Most of the information in the EU3 1.3 section remains accurate for Divine Wind. Brandenburg is surprisingly playable from the beginning and can be used to build a fighting force that is feared the world over. It has an excellent chance of completing the German unification and is well situated to attempt to form Prussia.
|At the start of the Grand Campaign – 14 October 1399|
|Government type||Feudal Monarchy|
|Number of provinces||4|
|Center of Trade||None|
- 1 Escaping the personal union with Luxembourg
- 2 Approx 1420 - 1450: Becoming Emperor
- 3 Approx 1450 - 1500: Uniting the Empire by Force of Arms
- 4 1500 - 1800: Wars for Power and Profit
- 5 Slider Strategy
- 6 EU3 1.3
- 7 Appendix?
Escaping the personal union with Luxembourg
- See also: Getting out of a personal union
In Divine Wind there are two ways out of union:
- Either you must dissolve alliance and declare war on Luxembourg (the union will end immediately and you'll automatically get new independent king) and hope to sign peace with it, but there's a trick - Luxembourg is in the Holy Roman Empire and the Emperor (most likely Bohemia) will intervene and facing Bohemia's army is not fun and would probably mean total annihilation in the beginning of the game. So you have to wait for the moment when Bohemia is in trouble and have most of its land occupied or armies destroyed by other countries, since in the beginning of game you are too weak to fight Bohemia.
- The second choice is simply to lower the relations with Luxembourg below 0 and wait until the current ruler dies, but waiting can be very exhausting, because in the mean time there's not much you can do when being under the union with Luxembourg.
For the In Nomine: Unfortunately, at the start of In Nomine, Brandenburg has a long way to go to get there. In 1399, Brandenburg has four provinces, a reasonably sized army for its size, no ports, 50 , and most significantly, is the junior partner of a personal union under Luxembourg. This means that in the beginning, the player's diplomacy options are extremely limited and Brandenburg cannot free itself by rebelling against Luxembourg.
However, there is a way out of the personal union that one discovers by reading the fine print in the Napoleon's Ambition manual - personal unions last until the ruler dies, but they continue as long as the relations between the two countries remain above 0 - meaning if your Luxembourgian overlord dies but your government still thinks highly of them, your short - sighted advisers will ask his successor to continue to rule your country for you. For Brandenburg to achieve greatness, it must unload its tiny overlord.
The very first thing you should do to ensure you go free at the earliest opportunity is to tick off your overlord. A few quick insults should do the trick (You won't have much use for diplomats until Luxembourg's king kicks the bucket anyway), and make sure no positive events improve those relations. Sometimes Brandenburg will get an event that distances relations, offering a -100 to your relations with Luxembourg and no other choice, but don't count on it.
Even so, there is nothing that can be done directly to free Brandenburg from Luxembourg's rule, and could be stuck as the junior partner of a personal union for anywhere from a few years to decades on end. While ruled by Luxembourg, Brandenburg can't make most diplomatic agreements and can't declare war on anyone, but will automatically march to war if Luxembourg does. (There isn't much chance that Luxembourg will pick any fights, but don't disband your troops just in case.It is also possible that Brandenburg may have the chance to expand during this time if it proclaims a guarantee or sends a warning, as those diplomatic actions in EU3 result in an automatic call to arms when the nation guaranteed is attacked or the nation warned goes to war. This will not bring Luxembourg into the conflict, though, and it is possible that you could get yourself in over your head without allies.) What do you do with the time?
Building an economic foundation for your future conquest
- See also: Trading Strategy
While Luxembourg is running Brandenburg's foreign affairs, Brandenburg should spend the years under the personal union focusing on its own economic development. This may lead the player to make some different choices than they would if they had the opportunity to expand militarily from the beginning.
Brandenburg is in a position to expand economically, however. Trade income can provide an excellent source of wealth for Brandenburg if it makes a few choices differently than it would planning on pure military conquest. If the player moves Brandenburg's initial slider positions to favour Free Trade and Free Subjects, in that order, it can reap impressive benefits in the future. Maximizing Free Trade makes your Merchants up to 25% more competitive in foreign Centers of Trade (COT) abroad and gives Brandenburg more merchants to spread around, and since 90% of all COTs will be outside your borders for most of the game, this gives Brandenburg a huge advantage to getting merchants placed outside your borders and bringing additional trade income into Brandenburg's coffers. Strengthening Free Subjects will undo Serfdom's reductions in the price of infantry & stability, but also removes the penalty on technological research associated with oppressing the population and gives a nice suite of benefits to Army Morale, Spy Defense, and most importantly, reducing the cost of all Technology up to 20%. The rest of Europe will likely be mired in Serfdom and paying higher prices for technology well into the 17th Century - freeing your people earlier will help Brandenburg grow a technological advantage even faster. (Innovative can reduce the price of technology, but it has many drawbacks to balance against the generally positive effects of Narrowminded, some of which help counter the loss of the Serfdom stability buffs.)
Brandenburg can Join the Hanseatic League as soon as your Mercantilism vs. free trade slider allows, as that decision affords a permanent +10% to all compete chances. Research Government to get that first National Idea. You could choose Shrewd Merchant Practices if you really want to stack the Merchant deck in your favor, but Military Drill is usually the first choice of most players who wish to pursue early conquest and there's nothing wrong with that choice either. An extra point of morale can literally double your units' morale 'hit points' at the beginning of the game, and this is a huge advantage when everyone's units are weak, the Fire Phase is a three-day break in the fighting, and Knights rule the day.
Send merchants to nearby COTs, starting with Lübeck. Five Merchants there will net you around 50 - 60 gold per year, and it's easier for you to compete in Centers of Trade within your own cultural group. From there, go to Venezia and Novgorod, and then to the rest of Europe. You can set COT Priorities and Autosend Merchants in the Ledger's COT Screen if you want to focus on other matters. As other posters have noted, Trade increases in importance the smaller your country is, and while Brandenburg isn't the smallest to start, it isn't exactly punching in the Heavyweight division yet and every ducat helps. Most of your money should go to expanding your trade and save anything you aren't using for sending merchants or building churches. Build up your War chest, because you will soon need it. Why all this emphasis on trade? Trade means more money in the bank, which will translate into more troops in your armies in the future. Extra money also means extra investment in research, and if Brandenburg gets the next land technology before its rivals do, conquest will be that much easier.
A side note on the Statute in Restraint of Appeals - Get this decision if at all possible in the early years. It has a nice suite of benefits and opens up the possibility of taxing the Church later in the game, which is a 8% increase to Brandenburg's National Tax Modifier. Remember to get Brandenburg back in the Pope's graces as soon as the Statute is in place, because as long as Brandenburg remains Catholic you are vulnerable to Excommunication, and you are going to be doing plenty to earn the ire of most civilized nations soon enough. Try to repair any other key relationships that putting your King above the Pope damaged as well, as Brandenburg can still bribe nations with gifts while under the personal union with Luxembourg.
Approx 1420 - 1450: Becoming Emperor
Once their puny overlord's king has finally keeled over, Brandenburg is finally master of its own destiny. Unfortunately, because it was trapped in the union during the first few years when all the alliances were being made, Brandenburg is quite alone; not even Luxembourg likes them anymore. Get used to this feeling - soon everyone in Europe will hate your guts because of all of the countries you are going to have to destroy to become Germany. To do this, though, Brandenburg does need for a very few key people to like you, and to like you very much, in fact: The Electors of the Holy Roman Empire
If Brandenburg starts its campaign of conquest the moment its new king ascends the throne, Brandenburg will run smack into the Holy Roman Emperor, who in In Nomine gets an Automatic Call to defend any member of the Empire who is attacked, even if it's another member doing the attacking. Being the Emperor can turn the tiniest of these states into a military titan, at least compared to Brandenburg's meagre might at this point. If being Emperor can do that for the king of a one or two province country, think of what being Emperor can do for Brandenburg.
The problem is, being a junior partner of a personal union until quite recently made Brandenburg's ruler ineligible to become Emperor. You do have the advantage of starting out as an Elector - try not to anger the current Emperor, as they can revoke your status as an Elector by an event. Contrary to what the manual has said, you can in fact vote for yourself - just click the shield beneath your elector icon in the Elector screen to set your vote, and click your own shield, the one with a '-' beside it. That's one vote. To become Emperor, Brandenburg's King needs more votes than any other competitor - which means about two or three electors other than yourself. Fortunately for your budget, most of the electors are small countries, and they can be bribed for a handful of Ducats. You want them to love you more than anyone else, so lay it on thick. If you have to accept Royal Marriages or Trade Agreements, do so, you can always cancel those later, but be cautious if you want to use the "Royal Fratricide" Strategy below.
Once Brandenburg has secured the votes, lie low until the current Emperor keels over. Yes, waiting for another ruler to die is a bit of a pain, but this is a long term game, so a decade or two can be spared. Just keep sending merchants and wait for good opportunities to reveal themselves.
A Word on Alliances
Making a few key alliances can be a great way to ensure that Brandenburg remains secure against other nations attacking you, but don't expect your allies to follow you into your upcoming fratricidal bloodbath. Brandenburg might want to consider making friends with Poland or Denmark just to be secure against being attacked. This does tend to embolden the Poles and the Danes to try to take German territory with your help, and that you must not allow, because everything that they take Brandenburg will eventually have to take back, and these two powers will become your rivals for the conquest of Eastern Germany - strengthening them will ultimately make them harder to defeat when Brandenburg comes to blows with them. Alternatively, you can ally with the Teutons as described in the previous article, but the Poles will fight the Teutons at every opportunity, and they have Lithuania, the nearest 800 pound Gorilla on the block, on their side. Brandenburg is in no condition to take on both of them now unless you are very strong for your size, very rich, and very, very lucky.
Beware also Bohemia and Austria. Bohemia is right next to your southern border, and Austria is likely to try to take and keep the Emperor's throne unless Brandenburg gets to the Electors first. Both of these nations are more than powerful enough to credibly threaten Brandenburg, but an alliance with Poland will usually contain Bohemia's designs on your territory. Once Brandenburg has increased in size to about ten to fifteen provinces, Bohemia will be less of a threat, and a war of conquest against them might be an appealing way to gain some new territories. Nothing they hold is particularly essential to forming Germany, however.
Austria will remain a threat well into the 16th and 17th centuries, particularly if they are successful in conquering Hungary and the Greek territories of the Ottoman Empire. Austria can be defeated, and once you reduce them to their original territories, you can force them to release two nations they contain within their original borders, Triol and Styria, reducing Austria to Wien, Ostmarch, and Linz. If they continue to trouble you from there, attack them again and make them submit to Vassalization, and the Austrians will never bother you again.
Approx 1450 - 1500: Uniting the Empire by Force of Arms
When the current Emperor finally dies of old age and you are elected Holy Roman Emperor, you are invested with a massive amount of manpower and reinforced with lots of Stability Investments. You will also find that you can support a great deal more regiments before suffering maintenance penalties - this is an important advantage for Brandenburg, because if you have been successful in bringing a lot of trade income home, you will find you can afford the increased military maintenance a larger army demands. These advantages will diminish in time as Brandenburg gobbles little Holy Roman States like so much popcorn, but for now, it is a powerful suite of advantages that do come with one significant drawback - the defence of the Empire is now your sole responsibility. Expect a quite a few alliance calls from far - flung provinces of the Empire under attack, as most of the bigger powers of Europe will think you are a 'weak' Emperor. Prove them wrong and beat off the attackers as best you can. Most of the HRE states will let you pass through if Brandenburg is defending one of their own, and you may have the opportunity to free a few states annexed under other countries in the peace settlements. More little states free means more stability investments for the Emperor, and more manpower & more maintenance - free regiments available for his armies. To keep getting elected Emperor, try to keep the Electors happy, and defending the Empire helps to keep your relationship with the Empire's electors high.
Brandenburg should also mind its relationships with the other members of the Empire - in In Nomine, it is possible for these countries to enact a decision that will cause them to Leave the Holy Roman Empire if their relationship with the Emperor falls below 0. If this happens it will be a severe blow to Brandenburg's prestige (what Emperor wants to lose control of the Empire!?) and it will reduce the bonuses the Empire gives to the Emperor. Brandenburg is going to have to reduce those bonuses significantly to become Germany, so you want to guard against losing any more member states of the HRE, either to conquest and annexation by other European powers or to their simply deciding they no longer want anything to do with you.
When the Empire is at peace, your armies have been expanded, and your (now considerable) manpower pool is full, it's time to pick the first victims. The player will have no doubt seen that the Holy Roman Empire is a tangled web of alliances, and declaring on any one of the small states around you will have to fight five or six little states instead of one. This is actually fine if you make sure Brandenburg is fighting a bunch of one & two province states, because you can defeat them one at a time and make separate peaces with all of them. A few 'big alliance of little people' wars and you can be in control, either directly or through your Vassals, of a sizable amount of turf within the Empire.
European diplomacy demands you have a proper Casus Belli before you go knocking over small countries, but fortunately there are a number of ways to create one. Send out a round of Warnings to your neighbours and slap some Guarantees on any you think are likely to be attacked. You can also try insults, but it is unlikely that any nations smaller than you will actually attack you just because you insulted them - bigger ones might take the bait, but if they do, you can be pretty sure they have what it takes to kick your tail. If none of these tricks work and you haven't had the good fortune to get a "Boundary Dispute" event to give you a legitimate claim, there are two rather underhanded ways to get yourself a Casus Belli.
Why is a Casus Belli so important? In a Word: Badboy. Because you have to eat so many small countries to turn Brandenburg into Germany, you will rack up Badboy at an alarming rate for your unabashed brutality. It isn't that hard for even a moderately - sized Brandenburg to become hated throughout the world. Considering you get 6 points of Badboy for every Catholic Country you annex while still being Catholic through war, and about 1 point of Badboy for every Province you seize by treaty, it isn't hard to see why. You also get Badboy for every War you Declare, with or without cause, but without cause, you get double the Badboy for declaring War with a Casus Belli. With a proper Casus Belli, you only lose one point, so with a little advance thought to declare war properly, you can save your reputation for taking territory in those wars. Also, remember that while Unam Sanctum does remove the Stability penalties for declaring War on Heretics and Heathens, the Heretics and Heathens in question don't consider that a valid Casus Belli, so you still take the full reputation hit for declaring war without cause. See the article on Reputation for more details.
Option #1: Royal Fratricide
This tactic is relatively simple. Pick a likely Country who would just love to have a chance to inherit your throne. Send a Royal Marriage offer. If the mark isn't dumb enough to take the offer of relating his line to that of the Emperor immediately, bribe and repeat the offer. Once you have established a Royal Marriage, sour the relationship by sending repeated insults and then Claim their Throne. Be careful that they are your only Royal Marriage, as having royal marriages with anyone else will ruin your relationships with them. Bingo - instant Casus Belli. This does have the disadvantage of giving them a few months' warning that you are coming for them, but most little powers won't prepare adequately even with heads up.
Be warned - the AI seems to wise to this sort of betrayal pretty quickly. It may be good for one or two wars, but eventually other countries will stop taking your marriage offers. The other thing that is slightly more painful with this strategy is that even though Brandenburg won't be hit with the -2 Stability hit for not having a Casus Belli, you will suffer the -1 hit of attacking Royal Relatives. This is why Being Emperor is so important, to restabilize your country after these little hits for making all the little wars you will need to become a great power.
Option #2: Forging a Claim
Early in the game, when your Mercantilism was high, the player received a few spies in your Spy Pool, up to a maximum of 5. Most might use these precious few special tools for minor missions, but we will treat them like gold, because each one of them is a potential Casus Belli when needed.
Save your game, then click the potential enemy's capital, and bring up spy menu in the lower left corner. Close to the top is the Fabricate Claims mission. Make sure you have a few hundred Ducats to spare, as this is an expensive mission to attempt. Send the Spy. If he succeeds, you can send a diplomat the same day with a Declaration of War. If he's caught, you lose some reputation, but you would have gained the same amount for declaring war without cause. Even if the spy is caught, your claim is still treated as valid.
If you want to keep using this Tactic, you might want to consider embracing the Espionage National Idea or adjusting the Aristocracy vs. plutocracy slider towards plutocracy. As long as you are more Plutocratic than Aristocratic, your spy pool will start filling again.
Winning the Little Wars
Once at war, focus your attacks on the weakest powers first, knocking them out one by one and making a separate peace with each. Don't make peace with the alliance leader until they are the only one left in the war, as a peace with them ends the war. If you planned well and have enough forces at your command, it shouldn't take more than a few years to finish up your conquests. Annex anyone who holds a province you need to form Germany (you can see them by hovering over the question mark next to "Form Germany" in the Missions screen - it's an extensive list, and will require several wars and quite a few annexations to achieve your goal) and make Vassals of everyone else. Making Vassals doesn't hurt your reputation, and neither does making them release nations. Make sure to ally with all your vassals so that you will have guaranteed allies in your future wars, because while allies can and likely will abandon you when Brandenburg declares yet another aggressive war, Vassals don't have that option. When the boss goes to war, they go to war, so it helps to have lots of little friends to help you win.
Securing the Succession
It is possible to guarantee succession to the Holy Roman Emperor's throne in perpetuity by making sure that two small powers on the far side of the Empire that happen to be electors and do not hold any of the provinces you need for German unification are involved in the War. Trier and Cologne work well for this purpose, for example. Defeat them and make a separate peace that involves them becoming your Vassals thereafter. Once they are your Vassals, ally with them and Brandenburg is guaranteed their votes for your successors. Remaining Holy Roman Emperor is a strong advantage, and barring any unexpected succession crises that make you ineligible, you should be Emperor for the rest of the game this way. As long as they don't really hate you, vassals that are also your ally will always vote for you.
1500 - 1800: Wars for Power and Profit
From here, the strategy dovetails into the advice of the authors of the original article. Turn Brandenburg into the greatest Military Power in Europe and crush your enemies under your booted heel.
Becoming Germany will involve a lot of Annexations and seizing a lot of territory in aggressive Wars. This can put you over your reputation limit very, very quickly, particularly if Brandenburg does not get a Casus Belli before going to War. Declaring war without a proper - or even a fake - Casus Belli awards double the reputation hit, and if you go over your limit you will find yourself at war constantly until your Badboy burns down below the limit. This can set your plans back centuries as lose wars with great powers and are forced to give away all your hard - earned conquests.
The AI is quite merciless in attacking player nations that go over their limit, and if Brandenburg has been even moderately successful in their wars of conquest it could easily border France and Austria as well as Poland and Lithuania and the Scandinavian countries. These nations have a nasty habit of forming alliances with each other to attack Brandenburg all at once, in hopes of overwhelming the nascent German State with sheer force of arms. They are probably right in estimating that they can defeat you by combining their forces, and even if you win, every province you take will keep your reputation above the limit longer, extending their opportunity to take you down without a Casus Belli.
The best way to prevent this from resulting in Brandenburg's defeat at the hands of its enemies is to never go above your reputation limit in the first place. Managing your bad reputation will be a constant struggle, and may necessitate taking long periods between wars to let your reputation 'cool down', so to speak. To maintain your campaign of conquest, use the following tips to keep your reputation under control.
- Hire Every Diplomat you can get your hands on. Their reduction to your Badboy may seem puny, but over their careers, it can add up to a few points off your reputation when you need it most.
- Change to Despotic Monarchy. This raises your Badboy limit by 10 points, or about 2 Annexations. When you are close to your limit and want to grab for that extra territory, it's worth a small stability hit to change to that government.
- Make Vassals whenever possible. Annexation is a 6 point Reputation Hit. Making a Vassal to Annex Diplomatically later is a 0 Point Reputation Hit now and a 1 Point Hit to peacefully annex them later. Be careful if you like a Centralized Government, though, as every Peaceful Annexation Decentralizes you one step. That, and it can be very difficult to convince Vassals to annex, even with a clean reputation, a diplomatic ruler, and a lot of Prestige. How the AI manages to do this to its Vassals consistently and without difficulty is a question for the ages. Again, don't vassalize countries that hold territory you must have to form Germany unless you are willing to put German Unification on hold for a diplomatic annexation that may never come.
- Push for Government 30. Why Government 30? It opens a New Idea, and it makes the Cabinet available. Once you adopt the Cabinet, you will lose a point of Badboy every year, in addition to any reduction from your King and any diplomats you have employed, making sustained campaigns of conquest possible while still keeping your reputation under control. To get there quickly, a trick called the University Blitz can get you there faster.
Optional Side Strategy - Challenging the Big Dogs
Once Brandenburg has won a few small wars with its smaller neighbours and gained some additional territory, it could consider picking fights outside their own weight class. Poland is the most likely target for this sort of expansion, especially if they ever lose control of Lithuania. Carefully maneuver your alliances so Poland attacks one of them, and join the fighting. Be prepared for a long, tough war, but stick it out and Brandenburg can seize some fairly rich territories for less Badboy than Annexing small German Countries. This will not get Brandenburg any closer to forming Germany, though, aside from providing more taxes and manpower for your next war of conquest within the Empire.
Optional Side Strategy - Prussia First
The Missions and Events in Brandenburg's game will push the Player towards achieving Brandenburg's historic union with what's left of the Teutonic Territories, uniting Prussia. If you want to duplicate this achievement, conquer your way to Ostpreussen and absorb the Teutonic Order and Pommerania along the way. Brandenburg has to have Ostpreussen and Hinterpommern, as well as either Danzig or Vorpommern to achieve this, though, so the destruction of Pommerania is probably the easiest way to go. If Prussia already exists, wipe them off the map.
Brandenburg will have to be either Protestant or Reformed to complete the Prussian Unification, which could be a very traumatic process if your country is a checkerboard of religion thanks to the Protestant Reformation. Once Brandenburg has a sufficiently diplomatic king (Diplomacy 7), declare yourself Prussia. It has a nice suite of benefits including a free Centralization buff and some prestige, and if Brandenburg has all the German Provinces needed to become Germany by then, you can then turn around and immediately integrate Prussia into Germany. There is a decision unique to Prussia that Germany cannot get, the Prussian Military Reforms, which may be worth holding out for before committing to becoming Germany.
Because of the ability to form Prussia, and then, to enact the Prussian military reforms (+20% Discipline), Brandenburg is often played by the most avid warmongers. To become Prussia, and possibly Germany or the HRE, it needs very professional army, since it can’t support many troops from the start, and it will have to change its religion when the Protestant Reformation will hit.
With the high Serfdom from the start, it can be good to be enlightened with a few centuries of advance, and go for Free Subjects from the start. With the help of Tenures Abolition, it can move quite fast, but the long term effects of this decision are not quite positive. Centralization is also very much needed, as it starts at +4. It is a good advice not to go for Innovative too early, because of the needed missionaries after the reformation hits, and Brandenburg must not be still Catholic to become Prussia, even though high Innovative helps the Spread events (and so does Free Subjects). With the small number of provinces, some very good troops will be needed, so Quality is a good option, and the boost from Prussian military reforms will later make Prussia even more deadly. The need is for decisive actions against enemy armies, with high Tradition generals, to quickly disarm the enemy, not for long and arduous sieges, so Offensive is the way to go. As trading will be a minor concern, and the advantage of a good cavalry force on the battlefield will be important, there is not much question about going for Aristocracy. Land is a no-brainer. Free Trade is not very important, especially since Brandenburg is landlocked, but keeping Mercantilism would give a few spies.
Brandenburg is in an excellent position to attempt the German unification. Germany is weak and divided, awaiting strong leadership. The small German states should pose little threat, while larger powers will generally not be reached until your borders expand to make you even more powerful than them.
Forget exploration early on—focus your national ideas on expanding your military manpower and might. Conscription is a good start. All early slider adjustments should be directed towards military strength—keep increasing focus towards land forces, quality over quantity, offensive doctrine, and freer subjects. With no initial ports, Brandenburg should be transformed into a pure killing machine. Start with your small German neighbors. Pick out the ones without allies and make them pay. Every war initiated should never cost more than one or two stability hits (same religious group and possibly no Casus Belli). Avoid royal marriages with your immediate targets, accepting them with future conquests to gain a few provinces without war. Insult nations to bring relations below 100 and avoid further stability hits following your DoW. Focus all of your trade on Lübeck. Your merchants are too limited to be trading in the vicious global market. Lübeck will provide all of the trading income you will need, and will become increasingly less competitive as you absorb more and more competitors through conquest.
As the Reich expands, your first major threat will be Poland. Fear not, for you are Germany—history dictates that Poles will soon fear you. An alliance with the Teutonic Order is key to slowly conquering Poland while keeping their Lithuanian allies out of sight and out of mind. They constantly go to war, and the Teutons will split Polish forces to leave you less to conquer. Manage your wars wisely—you should be the head of the alliance if you've annexed even a few German minors. Do not allow the Teutons to get too much Polish land. If you are not ready for a follow-up war with Poland, dissolve your alliance with the Teutonic Order. They are all but guaranteed to drag you into war. You do not need to conquer all of Poland initially; just push them further east and shift your focus towards consolidating the Reich.
Your land forces should initially be divided into medium-sized armies of no more than 7 or so regiments. Larger armies will suffer attrition in many provinces. These super-brigades/mini-divisions can serve you early in your expansion. As manpower and wealth increase, keep adding more of them. Your combat brigades can team up to overcome larger units with relative ease. They should consist almost entirely of infantry units, whose firepower can whittle down the manpower of exhausted foes and who can storm fortresses when necessary. Add a cavalry and artillery unit or two for good measure. Early on, aim to recruit special cavalry units from southeastern provinces in lieu of the weaker Latin Knights.
As the game develops, regimental camps will come into play. They are crucial for Brandenburg/Germany. Adding +10 to the supportable units in their province, they will permit a permanent German military expansion. As finances improve through expansion, mercenaries can begin to play a crucial role in wartime; recruit hordes of infantry in border provinces to quickly storm fortresses and preserve your professional armies for battles. Keep a constant eye on manpower, and never declare war without enough of it. You need maximum reinforcements for success, and these are tough to come by early on. Diplomatically, strive to be Holy Roman Emperor for its stability bonus. Use the time between wars to increase manpower, recover your reputation, and bolster relations within the HRE.
As you gain wealth and coastal provinces, begin a limited colonization with an eye to the future. Establish strategic military outposts around the world, relying on the discoveries of others. Get the 1000 colonists necessary in each province, and immediately increase fortifications to the maximum level. As your wealth increases, build conscription centers and shipyards in your forward bases for rapid military escalation. You are a killing machine, not a colonizer. Steal the colonies of lesser nations through force of arms; the same super-brigades that can be used against Europe can march through the colonial world at ease. With a combination along the lines of Manhattan, Bermuda, St. Helena, Diego Garcia, and Hawaii, you will have strong outposts to wage future wars in every corner of the globe. For cash, get the Caribbean. The sugar is highly valued, and can fund military expansion around the world.
Continental expansion will bring you to the borders of your first real competitors. Fortunately, you will now have the power to crush anyone you face. Brandenburg will, in fact, become Germany in the game if you conquer enough of the German minors/provinces. The benefits are solid, and there is no reason to choose otherwise. The flag will change, and the political map will make Germany grey rather than off-red. As of version 1.1, there are some slight bugs to this that don't really impact game-play. Military units' icons will disappear from the map, but reappear as German when moved to another province. And Germany will remain red on the political map until the game is saved and loaded again. Neither is too bad.
The best part of massive expansion is, perhaps, the technological benefit. The game assesses technological costs based on provinces, setting you technologically behind in early stages of conquest. This penalty is capped, however, at a certain number (60?) of provinces, meaning that further expansion (even of poor provinces) only boosts technological investments while not boosting costs. In extreme cases of global expansion, the German military will leap ahead the rest of the world a generation in military arms, facilitating an exponential expansion on all fronts. The game engine truly allows for a massive German empire by the game's conclusion. A good first start in overseas conquest is India. As a divided subcontinent, it is easily subjugated through a lengthy and constant series of wars. The wealth and manpower it provides can truly serve as Germany's crown jewel.
The key to remember in constant expansion is the game's checks on such a strategy. Stability will always be a problem. Fortunately, as a member of the Holy Roman Empire, you are in the position to become Emperor, giving a massive boost to stability investments. As Germany expands, however, stability becomes increasingly expensive to boost. To counter this, cease costly European expansion, declare Deus Vult as a National Idea, and attack non-Christian nations overseas.
Your reputation (or "badboy") is the real kicker to global domination. As you grow larger and more dishonourable (to the point of being "hated around the entire world"), your neighbours will constantly declare war on you. The only real threat here is likely to be France. If you keep sufficient forces, fortresses, and regimental camps along and near the border, however, every war can garner a few wealthy provinces. As Germany's strength becomes truly epic, European nations will no longer feel so emboldened.
I actually found Brandenburg to be a fairly effective trader, even with several wars going. By 1457, I had 5 traders in Lübeck and a further 5 in Vlaandren, and after joining the Hanseatic League and retaining one or two effective trade advisors (skill 3 and skill 4) right at the start, I had no trouble competing away traders from France, Denmark and England. Admittedly, this might change as I go on to rack up badboy and such, but I found some early trading to be a good source of money right off the bat.