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This article may contain outdated information that is inaccurate for the current version of the game.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 1.1.

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.

National 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 colonists 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.
  • While at war with a country that has terra incognita, you do not need a conquistador to enter the province, though it will still take a much longer amount of time to enter the terra incognita.
  • 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. However, the "Quest for the New World" idea, the second in the Exploration idea group, is required to explore terra incognita.
  • 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.
  • A fleet with at least 3 light ships, or at least 3 heavy ships (Though the tool-tip says 3 light ships and 3 heavy ships, only one type is needed) can be sent on an exploration mission. They will be sent to explore a sea province, or a coastal province. When exploring a sea province, they will discover all adjacent sea-provinces on their way. When exploring a coastal province, they will discover all coastal provinces adjacent to the sea province in which the target coastal province's port is located. Explorers can only be sent on missions to provinces within your colonial range. Explorers may trigger certain random events while on missions.
  • Armies led by a Conquistador can be sent on a mission to hunt for the Seven Cities of Gold (This requires the El Dorado DLC). To do this, the army must be within a colonial region. They will then automatically move through terra incognita in the region, uncovering it, with a chance to trigger various random events.

Colonists.png Colonists[edit]

A colonist is required to start a colony.

Colonists.png Traditions Ideas Bonuses Policies

Expansion idea 1: Additional Colonists
Exploration idea 1: Colonial Ventures
Exploration idea 6: Free Colonies
American idea 3: Empire of Liberty
Canadian idea 3: Settling the Interior
Carib idea 5: Carib Seafarers
Malayan sultanate idea 7: Settle the Islands
Muscovite idea 5: Siberian Frontier
Norwegian idea 3: Pioneer Spirit
Spanish idea 3: Inter Caetera
Quantity-Expansion: The Colonial Settlement Act

(The Mayan, Inti, and Nahuatl religions grant an extra colonist with the appropriate reforms.)

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. It also limits how far your explorers can go on exploration missions.

Colonial range.png Traditions Ideas Bonuses Policies

Exploration idea 3: Overseas Exploration

Norwegian idea 2: The Call of our Forefathers

Portuguese idea 1: Legacy of the Navigator

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

Couronian idea 5: Couronian Colonization

AI nations also receive a +25% colonial range bonus, as they are not smart enough to colonize staging areas for future expansion.

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 Bonuses Policies

Brazilian traditions Influence idea 6: Postal Service
Kongo idea 4: Diplomacy With European Monarchs
West African idea 6: The Great River
Administrative-Diplomatic: The Recordkeeping Act
Diplomatic-Quality: Professional Diplomatic Corps
Naval-Diplomatic: Overseas Embassies


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 25 additional population, speeding growth greatly. Once a colony reaches a population of 300, it will become eligible for a random event that assigns it a trade good appropriate to the region it is in. 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]

This is a steady addition each month. For example, if your current growth rate is 15 per year, you'll get one settler most months but two settlers every fourth month, for a total of 15 for the year. Diplomatic technology provides a base growth:

Diplomatic technology Growth (cumulative)
1 10
3 25
10 35
15 50
23 75
26 100
32 150
Global settler increase.png Traditions Ideas Bonuses Policies
+25 yearly Native idea 7: Great Winter Hunts Spanish ambitions
+20 yearly Exploration idea 4: Land of Opportunity
Colonial idea 6: New Frontiers
Navarran idea 3: Intrepid Pioneers
Siberian idea 7: Hunting Expansion
Expansion-Exploration: Colonial Expansion
+15 yearly Mexican traditions Portuguese idea 6: Land Before Faith
+10 yearly Expansion idea 3: Faster Colonists Administrative-Exploration: The Colonial Administration Act
Exploration-Plutocratic: The Colonial Companies Act
Humanist-Exploration: Native Assimilation Act
Quantity-Expansion: The Colonial Settlement Act
Modifier Settlers per year
Colonial maintenance -125 to 0
No Adjacent Province Controlled -5
Arctic -10
Arid -10
Tropical -10

The development of a colony through growth will continue unabated even if the colony is under occupation. An aggressor attempting to seize colonies during a war should keep this in mind, less a colony be seized too late in a war, thereby precluding the possibility of converting its culture and religion with a colonist, as well as incurring an added coring cost.

Settler chance.png New Settlers chance[edit]

Each 1% chance of 25 New Settlers per month equals an average of 3.0 settlers per year (0.01 chance/month x 12 months/year x 25 settlers). The New Settler chance is determined by the following:

Settler chance.png Traditions Ideas Bonuses Policies

Administrative-Exploration: The Colonial Administration Act
Expansion-Plutocratic: Taxation with Representation
Exploration-Innovative: Benign Neglect
Modifier Chance Mean settlers/year
Base + Base Value 10% 30
Per 100 population ("colony level") 4% 12
Per 100% Production Efficiency 20% 60
Per native aggressiveness -0.5% -1.5
Trading in Cotton 5% 15
Same religion 1% 3
Same culture 1% 3
Same culture group 1% 3

Colonists will no longer be able to attract new settlers when a colony is under occupation, even if there is no indication of such on the interface. Aggressors attempting to steal a colony nearing completion should keep this in mind, less a colony is occupied too early in a war.

Overall growth[edit]

Colony Population by Initial Growth Rate. New Settlers are averaged; only Colony Level modifier changes as population increases. Notice the change in slope when the 10 settlers/year line passes 200 (and other hundreds).

This section considers how quickly colonies will grow into a city of 1000. The terms "colonists" and "settlers" will be used interchangeably here. Also, the steady "Growth" and random "New Settlers" contributions will be combined, with New Settler groups of 25 treated as simple average growth. Your mileage will vary both due to averaging, and because subtle effects of the spurts have been ignored. To simplify, we'll focus on total settlers per year. On the Colony info popup, this number is obtained by taking its Growth value and adding three times the New Settler chance (see above). For example, if your colony has Growth of 50/year and New Settlers 10.0% chance, then your colony receives an average of 80 settlers per year (50 + 3 x 10).

The Colony Level modifier for New Settlers is set to +4.0% for new colonies (which start with 10 settlers), and this Level increases by +4.0% for each hundred settlers, starting at 200. Stated another way: divide your number of settlers by 100, drop the fraction, and multiply by 4 to get your Colony Level modifier, with the exception that it's also 4% under 100. Also note that the Colony Level modifier won't actually increase until the 1st of the month after it passes a hundred-colonist mark; apparently the code checks whether to increase the modifier before adding new population on the 1st of each month. And any Event that increases settlers by 100 (or whatever) likewise won't affect Colony Level until the next month starts.

The 4% Colony Level steps correspond to 12 more settlers per year. This can be critical when chances for growth are very low, such as a Jungle colony early in the game. If a colony only grows by 10 per year in total, it would take 19 years to get from 10 to 200 colonists - but after that it will only take 4.5 years to get to 300 colonists, given the +12 bump at 200 (see inset to left). Such a colony would take 35 years in total to become a city. A more typical early-game hardship colony (Expansion idea but jungle colony) is Growth of 15 and a 1% New Settler minimum, i.e., 18 settlers per year, which averages 10.6 years to get to 200 colonists (190/18), then 3.3 years for the next 100. This colony needs 24.0 years in total to get to 1000.

In summary, Colony Level is critical at low growth rates. But at high rates, +12 per year doesn't matter so much; you'll have a city in a few years, either way. Be all that as it may, every hundred-mark speeds your growth 4% more, no matter what your initial growth rate is. By the 900 mark, the 36% Colony Level contributes 108/year (36 x 3 a.k.a. 9 x 12).

For the record, the New Settlers chance has a minimum of 1% (3 settlers per year). In severe cases, you won't get the bump in New Settlers rate at 200 colonists, etc., if the modifiers are so low that the total is still under the minimum. Such a colony will take decades to get to a city, unless it gets lucky. Fortunately, things like Colonial Enthusiasm are global, and there may be a tendency for the game to give a rush of colonists to such colonies. And Admin Tech's Colonial Growth rates eventually raise every colony.

Time for Colony to reach City given current population and growth rate. See text.

The table to the right shows how many years and months it takes a colony at a given population and current growth rate to reach a city of 1000. This table:

  • Shows current settler population in the leftmost column and current growth rate across the top. For example, the hardship jungle colony starting with 10 population and 18 settlers/year is highlighted.
  • Each cell shows the number of years and months to reach 1000 population. The hardship colony becomes a city in exactly 24 years.
  • The only thing changing over time is the Colony Level modifier as each hundred mark is passed. In a real game, tech levels, Events, and many other things may change rates, usually for the better.
  • A custom function was used which looped through months until reaching 1000. (The graph above only used a spreadsheet to calculate the population once a year.) However, it still modeled New Settlers with averages. To wit, instead of each New Settler percent taking ~2 years to contribute its 25 people when treated as a 12/year average, the actual game usually jumps to 25 in the middle of the 2 years, which pushes one over the hundred-marks sooner than an average. So, the real time to become a city is slightly faster than what is shown here, but would take a Monte Carlo analysis to model fully.
  • Some odd things are seen at the extremes, such as a colony of 900 people with only 10 settlers/year taking longer than a colony with 875. Why? Because the colony with 875 only needs 25 more to reach the next hundred mark (900) and have its 10/year increase to 22/year.


Colonial Enthusiasm[edit]

There is a modifier called 'Colonial Enthusiasm' which can be given through events and missions. The events '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 granted:

  • +5%Settler chance.png Colonist Chance
  • +25Global settler increase.png Global Settler Increase

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.

Treaty of Tordesillas[edit]

(Requires the El Dorado DLC) The first Catholic nation to form a colonial nation (that is, to core 5 provinces in a colonial region) while the Papal States opinion of them is at +50 or more, will be assigned that region. They and their colonial nations will receive a +10 increase to settler growth within the region. If another Catholic nation colonises a province in that region, they will receive a -20 penalty to settler growth, and the offended nation and the Papal State will have their opinion of the violator reduced by 50 ("Violated the Treaty of Tordesillas").

A single nations can have multiple colonial regions assigned to them by the Pope.


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.

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 2 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. It is not known what exactly each point of aggressiveness represents but it can be assumed that each point of aggressiveness represents an extra 10% chance of a native uprising happening.

Aggressiveness  % chance of uprising
0 0%
1 10%
2 20%
3 30%
4 40%
5 50%
6 60%
7 70%
8 80%
9 90%
10 100%

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 province can only be colonized if the province is coastal and within the colonizers colonial range, or adjacent to a province already colonized by the nation.
  • 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. Since Patch 1.9 colonies on the same continent as the colonizer, or to that are connected to their capital by their provinces through land or straits, don't receive free cores, but instead reduced coring cost.

Distant overseas[edit]


Colonies are considered distant overseas unless any of the following is true:

  • The province is on the same continent as the capital.
  • The province has a land connection to the capital; crossable straits are acceptable.
  • The province is at maximum 150 away from the capital.

Example 1: If the Ottomans conquered only Alexandria from the Mamluks, it would be distant overseas. However, if the Ottomans 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.

Example 2: Castile can cross the Mediterranean and conquer North African provinces as far as Casablanca, Fez, Tlemcen, and Al-Djazair without receiving the distant overseas penalty because these provinces are sufficiently close to its capital in Toledo.

The distant overseas modifier has the following effects:

  • A minimum Autonomy.png autonomy of 75%
  • There is no penalty to production income from gold.

Colonial nation[edit]

Main article: Colonial nation

Colonial nations, introduced in patch 1.4, are a form of subject state available to any colonial power, that can form in America and Australia . They are not playable without the Conquest of Paradise DLC.


Island hopping[edit]

Early in the game when colonial range is short, island hopping is necessary to cross oceans. Base colonial range is 160 at Diplomatic Technology level 3 and 275 at Diplomatic Technology level 7. Overseas Exploration (Exploration Ideas) gives +50%. Thus, important range numbers are 160, 240, 275, and 412.

Atlantic Ocean[edit]

West Africa and Central Atlantic islands are the fastest route across the Atlantic. Without this it will almost certainly take until Diplomatic Technology level 7 to reach the New World.

Path Distances Notes
Iceland Reykjavik (Iceland) to Vestbygden (Greenland): 324
Vestbygden (Greenland) to Naskapi (Canada): 99
Iceland is controlled by Norway in 1444.
Central Atlantic Azores to Bermuda: 325
Azores to Trinidad: 301
Arguin to Rio Grande: 204
Cape Verde to Alagoas: 164
Cape Verde is typically colonized by Portugal early.
South Atlantic St. Helena to South Georgia: 283
St. Helena to Paraiba: 270
South Georgia to Falklands: 210
South Georgia to Rio Grande Do Sul: 196

Pacific Ocean[edit]

Alaska in the far north is the fastest route across the Pacific. Failing this, it will require Diplomatic Technology level 7 to cross the Pacific.

Path Distances Notes
Alaska Kagyrgyn to Aleut: 150 Kagyrgyn is controlled by Chukchi in 1444.
Central Pacific Ryukyu to Guam: 243
Hawaii to Pomo: 386
Once on Guam distances on the way to Hawaii are short.
South Pacific Fiji to Society Islands: 186
Society Islands to Tahiti: 160
Tahiti to Rapanui: 295
Rapanui to Galápagos Islands: 323
Rapanui to Coquimbo: 366

Indian Ocean[edit]

The Indian Ocean can be crossed with level 3 Diplomatic Technology and Overseas Exploration (Exploration Ideas).

Path Distances Notes
West East Africa to Mahe: Less than 160
Antananarivo (Madagascar) to Mauritius: 94
Mauritius to Diego Garcia: 185
Mahe to Diego Garcia: 220
Central Maldives to Diego Garcia: 85
East Christmas Island to Cocos Island: 86
Cocos Island to Diego Garcia: 187

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 the Aztecs or Incas 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.