Europa Universalis 3

There has been a relative rut of good computer games lately, and when one appears to break the drought, it demands a lot of time from me. Europa Universalis 3 is a case in point. The game allows the player to control any nation that existed between 1453 and 1789 – the fall of Constantinople and the French revolution, respectively.

I spent at least an hour trying to decide. I could tell that the game was going to be epic – the task I chose would have to be epic as well.

I decided to play as Japan and start in 1453. Why? Well, I’ve always wondered what would have happened if the Japan had become imperialist before the turn of the 19th century – say, before 1588 when the Tokugawa dynasty begins. What if they had managed to conquer Korea, a dream of many a daimyo without much of a navy, and gone from there?

Right now in the game, it’s 1481. Japans controls Korea, Manchuria, Tibet, and about half of present-day China. A formidable if unstable Ming empire holds out, with southeast Asia and India a maze of little kingdoms (with Birat being the only one that has done anything save lose completely in a war with me). The horde in Mongolia is a vassal. Much of what today would be southern Russia is occupied, and revolting on occasion to no great effect. Taiwan, the Philippines, Guam, and Hawaii are Shinto colonies; California and Oregon are being mined for gold by Japanese settlers – the gold rush started in 1480 instead of 1864. An expedition to the Mississippi has made contact with the Cherokee, and my navy sailed past the Aztecs. I’ve got plans for them.

I played a short game as the Cherokee, too, but discovered that the game makes it virtually impossible for them to develop new government forms or much new tech. I did manage to give them the idea of expansion, and they conquered everything east of the Mississippi, but if I’d kept playing the Brits, the French, or the Spanish would have steamrolled them eventually.

The one thing I really like about EU3, and which makes it also frustrating, is that it is difficult and expensive to do anything worthwhile quickly. Sure, I can know a good course of action for Japan would be to expand aggressively in the Pacific, contain the Ming, and colonize North America before Europe does, but it’s enormously hard to send more than 100 settlers out a year without having inflation explode or getting mired in debt. Colonies aren’t worth much until they have around 1000 inhabitants (at which point they start dribbling taxes). Technology moves at a snail’s pace, and the multitude of small kingdoms makes dominating trade almost impossible.

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