Games · Strategy Games

Europa Universalis IV: Songhai Will Not Die

So having finished my Portugal/Spain game, I’m still very much obsessed with Europa Universalis IV, it’s like the game I spent my whole life wanting and I don’t foresee myself getting tired of it for a long while yet. Although to be fair I was thinking that about Crusader Kings II earlier this year but in this case it’s like I’ve just found something that suits me even better than that one did. So I’m going to continue to use what I’m doing in my free time to make blog posts, write what you want to talk about, eh? (more history coming soon, runescape storytime will resume whenever I feel inspired to play Runescape again, that happens reasonably regularly so that’s not dead dead)

I searched for a long while in the achievement list looking for the country I wanted to play as next, looking for country-specific achievements that looked reasonably easy to pick up so that I wasn’t going to tear my hair out spending hours and hours on something like Jihad or The Three Mountains. That’s going to be saved for when I’m actually REALLY good at the game, for now I still make mistakes regularly. I initially picked France and got Azur Semé De Lis Or in an evening, but that evening turned out to be the day before 1.19 came out, immediately screwing up my save. Well, I could have rolled back but France is very close to Portugal and I wasn’t so keen on doing another European country so soon. Plus they’ve changed the mechanics with the Hundred Years War and given a province or two over to England at the start so that’ll be very different the next time I play and go for Big Blue Blob (which will require some very careful planning) and Better Than Napoleon.

Anyway, I wanted to start a really fresh campaign, so after looking around a bit, toying with the idea of Ming, I decided that I wanted to start fairly small with an achievement that looked fairly easy to get, so I went to Africa and was drawn to the Songhai Empire. Now there’s a country that will make a good History Of A Nation post when I get round to the 1400s in like… 2020. One of the biggest empires in Africa, a glorious shade of teal just like that Portugal colour I loved so much before I lost it to the awful Spanish yellow, and an easy achievement that requires you to conquer a province next door, sold. Now I wasn’t going to go for just the achievement, I knew that wouldn’t take me long (and spoilers: it didn’t). I’ve decided that when I play a country in EU4, I’ll get their specific achievement first and then, if I haven’t already fulfilled the conditions of ‘using all of their unique ideas’, ‘get the greatest border extent’ or ‘dominate local area’ or ‘are looking in a strong position to survive to the end’, then I’ll continue. Or just basically until it stops being fun and I’m still having an enormous amount of fun in this save. And watching Arumba (because all EU4 players should know of Arumba and I’ve gone through most of his Horde campaign he’s currently doing) has taught me valuable ways of conquering, although I still make huge mistakes still. I also turned on Random New World, despite not really planning to colonise, because I wanted to play a game with it on before setting out to colonise in it and there aren’t any achievements that I can see that specifically require a Random New World so (as an achievement hunter) I wanted to play with it in a game where I didn’t need any provinces in the Americas for the achievements I was going for.

Now Songhai have a bonus to infantry combat ability, so naturally I immediately trained cavalry, being in the mindset of watching a horde’s cavalry conquer all. That’ll be fun when I play as them eventually, but it was a bit of a mistake for my early army. Later on I switched to almost exclusively infantry. Firstly though, I needed to sort out my alliance network. I allied quickly with Katsina, Nupe, Macina and Jenné, rivalling Timbuktu, Zazzau and Air. Mali also hated me but I knew I wasn’t going to conquer them yet, they would be saved for later – also I didn’t really want to get in a war with the only nation in the area that actually starts out stronger than me.

While Timbuktu was who I wanted to go for, Zazzau crucially looked very weak after initial alliance set-up, with only Benin as an ally. And if I didn’t call Nupe into the war, which I didn’t want to anyway as I’d have to give them territory, Benin’s troops wouldn’t even be able to get to my army. It was the first time I’d really hidden behind military access walls as I wiped Zazzau’s army from the map and began sieging him down and it felt brilliant, if slightly dirty. I only took two of Zazzau’s three starting provinces, leaving him alive so I wouldn’t have to waste manpower taking down Benin yet, plenty of time for that later. Nupe immediately declared war on Zazzau and would wipe them off the map in a few years. The year at this point was only 1447.

Undeterred, and having eclipsed a rival, I went up north to Timbuktu. Timbuktu was allied to Mali (and Jenné, losing them as an ally but I picked up Kanem Bornu, so all was good), and I used the same trick I’d just used on Zazzau, specifically not calling in the big Macina into the war so Mali would not be able to get to my territory and therefore, I could take Timbuktu undisturbed. And I got it, I got Nobody Wants To Die by 1450. And there was another rival eclipsed as Timbuktu was left only with Azawad. I’d wipe them out once the truce timer wore off in a similar war but here is where it starts to get harder.

I declared war on Air a bit too quickly and he and Yao pushed me back briefly, but this left him weak for Kanem Bornu and Katsina to take half his territory in another war. And then I smashed up the remainder of Air, this time with either no allies or Yao was stuck behind Kanem, I forget. Either way, the valuable air of Air was now mine. Including the province of Air, though this was much later, in 1477, and I’d pretty given up on any hope of speed running this one, this was certainly not meant for a WC playthrough, I’m sure there are many things I could have done better by this point. And this was when Kanem would stop becoming a friend and instead look like an enemy. The twisting web of alliances in this isolated corner of Africa is really fascinating. I should play here more often, what with everyone being about the same size. Mali has a specific achievement so I will come back here at some point, I’m not sure if any of the rest do.

Anyway, I brute developed my capital to get Feudalism, because that was necessary to get some tech and unless I colonised that Moroccan corridor province then it wasn’t spreading down to me any time soon. Plus, who needs colonists when you can take Innovative ideas, right. I figured they might be necessary – although I always make mistakes with idea groups. My manpower was also very slow to recover so I resolved to take Quantity as a next step.

Kanem Bornu on their own, now with Yao and Katsina on my side proved no problem and I ruthlessly expanded to the east, releasing Kano as a vassal after the war to take some of the coring costs off of my hands. Meanwhile, Macina asked for my assistance against Mali, and I was only too happy to see Mali cut down to a fraction of their former size. However this all went over to Macina, and once that war was over, I had no valid rivals but Macina. A sad day, when upon losing the war one immediately has to backstab their friends, but so be it. I would grow to dislike Macina later too.

I beat up on Oyo, and the newly arisen Ashanti pretty easily, putting down unrest but still getting massive manpower issues. It was now 1507 and I still had no signs of Renaissance so I had to go develop again, as costly as that was. I only got halfway there, but this’ll be important later. I integrated Kano back after using him to finish off the last of Kanem Bornu, conquered Benin and Dahomey in the same war, getting myself access to the sea. However, as I was conquering Dagbon (with Kong sieging down Timbuktu in the north), I was dragged into a war with Macina, who were conquering Yatenga, my ally. I should not have allied them but it is what it is. With no allies to help me out in two wars, and Kong joining the second war even after I’d peaced out with Dagbon in frustration, I eventually, after losing my army after some unfortunate rolls against Macina’s big army and eventual manpower depletion, ended up losing Timbuktu and some other provinces to Macina and Mossi – I resolved to get it back as soon as possible.

What happened in that war, I discovered, is that while I’d been merrily spending up monarch points on development, the other African nations had been taking tech at huge costs, and some were up to three military levels ahead of me. I’d already gone one way too far to do what they had did, but there was a factor I thought I could use to my advantage and get me back on level pegging. Castile had colonised the Gold Coast, as of course you would an important natural harbour, so I had two trade centres now out of my hands. Maybe I should have taken Exploration, but I figured I couldn’t get very big advantages from it in the long run and I’d only just gotten near to that coast. Plus I like laughing when AI enemies march into the African wilds and get squashed by natives – that’s happened so many times this campaign for me. Anyway, my little strategy was, as probably the biggest country in Africa, to become the protectorate of Castile. I had finished Renaissance in my capital and had been waiting for a while for the cost to embrace, one loan and I was able to. Meanwhile, I started getting colonialism in my provinces, although it wouldn’t spread before the arrangement finished. I did however manage to tech on parity with most of the other African nations, at which point the arrangement ended and I was free again, albeit with a hostile Castile that may or may not try to eat me in the future, as they have been doing to the remnants of Mali. I then stole their maps of the Maghreb (in which Mzab is somehow still alive) because why ever not, giving me Time Bandit. I took a bit more of Oyo, whose long truce timer finally came to an end, with the small amount of troops I’d recovered from the big war, and now Quantity was starting to kick in so I was able to have the troops that I’d lacked for so long.

Now, Mossi was allied to Macina, and so was nearly everyone else (even my long-time friends Katsina and Yao, the latter of which rivalled me, the former of which once joined a war against me but reverted to being friendly pretty quickly, so we’re now friends again, although they’re still allied to Macina and I want to vassalize them now I pretty much surround them so I don’t know how long that will last), but they were allied to Dagbon, who were not allied to Macina. The opportunity to remove Dagbon from the map was too juicy to pass up, and that was easy, they had only one province, but I also managed to remove Mossi’s 4 provinces from the map in the same war without Macina even lifting a finger to stop me. Songhai’s war canoes (I was getting so very skilled at navigating the maze of rivers that is West Africa at this point) are unstoppable, even if you beat them once!

I then did nearly the same thing to Bonoman (an ally of Macina) and Oyo (not an ally of Macina), but leaving Bonoman with one province, and that brings us to where I am with this campaign today. Currently, if I were Macinan, I would be very scared that Songhai is step-by-step removing my allies…

Again, I have no more achievements to get, I’ll just continue it until I stop having fun, which will probably be when Europeans decide that they are able to colonise the Dark Continent and steamroll over me. So I’ll probably do one more post on this – depends how much I play.

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