The Paradox games - where to begin?

I’m in the mood for a new empire-level strategy game, so I was eying the huge list of games made by Paradox (Svea Rike 1-3, Europa Universalis 1-3, Hearts of Iron 1-2, Victoria, Crusader Kings). I’ve tried Europa Universalis I once in the distant past, but couldn’t really get into it then. I’m thinking about giving the series another try, so I was wondering how the sequels measure up. Is, e.g. EU3 clearly superior, so that I should just skip EU1 and EU2? What would be the best entry point to the games?

I guess it depends on what you’re looking for. What didn’t you like about EU1?

EU2 is essentially a better version of EU1, so you should skip and start with that if you’re looking for that a nation building game with a lot of historical flavor. In fact, I’d recommend the AGCEEP mod (if it’s still called that) for the best experience.

EU3 is more of a dynamic game with lots more options but less historical flavor. I like EU3 well enough, and in some ways it’s better than EU2, but it has a very different feel.

CK has another different feel entirely. It’s more like The Guild, where you manage a family, only on the scale of Europe. And HoI is more like a wargame (but I found it to be way too complex). So it really depends on what you fancy.

I guess the best entry point would be EU2 or EU3. Try those. If you hate them, chances are you won’t like the other games. If you like them, then try one of the others and see how it’s different.


Honestly, it’s been such a long time that I don’t really remember why I was put off by it. I have this faint recollection that the game had a godawful amount of adjustable sliders on every screen without clear feedback on the effects of each when changing them.

Thanks for the suggestions. EU2 should be pretty cheap nowadays, so I guess I’ll take a look at that. Do you know if all mods/patches etc. work with the GamersGate version?

FWIW I simply couldn’t get into EU1 and EU2, but I loved EU3. I think the EU3 interface is cleaned up a lot, and the game feels much more straightforward. The biggest downsides of EU3 is less historical events (which has the flip-side of providing a more open game) and it looks extraordinarily ugly compared to EU2.

If you were put off by EU1 and recommend starting with EU3.

If you’re interested in WW2 strategy then Hearts of Iron 2 (preferably the Doomsday version) is an excellent though very daunting game. Don’t bother with HoI 1. I wouldn’t consider it as a starting point though unless a deep and abiding love of WW2 can make you go through the painful learning curve.

Crusader Kings is possibly the simplest game to start with given that you’re pretty much free to set whatever goals you like for your dynasty. I highly recommend the Deus Vult expansion for the game, but it’s not necessary.

Eu2 is in my opinion the best game of the lot but if you didn’t care for it EU3 offers a pretty different experience. I didn’t like what EU3 offered, but different strokes and all that crap.

For a jumping-on point, I’d say it’s a toss-up between EU2 and EU3. EU3 is much more accessible, but it lacks the historical events. That can be either good or bad, depending on your point of view. Personally, I like the historical flavor, but YMMV. Crusader Kings is also very easy to get into, but it never really clicked for me. It’s significantly different in style from the other Paradox games too, so it’s not a great introduction to them.

HoI2 is fantastic, but very complex. Victoria is for serious Paradox fans only.

Thanks for the suggestions. EU2 should be pretty cheap nowadays, so I guess I’ll take a look at that. Do you know if all mods/patches etc. work with the GamersGate version?

Yes, all mods should be compatible.

EU2 is on my top ten list of all time. The historical feel comes not only from the events, but from the rules that actively discourage warmongering and favor a more subtle approach. The mods, such as AGC-EEP, have been play tested to death and add a good deal of depth.

I hated EU3. It plays more like Risk than like EU2. Most of the changes were intended to give the game a more “world conquest” feel. My take from the developer’s comments is that the game is geared more for multiplayer, with the AI nations existing primary to be absorbed by their biggest neighbor. Most games evolve into three or four big blobs fighting each other.

I still play CK on occasion. The last patch adds some nice tools that speed up play. My biggest gripe are the rules governing troop movement over neutral territory (it is allowed too often) which often results in a Muslim Poland or a Muslim France and other oddities. Still a fun game.

If you are into World War II strategy games of any sort, HOI2 is a must have. Once you understand any of the Paradox games, you will be able to grasp the general idea behind HOI2. The game does get a bit spreadsheetish if you dig down into it, but that is one of the things I like about it. Unlike other WWII strategy games, you can really control the research focus and technology development of your military.

EU3 is probably more accessible than the other EUs since it is more transparent. Lots of rollover tips, warning flags, etc. There is very little mystery as to what is happening or why.

It’s a better game than the number of detractors would suggest. But it is less colorful and less interesting than EU2. It has less chunky history, which means a lot fewer events you have no control over (large scale historical rebellions that can undo hours of work) or great bonus events that you can prepare for (why invest in stability since Shakespeare is around the corner?). It also means that there is considerably less differentiation between Poland and Spain.

If pressed, I’d say that EU2 was more enjoyable but EU3 is easier to understand.

Crusader Kings has a sweet spot in my heart, but you can’t approach it like a conquest game. It’s more of a dynastic management sim, though grabbing new lands is part of the equation. Heart of Iron II has turned into a very good, very balanced game but is all about the war - there is minimal diplomacy.

Or you can wait till spring when their Roman game comes out.


Well said. EU3 is why I won’t buy another Paradox game. If I want to play in a giant sandbox, I’ll fire up the vastly superior Civ IV. I enjoyed the EU series for its historicity. That’s all gone now.

Paradox Strategy Six Pack

I played Hearts of Iron II forever. I would suggest starting there. I found it hard to get into Europa Univeraslis II due to complexity but once I did I loved it. Look to the Paradox forums. There are years of posts on the gameplay of all their games. Crusader Kings is something I go back to again and again. I have a mental block on the gameplay though. I keep wanting to conquer the world and the game isn’t about that really. Victoria is a good game that I have never done well playing, but I keep plugging away at it from time to time. The VikiWiki is the first use of Wiki software outside of Wikipedia that I ever saw.

EU3 isn’t a game I picked up. I don’t hate on it though like some. I hope Paradox made tonnes of money on it so they can continue making games. Buy their games. Play. I like the company and urge people to support them all the time.

You thought EU2 was too complex but you dug HoI2? The mind boggles.

Well, at least in HoI 2 the goal is clear. WW2 will start and you have to win it. Though EU2 requires a lot less fussing around with research trees and army setups, it is also more open so a newcomer might be a little unsure of where to start.

Once you understand each game, it’s clear that EU2 requires a lot less menu hopping. But that’s not immediately obvious.


Very true.

Many people have commented that HOI2 is more complicated that EU2. I agree, but if you like WWII you can jump into HOI2.,

In HOI2, complexity is VERY dependent on the country you choose. When I got HOI2 I tried to play the US and got boggled. Then I tried to play the UK and got whupped. Then a poster on the HOI forums suggested playing the Nationalist Chinese first as the military and economy are VERY simple and the situation is pretty direct. Then it was suggested to play the USSR starting immediately at the German invasion, and it was perfect for me. I had immediate overriding goals for my research and production. I had a large, but relatively simple imfantry based army to play with. And based on that same poster’s advice on the formula, I had a strategy (build infantry by the score until you halt the Germans, don’t bother upgrading the old formations, and research only things that will help you in the land war or in production).

All that said, as Russia HOI2 played almost purely as a wargame, but it introduced me to managing diplomacy, resources, etc. Next time I played as Germany, which was a bit more complex, then I tackled playing as the US.

I’m confused by this. I don’t see why you assume that they’ve moved away from historicity forever. They dropped it for EU3, sure, but there’s no reason future games couldn’t bring it back.

I can understand a “wait-and-see” approach in the future, but a blanket boycott seems premature.

I just remember it that way. I started EU2 several times before I kind of “got it”. I don’t remember HoI2 causing me to give up like Europa did, even though I wasn’t very good the first few (hundred) times. It has been a while. Does Hearts of Iron have a good tutorial? Maybe that was the difference. I know I played both solo so I didn’t learn one from somebody and not the other.

HoI 2 has a much better manual, so that could be it. Paradox has always had terrible documentation, often rendered irrelevant by the second or third patch. But HoI 2 had one of the beta testers write a really excellent manual.

The tutorials are better, too, but that’s largely because the goals are more focused. Move troops, hold land, organize armies, etc.


I have a love-hate relationship with grand strategy Paradox games. I love the settings and the concepts, but I end up hating the delivered product. Well, hate is too strong a term, it’s more like I end up rarely getting into the games. Every single one has a long learning curve and just when you start to figure things out, they decide to make major changes in a patch. I remember spending six hours or so and figuring out how the economy worked in Victoria, only to see that knowledge worthless with the next patch.

I guess what I’m saying is that if you didn’t like EU1, I’m guessing you may not ever like any of the Paradox grand strategy titles.

Not on the basis of the devs’ forum postings. They basically said “hey, get used to this, because we’re going this route from now on.” I said “bye”.

Well, that certainly lends some credence to the idea. That’s disappointing.