|At the start of the Grand Campaign – 14 October 1399|
|Government type||Despotic Monarchy|
|Technology group||Eastern/Ottoman ()|
Divine Wind 5.2beta
With the upcoming DW5.2 patch (latest beta version as of 6 Aug 2012, release date yet unknown), there are several significant changes that could affect the overall strategy of an Ottoman player.
The first change, and potentially the most dangerous, is the manpower overhaul. Manpower from provinces has been significantly reduced, and total manpower regenerates at a rate of 10% each year. As a result, players will have to choose their wars and battles more wisely. A disastrous loss or pyrrhic victory could leave the player crippled and vulnerable to attack for many years. The upside is that this change affects other nations as well, and the AI has been programmed to be much more reluctant to attack when it is low on manpower. Another change related to this one is that the Ottomans (and the other Turkish nations) now start with the Military Drill idea rather than National Conscripts.
The second change affects how colonization of horde territory works. The yearly colonist agent bonus from bordering horde provinces is no longer +0.33/year for each bordering province. It is instead a flat +0.25/year regardless of how many provinces border the horde. Since Muslim nations do not naturally generate colonists, this will significantly reduce how many horde provinces the Ottomans can colonize at a time. However, the rate of horde colony growth has been quadrupled. With the initial 200 people from the first colonist, it will now take exactly 50 months to settle a horde province at full funding. Muslim nations gain a new colonist agent every 48 months, so this works out to being able to settle one province at a time, every four years. Keep in mind that Catholic and Orthodox nations get an extra colonist each year in addition to the horde border bonus. When the hordes are inevitably broken (which will be much sooner due to the aforementioned manpower changes), expect eastern European nations like Muscowy or Novgorod to run amok through the steppes if they go unchecked. Less likely but more dangerous is Austria, with their superior armies and technology growth, if they are allowed to gain a border with the hordes.
The third change, which almost exclusively affects the Ottomans, is a reworking of the Bosphorus Sound Toll. The bonus is no longer a +15% trade value bonus to the entire empire, but rather a +25% trade value bonus to specific provinces. These provinces are those on the shores of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, as well as several inland provinces along the Dnieper River. This bonus only affects these provinces if they are held by the nation that holds Edirne, Bursa, Thrace, and Bithynia. For this reason, it could be advantageous to control all of those provinces in order to get the most out of controlling the Bosphorus.
Finally, there are two minor changes that could still affect Ottoman strategy. First is that Genoa has a five-year truce with the Golden Horde in 1399. This will prevent them from immediately losing their Crimean holdings to the horde. A cunning sultan could use this to his advantage to gain an early foothold in the rich Ukrainian steppes, if he can manage Genoa and all her allies as well as the Golden Horde that early on. The second minor change is that releasing a nation as a vassal state now removes any of the releaser's cores from the released territory. The player will no longer be able to release territory (for example, in order to reduce stability cost when westernizing) and then easily reconquer it later.
The Ottoman Empire in Divine Wind, compared with the Ottoman Empire in Heir To The Throne, is both easier and harder: easier in that your starting setup is quite a lot better compared with previous versions, but harder in that it is insanely easy to lose control of the situation if you grow reckless. Be a double-headed eagle (ironic), always looking simultaneously at Asia and at Europe for potential threats and opportunities.
Ottomans in the 1399 setup are the greatest beneficiaries of the horde system, because Timur doesn't really come along anymore to play with them. Let the Mamluks/Georgia/Jalayirids take the brunt of the fighting, you are more interested in lands that you can easily make yours.
Those lands, of course, are the lands belonging to Candar, Karaman, and Ramazan. You have free reconquest casus belli on them so use them freely. Even though Candar and Karaman ally with each other a lot, I would suggest not trying to annex both Karaman and Candar in one war: even assuming that you are rational and decide to use reconquest casus belli on Karaman, annexing Candar still gives you 8 infamy, which strongly limits your scope of maneuver in other theaters. Hopefully Candar will stay silent during your truce, or it would get eaten up by Byzantium or Trebizond and you can annex those lands for free instead. Apart from Candar, Karaman and Ramazan there is also Dulkadir, but do not annex them because doing so virtually guarantees a war with the Mamluks in the early game.
NOTE: Karaman tends to go to war with Byzantium because of its alliance with Candar, so you must prevent Karaman from taking over the Morea (Byzantine Territory in Greece) or else you will be unable to annex them!
Next, go for Byzantium and Trebizond, should be easy pickings. You should also consider taking Erserum/Van away from the Timurids, if the Mamluks haven't done so already. At the very least, you will now have most of Asia Minor and Bulgaria under your rule, which grants you a larger tax base as well as modifiers that give you more tax (Move capital to Constantinople decision/Bosphorus Sound Toll modifier). Concentrate now on converting your Balkan possessions (get rid of your National Conscripts idea and replace it with Divine Supremacy), moving sliders towards favorable positions for technology advancement (free subjects/innovative/centralization), placating the Mamluks,and storing up money. Aim to have a large stock of cash and a large stack of troops 20000 at least.
Hungary will invade at some point, and will initially overrun Bosnia and Serbia and probably your Balkan possessions. It is not wise to try and peace them off with land or money, because that just makes them stronger. And the sooner you get rid of the Hungarian menace, the sooner you will get rid of one of your most implacable enemies. So literally mint, raise troops, scorch land to get rid of the Hungarians. Then start the counterattack. Be warned: they will use Liberum Veto and so suddenly you will have 15000 troops magically appearing in their capital. But persevere and you will eventually come out on top. Again, pay attention to your infamy because the last thing you want is a Venetian or a Polish backstab.
Hungary will take at least two wars to take down convincingly; in the interval look for opportunities to secure your hold on Southern Greece. Venice's hold on those regions does not last particularly long due to forced release of countries, Greek revolts and Italian wars. Look, therefore, for potential opportunities to intervene. You could also try and get rid of The Knights by sending spies to cause Greek revolts on their island (it takes about 4 simultaneous, successful spies to do the trick, but the success rate is reasonably high), don't declare war because that means Castille will come and kill you. Cyprus is also a good target unless they are guaranteed by some Iberian power. Expand into Georgia but don't go near the Golden Horde because you already have one dangerous front in the Balkans and you don't need another in the Caucasus. Continue expansion into the Timurids if feasible.
This opening is arguably somewhat "gamey", so some players will doubtless object, but it works.
- Move your Innovative/Narrowminded slider to the right. This is deeply counterintuitive for a non-Western Group nation, but see the next point. Nothing bad enough to worry you will happen.
- Hire a Theologian. Burn a magistrate for Cultural Tradition if you have to; he doesn't have to be any good, he just has to be a Theologian.
- Take the two Religious Decisions that require a Narrowminded society. This will give you a total of +1 Missionaries/year.
- Declare war on Candar with the Reconquest CB. They can't issue a call to arms until the day after you send the DoW.
- Declare war on Karaman with the Reconquest CB. This puts the two countries in separate wars, meaning that you get the full benefits of your Reconquest CB against both of them.
- Set your budget sliders for full Stability.
- Check the advisor pool for 5-6 star advisors in the following order of preference: Artist (you have a high stability cost and you're going to be taking stab hits), Master of the Mint, Army Reformer, Statesman.
- Split your 19-regiment stack in Bithynia; send one stack into Candar and one stack into Karaman.
- Now you can unpause the game.
Once you've mopped up Candar and Karaman's armies, declare war on Ramazan with a Reconquest CB so you can take what's yours, then ditch National Conscripts in favour of Patron of the Arts. Taking this NI should shave a quarter-century off meeting the slider requirements for Westernization, and also reduce your need to Westernize.
Beginning of mid game as Ottomans (late 1400s/early 1500s) should see you in charge of Anatolia and a large portion of the Balkans/Hungary. Technology rate should be on par with Europeans on some levels but inferior in others (hopefully trade or naval or something relatively inconsequential). Income levels should be enough to field more armies than your starting 20k.
If you are seeking for directions to expand, Austria/Bohemia/Poland will answer this question for you as they declare war on your lands. Treat them as you did Hungary (but it will be harder since Austria has tons of troops + usually is HRE, while Bohemia can be HRE and also has a lot of troops). Expand wisely and don't come into contact with too many Christian nations on a wide front.
Another possible area of expansion would be into the Golden Horde. Their Russian lands are rich, especially Astrakhan with its CoT right on the Georgian border. Mamluk lands are too poor in relation to Mamluk army strength, and Persian armies are numerous, so it would be idea to avoid clashes with those two just yet. Continue to move your sliders towards more technology-friendly positions; with full innovative and free subjects being ahead of Europeans in technology is not a difficult task.
If you've teched up reasonably well you should be ahead of the Europeans and therefore you can't Westernize (not that there is a need anyway). Deficiencies in unit stats can be made up for with max quality and offensive. Obviously if you have survived the mid-game intact the late-game should be quite easy, with you ahead in terms of territory and technology. It shouldn't be terribly hard to play: you could even come up against France and not be scared!
Remember that Holy War casus bellis end after 1650 so you might want to do all your necessary expansion in Europe before that time.
Heir To The Throne
- It's 1399 and you are the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. If history goes as planned you will face the army of Timur. Unlike in In Nomine, however, the Timurid Empire cannot be stalemated just by you staying out of sight. Timur is coming after you and you will have to deal with him.
- Europe hasn't really grown out of its "crusading" phase yet. Your Christian neighbours are itching to kick you out of the Balkans in the name of God. Expect to be at war at least once with Venice, Genoa, Naples, and worst of all, Hungary. But other countries will not hesitate to dogpile you if they sense weakness. And don't think that distance is a barrier against invasion - this is particularly the case if you are really unfortunate and end up fighting big guys e.g. Austria, Bohemia, Poland-Lithuania.
- Even the minors in your own backyard are no longer easily steamrollable. The "Greek" minors e.g. Achaea, Naxos etc. are inevitably guaranteed by 5+ Italian states. The Knights of St. John are sphered/guaranteed by Castille and, oftentimes, France. Cyprus is in the French sphere. Even the Byzantine Empire poses difficulties due to the fact that they usually ally with Wallachia/Moldavia and Trebizond/Georgia, creating massive battlefronts.
- Your "friends" in the Muslim world. They are more interested in guaranteeing random Turkish minors than in conducting jihad against the infidels. Even worse from your point of view, even if they engage in jihad they are useless because their opponent, nine times out of ten, just so happens to be one of the strongest countries in the game (everybody look at Castille!). So don't be surprised if you see Spaniards in Karaman or Candar or something ahistorical like that.
- You start off with a galley-fleet, which is useful in your own neighborhood but utterly useless against anything above Venice. Which, given the increased Western European presence in HTTT, means that you'd better tell your admirals to look into the latest Carrack fashions soon.
- The previous tactic of using non-allied vassals as buffers to Europe no longer works. Naval invasions are quite common now and in any case countries are no longer deterred by the vassal tactic.
- How are you going to find the cash to deal with these threats? With a massively underperforming economy, thanks to your infidel population in the Balkans.
- You are in your own technology set now which makes you better than the other Muslims but worse than the Eastern Europeans. Fortunately the difference is slight enough to not make so much of a difference in the early game.
- You can conduct holy war to your heart's content against the infidel without suffering any casus belli penalties and infamy gain is thus limited. But of course this works both ways.
- The Ottomans get missions against Byzantium, Karaman, Dulkadir, Karaman, Candar, the Knights, Greek minors, Serbia, Bosnia and the Mamluks. Some of these require a prior vassalization such as Candar's, Dulkadir's and the Mamluks'. And it's not like the process is going to be easy. But you do get infamy-less conquest casus bellis.
- 9 times out of 10 Timurids will cease to be a major concern within 20 years of 1399. Mamluks will also be wracked with succession crises for most of the game unless they manage to convert to another government.
To be honest, when you're playing as the Ottoman Empire you do need a certain amount of luck - the distance between being the Scourge of Europe and the Sick Man of Europe can be as narrow as the outcome of a campaign against some major European power. Just ask the real Ottomans after their 1683 defeat.
Enough analyzing and straight into the game. First thing is to prepare the ground for Westernization, which entails innovation and centralization - I would go with innovation for now as you probably don't want to spend more time fighting rebels than strictly necessary. Innovation at least carries a 33% chance of something good. Try to minimize minting as much as possible.
First military thing you should do is crush Karaman. This is not hard with a Sultan like Yildirim, just remember to simultaneous-siege both Karamanese provinces. Peace out fast, move on Dulkadir if Timur is a bit late on schedule and prepare to deal with Timur. Scorch as much land as required to get his men down to some acceptable level, retake forts as soon as his army has left an occupied province, while at the same time recruiting more troops to achieve some kind of military parity. Forget about the Balkans for now, if you lose to Timur he'll take forts in Anatolia, your war exhaustion will go through the roof and the Balkans will be lost to revolts anyway.
Anyway after a while you should be able to take out the main force of Timur in its entirety. Gather your remaining troops and prepare your revenge. Get one army to take out Dulkadir and siege Timurid forts while have Bayezid command an all-cavalry army and occupy non-fortified provinces in the Timurid Empire. Timur's legacy will crumble fast and you want to get as much good land as you can before other nations form. Within acceptable infamy limits, of course.
Next bit of the game depends very much on what missions you get. Ideally you want to spend the next couple of years in the Balkans mopping up one province minors, ending the Byzantine Empire, converting your populace (first idea you get to choose should definitely be Divine Supremacy with its +.50 missionary bonus), getting more money, converting galleys into carracks, maybe trying to set up a trade center in Thrace. Obviously you won't be able to do all of this at once. I would recommend having the main goal as conversion since this brings great income and stability benefits.
Around 1409 you will notice that vassals begin to get annexed. Venetian gains are worrisome enough but the thing you should be looking out for is the Hungarian annexation of Transylvania. If they haven't invaded you beforehand they will now. Again, scorch them out of your lands. Resist the urge to punish Hungary loads because, this will merely draw you closer to even worse neighbors e.g. Poland, Austria and you want to keep your empire small to minimize the time required to Westernize. As a general rule, annex through necessity - to reduce battlefront length, to complete missions, to pre-empt annexation by other countries, and to use up unused missionaries.
Occasionally Castille will see fit to set up shop in Anatolia. They might declare war on you. First you will need to destroy the sizable army they no doubt have in Anatolia, I hope you know what the standard procedure is by now. Second you will need to destroy reinforcements, which is where your carrack-fleet comes in handy. Try to do hit-and-run missions because doing otherwise only invites a big Spanish fleet. Note that even if you destroy the Spanish fleet and army you might need to actually invade Spain itself to convince them that holding Anatolia is actually quite a bad idea. In that case you should aim for the total destruction of Spain, which is not actually that hard to do once you break their military.
Some time in the 1500s you will be able to finally Westernize. It is not totally necessary to Westernize your troops as well but it makes the game much easier, and doing it earlier is better than doing it later.
Anyway now you can happily go on your rampage within the Muslim world. Pick and choose targets, obviously: Persia when it is engaged in a war on its Indian border, and the Mamluks when it is in a succession crisis. Note that both will have tons of allies, and you still need to watch your European back.
Supposing you want to act like your Gazi ancestor? Hungary should be eminently steamrollable once you Westernize. Austria never expands enough by the 1500s to pose a tremendous problem. Watch out for Poland-Lithuania though, they could smash the Golden Horde by 1500s. But they do have a penchant for peasant revolts so they could be immobilized for lengthy periods of time. Despite this, try not to be on poor relations with every European power - the historic alliance with France can be revived if only to ensure that France's gaze is not fixated on you.
You're probably too late for colonisation but if it means that much to you it is possible to colonize the Cape as the Ottomans through ports in the Swahili Coast if Spain and Portugal somehow forgot to. Go for India or Diego Garcia Island if you want to spread Islam to Indonesia (dunno why you would want to though - it's unhospitable and much of it is already under the control of Muslims). Or maybe you want to invade India, which is not terribly hard but exacts a big toll in terms of missionary activity. Also don't underestimate how many troops conquering India requires, especially since by the time you can reach it India is usually under the control of one power.
Potential problems that the Ottomans can face in late game - a clash of the titans with France, a grand coalition of Europeans against you, a Russia that destroyed the Golden Horde while you were looking elsewhere, a Persia that attacks your Middle Eastern possessions in force, an English/British naval war and an expansionist Ming. But really, it would take a true genius in mismanagement to lose an Ottoman Empire that survives into the late game. Just don't act like Ottoman Sultans post Suleiman the Magnificent and enemies will never ever get to call you the Sick Man of Europe!
Surviving the Beginning
The Ottomans begin the 15th Century in a seemingly perilous position. In the East, the conqueror Timur beckons. In the West, Byzantium and the still-independent Balkan states are preparing for war against you. Your Balkan possessions are Greek, Orthodox and ready to revolt.
However, all is not lost for the Ottoman Empire. You own a sizeable army in Central Anatolia, and have quite a capable Sultan at the helm. More importantly, he is quite the capable general, although admittedly no match for the Timurid generals. You also have a large galley-fleet which will easily dominate your coasts so long as you don't go up against the Italians.
Your main goals for the first few years should be simple: keep the empire together. First and foremost you will need to recruit troops, both in Europe and in Anatolia. Also try to improve relations with neighbouring Muslim countries (esp. Candar), and ally with the Middle Eastern powers or the Golden Horde. Slider settings should also be geared towards centralization and innovative to prepare Westernization.
You will need to deal with the invaders: Karaman, Dulkadir and the Timurids. Have your sultan (Bayezid I Yildirim) command your army in Anatolia and get to work on Karaman. Move your army into Konya, leave some units to siege, and try and destroy the Karamanese army, which is pathetic compared with your force. After that, reach their capital and leave units to siege. Then proceed to beat off Dulkadir's troops, if they happen to be sieging your fort in Angora. A warning here: although you might be sorely tempted to do so, do not siege Dulkadiri forts or even try to move into your easternmost province of Sivas (even if they are besieged). Doing so will provoke the overwhelming Timurid response (10000 men+, led by Miran Shah/Timur), which is almost impossible to beat without having the rest of the empire crumble. Anyway, after a while Karaman should be wholly occupied, deal with the loser in any way you like (although a warning: anything short of vassalization will probably result in Karaman's annexation by the Timurids).
However, it is possible to beat the Timurids and in fact you cannot keep your ally Serbia from triggering their attack. The fight is hard, bloody and requires a lot of micromanagement. The Timurids cannot move to your Greek lands, if you have your fleet blocking the Dardanelles. This allows you to retreat and heal if you get beaten too badly. The general strategy is to scorch the earth in provinces the Timurids attack, then flee from battle in such a manner that the Timurids are in the province by months end and your troops preferably are not. You will lose around 10 battles until you have finally grpund the Timurid strength enough to go for the real fight. As soon as you win the first time against their main force you can lean back. Chase them to death and take what you want of their land. A side effect is that Serbia might free provinces conquered by the Timurids while you put up with their army, thus saving you from war exhaustion. If you can beat them, you can easily get 3 or 4 provinces.
While this is happening there might be another interesting side story going on in the Balkans. Taking advantage of the perceived Turkish weakness, Wallachia/Montenegro/Byzantine Empire (or any combination of those) will decide to declare war, and will immediately move into your empire.
Fortunately for you these countries aren't really prepared for war and will move against you with <5000 troop stacks each. They still pose a credible threat, however, and you can ill-afford a two-front war. Move your main force in Anatolia (putting your fleet in the Dardanelles to make sure you can move to Edirne) to Europe as soon as possible (for example, after Karaman agrees to peace). Forget about the Timurids, they'll get fed up and white peace after occupying bits of Anatolia, or just give them Sivas. Anyway, after you get your main force into the Balkans it's shouldn't be too hard to trash the Europeans, just siege with small forces and chase fleeing enemies. Demand lots of stuff out of them.
Rebels should now be popping up in your country. Wonder why the AI Ottoman Empire always seems to crumble? Answer: Rebels. You will need large stacks to defeat them; and you should definitely consider moving troops away from the battlefronts to deal with them. Retake forts that have fallen rather than chasing after the rebels; you don't want to deal with more enemies than you currently have. But give it a few years and the Ottoman Empire should, at long last, be at peace.
Early on you will have to decide whether you want to go for the Middle East or go for Europe. Each one has advantages and disadvantages, and a decent player could certainly do both at the same time.
Europe Benefits: Rich(er) provinces, rather divided opponents (esp. with regards to Hungary), different religion Drawbacks: Habsburgs, strong opponents (Poland, Austria, Bohemia/HRE), different religion (Stability), gradual technology backwardness, poorer quality troops.
Middle East Benefits: Technical superiority after mid-game, many same-culture-group provinces, COTs (Alexandria, Persia), weaker opponents (most are very fragile Sheikdoms), easy passage to India and Africa Drawbacks: Same religion, strong states in the beginning, relatively poor provinces.
If you decided to go against Europe then it's probably best to destroy the Eastern European countries. Take land, annex if applicable, do not vassalize because that means you can't diploannex them ever. An alliance with the Golden Horde is strongly recommended, even if they drag you into endless wars with Muscowy/Novgorod. Consider getting Divine Supremacy and Land ideas to aid you in your mission.
The main aim here is to try and take out as many opponents as you can before you get dragged down by technology, and then proceed to westernize and be back on a par with the rest of Europe (be warned, however: Eastern European units are still not as advanced as the Western European ones).
First, it's recommended that you clean up your backyard. Get rid of The Knights, steal provinces from the Venetians/Genoans. However, Westernization will be crucial for your long-term survival, so don't get rid of the Byzantines yet: if you annex them you'll have to accept Greek as a primary culture before you can westernize, which is a real pain (-5 stability). With the correct slider movements right from the beginning (centralization and innovative) you should westernize by the mid-16th century. Start converting the Balkans and remember to get the juicy Ottoman religious ideas.
Anyway, after destroying the Italians on Greece you should consider going into Italy proper. Build up a decent galley-fleet and go into Northern Italy. Take as many universities as you can, it will help your government research enormously. Plus Northern Italy's very rich. Then use Northern Italy as a stepping stone to take out Southern Italy (if you haven't already).
Now it's time to go against the Central Europeans. Declare war on whoever looks weaker, Hungary or Poland. With the amount of troops you now have, it shouldn't be too hard to smash them, and you can usually count on the Golden Horde to back you up, especially with Poland/Lithuania.
With Italy and Central Europe down, what other country (besides France) has the power to defy the Sultan? The game should really play itself from then on. Just remember to convert your new conquests and keep ahead in technology.
Drive to the East
If you've chosen to go eastwards, it's best to forget about Europe entirely - the East is quite a large area to conquer. Once the Eastern Europeans are smashed, vassalize them. Declare war on all your Eastern European neighbours and do the same with them. Voila, now you have a barrier of vassals that separate you from the infidels. Just remember, don't ally with them.
Be prepared for constant stability drops, but since this is In Nomine, you can regain it pretty quickly with some investment, provided you impose religious uniformity. Get to work on the Balkans. Get Divine Supremacy and a few other ideas like National Bank that can help you in terms of income.
Again, get rid of The Knights, Achaea etc., but spare Thrace and a Latin enclave somewhere (Genoa's Kaffa or Venice's Athens) if you want to Westernize. Not mandatory, but it sure makes the game much easier!
While all this is going on you'll need to unify Anatolia first. Annex the Orthodox nations and Karaman, vassalize Candar and try to get the Dulkadiris into your orbit. Or alternatively, just conquer them, which is much simpler and doesn't carry with it the dreaded decentralization penalty.
Take very careful note of what is happening with your Muslim neighbours: Persia (if formed), the Timurids and the Mamluks. Be opportunistic. If these countries get broken or have revolter nations popping everywhere, time to organize a military expedition. I would also recommend getting a coastline that allows you access to the Red/Arabian seas fairly quickly, as it makes your later conquests that much easier.
By the mid-16th Century you should be decently-sized, having unified much of Asia Minor and made inroads into Mesopotamia/Syria. Your technology should be quite some way ahead of your Muslim neighbours. It's time to play with the big boys.
To prevent major stability issues I recommend you try and minimize stability loss before you declare war. Declare war on an allied Christian country, get a casus belli, claim a throne. That said, don't get into massive wars yet. Advanced you may be, your enemies will probably still have masses of soldiers that you will have to slowly whittle down before the coup de grace. Demand valuable/strategic provinces such as Judea (Missionaries) or Fars (COT), ignore poor ones for now.
Once you've deemed the Middle East sufficiently Ottoman it might be time to set your sights on richer fare. The first thing to consider should be India: it's not Muslim, lagging badly in technology, and is home to many rich provinces and COTs.
By this time you really should survive anything India throws at you, so there is really no need to elaborate (if you're really in trouble, see How to Conquer India).
What happens now? You are so rich and powerful that you can probably do anything you want without any major repercussions. colonize the East Indies? Possible, provided you can get it under way by the end of the 16th Century. Go back into Europe? You're probably ahead in tech by now, so that won't be a problem too. The Ottoman Empire, with much of the Near East under its control, is nigh well unbeatable: do whatever you want.
The Ottomans have a good manpower base that can reinforce a large army. They also have a fairly good income. They begin the game in possession of a large army and navy, and have a ruler with excellent diplomatic, administrative, and warfare skills. They have an army reform advisor at skill level 5, and they also control a center of trade. They also have access to Eastern infantry and cavalry, which are superior to the West's at the beginning of the game.
Some of the starting provinces in the Ottoman state are Orthodox Christian, although the state religion is Sunni Islam. Even when tolerance for Christianity is at a maximum, the difference in religion creates a loss of tax revenue and makes increasing stability a very long process. They also control provinces with cultures that are outside their main culture group.
The Ottoman's begin the game with the National Conscripts (+50% manpower) idea.
One very possible way to advance your nation is to ignore much of what you think the Ottoman state should look like and advance towards the east. Pretty much everyone from you all the way to China is in your culture group.
Your first goal would be to pacify the Balkans of course. I made everyone a vassal including Hungary. Alternatively you could annex everyone except Hungary on the Balkan peninsula (Lots of Badboy) and give it to one state of your choice since they are all in one culture group (in patch 1.1 has to be done by editing save game as sell province does not work).
Annex small Turkish states in Asia Minor and then work on improving your production, government and land forces and invest 3 or 4 of your slider changes to innovative. With luck and a nice adviser you should be able to turn the Latin technology group. All while pacifying Crimea and Central Asia.
Since you will be annexing lots of Muslim states your relations with them likely will be bad. One very important move you need to make with this strategy is to annex Moldavia. Since going though Bulgaria/Moldavia is easier than through Caucasus. Vassalizing Georgia is a good idea, they are sitting on a gold mine.
The 2 provinces of Persia that are directly west of Caspian Sea are colonies. if you get to them early you can destroy them and then put your own Turkish colonists there.
Expansion into Asia does have several advantages, but for a different challenge, one can try expanding into Europe. To do so, assessing the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the game can help.
Increasing tax revenue is important. Putting workshops in all your provinces helps. Try to ally/royal marriage/propose vassalization to Karaman, Candar, and Dulkadir. Use gifts when necessary. Eventually you can diploannex them.
You'll want to maintain peaceful relations with the Mamluks, Crimea, and Kazan. Generally, I would advise against allying with them because they will drag you into unwanted wars. On the other hand, you might give them military access and royal marriages so that if they declare war on you, they will suffer a huge stability hit.
You also want to keep an eye on Qara Koyunlu. Their religion is Shiite Islam, and therefore diplomacy is much harder. I have found that if you maintain a big army, they generally leave you alone. They have to worry about the Mamluks to the West and the Timurids to the East (both Sunni), so they won't go after you unless you're easy pickings.
With your Eastern diplomacy as good as possible, you can then focus entirely on conquering the West. I usually don't bother leaving any troops on my Eastern border. Massing all your forces in the West makes you much more effective and deadly. Plus, I figure that if I'm sneak attacked while at war with Europe, I'll give my European rivals a good peace settlement and turn my armies Eastward. Mercenaries are always an option too.
Conquer as much as you can without going over your badboy limit. Military annexation is horrible to your reputation, but at the beginning of the game you will probably be doing a lot of it. A possible way to avoid ruining your reputation is to wait for Hungary, Poland, or Venice to annex some of the tiny countries that surround you, and then take the provinces from them in a war. The reputation hit is much lower that way. Never let your reputation be perfectly honourable (all the way at zero). Reputation repairs all the time unless it's perfect, so if your reputation is at zero you should start a war.
For many decades, your biggest Western rivals are going to be Austria and Poland/Lithuania. Depending on how the game plays out, they will either be weak (unlikely), moderately powerful, or extremely powerful by the time you are ready to destroy them. Once you fight them, make sure to have generals commanding your armies. Avoid catastrophic defeats by watching out for their powerful generals. I played a game where Lithuania converted their warfare-level 9 king to a general. Their army would go around butchering thousands of my troops while suffering minimal casualties. The only way to outmaneuver such a general is to allow the sieging of one of your provinces until his army gets enough attrition. Then, counter-attack with an overwhelming force commanded by your best general.
Convert conquered provinces to increase stability and maximize income. It helps to eventually change your government to a theocracy because this gives your missionaries a much better chance of succeeding. Don't do this before you've done all the royal marriages and vassalizations you want to do, however, and be ready for a huge one-time stability hit.