There is already some information in the guide for other, optional content, so you should look there first. This one goes a bit more into detail.
The first thing you should decide when you want to play a country is what kind of country and ruler you want to play. A powerful monarch, the president of a democracy who is reliant on the people, a high priest of a theocracy or maybe even a dictator of a military autocracy? The possibilities are endless, however, you should consider the pros and cons of different governments.
- Having a monarchy means that you play a king or queen and you are either the sole ruler of a country or more of a representative (like in a representative monarchy although absolute ones are more common). No matter which case, you will play a character that is part of a royal dynasty, the monarch's family. As such, you will need to produce an heir, so monarchs are expected to get devoted and have a family. Plus, you might have to deal with other members of your dynasty that are pretenders and think they are more worthy of the throne than you.
The bright side, on the other hand, is that you do not need to win anyone's favor and you do not have to win any elections (except if you have a unique government like an elective monarchy). You are the king or queen (but you should still watch out for rebellions).
Monarchies and democracies usually have a ground malus when it comes to their relationships with each other. These are minor but could still make it so that some democracies do not like you. As such, monarchies usually like to ally each other and it is possible that members of the dynasties of countries could fall in love (political Everlasting Devotions are usually frowned upon) and strengthen that relationship - if you are lucky you might even get a claim on another kingdom's throne.
- Democracies, of which there are a lot of different types, usually need you to win the favor of the people. Most of them hold elections either after a few years (like in the US or Germany on Earth) or after a ruler's death. As such, you will need to have someone who is charismatic and who can run a campaign. However, your character has won an election in the past already so that makes things a little bit easier (but could also make it harder if you disappointed the people during your time as a ruler). If you lose an election, you will lose your title as the ruler and you do not want that since that will reduce you to a normal politician and take away most of your options concerning the rulership of the country (might as well choose a new one at that point).
Their biggest advantage, however, is that it is much easier to deal with rebellions and keep unrest low so they do not happen in the first place and you will usually not become the target of a revolution except if you have a corrupted government.
- A theocracy is a government that is led by a religious head - imagine the papal state but for a normal country. How the government is run depends on the religion but the ruler usually has a lot of power and influence and is seen as a holy person. As such, your character needs to be careful with their private life - doing anything that is considered sinful within the religion and you could lose your position. Plus, you need to follow the religion's values and keep the followers happy. The biggest threat to a theocracy are not outside forces but rather people losing interest in their faith, so you have to make sure that does not happen.
As a theocracy, you can make use of holy wars (but only if other countries have state religions that are not yours) and convert others, either diplomatically or through force. The more followers your religion has, the more influence your theocracy will gain. May God/the Gods be with you.
- An autocracy is similar to a monarchy because there is only one ruler that has the power. However, unlike monarchies, there is no dynasty and your ruler can appoint anyone as their successor. Dictatorships with just one ruler are autocracies as well. The biggest advantage of an autocrat is the fact that they have absolute power within their country and can rule with an iron fist if they so wish (an autocrat can also be benevolent, though). There may be people plotting against you but it is easier to unveil and get rid of them since autocracies usually have great spy networks.
The biggest downside, on the other hand, is that the people could revolt at any time so it is important to either keep them in check or happy. An autocrat could easily be toppled by a coup if they are not careful.
- There are also oligarchies which is the rule of the few. Oligarchies are usually ruled by a council of people that have equal power, like the tycoons of Visganro. As you can guess, being an oligarch means that you do not have 100% control over the country and you will need to get the other oligarchs to agree with you, either by bribing, befriending or blackmailing them (or other means). Some might have the same opinion as you in some matters. If you do not want that, you should probably play a different government type although you could also try to gain absolute power to forcefully change the country's government.
The good thing about an oligarchy is that you have multiple qualified rulers who are all experts in what they do which means they could fix a mistake you made and if something bad happens only part of the blame will fall on you.
There are even more government types out there, like a tribal government, an assortment of clans and so on. Some countries also have unique government types, an example of that being the gentlemen's clubs in Abridur or the chambers of hunters and merchants in Lufdurus.
Diplomacy is extremely important when playing a country (except if you are completely isolationistic). Everyone hating you will result in you being crushed by a much larger force so even the most ruthless country has to keep some good relationships.
You can either interact with other countries directly, like having your ruler hold a meeting or conversation with another ruler, or send an envoy to take care of it in your stead. However, you do not have infinite envoys and some countries will like you less if you are friends with their enemies, so you have to choose your relations carefully. It is never wrong to try to get on the good side of bigger powers although some might not be interested.
Engaging in diplomacy personally instead of sending envoys is usually better (and can lead to RP scenes).
Something you should also consider is that you cannot have unlimited diplomatic relationships since that would overwork your ambassadors/diplomats. The bigger and more renown your country, the more you can have which also increases the number of your envoys (it is usually diplomatic relationships = number of envoys).
What counts as a diplomatic relationship: alliances, pacts, vassal/overlord relationship, being part of a confederation/other group of alliances (only takes up one slot no matter how many members there are, though), and probably some special cases.
Just being friendly or/and having trade deals but not being allied with another country does not take up a diplomatic relationship. Neither do hostile relationships of any kind.
There are various things you can do aside from improving or worsening relations, like striking a deal, sending a gift or insult, arranging a cultural exchange, guaranteeing a small country's independence, inviting a ruler to an event, holding an intellectual discussion with rulers of other government types, asking them to help you with a breakthrough they have embraced (or vice versa), threatening them to give in to your demands, spreading rumors about another ruler (can backfire), asking for support/offer support, and much much more. If you can come up with a diplomatic action, you can try it.
Wars have their own entry.
Prestige and ambitions
How you play your ruler is also important since you need to consider the country and ruler you are playing. If you are playing a militaristic dictator it would not make much sense to be best friends with your super pacifistic, hardcore democratic neighbor or to just ignore another country's actions just because you like the player even though it would make sense for your country to react to them.
You can still do whatever you want (and your ruler could actually be against a country's values and try to change them) but staying "in-character" can be worthwhile since you will generate Prestige if you do so. Prestige is a value that determines how respected your current ruler is and can be spent on things that have to do with the character as a ruler. Like improving their leadership abilities, influencing other people (Prestige is highly useful for oligarchs and democrats), making changes to laws with less resistance, suppressing growing rebellions, and so on. It is never wrong to collect Prestige, so try to act according to a country's values and your character's believes. Doing something that makes absolutely no sense for that country will reduce your Prestige.
You will lose your Prestige if your ruler changes and you play as the new one.
Ambitions, on the other hand, are a goal you can set for your character, like growing the country to a certain size, amassing wealth, becoming well-liked, winning a war etc. Depending on the ambition, you can gain small bonuses by completing them.
Colonialism is still a big thing in Horhsal and there are a lot of countries that are building up colonies in the Culm Ocean which can be found south of most continents.
The Culm Ocean holds near limitless islands because of its sheer size but they are still finite so there are a lot of colonial conflicts going on. Countries that focus most of their efforts into colonizing islands are called colonial powers and usually have a powerful fleet to protect their colonies.
Playing as a ruler, you can also participate in the colonization of the Culm Ocean. However, you need to have a coast, ports, and navy for this. Plus, upkeeping a colony is costly so you need enough income to sustain one - and do not forget to send troops there to protect the colony.
Once all these requirements are met you can send a colonial fleet which will carry enough citizens, who become colonists, to found a colony. Sadly, you cannot just land on any random island. First, you have to make sure that nobody else owns this island (natives do not count except if you do not want to anger them) and it is also not a bad idea to avoid islands that other colonizers are interested in since this can lead to conflicts with them. Of course, you could also fight.
Should you manage to secure an island for yourself there is not much else for you to manage since the colonists do a good job of coordinating themselves. However, there might be colonial events from time to time that can influence the colony's growth and you might also have to deal with Non-Eophrim natives. How you deal with them should depend on your country (some hate and suppress them, others try to get along).
Once the colony is finished it will count as a city of your country, sending you exotic goods and helping you to establish trade power in the Culm Ocean. Colonies are a great way to expand almost peacefully and may be expensive but can increase your income, especially if you establish a colonial empire.
Great powers and empires or rather: centralization vs. decentralization
This section is only important for great powers and empires.
Once you grow to a certain size - which means being one of the biggest countries of the continent - you can become a great power or empire.This will heavily increase your influence and make your country more powerful, plus other, smaller countries will respect you in most cases.
Whether you become a great power or empire does not depend on your government but rather your centralization which means how much autonomy the areas outside your capital area have.
A high centralization, turning you into a great power, means that your ruler exerts absolute control over all of the country which can be useful since you do not have to deal with governors and can make use of every single resource and troop your country has. The downside of that, however, is that far away lands do not like to be ruled by some person from a city far away from them, so-called particularist who could turn into rebels. Plus, you have a higher chance for rebellions in general because not granting more autonomy to the people of conquered lands will make them view you as a ruthless conqueror (becoming a great power usually involves conquering a lot of lands).
Having a high centralization is riskier - there were great powers that crumbled because of it - but can make you much more powerful.
A high decentralization, on the other hand, turns you into an empire and means that you give more autonomy to the lands outside your capital area. They are not independent and still have to answer to the emperor or empress but they are ruled by governors who were appointed by the ruler. These governors can be useful when loyal since they do their best to keep unrest low and develop the lands they rule but there is also the danger of governors turning out to be disloyal or corrupt which is the biggest downside of an empire. However, they are usually still far more stable than great powers.
Once you have become a great power or empire it will become extremely difficult to change your centralization although it is still possible. You could even turn a great power into an empire or vice versa but this is met with resistance which could even lead to a civil war. Centralization is increased or decreased depending on certain events and how much power the centralist and decentralist factions have. Empires usually have stronger decentralist and great powers have stronger centralist factions but this might change due to unexpected circumstances.
Empires and great powers have both of these factions and they are unique to them.
Wars and Aggression
Wars are still a sadly important part of Horhsalian politics, no matter if between two unimportant tiny countries or two powerful world powers - or even more than just two participants. They are your main method to conquer new lands and exert your influence over others.
However, you cannot just declare a war on anyone just because you feel like it. Well, you could but that would have repercussions. If you want to declare a war on someone you need a reason for war first.
By the way, there is always a temporary truce after a war so that a country does not just repeatedly declare wars on the same country. Breaking this truce generates massive amounts of Aggression.
Reasons for war
The name says it all. A reason you could have to declare war on someone (or have someone the one on you). There are a lot of different ones with different consequences and goals and they often determine what you can get or lose after a peace deal. Not all reasons for war are available for everyone.
- Unjustified conquest: Everyone can use this one to declare a war of aggression on another country, most often with the intent to conquer land. You can even surprise someone with it because not many countries expect an unjustified conquest out of the blue. The downside, however, is that you will generate a lot of Aggression that way and you usually cannot call in your allies since they do not want to have to deal with the same consequences.
Declaring a lot of unjustified wars will make your Aggression skyrocket.
- Justified conquest: This is similar to the unjustified conquest but is a justified one. It can mean that you have a claim on some lands of the other country which you may have gotten through various different means, either by it being part of an old realm you want to restore (which requires that you own most of its lands already), a region you want to unite (you also need to own most of its lands already), having a claim on another country's throne as a monarchy, because of historical reasons or rare events that give you some. Getting a claim is, as you can see, rare and you should not count on it.
You could also try to fabricate a false claim but being detected will not only make the other country hate you but can also increase your Aggression, so it is risky.
Being in a resource crisis, like a dangerous food shortage, and needing to conquer lands to fight said crisis can also act as a justified war.
Attacking a loathed, like an anarchy or pirate republic, or primitive, like one with a tribal government, country is always justified which makes it extremely hard to survive as them because anyone around them could declare war at any time. However, that means that these countries can also declare justified wars on other countries.
- Reconquest: Can be used on a country that holds lands that were yours at some point. Conquering them back generates no Aggression since they were yours in the first place.
- Show superiority: Can be used on a country that hates you and vice versa. Instead of conquering lands, the goal is to show the other country who is superior. Winning will make you respected and have the other country buckle down. Taking lands from them in a peace deal will generate more Aggression than usual (this is weakened if you have been enemies for a long time or if they did something ludicrous to you in the past). Safer options are to have them pay you money or resources.
Allies are usually not called into superiority wars between two countries since they have better things to do.
- War of honor: Can be used if the other country somehow dishonored you, either by heavily insulting you, dishonoring an alliance or because of other reasons. The allies of the target are usually less likely to join because of their ally's dishonorable behavior.
- Free revolting lands: You can use this reason for war if a neighboring country has cities that lost all of their loyalty and want to break free from their old country. If you win, they could switch sides and join your country instead - with almost no Aggression generated. If you are unlucky, they could declare independence and become a new country that will love you, at least.
- Non-Eophrim enslavement: Can be used if you are a country that still has Non-Eophrim slaves and only works on countries that are friendly towards Non-Eophrims. Your goal is to attack the Non-Eophrims inside their countries to enslave them.
- Liberator: Can be used if you are friendly towards Non-Eophrim and can only be used against countries that still have Non-Eophrim slaves. Your goal is to defeat them to free their slaves. If it is a crushing victory, you could even force them to stop being slavers.
- Vassalization: Can only be used by countries that are much bigger than the target and after they have successfully threatened them at least once in the past. If you win you can vassalize the other country.
- Independence: Can be used by a disloyal vassal to try to break free from their overlord. If multiple vassals are disloyal, they can join this war as allies.
- Colonial war: A war that can only be used if there is a colonial conflict between you and your target, an example being that they colonized an island you were interested in. Colonial wars between countries that are located on faraway continents are usually mostly fought in the Culm Ocean.
- Overflowing Continent conflict: Can only be used if both you and the target possess lands in the Overflowing Continent and you can only take their lands there if you win. Has no other requirements - any war about the Overflowing Continent is justified which was agreed upon.
- Plundering: Can only be used by anarchies, tribal governments and similar countries. Your goal is to raid the other country and take as much loot as possible. Taking lands will generate a lot of Aggression. Taking this reason for war instead of a justified conquest (which you automatically have as an anarchy, tribe etc.) might seem like a strange idea but it is a good choice if you have too much Aggression but still want to attack others for loot.
- Trade conflict: Can be used if the other country somehow actively interrupted your trading or if both of you are part of rival trade leagues (only for certain governments like merchant republics). Taking lands will generate a lot of Aggression so it is better to go for other reparations.
- Holy war: Can only be used by theocracies and only against countries that have a state religion that is not the same as the theocracy's, so it will not work against countries with no state religion (of which there are a lot). You can also call in other countries with your state religion even if you are not allied. However, your enemy can do the same.
- Coalition: If countries have this reason for war on you, you have a big problem. This reason for war becomes available for others if you have generated a lot of Aggression and the involved countries formed a coalition to take you down. You could, however, also join a coalition if another country generated a lot of Aggression.
- Conflict between major powers: Only great powers and empires can use this to target other great powers or empires since it is not really possible for others to deny them their right to declare this war. These should not be declared lightly, however, since other great powers and empires are immensely powerful and it could turn into a massive war if both are calling in their allies.
There are also even more reasons for war, some that might be unique to certain governments and types of countries.
Aggression is a value that is generated whenever you do something that can be considered warmongering, like declaring an unjustified war or taking too much land from others. On its own, Aggression does not change much and is only used by other countries to determine their opinion of you. If you generate a lot of Aggression, other countries will feel threatened and might create a coalition to stop you, so you either have to be careful or be strong enough to fend them off. If you have high Aggression but the countries that feel threatened are not strong enough to attack you they will usually create a defensive pact instead which calls in everyone involved if you attack one of them.
Aggression varies depending on how far away and how involved you are with other countries. Countries on other continents will not care about your actions on your own continent (except if you go absolutely crazy with Aggression) and that country you never interacted with on the other side of the continent might not care as well. Your neighbors, on the other hand, will definitely react although it has less of an effect on your allies and friends, so being friendly with a lot of countries can be useful to fight it as well. You should definitely watch out if you are close to a great power or empire since they might not like it if you try to become one yourself or if you disrupt the balance of the continent if they are protective - if one of them joins a coalition and you are a normal country, you are toast, so you might as well give in to their demands without the need for a war.
Aggression exists so that countries do not go crazy on conquering others and to prevent countries to try to take over the world which is impossible (and would be unfair for other players since there would be only one country left). As soon as you become so big that you could become a threat to the world, major powers all around the world would join to crush you.
Of course, Aggression will not stick around forever and fade away after a while although it can take a long time to burn huge amounts of Aggression. There are also other ways to decrease your Aggression, like changing your government if you are a dictatorship, creating a breakthrough and openly sharing it with others, have another country give back lands they conquered from someone, willingly give back lands you conquered from someone (the only reason to do this is if you are pressured by a big coalition), losing lands in a war, and other means.