Introducing some top tier nations of EU4 and their unique characteristics based on history

Origin of Europa Universalis IV’s Global Empires’ Tradition, National Ideas and Ambition (Part 1)

Introducing some top tier nations of EU4 and their unique characteristics based on history

Europa Universalis IV is a grand strategy game developed by Paradox Interactive. The time setting of this game is in the year 1444, when the Byzantine Empire was declining and ending the Medieval Age. It runs all the way to 1821, the year of Napoleon Bonaparte’s death. Any nation on the map is playable, and players also can create own custom nation via the El Dorado DLC.

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Before taking a peek into the game’s global powers, I have to define three terms on the title:

  1. Tradition: Two bonus abilities given to nations based on their heritage and history
  2. National Ideas: The seven national ideas gained for unlocking ideas from idea groups. There are total of 21 idea groups in the game separated into 3 different categories — Administrative, Diplomatic and Military. No matter which groups players choose, picking 3 ideas from a group will unlock one national idea.
  3. Ambition: After players unlock all seven National Ideas, they can receive a unique bonus when unlocking the ambition

In addition, the game’s AI will try its best to stimulate a nation’s behavior based on history. Hence, the following nations are going to become global empires:

1. England/Great Britain

They share the same national ideas. Scotland can form Great Britain too, but historically, it was formed by England.  


+33% embargo efficiency and +20% Morale on navies

  • In 1588, the English navy defeated the Spanish Armada, the largest and strongest fleet in Europe at that period in time. Then the English navy became the largest navy in the world, until it was surpassed by the US after WWII.
  • Historically, Britain had strong navies, and lots of colonies in most parts of the world with different varieties of resources. Hence their strong market power has stronger embargo impacts.
National Ideas

1. A Royal Navy: +10% Heavy ship combat ability, +0.25 Yearly navy tradition.

As mentioned above, English navies were the strongest in that era, and heavy ships are the strongest and most expansive ships in game. Also, if the navy has higher navy tradition, it’s even stronger. These conditions help the English to dominate the sea in-game.

“Journeys of the Tudors, accompanied by countless courtiers, attendants and their servants devastated the country.”  — A Companion to Tudor Britain

2. The Eltham Ordinance+15% National tax modifier. 

This ordinance was a reform that tried to save the unnecessary royal expenses from tax money. This means more money would be spent on something productive in-game.

3. Secretaries of State+1 Diplomatic relations. 

Since Henry VIII, England has had two secretaries of states to deal with domestic and foreign affairs. In-game, players can deal with one more foreign nation.

4. The Navigation Acts+10% Trade efficiency. 

This is a set of laws based on Mercantilism. It tried to protect England and its colonies’ trades. For example, only English ships can be used in domestic trading, and colonies are limited in trading with foreign nations. In-game, players can see the advantage by increasing trade efficiency.

5. English Bill of Rights-1 National unrest, +10% Global tariffs. 

The English Bill of Right was created for separation of power, restricting the royal powers in 1689 after the Glorious Revolution. At the same time, it guaranteed some rights to English citizens and the Parliament. Decreasing unrest in-game can show its efficiency. Later, acts for colonial settlements were issued by the Parliament, such asthe  Townshend Act and Stamp Act. Perhaps this can explain the tariff part.

6. Reform of Commission Buying+5% Discipline 

Buying ranks in the British Army was common in history. However, after this reform, the soldiers only can buy infantry and cavalry ranks up to colonel. It ensured whoever bought the rank would stay in the army until they reached the break-even point of the purchasing cost. At the same time, it ensured the higher rank officials were promoted by merit and seniority. In-game, this shows through enhancing the army’s strength. 

7. The Sick and Hurt Board+5% Ship durability

It is the British Navy’s responsibility to provide health care to the sick sailors and prisoners of war. This can ensure the sailors’ general health. When sailors are healthier, the navy is more durable. In-game, players can see the effect on ships with “higher hitpoints”. 


+1 Leader(s) without upkeep

  • Historically, the British had a large colonial empire. Hence, having an extra admiral or general in-game can help them expand as much as they did historically.

2. France

In the EU4 gaming community, France is known as the “Big Blue Blob”, with its blue color on the map and its constant conquering of neighbors. Usually, it is one of the strongest powers in Europe and owns a significant number of colonies.


+20% National manpower modifier+1 Diplomatic reputation

  • France had the first permanent army in the 1420s, and they were paid by wages instead of levying peasants. They were recruited in urban areas, which ensured the supply of soldiers.  
  • French was the most commonly used language for diplomatic actions in this period of time, with its strong political power in Western Europe. In later period of the game, France still maintained its strong political influence.
National Ideas

1. French Language in All Courts+15% Income from vassals, −10% Diplomatic annexation cost

As mentioned in the tradition, French was a common language for diplomatic action. Surely it had big influences on its vassals. In the early 1400s, vassals like Toulouse became part of France. Decreasing the cost of diplomatic annexation explains how France integrated its vassals so quickly.

 2. Elan!: +20% Morale of armies

A word that originated in France, it originally means “throw forth with vigor, enthusiasm, and liveliness.” An army with elan is less likely to run away and will be able to fight longer in battles — unlike the French army in WWII.  

3. Estates General+10% National tax modifier

The first estate is theprivileged 1% clergies, the second estate is the nobles, and the third estate is everyone else in France. They were summoned to solve the French financial crisis by King Louis XVI. Historically, it lead to the French Revolution, and Louis XVI got overthrown by the people. But in-game, it seemed like they found a solution peacefully.

4. Native Trading Principles: −50% Native uprising chance, +50% Native assimilation

While the Spanish wiped out most of the Aztec and Incan populations in the New World, the French were trading fur with the natives of the Mississippi River with little conflict. As a result, France owned a large colony with trading posts in the Mississippi Valley and formed alliances with some native tribes.  In-game, this can reduce conflicts with natives and make for quicker expansion while colonizing.

5. Vauban Fortifications−20% Fort maintenance

Vauban is a famous French military engineer who served as King Louis XIV’s adviser.  His model of fortification influenced on fort building and sieges for the next century.  In-game, reducing fort maintenance allows France to build more forts and better security at the border. 

6. The Philosophes−10% Technology cost

Most modern philosophical ideas originated in France. Jean Jacques Rousseau’s idea of Freedom of Speech, and René Descartes’s foundation on Rationalism are notable examples of modern ethics. At the same time, philosophers were expects in math and science. In-game, reducing technology researching cost shows the contributions of the philosophers. 

7. Liberté, égalité, fraternité: +2 Tolerance of heretics, +2 Tolerance of heathens

A spin-off of idea 6. This is the motto used in the French Revolution. It means “freedom, equality, and fraternity.” In-game, heretics and heathens are people with different religions. In game, it can increase religion unity to prove the tolerance of different religions within France.


+5% Discipline

  • Higher discipline means a stronger army. This is also how Napoleon swept Europe in the Napoleonic Wars.

3. Moscovy/Russia

Historically, Russia was formed by Moscovy, and hence it has the same national ideas as Russia. In-game, Novgorod and Tver also can form Russia. 


+25% National manpower modifier, -20% Infantry cost

  • The Russian army is known for its large size and quick recruitment. Most soldiers were recruited in rural areas, and most of the Russian population were peasants before the Industrial Revolution. In-game, that’s how Russia get its large quantity of reserves with cheaper recruitment.
National Ideas

1. Sudebnik-15% Core-creation cost

A set of laws set up by Ivan III, its purpose is to centralize the Russian state. The laws includes criminal justice and property rights. In-game, this is shown by making it easier to turn new conquered provinces into core provinces.

2. Found the Streltsy+50% Land force limit modifier

“Streltsy” means shooting in Russian. This was created by Ivan the Terrible, when he needed to fight with his neighbors constantly. These units were recruited from rural peasants, and Russia had a larger army size. In-game, it’s presented as making limit of the army size higher.

3. Oprichnina+10% Manpower recovery speed, -20% Culture conversion cost

This is the secret police created by Ivan the Terrible. Their purpose is mass repression, executions, and watching the aristocrats (mostly from the newly conquered Novgorod). Perhaps these units were added to the Russian army and were able to repress dissidents quickly, and it’s shown in-game by recovering reserves and changing other cultures.

4. Abolish the Mestnichestvo+10% Production efficiency

Mestnichestvo is the Russian governance system in the 15th-17th century, wherein officials with seniority got to dictate the government. Peter the Great abolished it after reforming the state. Historically, it gave flexibility by promoting outsiders. In-game, this policy makes Russia more productive with their new officials.

5. Siberian Frontier: Auto-exploration of all territory adjacent to owned home territory, +1 Colonists

After defeating the Khanate of Sibir, Russian cassocks explored and expanded to East Siberia quickly. Within a century, the Russians had expanded to Northeast China and Alaska from the Urals Mountains. In-game, it shows such efficiency with extra colonists and auto-exploration.

6. The Table of Ranks+0.5 Yearly army tradition

These ranks were made by Peter the Great. They are formal lists of military ranks to resolve the boyars’ and nobles’ power struggle. This table cleared the inner conflict. In-game, it presents with a stronger army.

7. Broathen the curriculum of the Cadet Corps-10% Technology cost

The Cadet Corps was set up in St. Petersburg by Empress Anna. Its purpose was to educate 8-15 years old boys to become military officers. This means more educated officials will be serving the government. In game, these graduates help Russia in technology researches. 


+50% National manpower modifier

  • This an enhancement of the tradition, to allow Russia to have a bigger national reserve in game.

4. Ottoman Empire

This is the only non-colonial nation in this part of the list. However, its large size and army, and its vast wealth, shaped it as one of the strongest nations from collapse of Constantinople to the Industrial Revolution.


+5% Discipline, +3 Tolerance of Heathens

  • The Janissaries were the imperial army of the Ottoman Empire. They were known for their internal cohesion, set up by strict discipline and following order. The game shows their strength with higher discipline.
  • The Ottomans were more tolerant to non-Muslims than most Muslim countries in that period of time. The non-Muslim subjects were given freedom of religion and not persecuted by the Sharia.

1. Millets-33% Core-creation cost, -15% Accepted culture threshold

Not the grain millet, but a set of Muslim Sharia laws.  Within the Ottoman world, it was used to protect minorities. In-game, it makes it easier to turn new conquered provinces into core provinces that are less likely to have ethnic conflicts. 

2. Ghazi+20% Manpower recovery speed

Ghazi is a title for Muslim warriors that engaged in religious war. In the Ottoman Empire, Ghazi is a glorious title for high military ranks of officials who fought against non-Muslims. Perhaps the title encouraged people to join the army, as it helps the the Ottomans have better reserve recovery rates in-game. 

3. Timariot System+15% Cavalry combat ability

Timariots are similar to European medieval knights — they are cavalries that own fief. They also use their own equipment in war. However, they must obey the Sultan. In-game, these well-equipped cavalries can fight better.

4. Autonomous Pashas-10% Cost of reducing war exhaustion

Pashas are titles given to generals or high-ranking officials in the Ottoman Empire. It is similar to knighthood in Western Europe. In-game, war exhaustion is how much the nation wants to get out of war. If it gets too high, there will be rebellions. Giving autonomy to the Pashas is like giving them partial responsibility for reducing war exhaustion in game. 

5. The Law Code of Suleiman+10% National tax modifier

Historically, Suleiman the Magnificent had done many reforms. Notably, taxation reform of the Christian serfs made the nations gained extra tax income. In game, this contributed as higher national tax. 

6. Tulip Period: +10% Trade efficiency

The Tulip Period is a period of time when the elites and high classes have a high demand of tulips in the early 1700s. Tulips also represented privilege and social status. In game, these wealthy classes bought it too much and increased national trade quotas.

7. Found the Imperial School of Naval Engineering-10% Ship costs

This was a four-year military school built in Istanbul. Its purpose is to train naval officers mentally and physically. With more talented naval officers, ship building should be cheaper, in-game and in reality.


+33% Land force limit modifier

  • The Ottoman Empire is known for its large army from the fall of Constantinople to the Industrial Revolution. 

I am going separate this list into two parts, as this is too long already. The next part will include Netherlands, Castile/Spain, Portugal, and Austria. They were also global powers in this period of time.  

As there were more political entities in the past than the present, I can’t research and cover them all. I will still try to cover regional powers like Persia, Ming, Qing, Uzbek/Bukhara, Venice, Bengal, Kongo, Japan, Ayutthaya, Incas, Aztec and Kongo in the following articles (just not the next one). 

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