Still Engrossed

Looking through the contents of this blog’s slender archive, Europa Universalis III seems to come up more often than any other game. If you click on the tag to the left of this post, you’ll find a bunch of posts on it that are of admittedly varying quality and interest.

I mention this because it has become undeniable that EU3 has absorbed me more completely than any strategy game since Civilization IV. In the past couple weeks I’ve been working on another EU3-related project and wound up sucked into a playthrough of the grand campaign. I only wanted to verify a few things to myself before I wrote about them, but the moment I started time moving and received a mission to start annexing French vassals, I was hooked.

Yet despite my obvious affection for EU3, I’ve always been rather qualified with my praise. This is an acquired taste. The learning curve is steep. The interface is opaque. It’s a game for people who like history.

All of that might be true, but I just don’t care, and I don’t think you should either. So what if the game is tricky to learn? I’m still learning it, but I started having a blast with it after only a few hours of play. Scores of hours later, and I’m having even more fun. I go from cheering to wailing and back again in the space of only a few minutes. I will be just about to quit for the evening when some backstabbing sonofabitch declares war on me and rolls into my territory with 30,000 men. Am I supposed to go to sleep after something like that happens? No. I drop what I’m doing until I hammer out a peace settlement. Preferably one that ends in his abject humiliation.

I’m about to go to bed, and there should be a lot of important things on my mind. But really, tonight I’m more preoccupied with whether or not I should embrace the Counter-Reformation and start trying to quash Protestantism, or whether I should get behind the Protestants and sever my ties with the Vatican. And what should I do about the Reformed church?

On top of everything else, the Heir to the Throne expansion is just a huge win for the team at Paradox. I am so very glad they did not leave off their work with In Nomine, because Heir to the Throne just makes the entire game system more comprehensible and interesting. It takes me just a moment to check whether or not I have a plausible casus belli against another country, and how my country would react to a new war. Peace negotiations make crystal clear how much I will be feared, loved, and hated for imposing a harsher settlement on a vanquished enemy. Sometimes, even though I know it will make me a pariah, I just pile on the penalties against a country that had the audacity to make me fight a war. As my man Tiberius said: “Let them hate so long as they fear.”

So if you come to the end of this month and find some extra money burning a hole in your pocket, or if you someday see EU3 Complete on sale, I suggest you grab it along with the Heir to the Throne expansion. It might not be for everyone. Few games worth playing are. But if it turns out that you’re the kind of person who likes EU3 (and you won’t know for sure until you’ve put a few hours into the game), then you will find this is a game that fires the imagination like few others.

    • Malta Soron
    • January 29th, 2010 7:09pm

    Thanks for mentioning EU3. I hadn’t heard much about it before, but I bought it a while ago after reading your post about Brandenburg. Last night I played it for 12 hours straight :D I study History (mainly subjects linked with the Dutch Revolt) so playing the grand campaign with Holland/the Netherlands is a lot of fun.

    • It’s great to hear you’re enjoying the game so much, and the Dutch revolt seems like a fascinating subject. I only studied it as part of a course on warfare and state violence in the Early Modern period, and mainly for a discussion of some of the military innovation that was at work during the conflict. It’s something I’m keen to know more about, however. Do you know of any good books, in English, on the subject? Either general surveys or studies of particular aspects of the revolt?

      One thing I have found about EU3 is that history actually provides a fairly good strategy guide. The game does a surprisingly good job of re-creating the types of dilemmas that cropped up historically.

    • Malta Soron
    • January 31st, 2010 6:06am

    Geoffrey Parker is one of the leading military historians for this period. His work “The Dutch Revolt” is one of the best books about the Revolt. He also wrote some other books that are related to the subject, like “The army of Flanders and the Spanish road (1567-1659)”, which goes into great detail about the workings and operations of the Habsburg army in the Netherlands.
    If you’re looking for a more general introduction on the history of the Dutch Republic, I’d look for “The Dutch Republic. It’s rise, greatness and fall, 1477-1806″ by Jonathan Israel.

    Yes, I noticed that too. I thought about strategies for different states (like Holland, Brandenburg and France). Usually the most viable is the one they used historically.

    • Thanks for the recommendations. I read Parker’s The Military Revolution for that class I was talking about, but didn’t realize he was a specialist on the Revolt. I suppose I should have, though given how much of the book focused on it.

    • Malta Soron
    • February 1st, 2010 5:09am

    I also read that one for a class! :) I’m thinking of buying some more of Parker’s works, to get a collection that covers about everything in my field of interest. He lists them all on his university page: http://history.osu.edu/people/person.cfm?ID=713

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