How To Beat The Ottomans in EU4 (Early & Late Game)

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The main way to handle the Ottomans is to deny them their early expansion by any means necessary, especially as a nation close to them. You can achieve that in three ways:

  • Secure strong nearby allies and declare war on the Ottomans ASAP
  • Conquer their weaker neighbors before they do
  • Ally/Guarantee their neighbors and wait for them to attack

Tip: Do not be afraid to go into debt hiring mercenaries and military advisors to win these first wars.

Near the end of this post I’ll offer some tips on what to do if your nation is not able to attempt any of that early on.


Why Are The Ottomans So Strong?

  • Their starting position
  • unique mission tree and decisions
  • unique government type
  • tech group
  • national ideas

All the above make their gameplay obvious and simple, yet very powerful, that even the AI executes it almost flawlessly. This also makes them an excellent choice for a beginner to pick up the game’s basics!


What To Do Against This Overpowered Nation

It highly depends on the chosen nation and goal of your campaign.

Some nations will aim towards completely preventing the Ottomans from expanding at the game start (great examples being Venice, Hungary, and Aragon), while others can bide their time and outscale them into the later parts of the game (France, Castille, Poland, Muscovy to name a few).


How To Handle The Ottomans (Early Game)

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The situation in the eastern Mediterranean at game start.

The key lies in the nation of Byzantium.

Byzantium starts with control of the city of Constantinople and a few provinces in southern Greece, while having cores on half of the Ottomans’ Balkan land, including their capital.

The Ottomans NEED to conquer Constantinople to unlock half their mission tree and take a unique decision that elevates them to empire rank, among other things.

It’s obvious that preventing them from conquering Constantinople is a prime way to ensure that they do not instantly snowball out of control. In order to achieve that, your options are the following:

  • Attack them while they are busy fighting Albania and Venice
  • Guarantee Byzantium’s independence
  • Ally Byzantium
  • Vassalize Byzantium

Attacking them a few months after they declare a reconquest war on Albania, who is guaranteed and will be protected by Venice, is the most straightforward option.

Their war against the Albanians will distract the Ottomans and deplete their manpower, making your task a lot easier.

Albania begins the game with a godlike general and ruler, while Venice is very strong in the early game. Don’t be surprised if they sometimes beat them even without your involvement!

Aftermath of a 1v1 war against the Ottomans as Hungary / EU4
Aftermath of a 1v1 war against the Ottomans as Hungary, declared while they were busy with Albania.

Whether you ally or guarantee Byzantium, you aspire to a simple goal. You want to discourage the Ottomans from attacking them and conquering Constantinople.

In case they feel strong enough to take both of you on, they may declare the war anyway and you will have to defend Byzantium. A good player should keep this in mind and always be prepared.

A similar alternative is allying/guaranteeing Albania and helping them win the inevitable war.

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Ottomans crushed after declaring on Byzantium, a few years after I annexed Bulgaria from them.

Vassalizing Byzantium is the trickier but preferable option, especially for a nation interested in conquering the Balkans and Anatolia.

The problem is that you will most likely not have a casus belli on them that early on, so you will need to declare a no-CB war. Generally, you want to avoid such wars, but in this situation, it is worth it.

In all cases, having a better fleet than the Ottomans in order to blockade the straits of Bosporus is a massive advantage, as you can eventually prevent them from crossing into Europe and vice-versa. You can also use naval barrage to speed up the sieges on their coastal forts.


Tips For The War Against Byzantium

Possessing a decent fleet sporting more than 10 transport ships will be needed to land troops on Constantinople. The Byzantines tend to station troops there, because usually they are unable to secure military access through the Ottomans.

If somehow you or Byzantium end up with access through Ottoman land, then you won’t need the transport ships.

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Typical setup with the war essentially won, waiting for the Ottomans to declare against Byzantium. In this case they attacked Albania who I also guarantee.

The following steps show how this operation works:

  1. Siege Constantinople ASAP but do not fully occupy it yet
  2. Peace out Byzantium’s allies
  3. Wait for the Ottomans to declare war on Byzantium
  4. Finish the siege of Constantinople and vassalize Byzantium
  5. You will now have assumed the role of war-leader against the Ottomans
  6. Call your allies in, they will accept far more easily as it is a defensive war
  7. Win the war and demand Byzantium’s cores back, plus money and war reparations if possible

If the Ottomans do not attack Byzantium during your war (essentially if step 3 on the list doesn’t occur), just vassalize Byzantium anyway. Simply denying them Constantinople is enough.

Later, declaring on them with the help of Austria/Poland/Hungary/Mamelukes to reclaim the Byzantine cores should be easy. Congratulations, you have crippled the Ottomans for good!


How To Handle The Ottomans (Late Game)

If the Ottomans are allowed to proceed with their early expansion unhindered, they will start snowballing and usually become the #1 great power, with land sometimes spanning from Russia to eastern Africa.

So how do you tip the scales in your favor despite their massive troop numbers and quality of units?


Wait Until Their Infantry Units Fall Off

Starting at MIL tech 15, European troops, both western and eastern, are on par with the ottomans. Then, after MIL tech 19 they massively outperform them. Ottoman troops are at their peak during MIL techs 12-14. Avoid fighting them at that time.


Be Defensive

Build forts in favorable defensive terrain or capture theirs very fast by using barraging to break the walls and assaulting, then let them start the siege and fight them there. Mountain forts provide -2 dice rolls for the attacker (which is the one besieging it). If you can also initiate the battle in a way that a river crossing penalty is applied, all the better.


Wait For Your National Ideas & Military idea Groups To Come Online

Depending on the nation played, Quality, Quantity, and Offensive ideas will help tremendously.


Secure Their Strong Rivals as Allies

The Commonwealth, Russia, Mughals/Timurids/Persia, Austria, even France and Spain can be willing to help you against the Ottomans.

Tech level Western Eastern Anatolian (Ottomans) Muslim
Lvl 9 5 6 7 7
Lvl 12 10 11 12 11
Lvl 15 12 12 12 13
Lvl 19 15 14 13 13
Lvl 23 16 16 15 16

Pictured above: table showing the total number of unit pips of select tech groups at specific tech levels. Notice the Ottoman dominance until tech 15.

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Example of a mountain fight in the early game. The same principle applies for the entire game’s duration.
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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.