Star Citizen's $55m won't turn into profit; all pre-launch funds to be "spent on development"

Hearthstone expansion will shuffle 100 new cards into the game

Discover how to colonize, build and achieve victory in this Civilization: Beyond Earth trailer

Europa Universalis IV

Not here to make friends (Part 2) - Europa Universalis IV with 20 people

It’s fairly early in the morning when a bunch of jet-lagged journalists walk through the hush of Sweden’s Royal Armory towards the war room. Since King Gustavus Adolphus’ time, the Armory has been a museum showcasing the history of Sweden’s royalty. We file past old uniforms, antique swords, and crude firelock infantry weapons, the very tools of war that would have been used in the era of Europa Universalis IV.

[Read part 1 here]

We’re fighting a war of our own here today. Paradox have assembled about a dozen or so strategy writers and Youtubers to take part in a mammoth session of Europa Universalis IV multiplayer. Several members of the development team, including series designer Johan Andersson, are also playing with us, though they have taken lesser European powers in an attempt to give the rest of us a sporting chance. It amounts to an enormous LAN party, a game of Risk or Diplomacy on steroids, the kind of thing that’s near impossible to organize with friends. Here we have two days to just focus on the game, and see who will be master of Europe.

Europa Universalis is the flagship of Paradox Development Studio, and remains their purest strategy game. It doesn’t have Crusader Kings’ complicated dynastic politics and randomness, nor Victoria 2’s focus on demographics and internal politics. EU IV is chess with nations and armies.

Players control a single nation from the end of the late Middle Ages through to the end of the Napoleonic Era. It’s open-ended, lacking any real victory conditions except the goals you set for yourself. You can try and conquer the entire world with a great power like France or Russia, or you can see whether a tiny Indian statelet can unite the subcontinent and hold out against European imperialism.

For today, however, we’re all titans of Europe. I’m playing the Ottomans, who have a lot going for them. They’ve got a foothold in Europe and total control of modern Turkey, and most of their neighbors are fractured and weak. They also start with a brilliant ruler, Mehmet II, who is as talented an administrator as he is a diplomat and warrior. His stats in those areas mean that the Ottomans will make very good progress with their technology and infrastructure. They also have a ton of good options: they can easily take Constantinople from the teetering Byzantines, and with their position astride the Bosphorus Strait, they can become a major trade power.

On the other hand, the Ottomans rule a restive empire of Bulgarians, Greeks, and Albanians. They face frequent rebellions, and consolidating their territory is slow work. More troubling is the fact that they are not a Western power. This is something that matters more as the game goes on. Western nations get bonuses to technology research, which means that my proud Ottoman armies will slowly fall behind, and Europe may become closed to me. You can Westernize non-Western nations, but it is a costly and incredibly disruptive process. There never really is a perfect time to overturn your culture and way of life.

Finally, there are the Mamluks. They are the other major Islamic power, with control of most of Arabia and the Holy Land. They have a powerful trade network and are positioned across most of the routes coming from the east. We both have room to grow, but we can never quite turn our backs on each other.

Playing a Paradox game where almost every major power is controlled by a human, in the same room, is like a poker tournament meets Dune. The first players to outpace the rest are bound to create a deadly coalition against themselves. So I must keep a low-profile. Ideally, the way I like to play is create a compact, powerful state. Then, when the opportunity presents itself, surprise everyone and gouge them for as much territory and concessions as I can.

This is far, far trickier with 20 people to play against. AI cannot ape the long-term evaluation of benefits that people perform instinctively. With humans, coalitions form and collapse from pure opportunism, and wars escalate dramatically as players from around the world realize their interests are jeopardized by the outcome.

So as much as I’d like to keep the ball rolling, I decide to start my game off softly. Fortunately, EU IV lets you choose from a number of reasonable national missions that suit where you’re at in the game. I spend a few years quietly completing missions to annex friendly vassals and allies. Meanwhile, I invest heavily in trade, building harbors and markets that will steer more wealth into Byzantine Constantinople, where my traders are making huge profits. It will stand me in good stead when I start spending a ton of money on wars.

But while I’ve been slowly consolidating territory in northern Greece and across modern Turkey, the Mamluks player Ryan Latourneau (NorthernLion on Youtube) has gone on a tear. He now controls Egypt and much of Libya, and his troops are as far south as Somalia and the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula. I start to wonder: when Ryan was being sheepish about the fact that he doesn’t know Paradox games very well, was he playing me?

By lunchtime I’ve turned into a Poe villain, stewing over perceived slights, envisioning Ryan at the center of a web of betrayal and manipulation against me. I keep glancing down the rows of players at his maddeningly expressionless face and his stupid, lying bald head. How dare he try and marginalize the Ottomans? Oh, I will show him. Yes, I will.

But first, lunch.

Login or Register
Alienware - Game VictoriousNvidia Shield - Titanfall
Windows 9 is no more. Windows 10 is now a thing

Windows 10

Windows 9 is no more. Windows 10 is now a thing

Star Citizen's $55m won't turn into profit; all pre-launch funds to be

Star Citizen's $55m won't turn into profit; all pre-launch funds to be "spent on development"

Hearthstone expansion will shuffle 100 new cards into the game

Hearthstone expansion will shuffle 100 new cards into the game

Discover how to colonize, build and achieve victory in this Civilization: Beyond Earth trailer

Discover how to colonize, build and achieve victory in this Civilization: Beyond Earth trailer

EVE Online is altering the laws of physics to allow capital ships to fit through stargates

EVE Online is altering the laws of physics to allow capital ships to fit through stargates

You might find a ghost on your toilet in Sims 4 this month, and in your pools in November

You might find a ghost on your toilet in Sims 4 this month, and in your pools in November

Topic of the Week: What do you look for in a port?

Topic of the Week

Topic of the Week: What do you look for in a port?

Borderlands 2 explodes onto Linux and SteamOS; is also 75% off on Steam

Borderlands 2 explodes onto Linux and SteamOS; is also 75% off on Steam

Australian Steam store quietly removes

Australian Steam store quietly removes "Australia Tax" from Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Kickstart a first-person space strategy game inspired by Star Trek: Flagship

Kickstart a first-person space strategy game inspired by Star Trek: Flagship

War Thunder update 1.43 okays air-to-ground assaults in new arcade mode

War Thunder update 1.43 okays air-to-ground assaults in new arcade mode

EverQuest Next will let NPC groups roam the map and dynamically determine quests

EverQuest Next will let NPC groups roam the map and dynamically determine quests

How Train Fever made money for its most feverish players

Train Fever

How Train Fever made money for its most feverish players

Smite picks up another Roman god: green-fingered tree-chap Sylvanus

Smite picks up another Roman god: green-fingered tree-chap Sylvanus

Pathologic reaches Kickstarter target; new stretch goal could fund a

Pathologic reaches Kickstarter target; new stretch goal could fund a "small prequel"

Watch Middle-Earth canon do backflips in Monolith's Shadow of Mordor trailer

Watch Middle-Earth canon do backflips in Monolith's Shadow of Mordor trailer

Say Hallow to Hearthstone's new Ranked Play Season card back

Say Hallow to Hearthstone's new Ranked Play Season card back

Cities Skylines gets down to to basics in infrastructure demo video

Cities Skylines gets down to to basics in infrastructure demo video

Port Inspection: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Port Inspection: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Dreamfall Chapters debuts on October 21st with its first episode: Reborn

Dreamfall Chapters debuts on October 21st with its first episode: Reborn

Green Man Gaming to publish PC games in need as Green Man Loaded

Green Man Gaming to publish PC games in need as Green Man Loaded

Might & Magic Heroes Online launch sees turn-based tactics and MMO convention collide

Might & Magic Heroes Online launch sees turn-based tactics and MMO convention collide

Before the Fall Patch: long-awaited Battlefield 4 fixes due today on Origin

Before the Fall Patch: long-awaited Battlefield 4 fixes due today on Origin