Useful Tips for New Players
Start with the tutorial. It’s not great. It’s rather out of date and wasn’t at all comprehensive even when it was released. But, it will teach you how to click around on the map and perform some important functions. After that, try reading my beginner guide. I’m posting it below:
EU4 is a game that is both complex and deep. You won’t be able to master it quickly. It will take hundreds of hours of experience before you actually get good at it. And that’s fine! Make mistakes! Watch them wreck you! Lose! But learn from the process. It’s a fun experience.
Also, note that I strongly recommend you play the Ottomans for your first campaign. They aren’t the game’s most powerful nation, but they are the easiest to learn with. They have a simple start and are most forgiving of the mistakes a new player is going to make. They have no dangerous immediate neighbors, the ability to almost ignore religion, a strong ruler, a solid economy and military, and many options.
Before you even unpause the game, you should customize your message settings. Pretty much every message in the game is customizable, and many of them should be set to “Pop up and pause.” Army reaches destination? Pop up and pause. Fleet reaches destination? Pop up and pause. Battle begins? Pop up and pause. Battle ends? Pop up and pause. Siege ends? Pop up and pause. War starts anywhere? Pop up and pause. Etc. etc. etc. Letting the game sail on while your military sits without orders will cost you wars, and being ignorant of what’s going on around you will cost you the game.
Another thing to do before you unpause is to decide on what your goal is for the campaign you’re about to start. Are you trying to get a specific ironman achievement? Do you want to learn about colonization? Unify the Holy Roman Empire? Show Europeans that Japan can beat them at their own game? Having a goal will provide focus to your game.
Your most important resource is your monarch points. You get these from your ruler’s stats, from your advisors, from estate privileges, and from power projection. These are complex topics that I won’t describe in detail here, but some high points are appropriate. First, note that monarch points come in three categories, Admin, Diplo, and Military. All three categories of points buy technological advancement and ideas, and all three also have additional uses. Admin is used to establish control of newly conquered land—to “core it” in game parlance. Diplo is used to peacefully integrate vassals and to hire naval leaders. And Military is used to hire army leaders. There are other functions, too, but those are most important. Getting as many monarch points as you can is crucial.
Advisors provide between +1 and +5 to their category every month. Small, poor nations can’t afford any. Strong starting nations like the Ottomans can hire +1’s immediately and soon grow to +3’s. And global powerhouses can afford +5 in all categories.
Estate privileges can provide an additional +1 to each category. Estates represent the great internal power blocs of your realm—the church, the nobles, the merchants, and so on. Estate privileges and crownland are also not a simple topic and I won’t go into great detail here. As a beginner, focus on keeping your crownland above 30% to avoid penalties, and increase that value by “seizing crownland” whenever you can. Be careful with the privileges you grant. In addition to the ones that boost monarch power, focus on those that increase estate loyalty at least as much as estate influence. The most important single privilege is probably “Supremacy over the Crown,” which is usually but not always a nobility privilege. It boosts all estates’ loyalty equilibrium by 10% at the cost of allowing them to call periodic diets (legislative sessions). These diets will force you to choose between three missions to keep your estates happy—but many of these missions are great and provide useful bonuses.
Speaking of missions, each nation has a mission tree that can guide your playthrough. You don’t have to follow it if you don’t want to, but the rewards for doing so are powerful. I recommend looking at it frequently as your game position changes to see if an available mission is near completion. Then you can focus your efforts on it.
The most important thing you can do on a strategic level is create a good alliance web. If you and your allies are stronger than your potential enemies, those enemies will be too afraid to attack you. If you’re weaker, you’re going to be a target. Pick your allies carefully, with an eye towards future expansion. Tunis makes a good ally for the Ottomans, for example. They have a good fleet, a decent army, and a good geographic position. They aren’t an early target of yours, but they’re close enough to help you against nations that you’ll fight soon (like the Mamluks). Also, note that alliances will shift during the course of the game. Today’s ally is tomorrow’s conquest target.
Speaking of conquest, warfare is a complex topic. But some general tips will be helpful. Battle results are determined by the following factors:
- Relative tech levels. Even a difference of one point can have a huge impact. Make sure you are the one in the lead.
- The terrain you fight on. Always attack in plains. Always try to defend in hills, mountains, or forests. Don’t cross rivers to attack. Make your enemies cross one to attack you.
- Generals. But not just any general will do. Siege pips are wonderful against forts but do nothing in a battle. Fire pips are useless until infantry develop good fire values and cannons advance a few levels. Etc.
- Combat width and army composition. You want a front row of infantry + cavalry equal to your combat width. For most nations, a small number of cavalry (2 to 6, depending on combat width) is optimal. Your rear row should be exclusively artillery. At low tech, you don’t need many, but by the time you reach military tech 10 to 13, you want a complete row if you can afford it.
- Sending in a second army to reinforce the first in large battles after significant damage has been done to your side.
- Making sure your troops are fully funded in wartime and have time to reach max morale.
- Drilling. The AI loves to drill, and the bonuses it provides are powerful. Once you can afford it, drill your armies in peacetime.
- Advisor and ruler bonuses.
- National and military idea groups–but note that you can do VERY well in combat without either of these.
Once you really learn how combat works, you will go entire campaigns without losing a single battle.
Finally, I want to mention idea groups. As you move through the tech tree, you will unlock a series of eight idea groups. The groups you pick will play a big role in defining your playthrough. As the Ottomans, in order, I recommend Admin/Diplo/Influence as the first three that you choose. I call those groups “The Big Three” because they’re so useful. The reasons why won’t make much sense to you yet, but trust me, you can’t go wrong with them. Humanism makes a good 4th pick for the Ottomans. After that, it gets more complicated, but Expansion and Trade should be on your radar (if your game gets that far).