EU4: A New Poltava

There is a war in the North. The highly trained and disciplined Swedish army, proud of its tradition of victory, marches through the lands of western Russia, seeking out the foe. Until one morning out of the fog comes the spectre of three separate Russian armies, each one the same size as the Swedish one. The Swedish soldiers, brave and capable, are trapped. Superior though they are to their Russian counterparts there is no overcoming the sheer numbers of the Russian horde. By the end of the battle tens of thousands are dead, but the army of Sweden is no more, either slain on the field or surrendered. It is the turning point in the war, and nothing now can prevent the Russian behemoth from over-running the North.

Okay, a little dramatic, but in broad strokes the above describes both the historical campaign that led to the Battle of Poltava, and the next stage in my game as Russia. I had not intended to tackle Sweden quite so early, but Sweden itself wished to further beat up on Denmark. Denmark has become a minor power, having lost Skåne, Bornholm, and most of Jylland. Now Sweden had laid claim to Fyn. Denmark turned to their English allies, and England asked for aid from my Russia. Deciding I had to keep my English alliance with an eye to further showdowns with France I accepted the call, and was made the alliance leader. For their own part Sweden called in The Hansa (a regional power in northern Germany) and The Huron (who are now westernised and becoming a regional power in eastern North America).

The war began without me really having any aims – I had no claims over Swedish lands. As it happened though within a few months of the beginning I had a random event which gave me a claim to one of Sweden’s provinces in Estonia. Meanwhile I was slowly gathering my forces. I only had one army in the vicinity, which I was to invade defenceless Estonia, and I began to send two further armies to the border, plus recruiting a bunch of mercenaries. I did get an initial scare when the 45k Swedish stack looked like it was going to march through Neva to defend Estonia, but in the event they turned back into Finland, and across to destroy the Danish army. At sea the Swedish fleet was also initially victorious against my allies, and The Huron were having some successes in America.

I cautiously began an invasion of Finland and northern Norway, and then that Swedish army appeared in my back yard. Clearly it had marched across Bohemia. It was too late however, I had managed to gather my armies, and I now smashed the sole hope of Sweden on the banks of the Narva. After this victory in a sense the war became somewhat boring – it was mostly a case of building up a significant warscore to achieve the desired peace. Whilst there were further battles Sweden never managed to amass a significant enough army to cause any trouble, and The Hansa stayed mostly out of it.

In the peace treaty I took Reval, I gave the Orkneys to England, and returned Jylland and Bornholm to Denmark. Indeed the value of the peace treaty was rather higher than the warscore – I can only think the AI desperately wanted out of the war.

This war feels very significant. There was never really any significant chance of losing the war – my manpower advantage was simply too huge – but it is my first proper full-scale war directly with a western power, and I think probably marks the start of a time when I am likely to be more active in Europe again. For a very long time my western frontier has mostly been dormant – ever since the duo of Poland and Lithuania was broken in the late 1500s. That is going to change.

All in all though I couldn’t but smile at the way my game was echoing real life history and the Battle of Poltava during the Great Northern War.


  1. Martin Orphanides said:

    Noooooooooooo! Not the Swedes! And history repeats itself…

    IRL, had the Swedes marched on Moscow after the Battle of Narva, things might have turned out quite differently. But I think Russia wasn’t seen as a threat so Poland was dealt with initially.

    • stnylan said:

      I think you are right about that. Russia was generally under-estimated until the Great Northern War, but after the Time of Troubles they had been quietly improving themselves, spreading through Siberia, and then with Peter the Great they had a long reign from a very capable ruler who was not afraid to drive through reforms. I have read a biography of him, and he is a very, very interesting man.

      For his part Karl XII reminds me quite a bit of the ancient Spartan King Agesilaus, who also eventually took his small professional army on a war too far.

  2. Martin Orphanides said:

    Never heard of that Spartan king. Maybe I should read a bio of Peter the Great – don’t know much about him….except, didn’t he do a lot of traveling in the West as a young man?

    Was it under Peter the Great that Russia took back Smolensk from Poland-Lithuania?

    Re Karl XII, you are right that he was too ambitious, but also keep in mind that the Great Northern War was not something he started. All countries declared war on Sweden. He was just keeping in line with the strategy of the time: take the war to the enemy so that *their* population has to feed *your* army. But Poltava was a great defensive victory for the Russians (mutters something about bloody campers).

    • stnylan said:

      Agesilaus is a very interesting character, but it was his reign and actions that saw Sparta’s reign as a dominant power in Greece come to an end.

      You are right in that Peter did do a lot of travelling in the West as a young man. He was actually Tsar at the time, which makes it even more un-usual.

      Smolensk was actually returned to Russia a little earlier, iirc Peter got Kiev at some point.

      No doubt it is a good strategy, there is a school of thought that says one reason why England was able to develop a civil society relatively early is that all of England’s wars were generally fought abroad, allowing the development of civil institutions un-interrupted by marauding armies.

  3. Martin Orphanides said:

    No doubt due to the strength of the Royal Navy…rule Britannia…

    The strategy, at least for Sweden, stemmed in significant part from the 30 Years War, when our armies were huge and our treasury was always empty. Marauding was a way of (barely) staying solvent. Even so, without French subsidies we would have gone bankrupt.

    • stnylan said:

      You see – nothing good comes of siding with the French 😀

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