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This article may contain outdated information that is inaccurate for the current version of the game. It was last updated for Vanilla.

Colonization is one of the gameplay features available within the game as the setting is within the age of colonization. Nations can explore and colonize the continents of the Americas, Asia, and Africa.


The essential aim of colonialism is to generally out-perform your rivals, through:

  • Prestige and influence: To mold a prestigious global empire, befitting of your great nation; and
  • Trade and finance: To maintain dominance and control of global trade by cultivating and steering trade towards your capital

You should accept that tax and tariffs from your colonies will make up the minority of your profits.

AI colonizers[edit]

Not all AI nations will gain colonists, and only a limited number of nations will join the colonial race. An AI nation may gain a colonist via their national ideas or unlocking exploration ideas or expansion ideas.

This does not mean all the aforementioned countries will actually colonize. Some of them might cease to exist early on, while others may get colonist too late to do any colonization. Also the AI will not pick exploration ideas or expansion ideas unless it has a port.


Although some uncolonized provinces may be visible at the beginning of the game, much of both land and water is covered by terra incognita. Discovering these areas is useful for finding provinces to colonize.

  • An army led by a Conquistador can move into terra incognita land provinces and thus discover them. If that land is owned by another country, the Conquistador will discover the province instead of moving into it, unless that country grants Military Access. Skilled Conquistadors have a chance to discover adjacent provinces as well. All armies, even those without a Conquistador, can march into undiscovered land provinces owned by enemies during wartime.
  • A fleet led by an Explorer can move into terra incognita sea provinces and thus discover them. Upon entering a sea province they also have a chance to discover neighboring coastal provinces (increased by explorer skill). Having a ship patrol back and forth will eventually reveal all coastal provinces (typically in 6-12 months), though it's important to beware naval attrition while doing so.
  • Undiscovered land provinces have a chance per month to be discovered by owners of adjacent provinces (typically taking 3–5 years). Russia and colonial nations have ideas that make this discovery instant.
  • After 25 years, discoveries will spread to other countries of the same tech group as that of the discoverer. A country that changes tech group will immediately have all provinces known to that tech group revealed.

Colonists.png Colonists[edit]

A colonist is required to start a colony.

Colonists.png Traditions Ideas Bonus Policies

Expansion Ideas 1: Additional Colonists
Exploration Ideas 1: Colonial Ventures
Exploration Ideas 6: Free Colonies
American Ideas 3: Empire of Liberty
Malayan Ideas 7: Settle the Islands
Norwegian Ideas 5: Pioneer Spirit
Russian Ideas 5: Siberian Frontier
Spanish Ideas 1: The Reconquista
Quantity-Expansion: The Colonial Settlement Act

Colonial range.png Range[edit]

The range where you can establish a colony from a core province of your own nation is called the colonial range. It expands depending on your diplomatic technology level, modifiers, other bonuses, events and mission

Colonial range.png Traditions Ideas Bonus Policies

Exploration Ideas 3: Overseas Exploration

Norwegian Ideas 4: The Call of our Forefathers

Portuguese Ideas 2: Legacy of the Navigator

Exploration-Maritime: The Naval Exploration Act

Couronian Ideas 5: Couronian Colonization

Exploration-Plutocratic: The Colonial Companies Act
Naval-Exploration: Skilled Cartographers

Colonist time.png Travel time[edit]

The speed in which your colonists travel to claim and establish colonial territory, it is primarily modified by distance from your capital.

Envoy travel time.png Traditions Ideas Bonus Policies

Influence Ideas 6: Postal Service
Kongo Ideas 4: Diplomacy With European Monarchs
Diplomatic-Quality: Professional Diplomatic Corps

Naval-Diplomatic: Overseas Embassies

Administrative-Diplomatic: The Recordkeeping Act


Once a colonist arrives in an unowned province the population starts at 10. Colony populations grow at a base rate depending on administrative technology, further modified by some ideas. In addition, as long as a colonist remains in a colony, they have a chance each month of bringing in 30 additional population, speeding growth greatly. A colony becomes a full city when its population reaches 1000, and is destroyed if its population reaches 0; this can be done by natives spawning, events and colonies being destroyed by other countries in a war. These means you will have to resend your colonist.

Global settler increase.png Growth[edit]

Global settler increase.png Traditions Ideas Bonus Policies
+25 yearly Native Ideas 7: Great Winter Hunts Spanish Ambitions
+20 yearly Colonial Ideas 6: New Frontiers
Exploration Ideas 4: Land of Opportunity
+15 yearly Portuguese Ideas 6: Land before Faith
+10 yearly Expansion Ideas 3: Faster Colonists Expansion-Exploration: Colonial Expansion
+5 yearly Administrative-Exploration: The Colonial Administration Act
Espionage-Exploration: The Colonial Supervision Act
Exploration-Plutocratic: The Colonial Companies Act
Humanist-Exploration: Native Assimilation Act
Modifier Settlers per year
Colonial maintenance -125 to 0
No Adjacent Province Controlled -5
Arctic -10
Arid -20
Tropical -25

Settler chance.png Colonist chance[edit]

Each 1% chance for a colonist to bring in additional settlers will bring in 3.6 settlers per year on average.

The chance is determined by the following:

Settler chance.png Traditions Ideas Bonus Policies

Diplomatic-Exploration: The Native Translators Act

Administrative-Exploration: The Colonial Administration Act
Expansion-Plutocratic: Taxation with Representation
Exploration-Innovative: Benign Neglect
Humanist-Expansion: Mission to Civilize
Modifier Chance Mean settlers/year
Base + Base Value 10% 36
Per 100 population ("colony level") 4% 14.4
Per 100% Production Efficiency 20% 72
Per native aggressiveness -0.5% -1.8
Trading in Cotton 5% 18
Same religion 1% 3.6
Same culture 1% 3.6
Same culture group 1% 3.6
Tropical -25% -90


Colonial Enthusiasm[edit]

There is a modifier called 'Colonial Enthusiasm' which can be given through events and missions. The event 'Colonist Rush', from Exploration, and 'Colonist Enthusiasm', from Expansion give this modifier. These two events can only happen if the player has picked the associated idea group. The following bonuses are given:

  • +5%Settler chance.png Colonist Chance
  • +25Global settler increase.png Global Settler Increase
  • -33%Colonist time.png Colonist Travel Time

The modifier lasts for 5 years. If a mission to colonize a province is available but all colonists are currently busy, consider recalling one and sending it to the mission target, then abandoning the target colony as soon as the mission is completed. This grants the Colonial Enthusiasm modifier while avoiding the expense of maintaining too many colonies.


Colonial maintenance is the money that you spend in maintaining your colonies. At 100% maintenance, the base cost of a colony per year is given by

   base cost per year = 24 + base tax / 2

A country can support a number of colonies equal to its number of colonists at the base maintenance cost. After this the marginal maintenance cost starts rising swiftly (the tooltip claims exponential growth but the formula is actually quadratic, not exponential):

   maintenance cost multiplier for nth colony = 1 + max(n - number of colonists, 0)^2
Colony over cap: Cost multiplier for that colony:
1st 2x
2nd 5x
3rd 10x
4th 17x

Note that unlike force limit, this is applied to each colony individually in the order that they were founded, so the more recent colonies will be saddled with the higher cost multipliers.


Native population in 1444. Legend: 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000 9000

Colonizable provinces are usually occupied by natives, who may attack a colony there. If an army is not stationed there, they will reduce the colony's population of settlers. Otherwise they will attack the army, sparing the settlers. Natives are also very likely to attack land units passing through their province regardless of whether the province is colonized.


The size of the native population determines how many native regiments attack at a time. The native population can be reduced using the Attack Natives military action. However, when the colony becomes a full city it will gain 0.2 base tax and 0.1 base Manpower per 1000 remaining native population, so it is usually beneficial to leave the native population alone if the colony can be protected by an army. Due to an error in coding, when a colony becomes a city it does not gain any bonus manpower from having natives integrated onto the population.

Native aggressiveness Aggressiveness[edit]

Aggressiveness ranges from 0 to 10. It determines how likely the natives are to attack. (How much per point?)

Native ferocity Ferocity[edit]

Ferocity ranges from 0 to 10. Natives get a +5% damage bonus per point of Ferocity.


Natives use low-tech units:

Area Name Off. Morale of armies.png Def. Morale of armies.png Off. Icon fire.png Def. Icon fire.png Off. Icon shock.png Def. Icon shock.png Total pips
Americas Native American Archer 1 pip 1 0 pips 0 0 pips 0 0 pips 0 1 pip 1 0 pips 0 2
Africa African Spearman 1 pip 1 1 pip 1 0 pips 0 0 pips 0 1 pip 1 0 pips 0 3
Asia East Asian Spearman 1 pip 1 0 pips 0 0 pips 0 0 pips 0 1 pip 1 0 pips 0 2
Arctic Archer Cavalry 1 pip 1 0 pips 0 0 pips 0 0 pips 0 1 pip 1 1 pip 1 3

Colonial provinces[edit]

Province attributes[edit]

  • A colonial province is assigned the culture and religion of its owner when a colonist arrives there.
  • A colonial province is assigned a trade good sometime after it reaches 300 population.
  • Since patch 1.4 colonial provinces are autocored once they became a city.

Distant overseas[edit]


Colonies are often "distant overseas", which means neither of the following is true:

  • The province is on the same continent as the capital.
  • The province has a land connection to the capital (including crossable straits).

For example, if the Ottomans conquered only Alexandria from the Mamluks, it would be distant overseas. However, if it then conquered a strip of land along the Mediterranean that connected Alexandria to Istanbul - via the crossing over the Sea of Marmara - Alexandria would no longer be distant overseas.

Distant overseas has the following effects:

  • Tax income.pngTax modifier: -90%
  • No production income. (Note: No longer true in 1.4.)
  • Colonies instead generate tariffs equal to 20% of the (production income they would have produced + base tax). The exception is provinces that produce Gold.png Gold, which give full production income even when distant overseas. (Note: No longer true in 1.4.)
  • Each distant overseas province requires its owner to have 1 heavy or light ship to produce income at full efficiency. (Question: was this removed in 1.4?)
  • Manpower.pngManpower modifier: -50%
  • Local land force limit: x1/5
  • Local naval force limit: x1/6



  • Colonial Expansion vs. Colonial Restrictions: The bonus from Colonial Expansion is very small, but might as well be taken if one is not planning to eventually take Colonial Restrictions. At an effective -41.68 colonists per year per colony on average, Colonial Restrictions is a rather severe damper on colonial growth, but could be taken after all desired colonies are taken, assuming one is not also aiming for Economic Ideas.

Island hopping[edit]

At lower levels of Diplomatic technology, when colonization range is still short, island hopping is essential to crossing oceans.

Atlantic Ocean[edit]

Listed roughly from north to south then east to west:

  • In the earliest start, Norway controls a few islands to the north of the British Isles. From east to west these are the Shetlands, Färöarna, and most importantly, Iceland. From Iceland the nearest land to the west is Greenland, from which the east coast of modern-day Canada is easily reached.
  • Northwest of Africa, Portugal controls Madeira and the Azores, while the Canarias (next to Madeira) belong to Castille and later Spain. These give a boost in getting to Bermuda, the easternmost of the North American islands, or the northeast coast of South America.
  • Cape Verde is initially unowned, but eventually belongs to Portugal. It is the closest approach to the New World from Europe or Africa, being situated roughly between the closest parts of Africa and South America.
  • To the very south there is St. Helena, initially unowned. This gives a slight boost towards the east coast of South America or the Falkland Islands. This is a rather far choice, however.

Pacific Ocean[edit]

Listed roughly from north to south then west to east:

  • The islands north of Japan and the Kamchatka Peninsula will lead to Aleut, which is connected to the North American mainland. This is the shortest path.
  • Guam from the north or Palau from the west will lead to Micronesia. From there, the Marshall Islands are next to the east, then Wake Island to the north, then Midway to the east, and finally Hawaii to the east. However, it is a long way from Hawaii to the North American mainland.
  • Numerous islands to the east of Australia lead to the Samoa Islands. From there, the Society Islands, Tahiti, and Rapanui give further reach east. From the last, the west coast of South America (much of it occupied by the Inca) can be reached, or the Galápagos to the northeast.


Most habitable land in Australia is on the east coast. Listed roughly from north to south:

  • The safest route is to go to Micronesia or the Marshall Islands as above, then south to Nauru, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia; this also provides the closest point to New Zealand.
  • A shorter route is to hug the north coast of New Guinea more closely: Irian, Rabaul and/or Papua, and the Solomon Islands. However, this route has severe native activity.
  • Australia can also be rounded from the south. Starting from any of the islands northwest of Australia, Wadjuk on the southwest corner of Australia can be colonized. From there it's straight to Kaurna on the east side of the continent.

Indian Ocean[edit]

Listed from east to west:

  • The Andamans (unowned) form an outpost in the Bay of Bengal between modern-day India and the Malay Archipelago. All of the surrounding land is owned, however.
  • South of the Malay Archipelago is unowned Christmas Island, followed by Cocos island to the west. To the west of that is Diego Garcia, right in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
  • North of Diego Garcia are the Maldives and Ceylon, leading to the south tip of modern-day India.
  • West of Diego Garcia are Mahe slightly to the north, and Mauritus and Bourbon to the south. West of these is Madagascar.

Reaching the East Indies[edit]

Reaching India, the East Indies and the rest of Asia is a historical achievement.

Reaching this area will give the player access to valuable trade goods such as spices and tea. Reaching these territories may be challenging especially in early game but may be worth while because of access to goods. The most effective way is to colonize territories in Africa "hopping" all the way around the Cape of Good Hope. Then the player must cross the Indian Ocean which can be done by taking land in North Eastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula or by island hopping by using Diego Garcia, the Maldives and other islands in the region. From there the player may chose to stay and conquer India or move to the Pacific Islands and Asia.

Colonizing America[edit]

Colonizing America can be beneficial to most any power with the ability to colonize. The American continent is rich in resources and trade goods. The first step may be to colonize islands in the Caribbean, colonize Brazil or Canada and Greenland, depending on the player's location. Then, it is best to conquer native states before any other colonial power has the opportunity. The player should generally be careful when conquering Aztec or Inca because the large amount of gold provinces acquired may result in inflation. Lastly, the player should try and unite the colonial territory to ensure maximum stability and protection against rebels and foreign aggression.

Feeding Colonial nations[edit]

Once you reach the point where you have established a colonial nation, there is a simple mechanism to feed it. It works best with native nations in the Americas (e.g. Iroquois, Chicasaw, Aztec, Inca, etc.). The only condition is that a colonial nation has been set up in that specific region (e.g. Colonial-Mexico). Here's what you should do:

1. Complete the Exploration idea group, if you haven't already - with these ideas filled out, you will get the "Colonial Conquest" CB on any native state in the Americas.

2. Station your troops in a province of your colonial nation, bordering the nation you would like to attack.

3. DOW and siege all provinces. This shouldn't be a problem due to their comparably horrible tech group, units, and tactics.

4. When it comes to the peace treaty, the interesting part starts: Choose annex completely (This might give you some AE, but it's usually quite low).

What happens is that you annex the country you attacked, but before you can do anything with the newly achieved land, it will "defect" to your colonial nation. Because of this, you will not suffer any overextension or religious unity penalties, and you won't have to spend a single point of Administrative power.pngADM to integrate the provinces into your realm, while your subject colonial nation upgrades the provinces to help both of you grow more powerful.

Notes: The colonial nation will now have to core and change the religion of all gained provinces, meaning revolt risk will be quite high - even excessive, depending on how much land you conquered. It is advisable, therefore, to leave your army attached to your colonial nation's army to give it extra firepower when suppressing revolts. You should also wait until all their new provinces are cored, and preferably converted also, before attacking the next nation, starting the process over again. If you think the revolts will be too much for your colonial nation to handle, don't be afraid to take more limited concessions instead of annexation in the peace deal - there will always be time for more wars later, assuming another colonial power doesn't beat you to them.

As said previously, this strategy really only works for colonial nations in the Americas, and is a very effective method of helping them grow.

EnvoyAllianceRelationsEspionageColonizationPapacyHoly Roman Empire