|At the start of the Grand Campaign – 14 October 1399|
|Government type||Tribal Federation|
|Center of Trade||Astrakhan|
As the Golden Horde you have quite a share of vast advantages as well as painful trouble to face. You are in a decent position to form Russia but this project will also make you face really hard times. It may be easier to watch the Timurids fall apart in the first years, swallow their remains and form the Mughal Empire to enjoy a peaceful life of endless wealth in India. However, if the Timurids don't fall apart you will face a fierce fight on this path.
This chapter gives a short account of your advantages and weaknesses.
- You are the largest country in the area with the highest land force limit.
- As a Muslim you start on tech level 4 which allows a national idea.
- Your starting troops are decent.
- You have a Latin neighbour (Genoa) and Latin Europe nearby that enable you to westernize.
- You have a tribal government which means a succession crisis every time your leader dies (one stack of ~10 rebels in a random core and ~5 rebels in every non-core), usually two incompetent leader traits (following from this your annual income will be decreased by 33% most of the time) and -50% research.
- You are dirt poor. This means you have to deal with inflation sooner or later.
- You have the grand army national idea where drill or national bank may be superior.
- You have the "wrong" tribal government: Your "government reform" decision takes government tech 8, so you may want to switch to a tribal despotism, for which the reform is possible on level 2.
- You are dangerously near to nations of better tech groups.
- Your main culture is of Altaic culture group, so you can't form Russia without moving your capital and performing a cultural shift.
- Most of your provinces have no forts.
- Foreign Policy
You are surrounded by countries of different religion groups, thus a number of wars will be inevitable. Guarantees and warnings should only be employed against other Muslim countries to avoid being dragged into a war, when you are not ready.
- The Russian minors are easy prey. However, Muscovy tends to enact Liberum veto as soon as possible, giving them 5 cavalry and 10 infantry in their capital. Ever wondered why Novgorod gets beaten up despite higher manpower and income? This is the reason. Whenever they are at war against each other, pounce on the winning side to try and keep them equally strong and occupied with each other.
- Lithuania is rather peaceful because they are distracted by the Teutonic Order. If you don't annoy them they should pose no threat for quite a long period. As soon as you are strong enough it is worth the effort to attack Lithuania and get money from them, as they tend to become quite wealthy.
- The Timurids will either be crushed by their first succession crisis or they will be easy to ally. An alliance with them is mandatory to have some help against Ming.
- Ming is the big bully. If you are unlucky they invade Kazakhstan early on and may start bullying you as early as 1430. You have no choice but to take loans and produce inflation to pay them back in order to build up a large army. Their strong generals are particularly annoying so be sure to have 40-50 cavalry on their front to turn the war to your favour. Try using attrition and scorched earth to grind their large stacks and hope for some support by the Timurids. If you can draw up their war exhaustion, use spies to crush their stability and support revolts. This way you might be able to crush them and permanently eliminate them as a threat.
As you have little forts but get tribal succession crisis your military expansion is severely slowed down in the beginning. Don't build too many extra troops, so you have a yearly overall income. Eventually you will have to invest monthly income in cash (mint) to achieve a plus of roughly 50 ducats (=1 fort) per year. Be sure to have forts in all non-cores and try to build forts in strategic places. Astrakhan is important because of your Center of Trade. Otherwise you should try to divide your country into unfortified parts no bigger than 5 provinces by building columns of forts in very large provinces.
Change your government to Tribal Despotism as soon as your stability hits +3 and then recover stability again. As long as you have a tribal government you can afford at most 10 non-cores while it is safer to have no more than 5. Take the decision to reform the government as soon as you can. Unfortunately you need a leader with administration at least 7, so if you are unlucky you will wait extremely long (50–100 years are possible) for your chance to change government. When you got rid of your tribal government you are all set for serious expansion.
- National Ideas
When you recovered stability after your change of government, you may want to change your national idea to Drill or National Bank. Also Field Commission can be worthwhile. Usually your military situation is far better than your financial situation, making National Bank more recommendable. Later National Ideas might include Colonial Ventures to colonize Siberia and Quest for the New World, to colonize anything else.
You have only one gold province in the beginning and low base tax. Also you produce lots of wool and cereals which are mostly worthless goods. You are very mercantilistic so trade will be almost completely limited to your own center of trade. To improve your dull situation, expansion is your only option. A first reasonable target is Alania from Georgia, as it has gold. After your government reform you may aim for the juicy European land or colonize Siberia bearing mostly metals and fur which are usually quite valuable goods. Centralization increases your income and is needed for westernization anyway. Also you may want to boost production technology whenever you do not desperately need another tech. After all production provides up to half of your income.
Early Game Strategies
As sketched in the exposition there are two possible unifications you can pursue. As a third way, there is also the possibility to ignore such unification decisions and play rather straight forward.
Alternative 1: The Russian campaign
If you decide to alter history, pick a fight with the Russian minors to your north. Take their land and move your capital to a province of Russian culture as soon as you can. (To do so, click on the crown in the upper left of the province window.) This costs you 1000 ducats so start saving early on. It also gives you a stability blow of -4. (It should be noted that the decision to move your capital seems to be buggy in the way that provinces west of the Ural are counted as "overseas". This may force you to choose Solikamsk, the easternmost province of Novgorod, as your capital.) If you don't expand to the south (except for Alania, which has gold) but only to the north, Russian will soon become your dominant culture, allowing you to do a cultural shift. Again you suffer -5 stability but after having performed this trick, you can take the decision to form Russia as soon as you have the necessary cores (probably around 1500-1550). This will fetch some neat bonuses (most notably 2 points of centralization, which helps you westernize) that soothe some of the pain. Next you would want to beat up Lithuania and Poland, westernize and finally challenge the Europeans.
Is it worth it after all? Probably not, if you simply compare cost and benefit. But it is a really extraordinary gaming experience with a strong flavour of "alternative history". Also the challenge of keeping your empire from falling apart through the whole process of "identity theft" with lots of stability hits and revolts is quite different from what the game usually has to offer.
Alternative 2: The Indian campaign
If you decide that the Mughal empire, being historically factual, should exist but the Timurids are too stupid to form it (which they are), you will have to take a completely different road. You will have to fight Nogai (which presumably means you have to declare war on them without a casus belli: Their relative weakness makes them very anxious) and after you have reduced them to their capital you must take on the Timurids. If the Timurids were lucky (i.e. Timur died early, so they had not conquered a lot and survive the succession crisis) this will be an extremely fierce fight. Try to conquer enough land in the first war to enable you taking enough provinces to encircle Samarkand. The Timurids will then move their capital, taking a -4 stability hit, so you can take the north of their territory in the second war.
Once you have the northern part of the Timurid lands and thus a connection to India you can either do your best to get good relations with the Timurids or just finish them off completely. For your conquest of northern India follow the instructions of Conquering India as if you were the Timurids. India is very wealthy and the two points of centralization you get by forming the Mughal empire allow for a westernization around 1550, which is reasonably early and allows you to compete with the Europeans.
Alternative 3: Just kill, maim, burn
If you decide not to pretend being someone you are not you can try and just play as the Golden Horde. You will essentially do the same as for the Russian campaign but you will not move your capital and form Russia. However you will not get the centralization from forming Russia, which might prove to be quite a problem as it severely delays your westernization. You might want to choose colonial ventures (+1 colonist per year) as your third national idea to colonize Siberia. This will probably lead to war with Ming in the east, as you colonize the land on their borders. Your technological superiority will decide such a confrontation to your favour. Just use attrition and timing to wear down their incredibly large armies.
If you rather want to take on Europe keep an eye on your enemies land tech levels. At some point they will be superior by roughly 5 levels, unless you westernize. This does not mean that winning wars against them is impossible but it will probably force you to lead painfully long wars slowly grinding enemy armies through attrition in your Russian heartland. Still you should definitely westernize as soon as possible, not for the 20% tech speed but for the neighbour bonuses, which close the gap to the European nations. Even on equal tech level your troops remain inferior, so be sure to have a large superiority in numbers and once again use attrition.
Middle and End Game
After you have westernized, the golden Horde (or Muslim Russia or Mughal) is in an excellent position to attempt a world conquest. If you want to try this you will find some hints in this chapter. However it is very unpredictable how the world looks around 1550, when you start your great conquest. Therefore these hints are rather general and will only point out, which countries might be serious threats.
The general plan that is detailed below comprises conquering the Muslim world first. The reason for this is that declaring war on a Muslim will cost at least 1 stability under any circumstances. The more provinces are owned at the time the longer it takes to recover this stability. That said it becomes obvious, what the benefits are of conquering the Muslims first, however one might find that it is preferable to attack the Europeans as early as possible to prevent them for getting too mighty. In that case some of the advice below clearly does not apply while other hints are rather general.
- If Sweden or Denmark become powerful, it is advisable to conquer Scandinavia during you conquest of the Muslim world, which is very hard due to the low support limits and large provinces and becomes increasingly hard with high tech levels.
- Try to have at least around 10 European non-cores at any time that enable you to field Latin troops. This will make the conquest of the Muslim world a cake walk.
- You need a huge fleet to challenge Britain, so prepare appropriately in advance.
- Invading European countries you can use the hints of Midgame Superpower Slice & Dice. It is also beneficial to get a corridor towards the enemy capital and take the provinces surrounding it. This will on most occasions lead the AI to move their capital and suffer a terrible stability blow.
Conquest of the Muslim World
- After westernization, catch up in tech for some time, until you are roughly 5 tech levels in advance of your Muslim neighbours (except for the ottomans, who are really in the eastern tech group) before you transgress the badboy cap.
- When you enter the badboy war, be sure to direct your main aggression against Muslim countries, expanding towards India, the Muslim islands in the Indian Ocean and Africa. If you attack them later (when you are larger), the stability will take much longer to recover.
- While you are conquering the Muslim world, expand only slowly into Europe and leave some minor buffer states between you and the large bullies (typical candidates are France, Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Austria and Spain). Especially the German minors tend to be very rich, so it is still beneficial to beat the up, even if you don't annex them.
- If you are very fast in India and get bored, it is advisable to take China for the manpower.
- Colonize Siberia first and don't bother to much with overseas colonization. The Europeans will be faster and you can later take their colonies en bloc.
- Build up a fleet parallel to this campaign, so you can challenge Britain in the next step and later take the American colonies.
The European Campaign
- After you have taken India, the Muslim islands in the Indian Ocean, the Middle East and East Africa you will probably be confronted with colonies of the European super powers in Africa that stop your expansion. At this point you should be prepared for a massive invasion in Europe. Your Indian and possibly Chinese acquisitions should allow for huge armies of roughly 500K units.
- Be sure to finish your conquest of Africa as soon as the colonial powers are sufficiently weakened.
- When you have eliminated all Muslim countries, take the overseas colonies of the Europeans. This will only be possible with a huge fleet and a lot of micromanagement. At the end of the day the fleet management of the AI sucks big time, so you can usually challenge fleets twice as large as yours (in a war, not a single battle, that is).
- Altogether it may be possible to get cores in all provinces of the world before 1821, if the start of your game went well.