|At the start of the Grand Campaign – 14 October 1399|
|Government type||Feudal Monarchy|
|Number of provinces||4|
|Center of Trade||None|
Small and weak economically. A target of French and British expansion. Historically inherited by French kings. To survive, Brittany will need a lot of skill in diplomacy and careful planning of colonial expansion.
Brittany starts out (1399) allied with Burgundy. If you choose to maintain the alliance, expect lots of wars that will become increasingly suicidal. Burgundy will usually drag you into a minor war from the start, usually against Bar, Liège, Brabant or Hainaut, but, Burgundy being Burgundy, it will eventually attack anyone who happens to share a border with it (yourself included, if it comes to that). Burgundy is sitting on a few French cores, and it also claims Calais for itself, so it is inevitable that Burgundy will drag you into a major conflict with France or England. The important question is not whether Burgundy can win such a war, but whether you can contribute anything to it. And the answer is no. If at war with France, the French will invade you before turning east; if at war with England, you cannot match the English fleets, especially if England is still allied with Portugal, and Burgundy cannot relieve you unless they have military access through France. If the war goes badly, expect your own provinces to be given away as collateral when Burgundy begs for peace. Breaking the alliance before unpausing the game has no short-term adverse effects.
Prepare for a period of regency shortly after the game starts. In In Nomine, Brittany's initial ruler, Jean V of Dreux, died around his historical date of November 1, 1399; while this event is now less predictable, it will happen sometime before 1405, leaving you most of the time with an underage heir.
France starts disliking you around 1430-1450, and sometimes sooner, depending on various factors. If France has integrated most of its vassals, the English lost their French territories, and Provence been annexed, expect France to draw the "Return Brittany to its proper allegiance" mission; needless to say, it can very well declare war on you despite good relations at any time, without a proper casus belli. Because you tend to maintain good relations with France before this point, you will know this has happened when France starts sending you insults or turns down royal marriage offers. While it is important to maintain good relations with the French, I do not see much of a point in (as the author of the In Nomine section has suggested) allying yourself with them, let alone helping them out against their enemies, whether they be Burgundy, England, Aragon, or the Holy Roman Emperor. In the numerous games I have played as Brittany, I have noticed that England and even a united Spain cannot compete with France on land (in one war I was allied to both; it was a disaster), and the only times I have seen the French collapse was because of concerted action by the larger members of the Holy Roman Empire. If they do roll across France—and you want this to happen, if only because of the schadenfreude value—you want them stopping at your border, thank you very much.
As mentioned above, you have nothing to gain, and everything to lose, by fighting in France's wars, on either side. Does that mean you should withdraw into isolation and hope that France gets busy elsewhere? No, not really. While it's relatively safe at first, it's not a viable option in the long run as you will be in France's sights well before 1500. What you need to do is find allies who can be of use to you but who are unlikely to go about looking for trouble with France, and at first only weak countries—Savoy, the Irish minors, Aragon—seem to be extending alliance offers, with the exception of England and spurned Burgundy. The only worse thing than having France as a neighbour is sharing a border with Burgundy. England might be more reasonable, but it's unable to repel an attack against you. The one country I usually turn to is Castille. It's not particularly reckless (as long as you're Catholic), it's more concerned over annexing Aragon and invading North Africa, but it does realize that France is a menace once Aragon is taken over. The only possible problem is if Castille gets embroiled with England early on. You might also look for a dominant HRE power, Austria or Bavaria, which can counter both France and Burgundy. The French territory, while a constant menace, is a convenient buffer zone against most land-based powers.
The four Breton provinces are poor, but they are culturally homogeneous and are not (in normal circumstances) contested by any existing or potential country. (In the In Nomine expansion, Vendée started out with Cosmopolitaine culture, but this has since been changed to Breton like the other provinces.) Another change is that Brittany now has cores on Anjou and Maine, owned by distant Provence. You can choose to start the war with Provence early on, and it is winnable without involving allies. Provence is in a personal union under Naples, and is a member of the Holy Roman Empire, but the land-locked emperor (usually Bohemia) cannot do much against you, and the only way Naples and Provence can attack you is by sea. Luckily, their fleets are Mediterranean galleys and are inferior to your ships. The Strait of Gibraltar might seem like a good ambush location, but it lies beyond your naval range at the start of the game; a better location is off Galicia. Castille usually grants military access should you need to repair your ships.
Now, the bad news: France also wants Anjou and Maine, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. They are of Cosmopolitaine culture and France has permanent cores on them. Not surprisingly, France will be tempted to launch a reconquest war against you, and since France gets no infamy with reconquest, you're giving it a free casus belli to invade you and strip you down to your capital. In all of the games I played as Brittany, only twice did I get away with annexing Maine and Anjou; in one case, France was already half-invaded by Burgundy, and in the other I was lucky enough to see both provinces shift to Breton culture and France not attack me before its cores disappeared.
So, what is to be done? Simply put, don't try to expand into France unless France is collapsing, which, if it is, will be happening independently of you. Just keep an eye on things and seize any opportunity to expand only if France cannot hit you back. More likely, invaders who aren't Burgundy will break France apart by releasing nations or cancelling vassals. Of these new nations, the most useful for expansion is Normandy. If France had annexed Maine, the province will be part of the new country, providing you with a casus belli if this happens within the first 50 years of the game. Be careful if annexing it all during that time frame, as England also has cores on Caux and Normandie and may try to take them back.
Colonization is probably your best bet for additional territories. Rush to trade level 7 and pick Quest for the New World as your first National Idea. For the first 50 years, your limited range will probably allow you to colonize every territory you have access to. I generally colonize the following territories in this order: the Azores, Madeira (provided Portugal didn't get to them first), the Canarias, and Cape Verde. Your weak economy will not allow you to develop more than one or two colonies at a time without incurring inflation. When you're done, hire a decent navigator (+15% or so) and colonize Greenland; it may seem insignificant, but at that stage of the game, with your limited naval range, it's either Greenland or dodging natives on the African mainland, and you will want the former if you have serious ambitions for North America. Once the Greenland colonies are cored, you can colonize around Hudson's Bay and push inland, and the Hudson Strait is a natural defence point for a would-be naval power such as yourself. But before that, the Azores core will have opened up the East Coast. Take what you can before the Portuguese do; Bermuda will for the first time be within reach as well.
Economy: Four provinces producing naval supplies, fish, cloth and salt. You may want to join one of the trade leagues, but I prefer to build a centre of trade as soon as possible. Your provinces initially begin connected to the Antwerpen center, which is not wealthy enough to split off of, but one of the leagues will usually ask you for salt or cloth rights, allowing you to build a center in the province concerned. It's not going to do great business at first, and may even disappear if it stagnates too much, but, once you start colonizing, it will become stable, and you most definitely can use both the extra revenue and the +0.1 colonist/year. Besides, if you don't build one, someone else will. Also, I always seem to forget to move my national focus to Morbihan; don't make that mistake.
National Ideas: Remember your place. Your only real land threat at first is France, and you can't hope to compete with them. Likewise, you cannot initially build enough ships to rival England's, Castille's or Portugal's fleets. Land and Naval ideas might be useful later on, but they are useless at first; I would suggest not looking at them until late in game. One area that needs all the help it can get is the economy, as you're going to be running on razor-thin margins to avoid rampant inflation, and your kings are usually mediocre. National Bank, coupled with a master of mint, can work wonders, as does National Trade Policy or Shrewd Commerce Practice. Once your colonial empire is under way, Viceroys and Land of Opportunity can prove useful.
French relations. France is the greatest land power in the world and you cannot win a war against them, probably not even with a number of allies. It is more prudent to develop good relations with them, and coexist like Portugal does with Castille. Do everything you can - guarantees, marriages, mutual military access, and trade agreements. You will have to wait until they offer you an alliance, probably later in the game; accept it, and follow France into all the wars it asks you to.
Trade. Brittany is in a really good position to succeed at trade. Work your domestic policy toward free trade, and put all your monthly investments into trade, at least initially. Focus your merchants on the major markets like Lubeck, Antwerpen, and Venezia. Use prudence - remember trade is supposed to be making you money; don't let the investments become too costly.
British relations or naval development. Britain is the other major power you have to worry about. You can either work on relations with them like you did with France, or build a navy that has the capacity to repel theirs. Entering into relations with both Britain and France may get you involved in a War of Succession, which may be either good or bad. Britain has a very large navy; competing with them in their element will be expensive.
Vassals & North African expansion. Vassals are good to have for the extra income and the minor aid they give you in warfare. You can also annex them later on when you get missions to do so. Some nations that should accept vassalage from you are Sardinia, Cyprus, Gelre, and most of the Irish provinces; try to get at least some of them. You can also go to war with a North African country like Morocco and steal a province or two from them, although you may want to wait until there is a crusade, or when Castille and Portugal are at war there as well.
Colonization. As a small country it's difficult for you to support a huge colonial empire. Develop your colonies slowly and make them into full provinces before you expand further.
- Ideas. The naval, trade, and exploration ones will probably be your best bet. National trade policy is likely a good first pick, and grand navy a good second, as Brittany will have difficulty supporting her ships without it.
- Great powers. Watch out for France, Britain, Portugal, and Castille. All of them could potentially backstab you and take your provinces. Watch your relations, work on a navy, and keep backup saves.
- Technology. Trade, naval, and government are probably the things you should focus on.
- Eventually you'll reach a point where you're quite wealthy and powerful, and have good relations with the powers back in Europe. At this stage work on colonies in the Americas, Africa, India, or whatever you want. Enjoy yourself!
Fear not my friend! It's not all that bad. You start at war with England but you have a strong ally in that war - France with her huge armies and skilled generals. The war will be won, no matter how much effort France will put into losing it, it will overcome England sooner or later, it's just far more stronger at the moment than Brits. The only thing you can do is to get something from that war. No point in helping France, it hates you all the time no matter what you do. Try to get 50 ducats for a peace deal after the French crush the English army from Gascogne. Should work.
After this pointless war is over you have to realize one bad thing, you are a target of French expansion. Your poor four provinces are their cores. So you will need friends, and by that I mean powerful ones. Diplomacy is key here, provided you don't want to be kicked out of Europe. Look around this big blue blob in the middle of the map (yes, France). What they can be afraid of? None of France's neighbours can win a war with them alone. You need to ally with at least a few of them. Burgundy is number one. Aragon is number two. England is number three. Castille and Austria can also come very helpful as they are usually those with the biggest armies. Forget about HRE, small countries will be chewed and eaten in no time and will make France stronger instead of weakening it. If you manage to ally with Burgundy and Aragon you're pretty safe for a while.
Now look at the map. You are at a peninsula. Look at your country's sliders, you are very naval oriented, love free trade, the only thing holding you back at the continent is low value of narrowmindedness and lack of explorers and conquistadors. Deal with that. Move your slider to narrowmindedness, more explorers per year means that you will be quicker able to build an empire capable of beating French ass should they come after you. Having dealt with the sliders, there are two more things to do. One of them is employing advisors. In every guide I wrote I encouraged using those who speed up research over the rest, then stability, then number of colonists (if applicable), then the rest, whoever is available. One last thing here. Treasury. We need Quest for New World quickly. So we freeze our income at 0.1 gp per month and move Government technology slider to max the right. Should speed things up.
After that we have no other choice than sit and wait for around two years until first Government technology is invented. Use that time to build up your alliances with Burgundy, Aragon or whoever you want to help you when France decides it's time to take your land (Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Castille?). Avoid pissing off France at any cost, even when they go after one of your allies. Hope they will play with England and others long enough for you to build up enough to at least stop French killing machine for a while.