|At the start of the Grand Campaign – 14 October 1399|
|Government type||Despotic Monarchy|
|Capital province||Banda Aceh|
|Center of Trade||None|
|Other accepted cultures||None|
- Good starting position. Neighbors are fairly weak. Only land border is with Malacca, across a strait Aceh's navy can control.
- All starting provinces except Riau are Malay culture. There are many additional Malay provinces nearby.
- Aceh starts with one of the strongest fleets in the immediate area.
- All Aceh's provinces are Sunni. All the nearby neighbors are also Sunni.
- Aceh's provinces are dirt poor.
- Aceh is in the Chinese tech group (0.4 research modifier, very slow tech gain).
- No colonists, though this can be fixed by taking over Malacca's Centre of Trade (CoT).
- Aceh starts with a colony (Riau) that is expensive to maintain and takes 9 years to grow to a full province.
- There are no forts anywhere but the capital, making Aceh very vulnerable to rebellion.
- Some of the immediately adjacent territory is Terra Incognita at the start, including the strategic Straits of Johor.
You could consider playing Aceh on Very Hard difficulty. This increases the difficulty of conquest somewhat by giving the player morale penalties (-0.25) and the AI morale bonuses (0.5) and a maximum war exhaustion bonus (-6). The AI will also field larger armies than normal due to the +50% global tax modifier the AI gets at very hard level. This can be overcome by running a more inflationary economy early to build larger armies. The benefit to the player of very hard difficulty is that the AI will have more ducats than normal which can be demanded in peace deals. Also, Latin powers will likely enter the area sooner than they would on normal difficulty, possibly enabling earlier westernization. The reputation limit penalty for very hard difficulty (-15) is unlikely to be an issue. Aceh is stuck in a Despotic Monarchy for the early game, which gives a +10 increase to reputation limit.
Aceh's economy is in bad shape to start. You can either run an inflationary economy for a while or cut expenses. To get the economy under control, cut military maintenance to the minimum and sell Riau (a colony with 550 people there at game start) to Malacca. Selling Riau may take several attempts and you're unlikely to get more than 40 ducats for it. Even if you can't get any ducats for it, divesting Riau will save the expense of maintaining the colony while it grows. Let Malacca keep it until it is profitable, then take it back via invasion.
You can improve the economy somewhat by focusing on trade for a few years. It's not hard to get five merchants in each of the three Centers of Trade (CoTs) known to Aceh, particularly if you start immediately, when the CoTs are not yet full. If any new CoTs are built, wait a month and make sure they are attracting at least 100 ducats of trade before you send any merchants. The AI will frequently build new CoTs that are not viable and get closed down after only a few years.
Slider moves should probably focus on getting to -2 Centralized and -3 Innovative, as these (plus a Latin tech neighbor) are required for westernization. You can also access a decision that will give a centralized move and another that gives an innovative move. Moving Defensive to +1 can help solve Aceh's lack of forts via events.
There are two schools of thought on technology and National Ideas for a country like this. You start out desperately poor, so dedicating research to reach government tech 4 and taking National Bank is one good way to go. On the other hand, westernization is one of your top priorities. The fastest way to westernize is to focus all research on Trade, in an effort to reach Trade 7, enabling the Quest for the New World national idea. If you dedicate all research to trade, you'll likely reach Trade 7 and Government 4 around the same time. Then you can explore westward and find a spot to conquer next to a Latin tech neighbor. Exploration in Africa and the Americas can also be very profitable, some minor countries there can be conquered with as few as 6-10 cavalry and have large cash reserves you can take in peace deals. At start, several areas immediately adjacent to Aceh are terra incognita. These will be revealed fairly soon without any action on your part.
The first military target should be Malacca. They share a border across a strait with Aceh and have a valuable CoT. If you sold Riau to them, wait until it's a full colony before starting your first war with Malacca. Otherwise you're just taking back the maintenance expense. Don't attack Malacca until the Straits of Johor are revealed. Stationing Aceh's navy in this strait will prevent any counter-attacks should your invasion falter. If you sold Riau to Malacca, you can control access to it via the same strait. You'll probably have to run an inflationary economy for a few years to build and maintain an army to beat Malacca, but the CoT in Malacca itself is the richest nearby target. Malacca will take two wars to conquer completely, one to take all their territory, and another for the capital with its CoT.
If you expand far enough northward onto the mainland, you'll run into Buddhist, Hindu and Confucian provinces. Implement the religious decisions Establish Sheikh ul-Islam Office and Denouncement of Sect Practises so that you'll have enough missionaries to convert new provinces, despite your slider moves toward innovative.
You may prefer to avoid expanding too far northward until you're prepared to deal with Ming. You'll either need an army strong enough to hold him off in your area (very expensive), or enough cash to bribe him and attempt to form an alliance (also very expensive), or you'll need to be patient and only come into contact when he's weak. At some point in the game, usually Ming will meet a strong Persia, Golden Horde or Russia and have military/rebellion/war exhaustion problems. Just bide your time and be ready when it happens. If you have a border with Ming, and can't take him on diplomatically or militarily, be sure to keep your army at its force limit. If your army is under its force limit, the AI smells weakness and will be more likely to declare war. If Ming acquires a claim to a province you own (this happens sometimes via event, you'll notice you just got a Causus Belli on Ming if it does), just give him the province (via Sell Province in the diplomacy menu). If you keep a province a stronger AI has a claim to, it will almost always declare war.
It is possible to take down Ming with a massively inferior military (1:5 odds). For a description of how to do this read this excellent Malaccan AAR by Rastar: .