatic weaknesses in your opponent or opponents. Check out who is fighting against you by clicking on the “war score” button the appears at the bottom of the screen when you’re at war, then take a look at who is lined-up against you.

The nightmare scenario is that you’ve got a formal Coalition arrayed against you, because at that point a separate peace becomes impossible. Coalitions are deadly in EUIV because they are collective wars, where every member is committed until the bitter end. You just have to try and hold out until the war-leader calls it quits.

But coalitions are also rare. Most of the time, what you’ll be facing is a standard set of alliances. And at that point, you need to figure out who in that alliance really hates you, who is just showing up out of obligation, and who can be made to have other problems.

Usually there are only one or two real opponents in any war. Those smaller satellite powers who send small detachments? They are good targets for your army. Give them a bloody nose and they’ll probably leave you alone for a while, then come asking for a White Peace later.

The remaining enemies have to be defeated or simply exhausted. The good news is that they can become the focus of your diplomatic efforts. Or, more accurately, their neighbors can.

It’s very rare that you’ll be able to bring help into a war. Most AI nations are smart enough to see there’s little point in joining someone else’s war, especially when it’s already in the process of being lost. Still, it’s worth it to try. Even if you can’t get a friend in the middle of the war, a postwar alliance can help you stay safe after the fighting stops.

But it’s also good to just familiarize yourself with your enemies’ enemies. If they have serious rivals (and the diplomacy window helpfully shows who each nation’s main rivals are), then the odds are good they’ll find themselves fighting another war on another front if you just hang on long enough. I’ve started more than a few national collapses by sucking enemy powers into an endless quagmire, then watching in glee as they get ganked by their rivals and torn to pieces. That’s why you should know your enemies’ diplomatic relationships as well as your own.

Sixth Principle: Picking the Time and the Place

It’s important to set expectations for the rest of the war. You’re probably going to lose a lot of battles. That’s the whole reason you’re in this mess: you can’t win the fights.

So what you’re trying to do is notch small, slight victories that will improve your war-score and inflict casualties on your enemy. Most siege detachments only number a few thousand men, so even a small army can usually overpower them before reinforcements arrive on the battlefield.

Usually, but not always. There will always be battles that drag on just a day too long, giving the main enemy army time to arrive and crush you. But that’s a risk worth taking. Those types of battles tend to be bloody for both sides. You lose, but you had days of combat with smaller detachments to inflict casualties. Very occasionally, you’ll get lucky and the enemy will feed troops into battle piecemeal, letting you defeat far superior forces. A single bloody debacle can change the entire complexion of a war, and put your foes on the back-foot.

If you can manage it, it’s also worth trying to find a highly defensible province. Don’t corner yourself (no matter how good the terrain, this is not a road you want to go down), but keep an eye open for provinces with mountains, rivers, or even dense forest. These are good places to bait a fight. If you can get their first, you will enjoy a huge defender’s advantage.

They don’t have to be your own provinces. Again, invading enemy territory can sometimes let you provoke a battle on good ground. Austria, for instance, is easy to lure into an Alpine death-trap. Will you win? Maaaaybe. Will you at least kill a lot of enemy soldiers? Absolutely.

Final Principle: Know When to Quit

Now here’s an odd phenomenon I’ve noticed near the end of particularly hard-fought wars in Paradox games: they get personal. Decision-making gets more and more detached from pure reason. I don’t just want to win the war, I want to humiliate the make-believe person I’m playing against.

It makes sense. Fighting a war like this takes intense determination. Otherwise you’d give up, or start a new game, or go play something else. But to stick it out, for session after session of grinding attrition? That’s something you do out of spite and anger.

But when it comes time to call it a day and make peace, those same feelings can start whispering bad advice: “Hey, screw those guys. You don’t need to take this offer. After all the crap you’ve been through, they should be offering concessions to you.”

But that’s just Pride talking.

There are times when it’s worth it to keep fighting. If your opponents are suddenly collapsing, and are beset by other enemies, it could be worth it to push your luck to try and nab some territory or financial reparations. Continuing the war also postpones the post-war, which is going to bring a lot of complications on your head.

Still, when your opponents are getting dragged into other wars and starting to teeter, and the game is swinging in your favor, you need to remember that peace is a game of musical chairs. If you press your luck, and your enemy manages to reach settlements with their other rivals, you might be right back where you started, except now you’re already exhausted down to scraps. If it goes wrong again, your position is likely to be irrecoverable.

In general, if you’re offered mild peace terms or a White Peace? Take it, and chalk it up as a victory.

Winning the Peace

As bad as the war might have been, the aftermath can be worse. Broke, crushed by debt, low on manpower reserves, and almost certainly with slightly less territory than you started with, it can sometimes feel like you fought an epic war just to achieve a Pyrrhic stalemate.

But don’t get discouraged. You have a truce that will protect you for ten years, which should let you partially de-mobilize. Once you’re not spending oceans of cash on warfare, you’ll be stunned how quickly you can start paying down your national debt.

The first step is to consolidate under-strength regiments. Replenishing regiments is expensive, so if you have a bunch of units down to 10% strength, they are costing you much, much more than would one unit at full-strength. That said, don’t rush to consolidate artillery or cavalry regiments. Those are expensive to establish, so it can be worth it to leave them around so they can come up to full strength without costing you the start-up costs of a new unit.

The second step, once you know how many full regiments you have, is to dismiss as many mercenaries as you safely can. Get those mercenaries off the ledgers, and that should give you a positive cash-flow.

Your biggest threat during peacetime (excluding predatory neighbors) is the unrest related to War Exhaustion, and the most extreme form of this is The Peasant’s War. This is a capital-D Disaster (if you want more detail on how they work), one of only a handful in EUIV. Peasant’s War is a long fuse leading to national collapse.

When your national manpower is low, the peasantry will start getting angry and a percentage will start counting up to 100. At 100, Peasant’s War triggers and your national unrest goes through the roof. Progress goes faster if you have more than 10 loans (which of course, by now, you do) and high war exhaustion. Peasant’s War is not a game-ender, but it does mean that you probably won’t have a quiet, uneventful peace for licking your wounds and retrenching your empire.

See the problems here? On the one hand, you’ll need to retain at least some of your mercenary army to quell potential revolts and discourage your neighbors from descending on you like a pack of hyenas. On the other hand, your ruined finances desperately require you to reduce your army to a shell of itself so you can pay off debt and address some of the root-causes of looming disasters.

A good compromise is opening your finances tab and reducing the funding for your armed forces. It will lower their morale and make them more brittle in battle, so I don’t recommend pushing the slider lower than 33%, but it’s an easy way to fix your cash-flow without dismissing all your soldiers.

Surviving peacetime after a near-miss of a war is like taking a ship through a minefield, and there’s no surefire recipe for doing it successfully. But in general, you keep just enough troops around to put down revolts, and then pay off your loans as quickly as possible. You will lose years’ worth of progress as you fire advisors and forgo building infrastructure. But it will help you get out from under the crushing cost of war faster.

What it’s worth

So why did you go through all of this? Chances are, if you survive this war, you spent the better part of five or ten years fighting, and then another ten or twenty years dealing with the fallout. All to stay in the same place.

Except that’s not really true. Europa Universalis is a game in which windows of opportunity eventually close. The person who is kicking you all around the map in 1480 is taking one of the best shots they can. They have the right alliances, the right diplomatic situation, the right technologies, and the right army and commanders. If you can survive in the face of all that, they may never again be able to pose such a threat. Especially because they will have squandered all those resources trying to break you. Yet there you stand.


  1. Chris Cunningham says:

    Owned this for two months now. Still never ventured beyond the tutorial. I suspect once I make the leap I may never stop playing it. Until then, hour 659 on Civ V.

    • Rizlar says:

      Join the next RPS multiplayer game! link to

      Despite owning CK2 for a long time I never really got into a Paradox strategy game until I started playing EU4 with the RPS forum-goers. Not sure when the next game starts (they go on for months) but we can usually accommodate latecomers.

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      The hour before I first played EUIV was the last hour I ever played of Civ :)

      • Premium User Badge

        distantlurker says:

        Same here ^^

        Steam tells me I have 452 hours in Civ V & 152 in EU:IV; but in EU:IV that’s *one* game (and in many ways, it’s barely even started).

        EU is like playing several Epic games of Civ at the same time. My armies in India are completely separate from my colonists in West Africa, who in turn have no concept of the utter hatred and contempt my home soil in Europe has for the bloody Burgundians…

        Yet those conquests in the sub continent pay for my forces in the Old World, who are fueled by the manpower of the African colonies.

        It’s like having 3 seasons of your favorite TV show with one, huge overarching plot line.

        Civ feels like a game I’d play on the train on a tablet now.

    • DavishBliff says:

      If it makes you feel any better, I was in a very similar situation until a week ago: I had bought CKII and not really gotten the hang of it, and had ambitiously bought EUIII and expansions thinking my preference for the period would make it click more, except the tutorial exhausted me and the games I played all ended in my country being completely bankrupted or destroyed in war within just a few years. Despite being as huge a history nerd as possible, the game was just too complex for me to get, I decided. I stuck with Civ and Total War instead.

      And then I saw EUIV and some DLC for $15 on the Humble Store, and like an idiot with too much money I bought and downloaded it. For whatever reason, my latest attempts at playing CKII prepared my brain to understand the interface much better this time around, and I skipped the tutorials in EUIV altogether and jumped into a match with Castile.

      One week later and EUIV has consumed my attention span – I’m playing it all night at home and reading about it as much as possible at work. It’s remarkable fun when you get the hang of the interface. And, despite what it might seem, the game can be forgiving if you’re playing as the right nation: I’ve apparently sunk way too many points into absorbing North African provinces that I should really leave as subjects or pseudo-colonies, but the game hasn’t immediately come crashing down on me. I even planned and executed a series of successful wars against Portugal and am now dominating both Sevilla and Caribbean trade, and am prepping economically and militarily for an inevitable war with France.

      Granted, I’ve gotten lucky with a few events, and when I was still learning a lot of the mechanics (seriously find a friend who knows the game and ask him questions about things like trade, as this is confusing), I managed to avoid making any game-ending mistakes. But, within reason, the game actually does let you ignore at least some of the deeper or harder to find stats and mechanics as long as you’re getting the basics right. And it helps to recognize that you probably won’t win on your first playthrough, but doing cool history stuff and staying alive for at least a few decades at first is good enough while you’re learning the game.

      So I guess my message is don’t give up? I don’t exactly know what made the game “click” in my mind where EUIII and CKII didn’t: Maybe I had enough mental energy to put in the effort and pay attention, or maybe I avoided a discouraging early defeat. But once you get into it it’s the most rewarding gaming experience I’ve had in ages. It feels like learning a new skill or hobby. And I’m told the multiplayer is much, much better, too.

    • sojuhasu says:

      I used to be a big Civ fanatic back during the Civ 4 days. An episode from the strategic-games-focused podcast “Three Move Ahead” put into words the reason why I switched over to Grand Strategy games and never really looked back to 4x.

      The best parts of 4x is usually around the mid-game.
      In early game you do most things by the book. If you are a hardcore player, often-times you got it down to science. You would research Bronze working, build worker, explore with your warrior, chop woods and build settler. The first 3 hours or so is just the preparation for:
      The mid game. As mentioned the best parts of the game. Where strategy and tactic really came into place because you are powerful and have resources on your hand but so are your enemies.
      The late game is the really boring part. Just moping the remaining enemies or alternatively desperately but hopelessly trying to catch up to the AI.

      The greatest thing about Paradox’s Grand Strategy Games (GSG genre) is that it is almost always the mid game.
      Pick a nation with several provinces in Europe and there you go. Start your politicking and scheming immediately. The boring rote-memory early game is eliminated almost entirely.Plus the asymmetrical nature of the nations helps with the gameplay and replay value immensely.

    • Count Raviolli says:

      This actually reminds me of an experience from CKII…

      I was the Holy Roman Emperor, Edward II Plantagenet (The Glorious), ruling over eight different sub-Kingdoms, all with elective monarchy, and an heir who was the King-Consort of Navarre (I was from England and had conquered the HRE after marrying into the position earlier). Desperately, I destroyed the eight titles, none of which had voted for my heir, and was consumed in a civil war. My King died, and my doomed forces retreated gutted France, the only Kingdom my heir had managed to take. However, I was now at peace with the rebels, who, after winning the Civil war, had fallen into something like a fifteen-way brawl after the Kingdom of Bohemia and Ireland had gone for independence, Swabia tried to lower crown authority, Holland wanted a large chunk of Denmark, Italy thought he had a better claim to the throne than the German nonentity who had usurped me at the bidding of the Duchess of Lorraine, and the Duke of York (yes, his name was Richard, but this was 1320) tried to depose the King of England.

      Meanwhile, I sat back and waited in Paris, where I was delighted to find out that my son had spent the last twenty-five years casually embezzling the Navarrese treasury. I (playing as said son and King of France) spent the next five years building up a retinue of 20,000 men and insinuating myself amongst my father’s ex-vassals, who were quite fed up with the post-war state of affairs. Finally, I made my move (only after promising the bloody Bohemians their independence), and swiftly swept the divided rebels from the field, taking the Holy Roman Empire for myself. Sadly, the usurping regime had lowered Crown Authority like a schizophrenic Hummingbird (don’t really know where that metaphor had come from), and the Irish still wanted independence, and Aragon had claimed an unfortunate portion of Austria, and the Bohemians were making threatening moves towards a marriage alliance with the Queen of Denmark/Poland, and the Duchess of Lorraine was still alive and scheming…

      It’s about then when I found out my game was no longer compatible with CKII’s latest patch. Probably for the best anyway.

  2. MiniMatt says:

    Oooh I really should get back into EU4. Was still having too much fun with CK2 when it popped out and never really gave it the attention it deserved.

    Nice article :) More please, etc.

    Oh, and which expansion packs are the good ‘uns?

    • badmothergamer says:

      I’m in the same boat. Purchased at launch yet every time I try to get into EUIV I get frustrated trying to learn the new mechanics and inevitably go back to CKII, where I’ve invested a healthy 1400 hours according to Steam.

      • klops says:

        That’s a thing I don’t like about Steam – The truth about your playing time.

    • barelyhomosapien says:

      The expansions are very specific to different area’s of play. So honestly your best bet is to play the base game to get a feel for it, then buy the expansions that most appeal to you.

      Or like me, buy them all.

      I much prefer EUIV to CK2 after all, having more direct control over a nation is certainly my preference to the more nebulous nature of CK2. But then, they are very different games.

  3. Sonny Bonds - Lytton PD says:

    Great post, unfortunately by next month alot of it will be obsolete as the new patch is introducing alot of combat mechanics from March of the Eagles that put a ton of emphasis on building and defending fortress provinces.

    • Damn You Socrates says:

      A massive change is going to be the fact that you can’t cancel movement into a province if you’re already 50% of the way there. It may be gamey, but cancelling my army’s movement at 99% when I see a doomstack moving in as well has saved my bacon too many times to count.

      • Hmm-Hmm. says:

        Then again, real armies had scouts or reconnaissance parties and intelligence to go by. So having some information and being able to act on that isn’t that unrealistic.

      • dsch says:

        The new fort system with zones of control will completely change the way war is fought.

  4. deadfolk says:

    Haven’t read the article yet, but I just wanted to say it’s great to see Rob writing for RPS. I listen to the 3MA all the time.

    • Alethron says:

      I agree, great to see Rob here and this different type of article, would love to see more like this. Cheers!

  5. Gap Gen says:

    This is a great article, thanks!

  6. Enmalkm says:

    Definitely agree with deadfolk—I’m a Three Moves Ahead listener who tends to read Rob’s stuff wherever it’s published, and I hope there will be lots more on RPS! Hopefully this advice will take a while to come in handy—playing as France in a close alliance with Austria, I’ve managed to avoid wars turning out horribly so far.

  7. Llewyn says:

    One last piece of advice: remember to pay attention to the UI however routine things are becoming.

    At the weekend I was playing as Creek. I’d built myself up to a reasonable size, absorbing most of the other tribes south of the Great Lakes and co-existing peacefully with the Portuguese colonies in Florida and Mexico, even allying with New Portugal for a while. By 1580 or so I’d got a core next to them and reformed my government.

    I then made a number of rookie mistakes, this being my first ‘natives’ playthrough. Instead of waiting to consolidate my position after reforming and rebuilding my infrastructure I opted to westernize immediately, causing unrest everywhere. I got an early option to convert to Catholicism and took it, increasing unrest further. Finally I failed to notice that somewhere in all this my alliance with New Portugal had ended, presumably through the mechanics as there was no notification and no penalty to either side’s relations.

    At this point France showed up, established its first colony on the Gulf of Mexico and promptly declared war on me. France declaring war is never welcome, and less so when you’re half a dozen tech levels behind them, but at least I had the consolation that they couldn’t march their doomstacks straight to me. A long, costly and mostly cold war followed, with the brave Creek capturing every new French colony attempt and either avoiding or ambushing every small army that made it across the Atlantic. Alongside this ran the constant threat of civil war, racing to convert provinces where it might help, trying to either suppress smaller rebellions with stationed armies or letting them revolt and picking them off, and keeping the reactionaries – opposed to my westernization plans – under the bootheel of harsh treatment.

    It was all going well, using similar principles to Rob’s, despite my vassal Lenape’s attempts to lose the war single-handedly and an additional rookie error of trying to combine humanist ideas with the counter-reformation. At times the war stalled long enough for me to get close to being able to concede defeat, but then another French army would turn up. But there was light at the end of the tunnel. The worst provinces had been converted and westernization progress was up to 85%. ‘Soon’ I’d be able to focus on the French entirely without worrying about rebellion, and have the money to strengthen my forces to pick them off easier. Sure, I was never going to win, but I’d survive.

    And then I went to oppress the reactionaries again and accidentally clicked ‘Accept Demands’. I’ll start a new game at some point, I guess.

  8. slerbal says:

    I really enjoyed that article. I’m always looking to improve my weak EU4 skills, so thanks for that. I have played many,many hours but it is too easy to choose the easiest game I can and I’d like to be good rather than fortunate :)

    I particularly like that this article is on having the right mental attitude as that is where I fail the most in EU4.

    • blastaz says:

      Play ironman mode as second tier European power. Poland is pretty good.

      Allow yourself a few goes at the first ten years to get off to a decent start. But then keep at it.

      Pick yourself up, dust yourself down and carry on playing that game when you lose a war.

      Best way to train yourself to have the right attitude, and concentrate on how your doing.

  9. romanlevin says:

    Great to see you here, Rob. Another 3MA listener here.

  10. hey_tc says:

    Great Article, just as I’m back in EU4 too. Shame that for my current game – Spain – it won’t help as I’m not friendly with France or Britain, or surprise superpower the Commonwealth. Even after humbling the Ottomans and taking all of south America and North Africa and having an Army two levels ahead of everyone else and a navy not far off that a brief war with France wiped out everything I had and lost me my colonies and a long established union with Portugal. All over a tiny African colony they didn’t even take in the peace.

    TL;DR Good guide, unless enemy is French ‘Surrender Monkey’

  11. rustic says:

    I haven’t played EUIV in over a year but every read about EUIV is still a good read.

    I’m hoping for a summer sale on the larger DLC’s so that I can dive back in without having to shell out twice as much as I paid for the base game.

  12. Vesperan says:

    Could have done with this a month ago.

    Ottoman Empire mid 1700’s, have North Africa,middle East, half of Italy (Rome + south) and pretty much everything between the HRE states and Russia. Agressive expansion modifier let to a coalition against me of every on continental Europe (and Russia) with the exception of Spain/Portugal.

    I won at sea but ws outnumbered 2-1 on land and despite success after success I ran out of manpower and my armies were whittled down. Had control of western Russia and the remnants of Livonion Order. War score of about 44%.

    But they just kept coming. And coming. I was slowly losing the balkans and had revolts in Egypt and elsewhere. Sick of the war and so sought a peace where I handed over a couple of provinces then established a few independent nations within my empire. Which I then vassalised or re-conquered thirty years later. It was how I ended the game – victorious, but well short of my dream of extinguishing Christianity on continental Europe. Alas.

    Never had to westernise – had spent the entire game with that 25% penalty!

  13. JBossch says:

    Great article. Remember that battles in which one side outnumbers the other by a factor of 10:1 will result in an automatic stack wipe of the enemy. Always engage these battles to help even the odds at no cost to yourself.

  14. sventoby says:

    What seems to work for me: combine your forces into a super army and take down the enemy’s divided forces. When you do beat a major chunk of the enemy’s army, ruthlessly hunt it down and destroy it to the last man. Repeat until they’re rebuilding their forces, then split your forces: use some troops to begin sieging, use the rest to roam around and play whack-a-mole with the new troops the enemy is building so they can’t reform into a force that can threaten you. It’s pretty much the only way to beat France that I’ve found.

  15. Henrikc3 says:

    Fun to read article, and made me want to chime inn!
    Played as a smaller nation and had just started to get some territory, when suddenly my big neighbour declared war on me, and my allies decided not to stand and fight.

    Have 221 hour in EU4, so realised this situation was bad, and instead of following “protocol” described here went for the other option. An early surrender, by becoming a vassal state of the bigger neighbour.
    This allowed me to:
    A) Keep my territory in one piece
    B) Gave me time to plot my revenge

    After becoming a vassal I built my strength slowly, and waited for the opportune moment, which presented itself some 10 years later, when they attacked another large neighbour.

    Bought mercenary units until a little over cap, and fought and fought, and wore them down sufficiently for them to accept my independence.

    After gaining independence, took some of the smaller neighbours (finally!), bulked up, and then stabbed the crap out of said neighbour (thanks yet again to fighting on multiple fronts), taking large chunks of their territory, and ending their dominion of the region.

    Great success!

    So to sum up:
    If too screwed in war, play the vassal card, keep your territory intact, and then sabotage them from the inside!
    Just don’t wait too long, and get annexed!

  16. Fuligin says:

    You forgot to talk about using Scorched Earth, which is probably the most effective tactic of all imo. Basically, if you know you’re in a war you can’t win or your main stacks have been broken, then start moving what’s left of your forces into provinces you know the enemy is going to siege (war targets, the capital, provinces that border their territory) and use the “Scorched Earth’ button. It tanks the supply limit in a province for a period of time and thus turns attrition into a very lethal threat for the enemy. AI especially is pretty bad at evaluating the importance of having their soldiers not starve to death, and if you do it on a place that was pretty bleak to begin with you can off half a stack or more.
    Of course, it’s an act of desperation, since it’ll hurt you for a little while after the war, but it can be well worth it.

    • Llewyn says:

      Hmmm, that’s something I’ve definitely overlooked, thanks.

    • ryth says:

      I’m pretty sure that attrition is broken for the AI (still), unless they fixed it in the last mini patch. Scorched earth and climate and other factors that should be devastating only have true effect on the player and a negligible one on the AI. Super annoying.

  17. jgf1123 says:

    I was about to jump back into CK2, but this article gives me a hankering for EU4. I have fond memories of glorious EU2 days.

  18. 12inchPlasticToy says:

    Speaking of war, does anybody know under which circumstances a vassal can “choose” not to follow you in war?
    I have a habit of having a couple of vassals and strengthen them with productive provinces just so I can have that extra collateral oomph that automatically cleans whatever isn’t a doomstack during an invasion (or they start sieging while I do the cleaning myself).

    I had a bad surprise in my current game as Poland: I confidently assaulted the HRE thinking my vassals Crimea and Novgorod would come to lend a hand, but they just spent their time looking the other way while my main army got decimated… Only my third vassal Croatia came, with their 2k army, getting wrecked over and over again.
    Why did that happen?

    • tonka_92 says:

      they will ignore your orders completely at liberty desire >= 50
      on the subjects tab they have three settings of aggressive (where they siege enemy provinces of their own accord, within “reasonable” distance), supportive (where they will seek out to attach themselves to your armies which have the “attach to this army” box ticked in the UI), or “no focus” (where the game kind of uses some heuristic or another to decide what to do of their options)
      however the ai, particularly subject ai, has been criticised for sometimes getting a bit confused and requires a resign to menu and reload to kickstart it
      of course they always say they’re fixing it

  19. sandineyes says:

    Been a long time since I’ve played, but I had many situations like this. Particularly playing as any non-Western nation, going up against a ‘lucky’ Western nation is quite daunting, what with their superior tech and leaders.

    One thing I do remember is, if you are going to fight a battle, ALWAYS MERGE YOUR COMPANIES, or at least branch off ones that are mostly depleted. I do not know if things have changed much, but when it comes to battlefield positioning, I believe a damaged company takes up as much space on the line as a full strength one. Which means that even a much larger army stands no chance against a smaller, unscathed one if its companies are all fairly depleted, since it will not be able to bring its numbers to bear against the enemy.

  20. Delora says:

    Going into neutral territories when you’re not in a favorable position is a good idea, but not as it was 2 or 3 patches ago, when the enemy could not enter those lands if they did not have a millitary access. Now if even one country has a military access, all of the other participants will also get it, even if they’re a bitter rivals of whoever’s giving the access.

    Also, if you have mercenaries and don’t want to pay large sums of money for resupplying them, you can always stack those units. Of course you’ll lose all those destroyed regiments, but if there’s no need for the full potential of those mercs, then you will be able to save some money.

    • ryth says:

      Yea this making the “creating space” section a bit useless. The patch changes were frustrating, but help prevent “gaming” and you can adjust. Makes it more of a challenge really.

  21. bonuswavepilot says:

    Another voice here for the 3MA-listener chorus welcoming you to the good ship RPS, Rob. Great article!

    Compulsive typo-pedant whining:
    “But it’s all gone wrong? I love them.”
    – Think there’s a word missing here?

    “If you can get their first, you will enjoy a huge defender’s advantage.”
    – Think you want ‘there’ rather than ‘their’ there.

  22. LuNatic says:

    Care to give us(me) an introspective on how battles are calculated? I wish to know why my full morale, 13000 strong armies with reasonable generals keep getting slaughtered to the last man by half morale, 5000 man armies.

    • ryth says:

      Need more info. What terrain are you on? Are you attacking or defending? What are your and your opponents Tech? (eastern, western, tribal etc). What are you comparitive tech levels? What is the composition of your army versus theirs (infantry/art/cav)? What advisors and policies are currently active? What idea sets have you taken? What are your national ideas?

      All of the above can have HUGE impact on your combat status,

    • tonka_92 says:

      tactics, morale, discipline, unit “pips”, unit type multipliers for shock and fire, general fire and shock values, terrain, army composition (including artillery use and flanking), combat width, “[unit type] combat ability” bonuses, river/straight crossings and the manoeuvre value of generals effecting this, the rank bonus of full regiments, prestige, tradition, reinforcement rate
      basically there are many things that effect the combat in the game, but some of them you don’t really have to worry about most of the time

      at a very base level, combat kills are determined by the total of the die roll, the offensive pips of the unit for the phase of combat, the general’s ability in that phase, minus any terrain or crossing penalties, and taking into some account the defensive pips of the opposing unit.
      the later into the game you get, the higher number of pips your units have, although different tech groups have a different balance of pips (with western having pants for cavalry and say the hordes having sort of pants for infantry)
      MORALE determines how long your units stay in battle, with your morale damage based on the die roll, unit morale pips, and your nations MAXIMUM morale. if a regiment’s morale is less than or equal to 0.50 it will rout and no longer participate in the battle. if your entire army’s average morale is less than or equal to 0.50 you cannot control where they retreat to should you flee. if your entire army’s morale is reduced to zero in less than 10 days of combat, it will be “stack wiped”, and entirely disappear, refunding you manpower of 50% of the men left alive when it was wiped (this last bit is very seldomly mentioned, mainly because you should never be relying on this because ideally you never get wiped, and if you do, you likely took thousands of losses beforehand anyway). Morale at its base is improved by military technology. It’s also effected by your prestige and army tradition. Defensive idea gives military drill which (currently) gives +15% morale, FRANCE gets Elan! which is +20% (It used to be higher…) Brandenburg/Prussia also get a +20%, and lots of unworthy and already powerful nations get bonus morale in their national ideas like Austria (10%) and Castile (15%) (and they both START with these bonuses). Morale is reduced by 0.01 per day of combat, in every regiment in the fight, even if they’re not shooting anyone. Also for winning a fight you get a really small bit of morale back, for game balance reasons.

      TACTICS is a weird one. It’s the difference between tactics that acts as a multiplier that only reduces damage taken. tactics is boosted as a base by military technology, so don’t fall behind. It’s also multiplied by your discipline (coming up next). It gets reduced by 0.25 if you’ve got too many cavalry compared to infantry in a battle (which we’ll get to in army composition)

      DISCIPLINE is probably one of the more constant things in combat, you’ll only notice it’s effect when it’s screwing you. Discipline is a percentage value basically as a multiplier to all damage and morale damage you do and a reduction to what you take. It also acts as a multiplier to tactics, which means it can double screw you if you’re battling those darned Prussians late in the game. Discipline is the finisher for Offensive and Quality ideas, and appears in the national ideas for brandenburg/prussia (7.5%) (THIS USED TO BE TWENTY) and England (5%) among many others (Ottomans, Swedes, Byzantines, Japanese, Nepalese, Castilian, Burgundians, Poles, THE FRENCH (sense a trend here?), Austrians…). Actually, now you look at it, more have discipline than morale *shrug*

      your “infantry shock” modifier is a multiplier purely on damage done and taken in the shock phase, and similarly for fire and for cavalry and artillery, this is only modified by military technology

      your generals’ values can be significant enough in the damage calculation because they are a constant, used in the calculation added to unit pips and die rolls

    • tonka_92 says:

      Combat width is important, only a certain amount of regiments can fight at the same time, and infantry and cavalry can only fight in the front row. Ideally you want to fill out the combat width with infantry and cavalry, and have combat width of artillery behind them. Combat width at base is 15, and is increased by technology up to a base of 40 at the end of the game. Terrain affects combat width by percentages, from mountains with -50% up to terrain like farmlands, desert, grasslands, coast, et cetera which may have +20% combat width.

      ARMY COMPOSITION is pretty big in the knitty gritty. Artillery does half damage and takes double damage in the front row, you obviously don’t want this. Regiments in the front row will rout at less than or equal to 0.50 morale, and if there are no reserves waiting to join the fight, the unit behind it will move to the front, usually this is an artillery and this is bad. So while in a big battle you want combat width of infantry and cavalry combined and combat width of artillery, you do want enough men to replace casualties in the frontlines. Artillery while in the back row gives 50% of its defence to the regiment in front of it, more reasons for artillery and keeping it in the back row.

      FLANKING happens when your army is wider than the other army, it’s a good thing if used wisely. It’s affected deceivingly by the maneouvre value on the technology screen. At the start of the game, infantry can flank one position on either side, cavalry two, and artillery three. So the effect being you don’t actually always want to fill the combat width. You want to say match the width of the army with infantry, have some cavalry to flank, and artillery for support. This should maximise your kills to deaths and morale damage. As you improve mil tech, you’ll be able to flank better.

      infantry/cavalry/artillery combat ability is exactly what it says on the tin, it makes them individually deal more and take less damage and morale damage. Quality has all three, Swedes get Infantry as do the Prussians, while the Ottomans, Poles, and Hordes get Cavalry

      River and straight crossings are listed in the top right corner of the province view and give -1 and -2 to rolls in combat respectively. both can be averted by engaging combat with a general with HIGHER (read: not equal) maneouvre than the enemy. Naval landing penalty is -2, but cannot be negated.

      The rank bonus in combat means that regiments that are more filled deal quadratically more damage. a 1000 man regiment deals 100% damage, while a 499 man regiment deals just about 25% damage. The limits are at 250 man increments, so 750 to 1000 men deal full damage for their size, while 500-749 deal 75% of their potential, 250-499 deal 50% of their potential, and 0-249 deal 25% of their potential. You can use the consolidate regiments button outside of battle to condense say five 400 man regiments to two 1000 man regiments, essentially disbanding the now empty regiments. If you hold SHIFT while pressing the button, you keep the empty regiments.

      When regiments are damaged, they reinforce at a base of 100 men per month per regiment (given you’ve got the manpower). HOWEVER, only in your own land will you reinforce at 100%, enemy, subject, or neutral land has a base rate of 50%. The maneouvre value of the army’s general increases this by 10% for every pip, up to the 100%. UNLESS YOU’RE AUSTRIA, who get +33% reinforcement rate…

      Sorry if this was a bit wordy, but yeah, the mechanics can get deep when you look for it…

      TL;DR have bigger numbers, keep up on mil tech, watch out for elan, try not to end up having fewer military ideas than your opponents, despite all my rambling about the finer mechanics, quantity is still the best idea group (manpower is the most valuable thing in the game, and having more that recovers faster, and then having a 50% bigger army is HUGE)

      • Llewyn says:

        That was incredibly informative, thank you. I thought I understood combat mechanics relatively well, but there’s a lot of fine detail I’d been unaware of.

        I don’t suppose your knowledge of trade mechanics is similarly comprehensive?

    • LuNatic says:

      Thanks guys, something I’ll take into account in the future!

  23. DavishBliff says:

    I appreciate any and all noob-oriented articles like this, more please!

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