Europa Universalis IV is one of those games where you could put in over 1,000 hours and still find yourself learning how to play it.
For the first 100 hours of playing this marathon of a game, I had hardly ventured from the shores of England in my attempt to rise my homeland into a juggernaut of an Empire. Many other players will have similar tales with many not venturing out of Europe – and despite it being in the name of the game, there’s much more of the world to see.
But you should – outside of Europe, Europa Universalis IV has a wealth of interesting nations that you may not have considered before. Here’s a list of some of my favourites, that allow you to venture into new, exciting and unique nations.
On the North-East edge of Africa lies the most powerful Coptic nation in the world (at the default 1444 start date). This isn’t saying much, however, as there is only a handful of Coptic nations. But Ethiopia is easily a dominant force in the area and are only properly challenged by the Mamluks to the north.
Why you should play them: Ethiopia is a really engaging but difficult challenge that encourages you to expand aggressively. The reality is the the Mamluks (or sometimes the Ottoman) will destroy you when they decide to venture south into Africa. You need to be strong enough to fight them. This means constantly expanding around the Horn of Africa and gaining enough of an economy that you can rival a nation that will most likely have a significant technology lead. You’ll need an amazing starting leader and a great religion to help you. Utilise this well and you will make it out alive, in time for the Europeans to arrive!
In the heart of the Middle East lies the Timurids, a nation in peril about to devolve into chaos. The vassal states that Timurids command are aching to break free, held together only by the love of Sultan Shah Rukh Timurid. His time is nearly up, however, and a civil war is on edge.
Why should you play them: Playing the Timurids in Europa Universalis IV will likely start off on the verge of your subjects revolting against you – but this can be averted. Taking the Timurids opens up India to the east and Arabia to your west, all ready for the taking. It’s a hard start but weather the storm and you are free to play however you like. You also can focus on India and form the Mughals, an overpowered nation that is great to play.
Japan is anything but united. The country has been split into many daimyos, a half independent, half subject state that controls the capital. Uesugi stands as a strong contender for top-dog but any of the minor Japanese nations can be fun to play.
Why you should play them: Essentially, Japan has the most unique system of government in Europa Universalis IV. It is utterly baffling and will take a good while to get used to, but it will be fully worth your while. Conquering the provinces within Japan itself and establishing yourself as the ruler is a weird challenge as you have lots of small armies all fighting among themselves, creating a bonkers free-for-all. Once you’ve managed that you can either establish Japan or carry on as a daimyo and exploit the system. Either way, you can look to take on your historic rivals in China or look to the east and colonise America.
Talking of America, Caddo is a small native chiefdom in North America. As a tribe it follows the weak Totemist religion, it has a major penalty on tech and can only reform through the terribly expensive native reforms. All in all, quite a naff situation to be in.
Why you should play them: Caddo and other tribes get the migration mechanic, making them able to travel their continent slowly with a bonus to their monarch points. This sort of helps you make up for the monarch points you will lose to technology, but it is still greatly expensive to get your native reforms passed. Instead you can migrate south and meet the Mexican nations and convert, through uprisings, your nation to Nahuatl, the Aztec religion that instead requires you to subjugate nations in order to reform and westernise your country. While this is hard for Mexican natives, it isn’t nearly as hard for someone who can see all the tribal nations to the north who are ripe for the taking. Following this strategy means you can unite all of Central and North America ready for the Europeans to arrive, reform cheaply and spend the left over monarch points to catch up with their tech. Thus, quickly establishing yourself as a major power.
In the heart of Mexico lies the Aztecs, a sea of cramped nations that all love to fight each other. They all follow the Nahuatl nation that makes it cheap to vassalise your neighbours and love doing so. It’s a crazy place to be.
Why you should play them: While playing Caddo may make it easier to achieve the goal of passing your religious reforms, it feels much more satisfactory doing so as a traditional nation. Playing as a brutal Aztec is great fun – and fighting and killing as many people as possible is a positive for your nation’s stability. You may even be able to achieve that Sunset Invasion. It’s a hard task but one that is far more thrilling than starting as the Ottomans again.