This is the eleventh in a series of reviews of Paradox’s empire management games. See the earlier reviews here:
Europa Universalis II: A Tale of Two Europas
Hearts of Iron: Europa of Iron
Victoria: Nineteenth Century Essay
Crusader Kings: A Dynastic Adventure
Hearts of Iron II: Return Engagement
Europa Universalis III: A Whole New World
Europa Universalis: Rome: Make a Desert and Call it a Game
Hearts of Iron III: One Plus Two Equals Three
EU III: Heir to the Throne: Not Done Yet
Victoria II: Same But Different

A year after Heir to the Throne, another poll from Paradox returned more EU III as still the leading desire among fans. This time the proposal was to concentrate on ‘the rest of the world’ (than Europe) though all the attention went into the Orient.

What would become the last expansion (and the second past what Paradox had originally expected to do) for EU III came out for PC in December 2010, and a new bundle, EU III: Chronicles, with all the expansions was released the following March, along with the Mac version of the expansion. This review is just of Divine Wind, so you may want to read/review my EU III and HttT reviews listed above for basic details before reading this.

The World

The most readily apparent thing about the new expansion was that the graphics had gotten a major overhaul. This caught EU III up with the other Clausewitz games graphically, and did away with the overly-muted colors it had been using. The jagged-looking province borders are still there, but they’re better smoothed in some of the larger zoom levels.

The result was still a bit flat, especially compared to how their games would look very soon, but comparatively, it was quite good. There are some other important improvements, including the ability to zoom out much further than before.

Additionally, the number of different map modes generally available about doubled, with views of relative tech levels, number of buildings in a province, and so on being added. In addition, there was a new map mode linked to the peace process. As you go through the list, selecting provinces to change hands, they light up; the area of new nation to be released as a vassal changes color etc. In addition, there’s shading to show what’s currently possible to take in a peace, and the map will shift areas when a selected province is far away, also making it handy for wide-ranging wars.


In EU III, Japan is a minor power, stuck, like the rest of the east, with a poor technology group and troop types. But, it has the population and riches to be able to do quite a bit in its arena. Left to itself, the AI usually muddles around, winning and losing wars. But given a lucky break or two, it is not uncommon for a Europe-based player to get to the east, and find that Japan is carving up a mighty empire for itself.

In Divine Wind, a lot of detail was added to Japan. First, the map of Japan itself was expanded from 18 provinces to about 40. Second, it was split up into four factions (daimyos) all under one emperor. The rest of the world deals with Japan as a whole through the emperor, for alliances, wars, and the like.

Internally, the daimyos treat with each other as normal, but have no diplomatic options to deal with nations outside of Japan. Typically, one daimyo will be shogun (at the start of any game, the Minamoto will be shogun), and the strength of his rule is shown in a panel that gives the shogun’s influence. This represents his ability to keep control of what the other nominally independent daimyos are up to. At lower levels of influence, the other daimyos can declare war or ally with each other; at moderately high levels, the shogun can declare wars on the other daimyos; and at very high levels, he can declare wars on other countries on behalf of all Japan.

Influence changes on a monthly basis according to the shogun’s current prestige and his relations with the other daimyos. He has a couple of decisions that can be made as shogun, but there’s no series of reforms like in the HRE, so the actions he can take are all limited. At low influence, the daimyos may declare war, and if one can gain enough power, may be made shogun instead. Additionally, if the other daimyos can be eliminated, then the shogun can take full power and become the full Japanese nation, instead of just a clan under the emperor.

Underneath it all, the daimyos are still normal feudal monarchy governments, and can change forms at will. It is instead some hard-coded relationships that make up the differences. It is also possible for an external country to conquer ‘Japan’ (take the one-province nation of the emperor), and cut the daimyos loose that way.

This is still obviously fairly abstracted from the actual situation, which Paradox felt does not fit into EU III’s large-scale model with dozens of clans and fairly rapid shifts of power, but it certainly is closer than just a single unified nation.


China (or more properly at the start of the game, the Ming Dynasty) is a large nation that did not do a whole lot during the period of Europa Universalis. As such, it always presents a problem for the developers, as it’s hard to keep such a large and populous country chained to an inward-looking set of goals. (In fact, there was an early AAR on the forums that came to the conclusion that Ming was the easiest country to do a world conquest game with.)

Typically, EUIII hands Ming a number of large problems, such as being in one of the slowest-developing tech groups (Chinese, 40% of the normal rate, with a further limitation on anything past level 7), and a lot of rebellion events to keep attention off of the outside. This often works with the AI (but not always…), but a determined player can still do quite a bit.

Divine Wind gives Ming China a new government form, Celestial Empire, which comes with three factions. The abilities of the current monarch, and the current domestic policy sliders determine the month-to-month support of each faction. There are also events and cultural decisions that can directly influence the current support (which will then slowly slide back into balance according to the monthly support). The factions truly are about a third of a government apiece, as at any time you can only do the third of the functions allowed by that faction.

The Eunuch Faction is supported by Diplomatic ability, Free Trade and Naval policy, and allows the placing of merchants, exploration, the placing of colonies, and building new naval units.

The Temple Faction is supported by Military ability, narrow minded and large army policies, and allows the declaration of wars and the placement of missionaries.

The Bureaucrat Faction is supported by Administrative ability, aristocracy and serfdom, and allows the construction of buildings and army units past the current support limit (which, being China, is already quite large).

It would seem the faction influences were not written into the timeline, as a game will always begin with the Eunuch Faction at 100%, but the policy sliders will make sure it is soon overtaken by the Bureaucrats (with the Temple getting second place). The Celestial Empire is otherwise a fairly simple government with no special bonuses, and a time to domestic policy changes that is fairly good for the beginning government types. But it does come with an extra bonus: the Mandate of Heaven national modifier that reduces revolt risk, stability cost, and gives a monthly bonus contribution to stability progress. (However, going below 0 stability or 60 legitimacy gives the Mandate of Heaven Lost modifier that makes stability much harder to get, along with other nasty effects and events.)

All of this makes the Ming Dynasty ship of state one that is hard to steer, and certainly does its job of keeping it constrained. But while there is some interest in the idea of working the factions against each other, it is more an exercise in frustration for anyone not prepared to be very patient.

However, the factions only exist (and limit the Ming) if there’s no major changes. Westernizing the Ming at all will get rid of the factions (and the Mandate of Heaven, which only applies while you have factions), while fully Westernizing the country allows the government form to be changed. Also, in 1644 or later, the Ming can possibly take the decision Form Chinese Nation (meant to represent the Qing Dynasty) if the Manchu are no longer around, and this changes the formal nation tag, and shifts the government to a Despotic Monarchy (which also gets rid of the factions and Mandate of Heaven).

The Steppe

Lastly, the fluid tribal governments of central Asia got a very interesting rework in Divine Wind. They’re considered to automatically be at war with all their non-steppe horde neighbors all the time. They can be defeated, and a peace imposed, but as soon as the 10-year truce is over, the war starts again.

Not only that, but there is no way to trade territory in a treaty. If a horde occupies a province long enough it automatically goes over to it. Conversely, a ‘settled’ country can colonize any province that they hold from a horde. Like with a normal colony, if it gets to 1000 people, it becomes a regular province of the country. However, these ‘colonies’ develop much faster than normal, taking about 4 years to settle the province if nothing further is done instead of the roughly 18 years of a fast-developing normal colony.

The only ways for the horde to escape from this is to reform the government away from a tribal structure (which is difficult), or to form the Mugal Empire, either of which will turn it into a despotic monarchy.

The good news is that this really does lend central Asia an appropriately fluid feel, and the nearby settled countries must always be wary of what’s going on beyond their border. But since a war with a horde country doesn’t count as a ‘normal’ war for war exhaustion, degrading cultural tradition, etc, the first time they have a problem (such as the usual succession crisis of all tribal governments), it isn’t hard to just occupy everything, put down any rebellions, keep them from ever generating a new army, and just colonize the entire country. An occupied province will have an ever-mounting revolt risk, but as long as there’s troops to keep a lid on while colonization proceeds, not a huge problem. This isn’t too far off of the sudden collapse of these societies in history, but it can happen much earlier than it should by being a bit gamey.

Building Out

One of the interesting ideas introduced in HttT was that of an extended set of provincial decisions, which in conjunction with national focus and magistrates turned into a separate way to improve provinces.

DW did away with much of that system and the province improvement buildings that had been around since the original game. Instead, there are now six categories of buildings (Government, Army, Navy, Production, Trade, Fort), each with six levels. Naturally, at the beginning of the game, very little of this is available, and the levels of buildings unlock as technology progresses through the game. The magistrates from HttT were retained, and now each building costs money and a magistrate, which at least keeps a large country from just saving money and spamming every province with a new building as soon as it becomes available.

An extra wrinkle is that in the late game you must choose to specialize your provinces. No province may have more than one building of level five or higher. (Note that this also means powerful fortifications now come at the cost of other things.) Short of this, it’s still a lot like the older system, but with a lot more steps along the way (6×4+2 = 26 buildings, compared to the 17—including 6 fort levels—of the old system).

Manufactories still exist as a one-off expensive buildings that improve local resource production, and give a bonus to technology investment as before. But there is now also a set of eight ‘Unique Buildings’, which each can be built once in the country. These aren’t as expensive as Manufactories, but overall tend to have higher tech level requirements, making many of them late-game improvements.


Every expansion for EU III saw new features introduced to the main feature set originally presented. Most would find their way into EU IV, but the main exceptions are in Divine Wind. They’re generally all good ideas, but the hard-coded relationships in Japan, the separate government type and factions of China, and the more fluid tribal nations did not work well in practice, and were dropped.

But the interface improvements were a big help, and was something that Paradox continued to work on through further games. The overall look of EU III was still slightly behind the times with DW, but it was a big step forward for the game, and doubtlessly helped it continue to do well as Paradox’s attention was occupied elsewhere for the next couple of years.

For a new player of EU III, going straight to the Chronicles version is fairly easy to recommend. Unlike HttT, which was a mixed recommendation due to all the extra complexity it introduced, most of the new features are in places where a new player probably won’t see them until they are well acquainted with the main parts of the game. The rest of the new features are definite improvements, and will help, rather than hurt, a new player.