- +15% National manpower modifier
- +10% Manpower recovery speed
- +10% Morale of armies
- −0.1% Monthly piety
- +15% Cavalry combat ability
- +2 Tolerance of the true faith
- +2% Missionary strength vs heretics
- +20% Spy network construction
- −10% Stability cost modifier
- +1 Yearly legitimacy
- +1 Yearly prestige
Historically, Ardabil established the Safavid dynasty of Iran, enforced Twelver Shi'ism as the dominant religion in Iran and proved to be a formidable adversary from the east to the Ottomans.
- 1 Decisions
- 2 Strategy
- 2.1 Starting situation
- 2.2 Potential alliances
- 2.3 Early expansion
- 2.4 Idea group choices
- 2.5 Long term considerations
- 3 Achievements
Form Mughal Empire
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$MONARCH$ has begun to lay the foundation of his new empire. Although inferior in numbers, his well-disciplined troops have managed to achieve several decisive victories against the Sultans of India. The battle of $CAPITAL$ became the first great victory in a series of territorial expansions and, with time, the empire of the Mughals could stretch over the larger part of the Indian plateau.
Mughals does not exist
Form Persian Nation
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At the mere age of 15, monarch has taken his father's position as head of the Shiite Turkmen tribe. He has quickly established a base of power in the northwest and proclaimed himself Shah of Iran. Several of the neighboring regions have been conquered and the possibility of a resurrected Iranian nation doesn't seem so absent anymore.
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Ardabil begins in a precarious position. Its single province is bordered by two slightly larger neighbours ( Biapas to the east, Shirvan to the north) and two much larger neighbours ( Qara Qoyunlu to the west, Ajam to the south).
Ardabil does possess an initial ally: Gilan, another one-province country nearby. While Gilan's troops can be useful for joint offensives, they will do little to dissuade large neighbours from declaring war on Ardabil. It would be prudent to seek additional allies quickly.
Of the two large neighbours bordering Ardabil, Qara Qoyunlu is the most powerful and is not initially threatened by any of its own neighbours. As a result, the difficulty of Ardabil's start depends greatly upon Qara Qoyunlu's randomly-determined initial attitude towards the player. If a less difficult start is preferred, the player may choose to restart the game until Qara Qoyunlu has a favourable attitude.
A hostile or domineering attitude indicates that Qara Qoyunlu may attack the player within the first few years; this attack could come as early as 1445, when Qara Qoyunlu has finished fabricating a claim on Ardabil. Conversely, if Qara Qoyunlu has a neutral attitude towards Ardabil, it is likely that a royal marriage could be formed, thereby paving the way for an extremely valuable early alliance.
It is worth noting that Qara Qoyunlu may eventually end up in unfavourable wars with the expanding Ottomans and/or Mamluks due to their geographical position, either directly or as a result of alliances. If the player does not wish to be called into such wars, they may choose to proactively break their alliance with Qara Qoyunlu within a few decades if such wars appear likely. Naturally, the risk of such wars increases if one of these powers shares a land border with Qara Qoyunlu and/or declares Qara Qoyunlu as a rival.
Ardabil's Shia religion can make it harder to secure alliances with Sunni countries, particularly the larger and more powerful ones. This is exacerbated if playing on difficulty levels higher than Normal, due to the -20 malus at these difficulty levels for forming diplomatic relations. On the bright side, it is generally possible to ally some Sunni countries (even on Hard difficulty level or greater) after Ardabil has expanded and established itself as a regional power. An alliance with Ottomans may even become viable.
Alternatively, if easier alliances with Sunni countries are desired early in the game, the player can consider converting to Sunni.
The player's early expansion efforts may take place in the Caucasia region in which Ardabil is first situated, or in the neighbouring Persia region, or a combination of the two.
The most appealing initial opportunities for expansion may vary from game to game, based upon the player's own situation (e.g. who they form early alliances with) and random factors beyond the player's control. There is no single roadmap to success for Ardabil. The Persia region and Caucasia region each receive their own section below; it is suggested to read each of these sections, and then decide where to expand first based upon your own game situation.
Expansion in the Persia region
Formation of Persia can be an appealing long-term goal for Ardabil. If the player wishes to achieve this, they will need to take several key provinces in this region. Also, since the lucrative Persian trade node is Ardabil's home node, this is an advantageous region in which to seize Center of Trade provinces.
While Ardabil starts with a single province, it also has cores in three provinces which are initially owned by neighbouring countries: one Ardabil core province is held by Biapas, and two Ardabil core provinces are held by Ajam.
It would be beneficial to seize these cores; but as Ardabil is weak in the beginning, it would also be prudent to wait for the right opportunity before attacking.
Potential opportunities include:
- If Biapas secures early allies, it may not be feasible to attack them early. But if they have not secured any allies by 11 December 1444 (the earliest possible date for declaring a war), it may be worthwhile to declare war upon Biapas immediately with the Reconquest casus belli. Even if no Ardabil allies join the war, it should be possible to defeat Biapas one-on-one. Biapas has two provinces and Gilam has a core on the other one, so they should always join a war against them if Ardabil promises land.
- Ajam may come under attack by the Timurids and their vassals during the first few years, as Ajam possesses numerous Timurid cores. (Of course, this will only happen if the Timurids' vassals do not start an independence war with Timurids first.) If this does occur, Ajam is likely to be overwhelmed quickly. This could be an opportune moment for the player to declare war on Ajam themselves.
The Timurids' situation
The Timurids are of particular strategic interest to Ardabil. Ardabil and Timurids are initially separated by Ajam; but as Ajam holds multiple Timurids cores, it is likely to be attacked by the Timurids early, while the player may also have aspirations on Ajam due to the two Ardabil cores that they hold. Consequently, Ardabil may become a direct neighbour of the Timurids quite early. In the longer run, if Ardabil wishes to form Persia, they will have to acquire multiple Timurids provinces.
The difficulty of dealing with the Timurids can be highly variable from game to game, as their fate may vary greatly due to circumstances beyond the player's control. After the death of the initial Timurid ruler (likely to occur within a few years of game start) the loyalty of their vassals will plummet, and Timurids may face a lopsided independence war which would greatly diminish their power. Alternatively, the Timurids' vassals may never declare an independence war, thereby giving the Timurids an opportunity to consolidate their power.
If the Timurids do suffer an independence war, this is good news for Ardabil, as it should greatly reduce the long-term threat posed by the Timurids. It may also be possible to secure valuable alliances with some of the former Timurid vassals, such as Transoxiana. Such alliances could be particularly useful for wars of conquest against the Timurids later.
If the independence war never occurs and Timurids holds on to its vassal swarm, it could pose a far greater long-term threat to Ardabil's ambitions. However, it is worth noting that even without an independence war, Timurids may still be more vulnerable than they appear for a period of time, as disloyal vassals will not aid them in a war. This might offer a window of opportunity for Ardabil to attack the Timurids (in conjunction with allies) and perhaps seize some of the provinces required to form Persia.
Expansion in the Caucasia region
If Shirvan is not an ally, their provinces can be an appealing early target: they have similar culture and religion to Ardabil, and are part of the same area as Ardabil's starting province. Furthermore, Ardabil can only use the 'Invite Minorities from Abroad' ability (associated with Ardabil's Feudal Theocracy government) if it possesses all provinces within its capital area.
Even if Shirvan is an ally initially, it may make sense to betray them eventually in order to seize these valuable provinces.
If and when Shirvan lands are conquered by Ardabil, Gazikumukh could be an appealing subsequent target as their lands would broaden Ardabil's strategic options. From there, Ardabil could choose to expand west into Circassia, north into the vast steppes of the Great Horde, or east into Nogai.
Although Ardabil's initial province is situated in Asia, numerous provinces in this region are situated on the eastern edge of Europe. In the long term, if Ardabil (or any of its potential successor states, e.g. Persia) eventually acquires enough European provinces to account for 50% of their total development, the player could then relocate their capital to Europe if desired. This would allow the player to utilise lucrative trade companies in Asia.
Idea group choices
The best idea group choices will depend upon the player's style, goals and situation. However, certain idea groups may be particularly compelling choices for Ardabil.
The Religious Ideas group can be a very strong choice for Ardabil and is an excellent candidate to be taken early, e.g. as Ardabil's first or second idea group.
- Ardabil is surrounded by countries which do not share its Shia religion; the Sunni branch of Islam is vastly more widespread. With Religious Ideas, Ardabil could convert these heretic provinces more quickly and cheaply.
- The powerful Holy War casus belli would frequently be useful due to the differing religions of most other countries.
- Ardabil starts the game with the Feudal Theocracy government reform, which grants it an extra missionary. This allows Ardabil to gain added value from Religious Ideas which directly affect missionaries, e.g. by making them cheaper and stronger.
- Furthermore, Ardabil's Feudal Theocracy grants bonuses to missionary strength and tolerance of the true faith. As some of the Religious Ideas provide similar bonuses, the combination of Feudal Theocracy and Religious Ideas can be very powerful.
- Ardabil also has National Ideas which increase missionary strength vs heretics and tolerance of the true faith. As mentioned above, some of the Religious Ideas provide similar benefits, and these can 'stack' powerfully on top of Ardabil's National Ideas. Of course, Ardabil may ultimately choose to relinquish its National Ideas when forming another country, such as Persia; but even if this occurs, Religious Ideas would remain an excellent choice due to the various other benefits and synergies listed above.
Long term considerations
Forming Persia would provide numerous strong benefits (and an achievement). The required provinces could potentially be gathered within the first few decades if circumstances are favourable. The player should then be in a solid position, with many possible strategies available.
Expansion into upstream trade nodes could bolster income by channelling more trade into the lucrative Persia node.
Conquest of provinces on the Europe continent could eventually enable relocation of the capital to Europe (after the requisite 50% of total development in European provinces is achieved), which would enable use of lucrative trade companies in Asia. Ardabil's position close to the easternmost edge of Europe makes this strategy more viable than it otherwise would be, though it could still prove a challenge to achieve sufficient European development since many of Ardabil's most tempting avenues of expansion lie in Asia.
If not allied, the Ottomans will likely become a formidable long-term foe as they expand. Alliances with their European rivals could be helpful for containing then.
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