The best kittens, technology, and video games blog in the world.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Ranking of all EU4 religions

I used same bonus scoring as with idea groups. There are a few issues with this approach, beyond the usual limitations:

  • you can pick any idea groups as any country, not so much with religions
  • countries with different idea groups don't hate you
  • peasants with different idea groups don't hate you
  • religions don't just have static bonuses, usually they have some mechanics, with conditional bonuses, and each works differently
  • I only scores persistent bonuses, so Papal interactions (pretty good) and Anglican buttons (awful) are excluded from this
  • Counter-Reformation is not counted
  • ability to become HRE emperor is not counted
  • religions also get custom decisions (Christians get a lot of benefits here), special government types (Muslims get bonuses), ability to take over China (pagans/Eastern), and so on - none of that is scored
  • special estates (Hindu / Muslim) are not scored

So I stand behind these rankings less than behind my idea group rankings. Still, it's an interesting exercise.

Summary of results

  • S Tier - Fully Reformed New World religions (for above everything else, but you need to get there first)
  • A Tier - maxed out Orthodox with icons (hard to achieve early), Ibadi, Catholic as Curia Controller (hard to do reliably)
  • B Tier - Sunni, Shiite, maxed out Coptic, more realistic Orthodox, Fetishist + Mazdayasna (really hard to get), Buddhist + neutral karma (basically impossible)
  • C Tier - Hindu, Protestant, Hussite, Shinto + Isolationism, Fetishist + most cults, Buddhist + high karma (basically impossible)
  • D Tier - everything else
  • F Tier - Confucian with low harmony (either harmonizing everything; or converting peasents to your faith will do that)

I'm mostly surprised by how low Hindu got ranked. I'm also really surprised by how well Fetishist is doing, but I was just barely aware of its existence.

All scores

  • 7.383500 - Mayan + Tribal Expansion + Reform the Bureaucracy + Central Arbitration + Central Armories + A Unified Army
  • 7.183200 - Nahuatl + 0% Doom + Tribal Expansion + Warrior Ranks + Extend Pochteca Obligations + Open up Sumptuary Restrictions + Legal Reform
  • 7.113500 - Mayan + Tribal Expansion + Reform the Bureaucracy + Central Arbitration + Central Armories
  • 7.038800 - Nahuatl + 0% Doom + Tribal Expansion + Warrior Ranks + Extend Pochteca Obligations + Open up Sumptuary Restrictions
  • 6.980600 - Inti + 100% Authority + Expanded Mitma Policy + Reform the Bureaucracy + Yana Lords + Organized Recruitment + Reform the Cult of Inti
  • 6.730600 - Inti + 100% Authority + Expanded Mitma Policy + Reform the Bureaucracy + Yana Lords + Organized Recruitment
  • 6.616700 - Mayan + Tribal Expansion + Reform the Bureaucracy + Central Arbitration
  • 6.570000 - Nahuatl + 0% Doom + Tribal Expansion + Warrior Ranks + Extend Pochteca Obligations
  • 6.444500 - Inti + 50% Authority + Expanded Mitma Policy + Reform the Bureaucracy + Yana Lords + Organized Recruitment + Reform the Cult of Inti
  • 6.370600 - Inti + 100% Authority + Expanded Mitma Policy + Reform the Bureaucracy + Yana Lords
  • 6.194500 - Inti + 50% Authority + Expanded Mitma Policy + Reform the Bureaucracy + Yana Lords + Organized Recruitment
  • 6.183200 - Nahuatl + 50% Doom + Tribal Expansion + Warrior Ranks + Extend Pochteca Obligations + Open up Sumptuary Restrictions + Legal Reform
  • 6.038800 - Nahuatl + 50% Doom + Tribal Expansion + Warrior Ranks + Extend Pochteca Obligations + Open up Sumptuary Restrictions
  • 5.908400 - Inti + 0% Authority + Expanded Mitma Policy + Reform the Bureaucracy + Yana Lords + Organized Recruitment + Reform the Cult of Inti
  • 5.834500 - Inti + 50% Authority + Expanded Mitma Policy + Reform the Bureaucracy + Yana Lords
  • 5.830600 - Inti + 100% Authority + Expanded Mitma Policy + Reform the Bureaucracy
  • 5.820000 - Nahuatl + 0% Doom + Tribal Expansion + Warrior Ranks
  • 5.658400 - Inti + 0% Authority + Expanded Mitma Policy + Reform the Bureaucracy + Yana Lords + Organized Recruitment
  • 5.616700 - Mayan + Tribal Expansion + Reform the Bureaucracy
  • 5.570000 - Nahuatl + 50% Doom + Tribal Expansion + Warrior Ranks + Extend Pochteca Obligations
  • 5.298400 - Inti + 0% Authority + Expanded Mitma Policy + Reform the Bureaucracy + Yana Lords
  • 5.294500 - Inti + 50% Authority + Expanded Mitma Policy + Reform the Bureaucracy
  • 5.183200 - Nahuatl + 100% Doom + Tribal Expansion + Warrior Ranks + Extend Pochteca Obligations + Open up Sumptuary Restrictions + Legal Reform
  • 5.038800 - Nahuatl + 100% Doom + Tribal Expansion + Warrior Ranks + Extend Pochteca Obligations + Open up Sumptuary Restrictions
  • 4.820000 - Nahuatl + 50% Doom + Tribal Expansion + Warrior Ranks
  • 4.772200 - Inti + 100% Authority + Expanded Mitma Policy
  • 4.758400 - Inti + 0% Authority + Expanded Mitma Policy + Reform the Bureaucracy
  • 4.740000 - Nahuatl + 0% Doom + Tribal Expansion
  • 4.570000 - Nahuatl + 100% Doom + Tribal Expansion + Warrior Ranks + Extend Pochteca Obligations
  • 4.268700 - Orthodox 100% Patriarchy + Icon of Eleusa
  • 4.236100 - Inti + 50% Authority + Expanded Mitma Policy
  • 4.172200 - Orthodox 100% Patriarchy + Icon of St. Michael
  • 3.992000 - Ibadi + Shafi'i + Legalism
  • 3.820000 - Nahuatl + 100% Doom + Tribal Expansion + Warrior Ranks
  • 3.752200 - Catholic + Curia Controller
  • 3.740000 - Nahuatl + 50% Doom + Tribal Expansion
  • 3.732200 - Orthodox 100% Patriarchy + Icon of St. Nicholas
  • 3.700000 - Inti + 0% Authority + Expanded Mitma Policy
  • 3.692000 - Ibadi + Ismaili + Legalism
  • 3.656000 - Ibadi + Shafi'i + Mysticism
  • 3.576000 - Sunni + Shafi'i + Legalism
  • 3.546000 - Shia + Ismaili + Legalism
  • 3.532000 - Ibadi + Zaidi + Legalism
  • 3.532000 - Ibadi + Jafari + Legalism
  • 3.508400 - Coptic + Promote Territorial Rights + Send Monks to Establish Monasteries + Will of the Martyrs + Legitimize Government + Encourage Warriors of the Faith
  • 3.500000 - Mayan + Tribal Expansion
  • 3.492000 - Ibadi + Hanbali + Legalism
  • 3.386000 - Shia + Zaidi + Legalism
  • 3.386000 - Shia + Jafari + Legalism
  • 3.380000 - Mahayana + Neutral Karma
  • 3.375000 - Vajrayana + Neutral Karma
  • 3.370000 - Theravada + Neutral Karma
  • 3.356000 - Ibadi + Ismaili + Mysticism
  • 3.280000 - Fetishist + Mazdayasna
  • 3.252000 - Ibadi + Hanafi + Legalism
  • 3.240000 - Sunni + Shafi'i + Mysticism
  • 3.210000 - Shia + Ismaili + Mysticism
  • 3.196000 - Ibadi + Zaidi + Mysticism
  • 3.196000 - Ibadi + Jafari + Mysticism
  • 3.185900 - Ibadi + Maliki + Legalism
  • 3.156000 - Ibadi + Hanbali + Mysticism
  • 3.154100 - Orthodox 100% Patriarchy + Icon of Christ Pantocrator
  • 3.148400 - Coptic + Promote Territorial Rights + Send Monks to Establish Monasteries + Will of the Martyrs + Legitimize Government
  • 3.076000 - Sunni + Hanbali + Legalism
  • 3.063700 - Orthodox 50% Patriarchy + Icon of Eleusa
  • 3.050000 - Shia + Zaidi + Mysticism
  • 3.050000 - Shia + Jafari + Mysticism
  • 2.967200 - Orthodox 50% Patriarchy + Icon of St. Michael
  • 2.916000 - Ibadi + Hanafi + Mysticism
  • 2.852200 - Orthodox 100% Patriarchy + Icon of St. John Climacus
  • 2.849900 - Ibadi + Maliki + Mysticism
  • 2.836000 - Sunni + Hanafi + Legalism
  • 2.820000 - Sikh + Guru Amar Das
  • 2.769900 - Sunni + Maliki + Legalism
  • 2.740000 - Sunni + Hanbali + Mysticism
  • 2.740000 - Nahuatl + 100% Doom + Tribal Expansion
  • 2.732200 - Orthodox 100% Patriarchy + No Icon
  • 2.698400 - Coptic + Promote Territorial Rights + Send Monks to Establish Monasteries + Will of the Martyrs
  • 2.527200 - Orthodox 50% Patriarchy + Icon of St. Nicholas
  • 2.500000 - Sunni + Hanafi + Mysticism
  • 2.433900 - Sunni + Maliki + Mysticism
  • 2.378000 - Hussite + Taborite Resurgence + Sola Scriptura + Bread and Wine
  • 2.280000 - Fetishist + Waaq
  • 2.280000 - Fetishist + Nyame
  • 2.158400 - Coptic + Promote Territorial Rights + Send Monks to Establish Monasteries
  • 2.128000 - Protestant + Holy Sacraments + Translated Bibles + Adult Baptism
  • 2.100000 - Reformed + Fervent focus on stability
  • 1.949100 - Orthodox 50% Patriarchy + Icon of Christ Pantocrator
  • 1.927800 - Sikh + Guru Gobind Singh
  • 1.910000 - Sikh + Guru Granth Sahib
  • 1.900000 - Sikh + Guru Hargobind
  • 1.858700 - Orthodox 0% Patriarchy + Icon of Eleusa
  • 1.820000 - Fetishist + Mwari
  • 1.820000 - Fetishist + Enkai
  • 1.820000 - Sikh + Guru Har Rai
  • 1.790000 - Hindu + Ganesha
  • 1.780000 - Fetishist + Mlira
  • 1.762200 - Orthodox 0% Patriarchy + Icon of St. Michael
  • 1.748800 - Fetishist + Zanahary
  • 1.720000 - Hindu + Shakti
  • 1.698400 - Hindu + Shiva
  • 1.696000 - Fetishist + Sanatana Dharma
  • 1.680000 - Fetishist + Cwezi
  • 1.647200 - Orthodox 50% Patriarchy + Icon of St. John Climacus
  • 1.590000 - Hindu + Vishnu
  • 1.580000 - Tengri + Shinto
  • 1.572200 - Inti + 100% Authority
  • 1.560000 - Fetishist + Freyja
  • 1.550000 - Fetishist + Teotl
  • 1.540000 - Shinto + Isolationism (3)
  • 1.540000 - Nahuatl + 0% Doom
  • 1.527200 - Orthodox 50% Patriarchy + No Icon
  • 1.520000 - Fetishist + Haymanot
  • 1.473900 - Fetishist + Buddhadharma
  • 1.420000 - Sikh + Guru Angad
  • 1.408400 - Coptic + Promote Territorial Rights
  • 1.400000 - Fetishist + Roog
  • 1.380000 - Fetishist + Christianity
  • 1.343000 - Fetishist + Yemoja
  • 1.322200 - Orthodox 0% Patriarchy + Icon of St. Nicholas
  • 1.300000 - Mahayana + High Karma
  • 1.295000 - Vajrayana + High Karma
  • 1.290000 - Theravada + High Karma
  • 1.280000 - Fetishist + Islam
  • 1.268000 - Shinto + Selective Integration (2)
  • 1.250000 - Tengri + Zoroastrian
  • 1.200000 - Shinto + Open Doors (0)
  • 1.180400 - Norse + Odin
  • 1.152000 - Norse + Tyr
  • 1.050000 - Tengri + Catholic
  • 1.036100 - Inti + 50% Authority
  • 1.020000 - Sikh + Guru Arjan
  • 0.998000 - Hindu + Surya
  • 0.943900 - Tengri + Theravada
  • 0.929600 - Shinto + Closed Doors (4)
  • 0.920000 - Sikh + Guru Tegh Bahadur
  • 0.900000 - Norse + Snotra
  • 0.892200 - Sikh + Guru Ram Das
  • 0.840000 - Mahayana + Low Karma
  • 0.835000 - Vajrayana + Low Karma
  • 0.830000 - Theravada + Low Karma
  • 0.820000 - Zoroastrian
  • 0.820000 - Sikh + No Guru
  • 0.820000 - Sikh + Guru Granth Sahib
  • 0.820000 - Confucian + High Harmony
  • 0.808000 - Norse + Njord
  • 0.770000 - Tengri + Sikh
  • 0.760000 - Norse + Freya
  • 0.750000 - Totemist
  • 0.750000 - Animist
  • 0.744100 - Orthodox 0% Patriarchy + Icon of Christ Pantocrator
  • 0.740000 - Tengri + Reformed
  • 0.733900 - Shinto + Adaptive (1)
  • 0.712000 - Norse + Tor
  • 0.700000 - Reformed + Fervent focus on war
  • 0.633000 - Hindu + Ganga
  • 0.600000 - Tengri + Coptic
  • 0.592200 - Tengri + Confucian
  • 0.580000 - Reformed + Fervent focus on trade
  • 0.570000 - Confucian
  • 0.568000 - Tengri + Mahayana
  • 0.550000 - Jewish
  • 0.540000 - Nahuatl + 50% Doom
  • 0.530000 - Tengri + Totemist
  • 0.530000 - Tengri + Fetishist
  • 0.530000 - Tengri + Animist
  • 0.510000 - Tengri + Shia
  • 0.500000 - Tengri + Protestant
  • 0.500000 - Tengri + Inti
  • 0.500000 - Tengri + Anglican
  • 0.500000 - Inti + 0% Authority
  • 0.450000 - Tengri + Orthodox
  • 0.442200 - Orthodox 0% Patriarchy + Icon of St. John Climacus
  • 0.420100 - Anglican
  • 0.350000 - Coptic
  • 0.322200 - Orthodox 0% Patriarchy + No Icon
  • 0.320000 - Tengri + Sunni
  • 0.320000 - Sikh + Guru Har Krishan
  • 0.305000 - Tengri + Hindu
  • 0.300000 - Tengri + Ibadi
  • 0.300000 - Mayan
  • 0.290000 - Tengri + Jewish
  • 0.270000 - Tengri + Nahuatl
  • 0.250000 - Tengri + Vajrayana
  • 0.225000 - Catholic
  • 0.135000 - Tengri + Hussite
  • 0.122200 - Tengri + Mayan
  • 0.100000 - Reformed + No Fervor
  • 0.041300 - Tengri + Norse
  • -0.460000 - Nahuatl + 100% Doom
  • -1.164800 - Confucian + Low Harmony

Saturday, December 12, 2020

What if all EU4 idea groups unlocked new gameplay

Charles.  Smart Boy. by exoimperator from flickr (CC-SA)

A few days ago I wrote a long post about EU4 idea groups, with some modest proposals how to make game more interesting.

This one is going into far more radical territory. And I doubt it would make game better, at least not without a lot of heavy rebalancing.

So some ideas unlock new playstyles, and these tend to be the most interesting ones. There are minor exceptions to these rules, but

Other ideas just provide bonuses but don't enable anything. They tend to be boring even if strong.

Current Hard Unlocks

If you don't take Exploration, you can't explore the New World. You can wait for maps to passively spread to you, or use Steal Maps, so you can sort of join the colonial race eventually, but Exploration comes quite clock to hard unlock.

Taking Exploration or Expansion hard unlocks colonist mechanics (an extra colonist you can get from Parliament or such sources are gated by one of those too). Except for a tiny number of countries like Norway who have that as national ideas. Or you could conquer some already colonized land, spawn colonial nation on conquered territory, and have them colonize it for you, but that's much weaker.

Religious unlocks two things - Deus Vult for claim-free warfare, which otherwise you get about 2/3 into the game with Imperialism CB. Nations with a lot of claims from missions can sort of get there too. It also soft unlocks converting provinces. You can have missionaries without it, but you will struggle hard to keep up converting.

Humanist sort of soft unlocks not having to deal with rebels. EU4 rebels are crazy weak, so it's not actually needed, but it sure gets rid of some hassle.

Administrative Ideas Detour

Administrative sort of unlocks playing wide in 1.30, as it's really hard to get governing capacity without it. This one is softer unlock.

Actually let's do some math, as I don't think . Old World has about 18k development, and could get to 20k by the time HRE minors are done spamming development button. New World generally uses CNs so doesn't count.

If you state-ified your half of continent, let's say 5k dev, and used trade companies everywhere else, 15k.

Without buildings you'll need 5000 cap for your states, and 7500 cap for your trade companies, for a total of 12500.

With Courthouses everywhere it's 3750 cap for your states, and 3750 cap again for your trade companies respectively, total of 7500 (that "25% discount" turned into 40% less).

With Town Halls everywhere it's 2500 cap for your states and 150 cap for your territories, or 2650 ("50% discount" turned into 79% less).

The main problem with that is of course building limit - but since base building slots is 2, and the only penalty is -1 Arctic - you can spam Manufactory + Town Hall in every province. Sadly that's most of your realm's building slots, so you won't be able to build much more. Good terrain or 10-19dev is just +1 slot beyond those two mandatory buildings. Building slots were already very limited, this change is seriously dreadful.

Anyway, you get 200 base, 400 as Empire, 250 from "L'État c'est moi" reform, 1700 from technology, 300 from 3 estate privileges. That's a total of 2850, so just barely squeezes it.

If you don't have final technology (let's say just 30), and don't have estate privileges (they're very expensive after absolutism), that's suddenly just 2050, good deal less than what you need. Administrative ideas with their +25% capacity bring that to 2562.5, getting pretty close to the target.

Even below world conquest level, governing capacity is a huge pain for wide play without administrative ideas, but it's mostly fine with them.

What if every idea group unlocked something

OK, let's get to - what if EU4 ideas unlocked new playstyles. Here are some radical suggestions.

I think only about half of these are possible to mod.

I had most trouble coming up with anything good for military groups.

Administrative groups:

Administrative. Already soft unlocks wide play with governing capacity

Economic. Unlocks development buttons. It sounds radical, but they used to be DLC locked and EU4 was supposedly playable without that.

Expansion. Already unlocks Colonists.

Humanist. Already soft unlocks not having to care about rebels.

Innovative. Allows taking technology ahead of time. Without that, you're hard locked to specific year. More brutally we could make innovative let you adopt institution at 10% provinces present as it does now, otherwise you need to wait for like 30% (that simple thing is not moddable as far as I know).

Religious. Already unlocks Deus Vult and soft unlocks conversions.

Diplomatic groups:

Diplomatic. It sort of soft unlocks some actions like divorces. It could gate some other less used diplomatic actions like insults. Most like wars, military access, royal marriages etc. are just needed for game to function.

Espionage. Unlocks all covert actions except Fabricate Claim, and they're not tech-gated.

Exploration. Already unlocks Colonists, Explorers, and Conquistadors.

Influence. Enables diplo-vassalizing and claiming throne. You can still vassalize by force.

Maritime. Enables privateering, and Trade Conflict CB (no longer part of covert action).

Trade. Unlocks collecting trade outside your main node. Otherwise you can only collect in your capital and transfer trade otherwise.

Military groups:

Aristocratic. Soft unlocks cavalry that's not total trash mid/late-game.

Defensive. Soft unlocks meaningful amount of enemy attrition.

Naval. Unlocks heavy ships. Without Naval, you can only build light, transports, and galleys. This would actually be quite realistic.

Offensive. Unlocks artillery and coastal barrage, and assaulting forts.

Plutocratic. This is so rare it would need to be something new. Maybe CB to force minor countries to become republics, like what republics used to have in EU4 at release time.

Quality. I don't have any great ideas. Maybe it could soft unlock high professionalism, by some some of yearly professionalism modifier? Without it, you'd need to go the current slow route.

Quantity. Soft unlocks not having to care about manpower. This would mostly need changes in balance (like drastic nerfs to 1.30 mercs), as now it just doesn't matter enough.

Would that make game better?

Going all the way, probably not.

And a lot of those ideas cannot be modded, or only with convoluted triggered modifiers (for example if you don't have Naval ideas, heavies cost +1000000% etc.).

But a few of those ideas sound pretty decent.

Friday, December 11, 2020

US military has terrible track record of losing wars

fluffy lovekins by Project 404 from flickr (CC-NC-ND)

By just about any metric US military is by far the most powerful on the planet. The most powerful this planet has ever seen.

Yet, if you look at how it's been doing since WW2, it looks real bad.

I'm only including meaningful wars here, not just throwing a few bombs here and there.


I'll rate them on scale of: total failure, narrow failure, clear draw, narrow victory, total victory

Korean War - clear draw. After a lot of fighting everyone was pretty much where they all started.

Vietnam War - total failure. It doesn't get any clearer, nothing was left of what US spent so much time defending.

First Iraq War - narrow victory. Saddam was on verge of losing power, but US indecision let him crush the rebels and remain in power, remaining a problem for long time afterwards.

Afghanistan War - total failure, Taliban still controls most of Afghanistan, and Afghan government is basically negotiating terms of surrender.

Second Iraq War - narrow failure, Saddam was overthrown, but US got forced out by insurgents, and Iraq was 1/3 controlled by Islamic State, the rest by pro-Iranian puppet regime. After ISIS got defeated, pro-Iranian puppet regime controls Iraq.

So of big 5 wars, there's 2 total failures, 1 narrow failure, 1 clear draw, 1 narrow victory, and 0 total victories.

Is that what the world's biggest budget can buy?

It's not difficult to see the pattern. US military is terrible at counter-insurgency, and extremely unwilling to tolerate even modest casualties.

Many US cities are more dangerous than warzones US has been fighting, but even those modest losses are just too much.

So what is it good at?

So the question is - for all that money - what is it actually good at?

It's not actually clear it would be good at WW3 - most likely result is that everybody living in every major city anywhere dies from nuclear missiles.

At purely conventional version of WW3, general consensus is that Soviets would have conquered big parts of Western Europe before Americans would even show up. Not like Soviets had any intention of not using nukes. Every countries which couldn't retaliate was the target, including neutral countries.

It's really unclear that US would be able to win any of the likely regional conflicts with near-peer enemy.

It's not clear if US has any meaningful way to stop China from taking over Taiwan. China has effective ways to prevent any US ships from coming close.

Likewise if Russia wanted to conquer Ukraine or the Baltics, US wouldn't be able to do anything to prevent that.

This is mostly because geography favors its opponents in such cases.

US can win conventional fight against Third World countries, like Iraq in 1991 (on paper Saddam had one of 10 strongest armies in the world), but without willingness to accept costs of occupying those countries and ability to wage effective counter-insurgency this is of limited effectiveness.

US can bomb any Third World country it wants, but effects of that have been rather limited so far.

And US has no ability to defend its own borders - from illegal crossings - but that's intentional political failure.

It's by no means terrible, but relative to how much money is spent on it, it looks quite disappointing.

What if all EU4 idea groups were good

Cuddle Kittens by C_Greengrass from flickr (CC-ND)

Many EU4 idea groups are bad. There are two sides of this badness - power level and identity.

Power level is relatively easy to analyze objectively. I once created an algorithm to rank all EU4 idea groups. This was 5 years ago, patches completely changing game balance happened, so those specific values are outdated. Not to mention original algorithm had some minor issues.

I try to keep the scoring algorithm more or less up to date, so assuming I didn't miss any important changes, here's the 1.30 latest ranking.

Everything in this post is about single player only, multiplayer meta is drastically different.

Basic Ideas Ranking

  • 9.09 Expansion Ideas
  • 7.65 Diplomatic Ideas
  • 6.00 Exploration Ideas
  • 5.66 Religious Ideas
  • 5.58 Administrative Ideas
  • 5.35 Influence Ideas
  • 4.67 Humanist Ideas
  • 4.33 Plutocratic Ideas
  • 3.89 Trade Ideas
  • 3.89 Aristocratic Ideas
  • 3.80 Quantity Ideas
  • 3.33 Offensive Ideas
  • 3.13 Innovative Ideas
  • 2.92 Quality Ideas
  • 2.75 Espionage Ideas
  • 2.26 Defensive Ideas
  • 1.58 Economic Ideas
  • 1.12 Maritime Ideas
  • 0.75 Naval Ideas

National Ideas Ranking

  • 10.75 Holy Roman Ideas
  • 10.27 Asturian Ideas
  • 10.17 Great Yuan Ideas
  • 9.60 Imperial German Ideas
  • 9.50 Great Qing Ideas
  • 9.17 Roman Ideas
  • 9.12 Kiwi Ideas
  • 8.93 Andalusian Ideas
  • 8.83 Russian Ideas
  • 8.25 Synthetic Ideas
  • 8.04 Icelandic Ideas
  • 7.98 Castilian Ideas
  • 7.92 American Ideas
  • 7.85 Oirat Ideas
  • 7.67 West Indies Ideas
  • 7.54 Jerusalem Ideas
  • 7.24 Oda Ideas
  • 7.19 French Ideas
  • 7.18 Herzegovinian Ideas
  • 7.09 Rûmi Ideas
  • 6.96 Yamana Ideas
  • 6.85 Lotharingian Ideas
  • 6.85 Italian Ideas
  • 6.79 Carib Ideas
  • 6.74 Spanish Ideas
  • 6.69 Norwegian Ideas
  • 6.66 Mongolian Ideas
  • 6.65 Mughal Ideas
  • 6.56 Austrian Ideas
  • 6.55 Leonese Ideas
  • 6.54 Mysorean Ideas
  • 6.37 Hindustani Ideas
  • 6.37 Kazani Ideas
  • 6.36 Hadramhi Ideas
  • 6.34 Golden Horde Ideas
  • 6.34 Ottoman Ideas
  • 6.24 Iroquois Ideas
  • 6.19 Japanese Ideas
  • 6.18 Sardinian Ideas
  • 6.10 Australian Ideas
  • 6.10 Crimean Ideas
  • 6.07 Rajputana ideas
  • 6.03 Aq Qoyunlu Ideas
  • 5.97 Canadian Ideas
  • 5.93 Irish Ideas
  • 5.92 Bharathi Ideas
  • 5.86 Deccani Ideas
  • 5.86 Prussian Ideas
  • 5.84 Saluzzo Ideas
  • 5.83 Anatolian Ideas
  • 5.81 Najdi Ideas
  • 5.77 Candarid Ideas
  • 5.74 Chernihiv Ideas
  • 5.72 Karamanid Ideas
  • 5.70 Nagpuri Ideas
  • 5.67 Burmese Ideas
  • 5.65 Imagawa Ideas
  • 5.63 Nepali Ideas
  • 5.58 Sardinian-Piedmontese Ideas
  • 5.56 Ayyubid Ideas
  • 5.54 Delhian Ideas
  • 5.54 Qara Qoyunlu Ideas
  • 5.54 Desmondian Ideas
  • 5.51 Bosnian Ideas
  • 5.46 Chagatai Ideas
  • 5.44 Trent Ideas
  • 5.42 Divine Ideas
  • 5.41 Manipur Ideas
  • 5.40 Knights Hospitaller Ideas
  • 5.39 Khorasani Ideas
  • 5.39 Greek Ideas
  • 5.36 Native Ideas
  • 5.36 Manchu Ideas
  • 5.33 Antemoro Ideas
  • 5.30 Colognian Ideas
  • 5.29 Three Leagues Ideas
  • 5.25 Tarascan Ideas
  • 5.25 Wallachian Ideas
  • 5.22 Tibetan Ideas
  • 5.22 Polish Ideas
  • 5.21 Date Ideas
  • 5.19 Mantuan Ideas
  • 5.19 Mushasha Ideas
  • 5.17 Dalmatian Ideas
  • 5.15 Muscovite Ideas
  • 5.13 Swedish Ideas
  • 5.13 Moluccan Ideas
  • 5.11 Ryazan Ideas
  • 5.08 Byzantine Ideas
  • 5.08 Pegu Ideas
  • 5.05 Bremen Ideas
  • 4.95 Bulgarian Ideas
  • 4.94 Saxon Ideas
  • 4.92 Asakura Ideas
  • 4.92 Shoni Ideas
  • 4.91 Münster Ideas
  • 4.90 Teutonic Ideas
  • 4.89 Kievan Ideas
  • 4.88 Epirote Ideas
  • 4.83 Timurid Ideas
  • 4.80 British ideas
  • 4.77 Provençal Ideas
  • 4.76 Sukhothai Ideas
  • 4.75 Otomo Ideas
  • 4.75 Hungarian Ideas
  • 4.74 Kaffan Ideas
  • 4.73 Westphalian Ideas
  • 4.72 Rigan Ideas
  • 4.71 Perugian Ideas
  • 4.71 Tokugawa Ideas
  • 4.70 Gond Ideas
  • 4.69 Romanian Ideas
  • 4.67 Jan Mayen Ideas
  • 4.66 Utrecht Ideas
  • 4.66 Great Shun Ideas
  • 4.65 Kitabatake Ideas
  • 4.63 Assamese Ideas
  • 4.63 Ajami Ideas
  • 4.62 Rassid Ideas
  • 4.62 Manx Ideas
  • 4.62 Ethiopian Ideas
  • 4.61 Württemberger Ideas
  • 4.60 Ryukyuan Ideas
  • 4.59 Bohemian Ideas
  • 4.56 Cilli Ideas
  • 4.56 Sicilian Ideas
  • 4.55 Papal Ideas
  • 4.55 Holstein Ideas
  • 4.55 Palatinate Ideas
  • 4.54 Hojo Ideas
  • 4.53 Nanbu Ideas
  • 4.53 Trierian Ideas
  • 4.53 Dai Viet Ideas
  • 4.52 Dithmarscher Ideas
  • 4.52 Liège Ideas
  • 4.51 Aachen Ideas
  • 4.51 Kanem Bornuan Ideas
  • 4.51 Mapuche Ideas
  • 4.50 Brandenburg Ideas
  • 4.50 Georgian Ideas
  • 4.49 Cossack Ideas
  • 4.48 Bengal Sultanate Ideas
  • 4.48 Rostov Ideas
  • 4.47 Burgundian Ideas
  • 4.46 German Ideas
  • 4.43 Alaskan Ideas
  • 4.43 Nizhny Novgorod Ideas
  • 4.43 Daimyo Ideas
  • 4.42 Bamberger Ideas
  • 4.42 Lithuanian Ideas
  • 4.41 Shimazu Ideas
  • 4.40 Maravi Ideas
  • 4.38 Satake Ideas
  • 4.37 Kongo Ideas
  • 4.37 Athenian Ideas
  • 4.37 Tumbuka Ideas
  • 4.36 Medri Bahri Ideas
  • 4.35 Butua Ideas
  • 4.34 Uesugi Ideas
  • 4.33 Rajput Ideas
  • 4.32 Moravian Ideas
  • 4.31 Kildarean Ideas
  • 4.31 Granada Ideas
  • 4.30 Khmer Ideas
  • 4.30 Thüringian Ideas
  • 4.29 Malian Ideas
  • 4.29 Swabian City-State Ideas
  • 4.28 Ansbach Ideas
  • 4.25 Swabian Ideas
  • 4.25 Yarkandi Ideas
  • 4.23 Franconian Ideas
  • 4.20 Novgorod Ideas
  • 4.19 Butuan Ideas
  • 4.19 Colonial Ideas
  • 4.18 Ogasawara Ideas
  • 4.16 Sindhi Ideas
  • 4.15 Montferrat Ideas
  • 4.14 Mossi Ideas
  • 4.13 Ito Ideas
  • 4.13 Client State Ideas
  • 4.12 Kikuchi Ideas
  • 4.11 Brunswicker Ideas
  • 4.10 Lan Na Ideas
  • 4.09 Scottish Ideas
  • 4.09 Hanoverian Ideas
  • 4.08 Jurchen Ideas
  • 4.08 Lur Ideas
  • 4.06 Trebizond Ideas
  • 4.06 Bregenzer Ideas
  • 4.06 Arakanese Ideas
  • 4.06 Dortmund Ideas
  • 4.04 Ilkhanid Ideas
  • 4.04 Naxian Ideas
  • 4.04 Ouchi Ideas
  • 4.03 Chosokabe Ideas
  • 4.03 Québécois Ideas
  • 4.02 Tsutsui Ideas
  • 4.02 Luxembourg Ideas
  • 4.01 Isshiki Ideas
  • 4.01 English Ideas
  • 4.00 Farsi Ideas
  • 3.98 Aztec Ideas
  • 3.96 Ormond Ideas
  • 3.93 Ajuuraan Ideas
  • 3.93 Shan Ideas
  • 3.92 Luban Ideas
  • 3.91 Semien Ideas
  • 3.91 Tuscan Ideas
  • 3.91 Afghan Ideas
  • 3.90 Chinese Ideas
  • 3.90 Texan Ideas
  • 3.88 Finnish Ideas
  • 3.88 Savoyard Ideas
  • 3.86 Armenian Ideas
  • 3.86 Bahmani Ideas
  • 3.86 Rothenburg Ideas
  • 3.85 Great Ming Ideas
  • 3.85 Hormuz Ideas
  • 3.84 Beninese Ideas
  • 3.82 Offaly Ideas
  • 3.81 Huron Ideas
  • 3.81 Berg Ideas
  • 3.80 Cornish Ideas
  • 3.79 Songhai Ideas
  • 3.79 Pskovian Ideas
  • 3.78 Hatakeyama Ideas
  • 3.78 Maratha Ideas
  • 3.77 Breton Ideas
  • 3.76 Punjabi Ideas
  • 3.76 Brazilian Ideas
  • 3.76 Amago Ideas
  • 3.75 Sonoran Ideas
  • 3.75 Persian Ideas
  • 3.74 Odoyev Ideas
  • 3.74 Thomondian Ideas
  • 3.74 Samtskhe Ideas
  • 3.73 Mainzian Ideas
  • 3.73 Tirhuti Ideas
  • 3.72 Ando Ideas
  • 3.72 Dhundhari Ideas
  • 3.71 Ruthenian Ideas
  • 3.70 Yemeni Ideas
  • 3.70 Chiba Ideas
  • 3.69 Mayan Ideas
  • 3.68 Clevian Ideas
  • 3.67 Gujarati Princedom Ideas
  • 3.66 Shawnee Ideas
  • 3.66 Estonian Ideas
  • 3.65 Krakowian Ideas
  • 3.64 Piratical Ideas
  • 3.64 Javan Ideas
  • 3.63 Garhwali Ideas
  • 3.63 Moldavian Ideas
  • 3.63 Catalan Ideas
  • 3.62 Bayreuther Ideas
  • 3.60 Mexican Ideas
  • 3.59 K'iche Ideas
  • 3.58 Vermont Ideas
  • 3.58 Anhalt Ideas
  • 3.58 Milanese Ideas
  • 3.58 Air Ideas
  • 3.58 Utsunomiya Ideas
  • 3.55 Hessian Ideas
  • 3.55 Mesoamerican Ideas
  • 3.54 Ashanti Ideas
  • 3.54 Shirvani Ideas
  • 3.54 Tyrconnell Ideas
  • 3.53 Malabari Ideas
  • 3.53 Goslar Ideas
  • 3.53 Lan Xang Ideas
  • 3.51 Yi Ideas
  • 3.50 Pagarruyung Ideas
  • 3.50 Garjati Ideas
  • 3.49 Leinster Ideas
  • 3.49 Theodoro Ideas
  • 3.48 Mori Ideas
  • 3.48 Genevan Ideas
  • 3.48 Circassian Ideas
  • 3.48 Ladakh Ideas
  • 3.48 Orleanaise Ideas
  • 3.47 Nepalese Princedom Ideas
  • 3.47 Gutnish Ideas
  • 3.46 Miao Ideas
  • 3.45 Muiscan Ideas
  • 3.45 Nuremberger Ideas
  • 3.44 Siddi Ideas
  • 3.44 Laotian Ideas
  • 3.44 Shiba Ideas
  • 3.44 Ardabili Ideas
  • 3.43 Neapolitan Ideas
  • 3.42 Sinhalese Ideas
  • 3.42 Bavarian Ideas
  • 3.41 Portuguese Ideas
  • 3.41 Yaroslavlyian Ideas
  • 3.41 Sadiyan Ideas
  • 3.41 Northumbrian Ideas
  • 3.40 Transylvanian Ideas
  • 3.39 Kutai Ideas
  • 3.39 Takeda Ideas
  • 3.39 Creek Ideas
  • 3.39 Sami Ideas
  • 3.37 Mewari Ideas
  • 3.36 Bolognese Ideas
  • 3.35 Fulani Jihad Ideas
  • 3.34 Welsh Ideas
  • 3.34 Munster Ideas
  • 3.34 Imerina Ideas
  • 3.34 Polotskian Ideas
  • 3.34 Pacific Northwest Ideas
  • 3.33 Kurdish Ideas
  • 3.33 Ava Ideas
  • 3.31 Tverian Ideas
  • 3.31 Slovak Ideas
  • 3.31 Kangra Ideas
  • 3.31 Tyrone Ideas
  • 3.30 Croatian Ideas
  • 3.29 Deccani Sultanate Ideas
  • 3.27 Interlacustrine Ideas
  • 3.23 Cherokee Ideas
  • 3.20 Wurzburgian Ideas
  • 3.18 Vijayanagar Ideas
  • 3.17 Mutapan Ideas
  • 3.16 Frankfurter Ideas
  • 3.16 Bengali Ideas
  • 3.16 Meath Ideas
  • 3.16 Barbary Corsair Ideas
  • 3.15 Sumatran Ideas
  • 3.14 Arabian Ideas
  • 3.14 Dutch Ideas
  • 3.12 Guarani Ideas
  • 3.12 Lunda Ideas
  • 3.12 Vindhyan Ideas
  • 3.11 Beloozero Ideas
  • 3.10 Swahili Ideas
  • 3.10 Gelre Ideas
  • 3.10 Nubian Ideas
  • 3.09 Hosokawa Ideas
  • 3.09 Highlander Ideas
  • 3.08 Korean Ideas
  • 3.08 Danish Ideas
  • 3.08 Zambezi Ideas
  • 3.08 Couronian Ideas
  • 3.07 Mindanao Ideas
  • 3.06 Evenk Ideas
  • 3.03 Incan Ideas
  • 3.03 Saxe-Lauenburg Ideas
  • 3.02 Serbian Ideas
  • 3.00 Arawak Ideas
  • 3.00 Tripuran Ideas
  • 3.00 Galician Ideas
  • 2.99 French Ducal Ideas
  • 2.98 Kuban Ideas
  • 2.97 Veronese Ideas
  • 2.97 Ulmer Ideas
  • 2.91 Baluch Ideas
  • 2.91 Ainu Ideas
  • 2.88 Aragonese Ideas
  • 2.88 Mamluk Ideas
  • 2.87 Corsican Ideas
  • 2.87 Toki Ideas
  • 2.87 Swiss Ideas
  • 2.85 Hejazi Ideas
  • 2.84 Pisan Ideas
  • 2.83 Orissan Ideas
  • 2.83 Lusatian Ideas
  • 2.80 South Indian Ideas
  • 2.80 Caspian Ideas
  • 2.79 Mazovian Ideas
  • 2.79 Lüneburger Ideas
  • 2.78 Cypriot Ideas
  • 2.78 Urbinate Ideas
  • 2.78 Montenegrin Ideas
  • 2.78 Tapuian Ideas
  • 2.76 Jaunpuri Ideas
  • 2.75 Ulster Ideas
  • 2.72 Silesian Ideas
  • 2.72 Zaporozhian Ideas
  • 2.70 Hausan Ideas
  • 2.68 Norman Ideas
  • 2.67 Tunisian Ideas
  • 2.66 Hamburger Ideas
  • 2.64 Sligonian Ideas
  • 2.64 Malayan Sultanate Ideas
  • 2.64 West African Ideas
  • 2.63 Gujarat Sultanate Ideas
  • 2.63 Ayutthayan Ideas
  • 2.62 So Ideas
  • 2.61 Caucasian Ideas
  • 2.59 Siberian Ideas
  • 2.58 Danziger Ideas
  • 2.57 Lorraine Ideas
  • 2.57 Ragusan Ideas
  • 2.57 Sistani Ideas
  • 2.56 Malagasy Ideas
  • 2.56 Indian Sultanate Ideas
  • 2.56 Malvi Ideas
  • 2.54 Clanricarde Ideas
  • 2.54 Ionian Ideas
  • 2.52 Betsimisaraka Ideas
  • 2.52 Mogadishan Ideas
  • 2.51 Dahomey Ideas
  • 2.49 Brabant Ideas
  • 2.49 Pomeranian Ideas
  • 2.47 Dali Ideas
  • 2.47 Permian Ideas
  • 2.46 Pueblo Ideas
  • 2.44 Al-Haasa Ideas
  • 2.44 Omani Ideas
  • 2.43 Cham Ideas
  • 2.43 Smolenskian Ideas
  • 2.42 Ferraran Ideas
  • 2.42 Hanseatic Ideas
  • 2.40 Berber Ideas
  • 2.40 Italian Ideas
  • 2.39 Chimu Ideas
  • 2.39 Baden Ideas
  • 2.38 Frisian Ideas
  • 2.37 Cebu Ideas
  • 2.37 Chachapoyan Ideas
  • 2.37 Moroccan Ideas
  • 2.36 Nivernais Ideas
  • 2.35 Kongolese Ideas
  • 2.35 Telugu Ideas
  • 2.33 Albanian Ideas
  • 2.31 Sienese Ideas
  • 2.30 Pattani Ideas
  • 2.26 Ashikaga Ideas
  • 2.25 Somali Ideas
  • 2.24 Transoxianian Ideas
  • 2.23 Flemish Ideas
  • 2.14 Mahri Ideas
  • 2.06 Cascadian Ideas
  • 2.01 Horde Ideas
  • 2.00 Aymaran Ideas
  • 1.99 Khivan Ideas
  • 1.98 Luzon Ideas
  • 1.93 Luccan Ideas
  • 1.91 Tupi Ideas
  • 1.78 East Frisian Ideas
  • 1.77 Navarran Ideas
  • 1.76 Charruan Ideas
  • 1.74 Andean Ideas
  • 1.69 National Ideas
  • 1.68 Chickasaw Ideas
  • 1.55 Venetian Ideas
  • 1.08 Genoese Ideas
  • 1.07 Kono Ideas
  • 1.04 Madyas Ideas
  • 1.03 Sulawesi Ideas

Identity Issue

So anyway, power level issues can be tweaked by just changing some numbers, no big deal. A much more interesting issue is lack of identity, or what playstyle should you be taking this idea group for?

The algorithm scores ideas for some generic playstyle assumptions. The further your playstyle is from generic, the more it makes sense to pick some idea group that's not generically best.

Some idea groups have great identity. For example it's really clear what Religious is about. It's about spreading your religion, by fighting infidels, and missionary work in your country. Or for a weaker group Trade - it has perfectly fine identity - it's all about making money from trading, and it does exactly what it says.

But for of the ideas have no such identity, and their name usually corresponds to nothing. Like what's "Defensive" ideas about? How is it about defending specifically? Not much at all.

Or how about Diplomatic and Influence? They both give some bonuses to diplomatic stuff, but does it make any sense when you should pick which one? Not really. Or even worse, how about Espionage? It's supposed to be about spies, but spies are not a meaningful EU4 playstyle, it's not CK2. So it's a bag of unrelated bonuses nobody's ever happy about taking. And now that AE reduction got moved from Influence to Espionage, none of Diplomatic/Influence/Espionage trio actually has much identity left.

And the worst of all are idea groups like Maritime, which both lack any sort of identity, and which are painfully weak in every playstyle.

So here's some of my thoughts. What if every idea group was buffed to be playable, and also had some strong identity, so you know that for certain playstyle it actually makes sense to pick it. I grouped them by how well defined they already are.

Idea groups that already work


With governing capacity change, it's pretty much a mandatory pick for most playstyles, and doesn't need help.

1.30 weakened its identity. Before that, it was mostly just had coring cost reduction, so if you wanted to play wide (a default playstyle) and expanded mostly by coring, administrative was very good, but not necessary. For tall play, it just didn't do much. Or for expanding by integrating subjects.

It also had state limit increase. Due to the way pre-1.30 trade companies worked, it wasn't really as big a deal as devs wanted, since most of you 0% autonomy land would just belong to a trade company anyway. But state limit also said "take this if you want to play wide".

Now with governing capacity change, wide play makes administrative nearly mandatory, whichever way you expand, but tall play and developing your medium-sized country a lot is also going to run into a lot of governing capacity issues, so administrative are a good idea either way. But they're still especially useful for wide play.

Since administrative ideas are so strong, the best way to improve its identity is not strengthen it, but to give other idea groups some ways to save on governing capacity.

Exploration and Expansion

Back when EU4 was released these two used to have very clear identity. Exploration was about colonizing, especially Americas. Expansion was bout colonizing, especially Africa and Asia.

Back then Exploration had 2 Colonists, perfect for mostly empty America, and gave very good CB on New World pagans, so it was about colonizing there. And Expansion had just 1 Colonist but gave very good CB on Asia and Africa (or whichever parts of Old World you're not based in), so it was about conquering Old World with some colonizing on the side - also perfect match as those lands had a lot fewer uncolonized provinces and a lot more easy pickings of technologically backwards nations.

Somehow second colonist got moved to Expansion, both special CBs got lost (and even the shitty replacement of claim fabrication in trade company regions got removed in 1.30), so they're both really mainly about colonizing the New World, with side serving of the Old.

I think it's best to treat it as a single idea group that just so happens to take two idea group slots. Usually you'll take Exploration as your 1st, Expansion as your 2nd or 3rd.

Taking just one of them really isn't advisable. Maybe Expansion only at 4th or 5th if you want to join colonization late. Or taking Expansion only if you're in Asia and really want to get free Colonialism institution and don't care much about colonists.

So while it would be nice to restore old system where each of them corresponded to part of the world you might want to focus your expansion into, they're good enough as is. And they definitely don't need any buffs, colonists are already one of the best bonuses you can get.


Its main selling point is that you don't need to care about peasants' religions, peasants' cultures, and rebellions in general.

From power level point of view, I think it's strictly worse than Religious, since rebels in EU4 are ridiculously weak, so it's no big deal to just crush them whenever they show up. It also lacks amazing Deus Vult from Religious, and you usually only want to take one of the two.

But it definitely saves a lot of rebel fighting micro, so a lot of players love it, and that's clear enough identity.


It's extremely strong, and has very strong identity - spread your faith by fighting infidels, spread your faith by converting peasants, and have a stable country as result of its religious unity. It doesn't need any help.

Idea groups that just need a little buff


It's a fairly unfocused bag of bonuses, but I think it can be really good with just a small tweak.

Aristocratic sort of focuses on helping cavalry, but on base level EU4 cavalry is just so awful such bonuses just don't mean much. With no bonuses you should never bother with cavalry. Even with fairly big bonuses cavalry is just barely worth it, and only huge bonus stacking (like going Aristocratic + Tengri + Commonwealth) make it actually good.

If Aristocratic just about tripled its cavalry bonuses, it would gain strong identity without actually making it all that strong. If you take Aristocratic, it would incentivize going from 16inf 4cav 10art armies to 12inf 8cav 10art, or something along those lines, and perhaps even keep that cavalry into late game.


In principle an idea group saying "play tall" and "earn more money" is fine, but those bonuses are just too low. Especially changing construction costs from -10% to let's say -30% could allow countries to afford all those temples, workshops, and manufactories more easily.

It should probably get bigger development discount as well for playing tall (like -20% to -30%). Various administrative groups are among the strongest, so it needs a big buff to be competitive.


Offense primarily means wanting to siege opponent's forts faster, and offensive already does that, but its bonus could be a lot stronger. Doubling down on this, like by adding +1 Leader siege, or +2 max artillery bonus (so you can siege faster, but only if you bring tons of artillery there and pay attrition price) would really help.

I think that paradoxically giving some siege defense would also really help offensively focused countries, as siege racing is how you win fast offensive wars in EU4.


It's about trade, and gives decent trade bonuses, but it could definitely be stronger.

It could also give big bonuses to trade company provinces - like lower minimum autonomy, lower governing capacity cost, lower trade company investment cost, or such.

If your trade companies had lower governing capacity cost, and were overall more useful, then you could play wide without going administrative - at least as long as you mostly expanded with trade companies, not states.

It could also add some small bonus to trade fleets, like let's say +25% Naval force limit modifier, as trade oriented nations need naval force limit more.


It has some kind of identity - it wants to make your army stronger per soldier / ship. It just doesn't do enough.

Increasing +0.5 yearly army tradition to like +2 yearly army and +2 yearly navy tradition would greatly round up this idea group, by making not just common soldiers but also army leadership much stronger.


It has strong identity - it lets you have bigger army. It's just not clear who would want that. Is it meant for a small country which wants to make its army bigger; or for an already big country like Russia or Ming which wants to make its big army even more enormous?

It needs a buff, and it's actually clear what kind of buff - your huge army will never have enough generals, so like +2 leader limit and maybe a -20% leader recruitment cost discount, will really round it up.

Idea groups that need stronger identity


The group claims it's about defending better, but what does that actually mean? EU4 attrition is capped at such a low level, and manpower is so abundant, that there's no hope of ever running the attacker out of manpower by attrition, the way that's totally viable in CK2.

Small bonus to fort defense would actually be far better if you're on the offense. If you're defending, it just delays the inevitable loss slightly. And even if you successfully defend your territory you're still at nearly 0% warscore and with AI unwilling to give you anything for your trouble.

Really the only way this idea group makes any sense is by massively buffing your combat abilities as long as you're on your core territory. It's not exactly an original idea. CK2 "Defensive Pagans" have it. Civ5 Ethiopia has it. So many games have this. I'm surprised EU4 doesn't have anything like that.

Some nations already get +1 naval combat bonus off owned coasts, but there are no bonuses of any kind for land combat on own territory.

-20% Local hostile movement speed would probably do, especially since it stacks with Scortched Earth so well, but it would need to be applied to every province owned by nation with Defensive ideas by an event, so it would be fairly messy to mod.

Without heavy modding, I think +20% movement speed would actually do nicely. It sounds offensive, but actually in EU4 offense is about sieges, and defense is about getting into a advantageous battles to bleed out the attackers. Buffing this weak group with more siege defense and enemy attrition wouldn't hurt either, especially if attrition cap got increased from 5% to something more meaningful like 10%.


When EU4 came out, Diplomatic used to be a stupidly good idea group. Then it got split into Diplomatic and Influence, nerfed a bunch, and finally some of their bonuses got moved to Espionage to shore that up.

So what Diplomatic / Influence / Espionage each do? They all make your diplomacy betters with a fairly random mix of bonuses each. Fortunately with some simple rearrangement we could give them solid identity.

Let's start with Diplomatic - it will be an idea group for making other countries tolerate your aggressive expansion.

It already has +25% Improve relations, −20% Province warscore cost, Lowered impact on stability from diplomatic actions, and +2 diplomats. All it needs is getting that sweet −20% Aggressive expansion impact from Espionage, and −50% Unjustified demands from Influence.

It could then lose +1 Diplomatic relation or +2 Diplomatic reputation, as these are very strong but don't really fit in its new core identity of helping expand aggressively.


If Diplomatic is about smoothing out diplomacy for aggressively expanding countries, what should Influence do? Expanding through subjects of course!

First it absolutely needs May fabricate claims for subjects from Espionage, and it could get bigger Diplomatic reputation bonus, and possibly +1 Diplomatic relation if Diplomatic loses it.

−25% Diplomatic annexation cost could be increased to maybe even as much as -50%. Expansion through subjects used to be really effective but now just so much worse than expansion through coring, that we could definitely use a bonus bigger than Administrative ideas' −25% Core-creation cost.

It would be a great pick for a country that has a lot of PUs through missions and no free annexation by button, like Bohemia.

Naval ideas actually have decent identity - they're about making your navies win battles. It's just that in EU4 this is completely irrelevant 99% of the time, and maybe worth throwing some money at, but definitely not a whole idea group slot.

At the very least it needs to give an extra leader slot or two, so you can actually hire some admirals without starving your land army of leadership (I vaguely recall that next patch is supposed to have separate admiral limit, so that problem might go away).

Even throwing in every single modifier from Naval and Maritime into a single idea group, and then a bit more, would really make a completely underwhelming idea group nobody has any reason to take.

One way to help it would be by increasing importance of naval combat, and removing all straits could do just that, but that would really mess up with AI and overall game balance.


Plutocratic is a fairly decent but not very coherent group of bonuses for republics (except Noble republics, but they're rare and bad) and also somehow plutocratic monarchies (basically a rare Indian Ocean thing).

Plutocratic could easily become "play a republic" idea group if it had some modest republican tradition bonus like +0.25.

That wouldn't help plutocratic monarchies, but they're weird hybrid already, so that's fine.

Idea groups I don't know what to do about


Third "make diplomacy better" group after Diplomatic and Influence, and by far the worst. And I want to make it even worse by moving some of its bonuses to Diplomatic and Influence, as they're close enough to fixable.

The worst thing about Espionage ideas is that EU4's espionage system is just terrible.

Most covert actions unlock really late, and most of them - like Slander Merchants, Support Rebels, or Sabotage Recruitment, are a total waste of time.

Somehow EU3 had a lot better spy system - spies were separate from diplomats, and you needed ideas to get any spies so they could be more powerful. They had abilities such as:

  • Infiltrate Administration - removes fog of war for a while (it's in EU4 but at adm tech 30 so game never gets there)
  • Bribe defenders - free siege progress
  • Commission privateer - creates pirate naval rebels
  • Support revolt - actually generates rebellion (in 5 different variants) - in early EU4 patches it still sort of worked, by now it's completely useless

And a bunch more.

EU4 really needs drastic changes to spy system for Espionage ideas to do their job. Some ideas:

  • make Espionage ideas unlock espionage abilities like Infiltrate Administration early
  • or just make those abilities happen early for everyone
  • make Support rebels just actually spawn the damn rebels

And it could use some new spy options. Most obvious one would be CK2 style ruler/heir assassinations, but balancing that one looks like hell. Especially if AI starts using it on you.

Some other ideas for new actions:

  • create royal marriage regardless of target's opinion
  • if you have royal marriage, give them heir of your own dynasty (or give yourself heir of their dynasty)
  • steal money (scaling that properly would be difficult)
  • bribe enemy general to switch to your side
  • reduce AE with target at price of some gold (like 100 gold and 25 spy points for -10 AE or something)
  • fabricate other CBs, like Subjugation CB

Unfortunately implementing them in balanced way, especially if they're meant for both player and AI, is not going to be easy.

The easiest way to make Espionage at least a little good would be to make Support rebels actually usable (like +50% monthly rebel tick chance, not +10%, and at far lower money cost, maybe zero, as it's currently ridiculous relative to what you get), make late game covert actions like Infiltrate Administration available earlier, and then increase bonuses for this group anyway.


By name this group wants to be about being ahead of everyone else in technology. Except that is just plain impossible in EU4. Especially since they introduced Institutions, the whole world - from Western Europe all the way to African jungle - has the same military technology plus or minus maybe 2 techs (25 years difference), and maybe up to 4 techs (50 years) in adm/dip tech, but those barely make an impact on anything. In reality technology difference between Europe and rest of the world was between centuries (Asia) to thousands of years (Africa and best parts of Americas) to literally tens of thousands of years (Australia and rest of Americas). Especially in ocean going naval technology, Europe was like in a completely different universe compared with what everyone else was doing.

You have no way of getting ahead of the pack, as 10% per year ahead of time penalty is so brutal, even throwing away all awful you can't go more than a few years ahead of everyone else.

Recent patch introduced "innovativeness" mechanic, which is basically a bonus for being ahead of tech, because techs themselves are quite irrelevant. It helps with strategy of going for very high (or even 100%) innovativeness, which is quite achievable for the player as most Western European countries, but totally impossible for the AI.

The whole world has only 302% innovativeness to share between each other, from all techs and ideas, so that's like 1-2% per country. Maybe a bit more as there's events that give innovativeness, and it's possible for multiple countries to gain bonus for the same tech if they get it within 90 days of the leader, but really it's a weird race.

If you don't try to go for max innovativeness, the idea group is really unfocused.

One thing that could work would be reducing ahead of time penalty for techs if you have innovative, so you only pay 5% per year not 10% per year. This cannot be modded directly, so it would need to be a huge list of triggered modifiers based on current year, current tech, and that tech's year. Or the whole "ahead of time" system could be replaced with something less punitive and more dynamic, but the game heavily relies on current system.

Innovative cannot really be saved by just increasing its bonuses. Technology is gained by monarch points, so if we just give Innovative a lot more monarch points - like by huge tech/idea discounts, and advisor cost discounts, then it will be overpowered for everything - while not actually making you take technologies any faster.

Maybe it could increase government reform speed? It's currently painfully slow to get to the good stuff at the end, so it would be one option to do so faster.


It's a total dupster fire, even more so than Naval.

It sort of has one use - if you go over force limit on light ships protecting trade, and stack all other naval tradition modifiers to get permanent 100%, you get really huge trade steering bonuses, so your long chain of dominated trade nodes gan give you ridiculous amount of income. Maritime's +100% Naval tradition from protecting trade can actually be quite useful to achieve this, but really if you ever get to this point, then you control half of the world already, so the game is over regardless.

Making it all about trade companies could be a thing, but really Trade already wants those trade company bonuses, and making Maritime "second Trade ideas, just worse" really doesn't seem that appealing.

One way to help it would be to make it "second Trade ideas, except not worse", throwing in some big trade steering and light ship trade power bonuses, maybe an extra merchant, and 5% trade efficiency.

It would probably be better to just remove it from the game completely, and divide its flimsy bonuses between Naval and Trade.

What could have idea group

If we drop Maritime, or just wanted to introduce a completely new group, either as replacement, or an extra, what could that be? Here are a few ideas.

Industry Ideas - give bonuses to goods produced, production efficiency, and development cost. As finisher it lets you change trade goods in a province you own if you develop it enough. So that Napoli at 22dev making crappy Grain? Maybe my throwing some money or points you could change it to Wine or Paper. What about Grain producing mountain in Avellino next door? Maybe deving it up to 20 would flip it to Iron or Copper. The whole system needs to consider terrain, climate, and such things to not do anything crazy, but modest trade good changes wouldn't break the game.

We could even do some limited terrain changes, replacing Forest or Marsh with Farmland, but right now there's not terribly much incentive to do so - it would save you some dev cost, but mostly just remove your defense bonus.

I'm not sure what would be other good idea groups that would fit within framework of the game.

Game changes it all requires

So to recap, to make it work I'd need a few game changes beyond idea group bonuses:

  • remove most or all strait crossings (for Naval)
  • higher attrition cap (for Defensive matters)
  • redo spy system (for Espionage)

That brings 17/18 idea groups into fairly good state. I really don't know how to salvage Maritime.

If you have any fun ideas about rebalancing existing ideas differently or adding new ones, let me know in the comments.

Saturday, December 05, 2020

Tier Zoo, or why Gorilla is a F Tier Trash

Howler Monkey by Terry Kearney from flickr (PUBLIC-DOMAIN)

Tier Zoo is a popular YouTube channel with analyses of animal metagame, placing each build in one of S, A, B, C, D, or F tiers.

It's highly entertaining and has high production values, however its analyses are often just as bad as Binkov's tier lists for another popular game.

Notable thing almost always missing from Tier Zoo's analyses are metagame share statistics maps (which I'll quote extensively). Using hard data is always preferred to relying exclusively on purely subjective criteria.

Another problem is that tiers are never clearly defined. But what really inspired this is ridiculous rankings like in this video, which claims that Gorilla - critically endangered jank build that was never even remotely playable - is somehow S tier, same as the most ridiculous build of last billion years Human.

To put metagame discussion on firmer settings, here's my suggestion what those tiers should be. But whichever tiers you choose, under no definition of tiers is Gorilla trash of any value whatsoever.

I'll mostly use Mammal builds as examples, due to likely reader's familiarity, as my statistics show that non-Mammal players very rarely visit this blog.

There's a related issue that there's often disagreement on what should be counted as same or separate build. Some analyses count every tiniest variation for every server separately, I don't think that's all that helpful, and I'd rather count all closely related variants with about the same stats and gameplay as single build. Reasonable disagreement is definitely possible here, and same data can be re-analyzed differently.

S+ Tier

S+ Tier warps the whole metagame around itself.

By definition there can't be more than one such build at a time.

There's just one S+ Tier build and that's Human. There's a reason the current version is called Anthropocene Patch.

To find any place not affected by Human build, you'd need to run to Deep Sea meta, but not for much longer.

The build is so ridiculous, devs are about to double the number of servers to provide some challenging environments to Human players, as every existing server is too damn easy.

Looking back, the only other S+ tier build to ever exist were the first Oxygen Producing Bacteria, but some predict robots might be the next S+ tiers.

S Tier

S Tier are builds that are great across many different metas, and very often take over any server to which they're introduced

Anthropocene has many S Tier builds, and if you're looking for an easy game, IUCN created a nice list of most builds that easily take over new metas.

  • Cat - pretty much the only build that's insanely successful in both Human Support and Wild metagames and can almost freely switch back and forth between them
  • Pig - Human Support builds often go Wild, but never back
  • Rat
  • Fox
  • Mouse
  • Red Deer
  • Goat

I only disagree with one thing about their list - invading Australian or New Zealand meta hardly makes a build S tier, those metas were pretty much defined by low tier trash with some mid tiers mixed in, and anything half-decent could have dominated them.

Before Anthropocene there weren't really that many S tier builds, as slower overall pace of metagame change meant that even successful build usually had different sub-builds on different servers.

For example Small Cat build's metagame share before Anthoropocene patch was already enormous, even if nitpickers point out that technically these aren't all quite identical builds, and some vary quite meaningfully from base build.

The most notable pre-Anthopocene S Tiers, even without counting sub-builds:

Really, nothing should ever be described as S Tier until it has track record of dominating server after server. Calling total trash like Gorilla an S Tier is just laughable.

This tier is quite well defined, and there's rarely much doubt if something belongs here or not.

A Tier

A Tiers are builds that are strong across wide range of metas, and resilient to meta change, even if they might struggle to expand to very different metas, or drastic patches like Anthropocene Patch, or coming Global Warming Patch.

Some notable pre-patch A-Tiers which are:

They were never as successful as Grey Wolf or (counted together) Small Cat builds, but it's still extremely impressive performance.

Build like Brown Bear is still very clearly A tier post-patch, Lion and Tiger would arguably be more B tiers if evaluated just by their post-patch performance.

Some A Tiers which are great as Human Support, and also do fine in Wild metas, but not really to the point of being easily invasive. Notable example is:

B Tier

B Tiers are a builds that are really damn good in its meta, and that's about it. They're often very vulnerable to metagame change, and unlikely to expand beyond.

Let's face it - this is the highest any non-Human Ape ever got.

Some notable builds:

  • Chimpanzee
  • Bonobo
  • Various Macaque builds - taken together they do quite well, but most sub-builds really struggle
  • Capybara

Anthropocene is also full of B Tiers that are super successful as Human support classes, but really struggle otherwise like:

  • Cow

It's also best to describe as B tier builds that are fairly widespread, but only on low competition servers like:

C Tier

C Tiers are builds which survive in its meta, but doesn't even do anything special there.

This is actually where most builds belong you've probably never heard of. They're neither good enough nor bad enough to be notable.

Some examples include:

  • Red Panda - not doing great, but definitely far better build than Giant Panda
  • Hamster - mediocre as Human Support, mediocre in the Wild

D Tier

D Tiers are builds which survive in its meta, but are just plain bad even there.

Notable example:

  • Koala - eating highly toxic food with extremely little nutritional value, having tiny brain so without any ability to adapt, and being riddled with STDs to boot. The only reason this build isn't extinct is that nobody else wants to get anywhere this trashy lifestyle. Their one and only strong point keeping them above F tier is that nobody else wants to get anywhere this trashy lifestyle.

F Tier

F Tiers are builds which are trash even in metagames where they somehow manage to survive; and which completely miss the point by having abilities completely mismatched to their gameplay

Notable examples:

  • Giant Panda - infamous F tier trash - only ever existed in one narrow meta, carnivore digestive system and build, and lifestyle based on eating bamboo which they digest poorly; can't even reproduce properly, in Wild or as shitty Human Support
  • Gorilla - another F tier trash and inspiration for this post - build features potential for powerful brain, but it doesn't use it for anything at all! Instead of hunting in pack or alone, or somehow accessing high value food, or even raiding Human trash piles, it never hunts anything bigger than insects, and eats very low quality food like some kind of Cow. Except it lacks Cow's specialized digestive system. To compare just how trash Gorillas' XP sources are relative to other Apes, they eat estimated ~18kg food per day, compared with Chimp's ~2kg, in spite of being only 3x heavier (those estimates not hard data, but they definitely don't eat alike). They're very strong, and they just fight each other, never using their strength for anything else. It's a really just a meme build. It's like some Ape player once decided "I wish I was more like a Cow", and did this extremely poorly. And to add insult to injury, they're close enough to Human build that they can get Human diseases like Ebola, but without benefiting from any of Human abilities - the worst combination ever. Of course Gorilla was never a popular build, and now the only thing standing between it and extinction are some Human weirdos which really want this trash to survive for their entertainment.

I hope this post introduces some clarity to the world of Animal Tier Lists, and helps you choose a better build.

I totally understand that people might differ in their judgement by one tier, or argue if group of related builds should be treated as one build or not - this happens in every game. But I really hope nobody ever calls F tier trash like Gorilla an S tier ever again. If you do, you're just making a fool of yourself.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Empires are not about economic exploitation of periphery by the core

Pacificats Floris by Pacificat Ragdolls from flickr (CC-NC-ND)

I recently discovered a fun blog "A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry", and it's been very enjoyable reading, but one of the posts is so wrong I need to write a rebuttal.

The author in Why Are There No Empires in Age of Empires? comes up with the following thesis:

An empire is a state where the core ruling population exercises control and extracts resources from a periphery which is composed of people other than the core group (linguistically/culturally/ethnically/religiously distinct). So an empire is a state where one set of people (the core) extract resources (typically by force) from another set of people (the periphery).

And so...

And that's how we know that "United States" is really a Puerto Rican Empire, as Puerto Rico is sure sucking up vastly greater flow of resources than it's ever getting back. The ruling Puerto Rican elite is literally not even paying income tax like those exploited mainlanders!

The so called "Russia" is really Great Chechen Empire, they sneakily conquered it by losing the war.

The so called "China" is really Greater Tibetan Empire.

The "United Kingdom" is really Scottish Empire, just look at all the money they're extracting from England!

And the earlier so called "British" Empire was really ran by the Americans - the exploited Brits were paying 10x as much in tax per capita than the ruling Americans.

And during Scramble for Africa, Africans managed to colonize Europe, as sure as hell average European was paying for all that elite map painting, and didn't benefit in any way whatsoever.

And so on.

This is all nonsense

If you look at any actual empires, especially recently, the overwhelming pattern is that burden of maintaining the empire - in terms of both money and manpower - falls disproportionately on core population, and peripheral populations are mostly expected to not cause trouble, and are otherwise net economic drain.

Exceptions happen, and occasionally core areas find some place extremely exploitable, but they're just that - rare exceptions. Like in 1700s' French colonial empire, tiny Guadeloupe was somehow economically worth far more than a quarter of North American continent.

Most of the time, those peripheral taxes are far less than core population pays, and far less than costs of holding those places in the Empire.

Foreign elites

There's a distinct and far more common situation where foreigners conquer some place, displace local elite, and rule as a dynasty or nobility over far more numerous locals.

This would actually fit in the original definition, except as a general rule the conquerors move to their conquered lands, so it feels a bit silly to talk about "Norman Empire" which lost Normandy rather quicky, or "Manchu Empire", which was absolutely ruled from within China, and is generally labelled "China" in history books, or such.

Exceptions proving the rule

Perhaps if one keeps looking, it's possible to find some "empires" where core successfully and sustainably extracts resources from periphery, especially in more ancient times.

Roman Empire is actually halfway there, as it managed to exploit places like Greece and Egypt pretty damn well, but even Romans admitted that their periphery like Britain were a net drain. Eventually the ruling center of Roman Empire moved to its richest province, and the usual pattern was restored.

In any case, such exceptional cases cannot possibly be used as definition of an empire.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Mechs vs Tanks

Miisa by andymiccone from flickr (PUBLIC-DOMAIN)

Sci-fi and anime loves mechs, but there's a widespread belief that mechs are just absolute trash idea, and tanks are superior in every way.

Here's example of such claims: part one, part two.

This is completely wrong.

Cube Square Law

Part of the problem is conflating the idea of a mech, with the idea of a giant mech. Mechs can come in all sizes.

And in fact military is already actively researching mechs! Just among many such projects - DARPA's TALOS project is an bulletproof, weaponized, AI-enhanced exoskeleton - basically a small mech.

It might take a few decades before such mechs become deployed by actual armed forced, but it's ridiculous to call something crazy when prototypes have been in development for years now.

Weapons vs Armor

History of warfare is an endless race between weapons and armor, with either being on top at different times.

During the Middle Ages, armor was king, and a fully armored knight was nearly invulnerable to whatever peasants could throw at them. But just a few short centuries later, no amount of armor humanly possible to carry could stop a musket bullet, so weapons were king, and armor got abandoned completely. Ironically the Peak Armor era was time when armor was already on verge of obsolescence, but it was easier to double down on old strategy instead of rethinking everything.

When tanks were introduced, a big reason they were quite successful was protection offered by their armor. Common infantry weapons just couldn't do anything to them, but of course that didn't last long.

As weapons got better, tank armor got heavier, and fast. First tanks to see combat in World War I had 12mm of armor.

By end of World War II, armor reached 250mm. To still be functional, it had to have far more compact shape.

It wasn't really possible to keep increasing the weight, and modern tanks aren't really much heavier than WW2 tanks, but using advanced materials to increase protection, the race between weapons and armor continued for a while longer.

Passive vs Active Protection

Right now it looks like the weapons are getting ahead. Armor is by no means useless, but in 2006 Lebanon War, Iranian anti-tank guided missiles were able to penetrate the most modern tanks just fine.

Weapons keep getting better, and it doesn't seem like armor has much space left to improve.

All militaries can see that, and they're equipping their tanks and other vehicles with active protection systems, which attempt to shoot down incoming missiles before they hit.

It's tempting to think that active protection is just another phase in evolution of tanks, but that's just wrong.

Tanks are the form they are because that's the only way to have thick armor while keeping weight reasonable.

Active protection has no such limitations. It doesn't matter if you install it on a tank, a light vehicle, or for that matter on an exoskeleton.

If active protection ends up being the winner, then mechs work just as well as tanks. And then liberated from just one form factor, we'll likely see a wide variety of different shapes of military vehicles - some might still look like current tanks, but others might very well look like mechs of various sizes, or something completely different.

And if active protection ends up being a big loser? Then giant mechs make no sense, but then neither do tanks.

Power Considerations

Another issues with mechs of all sizes is difficulty providing enough power and energy storage for them. Right now tanks are just more efficient, and mechs and exoskeletons are not very practical.

Fortunately for mechs, battery and engine technology is improving at very rapid pace, so it's entirely reasonable to expect this issue will go away soon.

There are even ways to recharge from air or space without any physical contact.

Future Prediction

In our world, it's very likely that exoskeletons will become widespread over next few decades, just like drones before them.

It's also very likely that active protection systems will increasingly become main protection. This will likely mean future tanks becoming lighter, as all that heavy armor just won't matter all that much. Wider variety of (mostly autonomous) military vehicles will come into widespread use, with very few relying on heavy armor, and most on active protection, stealth, or just being really cheap and expendable like most types of current drones.

Giant mechs? That's more farfetched for now, but if we have this discussion in a few decades, at time when most armies consist of exoskeleton-clad infantry supported by drone swarms, this really won't sound that far outside realm of possibility.

So if even our world is on verge of having mechs, it's just ridiculous to think there's no place for them in any sci-fi world, where technologies might have developed along different lines, and trade-offs are different?

The "tanks are always superior" crowd is going to sound just as ridiculous as believers in eternal superiority of heavily armored cavalry were a few centuries ago.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Prediction Markets were Batshit Insane this Election

. by Runs With Scissors from flickr (CC-NC-ND)

The elections are over. The biggest loser are the prediction markets.

As I'm writing this, Arizona has already been called for Biden. And PredictIt has it as 30% chance of Trump.

Trump has no mathematically possible way of winning. PredictIt has it him at 20%.

I talked shit about 538, and I was absolutely right, but even they in the end had Trump at just 10%. Models I'd consider more reasonable like The Economist's had Trump at 3%. Prediction markets had him at completely batshit insane 40%.

And as votes started coming, when Trump did a tiny bit better than expected (but at no point was anywhere near having any chance of winning), Trump peaked at completely ridiculous 72%! It was known long in advantage that election day vote will be a lot more Republican than mail in vote, and states were clear how much of each kind outstanding there is. Prediction markets completely missed that, and had Trump as a favourite just because Republicans mostly went there in person while Democrats mostly sent their votes by mail, and it was too hard for them to understand.

Everything I said turned out to be right. If polls were right, elections would have been very easy Biden victory, and the "normal polling error" benefiting Biden would turn them into a Reagan style landslide.

But not only that - "normal polling error" towards Trump, would still mean easy Biden victory. Even unusually high polling error - what we had this year - didn't bring Trump particularly close to competitive territory. Everything that possible could go right for Republicans were perfectly for them - and Trump lost anyway, because his chances were nonexistent.

Polls weren't great, but they were fine. They predicted Biden to win by about +8%. By the time counting will end, he'll end up closer to +4 or +5%. We won't know for a while, as California takes forever to count their votes, so popular votes always ends up more Democratic than it seems on election day.

It turns out Trump was indeed closer in tipping point states, so Electoral College gave me a few points, but it never managed to overcome that kind of lead. There's no reason to predict which party will be at an advantage in 2024.

Real markets work because they're dominated by sophisticated institutional investors, whose job it is to figure things out, and whose predictions are tested every day. We hoped that small prediction markets dominated by small scale amateurs tested once every 4 years would be just as good, but it turns out they failed utterly.

I'm definitely disappointed as for a while it seemed that we might get great rationalist tool for very little money. It turns out it takes more than that.

EDIT: It's November 13th now, Trump lost nearly two weeks ago, every state has been called long ago, most betting sites paid out on Biden (including one where I bet), and Trump is still 12% on PredictIt. Some people must really hate their own money.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Why 538 election model is wrong and Biden has an easy win ahead

#TrumpYourCat by jillccarlson from flickr (CC-BY)

538 releases a model predicting what they think is going to happen every elections, and this time they released a crazy one, where "Biden is only slightly favored to win the election", and Trump has insanely high 30% chance of  second term.

This is in stark contrast to everyone else's predictions. For example The Economist gives Trump just 9% chance of winning, and this is a much more sensible number.

In this post I'll explain why 538 believes elections are quite close, and why it's completely wrong.

It's not a terribly sophisticated analysis, but it's too long for a tweet, so I thought I'd put it here.

If you're interested, I wrote "A Guide to 2020 Elections for non-Americans" a while back, and I dislike both Trump and Biden very much.

Why 538 model believes what it does

Their model is very sophisticated, but its basic assumptions leading to their crazy conclusions are fairly straighforward:

  • Biden is far ahead in polls, however:
  • there's still a lot of time until elections
  • things are likely to change until then
  • especially since pandemic year is full of events
  • Electoral College benefits Trump, so he will likely win even if he losses popular vote narrowly
  • the economy went to hell earlier this year, but they think it will improve, and that will somehow benefit Trump

Why 538 is completely wrong - not much time

The only thing they got right is that Biden is indeed far ahead in the polls. They're wrong about everything else.

The elections are a lot closer than they think. In normal times, most people vote on Election Day. This time due to the pandemic a lot more people will vote by mail early, and mail voting opens about a month before Election Day, depending on the state. So for a lot of voters, time until elections is only half of what they think. And people might be voting even earlier as there's a lot of talk about Post Office having trouble processing votes in time.

Even if Biden says the dumbest thing he ever said one week until elections, or Trump single-handedly invents coronavirus vaccine, enough votes will be cast by then that it probably won't matter.

Why 538 is completely wrong - pandemic prevents most campaigning

People don't change political beliefs based on clocks ticking, they do based on events and campaigning. This time due to pandemic there's going to be a lot less campaiging, and people's attention will be largely on other issues.

It's not even certain if the usual debates will happen or not. And even if they do, only the first of the three is supposed to happen before mail voting starts.

Why 538 is completely wrong - people already made up their mind

If you compare Trump's approval ratings with all past presidents, Trump's are the least volatile.

People love Trump, or hate Trump, and there's a lot fewer people in between that could be convinced by the campaigns. So no matter how good Trump's campaign is, it will likely not matter. And likewise, while Biden will almost certainly win, he's also very unlikely to win by 1984 style landslide.

Why 538 is completely wrong - Electoral College advantage can go either way

In 2000 and 2016 elections, Democrats won the popular vote, but Republicans won the presidency. While this might give an impression that Electoral College system inherently benefits Republicans (the way Senate arguably does), if you look back both parties benefited from the system about equally often.

Right now it might look like 2020 map will be similar to 2016 map, and seems to benefit Trump. This thinking is completely mistaken.

If very little changes, Trump will lose terribly, and while he might indeed lose Electoral College by less than popular vote, it will be completely inconsequential.

For elections to be even competitive, fairly big changes must happen. But while it's possible, there's no reason to expect that they'll uniformly apply to all states (in proportion to their "swinginess").

For example if Biden says something that will offend a million Californians and makes them stay at home or vote third party, this will significantly reduce his popular vote share, but it won't matter for Electoral College one bit, since California will go Democratic regardless.

Trump needs not only a really big swing - he needs a swing that's either eerily uniform, or happen in just the right states.

In reality, if a major swing happens, it throws all assumptions about Electoral College advantage out of the window. Even if much bigger swing than could be reasonably expected happens, and Trump somehow manages to reach vote share similar to what he got in 2016 (losing popular vote by 2%), it's actually still quite unlikely that this swing will leave his Electoral College advantage intact, and get him another victory.

Why 538 is completely wrong - the economy will not favor Trump

A popular way to predict elections is by looking at "economic fundamentals". The thinking goes that whenever economy is doing poorly, people blame whoever is in charge for it, and vote for someone else. This is generally true, and after every major economic crisis like 1929 or 2008, governments all across the world got a lot less popular, regardless of which part of the political spectrum they were on, and how much or how little they had to do with causes of the crisis. There's no reason to expect 2020 to be any different.

538 really hates fundamentals models, and for a good reason. While bad "economy" affects people's voting preferences, there's no obvious way to pick a single number for what is the "economy". You can use unemployment, or GDP, or disposable income, or stock market, or so many other indicators, of combinations of indicators. So in year were economy is doing so-so, you can't really use those models to predict much.

Instead of stopping there, 538 somehow decided to ask experts where the economy will go just before elections, and since most expect some recovery from the worst of the lockdowns, they count this as benefiting Trump. While there's a room for reasonable disagreement how to model this, there's no way in hell 2020 economy could possibly benefit Trump, people's memories are longer than a few weeks, and US is still and will likely be in state of mass unemployment.

Are 2020 Elections a foregone conclusion?

Democrats are overwhelmingly likely to win the House - they'll win the popular vote, and there's not even a possibility of Electoral College stopping them. Republican House is about as likely as Nicola Sturgeon becoming the next Prime Minister.

Biden is extremely likely to win presidency - things would need to go really damn well for Trump.

Senate is another matter. Only 1/3 of it is reelected each time, and Republicans do have a meaningful structural advantage there, so it seems fairly close to even who's going to win. And it probably matters more than anything else this year.

If Democrats control the Senate, they'll be able to abolish filibuster, pass pretty much whatever they want, and then possibly also pack Supreme Court with ten new liberal judges that will pronounce all of that Constitutional. They probably won't go that far, but in principle they could.

In Democrats keep the House, and Republicans keep the Senate, then it will most likely be four more years of gridlock regardless of who's the president. The parties hate each other so much, they won't compromise on anything beyond the most routine operations of the government. Biden's policies will be different than Trump's, but presidential policies don't matter as much as people thing, an the next president in 2024 might very well reverse most of them.

And yes, I obviously put money where my mouth is.