Saturday, 22 June 2013

Europa Universalis III Simulation: The Big Three (France, England, and Castille)

One of my favourite video games is Europa Universalis III, a strategy game spanning the Renaissance to the Napoleonic wars. Its creator, Paradox Interactive, intends to simulate world politics, economy, warfare, religion, and culture, among other things, from the year 1399 to 1820.
Europe and the Near East at the game's start date: 1399.
The course of world events is gently guided through events in the game such as the appearance of the Christian reformation or the discovery of foreign lands, but the game largely takes a hands-off approach and allows for countless alternate histories to develop. I've always wondered, if left to itself, how often would Europa Universalis III reproduce history? What trends would develop? What countries would colonise what?

To satisfy my curiosity, I decided to simulate 50 games of Europa Universalis III. The game does not have an observer mode per se, but by creating a nation in the middle of a "Wasteland", an impassable land (the Northwest Territories to be specific), I created a permanently isolated nation. This allowed me to sit back and watch history unfold.
Spain's probability map in the year 1661.
Processing this data, I then isolated and overlayed the results for each nation, giving a map depicting the probability that that nation will occupy a province at a given time. This yields one video per country. Darker regions on the map indicate that the nation of interest occupied that province in a large number of games, and in contrast, light regions mean that this province was occupied only in a small number of games.

I've decided to start with the "Big Three" in any game of Europa Universalis, and in history in general: France, England (later Great Britain), and Castille (later Spain).


You will notice a legend to the left of the map indicating what colour corresponds to what probability, and a year in the bottom left corner of the video. This shows how the map changes over time.

France starts the game as a patchwork of vassals in a peaceful period of the Hundred Years War with England. In most games the English are forced out early on, and France is united by around 1500.

After this, it is not uncommon for France to focus their attention on Aragon, pushing France down an alternate history and putting them at odds with Castille.

Large scale colonisation doesn't get going until around 1600, agreeing well with history as France historically founded Port Royal, their first colony, in 1605. French colonies tend to dot the east coast of the Americas and West Africa.

France is interesting in that around 25% of the time it is reduced to nothing but Paris by the end of the game. Observing the course of events in each game, I have found that this is mostly the fault of Burgundy or Austria. France will often dominate all of Europe, and then a coalition of nations led by one of these two will bring France to a halt. It is a bit reminiscent of Napoleon's bid for Europe!

England/Great Britain:

England has the opportunity to form Great Britain if it fulfills certain requirements (own London, Edinburgh, be of British culture, etc...). So, both England and Great Britain (if it was formed by England) are tracked in the following video. If Great Britain was formed by a country other than England however (such as Scotland), it is not tracked. The same concept applies to Castille, which may form Spain.

England begins the game with the coronation of Henry IV. It is on the brink of war with France over its provinces across the channel, and will frequently lose this war very early on in the game.

Ireland is conquered in most games by the mid-1400's, about a century before the Tudors historically completed their conquest. Likewise, Scotland is typically brought under English rule by the late 1400's, over two centuries before the Treaty of Union. This allows Great Britain to form very early in most games.

England normally begins colonisation in the late 1500's which is right on par with Roanoke colony, historically founded in 1585. English colonisation is focused along the east coast of what would become the United States and Canada, with a few areas of intense colonisation dotting Africa and South America. Australia and New Zealand are often settled by the late 1700's, which paints a very historical British Empire on the map with one major exception: India, which is largely untouched.


Because Spain is yellow in game, I decided to change the colour scheme a bit to produce better contrast. This is the reason for blue water and darker grey land.

Castille moves quickly in most games to establish a presence in North Africa; no one nation along the southern Mediterranean is entirely safe from their conquest.

They begin early colonisation, most prominently during the early 16th century, as they did historically (Christopher Columbus "discovering" America in 1492). Castille has a tendency to colonise everything, but the focus of their colonies tends to be the southern United States, Mexico, Central America, and South America.

Castille, unlike England, often deviates from history however. It is not uncommon for the Levant and the Ottomans to be conquered by the 1550's, with Castille's borders often stretching into the Caucasus and surrounding the Black Sea.

Castille does not always form Spain either. This is likely because France often ends up taking Aragon for themselves, barring Castille from becoming Spain.

What's next?

I'll probably continue with more nations next week. Please leave a comment and let me know which ones you are interested in seeing!


  1. Seeing the Ottomans would be very interesting, especially since they are quite varied.

  2. Austria would be another interesting one: they tend to blob in my games.

  3. i definitely second the recommendation of Austria and the Ottomans! also Russia would be fun. I've had a few games where they've been quite troublesome in Scandanavia, Central Europe and the Far East.

  4. Some non European nations would be interesting.
    -Russia (semi European)

    Question: Do you analyse the same sample of 50 games for all the nations or do you use different games for the different nations?

    1. I used the same sample for all nations.

  5. This is absolutely brilliant, keep it up.

  6. Very very awesome. I'd like to see Bohemia.