Colonization strategy

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This article is accurate for the latest versions of EU3, Napoleon’s Ambition, In Nomine, Heir to the Throne and Divine Wind.

This page is a strategy guide for colonization. To learn more about the game mechanics of how colonization works, see the reference guide: Colonialism. Colonizing requires different strategies depending on the size of the nation, thus this guide has been split into two primary sections.

Small Nations

Colonization can be a successful strategy for (coastal) minors and middle powers that have a hard time competing with their neighbours in other fields. The discussions in this guide are generally valid for European countries. Colonisation strategy for minors from other regions may differ dramaticly. Possible choices for pursueing this approach are Brittany, the Irish minors, Corsica or Sardinia, and Holy Roman minor. It is important to realise that distance plays a large role in colonisation, and that only coastal nations can colonise.

New players are advised to start off with one of the bigger nations, the best country to learn about colonising likely being Portugal.

A note on modern knowledge

The player has a very large advantage over those back in the 15th century, this is that he/she knows where to look for the good land. One does not need to send an explorer on a wild goose chase, trying to find the fabled land of America. The best strategy is to have a clear idea of where they want to colonise first, and make a beeline for this area, with out having to explore the entire new world just to find a good island to colonise.

The First Years

Key points of strategy:

  • Trading is key, merchants should be sent to the, probably Antwerp, Lübeck and Venice. Even in the beginning this can yield 15-20 monthly income which will be needed to boost research.
  • Trading doesn't always work. If so, it can be advantageous to war on other minors in order to vassalize them or take their money.
  • Taking loans should be avoided. If an investment can be postponed it is usually better to do so. Exceptions may be made necessary by war or possibly for hiring advisors on October 14, 1400 (When starting the Grand Campaign).
  • Research should be focused on trading tech. Quest for the New World National Idea requires Trade Tech 7. Government 4, which will also be needed can be auto-researched through neighbour bonuses. If successful trading is expected (due to advantageous slider settings) researching Government 4 first for National Trade Policy can be beneficial to the overall strategy as this will increase trade income at this stage by about 30%.
  • When not under direct threat army maintenance should be set to a minimum.
  • Focussing on good relations with neighbors is important. Gifts can be part of that effort though the cost associated with bribing bigger nations often make this approach unaffordable. Signing trade agreements, royal marriages, giving and asking for military access can all serve the same purpose and usually cheaper.
  • Minting should be used only to avoid bancrupty (or taking loans) in case the trading strategy is failing. The short-term-gain is seldom worth the associated increase in long-term costs through inflation.

A note on sliders: Usually it is a good idea to focus on Free Trade first for higher and more reliable trade as no minor starts with a CoT and the foreign trade income is needed for funding research Plutocracy is also helpful in this regard and can be used to strengthen the player's trade, though it is affected by slider restrictions in Feudal Monarchies and most countries will have to use several slider movements to get it out of Aristrocracy. The Innovative-Narrowminded settings depend on the player's approach to colonisation and developing colonies as well as initial slider settings. While Narrominded is generally better in the colonisation phase as the boost in colony growth cuts down on developement time and cost, strong Innovative settings can help getting an early start. Strong Naval settings are generally necessary to maintain an overseas colonial empire, if the player decides to move his capital to the colonies this may be less of a concern. Free Subjects is generally preferably to Serfdom, if the player aims to get faster research this can be a decent alternative, especially the Innovative-Narrowminded-slider is located in the latter range. Moving Centralisation/Decentralisation, Offensive/Defensive and Quality/Quantity can normally be postponed.

Setting Sail

By 1430 the player should be able to choose Quest for the New World. A cash reserve of 100 to 150 ducats should also be available as it will be needed to recruit a conquistador and develop the first colonies. Research from now on should be focused on fleet and government. The first colonies should usually be the Azores and Madeira if the are in range as Portugal can get missions to explore those isles even without Quest for the New World. Once a colony is established additional colonists can be sent there to accelerate its growth into a full-fledged city and cut down on money spend for colonial development. Depending on the player's starting position it may be possible to next settle Greenland to establish another route into North America or move towards the Cape Verde islands and the passage towards Brazil and South America.

Around 1475 an explorer should be acquired to explore the American coast. As soon as the players first colonies core a colony should be established in America. Depending on the financial possibilities additional colonists can be used to develop this colony or establish others. Once the colony cores the capital should be moved there, as this will allow for faster expansion and lessened need for a large navy for sea lane protection. Afterwards the region can be blanket colonized: drop a colonist in the nearest region, wait for him to arrive, then let the colony grow on its own and establish the next one. This should lead to a rapid expansion and turn the former minor into a large nation capable of subjugating or annexing the indigenous nations and fending off the other European colonials.

Big Nations

Are you a new player and already ready to control the New World? Before exploring, here are some things you need to know.

Several nations are perfect for colonization:

  • Portugal
  • England
  • Castille

Wait, what about France? To be frank, France is better off taking colonies than making colonies. France should destroy Burgundy before starting colonization.

Quest for the New World Idea

This Idea needs Government Tech 1 in EU3 and NA but Trade Tech 7 from IN onwards. First, ask Portugal for access to the Azores; this will provide a base for launching exploration. Then, purchase an Explorer and a Conquistador, then put your explorer in command of a Cog or Carrack. Never ever use galleys - galleys will sink fast.

After setting sail to the west, if you are lucky your explorer might discover Bermuda; if not, send a cog with a regiment of troops commanded by your Conquistador and discover it and send a colonist. Bermuda is not inhabited by natives; always colonize Bermuda as it will save many ships. Only send ships to the Azores so after the explorer ship returned the explorer can continue to discover.

Provinces not to colonize

These resources are generally unprofitable and are not worth the investment of colonists.

  • Fish—Only if it is an important island - more on that later.
  • Grain—Poor and worthless.
  • Naval Supplies—Only Bermuda should be colonized.

Best Places for early colonization

  • Cuba—The island has Sugar, Tobacco, and Coffee, some of the most valuable resources in the game.
  • Bermuda - for North American colonies
  • St. Helena - for colonies in South America and in Western Africa
  • Mauritius - for Indian Ocean, South Africa, the way to India and colonies in East Africa
  • Falklands - for South America and Inca Empire if you have conquered it
  • Martinique - placed strategically between two sea areas in Caribbean can serve as a great naval base of operations in the area
  • at least one island in Indonesia before you even start thinking about expanding there
  • Fernando Po, Zanzibar and similar islands around Africa, to secure your operations there and as places to repair ships
  • Modern day South Africa, if your lucky these provinces can produce gold, the best and one of the rarest resources in the game. Beware of inflation however
  • Any and all Caribbean islands, they are all very rich and have great resources such as sugar, tobacco etc...
  • The North coast of Brazil, these provinces have high base tax

Miscellaneous Tips

Dealing with Natives

Low aggressiveness or low numbers can generally be ignored, if you're worried then place some troops there to attack natives. The issue with this is that you lose the bonus of having a larger population in your new province upon completion. Its best to concentrate on the low aggressive natives first to build up a workable base before moving into middling and high aggression provinces. If you want to take your time you need not eliminate the natives but leave an army there to deal with uprisings. Remember as soon as you eliminate natives to have a colonists sent or even before you attack to prevent any competitor benefiting from your hard work. If you decide to eliminate all natives then this can confer a massive increase in colonist chance, 27% for eliminating Aggressiveness 9 natives. Always remember that when a colony turns into a city all natives turn into hard working citizens. So do not kill natives unless you have too

Fire and forget

If you can expand peacfully then sending one colonist and allowing growth naturally means that your colony may take more than 50 years to mature, however the advantage of this is that it will auto-core upon reaching 1000 people.

Dealing with opponents who take colonies you want

You can use the Spy action to Incite natives and if they successfully eliminate your opponents colony then you can send a colonist to the same province. Remember to eliminate the natives to prevent the same fate befalling your colony. Alternatively you can colonise the next door province, this will give you a colonisation causus belli against the country, giving you only 25% of the infamy for conquering the province. In the late game however a small war against another colonial power can quickly spiral into a global affair, meaning you will have to both attack the enemy's far flung outposts whilst defending your own. So always evaluate weather the effort is worth the reward