Europa Universalis IV: Winds of Change – The best new countries to play

By Len Hafer, Contributor

Europa Universalis IV: Winds of Change is the 16th and newest major expansion to the venerable grand strategy game. It follows a trend that's been going on for a while now—rather than focusing strongly on a specific area of the world or a single new gameplay mechanic (as in early expansions), Winds of Change is more of a grab-bag DLC, splashing content and flavor across several parts of the Europa Universalis IV map that haven't been updated in a while. Along with the free 1.37 patch, Winds of Change adds missions and events everywhere from Mesoamerica to Central Europe.

If you haven't pored over the patch notes, it might be hard to even figure out what's different, so as a longtime player, here's a guide to the countries I find most interesting in Europa Universalis IV: Winds of Change.

Hormuz: Trade Lords of the Persian Gulf

You may never have heard of Hormuz, but it's a strategically-placed sultanate with its capital on an island in the Persian Gulf. Hormuz has been one of my favorite countries since the early days of Europa Universalis IV, for a few different reasons.

First, your island home can serve as a very safe base of operations if you fortify it and surround it with a capable navy. The Strait of Hormuz is considered an inland sea, meaning inexpensive galleys have increased combat effectiveness. You also have easy access to both Arabia and Persia by dominating the Strait.

But what's even better is your ability to dominate trade. Many of the European voyages of discovery in the Early Modern era took place to find new ways to bring the wealth of the Indies—what we'd now call South and Southeast Asia—back to places like Portugal and the Netherlands.
Europa Universalis Iv Winds Change Hormuz
As Hormuz, you have the ability to shut this flow of wealth off like a faucet, and reap all the profits for yourself. You're much closer to the valuable resources of India, Indonesia, and even China than the Europeans are, and you don't have to establish trade routes all the way around Africa to get there. You don't even have to tangle with the powerful Ottoman Empire, if you play your cards right.

In Winds of Change, Hormuz's new mission tree and a bespoke Arabian Mercantilism government mechanic will greatly enhance the options you have for taking advantage of this commanding economic position. Strengthen Overseas Outposts grants you trade power and defensiveness, as well as making trade centers cheaper to upgrade, so your trade ports will be more productive and harder for enemies to conquer. Support Overseas Merchants grants your merchants increased trade power. And Empower Religious Propagation will speed up the process of converting the people of Asia to Islam, which opens up new diplomatic opportunities and reduces the chance of rebellion in your colonies.

With all of these powers combined, it's possible to dominate the spice trade without having to conquer large areas of land directly, which will free up your Admin Power to be used on other things. It's a very rewarding campaign if you like playing a small-but-rich country that can punch way above its weight.

Cuzco: Sun King of the Americas

One of the most interesting ways to play Europa Universalis IV, for me, has always been picking an indigenous American nation and seeing if I could hold off the tide of European colonization. If we were to take bets on which real-life country had perhaps the best chance of doing this, it would almost certainly be the powerful Inca Empire, which can be formed by a few different starting nations in-game. Historically, the one that managed it is Cuzco, located in what is now Southern Peru.

Nearly all of your starting homeland is highly mountainous, which could previously make it quite expensive to develop your core provinces. With Winds of Change, though, Cuzco and some other Andean countries begin with the High Altitude Adaptation estate modifier, which reduces the penalty for developing hills and mountains…at the cost of making it slightly more expensive to develop provinces that are not high elevation. You can become true mountain specialists.

There are also a number of new missions for Cuzco, but you'll only unlock their full potential by subjugating your neighbors and forming the Inca Empire, which has a whole new mission tree of its own.
Europa Universalis Iv Winds Change Cuzco
Among the biggest changes is a rework of the Inti religion, with a new mechanic measuring the authority of the sacred king, the Sapa Inca. You can spend Monarch Power, or accept a Stability hit and provoke a pretender revolt, to increase this value. At the highest levels, it grants powerful modifiers like increased morale damage in battle and discounted same-faith advisors.

You can also spend it to increase all of the stats of your current Sapa Inca by 1, which is extremely powerful. It will also rid you of the Malus from having Mummified Rulers, a value that stacks every time the Sapa Inca dies and makes it harder for the central government to wrest power from the estates, or profit from pandering to them. Essentially, you will exist in a cycle of having to listen to what a bunch of dead guys think until you invest in empowering your current leader to start the cycle over.

That's not all, though. If you manage to completely thrash the Europeans, you also get a new set of missions (along with the Aztecs and Maya) to launch the so-called Sunset Invasion, flipping the tables and invading the homelands of the colonizers. It's incredibly difficult to meet the conditions for this vengeful path, and harder still to accomplish it. But if you have hundreds of hours of experience in Europa Universalis IV, it represents a potent challenge. Speaking of which…

Theodoro: Europe's Goth GF

If you want to chase ultimate glory by facing a truly excruciating starting scenario, look no further than Theodoro. Nestled on the Crimean Peninsula, this single-province nation represents the last vestiges of Gothic culture. Yep, that's the same Goths who sacked Rome in 410 CE—or, at least, their closest living cousins.

And wow, do they start in a terrible position. To the north are the hostile Crimean Tatars and their deadly horse archers. To the east are the greedy merchants of Genoa, who are rich enough to simply pay to have you killed by foreign mercenaries. Across the water is the Ottoman Empire, more or less the final boss of Europa Universalis IV. And you begin with no allies. Truly, only a masochist would attempt to restore the Goths to glory.

But lucky for you, I am one. And lucky for both of us, Theodoro did get thrown a bit of a bone in terms of new missions and mechanics with this Winds of Change expansion.

Like any one-province start surrounded by powerful enemies, the key to a good Theodoro run is making some powerful friends early. And fair warning: you may have to restart this one a few times, no matter how good of a player you are. Sometimes the RNG just screws you over completely, or the way the diplomatic cards fall leaves you in a bind with no reasonable way out.
Europa Universalis Iv Winds Change Theodoro
But start by checking out Theodoro's new mission tree and trying to befriend—or at least placate—the Genoese. They're fellow Christians, so they might be more sympathetic to your plight. They're stealing a lot of your money at the start, but that's better than killing you, in my book.

Another option is to cozy up to the rising Russian principalities, which can lead you to marrying into a powerful Russian noble family. This can act as a great counterbalance against your mutual enemies, the steppe hordes. If you have what it takes to emerge victorious from your baptism by fire, you can unlock the plainly absurd Gothic Invasion casus belli. It's extremely overpowered and grants bonuses to converting all provinces in Germany—your ancient homeland—to Gothic culture. An appropriately potent (and kind of silly) reward for surviving an absolutely brutal early game.

Theodoro also gets access to a new diplomatic action called Recruit Foreign General, which gives you a skilled military leader from a sympathetic country and, perhaps more importantly, 10 Army Tradition. Both of these will be key to holding out in early wars when the numbers will almost always be against you. The Gothic people will only survive by using every tool at their disposal and making shrewd diplomatic moves at every turn, but you'll be able to count yourself among the most skilled Europa Universalis IV players if you can pull it off!

Several other nations received new missions and mechanics in Winds of Change. There's too much packed in there to discuss in a single article. But these three campaigns, ranked from easiest to hardest, should give you plenty to do for the next 100 hours or so. Fortune, as they say, favors the bold.

Europa Universalis IV: Winds of Change is available now on the Epic Games Store.