|At the start of the Grand Campaign – 14 October 1399|
|Government type||Despotic Monarchy|
|Number of provinces||6|
|Center of Trade||None|
|Primary culture||Central Thai|
|Other accepted cultures||None|
In 1399, Ayutthaya is just one of many competing kingdoms in the region. It is situated in the middle of Southeast Asia; a lot of directions in which to expand, but it also means you may have to fight enemies on multiple fronts. Your starting army is not large, and most of your land except for your capital do not have forts. So it is at the start of the game that Ayutthaya is at its most vulnerable.
Most of your provinces are rather poor, with the exception of Ayutthaya itself which is a 12-base-tax wonder. Only Ayutthaya and Rayong are of your culture group; the rest are Mon and Malayan (the Malayan provinces are Muslim to boot).
Changes in Divine Wind
There are three major changes for Buddhist SE Asian minors like Ayutthaya in Divine Wind.
- Firstly, Buddhism no longer gives a tax penalty.
- Secondly, Ming is somewhat less of a threat due to the Factions mechanism, preventing them from declaring war whenever they feel like it, though it still pays to be in their good graces. Ming can also lose the Mandate of Heaven and collapse, in which case, the successor states may not face the same restrictions, so watch out.
- Thirdly, Westernization has been modified from HTTT so that the Western/Oriental/Muslim country you are bordering must be at least 25 techs ahead of you for you to Westernize. So if you research at the normal speed for Chinese tech countries you’d only be able to take the decision around 1500, even if you border a Latin country.
The Road To Westernization
Like most non-Latin countries, Westernization is key to Ayutthaya's success. But first Ayutthaya must survive early warfare against its neighbours.
One of the other Southeast Asian nations would probably declare war on you in the first couple of years of the game. Ayutthaya should concentrate on building forts and build up its forces from day one. A little minting here would help (as always, watch the inflation). On the diplomatic front, approach other countries for alliances and royal marriages, preferably with those in your culture group.
In wars, don't take any territory unless you have a core on it. Vassalize your adversaries instead. Be patient and wait for opportune moments to attack your neighbours and slowly surround yourself with loyal vassals. You would want to keep your own kingdom small to minimize your stability costs for when you Westernize.
The fastest way to Westernize is to sail out to meet the Europeans yourself instead of waiting for them to come to you. For that, you need to get the Quest for the New World National Idea, and you need colonists to recruit the explorers. A coastal Center of Trade would help with this; there’s Malacca of course, but you can build your own too (Malacca is probably not big enough to be split. If your coastal provinces are trading through Malacca, wait until you’re at war with whoever’s controlling Malacca. This may cause your provinces to trade through Nanjing instead, which will usually be large enough to enable you to split from it and create your own CoT).
Once you have explorers and conquistadors, assign them to a flotilla of cogs and about six cavalry and sail west to Arabia and then along the African coast, asking for military access to rest your ships where necessary. By 1500 Castille or Portugal would probably have a few possessions in West Africa. If there’s a weak pagan nation next to them, that’s your lucky break. Invade and seize to satisfy the neighbor requirement for Westernization. And because you’ve kept your country small, you should recover stability very quickly after each round of Westernization.
You will tech quickly until at a similar level to the Europeans but true parity will require about 50 years. Use this time to solidfy your home region and take advantage of the high Trade level you now have to bring in extra cash. From this point on do as you please as the challenge is over unless you wish to wait another 150 years and try to fight off the Europeans.