First game advices
What to do first?
Don't forget the game starting tips, and the amount of information that you get from hovering the pointer almost every feature in the game.
First orient yourself. The screen shows the map that can appear in several modes.
Normal mode (N key) shows topography and armies, with the boundaries between countries in red. Much of map shows as white, even where you (being in the 21st century) know there is land and ocean. This is unknown land (and sea), or terra incognita. In the places you do know about, only a few appear "lit up". A fog darkens every province or sea square where you don't get information on armies (see fog of war).
Political mode (P key) shows the countries in the different colors. Your core provinces will have your shield in this mode. Here you can see more clearly every city with its little flag that shows the country controlling it (not necessarily the owning country), and if smoke or flames coming out, a clear indication of hostile activities since the previous year. A colored bar under a city indicated it is under siege.
Economical mode (E key) shows the resources produced by every province. The darker the green shade the richer the province. More modes are available by pressing other buttons, as we will see.
On top of the map is the bar that shows the number of merchants, colonists, diplomats and missionaries available, the current date, the war/peace flag and your stability, your manpower recruiting pool and your treasury and the pause clock (ctrl-s is a shortcut for pausing, as is the Pause key found on many keyboards).
At the left side is the info screen. The information displayed here depends on what you click. There are five buttons on the top, from left to right:
- Naval information displays your naval technology level, support limit, total number of ships, maintenance cost and other useful information.
- Army information displays the same for troops.
- The country screen will show you your monarch and his/her skills, and your country's state culture(s) and state religion, and allows you to access the domestic policy screen, the state religion screen and the vassal creation screen.
- Budget screen allows you to adjust your expending priorities, and allows you to ask for loans or raise war taxes.
- Financial summary screen will show you your monthly income and inflation.
If you click on any province on the map, useful information will be displayed in the info screen, whether in the form of a picture if you own it or a table if you don't. When the province is under siege, you can left-click to access the siege window.
At the bottom of the info screen four buttons will help you to decide what to do with your missionaries, diplomats, merchants and colonists. Each changes both the map and info screen to show you the available options.
And below, the mission chooser and the most useful ledger (F6). Finally, the bottom message board registers what is happening in the game. You can select what it logs in the Menu/Options/Message settings. With experience you will learn to keep an eye on it to extract little gems of information from a lot of noise in this log. By right-clicking the reports you can control if messages are displayed or not, if in the log or in a box and whether they should pause the game.
The small map allows you to move quickly all over the world. By default it shows your provinces under siege as red dots, but you can right-click the map to show armies, navies, conquistadors, explorers, colonies or trading posts. Another way of moving fast around is by typing shift / and then typing the name of the province you want.
We will review the different aspects of the game later on. Right now the game is paused and you are confused about what to do and want to avoid making mistakes. Let's review some of the initial movements.
Hopefully you are not at war. You know whether you are at war or not if your flag in the top of bar has a red halo, in your diplomacy screen, or in the ledger. If you are at war, check Basis of warfare.
You have some starting funds that you should administer wisely and you have an army that needs money to run. If at peace, press the army shield and reduce the maintenance slider all the way down to 50%. Always keep it there at peace and go up to 100% when somebody declares war on you, or a month before you declare the war on somebody. If you forget it at 50% you will probably lose all your battles. It is that important. Navy maintenance is not that expensive and many players keep it at 100% all the time to avoid losing valuable ships.
Now let's increase your income. Review the provinces. They have two circled numbers, the left is the direct income value and the right is the trade income value. By hovering over the direct income you will se it's breakdown. Look at the base tax value (BTV), the second number in the tax income line. Choose your highest BTV province, usually the capital, and promote a tax collector (click on the appropriate little house), promote a couple more in high BTV provinces until you have spent about a third of half of your initial money. You want a tax collector in every province in a few years. If you own a center of trade (CoT) you can also send a few merchants to it, otherwise don't bother with merchants in the beginning, they will make you lose money. If you cannot promote tax collectors you need to research infrastructure level 1.
Next your domestic policy sliders, they are in the nation screen, pressing the left shield. They are probably quite wrong for what you want, so you should move one every ten years, unless the stability hit is unbearable (one stab for each click). See policy sliders.
Next your budget screen. You can expand your budget on six chapters. Four of them are reseach.
Land and Naval research will make your armies and fleets fight better and will allow you to build Weapon and Naval manufactories as well as Shipyards and Conscriptions Centers, and to explore unknown places with regular units, when they reach certain level. If you don't want to fall very much behind on these, but they should not be your first priority.
Trade research will allow you to have successful merchants and make more money out of trade, and is therefore very important. For most nations, trade will eventually become their main source of income.
Also very important is Infrastructure research, it will let you make more money from production and also increase your tax income through province promotions. Infra level 5 allows Governors, your only weapon to fight inflation.
I personally recommend expending 80% in Infra and Trade, and 20% in Land and Naval, more in Land than in Naval. A good piece of advice is to not divide the Trade and Infra Expenditure, but rather use it all on one of them until you reach a level and then shift it all to the other. You end up reaching both levels at the same time, but you can enjoy the benefits of one extra trade or infra level from earlier on, and some trade and infra levels are crucial for a better economy. If you don't have infra 1, invest it all in Infra.
Keep the stability slider all the way to the left for now.
And finally the treasury slider, this is money that goes to your coffer and gets available for armies, promotions, manufactories, to keep your diplomacy running, etc. It is a temptation to move it towards to right to have more money available, but this has two negative effects. It increases inflation so everything becomes more expensive, and it detracts from research, making you backward. Both things combined can undermine your success. Good players tend to keep the slider all the way to the left most of the time, and move it towards the right (so called minting) for some specific purposes or during difficult times. Keeping it to the left means you incur in a small negative income every month, so you have to administer the funds that you get at the beginning of the year (the yearly census tax). If your available funds reach zero due to small monthly expenditures, the money gets detracted from research. That is no big deal, but support limits may be reduced due to lower economic resources. If the treasury gets below zero from an event or because your expenses (maintenance + interests) are higher than your monthly income, a loan will automatically be asked, and you can be in trouble to repay it. In case of an automatic loan, not only are your expenses already too high, but more loans interest is tacked on as well; automatic loans can force a downward spiral to bankruptcy. Although I do not advise it, keeping the treasury slider so that your monthly income is zero is another alternative, that will slowly raise your inflation, but probably at manageable levels unless you have a big army. If you click the slider buttons twice, they gray out and become fixed.
For further info, check Technology.
In the nation screen, the shield at the right of your monarch will show you the religion information. You have several sliders (three or four depending on your religion) but with the introduction of new religions their number will go up. These sliders determine the level of tolerance present in your kingdom, and only secondly about your neighbours' religions. If you have more than one religion in your kingdom, you should set maximum tolerance to your state religion and to the other religion. If three (you chose the wrong country :)), in general favor two based on number of provinces, but don't let the other below 50%. Some countries automatically start with low tolerance to some of the religions they have, and is a recipe for revolts. A low tolerance toward other countries' religions will worsen your relationship, but a high tolerance will not help you if they have a low tolerance towards your state religion.