One Move Behind – EU3: Heir to the Throne Edition

Troy Goodfellow asked me to fill the third seat on the Three Moves Ahead podcast over the weekend, so I spent a few days furiously playing the latest expansion in order to get a feel for some of the subtle yet significant changes Paradox has made to their flagship strategy game.

I have to admit I was really apprehensive about Heir to the Throne because it seemed like a solution in search of a problem, or perhaps a glorified patch. EU3 was not a game that I felt needed significant improvement or changes, and I was a bit put out that I’d bought the “Complete” edition only to have it rendered incomplete a few months later.

By and large, I think the expansion is a significant improvement over the Edition Formerly Known as Complete. Troy and Tom both felt that the casus belli system was good except for how much easier it made prosecuting wars. Now it’s very easy to start wars without suffering the instability that usually follows a war declaration. I don’t really agree with them, but I’m afraid that might be because they understand and game EU3′s rules much more effectively than I do.

One exploit I wanted to mention on the podcast, but it slipped my mind: the AI seems not to request military access to neutral countries (who are usually very willing to grant it). This wouldn’t be such a major issue except that it makes it very easy for the player to fight wars from the safety of neutral territory while the enemy is hemmed within its national borders. As England I fought both Burgundy and France using neutral kingdoms as the jumping-off points for my attacks. Even though I was clearly using Brittany and Aragon to maneuver against France, France never did anything about it. Makes it a little too easy to kite the AI.

The other thing I noticed as we were talking about EU3 is that it’s a dangerous game to start talking about, because you could very easily never stop. Frankly, I would love to do an entire show just talking about the way EU3 models diplomacy and international relations, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game do a better job. There are so many things going on inside EU3 (especially with this expansion), and all the various components interact in such interesting ways, that there are endless nuances you could spend time dissecting. Plus, every game produces a host of, “This one time…” anecdotes.

Final caveats: my sound quality is a little dodgy on this episode, possibly because I couldn’t record in my office and had to use a laptop. So I may sound a bit like I’m podcasting from aboard the Nautilus. However, I also started coming down with a cold during the show, so if I sound a bit crummy, that probably why. As you listen to this show, you are listening to my health fail in real time.

Also, we all mostly recommended this expansion, but take Tom’s recommendation with a grain of salt. I think he may have been recommending In Nomine when he thought he was recommending Heir to the Throne.

  1. Now that I’ve got my copy of HTTT (and keep in mind I’ve only been playing for a day), I’m puzzled at the comments about Causus Belli. I’ve had several situations in play so far where I clearly have a claim to a territory in another country, and the game gives me “Reconquest Causus Belli,” but when I go to declare war, it informs me that I’d lose 2 stability for not having Causus Belli. Maybe I missed something (again, I wish the dang Eu3wiki were still working!).

    That said, the distinct effects the different causus belli’s (pardon, don’t do Latin too well) have on the peace process make them a verrrrrrry interesting addition.

    • It’s easy to miss this. Try this and let me know if it works. When you go to declare war, look closely at the window that pops up. The top option, selected by default, is No Casus Belli. Below that should be other valid CBs. “Reconquest” “Trade Dispute” etc. Click on one of those, and you should see the consequences in the window change.

  2. OK, that worked. I just didn’t realize those were clickable buttons.

    Now that the Causus Belli mechanic works properly, the game is more fun and a verifiable leap ahead of its predecessors in terms of interface.

    Now, if only I could get a competent heir who survives past age 10, I’d be set.

    • I really wish Heir to the Throne did more interesting things with heirs. It seems like every generation loses the designated heir to an illness or an accident, and there never seems to be another prince to take his place. So you hope for a new heir or you take your chances and risk getting trapped in a personal union. Plus, too many of the heirs just seem undistinguished from one another. It’s rare that their attributes force me to change my approach.

      It’s not a bad system, but it results in a bit too much repetition for my liking. I’d like to see the occasional dynastic struggle break out within a family.

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