|At the start of the Grand Campaign – 14 October 1399|
|Government type||Feudal Monarchy|
|Number of provinces||12|
|Center of Trade||Île-de-France|
When the game starts France is one of the most powerful countries in Europe. It has numerous, powerful armies and is winning the Hundred Years War. Your generals are very talented and cash flow is stable and one of the highest in the game. It is really difficult to fail with France. The plan to dominate the world is simple and consists of two steps. First, you consolidate all France under your rule, then, you build a huge colonial empire. Let's start:
The new diplomatic additions especially the cascading alliance system coupled with the increased AI likelihood too use naval invasions has made France's early game somewhat harder. For example, any war with Burgundy could, if you're unlucky, lead too Switzerland, Portugal, Austria, Bohemia, the Holy Roman Emperor, and a swarm of Italian and German minors declaring war all at once: even for a superpower like France that is a death sentence, and that is without England sensing weakness and probably joining in too after a few months. So make sure before you follow any of the strategies below that you examine a target's alliances and possible alliance chains before any declaration of war unless you want 60,000-100,000 troops on your doorstep in a month.
Heir to the Throne
Most of In Nomine's advice apply for Heir to the Throne strategy. In the Heir to the Throne expansion, however, it's possible to force-annex your vassals without reputation penalty as you have the option to de-vassalise these nations, declare war upon them with the reconquest casus-belli, since you have a core on their nation, and them annex them without the penalty. You will take stability hits from this though, so this isn't recommended.
|At the start of the Grand Campaign – 14 October 1399|
|Government type||Feudal Monarchy|
|Number of provinces||12|
|Center of Trade||Île-de-France|
Note that much of the older advice in the EU3 & NA section applies to In Nomine as well.
Aside from some minor differences (for example, England has 3, not 2, provinces in “France”), the biggest substantive difference is with regard to your vassals. You have six vassals to start, and in IN you can’t simply diplomatically annex them all after 10 years. You can only diplomatically annex once every ten years (there is a way around this, arguably an exploit (you demand annexation from multiple vassals at once)), and you move a point towards decentralization when you do so. On the other hand, the obvious alternative, de-vassalizing them, attacking them and annexing them by force, will cost you 28 reputation points for the annexations alone, not counting any necessary declarations of war. If you do that early on, it will serious limit any other conquests for the first couple of decades. So you’re going to probably going to have to resign yourself to many years of play before you fully consolidate “France.” There is somewhat of a saving grace, though: you get a series of missions to annex the starting vassals (as well as Savoy). They each give you a point toward centralization, thus negating the normal penalty for diplomatic annexing. You can also force annex, thus giving you a net move towards centralization. Therefore, the best strategy is to gradually absorb the vassals, taking advantage of the missions, over a period of decades, whether you choose to do so through diplomacy or force.
Burgundy should be completely annexed by force (in three wars) since diplomatic annexing is pretty much out of the question. You have a core on their capital, so annexing them will cost only 3, not six, reputation points (on top of the points for earlier wars when you took non-core provinces from them). Or maybe you'll get lucky and Lorraine will annex Burgundy after you have stripped them of all of their other provinces; then you can take it from Lorraine for a single reputation point. Note that competing in trade even after taking Antwerpen and its COT from Burgundy is still possible, despite the penalty, though obviously you’ll take a hit.
The main differences here are (1) much more restrictive rules regarding colonization range, and (2) the fact that Quest for the New World isn’t available until attaining trade level 7. Getting Quest for the New World early and colonizing the Azores is almost always a good strategy in In Nomine; it’s probably less important for France than for some nations, but is still a good move. But time it carefully and send as many colonists as possible; you don't want to go to war with England or Castille while it's still a colony, as they will seize it from you. You can, as an alternative or as a supplement, also conquer one of the North American native American nations (probably the Creeks) soon after getting Quest for the New World. In either event, once you either get your core in the Azores or in the conquered native American provinces, you can start colonizing the Caribbean, Brazil and maybe North America (as stated above Brazil has significant advantages, but North America will probably be viable as well if you colonize the Azores reasonably early). However, as the above advice suggests, as France a lot of your “colonizing” will be seizing colonies from others. You should concentrate more on establishing bases for such future conquest than (for example) colonizing all of Brazil. Let England, Castille/Spain, and others build your colonies for you, and then take them for yourself. Of course IN also handles revenue from overseas provinces quite differently than did previous versions; see the Colonialism page for details.
Back to Europe
The main difference in this area between In Nomine and the original EU3 is that the diplomatic annexing strategy is no longer viable; this will make Managing Reputation a little more difficult, and negates some of the specific advice above. Castille/Spain will be a tough nugget to crack in the early days for various reasons, including manpower. England even more so until you build a big fleet because of the channel (though you should be able to take 2 of their three continental provinces fairly early). You’ll probably need to fight both, but hold off on any attempts at serious conquest against them until you have built up your manpower and income. Some of the other specifics above are also invalid in IN; for example, you don’t have a core on Lombardy. Finally, there’s no reason not to push into the low countries and Germany as well as Italy, though Italy tends to have richer provinces (and lots of universities) (this applies to all versions of the game).
How to defeat England
Taking England's possessions in the continent usually won't be enough to acquire it through peace negotiations. One possible way to bypass this is to win the war through attrition, i.e. waiting until the war exhaustion in both countries is so high that the English will accept your demands. This is risky, since you'll probably also have lots of nationalist revolts cropping up in the provinces you acquired and aren't Cosmopolitaine yet. It's likely you'll face more problems with nationalism of your regions than the English will.
Another possibility is to move the war to English lands. This can be accomplished by having a bigger navy than them, or micromanaging a good landing. For the first one the national idea Press Gangs is required, since England will usually have a far better and larger navy than you. For the latter you need to have two separate squadrons, one to entice the English navy (which is usually put into one big squadron) and the other to land your troops fast.
And finally, the easier way to do it is to conquer Scotland. Scotland's navy should be weaker than yours, so putting your armies in Britain won't be a problem, and neither should be defeating the Scots. Afterwards, demand a province (the Orkney islands are fine for this), their vassalization or both. During the years between your wars with England, put a very big amount of troops in Scotland and then use your land forcelimit and manpower superiority to conquer their provinces and force them to give their territories in the continent. If things go badly, you can even hire mercenaries in the land province you acquired from Scotland.
The reformation often ends up hitting France particularly hard, as it did historically. Dealing with the reformation could be a significant topic in and of itself, the short version is that a 21st-century policy of tolerance and diversity is not recommended, but there is one bad decision you can make early on that will condemn you to several decades of playing Whack-a-Mole with revolts. So perhaps the most important decision for France in the early 1500s: when given the choice, do not enact the Edict de Nantes. For a more detailed guide for a French conversion to Protestantism, if you so choose, see France Conversion
EU3 and Napoleon's Ambition
Get Calais and Gascoigne from England in your starting war, if you manage to win a siege or two in their homeland they will agree - try to circumvent their fleets as yours are seriously underdeveloped. Sail away to the ocean and around the isles to drop your troops in Scotland if necessary.
Attack, vassalize and diplomatically annex Brittany as soon as possible, preferably just after dealing with England. Makes you safe from that direction and also gives you a nice launchpad for producing fleets to rule the Atlantic. Improve relations with your vassals: Orleans, Bourbon, Provence, Foix, Armagnac, Auvergne and diplomatically annex them all after 10 years of the game, much easier than waging a war against every single of them. No stability hits, low badboy score (just 1 point per province).
One very important thing here: They are all very wealthy, also all are sitting on your cores. AI France often makes an alliance with every single of them early in the game. It is not really worth it. Their troops are weak and low in numbers and are more a problem than an asset. Also, it is easy for the enemy to retaliate on your vassals while at war with you and annex them quickly. If you don't ally with them, they are safe forever and also your mutual relations don't lower due to you starting a war and dragging them into it. So don't ally with them even if they want it.
Wage two wars against Burgundy, take as many cores as possible in the first one but don't take Vlaanderen if you ever plan to trade - taking it will produce 15% penalty to your merchants' success rate and thus kill them all in a week, vassalize them in the second one. Do it quickly, at the beginning Burgundy is a bit weaker than you are. You can outnumber and kill their elite troops with huge stacks of cavalry. Also, try to strike from as many directions as you can and siege many provinces at once. Don't bother with building any fleets and chasing their ships. If an army or two slip to your land, outnumber them with mercenaries.
Force-vassalize and diplomatically annex Lorraine in one of your wars with Burgundy they should be allied with each other. Make sure you do it before signing a truce with Burgundy. Making peace with the leader of an alliance means peace with every single country in that alliance. Wage a war against Aragon and take Roussilion from them forcefully between your wars with Burgundy. Avoid fighting Aragonese fleets, your ships will be dead sooner than you can notice. Don't even build a fleet and hide your starting ships well. If Aragon is allied with Castille, leave this war for now, too much hassle to take just one core. Postpone it as long as you can. Their alliances with Sicily and with Castille will sooner or later deteriorate. Finally, steal Avignon (Tax Assessor inside!) from the Pope if you are not afraid of Excommunication.
To do all of this you need Military Drill National Idea (+50% to your morale) and as much Land technology investment as you can afford (better soldiers, even more morale). Having consolidated France takes around 50 years if you are a good king. Try to base your armies on cavalry. Use many generals. Land tradition will be high, generals will own everything that dares to fight with them. Employ advisors that add to your Land research or to your Stability investment. Move your sliders towards Offensive.
As a bonus to that you can bribe electors of the Holy Roman Empire to choose your king to become the Emperor. Most of the bonuses for becoming the Emperor are useless. You don't need additional manpower and land force limit. If you have reached your limits it means that your army is twice too big for the task you have to perform. But being the emperor also improves your stability investment and this is a noticeable improvement. This bonus is worth spending a few years on making friends with German minors, it really is.
If you didn't neglect your Government research during the consolidation phase, you should have a chance to get your second National Idea soon after taking all or almost all necessary provinces. This is the time you'd better went exploring the new world and found a cozy nice place to send all the colonist you're getting for your high Narrowmindness and Free Trade. There are three places worth going to at the beginning of the colonization effort. One of them is USA, most probably already taken while you were consolidating, Caribbean that needs a huge fleet to defend and huge fleets aren't really a speciality of France. There is also rich in gold and sugar Brazil where you can build a huge country that will be very easy to defend with your great cavalry. This is your best choice here.
If Brazil is already taken, try to colonize around your opponents, build a city or two (with forts!), ship some troops from Europe and do harm them like you were harming everybody around you during the consolidation phase. Colonize Brazil from Santana up to Suriname. It will take another 100 years. When bored with colonization you can annex Incas, Aztecs, Mayas and Zapotec. You have all the resources for that and you don't want anybody to take them before you do that. Be sure you convert Cuzco and Zacotecas to your religion and culture if you ever want to trade. Also be sure you conquer them before they build forts. Not having to siege every single province in the Andes makes things much easier.
You're all set for colonization right from the start. Two things you could improve is moving towards neutral Land/Naval orientation and hiring colonial governors as your advisors. You will also need (obviously) Quest for the New World National Idea and some research on Naval technology to make your ships less disappointing.
Back to Europe
What else can be done in Europe after having consolidated France? Well, in fact you can do anything you want. Good choice is moving where French failed in the real history. Italy is full of universities and wealthy provinces. This is the direction you want to expand to. You have a nice foothold, a claim on Lombard. Take Milan by diplomacy or by force and then pick little countries one by one. Always force-vassalize and diplomatically annex the ones you conquered. If you get greedy your badboy will be recovering for centuries.
Also you should consider taking at least a little part in the world trade. Being such a giant makes research rates quite slow so boosting them with trade incomes is very advisable. Just take shrewd commerce practice and national trade policy as your next ideas and with enough Trade research (a bit above world average) you will be able to place 5 merchants inside every single center of trade you know about. It really is not that hard and the profit is beyond any imagination.
Two hundred years have passed. You have united France and became the Holy Roman Emperor. Then you colonized Brazil and conquered Italy. After your reputation recovered you became the wealthiest country in the world thanks to your patient and careful trading politics. For the rest of the game you can drink wine and become a Patron of Arts as there is nobody that could possibly endanger you.