Was he really the only one, who was able to do that achievement? Thought I heard about other people as well.
Nevertheless, as long as you get your infamy-management going and never let your infamy drop to zero, you can conquer so freaking huge parts of the world in the 420 years as any power, that a game as england without houserules isn't really a challenge for EXPERIENCED players. It's quite nice for beginners, even though the start can be a little bit tough, if you're new to the game and don't want to give up provinces.
If you don't abuse PU's (Which ruins the game...) then CAS, AUS, BOH and sometimes Scandinavia will make interesting early game opponents. Your obvious expansion routes lie in ARA and the HRE, with maybe a dip into heathen territory if you feel like accidentally conquering the world. The AI can also flee to the new world or into heathen territory creating large empires to come back and stab you with later on.
If you play perfectly then there may never be a problem after FRA/BUR are down but sometimes it can be fun to let POR move their capital to India.
Holy wars and PU's are great ways of destroying your game. The only time I'd recommend doing a PU is when your a small country trying to claim a large country like Normandy - England, as it will be a challenge just to keep them loyal long enough for you to inherit. Having multiple PU's is just absurd, you remove all your major rivals and have them back you up in your battles... doesn't take a genius to recognize the snowball effect.
Well thanks for all of your advise, i did get all my core provinces except for paris of France. i was allied with, Scotland, Burgundy, Castille and Portugal. All of them helppped me in the war and i won it. however it was a struggle haha. Luckily not long after the war burgundy broke their alliance then went to war with brabant, who brought in hainut and Holland, who brought in Liege, who brought in Lothraigne and Elsac. needless to say Burgundy got gang raped by a bunch of crummy minors. So i went to war with burgundy and got Picardie. Burgundy also lost Antwerp to Holland LOL. After that i made Scotland, Ulster, Connaught and Brittany vassals. and i have conquest cassus bellis on Munster who owns Leinster aswell. To easy.. hahaha.
Location: United Kingdom
Ideology: Labour Party
Preferred Government type: Constitutional Monarchy
Religion: Protestant CoE
My strategy to fight France as England:
1. Ally with Burgundy and Brittany, and gain military access. Position troops in few suitable provinces (Vlaandeeren its close to Paris for a start).
2. DOW France, or provoke them to DOW you. Much better to DOW them, when they are already at war.
3. Occupy couple of provinces, depending on their and your army. If you are fighting with allies, keep them busy while you siege. Also France will have at least 2 15+ stacks. Counter this with one 25-40 000 stack of yours, (or 2 x 20 000 ) and be sure to annihilate large stacks of France.. when they are left with small 1-3k stacks and vassals armies, just take paris, and rack up warscore untill you can force peace on them... repeat 2-3 times...
Maybe there are better ones, but I did this with no allies, just me against all of France and vassals....
Important thing for this to work is to keep Scotland out of the war. Either ally them or make them vassals, because if they are allied with france, even if they are not they can backstab you when all of your forces are on the continent.... + highlanders arrive event... not good.
... For years I have traveled in coldness,
But my heart is warm as the darkened sun above me...
Nothing can never take away
What I've seen with these tired eyes
Hey guys I'm pretty new to the game, in fact all paradox games. But thanks to Steam I can show all my buds. But whats a good noob scenario? In DW for England? I went on a Crusade against Morocco and annexed a third of it, it was hard because I was fighting conquering/vassaling Ireland and against a triple alliance of Burgundy, Brittany and Scotland (this is on very easy mode, trying to get the hang on economy before I try anything harder). I wanted to focus on economy... this game sounds like a horrible start, right? So... I'm probably going to start a new game and go into that one later, how can I conquer Scotland and Ireland and Iceland? That's what I want to do in a first game. I'm guessing from the above, ally with Brittany and Burgundy?
leoleez: You've probably noticed the little missions that show up whenever you start a new game. Keep reloading England to start until you get "Vassalize Scotland!" Before unpausing, do the following:
1. Click the gavel and line icon at the top; this will take you to your Policy Sliders tab. Click the arrow by "Free Trade." As England, you'll probably eventually want to colonize, and the most profitable way to do this is to maximize your Free Trade; this will make your merchants so skilled that you can feasibly aim to hold a nominal monopoly over every Center of Trade in the world (more on this in a bit), giving you a massive amount of monthly income that can fuel your empire on its own. But you'll notice that you start out fairly solidly oriented toward mercantilism; mercantilism is very good (better than Free Trade!) for trading in centers you own and centers for which you own a lot of the wealth, but makes you essentially unable to trade outside of such centers by 1500. Free Trade, in your case, is probably going to be more profitable in the long run, and as the long run starts with a short step, it's time to make the first one.
2. Check your available advisors under the Court tab (in the same menu you're in now, second from left). Look for the following (not all will be available, most likely):
* Treasurer (4-6* rank)
* Trader (any rank)
* Statesman, Natural Scientist, Army Reformer, Navy Reformer (any rank)
* Commandant (any rank)
* Grand Captain (any rank)
* Master of Mint (any rank)
The Statesman, Natural Scientist, Treasurer, Army Reformer and Navy Reformer provide an astronomical chunk of research (relative to their cost) every month. Further, the Treasurer will allow you (eventually, once you get a ruler with an Administrative skill of 6+) to enact a nifty National Decision called "Liquor Taxes" which increases your tax income at the cost of higher stability prices. There's a separate thread about this decision; consensus is to take it, but it's a small modifier so not a big priority. The Trader increases your Compete Chance, making your Merchants better at getting a hotly-contested spot in a Center of Trade. Especially if your move to Free Trade spawned a good (4-6*) Trader, this is incredibly useful, particularly early in the game while you're trying to get oriented toward Free Trade and thus overcome your Mercantilism-based handicap. The Commandant boosts Discipline, which means he causes more casualties to your opponent; the Grand Captain boosts morale, which means your regiments will fight longer. Finally the Master of Mint will allow you to convert some of your monthly income into actual money instead of tech investments, so he's very important (IMO, the best single advisor in the game). Prioritize mostly by type, in this order: Master of Mint, Commandant, Grand Captain, Trader, Treasurer, <equal priority to the rest>. But also prioritize by level as well; this is kind of a subjective call based on what's available. Also, remember the date "October 14, 1400."
3. Go to the Budget tab (one to the right of the Court tab). You'll see your five sliders on the right by five research technology areas, along with a sixth and seventh labeled "Stability" and "Treasury." You want to put as many ducats as you can into the "Treasury" slider until the next notch over would add inflation. Since you start out able to field a stronger army than your targets, and you're safe from dangerous hostiles thanks to the seas, you don't need to move this high enough to cause inflation; but you always want either to be minting to that barrier. Combined with our strategy of trading everywhere, you'll be able to dominate economically within a century and afford essentially whatever you want. (This process of putting ducats into the Treasury is called "minting," by the way, as it means that you're setting aside some of your budget to coin money.) Once you've done this, right-click the button on the Treasury slider to lock it in place; you don't want this wiggling around by mistake. Go to "Stability" now and put everything else in there. If, for whatever reason, you have .1 ducats that just won't go where you want them to go (this happens to me randomly sometimes) - say, you actually can't mint at all without driving up inflation, and you can't put everything into Stability - then just put it in Government tech.
4. Go to the Military tab (one right from Budget) and change your default cavalry unit from Chevauchee to Latin Knights. There's an event Scotland triggers a lot when fighting England early called "The Highlanders Arrive" which gives them 12000 troops in the Highlands, a mountain province in northern Scotland. You want to use cavalry in your initial army because it does more damage than infantry, but you definitely do not want to be going on offense into the Highlands with cavalry in tow, because they take a massive terrain penalty that will wreck you. So we're going to be on defense - in which case we want a more defensively-minded infantry and cavalry unit. We already start with the superior defender infantry, the Latin Medieval Infantry, so no need to switch there. The Chevauchee has higher offensive morale (so on offense it will fight longer) but less defensive morale than the Latin Knights, so we want the Latin Knights as part of our defense strategy.
5. If you want, click on the Leaders tab (third from right end) and make your king a general. He will be demonstrably worse than your starting general, Robert Knolles, but he's still better than no one, and in the event that someone sneaks a regiment or two behind the lines and you need to take it out, it's still better to have him lead than no leader.
6. With all of that *finally* done, look at your units on the map. Order your navy (stationed in London I believe, certainly in that area) to move to the coastal sea province it borders. Now look up near the Scottish-English border and build 1 Latin Knights on each of your two border provinces, 1 Latin Medieval Infantry in Lancashire and 4 more Latin Medieval Infantry along your eastern shoreline. You should, between your active troops and queued troops, have 12 infantry and 4 cavalry regiments of the right type on the way.
7. Look for Lubeck (it's just south of Denmark) and click it, then click the Lubeck button on the ensuing popup in the bottom right. That will take you to Lubeck's Center of Trade menu. All the Free Trade magic I mentioned earlier happens in these (heretofore CoTs). You'll see who's competing there, how many empty slots are available, your chance to place a merchant, a button to send merchants and a button to set autosend priority. Since Lubeck is immensely wealthy AND we have a good (i.e. 65+%) chance of putting a merchant there, we're going to trade in Lubeck first. Send all 3 merchants immediately and set the autosend priority to Green; we should have 5 merchants there within a year. That's a nice little bump in income right there, and with a little luck we can expand and get five merchants in more centers of trade. Expect it to get rough around the 1410s/20s once the free trade fiends have started grabbing centers everywhere - but don't fret, because by the 1460s and 1470s you should be competing everywhere very very successfully. And then by the time you unlock Monopolies down the road you may well be able to get them in every center in the world!
8. In order to avoid being vulnerable, we're going to sell our mainland provinces. France starts off guaranteeing Scotland's independence, which means they will engage us if we declare war. Since we'll be throwing all of our might at Scotland, we won't be able to defend Labourd, Gascogne and Calais very well at all, and we don't want those provinces getting captured if we don't really intend to keep them (and, as we're focusing off-continent, we don't really care either way if we keep them or not), because captured owned provinces drive up War Exhaustion and drive down War Score, two critical values to determining if we'll get out of the war with what we want. So we're gonna sell them. But at the same time, though, we want to sell our provinces in such a way as to maximize the intertwining of countries within others' borders. If we give the French region ugly borders and give away our territories to as few pro-French countries as possible, then France will have to fight longer to get their land back. This may even mean that they will be too busy in reconquest wars to help Scotland!
So how do we do this? We want to sell Labourd, first, to Navarre. Labourd is a Navarran core with Basque culture, so they will jump at the chance to buy. I usually get 40 ducats for Labourd, which is a nice little sum considering your buyer is an OPM. Sell for the highest price where the success rate is "Very Likely" though; for your first time here you really ought to try to be safe. When you're more experienced you should feel free to risk a higher rate of failure for more money. (And when you're priming for a fight, you should feel free not to sell at all and expand into France!) Next, we're going to sell Gascogne to Provence or Brittany. Brittany is the preferable buyer of the two, because it tends to live longer (Provence has a nasty tendency to die very quickly) and it has an alliance with Burgundy, making France more hesitant to try to recover its core. However, Gascogne is not a Breton core, nor is it Breton culture, so it's quite likely you will have "Impossible" show up even if you offer it for free. If Brittany won't bite, then you have to sell it to Provence; you want to avoid giving it to the French here because it will accelerate their unification process. Finally, we have Calais, and despite the previous advice about decelerating French unification, you want to sell this one to France. Why? For one, they're rich, and Calais is a valuable province to the French, so they're willing to pay mightily. For another, Calais is completely surrounded by the extremely aggressive country of Burgundy, and is a Burgundian core. Selling Calais to France makes the triggering of a Franco-Burgundian war rather more likely - a dream scenario for an Englishman who just wants to be left alone. All in all you should haul in around 200 gold from this enterprise.
9. Finally, insult Scotland, and unpause. We need relations with Scotland to be below 100 prior to the declaration of war.
Let the game run for a bit as you're loading up your initial troops onto the Royal Navy and moving them to Northumberland. Once you do that, check the Ledger (it's the button with the graph and a sharp, jagged line jabbing up and down on the middle of it, in the bottom right), scroll through until you get to Page 7 (Navies), and look at Scotland's navy. They should have about eight ships or so. Go to your fleet and make a new naval unit with as many Carracks as Scotland has ships in total, and leave it in the coastal sea province bordering the port in which the Scottish navy is resting. Then, split off 3 more Carracks and move them to Irish Sea. Those ships will be used to "blockade" Scotland's harbors; while you haven't technically unlocked the Blockade function, you should (I think) still get a siege bonus against Scotland's coastal provinces (read: all of them) if you have a ship in the sea province to which the harbors are attached. Then, check France's fleet (usually six ships strong) and drop off as many Carracks as the French have ships, plss one, somewhere in the English Channel. The extra ship should go down to the port held by the French vassal Auvergne; they have 1 cog, and having them drop one regiment behind the lines mid-war is incredibly annoying. Finally, check Scotland's page before the end of 1399 and check their alliances, then run the same procedure for checking any new allies' fleets as you did for France, Scotland and Auvergne. (Exception: If the ally has a lot of Galleys, such as Denmark or Aragon, then just group your remaining fleet together and send it over to Skaggerack, between Norway and Denmark. Galleys are cheaper and easier to destroy than Carracks by far, but their cheapness means the enemy has a lot more of them, so matching ship-for-ship is useless.)
Once your fleets are in desired position, you have 16000 troops (12 inf/4 cav) grouped into one army led by Robert Knolles, and you have the option on the diplomatic menu with Scotland, select the "Automatically call all allies" button and then declare war using the Subjugation Casus Belli.
NOTE: The rest of this is strategy for subduing Scotland. Remember this date: October 14, 1400. Pause on this date. If you remember from where we hired advisors earlier, there's a clause you may have seen while hovering over an advisor that said the advisor would be able to go to a different country a year from then. That's 1400-10-14... and that applies for ALL advisors, including other countries'. This is your best chance in the whole game to grab multiple high-ranking advisors at once, so pause, window shop and purchase as you fancy! This date will probably happen during the war with Scotland, so be vigilant!
Here's the plan for killing Scotland. First, we're going to storm into Lothian, across the border from our troops in Northumberland. Lothian is the capital of Scotland, the closest province, and the site of the Scottish Army, assuming Scotland hasn't already gone to war with someone else and taken troops off the island completely. The Scots should not have more than 4000 troops, so destroying them in the first battle should not be difficult. If they manage to retreat, it will be either to Ayrshire or Fife; chase them down and kill them better this time. The golden province is the Highlands, and why so much preparation was needed with regard to troop type and numbers. You see, the first thing you need to know about the Highlands is that Highlanders live there. And by "Highlanders," I mean "12,000 pissed off Scots looking to smash some English noses into the ground underneath their woad-coated feet." Highlands is the site of a special event to Scotland called "The Highlanders Arrive," which never triggers as planned/desired if you're Scotland fighting England before 1500 and without fail once every two years if you are England attacking Scotland. 12000 Scots, at this stage, is more than double the size of the Scottish royal army. You see why this is a big deal. Thankfully, though, the Highlanders like to dilly-dally about getting up and killing you, so you usually can manage to kill the Scottish main army and make a beeline for the Highlands, getting there before the event fires. Being there first is absolutely critical, because then you are considered the "defender" of the territory in question (having been encamped there already) and Scotland is the "attacker." The province is mountainous, so Scotland will suffer huge terrain penalties in battle. If you get there second, you will. The difference is an effortless rout of the Scots vs an unlikely, Phyrric victory if not an outright loss. Once you've done this, split your army into six units as follows:
4 units of 2 infantry regiments and 1 cavalry regiment;
2 units of 2 infantry regiments.
Scotland has six provinces, so you'll be besieging all the provinces, one unit per province. But the Highlander Scots still have to retreat somewhere, so we're sending the four cavalry units with the infantry going to the four provinces to which the Scots can retreat (Western Isles, Ayrshire, Aberdeen, and Fife). To assist in the effort, split your 3-Carrack unit in the Irish Sea in half (should leave 1 ship and 2 ships), and send the 2 ship unit to the North Channel. That will blockade the Channel, forcing any Highlanders retreating to the Western Isles to fight you again in the Highlands (and die instantly). Once in the North Channel, split in half again and move one more ship over to either Firth of Forth or Moray Firth (whichever one doesn't have any ships in it). At that point the war in Scotland is over and you're just waiting to capture the provinces. Some things to keep in mind when suing for peace with Scotland:
* You are not looking to annex any territory from Scotland. The Subjugation Casus Belli gives you 0% Infamy for subjugating Scotland; so instead of taking 4 Infamy as usual, you take 0. Alternatively, taking territory with the Subjugation CB gives you the full 100% Infamy penalty, which means 4 Infamy per province. Infamy is bad. Instead, select "Force Vassalization" - "subjugate" means "to make a vassal" here, so you do this Infamy-free. A vassal will fight in all your wars as your ally, cannot ally or intermarry into any country but yours, and donates half its annual income to you, so that's a pretty sweet deal, and after 10 years you can demand their annexation, which gives you their whole country for 1 Infamy per province instead of 4. Much better deal!
* Subjugation only costs 43% War Score with the Subjugation Casus Belli. This is a crucial point because you will not have to take over all of Scotland to subjugate them. In fact, I believe that with 43% you only need Lothian and Aberdeen to get a high enough score to force-vassalize them. That said, you should look to occupy everything anyway if at all possible: You can force their vassalization (for 43% war score) and force them to annul treaties and revoke cores for extra Prestige for you. (NOTE: Do not demand territory (waste of Infamy) or money; while money is certainly tempting, you want Scotland not to be in dire financial straits as your vassal, since an economically healthier vassal is a vassal which can build a bigger supporting army and make its required tax payments to its master. Don't push the Scots to the brink just because you can; be wise and think ahead when demanding terms.) And THAT said, "if at all possible" is the key phrase. The Highlanders Arrive event can fire again if you're not careful! Specifically, it can fire, at quickest, once every two years. You may not finish capturing everything in 2 years. Luckily, the event requires that Scotland control one of Highlands or Western Isles. To control a province is different from owning one: owners have control of their provinces by default, but if you capture the province, you control it. So if you can capture Highlands and Western Isles within 2 years of the Highlanders event firing, you will never have to deal with it firing again. Yay!
Scotland's friends: France guarantees them, so that will drag in the Seven Dwarves - Alencon, Bourbonnais, Berry, Orleans, Auvergne, Armagnac and Foix. Only Auvergne isn't landlocked, and we accounted for them already, so they're a nonfactor. The undiscussed wildcard here is that Scotland can ally with up to two other powers (technically more, but the AI stops at 2 non-vassal/PU allies most times). The possible candidates:
1. An Irish minor - Laugh and ignore. If you're unlucky with your sieges, then the Irish minor(s) may control Meath before you can clean up Scotland proper. No matter. They don't build more than 2-3k troops each, so you can easily just land your whole army (in two separate trips) and crush the ungrateful bastards.
2. Burgundy - Probably the most common "threatening" ally possibility. They usually have 7-8 ships, mostly Carracks, docked in Vlaanderen or Antwerpen. Since the appropriate sea province to blockade is probably the same one you're already blockading due to France, and since the AI doesn't calculate very well whether it could win a naval battle by having two allies in the same war simultaneously attack the enemy, you can probably scare (bluff, really) Burgundy out of attacking you without committing any more ships there. Just watch out if this fires, because the real problem spot is...
3. Brittany - Will sometimes join as an ally of Scotland's (in which case Burgundy probably won't show) or Burgundy's (uh oh). Brittany has a respectable fleet, so you're going to have to keep patrols ready to intercept it before they can land behind your back. You may find yourself stretched a bit thin navally if this happens; if you need extra firepower, pull the 3 Carracks blockading the 3 unoccupied Scottish harbors for a little extra oomph. Hopefully your ally Portugal will honor your call and help at sea. They usually will, unless...
4. Portugal - They do this. Things happen sometimes. If this is one of those things, you're in for a long fight. The English Navy can beat the Portuguese Navy 1-on-1, but France and Portugal combined will give a lot of trouble. If Portugal joins the war alongside Burgundy+Brittany and France, then you're probably not going to win. If this occurs, abandon the blockade-Scotland strategy, ignore the Scottish fleet altogether and concentrate all your firepower in defending from France and Portugal. Your main saving grace against Portugal, aside from the HUGE fleet that can safely take 2 countries on its own, is the fact that they tend to ally with Castille (thus getting dragged into wars with heathens, especially Morocco with its Carracks that can do a little extra damage to the Portuguese navy), without becoming war leader (and thus dragging Castille in themselves).
5. Aragon - Best way to handle them is bank on the Portuguese call to arms. Aragon is really just a nuisance; they have Galleys, not Carracks, so when they inevitably charge into the open Atlantic to take the fight to you, they're easy pickings. But again, the hope is that Portugal will just intercept them 'round Gibraltar and that'll be the end of that.
6. Castille - Very rare opponent and not a significant threat initially because of the inevitable war with heathens to start. If your war has dragged into 1403 or so, though, and Castille has started turning Northwest Africa their signature golden color, look out. Their navy is second among your foes only to Portugal. If this does happen, you should call in Portugal; they'll probably get the tar beaten out of them, but they'll shield you while you handle Scotland, and then you can make a favorable peace to Castille by revoking cores on the mainland that you don't want.
7. Denmark - Rare and only dangerous because they drag Holstein (vassal), Norway (PU) and Sweden (PU) into war with them. Lots of galleys here so engage in the Atlantic instead of the Baltic... but don't let them get too close to Scotland, because if they do, they *will* be allowed to drop off troops even after being defeated at sea, which means your unsuspecting 3-regiment siege stacks will be crushed by the 13000+ Scandinavians arriving. You have been warned.
So that's Scotland. You should aim to wrap this war up by late 1402 at the latest. Ireland, by comparison, requires virtually no preparation whatsoever; land your 16k stack into Meath and let 'er rip, one minor at a time. Only reason you can't just be done in 3 months or so is the need for 8 Diplomats to declare war and then annex 4 times apiece. (Note: I might recommend leaving the Irish minors alone. Reason being that you can annex Ireland later on, once you form Great Britain - doing so gives you cores on all of Ireland, thereby letting you annex Ireland for 0 Infamy instead of the 8 you'd acquire by annexing with the Conquest CB.) Finally, Iceland is just a matter of waiting to form Great Britain. Once you do, you'll core Orkney, a Norwegian island chain north of Scotland, giving you a Reconquest on Norway. By then, the odds are high that Norway is independent and perhaps rather badly beaten up by fellow free country Sweden or master country Denmark. In any case, independent Norway is less of a threat than the Scandinavian Union alliance you could possibly face as early as 1400... and you'll be stronger then, too.
So my advice is to take Scotland as detailed above, then wait for the cores on Orkney and Ireland to Reconquest Ireland, Orkney and Iceland.
i just finished a vh game with England and I found defeating France really easy. I just allied with Portugal, Castille, Aragon and Savoy (none of whom have cores on France) and I outnumbered France 1.5/1. I didn't ally with Burgandy as they had cores on France which I did not want them to get. I just let my mainland provinces be captured as Iberia destroyed France's armies. then i occupied northern france and voilà!
I love your excellent England start guide President_Eden as it covers everything vital a new player need for a great start. I Wish it could be stickied or linked somewhere as new players repeateadly seeks this kind of advice! Voting for more stickied guides!
edit: im not sure what to do, i keep getting dragged into wars with France by Austria. Should get rid of the alliance? because sometimes i become leader and sometimes i dont and on the times i dont i end up getting gang raped by france and her few vassals.
Last edited by Caramel95; 18-07-2012 at 12:25.
Location: United Kingdom
Ideology: Labour Party
Preferred Government type: Constitutional Monarchy
Religion: Protestant CoE
The issue with the alliance prospects - unless your monarch's Diplomacy rating is absurdly high, you're not getting more than 2 non-vassal/PU allies, and neither is anyone else. The AI's magic number is 3; it will not take on a third ally and will not be someone's third ally. The only bypasses to this are:
* Vassals and Personal Unions: As both vassals and junior members of personal unions with you are your subject nations, it's expected that they will be joining you in your wars, offensive and defensive. They more or less act as an extension of your own kingdom, and they certainly aren't independent states, so the AI does not count them in its calculations.
* High Diplomacy monarch skill: "9" is not "high," for the record. Your monarch's default skill rank in Diplomacy varies from 3-9; but you can boost this with a few things. (note: All of these modifiers are applied to each monarch as long as they exist; so if your current one dies then don't worry, you still get the bonuses.) The Ambassador advisor gives +.5-+3 depending on rank, and successfully trading in Ivory gives +2 more. You can simply hire an advisor the same way you'd hire any other; trading in Ivory may need to wait some depending on how the trade goods are aligned. As you might expect, your best chances for trading in Ivory lie in African COTs, and specifically sub-Saharan ones, so you'll have to wait until Quest for the New World, most likely. (Occasionally there's enough fluctuation in the COTs in sub-Saharan Africa (usually further brought on by Castillean/Portuguese conquest in northwest Africa) that Alexandria, Andalucia or even Lisboa end up pulling in enough Ivory. You'll probably have to wait though.)
But the real way to get this to what I mean by "high" (we're talking 20+) is to expand your Sphere of Influence. Every country in your Sphere gives +1 to your monarch's Diplomacy skill. It's a diplomatic option like guaranteeing independence, except that you get SOI bonuses in addition to guaranteeing them. (You get +.05 magistrates/yr on top of the boost to Diplomacy skill.) The catch is that it costs Prestige. Specifically, each new addition costs 2+2n Prestige, where n = # of countries currently in your SOI. It scales like this: 2, 4, 6, 8 ... onward to 100, naturally, at which point you can get no more added. As England, I'm usually able to add a nice 6-7 or so countries to my SOI following the above strategy very early, because a successful Subjugation of Scotland provides a LOT of Prestige.
Actually, this brings an important point: DO NOT start the invasion of Ireland until AFTER annexing Scotland. You pretty much have first dibs on adding the Irish minors to your Sphere of Influence, and they're an easy +4 Diplomatic Skill. That's usually the difference between Scotland being diplo-annexed within 2 years of your being able to try (so around 1413ish) and 6-7. Their land is not worth the added wait; just put them off until Scotland is our pretty English red, and then go to work.
To be fair, just check if French took MD NI, and if they did, grab it also.
Then you can comfortably outnumber Frenchies and have same quality of troops.
It's probably a good idea to do it early as you have French still as your culture. That means more ducats for you and less stability problems.
Of course if you want to go that path then you have to delay / forego the path to Naval concentration. Otherwise the French will defeat your land units easily.
Me I just give up on France as England... the sooner I'm out the better. I concentrate on Naval Domination.