It took me a while to get into Europa Universalis IV when I played it last October, it was only once I turned to online play that things fell into place and I understood what the game was all about. With the Art of War DLC pack, I knew straight away what I wanted to do – dive into the Thirty Years War as one of the German states and cause some chaos.
My first adventure into this bloody conflict was with the Protestant nation of Bohemia, a country that starts the game at war with Austria and her allies. Things soon took a turn for the worse almost immediately as two large armies from Bavaria and Austria strode boldly into my territory of Bohmerwald. Not paying attention to the war goal of defending my capital, I immediately launched a counter attack fuelled by raising a small army using the new Army Builder which lets you create a template of units which can be built in a variety of provinces. Despite my efforts, my forces were soon steamrolled, and I knew that I had to regroup and try again.
I took the decision to take charge of Bohemia’s Catholic neighbour’s, Bavaria. At the start of the Thirty Years War scenario, Bavaria is aligned with Austria, so I immediately launched an assault with led by my larger ally against Bohemia. This was going fine, until tiny little Ansbach stuck their nose where it doesn’t belong by attacking one my territories. This, and some Austrian diplomacy led to a short lived war against Bavaria, and no new provinces for me to control.
Harbouring a grudge, after a few years of peace, I worked my way into taking control of Ansbach. Perhaps not the best idea, it might have been wiser to make them a Vassal, but I took full control…and soon had to deal with some rebels. The mechanics with rebels and revolts have been changed, and I knew I had to force the fools to back down before their progress bar reached 100%, at which point I would have had a bloody uprising to deal with by force. The softer approach was to appease them through offering greater autonomy, another new feature for Art of War. By sacrificing income tax and manpower, I was able to stave off the risk of a full blown rebellion.
I soon settled into a fairly quiet period of time, arranging Royal Marriages here, there and everywhere. Trying to woo states like Augsburg and Salzburg into becoming Vassals, which I failed to achieve due to a massive gap in tax rates and different technology levels. I took some time figuring out how to use my Papal Influence – did I want to cash it in for rewards like imposing a Church Tax or on the chance to earn a free merchant? Or did I want to convert it into Papal Influence which would grant me a greater chance of taking control of the Papacy?
My pondering over the Papacy proved to be my undoing as I failed to keep track of the shifting balance of power between the Catholic and Protestant nations. Sweden and her allies had dared to declare war on Austria and, in turn, her allies. I was on Austria’s side, by the war gave me a chance to lay siege to the small province of Ulm without fear of losing Stability for declaring war and breaking a truce (I might have previously tried my hand at Ulm). The siege went smoothly and Ulm fell under my military control, but it wasn’t yet a state that I could call my own.
Due to the full blown nature of the war that Sweden had started, I soon found my lands the primary battlegrounds in the Protestant attacks towards Austria. At different times I had several massive armies traversing my territory, but not batting an eyelid at trying to conquer my land. It wasn’t to last forever though, as I soon found myself facing up against a massive army comprising troops from several enemy nations. My puny forces weren’t able to cope, and despite occasional wandering support from my allies, I couldn’t hold them off forever. Austria was distracted by the rise of the Ottoman Empire, and soon my lands were in the militaristic control of others.
My only hope? Using the new Peace options to save myself…as a junior partner in the Swedish assault on Austria I was able to extricate myself from the mess, but at a high cost. I lost the lands I had stolen, and had to give further territory away. It saved my nation from complete domination, but set back the aim of Bavarian domination immeasurably.
Looking back, during my initial war against Ulm and Ansbach, I should have taken a different approach. As I was a the lead aggressor, I was able to negotiate a separate treat with both nations. If I had convinced both countries to become Vassals before my allies in this minor war negotiated their own peace, European history might have changed entirely. As it was, I didn’t make the right choice in the 1620s, and paid the price after Sweden’s religious war started.
The way the war mechanics work on land now is brilliant, and that is without looking at the ability to rally your troops in a Sortie against a siege or the new navy management tools where you can mothball a fleet or offer it to an ally to gain favour. Away from the dirty nature of war (which the expansion is all about really), you can now replace your nations Ideas if you don’t think they are suitable towards you long-term goals. Elsewhere, there have been major updates to the map, especially in Asia, Africa and the Americas with many new provinces, and if you want, you can also get involved in Napoleonic conflict following the French Revolution.
This is a rich expansion which redefines how European conflict and diplomacy plays out in the late game while giving due care and attention to the rest of the world. It costs £15, so it might not be something to pick up if you are a fairweather Europa player, but if you play the game regularly, the changes are widespread and you will readily get your monies worth.
The Verdict – Head Shot
Platforms Available/Reviewed – PC
Please see this post for more on our scoring policy. Review code supplied by PR.