|At the start of the Grand Campaign – 14 October 1399|
|Government type||Noble Republic|
|Number of provinces||1|
|Center of Trade||None|
|Other accepted cultures||None|
In 1399 Tuscany is a landlocked OPM in Northern Italy. It is a member of the HRE but right on the southern border of it which brings the advantage of having neighbours not protected by the emperor while still getting the Imperial Integrity modifier. The country starts as a Noble Republic which saves it from worries about sick and dying heirs, incompetent 80-year-old rulers (with incredible swimming skills) and not being able to afford a general. It's also blessed with good base tax and production income. Best of all, it starts with a university and is situated in the region with the highest concentration of them.
Unfortunately it also has its weak points. Its slider settings are (at best) mediocre for trading, so there likely won't be an any income from this source for the first few decades. Additionally, its early game is largely dependent on what the middle and greater powers in the region are up to. A lucky player may be able to gain all of central Italy in a few years time, a not so lucky one might find his starting province sandwiched between larger Milan, Naples and their vassals and allies.
You start as an OPM, so even without funding you will regain about six stability per year. There are a multitude of events that give the option to choose between x and taking a stability hit, the latter will probably be the better option for the first decade or so. If you think you need the edge gaining military access to preposition you armies before declaring war is perfectly reasonable.
Due to the cascading nature of alliances any conflict in Divine Wind now has the potential to spiral into a mess spanning half the continent. Checking the situation of your intended target's allies (and their allies) can help you assess the likelihood of them joining a war against you.
Before you unpause
Convert your leader to general and put him in command of your army. He's no military genius, but sometimes the point distribution is surprisingly helpful and some shock value and/or maneuver can go a long way. Hire advisors, if you can. About half the time there aren't any, but a research assistant would be nice. Ignore your merchants. Unless you can pick up a level 4 or beyond trader there isn't much point in sending them and even then they might not recoup the initial investment (plus the trader's salary).
Slider moves: If you like to gamble, Centralisation has a 2/3 chance to outright kill your army by spawning four regiments of rebels. Other than that it is a good choice since most Italian provinces are rather rich and boosting your reliable income never hurts. So unless you chose to try your luck in trading (in which case you should send off your merchants and move towards Free Trade), just postpone changing policy until your army can deal with the potential consequeces.
Start minting heavily. You'll likely need to finance an outsized army in the near future and the alternative is to get loans, which is even less appealing then driving up inflation. Plan on getting your army at least up to 3 inf / 2 cav. This will take some time due to manpower as well as monetary restrictions.
Diplomacy: Start by checking the missions of the countries around you, especially Milan and Naples. Milan and Naples sometimes draw the generic "vassalize OPM in your neighbourhood"-mission and you should to be aware of their targets. The Papal State will almost always try to annex Urbino first regardless of its mission, so at least they are pretty predictable. Bribing Milan seems to work out well for the most part, if you get your relations over 150 they might even guarantee you in a few months time. You could try to give them military access, but they usually decline this offer. If you don't have Get an Alliance with Urbino as your mission guarantee it (even/especially if it is your first target). Otherwise it will get taken out within half a year.
Becoming a middle power
From here on everything depends on the missions you and your co-Italians got and the strategy you want to follow. The missions which seem to occur the most are Get an Alliance with Urbino or (annoyingly) Milan, Get Access to the Sea (via Ancona/Romagna). Seemingly less often drawn are Amass Wealth, Royal Marriage and the somewhat redundant Reclaim Pisa. The following discusses some of these pertinent initial missions.
If you drew the mission to ally Milan you are pretty much out of luck, they won't side with you offensively until you've grown to almost their own size and by then the are a rival to dismantle or vassalize, so you might as well cancel that. On the flipside Urbino will immediately join in with you, which is pretty much free prestige and you were going to guarantee them anyway. Luckily your next mission will probably tell you to annex them for their beautiful coastline.
According to the mission description this can target only Ancona, but I've also seen this target Romagna (so maybe I am just reading the mission wrong). If your target is Ancona just declare war on Urbino as soon as possible and get your troops there. Annex after the siege is over. Release them the same day, Ancona is one of the poorest provinces in Italy and until the nationalism revolt risk dies down you will get even less out of it, meanwhile it slows down your research. Getting Romagna works similar. Dow the Pope and get your two regiments to Romagna while you expand your army. Get military access through Urbino. Once you control Romagna retreat to Firenze. The pope will land armies in Romagna giving you time to siege Rome. Win the siege, get Romagna, vassalize Rome. Similarly to Siena, Rome is a bad province to keep early on as it tends to spawn 14 regiments of rebels and isn't even as rich as its neighbour.
Milan is big enough to secure alliances with other midde powers and some major ones. If you are not too unlucky these don't pose more of a threat to you than Milan itself, but a Milanese alliance with Aragon/Brittany (because they got enough regiments and transports to curbstomp your army) would probably not end well for you. Likewise if they ally with Austria as it seems to be the only power in the immediate region which can take Milan head on and be relatively sure to win. You do have a core on Pisa so this mission isn't anything you weren't planning on doing anyway, just perhaps not the first thing. And it usually is a good idea not to force the issue.
If you nevertheless want to try, be aware that Milan won't even cede you Pisa unless you have beaten its (about 15 to 20) regiments or it has nearly maxed out its war exhaustion which will take about four years if you control Pisa and Sienna. In the meantime they will call in their allies and you will have to contend with them as well as the occasional rebels and the economic realities of fielding an army fit for a larger Tuscany.
The safer plan is to bide your time. Milan usually gets involved in some ridiculous war with one of the major powers sooner or later (sometimes cascading alliances are your friend). This is obviously the time you want to strike. Declare war, occupy and siege Pisa and Siena and wait. Even in a stalemate of their primary war Milan will be willing to give up Pisa. To get Siena also you normally will have to wait until their other war has ended. If Milan lost the war there is a good chance that Parma will have been released and/or another province ceded which drives up the relative value of the territories occupied by you, in which case you can get both in the peace deal. If not you'll have to judge whether or not you are able to defeat what is left of Milan. Take what you can get and come back in a few years time for the rest.
If you did take Siena, you should probably release them as a vassal immediately. While it is a very nice province with a university to boot it has the tendency to spawn eight regiments of rebels and if you don't release it the emperor will ask you to do just that anyway. You'll get them eventually and at least you save yourself the trouble and get half their tax income. Alternatively you can leave the HRE and remove any new/uncored territory from it.
Often enough you don't even have take on Milan itself. As Milan does not have cores on Pisa or Siena they tend to run into the same problems you would face later. Once they get into a war their war exhaustion rises and as the war exhaustion rises so does the revolt risk. The rebels spawned in Siena usually take both their home province and Pisa and after a few years form a new nation. Congratulations, now you only have to fight a two-province country to fulfill the mission.
After your first conquests you will probably start to get missions that ask you to vassalize the surrounding states and gobble up your vassals (granting you free cores), sometimes you even get to outright conquer OPMs for a free core. This is nice as keeping your infamy low and reputation high helps with trade (which should become viable at this stage) and research. They also keep the emperor from interfering.
Once you have your first 5-6 provinces you should be able to make better alliances, which may help distract some of your enemies (probably Austria and/or Sicily/Naples). Keep expanding northward while doing the missions that help with your goal and skipping the ones that don't or take too long and build up your core provinces. Form Italy. Go where you want from there.
Heir to the Throne
As for the below guide, but with only one province.
Tuscany is one of many small countries in Italy, but one of the best in the region. It has one very wealthy provinces, good technological progress, and a number of small nations around it to conquer. Played well it can unite Italy easily and then easily dominate Europe. It is an ideal country for beginners to learn how to play the game, while still enjoyable for veterans to play. Most wars in this region are short and easily won, as few of the small Italian states can afford a long war.
Due to Tuscany's small size, they can not support any significant army as they have low manpower. That means you are not safe for most of your game. Tuscany is surrounded by nations who see Italy as a perfect place to expand into. You are a republic, disliked by monarchies, and your form of government prevents you from becoming the Holy Roman Emperor.
In contrast to these disadvantages, Tuscany is wealthy. Your two provinces produce a lot of cash, with a university in both. You have great advisors who are able to raise your stability from -3 to +3 during one year. You are quickly researching for most of the game due to your wealth. You are a Merchant Republic and with high stability and the right strategy you can dominate European trade.
This is key while playing Tuscany. You can double or even triple your yearly and monthly revenues by being a good trader. But to be successful you have to plan carefully right from the start. You should aim at having Shrewd Commerce Practice (+10% merchant compete chances) as your first National Idea. Then you should go straight for National Trade Policy (+10% trade efficiency). With those two having 5 merchants in each European Center of Trade is not a problem.
Begin sending your merchants over to different CoTs quickly. There is plenty of space early on, so they can get in without having to compete with others. Check which center of trade in Europe is the best (17th page of the ledger, usually Lübeck (in Mecklenburg) or Vlaanderen (in Burgundy) and send your starting merchants there. Move all your money to researching Government Tech and after a year or so (depending on your rate of success in trading, advisors, your Doge's administration skill and such) when level 1 is achieved, take the Shrewd Commerce Practice National Idea. Now you can safely proceed to placing merchants in the most valuable centres of trade in Europe. Send them in pairs: the first one defeats foreign merchants, while the second one jumps into the freed slot. Also, put all your research into Trade Tech. Each level of this improves your revenue by 2% and makes your merchants harder to get rid of by 1%. You want level two of it before you move on to researching level one Production Tech (allowing you to build workshops).
You are surrounded with little and wealthy countries that share your culture (Lombard), this is the good news. The bad news is that you rely on trade a lot and thus you are not allowed to force annex anybody as low reputation will kill all your merchants in a month. You should plan your expansion carefully not to rise your badboy over 3 or 4 points. So don't do anything evil. Force vassalize countries you have conquered although it is very tempting to annex them right on. Don't be greedy. Wait those ten years. Bribe them. Then offer diplomatic annexation. You will earn 1 badboy point per province instead of 6. That's much better.
The problem is you have to move on quickly to conquer certain countries or others will take them and deny you from vassalizing them. One of those countries is Urbino (Ancona). Sicily and Papal States jump on it faster than Castille on Granada. Your first military operation has to be force vassalization of Urbino. If you neglect to do that, somebody else will beat you to it and you will regret as Urbino has huge manpower pool that would increase size of your armies significantly (well, you won't become France but one or two extra units of Latin Knights is a lot at the moment). Don't hesitate a second and attack them without a Casus Belli. You are not China, your stability will be at +3 again faster than you can notice, especially if you have left those two starting advisors.
Having secured Ancona, you have to do another quick move. Just next to you lies another little guy that is a quick target of many. It's called Siena and it has a university. Can you imagine a better situation than adding third university to those two you started with? Three universities mean +15 Government Research and also mean you will have those two trading national ideas we discussed before faster than anybody.
To conquer those two countries it is best to use cavalry-only army led by your Doge, even if he is not a good commander. Just make sure you don't send a guy that has 9 Administration skill to war. If you manage to get such a guy, keep him safe at all cost. Anyway, if your Doge has 5 or less of Administration and is not a genius in Diplomacy (6 and less), you want him die and the more he fights the more chances are to have him killed. Cruel? Well, it is better to get rid of an incompetent ruler than to watch this huge and nasty Austrian army march through your land.
Now let's get back to our little conquest. You can't assault as you don't have any infantry. You wait till they surrender (takes a year, sometimes even two). Make sure that they are not at war with anybody before you sign a peace deal with them. If they are, wait a month or two occupying their provinces until they sort it out. If you vassalize them while they are at war, their opponents will siege and annex them just after your armies leave.
Now, when both Ancona and Siena are your vassals and are waiting 10 years for diplomatic annexation you can sit down and rest for a while. Send a warning to every single country in Italy, from Venice and Savoy to Sicily and wait for opportunities to join more countries to your vassals pool. That's called farming Casus Belli. Prepare yourself for future wars too. Build up your cavalry army up to the limit. Keep sending your merchants. Forget ships for now. You won't become a naval power any soon so it's a waste of money.
Italy is full of those and you can't possibly have too many of them. You start with two. Another one is very close to you, in Siena. Modena has two in their starting provinces. Milan has one in Parma. The Pope has a university in Romagna. Make sure those provinces are under your control as soon as you can.
Having them all gives you an unimaginable bonus to your Government Tech research. This bonus will put you ahead of the tech race and allow you to have three national ideas while others will have one. This way you can take both national ideas that make your trading profitable and without much delay get Quest for the New World to aid your production income or Military Drill if somebody strong is harassing you too much. This is an advantage that nobody else in the world will have, an advantage that you can build a great empire on.
You don't want an early war with the Papal States so help yourself and beat them to Siena and Ancona not to rise an early conflict over those two. Keep in mind that the Pope is wealthier than you are and can rise a huge mercenary army. You don't have means to counter it yet, so just pretend you are a good Christian and would never do anything against His Holiness. At least until you are ready.
You also don't want a conflict with Sicily early on as it is allied to Aragon and your miserable two provinces will be chewed and eaten by them in five minutes. This is simply not your league yet.
You also should avoid crossing Venice and Austria. Leave them where they are, they are usually too busy with themselves to have any resources to spend on you so if you don't do anything silly you should be safe from them.
Don't be afraid of Modena, Milan and Mantua though. Those three can be vassalized quite easily if you have at least a half decent Doge and you listened when we were advising basing your armies on cavalry.
Genoa is a very good country to ally with. You don't have to participate in their stupid wars in Crimea if you don't like, just join the war and don't send any troops there. It is even better for you if they lose their Crimean possessions, you won't have to send your troops there while conquering Genoa in the future. Also, Crimean countries can't really retaliate in Italy at the moment, so don't worry about any counterattacks on your soil from them. (Which obviously doesn't mean you can disband your cavalry and spend the money on wine and paintings)
What is good in Genoa is that they are as wealthy as Venice but don't run into an early conflict with superpowers like those crazy Venetians do. Also, they have numerous armies (ok, ok, it's not Burgundy or France but relatively, in the region they are quite capable...) and many ships. Comes helpful in your early wars. Just make sure they don't get a province or two in those wars. Could make them too strong to kill later.
If Genoa doesn't like you, you can always start making friends with France or Burgundy. You need an ally that is close enough to be able to help you but also who is far enough not to have any special interest in acquiring provinces in Italy, especially those belonging to you. That's why you should forget about allying with Venice and Austria.
Sooner or later somebody you can't beat will join the game in Italy. Be it Austria, Venice, Aragon ("Sicily informs us that their throne was inherited by the king of Aragon" can make an adult man cry...), France. When that happens you have only one way to go. Make friends with that country and keep uniting little guys that are still left. Then wait for the right moment and betray the big blob when they are busy with somebody of their size. Flood them with mercenary infantry, siege as many provinces as you can at once and when they are tired of those little pesky insect of you, force them to withdraw from Italy. If you choose a good moment they will be more than happy to cede a province or two just to get rid of this little blue annoyance that you present to them.
Another danger you can come to is your Doge being a total loser. A guy with extremely low Administration skill can kill your merchants, make your economy die, stop your scientific progress, make your armies weak and your country sick. The worst thing is there is nothing you can do with that. If he really kills you, you can wage a war, make him a commander of an army and hope he dies during a siege. Or just wait until he dies naturally and somebody better is elected. Be warned that it sometimes takes up to 30 years for the guy to decease. Life is brutal.
Keep changing your domestic policies towards Free Trade. This means more merchants for now and a lot of colonists in future. After having secured your position in Italy you can take Quest for the New World and colonize a big part of the world. Tuscany is capable of that. Plutocracy and Naval orientation make it little Portugal and trade revenues mean being able to afford many colonies. Just don't kill natives on the islands you are about to colonize. You need all the manpower you can get and those natives you haven't killed will join your population when your colony grows to a city (over 1000 of inhabitants). It is worth wasting a colonist or two to have another cavalry unit in your pool while trying to defend against Aragonese invasion, isn't it?
Finally, if you are very successful in your wars in Italy and taking over all the Lombard countries, you can start thinking about becoming Italy.