|At the start of the Grand Campaign – 14 October 1399|
|Government type||Merchant Republic|
|Number of provinces||4|
|Center of Trade||Venezia|
|Other accepted cultures||Greek|
Venice has her advantages and disadvantages. Owning Venezia, your capital and the second most wealthy COT in Europe, will make trade a lot easier. It also means that you can expand and contract the borders of your trade league to bring in even more money to the Venetian coffers.
Venice starts with control of Venezia and Treviso in northern Italy, Albania, Athens, and Crete. They are also allied and have vassalized Corfu and Naxos. Similar to England with its holdings in France, Venice can defend their lands in the Balkans or leave them. The following strategies follow for two various paths.
Holding On In The Balkans
I tend to prefer to leave all my lands in the Balkans behind (if you count Crete, I hold on to it, though) and focus on more expansion in Italy, Africa, and other nearby and sometimes far flung locations. However, you can have a very good game keeping control over the Balkans. Despite Hungary (in theory) and the Ottomans, you control the most land in the Balkans. However, the actual geographic region I am referring to might be better to say Greece. Nevertheless, you can definitely expand into the Balkan regions. First, despite your first mission, move troops into Albania and Athens, but make sure to keep troops in Treviso or Venezia just in case. Once you have a good army assembled in Athens or Albania, you can conquer the various OPMs there. Morea, in the far south, is controlled by Byzantium, but they are too weak to worry about. Unless you want to fabricate claims, you WILL have to take a few stability hits, but Venice will still be small enough (as of the last time I played this way) to recover stability faster. After you do this, wait for your stability to recover and see where you are. If you have techs around level 5 or 6, then you might want to challenge the Ottomans, keep in mind, however that Edirne is their capital, so you cannot annex that right away. You can also take parts (or all) of Bosnia and Serbia if you like.
Of course you may only want to connect Athens and Albania, do that by taking the OPM Epirus in between. You may also just want to hold on to your territories and not war at all, just make sure you have a significant military force in either province and military access or some means of transportation between Athens and Albania. It is also imperative to annex either of your vassals, Corfu or Naxos, I go for Naxos, because it provides a relatively safe staging area off the coast of Greece, but Corfu makes more money (I think). If you choose to complete your country specific missions or maybe even not, you might be able to annex them and gain an instant core via a mission to incorporate them. See below for strategy after the next section.
Some people couldn't care less for Athens and Albania. One option is to sell them to Naxos and Corfu, if they accept, you will be strengthening your vassals and avoiding any problems (killing two birds with one stone, but if you annex your vassals, you might just get the provinces back). You can also sell them off to others (the OPMs or maybe even the Ottomans, if you don't deal in the Balkans you don't need to worry about them. If you don't want to deal with Crete, sell it, otherwise you are pretty much stuck with it. Another interesting thing to do is to hold on to them, and in case of a war with someone like Hungary or another regional power, you could give them the provinces you don't want (as long as they are occupied) as peace offerings. However, this could strengthen your enemies, so be careful. See the next section for a further strategy as Venice.
Quick Points On What To Do
You can use your own way to do the following, but these are some things you can and should do (in order from around 1450-1460 onward)
- Conquer the provinces you get missions and CBs for (if you get drawn into cascading wars in Italy, take components of what you need for Italy if you can)
- Invade Africa and take perhaps Tripoli, Tunisia, or Algiers
- Improve your trade and trade league
- Form strategic alliances with neighbours and far flung powers
- Form Italy
- Advisors: Keeping in mind advisors' first-year exclusivity, hiring a Theologian during the first year enables the religious decision - Advancement of Religion Act - which increases the number of missionaries/year. A Collector or Treasurer can also enable the Liquor Tax. Make sure to have enough cash available to hire advisors one year from the start date. A good Master of the Mint can delay the need to adopt National Bank.
- Tech research: After reaching maximum stability, research can be focused towards reaching Government tech level 4, to enable a National Idea.
- Domestic policy sliders: A move towards centralization can result in some unmanageable revolts at the beginning of the game. One slider of particular importance for Venice is Innovative/Narrowminded. A position of less than -1 on that slider is required to enact the nation-specific decision - Promote the Printing Industry - which provides a large monthly Production tech investment.
- National Ideas (NI): National Trade Policy (NTP) is a good candidate for the first, second, or at latest third NI slot. If a military NI seems more useful to unite the Italian peninsula, remember that, "The sinews of war are infinite money," and the synergy created by the Venetian COT and NTP will allow Venice to field much larger armies/navies. By the time the second/third NI slots become available, it may become necessary to adopt Shrewd Commerce Practices (SCP) in order to remain competitive in foreign COTs. Press Gangs is also an idea best taken early, especially for a naval power such as Venice.
- Though all of its neighbors are members of the Holy Roman Empire (HRE), Venice is not.
- Having Europe's wealthiest Center of Trade (COT) means that Venice will be able to field larger armies than any Italian nation other than Milan (which owns six provinces at game start).
- Greek islands: Greek is an accepted culture for Venice at the game start, although both Athens and Cyprus suffer from a wrong-religion penalty. Venice also has a core on its vassal's sole province, Corfu.
- Venice possesses the Mediterranean's largest fleet of Carracks and has shipyard in its capital, which is located across a strait that can be blocked by a navy. All other nations in the Mediterranean field galley-only fleets at this time.
Owning Europe's wealthiest COT allows Venice to make significant trade revenues without suffering from stiffer competition in foreign COTs. However this has the unfortunate side effect of encouraging nations within Venice's trading sphere to create their own COTS. To counter this, the Free Trade/Mercantilism slider can be moved towards Free Trade to help establish foreign trade, or Venice can continue its Mercantilistic ways and capture more COTs through conquest. Add to this advantage the nation-specific decision - Strato da Mar - and Venice is in a position to make a lot of ducats through trade.
- Benefits provided by forming the Italian nation
- Some of the richest provinces in Europe are in Northern Italy. Many of these provinces also have invaluable universities, that can essentially be obtained without paying the high and increasing cost of construction.
- Larger army than most Italian nations
- Geography: large navy can prevent armies from crossing the straits to Venice and borders with only two potential Italian enemies, Aquilea and Milan.
- Entangling web of guarantees protects most of the Italian nations.
- Powerful and ambitious neighbours/predators, France, Austria, Hungary, and Iberian nations
- Venice does not own any of the eight provinces required for forming Italy.
- Borders Italy's most powerful nation, Milan
An easy way to get involved in wars on the Italian peninsula is to warn and guarantee a few of the Italian nations, which are often declaring war on one another. The Papal States and Urbino are good nations to guarantee since they usually draw the most declarations of war (DOW). Conversely, Milan and Naples often attack one of their smaller neighbors and are good candidates for warnings or alliances. Another useful diplomatic action is to obtain military access from as many countries as possible. Having military access is particularly useful during wars when troops need nearby friendly territory to rebuild strength.
On the Italian peninsula, getting into a war is no trouble. The difficult part will be winning wars against multiple enemies. Venice should build a mixed force of cavalry and infantry (more cavalry than infantry) at the start of the game and continue to do so until the land-force limit is reached. Milan will most likely still field an army larger than Venice's.
The primary hindrance to quickly annexing all of the Italian minors through a series of wars will be gaining a bad reputation. Therefore, it is important to carefully manage tactics during wars. Allow one-province minors (OPMs) to be annexed by other aggressors and then take those annexed provinces from the aggressor at the price of only one reputation point. Additionally, it may be wise to have a fast all-cavalry stack because in a multi-party Italian war the real winner in a war is often determined by who can begin the siege on a province first and thus demand that province in a peace deal. Because Venice is a Merchant Republic, it can convert its ruler to a general without fear of suffering a stability loss from his death on the battlefield; further, if the current ruler-general is not very good, a new one is sure to be available in four years. Having a general available to lead armies can be a crucial difference in battles towards the beginning of the game, when unit types do not have many pips.
The Holy Roman Emperor is also often involved in Italian wars. As such, it is advisable to only fight against the emperor once the crown has passed to a weaker nation. Venice is not member of the HRE but can add its provinces to the HRE if its relations with the current emperor are positive enough; it officially becomes a member when the capital joins the Holy Roman Empire. Each province that joins will provide a prestige boost to both Venice and the emperor and relations will be improved. The reverse of this decision - Abandon the Holy Roman Empire - can also be used to weaken the current emperor by lowering his/her prestige.
Diplomatic-annexation (diplo-annexation) is also an option, though the +1 decentralisation slider penalty is often prohibitive. In the case of Italy, it may be wise to diplo-annex one nation above all others, Savoy. Savoy's capital lies between its two other provinces and its northern province - Savoie - borders France. As such, it is often difficult and risky to hold Savoie without holding Piedmont because of very likely French aggression.
In conclusion, forming Italy is usually only less difficult than Forming Germany because of the multiple independent city-states bordered by large powers, France, Austria, and Hungary. In addition, the Iberian nations may also wage war on the peninsula to complete their mission, Italian Ambition. One way to ease the unification of Italy is to develop a larger tax base outside of this hotly contested region.
- The Greek provinces are relatively wealthy and produce high-value wine.
- Fewer guarantees allows for more manageable DOWs (in the Western Balkans).
- No HRE or large European nations to contend with.
- Venice already has a foothold in Greece via Athens, Corfu, and Crete.
- Greek culture is already accepted.
- Venetian core on Zeta
- Hungarian interest in the Western Balkans
- Ottoman Empire controls most of the Eastern Balkans.
- All provinces east of Ragusa are wrong-religion (Orthodox Christianity).
- Naval force-limit may be under-calculated if there is no land-connection to these provinces.
Over time, most of the Greek OPMs west of Rhodes will attract guarantees from the Italian nations. Rhodes is often guaranteed by the Iberian nations and Cyprus by the French. This is just a case of nations guaranteeing nations within their same culture group. Guaranteeing any of the Greek minors, especially the Byzantine Empire (Byzantium), is sure to draw Venice into a war with the Ottoman Empire (OE). The less obligatory diplomatic action of warning can often be useful in this theatre as the OE is the primary aggressor in the Eastern Balkans; Hungary in the Western Balkans. Venice also has a free casus belli (CB) with a core on Zeta.
Though the Western Balkan provinces are relatively poor, they can be valuable to provide a land-connection to the Eastern Balkans. The land connection can make troop movement easier, but also increase naval support limit and negate the overseas penalty if Venice expands far enough into Asia/Middle East.
Venice's strongest advantage over the OE is its more powerful navy. Blockading the strait between Thrace-Bithynia will prevent the OE empire from moving troops between the two halves of their empire. Greece is also a prime target for funding patriot or nationalist rebellions since they start as wrong-religion and wrong-culture provinces for the OE.
- Increased long-term profits without the risk of war
- Venice begins with a large navy to protect her colonies.
- Lack of a sufficiently western port to provide colonial range to the New World
Before any colonization to the West can begin, Venice needs to secure a port in at least the western half of the Mediterranean. Even then such a port would only provide enough range for the African coast (as The Azores/Madeira/The Canarias are likely to be colonized by Castille/Portugal) initially. One solution is to take an Atlantic province from Morocco. Another solution is to take the European/North African Atlantic islands from the Iberians. This is where the frequent Iberian guarantees on The Knights may be useful (this may be less useful if The Knights are guaranteed by all three Iberian nations).
A way east could also be sought by taking the provinces in and around the Sinai Peninsula from The Mamelukes. The advantage here is that The Mamelukes are usually much weaker than the Iberians. If the Sinai peninsula is taken, Venice can colonize the Indian Ocean and beyond decades before the other colonial powers make their way around the Cape of Good Hope. Also, there is a lucrative coastal COT in Alexandria that provides an increase in the number of colonists/year.
Venice. The Most Serene Republic. The greatest trading city in the whole of Italy in her prime. Venice was at once the mistress of the Mediterranean and its greatest packhorse. She maintained her independence for an impressive thousand years until Napoleon's conquest in 1797. Should you choose to guide - not control, guide - this fairest of cities, consider yourself successful should you achieve the same.
Venice is a maritime and economic power. Historically, she dominated trade between Europe and the Middle East, and she was so successful that her Ducats became widely used. However, in-game, she begins much as any other country, and it is up to you to create her competitive advantages. In order to dominate the trading world, it needs to adopt the Shrewd Commerce Practice and National Trade Policy ideas, as well as invest highly into trade technology. Once done, you can easily maintain five merchants in every CoT. The resulting income can easily boost your income by half.
- Venice begins with two generals at the start of the game, one of whom is exceptionally good. However, it is to be noted that he will die shortly after the game begins, but may be useful for prosecuting an early war.
- Enemy troops cannot cross into Venezia if an allied navy is present in the Gulf of Venice. Maintaining a strong navy there is instrumental to its defense.
Venice is a geographically dispersed nation. Her holdings range from Venice and the surrounding hinterland to Cyprus. As such, she is exposed to potential hostilities from many nations. The most notable of these are:
- Austria, which threatens her vital hinterland and Venice itself;
- Hungary, menacing her holdings on the Dalmatian coast;
- The Ottoman Empire, the historical bane of Venice, which threatens her holdings in Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Despite her weaknesses, Venice's geographical position provides her with opportunities to expand into Northern Italy. As the game begins Venice is at war with Milan, who are to the west and own two provinces. This war should not be too difficult to win, and Milan should be vassalized, rather than having either of her provinces taken.
Given a strong starting position, and adding wealth generated by trade, Venice can also easily dominate any of the small Italian states. You want to take advantage of this because most of the Northern and Central Italian states are fairly wealthy, and they contain many universities that can help your government research. Since her form of government does not allow for Royal Marriages, conquest is the way to go. However, in order to maintain your income from trade, be careful to keep a good reputation. The keys to this are: (1) force vassalize your foes, rather than taking provinces (for the most part), then diplo-annex them 10 years or so later. (2) Avoid going to war without a CB (this also prevents big stability hits). Venice will want to warn its neighbors, and ally with some of them (they'll get into wars that you can join without a BB hit and a small or no stability hit; eventually they will fail to join one of your wars, and you'll get a CB on them as well). With smart play and a little luck, most of Italy will either be owned by you or your vassal within 25-30 years of the 1453 start, without ever having your reputation get worse than "respectable."
Should you want to pursue conquest by marriage, Venice may convert to a Feudal Monarchy at the cost of 4 stability. You may also adopt the age old "have an ally do the annexing for you and backstab them later" strategy. In this case, Tuscany will serve as an excellent ally. She is often very receptive to an alliance at the start of the game and is a two-state country.
Once Northern Italy is secured under the rule of the Doge, the rest of Italy should be simpler, provided there are no complicating alliances. The unification of Italy might then be an option.
From there on, you may be considered a major power—in the same league as Austria, France, Spain, or the Ottoman Empire, and options to expand in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, or in the New World are open to you. Congratulations. The colonization role probably best plays to your strengths; given your position in Europe, essentially surrounded by foes, taking an aggressive stance in Europe can be more of a challenge, especially if some of those foes (particularly Burgundy and Austria) have been expanding aggressively while you have been conquering Italy.
Despite the opportunities available, there are also many threats. Austria is always waiting to pounce on Venice when it is weak. Around 1508, the League of Cambrai (also available as a scenario) consisting of the Papal States, Holy Roman Empire and France was formed against Venice. At the outset, the Venetian collapse was complete, and although it ended the war in status quo, the League illustrates the bane of Venice: a united, multinational foe. With the financial assets (and liberal use of loans and mercenaries) to cope, Venice has the capability to fight any one of the great powers to a standstill. However, place any two powers together and the situation becomes very dire. Therefore, endeavour to forge alliances between yourself and at least one major power. You may relax when your enemies are divided, but make preparations if they become united.
Venice starts the game with one of the richest CoTs in the world and some holdings in Greece. With the Serenissima, trading is the foremost priority, and after comes overseas conquest through complete naval supremacy, with maybe a few of the best available colonies (like Caribbean islands) or distant overseas, at least enough for Confirm Thalassocracy.
Even though Venice has a CoT from the start, trading elsewhere will be very important, so Free Trade will help. Genoa and Hansa will probably embargo at some point, and maybe Novgorod too, however, which will restrain you to less attractive CoTs, but at least, Genoa can regain its senses with an easy achievable military victory with the Trade War casus belli. Plutocracy would be very helpful, and actually an aristocratic position would cause problems because of government limits. Centralization is not as bad a problem than with other countries, but it would be difficult to go too far left because of the restrictions. In case the randomness of ground warfare causes major defeats, Venice, having a fragmented empire, can simply retreat to a further chunk of territory to rebuild forces, protected by a strong navy. The capital can be blocked by a navy, and one opponent, the Ottoman Empire, can be split in two with a fleet in the Dardanelles. Thus, being somewhat Naval-oriented will help, even though full Naval would be a little over the top. Confirm Thalassocracy, a very strong decision if some colonizing is added into the strategy, requires Naval +4, which is a lot, but certainly worth the effort (especially since it would need many colonies, making high Naval more valuable). Getting back to +3 can be an option later, if wanted. For the rare occasions where land battles are necessary, the Venetian army is better with a fully Quality-oriented to field better troops with its low force limits. The island-hopping (or, more accurately, island-or-isolated-province-hopping) game will require high Defensive, possibly full, to defend the Terra Ferma or the Greek peninsula while the Venetian army does its own sieges, with the help of cheap artillery: landings can be quite dangerous, so a full striking force would be necessary. As for Innovative/Narrowminded, conquests in Greece will need missionaries, and for colonies, Narrowminded is better, so a few positive moves could help there, though too much would slow down research a lot, and in any case, it is not a very high priority, as missionaries start out positive, and Judea is within easy reach.