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Colonialism is the 3rd in-game institution in the early game. Institutions periodically spawn (ca. every 50 years) and raise the cost of upgrading your technology levels as long as they remain unembraced by your nation.
Embracing these institutions as soon as possible is something you should aim for. Of course, there is no easier way to embrace one than having it spawn inside your nation’s borders.
Especially Colonialism, which spreads very slowly from province to province – this can be a huge pain to embrace without forcing it to appear by massively developing a province.
Colonialism can ONLY spawn in significantly developed coastal provinces of old-world nations that have provinces or subjects in the new world. Succeeding in spawning it outside of Europe can greatly hinder European powers!
Colonialism Province Eligibility
First of all, Colonialism CANNOT spawn before 1500.
After this date has been reached, it can only spawn in provinces that fulfill the following criteria:
- Is on the continent Europe, Asia, or Africa
- Is in a state
- Is connected to its owner’s capital
- Is NOT an island (island as in Cyprus or Mann, not London or Venice which are connected to other provinces)
- Has at least 12 development or is a Center of Trade or is the Capital
- Owner has the capability to recruit explorers (custom ideas do not count)
- Owner has discovered a land province in the New World
- Owner owns a province or has a colonial subject in the New World
What this means is that in almost every single campaign, only Portugal, Castille, and maybe England will be eligible to spawn the institution close to 1500.
So you can be almost certain that without your involvement (playing a chill campaign as Poland for example), Colonialism will spawn somewhere in western Europe.
Deciding Between Eligible Provinces
The game randomly decides which eligible province will be the birthplace of the institution. This means that the more eligible provinces you have, the more likely it is that it spawns within your borders.
Most of the requirements will be met naturally, as they demand nation-wide decisions by you. The only province-specific requirement you can efficiently influence directly is the province development.
If you really want to maximize your chance of spawning the institution you need to secure as many coastal provinces as possible and develop them to 12 development. Those with a CoT do not need to be developed.
Let’s see an example:
In the above picture, only three nations are eligible to spawn the institution:
Out of these, Mali has only one eligible province, Gabu. Portugal and Castille have 5 each.
This gives Portugal and Castile a 5/13 chance to spawn the institution, and Mali a 1/13.
How To Get Colonialism in Your Borders
Truth be told, there is no way to make sure you spawn the institution unless you get rid of the competition.
Usually what this means is forcing Portugal, Castille, and even England occasionally, to NOT take exploration ideas.
For that to happen, they need to own little to no coastline. Few nations can just decide that they are going to rob all these powerful nations of their coastal land. Even those in the position to do so won’t benefit meaningfully from going through with it.
However, what you can do as any nation in the Old World is maximizing your chances to spawn the institution. If you have settled on the idea of going exploration ideas before 1500, you can also start working on securing a good number of coastal provinces.
After doing so, you can develop some of them to 12 development. It’s usually not worth developing provinces like that at this point in the game. Your monarch points can be better spent elsewhere.
Keeping in mind the specifics for province eligibility regarding colonialism, you can modify your province developing in a way that works towards it.
For example, having to choose between dumping monarch points into developing an 8 development inland province with a cost of 36 and an 11 development coastal one that costs 42, you will choose the latter as it gives you an extra eligible province for potentially spawning Colonialism.
Tip: Gaming the System
As with all RNG-based stuff in the game, you can of course reload until you have it your way.
This is done by simply saving in December of 1499 and then reloading until you get Colonialism’s birthplace to be inside your borders.
Of course, in an ironman save you cannot save manually. What you can do, however, is force-crushing the game when you fail to spawn it in your lands and then loading the autosave which should be a couple months prior to that.
When To Spawn Colonialism
When going for a colonizing game outside of Europe, having colonialism’s birthplace in your country will massively impact the Europeans.
Their technological advantage is largely due to institutions spawning there.
Having Colonialism’s birthplace in Korea, for example, will set Europe back by at least a decade.
If you’re playing as a colonizer in Europe, not getting the birthplace is no big deal.
You mainly lose on the free monarch power and tiny amount of trade power.
The institution will spread very fast to your lands, provided that you have colonial subjects. Even as a colonial power outside of Europe the main benefit is making the life of Europeans harder by denying them the birthplace.