National idea review

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This article is accurate for the latest versions of EU3, Napoleon’s Ambition, In Nomine, Heir to the Throne and Divine Wind.

This is a review of national ideas and their utility, as of Heir to the Throne version 4.1b. It discusses the choice of national ideas from a strategic perspective, and assumes that the reader is familiar with the effects of each idea. Hidden effects of ideas are referred to when it is relevant for determining whether a particular idea is worth adopting. For a full description of the effects of ideas, see the main section on national ideas, especially the hidden effects section.

Naval ideas

Press gangs

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This one looks very good at first glance. Actually, it is even better than that. It doesn’t just halve ship costs as stated, but also halves naval upkeep (that, by the way, goes for all things giving modifiers to troop and ship costs). If you intend to be a major naval player, this one is practically mandatory. Halving ship costs makes you able to afford building that grand navy if you otherwise wouldn’t be able to, and even if you otherwise would, the amount of money saved would be enough to make it very worthwhile anyway. Compared to land troops, ships are expensive to build, and expensive to replace as they won’t upgrade for free to newer designs when invented.

Grand navy

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Doubling the naval force limit might sound like a good thing for someone who intends to be a naval player, but it’s hardly as useful as it might appear. First off, a country with a need for a huge navy is usually also a country with a big number of coastal provinces, whose base tax determines the naval force limit, meaning that it’ll be quite large in the first place. Naval maintenance costs peanuts anyway, especially after having adopted Press gangs. Can be useful for huge colonial empires just to safely maintain 100% tariff efficiency.


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+1 percentage point of tradition per year is not to be scorned. Note that the increase is in percentage points, but the annual decay is a percentage of the current value. Thus, this idea not only slows down decay, but also makes naval tradition converge towards an equilibrium of 33% rather than towards 0%. This boosts tradition levels substantially and allows recruitment of decent leaders without having to fight to maintain the tradition. The high importance of good naval leaders for successful naval combat makes this the second most powerful Idea for attaining naval power, after Press Gangs.

Superior seamanship

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As of Divine Wind, morale in naval combat is now quite important. However, if your fleet and leader are inferior then even with this national idea, you will still most likely lose the battle. Can be used to successfully battle fleet after fleet, but as most important naval combat is done between each nation’s major fleet, this is usually not required. Overall a poor choice.

Naval glory

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Not that useful. Annual decay of prestige is proportional to the amount of prestige had at the time. For this reason, marginal gains of prestige give diminishing returns. Granted, prestige determines final rank (i.e. who “wins the game”), but if you’re powerful and victorious enough to be the leader in everything else, high prestige tends to come anyway.

Excellent shipwrights

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Allows for the recruitment of some very effective explorers and admirals. As of Divine Wind, the importance of a good naval leader has never been more important. The positioning mechanic is directly affected by the leader’s maneuver stat which is can greatly increase damage dealt and reduce damage taken, making this national idea even more important for a naval power. On par with Seahawks, depending on how much naval tradition is gained through combat.

Naval fighting instruction

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Hardly worth choosing, unless you for whatever reason (roleplaying, presumably) intend to gain a large part of your nation’s income by piracy. The additional money you’d gain at the times when you’re blockading during war would be peanuts compared to what some of the other income-giving ideas would give, as those work all the time throughout your nation. The real utility of blockades is to cripple the enemy economy and inflict war score and war exhaustion; the monetary gain is a quite insignificant bonus.

Naval provisioning

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Of doubtful value. If you sustain damage, you’ll usually want to get to port to be safe from attack while you repair. It does effectively speed up your fleets if you have to cross oceans a lot.

Note on naval ideas

Most colonial or trading nations should consider adopting at least one of Superior seamanship, Naval fighting instruction, or Seahawks. Any one of these three ideas will enable the very useful national decision: Enlist privateers.

Land ideas

Grand army

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The utility of this idea depends on the demographics of your nation. Land force limit is calculated from the base tax of provinces, so for a nation with low tax income but huge production, trade or gold incomes (and who thus can afford to maintain a proportionally huge army), it might be useful. However, for most nations, an army at the normal force limit is already hugely expensive to maintain even in peacetime at half maintenance. The main use is for small, rich trading nations, who have the money to fund a large army but not the population. Also triggers the event Military development if the ruler is also a general which can make your nation move toward quality quite fast.

Military drill

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One of the strongest ideas in the game. Morale keeps your troops sticking around when the enemy flees. It makes you win assaults. It protects you from annihilation from breaking early. It makes you fight with close to all your regiments in battle while half the enemy’s regiments have fled. It allows operational initiative when your troops stick in battle exactly when you want them to. It makes your soldiers competent even at low maintinence - perfect if you have rebel problems but don’t want to pay for full mobilization in peacetime. For a nation intent on indulging in aggressive bloodlust from day one, this should probably be the first Idea. Towards the end of the game this Idea becomes less useful as the +1 additional morale is proportionally less when a lot of morale is gained out of tech, but towards the end of the game you’ll have an abundance of Idea slots anyway and will probably have picked all other really essential ones and can thus afford to keep it. Or if you feel you can play without it, skip it, there are a lot of other ideas that are also useful even for a warmonger (says another warmonger).

Engineer corps

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Not bad, but not essential. Utility depends on your strategic doctrine. Useful for players who prefer to slowly but surely advance in a solid front and besiege on the way. Less so for players who prefer to destroy the enemy military first and then split up to besiege maximally.

Battlefield commissions

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Significantly increases your army tradition by setting the equilibrium at 33% rather than 0% (see Seahawks, above, for explanation). A good third to fifth Idea for an aggressive land power. One may even consider taking this idea first instead of drill as high army tradition grants better generals with an additional effectively +4-6 skill points per leader in the early game. This results in an addition of 1-2 points of shock on average. As the maximum modified roll in combat is 12, the roll is directly proportional to damage and the leader bonus raises your roll and lowers the enemy roll, 1-2 points of shock on a leader will mean that you deal 17-33% more damage on average and receive less by roughly the same factor. Of course many other considerations play a role, for example the very slow pace at which the equilibrium of 33% is reached, starting from 0. Still one may want to give this idea a shot. However this idea is rather redundant if you plan on going for a World Conquest since you’ll have high army tradition constantly anyways.

Glorious arms

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Of dubious utility for the same reason as Naval glory, see its entry.

National conscripts

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A really useful Idea for countries with relatively little manpower to wealth, i.e. any country whose base tax makes up a small part of its income. Quite useful for anyone else, too: superior manpower makes you able to win simply by exchanging life for life as long as you're able to avoid annihilation of regiments. Less useful at higher tech levels, since you can get an enormous amount of manpower from the high-level army buildings.

Regimental system

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Of doubtful utility, as most regiments tend to be raised in peacetime anyway, and significant amounts of troops can be raised fairly quickly anyway by simply dividing the recruitment process over several provinces. In Divine Wind, the reduction to land maintenance offered by this idea can prove rather profound as, depending on play style, land maintenance may be a nation’s biggest cost, especially in obscenely large empires where this idea may confer a massive reduction to monthly expenditure.

Esprit de corps

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+25% Discipline will increase the damage dealt by your troops by +25% as well as increasing your tactics by 0.25. At the time you reach land technology level 53, you probably have picked all other ideas you find essential, making this one even more of a no-brainer.

Exploration ideas

Land of opportunity

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If you want to colonize as many provinces as possible in the shortest time, and money is not a problem, take Land of opportunity. With 6 or more colonies developing simultaneously, it will yield more additional yearly settlers than the fixed amount given by Colonial ventures.

Colonial ventures

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For a more cost-effective and affordable boost to your colonization efforts, this is the better national idea. The added colonist will allow you to complete a colony sooner, saving you colonial maintenance costs. This idea is also absolutely critical if you are planning to colonize as a non-Christian nation, since only Christian nations receive colonists based on their religion. If money is of zero consequence, and you intend to use one colonist per province and let it grow on its own accord, then this will increase the rate of colonisation more than Land of opportunity. This is rarely the case, however, because full maintenance on 30 or 40 provinces is way too high in practical terms. Players attempting world conquest and who need large numbers of diplomats to set up/settle numerous wars will find this national idea (in conjunction with Quest for the New World) useful because they can use conquistadors to lead your armies, saving on your diplomats usage.

Merchant adventures

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The least useful of the trading ideas. National trade policy and Shrewd commerce practices should get higher priority though; all the extra merchants in the world won’t help you if a merchant will get kicked out of his center of trade before earning back his placement cost. Since you’ll rarely send out more than 6-7 merchants in a year, if each merchant costs 10Ducats.png, you’re only saving 20Ducats.png a year.

Shrewd commerce practice

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An early idea for any nation intent on being a major trade power. Pick this if your competitiveness isn’t assured; otherwise, choose National trade policy. All the trade efficiency in the world won’t help you if your merchants won’t be able to stick around in the CoTs in the first place. The general consensus is that National trade policy should get precedence.



An idea that every colonial nation should adopt eventually, but not before embracing ideas that help to actually establish the colonies, like Quest for the New World and Colonial ventures.

Quest for the New World

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Well, what can be said? An obvious first or second choice for anyone intent on going colonial from the start. Remember that you can switch from another idea to this one as soon as you reach trade technology level 7 - useful for Asian nations trying to find Europeans and westernize as soon as possible.

Scientific revolution

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A boost to tech research is useful for just about anyone. A solid choice, though not one that changes the way the game works. Pick this when you have already picked all the ideas that are absolutely essential to your specific overall strategy.

Improved foraging

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Quite useful for any land power bent on conquest. No amount of management will make you immune to attrition; at the very least, you’ll suffer it when you and the enemy are simultaneously in a province, or when you combine armies temporarily to concentrate force. Contrary to its somewhat deceptive in-game description, this doesn’t halve your attrition; it doubles the support limit instead.

State business ideas



Quite useful in multiplayer, especially for free-trading nations with poor spy defense. Unnecessary in singleplayer where AI espionage is more of an annoyance than a strategic threat.



+5% (+10% in Divine Wind) isn’t that much, and the longer you get into the game, the less does tax income account for your total income. Still, money is useful for everyone, and if you’re in serious need of money early on (and taxes make up almost all of your total income), and in no dire need of some particular Idea for your overall strategy, it might be worth it. National Bank is usually a better early choice though: If you’re that starved for money, you’ll probably want to mint the whole 10% rather than just take out an additional 5% census tax. It should also be noted that for large colonial empires who lose a hefty amount of tax income due to the ‘distant overseas’ modifier this idea can significantly boost tax income in the colonies, especially in Divine Wind, which doubles the effect of this idea. (generally colonies will have around 10-15% tax income before stability, so this national idea can easily boost your overseas tax income by 30%)

National bank

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Prior to HTTT’s ability to hire specific advisers, National bank was an essential national idea, but it has become less important due to the ability to recruit Master of Mint advisers that provide the same benefits. National bank is no longer a necessity, and should only be taken if you find yourself suffering from severe inflation or if you want to use your adviser slots for something else, like infamy reduction. You’re often better off picking Patron of the Arts or Church attendance duty (see that idea for explanation) to net some cultural tradition to hire Masters of Mint. In Divine Wind, you’re limited to only one Master of the Mint, and after the start of the game you’ll be spending most of your magistrates on buildings, so National bank becomes useful again.

National trade policy

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See shrewd commerce practice for discussion. Remember, the +10% trade efficiency also gives +5% compete chance, so while it doesn’t make you as competitive as shrewd commerce practice, it makes you earn more if you’re already competitive. In the early game, your initial trade efficiency will usually be at around 30%, so an increase of +10% means about 33% more revenue per merchant. For this reason, this national idea is usually considered preferable to shrewd commerce practice, although you should eventually pick up both if you are a trading nation.



Whether you have spies or not is more important than their actual number. A nation that is neither plutocratic nor mercantile won’t get any spies otherwise. Pick this only if that is the case, and if you need spies for some particular purpose (such as fabricating claims). In such a case, Espionage becomes useful but not essential enough to get priority over Ideas that are vital to overall strategy.

Bill of Rights

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Lower revolt risk is useful for everyone, but how useful? Rarely worth picking, but can be worth it if you already have picked all the essential ones for your overall strategy, and have a generally turbulent realm (lots of heathens, lots of non-accepted cultures, tendency to get war-exhausted). Or if your country is simply imploding due to revolts. Also useful for the free liberation casus belli, which can be used to de-blob nations by forcing them to release nations, making them much easier for a warmongering players to pick apart.

Smithian economics

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+20% production efficiency is really nice, especially when you are far enough into the game for this one to be available and production incomes are fairly dominant. Pick this one unless you REALLY need the slot for some other that is absolutely essential to your overall strategy.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

Liberty egalite fraternity.png
A decent late-game national idea if you still have a fair number of Heretic/Heathen religion provinces within your borders, but it’s probably just better to pick Divine Supremacy and convert said provinces.

Culture ideas



Usually you’ll want to convert the heretics, rather than make them think they have things in common with you. In previous versions of Europa Universalis 3, heretics paid less taxes and cost more to stabilize even with full tolerance. Since Heir to the Throne, tolerated heretics no longer dodge taxes, which makes ecumenism a considerably better option, especially when going for full-innovative slider settings. Should you have a large number of heretics in your realm and no missionaries due to innovative slider settings, Ecumenism can be worth taking. Ecumenism is better for Protestant or Reformed (or Buddhist or Confucian) nations who can raise tolerance to equal that of their true faith.

Church attendance duty

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Stability is cheap enough and stab-hits avoidable enough that this shouldn’t be necessary unless you want to use the decision described below. Potentially useful if your national makeup makes stability really expensive, your overall strategy causes frequent stability-hits (such as plowing through the Holy Roman Empire with a lot of small wars) or if you want to increase your cultural tradition. It should be noted, though, that this idea has a hidden effect of very significantly decreasing the chance that the Reformation will spread to your provinces. Also enables (together with a temple) the very useful national decision: Gilded iconography, which gives +3% yearly cultural tradition (among other bonuses) and can serve as an alternative to Patron of the arts for Christian nations. The effects of this decision remain even if you swap out the idea immediately after adopting the decision. Invaluable for large nations attempting to westernize, since full westernization involves 21-25 stability hits, and most of the stability must be regained while “Western influences” is giving a 50% stability penalty.

Divine supremacy

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Since every missionary succeeds eventually, having a positive number of missionaries per year is essential, but the actual number of missionaries per year is less important. This idea has the advantage of allowing you to go several slider steps in the innovative direction while still having a positive number of missionaries. An absolutely essential national idea for an innovative non-Christian state, which usually lack the religious decisions that Christians get for additional missionaries. For better or worse, this idea will also very significantly decrease the chance that the Reformation will spread to your provinces.

Patron of the arts

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One of the most useful national ideas for early (pre-manufactory) states since the removal of cultural tradition gain from merchants in HTTT. The +3% cultural tradition allows you to keep a positive gain in cultural tradition even while at war, thus ensuring you can recruit 5 or 6 star advisers. This should be one of your first national ideas unless you take the decision Gilded iconography available with church attendance duty, but can be safely abandoned later on if you have 3+ fine arts academies producing cultural tradition. It is also a prerequsitie for the Architectural development event which gives +2 Innovation, important if you’re trying to westernize as quickly as possibly.

Unam Sanctam

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This one is better than it looks, as not only do you gain the ‘Holy War’ casus belli on ALL known heathen countries (if you are Christian or Muslim and it is before 1650), but it gives you the ‘Cleansing of Heresy’ casus belli on any known heretic countries. Very useful for a warmonger in a heretic-rich environment, such as a Protestant power plowing through a Catholic HRE.

Humanist tolerance

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See Ecumenism, except that it doesn’t affect the spread of the Reformation. (Only before HTTT patch 4.1b: Also, it becomes slightly worse because it makes possible an event where a province of the true faith flips religion on its own, but it’s quite a rare one.)



Useful for a warmonger who is constantly expanding their borders, but does not want to go past the infamy threshold and suffer from the negative events that were added in the HTTT 4.1b patch.

Revolution and counter-revolution

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This is a very good national idea for warmongers, since it gives a very good casus belli (25% infamy for provinces and annexation) against every country that does not share your type of government. A republic will gain this casus belli against every monarchy and theocracy, and a monarchy will gain it against every republic (including republican dictatorship).