Among paradox fans, there used to be something of an assumption, that one should not start playing one of the company’s grand strategy games until at least its first expansion had come out. While this is no longer true, as Crusader Kings 2 and Europa Universalis 4 have taught us, there is still some wisdom in that idea, especially with expansions such as the one we will look at today, for it introduces some sweeping changes into the formula.
Conquest of Paradise, the first expansion for EU4, is all about the American continent, or continents, or archipelago or whatever odd shape it happens to be when the game starts. It may well be a first for a Europa Universalis game, but with Conquest of Paradise you can, should you desire, randomize the shape of the American continent. Yes, you read right, randomize it.
The objective of this is to instill the game with a sense of exploration and doubt that was lacking in previous installments, where savvy players with keen memories could target the richest colonies in America thanks to their previous knowledge of the continent, knowledge that the original explorers and conquerors lacked. This mechanic works pretty well, but the shapes the random continent tends to take on are… strange, though this might well be the oddity of seeing such landmasses where your brain thinks regular America should be. It doesn’t help that the game uses the same names for provinces from the standard continent. One cannot help but raise an eyebrow when Cuba is a series of landlocked provinces
There is really not much else to say about this mechanic, even though it’s the most radical and interesting change to the game. America can be different.
Mind you, it’s not the only modification to the game. One problem that EU4 had was that colonial countries tended to be stretched thin military wise, as the cap in troops was reaches way before you had enough men to at least keep the peace in your territories, much less go to war with anyone.
This has been solved in a fairly interesting way in Conquest of Paradise. Now, whenever a country secures 5 colonies in an area, those colonies transform into a vassal colonial state, with its own policies and military. This state (or states) pays the mainline a tax and develops its own army to keep the peace within its borders, taking a heavy weight out of the mainland’s hands. This of course, comes with its own problems. If you try to milk the colonies too much or take in policies that make them unhappy, their desire for independence will go up, with them eventually breaking off and breaking ties with the mainland. However at the time of writing I’ve yet to see a single colonial territory achieve independence, the decisions that increase desire for independence in the colonies are rare and it’s easy to pick the options that don’t increase it. Still, the mechanic is very interesting.
One final addition to the game is some small modifications to how native North American tribes behave. For starters they have some unique diplomatic decisions, such as forming federations, which are basically multi-tribe defensive alliances. Also, natives have access to native ideas, which give them small bonuses and allow them some variety until the time when you can westernize, should you desire to. These ideas are common to all tribes and need to be taken before you can reform the government, which gives North American tribes a bit more to do till the western powers arrive, but not much more, to be honest. Also, 1 province tribes can migrate to other provinces where they might defend better or acquire better resources; this is interesting, but basically useless if you’re planning on some expansion.
The randomized American continent provides an interesting challenge and the thrill of exploration
New options for north American tribes makes them slightly more interesting to play
Colonial territories functioning as independent vassals make the game a lot more manageable
There are no new mechanics for Mesoamerican or south American cultures