In EU3 I have returned of late to the problem of Scotland – namely, how does Scotland, in 1453, break out of a poor starting position and overcome England. I am happy to report that I have figured it out. I even wrote a Scotland guide for the EU3 wiki. The game I wrote that guide from is now at about 1590, with all the modern-day British Isles, France, Belgium, Netherlands, chunks of Germany and northern Italy, nearly all of the U.S. east of the Mississippi, California, Mexico, and Peru/Chile under Scots control.
The key to success in the game as far as I can tell is judicious management of peace negotiations and the BadBoy limit. The BB is a value with a cap of 30 (extended by as much as +8 by the skill of your current ruler) that represents how hated your nation is by the world. If it goes over the limit, then you will be mired in near-constant war until it drops – and it drops very, very slowly (althrough faster with a good leader and control of the papacy), at most by 1 a year in ideal circumstances. You acquire BB mainly by being declaring unprovoked wars and annexing large areas of territory.
One way to avoid BB, while still being aggressive, is by vassalizing nations that you have beaten in wars instead of demanding territory from them or annexing them completely. Vassalization does three things – 1) they can’t declare war on you 2) they give you half their income and 3) other nations are reluctant to fight them, preferring to fight you – their controller – instead. So making a country a vassal effectively freezes them in place. They cannot expand or contract. This is useful for making ’safe’ borders. Also, after 10 years, if you get relations with a vassal to a very high level, you can annex them completely for a much reduced BB hit.
I mention this because in this Scottish game, France did something very peculiar. Around 1460 or so, it inherited the throne of Lithuania. Now in the 15th century, Lithuania was bigger than modern-day Poland – so this unbalanced the status quo quite a bit. I didn’t really notice it right away, and when I did, I decided to keep going, figuring I’d deal with it as it came up.
In 1590, Lithuania has become a major problem. I vassalized France much earler – before 1500 – but I realized, too slowly, that to annex France, I would also have to annex Lithuania, which, adding France’s colonies, would push my BB over 60 in the best scenario.
My solution was to revoke France’s vassalization and continue warring with them – but this has created a very strange-looking map. Namely, I cannot take Ile-de-France, the French capital province of modern-day Paris. Why? Because no matter if I occupy EVERY French province in western Europe and the Americas (which I do in every war with them) France still has Lithuania. Right now Ile-de-France is surrounded, 2-3 provinces deep, by Scottish lands. I can occupy it at will. But the game does not allow you to seize a enemy capital unless they have no other provinces left or you occupy all of them (which would lead to a huge BB hit, as you must annex all of them simultaniously).
In other words, until I formally take every single bit of Lithuania, I can’t take Paris – and the BB hit for taking Lithuania is too much, leaving a Catch-22. I also don’t want Lithuania. My only hope is for someone – Austria, hopefully – to go to war with France and take those lands, leaving the French court without any muscle. The presence of a powerful French-controlled Lithuania for the last 100 years, though, has weakened her Eastern neighbors. Only Austria is in a position to do much, and as it refuses to ally with me (which makes sense, as I’m preventing its westward expansion) there is no way to trick it into attacking France. Sigh.
I could just deal with the BB wars. I’m considering, once I hit 1600, to do just that and let the chips fall where they may. Only Portugal is a threat to my overseas empire, and no one has unified Germany – I might be able to hold them all off. It would make a great story, which is why I like this game in the first place.