This guide is intended to provide advice on the best forms of government to use. Your Government strategy should never be an objective strategy-each nation could choose among a variety of governments depending on national goals. Further, there are times when even the worst governments serve a useful purpose. This guide is not meant to provide any definitive answers—instead it will simply show the positives and negatives of each form of government beyond the strictly technical details which can be found in the Forms of Government Reference Guide.
On the Paradox Forum, two polls were conducted (Comagoosie (11/2008) and Grubnessul (1/2009))to gauge the popularity of government forms. The polls were conducted about two months apart with slightly different methods. While both polls had its results ordered differently, they both shared the same top and bottom five.
Listed in approximative effectiveness order, based on the aforementioned polls and subjective opinion.
- Administrative Republic : The Trade efficiency bonus is very effective at boosting revenue, and as it is available at tech level 19, countries in better tech groups will access it very early.
- Revolutionary Republic and Revolutionary Empire: Very strong governments, but only accessible through a difficult chain of events. If the significant military bonuses are not convincing for you, the free casus belli to everyone should be. Besides, the Revolution event maxes out sliders, so you won't need much of the very high administrative efficiency. But as revolutions happen only randomly, in the very late game, and to monarchies, it doesn't apply as universally as other governments, and you risk being attacked by everyone.
- Noble Republic : Combines the good rulers and elections of a Republic with the Royal marriages of monarchies. You cannot lead the Holy Roman Empire, and the bonus is not useful in most situations, though. Love it or hate it.
- Constitutional Republic : 20% bonus to Production, nearly as much as Smithian Economics, a National Idea. Though it won't be of much help for a minor, it is a good way to boost the income of a large empire.
- Absolute Monarchy : The Imperalism casus belli may not be the best one available, but it really suits this government more than the others. With good efficiency and magistrates, it does look like a warmongering Bureaucratic Despotism.
- Empire : The earliest way to gain a good flow of (much needed, if you satisfy the triggers) magistrates. The majority of countries start as a Feudal Monarchy or Despotic Monarchy, and 30 provinces is generally an achievable objective even for any minor regional power, though it is a daunting one for Munster or a French vassal. The morale bonus helps to continue the flow of new provinces. It is also a path for almost all other monarchies, and for the Noble Republic.
- Administrative Monarchy : With a boost to production efficiency, this government can help balance your budget without inflation. It allows more Centralization than earlier governments, and is available as early as Government level 18. However, it is mostly a path from monarchies to republics, especially since the Constitutional Republic offers twice the bonus, though at the cost of Royal Marriages.
- Bureaucratic Despotism : Although there are no elections or marriages, this government has some strengths. 2.40 magistrates every year, on top of other bonuses, is a huge boost, and it has the best administrative efficiency of all (excepting the revolutionary governments), allowing for swift sliders. Combined with some help with Stability, a very strong government for a late game France or Russia, but a waste on an OPM : it is shaped for a huge country, not a trader.
- Merchant Republic : Switching to (or starting as) a Merchant Republic has much deeper gameplay implications than using any other government. With your league and the request of trade rights, you can bring to your fold far away nations, which contributes to your CoT level and, thus, to both your base tax and your manpower. It is possible to gain 3 or 4 levels this way, depending on the influence of other leagues. Poland trading through Liguria or Cyprus giving trade rights to Novgorod is possible. If you send a lot of merchants (which you probably do if you are a Merchant Republic in the first place), -33% to cost can help to maintain a smaller nation's restrained budget, but the influence is very meager unless you like to send hordes of merchants to Bihar or Jiangsu with 5% compete chance. A downside is that most other Merchant Republics will probably embargo you, but with the trade war CB, you can force them to stop doing so every 5 years, possibly with other benefits. Useless for larger, war-based empires, but can be helpful for smaller minors, such as Hansa, Genoa and Venice (Novgorod should switch as soon as possible because of constant warring with the Horde and Moscow, and a more stable treasury). Also, the criteria are not always easy or advantageous to reach if you don't start with a CoT at your capital. Prior to HTTT, its place is much lower on the scale, and is merely a path from monarchies to Administrative or Constitutional Republic.
- Constitutional Monarchy : Lowering Prestige decay can be useful in between wars or when your Prestige is very high, but the magistrate bonus is very useful for large, magistrate-consuming empires. Also leads to the later similar Republic. Not a game breaker, but a good option. This government has a unique decision that provides lower revolt risk, annual prestige, and more magistrates per year. Once the decision is adopted switching to another government enables a repeatable event to trigger (with a fast mean time to happen) that forces one to chose between returning to Constitutional Monarchy or facing loss of stability and noble revolts. Therefore the decision basically commits one to stay with this government once adopted.
- Enlightened Despotism : -0.25 reputation can really make a difference when trying to avoid infamy wars and other detrimental effects. Only available very late in the game.
- Republican Dictatorship : Allows neither elections, nor royal marriages, just as Theocracy. The morale bonus is weak enough not to have much real influence : better take another government that would help you field more troops. Although it does have a good efficiency, overall, this government is weak.
- Theocracy : Neither elections nor royal marriages. It does allow near maximal Centralization, the conversion bonus helps during the Reformation, and the 5% to papal influence does some good, but overall, the redeeming quality do not compensate. Basically, the antithesis of the Noble Republic. Very present around the HRE, most of them being OPM.
- Despotic Monarchy : The limit to Free Subjects can be bothering on the long run, although the limit to Centralization is better than with some other forms. The +10 infamy limit is attractive at higher difficulty, but is not something on which to base a strategy. Allows an easy conversion to Administrative Monarchy, and then to the similar Republic, and to a fewer later governments, should you stay a despot until they arrive. Most of Asia starts here.
- Papacy : Although it has the highest number of magistrates of any early government, the fact that religion cannot be switched and that it is impossible to change for another government kills the papal government. Made better in HTTT because of papal influence. Available only to the Papal States, who cannot leave it.
- Feudal Monarchy : Almost no extra magistrates, and weak efficiency, for a not-so-good force limits bonus (though it can help small but populous countries to have a larger military). Also, beware of the Peasant War events. Interestingly, most countries in Europe start as one. This government seems to have been improved since HTTT was released. It now gives more magistrates than before and has a manpower bonus although it still carries several drawbacks (including slider bar restrictions and the previously mentioned Peasant War events).
- Tribal Despotism, Tribal Federation and Tribal Democracy : The bonuses of each would be good if it weren't for the enormous tech penalties, horrible slider limits and poor efficiency. The Horde casus belli help the Federation and the Despotism in HTTT, but it doesn't make them an alternative to reform as soon as possible.
When to use
For war and large land empires :
- Revolutionary Empire
- Revolutionary Republic
- Constitutional Republic
- Absolute Monarchy
- Administrative Monarchy
- Bureaucratic Despotism
- Enlightened Despotism
- Republican Dictatorship
- Despotic Monarchy
- Feudal Monarchy
- Theocracy (around religious borders or after the Reformation)
For diplomacy and trade :