You can play your own story of utter incompetence
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 11 March 2014, 7:36 pm
I bought Europa Universalis III (not the new one) the other day. So far it's amazing (also, fun). The amount of choice is new to me.

In part, this comes from the game not pretending to be balanced in any normal sense. France is clearly the dominant power on the western European continent. But you can, if you want, play as Burgundy, France's smaller, weaker neighbor. I opted for Burgundy and then waged a long champaign to take control of France, so much so that I was able to declare myself to be France (that helped a lot with the French nationalist uprisings).

Yet, despite the "not balanced" nature of it, the game doesn't consist entirely of big AI nations devouring smaller ones. The diplomatic and domestic cost of a war of pure aggression is pretty steep, as I learned. In fact, things can go dramatically wrong for big countries. France was devoured by my upstart Burgundy. I won countless other wars and prizes, both large and small.

I probably sound like a pretty capable leader at this point. I mean, just look at me, making vassals of over a dozen small countries, gaining monopolies in over a half-dozen trading hubs, taking on everyone from the Ottoman Empire to Milan, and taking down the greatest power on the continent and then remaking it in my image. That's the thing: my image.

I had no idea how to actually run the country.

Before World War I the doctrine among the great powers that they should have an army large enough to fight any two other nations at once. I thought that sounded completely ridiculous. Surely that wouldn't be necessary, or even possible, since only at the trivial case of 0 can you assign values to y=2x and x=2y. Math says Europe was stupid.

Yet that is exactly what I did. I'd regularly check on the ledger to ensure that my army could beat anyone. It could. Yet I couldn't rely on my total, because I had rebels to put down, so I'd have half my army big enough to beat anyone, and the other half as the other half of an army that could beat anyone. Why did I dedicate so many forces to dealing with a handful of rebels? Because they weren't and handful of rebels.

For years I was essentially at war with my own people. Norman, Orleanais, and Breton nationalists were a constant problem. I almost wished I could have just killed all the Dutch, but they run a really great trading port. Throw in peasant uprisings and patriots from whatever war was going on and domestically I was facing a larger army than from the actual wars.

And then there were the wars. Sure, it made sense to unify France. But why was I constantly poking my head into the Germanic lands? A country here, a country there, and next thing I'm widely hated. The constant war also caused war exhaustion, which raises the risk of revolt.

Meanwhile my inflation was through the roof. I'd been messing with the treasury to pay for my absurdly oversized army and complete inability to create an annual budget. That didn't just reduce my research, but also caused inflation, which makes everything, including research, more expensive. I was killing two of my own birds with one stone.

I had even taken visible steps backward. To save on army costs I abandoned the defense of my Danish holdings. Those were eventually captured by rebels and returned to Denmark. I gave up on defending the small countries between me and Castille; I couldn't fight wars on their timetable anymore. Those small nations were captured and annexed. My holdings in North Africa were cut off due to my poor naval logistics, leading me to cede land to get a peace treaty rather than losing everything.

From the outside, newly-unified France-from-Burgundy (such a British name) was extremely powerful. It had won countless wars, made many vassals, and had an army so absurdly large that it could probably fight the entire continent to a stalemate. Internally that army was tied up with perpetual unrest. Its budget was an inflated mess. It was frequently borrowing to pay for wars that made the world hate it. This wasn't a country on the verge of collapse, but it was one facing stagnation and eventually, defeat.



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