EU4 Cardinals: What They’re For & How To Get Them

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Cardinals are a core part of the Catholic faith. They are a prerequisite for becoming the Curia controller and claiming its bonuses.

The best way to peacefully ensure you can accumulate more Cardinals is having high development Catholic provinces and a high base tax in general.

You can also belligerently annex provinces that are home to cardinals. The Cardinal will then be under your influence.


Passive Assignment of Cardinals

The max number of concurrent active cardinals is 49.

If at the start of a year the number is lower than 49, a Catholic province of a Catholic nation is assigned a new Cardinal. The specific formula for choosing the province is quite convoluted.

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The potential provinces for new cardinals, shown when hovering over the “active cardinals” in the Papal interface.

Factors that affect Cardinal selection are:

  • Development of the target province – Must be at least 10 in total.
  • Total provincial base tax of all Catholic provinces owned by nation – This is taken considerably into account during the selection process.
  • Total provincial base tax of all non-Catholic provinces owned by nation – This is the least important modifier.
  • Number of Cardinals already controlled by nation – The more Cardinals a nation controls, the lower the chance of their provinces getting assigned another.
  • Papal States are excluded from this mechanic – Provinces controlled by the Papal states will not be considered when calculating potential candidates.

After taking all of that into account, the top 10 provinces will have a chance to be selected at the year’s beginning. Usually, all provinces will have a chance close to 10% to be selected.

This clearly favors nations with their development concentrated in a few provinces.


Diplomatic Assignment of Cardinals

The Papal State has access to the “appoint cardinal” diplomatic action.

This action assigns a cardinal in an eligible province in the target nation. It has a monetary cost for the Pope, depending on the target nation’s number of cardinals and the total number of cardinals. It also improves this nation’s opinion of the Papal State by +50.

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The “Appoint Cardinal” diplomatic action available only to the Papal State.

This way of distributing cardinals is completely dependent on the Papal State AI. The Pope can also assign a loyalist cardinal through the papal interface, which spawns a cardinal in the Pope’s own lands.


How To Ensure the Pope Gives You Cardinals

We will of course assume that you aren’t playing as the papal states yourself.

The Papal State will use the “assign cardinal” action towards you, depending on the following:

  • Their opinion of you – Allying them and maintaining their opinion of you high enough will make them more likely to assign a Cardinal in your nation.
  • The number of Cardinals you control – The more you have, the less likely they are to assign another one.
  • Being a powerful nation near them – If the Pope is threatened by you, he will attempt to improve relations. This includes assigning a cardinal to your nation, as it improves your opinion of them.
  • Be Italian – This is based on observation alone, but the pope tends to appoint cardinals in the Italian peninsula far more than outside of it.

Assigning Cardinals as the Pope

1. Appointing Cardinals To Other Nations

If you are playing as the Papal State yourself, you can freely use the “appoint cardinal” interaction.

You can exploit this by appointing cardinals to nearby nations that you are going to expand into. After you conquer a province with a Cardinal, that Cardinal will remain in the province, only now under your control.

The same can be done by appointing a cardinal in one of your vassal’s provinces that you are going to annex soon.

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Assigning a Cardinal to Urbino, one of the Pope’s starting vassals.
2. Appointing Loyalists

Another tool at your disposal is the “Appoint loyalist Cardinal” in the Papal interface. The button in question is located at the top left.

It replaces the usual button that every other nation has, which expends papal influence to increase their chances of being elected as the Curia Controller.

The cost of appointing loyalists as Cardinals will sharply increase the more Cardinals you already control. It also increases the more Cardinals exist in total.

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The appoint loyalist Cardinal interaction in the Papal interface.

Actively Acquiring New Cardinals


1. Conquering Cardinal Provinces

The most efficient way to acquire new Cardinals is to take matters into your own hands. Conquering nearby provinces with a Cardinal is the best way to do that.

Especially as a nation with no Cardinals, securing one the soonest is vital.

Note: You cannot become the Curia Controller without a Cardinal.

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Conquering Bordeaux from England as France gives you an early extra Cardinal.

2. Acquiring Them Through an Event

The most usual event resulting in the acquisition of a Cardinal is the “Cardinal across the border” event.

This event gives you a choice between bribing a cardinal to move into your lands, or getting a reduced-cost spymaster advisor in your court.

With the first option:

  • You will lose 0.05 years’ worth of income
  • Gain 0.5 corruption
  • You get a Cardinal in the targeted province
  • The foreign, neighboring province loses its Cardinal

The second option simply gives you a reduced-cost spymaster advisor.

If the first option is chosen, there is a 50% chance the foreign nation uncovers your scheme. In that case:

  • The foreign nation gets 1 corruption
  • Their opinion of you is reduced by -30
  • They gain a “Diplomatic Insult” Casus Belli against you

Beware that the event can trigger the opposite way too. That way you can lose your cardinals in border provinces.

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The “Cardinal Across the Border” event.

Another more conditional event is the “Contacts in the Holy See” event. To trigger it you need:

  • Less than 7 Cardinals
  • A Catholic Theologian or Inquisitor advisor currently employed
  • A province with more than 10 development in Europe without a Cardinal
  • There are less than 49 Cardinals active in the world
  • The Papal interaction is active

This means that the Theologian and Inquisitor advisors are slightly more important for Catholics when you have less than 7 Cardinals.

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The Contacts in the Holy See event.

There are also various events, some of them tied to the “Cardinal in administration” modifier from the “Cardinal Minister” event, that remove an active Cardinal from a province of yours.

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An event with the option of dismissing a Cardinal.

Benefits of Controlling Cardinals

Controlling at least one Cardinal is important for any Catholic nation. It should be a top priority as any Catholic country.

Having at least one Cardinal is a condition that must be fulfilled if you want to control the Papacy.

It also makes the “Cardinal Minister” event available.

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Cardinal Minister event.

On top of those things, each controlled cardinal provides +0.5 papal influence yearly,

Controlling 3 cardinals provides +1.50 yearly papal influence / EU4
Controlling 3 cardinals provides +1.50 yearly papal influence.
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G. Tsechilidis

Born and raised Greek citizen. His love of history, geography, and all things map-related, are certainly a contrast to his pursuit of a master in civil engineering. An avid gamer from a very young age, he found the perfect match in Grand Strategy Games. If not for a good chess match or a round of carambole billiards, you'll certainly catch him firing up EU4 or a Total War game to spend the evening.