R.S. Hunter

Science Fiction & Fantasy Author

Tag: video games (page 1 of 2)

My 2014 Game(s) of the Year

End of the year lists always seem to come out the same: the video games with the biggest budgets, biggest explosions, biggest everything tend to dominate. A couple of indie games might get included in a cursory fashion, but that’s about it. Back at Gamer Limit we used to write about our personal favorites. It allowed us to highlight games that affected us (see my 2010 and 2011 posts), and it’s a tradition I continued on my here last year.

This year felt different for me. To say nothing of the horrendous movement that is #gamergate, 2014 felt like a year where my interest in mainstream AAA games and gaming culture hit an all-time low. But that doesn’t mean 2014 was a bad year for games themselves. Indie games are everywhere; and I even got my hands on some I backed via Kickstarter. Oh yeah, my list is in no particular order! Oh yeah again, a 2014 release date isn’t a requirement for my list; I only had to have played the game this year!

Faves

Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus

The Ratchet & Clank series started in the PS2 era, and those games are good (though I haven’t gotten all the way through any of them), the series didn’t take off for me until the PS3 iterations. The series just gets better with every iteration. Into the Nexus is the swan song for the series on the PS3 and it’s everything that makes Ratchet & Clank great distilled into a focused, downloadable title.

The art direction is amazing–like a Pixar movie that you get to play in. The story’s goofy, funny, and Into the Nexus just made me feel pure joy. Saturday morning cartoons meets zippy space opera meets an action adventure game with impeccably tuned controls and over-the-top weapons. I can’t wait for Insomniac Games to return to the series.

Highlight: listening to Mr. Zurkon’s taunts

The Banner Saga

I missed out on backing The Banner Saga on Kickstarter, but as soon as the first episode came out, I knew I had to get it. To contrast Into the Nexus’ obsession with joy, The Banner Saga is a game permeated with melancholy. Melancholy can be gorgeous and haunting at the same time, and the developers at Stoic Games nailed it. The game is set in a Viking-inspired world with a hand-drawn art style that looks like it came out of an old-timey Disney movie. The gods in this world are dead, and everything is slowly dying. To make matters worse, a race of walking suits of armor called the Dredge are rising and are intent on wiping out humanity and a race of horned giants called the Varl.

the banner saga

The player takes control of a refugee caravan, and large portions of the game are spent watching the caravan travel from place to place, trying to stay ahead of the Dredge horde. All the while you watch your food stores dwindle and wonder when the people under your protection will start dying from starvation. Oh, and then random events can happen: you come across people claiming to be refugees but maybe they’re bandits, what do you do? Somebody has been stealing food from the caravan supplies, what do you do? Sometimes there’s no right answer and people die. Sometimes there is but people die anyway.

In between stretches of travel, you participate in tactical, turn-based battles against humans, Varl, and Dredge. It’s a system similar to Final Fantasy Tactics, but it works. The funny thing is: the combat was my least favorite part of the game. By the end of the game, things had gotten a little repetitive but damn if I’m not going to get the second episode when it comes out.

Highlight: watching your banner flutter in the breeze as you cross a desolate landscape as the caravan’s morale drops to dangerously low levels

Super Mario 3D World

Nintendo rarely goes wrong with Mario games. Super Mario 3D World is no exception. I loved Mario Galaxy, but never finished Mario Galaxy 2 despite its excellence. This game came with my Wii U, and it’s easily a reason to get the console if you’re on the fence. Everything in the game just works, even the chaotic-made-my-wife-threaten-to-divorce-me-for-messing-her-up multiplayer. I tried playing Super Mario 3D Land on the 3DS but I just couldn’t get it, but the Wii U iteration clicked.

My wife and I spent months playing the game, and we even collected all the stamps, green stars, and top o’ the flagpoles. If Super Mario 3D World is your latest in a long string of Mario games or your first one ever, it’s worth your time.  Nintendo manufactures meticulous happiness flavored with nostalgia (at least for a lot of people my age-ish) and with this latest outing they’re still at the top of their game.

Highlight: Cat Luigi saying “meow”

Cook, Serve, Delicious

I first heard of Cook, Serve, Delicious on Northernlion’s channel, and after watching his video I went out and bought it. So what is Cook, Serve, Delicious? I’d say it’s Guitar Hero meets running a restaurant. You’re a chef at a restaurant in an office tower, and your goal is to make your hole-in-the-wall greasy spoon into a Michelin star winning establishment.

Every day you open your restaurant and cook four dishes for your patrons. Cooking is accomplished via quick time events and it takes some getting used to. Not only do you have to hit the right buttons, but some dishes take longer to cook than others, some have multiple steps, and the customers themselves are picky little bastards. Do good and you’ll be rewarded with extra tips. Fail and you’ll piss off your patrons and miss out on revenue which can be used to buy new stoves, dishwashers, and recipes.

Running the restaurant is a fast-paced balancing act and every now and then I’d find myself complaining that I was “in the weeds” or yelling “Behind, chef!”

Highlight: Doing a day of perfect service and then heading back out into the culinary trenches again the next day

Almosts

Wolfenstein: The New Order

I haven’t played a Wolfenstein game since Wolfenstein 3D, but the premise of The New Order was too interesting to pass up. I mean, Germany winning WWII isn’t the most original idea for a speculative story, but The New Order excels when it comes to its setting. Nazi-fied Europe is terrifying, especially when you get to explore 1960s Berlin. The game doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the setting and the horrors of the Nazi regime–especially a regime that ended up in uncontested control of the whole continent. What was more surprising was that Wolfenstein did it while being a First Person Shooter, a genre not known for subtlety (see: pretty much any AAA FPS franchise).

The game wasn’t perfect though. I played it not knowing it was a sequel to 2009’s Wolfenstein, but the game assumes you’re familiar with the side characters that make up the resistance movement. Since I had no idea who any of these people were, some of the moments that were supposed to be the most affecting fell flat. The other reason this game ended up on my “Almost a Favorite” list is because even though I enjoyed playing it, I didn’t feel any compulsion to keep it once I was done. Still, my year was better because I played it.

Highlight: shooting Nazis on the moon.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Can you really go wrong with a Zelda game? The answer is yes. Very yes. I’m still angry at Nintendo for Skyward Sword. But I’m not angry at A Link Between Worlds. It’s a finely crafted Zelda game, and the big hook is a good one: it’s a sequel to the classic* A Link to the Past.

a link between worlds

So why is LBW not on my list of 2014 favorites? Because of its big hook, more specifically, the fact that it’s big hook wasn’t that big to me. The SNES was the first game console my family owned, but I never owned LTTP as a child. I never even played it until high school, and then it was on an emulator. So LBW doesn’t push my nostalgia buttons as hard as it might for other players either my age or perhaps just a couple years older.

A Link Between Worlds is still a well-crafted game (it’s following a pretty dang good template for a start). I love the item rental mechanic, even if I think Nintendo could’ve gone a little bit further with the amount of freedom they give you. However, it’s a novel feeling buying the bow before the bombs or some other “Zelda Formula” breaking combo. But is LBW my favorite handheld Zelda game? No. That honor goes to Minish Cap. This one was great game, but still an almost favorite.

Highlight: Buying items out of order then not dying so you get to keep all of them forever

Dishonorable Mentions

Are the following two games“bad” games? I dunno. Maybe? Not sure how you’d really qualify or quantify that. But I can say definitively that these were my personal duds of 2014.

Pier Solar HD

Pier Solar HD is on my list of shame more because of how much of a letdown it ended up being. I backed the game on Kickstarter in 2012, and I spent the past two years waiting for the HD version to come out. How could I not be excited? Pier Solar was a Genesis game released in 2010. Yes. A Sega Genesis game developed and released in the Year of Our Luigi 2010. What? And a classic JRPG to boot! So hell yeah I was all on board for an HD version on Steam.

pier solar

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it more than a couple of hours into the game… The writing didn’t do it for me, and I guess I’m not as big a fan of old school JRPGs as I used to be. Plus the game was terrible at explaining how to turn on the auto-save feature. It might have been a perfectly serviceable throwback, but no thank you. I’ll pass.

Yoshi’s New Island

I’m not sure what I was expecting going into Yoshi’s New Island. The original Yoshi’s Island on the SNES is one of my favorite games of all time (and IMO one of the best games of all time) so Nintendo had a lot to live up to in making a sequel to one of their classics. I mean, they already made a sequel on the DS that was okay. Not amazing, but okay.

Right off the bat, I wasn’t a fan of the art direction. Everything just looked weird. Yes, I realize that’s a highly technical term, but I’m sticking with it. Yoshi’s New Island isn’t terrible, but it felt more like it was put together by following a list of things a Yoshi platformer should have. That lack of heart, that special care that you can feel in Yoshi’s Island wasn’t there in this New version for me.

And that’s it for 2014! Come back in a year for more!

 

Let’s Talk About: Final Fantasy X-2 HD

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD

YRP: Girl Power

It took me over 10 years to finish Final Fantasy X-2. It took multiple tries, a completely different console, and an HD upgrade for me to get it done. It wasn’t the game’s fault that I never finished it before; the blame is entirely at my feet.

You see, Final Fantasy X-2 is the first direct sequel in the Final Fantasy franchise. As I said in my write-up about Final Fantasy X HD, I was in high school when that game came out. It was one of the first PS2 games I bought, and it blew me away. Those graphics, that voice acting, those character models–so realistic when compared to the weird Popeye-esque blocks of Final Fantasy VII or the blurry pixels of Final Fantasy IX, and of course, that opening Blitzball scene.

I loved it. I loved playing Blitzball, filling out the Sphere Grid, and the story-focused nature of the whole affair. No more wandering around a zoomed out world map wondering where to go.

FFX-2 abandons all of that. As Todd Harper said on Twitter (apologies for paraphrase! I never saved the original tweet), it’s like the producers at Square Enix purposely made a sequel that had none of the things that gamers liked in the first one.

I hated it. You see, like most 14-15 year old boys, I was a bit of a fuckhead. “It’s too girly. It’s too gay. Tidus isn’t even in it. You just play dress-up.” Yup. A little fuckhead, just like Tidus really. That’s why Leigh Alexander’s recent essay really hit home for me.

Fast forward a few years: I’m a bit older, a bit less fuckhead-y. I understand that Final Fantasy X-2 is purposely trying for a different tone: a JRPG Charlie’s Angels with a fast-paced battle system and an emphasis on fun. And it works. Oh yes it works.

But where FFX is a relatively linear affair, FFX-2 breaks up its plot into chapters and in each chapter you have certain locations (Hot Spots) you have to go to in order to advance the story, but everywhere else is optional. You can do some sidequests, then do a Hot Spot story mission, and then go back and do some more sidequests. This structure makes the game feel more open and less constricting. That’s all well and good except for one little thing that makes one of my biggest gaming neuroses kick in: FFX-2 has a completion percentage counter.

According to Mitch Krpata’s “A New Taxonomy of Gamers,” I’m something of a Tourist with Completionist tendencies. I like to see what a game has to offer; I don’t need to get the highest score possible or top an online leader board. However, I try to find as many secrets as I can, collect as many collectible thingies as I can, do as many sidequests as possible without annoying amounts of effort (which varies from game to game). These personal tendencies are what drove me away from FFX-2 on my second and third attempts. I wanted to get 100% completion and see the secret, best, ultimate, etc. etc. ending. Maybe I could have just tried to find a recording of the ending online (more on that later), but back then doing something like that was out of character for me.

Final Fantasy X-2 HD screenshot

Fast forward to 2014. I’ve sold my PS2, sold FFX-2 (but I’ve held onto X), and sold the tome of a player’s guide I had used on my previous attempts. I tell my wife that the HD remaster of and X-2 is available and she convinces me to buy it. We’re going to play both games together. Luckily I know FFX well enough that we’re able to get through it pretty quickly. (See my thoughts on the remaster here)

She enjoyed the characters–especially comparing Auron to Teen Wolf‘s Derek Hale (it makes sense, trust me)–and the overall story. Understandably, she was less than happy at the more game-y, RPG-y parts of the experience. Luckily, we struck a deal where I was able to grind “off-camera” so to speak and we’d play together whenever I made story progress.

As soon as I finished we jumped into the sequel. I warned her that I’d only ever reached Chapter 3 one time so I didn’t remember as much of this game as the first one. We also set the ground rules that I would try to get as much completion percentage as possible and that we’d just watch the secret 100% ending online. (10 years later I now value my leisure time more than I did when I was 15)

Right off the bat, FFX-2 throws the melancholy tone of FFX right out the window. I mean, the opening cutscene is like a J-Pop music video. It’s silly. And I mean that in the best way. It’s silly, over the top, and amazing. This game takes Yuna and Rikku (revealing default outfit aside) and adds in newcomer Paine and throws them together in a globe-trotting, girl-power fueled adventure.

However, the game’s episodic nature didn’t appeal to my wife. She knew going in that Yuna’s journey was in part about finding Tidus, but she expected that to really take the driver’s seat. Looking back on the finished experience, it really doesn’t. FFX-2 is more about exploring Spira and seeing how Yuna’s victory in the first game has changed things.

I guess if you just played the mandatory Hot Spot missions in order the story would be more cohesive. But if you do that you’ll miss out on tons of completion percentage points. Some of the sidequests in X-2 are character-driven and reveal more about Paine or more about what happened between the two games. And others are: selling balloons or participating in a coin-based mini-game. I didn’t mind them because I was trying to get as much completion as possible, but my wife wasn’t too pleased. She wanted more story stuff, more character interaction, and more shipping.

I mean it all comes down to the overused adage: your mileage will vary. I absolutely loved the parts where the Gullwings were together on the airship or fighting/working with the Leblanc Syndicate. Plus the funky music played aboard the airship is really fun. The main story was good, and it was nice to see Yuna be more outspoken; this was her Calm after all.

Even if you get annoyed with the way the plot kind of meanders through chapters and some random sidequests, the game plays great. Eschewing the turn-based battle system from before, Final Fantasy X-2 returns to a more active system. Plus you can change the character’s dress spheres (basically classes like warrior, thief, mage, etc.) on the fly. It creates a rather frantic energy to fights, and boss fights can be downright tough if you’re unprepared. There’s a ton of depth and with the monster capturing/raising sidequest included in the HD remaster, I know I barely scratched the surface of FFX-2‘s character and class-building content.

Final Thoughts

Again, your mileage will vary. If you really, really liked FFX’s battle system, know that this one is completely different. Todd really hit the nail on the head; aside from setting and characters, almost every aspect of the first game doesn’t carry over to the sequel. In my opinion, it works. It really does.

I think part of my wife’s problem came from the fact that we had just finished Tales of Xillia before starting on the X & X-2 collection. She was used to more modern conventions, an even more active battle system, and little skits and vignettes bewteen the main characters all the time. Still, I consider my money well-spent. I finally finished Final Fantasy X-2 eleven years late, but I’m glad I finally did. While I’m sad I was too much of a fuckhead to play it years ago, I feel like this HD remastered collection is the definitive way to play these two games.

Statistics

Game: Final Fantasy X-2 HD

Platform: PS3

Release Date: 3-21-14

Completed: 5-2-14

Trophies/Achievements: 28% (10/35)

Let’s Talk About: Final Fantasy X HD

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD

The HD remakes/upgrades/re-releases/whatever you wanna call ‘em of Final Fantasy X and X-2 are dual spin kicks right to my nostalgia organ. (I believe that might actually be the appendix’s true function)

Listen to my story

I first played FFX around 9th grade or so. Basically every bit of music, pop culture, etc. that I consumed during those years has stuck with me for better or worse.

My wife and I had just finished playing Tales of Xillia together and she wanted another RPG to dive into. FFX HD had just come out, and because I’d played the game three or four times already, I told her we’d be able to get through it pretty quickly. So how does a decade-old game hold up? Pretty well for the most part.

The character models look better now than they did back in ‘02. Secondary characters…not so much. They still have those flat PS2 era faces. But man, dat CGI intro.

*sings Otherworld to himself*

Yeah, I still know all the words to that song. Sorry not sorry.

So how ‘bout that story? Not gunna lie. I had to look up some stuff on Wikipedia even after beating the game again last night. I don’t remember it being so “sorrow, spiral of death, existence is futile” when I played it back in high school. It all seems so melodramatic now.

Tidus is still annoying. Plus the whole “this is my story” thing kinda sucks for Yuna. It’s kinda her story too. So yeah, Tidus that’s really selfish of you.

Auron’s much more of a dick than I remember. And now I can’t hear Wakka without thinking it’s Jake from Adventure Time with a weird accent. (This is not necessarily a bad thing!)

This time around I got annoyed with Yuna’s voice acting. I don’t know if it’s because this is one of the earliest voice acted games, but the cadence to her lines is so, so weird. It gets better by the end of the game when she speaks with more confidence and has more of a personality. It’s way more normal sounding in FFX-2 though.

Final Fantasy X‘s battle system still holds up. Plus there’s a bunch of new stuff in the HD version that was only available in the international version originally. I haven’t even gotten close to completing all the sidequests and optional bosses.

If you’re looking for some nostalgia or a fun JRPG with the best/most nonsensical minigame ever (blitzball fo life!), check out the HD remasters. Don’t worry too hard about the story or about how Seymour’s hair does the things it does.

Also, Rikku and Tidus make more sense to me than Tidus and Yuna.

Final Thoughts

The inclusion of both FFX and FFX-2 on one disc is worth the asking price. I played the intro of FFX-2 last night, and I think I’m actually looking forward to playing it more than the first one. I’ll write a post about it once I’m finished with the game.

Statistics

Game: Final Fantasy X HD

Platform: PS3

Release Date: 3-21-14

Completed: 4-22-14

Trophies/Achievements: 53% (18/34)

Conquering a Galaxy Far Far Away: Star Wars Rebellion

Star Wars Poster

In honor of #StarWarsDay, I want to take the time to reminisce about one of my favorite Star Wars games of all time. A game that you won’t see mentioned alongside your Rogue Squadrons, your Jedi Knight IIs, your Knights of the Old Republics. I’m talking about Star Wars Rebellion–a real-time strategy game that mysteriously came into my life and took over my imagination.

Star Wars Rebellion

I don’t know when or how Star Wars Rebellion ended up in my hands. I know it was sometime before my family’s move to Southern California. I mean, it had to have been at least 1998, as that’s when the game was released. But other than that, I have no clue who bought the game, placed it in a fuzzy, Velcro CD case, and made it part of our collection.

We had a computer that we kept in the den. While my dad used it mostly for work, my brothers and I were allowed to play games on it. We kept the boxes the games came in on a bookshelf in the den. I remember looking through the shelves; it was mostly full of odds and ends: the aforementioned PC game boxes, some books my dad read, a copy of the DOOM Hacker’s Guide (or something like that), and then this instruction manual for some game called Star Wars Rebellion. Next to the manual was a black, fuzzy CD case–the kind that has multiple “pages.” The Rebellion disc was its only contents.

Star Wars Rebellion screenshot

For a kid that loved the spaceships and battles in Star Wars more than anything else, Rebellion was perfect. Not only did you get to mess around with the galactic map–full of planets and star systems only mentioned in the Expanded Universe (EU)–but you also got to engage tactical fleet battles. Homeworld did this much, much better a year later, but for 10 year-old-me, it was like bringing my LEGO battles to life.

Part of Rebellion’s brilliance is that it let you maneuver your ships–glorious groupings of Mon Calamari Cruisers, squadrons of X-Wings, and formations of Imperial Star Destroyers–in three dimensions. Most other strategy games only operate on a 2D plane. But in Rebellion, you could order your ships to go above or below the enemy. I spent so much time, way too much time drawing battle plans and stuff in my notebooks at school while I waited to get home and put them into action in the game.

It’s Good to be Bad

Let’s be honest: the Empire was cool. Darth Vader (before the prequels) was cool. Yes, yes I know they were the bad guys. But I always wanted my own Star Destroyer. Star Wars Rebellion made that happen. This was the first Star Wars game I played that let you choose the Empire as your side. Finally! I was able to have Darth Vader hunt down Rebel spies. My admirals patrolled the galaxy with fleets of Star Destroyers, cruisers, and endless waves of TIE Fighters under their command. It was amazing.

Star Destroyer

I never actually won a game in Rebellion, but I certainly got close. I painted the galactic map that bright, almost neon Imperial green.

It’s Only Cheating if You Get Caught

According to the movies, books, comics the Empire is supposed to be powerful. It’s supposed to have hundreds of ships under its command. Unfortunately, in the interest of “balance” and “giving the Rebels a chance” (ugh), the Empire starts out with a pitiful number of ships. Enter the glorious world of game editors!

Much like my time with Red Alert and the Tiberium series, I spent many a happy hour tinkering with Rebellion’s innards. I’m not ashamed to admit I completely broke the game in my favor. Imperial Star Destroyers are supposed to have ion cannons according to the Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels? Okay! Mod them in! Of course they’re supposed to have more shields. You know what? I’m pretty sure all the Rebel ships should have no weapons. Sound good? Of course it does!

I wasn’t playing multiplayer–as far as I knew, nobody else had ever heard of the game–so what was the harm? Did I care about winning fairly? Absolutely not! Even though I completely unbalanced the game, it was still horrendously fun.

Talon Who? What’s a Bane Nothos?

Another one of the best parts of Star Wars Rebellion is the fact that it included a bunch of characters from the movies as well as the EU. For somebody who voraciously read any Star Wars novel he could get his hands on in elementary and middle school, playing a game where characters like Thrawn, Talon Karrde, and Borsk Fey’lya were included was a dream come true.

Sidebar: I played Rebellion before I ever saw any of the Thrawn trilogy graphic novels, so the game’s version of Talon Karrde is the one I pictured in my head. Seeing him bare-chested and long-haired in other media just weirded me out.

Darth Vader

All the characters in the game came with encyclopedia entries about them, so if you had no clue who Jan Dodonna or Pellaeon were, then the game was there to help you out. I loved the fact that I got to play around with people I recognized from the books in ways that didn’t have to follow established canon. I always paired up Thrawn and Pellaeon though. Couldn’t break up that duo.

Control a World. Command a Galaxy

Was Star Wars Rebellion a great game? Absolutely not. I wouldn’t even rank it among the top Star Wars games. Parts of it were extremely boring. And aside from the space battles everything else happened via info cards. Still, the ability to spread fleets of Star Destroyers across the galaxy goes a long way toward winning my heart.

If you’re looking for a Star Wars game that’s more grand strategy than Empire at War, Galactic Battlegrounds, or Force Commander, then give Rebellion a try. Just be willing to sit through some outdated game design.

Russia: East to the Sea (Part 6)

EUIV: Russia in 1636

Russia in 1636

Russia: East to the Sea is a new Let’s Play series (with a new, updated name) that will follow my progress as I play a Europa Universalis IV campaign as Muscovy, starting in the year 1444. Goals for this series include: forming Russia as soon as possible, securing my western borders, and then ignoring Europe and expanding east into Southeast Asia (and possibly western North America). So let’s get this party started! (Part 5 available here)

Korean War

Picking up where we last left off: I declare war on Korea in 1619. They have no allies. Their peninsula is strategic and will increase my trade power in the eastern part of my lands. My 27 regiments will easily handle their 20, so I kind of let the war fight itself. There are only 2 provinces that would let them get off the peninsula and into Russia, and I’m sitting on top of both.

EUIV: Russia in Korea 1630

Russian & Korean War in 1630

Though, this fight has made me realize (along with one of Arumba’s latest videos) that I need wayyyyy more ships if I want to successfully play the island-hopping game. Butttttt, since I’m ending this playthrough with this part, I’m not going to try and hit my naval force limit.

A fun little pop-up…pops up in 1620: my colony in Oregon is self-sustaining! And a year later my 2nd North American colony is self-sustaining. Plus, I’ve ended my war with Korea and took only 1 province. It had a nice tax level, it’s coastal, and it allows me to fabricate more claims on them. It’ll only take 96 months to core. No big deal, right?

Peaceful Expansion

I wait out the next 5 years with not much happening. I mean if you were watching this series (and I wasn’t able to do fun commentary or something) these 5 years would be super boring. All I do is wait for provinces to core, convert those that need converting (and wow my missionaries are powerful a tiny bit more than a year to convert a province), and building more colonies. I expand into the modern-day San Francisco Bay Area and Central California. I take the mission to colonize Washington (I don’t remember the EUIV province name) and complete it quickly.

In 1628 all my cores are done, so you know what that means, right? War again!

Korean War Part Deux

My troops cross the Korean border in 1629 and it’s a repeat of the first war. Plus they’re at war with Japan too, so this is going to go quickly. I don’t think I’ll be able to fully annex them or make them a protectorate (which I still don’t quite understand), so I think I’ll just take a bunch of provinces.

Russian California colonial nation

Russian California colonial nation

A year passes and everything is much the same: colonies are progressing well. Britain and Castile are busy colonizing the eastern half of North America. It still weirds me out to see English Mexico and English Brazil as colonial nations. Portugal has a lot of South America. France, the Netherlands, and Norway are competing for modern-day New England and Canada. I hope they come to blows with Britain or Castile some time soon.

EUIV English Mexico in North America

North America in 1636

It’s also weird that it’s 1630, and I’m still typing Castile instead of Spain. Portugal’s annexed Galicia, and Aragón still controls most of the Iberian Peninsula. Algiers (instead of the Mamluks or Ottomans) controls the entire North African coast.

Observations

These are things that happened in the game that I thought were fun or noteworthy but don’t really deserve a whole section on their own.

  1. Castile getting raked over the coals by both Aragón and Portugal is hilarious. Normally Spain eats Aragón quickly–either through force or the Iberian Wedding.
  2. Great Britain admirably filled the power vacuum left by Spain’s absence.
  3. Austria grew huge (they were basically encircling Bavaria), but they never regained the Imperial Throne. Bavaria had that honor (along with Sweden under a personal union). Bavaria also grew really big. Those two were going to come to blows at some point.
  4. Norway lost all their Scandinavian holdings to Sweden but managed to hold onto Iceland and then colonized Northern Canada.
  5. Island hopping with a tiny navy is incredibly annoying.
  6. Westernizing isn’t too bad as long as you have a reserve of points built up and a good monarch. Buying back the lost stability really helped keep rebels at bay.
  7. Diplomatic Ideals is still an incredibly useful Idea Group. Having an extra diplomat right off the bat–especially when you can’t get one from being the Papal Controller and/or Holy Roman Emperor–is invaluable. Plus reduced claim fabrication time, “unjustified demands,” and bonuses to diplomatic reputation? That’s all icing on the cake.
  8. Colonial nations are interesting, but I don’t like that you lose control of what provincial upgrades they construct.
  9. Wales stayed independent all the way through 1636 when I ended the series.

Final Tally

I’m calling this one. Time of death: February 1636. It wasn’t the worst playthrough, but my self-imposed rules limited my options. And by the time I contemplated changing them, I was kind of locked into that course. Muscovy is an interesting nation to play: you have tons of land available, and you can expand in almost any direction. They can lead the world in manpower and army size if you play things right. It’s a pain in the ass to core all the provinces you conquer from the various khanates, but because their all in the Muslim religious group, you can’t try to peacefully vassalize any of them because they can’t enter into royal marriages.

EUIV: Castile, Aragon, & Portugal 1636

Good thing Castile has all those overseas holdings

Taking Religious Ideas was super useful for giving me the Holy War CB against almost everybody, and it helped me convert conquered provinces. I took Exploration right away because it gave me colonists and conquistadors, though I could’ve been much more effective with them. It didn’t help that I was stuck with a limit of 1 free leader for the entire game. I don’t know if that’s normal or not.

Like my Brandenburg to Germany game, I feel like I learned a lot with this one. I have a better grasp of just how much micromanaging expanding into the South Pacific takes. Having a much, much, much larger navy would’ve helped.

EUIV Austria, Bavaria, France in 1636

Western Europe at the end of the Let’s Play

If I was to play Muscovy/Russia again, I’d either focus on conquering Manchu, Korea, etc. and ignoring North America or focusing most of my energies on Western Europe. Trying to destroy the HRE could be fun.

So here’s my final stats (in 1636):

Army size: 3rd

Max manpower: 190K

Navy size: 10th

Most provinces held: 1st (120)

Highest income: 4th

Highest trade income: 4th

Tech levels: 15, 16, 17

Ideas (in order of adoption): Diplomatic (7), Exploration (7), Religious (7), Defensive (4)

Final score: 2204

Better EUIV players than me probably could’ve taken my original stipulations and made ’em work, but I’m no expert. I’m a bit more experienced, but with some mechanics, I feel like I’m just scratching the surface.

EUIV: Africa in 1636

Africa at the end of my playthrough (1636)

Still, I love this game and I’m going to try another complete campaign: either as Aragón, Austria (and conquer everything eastward), or as an ahistoric England that tries to conquer most of Western Europe. The Ottomans and their achievement to own Rome, Constantinople, and Moscow at the same time could be fun too.

Russia: East to the Sea (Part 5)

EUIV: Russia in 1600

Russia in 1600

Russia: East to the Sea is a new Let’s Play series (with a new, updated name) that will follow my progress as I play a Europa Universalis IV campaign as Muscovy, starting in the year 1444. Goals for this series include: forming Russia as soon as possible, securing my western borders, and then ignoring Europe and expanding east into Southeast Asia (and possibly western North America). So let’s get this party started! (Part 4 available here)

Prize Fight

Things are going fairly swimmingly. I don’t have many allies, but so far Europe is leaving me alone. That all changes in 1582 where Austria ruins my plans to integrate the Livonian Order and attack Nogai. They call me to war against the Ottomans and Algiers.

This is the fight I’ve been dreading, and I knew it was going to happen at some point. Well, Austria’s strong; they have allies. If I accept the call I might be able to hurt the Ottomans and maybe get them to stop being allied with Crimea.

I’m spread thin–oh so very thin–but I manage to get an army of 43K together. I’m equal to or more advanced in Military Tech when compared to the Ottomans, but I don’t have any military Ideas. I also have terrible commanders and a limit of 1. I march my troops down into modern-day Turkey and besiege a province along the coast of the Black Sea.

EUIV: Austria in 1598

Austria in 1598

And here’s where I make a mistake: I take my eye off my army for just a moment. Next thing I know they’re fighting an 80 stack of Ottoman troops. Within seconds my army is wiped out. Not half killed and the rest shattered retreating all the way to the middle of fricken’ nowhere, Siberia. 43K all dead.

Sorry, Austria! You’re on your own with this one! And to rub salt in the wound, France–sensing Austria’s weakness–declares war on them over some French provinces Austria took when they expanded their Burgundian holdings. I decline that call to arms and end up pissing Austria off. For as big as a I am, I can’t contribute troops to two major, continent-spanning wars.

russia-taiwan-1600

Russian Taiwan in 1600

Their war’s still going on in 1587, but I don’t care. In 1591, I attack Uzbek and by extension Crimea. Crimea is allied with Uzbek, but they don’t become the war leader, so they can’t call on the Ottomans. I can handle Crimea by myself (and with a little help from Lithuania). The war lasts about a year, and I take a province for myself from Crimea, give one of theirs to Lithuania, and annul their treaty with the Ottomans. For some reason the game isn’t letting me demand territory from Uzbek aside from 2 places I have claims on. I’m occupying their whole country, but only those 2 provinces show up in the Cede Territory list. I don’t know if it was some mechanic I don’t understand or if it was a bug.

So Much for Gratitude

Despite our years of friendship and the fact that I gave them a core province, Lithuania breaks our alliance and rivals me in 1596. So much for gratitude, amirite? The 17th Century rolls around and I find myself fighting Manchu–well, more like they find themselves fighting me. I take two more provinces from them, but my expansion is slow. Each of these Asian provinces I take has a relatively low cost to core but ridiculously long times. 96 months for a 3 base tax province? It’s just silly. That’s 96 months I need to leave a few regiments there to keep revolts down. Or that’s another chunk of Military Points to spend on harsh treatment.

Island Vacation

The years march on. Russia’s star is still ascendant, but maybe its velocity is slowing. The pace of the game sure is, that’s for damn sure.

By 1610 I’ve accomplished: colonizing Taiwan, northern Japan, Manila, Midway, and now Hawaii. I found the west coast of North America, and as soon as I can, I’ll send colonists there.

EUIV: Russia in 1610

Click for full-size Russia in 1610

However, with an empire that stretches across a continent and a variety of island chains in the South Pacific, I’m finding that I need to pause the game every few minutes to micromanage everything. Oh look, a pirate’s popped up on one of my trade routes. Gotta make sure it doesn’t sink my light ships. Oh look, my colonies are under attack. Oh look, rebels are popping up in provinces that are taking forever (seriously, for. ev. er.) to core. It’s a lot of start and stop, and the 16th century is taking twice as long as the 15th.

Still, I haven’t faced any heavy resistance. No coalitions. Manchu has lots of territory, but they’re a pushover. With my Westernized Military Tech (that’s like 10 years ahead of time because I haven’t taken a military Idea Group yet), I steamroll them.

All by Myself

The funny thing is, even though the game says I’m in 4th place and have one of the largest militaries, I don’t feel powerful. I don’t want to fight any of my western neighbors. And especially not the Ottomans. It’s barely 1600 and they already have almost 200K troops at their disposal. They’re over their force limits by about 50 regiments. I don’t understand how they do it. Maybe it’s something to do with their national Ideas? I dunno.

The reason I don’t feel powerful is because I have so many goddamn provinces. It takes forever to move troops from my eastern regions back to my European borders. I don’t have enough money to build up units (because I’m at 50% Patriarch Authority. It makes converting Sunni provinces easier but eats my income). The ledger says I have over 100K troops at my disposal, but they’re spread out from Livland to Sibir to Saghalian Oula to Taiwan and to Hawaii. Maybe it’s overkill, but I put at least 3 or 4 regiments on each colony until it becomes self-sustaining. I haven’t lost a single one, but I’m stretched paper-thin. It doesn’t help that I’m keeping regiments in place to quell rebellions after I fully annexed Nogai in 1618.

EUIV: English Brazil in 1600

English Brazil in 1600

And that’s why I find myself bereft of allies. Austria hates me from when I didn’t help them against France. Lithuania upped and decided that I’m scum. Now my only friend is the Ming, and they haven’t joined a single war yet–not even those against Manchu.

Oh well, Russia doesn’t need friends. Russia is fine on its own. Russia doesn’t need to worry that both Great Britain and Castile are forming colonies in the South Pacific. It’s almost 1620 and in less than a year my colonists will reach the West Coast of North America. British Mexico and British Brazil don’t scare me! (Okay yeah. Britain scares me.) I’ve never seen them colonize so extensively before. Usually Spain and Portugal lock that down first. Maybe with Aragón controlling most of modern-day Spain, it’s created a vacuum for Great Britain to fill.

Looking Ahead

We’ll see how much more I’ll go with this series once my colonies in California are done forming. I think my initial strategy was flawed: I don’t like have to micromanage a global empire. It’s too slow for my tastes with far too many moving parts. Does that make me a bad EUIV player? Yeah, it probably does.

EUIV: Russia in 1620

Russia in 1620

I think playing the colonization game in the Pacific is also much more micro-y than say South America or North America. With all the island chains, you have to constantly keep moving troops on and off ships, sometimes just to get to “neighboring” provinces in the same archipelago.

If I was to do this playthrough over–sticking with the plan of ignoring Europe–I would conquer more of mainland Asia rather than racing across the ocean for Hawaii and California. I think I would enjoy myself more doing that. Alternatively, if I was to play Russia again, I’d turn my attentions westward from the start and try to conquer most of Europe.

Come back in another few days for the final part of “Russia: East to the Sea.” Let’s see if I can conquer some of the Korean peninsula before getting fed up with the micro-aspects of the game and calling it quits!

Russia: East to the Sea (Part 4)

EUIV: Russia in 1534

Russia in 1534

Russia: East to the Sea is a new Let’s Play series (with a new, updated name) that will follow my progress as I play a Europa Universalis IV campaign as Muscovy, starting in the year 1444. Goals for this series include: forming Russia as soon as possible, securing my western borders, and then ignoring Europe and expanding east into Southeast Asia (and possibly western North America). So let’s get this party started! (Part 3 available here)

Attacking Sweden

It wasn’t my idea, but Denmark calls me into war against Sweden in 1530. Normally, I’d want to stay out of European entanglements, but Sweden rivaled me a long time ago, so I want to hurt them. Maybe I can pick up some more territory near Finland.

But as is par for this series, Denmark ends the war in 1533 before I can make my own separate peace and swipe some territory. And that war was tough. I may be ahead of time when it comes to Military Tech, but I’m still in the Eastern technology group. Surprisingly, the Swedes didn’t just let me take their territory. It was very rude of them.

Breakin’ the Law

In 1534 I break my own rules for the series: I attack the Livonian Order myself. Poland helps me out though I didn’t really need it. And then as a Christmas present to myself, I score 3 new provinces and the Livonian Order as my vassal. (Or maybe that happened later. I don’t remember!)

A few years later all that stuff about trying to steal provinces from Sweden is just water under the bridge. I ally with them and then go to war with the Golden Horde. I only end up with 1 province, but you know what they say: a province in the bush is worth two in the hand. Or something like that.

Bye Bye Miss Sweden Pie

1539 Sweden asks for my help against–I actually don’t remember. Probably the Hansa, Pomerania, and that monstrous Austria. I want no part of it. Later, Sweden! You’re on your own now. The war ends up being something of a stalemate. Sweden has basically eaten all of Norway (except for Iceland) and Denmark, so they’re gonna be fine without my help.

Now I’m presented with a choice: do I westernize? It would be nice to be caught up to my neighbors, but is it worth the hassle? I put it off and go to war with Nogai again. I can’t 100% annex them, but I end up with a nice chunk of land. (This is becoming a routine.)

EUIV: Russia in 1543

Russia in 1543

By the 1550s I’ve settled into a pattern: years of peace and growth followed by quick wars against my eastern neighbors. I’m worried about Crimea who has eaten the southern part of the Golden Horde, parts of Lithuania, as well as Georgia and Genoa’s Black Sea holdings.

Money’s still an issue for me as my economy can barely support 3 colonies at a time, but I keep doing it anyway.

West and East

1563: I bite the bullet and hit the button to westernize. I have a good king, vast reserves of gold and Admin Points to buy back the -3 Stability hit, and I have good advisors too. It’ll be a while before I have to fire them to get rid of their upkeep. There’s a few revolts in the beginning, but everything is going well. The process says it’ll be done in 1570. 7 years? I can wait. Just have to not go to war and just keep everything stable.

EUIV: Westernization

Westernizing Russia in EUIV

Every event I get I take the hits to my tax revenues, army and naval traditions, you name it. I don’t want to lose any progress in the westernization process. It can all be recovered once its done.

And then in 1566: mission accomplished! While my kingdom is looking to the west for technological guidance, my settlers have planted my flag on the shores of the Pacific Ocean! Technically, the colony will be self-sustaining by 1571, but it doesn’t matter! I did it!

Russia self-sustaining colony

Mission Accomplished!

The clock rolls over to 1570 and boom! I’m westernized. What to do with my new-found technology? Attack Manchu of course! 1579 sees 3 provinces added to my realm. I think I’ll build up a presence in the Beijing trade node. That will give me control of the Novgorod and eventually the Beijing nodes.

Stabbing Lithuania in the Back

In 1580 Lithuania calls me to war against Lunberg, the Hansa, and some of their other allies. I figure it should be an easy war to say yes to and then basically do nothing. Maybe I’ll send a few regiments west. As soon as I hit that accept button I regret it: “Because of our superior strength, we’ve assumed control…” Well damn it. This is not what I wanted.

EUIV: War with Luneburg

War with Luneburg, Hansa & Sweden

The war goes badly (mostly because I refuse to help), so as soon as I get the chance, I surrender and give Mecklenburg to Lüneburg. No skin off my nose. Hell, Lithuania didn’t own it either. I keep my ally. Whatever; it’s fine. It’s not really a stab in Lithuania’s back. More like a scrape on their side or something. A medium-strength poke to the ribs.

As we get closer to the 1600s the world looks different than I expected: Great Britain controls most of Brazil, Mexico, and according to flags on the trade nodes California. Castile’s holdings in the Iberian Peninsula are getting wrecked by Aragon, and Galicia is an independent kingdom. Crimea is rather large, and I don’t like that they’re so buddy buddy with the Ottomans. Wales is still independent, and Brittany might be too (I don’t remember exactly). I have a feeling Jolly Ol’ England (GB) and I will come to blows over some overseas provinces in the coming centuries.

And that’s going to be it for Part 4. Check back here in a couple of days for Part 5! I have 2 or 3 more parts planned, but then I think I’m going to end the series for reasons that will be made clear in the future. I love EUIV, but this series isn’t something I want to stick with all the way to 1821.

Muscovy: East to the Sea (Part 3)

EUIV: Muscovy in 1503

Muscovy in 1503

Muscovy: East to the Sea is a new Let’s Play series that will follow my progress as I play a Europa Universalis IV campaign as Muscovy, starting in the year 1444. Goals for this series include: forming Russia as soon as possible, securing my western borders, and then ignoring Europe and expanding east into Southeast Asia (and possibly western North America). So let’s get this party started! (Part 2 available here)

Our First Colony

So where did we leave off? Oh yes, things were a-happenin’. 1500 is drawing closer and I’m still worried about the growing Swedish threat. They’ve rivaled me even though I’ve done nothing but be the most cordial neighbor. Maybe if I keep our relations high enough (and ally myself with the growing Poland) they’ll leave me alone. (And now “Who Can it Be Now?” by Men at Work is in my head).

Muscovy First Colony

Muscovy’s First Colony

1494 and we have our first colony! It’s got the Arctic modifier, so it grows slower than normal, but still–look at it! It’s so cute. Muscovy is a proud papa. (Or mama, I dunno.) I also fought a war against the Golden Horde and the Uzbeks, claiming some more territory. I don’t have the missionary strength to convert anything once the provinces are cored, but I’ll worry about that later.

Sitting on My Hands

Tragedy strikes in 1501. My king dies with an infant for an heir. I’m stuck with a Regency Council for another 5+ years, but that’s Europa Universalis IV for ya. I can’t declare war, so I spend my time building provincial improvements, coring my newest additions, and starting another colony. I figure I can colonize eastward all through Siberia and then move south into the Manchu, Ming, Uzbek, etc. lands.

Seriously, the Regency Council is the worst. My Monach Points are gathering at an appallingly slow rate, so technology advances are few and far between. I hire some level 2 advisors to help things along. I need to get to Admin Tech level 10 so I can form Russia.

A New King! To war!

1506 and Muscovy’s king has finally come of age. First thing I do? I declare war on the Uzbeks again. By 1510 I’m the owner of some brand new provinces and another new colony. I’m slowly making my way east across Siberia toward the Pacific Ocean.

EUIV: Sweden in 1499

Sweden in 1499

Rather than sitting around for a few years, I decide to take advantage of the fact that I have a treaty with the Uzbeks and attack the Golden Horde. Everything goes well (this seems to be a running theme). However by 1513, I need to take a break from the warfare, let my manpower recover, and build more province improvements.

I spent most of the teens and early 20s (1520s that is) peacefully expanding and building my economy. I’m debating going to war with the Uzbeks for some more territory when Poland calls me into a war against the Teutonic Order (who are allied with the Livonian Order). Reval, Ösel, and Livland are looking pretty, pretty juicy to me. With them flying the Russian flag, I’ll have more trade power in my home node and, of course, more territory.

Europa Universalis IV: Muscovy in 1517

Muscovy in 1517

In 1525 Poland peaces out of the war before I can take more territory! Damn you, Poland! *shakes fist*

Well, with my westward ambitions stymied for the moment, the Uzbeks are back in my sights.

For Mother Russia

1529: a historic year for the world. England is almost Great Britain (Scotland is only the Western Isles). Ireland is gone. Aragón is doing work on Castile! Iberian Wedding? More like Iberian Red Wedding, amirite? I don’t know how often something like this happens, but I haven’t seen it before. Austria is huuuuuuge. Not only did they get the Burgundian Inheritance, but they’ve conquered swathes of the HRE. Though it looks like Bavaria is going to be stiff competition for the imperial throne. (At some point they were able to get Sweden under a personal union. I’m not looking forward to the day when [if] they integrate them)

EUIV England & Scotland in 1527

England & Scotland in 1527

But none of that matters. The only thing that matters to the world is this: I’ve transformed Muscovy into Russia.

Gone is that kinda ugly yellow color and instead my country is the evergreen… green, I guess of Russia. It’s beautiful to behold.

EUIV: Forming Russia in 1529

Gaze upon Russia and weep for its glory

But what to do now that I’m Russia? Obviously I’ll keep expanding eastward; Manchu might feel the might of the Russian armies soon. I’ll also need to choose a new Idea Group now that I hit Admin Tech level 10. Do I go military and take Defensive or Offensive Ideas? Or maybe Religious Ideas; that’ll be useful for fighting in Southeast Asia.

Either way, the sun is just rising over the glorious Russian Empire. Check back for Part 4, which will be sporting its new name: “Russia: East to the Sea!”

Muscovy: East to the Sea (Part 2)

Muscovy Victory over Novgorod 1

Freeing Finland in Europa Universalis IV

Muscovy: East to the Sea is a new Let’s Play series that will follow my progress as I play a Europa Universalis IV campaign as Muscovy, starting in the year 1444. Goals for this series include: forming Russia as soon as possible, securing my western borders, and then ignoring Europe and expanding east into Southeast Asia (and possibly western North America). So let’s get this party started! (Part 1 available here)

1st War with Novgorod

Picking up where Part 1 left off in the year 1460, things are looking good for me. I’m getting ready for my first big war with Novgorod, which I fully expect to win. They’re allied with Pomerania and Scotland, but I’m not too worried. Scotland is especially far away, so I doubt they’ll send troops to help Novgorod.

The war rages on through 1463, easily in my favor. I was wrong about Scotland sending troops. They sent a couple of small armies. One of them even managed to siege one of my provinces. Still, by July 1464 the war is over; I’m three provinces stronger and Finland is free. As soon as the ink on the peace deal is dry, I go to work vassalizing Finland. Done and done.

However, fighting the Western Tech armies of Pomerania and Scotland has depleted my manpower. I need a few years to let my truce run out and my manpower reserves to recover.

Westernize?

Not much happens for the next few years. I mull over whether or not I should Westernize. Based on some forum posts, I think I won’t need to do it, especially since I’ll be focusing my attention eastward and not fighting Europe.

Muscovy victory over Novgorod 2

2nd victory over Novgorod

Denmark calls me to war in 1472; I accept and sit the entire thing out. They take another chunk of Pomerania and the HRE, but both Sweden and Norway are now independent. It seems my bet on Denmark integrating one or both them and becoming the Big Pink Monster isn’t going to pay off. Plus Sweden considers me a rival and is busy eating up Norway (who happens to like me). I have a feeling I’ll need some new allies soon.

2nd War with Novgorod

I spend some time fabricating claims on the rest of Novgorod’s provinces. I won’t be able to take them over fully in this coming war, but just one more after that will do it. I wait until after I start the annexation of Pskov before declaring war again in 1474.

By 1475 I’m at 100% War Score. I take some more territory (woo hoo!), but sadly, my double-barreled annexation of Finland and Pskov has stalled because of the “Bad Diplomats” event.

Muscovy Austria Burgundian Inheritance

Austria with the Burgundian Inheritance

And now comes another 5 years of peace while my truce runs out again. The annexation process starts up again. In 1478 Austria gets the Burgundian Inheritance event. I was kind of hoping it would go differently this game, because that happened in my Brandenburg game. So far I’ve seen Austria get it twice, Castile get it once (I always want to call them Castilla because I speak Spanish moderately well), and France get it once.

3rd War with Novgorod

The 1480s are coming to town, and it’s time to erase Novgorod from the map. I have the mission to subjugate them, so that’ll give me a little bonus once I win this coming war. My troops cross into their territory in 1481 and by 1482, Novgorod exists no more. The coring process is done in 1484. All I need is Admin Tech level 10 to form Russia!

In 1487, Pskov becomes a rightful part of my realm, and Finland will be done in 1493. Tver will be next on my list, but with Novgorod gone, I need to figure out what to do next. And what Idea Group should I unlock when I hit Admin Tech level 7? I want Exploration Ideas, but it seems silly to take two groups that require Diplomatic points.

Muscovy in 1481 in EUIV

Muscovy in 1481 in EUIV

Another choice is Religious Ideas. It gives me a permanent CB against “heathens,” and that could be useful if I’m expanding east. Still, I’m a little bit away from having to make the choice. I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it. That’s the phrase, right? Also, I just fabricated a claim on the Golden Horde (who is busy fighting Crimea). I’m only 9 years from 1500, and I think I’m going to war again.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of my Europa Universalis IV Let’s Play where I’ll welcome the Finnish people into my kingdom and attack the Golden Horde over territory that should rightfully be mine! Oh yeah, I’ll also be holding auditions for new allies.

Muscovy: East to the Sea (Part 1)

EUIV: Muscovy in 1444

EUIV: Muscovy in 1444

Muscovy: East to the Sea is a new Let’s Play series that will follow my progress as I play a Europa Universalis IV campaign as Muscovy, starting in the year 1444. Goals for this series include: forming Russia as soon as possible, securing my western borders, and then ignoring Europe and expanding east into Southeast Asia (and possibly western North America). I just finished a complete campaign as Brandenburg (more on that here), so I’m ready to try a new country and play it a little unconventionally. So let’s get this party started!

Party like it’s 1444

Muscovy has an interesting start in 1444. They have a fair amount of territory and 3 vassals. It’d be easy to expand southward, but I know that trying to core and convert provinces taken from the Golden Horde, Kazan, etc. would be difficult. So my first priority is getting my tech levels up to the point when I can start on ideas. My other goal is to build up alliances and land forces so I can take on Novgorod. They’re my biggest obstacle toward forming a united Russia.

War with Kazan & Ryazan

I’ve just barely gotten into the game (1445 to be precise) when Kazan declares war on me. Mistaaaaake! I’m stronger than they are and that’s not even counting my vassals’ armies. I crush them, siege some provinces, and then take one of them in a peace deal by the beginning of 1447.

Muscovy at war with Kazan

At war with Kazan

Now that it’s the start of the 1450s, I have some choices to make. I can start annexing my vassals in 1454, but which one? And I also need to get to Admin Tech level 4 ASAP so I can unlock my first Idea group. Again, this presents a choice: which one? Diplomatic? Offensive? Get a jump on the colonization early and choose Expansion or Exploration?

I’ll worry about that when I come to it. So I decide I’m going to start annexing Yaroslavl first because owning it with a core is one of the requirements for forming Russia. Perm, though it’s larger, can wait.

Muscovy after war with Kazan

Spoils of war

But that’s still 4 years away, so I decide to go to war. Tver would be a choice target, but they’re allied with Lithuania. Lithuania is allied with Poland and Denmark. Because Lithuania is so much bigger than Tver, they could become the war leader and then call on their alliance chain. I’m not strong enough for that, so I set my sights on Ryazan–a two-province country along my southwestern border.

I declare war in August, 1452 and by June, 1453 I’ve fully annexed their country. With the coring process underway and my Monarch Point stores replenishing, it’s time to get ready for the diplo-annexation party!

The Best Laid Plans…

But before I can get Yaroslavl’s opinion of me up to 190, my ally Denmark calls me to war against The Hansa.

Not wanting to lose my ally, I accept. Austria joins the war as the Holy Roman Emperor defending the Empire’s integrity. I basically sit out the conflict, making my neighbors like me, storing up manpower and Monarch Points.

The war drags on and on with the score swinging into The Hansa’s favor. I want Denmark to end the war, to give in, but they won’t. They’re ruining my plans to annex my vassals! And even worse, Austria sends an army up through the Livonian Order and invades my western provinces. They catch me with my army at half maintenance (a stupid thing to do during war, I know).

Muscovy fighting Austria 1457

Austria’s invasion 1457

Luckily, I retreat and let the winter do some work for me. They start besieging my territory. Sensing defeat, I peace out of the war separately. All I have to is concede defeat–a 10 prestige hit? That’s nothing!

Denmark isn’t too happy with me for getting out of their war, especially because they somehow manage to win? Weird and unexpected. They annex Mecklenburg, and I have a feeling they’re setting their sights on Holstein, Pomerania, and the Hansa. I’m not looking forward to getting drawn into more wars against the HRE, especially while I’m just starting out and have Eastern Tech.

The year is now 1460 as I wrap up Part 1 of “East to the Sea.” I took Diplomatic Ideas as I know the extra diplomat the first idea gives me will be invaluable for maintaining relations and annexing vassals at the same time. In fact, I’ve just begun the double annexation of both Yaroslavl and Perm at the time time. Yaro’ll be done in 1473 and Perm three years later.

Also during this time, I’ve added Tver as a vassal too. Rather than have to fight Lithuania for them, I sent Tver a gift, allied them, married them, guaranteed them, offered them military access (every trick in the book to get them up to +190 opinion). I’m willing to take the hit to my Diplomatic Points by being over my relations limit than fight a war.

Preparing to attack Novgorod 1460

Preparing to attack Novgorod 1460

Next up on my docket: preparing for the first big invasion of Novgorod. They have 17,000 troops against my 35,000 (including my vassals’ armies). Will I be able to form Russia before the new century rolls around? Find out in Part 2!

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