Seeing as we've recently had a lot of players asking how to get into playing with Prussia, I thought I'd post my little strategy guide to starting as that country. I'm hoping the regulars will hop in and comment/poke holes/give suggestions so we can get a complete picture of how to get into this. Once new players get a hang of Prussia, I would say they can play any country in Victoria really.
Now, when we begin to play Prussia, we need to get 2 things done first: the budget, and the world market. For the Prussian budget, the default settings we apply to any country will work. Taxes at 49.22% for middle/upper classes and 60%+ for the lower class. The reason for this is, we don't worry about militancy of pops in the early game yet, and need as much money as we can squeeze out of them to industrialize. We can't tax the middle/rich classes over 50% because they will be demoted into lower classes, losing us our previous capitalists/clerks.
Education has to stay at 100%, crime fighting can be at 0% for the first 30 or so years, and social spending should be maxed. Even though we have no reforms yet, the slider position still affects our people's militancy/consciousness. This might get fixed in the next patch, but for now, we ought to use it. Normally, our army spending would also be at about 1/3, but we need our divisions at full strength for the early wars that Prussia should fight.
The second thing we do at the beginning is fiddle with the world market a bit. This is actually very easy as there isn't much to do: set tobacco, regular furniture and fish to buy to 10. Other than that, there are a few settings which are crucial for Prussia: we must set iron/timber to buy to 30 as we will need those to supply our iron and lumber mills and build new factories.
Second, we must set machine parts to buy to 50. In every Victoria game, there are a few machine parts on the market as we start; as long as we are at 15 or more prestige at the start, we should be able to snag a few. Machine parts will be difficult to get at the beginning and Prussia has a lot of unemployed workers; the more factories we can build right away, the very much better.
Third, we need to set cotton and dye to buy to 10. We start the game with a clothing and fabric factory, and we will be building more because regular clothes will be our cash cow for much of the game. Therefore, we must insure an adequate supply.
Once these are done, we unpause the game and let it run for about a week. Yay! We got some machine parts! We now pause the game again and put these parts, as well as iron, to work by building as many factories as we can. We will go into debt doing this - that's fine. If we wait a few months to do all this without borrowing, it increases the amount of time our workers are unemployed. They will emigrate to Austria, Russia, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands as soon as their factories are done next year if ours aren't yet, and we will lose them.
When building factories, it is best to expand existing ones if there is available manpower to run then. This cuts down on crime fighting costs. Each factory we have adds 5 pounds to crime fighting costs, which an expanded one doesn't. In other words, we pay the same money for a lvl 5 factoru employing 25 workers as we do for a lvl 1 one employing 5.
While industrializing we want to ensure we have the basic 3 raw materials: lumber, steel, and cement. These are used to build factories, colonial claim buildings, railroads, forts, etc. We want a domestic supply. With cement, it is worthless other than for building, so a single lvl 2 factory of it in Sachsen is all we'll ever need - it is so cheap we can always buy more on the world market if we need to. Lumber makes some money and is used for paper and furniture, which we will be making later, so we need some more of these - about 6-7 factories' worth should be sufficient. Finally, steel is a moneymaker on its own, so the more we make of it - the better. Keep in mind that later in the game iron will become scarce on the world market. The other countries also like to make steel, so we will need to keep our prestige up to ensure an uninterrupted steel production. Fortunately with Prussia prestige is never a problem, as we will see later.
Also, remembert to save some 3-4 machine parts unused - they will be needed shortly!
About now, the recognition of Belgian independence will come up. It is good to sign it, getting increased relations with Belgium. Belgium has a industrial-science academic establishment and high literacy rate, meaning they will be the world leader in industry/economic technologies. Seeing as Prussia will make a surplus of research points right from the start, they will become our technology trading partner for those while we focus on army and culture technologies.
Once our economy is set in motion, we move our armies near Hanover's border. It's a populous German state with an abundance of workers and a lot of population that happens to be our state culture. Pops of our state culture worlk much more efficiently than others, which translates into vastly increased profits from factories that they staff - even as much as twice more. Once our armies are in position, we will declare war. Good planning is essential here. Hanover is a satellite of the United Kingdom, the big scary country of Victoria. If we end the war quickly, we can ignore the UK landings as they won't have time to trash us.
The green lines indicate the planned advance into Hanover of our various armies. The corps containing 4 cavalry divisions is Prussia's hardest hitter right now, so they are the ones we assign the one leader we can make to. An army with a leader occupies territory much faster than one without one. Seeing as cavalry also moves faster, they will occupy the most territory.
Once all of Hanover is occupied, we must satellite them. When satelliting a country the master automatically receives all of its territory that is considered its cores - seeing as all of Hanover's territory is our coresm we will receive everything but the capital. Also, when we occupy all of their land they will always acceps a peace demand consisting of only a satellite demand, regardless of the war score, which ends our war with the UK as well.
Looking in the new state of Hanover, we notice that they have a bunch of unemployed craftsmen and clerks! Now is where those machine parts we saved earlier come in handy as we build as many factories as we can to put them to work before they emigrate.
We now have a bit of a dilemma. We have a lot of research points - which is good, as it allows us to drop education spending to 0 for a year or 2 without ill effects on research - but we have very low prestige! So, we plan the second war which will make Prussia a superpower and really unlock its potential some 30 years before its time. We kill the German minors!
This will be a large war, but it sounds a lot worse than it is. Essentially that's because we get a "free" shot at the minors. I say "free" because of the way the Victoria AI works. It will automatically mobilize when it sees a neighbor country (that's us!) mobilize - unless it has an alliance with said country. Prussia has defence pacts with all the German minors, so we can mobilize safely and hit them before they have a chance to do the same. This is important. Due to a bug in the AI files, Bavaria, baden, and Wurtemberg, as well as some other German minors, have ridiculously large mobilization pools (and by large I mean 50 and more divisions EACH large!). We won't be attacking these southern minors this war, but mobilized they have the power to crush us before we can snag the others.
So, we mobilize and dispatch our forces. We will only have about 2 months to bring this war to an end, so we need to mobilize, plan carefully and deploy our forces for maximum effect. We could move our troops into enemy territory before the war as we do have military access, but should they happen to find themselves sharing a province with enemy troops on their soil when war is declared, they will autmatically lose and be disbanded. Not worth the risk, so we deploy on their borders instead.
We then find a minor that is small enough to be occupied quickly, giving us an instant way to end the war should it go badly, and whose defense pact with Austria is excepted for Prussia. This means Austria won't be invading. Of course that's hardly a problem as Austria isn't strong enough to beat us yet - but, when at war, the Victoria AI builds more troops. We don't want Austria doing that as we will want them weak later on, in 1866, for the 6 weeks' war we will fight with them over leadership in Germany.
We declare war on Hesse-Kassel (there are more minors that would work, but we want to annex as many as we can). A quick invasion into the unprepared minors lets us occupy most of them. The ones 3 provinces or less in size, we immediately annex - once we have all the minors we want, we satellite the original Hesse-Kassel, ending the war. This war nets Prussia most of the German land it hasn't previously controlled, as well as a ton of prestige. Some machine parts usually become available and go to us as our prestige climbs - we will use them to employ workers in the lands we conquer. Expansion is the way to go if possible, so we build/expand steel and regular clothes factories.
When the war ends, we pay off any debt and start promoting capitalists. Allow me to take a minute and go over the concept of these wonderful pops in more detail.
Capitalists have many benefits. Obviously, the main one is their tax income. The more capitalists we promote, the more taxes we get from them, until eventually the income from the rich dwarfs the other two and allows us to lower poor/middle taxes to around 10%. This drops their militancy and effectively nips any revolts they would start in the bud, and can be done as early as the late 1850s with Prussia. Another benefit of capitalists is that they increase the efficiency of factories in the state they are in. The efficiency increase is on a simple scale with a maximum of 10%, and the bonus determined by the size of the promoted pop. 10,000 offers a 1% increase up to 10% for 100,000. Obviously, we want to promote the biggest pop we can find in a given state, or better yet - the biggest two!
The last benefit of capitalists is that they provide a large bonus to research point generation. With about 15% of our population capitalist, Prussia will be making over 1 Rp a month. Seeing as 0.83 is the minimum needed to amount to 10/year (the cost of most technologies - as order is our national value, we get military techs at 9/year), this represents a surplus we can use for tech trading with Belgium, making us a technology leader right from the start.
A good baseline is to have at least 1-2 freshly promoted capitalist pops per state. Personally, I like to keep them at around 15-20% of my total population as this allows me to drop other taxes fairly soon.
Here's Prussia in 1840, following this simple guide. #1 prestige, #1 industry in the world (ahead of the vaunted UK!) andf making about 130/day. Bear in mind that this is before any railroads were constructed and only about half the states contain their large capitalist pop. Once the promotions are finished and lvl 1, then 2 railroads built - this is easily done by 1845 - the income will jump to over 200/day, allowing the Prussian player a fair amount of flexibility in what to do next.