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Victoria II: Heart of Darkness

by Patter Song

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Original Thread: Getting groin-punched by the invisible hand of the free market: Victoria II



Hi, I'm Patter Song. Welcome to Let's Play Victoria II: Heart of Darkness. Victoria II was released in 2010 as the successor of Paradox's 2003 Victoria title, and on release was noted both for a gorgeous map and graphic interface and confusing, counterintuitive, and flat-out bizarre interpretation of the events of the 19th century. Two expansions, 2012's A House Divided and 2013's Heart of Darkness, have come a long way in making Victoria II into a far superior game, though one that still has a number of baffling idiosyncrasies and counterintuitive mechanics.

Aren't you that guy that did the Steppe Wolfe LP? And the World Stage one?

Yes. I let's played the Steppe Wolfe mod of Europa Universalis III almost exactly a year ago, and this past April I used that same thread to look at the leaked demo of ubik's masterpiece Magna Mundi World Stage. The thread wasn't archived, but those with archives can still read over it here.

Weren't there other LPs of Victoria II?

Kersch, as always, did a splendid job with How the Hell do We Play Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness? Our own in-house Paradox dev Wiz is currently working his way through the Victoria II section of his epic multi-year thread Islam Is The Light, the tale of the Kingdom of Azerbaijan Anatolian Republic and its struggles with tolerance and ethnic strife.

So what do you bring to the table?

For some crazy reason, I love this game and have clocked more hours in it than any other Paradox game. While no one truly understands some parts of the guts of Victoria II, not even the people that developed it, I think the game opens up possibilities for entertaining romps.

Steppe Wolfe levels of entertaining?

Admittedly, I have not yet seen Estonia raise a million man army and fight off the entire planet singlehandedly. Yet.

V2 has a lot of things that aren't immediately obvious, and though it does give you all the tools necessary to understand what is going on, it will not explain how to use them. If you're suddenly transitioning from being absurdly wealthy to the verge of bankruptcy, there is likely an explanation, and it probably has something to do with something halfway around the world that you otherwise would have no interest in.

So how are you going to tell this story?

First off, I will not savescum in any way, what happens is what happens. If you guys pick a weak country on my list of possibilities (see below) and we get annexed, that's it. Depending on how I feel we may or may not go back and start from the beginning. However, to help myself understand what is going on and by extension, help you guys, I will be periodically saving and quitting and reloading into the game as various AI countries to get an idea of how their economic/military/political situation is shaping up. This will mostly be done for state of the world updates and could be viewed as cheating, but I view it as crucial to understanding how the world works.

So who are we going to be?

Unlike Europa Universalis IV, where you can pick any start date between November 11th, 1444 and January 1st, 1821, this game gives you two scenarios: January 1st, 1836 and July 1st, 1861. We will be using the first of the two bookmarks. The game ends in 1936, exactly 100 years after it starts.

A country's status is measured by an index of three numbers: your Prestige, your Industry, and your Military. None of these numbers work exactly as you'd expect, but we'll get into that. The top 8 civilized countries in terms of score are Great Powers, with the ability to influence other nations. The second 8 are Secondary Powers, with the power to colonize. At the bottom are uncivilized nations, who need to Westernize to start truly playing the game.

There is something called the buying order, which determines your position in the global market. It is, simply, highest civilized nation->lowest civilized nation->highest uncivilized nation->lowest uncivilized nation. The lower down on the food chain you are, the harder time you'll have buying things as people don't sell to people low on the buying order no matter how much cash they have unless they still have goods left over from those higher on the chain.

Options presented in order from Easiest to Hardest. These are all some of my favorite V2 countries, I'm familiar with good strategies for all of them and will try to balance gameplay and story to present a compelling narrative and accomplish personal/group goals rather than ruthlessly powergame. I'm the sort of person who'd rather wreck Spain by forcing them to release the Philippines than try to wreck Spain by taking away Catalonia, if that makes sense. Don't expect us to take...too much land that has no accepted/primary culture pops. The weaker the state you pick, the more aggressive I'll have to be to build us into a Great Power.


A. Austria

Historically, the Habsburg realms started off 1836 "ruled" by the mentally incompetent Emperor Ferdinand I and his ruthless, Machiavellian strategist Prince Klemens von Metternich. Metternich was dedicated to preserving the peace in Europe by crushing liberalism and preserving a Concert system where the great powers would gather to discuss and peacefully sort out their differences. The rise of nationalism and demands for political reforms would bring Austria to crisis again and again, however, and as soon as 1848-49 Austria nearly lost its Italian gains from the Napoleonic Wars and the entire Hungarian half of its Empire and Ferdinand and Metternich was forced to abdicate. Let's see if we can do better.


Can form mega-Germany. (Depending on the circumstances, I'd prefer not to break the game in half by doing that)
Has some of the best natural resources in the game.
Large starting population.
Starts off as a Great Power.
Can form Austria-Hungary as a consolation prize if Prussia forms Germany, giving Hungarian as an Accepted Culture and making the ethnic dynamic far simpler.


Prussia has ridiculous super-soldiers and will be coming after you.
At some point if the Italians get their act together they'll hate you, likely align with Prussia, and put you in a very precarious situation.
Our vast horde of wrong-culture illiterate peasants in the Hungarian hinterland give us a very low starting literacy.


Bavaria gained a nice promotion to royal status in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars. We are ruled by mad King Ludwig, who loves building pretty fairy-tale castles and funding lavish Wagnerian operas at taxpayer expense while he parties with Irish courtesan Elisa Gilbert exotic Spanish dancer Lola Montez the Countess of Landsfield, a respectable German noblewoman. Bavaria is in the tricky position of being the strongest German minor...neither Prussia nor Austria wants to see us rise to have Munich rival Berlin and Vienna as a center of German politics, but our cultural sway is so great that we might achieve this dream on the back of our beautiful castles and operas at Bayreuth that people come the continent over to see. Play on, Herr Wagner!


Ridiculous prestige advantages and can easily bubble into Great Power status.
Can form a South German Federation to annex Baden and Wurtemburg and become a far more powerful state that can go toe-to-toe with Prussia and Austria.
One of the most literate populations in the world.


Neither Austria nor Prussia are interested in you becoming too big for your britches...both will try to smack you down.
If Prussia forms North German Federation, you are severely limited in your options.
No ports to colonize from unless you take some from Austria or Form Germany.


C. Mexico

Mexico achieved independence from Spain in 1821, but after years of turmoil the short-lived First Mexican Empire collapsed and the southern parts of it formed the similarly short-lived United States of Central America. Mexico established a republican constitution in 1824 but had problems with its gigantic landmass, much of which was still populated heavily by Natives, some of which were quite hostile to their mostly-theoretical Mexican government. Recently we fell under the rule of the strong-armed dicator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, 11 time president of Mexico. Santa Anna is a somewhat incompetent buffoon who nevertheless sees himself as the Napoleon of the West. Recently, a group of Anglo settlers in our northern province of Tejas have rebelled, citing opposition to our state Catholic Church and prohibition of slavery. The Yanquis are watching developments in Texas quite closely, and we will have to move carefully.


Gigantic country with natural resources...if we keep Texas it'll have oil in the late game.
Can invite Maximilian von Habsburg to take the throne as Emperor of Mexico. Theoretically. I'm not sure this is ever a good decision. In fact, this doesn't belong in the pro column.
Theoretically, can be a strong colonial power in Africa.


"Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States!" -Porfirio Diaz
Deeply reactionary government leads to low immigration with little chance of reform except through a violent rebellion.
Seriously, our northern neighbor hungers for our land. Keep that in mind at all times.

D. Colombia

The first-born of the Latin American revolutionary republics, Colombia is not the success story it was a few years ago. In 1830, our founder Simon Bolivar's dream of a united state in northern Latin America was shattered as Ecuador and Venezuela seceded from Gran Colombia. On our own, we have plentiful fruit and coffee, both of which are solid exports, but little in the way of hard industrial goods (our neighbor Venezuela will get oil at the end of the game).


Can reform Gran Colombia and become a serious contender. This is very difficult.
If we become a Great Power we can build and own the Panama Canal. No Yanqui ownership of this critical passage!


Great Britain usually takes Venezuela under its wing, making it difficult to take.
Brazil is a raging jerk.
With a limited population, bloody wars can utterly wreck a country in this region. Even victory can be brutally costly.
Like Mexico, we're going to need a violent revolution to get an immigration-friendly regime in power.


E. Johore:

The loss of much of the Malay coast to the Dutch, including the major ports of Malacca and Singapore, was not a pleasant experience for Johore, and the transitioning of those ports from the Dutch to the British did little to change matters. Our rump state is incredibly wealthy, even more so than the other Malay states, but our wealth attracts covetous eyes from colonial oppressors in Amsterdam and London. Can we wiggle through to reclaim our birthright and lead a union of the Malays to a major contender power on the world stage?


More money than you can ever spend. Early game precious metal and tropical wood, late game rubber. Too bad we're so far down on the buying order that no one will sell us anything and we have to starve on our piles of gold.
Easy targets with lots of our primary culture abound...if we can ever buy enough parts to build some boats.


Tiny population that's usually starving and shrinking leads to a very small military and the need to be opportunistic.
Uncivilized, have to Westernize.
If Britain or the Dutch decide to come after us in the early game, it's probably over.

F. Nejd

In the 18th century, an alliance between the new Wahhabi sect and the Sa'ud family created a powerful short-lived First Saudi State that conquered the Hedjaz and was only beaten back by Ottoman intervention. The Saudi family has had their eyes on that sacred strip of desert for generations and are ready to make another move and create a new state to unite all the Arabs, but neither the Ottomans nor the Europeans wish to see that happen.


Forming Arabia is easy and gives you cores on pretty much anything you'd expect it to, from Morocco to Iraq (except the Libyan Coastline for some reason)
Late game oil.


Ottomans really don't want you getting Hedjaz.
Uncivilized, have to Westernize.
Very low population.
Spain has an obsession with getting a colonial empire in Arabia. Expect the Spanish Inquisition.


G. Zulu

Our great founder Shaka Zulu passed away less than a decade ago, but his legacy produced a powerful, militaristic African kingdom ready to defend against the interlopers. Weak Boer states are our neighbors, but also powerful British settlements on the Cape and Portuguese settlements in Mozambique, either of which could eye our kingdom. War is coming.


Highly militarized society.
Weak prey in Oranje and Transvaal.
Gold in Transvaal.


Uncivilized, need to Westernize.
Small population means that military losses, even from attrition, are hard to replace and even a successful campaign can leave us dangerously undermanned.
Portugal and Britain both want us dead.


A. Austria. 16.1%
B. Bavaria. 70.0%(!)
C. Mexico. 12.4%
D. Colombia. 9.0%
E. Johore. 2.0%
F. Nejd. 1.0%(!)
G. Zulu. 5.3%

I'll leave voting open until tomorrow. I realize that seven choices is a lot, but I feel that the entire range of V2 is present in these seven. Feel free to ask questions! I look forward to getting started. Table of Content will be added below in this post once the game starts.

Table of Contents

Bavaria (FINISHED!)

Chapter I: Humble Beginnings: 1836
Chapter II: The Reunited Kingdom of the Netherlands: 1836-1842
Chapter III: Oligarchy and Its Discontents: 1842-1850
Chapter IV: There's Always A Greater Power: 1850-1858
Chapter V: A Sad State of Affairs: 1858-1869
Chapter VI: The South German Federation 1869-1875
Chapter VII: The Great Alpine War 1875-1883
Chapter VIII: The Follies of War 1883-1887
Chapter IX: Peace, Bread, Work, and Votes 1887-1895
Chapter X: Socialism, Feminism, and Imperialism? 1895-1900
Chapter XI: Also Sprach Zarathustra: 1900-1906
Chapter XII: The Great War 1906-1914
Chapter XIII: The Great War II: Russia's Revenge 1914-1916
Chapter XIV: A Five Year Truce (1916-1921)
Chapter XV: The War to End All Wars...? (1921-1926)
Chapter XVI: Life Among the Bohemians (1926-1931)
Chapter XVII: Writer's Block (1931-1936)
Chapter XVIII: Epilogue!

Secret Denmark: Mexico (Canceled!)

Chapter I: It's A Secret To Everybody
Chapter II: The Rise of Krakow (January-August 1836)
Chapter III: To Jamaica (August 1836-February 1845)

BONUS: East vs West: Iraq (Finished!) East vs West was a cancelled title produced by Paradox Interactive and developed by BLLogic about the Cold War. Why was it cancelled? Let's find out.

Chapter I: Before the Storm
Chapter II: The Iran Iraq War
Chapter III: Downfall
Archive Index