14 Most Fun Small 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).
Nations in EU4 come in different sizes, governments, locations, cultures, and religions. Everything impacts their overall power, but it’s only logical that a country’s starting size is one of the most important ones.
For this ranking we’re exploring the various nations that begin the game on the smaller side. The criteria I picked to classify a nation as “small” is simply having less than 3 provinces and less than 15 development.
Note: two nations will be included here that do not strictly fit the criteria, but they embody the “rise from the ashes” campaign you may be looking for. These are #14 and #13, without going into too much detail. Far less detail than they deserve, to be fair.
Granada begins the game under the looming shadow of Castile. Your starting 30 development won’t do much to save you against the inevitable clash with Christian Iberia when your truces with the kingdoms end.
Gather allies and expand in the Maghreb while preparing for war.
The Granadan and later Andalucian mission tree is extensive and leads you down a path of colonialism and restoration of the Umayyad Caliphate. The Andalucian national ideas are also wonderful.
Byzantium is hard to leave out of a list like this.
While enjoying 49 development between their direct lands and the vassal of Athens, Byzantium is in a precarious position, completely surrounded by the Ottoman menace.
You’ll need to find allies and fight the Ottomans with as much help as you can find. A very difficult start that rewards you with tons of flavor, a large mission tree, and some of the best national ideas in the game.
Byzantium’s rise from the ashes and the restoration of roman glory is a favorite campaign of most players, including myself of course.
Tidore and Ternate are two relatively isolated one province minors (OPM) in the Moluccas.
They play exactly the same, so the choice is up to you. I prefer Tidore’s map color.
Both nations need to annex the other to start off their mission tree – a mission tree that rewards them with free and fast colonists in the surrounding area.
Either way, this offers an excellent campaign for someone who wants to relax and chill while colonizing the rich provinces in the Moluccas. Consolidate the area, and whenever you feel ready strike into the rest of Indonesia!
Riga is an OPM in the Baltic Sea, a member of the Hanseatic league, isolated from its other members.
Playing as Riga, you find yourself surrounded by the Livonian order. They may be willing to ally you, but they are also your only route of expansion early on.
Opportunistically strike them when they are weak and jumpstart your expansion.
Your primary culture is Prussian, and so is your only province. You can easily form Prussia if you secure the necessary lands to your south.
Riga and the surrounding countries will get a massive update in the 1.34 patch and associated DLC, giving the nation a unique mission tree and tons of flavor.
Mzab is one of the only three Ibadi nations at the game’s start, making them eligible for the associated “The Third Way” achievement.
This alone makes them an interesting choice.
Mzab’s measly 6 development and landlocked starting location makes it a difficult start. You will have to eat the other small nations in the area and then take the fight to Tunis and Morocco.
Forming Andalucia later can give you access to awesome national ideas and a unique mission tree. The mission tree greatly helps you with the achievement, which requires converting ALL Muslim provinces to the Ibadi faith.
Definitely a very hard campaign. I recommend it only if you’re confident in your skills.
Theodoro is the smallest of the princely remnants of the Eastern Roman Empire.
Its situation in the game is as unique as it can get. You are the only Gothic cultured nation in the game with little hope of securing allies outside of Muscovy/Russia.
The early game will be pure pain, as Muscovy will have other matters to attend and rarely will help you. Theodoro’s unique achievement “Gothic Invasion” requires you conquer all of Germany.
A campaign for everyone out there looking for a unique challenge and an interesting achievement.
Mulhouse is an OPM in the HRE, which doesn’t come as a surprise.
It’s located in an area that you rarely find yourself playing in. This area is Swabia, and after my Mulhouse campaign I find it to be one of the more interesting areas of Germany!
Mulhouse has a unique achievement which requires you become the HRE emperor and fully decentralize the empire. This will put all your game knowledge to the test.
For starters, you do not even begin the game as a monarchy, and cannot become the emperor!
During your quest of uniting Swabia, you’ll have to reform into a monarchy.
Uniting Swabia happens through your small mission tree which helps you integrate the free cities in the region.
Albania in the game represents Skanderbeg’s revolt against the Ottoman Sultan.
For this reason, the Ottomans start the game with cores on both your provinces, putting you in a precarious position.
Silver lining though, you’re guaranteed by Venice and start with a godlike ruler and general.
Your mountain forts also give you the option of facing the Ottomans on your own terms.
Beating up the Turks with your allies’ help and driving them out of the Balkans in a couple decades is always a satisfying experience.
Albania offers an awesome permanent buff through its mission tree, ok ideas, and a unique achievement that can lead to a fun campaign into the late game.
Well, any Irish minor nation could fit the bill here. I chose Offaly because they also get a unique achievement “Spanish Fly” on top of the “Luck of the Irish” one doable with all Irish nations.
All Irish minor nations play out the same:
You conquer your fellow Irishmen and bring the war to the Brits. Conquering Scotland before striking into England is always an option; it depends on how the early game plays out.
Conquering the British Isles as the Irish is an interesting campaign, and one that gives an alternative playstyle to the area apart from the typical colonial and naval one.
Communism in 1444? This isn’t HOI4!
Well, yes it isn’t, but there are a couple nations in the German northwest that represent it.
These are the Frisian states and Dithmarschen.
Dithmarschen is a Peasant Republic. Yes, you read that right – that is the actual name of their government in-game.
If you’re ever tired of the nobility, this is the choice for you.
As a peasant republic, during the Great Peasants War crisis in the HRE, you get the option to wage war on your neighbors to make them also Peasant Republics.
If you think spreading Communism in renaissance Germany isn’t enough of a reason to try Dithmarschen, you should know they also get a unique achievement. Their national ideas and mission tree aren’t half bad either!
Oda might be an OPM, sure, but they are in Japan.
This means they don’t feel like an OPM because all the nations in the islands are relatively small.
However, a campaign as Oda or any other Daimyo is an experience every EUIV player should have at least once.
Oda was chosen because their ideas are unmatched, and they are the daimyo that historically usurped the Shogunate and started the unification of Japan.
This campaign will include constant warfare in the early game. That is, until you usurp the Shogunate when it changes to a more diplomatic game.
After Japan is united, the choice on how to continue is up to you.
Invade China with your highly disciplined armies, or colonize the Pacific Ocean. Even playing tall is an option, since it’ll be impossible for anyone to invade you.
Taungoo lies at the heartland of the Burmese homeland, along the Irrawaddy valley.
Seemingly uninteresting at first sight, Taungoo is a nation you could easily have overlooked.
The small OPM is the precursor state of modern Myanmar. They begin the game as a tributary of Ava to their north, surrounded by similar-in-strength neighbors.
Taungoo enjoys an extensive mission tree, decent national ideas, and a unique achievement.
While it can be hard at times, the campaign is an enjoyable one. A strong Ayutthaya to your southeast can pose problems in the early game.
The unique achievement, “First Taungoo Empire” has you conquering all Burmese culture provinces before 1500.
This will lead to conflict with Bengal, which can be a problem if they have consolidated their power.
The achievement used to be the hardest in the entire game when the Burmese culture group was larger. You needed to fight Bengal, Ayutthaya, and even Ming before 1500 to succeed. Nowadays, with changes to the culture groups in the area, it is significantly easier.
Ardabil is a small OPM located in the Azerbaijan mountains in today’s northwestern Iran. Flanked by stronger powers on all sides, Ardabil is the archetypal underdog who eventually punches far above its weight.
Historically, the Safavid dynasty eventually unified Iran under Ismail the Great, half a century after the game’s start. Can you recreate such a success?
Ardabil begins the game geared for war.
You begin with -100 piety, follow the Shi’a religion, and the Jafari school of Islam.
All of these provide insane buffs to your military, allowing your armies to overperform in the battlefield.
Strike against the smaller nations in the area, Biapas and Shirvan, and bide your time.
Your stronger neighbors will eventually find themselves embroiled in drawn-out wars. When you see an opportunity, strike against them and capture the rich cities of northern Persia.
Also, your starting ally of Gilan can prove useful in these initial stages of the campaign, making enemies think twice about attacking you and distracting them when war comes to your door.
Note: forming Persia will grant you the unique achievement “Shahanshah” and give you a shot at unlocking a couple more by continuing playing. One of my favorite campaigns of all time was a recent Ardabil into Zoroastrian Persia.
1. The Knights
The Knights Hospitaller take the cake as far as unique nations go. They’re a Catholic, French-cultured Theocracy with a single Greek Orthodox province in the Aegean Sea.
Oh, and they can raid coasts.
Yes, they are essentially Crusader pirates.
Their national ideas are decent, with some military buffs along with the tools to create an unchallenged navy in the Mediterranean. Their mission tree that they share with other Crusader states gives them some great permanent bonuses as rewards for completing its various missions.
The Knights’ mission tree will lead you down a path of conquest in the eastern Mediterranean, reclaiming the Holy Land and allowing you to form the kingdom of Jerusalem.
The Knights have 3 unique achievements tied to them. Yes, three.
Two of them will be naturally fulfilled by going down the mission tree.
The last one needs you to own all islands in the Caribbean AND Mediterranean directly yourself.
The Knights is undoubtedly one of the most interesting nations in the game.
Trying to net all 3 of their achievements in a single campaign can offer some unique gameplay, and a change of pace from the typical EU4 campaign experience in the eastern Mediterranean.