There are some historical events that make people wonder, “Could it have turned out differently? What would that have been like?” Could Germany have won World War II? What if Charles Martel had lost at Tours? What would America be like if the South had won the Civil War? Historians like to call this counterfactual history, and writers refer to it as alternate history.
A popular speculation in this vein is, “Could the Native Americans have held off the Europeans?” There were several points where it looked like the natives could have kicked the invaders right off the continent. The conquests of Peru and Mexico started out as very near-run campaigns, and the British, French and Spanish footholds in North America were (at least initially) small and could have easily been wiped out.
Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise (CoP) is the first expansion for vanilla EU IV. The focus of this expansion is to expand gameplay possibilities in the New World. In the vanilla version, the New World was pretty much just a big, undiscovered goodie bag. The nation that could get there first would clean up on natural resources, facing only token resistance from natives. Nice for resource-poor nations like England and Portugal, but all the real action took place in the Old World.
CoP fluffs up the New World some. New Native American nations have been added, along with their own Ideas and buildings. At least in the beginning of the game the Native nations feel like “real,” playable nations. The buildings and techs top out at a relatively low level compared to the Europeans', but this is just part of historical accuracy. Native nations are now worth playing, especially for the warmonger.
There is an important change to the way European colonies grow that can really help make Native nations viable. After a European power has enough (four) provinces colonized in a region, those provinces break away from the home country and form a Colonial Nation. Colonial Nations are separate from the home country, but operate sort of like vassals in that they pay a portion of their income to their parent nation. If they grow to dislike the mother country enough, Colonial Nations can revolt, starting a war to gain their independence. This takes some of the heat off the Native Americans—rather than the full might of England coming down on them, as soon as England gains a reasonably large presence in an area, its regions break off into a smaller, weaker country.
Other than breaking away and fighting for independence, however, Colonial Nations don't seem to do much. One can save the game and then switch to playing as one, which is fun, but otherwise they tend to just sit there like lumps. Perhaps this is how they are meant to work. New nations tend to need some time to sort out internal matters, and it really does help the Native nations by slowing down the rate of European expansion—or perhaps the mechanic just needs some work.
Another interesting addition was the ability to randomly generate the New World. Part of the problem with this sort of historical game is that there is no surprise discovery. Everything is exactly where the player knows it is. This was not true for the original explorers, and knowing where everything is takes some of the fun (and strategy) out of exploration. Although the random continents can look funny sometimes, this feature adds some surprise (and replayability) to the game.
There were a few other minor changes to the vanilla version. Trade nodes were tweaked, and a few bugs that got cut from the original release were added back in. Overall, however, CoP is a bit on the small side as far as expansions go. This is not entirely a bad thing. The features CoP adds are welcome and mostly well thought out—but it does make for a shorter review.
So, could the Native Americans have held off the Europeans? Probably not. Agriculturalists have historically done very well against hunter-gatherers. Europe had too many people, too much tech and a secure base of operations. There was (conceivably) a slim chance, however, and CoP, to its credit, allows the player to try it out.
The first thing a determined Native nation needs to do is expand. This can be painful as there are a lot of other Natives thinking the same thing. It is crucial, however, as you will need to store up money, people and resources for the next phase.
Eventually the Europeans will arrive. You should race to get a province that borders one of the European ones. Get as stable as you can, make sure you have enough money saved up, and be on good relations with your neighbors. Then, take advantage of your proximity to the Europeans to Westernize. This is a lengthy, expensive, politically unpopular and all around painful transition. It is also the only chance your nation has to survive. Your nation will be in pretty bad shape when it is all over, but you will have access to European governance systems, technologies, buildings, and units. In short, guns and the manpower and political organization to use them.
Once you Westernize, your nation will be the biggest kid on the continent and you can kick the Europeans back to where they came from. You could even get a colony or two in Africa and take the fight to the Old World.
In summary, Conquest of Paradise adds enough gameplay options to the New World and its nations to make this part of the world a much more interesting place. It does not go as far as Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion—there will be no Aztec fleets threatening to invade Spain—but it does give the Native Americans a slim, but fighting, chance.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
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