Proper colonization can provide many benefits for a colonizing nation. Determining where to colonize for the greatest benefit is usually dependent on two factors, firstly, the location of the colonizing nation's main trading port, and secondly, the location of said nation in relation to Europe, where most Institutions spawns.
Historically, it was five powerful western European nations that worked to create vast and profitable empires overseas: Spain, Portugal, France, Great Britain, and the Netherlands even if many other nations also had colonies overseas. In EU4 however, any nation can create a vast colonial empire with proper planning.
- 1 Basic strategy
- 2 Merchants
- 3 Institutions
- 4 The Random New World
- 5 Colonization strategies by technology group
In general, colonisation is far more profitable if a player can either eventually bring trade value back to their home node, or dominate one of the colonial trade nodes and collect trade income there. With this in mind, some nations are much better positioned than others to take advantage of colonizable territory. To understand how to benefit from colonization, the player must look at the trade map mode to understand how to bring trade value back home or to a trade node they can effectively collect at.
Example 1: Portugal's main trading port is in the Sevilla node. Sevilla connects directly to the Caribbean node in the New World, meaning that any trade value generated by colonized provinces in the Caribbean node can be pulled, with enough trade power, to the Sevilla node. As well, creating a colonial nation in the New World will provide 50% of that nation's trade power to Portugal, assisting in that process. Therefore the Caribbean is an excellent place to colonize for Portugal. The Caribbean node also connects to many other colonizable nodes, such as Mexico, Rio Grande, and others.
Additionally, the Sevilla node connects directly to the Ivory Coast node. The Ivory Coast node has many colonizable provinces and trade value from many other trade nodes with colonizable provinces flows into this node, including Brazil, Cape of Good Hope, Zanzibar, Amazonas, and many others. Controlling the Ivory Coast node would be a great idea for Portugal as over time, the player will be able to colonize other provinces in more far-flung areas, and as long as the player controls trade power along the whole route, they will be able to direct lots of trade value back to Sevilla. Portugal can create a trade company in Ivory Coast to assist with this.
However, trade value from the St. Lawrence, Ohio, Chesapeake, or Hudson's Bay nodes cannot flow to Sevilla. It is impossible. This means that colonizing these trade nodes should only be considered when all other eligible locations have been taken. Even if Portugal took Important Trade Centres away from other colonizers, the only way to prevent trade value from reaching the nations in nodes such as English Channel would be for Portugal to have a merchant collect trade in one of these nodes, which would damage the trade power in all of Portugal's other nodes.
Example 2: Venice is a Merchant Republic with strong trading ideas. However, by looking at the flow of trade worldwide, the player will see that the only New World trade nodes that can ever connect to the Venice node are California, Mexico, and Rio Grande. Furthermode, Venice would need to have trade power in several nodes that are largely owned by other countries, such as the Mamluks (Alexandria), Ming (Hangzhou), and Japan (Japan), before any significant amount of trade value could reach Venice.
Venice can eventually benefit from some trade company regions; if the player can control the Alexandria, Gulf of Aden, Ceylon and Bengal nodes via warfare, they can benefit from the colonization of Indonesia and even Australia. Due to their location, Venice will have a difficult time gaining Colonial Range to Indonesia regardless, until they can conquer the Horn of Africa.
An easier route to benefiting from colonization as Venice requires early expansion to the New World, so as to dominate one of the New World trade nodes sufficiently to collect trade profitably despite the penalty for collecting from a trade node away from the player's main trading port. Whilst Venice starts at a disadvantage in this respect because of its further distance from the New World compared to European nations on the Atlantic seaboard, Venice can seek to capture or colonize a West African territory and use this as a platform from which to colonize the New World. With focused attention on colonization, Venice can then compete with other colonizing nations, but must collect trade income in a New World trade node, such as the Caribbean, given the low chance of controlling European trade nodes which connect efficiently to the Americas.
Note that any nation can move its main trading port to any other node where they have a province, even overseas. Before the player does this, they should ensure that they possess enough trade power in both the new home node, as well as upstream connected nodes, to make it worthwhile. Even so, the nation will still forfeit trade value generated in any nodes that do not connect to the new main trading port, which may include nodes where that nation has many developed provinces. In general, a nation should have its main trading port in the furthest downstream node to which it can control and push trade value.
Colonial nation of 10 provinces or more, or trade companies that control 51% of trade in a trade company node, will provide the parent nation with an extra merchant with the appropriate DLC (either El Dorado or Wealth of Nations provide this feature). These merchants are invaluable as not only do they provide +10% extra trade power in the nation's home node while steering trade, but they also allow the nation to direct which direction to send trade in a node with multiple exits.
This second factor can make a significant difference in the amount of trade value a nation receives. Because of this, a player should prefer to place merchants in nodes with multiple exits, so that trade can be steered towards the nation's home node. Nations will always use all their trade power in any node to pull trade downstream, even without a merchant, unless a merchant is collecting trade in that location. Therefore, any upstream nodes with only one exit will automatically pull in the correct direction.
Example: Spain has 2 merchants, and has colonized provinces in the Ivory Coast, Cape of Good Hope, Zanzibar and Malacca nodes. Spain should place the merchants in Malacca (to steer trade to Zanzibar instead of Bengal) and Ivory Coast (to steer trade to Sevilla instead of Bordeaux, English Channel, or Caribbean). If Spain gets a 3rd merchant, placing it in either Zanzibar or Cape is equally good, as Spain will get a +10% bonus to trade power regardless, and Zanzibar and Cape have only one exit.
For many nations in Asia, Africa and the New World, using colonization can be an effective way to get close to nations that have already embraced institutions, particularly Renaissance and Printing Press, which are guaranteed to spawn somewhere in Europe.
Of particular interest to colonizers is the Colonialism institution. Not only does Colonialism have a chance to spawn in any nation that has both taken the Quest For the New World idea in Exploration and that has discovered the New World (Random or otherwise), but Colonialism will spread into any nation with a New World colonial nation, regardless of adjacency. This gives nations that begin colonizing before 1500 a significant advantage in regards to this institution.
Colonizing nations have some ability to affect the spawn point of the Global Trade institution as well due to the amount of wealth that can flow from colonial nations and trade companies to the parent nation.
Early in the game when colonial range is short, island hopping is necessary in order to cross oceans large stretches of territory. Paying attention to Colonial Range can assist the player in reaching important provinces before AI nations, or finding the quickest way to adopt institutions by bordering appropriate nations.
A nation's base colonial range is 160 at diplomatic technology level 3 and 275 at diplomatic technology level 7. The 3rd idea in Exploration, Overseas Exploration, gives +50% colonial range. Hiring a navigator advisor gives +20% colonial range.
Thus, the most important range numbers are 192, 272, and 467.5.
The Random New World
If a Random New World is generated, it is important that the player discover the newly generated trade nodes as soon as possible, as the flow of trade may be such that normally valuable trade nodes, such as Sevilla, may possibly receive no trade value from the New World whatsoever. The player will have to adjust their colonization strategy to compensate for this, most likely focusing on trade companies and the static African and Asian colonizable areas instead.
Trade nodes in a random new world connect in some typical ways. One (and only one) may connect to the following node or pair of nodes in the old world; North Sea and English Channel, Bordeaux and Seville, Safi and Ivory Coast, Girin and Nippon, or Australia. The Philippines trade node may connect to one (and only one) trade node in a random new world to mirror the Philippines connection to the Mexico trade node in the standard version. All of the new world trade nodes will be interconnected coherently so that trade will always flow out of the new world and into the old. In other words there are no end nodes and no endless loops of trade within the new world.
Colonial Regions in a random new world usually, but do not always, share the same boundaries as trade nodes. In some map configurations, usually those with a large number of colonial regions, some provinces may not be in any colonial region but will remain with the first colonizer unless sold, lost in a war, or otherwise transferred. Occasionally, again usually in those configurations with a large number of colonial regions, some colonial regions are too small to form colonial nations.
Colonization strategies by technology group
Technology groups are being used here primarily to identify the general location of a nation on the world map, as tech groups no longer have a direct effect on technology costs.
Western technology nations
Befitting their historical importance in this field, nations with their capitals in Western Europe have the potential for the most monetary gain from overseas territories.
European nations have a greater chance to be close to the spawning point of institutions, and so will be less vulnerable to falling behind in technology. This not only means that European nations may be able to unlock Exploration and Expansion ideas more quickly than other nations, but it also means that their colonies will grow more quickly than other nations, will be more profitable, and will be protected more easily, due to higher diplomatic technology level providing extra global settler increase, stronger navies, and more trade power and efficiency.
There is no territory in Europe to colonize, but any overseas colony can be just as valuable as a domestic province if they are part of a state. However, the maintenance cost of state membership and relative wealth of the location must be taken into account. In the case of trade company regions, in most cases Western nations will benefit more from creating trade companies than they will from taking control of the provinces directly, due to the significant bonuses provided to trade power and goods produced. However, trade companies provide no manpower nor taxes to the owner, whereas directly-controlled overseas states can still provide these resources.
In regards to Institutions, Western European colonizer nations may possibly have the best access to Institution spread of all nations in the game. These nations will start with Feudalism, will have local access to Renaissance and Printing Press due to having a capital in Europe, and will have a good chance to spawn Colonialism and Global Trade within their country. Even if Institutions like Global Trade, Manufactories, or Enlightenment have their source province overseas, a colonizer nation should easily be able to obtain at least some spread value from these locations, thanks to their global influence and the specific spread value triggers for certain institutions.
With the introduction of mission trees in Rule Britannia the historical colonizer nations can receive extra rewards for pursuing colonial expansion in either or both the old and new worlds. These rewards can consist of benefits to trade, increased tariffs, additional development, faster settlement growth, reduced liberty desire in subjects, claims to certain regions, extra monarch power, and cash.
Eastern and Anatolian nations
For the most part, Eastern and Anatolian technology nations receive few benefits from overseas colonization. To receive any significant trade value from either the New World or important trade nodes such as Malacca, the player will have to conquer extremely large portions of Asia, which may be impossible, impractical or simply dull.
The only Eastern technology nation that benefits substantially from colonization is Muscovy, or any nation that conquers them early on, such as Novgorod or Lithuania. This is because it will allow the player to colonize the Siberia region, which can result in several free, remote, provinces with Gold as the trade good. These provinces are best taken advantage of using the colonist from the Expansion idea group, not Exploration. If the player can make it all the way to the Far East and can control the Hangzhou or Beijing nodes, they can route trade from limited areas of the New World, specifically California, Mexico and Rio Grande.
Even though a colonial nation can help to spawn or encourage the spread of the Colonialism institution, Eastern technology nations are usually close enough to natural AI colonizers that they will get this institution relatively quickly regardless. In addition, these nations may have difficulty obtaining colonial range to the New World, especially by 1500 when the Colonialism institution is scheduled to appear.
Eastern Slavic nations are not required to take Exploration or Expansion ideas, as they will gain the "Siberian Frontier" ability once they form Russia, which allows them to establish a Siberian Frontier colony in any empty province with a direct land connection to its capital. This province will then grow by 5 to 15 colonists every month.
Nations near the Gulf of Aden or Hormuz may benefit from trade value produced in Indonesia, China or India, but keep in mind that a nation also cannot create a trade company on the same continent as its capital, so keeping control of Centres of Trade is necessary. African or Asian nations may be forced to take direct control of overseas territory, via making the area a state, in order to compete with the trade company bonuses from Western powers.
Unless North African nations, such as Morocco, manage to control the Sevilla or Genoa nodes, these nations possibly derive the least benefit from colonization of any nation, as the trade route from Ivory Coast to Sevilla bypasses Safi. If a Random New World is generated, trade value may sometimes flow through the Safi node, making colonization strategies for these nations viable. Even obtaining Colonialism should not be too difficult due to nearby Portugal and Spain, though they will likely be hostile, reducing the spread rate significantly.
Nations in the Indian technology group are part of Asia and as such have much quicker access to the rich provinces in Indonesia, and can easily pull trade from these provinces back to Bengal, Ceylon, or Goa. Due to the trade flow, nations in Doab, Kashmir or Lhasa benefit very little from overseas territory, but these nations should move their main trade ports to better downstream nodes as quickly as is convenient. Unfortunately, trade companies are next to useless for Indian nations due to the worldwide flow of trade; African trade value cannot be routed back to Indian nodes, and trade companies cannot be created on the same continent as a nation's capital.
Obtaining or even spawning Colonialism can be difficult for Indian nations as they may have difficulty obtaining colonial range to the New World, even when taking Exploration ideas first. Later on, colonization may be useful in order to border Western nations, in order to obtain institution spread from them.
Chinese nations and Steppe Hordes
Chinese technology nations exist exclusively in Asia, and so can receive decent benefits from colonizing the Indonesian regions, as well as creating a colonial nation in Australia. However, due to the trade flow in this area, no trade from the Philippines, the Moluccas, Australia or Malacca can be pulled back to the upstream nodes (Siam, Canton, Hangzhou, Beijing) where most of these nations reside. Most mainland Chinese nations (including Steppe Hordes) that wish to focus on trade should move their main trading port to the Malacca node once they can reasonably control that node. Bengal is also an alternative location that may be easier for some nations to control.
Chinese nations that are lucky enough to start in Indonesia, such as Pasai, Brunei or Malacca, often receive Colonists in their national ideas and benefit immensely from colonization, not only by grabbing the rich domestic territory in Indonesia, but also by preventing European colonizers from taking territory in the region. Colonial nations in California, Australia, Rio Grande, and Mexico can also send trade value to Indonesian trade nodes.
Steppe Hordes, or far east nations such as Korea or Japan, can use early colonization to take the uncolonized provinces in Siberia, which can contain Gold as well as limit the power of Muscovy if necessary. A northern nation controlling the Beijing or Hangzhou nodes can receive trade value from limited areas of the New World, specifically California, Rio Grande and Mexico, which makes colonial nations in this area beneficial.
With a Random New World, Chinese nations and Steppe Hordes may sometimes find large amounts of trade in the New World flowing to Girin, Japan, the Phillippines, the Moluccas or even Australia, making colonial nations even more useful in these cases.
Western, Eastern and Central African nations
These nations can derive great benefits from colonization, but there are risks involved due to the tendency of major European colonizers to focus on this area. There are many empty provinces in this area as well as around Africa itself that can be colonized, but all African nations face great danger if a European power declares war on them for this territory.
If some control of the Ivory Coast trade node can be secured, Western African nations can benefit from colonial nations with provinces in the Brazil, Amazonas, Rio de la Plata, Cuiaba or Patagonia trade nodes. Ivory Coast also receives trade, either directly or indirectly, from nearly all of Asia as well as Australia, California, Mexico, and Rio Grande. Eastern and Central African nations, due to their location at or near the Zanzibar node, are capable of pulling trade from Indonesian provinces directly to their doorstep through Malacca, which can be very profitable indeed. However, African nations will only be able to create trade companies in Asia.
If a Random New World is generated, substantially more (or less) trade value may flow into Ivory Coast, making the node more (or less) valuable to control.
Native North and South American nations
As these nations usually start with very few provinces in an area with large amounts of empty territory, colonization is essential to playing these nations. All North and South American nations can receive a bonus colonist through either their religious or government reform track, which can assist in obtaining as many provinces as possible. Nahuatl, Mayan or Inti nations will keep the bonus colonist even after Westernizing, as long as they keep their pagan religion.
Migratory nations can easily migrate to control Centres of Trade or Estuaries in their trade node of choice before commencing colonization, but this may put the nation in danger later in the game, as European colonizers prefer Centers of Trade over any other provinces, and may declare war to obtain one.
In general, colonizing towards the east coast of North or South America will result in quicker modernization in tech, but also comes with a greater risk of invasion by European powers before the player is prepared. Colonizing to the west will be in most cases safer, but may result in high technology costs for most of the game. If a North or South American native has finished their appropriate government or religious reform track, simply bordering any nation with adopted Institutions will allow that nation to reform their government or religion, getting a massive boost in technology and adopting all institutions in the adjacent nation instantly, so colonization to obtain one of these borders (when the time comes) is higher recommended. However, further institution spread (after the initial boost) may be difficult to obtain.
Once a native nation's borders have expanded sufficiently, the player will want to move the nation's main trading port as far downstream as is reasonable, as many trade nodes in North or South America are source nodes, or have a single preceding node, and thus are very poor. In terms of overseas territory, nations with their main trading port in Panama can pull trade value from the Phillippines as well as nodes upstream of this, such as Hangzhou. Most interestingly of all, nations with a main trading port in the Caribbean can pull trade from all of South America, most of North America, most of Africa, and nearly all of southern Asia, as the Caribbean node can pull trade from Ivory Coast or Panama. This makes the Caribbean by far the best home node for a nation in North or South America, but it may be very difficult to control.
Nations with their capitals in North or South America cannot form colonial nations in any region (not even Australia). Colonies that would normally be ceded to colonial nations]] will remain as regular provinces instead and can be added to states to receive the full benefit from such provinces.
In a Random New World, the player should inspect their chosen nation to see if they can reasonably be played. Many Native nations generated in a Random New World are located on small, isolated islands, or smaller landmasses that have no uncolonized territory. This means that the player will be trapped on their land mass, as they cannot yet colonize over water. It will also mean that Native Councils, or nations of Nahuatl, Inti or Mayan religion, will never be able to border a nation with an Institution, and so will not be able to reform. For American religious pagans, an absence of ownable territory or vassalizable nations may prevent the player from reforming their religion entirely.
When selecting a nation in a Random New World, either select an appropriate native nation on a large land mass with plenty of uncolonized territory, or select (or customize) a nation is not a Native Council, or that is not an unreformed Nahuatl, Mayan or Inti nation.