7 Best Early Game Idea Groups 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).
Idea groups are a major part of the Europa Universalis experience. They dictate the direction your nation is going to follow. Being able to make the correct choice of idea groups in a campaign is what differentiates good players from great ones.
Usually, you’ll go into a campaign with specific idea groups in mind, depending on the starting nation and your goals.
However, due to the sandbox nature of the game, your plans can always be derailed unexpectedly!
You need to be able to adapt into the situation; specific idea groups can help you achieve just that.
This is more important in the early game, which is the most challenging part of every singleplayer campaign. Unlocking idea groups that compliment your national ideas and position is an invaluable skill.
Note: this list takes mostly singleplayer into account. Certain elements are of course applicable in multiplayer lobbies as well.
The Religious idea Group clutches its place on the list mainly due to its niche but very powerful application.
Providing all the necessary tools for pacifying provinces of a different religion and a free casus belli against all neighboring countries of a different faith, this idea group is excellent for a very specific set of situations.
What are these situations?
Well, playing a country without free claims from its mission tree whose only route of expansion is provinces of a different faith.
On top of that, missionary strength is a tad bit stronger early game when you don’t have access to many sources of it. If you need to convert some highly developed provinces at the early stage of a campaign, this group might be your only option!
However, the niche nature of the idea group blocks it from netting any higher position on this list.
Yes, espionage ideas.
While regarded as a meme idea group for a long time, recent changes have made them significantly stronger than before.
The peculiarity of the group is that it barely provides any direct bonuses to your military or economy. However, its unique bonuses give it a specialization that can be valuable to more experienced players.
The reduced cost on claim fabrication massively helps nations without a unique mission tree. It’s also very good when playing in the HRE, where claim fabrication is costlier.
The massive boost to spy network construction is one of the most underrated modifiers in the game. And that’s due to people not knowing what Spy network does. Spy network’s bonuses are MANY and we can’t list it all here – but please do take the time and read about them.
However, the main reason Espionage makes the list is the second idea which provides -20% AE. When playing inside the HRE, coupled with the faster spy network construction, it allows you to squeeze a couple extra provinces in every peace deal.
Offensive ideas are nice to have in almost every scenario.
Extra general pips, faster sieges, and discipline are some modifiers no-one would think twice about getting.
All this group’s ideas aim at improving your military capabilities, giving you an edge over your enemies.
The policies with economic and innovative are some of the best in the entire game, albeit mostly applicable to the later stages of a given campaign.
While there is no hurry to pick offensive ideas early on, the extra general pips from the first ideas in the group are far more powerful early in the game!
Innovative ideas are another vastly underestimated group.
Competing within the administrative spot where the competition is fierce, innovative ideas are often overlooked.
The innovative idea group also suffers from the fact that it needs to be picked early. Well, “needs” is a heavy word to use, of course you can pick it later. But its value will be diminished.
Providing technology cost reduction, advisor cost reduction, and innovativeness gain among other things, innovative ideas provide you with maximum value when they are picked as a first idea group.
With every technology level you gain and every year that passes, the group’s potential value drops more and more. This is a problem because in many campaigns there are other idea groups that you need to prioritize.
Economic ideas are arguably the most straightforward group of ideas in the game.
Every single idea you unlock directly or indirectly has a positive impact on your economy.
As most of these modifiers are multiplicative their value scales as the game progresses. Someone perceptive enough might be wondering right now why this idea group finds its place on the top of a list about early game ideas.
Well, upon unlocking all ideas in the group, you’re rewarded with development cost -20%.
This is massive for any campaign aiming to play tall, as well as all multiplayer campaigns.
Usually combined with an early pick of quantity ideas for the policy which gives another development cost -10%, economic ideas are one of the most common first picks of idea groups.
2. Exploration & Expansion
I decided to put Exploration and Expansion together at second place because they go hand-in-hand.
When playing a colonizing game (as Portugal, Castille, or England for example) you want to pick exploration and fill it out the soonest. These two idea groups are essentially a must-have for any colonizing game.
There’s no reason to discuss their bonuses because the reason they make this list, their colonization bonuses, are unique to them.
Of course, there are nations that don’t need both groups for a successful colonization game. It ultimately depends on your goals.
For example, nations like Hawai’i and Norway that can recruit explorers without picking exploration ideas can get away with picking only expansion.
Exploration and Expansion ideas, especially exploration, can always be exchanged down the line for another idea group. It’s common to replace them with a more useful group when most of the globe has been successfully colonized!
Indigenous ideas, Paradox’s latest addition to the game in this department, are simply unmatched as a first pick.
The silver lining is that, obviously, only native American tribal nations have access to them.
To start: they provide two bonuses that find more value than usually in the context of the native American tribes. The boosts to Tribal Development Growth and Reform Progress go a long way to speed up your transition from a disparate tribe to a centralized empire.
Morale of armies is always welcome early on. Idea cost reduction is even better in the context of natives, as you will be spending most of your monarch points on ideas while waiting for the Europeans to arrive.
As the cherry on top, the policies available with Indigenous ideas are excellent.
Many of them provide development cost reduction, which is a big deal on top of the -5% already provided by the first Indigenous idea.
When paired with economic ideas, one can easily reach stupid numbers of development cost reduction, allowing for dirt cheap developing of your lands.
Honorable Mention: Horde
In typical horde fashion, Horde Ideas (available only to nations with a nomad government type) are their own little category.
While Indigenous ideas occupying the first slot are also available to only a few nations, there exists a distinctive difference. Indigenous ideas should be picked, if possible, regardless of your government type choice in the future.
Horde ideas, on the other hand, have insane value only if you plan on staying as a horde for most of the campaign.
You wouldn’t pick them in a Jianzhou into Qing campaign where you try to claim the Celestial Empire as soon as possible.
Their boosts are straightforward:
Better and cheaper cavalry, reduced unrest, extra promoted culture slots, and religious unity to stabilize your vast realm.
Caravan power works wonders to boost your late game economy in the steppes, while the reduced AE helps expanding early in the game.