EU4: The Bear versus the Fleur-de-lys

When it comes to the EU series of games I have always found Russia to be quite entrancing. One of my most memorable games of EU2 was a Muscowy/Russian game, and after having a few trial starts as Portugal I opted for Muscowy/Russia for me first full play-through of EU4. It has indeed proven to be a fun game, containing some interesting elements of diplomacy, colonisation, and conquest – lots of conquest. It is now 1697, and the mighty Russian Empire stretches all the way from Lithuania and Moldova in the West to the Pacific in the East. Australia and Alaska both are being colonised, as are various other Pacific islands (including Taiwan). Manchuria has mostly been secured, and in Asia the Russian Bear is encroaching into Asia Minor, the Middle East, and Persia. Also Ukraine still exists as a sort of client-state, the result of a mis-understanding of EU4 game mechanics. In all honesty this is perhaps less impressive than it sounds, though there have been a couple of close moments along the way.

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For the last fifty plus years however I have had no serious rival on my borders. Early on the Timurids (the now somewhat fragmented crimson state to the south) were a significant threat, but between myself, the Mamluks, Delhi, and internal rebellions they are a shadow of their former self. The Mamluks and I have been fighting on and off since the early 1500s, but their real rise to prominence itself early occurred in the last 50-70 years, and by the time we were sharing borders the Russian bear had become bloated enough to even somewhat disregard their now formidable strength. One way this can be seen is that their northern border used to be the Caucuses Mountains, whereas now Damascus is a border city. Lacking immediate rivals game mechanics have forced me to look farther afield to the old reliable enemy:France.

In the EU series of games France has always had a tendency, though not a certainty, to live up to its historical potential. In this game that is certainly true. It is the most dominant state in Western Europe, successfully dismembering any other continental state that became a threat. In the New World its Colonies cover the northern half of South America, and a goodly portion of North America too. Then they is their pernicious influence in Africa, and just recently they have seized a province in India. Perhaps it was inevitable, but there came a time when I could no longer select any neighbours as Rivals, but I could select France.

However, for the first fifty or so years of our Rivalry nothing much happened. We shared no borders, and no interests. I had basically stopped military endeavours in Europe proper against other Christian states, and they were fully diverted in various American adventures and sundry Western European wars. I was concentrating on southward expansion against the Islamic and Mongolion states – Crimea (now finally annexed), the Ottomans, the Timurids, the Oirat, and the Mamluks. In time all of those nations formed a Coalition against me, despite the Mamluks and the Timurids spending at least as much time fighting each other as me. Thus we pursued our differing expansions until, around 1670, I suddenly realised the diplomatic landscape had shifted: France and The Mamluks had become military allies.

This presented me with a practical problem: France is my only serious foe in land warfare. As Russia I have one tremendous advantage of almost everyone, and that is manpower. As someone is reputed to have said, quantity has a quality all of its own. However, the one other nation that also has a truly serious pool of manpower is France. It is not as massive as mine, indeed it is a bit under half of mine, but then France also has a significant other advantage terms of the quality of their army that to some of the Ideas they have selected, and their own National Ideas. To be fair it could be worse – there is one idea group they have not selected that I feared they would, but even so they have the idea advantage. Also as a Western nation they have a technological advantage in their units as well, one which will only become more prevalent over time (I am so large that Westernisation is something I am likely to avoid as it would be an excessively painful process).

Thus I went about the time-honoured route to deal with France – I sought out allies, the most obvious one being England. England has struggled a little this game, but it is still a respectable power with a significant colonial Empire. Whilst not the match of France, it can prove a significant distraction, and sometimes is able to hold its own. Of course, the thing with allies is sometimes they feel emboldened by alliances – and so England decided to continue its attempted takeover of Scotland. This war started in about 1690, and I honoured the call to arms, expecting nothing much to happen, except perhaps a naval landing up north. To my credit I did try to pressure on of France’s allies in the Baltic – but my fleet proved insufficient. It was with some surprise therefore I realised that France had managed to get the necessary access treaties to march a 45k army across Europe and end up on my borders.

There was no real surprise as to the outcome – I ensured I had a nearly 2:1 advantage in men in the battle, and after two engagements the French army was destroyed. This army’s destruction added significantly to our warscore, and helped the war result in victory. Meanwhile it marks the first time I have faced the French. I imagine it will be the first of many. Round one is over, an almost incidental affair in which ultimately on a single province changed hands. More significant confrontations will almost certainly occur in the remaining 120 years or so of gametime.

And this is why I love the Paradox series so much. This rivalry between myself and France began as an almost theoretical thing, an artefact of game mechanics. Over the course of fifty or so years it has become something different, something more real, something that is actively shaping the game and influencing my decisions. I am very much looking forward to the eighteenth century.

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