The Best Colonial Nations To Play in EU4This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
Any nation can dabble in colonialism by picking up Exploration/Expansion ideas.
But only a select few are naturally suited for it.
The obvious ones are the historical colonizers. But there’s also a few others who are surprisingly good at it.
This list will attempt to rank those nations based on the following criteria:
- Exploration ability (You can’t colonize a province if you haven’t discovered it yet.)
- Extra Colonists for running multiple colonies simultaneously
- Unique mechanics that work well with colonialism
- Colonial range
- Missions centered around colonialism
- Trade and production modifiers
- Access to marines for overseas conquest and security
Tip: Iberian Catholic nations can “free” Slaves through their Holy Orders. They do this by putting Dominicans in a Slave-producing province. That province will permanently change its trade goods to something other than Slaves. Something to note if that concept appeals to you.
Portugal looks small and weak, especially when compared to their Castilan neighbor.
But they’re the best at the colonial playstyle.
They’re always the first to discover and colonize the New World. That’s because they start the game with these advantages:
- An explorer right from the start
- Can get more explorers from their mission tree
- An exclusive Age of Discovery ability that gives +50 global settler increase
- Starts with one Age objective completed
- Four exclusive flagship mods, one of which gives +125% fleet exploration range
- National ideas with lots of naval and colonial modifiers
- An exclusive Naval Doctrine that reduces the cost of naval barrages
- Can recruit marines
- Can establish Holy Orders
As Portugal, you’re the strongest colonizer in the early game. You can quickly establish colonial subjects in the Americas, especially Brazil.
You can even reach India and the East Indies before the other Europeans are still in Africa.
2. England (or Great Britain)
Aside from being the undisputed naval superpower, England also excels at putting their flags on distant shores.
They’re not as fast as Portugal, and they also have a few early game distractions.
But after those, the rest of the game’s smooth sailing for England. What sets them apart from other colonizers are these traits:
- Can get an extra Colonist in the early game from their Parliament
- Permanent claims on the entire Indian subcontinent
- Controls the English Channel, which often becomes the richest trade node in the game
- Can convert to Anglican during the Age of Reformation. They won’t have to worry anymore about getting excommunicated due to violating the Treaty of Tordesillas.
- England’s national ideas only have trade and production modifiers. But after forming Great Britain, they’ll get colonial modifiers too.
- Can recruit marines
As England, you’ll focus on colonizing North America, contesting the Caribbean, and conquering India. Europe’s only an option.
But after you’ve consolidated your colonies, you’ll always be one of the richest European nations.
Russia may seem an unorthodox choice (pun intended) as the 3rd best colonizer.
But you can cheese the game using an exploit with their Siberian Frontier ability.
Siberian Frontiers are special colonies that don’t need Colonists nor cost any maintenance fee. Instead, each one needs 20 diplo power to create, and they’ll grow at a fixed rate.
You can also only establish them in uncolonized provinces with a direct land connection to your capital.
That last statement is important. Because as Russia, you can rapidly snake across Siberia and reach China fast. That’s quite normal for Russia.
After that though, you can pick up Exploration ideas and set up a regular colony in Cascadia or California.
Once it’s done, move your capital to that colony.
Then you’re free to create Siberian Frontiers across America — both Americas. If it weren’t for this exploit, Russia would be at the lowest in this list, if at all.
4. Castile (or Spain)
As the victor of the Reconquista, Castile’s much more geared towards colonization with the sword. They get more permanent claims on the Americas than any other European.
Plus their national ideas have lots of military modifiers, especially when they form Spain.
On top of all that, Castile can force Portugal into a Personal Union (PU). Together they can become a twin-headed leviathan that can swallow up the New World.
In other words, Castile is effectively piggybacking on Portugal’s own colonial prowess.
To sum up Castile’s strengths:
- Gets an extra colonist and better settler growth from their national ideas
- Can force a PU on Portugal
- An exclusive Naval Doctrine that increases the value extracted from overseas gold mines
- Permanent claims on these regions:
- Central America
- La Plata
- West Florida (area)
- Can recruit marines. They’ll lose this ability once they’ve formed Spain but get better army and naval modifiers.
- Can establish Holy Orders
5. Majapahit (or Malaya)
Here’s another weird choice in the top 5.
Majapahit starts as a rump state of their former empire. But they can easily regain their glory and colonize their home region, which is the East Indies.
Their proximity to the Moluccas means they can thrive in the spice trade way before the Europeans arrive. Not only that, but their exclusive “Majapahit Campaign” CB lets you vassalize the other colonizers as well.
They also have more advantages to consider:
- Has missions that boost the growth rate of colonies within their home region
- Can colonize Micronesia early to secure the Nan Madol Great Project. This increases the growth of all their colonies.
- Gets an extra colonist from their national ideas
- Can force-vassalize any nation in the world after completing their final missions
As Majapahit, you’re in a good position to become an economic powerhouse.
Focus on settling the Moluccas first to kickstart the clove trade.
Alternatively, you can also vassalize Ternate/Tidore, who’ll colonize the Spice Islands for you.
While they’re doing that, you’ll want to colonize the Indian Ocean and Polynesia to prevent the Europeans from reaching you. Later on, you can diplo-annex Ternate/Tidore to reap your rewards from their hard work.
The Big Blue Blob is low on this list despite being a historical colonizer.
This isn’t because they suck. It’s just that all the ones above are stronger.
It’s also because France has a “hands off” approach to their colonial playstyle. They’re the opposite of England.
Where England sees Europe as an option, France must make it their main focus. As such, their military has stay in the Old World to fight for their destiny.
Meanwhile, their colonies benefit from their fourth national idea.
It gives them -50% native uprising chance and +50% native assimilation. When you combine these with the Native Trading Policy, you’ll max out both modifiers.
This means you won’t have to worry about native uprisings anymore.
You can leave your colonies undefended, even in provinces with a 6–7k native population.
Aside from that though, France doesn’t have a lot going on for them compared to their rivals. Their colonial strengths are basically just these:
- A national idea that negates native uprisings
- Permanent claims on the regions of Bengal and Indochina
- Can wrest control of the English Channel node from England
Why is the Emperor here? Aren’t they busy with their bickering member-states and the Ottomans?
And aren’t they almost completely landlocked to Germany with only one coast in the Mediterranean?
Two words — Burgundian Inheritance.
Austria can easily win this event.
And when they do, they’ll gain ownership of the Low Countries after they’ve inherited Burgundy.
This leads them down the colonial branch of their mission tree. The rewards of those missions are the following colonial boons:
- Permanent modifier that increases Austria’s colonial range
- Permanent claims on the following:
- All coastal centers of trade in India and the East Indies
- All provinces adjacent to an Austrian territory in India and the East Indies
- The entire southern coast of China
- An extra merchant and +5% global trade power