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Europa Universalis Development Diary #4

Today we will talk a bit about Game Set-up and give a brief introduction to the Sequence of Play. This may not sound so sexy at first, but it gives a real insight into how the game is actually played. Especially in the context of what you may already have read about Monarch Power and Action Cards in the previous development diaries.

Game Set-up

The initial set-up of Europa Universalis: The Board Game depends on the scenario that you choose to play and the number of players. The game has introductory scenarios that have a light set-up and lets you jump straight into the action, and scenarios that focus on minor powers, specific regions or certain time periods and events.

For the Grand Campaign, there are recommended choices of Major Powers, depending on the number of players. For example, one suggested set-up for three players includes England, Castile/Spain and France. Another three player set-up is Austria, Poland and the Ottomans. One of the set-ups for four players includes Castile/Spain, France, Austria and the Ottomans.

The Grand Campaign lets you play through all of the four Ages of the game. For a quicker game, you may choose to play two or three Ages instead. For all Major Powers in play, you shuffle their nation specific Events into the Event Decks of each of the Ages that you decide to play. Scenarios may also have scenario specific Events.

All players then place the large and small Province disks, Influence tokens, relation tokens, merchants and military units according to their set-up card for the scenario. For a 1444 start, simply place the Province disks on the appropriate flags on the board. All players normally get four Monarch Power tokens of each type (Administrative, Diplomatic and Military) and 15 Ducats to begin with, which are placed on their player mats. The players place their starting Rulers in the Ruler spot and draw a hand of five Action Cards and one Event Card. The last thing to do before the game begins is to select Missions. Each player normally gets to choose two and draw one at random.

The Realms of Castile/Spain, France, England, Austria and Poland, set up with large and small Province disks, military units (Armies and Ships), Merchants (pawns), Influence tokens (cubes) and relation tokens.

Sequence of Play

The game is divided into Rounds and each Round consists of the four Phases listed below:

  1. Draw Cards Phase
  2. Action Phase
  3. Peace Resolution Phase
  4. Income & Upkeep Phase

These Phases are performed in the order they are listed. Each phase is completed by all players before moving on to the next phase.

In the Draw Cards Phase, all players draw three Action Cards each of any type they like. They then pay 2 Ducats for each card they decide to keep in their hand. They also draw one Event Card.

The Action Phase is, as the name suggests, where the main action of the game happens. During this phase, the players take turns performing one Action at the time until all players have passed. On their turn, players may either choose an Action from the list of Basic Actions, or they may play an Action Card. Before players are allowed to pass, they must play their Event.

The Peace Resolution Phase only occurs if there are any ongoing Wars. Peace may then be negotiated or the victor may force his terms upon the loser. Undecided Wars may continue into the next Round.

In the Income & Upkeep Phase, all players collect Tax Income from Provinces, pay their expenses, and get new Monarch Power tokens according to the skills of their Ruler and Advisors.

At the beginning of a new Age (when the Event Deck of the previous Age is empty), players pick new Missions and the next Event Deck comes into play.

Major Power at a Glance: Castile/Spain

Castile starts the 1444 game a little bit weaker than the French further north. They are however in a very good position to increase the extent of their realm quite drastically, by uniting Spain. The chances of getting a tight relationship early on with Aragon, through the Iberian Wedding event, is very high. Integrating them into your realm is likely the next step. A union with Aragon could also be a springboard for a campaign in Italy. There you could soon be involved in a fierce competition with France or Austria. There are also a couple of nearby minors (Granada and Navarra) who provide easy targets for expansion.

If France and England can end their quarrels you should not be surprised to find yourself at war with one of them before too long. France is never far away, and England has an alliance with Portugal that could become a nuisance. Perhaps the best thing to do is leave it to the others to fight over the European continent and rather focus on exploring the riches of the New World. To secure an overseas empire you must make sure that your navy is amongst the strongest in the world.

The Reformation is less likely to tear your Iberian peninsula apart than other parts of Europe. But its consequences might still come knocking on the door as old alliances are replaced by new ones. Also be careful that your  economy does not become too reliant upon the American gold. 

Read the previous three development diary chapters here:
Development Diary #1
Development Diary #2
Development Diary #3

For more news about the upcoming Kickstarter and reminders about Development Diaries, sign up to our Europa Universalis newsletter.

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Europa Universalis Development Diary #3

In the third chapter of this Development Diary we will talk about actions and Action Cards. Last time we offered some insights into the Monarch Power system – a form of resources that players in Europa Universalis: The Board Game will depend upon to perform actions in the game.

Actions

While players may always perform certain Basic Actions, you will often find the more specialised actions on the Action cards. These are divided into three decks that correspond with the three types of Monarch Power. Accordingly, there is a Military Deck, a Diplomatic Deck and an Administrative Deck. You may always choose which type of Action Cards you want to draw in the Draw Cards Phase. In the Action Phase players take turns performing one action at the time. You can either play an Action Card or execute a Basic Action. This ensures that player down time is low. 

Action card types with explanations
Prototype cards from the Administrative (green), Diplomatic (blue) and Military (red) deck. The text and graphics on these cards are not final, but they show the basic layout.
(Click image to zoom in.)

The action on each Action Card has a Monarch Power cost stated in the top left corner of the card. The type of Monarch Power is always associated with the deck it was drawn from. The color of the circle behind the number clearly indicates what type it belongs to. Red is military, blue is diplomatic and green is administrative power. This color system is used throughout the game. By paying the Monarch Power cost you may perform the action described on the scroll that covers most of the card.

Military cards may, unsurprisingly, give bonuses in battles or increase your military capacity in various ways. Several Military cards may actually be played on another player’s turn, as a response to that player’s action. Diplomatic cards will let you form diplomatic relationships by forging alliances, arranging royal marriages and more. Furthermore you may build spy networks to enable covert actions against your opponents. You can use Administrative cards to develop the infrastructure and economic capacity of your empire.

Leaders and Advisors

You may have noticed that there is also a section at the bottom of each card that shows a character, with a portrait and some abilities and icons. This is because every Action Card can be used for two distinct purposes. You may either play it for the action described on the scroll, or as the character below it.

There are two types of characters, easily differentiated by the circular or a square portrait frame. The circular portraits depict Leaders and the square portraits depict Advisors. You may use Leaders as Rulers of player nations, or as Military Leaders commanding armies or fleets. Leaders have a skill value in each type of Monarch Power. Advisors on the other hand, only provide a bonus in their field of expertise (administrative, diplomatic or military). This will subsequently increase the amount of Monarch Power, of the associated type, that you receive. If you have a Ruler with a Diplomatic skill of 1, and a +3 Diplomatic Advisor, you get 4 Diplomatic Power tokens each Round. Rulers normally stay until they die, while you may employ and fire Advisors at will.

Players must pay a hiring cost and an upkeep cost, in Ducats, for Advisors. Generals, on the other hand, cost Military Power to employ.

Major Power at a Glance: France

Although the French are among the most powerful nations of Europe, they also have powerful rivals surrounding them on all sides.

In the 1444 start, as France, you are in the final stages of the Hundred Years War with England, but there is a ceasefire in effect. The two powers are quite evenly balanced, but France is slightly better prepared for war. You have claims on all the English provinces on the mainland, which means you have the power to declare war at any time. Additionally, you can quite easily dominate the nearby minor nations, and you are reasonably well positioned for an Italian adventure. France also has a high tax income and manpower reserve.

However, France needs to be beware of potential enemies on all sides. In the south lies Castile, with ambitions of uniting Spain. In the northwest is your long time rival, England, and in the east Austria sits on the throne of the Holy Roman Empire. If your neighbor, Burgundy, falls under the influence of one of your enemies, this may become a big headache. France also desperately needs some more ports, to enable them to compete with other naval powers.

Still, if you can end the Hundred Years War favorably, without spending too many resources, you can perhaps enjoy a period of stability and growth before the religious wars of the Reformation hit you with force.

EU4 players will recognize several of the missions and events that are available to France in the board game.

Read the previous two development diary chapters here:
Development Diary #1
Development Diary #2

For more news about the upcoming Kickstarter and reminders about Development Diaries, sign up to our Europa Universalis newsletter.