Francisco Pizarro
United States
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Playing as Russia

A list of the five most important monarchs in the history of Europe must include Peter the Great. His vision for and determination to modernize Russia transformed the country from a borderline continental power into what was to become the most feared and in many places admired nation in all of Europe. This game depicts Russia early in his reign, when Sweden was still the premier power in the region and having a port in the Baltic was only a glint in young Peter’s eye. As such Russia is a challenging position to play: can you stabilize and lead Russia out of its infancy?

Geographically, it is a good news-bad news proposition. The good news is that Russia really only has enemies to her west. The bad news is she only has five home territories in the game, two of them are easy for Poland to invade, and against a determined Polish-Swedish alliance, Moscow could very easily fall.

Given that, how can you – like Peter – lead Russia’s rise? Sweden’s Baltic holdings are weak and very accessible to Russia. Also, having the lowest upkeep in the game – just one – allows Russia to worry little about generating coin. You can choose to, but rather than just “paying the bills”, you more than any other player can cudgel your opponents with continually replenishing riches. There are also sizable gains to be had from the Ottoman Empire at relatively affordable levels of military

All that said, the real opportunity for Russia is cultural. He has a one-two punch of getting bonus prestige at the end of the game if leading in science or art(or +2 total if leading in both!) and once per game can advance two up one of those tracks. This gives him the best opportunity of any player to quickly snag one of the lower medals, with similar chance of doing so on either cultural track. That is wonderful in both its power and flexibility.

Finally, there is more bad news for Russia. Peter’s weakness of being awkward not only hurts in negotiations (a more modest penalty) but requires him to exhaust an extra politics when taking a diplomacy action. It will always require him a minimum of two exhausted luminaries to achieve it. Of course, like the real Peter the Great, you can turn a weakness into a strength. Bemoan this fact and ask the other person to be the one to ally with you! Then they are burning the action and the exhausts and you are simply benefiting.

Playing as Poland

I must confess that Poland is my favourite power in Road to Enlightenment. This historically besieged and discounted country was, at many points in history, a proud and important nation that frequently boasted much more libertarian forms of government than the mighty absolute monarchies which surrounded and eventually engulfed them. And Jan III Sobieski is a fascinating, powerful, sadly forgotten historical figure.

Sobieski’s benefit – that he can use two enhancements in military stacks – is perhaps the best ongoing ruler benefit in the game. If he is able to get an effective favourite working with another powerful luminary, watch out! Geographically the position is very straightforward with
eight compact territories, Catholic Austria to the southwest, the Ottoman Empire a potential tackling dummy to the southeast, and otherwise being surrounded by Anti-Catholic Sweden and Russia. The straight line approach would be an alliance with Austria and get to work liberating those filthy, non-Catholic heathens.

Of course, taking two other powers head-on can be a daunting task without help. And poor Poland’s weakness is their political isolation – only being able to have a single ally. Since, for the most part, no other playable nation can attack Russia or Sweden the Poles face a non-trivial challenge. As in real-life, when first Sweden gouged them and later Russia and a rising Prussia subsumed them, the position was incredibly delicate.

Then there is the once-per-game bonus. Jan III Sobieski, the Lion of Lechistan, defender of the faith, has every reason to make peace with the Anti-Catholics and crush the Islamics instead. They can head deep into Ottoman territory with an appropriate commitment of force and his special ability to negate a roll of bad luck. And the beauty of hitting the Ottomans is, other players need to spend an action and some politics to align with them else cannot help at all. It is open season to some real degree and, if everyone else falls asleep at the wheel, an audacious Sobieski could even make conquering Istanbul a reality. That should be an auto-win condition! And we should mention that Austria is among the weakest military powers if you’re game Catholic-on-Catholic warfare.

Playing as Austria

Of the seven playable rulers, the near-incompetent Philip IV and Austria’s Leopold I are significantly weaker than the rest. Don’t you feel good about pulling on his riding boots?! Regardless of his acumen as a ruler, Austria is a comfortable power to play with the most geographic isolation of the playable powers.

The mighty Polish military force to their north is cause for concern. To be prudent, you should pick up at least a couple of military luminaries so you do not present too tempting of a target. This can also enable you to pick off some of the low-hanging fruit such as Bosnia and Moldavia for religious benefit, or Bavaria and Venice to simply expand your hegemony over the Catholic world.

While the specific favourites you get will have an impact on this, because of your relative isolation, trying to sprint up the art track is likely a good idea. Particularly if it is not a seven-player game (thus omitting Spain) you have a decent chance to win that race. You also have
useful benefits to control and manipulate the religious cultural censuses and should certainly do so.

Another quiet-but-powerful benefit to Leopold is his solid treasury limit of 14, complemented by a modest upkeep cost of three. Not only are your favourites likely to give you a strong coin-producing engine, but his design can allow you to make the most of that. There is no reason
for you to not be a core power player in all matters of continental politics. In this way you can guide the other players in ways that perhaps best set you up for the eventual victory.

One thing to consider from a military perspective is, early in the game, quietly getting a port on the Mediterranean. This can give you access to reaching far out and attacking France or Spain, which might prove essential in a close game where the prestige from successfully upholding
Catholicism will not help you.

Playing as Spain

In the mid-17th century, Spain remained the greatest global empire the world had ever known. With holdings all around the world, including important holdings dotting much of Europe, Spain was – like Bill Abner and Reggie Jackson before him – the straw that stirred the drink. But, all was not well. By this point the decline had most certainly begun. And, under the incompetent leadership of Philip IV – who you have the honour of playing in this game – like Emperor Honorius watching the
Visigoths coming over the seventh hill, Spain was mere moments away from watching their empire fall.

That little fact notwithstanding, the position you are assuming is tenuous but full of potential. You start the game with more than double the coin any other player has. Your treasury limit is corpulent at 20, meaning you can keep huge amounts of wealth on-hand. But your upkeep of seven is also obese, meaning you’re going to have to always, always keep feeding the beast if you want coin to bash your enemies with. Also, because of your far-flung holdings which are responsible for your high upkeep, you have easier access and existing infrastructure to expand
with and – crucially – your upkeep will never increase. That means, perhaps more than any other power, you have the incentive to attack.

A strong army and navy, paired up with a military favourite, adds fuel to the inferno. So, where should you attack? You certainly have options. Because of the dispersed nature of your holdings you can choose to attack most players. Unfortunately unless you attack England – a daunting task with their celebrated navy – you will likely be waging war with other Catholics. While not a bad thing, you wouldn’t be enjoying the extra benefit of religious gain in your advances. Your one option is to use Luxembourg – which France probably wants to take from you! – to head out into Protestant Germany.

Of course military is not the only path for a focused Spain. Catholicism is always a good thing, particularly with a pope at your beck-and-call. Focusing on science or art is a good alternative to or, for the truly ambitious among you, complement to expansion.

Also, don’t forget about pirating. As one of the three colonial powers – along with England and France – you are vulnerable to being pirated by other players. This can exacerbate your stiff upkeep and, if more than one player picks on you, can put you in a difficult financial hell.

Along with pulling mili- tary luminaries for military’s sake, having a pirate hunter on deck can be huge. Unfortunately getting one of those audacious fellows on board requires simple, frustrating luck.

It is such a big advantage that I want to reinforce it again: Spain’s not having to pay upkeep for new holdings is remarkable. They are the only country not taxed Every. Single. Turn. for their military success. That doesn’t mean you should or must go on the attack, just be sanguine about the potential for prestige doing so provides.
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