Economic strategy

From Europa Universalis 3 Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

This article is accurate for the latest versions of EU3, Napoleon’s Ambition, In Nomine and Heir to the Throne 4.1b.
Please help update this page to include information on the DW expansion.

Understanding how the EU3 economy works is an important first step to understanding the best strategies to use to achieve your goals. The goal of this guide, however, is to provide players insight into the most useful ways to achieve their economic goals. The first question a player must answer is what type of economic success is most required: an increase in annual income or monthly income? While both can be sought for and achieved, each goal requires a different strategy to achieve.

Nations Well Suited For Trading

While it is possible for most nations to become economic powerhouses, some nations are very well suited for economic success.

  • Venice, Genoa, Hansa: These three Imperial merchant republics are similar, and are the natural choice for a trader. You start off with a CoT and your government grants you a break on merchant costs and advantages to your CoTs. With merchants being cheap you can trade without it having drain your budget, and your trade league and the claiming of trade rights will help increasing the amount of traffic through your CoT. Venice and Hansa also have decisions that enhance economy, and have unique missions related to trade. They can also create Germany (Hansa) or Italy (Venice, Genoa) with a relative ease, giving a bonus to centralization. However, they start highly mercantilistic, which will hurt trade elsewhere in the world. Venice and Genoa have the advantage of a (highly contested) naval empire (in Greece and in Crimea, respectively) as a basis for other operations. Also, at the start, partly because of a strong navy, they are difficult to vanquish, and lack major land-based menaces (for a time), though the Iberians, the Ottomans, and Sweden threaten directly the interest of, respectively, Genoa, Venice and Hansa. To maintain safety, the constant building of a modern fleet will be necessary, and can force to mint some more.
  • Switzerland: Their starting government, Administrative republic, gives a boost to trade efficiency, and their initial slider position (full free subjects, and full plutocracy) has some positives, however they do have full decentralization which comes with steep penalties. However, Switzerland has no ports, making it unable to explore terra incognita: this will prevent you from opening markets in the CoTs of East Asia, such as China, India, and Malacca, where very good trading can be done. Ideally, Switzerland needs to conquer its way to the coast 50 years before discovering trade technology 7, to have a core port where ships may be built, which could be difficult due to powerful neighbours, often HRE members. That said, the disadvantage of having to wait longer before you can trade in Asia is perhaps no so great in a wider perspective. Note that Switzerland starts with +5 Decentralisation and has relatively low tax provincse and as such taking loans and/or heavy minting will be required to maintain a steady stream of merchants.
  • Denmark: Denmark is quite a unique trader because it starts with the Sound Toll. This toll (controlled by the provinces Sjælland and Skåne) gives a +25% boost to national CoT value. Denmark also has a good Free Trade slider, and often inherits Norway. It must maintain a powerful navy to resist Sweden or expand, which could drain ressources.
  • Portugal: Portugal is one of the mercantalist traders that can easily swap roles in the course of a few decades. Starting with Lisboa a CoT, and having access to the "Remember the Navigator" Decision, Portugal is a good choise for Traders who want to mix with colonizing. The "Remember the Navigator" Decision gives +5% Trade Efficiency, making your trade income more valuable. Its position on the edge of Europe offers it both protection as well as proximity to America, Africa and India allow it to dominate colonisation from early on.
  • Holland: Despite being in a difficult and fragile position, Holland is a trade and tech powerhouse. Because of very fortunate starting sliders, Holland can quickly dominate all CoT's in Europe. Because of the size of holland, teching is also extremely fast, giving way to a speed jump at colonizing, or reaching Asia. Forming the Netherlands also provides tax and centralisation bonuses while also replacing the East India Trade Company decision with another, with the same requirements and bonuses, with the added bonus of increases naval range.
  • Novgorod: One would not think a Russian for a trade nation, but despite this, Novgorod is also one of the best trade nations. It starts with very high Free Trade, and is a Merchant Republic. It owns one of the richest CoT's in Russia and Europe, even though it will be more difficult to expand it than with the other Merchant Republics. The need for a military campaign can however spoil trade, as the Bad Boy gained from taking lands from Muscowy, Lithuania and GH can easily disrupt competition chance.
  • Navarra/Provence: These nations are not for the faint of heart, because the obvious threat from either France or Spain/Aragon lurking at the corner. These nations however, do possess extremely good sliders which are very fortunate for Trade, as well as teching. Out of these options, the most suitable is Provence, with several provinces and, in HTTT, a personal union with Naples, which is not as difficult to get out of as its vassalage to France in IN. The best options for these countries is to colonize like mad and try to flee European Mainland. If playing Provence: above all, don't ally France.

National Ideas

The following National ideas directly impact the economy:

  • National Trade Policy: +10% trade efficiency, which also causes +5% merchant competitiveness and +5% merchant placement.
  • Shrewd Commerce Practice: +10% merchant compete chance.
  • Merchant Adventures: -33% merchant cost.
  • National Bank: Reduce inflation by 0.10/year.
  • Viceroys: 25% tariff efficiency.
  • Bureaucracy: 5% tax modifier.
  • Smithian Economics: 20% production efficiency.

Most players advocate choosing National Bank or National Trade Policy first, and the other second. National Trade Policy has a direct and immediate impact on monthly income (+10% trade efficiency), while National Bank has a direct impact on annual income so long as a player can devote the appropriate resources to minting. Shrewd Commerce Practice is also very popular with traders, and Viceroys is a must for major colonizing powers.

Domestic policies

Domestic policy sliders changed quite a bit from EU3 to IN; any changes will be noted below. The most important Domestic policies for a trading nation is:

  • Mercantilism/Free Trade: In EU3, this slider oddly enough does not influence trade. In IN, this slider is quite important. For powerful starting nations bent on rapid world conquest, Mercantilism provides massive bonuses for merchant compete chance (+40%) and merchant placement (+50%) in the nation's own centers of trade. Otherwise, most nations will benefit the most from Free trade: +10% trade efficiency; +25% foreign compete.
  • Centralization: Centralization provides a 15% production efficiency increase and a 20% tax modifier.
  • Plutocracy: Plutocracy provides a +5% trade efficiency, and increases placement chance by 20%. This increase comes at the cost of more expensive cavalry. Choosing Plutocracy, however, is debatable: a high aristocracy might benefit a Trade nation better because it has more benefits to the military arm than the extra Trade Efficiency would give. High Plutocracy should only be chosen if the player wants spies.
  • Land/Naval: In EU3, naval provides +5% trade efficiency and +5% production efficiency. After IN, Naval only provides +25% global tariffs, and cheaper ships to keep full tariffs otherwise.

Forms of Government

The two main Forms of Government (e.g. Monarchy and Republic) provide certain economic bonuses. Note that there are significant differences between governments in EU3/NA and IN, as noted below. Generally, republics provide better economic bonuses.


  • Noble Republic: Government tech level 10. Increases tolerance, which is only very rarely useful. Notable as the only republic which allows royal marriages and the associated diplomatic options.
  • Merchant Republic: Government tech level 12 (3 in EU3), available only through decision HTTT. Several Italian minors start with this government in IN; in HTTT, these have mostly become Noble Republics, with the exceptions of Venice and Genoa; the Hansa, a new nation, is also one. This government allows you to send out merchants with a 33% discount (25% in IN), which is especially useful at the beginning of the game when money is tight, and two diplomatic options : asking for trade rights, and the creating of a trade league, which can have an influence on your CoT value. See its article for details.
  • Administrative Republic: Government tech level 19 (11 in EU3). This provides +10% trade efficiency means more income and 5% merchant compete and placement chance. This government is often considered the ideal Government Type for European Based traders.
  • Constitutional Republic: Government tech level 47. Provides a +20% production efficiency. This Government Type is mostly ideal for Traders that have a lot of colonial land, and wish to increase their production from those lands, as well as the value of their CoT's. Before taking this decision however, calculate the loss of 10% Trade Efficiency, and add 20% Production Efficiency, to look how much you would gaining or losing.


  • Empire: Government tech level 2. No economic bonuses.
  • Administrative Monarchy: Government tech level 18 (10 in EU3). Provides a +10% production efficiency bonus.
  • Constitutional Monarchy: Government tech level 32 (24 in EU3). The +2% Prestige bonus makes it considerably easier for a nation to keep a high prestige, and all the economic benefits that entails. In EU3 & NA, however, this form of government only receives a 50% merchant discount, which that late in the game is quite worthless.

How to change to a Republic

Starting as a monarchy: When you change, do it in one go (that is, wait until you have research government tech 19, thus are able to go directly from feudal monarchy to ), and be prepared to invest all your money into stability. In addition, wait until you have 5 merchants in at least 4 CoTs. With -3 stability, you won't be able to expand your trade until it has improved.

  1. Through Noble Republic : From Feudal Monarchy to Despotic Monarchy to Noble republic at Gov tech 10. Noble republic gives a +1 tolerance towards heretics and heathens. This is exceptionally useful for coming trough the reformation (because as a trader you really don't want to be Catholic) While the cycle of a Noble Republic is 8 years instead of 4, it does still have the option of a Royal Marriage, so inheriting countries is still an option. This is the only viable strategy for Denmark, if you wish to maintain the Personal Union with Sweden and Norway while switching Government types. From there, you can go to Administrative and Constitutional Republic
  2. Through Administrative Monarchy : The most advantageous path for Feudal Monarchy. Wait until you have reached Government tech 19 before changing governments. Then change to Administrative Monarchy, available at government tech 18, and from there to Administrative Republic, available at government 19. This will only cost 5 stability (-1 from despotic monarchy to Administrative Monarchy, -4 from Administrative Monarchy to Administrative Republic), which is, granted, still a lot. However, unlike the route above, you can take this one in steps. Administrative Monarchy is better than Despotic Monarchy, and has no policy sliders limitations. So change to that when you get the chance, and then take your time getting to Administrative Republic.
  3. Merchant Republic: Becoming and staying a Merchant Republic is more interesting than before, and is not a first step to other republics any more. To do so, however, is much, much more complicated. First, you need to become either a Noble or Administrative Republic or a Republican Dictatorship, which is difficult in its own right. Then, you need to have 25 placed merchants and a CoT in your capital (which might require you to shift it). Most of the time, it won't be worth it, and the most reasonable way to play a Merchant Republic is to choose one of the starting ones: Novgorod, Genoa, Hansa and Venice.

Note: Going to a Constitutional Republic is optional, it should only be done if the gain from Production boost outweighs the loss of Trade Efficiency.

Starting as a Theocracy: Then you're essentially screwed. Your only option to change government from a Theocracy is to Absolute Monarchy, for a whopping 10 stability. Furthermore, Absolute Monarchy is available at government tech 27, meaning you're stuck with your backwards theocratic government until around mid-game. Since you're not doing aggressive expansion as a trading nation, you won't have anything to convert, so your government is left essentially giving you no bonuses at all. As said above, do not change a government which will bring you to -3 stability until you have 5 merchants in several CoTs. You'll be unable to expand your trade with that stability. There is no point in stability investments since you'll soon have Government tech 28, which will open Republican Dictatorship. Switch to this one (-4 stab. from Absolute Monarchy), and from Republican Dictatorship to Administrative Republic (another -4 stability). You're now back at -3 stability, ready to invest all your money in stability again for some years.


Research can help the economy in various ways, but the two are so interconnected that you can't really leverage one area to help the other. You can't have a good research program without a good economy, and it is hard to have a good economy without modern research! If anything, a strong economy is necessary first, which will then propel forward a research program that can keep your nation ahead. That said, the areas of research most helpful to economic success are:

  1. Trade: provide trade efficiency bonuses. Trade 15 can build monopolies (7 in EU3 & NA).
  2. Production: provide production efficiency bonuses
  3. Government: provides national ideas, which can be used to significantly improve the economy (as outlined above). In EU3 & NA, government levels 1, 4, 9, 11, 17, 22, 33, 42, and 53; in IN and HTTT, 4, 9, 11, 17, 22, 25, 30, 33, 41, 50, 61, 65.

Province Improvements

Several province improvements provide important economic benefits:

  • Production (1 / 9 in IN) Can build Workshop: Increases base tax. This is a great investment.
  • Production (6 / 14 in IN) Can build Textile manufactory: Production research bonus and small increase in trade income.
  • Government (16 / 24 in IN) Can build Customs house: Small increase in annual tax income.
  • Trade (6 / 14 in IN) Can build Refinery: Trade research bonus and a small increase in trade income.
  • Government (12 / 20 in IN) Can build Constable: Increases annual tax income and increases risk of revolt.
  • Government (23 / 31 in IN) Can build Tax Assessor: Reduces inflation (e.g. helps minting, which adds to annual tax income)
  • Trade (13 / 21 in IN) Can build Marketplace: Increases trade income.

Successful Trading

Firstly, study the Trading Reference Guide which explains the mechanics of trade efficiency, merchant compete chance, merchant placement chance, center of trades, and monopolies.

In 1399, all nations will be ignorant of many of the world's centers of trade; this is less true for Muslims, though. In this time frame, a good goal for the trading state is to place 5 merchants in each of known centers of trade (CoTs). Once this is done, new discoveries should begin to reveal trade centers in the rest of the world, and exploration to uncover more markets to trade in may become useful. You can open trade in newly discovered centers of trade by bribing the government that owns the CoT to get relations to 50 or higher, then choosing the diplomatic menu option 'Open Trade.' An alternate method that is cheaper but less certain of success is to declare war on the owner of the center of trade. Usually this will draw an embargo and then within a year or two after the peace the embargo will be lifted, thus providing access to the CoT. If you can maintain your competitiveness by continuing to invest in trade technology and also avoid any penalties to your competitiveness, you should be able to place 5 merchants in every center of trade in the world. Once this goal is attained, it is worthwhile to attempt to monopolize wealthier centers of trade. Monopolies are often difficult to sustain and usually it is best to ensure that 5 merchants are maintained in all COT's before pursuing them. Auto-trade does this automatically, and only in the highest-rated (green) CoT.

Building CoT value

Owning a CoT is the first step to great riches, since you get boosted taxes, manpower, colonists, merchants, population, and an easier time competing (and later dominating) your own CoT.

You can take the following steps to increase the value of your CoT:

  • Embargo neighboring CoTs - if a neighboring CoT is picking off a lot of your provinces, they may come back to your CoT if you start an embargo. Embargoes cost 3 TE/embargo, and if there is another nearby CoT, they may just go to that one instead.
  • Take neighboring provinces. Provinces prefer to trade with their home country.
  • Build marketplaces in provinces that trade to your own CoT. Marketplaces increase both production income, and the value of the goods traded in your CoT.
  • If your CoTs have lots of colonial trade goods (tobacco, cotton, spices, chinaware, sugar, ivory, etc.), build marketplaces everywhere. Marketplaces increase demand dramatically for these goods.
  • Take events and triggered modifiers that increase "Global Trade Income Modifier", because they increase the value of the goods in your provinces.
  • If you are a Merchant Republic in HTTT, you have the option to request trade rights and to ask or force other countries to join your league.


  • Stability: You'll want to have a stability at +3 all the time. This gives more merchants and helps you compete. Whenever your stability falls below +3, drop what else you're doing, and invest all your research into it.
  • National Decisions: (IN and later) Several national decisions will improve tax and trade income.
  • Reformed religion provides a +10% trade efficiency,
  • See Economic modifiers for details on combining multiple modifiers.