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A Simple Introduction and Tutorial
By Mister Chalk
By reading this simple guide, you should be able to stumble through the basics and play the understated masterpiece that is Victoria II, with a minimum of fuss and delay! Fundamental game mechanics, tips, and tricks for newcomers to Paradox games or just Victoria II are all here. More or less.
Welcome! The Paradox game you have chosen to peruse - Victoria II, if you weren't paying attention - is one based in the century through 1836 to 1936. History buff or not (but I'd imagine most of you are) you ought to have some gleaning that that was quite the era of change and turmoil: Victoria II explores it wonderfully. You'll be playing through the Revolutions of 1848, the Unification of Italy and Germany, all of the age of New Imperialism, the Chinese revolution, Japanese modernisation, the Russian Revolution(s) and Civil War, the Great War, and a million other events beside that may emerge uniquely in any playthrough! All that beside, it will be simulated using an engine unique and excellent, ennabling every single simulated person on the planet to determine what they think about your rule. Yes indeed, it's quite the game. Happily, it's not that hard to get to grips with it. If you've played Paradox games before, then it should strike you as reasonably simple to do; if not, practice makes perfect - just blunder through as many campaigns as you wish, and eventually you'll figure out which buttons do what; but reading this guide might make that process all the more short and enjoyable!
Basic Game Mechanics... Are the next bits of the guide
If you want to drive a car, you ought to know where the pedals and levers are that let you drive it. But first, it's also important to actually know what a car is. Equally, it's important to know what Victoria II is - a 'grand strategy' game. And that it sort of isn't that at all. 'Grand strategy' - no, that doesn't mean you have to have a literal grand strategy that you're going to carry out through the game, since it's not really like that, unless you treat it like it is. Much like real nations, one tends to take events as they come in Victoria II. Sitting and playing, "O! What is this! Prussia at war with Austria again? Ah," you might say, "well, I'm Austria, aren't I? Well, that rather determines mine grand strategy for the present and forseeable near-future!" At its heart it's a simulator, and certainly isn't Total War. That game is rather more sand-box like, and something that I'd be more willing to call a 'grand strategy' game. So, now that you don't know what it is, let's go to the gameplay mechanics. Not really the nitty-gritty, but we'll just crash in through the door, hang up our coats without asking and demand better service next time on top. Start a game. You want to conquer the world? Create terrifying new technologies? Make artistic and written works that are the envy of all the world? Crush a million enemies under but a thousand iron-willed boots? Pick... Belgium.
Controlling Time and/or Space
First: as King, it is your prerogative to control time. Do so by fiddling with the thing that looks like a sheet of paper next to your country's flag. You can also control space, or at least your observation of it: use the arrow keys or nudge the edge of the screen to lurch uncontrollably around in the Heavens, looking down with a disappointed gaze at your puny little Belgium. They will look up to you, anyway. Entertainingly, they'll always be stuck with you no matter how much you screw up. Oh dear!
Diplomacy (or) Insulting / Begging at other Nations
Moving on a little, we come to diplomacy. In a game filled entirely with nations, it is quite a fundamental thing to get the hang of. Luckily, it's reasonably simple. On the top of the game screen is a big red banner-thing made of deeply polished red marble or some sort of fine hardwood. Nice hadiwork, isn't it? You will be delighted to know that you'll have the privilege of looking at that over and over again. Go ahead now, and look at the box in it labelled 'diplomacy'. You may see a sort of symbol that looks like a piece of paper. Those are the diplomacy points, which are used up doing things like improving relations, making alliances, declaring war, and so on. There should also be some sort of 'allies' section and a 'war' section, both of which are quite self-explanatory. It should be noted that with all the expansion packs, things look a bit different, but are generally the same, so don't panic. Once you're finished ogling, click it. No, the diplomacy button, you buffoon. Ah! Here's the interesting stuff! There are tabs at the top: explore them. They show what's going on in the world. The first tab is the one we're going to want right now, though. Scroll through the big list of countries until you reach the United Kingdom. Click on them, and then shift your heeding to the panel on the right - various buttons should show up. Marvellous! Click on the one that says something to do with making an alliance, accept what the oddly frustrated box says, and then sit back and have a good puff on your pipe, for good work has been achieved today!
Bodging/Balancing the Budget!
Once you're feeling confident, you can scramble out of the diplomacy screen - I believe by pressing it again in the nice varnished wooden desk - and then take a look at the rest of the buttons. On the left we see 'production' - it's a game mechanic that simulates the stuff everyone in the country makes. Clicking on it still confuses me, frankly, so we'll skip it forever. Second on the left is the 'Budget' button. It's in Pounds Sterling (so don't say "bucks" like a silly American or you'll be laughed at by the honourable gentlemen and good sirs in the game - spell your words correctly and in the British fashion!) and has a line that goes up and down like a pendulum depending on how the Gods wish to make your treasury change, as it tracks the amount of money going in and out. When it's green it's good, and when it's red it isn't. Click on it. In here, you'll see knobs and sliders! Making them go to the left makes less money happen in any given area, and moving them to the right makes more money happen in any given area. For example, move the low class slider on the top left all the way to the right to tax them more. Move the education slider in the middle right to the right to give more money to education. Naturally, the trick is to get as much money as possible whilst still funding your army, navy, administration, education, and benefits system as much as possible. Just fiddle with them until you're happy - it's an ongoing, ever changing process.
Go out of the budget screen.
Gentlemen, we have the Technology!
Go out of the budget screen. To the right is technology, which is in angry red letters stating that there's 'no research set'! Take a look at the book icon and the number next to it: that's the literacy rate of your nation. Before the 20th century, don't expect it to be altogether that high. Click on it. Now, here are lots and lots of buttons! It's very simple, really, the mechanism for research: attempt to maintain a balanced approach by researching a few from each tab in turn, not neglecting anything much over the other. In times of war, it is natural to alter this to research military technology at the expense of, say, impressionistic painting techniques. Follow your nose and you'll be alright. For now, select one of the military ones. Hover over the buttons to see what will happen when you've researched it, and decide which one you think's best.
The Politics of your Nation! (And some other, less important whiffwhaff)
Go out of the technology window and look at the 'politics' box. Ever heard of elections? Neither have your people. Click on it. You'll be confronted with a thing to the left that describes what your nation is and how it thinks: blue is conservative, yellow is liberal, dark blue is reactionary. These are all political forces, and work in different ways. To have a political majority of conservatives and a happy populace means that little in your country is going to change, politically speaking: no reforms, no pacifism, no extreme militarism. Just the same. Having an extremely unpleasant rabble as citizens means the conservatives will change their minds and allow reform, mostly to save their own bourgeois hides. Liberals like to change things, so if you have lots of yellow in the parliament you're quite likely to impliment nice friendly-sounding stuff like elections and secret ballots. Reactionaries are the same but the other way: they want a feudal system where the King has all the power. Through the game, more political parties emerge, but for now that's it.
So! To the right of the table on the left is screen that can be changed by clicking on different tabs. The 'reforms' tab is the one that we ought to look at now, if not do anything with: it's filled with stuff that makes your country fuzzy and warm. Enact them all and you get two cookies, one from socialism and the other from liberalism. Hurrah moral progress! Unfortunately, you'll also recieve death threats from reactionaries, fascists, and communists. Hey ho. There's also the 'decisions' tab. It's got things in it. You can do them if you want, when they become available. It's not really that important at the moment, to be brutally honest, neither is the release nations tab.
Population and Rebellion!
With all that safely excused, leave the politics tab behind to progress to the fabulous metropolis of the population box! You can see that there is a measure of your population, a red and black flag, and a head with a brain. The population number is the number of people you have in your nation working and contributing to something - the real number is actually bigger, with all the women included, and you can see it by hovering over the population box. The red and black flag denotes the unpleasantness of your people. The higher it is, the more likely they will do unpleasant things like try to behead their loving but misunderstood King/Prime Minister/President/Emperor/Shah/Shahanshah/Dictator. Hover over it and it'll also describe the up and down trend of it, so you can tell if your wonderful little servants are getting more and more annoyed at you every day or not. The head with a brain is, indeed, only further mystified by the title 'Consciousness'. Well, it actually means political consciousness, and is not necessarily describing whether or not your people are comatose. The higher it is, the more likely the people will become either militant or strange things will happen at the elections as they vote for extremist parties.
Generally speaking, it's a good thing to have A) the government form you want and B) when you have A sorted, keep the militancy and consciousness of your citizens as low as you can.
Low militancy and low consciousness make for an easy nation to govern. Sleepy idiots are easy to convince that you're a great ruler!
Your First War!
So, assuming you're still playing Belgium, letting time pass will result in either: A) Nothing or B) War happening.
If the first eventuality transpires, then don't worry - you've inadvertently dodged a bullet. Literally! But, if the second thing happens, then you get to test out the mettle of the Belgians against the Dutch, who, foolishly, have come over all German at you. Luckily for you and your little Belgian peons, however, is that (so long as you paid attention and did what I told you to do earlier) you are allied with Britain. That's going to make this fight laughably easy. Even if they weren't helping, you could still win on your own quite easily. Probably.
In light of this, here are a few tips for fighting, in order of apparent importance: - You don't get to command troops in the field. Your generals do that. - You get to choose where your armies go. Do this by selecting an army group with left-clicking, and right click where they need to go. - You get to choose where your armies attack. It's the same as moving - just right click on an area of enemy territory to occupy it, or if there is an enemy army there, engage the enemy army in battle. Even if it's completely suicidal. - Armies require supplies. This, and the army's morale, is signified by the ratio of green to red on the vertical bar displayed on the army's counter. The greener, the better. If you don't have the most recent expansion packs, it's signified by the overall colour of the counter - green is good, yellow not good, red bad. You don't have to directly do anything to supply your army. The game simulates your nation's ability to supply its armed forces. If you find your armies are badly supplied, you may wish to downside the forces to be more efficient, or invest in new technologies. - You actually win wars by doing these things: succeeding objectives, stopping the enemy from succeeding objectives, winning battles, occupying territory, and blockading the enemy. You can check your (and your enemies') objectives by taking a look at the war in the Diplomacy screen. - Armies depend heavily on technology, and will simply be defeated if they aren't up to par with the enemy. Sadly, stories of unlikely romantic heroism are rather rare - 10 cavalrymen won't stand up to a machine gun battalion, no matter how much of a good plan you can make up for doing it.
The last and most important point: - Losing is fine. Arrange a peace treaty and wreak horrible revenge later. Or enjoy the masochistic pleasure of watching your country slowly fall apart.
So! As little Belgium, take all that stuff into account and see how many times you don't win against the Dutch. The more you don't win, the more you're learning! On the other hand, if you just go straight ahead and win, then I expect great things from you, boy/madam!
The process of actually winning a war!
So, after a while, you might start thinking "Hmm, I seem to have utterly trounced these foolhardy Dutchmen at their own nefarious game!" After downing a pleasant glass of gin in celebration, it may then proceed to pass over your conscience the matter of actually ending the war.
So, it's easy enough. Remember when we asked Britain to be our ally? Do exactly the same steps now, except go to the Netherlands instead of the UK and click on the 'peace' button instead of 'request alliance'. Then, a box will come up. Here is the table of negotiation: you can take what you will from your defeated enemies. Or, alternatively, if you're losing, give up. A general rule of thumb is not to take too much at any one time. Though the achievements of Napoleon or Julius Ceasar are impressive, it's hard to do that sort of massive territorial gain in Victoria II. In the diplomacy screen, you can demand/cede everything from territory to puppet states to money to prestige. For now, just go for whatever goals you can achieve: generally, this includes simply demanding 'status quo' from the Dutch, who will recognise your sovreignty and stop asking for your loyalty with bullets.
That described above is the basic summary of the things you need to get along in the game. Colonisation is a big aspect, and it can be explained thus: you get it from research, there's a mapmode to tell you where you can colonise, you probably won't be able to colonise until the 1870s, you need massive naval dock facilities and a considerable navy to ship troops around the world, and you might end up with rather a lot of cash from the venture.
Otherwise, here is a summary of everything: Diplomacy gets you friends and enemies. War decides, well, pretty much everything. Keep armies well funded. Keep the people with low militancy and low conciousness. Don't do anything too gutsy or you'll get gutted. Quicksaving is your friend (okay, it's a gamey exploit, but it works) And remember to have fun and refer back to other bits of this guide that I've doubtlessly not summarised here! Cheerio, good luck!