France man-handling Iberian pen. early game

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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
Sep 28, 2020
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I'm playing Portugal, vanilla 'New world' 1492 scenario getting a handle on game mechanics. I set treasury slider almost 30% to fund Brazil colonization, and have a nice profitable setup developing. I dishonored starting alliance with England because false start playthrus always ended up with me broke going to war that early. Now I've read about 'draining the Incan's coffers', and tried that in earlier playthru, just ended up with a landlocked province with a small army parked, so this playthru I've made friendly and opened their COT while focusing on developing colonies. So I've got a group of colonies, a nice fleet, first Shipyard in Lisboa and first barracks in Porto, and in the black with finances neck deep in colonies and opening foreign COT's thru diplomacy.

By this time in Europe, it's 1504 and Castile has finally shook loose of Aragon and set sights on Navarro and I was flush with cash although remember my tech is hampered by my treasury settings, and with no land action I have 0 land tradition. I get a little cocky thinking I could make things up with cash flow, and start looking to entertain myself in Europe. I begin to break ties with Arag. and buddy up with Cast., just as France makes a surprise move and quickly annexes Navarro. I'm allied up with Cast. to go along for the European action ride, so now we're at war with France. Austria comes in on Frances side, Aragon breaks treaty with France and sits things out, so I start cranking up troops in my first Barracks. France spills into Burgos from Navarre right off the bat so I enter Castile with my 12k guys, had just got cannon tech so had what I thought was a fairly reasonable force. Things went downhill fast.

My army got spanked so fast it wasn't funny, Castile's stack got obliterated, and then a horde of French, Austrian, burgoundian, and other 1 province dark side allies pour in like a dam breaking. The remains of my army couldn't even make it back to Portugal and then to top it off, my fleet of caravels gets slapped back into port off Castile's northern shores.
My navy at least, I thought would do well, but they stood up from that point only to lesser numbers and are mostly in port repairing. French/allied stacks between 15-45k have now captured forts across northern Castile, besieging most of the rest, and have reached me in Portugal, and I barely put together another 14k stack only to get insta-spanked again. I estimate around 100k+ Dark Side forces between Castile and I, with more OTW, and we are absolutely helpless beyond my slipping fleet out after stragglers and running silly spy missions out of spite.

How did France become an absolute monster that would put Napolean to shame in 1504 and what could I do (besides whatever they want me to) to salvage this playthrough as a learning experience?
 

Kovax

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Colonies are expensive until they complete, so you really can't go "all in" on them unless you're already rich. Portugal has the potential to carve its own niche in North Africa, Italy, or other places long before "QftNW" becomes available, which should provide the income to fuel colonization 50 years later when those provinces become cores. You shouldn't go broke by going to war early unless you build a lot of additional ships or troops, but that doesn't rule out a bit of early conquest. England will generally carry most of the weight while you take on a few "softer" targets to boost your own war score, then peace out with the opposing war leader for a province you've occupied, or some other concession. Note that you can reduce your troop and fleet maintenance in peace time down to around 120-140% without sacrificing too much staying power against rebels.

If nobody opposes France early on, they can balloon into some kind of blue monster, so NOT helping England keep them in line is detrimental in the long run. Usually, France takes on Burgundy at some point, which brings in Austria or Bohemia (depending on who's the Emperor at the moment) to defend Burgundy. If Austria allies with France, and ignores its responsibility to defend the Empire against outside threats, then it's a serious problem which can result in both France and Austria blobbing, at least until the "illegal HRE province" effect drives Austria into "dishonorable scum" territory, and they implode. That leaves France as the undisputed master of Western Europe, and it's usually a short game for me, because there isn't much you can do about it.

By 1504, you should have Men at Arms, which will easily demolish the earlier medieval infantry. Taking the National Idea (something-or-other "Drill") to boost land Morale is critical if you intend to fight land wars. If you don't have Men at Arms and/or boosted Morale before 1500, then it's no wonder you're getting stomped. I often run Eastern tech countries, which don't get decent Infantry until the late 1500s, and taking on a Western army's superior troop types is just painful until you either Westernize, or can field 2:1 or better numerical superiority and can replace massive losses in battle after battle without depleting your reserves or suffering crippling War Exhaustion.

Portugal is primarily a sea power, but England, France, Castille, Venice, and a few others (often including a couple of Muslim countries) are ALSO sea powers, so going toe-to-toe with them and losing ships is going to cost you big time. They can afford to replace losses, can you?

Putting all your research focus on Trade to get QftNW ASAP is fine if that's ALL you intend to do, but it will leave you pathetically behind in other fields. Getting a level or two of Production in order to build Constables will put a big dent in your monetary issues, and you already know what happens if you ignore your Land tech. I often try to get Constables first, then Men at Arms, and only then change my focus to whatever my longer-term strategy requires. Placing a few colonists as early as possible is fine, but potentially less fine than than placing them a few years later with enough gold in your treasury to properly fund them.
 
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DPS

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Putting all your research focus on Trade to get QftNW ASAP is fine if that's ALL you intend to do, but it will leave you pathetically behind in other fields. Getting a level or two of Production in order to build Constables will put a big dent in your monetary issues, and you already know what happens if you ignore your Land tech. I often try to get Constables first, then Men at Arms, and only then change my focus to whatever my longer-term strategy requires. Placing a few colonists as early as possible is fine, but potentially less fine than than placing them a few years later with enough gold in your treasury to properly fund them.

As Portugal, you have the potential to get way, way ahead of everybody else with colonization, but as Kovax says, if that's what you intend to do, you need to go all in on it and accept that until you get a substantial ROI from your colonies, you're going to be lagging behind in everything else.
 
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ktx2skd

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I'm a little at loss why an early war would render you broke. By default war doesn't worsen your economy, and per actions it can improve or worsen it, but seeing you're Portugal, a nation that can usually stay isolated from danger even at war, you should at the worst be able to accept the call to arms and then stay isolated and safe at home, hence not needing to break the alliance due to them ruining you financially.

Not sure what you mean by "draining the Incan's coffers". I have a guess, but it seems what you're doing is not it, and is less useful than it, so I hope you'd explain it.

For addressing France, first off it being allied with Austria and Burgundy is just ridiculous, it's like if in real life Russia, U.S.A., and China all ally with each other versus the rest, it's just not gonna lose. You'd wanna end wars with the least losses possible, and hope eventually one of them will make a move that breaks their alliances. Other long-term goals exist, but this is key as alone it cuts at least one to two thirds of the "Dark Side's" power.

Aside from that, on the field many factors could or could not be the reason you lose fights against France or others, and it can't really be guessed from the description so far:
  • Mere numbers: Can't imagine anyone in your position winning say, 4 to 1 odds, in either land or naval, unless legit every other configuration is set-up correctly. France and neighbors are quite rich I remember, in province count and in manpower/money per province, and when they choose +50% manpower national idea too you can bet you're never winning the manpower war. You don't need to win it though, just need to be good enough. Say, what prevents you from making as many armies as them, or double or triple your current army/navy, is it manpower or money or both?
  • Technology: We don't know what's your level compared to theirs. Keep in mind benefits per level usually aren't linear, especially at certain "critical" levels. E.g. some levels grant "military tactics", those make a huge difference, other levels grant new unit types, sometimes also a big influence.
  • Leaders & Lucky: How were your generals or admirals compared to theirs? Are you aware some sliders give hidden buffs to either? Are you aware "lucky" nations get such buffs too? Who is "lucky" in your game? Keep in mind that even a weak general is better than no general as long as he has more than zero by himself or by some other effect like sliders. Also, a trick to get a boost in army tradition early is enacting "Last Jousting Tournament" cultural decision, if it didn't become obsolete by now or by game start that is...
  • Battle Losses: How are you losing? E.g. are you killing triple the units you're losing per battle, or causing more health damage on ships, but end up losing to morale? Or are you also losing in the damage aspect? How much are we talking in either case?
  • Control, Isolation & Evaluation: Take a guess to how the enemy will act, and try & fight them on favorable circumstances (i.e. isolated, or on mountains you've entered before them, or in specific sea areas based on who's more galley-reliant). Focus on the war score by either protecting Castille from sieges, or achieving your own sieges. Minimize casualties and synchronize army-to-army attacks with Castille's armies, and if you see a safe and easy kill, go for it. In close-call battles there are tricks to entering/exiting battle but it requires some experience and timing, it's easier & safer to tend to the other stuff instead until you're more familiar. Also, you're behind Castille, so they'll attack Castille provinces first. If he loses, he's the war leader, so they'll negotiate with him and you'll exit harm-free. If he's not war leader, they'll probably not walk to you but instead arrange ship raids, which should allow only attacks from France and at batches. Defeat a batch before another comes and you'll be safe. There are still situations where you ought to just ditch your ally and run away for yourself whether by peace or hiding your valuable assets, it just depends on what you can observe.
I'm almost sure you hoped for a more straight forward answer, but it just isn't that easy in this game. So many things factor in, and any of them could very well be the cause.

Hope this helps.

- KitCat.
 
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Androktonos

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Inca's CoT is worthless if I recall correctly. Something like 100 value and being very expensive sending there merchants. Draining money from rich and underdeveloped nations is one of the few things which may make up for your inflation and allow you to build. I remember playing as Galicia, I declared wars on Inca, Mutapa (only once, it was too far away) and Mali in order to collect money. In Inca's case, also for conquering them step by step.

I've not played as Portugal never, but I think the best bet for them will always be rushing for colonization and getting strong in America (even set the capital there). Even if a massive power takes over Europe, you always can defeat its navies and defeat it eventually. America's wealth is way better than the whole Europe.
 

Kovax

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America's wealth is way better than the whole Europe.
It takes a few centuries until you can build up enough population there to increase the tax income to match Europe, if you move your capital there. On the other hand, the cotton, tobacco, sugar, and coffee resources there are lucrative for trade income, regardless of where you put your capital.

I find it beneficial in the long run to place my own coastal CoTs, and ignore the existing inland CoTs which don't provide a few of the same benefits. I'll take them and place Traders there if/when it's convenient, but they're not a priority. In a few cases, I've annexed most of the surrounding provinces, set up coastal centers, and then cut off trade to shut down those competing native centers.