How to get maps
Especially for new players, the process of uncovering all the terra incognita can be a daunting prospect. When you're playing many countries, it may seem like there is no way to do it. This article is an attempt to help out, sketching some of the cheaper ways of getting maps that are nonetheless available, at least sometimes, to all countries. Even if you are playing a major power that gets plenty of explorers and conquistadors, knowing how to use other means of exploration can be a powerful way to speed up your exploration of the world.
- you know of at least one province that is not known to the other country
- you have at least +100 relations with the other country
Certain countries are "paranoid" and won't exchange maps with only +100 relations; I don't know if it can be done with higher relations. Also, AI countries which have begun exploration and colonization typically will not trade maps.
On a successful mapswap, you will gain knowledge of all sea zones which the other country knows of, and all settled land provinces. You do not gain knowledge of unsettled land provinces. Your partner gains all of your maps, except unsettled provinces.
Map swapping is most useful for Sunni Muslim countries, because you can easily get +125 relations with any Sunni country, and they have maps to most of the Old World. In the east, you can get maps to the oceans around the East Indies, and to Indochina and parts of China and Japan including their CoTs. In the West, you can get maps to most of Europe, and maps to the West African pagan countries, including the CoT in Benin.
Catholic countries can get maps of the North Atlantic to North America (from Norway). And they can get maps to the Middle East, from Cyprus, but not beyond that without paying to raise relations.
After you've gotten all the easy maps (from co-religionists with +125 relations), then you may want to selectively bribe up selected other countries and get maps from them. There are a few countries to pay particular interest to, for rare maps they have:
- Morocco, alone, has maps to Songhai in West Africa. From Songhai, you can get maps to all of West Africa.
- Oman has maps to parts of India, and to Zanzibar with its CoT. No other country outside of eastern Africa initially knows of Zanzibar.
- Norway, alone, has maps to the northern Atlantic Ocean, from Europe to the North American coast.
Otherwise, it doesn't matter that much which countries you use to exchange maps with. You do want to make sure they know a significant amount before exchanging; when you select "exchange maps" you'll get a dialog telling you how many provinces each country knows that are not known to the other. (You can do this and cancel, which does not cost anything.) It's generally a good idea to choose small countries, because they are cheaper to bribe up. If you can afford the extra diplomat, be sure to attempt to get military access, if the country will possibly be useful later in the game for your exploration. Oman in particular is a very useful country to have MA with if you are likely to be able to get an explorer to the Indian Ocean.
Exploration -- moving armies and navies into unknown seas or provinces -- can be another cheap way of getting new maps. As long as a province is settled, you can always explore it even without a conquistador or explorer.
The upside of exploration with normal armies is that it is cheap. If you create tiny armies to do it, the losses of men will be negligible. The downside is that you can only explore a limited amount, namely, places you can (a) get to via land and sea, (b) are settled, and (c) in or adjacent to countries you've got military access with. But it can be very helpful, especially for fairly powerful Christian countries, and also for China. They can usually maintain +25 relations with Muslims, but not more. That's not enough for mapswapping. But it is often enough to allow getting military access.
Note also that one can explore selected enemy countries, via white flag tourism.
The next most common way to get maps is to target other country's capitals. If you capture the capital province of a non-pagan country, you get all of that country's maps including maps to unsettled provinces. So this method can get you maps you simply cannot get with either of the two cheap methods above. Also, it can get you maps from countries that otherwise would be very difficult to bribe up enough to swap with. And it has the advantage that the other country does not get your maps.
The downside is obvious: it typically requires you being at war, and war is usually not cheap. Nonetheless, there are times when a selected war is the best exploration. There are several sets of countries which border valuable unsettled provinces, that you may especially want to target:
- countries in or near the East Indies.
- countries in South India
Also, one particularly juicy target in the early to mid game is Tago, Portugal's capital. Portugal gets lots of good explorers early on, and tends to explore far faster than it can colonize. So, you don't need your own explorers; just use Portugal's! Later in the game, any of the major powers' capitals may be a prize for the same reason: they get the explorers and conquistadors.
Note that it is possible to capture a capital without being at war with its owner. You need only be at war with the force controlling the capital, and you must control the siege. The most common way this can happen is via rebels, against an ally or a country you have military access from. If rebels manage to capture a capital, then you should be alert to move in and help siege them out. Usually the country will eventually help the siege, so you don't need much force; just enough to cover the province. So long as you control the siege when when the capital falls, you get maps.
Each time a country wins a sea battle, there is a small chance that it will "steal the rutters" of the losing country. Doing this will reveal to the winning country a small number of provinces which the losing country knows. You can exploit this, even against a country with vastly superior naval technology. Just build large fleets of galleys; galleys have superior shock power well into the game, even through middle tech. 30-60 galleys can often beat a warship or two, even when they have naval tech 1 and the enemy has naval tech 20. (Of course, you lose a fair amount of the time, too, on morale. So, have a plan to deal with the losses of warscore.) Also read the section Handing Higher-tech Infantry with Primitive Forces in How to Win Battles. The same idea works with fleets instead of armies.
When a new country is created in the game, it gets the maps of its parent country. This is true for all means of new country creation, but it is of particular interest in revolts, since revolts are the most common means by which new countries are created out of major powers. Usually you cannot mapswap with colonial countries, and sacking their capital is not always easy. But the same is not true of minor countries that revolt from major powers. You should be alert for any revolt from a country whose maps you'd like to get. Whenever a country revolts, you may want to see if it has a significant number of provinces unknown to you.
Most revolters are single-province countries, and they usually do not last long. The power they revolted from will siege them, then annex. So, you need to be fast, bribing them up and mapswapping in the few months that they exist.
Alternatively, you may want to declare war on the new country to sack its capital. So long as you can control the siege, this is better than mapswapping because you get all provinces they know, including unowned ones.
There are enough revolts in a game that usually you don't need to induce them. Nonetheless, it can often be a good idea to engineer a revolt that allows you to capture the capital. To do this, get in alliance with the power whose maps you covet, typically Portugal in the 1400s, Spain in the early 1500s, or England after about 1550. Now, find a province which can revolt, and which you have access to, which is poorly connected to the major power. This means, at least, that is has no land access when not at war; ideally, it should have neither land or sea access to it. Get in a war with its owner, and arrange that the major power take it in the war. Now wait for it to rebel (or engineer its capture by rebels on your own), and let it revolt. Then you join the war against it, and sack it.