Picking up a new game like this, it’s a good idea to shy away from powerhouses like England and France until you’ve dabbled in some smaller power for a while. I prefer Venice or Portugal as an entry point into the Europa Universalis games. A sort of appetizer, if you will, before the main course. So in Victoria, I figured the Netherlands would be a good pick for a learning game. Probably not a lot of battling, but plenty of money, a touch of colonization, some progressive politics, front row seats to whatever’s going to happen in that patchwork territory that’s going to turn into Germany at some point.
I spend the early decades watching my country grow increasingly industrial and liberal, but not in that order. The Dutch are smart, to be sure. Plenty of education, literacy, tech research. But not much manpower. I can build a few factories, but nothing to keep pace with the rate of industrialization in the bigger countries. I spend most of the 19th century hauling coffee and fruit out of Indonesia. Occasionally, some minor nation defaults on its loans and I send a small army. Victorian era muscle, showing up on some single-province monarch’s doorstep to bark, “Where my money, bitch?” That’s what passes for excitement for the Netherlands.
Before long, I’ve been passed up by the other nations and might as well be playing Madagascar. The top eight nations get to be Great Powers, with unique gameplay mechanics for setting up spheres of influence that affect trade and diplomacy. The next eight nations get to play Secondary Powers, who can take part in the race to colonize the bits of Earth that no one has called dibbs on yet. Everyone else is just kind of hanging fire.
But tomorrow, I get my own piece of America, which ends up being a bit more than I bargained for.