The Ottomans are consistently a popular and recommended pick in Europa Universalis IV. It makes most lists on which nations to play in the game, and whether it’s 2015 or just last year, it’s always been there as one of the top 10 most played places. And why wouldn’t it be? Even Paradox Interactive itself recommends the nation as a great experience for people who just started the game. Although the Ottomans are easy to learn, they can be quite tricky to master. Harnessing its full potential and preventing its historical decline is a challenge. This is part 1 of the EU4 Ottomans guide for those players who are keen on leading the Ottomans to their destiny and unifying all of Islam under a new Caliphate (provided you have the Star and Crescent event pack).
This installment focuses itself on roughly the first 15 years of the game. The Ottomans have a solid start at the beginning of the game. It’s a stable and rising power amidst small countries that are either weak or in decline. The few remains of the thousand-year Byzantine Empire are yours to conquer, after which your road to glory in the Balkans and Anatolia lays wide open.
As always, some technical details before we start. This EU4 Ottomans Guide is currently for patch 1.33.3 and with all DLCs installed. If you don’t have all the DLCs, make sure to at least get the Cradle of Civilization DLC. The guide also assumes that players know the basics of the game, such as constructing buildings, managing armies and finances, and conquering new territory.
Feeling up for a challenge in the west of Europe instead? Then why not check out our England Made Easy Guide!
Find the second and third installments of this guide here:
- EU4 Ottomans Guide (Mid Game): 1460 – 1510
- Eu4 Ottomans Guide (Late Game): 1510 – 1600 (releasing soon)
The Calm Before…
Welcome to the Ottomans! As always, assess the situation first. Your road to absolute dominance is paved by keeping your larger enemies down. The Ottomans are the embodiment of divide and conquer: If you can prevent large landmasses from uniting under a single banner, they’ll be ready to unite under yours. Your first priorities will be to take out the remains of the Byzantine Empire, clean up Anatolia, and give Hungary, Venice, the Mamluks, and the Qara Qoyunlu (QQ) a firm slap.
This means you’ll be expanding a lot, and you may be facing plenty of rebellions initially. It’s key to be strong and stable at home to sustain your conquests. As with any EU4 guide, the Ottomans’ road to glory is riddled with RNG. My game won’t look like yours. However, these general tips should get you started. You need to take the following steps before in the first few months of the game.
Introducing the protagonist – and our main antagonists
When you play as the Ottomans, you find yourself in a race for influence. You want to be all over the map – on the Balkans, in Anatolia, towards Egypt and Iran. However, you can’t be everywhere at once, and other countries will take notice. In the west, Hungary is ready to take Bosnia and Serbia before you can even get your hands on them. In the Meditteranean, Venice is just as eager to conquer the remains of the Byzantine Empire as you are. To the east, the Qara Qoyunlu can block off expansion, while the Mamluks in the south are a constant thorn in the Ottoman side.
You don’t really need allies though. The Ottomans have colossal military buffs that allow them to beat next to everyone. However, allies can be useful to prevent other countries from expanding and can open up convenient second fronts. My allies of preference are Ajam against the Qara Qoyunlu, Tunis against the Mamluks, and Bohemia against Hungary. I start out by allying and marrying Ajam and Tunis, leaving Bohemia as a possible future ally should my situation require it.
For your rivals, pick Lithuania, the Mamluks, and Venice. Lithuania usually ends up in a personal union under Poland, so setting them as a rival gives you free power projection without consequences. The higher your power projection, the better your country becomes.
Don’t forget spy networks! To expand fast, they’re a vital tool. Establish spy networks immediately on Byzantium and Dulkadir.
By the time you’re done with your rivals and allies, it should look something like this:
Since this is a complete EU4 guide, we can’t leave out the decisions you can take. The Ottomans have some great ones. You want to do all the ones you can do from the start.
- Adopting the Title of Khalifa gives you more prestige and moves you towards legalism in your piety bar. Legalism is key to this run. Once it’s high enough, it lets you decrease your corruption by 2 points, which is great if you plan on expanding a lot. Which, I assume, you are.
- Denouncing Sect Practices helps with unrest and also moves you further toward legalism.
- Enforcing Religious Unity is great to convert some unruly Shia minorities in the east. There’s no need to convert Europe away from Christianity, which I’ll explain shortly.
- Expanding the Devshirne System gives you a permanent 10% national manpower modifier until the end of the game. Thus, you want it as fast as possible to get the most use from it.
Aside from the Devshirne decision, all these modifiers last as long as your monarchs live. As such, it’s good to get them as early in their reign as possible. When a new monarch ascends to the throne, you can select these decisions again.
Estates and Economy
The Ottomans have 4 estates. However, 1 of them is noticeably different from the others. The extra estate that the Ottomans have is the Dhimmi, which refers to the non-Muslim people of the Ottoman Empire. To go for a setup that serves your expansion needs, give the clergy (Ulema):
- Clerical Advisory Council. This will make it cheaper to hire a competent administrative advisor and allows you to get more monarch points for less money.
- Grant local residence to scholar. This will let you invite one Islamic scholar as a permanent resident to the Ottoman court right away. Invite the Hanbali scholar for 10% less Aggressive Expansion impact. Invite the scholar to your court for 50 admin power.
Give the Nobility (Ümera):
- Aristocratic Counselors. This will make it cheaper to hire a competent military advisor, similar to the Clerical Advisory Council.
- Supremacy over the Sublime Porte. This will make all your estates more loyal and gives them the power to set agendas. These missions can get you additional loyalty from your estates without much cost.
Give the Burghers (Merchant Guilds):
- Commercial Advisory Board. Once again, similar to Aristocratic Counselors and the Clerical Advisory Council, but it grants a cheaper diplomatic advisor.
- Patronage of the Arts. This will give you an increased prestige at the cost of tax income. Don’t worry, you don’t desperately need that.
As mentioned, the Dhimmi is quite an interesting estate. The more loyal they are, the less likely Christians are to revolt. Give them the following privileges:
- Promote the Dhimmi Nobles. Although this will mildly upset your other estates, they allow you an extra leader without upkeep, which preserves your monarch points.
- Guaranteed Minority Rights. This will make Christian provinces less likely to revolt, thanks to increasing the tolerance of heathens.
Once you’re finished with your estates, sell titles and seize land. After that, Summon the Diet and pick the most viable mission. In my case, I went with the Dhimmi’s proposal. They simply needed me to get the provinces of Yanya above 15% autonomy, which I could do with a single click.
After you’re done, the estates should look similar to this:
Advisors – now at a 25% discount!
With your advisors a lot cheaper now, you have some luxury to pick the best ones. You will be spending quite some money on your army though, so I recommend going slow and picking level ones initially. If your finances go well, you can always upgrade your advisors to a higher level. For your administrative advisor, hire someone who can save on money or give you more of it. Tax or production efficiency advisors are great, but stability cost modifier works too. For diplomatic, a diplomatic reputation advisor is very useful and worth the money. If there’s none available, hire a trade efficiency advisor. Lastly, for military, you want to hire a discipline or morale of armies advisor. However, manpower works too.
Getting your units in place
It’s time to gather your armies and navies. First, build up to your force limit exclusively with so-called Janissaries. These are unique to the Ottoman Government type and can be recruited from heathen (i.e. Christian) provinces. These soldiers will carry your early game. They receive way less damage and drill a lot faster.
To recruit them, a unit costs 10 military power each. Recruit 10, and spread them out over your armies so each one ends up with 20 regiments. Doing this will also let you complete the mission Reform the Imperial Army, which grants you cores across Anatolia. You’ll also be able to fulfill the Build to Force Limit mission.
For your navy, sell 2 transport ships and buy 2 barques and 6 galleys. You won’t need the transports, and these ships will help you defeat naval powers like the Mamluks and Venice. You will also be able to select a naval doctrine. Select the Free Oarsman for advantages over the Mamlukean and Venetian navy. Let your fleet hunt pirates in the Constantinople Trade Notes until we’ve successfully dealt with the plundering clerics of Rhodes.
Mehmed living up to “the Conqueror”
First Blood: Candar
All setup? Great! Then it’s time to start up the almighty Ottoman machine. The starting Sultan, Mehmed II, is called ‘The Conqueror” for a reason. During his lifetime, Mehmed invaded about all his neighbors and mostly won, too. So let’s have Mehmed live up to his name in our EU4 guide for the Ottomans, too. First up on the Ottoman chopping block: Candar. But meanwhile, also start building a spy network in Epirus. There are going to be lots of little ‘meanwhiles’ in this guide.
The mission ‘Reform the Imperial Army’ should’ve given you claims on all of Anatolia. The tiny Beylik of Candar is the weakest. Most of the time it doesn’t have any really powerful enemies that make a serious threat. They can ally Karaman, or in my case, the Aq Qoyunlu (AQ). Move your army to the small country and invade. Use your fleet to blockade the coast so forts fall faster. To make your fleet more effective now is a good time to hire an admiral.
Once you’ve sieged the two provinces of Candar, use your army to defeat their allies. Don’t take any land, unless you can take it all. Since this likely won’t be the case, your course of action depends on your enemy. If you’re facing the AQ, like me, have them break their alliance with a bigger country (like Ajam) but don’t take land or money. If it’s Karaman, don’t take anything whatsoever. The less you take, the shorter your truce will last. This way, you can come back in 5 years and conquer the whole state.
Core up Candar, and increase their autonomy to make them less disloyal. Your spies, meanwhile, should have powerful spy networks in Byzantium, Dulkadir, and Epirus. Fabricate claims on the more developed provinces of the Byzantines, like Constantinople and Athens, so it costs less when you annex the areas. Claim Arta (Epirus) and Divrigi (Dulkadir).
The City of World’s Desire
Ah yes, this is a key point of any Ottomans EU4 guide, right? The City of World’s Desire, it’s impossible to ignore. Although it isn’t the first conquest in this guide, it’s probably the most notable. But it isn’t even the hardest. The Byzantines sometimes have allies, such as Serbia or Georgia. Sometimes they’re completely alone. Move your armies against the Byzantines and their main ally – in my case, I put one in Edirne and one in Üsküp, and declare a conquest war for Constantinople. Put your fleet on the Sea of Marmara to prevent the Byzantine fleet from escaping.
This war is simple enough. Siege down Constantinople with one stack, while the other is occupied in Serbia and dealing with some enemy armies. Once you have enough war score, peace out Serbia. To balance my warscore with my aggressive expansion (and since I couldn’t take all of it) I only annexed the state of Rascia, for Kosovo’s gold mine, and Nis, for some clean borders. Concentrate development on these provinces to lower their coring costs, core them, and increase autonomy. Be aware that if you’re leaving a part of Serbia free, it’s very likely going to be snatched by the Hungarians. You need all of Serbia for further claims in the Balkan, so it can be good to counter Hungarian influence and guarantee Wallachia.
Once all of the Byzantines are done, annex all of it. Concentrate development in Morea to lower coring costs, core it, and increase autonomy to prevent revolts. Core Constantinople via the Make Constantinople Capital decision. After you did this, you can also complete the missions Expand the Ottomans and City of World’s Desire.
Once you’re done, declare war on Dulkadir.
Cleaning up Anatolia and Greece
Now, you’re in an excellent position to clean up some borders and launch further conquest. Build a spy network in Karaman and whoever they might be allied with. In my case, Karaman was allied with the Aq Qoyunlu. Your war with Dulkadir shouldn’t give you many problems – simply occupy all of it and vassalize them. If they’re allied to someone far away, such as the Great Horde, you can always ask them for money and war reparations. However, should they be allied with a direct expansion target, sign a white peace with that country to minimize the duration of any truce.
After that war, head back west and clean up Greek borders, should need be. The Venetians are always lurking, and you wouldn’t want them to snatch strategic provinces from right under your nose, do you? After all, we claimed Arta for a reason. Declare war on Epirus (be careful if they have powerful allies like Venice) and siege down their provinces. In my case, they were allied to Cyprus, which allowed me to take the island early. This way, the Ottomans dodge a war with the Mamluks. For now, anyway. There’ll be plenty of that later in this EU4 guide.
So remember that spy network on Karaman? Now’s the time to use that! Declare war on Karaman and annex it. In my case, they already took out Ramazan, which helped my conquest considerably. If Dulkadir took out Ramazan, take it when you’re fighting them. Should the Mamluks have taken it, don’t worry. You can take it back soon. If you happen to also be at war with the AQ, you can give the province of Urfa to Dulkadir. This puts you in a better position compared to our next major enemy – the Mamluks. It will also give you a direct border to two of the most important provinces in this run: Al-Raqqah and Sinjar.
Following these steps should let you complete a couple of missions. You can both Conquer Greece and Consolidate Asia Minor, granting you further claims on the Balkan and Anatolia. However, before we get those claims, it’s time to turn west and south and face our early nemeses again.
In your spare moments of peace…
Much of the early Ottoman game is just bullying smaller countries and containing the larger ones until you’re big enough to slap those around too. However, this ignores the importance of a solid foundation for all this conquest. Money, stability, unrest… since you’re dealing with a large multi-national and multi-religious empire, people may get ideas. This Ottomans EU4 guide wouldn’t be complete without discussing stability and economy. Fortunately, there’s plenty for you to invest in!
In terms of money – develop trade centers and build workshops and trade outposts on centers of trade. This will give your income a major boost. The more of the Balkans you take, the less trade Venice pulls away from you, and the more money you can keep. Developing your provinces is another huge plus. Some Ottoman provinces will have very valuable trade goods, like Kosovo and Constantinople. If you increase the diplomatic development of these provinces, they will become much more valuable.
You can also save on forts: Many you won’t need or can be placed more efficiently. Remove forts in Selanik and Sugla and Gelibolu, and build one in Kesriye instead. This mountain fort will be a challenge to siege and protects all of Greece from angry Albanians, Hungarians, Serbs, revolters, or whichever people you end up fighting. Probably all of them.
The Ottomans have some phenomenal monuments around their country. The most important ones to upgrade are the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus in Mentesha and the Parthenon in Athens. When fully upgraded, the Mausoleum grants you a +10% average monarch lifespan, which will help the stability of your country, and a +1 yearly prestige which gives you near-universal boosts. The Parthenon grants you a nice decrease in local unrest but importantly makes your advisors cheaper and decreases your corruption, which benefits your realm’s stability. After you conquer Constantinople, you get the option to convert it into a Mosque. Always do this. It grants you a far cheaper monument upgrade, and the monument itself makes Sunni, Shia, and Ibadi Muslims more loyal. If you can’t afford it, take out loans from the Burghers, which come at a cheaper interest rate than regular loans.
Finally, government reforms and ideas. You’ll likely have reached your first government reform by now, go for Strengthen Noble Privileges. This will give you an early manpower modifier boost, which you desperately need in the early game with all your wars. You’ll also soon reach your first idea slot. Since you need admin power for coring and stability and diplo for annexing vessels, the obvious choice is to go for a military idea set first. Go for Quantity Ideas to never have to worry about manpower and force limits ever again.
There we have it – the end of the first part of this EU4 Ottomans guide. We’ve built a solid base to expand into our neighbors’ territory over the upcoming 50 years. Did you find this guide helpful, or did you run into trouble anywhere? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and I’ll see you in the next part of this Ottomans guide for EU4!