This is the tenth 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
Mare Nostrum: Paradox’s Sea
Rights of Man: Institutions of Man

After Rights of Man, the Europa Universalis team started a series of expansions largely focused on specific regions. Mandate of Heaven was announced on March 6, 2017, and released, along with patch 1.20 on April 6 (the same day as Stellaris: Utopia). The follow-up 1.21 patch came out on April 25, with a rework of the map and events for Hungary.

The Four Ages of the World

The headline new feature was not regional, however. The game was divided up into four ages, which drive certain rules and disasters. In the first two ages, religious rules are active, which means that various abilities of the Papal controller work. In the last two, absolutism rules become active. Some disasters and events that had been bound to certain years are now limited by the current age.

And that’s the general version of the mechanics. With the expansion, there’s a new currency, splendor, which you always get some of, but achieving certain age-related goals gains splendor faster, and it can then be used to gain age-related bonuses, which go away at the start of the next age.

The game starts in the Age of Exploration which headlines with the objective to discover America, but has various goals for strong governments, and special abilities for the Ottomans, Portuguese, Danish, and Venice. The general peasants’ war disaster is bound to this age, along with Castilian Civil War and the War of the Roses.

Ten years after the first Center of Reformation appears, the game goes to the Age of Reformation. Naturally, joining the Reformation is one of the goals, along with general religious conversion goals, and special abilities for Spain, Mughals, Poland, and Persia. The general disaster is religious turmoil, with the French Wars of Religion, the Count’s Feud (Denmark), and Time of Troubles (Muscovy) also possible.

Ten years after the institution Global Trade appears, the Age of Absolutism starts. This turns off of the religious rules for the Pope, and ends the Centers of Reformation, and turns on absolutism. Goals include having a large force limit, having universities, and being multicultural, while the special abilities are for France, Sweden, Manchu and the Dutch. The general disaster is court and country, with the English Civil War also possible.

And ten years after the Enlightenment institution appears, the Age of Revolutions starts. Goals include having a parliament (which requires Common Sense), having large subjects, and being the Holy Roman Emperor, but surprisingly enough nothing about actually getting involved in the revolutions of the era. Special abilities are present for England, Austria, Russia, and Prussia. General disasters are aspiration for liberty (a general revolt after gaining Enlightenment), revolution, and its specialized version, the French Revolution.

Additionally, achieving three of the goals in an era allows a nation to declare a golden era. This can only be done once per game, but gives morale bonuses, reduces costs of anything requiring monarch points, and increases goods produced. So for fifty years, the armies will be tougher, income will be greater, and it will be easier to get many things done. It’s not quite the level of bonuses you might expect, but it will certainly help a lot.

To a large extent, a second mechanic dividing the game up into periods right after the introduction of institutions divided progress into periods seems a bit much to me, and adding to the too-tall stack of mechanics even more so. But, it doesn’t do more than define when certain things happen without the expansion, so that helps. Unfortunately, while making time-bound event dates more flexible through the ages is a good thing, outside of that, the base version really only divides the game into two instead of four ages because the rules don’t change. As far the full version with the expansion, it works, and doesn’t need a lot of interaction. It doesn’t do a lot for me, though for some the goals could add some useful direction.

Absolute Devastation

Base mechanics were changed again in the patch, with looted and scorched earth province statuses being replaced with a unified devastation modifier that ranges from 0 to 100. It of course trends towards 0 in peaceful times, and goes up when occupied by an enemy or while under siege or there is unrest (and starting in patch 1.22, from blockades). It of course reduces goods production, supply limits, and movement speed in proportion to the current level.

On the other side, prosperity was added at the state level with the expansion. It goes up randomly, and only when every province in the state is at 0 devastation, and stability is positive. Unlike devastation, it is an on/off proposition. While progress towards prosperity is 0-100, the bonuses to production, development, and autonomy only kick in at 100.

At the government level, Absolute Monarchy was removed as a government type in the patch, and all governments get an absolutism meter (hidden away on the government screen). This starts around 1610 (with the Age of Absolutism), compared to the roughly 1661 date of tech 20 to get access to the old government form (it does of course take time to get any absolutism once its available).

It’s kind of an administrative form of the mercantilism mechanic that has been in place since the release of the game. It has a scale of 0-100, and gives some bonuses as it goes up. Mercantilism mostly helps trade power while absolutism increases administrative efficiency (which previously was only available through higher administrative technology; it might be worth noting that the mechanic comes in shortly after that starts going up). However, there is also a maximum absolutism for the government that starts at 65, and can be increased (or more rarely, decreased, notably by republics) by being a great power, empire rank, a golden era, legitimacy, religious unity, and a host of less-common modifiers.

One of the Age of Absolutism powers is a yearly +1 increase to current absolutism, which should max it out on its own if taken early in the age. The “strengthen government” action introduced in patch 1.18 also adds to absolutism, along with increasing stability, decreasing autonomy, and other measures to improve governance. On the other hand, lowering war exhaustion, increasing stability, and debasing currency will all lower it.

Celestial Empire

Without the expansion, China doesn’t change much, but with MoH, the Ming dynasty goes from using factions (which were tweaked in the patch) to a whole new mandate of heaven system. Other oriental countries can claim the mandate to become the emperor of China, switch to the unique Celestial Empire government, and take over the mechanics.

The mechanics come in three major parts. Meritocracy is another legitimacy replacement, though a few places in the interface still reference legitimacy (which would suddenly become important if you lose the mandate). It natively goes down each year, and the third part of this can make it go down faster. However, the bonuses from advisors push it up. To have a positive total, you generally need the more expensive +2 and +3 advisors, but generally China can afford this, and high meritocracy makes advisors cheaper. Every decade a decree can be enacted for a fairly large national bonus and dropping meritocracy by 20 points.

The empire itself acts like a minor version of the Holy Roman Empire, with mandate replacing imperial authority. It doesn’t have most of the HRE mechanics, but can have a new type of subject, the tributary. Higher mandate reduces unrest and war exhaustion, while it decreases army damage, meritocracy, and goods produced while under 50. There are also five reforms, which act a bit like the HRE’s, though there’s no reward for getting them all passed. They cause a steep hit in mandate, and so care needs to be taken in passing them.

Tributaries are a very loosely-held subject; they still get all their normal diplomatic actions, but if a non-tributary attacks one, it brings the overlord (China) into the war. And instead of a constant percentage of taxes going to the Chinese budget, a smaller sum is granted at the start of every year, and can be taken as monarch points instead of money.

The third part is the new Confucian religion mechanic. Confucianism has harmony, which affects meritocracy (or legitimacy or devotion, depending on government), corruption, and religious tolerance. It can also get cross-religion bonuses (like Tengri or Fetishist) by harmonizing with them. Unlike other similar mechanics, Confucianism can harmonize with everything, instead of just one religion at a time, and get a bonus for each one. However, the process takes over three decades each time, and harmony drops as this goes on, so it can’t be done easily. Once harmonized, that religion counts as the same as Confucian for all purposes within the country, while the usual conversion process also lowers harmony, so there’s a real push towards harmonizing instead.

The three mechanics all have events which may grant or reduce one or the other, or often present a trade off. This makes the Chinese empire a balancing act, as letting any of mandate, meritocracy, or harmony get low can put a fair amount of strain on everything else, and letting all three get low is survivable, but asking for trouble, especially after the early game when the nearby countries have probably consolidated a bit.

Originally, it was fairly easy to get into trouble with the mandate, as non-tributary neighbors decrease mandate, and as the game goes on and development and knowledge of the world increases, this drag can become very serious. So, in patch 1.29 that was removed, making Emperor of China a much more stable title with no real downsides, just competition with countries that may want to take the mandate from you.


Japan was re-worked for the patch, similarly to how Paradox had for EU III: Divine Wind. The map of Japan had actually been simplified a bit in EU IV from that version, but the number of separate countries had gone from four to twelve, and they used the normal monarchical government types with an overlord Shogun, instead of the Emperor handling all external relations.

With the patch, Japan was expanded back to roughly forty provinces, with twenty-five daimyos (plus the Ashikaga Shogunate). They all have the unique government types of daimyo or shogun, which they can’t be voluntarily changed from. In addition to their unique (modest) bonuses, the shogun gets several actions with the expansion to keep the daimyos in line. This does a good job of getting the feel of the warring states period, which starts a little way into the game.

The general idea is that any of the daimyos can become shogun by taking the capital province of Kyoto. The islands can be unified as the country Japan once enough of them are under one shogun. The easy way involves just declaring the unification after taking about half the provinces, which releases all the remaining daimyo from their subject status, while the more historical approach requires absorbing them all beforehand, and getting a hefty bonus of monarch points. Either way does away with the unique government types.

At the same time, the shinto religion gets extra mechanics in the expansion centered around isolationism, which has five levels. Up to eight incidents will fire for a shinto country throughout the game, only one of which is possible at the very start, and will move the country towards open or closed doors (countries generally start at “adaptive”, one level away from open doors) depending on the choices made in the events fired by the incident. Isolation actually only has positive effects (no diplomatic or technology penalties or other trade-offs), though the effects of each level do vary quite a bit.

Meanwhile, in Mongolia, the countries in that region/culture can get a special unit category with the expansion: banner. Ordinarily, a country recruits regular units, but they can also get mercenary units, which show up with a green color in unit listings and don’t cost manpower, and are quick to hire. But they are more expensive to hire or replace men in. Banners have more of a magenta background with no recruitment time nor cost, but do cause corruption. They’re an extra way to get some cheap manpower for the Mongolian/Manchu countries, but they reinforce very slowly, and have been toned down a bunch since their introduction here.


While 1.20 was about the Far East, patch 1.21 was about central Europe. As it turns out, the start date for EU IV is the day after the Battle of Varna, where the Ottomans defeated a major coalition including Hungary, Bohemia, Poland, and Lithuania. Both Poland and Hungary start the game with 0/0/0 interregnums because of this battle (see my review of Res Publica). In the patch, parts of the map in the area were reworked, and new events were added for the various Christian nations involved, especially Hungary.

Various subjects include the rise of the Hunyadi dynasty, special mercenaries (the Black Army), dealing with the reformation, and a choice between the Austrian and eastern Hungary branches of the royal line.

In Bohemia events were added to show lingering support for the Hussites, who had only been defeated a decade earlier. Austria’s events were modified to tie into all the other changes in regional events.

These features are all in line with the usual Paradox approach to injecting a bit of history outside the bare mechanics of the game, and the attention to Eastern Europe here is very nice to see. And I need to find a good book or game on the Battle of Varna.


This is an all-around large expansion. The new mechanics around China alone make it worth considering, while Japan also becomes a more interesting place.

If you’re not interested in that region, then the only big feature are the full age mechanics. This is a fairly nice addition, since the big powers can get a lot of use from it, but small powers should still be able to get a bonus or two from it. For a new player, it’s just an extra thing to pay attention to, so it’s more for an experienced player (which is what expansions should be) though a new player may want it just because they’re interested in the regional parts.

The new absolutism mechanic is the main patch feature (other than tying several time-bound events to the new ages). It’s neat enough, but plays similarly to another mechanic I don’t pay a lot of attention to, though this one is a lot easier to understand. I also don’t think the new devastation and prosperity mechanics are all that great, though unifying a couple of one-off modifiers into this system is a plus. I think prosperity should have been in the patch, and be a true mirror-image of devastation; either both should work on the province level, or both should work on the state level. That said, trying to tie mechanics other than the state/territory choice to the states is a good idea, but not one I think has been followed up on much.

Still, it’s all an overall benefit to the game, and the expansion is a good package. I look at it more as large “immersion pack” like the next few EU IV expansions, and still worth the higher price point than those thanks to the variety of material here. People for whatever reason against playing in the Far East at all probably won’t find the ages worth the price.