This article is considered accurate for the current version (1.12) of the game.
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- +10% Morale of armies
- +30% Better relations over time
- +10% Imperial authority
- −15% Diplomatic annexation cost
- -10% Fort maintainance
- +15% National garrison growth
- +0.05 Yearly inflation reduction
- −1 Interest per Annum
- +2 Diplomatic reputation
- +2% Missionary strength
- +1 Diplomatic relations
- +30% Reinforce speed
- +3% Discipline
- +50% Chance of new heir
Austria starts the game as the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. As Emperor of the traditionally fractious German HRE states, it is up to the player to unify the Empire as the famous Habsburgs and stake their claim on history as a world power.
Austria starts as a country in Central Europe, bordered by Bohemia and minor German states to the north and west, Hungary to the east and Venice to the south. They also start with an army of 37000 troops, the largest army in Europe.
As Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, the player might be called into defensive wars against outside aggression, and are also tasked with maintaining order in the empire and enforcing religious unity.
- Main article: Austrian missions
Austrian missions are focused around uniting the Habsburg lands and uniting the Holy Roman Empire.
- Main article: Austrian events
Austria's events deal with Austro-Bohemian relations, instability in Austria's holdings in Hungary, famous people of the time period such as Mozart and Metternich, and the Italian Wars. Austria may also have an event that provides the ability to change to a unique government type, the Archduchy, giving Austria a diplomatic advantage over other nations.
Styria can form Austria if Austria no longer exists.
Playing Austria is very different from most other nations in the game and therefore could offer a unique experience. Austria must retain the title of Holy Roman Emperor in order to maintain their might as a continental power, which means playing the diplomacy and imperial authority game within the HRE. Thankfully, Austria's national ideas easily form the best set of diplomatic ideas in the game. Maintaining allies is also essential as all of Austria's major opponents (particularly France and the Ottomans) have superior military-oriented ideas.
The Electors: Austria should try to maintain the votes of at least 2-3 electors, but it may not be necessary to ally them to do so (though it's much easier). Do not ally two electors who are rivals against each other (i.e. Brandenburg and Saxony) to avoid the -25 'allied to rival' opinion modifier. Because electors will vote for themselves if they have the backing of another, the best choice is to ally two other electors who also allied one another (otherwise one will vote for the other, leading the other to vote for themselves). Also do not ally Bohemia for the vote as Bohemia almost always votes for itself.
Improve opinion should only be used on the chosen electors Austria wants the vote from. Allowing the other elector's opinion stay low increases the chance of receive the valuable "Improve our Relation with the Elector of" missions, which gives +10ADM, +5 Legitimacy, and +5 Imperial Authority. This mission is available when opinion is below 50 and succeeds when opinion rises to 100.
Poland: Poland often rivals Austria later on, but rarely does so at the beginning of the game. By befriending Poland early, answer calls to war and calling them into wars, Austria could easily gain a powerful alliance that lasts the entire game. Furthermore, allying Poland will usually keep them from invading the HRE, while Polish wars against their principle foes Russia and Sweden could be accepted without risk: the Commonwealth's mass entirely shields Austria from Russia, while Sweden's only direct access to HRE through Holstein is easily defended.
Castile: Castile/Spain is a natural ally as France will likely be Austria's greatest enemy for much of the game. Maintaining Castile as an trusted ally is essential in forcing France to fight a two-front war. Furthermore, once Castile forms Spain, their powerful navy will be of great help against the Ottomans.
Hungary: Hungary occasionally starts as Austria's rival, making diplomacy impossible. But if not, a royal marriage with Hungary followed by an alliance should be the first thing. Hungary begins in interregnum, with a guaranteed chance of a Habsburg heir if a royal marriage was arranged first. With some luck, a personal union with Hungary could be achieved as early as the 1450s. If this doesn't happen, break the alliance with Hungary by 1500+ when the mission "The decline of Hungary" shows up, which will offer a CB to force Hungary into a personal union.
Bohemia: Bohemia is a special case among the electors. While they typically vote for themselves, they also start in an interregnum making it easy to get a Habsburg onto the Bohemian throne, allowing for the possibility of an early union. Like Hungary, it is best to break any alliance by calling Bohemia into a war they'll reject after 1500, as Austria will receive a mission ("Bohemia must accept Austrian over lordship") to force Bohemia into a personal union.
Friesland: Friesland is a Republic in the HRE, and should be made to be a Free City for the extra Imperial Authority.
Rivals and Early Expansion
Depending on the direction of expansion, setting rivals will speed up claim fabrication and boost your power projection when conquering.
Venice: an easy target at start. They begin adjacent to Austria holding imperial territory, yet they are not a member of the HRE (as taking land from HRE members lead to greater aggressive expansion to all other HRE states). Furthermore, the Venice trade node is one of the four end trade nodes in game. It is best to attack Venice as soon as possible before they forge major allies like France or Britain. While Venice's mainland territories should be seized, it should be noted that Venice itself makes an excellent vassal or march (doable in 2-3 wars; preferably 3 to avoid massive aggressive expansion and coalition risks); Venice has the historical ally modifier which massively reduce their liberty desire (but after 1.12 it will be removed if the player attacks it), their national ideas are excellent to provide naval support against any Mediterranean power (especially the Ottomans later on), and as long as they hold Venezia (even if all other Venice node provinces are taken from them), they will pull trade in with their trade posts and extra merchants for the benefit of Austria collection.
Salzburg: a rich single-province with Austrian culture. Salzburg can be seized with minimal effort, and is the only HRE state best seized militarily due to the high aggressive expansion of expanding elsewhere within the HRE.
Ottomans: the Ottomans should be rivaled early on to gain Poland as an ally. This is especially important if Austria plans to also ally Hungary while maintaining the Polish alliance as those two countries are rivals. However, attacking the Ottomans early game is a bad idea due to their superior units and military ideas.
Hungary: if Hungary starts rivaling Austria, then they become an easy expansion target. Doubly so with Polish help as Poland and Hungary are always rivals. Do keep in mind that because Austria receives a mission to force Hungary into personal union after 1500+, Hungary should be seen as an opportunistic target until then: only grab if another power (Poland/Ottomans) is invading.
France: An early war against France with Castile's help could delay the onset of the blue blob by decades. However, the costs of such a war is also phenomenal due to the massive army France and its vassals can put into the field. Use of mercenaries to replenish front-line infantry will be essential, and Austria should hunt down the retreating French army with Castilian help until it is destroyed. The best time to attack is not at the start (England will land little troops to stop France from winning the Hundred Years' War prior to 1.12, but as of 1.12 they no longer start at war with France, so with patience and careful diplomacy one can strike when England inevitably attacks France) but when France declares on Burgundy to seize French lands. Due to aggressive expansion issues and high coring costs, it's better for release French minors and then diplo-vassalize/annex.
Bosnia/Serbia: Bosnia/Serbia will usually be annexed by the other, but their orthodox faith leaves them without any nearby friends. Austria can fabricate claim for conquest CB once the Venetian province of Dalmatia is seized. Due to their orthodox faith they can be taken with low aggressive expansion. However the difficulty in converting Orthodox provinces without the Religious idea group means it is best to annex only the Catholic Croatian lands and vassalize the rest (or vassalize the entirety in a single war, achievable with the Diplomatic idea group's Flexible Negotiations). Vassalized Venice will happily take the port of Ragusa for its center of trade/naval forcelimit bonus.
Burgundy: Austria can gain all imperial lands in Burgundy through the Burgundian Succession Crisis. This event is likely to happen if Burgundy is losing a war or does not have an heir before the year 1500. Therefore, it is best not to spend efforts on Burgundy prior to that. If the Burgundian Succession Crisis does not occur by 1500, then Burgundy makes a good expansion target, especially when France is attacking them for French lands. Be careful, though, as all French lands will be ceded to France, making them even stronger than before.
Unifying the Holy Roman Empire
Austria, starting out as the Holy Roman Emperor, has the easiest path toward unifying the Holy Roman Empire (abbreviated as HRE). This path is largely about diplomacy, and is very different from the normal wars of conquest of a state outside the HRE.
The top priority early on is generally to ensure that the Emperor title stays with Austria. It is usually unnecessary to ally with the electors, although the Palatinate or Brandenburg will usually offer an alliance at the start of the game. However, constantly improving relations with the electors whenever their reasons for voting for you start to drop is a good idea, as if Austria loses the Emperor title, it will be set back by a large amount. 3 votes is usually enough, as Bohemia will usually vote for itself.
It is unnecessary to expand very much within the HRE, as the last two Imperial reforms gives the player control over it. The player may wish to annex Salzburg, a bordering One Province Minor (OPM), though, as they are very wealthy, and the Aggressive Expansion should wear off within a few years.
Part of managing the Holy Roman Empire is to accrue Imperial Authority (IA), which allows imperial reforms to be passed, which eventually allows the Emperor to unify the HRE into one nation-state. Imperial Authority is gained in many ways.
When a foreign power attacks a member of the Holy Roman Empire (this is usually Denmark and co. at the start, as they have a mission to attack the Hansa, one of the members of the HRE), the Emperor will receive a Call to Arms, granting IA and a large relations boost with the entire HRE, and winning the war will grant more, so it is very important to answer these calls. Another, easier method of increasing Imperial Authority is to use the Imperial Liberation casus belli, received when an HRE member is annexed. This allows them to be released, and gain more IA. The country holding the Emperorship also gains 10 IA when a new emperor is elected from the same country, but this is not a very reliable method of accruing IA. Finally, every province owned outside the HRE in Europe can be added to the HRE for 1 IA each, but this is recommended to be only done to pass the last two reforms, when other methods won't work.
After reaching Administrative Technology 4 and unlocking the first idea group, it may be a good idea to unlock a Diplomatic Idea group, as diplomatic technology is not very important early on. It is probably best to choose the Diplomatic idea group, as it gives many benefits.
Occasionally, when Austria's relations with an Elector are under 100, it will receive a mission to get the relations to 100, giving a free +1 stability and +5 IA. This is typically very easy to do, and thus this mission should usually be picked when available.
After a while, Austria should be able to pass a reform or two. It is usually a good idea to pass these as quickly as possible, except for the second-to-last, "Revoke the Privilegia,". Imperial Authority above 50 increases the chances that countries will agree to passing the reforms, and while only a majority of the HRE is needed to pass the previous reforms, when "Revoke the Privilegia" is passed, countries that vote no on it will leave the HRE, which is not good. However, Austria will get CBs to force vassalage on them in that case.
In the 1500s, if all goes according to plan, many of the one-province German and Italian minors (if they haven't left by event yet) will have been annexed by their neighbors and then subsequently released by the player for the IA. The player may find it harder to keep relations up with the electors at this point, as the player may have been expanding (although it is probably wise not to expand within the HRE, as it causes much more Aggressive Expansion). Consequently, it may be a good idea to vassalize, whether by force or by diplomacy, 3 or more of the electors to secure the vote. Note that Austria receives a mission to force a personal union over one of the Electors, Bohemia.
At this point the Reformation will happen. The player is advised to not try to accrue IA immediately before and during the Reformation, as princes will frequently be converting to Protestantism, and later to the Reformed faith, costing the emperor a substantial amount of Imperial Authority with every conversion.
While it is possible to politely prompt the Protestant princes to convert back to Catholicism, this is not recommended, as it hurts relations with the rest of the HRE by -25, which decays quite slowly. Instead, during wars, there is usually an option to Force Religion, which does not hurt relations with anyone, although it doesn't return the lost IA from the conversion to Protestantism.
After 30 years or so, the conversions generally slow down by quite a bit, allowing the player to continue the previous strategy of liberating princes, etc.
Landfriede, Erbkaisertum, Privilegia and Renovatio Imperii
This strategy works perfectly well until the proclamation of the Ewiger Landfriede, when all inter-HRE wars are disallowed. This means that the player can no longer declare war on HRE nations to release princes, although HRE members may still be dragged into wars started against their foreign allies. If the emperor is not part of the HRE, members can still attack the emperor and vice versa.
Next, the Erbkaisertum removes the ability to receive 10 IA after every Imperial election consecutively won by the same nation, as it removes the elective nature of the HRE and keeps the current Emperor in power forever. By this point, the player should have expanded outside the HRE to such an extent that the player has many provinces able to be added to the HRE, which will increase IA by 1.25 each, as the Erbkaisertum increases IA gain by 25 percent.
Before Revoking the Privilegia, it is recommended to improve relations with every prince as much as possible, and to get IA to 100, as both of these actions increase the likelihood that princes will vote yes. Any princes who vote no leaves the HRE, which is annoying, and the emperor gains CBs on them to force vassalage.
Finally, the final reform itself is easy. Because all the princes are the Emperor's vassals, the reform is assured to pass. However, since there is a base force limit (i.e. forcelimit = base + provinces * x), the Imperial army is likely to actually be weaker after the final reform is passed. However, if the player feels like he or she would rather sacrifice a larger army for direct control of a smaller one, the Union is always an option.
There! Alles Erdreich ist Österreich untertan!
Diplomatic or Influence should always be Austria's first idea group due to the importance of holding onto the Holy Roman Emperor title. Both grants an additional Diplomatic Relations (more allies) and Diplomatic Reputation (votes for Austria/supporting reforms). Influence is better for rapid expansion thanks to reduced aggressive expansion and reduced diploannex costs. But Diplomacy has better events (including one that could give +5 Imperial Authority), better improved relations, free royal marriage breaking.
Offensive or Defensive are both helpful to Austria as a major land power that must repel hostile invasions on the HRE. Offensive is slightly more useful due to the need to wage many small wars within the HRE to free annexed states (improved siege = faster wars), as well as the larger forcelimits to win battles against the huge French army.
Religious or Humanism is essential by the third idea group in order to counter the religious chaos of the Reformation. Because it's in Austria's interests (as Emperor) to remain Catholic and convert Protestant/Reformed princes back to Catholicism, Religious is easily the better choice. But if the Reformation starts right next to or within Austria, Humanism may be necessary to prevent Austria from descending into religious chaos. Alternative, the Religious-Offensive policy (Anti-Heresy Act) offers a powerful bonus (+20% Religious Unity, +3% Missionary Strength vs Heretic) for a cheap MIL upkeep cost.