This is the eighth in a series of reviews looking at the evolution of Europa Universalis IV. See the previous reviews here:
Europa Universalis IV: A Fantastic Point of View
Wealth of Nations: National Trade
Res Publica: A Tradition of the People
Art of War: Reform-Minded Patch
El Dorado: Expansion of Gold
Common Sense: Uncommon Changes
The Cossacks: Cossack Estate

Paradox’s next expansion for Europa Universalis IV mostly concentrated on naval matters, which also caused a bunch of changes in the free patch. The patch also redid espionage, and Mare Nostrum and patch 1.16 came out on April 5, 2016, with patch 1.17 re-balancing the new espionage mechanics on May 11th.

Stating Territory

The map had always been divided into areas (collections of provinces) and regions (collections of areas), but they had no real effect on the game. Now, areas came to the forefront with the new patch. Each area that a country has provinces of may be a territory or a state in that country.

Provinces in a state act pretty much as normal (except that they can’t be given to a trade company from Wealth of Nations). Territories have a minimum of 90% autonomy and reduced missionary effect, but they are cheaper to turn into a ‘core’ to eliminate overextension effects. In fact, a territory only needs half as much administrative power to become a core, but once a territory becomes a state, the province is still a ‘territorial core’ with 90% autonomy. You then have to pay the other half to make it a regular province (but this, at least, is instant, unlike the normal process).

There are two reasons not to turn a province into a state: First, there is a limit on how many states a country can have (with various modifiers, but administrative tech levels are the main way to get further states). Second, each state requires maintenance in money per month. These costs go up with development and distance from the capital, and thankfully the game has some very good tooltips on whether a province can be a profitable state.

As ever with these systems, it lends a bit of artificiality as you become concerned about preexisting arbitrary lines on the map. At the same time, it does add some interesting decisions, and a bit of a brake on larger countries. Overall, it’s a net plus, acts much better than the equivalent mechanics from Victoria II, and replaces the ‘overseas’ mechanic that had been in the series forever, and which could also be quite arbitrary.

Jack Tar

Paradox also decided to add more detail around manpower to the game, adding sailors to crew navies to go along with the manpower that is needed to build armies, and a new slot in the top bar was added to show them. Each coastal province contributes sailors to the nation, dependent on its development level, with bonuses for those that have trade modifiers.

Ships now need a number of available sailors, as well as money, to build, and when away from port on missions will also consume a small number per month. Repairing a ship also needs new sailors to replace injured crew, so being at war will consume a fair number of sailors for a maritime nation: large fleets on blockade, new ship crews, and repairing damage from naval battles will all consume this resource.

It’s an interesting attempt at an extra bit of simulation for the game. A rich nation can’t just build itself a huge navy, it needs to find the manpower for it as well. Of course, there’s all sorts of detail built into various bonuses, like impressment. Even better, with the expansion, some nations can get the coastal raiding idea, letting them raid other nations for more sailors (slaves forced into the galleys), which is another big part of the period otherwise ignored. However, the AI was never able to properly manage its sailors, and was vulnerable to being deliberately run out of them, and Paradox was forced to let the AI never run out of sailors in a later patch, undercutting the entire system.

Raiding and Other Missions

The interface for naval missions was reworked, allowing the player to set how much damage a fleet could sustain before automatically seeking a friendly port for repairs.

But the bigger reason was so the number of types of missions could be expanded. With the expansion, it is now possible to set a fleet to automatically blockade as many ports in a region as possible (splitting it up as needed), hunt down weaker enemy fleets or try to intercept fleets with transports in them. I’ll admit I haven’t quite trusted the AI enough to try these, but the new interface is an improvement.

Also, the Barbary nations (north coast of Africa) get a mission for raiding nearby shores, letting them loot the province (in peacetime), and take slaves, which go into the sailor pool. This sort of thing was endemic to the Mediterranean for the entire period (American efforts to stop it are where the “shores of Tripoli” line comes from in the Marine Corps Hymn), so its a nice bit to work in. Later, the mission would be reused in Golden Century.

Espionage Networks

Espionage was completely reworked. Instead of directly attempting to do something underhanded (such as claim a neighbor’s territory), you now send a diplomat to a nation to create a spy network (which then has a size from 0 to 100).

The speed at which this happens uses all the old modifiers to spy efficiency, and the diplomat can be discovered and sent home, which will also take a cut out of the network and keep you from sending a diplomat back for a while.

You then spend part of the network’s size for the same actions that the diplomat used to do directly, whether this be creating a claim, supporting a rebellion, or other actions. Overall, it makes the system a little more streamlined (since you can decide what to do after sending the diplomat, instead of before), but isn’t a major change to the results, even though the process changed.


Another new statistic on the top bar is corruption, which tracks how well a country’s administration is running, and acts as a potential brake on larger countries. As it rises, spy network creation and detection become slowed, all monarch power costs increase, local autonomy increases, but the estates will tend to be more loyal (i.e., the loyalty value they tend towards over time goes up).

The main drivers of corruption are being overextended, and having a low religious unity. Being further ahead in one technology can also drive up corruption, though being ‘ahead of time’ in administration or diplomatic technologies also brings corruption down (in addition to the tax and trade efficiency bonuses introduced in patch 1.7).

Overall, its a minor system most of the time. It’s an extra thing for a new player to be overwhelmed with, but safe enough to ignore while learning the game. When you do successfully conquer new territory, it does become a potentially major problem, and is a generally worthwhile attempt to show the stresses on a fast-growing empire.

Grant Unconditional Surrender

An interesting new option in war was the ability to just give up on a hopeless war. The enemy may need to spend a lot of time (and possibly troops) besieging fortresses and taking territory to drive up the war score to something that allows a peace offer that the attacker wants.

Unconditional surrender automatically puts all unoccupied territory under the enemy’s control, and all your armies under “exiled” status, and unable to fight. On the other side, the country surrendered to gets 100 war score, a notice of the surrender, and after a couple months his war exhaustion will start ramping up.

This gets what could be a protracted and depressing situation over with quickly, and can let the country get back to other matters; perhaps a different war that can be won….

It’s actually a smart idea, though one that’s largely beyond the ability of the AI to judge, so it will almost never offer one. On the other hand, the AI can be very stubborn about slowly prosecuting a war that it’s essentially already won, while rejecting peace proposals, and this can be a good escape hatch from that.


Overall, the changes to “coring” that came with the new state and territory feature is the most important and widespread change in the game. It made it a bit rougher to administer your country, but the interface lives up to the challenges, and the cheaper “territorial” cores actually make things easier for an expanding nation in the short run. The diplomacy changes (especially around espionage networks) were also nice improvements. Those alone make patches 1.16 and 1.17 a net positive to the game.

On the other hand, sailors added more complexity, and the development team bit off more than the AI could chew. The instincts around them were good, but in the end its an extra system I think the game was better off without (I’d consider it neutral to slightly positive if not for the AI problem). Corruption is also yet another minor worry that can blow up into a big one, and joins a fairly tall stack of things that a new player should ignore for quite a while.

But while the patches were an overall benefit for the game, the expansion itself is more of a collection of minor quality-of-life features, some of which I haven’t even talked about. Unconditional surrender is the best feature of the bunch, as it can end a war that the AI is insisting on dragging out for no reason. Along with the extra naval missions, there’s extra espionage missions that I’ve barely noticed, the ability to rent out troops (condottieri, potentially important), and the ability to increase mercantilism (and income) at the cost of the loyalty of your colonies. While these are nice features, I don’t consider this expansion any sort of “must have”. Get it as part of a package, or on a really good sale—there’s no reason not to have it—but it is at the bottom of the priority list.