A Let's Play of Paradox's grand strategy games...like, ALL of them, from Imperator to Hearts of Iron 4

So the latest blog post for Imperator Invictus talked about an update to the Imperator → CK3 converter. Which reminded me that converters exist for all of these Paradox games, even if they aren’t always great. You maybe see where this is going. Take a small out-of-the-way nobody in Imperator and make them an important piece of history from the Roman era onwards. Imperator → Crusader Kings 3 → Europa Universalis 4 → Victoria 3 → Hearts of Iron 4.

No idea how this is going to go or how long it might take. Any link in the converter chain could break and ruin the whole thing. But hey, we’ll give it a shot and see what happens! I’ll dig around in save files if I need to(I need to remember NOT to play any of these ironman as that uses a lightly encrypted file format rather than plain text).

Some rules I’m setting for myself:

  1. Save scumming is absolutely allowed if it looks like we’re on the verge of doom. Otherwise, we’ll take our lumps as they comes.
  2. Depending on how things are going, I’ll likely use the time jumps between games to tweak areas of the world that have maybe gotten out of hand. Don’t know that I have any interest in starting as a major power before Vicky 3 and HOI4 which are both built to handle that kind of gameplay more naturally.
  3. Outside of getting off the ground initially, I’m far more interested in roleplaying an alternate history than playing optimally. I have no interest in this turning into a world conquest prior to HOI4.
  4. I’ll mostly be playing on max speed in the interest of maybe having a shot at ever completing this. Will probably do something of a detailed overview at the dawn of each new age but otherwise will probably be updating as things of interest happen, which may be many years apart.

Without further ado, after reviewing the maps of each game to make sure I chose something available throughout, let me introduce to you to the Plutocratic Monarchy of Soqotra circa 304 BC.

Not familiar? It’s that island that the Horn of Africa points at.

Here’s a closer look:

In the real world Socotra is a largely arid and hot island that is primarily known for its biodiversity and native species that are found nowhere else. Most famously it is the home otherworldly Dragon Blood Tree

Throughout history Socotra has played a role in trade, sitting at the confluence of trade routes coming in several directions. The setup in Imperator leans towards the trade aspect, so we’ll make that our initial direction. Our heritage trait gives us a big boost to export value and makes the province investment to increase trade route slots 30% cheaper at the cost of natural population growth.

At the start we have a diverse array of cultures amongst the freemen of our population with none of our native Macrobian pops represented as such. Instead, the Macrobians are limited to Tribesman and Slave pops. Clearly this cannot stand long term.

Our religious picture is as diverse as our population. We mostly follow the Waaqi pantheon with the Caananite deity Melqart sneaking in there as well. What’s Waaqi? Apparently a native monotheistic from this region of Africa that worships the god Waaq. Wonder how far in history that religion will convert. Hmmm, we’ll have to find out!

Imperator uses a province system that groups together many settlement/city territories. Socotra is just one city within the Province of Aromata. Obtaining control of our whole province will be our first expansion priority. In order to help with that, I swiftly ally Mosylon to the west.

Militarily, though, we’re very weak and Mosylon isn’t exactly a powerhouse either. Here’s the rather meager extent of levies we can raise.

Thankfully, our focus on trade should allow us to hire enough mercenaries to punch above our weight a bit. But that’ll take a little while to get established so until then we need more friends.

Hadhramut to our north on the Arabian Peninsula is one of the largest powers in the area and likes us almost well enough to agree to an alliance. We’ll work improving relations with them which should be a big help as we get started.

And with that, our grand Socotran adventure begins!

You picked a great island to start as. Might be worthwhile leaving europe entirely unconquered and your AAR with all the converters will chart interesting stories of what the different nations are doing over there. Maybe your goal could be to own all the islands of the world? That would be a fun playthrough.

Looking forward to reading more!

PS - You’re missing Stellaris after HoI4 :)

I wish you the best of luck and will be following! :)

Imperator to CK3 is going to be a tough (or perhaps the toughest) conversion because of the time jump. CK3 to EU4 converts well, in my experience, although I’ve never converted a non-European save. EU4 to Vic3 I have no experience with so I’m excited to see how that works out. EU4 to Vic2 worked fine but was always a little weird because of how dated Vic2 is and the differences in design. Vic2 to HoI4 was always a little strange, too, for the same reason. Fundamentally though, they all work, which is an achievement in and of itself.

I will note that the EU4 to Vic2 converter recommended rolling Africa and Asia back in terms of progress so that the AI could/would colonize; that will probably not be the route you take given that you’re playing Socotra.

I like this idea! Definitely thinking of staying a maritime trade power and trying to go very island heavy would play into that.

I considered one of the timeline extension mods for Imperator that is compatible with the converter, but ultimately decided against adding many hundreds of extra years to what is already a heavy undertaking! Like I said, I’ll take some artistic license with the state of the world between time jumps, which presumably will involve a fallen Roman Empire and possibly a little shakeup in India. We’ll just see where things are at after Imperator.

A disastrous war to gain a foothold in Africa has led to some reconsideration of our immediate strategies. The peoples of the Horn have banded together to form a defensive pact against all outsiders, making it a tough nut to crack.

Further south is a more isolated people that may be an opportunity for us, especially now that we should be able to afford a mercenary army. Behold Apocopa, hopefully we can make it in time to deal with them while they are still in revolt.

But the only problem is our limited diplomatic range means I can’t actually interact with them. It also seriously limits trade opportunities. So we’ve built up infrastructure at home to boost our research and beelined for this region-specific advance that should help a lot.

Given the opportunity, our king chose to forcefully convert all residents of Socotra to the one true Waaqi faith(sadly I forgot to get a screengrab). Setting a religious precedent that may echo through the ages. Now that our island has united in belief our Pantheon has been adjusted to this new reality. Also, apparently we have a holy site I hadn’t noticed for Nidar, so I swapped out that deity as well.

We’ve unlocked our first military tradition as well. I confess I hadn’t thought to look at those before. Sitting between the Arabian and African worlds it’s fitting that we start with access to both Arabian and Nubian traditions. Both of these look nice. Half our army is archers.

But slave raids are also appealing as we build out our ancient identity, and as we’ve struggled to pull migrants to our little island.


Ultimately, I chose the thumb rings. There are some nice traditions further down that tree and we’re oriented more towards African expansion right now anyway.

With Apocopa still in disarray and a freshly fabricated claim in hand, we declare war and send our troops and their freshly minted thumb rings.

Oops. It’s a level 2 fort.

Guess I’ll need those mercenaries or hope that my allies are on their way(spoiler: they weren’t). Well, affordable mercenaries are way up in Arabia and I don’t have the transport capacity to bring them in by sea. So we’ll go for the big spend on Psammid’s Mercenaries. They dwarf the size of my army and will empty my treasury if we don’t end this quickly. Once they get their morale to a decent place I’ll march them to the warzone.

Oh dear, it’s been awhile since I’ve played Imperator. This is a bit of a wrinkle in trying to hire my mercs on-site.

By the time I could march them to friendly territory the war was over. Apocopa had fallen fully to the rebellion. Another war of incompetence. Soon our king will be dead and we can only hope his heir will show more skill at military matters.


FYI I choose to pronounce “Waaqi” as “wacky” even though I know it’s wrong. I’m sure our Socotran heroes will get their military feet under them soon enough.

They’ve learned a good lesson on the need for a big navy and to get their merc situation set before war. Hire them and give them a little vacation on the Island of Bliss before sending them to fight.

I’m curious to see how Waaqi the religion conversions will be game to game.

Hey, wow. I’ve been posting pics to the arachnid photos thread, but this is one of my new acquisitions: a Socotra Island Blue Baboon tarantula (M. balfouri).

Never expected to see that island mentioned in any other context.

Glad my island choice is a hit! Hopefully it helps your new tarantula feel a little more at home as well. The more limited scope of Imperator and CK3 doesn’t leave a lot of choices when it comes to isolated islands. I considered Crete but that felt a little too close to historic well-known empires, and I was worried about Rome very suddenly ending this experiment early on. Otherwise, I was considering somewhat more isolated mainland areas such as one of the Greek colonies on the Black Sea or Tibet.

But Socotra is a neat place in real life and a good fit for being somewhat interesting in all of these games, especially since it exists as a province in every modern Paradox game!

Do you plan to play the same nation in each new game?

Yes! My plan is to keep playing Socotra through to the 20th century and keep my Waaqi religion around for as long as the converters will permit.

The cause of death checks out based on his many major military blunders. May the reign of Xanthos I bring more territorial success. However, Nehi I will be remembered for many domestic successes. His focus on developing our capital and uniting our people under Waaqi will certainly lead to lasting benefit.

Speaking of being useless at military matters, tying ourselves to Hadhramut also proved to be a mistake as they’ve imploded completely. As soon as we can ditch them we will and hope to find somebody better in their stead. Saba looking like a real threat in the area and is too large to consider allying themselves to little Socotra.

After cutting ties with Hadhramut Xanthos embarks on a mission to prove he won’t repeat the mistakes of his father. He hires a local mercenary company, raises his levies, and embarks on a well-organized war against Apocopa. After swiftly seizing the only port in the area, he sends his mercenaries to siege the Apocopian (revolt) capital while he leads his army to chase down the Apocopian army. And then he accomplishes something his father never could. He wins a battle.

And just like that, the enemy submits and Socotra grows in power. The nice thing about expanding into this area is that these people are also of the Macrobian culture and worship Waaq. We should have no major unrest problems from our newly acquired territory. Not only that, we finally have a population source for migration onto Socotra. Building our island into the jewel of the world it is destined to become will require people.

After proving out the usefulness of properly managed mercenaries, we move to organize our military around the idea.

This makes mercenaries cheaper for us to higher and maintain while also shrinking our levy size. Thankfully, the number of troops we can raise domestically is already so low that it doesn’t materially affect our levies.

And with our foray onto the continent, it appears we finally have a mission available to us.

Unfortunately, the defensive pact between Oponia, Mosylon, and Mundia(the three nations of the Horn) remains strong. We’ll need to pursue a largely peaceful approach while we bide our time.

For now we’ll develop our territories and continue to focus research on improving our diplomatic/trade range.

Hail Xanthos!

Having gotten a taste of conquest, the illustrious Xanthos assembles an army to punish Hadhramut for their past incompetence. They put up the expected pathetic levels of resistance and are brought under the control of glorious Socotra. Here we see the new situation in the southern Arabian Peninsula

Our acquisitions risk angering Saba so we pour gold into keeping up relations in an attempt to stave a war that feels inevitable. The people here are also fully of the Yemeni culture group and worship the Arabian pantheon of gods. This will make keeping them loyal a challenge, at least in the short term. We’ll see if a policy of local autonomy will be enough prior to enlightening them about the glory of the one god Waaq.


We can also consider granting some rights to the dominant Hadhrami culture. We’re not there yet. Our people are oddly resistant to granting these outsiders protection from torture despite the obvious benevolence of Socotran culture.

Our ambitions still lie in bringing the Horn under our control as a critical piece of our maritime empire, but this deal is too good to pass up with Saba looming in the neighborhood.


We will continue to explore alternate growth options.

One area our internal investments have really paid off in is research progress. We were able to boost our max research speed to 150% early in the religious tree. It’s conveniently placed next to the tech that unlocks the Grand Temple, which is an important structure for us as we look to convert the Arabians. But we hit 150% research speed right away thanks to our many nobles and citizens, so we’ll go in search of another attainable max research boost.

This left side of the civic tree is good for us as it’s mostly about boosting trade routes and trade income. We’ve already put a fair amount of investment into it so pushing down to the bottom to pick up Embracing Philosophy seems a logical choice.

With the situation near home likely to remain pretty static for awhile, we can survey the state of the world.

To our east, things have been pretty dynamic(this is largely thanks to Imperator Invictus trying to make sure that area isn’t just a Seleukid and Maurya runaway empire situation. Still full of big powers and not lands we’ll be capable of setting foot in any time soon.

In Europe we see Rome doing what Rome does, and with the chaos in the Greek world it seems they can pretty freely expand eastward. Elsewhere I don’t see anyone too threatening. Will anyone be able to stand up to the Latins?

Back to our region, the Ptolemies are in the midst of civil war. It might be worthwhile putting out feelers with Aksum or Blemmia to see if we can make some new friends. Saba remains a looming threat that we don’t have a solid answer for. Our defensive league combined has less than half the population of Saba and it doesn’t look like the Ptolemies will be threatening them anytime soon.

I know we’ve still got a ways to go through Imperator but I’m going to take a little break from playing the next day or two to mess around with the converter just to make sure things are in order. It looks like I can enable the timeline extension mods within my playthrough so that may be an option if the converter doesn’t do a respectable job of handling things like Christianity and Islam that I would like to have present for CK3.

Best of luck!

Well, good news was that converter was incredibly easy to set up and run. It converted my current save without issue and I loaded up in CK3 and poked around. There are no options for forcing any religious conversions or anything, so it’s either mess with the converter/the mod files it generates or play the extended timeline mods in Imperator.

I’m leaning towards the latter as those also installed and loaded without issue. How far I’ll play I don’t know. But I’d like to at least get Christianity seeded into the world and potentially get to the crisis of the third century content(another mod for the extended timeline that is compatible and loaded up fine) to see if we can naturally knock AI Rome down a bit.

None of that solves the Islam problem, so I think I’m left with that being somewhat of a manual thing to do at conversion time.

So that’s my current plan. I’ve signed myself up for even more playtime, but I can probably rush through a couple hundred years with a passive Socotra.


Despite being severely ill with cancer and knowing his time was at an end, King Xanthos I Timolid saw an opportunity to safeguard his people even after his death and took it. After already seeing a period of revolt in its various provinces, Saba fell into full civil war. Not only that, the rebel faction was holding its own if not gaining the upper hand. With Saba’s allies nowhere to be seen an ailing Xanthos personally led his troops across the sea into Arabia to aid his new Sabaean rebel allies. With a mercenary army at his side he dealt blow after blow. Tragically, Xanthos would not live to see the ultimate victory. But his son, the new king Ameny I, would make sure he carried his father’s work to completion.


In the end, we consolidated our Arabian holdings and freed Qataba, cutting right through the heart of Sabaean territory. With that, the rebels are close to full control and will hopefully remain our friends after all we did for them. Especially since we’ve outgrown our defensive league. We are literally too large to remain in it.

And it’s really hard to notice on the zoomed out map, but @Tim_N may be excited to see that we’ve added an island to our empire!

Sarapis, now called Masirah Island in modern day Oman.

And while our future sights will return to uniting the Macrobian people of the Horn now that conditions may allow success in that endeavor, we first need to consolidate what we’ve gained elsewhere.

The two dominant cultures in this area of the Arabian Peninsula are the Aadites and the Hadhrami.

Considering the Hadhrami pops tend to be happier under our rule and they’ve already shown an inability for competent self-rule, we decide to elevate the rights of the Aadites to allow them Socotran citizenship. This will hopefully help to quell unrest in the area without hurting Macrobian happiness much or dropping our research(which is based on integrated pops) too far.

I’m so glad you’re doing this, @abrandt! What a fantastic idea for an extended AAR.

Your choice of “nation” is particularly fortuitous because I know Socotra well. One of my favorite solitaire boardgames is about the rise of Islam in the 600s and 700s (The First Jihad, published by White Dog Games), and the island of Socotra figures prominently at certain points in the game. I have damned and praised its name many a time! Good luck to you and your ambitious Waaqists!

Good work striking while the enemy was weak!