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Posted on Oct 9, 2006 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Europa Universalis III – Recon (PC)

By Jim Cobb

Europa Universalis II has been the keystone of Paradox’s series of strategic historical games. Not only did it sit between Conqueror Kings and Victoria chronologically but it also establishes the scale and mechanics of the later games. Updated and patched nine times, Europa Universalis II is long in the tooth and is being surpassed in terms of features and gameplay by its progeny. Little wonder that Paradox decided to do a major re-work of its flagship product.

Quick Recap

The Europa Universalis series covers the period from the mid-1400s to 1789. Players control one of three hundred countries throughout the globe through a pausable real-time system. Countries are made up of provinces which are the real units of play. Provinces provide resources, taxes, trade, and population. They can be improved, conquered, traded, and are centers of unrest, ethnic trouble, and religious changes. On a country level, players juggle many considerations. A healthy treasury allows for improvements, technological advances, and maintenance of an army and navy. However, making money can cause revolts, inflation, and diplomatic problems caused by trade competition. Diplomacy is a mare’s nest of dynastic considerations, balance of power, religious considerations, and the need to expand through alliances, conquests, and colonization. Seemingly perfect plans can be reduced to shambles by game-generated events that can turn the world topsy-turvy. The Protestant Reformation alone changes the social, diplomatic, and military landscape tremendously. Naval and land combat is abstract where sheer numbers take second place to troop type, unit quality, and leader traits. Victory is measured in prestige, a combination of power, wealth, and civil peace.


Obvious Changes

Many of the changes in Europa Universalis III are ones we expect in any new version. Units and terrain features are 3D, making graphics more pleasing. Information panels are lavishly illustrated and easily zooomable maps show trade, diplomatic and trade relations in much more helpful colors.

Castile ‘s trading opportunities are made clear with the trade map.

New province improvements such as universities and different kinds of factories increase cultural and trade opportunities. New unit types allow more flexible military operations.

Prussia has relatively few building choices at the beginning of the Seven Years’ War.

Changes in government types are done easily with seventeen different types to choose from and thirty “national ideas” can effect social and political changes in social attitudes when the appropriate technology is attained. Addition of the government technology speeds these changes. For example, a nation can be more tolerant without changing its national religion.

Prussia chooses the Glorious Arms national idea. (Big surprise, right?) Castile considers going to war with Granada.


Advisors can be bought away from their home countries to benefit possible enemies. Standing army units can regain losses through replacements instead of creating new units. Rulers can be converted to generals with the attendant possibility of an early death in combat. Combat itself is conducted in fire and shock phases with boxes representing battalions shown in line and marked as they succumb. Victors now have the option of demanding tribute as well as being able to annex or conclude a truce. Another option is to demand that conquered provinces become a new country.

Castile ‘s army implements the decision.

Spies are introduced to carry on their nefarious activities such as espionage, sabotage, assassination, and fomenting unrest. Players can now gain diplomatic, financial, and prestige advantages by controlling the two non-national entities, the Papal See and the Holy Roman Empire. Nation choices have expanded to include the peoples of the New World.

A look at Prussia ‘s economy screen shows that stability has a low priority. Controlling the Curia in Rome can be very helpful.

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