Sheridan has offered a solid strategy to have a nice, peaceful game with France (with one big mistake: Flandre must be taken: if you want to get rid of the rebels there later on, you can release it as a vasall or just let it rebel. Until then, you will earn thousands of ducats from that province, which is one of the most valuable in all of Europe). My strategy's goal is to make France as mighty as possible.
- scenarios= Vanilla, patch 1.09
- orientation= being as powerful as possible/wanted.
- religion= Catholic
- economy= Very good
- military= Very good
- enemies= no match.
- allies= the vassals that you want to annex next.
Here's a list of things to do on Jan 1, 1419:
- Send a merchant to Ile de France.
- DP-Slider towards centralism.
- Max Tolerance for Catholics and half for Orthodox'.
- MA through gelre (for port acces)
- Max the "minting-slider" for two month to get the looting income, after that, infrastructure one for Tax collectors.
- Recruit 6k Cav in Ile de France.
- North: 6k Inf to Artois. 9 K Inf to Flandre. 3 K Cav to Calais.
- South: 3 K Cav to Franche Comté. 6 K Inf to Poitou (after the english army moved moved north). 9 K Inf to Gascogne.
- Fleet will head north to block the port of flandre.
By now, the further strategy depends on the countries, that will join the English alliance. My strategy is based on the assumption that only Navarra will join the English alliance (other candidates are Gelre (has a big cavalry army and will probably try to push you out of Flandre: you have to avoid that! If you managed to do that you can ignore them) and Aragon (will besiege Guyenne with a big army: not too easy to manage). But Navarra alone as English ally is no problem, because they won't move their troops north, unless you don't attack them or do reload the game during the war.
After having fought two minor battles in Flandre against Burgundy, it's time to take care of Brittany. Assemble all your cavalry in the north and go for the two northern provinces. If you got good luck with siege progress, you can kick them out of war for Armor and Brittany without any fighting. If not, you got to fight their main army (lots of cavalry!) in Morbhidan after it conquered Vendée. Peace with Brittany for Cash and your two cores.
In the end of the year (your allies will make good siege progress in Bourgogne, Flandre and Artois should have fallen) Burgundy will offer you Artois and Flandre for peace. Not to take Flandre with it's rich basetax, big population, valuable goods and center of trade would be a great mistake.
With the looting income of the first two month' and one loan, you can get tax collectors in your most valuable provinces.
Now it's time to block the channel with your fleet, (you'll need full morale and a little luck to do that) and to capture the channel provinces, to conquer back Vendée.
The rest will be easy: your allies will attack Navarra (peace for cash, as soon as they offer this), you can invade England: after having achieved a 99%-victory, you can get all your cores plus military access from them.
I managed to win this war with casualties of only 1K Kav and 2K Inf, and without hiring any new soldiers.
Some probable AI-actions
England will at first besiege Orleans, after that Maine and then Vendée. Let them do it. You got a lot of time to conquer those provinces back. And in the meantime, you can conquer much more from them!
Brittany will besiege Maine and after that Vendée: leddem do (if you're lucky, England will steal their sieges with leaders and their attrition losses, especially in Vendée will be high). Burgundy will attack you two times in February in Flandre and won't recruit new troops to threaten you.
Your allies will besiege Bourgogne, after that reconquer Orléans and Maine. Try to avoid their big troop masses in enemy territory while besieging (especially in Normandy and Gascogne (if the siege there has gone on badly). Remember to let just a small cover-force in those provinces before (!) they arrive, because you risk to loose siege-leading if you order "cover" while your allies are in the province.
Further expansion strategy
Burgundy might be BB-Leader in the game by annexing some German or Dutch minors. Then it might be a good tactic to wait for Richemont and to reattack Burgundy early, to "steal" the minor-sieges.
If not involved in other wars, Scotland will attack Eire sooner or later. Check their allies (often it's Brittany: you can letting it annexed by Provence (you have to cancel the vassalization for that, but at least you save 1 BB-Point) and be sure to have a little force ready to take their unfortified provinces, so that you can make peace for cash when you want to).
Provence is likely to attack Brittany itself.
Auvergne is likely to leave the alliance and to cancel vassalization, if you dow someone early on. Let them go, they may give you a good CB against other nations with which they might ally and their provinces are poor!)
What to do
Annex Orleans and Bourbonnais but not Provence, because you will inherit Provence in 1451, for much less badboy. For Provence, try to get it into your alliance as early as possible. Do not let it take provinces in your core, since those cost you 0 BB to take. Give it as many provinces as possible outside of your core. They may even work as a DOW-Magnet if you let them conquer some italian minors.
After annexing your Vassals, it's time for another DOW against Burgundy and the vassalisation of them and England (if Burgundy has a lot of BB, you can let your allies do the DOW). Thanks to military access, you may want to do synchronized looting in England (by placing small armies in each of their provinces) and Burgundy (you will reach most of their provinces in the first month of the war). Vassalize them both. If Burgundy is BB-Leader and involved in many wars, you should wait, until there were some "white-peace-agreements". If not, your new ally might lose the valuable Dutch provinces, from which you might want to profit from.
Sooner or later, you should DOW the Iberians to get the Portuguese maps and space to colonize.
I like to get the scots out of my alliance early, because they have some high-ranking leaders to steal sieges from me and the Provence and because they may want to attack my vassal England, sooner or later.
France will be the leading technology nation of the world, so don't mind land and naval technology at first. Maybe you want to research Land Tech 2 early, but you don't have to. My research strategy is: Infra 1, Trade 2, (Land 2,) Infra 3, Trade 3, Infra 4, Infra 5, Trade 4, Trade 5, Land, Sea. Try to save a lot of money before reaching Infra 3, to build at least three or four refineries at a time.
If you're doing well in trade (early map-exchange is a good way to get to know about the Asian CoT's (if the Portuguese haven't yet discovered them)) you will soon be hyperteching, getting the "ahead of time" malus on research in the early sixteenth century. That is a good sign, that you're on the way to rule the world.
Depends on what your goal is: If it is world conquest or dominating europe, narrowminded is the way to go. If you prefer a more peaceful game, you can also rely on high innovativeness. I prefer by far a narrowminded serfdom strategy to keep stability costs low (and thus keeping my merchants in the costly CoT's) and tax income high. For the beginning, serfdom 7 is ideal, as it avoids the nastiest peasant-revolt events.
If you want to conquer the world, go for maximum Aristocracy. Naval/land slider: a world conquerer will prefer to max out the land slider for manpower, morale and troop recruitment costs, "world ruler" will prefer sea for higher TE and more settlers.
I like to max out quality (the fire bonus at 9 is very important), and to have the offensive-slider at 8 for highest morale without the loss of siege bonuses for French leaders that level 9 would cause.
Mercantilism: Not too important. In the beginning, I like high mercantilism for cheaper merchants, later on, free trade for more settlers. Should be moved by random events in the first decades.
Depends on what Portugal has discovered and what you want: if you don't want to conquer the world, colonize the most valuable provinces (the Spaniards never caused ToT-trouble to me, so why not the Caribbean?).
Since colonies doesn't cost BB if diplo-annexed, you just have to keep an eye on Portugal's well-populated colonies (should be few) and maybe should use MA to let the natives attack their settlements if you want to annex them.
I like to have Brasil, Guinea, Senegal, Table+Karoo and of course the North American provinces neighbouring Lenape.
I often wait to take the pagans until Francois I rises the thrown, but you can also go for Ivoria early on. But take care to have lots of troops in Africa, since you will loose a lot of them against the pagan hordes and due to attrition.