Europa Universalis IV: DLC Buying Guide

By T.J. Hafer 07 Apr 2017 1

It’s almost hard to believe that Europa Universalis IV is not even four years old, and yet has just received its tenth major expansion. That’s around $140 at full price if you’re just looking at the add-ons that alter gameplay, and not minor, cosmetic DLC. So if you’re new to the series and you want to know what’s what, and what’s most worth the money, we’ve put together this guide to help you out.

 

Keep in mind that these are all non-sale prices, and most older Paradox expansions are discounted anywhere from 25% to 75% off during special sales, such as during holidays or when a new DLC is released. Typically, the longer something has been out, the more it will be discounted. This list is in chronological order, so you can probably get the stuff at the top for a couple bucks if you wait for the right moment.

CONQUEST OF PARADISE (2014) - $14.99

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Highlights:
● Adds the ability to generate a Random New World, replacing the Americas with something totally different every time you play with the option selected, to put some real discovery back into the age of discovery.
● Tons of new mechanics for North American natives, allowing you to play as a migratory plains tribe and form a federation of your neighbors to oppose the stronger Europeans upon their arrival.

Is it worth it?

You can skip this one entirely if you want to play strictly with the historical New World continents and don’t care about North American tribes (specifically in what is now the US and Canada - Central America was addressed in its own expansion). The new mechanics listed on Steam for colonial nations are actually part of the free patch, so you don’t need to buy the DLC to access them. If you are interested in North American tribes, it definitely takes them from being barely represented in the game to feeling like full-fledged nations. Random New World is a fun novelty, especially the first few times, but I don’t find myself ever using it these days.

WEALTH OF NATIONS (2014) - $9.99

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Highlights:
● Light ships can be turned into Privateers and sent on missions to sabotage a rival’s profits in an area where you don’t have the ability to compete for trade profits yourself. Basically, it’s a way to ensure that if you can’t have the money, nobody can.
● Adds the ability to create Trade Companies, a special type of tributary that will take over your colonial provinces and increase their trade value.
● Improvements to overland (as opposed to sea) trade.
● Adds the ability to build the Panama, Suez, and Kiel canals in the late game for a ridiculous sum of money.
● Reformed (Calvinist) Christians get new Fervor mechanics that allow them to get really worked up and provide bonuses to their nation.
● Hindu nations may now pick a patron deity, and get a bunch of new events.
● Nations can now transfer trade power as part of a deal or peace treaty.
● You can now stipulate in a peace treaty that the defeated country must allow you military access to their lands and/or access to their ports for a period of time.
● Improvements to the Merchant Republic government type.

Is it worth it?

This is the “trade expansion”, and since for my money, trade is one of the more intriguing and well-designed systems in EU4, I’d hesitate to pass this one up. Adding on the fact that it’s cheaper than Conquest of Paradise, which added fewer meaningful mechanics, and the fact that you can get it for next to nothing on every Steam sale involving EU4, this one is easy to recommend. It will be least valuable to players who prefer landlocked, non-colonial, land warfare-focused powers in Central and Eastern Europe.

RES PUBLICA (2014) - $4.99

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Highlights
● New, unique mechanics for Merchant Republics, Elective Monarchies (particularly Poland-Lithuania in the 1444 start), and the Dutch Republic government type that’s exclusive to the Netherlands.
● Republican Dictatorship adds a middle ground between republics and monarchies.
● Tons of new events for the Dutch. Merchant republics, elective monarchies, and republican dictatorships.
● National Focus allows you to decide which area of progress (Military, Diplomatic, or Administrative) at a given time, pulling points from the other two to bolster it.
○ This feature was later also unlocked for owners of Common Sense (see below), even if they didn’t own Res Publica, due to how it tied in with that expansion’s mechanics.

Is it worth it?

As EU4’s cheapest gameplay DLC (even cheaper on sale), it’s hard to say no to that question. National Focus is a feature I use in almost every game of EU4, though you can also unlock that by owning Common Sense. In light of that, it’s possible to skip this one if you plan to pick up Common Sense instead and you only ever want to play non-elective monarchies, as it doesn’t really add anything for government types outside the ones listed above. The new events are well-written and interesting, and particularly essential if you’re going to play the Netherlands. The difference for them in terms of options and flavor with this DLC on versus off is night and day.

ART OF WAR (2014) - $19.99

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Highlights
● Unique mechanics for the religious partitioning of the Holy Roman Empire during the Protestant Reformation, culminating in the Religious League War (analogous to the historical 30 Years War, though it might last a different amount of time in your game) that tends to pull in all of Europe for a giant, amazing slugfest in the mid-game.
● A dynamic Revolution Target is chosen at the dawn of the Napoleonic era (usually mid-late 1700s depending on how events play out) that gets a bunch of bonuses, including the ability to found client states, and becomes the “final boss” of the campaign. This is often France, but it’s possible for the event to spawn in another large nation.
● Adds the ability to instruct a fort garrison to sortie out and attack the besiegers.
● Adds the ability to give orders to allied, AI-controlled armies.
● Adds a bunch of new CBs (reasons to go to war) and peace deal options such as making someone pay you monthly reparations for a period of time.
● Set up army templates so you can build an entire army with one click.
● New events
● New vassal type called a March that doesn’t pay you taxes and can’t be annexed, but provide strong military benefits

Is it worth it?

Yesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyes!

Until very recently, Art of War was almost indisputably EU4’s most essential expansion, and it probably still is. If you asked me off the top of my head which expansion to buy if you could only buy one, I’d definitely say Art of War. The Religious League Wars and Revolution Target mechanics add major, recurring events that I look forward to interacting with every playthrough. Features like being able to give my AI allies orders and demand war reparations are essential features I would have a very hard time living without. This one is a winner, through and through. If there’s anyone it’s least useful for, it would have to be nations that never go to war and are nowhere near/have no plans to interact with Europe.

EL DORADO (2015) - $14.99

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Highlights:
● Adds the Nation Designer, which allows you to paint your own, customized nation onto the map. You select its culture, religion, name, flag, stats, and starting provinces down to a very fine level of detail.
● Tons of new events and mechanics for Central and South American empires of the Nahuatl (Aztec), Maya, and Inti (Incan) religion groups.
● Improved New World exploration mechanics for colonial powers, including being able to tell your explorers and conquistadors to just explore automatically without having to click on every undiscovered province yourself.
● New mission to send trade fleets to hunt pirates.
○ This was later made available to owners of Mare Nostrum (see below), even if they don’t already own El Dorado.
● Colonizing nations who own a New World province with gold mines can now use treasure fleets to take advantage of that wealth… but they are vulnerable to pirates when doing so.
● A new mechanic based on the historical Treaty of Tordesillas that allows the Pope to divide the new world up between Catholic colonizing powers and make them stay on their own side of the line.

Is it worth it?

It’s almost an automatic yes based on the Nation Designer alone, which is a ton of fun to mess around with (though I find myself using it less and less these days). If you prefer a strictly historical experience, this expansion does for Central and South America what Conquest of Paradise did for North America, making the nations there feel fully playable rather than just being in the game as a placeholder. The new automatic exploration options are also something I’d have a hard time playing without at this point. This one would be of least value to someone not interested in the nation designer, who never plays in Central or South America, and doesn’t intend on playing exploring/colonizing nations.

COMMON SENSE (2015) - $14.99

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Highlights:
● You can now spend monarch power to develop a province, investing in the infrastructure to increase its tax base, trade good value, and/or military potential. The number of building slots in a province is now based on development.
● New mechanics and events for Theocracies.
● Constitutional Monarchy, Constitutional Republic, and the unique-to-England English Monarchy get a new Parliament system, where seats in Parliament can be given to specific provinces. It is possible to bring an issue before Parliament to gain a bonus for your nation, but you will have to convince enough seats to pass it by doing favors that cost you resources and benefit that, specific province.
● Protestant (Lutheran) Christian nations can now customize their national church (ie: Church of England) by picking from three out of a variety of bonuses to fit their “version” of Protestantism.
● Governments now have ranks (Duchy, Kingdom, Empire), with each successive rank being harder to achieve but granting larger bonuses. Some nations start as a Kingdom or an Empire already in 1444, further differentiating the start positions to account for historical realities.
● Added Karma mechanic for Buddhist nations, where maintaining the center is beneficial. Being too peaceful or too warlike is bad.
● Added Free Cities to the Holy Roman Empire, giving large benefits to city-states that never expand beyond one province.
● Added new ways for overlords and suzerains to interact with subjects.
● New events for Protestants, Buddhists, Theocracies, Constitutional Monarchies, Constitutional Republics, the English Monarchy, and the Papal States
● Players who don’t already own Res Publica get access to the National Focus mechanics (see above).

Is it worth it?

This expansion has come under significant criticism for introducing a feature as fundamental and borderline essential as provincial development and putting it behind a paywall. I don’t necessarily disagree - it’s difficult to even play properly in the current version of the game without it. But that being said, it’s hard to call this anything but a fantastic expansion - even if we imagined development was a free feature and just looked over the rest of the list. The Buddhist mechanics aren’t the greatest thing ever, but Parliaments are quite interesting, and Protestants and Theocracies are much more fun and fleshed out with this expansion. Whether you feel Paradox is twisting your arm withholding the development mechanics or not, this one absolutely has to go near the top of the “Essential” list.

THE COSSACKS (2015) - $19.99

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Highlights
● New diplomatic features let the player set attitudes toward the AI, the way AI do toward the player and other AI, making humans no longer the only countries not connected to that system.
● Adds the ability to mark foreign territory as part of your eventual plans for conquest, so your AI allies won’t take it by mistake and other countries that want those same provinces will know not to be friends with you.
● Doing nice things for the AI, like answering a call to arms in a war they started, earns you Favors that can be spent to increase trust, or encourage them to join your wars in the future.
● Adds a Trust system, where AI countries that have been your allies for a very long time are less likely to break that alliance for stupid reasons. On the flip side, countries you’ve betrayed in the past are less likely to ally with you again.
● New mechanics for the Tengri (steppe shamanism) faith that allows it to pick a syncretic faith, so you can sorta convert to Islam but still keep doing your Khan thing.
● Steppe Hordes get a new Horde Unity mechanic to replace Legitimacy, and can raze provinces to gain monarch power at the cost of really just making a mess of the place.
● New spy actions and ways to interact with natives as a colonizing nation.
● All nations now have Estates, which are internal factions that want things from you, and can give you benefits if you keep them happy… or really mess up your day if you make them angry/let them become too influential.
● Adds the ability to threaten a weaker country, forcing them to give up a province or else you’ll declare war.

Is it worth it?

Especially for the price, definitely. I’ve gone on the record calling Estates one of the most unneeded features ever introduced to EU4, and I often find them more of an annoyance than a gameplay enhancement. However, this is definitely the “diplomacy expansion”, and the utility it adds in that department for all nations is significant. I can’t think of anyone it would be useless for, but it will be of most value to those who like playing as steppe hordes and Eastern Europeans,

MARE NOSTRUM (2016) - $14.99

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Highlights:
● North African nations of Berber culture can send corsairs to raid the Mediterranean coast for slaves.
● Fleets can now be assigned to a region during war and given automated missions, including Hunt Enemy Fleets, Evade Enemy Fleets, Blockade Ports, and Intercept Transports.
● Now possible to offer an Unconditional Surrender if you know you are losing a war and don’t want to waste more manpower, forcing the attacker to end the war and present demands immediately.
● Having a spy stationed in a country during wartime now gives tangible benefits, like making sieges progress faster.
● Unlocks the Hunt Pirates naval mission if you don’t already own El Dorado (see above).
● Now able to rent out your own troops as Condottieri (mercenaries) to other nations in exchange for gold.
● Diplomats can now be sent on Counterespionage missions to a country you suspect is spying on you to foil their attempts.
● New Trade City government type that can be created by the leader of a Trade League for a subject that only has one province.

Is it worth it?

This is the first of the newer batch of expansions since Art of War that I’d feel comfortable saying you could skip if money is tight. The best feature is probably the new automated naval orders, which are a life-saver when trying to manage multiple fleets with different roles. Even so, I don’t find fleets require as much micromanagement from me as armies in most conflicts, so I could conceivably play with that feature off and not have it ruin my day. All the extra spy stuff is pretty reasonable to live without as well. This is definitely one you can prioritize lower, and will be of least value to those who prefer landlocked nations and don’t really make use of the espionage mechanics - which is a perfectly reasonable and viable playstyle. It’s arguably of most value to Merchant Republics, as hiring out your soldiers for profit is a cool nod to history and can be a fun way to see some action when you have no desire to go to war yourself.

RIGHTS OF MAN (2016) - $19.99

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Highlights:
● Adds tons of new mechanics for Coptic Christians and Fetishist (African traditional religions) nations.
● Adds Consorts, your ruler’s spouse, as a named character with stats in the government view, and a bunch of related events.
● Consorts can now take over the nation as a regent if the heir is too young when the ruler dies.
● Rulers, Heirs, Consorts, and military commanders now get character traits over time, positive and negative, that affect their stats.
● New mechanics giving better control over subject AI army behavior during war.
● New mechanics and events for Revolutionary (Napoleonic) Republics.
● Lots of new mechanics and events as well as a new, unique government type for the Ottoman Empire.
● New unique government type and events for Prussia.
● Certain nations will now be marked as Great Powers based on their size and technological sophistication. Great Powers gain new diplomatic interactions to influence non-Great Power nations.

Is it worth it?

I could certainly live without ruler traits. It wouldn’t make the game more of a pain to play. But I certainly wouldn’t want to. They add so much depth and flavor to the human side of EU4 - the personal drama and small details that help that painted map come alive and become a place in your mind’s eye. For that reason alone, this is one of my favorite expansions. Beyond that, most of the goodies are situational stuff for Coptic Christians, Fetishists, the Ottomans, and Prussia. This expansion will be of the least value to players not interested in any of those nations. The Great Power mechanics can open up some interesting, new play styles and a goal for smaller nations to strive for, but I probably ignore them roughly as often as I factor them into my plans.

MANDATE OF HEAVEN (2017) - $19.99

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Highlights:
● Adds Ages to the game with different rules and objectives to model thematic eras from the game’s time period: Age of Discovery, Age of Reformation, Age of Absolutism, and Age of Revolutions.
● New mechanics and events for the Chinese Empire as part of a massive overhaul to East Asia in general, bringing it up to par with Europe in terms of flavor and polish.
● New Tributary subject type that has to give you resources, but isn’t obligated to join you in wars.
● New mechanics for the Confucian religion focusing on Meritocracy, and allowing Confucians to “harmonize” other religions rather than converting their followers.
● New mechanics for the Shogunate and Daimyos to better model the Warring States period in Japan.
● New mechanics for the Shinto religion that allow Japanese rulers to choose between isolationism and greater contact with the outside world.
● Manchu nations can now raise an army type called Banners, which cost gold to replenish but do not deplete the nation’s manpower.
● Adds the Diplomatic Macrobuilder, a new interface that makes a variety of diplomatic actions easier to manage, and allows you to automate certain actions that you could not previously.

Is it worth it?

Being that it’s so new, I’ve only played a fraction of the time with Mandate of Heaven that I have with the other expansions on this list. That being said, I think I can say definitively that it’s absolutely essential if you plan to play in or anywhere near East Asia - particularly Japan, China, or Manchuria. It really does make the region feel like a second sphere as fleshed-out, diverse, and fun as Europe, which is a huge accomplishment. The Diplomatic Macrobuilder is great, but I don’t yet feel like I couldn’t live without it. That opinion may change as I grow more accustomed to it, though. I’m still playing around with Ages, and I’m not absolutely wowed by them, but I love that they give you objectives that reward you for playing differently than you might otherwise. Obviously, this expansion will be of least value to players who don’t enjoy playing in or around East Asia.

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So there you have it! To break it down, I’ve sorted the expansions into two, ranked lists: Essential for Everybody, and Situational (depending on what nation you’re playing), as I think they’re all worth owning eventually - it’s just a matter of what order you prioritize them. If you have to make a tough choice, I’d acquire all of the “Essential” ones in order first, then grab the “Situational” ones that apply to the countries and features you’re most interested in checking out.

ESSENTIAL:

1. Art of War
2. Common Sense
3. Rights of Man
4. The Cossacks (Really, 3 and 4 on this list are neck-and-neck and I can’t say definitively which is better)

SITUATIONAL:

1. El Dorado
2. Wealth of Nations
3. Res Publica
4. Mare Nostrum
5. Conquest of Paradise

SPECIAL: Since Mandate of Heaven is so new, I can’t quite tell yet whether it’s #1 by far on the Situational list, or if it falls somewhere around Common Sense/Rights of Man on the Essential list. My gut tells me it belongs under Essential, but that could just be a honeymoon phase thing, so I’ll hold off making that judgement for now.

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