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Playing Austria is very different from most other nations in the game and therefore offers a unique experience. Austria should retain the title of Holy Roman Emperor in order to maintain their might as a continental power, which means playing the diplomacy and imperial authority game within the HRE. Thankfully, Austria's national ideas form one of the best sets of diplomatic ideas in the game. Maintaining strong allies as well as a fluent diplomacy is also essential as all of Austria's major opponents (particularly France and the Ottomans) have superior military-oriented ideas.

Flag of Austria Austria is uniquely situated for forming personal unions. Austrian missions give a casus belli for forming a PU with Flag of Bohemia Bohemia on achieving sufficiently high relations with HRE electors, and another for Flag of Hungary Hungary after increasing development, regardless of dynasty or royal marriage. In addition, as Emperor, Flag of Austria Austria gets more diplomats and more relationship slots, thus allowing more marriages, while high starting (and likely continuing) Prestige.pngPrestige makes each marriage more likely to result in dynasties, personal unions, or even outright inheritance. Flag of Hungary Hungary will very quickly be of the same dynasty by event, regardless of the player's choices, but a marriage makes for easier claiming as well as a great ally.

As a note, economically Flag of Austria Austria is relatively weak in trade due to its home trade node being the inland node of Wien. However Flag of Austria Austria is unique in that it has one of the few Gold gold mines in Europe (Tirol) and starts out as Emperor with 8 Free Cities (Common Sense.png) providing a Gold Icon.png16 ducat bonus to taxes each year. The inflation from the gold mine can be managed by either Economic Ideas, Austria's third national idea, or by using papal influence to choose the Forgive Usury action that reduces inflation.

Flag of Austria Austria is also perhaps in the best position to form the Flag of Holy Roman Empire Holy Roman Empire, due to starting as Emperor, having several diplomatic oriented national ideas, and their relative position and strength in the empire to enforce their will on the other Princes. Following the steps below will help ensure the player can form the Empire at a relatively quick pace.

Imperial Authority

In general, things to keep in mind for monthly Imperial authority.png Imperial Authority:

  • with more princes in the HRE +0.004 per prince over 25
  • up to 8 free cities +0.005 per city (with Common Sense.png Common Sense)
  • peace in the Empire +0.10
  • heretic princes −0.01 per prince
  • electors that are vassals or missing electors −0.1 per elector (This does not include personal unions, however the −50 penalty in elections for the suzerain still applies)
  • Imperial provinces under the control of non-members or subjects of non-members −.005 per province.

Other mechanics can be seen at Flag of Holy Roman Empire Holy Roman Empire.

Rein in Northern Italy

The provinces in red must be added to the HRE by 1490 to prevent the Shadow Kingdom event.

The Empire can be greatly strengthened by preventing the Shadow Kingdom event, which causes all of the Italy region to leave the Empire.

Preventing the Shadow Kingdom event requires adding eight more provinces to the HRE: Flag of Venice Venice's Treviso, Friuli, and Verona, Flag of Urbino Urbino's Urbino, and Flag of The Papal State The Papal State's Ancona, Romagna, Umbria, and Roma. If all these provinces are in the HRE from 1490 to 1550, the event cannot fire. The Rein in Northern Italy decision allows some extra flexibility in achieving this goal. This decision adds the emperor's (and subjects') Italian provinces to the HRE immediately, and prevents the Shadow Kingdom event forever. Thus, Austria can take some or all of the provinces with vassals or PUs, without needing to hold them directly to add them to the HRE as normal. This does mean losing the potential Imperial authority.png Imperial Authority bonus from adding those provinces normally.

One thing to be aware of is the negative effects of war with Flag of The Papal State The Papal State and control of Rome. Wars obviously involve negative relations with the Papal State, and that reduces papal influence. More importantly, a Catholic owning Rome directly or through a vassal causes The Occupation of Rome modifier that decreases valuable diplomatic reputation and gives an extremely large papal influence malus, while vassalizing the Papal State causes the Subjugation of the Papacy modifier, decreasing diplomatic reputation even more, though without the influence penalty. The simplest way to deal with this is to forcibly annex Roma, but do it last, immediately before the player intends to use the Rein in Northern Italy decision. Once taken, a one-time event will fire very soon where the Pope asks for Rome back (long before the player has a chance to finish coring it or adding it to the HRE). If it is returned, the malus is removed. So capturing, enacting the decision, and then returning the province avoids the penalties.

Conquest of all of these provinces itself would provide a lot of aggressive expansion. Releasing Flag of Aquileia Aquileia from Flag of Venice Venice and Flag of Urbino Urbino from Flag of The Papal State The Papal State and diplo-vasallizing them do not generate any aggressive expansion for the player. With a lot of luck separatist rebels can spawn and create cores - Ferrarese in Romagna and Urbinese in Umbria and Ancona. Return of core to HRE member is then AE free and reconquest of vassal's cores generate much less of AE then claim-based conquest. Return of HRE core Brescia from Flag of Venice Venice to Flag of Milan Milan is not necessary as it is already part of HRE, however returning the province back to HRE will decrease malus in Imperial Authority growth caused by HRE provinces in hands of non-HRE members. Any province can be given in peace deal to an ally too in order to lower AE (e.g. Romagna to Flag of Florence Florence or Flag of Ferrara Ferrara) but some luck is necessary then that AI will add the province to HRE.

Ultimately, preventing the Shadow Kingdom event means more Imperial Authority through more princes in the Empire, but it also means more wars to keep minor states in line, and potentially more princes to fall victim to the Reformation spread. Careful management will be needed to ensure that Austria can keep the Italian princes in line with the rest of the Empire. However, it may not be up to you or your ability to keep the Italian Princes in line. If the Burgundian Succession and Hungary's automatic personal union doesn't fire, the effort to Reign in Italy will allow the Reformation to run rampant in the HRE and will destroy whatever imperial authority you managed to save in Italy.

Territories in Burgundy

Flag of Burgundy Burgundy through personal unions controls Imperial territory in Flag of Holland Holland and Flag of Brabant Brabant, as well as five Imperial provinces of its own, making eleven. This is by far the largest drain on monthly Imperial Authority in 1444.

The strategies behind dealing with Flag of Burgundy Burgundy should have in mind keeping Imperial territory in Empire hands and protected from Flag of France France and Flag of England England. These strategies can be started from Sundgau via fabrication or a rival conquest mission, but Flag of Burgundy Burgundy and its subjects and ally are a match for all of Austria's power, so the player should bring allies. Ways to pull apart Flag of Burgundy Burgundy include:

  • Through the Burgundian Succession Crisis (a luck-based event), which can give direct control over all provinces already in the Holy Roman Empire currently controlled by Burgundy or its subjects. The event's effects are improved if the player has a Royal Marriage with Flag of Burgundy Burgundy and the event is more likely to fire if Flag of Burgundy Burgundy is in a war, and losing. Note though that Flag of France France will generally receive control of the Bourgogne, Picardie, Artois, Charolais, Nevers, and Rethel provinces. The player can choose to release the princes after inheriting their land for more Imperial authority.png Imperial Authority; either way, this can form another base of territory in the Empire to keep the princes in line. This method is ideal, since it involves no wars, no costs, and no aggressive expansion, but the event may or may not occur so it cannot be counted on.
  • War forcing Flag of Burgundy Burgundy to move their capital to one of their Imperial provinces. This causes Flag of Burgundy Burgundy to become an Imperial prince thus restoring all Imperial provinces to the Empire as well as bringing both Flag of Brabant Brabant and Flag of Holland Holland back into Imperial arms. In recent patches, a country must have no other non-Imperial provinces when their capital is taken in order to move it to Imperial territory. The provinces to remove are thus Picardie and Artois (which can be released together as a vassal), Charolais, and the capital Bourgogne. Additionally, in order to take the last two the player must take Franche-Comté unless other area nearby has already been taken from others such as Flag of Savoy Savoy or Flag of Lorraine Lorraine. All of this is made much easier (and thus possible with a single war) by having Picardie and Artois already in another nation's hands: Flag of France France has missions and Flag of England England generally fabricates claims. If the Burgundian Succession Crisis happens after this, France's only remaining gains will be Flag of Nevers Nevers's provinces: Nevers and Rethel. This method leaves France weakest, and gives Austria some direct territory, but garners a large amount of aggressive expansion.
  • At least two wars, canceling the subjects of Flag of Holland Holland and Flag of Brabant Brabant (ideally done first as this makes further wars easier), releasing Flag of Hainaut Hainaut and Flag of Luxembourg Luxembourg, and reclaiming Franche-Comté. If the Burgundian Succession Crisis happens afterward, Flag of France France generally gains whatever Flag of Burgundy Burgundy has left other than Flag of Flanders Flanders. This means all 6 normal provinces: Bourgogne, Picardie, Artois, Charolais, Nevers, and Rethel. This method can involve little or no aggressive expansion (depending on what is done with Franche-Comté), which is useful if taking other land nearby. For the player, the effect is almost the same as if the Burgundian Succession Crisis event had happened in their favor, though obviously at the cost of the wars.

Other subject members

Flag of Provence Provence at the start is the suzerain of Flag of Lorraine Lorraine (Metz and Lothringen) and controls the Imperial territory of Barrois, from which the player can release Flag of Bar Bar to have an extra prince. As this is three Imperial provinces, it's important to handle, but Provence is allied with Flag of France France to begin. For a super aggressive start, the player can fabricate claims on Lothringen, get a big ally (such as Flag of Burgundy Burgundy or Flag of Hungary Hungary), wait until France/Provence is at war or just finished one, and then use the claim to declare war. It's possible to damage France, take their money, and even humiliate them for power projection if they're a rival. Once France is out of the fight, Provence can be focused. At the start, Provence is just small enough to vassalize, which will also release Lorraine. This causes a bit of aggressive expansion, but will eventually allow the player to annex Provence, getting cores next to France and adding territory to the Empire for a boost to Imperial authority.pngImperial Authority.

Flag of Holstein Holstein is also part of the Empire, but is a vassal under Flag of Denmark Denmark. If Denmark goes to war with the Empire early and loses, it is possible that Flag of Holstein Holstein may be released, but it is otherwise annexed fairly quickly and thus difficult to get back. It may be advisable to leave this province as the one lost cause, at least until the player is strong enough to handle Denmark.

Territories of non-member nations

Neumark, province of the Empire, starts under Flag of Teutonic Order Teutonic Order's control at the start. There is an event that can allow the TO to sell Neumark to Flag of Brandenburg Brandenburg, but otherwise Brandenburg will usually get it via war. Brescia, a Venetian province, is also part of the Empire, and can usually be returned to Flag of Milan Milan should Austria go to war with Flag of Venice Venice to add their provinces to the Empire. Do note that since Brescia is already an HRE province, it does not need to be controlled to avoid the Shadow Kingdom event or to use the Rein in Northern Italy decision.

If the first Imperial Reform is passed, the Imperial Ban]casus belli may be used to secure these provinces.

Minimizing the Reformation

For the Holy Roman Emperor, the Reformation is effectively an unavoidable disaster that affects the entire Empire. Princes will convert as their provinces are converted, and each prince that does so causes an Imperial authority.png Imperial Authority growth penalty. Furthermore, any of the player's provinces that get converted (or any converted provinces taken in war) are still very difficult to change back as missionary strength is quite low to start.

The simplest method for handling the Reformation is to use the Emperor diplomacy options to enforce your religion on each prince as they convert. Assuming that they like the Emperor enough or he has enough diplomatic reputation, they will convert back at the cost of a single point of Imperial authority.png Imperial Authority and some relation points. When this occurs, their capital is immediately converted, and if there was a Center of reformation.png Center of Reformation in that location, it is removed. Furthermore, the prince will then work to reconvert their own heretic provinces.

This will not work in all cases, however. The Emperor will likely have enemies in the HRE that will refuse the request, and it is not possible to even ask this of Electors. Thus, the second simplest method is going to war with the country (perhaps by attacking their allies, if they are difficult to get a CB upon themselves). For a heretic country, a war option is conversion, which has a higher war score cost depending on how many provinces are of the heretic religion. Successfully enforcing this concession has the same effect as above: their capital is immediately converted, also removing any Center of reformation.png Center of Reformation there. It can often be worth declaring a no-CB war if required in order to remove a center.

If a country is too big to convert via war concession, the next option is to take some of the converted provinces, especially a province with a Center of reformation.png Center of Reformation, with the hope of force-converting in a second war. This can be painful, as the converted provinces will obviously reduce religious unity and will have high unrest, and religious zeal will prevent their conversion until ten years after they were first converted. Centers of Reformation, however, can be reconverted immediately (assuming one has the missionary strength to do so), and as soon as the conversion is complete the center is removed. For this path, taking the Religious Idea group can be very beneficial if not actually required.

As having a heretic Elector is especially bad, there is one final option: going to war to revoke their Electorate. This carries a whopping ten point penalty to Imperial Authority and some relations penalties with other Electors, but if successful allows the Emperor to choose a new (hopefully loyal) Elector. The no-longer-Elector prince is then able to be converted normally. As the malus is especially egregious, this method is not recommended unless there are no other options.

It is possible for a Center of reformation.png Center of Reformation to appear in an area that the player cannot or should not do something about. One in Flag of Denmark Denmark, Flag of Spain Spain, or Flag of Poland Poland, for example, can be difficult to remove. As long as it is outside the Empire, their conversion of HRE provinces should be slowed and the effects should be infrequent enough to handle without too much difficulty. Still, taking said center or making them change it should be added to the list of priorities for some future date.

One way to reduce the impact of the Reformation is by acting before it occurs. Let single-province countries like Flag of Friesland Friesland or Flag of Oldenburg Oldenburg be annexed by larger countries to prevent Center of reformation.png Centers of Reformation and religious rebels from instantly converting these princes. This decreases Imperial authority.png Imperial Authority tick, as there are fewer princes, but they may be released after 1650 if their cores still exist. With the above methods this may be unnecessary, but it can still be helpful, especially if one has not yet had the chance to take the Religious Idea group or chooses not to do so.

If the player wishes to convert to Protestantism themselves, it must be noted is that an election will be triggered if the player is the emperor. The player will not be eligible to be emperor again until a Holy War has been won or tied (Peace of Westphalia). This conversion path would only make strategic sense if the Reformation has been very successful, the player already is struggling with low religious unity and/or the player has already lost the throne (especially to a weak nation that is more likely to lose a Holy War). Being Protestant does give a +15% relations benefit, which is helpful for an emperor.

Another strategy is to intentionally allow Italy to leave during the Shadow Kingdom Event. This allows you to ensure early personal unions over Bohemia and Hungary, and to force Burgundy to release HRE provinces back into the HRE. Finally, your extra time can be spent gaining small chunks territory in Northern Germany that would allow to claim a province of protests princes and force convert them. While this is not ideal, remember that heretic princes will be more of a threat to Imperial Authority than the amount of princes in the HRE. Finally this strategy allows you to better manage the HRE over the long run.

Growing the Empire

As the likely end goal for Austria is to unite the Empire into a single nation and this is done without all the usual diplomatic monarch point expenditure of diplo-annexing, a strong late game goal is to grow the HRE. One easy way to do this is to revive peripheral nations with cores outside the realm. The Teutonic Order is often swallowed whole by Poland/Commonwealth. It can easily be freed from Brandenburg in one of the typical wars necessary to free captured duchies and then an Imperial Liberation CB can be used on Poland to take back Prussian provinces. Teutonic Order.

Similarly, Burgundy's capital is often driven by France into its provinces within the HRE, making it a member. At this point, Imperial Liberation can be used to reclaim Burgundy.

Since nations on the periphery of the Empire are typically threatened by a strong France, Commonwealth or Scandinavia, they typically add captured provinces to the Empire if they have good relations with the emperor. This makes them good allies or vassals if the emperor is strong and has the empire under control enough to take on the big neighbors.


Playing Austria is very different from most other nations in the game and therefore offers a unique experience. Austria should retain the title of Holy Roman Emperor in order to maintain their might as a continental power, which means playing the diplomacy and imperial authority game within the HRE. Thankfully, Austria's national ideas form one of the best sets of diplomatic ideas in the game. Maintaining strong allies as well as a fluent diplomacy is also essential as all of Austria's major opponents (particularly France and the Ottomans) have superior military-oriented ideas.

Important mechanics

These mechanics within EU4 are important for an Austrian campaign, especially if following the Austrian mission tree