Nick Horth has a grand vision of a bustling merchant republic, but ends up robbing the Dutch instead
Trade was possibly the weakest area of Europa Universalis IV. Lacking the depth of other areas of the game, it generally involved throwing as many ships at a trade node as you could manage to build, which inevitably meant that key zones would almost always be dominated by the biggest countries. Then it was just a matter of making sure your navy could squash any threats to your merchant ships, sitting back and putting your feet up. EUIV's second expansion, Wealth of Nations, aims to open up trading to the little guy too, adding a raft of new options and events that give the money-making game much needed depth.
If you're anything like me, you'll agree that the best way to make money is to wait for somebody else to earn it, then steal it away from them while cackling maniacally. Good news! Wealth of Nations agrees with me. You can now designate any of your light ships as privateers, swapping their national flags for the good old Jolly Roger and pointing them at the nearest trade hub. You'll get a cut of the proceeds, of course, but it's also a great way of subverting the trade domination of other countries.
Man-made canals like Suez here are phenomenally pricey, but do offer faster ship movement and improved trade in the area
With help from some new naval techs and some quick thinking you can actually do a decent job of focusing specifically on piracy as your main money-making scheme, especially if you're playing as a nation that traditionally had a history of supporting privateer fleets. As ever, though, there's a drawback. If you raid the shipping of a country with the dominant trade interest in a region, they'll get a 'pirate hunting' Casus Belli which will lead straight back to you. Without the right friends backing you up this is generally a bad thing. Risky, but a very neat mechanic that even comes with its own set of unique events, and another valid tactic in your ever-expanding arsenal.
If you like your daylight robbery somewhat more metaphorical, you can now set up certain provinces as trading companies, complete with their own randomised names. This boosts your trade influence in the region significantly, but also gives the province slightly more autonomy when it comes to taxes and conscription; you sacrifice military and political power for economic strength, essentially.
More than ever Europa Universalis becomes a game of give and take; to win you have to be able to take a hit in one area to dominate another, and the trick is always knowing where and when to do so. As a smaller country my fleets of pirates, for example, were a tool I had to be very careful with when deploying. Though they helped me control trade and brought in an impressive stream of ducats, more than once my not-so-subtle support for aggressive privateering was the last straw that pushed a simmering rivalry into all-out war.
If you put as much time and effort into your trade tech as I had, you might also find your military capability is rather lacking should this happen. That strategically valuable province you turned into a trading company post isn't going to be quite as helpful as a military port once the cannons start firing. As gratifying as it is to slowly dominate your corner of the globe, it's not an easy prospect, and just when you think you're getting the hang of it, wham, the carpet gets pulled out from under you and you're scrabbling around for control again. This is a positive thing.
Trade powers will often clash thanks to the 'trade dispute' Casus Belli
Other new additions are plentiful. Need even more trade power? You can now petition other countries diplomatically for a portion of their own trade influence, a kind of economic treaty that means they also can't attack you. As you might imagine this is tricky to pull off, requiring either excellent relations or a real political advantage against the targeted nation to make it stick. Just to make things even more complex, you can even kick off a war with a rival trade power thanks to the new trade 'conflict' Casus Belli, which goes some way toward solving the problem trade powers typically have of finding a legal reason to wage war.
I could go on forever. Trade and political capitals are now separate, meaning you can shift your money-making centre over to somewhere more profitable and direct trade there. Canals can be built in Kiel, Suez and Panama, resulting in one of the only instances I can remember where the actual physical make-up of a Paradox grand strategy map can be changed. It's exorbitantly expensive, but the tactical and economic benefits might be worth it. Another neat addition; rather than trade being entirely restricted to coastal countries who own navies and ports, there are now inland trading hubs. They seem a tad less profitable than the seaports to me, but it does mean you can play with the trade system even if you're a landlocked country. Oh, and welcome to EUIV, Australia!
As if all that weren't enough, there's even time for a little bit of religious reworking. Alongside three new religions, (Sikh, Coptic Christian, and Ibadi Muslim since you asked) Paradox have added a fervour mechanic to reformed faiths, with monthly fervour points offering a slight but not inconsiderable buff to your military, diplomacy or trade. Hindu rulers can also now choose a specific deity to focus worship on, each of which offers a slightly different perk or bonus. Phew. Is that it?
If you look at screens like this and feel a panic attack coming on, Wealth of Nations might not be for you.
The thing is, though there's not really one thing that stands out as the 'big new feature', I found that all of these options added something to the Europa Universalis experience, offering me paths, specialisations and news ways to lose that I never knew I needed. The best thing is that all of them require smart planning and tactical thinking to use successfully, pretty much the opposite of the 'bung everything in the one trade hub and spam ships' strategy EUIV originally used. Paradox are becoming worryingly good at spotting which facets of their games need improving, and applying scalpel-precise improvements to those areas.
EUROPA UNIVERSALIS IV: WEALTH OF NATIONS VERDICT
Wealth of Nations is an admirably focused DLC that basically reworks an entire section of the game. Trade, rather than a gold-farming sideshow, is now a real option to consider when planning your domination of the global landscape. In particular it’s a good fit for smaller countries who lack manpower and land; simply casting yourself as a trade power is a real option now, and a rewarding way to earn enough political clout to get the bigger players on your side; eventually even enough to challenge them directly. Aside from the trade options, Wealth of Nations also packs in a tonne of improvements that individually don’t seem that much of a big deal, but together make this second expansion a real step up in terms of both ease of use and expanded player options. It might not be Paradox’s most radical expansion to date, but it’s certainly one of those that’s made the biggest overall improvement to an already great game. If you own EUIV, you’ll definitely want to pick this up.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Once you’ve got the hang of the various new options for increasing your trade power, that first moment when you sit back and see all that glorious gold flowing into your coffers is an immensely satisfying one.