|At the start of the Grand Campaign – 14 October 1399|
|Government type||Feudal Monarchy|
|Number of provinces||2|
|Center of Trade||None|
|Other accepted cultures||None|
Holland is an interesting and challenging choice. It starts with two rich provinces (Holland and Zeeland), good sliders that ensure domination of centers of trade, a centralised government and stable income. It has the potential to form the Netherlands and the country is surrounded by four weak neighbours (Brabant, Gelre, Friesland, Utrecht) and one strong neighbour - Burgundy. Holland is lucky enough not to be included in the early Burgundian missions that will give Burgundy casus belli to annex Luxembourg, Hainaut, Brabant and Liege. Also Burgundy has cores on Bar and Gelre and also has a mission to vassalize Lorraine. This means that Burgundy will become very large in a short amount of time and therefore Burgundy is a country that must be carefully dealt with and good relationships with them must be maintained.
Getting out of the union
Holland begins as a junior partner in a personal union with Hainaut. There are three main ways to get out of the union:
- Follow the classical path by sending insults to Hainaut. The relationship level with Hainaut must drop below 0: after the death of the king, Holland will get a separate king and become an independent nation. This path to independence can be long and exhausting.
- Dissolve the alliance with Hainaut and simply declare war on them. Holland will immediately get a new, independent king. But here's the catch: Hainaut is protected by the Holy Roman Emperor (most likely Bohemia) and also allied with Trier. So though it's possible to quickly win against Hainaut and get peace (most likely with Trier), Bohemia can send huge armies that are just too strong. Hainaut will be war leader so a quick peace ends the war
- This path towards independence is the most recommended. Simply dissolve the alliance with Hainaut (because you don't want to fight Burgundy) and wait until Burgundy gets the mission to annex Hainaut and declares war on them. Burgundy will quickly win and annex Hainaut. This will automatically free you from the union.
The most crucial part here is not to forget to dissolve the alliance with Hainaut because otherwise you will be having lots of trouble (when having alliance in personal union as lesser partner, you automatically become dragged into war when somebody declares war on major partner of the union). I actually recommend to dissolve alliance right away at the start of the game, because Hainaut is too weak to protect you anyway.
Once you become independent you can define what goals as a country you will pursue. Here's some possibilities:
- Most stable and probably a little bit boring path of staying in the Holy Roman empire and developing your two provinces and trade and later starting colonisation of Americas or Africa.
- The most obvious goal can be to form the Netherlands and expand in Dutch lands by making a strong economical and military base for future colonisations. If you want to form the Netherlands as quickly as possible, you must leave the Holy Roman Empire before you wage war on Utrecht or Friesland. In Divine Wind, the Emperor has the right to ask you to cede every imperial territory on which you have no core and even if you do not agree with this (and that will dramatically decrease your relations with emperor), you will suffer from "unlawful imperial territory flag" which will make your newly conquered province economically less efficient and more rebellious.
The biggest problem here is that after you conquer some territory on which you have no core and decide to leave Holy Roman Empire, you will have to release every country that belongs to HRE and on which you have no cores. So the best choice is to leave the Holy Roman Empire altogether right before you start conquering necessary provinces for forming the Netherlands (Utrecht and Friesland).
Alternatively, subjugate Utrecht and Friesland. Since Holland doesn't have any country-specific missions there is a good chance that one of your next missions will be to integrate your new vassals into your country. You have to wait ten years after first vassalizing them and another ten between the first diplomatic annexation and the second, but the missions grant instant cores, allowing you to form the Netherlands somewhere between 1425 and 1430.
The difficulty of getting Friesland and Utrecht will depend on what alliances these country have at that point of the game. Try to attack when they are not be protected or allied with big countries like England, France or Burgundy. It's strongly suggested to ally with France or England. An alliance with England will be more likely to happen than an alliance with France (France is a bit more reluctant to ally with Holland, but France is an overall better ally because it directly borders Burgundy). Alliances with big countries will be enough to protect you from Burgundy, which will be biggest threat in the early game. Once you will form Netherlands, the path will be similar as described below in "Heir to the throne" strategy.
Heir To The Throne
Holland represents an interesting challenge: beginning with only two provinces, it begins as a weak state; starting with excellent sliders for trade and technology, it begins as an economic powerhouse. Lesser advantages include many weak neighbors, the ability to form the Dutch nation relatively early, and a good position for building a North American empire along the modern Canadian and US Eastern Seaboard. Two basic strategies are outlined: a republican strategy that hews more closely to the Dutch historical experience, and an imperial strategy that centers on forming the Holy Roman Empire as a nation state.
On Being a Trading Power
Dominating world markets is primarily a function of five things:
- Domestic policy sliders: Especially Free Trade, which can be maximized in 1399 or with the Statute of Monopolies decision later (also Naval, Plutocracy later)
- Minimizing penalties: -15% compete chance for each non-Core CoT, -2%*Infamy compete chance
- National Ideas: National Bank, National Trade Policy, Shrewd Commerce Practice
- Trader Advisors: +2% compete chance per level. These are often unpractical early in the game, but later on are essential.
- In game bonuses: Being Reformed, having an Administrative Republic, National Decisions such as Formalize Scales, Weights and Measures., Found Oost-Indische Compagnie, Establish Bank of Amsterdam (at Trade Technology 24), Statute of monopolies, and the Importation act.
In practice, minimizing Infamy and non-Core CoTs requires particular attention. It is often useful to hire Diplomat Advisors to bring Infamy back under control after a war, but it is far better to minimize infamy in the first place. Trading powers take advantage of casus belli to manage Infamy, eschewing a more aggressive, warlike path.
Strategy in Brief
- Holland begins in 1399 as the junior partner of a Personal Union with Hainaut. Trade, the National Bank National Idea, and Masters of the Mint Advisors can be used to build an economic base that can support a large army. This army can then be used to annex Friesland and Utrecht at first opportunity in order to form the Dutch Nation (see Forming the Netherlands).
- Once becoming the Dutch Nation (or even before, if a good opportunity arises), other provinces can be acquired on which the Dutch have a Core. The Reconquest casus belli allows such annexations without a gain in Infamy. This will build a solid base in Europe as a "middling power". Meanwhile, in this period, an early dash for the Atlantic islands, from Newfoundland to Cape Verde will provide a springboard for post-reformation Expansion. This period is also when election to become the Holy Roman Emperor becomes likely.
- With the Reformation, Holland should become Reformed for the trade benefits, and begin colonizing North America, trying to beat the Castillians/Spanish, Portuguese, and English/British to these rich lands. With the increase in Force Limit granted by the Imperial crown, it should be possible to face down France, crippling it for good.
- The American Empire can be expanded while working around the Cape of Good Hope to the East Indies to build a colonial empire in the Spice Islands. In this period, once France is broken, one can either bid farewell to the Empire, becoming an Administrative Republic or pursue the later Imperial Reforms, thereby Forming the Holy Roman Empire as a nation state.
On France and Burgundy
As a tiny nation, the ever present danger will be attack from one of these two foes, with Burgundy presenting the early game threat, and France being the terror of the middle game (sometimes Burgundy consumes France in the early game and effectively replaces it as the primary threat to Holland). If Burgundy attacks very early on, Holland will be destroyed (note that it is possible to break the alliance with Hainaut (highly recommended) even while in the Personal Union, so that if Burgundy attacks them, Holland will not be dragged into the fight). Barring this, use diplomacy to keep Burgundy somewhat friendly while Holland is busy swallowing Utrecht, Friesland, and the other Dutch Cores. However, at some moment, France will attack Burgundy with sufficient strength that Burgundy may fall fully under the French yoke. The two Dutch Cores, Antwerpen and Vlaanderen, must be snapped up (along with any other targets of opportunity) during this conflict. Therefore, either during this war (hopefully pre-empting French occupation of these provinces) or immediately afterward (once France has conveniently destroyed the Burgundian army), seize these provinces from the hapless Burgundians.
At this point, nothing will be more important than fending off the power of France and gradually building an army capable of defeating her. It cannot be emphasized enough the value of maintaining a strong army at peak size, cultivating strong alliances, and keeping good relations with France. Do not in any way antagonize France until you are the stronger party. For this reason, never annex a French Core. Nota Bene: Especially in the early game (see below), it may be wise for Holland to maintain an army that substantially exceeds the national force limit.
On The Empire
The Holy Roman Empire is initially a boon to Holland. The Emperor will protect you from unprovoked attack, yet with a casus belli, you can attack an Imperial province without raising the ire of the Emperor. Some of the early Imperial Reforms decisions are even beneficial. The deterrent effect of Imperial protection can be very useful for keeping Burgundy and especially France at bay, so remaining within the Empire until Holland is strong enough to stand on its own is probably wise. Very early in the game (probably due to the small size of Holland), even excellent relations with all the electors will not induce them to support Holland's imperial ambitions. However, as Holland grows, election becomes possible and highly desirable, thereby allowing the formation of an army large enough to challenge France. After France has been defeated, the Empire can either be deserted (for the benefits of republican government), or fused into a nation state through Imperial Reforms
1399-1420 Going Dutch
Holland can begin the game by breaking the alliance with Hainaut (protecting Holland in the event that Hainaut is attacked by Burgundy), shifting the slider to maximize Free Trade, and in setting the merchants to autosend. These last should dominate all European markets before 1410.
On the first day of year two, a large number of high-level advisors become available for hire. Holland can maximize cash flow by hiring the three highest level Masters of the Mint available. Upon reaching Government Technology 4, the National Bank National Idea becomes available, also allowing for lots of money without inflation. In combination with trade dominance and Masters of the Mint, it should be possible to reduce any inflation to zero in a few years, and after that point to gain an enormous surplus by setting the monthly inflation slider to zero. This huge surplus (as long as the maintenance sliders are minimized) allows Holland to build a very large army (16-24k) for a two-province minor power.
Once the army is built, the initial goals should be Friesland and Utrecht, since acquiring these allows for Forming the Netherlands. This can be done aggressively, without a casus belli, with a high cost in infamy. If this path is taken, it is usually wise to wait for a moment when the Emperor is bogged down in another war to avoid having to fight the Emperor as well. Diplomat Advisors can be used to reduce infamy more rapidly. Alternately, a more diplomatic approach can be used, with warnings and alliances to try to provoke a war with lower infamy cost.
In signing peace treaties, it is good to remember: (1) infamy wrecks trade, which will destroy the economy, (2) making an enemy a vassal greatly reduces the infamy cost, and (3) one must annex Utrecht and Friesland at all costs as soon as possible, for purposes of forming the Netherlands. Because of the high cost of war in infamy, an "opportunistic approach" is advisable whenever possible. If a casus belli allows one to annex a province with little or no infamy, the opportunity should be taken, but outright warmongering will shatter the economy. If poor trading position results from high infamy, the army can be cut with caution.
1420-1540 Prelude to the Golden Age
Fifty years after the annexation Friesland and Utrecht, The Netherlands can be formed, and after that time, The Netherlands will receive cores on, and the Reconquest casus belli against, any nations possessing, Gelre, Breda, Limburg, Brabant, Vlaanderen, and Antwerpen. So long as none of these are possessed by France or Burgundy, these are easy, infamy-free conquests. Opportunities may present themselves for other conquests or to diplo-annex any countries made into a vassal during earlier wars.
Also in this era, election to Holy Roman Emperor becomes possible. The benefits to Force Limits are highly desirable, allowing for an army large enough to challenge France. Careful diplomacy should be able to maintain relations with the Electors such that the Dutch monarch remains the Holy Roman Emperor generation after generation.
In or about 1450, Government Technology 9 will be reached, enabling Quest for the New World (QFTNW). If at all possible, it is worth racing ahead to obtain this, and get an explorer, a conquistador (both types of leaders), and some land units to the following islands to begin the era of colonialism by sending colonists to each in this order: Azores, Madeira, Canarias. These are stepping stones to the New World and South Africa (and the Indian Ocean beyond). As time goes on, Cape Verde, Greenland, and Beothuk (on Newfoundland) will come in range. These should be colonized as they become available.
At Government Technology 11, the National Trade Policy National Idea is an excellent choice. The Formalize Scales, Weights and Measures. is a phenomenal boost to trade benefits. This will allow the Importation Act and Statute of Monopolies National Decisions for further economic benefits.
Prior to the Reformation, acquire colonies as a defensive measure; acquire those lands likely to be acquired by other nations with QFTNW. One plot of land deserves special attention. The Native Americans occupying Muskogee possess a large number of inland provinces. If another power attacks them before The Netherlands, a powerful colonial rival will be created, but seizing all of these lands prior to the Reformation will make the instability created by that event very difficult to manage. One very useful strategy is to attack these lands as soon as possibly, but to only seize the Southeasternmost territories: Muskogee, Yamasee, Apalache, and Pensacola. With those in hand, other colonial powers will be unlikely to come into contact with these territories.
The Reformation will more or less correspond with the formation of Cores on the Atlantic islands seized in the 1440s. The Dutch, as a trading nation, will want to become Reformed, but only after reaching Government Technology 15 and building courthouses to reduce revolt risk. Becoming the Defender of the Faith is quite advantageous. It will take some time to restore stability to +3, and will take longer if many provinces have been acquired, though being Emperor will also help. After stability is restored, any advantageous religious decisions should be taken (in particular, the Act of Uniformity Test Act National Decisions ensure a slow, but steady flow of Missionaries to convert provinces to the True Faith. For any colonies that are not self-sustaining, a single settler will convert then to Reformed.
In about 1540, at Government Technology 18, it is possible to form an Administrative Monarchy, ideal for both strategies, and the ideal governmental form for an imperial strategy, and at Government Technology 19, it is possible to form an Administrative Republic, the trader's government of choice for the rest of the game if one is to follow a republican strategy. Another particular milestone to note in this era is Mauritian Infantry at Land Technology 18-a huge improvement at the time.
The Golden Age: After 1540
This is a difficult period to predict. In Europe, it may well see a showdown with France. In the South, it will see advances to the Cape, then the Indian Ocean Islands, then the incredibly rich lands of the East Indies, which also allow for the powerful Found Oost-Indische Compagnie Decision for another trade boost. In America, relentless expansion is to be encouraged.
Your initial goal is, of course, to insult Hainaut until you manage to get out of the personal union. While you are trapped in this diplomatic bind, use the opportunity to begin placing merchants in the best possible COTs. You are a trade powerhouse - use it to the hilt. I recommend building your army to 5 cavalry/2 infantry immediately, so that if you do end up in an early war with Burgundy or Brabant you can fight them off. You will need a little bit of luck, here. It's very possible to be overwhelmed by Burgundy in 1400, so don't be ashamed to restart. The initial slider move should be used to increase either innovation or centralization (though the latter can result in an uprising that overwhelms your little army). You will gain the ability to increase your free market to the maximum with State Monopolies at 50% Trade Efficiency (TE) later. Generally, National Bank is a good choice for first National Idea-this will cause you to crank out cash like crazy, and you won't need help dominating European markets in the early game. Manage inflation carefully-you should be able to hold it near zero with the National Bank, while generating a large surplus and keeping up with the limits on Technology research.
Late Early Game
Your goals here are twofold. (1) Opportunistically pursue opportunities to annex Friesland, Antwerpen, and Utrecht (all high priority) and Gelre, any Brabant provinces, and Vlaanderen (if possible, but lower priority) and (2) become Holy Roman Emperor (HRE) and remain on good terms with the Electors.
The reasons for the first are to gain high-value provinces that will allow you to become the Dutch Nation (cores on Friesland and Utrecht required) or will become cores (and therefore very high tax-yielding provinces) after becoming Dutch. As a COT and Dutch core, Antwerpen is a juicy plum. Watch for a war between Burgundy and either France or Brabant for an opportunity to snap up Antwerpen (or maybe even rich Vlaanderen as well). If France is about to carve up Burgundy, grab what you can, but under no circumstances annex a French core province like Artois - you aren't ready to face France.
The reasons for becoming HRE are threefold, and it is made possible by your large trading surplus. Maintain your dominance of financial markets! First, if you decide you need or want to annex a province that is part of the Empire, if you are the HRE, you won't have to fight the HRE for it, obviously. Since in the long run you won't survive as a dinky nation, you'll need to absorb some provinces now and then, even after one absorbs the Dutch cores. Your goal is to become powerful enough to stand against France without the benefits of being HRE! Second, being HRE gives you lots of opportunities to fight wars without accumulating Reputation (Badboy) points, which will keep your prestige up and provide opportunities for easy vasssalization of Germanic minors. Third, the increased land force limits and manpower allow you, even as a small nation, to act as the bridle of France. Under no circumstances should you allow France to become HRE! It is not recommended at this early stage to try to dismember France, but this will help you contain her while you grow.
By now, you should be The Netherlands, and have roughly the Dutch core provinces. This, combined with being HRE, should allow you to maintain a sizable military and intervene in the Empire's various minor wars, from which you should pick up limited goals (a province here, a vassal or white peace there) with manageable Badboy (but watch your merchants-make sure they stay competitive!). Pick up National Trade Policy and Shrewd Commerce Practice at Government 9 and 11, respectively. This should allow for the cash flow to maintain you as HRE, keep you up on technology, and keep markets under control. Try to bring centralization to -5 if it is not already there, while maximizing Innovation. Naval is a secondary slider goal for future colonization. From Government 12 you have the option to become a Merchant Republic. This will mean effectively abandoning the HRE (which you should leave when you lose the Imperial crown), so you may want to wait until the Reformation, at which point you will want to leave the HRE and become Reformed. The real strategic choice before this happens is whether to attack France. You will have to decide based on the situation in your game. Even with Spanish or English help and a Dutch-controlled HRE, this is a tough war. If you succeed, emphasize the breakup of France rather than provinces gained at the peace treaty. Once defeated, France can be more easily defeated again. If you do not fight France, make sure you are on very good terms with them before leaving the Empire and becoming Reformed. Toward the very end of this period, you should obtain Quest For the New World (Government 17) as your fourth Idea. Immediately obtain advisors who extend your colonial range. With these advisors and your high Naval Technology level, you should be able to colonize parts of Africa (kill off the natives with cavalry first!) further down the coast than your European rivals and you should be able to snap up most of what is now the US Eastern Seaboard. Do not let European rivals wipe out American Indian nations. Either guarantee them or annex them yourself first.
From here, each game will take on its own character. You will want to beat your rivals to the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) and to Java to obtain the Dutch East India Company benefits, and establish yourself in America (including the Caribbean if possible). At this point, you should be one of the Great Powers of Europe, and all the normal strategic guidelines apply. Remember, your income comes from trade, trade, trade. Colonies will give you the manpower to stand toe-to-toe with European rivals. After the Reformation, the HRE should wither, but don't allow France to dominate it. Maintain a navy that can at least convoy large numbers of troops to England before the Royal Navy can sink it. Remember to maintain enough of an army both in the colonies and in Europe to fend off the threats in both places.