Europa Universalis IV DLC Guide09 Jun 2020 5
It’s almost hard to believe that Europa Universalis IV is over five years old. Its many expansions total over $200 at full price if you’re just looking at the add-ons that alter gameplay, and not the milieu of minor, cosmetic DLC. Whether you’re new to the series and you want to know what’s what, or you're a vet looking to top up your collection and want to know what’s most worth the money, we’ve put together this handy guide to help you.
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.
The Best EU4 DLC
We'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.
- Art of War
- Common Sense
- Rights of Man
- Mandate of Heaven
- Emperor (HRE/Central Europe)
- Cradle of Civilization (Persia area)
- Dharma (India and the Far East)
- El Dorado (Colonising nations)
- Rule Britannia (British Isles)
- Wealth of Nations (Trade-focused nations)
- Third Rome (Russia)
CONQUEST OF PARADISE (2014) - $14.99
- 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
- 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. This feature is also unlocked if you purchase 2018's Dharma expansion (see below).
- 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
- 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
- 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?
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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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?
As of 2018's Dharma, the estates mechanic formerly part of this DLC has now been made free for everyone, although you still need this DLC for the unique Cossacks & Dhimmi estates. To compensate, owners of this DLC instead get access to the 'Sich Rada' Government reform which enables the following Government interactions: 'Receive Fleeing Serfs', 'Organize Raiding Parties' and Raise Cossack Host.
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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
THIRD ROME (2017) - $9.99
- New Russian government types that unlock abilities based on your monarch's skills.
- Expanded and reworked Orthodox Christianity with Icons that can give you bonuses similar to a patron deity.
- Can designate a province as a Metropolitan, allowing you to increase the authority of the Orthodox patriarch.
- Russian cultures can now hire Streltsy regiments, which gain a bonus to fire damage but increase your stability cost the more you relay on them.
- Siberian Frontiers allow for quick, inexpensive colonization of land provinces with a direct route to the capital.
- A bunch of new events for East Slavic and Orthodox countries.
- As of Dharma, owning this DLC will now also grant you unique mission trees for Russia, Muscovy, Novgorod & the principalities.
Is it worth it?
The focus of immersion packs, of which Third Rome is the first dedicated example in EUIV, is to add a bunch of new mechanics and flavor for a specific group of nations while not affecting the rest of the world in any major ways. So more than any other expansions, your mileage on this one depends entirely on how much you enjoy playing East Slavic and/or Orthodox Christian nations. You'll have a ton more small things to do when playing that region, though only a couple have any major impact. My favorite of the lot is Siberian Frontiers, which allow a strong Russian nation to fill in their historical borders without having to spend an idea group or two on acquiring colonists.
CRADLE OF CIVILIZATION (2017) - $19.99
- New unique governments for the Mamluks, feudal theocracies, and Turkic/Arabic tribal federations.
- Islamic Schools give unique benefits on top of those of the base religion, and different schools can be on better or worse terms with one another to create natural alliances or conflicts between nations that follow the same branch of Islam.
- Trade Policies allow merchants to spread religion, boost diplomacy, or engage in espionage in their trade node.
- Army Professionalism builds up over time while drilling your armies, eventually unlocking abilities like building supply depots or recruiting generals for less monarch power.
- Exploiting Development allows you to pillage your own lands for short-term gains.
- New government buttons for Muslim Iqtas giving you a modest bonus that can be swapped out every 20 years.
- Turkish countries can now hire Janissary units from non-Muslim provinces.
- Lots of new events for Muslims, many revolving around the unstable Timurid dynasty in 1444.
Is it worth it?
Cradle of Civilization makes the Islamic world feel as rich, detailed, and diverse as Western Christendom, opening up areas like Persia and Anatolia for all kinds of new political situations. It's unambiguously essential if you like playing Muslim countries or anywhere in the vicinity of the Levant, Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, or Persia. The whole set-up with the ailing Timurids, their opportunistic neighbours, and their potential successor states is brilliant and can go so many different, interesting ways now.
Both the Mamluks and the Ottomans get enough new toys to play with that they'd feel naked without it. And for everyone else, Army Professionalism adds a new dimension to military dominance. It will be of least use to players who don't like playing Muslim nations or anywhere in the vicinity of the Middle East.
RULE BRITANNIA (2018) - $9.99
- Gives the British Isles some love with new provinces and factions in Ireland and Scotland.
- British Isles nations can now convert to the 'Anglican' form of Protestantism, which decreases development costs and increases Innovativeness gain.
- Innovativeness is a new mechanic that awards bonuses for being the first to unlock techs & via events.
- Coal is a new resource that appears late-game, which mainly boosts production. Possibly an attempt to avoid making Victoria 3.
- More bespoke missions for 'British' nations (to go with free mission system overhaul).
- Nations can now set a 'Naval Doctrine' for their navy, giving powerful bonuses in specific areas.
Is it worth it?
The Immersion Packs are rarely 'essential', but it really comes down to how much you like playing games as England or Scotland. With this pack and the free patch, playing a minor Irish nation is also more viable than it used to be, but if you're not an anglophile there's less here for you. Naval Doctrines are cool, but not essential (and useless to non-naval powers). Innovativeness is a nice boost if you can keep ahead of the tech game, but the new Institution mechanics make that quite hard. Coal is... well, coal. We're not sure what to make of that one.
The best case for this pack are the missions - the free patch completely overhauled the mission system for the better, but the non-DLC missions for England, Scotland and Irish minors are a bit bland, so you'll want the DLC missions instead. We'd comfortably say though that if you're ever considering going back to the British Isles, you'll want this pack. Read our review for more.
DHARMA (2018) - $19.99
- Focuses on the Indian sub-continent with new regions, playable nations, as well as plenty of unique mission trees and mechanics for a range of playable nations in the area.
- Centres of Trade now have levels, and you can invest in them to make them more powerful.
- Land can be bought for trade companies in Africa and Asia, and Trade Companies can be invested in for added bonuses.
- A new government reform system allows you to tailor and modify your government as you unlock more options.
- Colonists can now be used to improve development in colonial provinces instead of colonising new territory.
- Estates in general are now free (although unique estates are still DLC locked), and owning this DLC also unlocks Trade Companies from Wealth of Nations (see above)
- You can set autonomous rebel suppression to an area, and each province will get a reduction in unrest.
Is it worth it?
Despite the focus on the Indian sub-continent, many of the changes can have an impact on nations across the globe. Government Reforms especially can be an interesting mechanic when playing in North America, and the improvements to centres of trade & trade companies will add more dynamicism to expanding trading and colonial empires in Europe. The quality of life improvement to colonists & rebel suppression are especially hard to pass on.
The meat-and-potato of this pack lies in India, however, so if you're not interested in that area of the world you'll be paying a lot of money for not a lot of new stuff. As time passes and the discount on this pack gets greater in each successive sale, it will become more and more a decent purchase choice. Read our EU4 Dharma Review for more.
GOLDEN CENTURY (2018) - $9.99
- You can form a (historically questionable) Pirate Republic if you're a country in a specific region, like the Caribbean.
- You can expel minorities from your homeland, sending them to the new world to be someone else's problem.
- If you have a large enough Navy you can construct a special 'Flagship' naval unit.
- Lots of flavour and unique mission trees for various peninsular nations, such as Castille and Granada.
- You can now use Naval Barrages for 50 MIL power, which work basically like Artillery Barrages.
Is it worth it?
The $10 expansions have become highly situational in recent years - if you like the idea of trying to be a pirate nation and/or spend a lot of time in the Spanish peninsular, then this is a great expansion. Otherwise you could probably wait until it's on sale. Owners of Rule Britannia and Dharma get extra content from this expansion as well, so there's some extra value for money if you're a DLC completionist. Read our EU4 Golden Century review for more.
EMPEROR (2020) - $19.99
- New systems, events and content for HRE and any nations connected to them.
- An overhaul about how the late-game 'Revolutions' work, with some specific tweaks given to France.
- New Papacy and Religion mechanics, including Bohemia's Hussite faith and a better Counter-Reformation.
- New and expanded mission tress for over 20 nations.
- New events and flavour content for the 18th century in general.
Is it worth it?
So long as you think rocking around in central Europe and playing the great game of Imperial politics within the HRE is fun, then most definitely yes. The changes to late-game revolutions are also welcome, although given the highly volatile nature of any single run of EU4 what the world actually looks like by the time you get to that point is anyone's guess. There's still quite a lot that's gone into the free 1.30 patch, but there's enough in this pack alone to warrant the purchase. Generally, this pack allows Europe to live its best life, and you should read our EU4 Emperor review for more.
What are your thoughts on EU4's DLC? What would your 'must buy' list look like? Let us know in the comments!