Wealth of Nations (WoN) is an expansion for Europa Univeralis IV (EU4). The focus of WoN is to provide non-military options to players.
The basic problem with EU4 that WoN was designed to address is that there was not much to do except fight wars and build buildings. The economic model was simultaneously complex and basic: the mechanics underlying production and trade were complicated to the nth degree, but there wasn't much a player could do about it so for the most part you just sat back and took what the game gave you.
Crusader Kings II in its expansion, The Republic, also by Paradox, introduced a lot of new gameplay mechanics centering around trade and merchant republics. Those looking for that sort of comprehensive treatment in WoN will be disappointed as the changes are relatively small. They can be broken down into three major categories: improved trade mechanics, trade as war, and other additions.
The improved trade features focus on allowing your nation to make more money from trade by allowing greater flexibility. You can now appoint a second city as your trade capital—handy for those landlocked nations who capture a coastal province and would like to exploit their newfound access to the sea. Being landlocked, however, is not a trade death sentence anymore, as bonuses for inland trade nodes have been beefed up. And if you want to go all in, you can establish a trade company (like the East India Company) in your colonies which provides huge trade benefits.
Trade, or the lack of it, can be used to start and win wars, also. The most obvious way is through the use of privateers. Build some light ships, make them privateers, and then you can harry your enemy's trade shipping without declaring war. He can send his own ships to chase your privateers and sink them, also without declaring war, but this costs time and money, so either way, he loses. On the other hand, he might just straight-out declare war on you for raiding his ships. Done right, privateering can take a marginal economy and tip it over into ruin.
There were some other changes thrown in. The most obvious is the ability to build the Suez and Panama canals. It is kinda neat to do this—it really feels like an accomplishment if you like to role play your country rather than just min-max the game. It is disappointing in game terms, however. There is no "You just build the Panama Canal! You're Awesome!" screen, and the impact on actual gameplay seems to be minimal. The reasons the real canals were built were all about the distance trade could travel and the economics of those distances. Trade seems more or less independent of distance in WoN, so the military uses of these shortcuts are all you get.
Another miscellaneous change is to religion. Basically, there are more, and some (like Hinduism) give interesting choices. These new religions can also help add playability to otherwise undistinguished minor nations.
This is not an expansion that will make you want to buy the original game. The additional features it adds to the base game are not all that interesting, really. Too much of what is going on is hidden behind an impenetrable wall of statistics and mechanics, all of which combine to influence each other in inscrutable ways.
For example, I colonized Taiwan and formed a trade company there. Was that a good idea? Forming a trade company severely slashes manpower and taxes, but really beefs up trade power. Will I be making more money from trade than I would have in taxes? Does losing manpower matter when I can just ship in soldiers from my nearest colony anyway? How will these factors change over time? Are there diplomatic repercussions either way? I could watch my trade income from month to month and see what happens, but EU4 is a game of inches. Any change will be incremental, and there is no way (no easy way, at least) to tease out the contribution of Taiwan's trade company from the 5,000 other factors influencing my trade income.
To a large extent this sort of criticism is unfair to WoN. It is just a $10 expansion and can't be expected to fix major problems with the design of the original game. On the other hand, Paradox should build on its strengths, not its weaknesses.
In summary, Wealth of Nations adds some new options for those players interested in doing something other than saving money in order to build buildings and fight wars. Expansions from Paradox usually hint at what new directions the dev team is considering. A more complete economic system is an interesting direction.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
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