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… Please read this post in character of a half drunken English naval officer (or sports analyst) for I was, at least, half-drunk *hic* when I wrote it. Skip down to the bottom for a conclusion if you want. I realize that choosing a nation based upon the layout of the map is considered by some to be rather pointless because all nations are currently at war and most ports will perpetually, eventually change hands in the end, no matter what. However, there are certain known game elements and even some yet to be implemented that will make choosing a nation much more strategic and important than it may currently appear. It is my duty to educate you (however poorly) on the rational pros and cons of each nation and hopefully bolster your confidence in choosing a side… it is also my endeavor to entertain myself and blathering on the internet (however unproductive it may be) seems to satisfy this need. *hic* Logically, players will always tend to attack and defend ports near their nation’s capital. This is something we can even see going on in PvP right now (to some extent) and it’s a trend that will continue forever because… frankly, that’s just “the way we do it.” Accepting this fact, we can then presume that individual ports will generally be fought over along the boundary lines of “globular nations”, nations comprised of tight clusters of ports, or “nation regions” if you will. To reinforce this idea, the existence of free ports scattered so evenly throughout the map actually discourages the tactic of “penetration raiding” whereby, an army/region sends out small forces to capture positons (ports) deep within enemy territory in order to establish aggressively forward bases of operation. These “FOBs” essentially exist already in the form of the free ports and so there will be less emphasis put towards that effort and more put towards strengthening the nation’s boundary lines and its cluster size overall instead. *hufruff* Understanding this quasi-inevitability allows us to determine a few specific advantages that some nations may have over others. - Question: Which nation’s capital could potentially maintain a larger/easier “glob” around itself both militarily and economically? This is *hic* a somewhat complicated question from an economical perspective because the supply and demand combinations of individual ports are constantly changing throughout the game’s development. As it currently stands, fundamental resources needed to make most upgrades and ships are at least somewhat evenly supplied throughout the world. No singular nation will ever really have exclusive, or even majority control over a resource that’s needed by another nation in order to build their own ships and forces unless (possibly) that nation is very weak, small, and physically cornered. This still shouldn’t be a problem though, as the high prices for desperately needed goods will naturally self-correct any supply issues. War and peace between nations will change over time (maybe randomly) and this also makes predicting territorially strong economies rather difficult because different nations will have temporary market exchanges and trade routes one day and kill each other the next. The best prediction I can make (and it's a poor one) would merely be based on macro-economies, not small ones. Small nations will surely be more agile in adjusting to market fluctuations, be able to supplement their supply issues through free ports and organize on a national level, much more easily than a big nation could with lots of players. Small nations (size of territory) with high player densities will naturally have fewer market opportunities within themselves, competition will drive prices towards extremes and margins will probably be much narrower for anyone that doesn’t branch out. “Trade synergy” between nearby ports will always be very valuable and important. Any capital near a self-reliant cluster of ports (they meet each other’s needs) will have a major advantage in terms of generating quick, easy money for itself and its citizens. Another thing to consider is a nation’s proximity to other free ports because these will always be open and accessible to everyone. Regardless of a nation’s size, it’s always nice to have free ports nearby (economically speaking) because it’s one of the few ways that different nations can trade with other markets consistently. Finally, the safety and seclusion of trade routes from a geographical standpoint is important to know, although good trade routes will depend on what happens throughout game development. Thankfully, things are a lot easier to analyze from a military perspective. France, Sweden, Norway/Denmark First, I’ll cut off the fat by stating that this cluster f*ck of nations (Fran-Swe-Nor/Den) is geared towards players who make bad decisions or enjoy being on the “losing”, chaotic, underdog team. The three nations are too close together and I really can’t expect any singular one to truly expand in any realistically defensible, sustainable way. Whichever nation dominates the region will still always have capitol nations within its territory to deal with... If you want a challenge (or an excuse for being sh*t) then pick any of these nations. *hic* Generally speaking, expect these three (and the dense clusters of ports therein) to be considered fun “prey” for everyone else to harass. Economically speaking, the same thing tends to apply however, there will surely be a decent self-reliant cluster or two (or three!) within the region potentially making it a very wealthy area internally. Expect very high margins from any exchanges beyond the cluster (mainly Netherlands and England but also Pirates). This part of the map, more than any, will be vulnerable to fluctuating war/peace tides and this area, probably more than any, will be victim to trade route attacks beyond its borders because there are really only two paths (same direction) towards other markets that these nations can travel on. United States Of course, the United States definitely comes to mind as being a contestant for “most best”. It’s certainly the most defensible location however, this also makes for a poor offensive position due to the distances needed to travel in order to advance towards other regions. The United States may have an unwavering *hic* core (lol) but its supply lines will be too long and broad to branch out very aggressively… however… the current reality, as we all know, is much to the opposite on the US PvP servers. The US has branched and bulged out tremendously but I feel this is almost purely due to the fact that most players on the US server wanted to start by playing the nation they’re actually living in (cuz why not) and so the current success is merely due to its sheer numbers (Zerg power). I predict that this trend will not continue, as it may become boring to play such a popular nation and also people will want a change of scenery/location later down the road. This will leave the US much more vulnerable to the innate advantages and disadvantages it has territorially in the future. Economically speaking, the United States is by far the most secluded and the least diverse. Its only real neighbors are Spain and Pirates. War/peace agreements will make or break the isolated, narrow markets in the US because its only traditional trade ally will be with Spain and the US will have to travel through the Pirate waters in order to reach anyone else. Sadly, it will never be able to realistically trade with its pirate nation neighbor as the risks will probably be too great… however… any successful trading that does get through between Pirates and USA will be hugely profitable for both sides. Both nations desperately need each other in order to have enough variety in their markets. If an unofficial “truce” could be established between USA and Pirates then it would make for the best of partners because the US doesn’t have many trade options and pirates can’t really trade with anyone else. Spain Potentially, Spain is like an enclosed, isolated China. Spain’s capital has an interesting advantage in being only slightly distanced from the other nations but also having the ability to expand (and defend) into the Gulf of Mexico in relative privacy. Being able to defend the “choke points” between Cuba and Florida and between Cuba and Mexico makes the entire gulf somewhat of a sure thing for Spain if they can control those channels well. Frankly, Spain wouldn’t even really need to expand towards other nations when it has almost exclusive access to the gulf. It could just be its own “powerful thing”, much more than even the *hic* USA. It all depends on how greedy Spain becomes, if it spends too many resources venturing beyond those choke points and leaves them undefended, then they’ll lose their power in the Gulf. They don’t even really need to defend the gulf itself if it puts all its resources on those choke points. Spain’s economy is very similar, it will probably have enough resource diversity to sustain itself in the West but it still has plenty of options with other nations. The only real downside is the distances needed to travel towards its neighbors. However, if the final placement/design of resource suppliers is less evenly distributed on the map then Spain might not be as self-sufficient which may be very problematic because those choke points could work against them if they’re forced to travel to the East for materials. Netherlands The Netherland’s capitol is complicated. Militarily speaking, it’d take some real effort to encroach upon its territory, there’s a large body of water separating it from the inevitable battles in the middle of the map and it has a relatively exclusive line of ports it could call its own. The problem is that these neighboring ports aren’t clustered, so they’re all increasingly further away from its capital (pretty much in a line) not to mention, a little more spread out from each other than is typically seen elsewhere. The Netherlands will have to travel pretty far to handle some of its outer territories on its borders but then again, so would everyone else in order to attack them. “FranSweNorDen” will be dealing with itself too much to effectively encroach into Netherland territory to its right which really just leaves the UK on the left (near Honduras) to deal with but the UK will also have the Spain/US/Pirate encroachments coming at them from multiple sides in the north to handle. Still, I don’t feel it leaves too many ports within the grasp of the Netherlands for it to (potentially) have large, efficient presence on the map. Trade, both within and from the region will be fantastic though. The large, broad body of water above will probably discourage pirating against the Netherlands but it won’t really discourage trade through it. This means the Netherlands can safely trade within itself and with practically anyone in any direction, almost completely undetected, because their border with the North is just too broad to find and target them. There is also the benefit of an inevitably unstable, desperate economy in “FranSweNorDen” for them to exploit. No doubt, there will be huge market opportunities with which ever nations have Peace with the Netherlands in the East. Pirates *hic* Honestly, the Pirates is really hard to say. They have a good cluster of ports around their capitol but they seem like really easy targets for the US, Spain and UK and nowhere to expand without a serious fight. This might be good, this might be bad. Their best bet is to cover the choke holds around them well, making anyone think twice before traveling through their waters. Their crowd control will be much more difficult than Spain’s because there are more access points to protect. They could be everyone’s target or they could be everyone’s secret trade ally, it all just depends on whatever happens in the collective culture of players and whichever attitude everyone takes towards Pirates overall. Personally, I think of Pirates as trade gate-keepers worth respecting because they control access between two very separate, large economical markets. Expect really high profit margins from any trade done cross-region, as the US will surely need things from everywhere else and vice versa. If the pirates can play the “troll toll” card well, then they can be a very lucrative and powerful nation (or uh, group). Great Britain This leaves us with the UK or GB technically but whatever. From a battle-centric standpoint, the UK’s location is by far the most aggressive and offensive position. It can go anywhere, easily. It can encroach upon anyone, easily. It can basically choose any direction in which to project its power and if things don’t work out in that direction, they can choose somewhere else to expand. The UK can basically sit back, watch wherever other nations are fighting/investing resources and then direct its expanse in whichever direction all that stuff isn’t happening. Maybe Spain’s spending too much time deep in the Gulf, maybe the Netherlands are dealing too much with the East, maybe the Pirates have their eyes set on the *hic* USA to the North. Whatever is going on between other nations, the UK will be cleaning up the rear of it… or… maybe the UK will just be the center of attention and attacked by literally everyone from every side, hard to say. Honestly, in the end, I can’t imagine the UK to be very large militarily because it will be much more difficult to defend itself on so many sides than it will be for any single nation to advance into their territory. Trade wise, the UK is somewhat similar to Pirates in that they could potentially be gate-keepers for everyone else to trade through, although their position can’t crowd control as well as Pirates. Unlike the Pirates however, they could trade with pretty much everyone on the map quite easily, they will always have at least one trade ally nearby and have access to (by far) the most diverse resource market of any nation. Expect margins and opportunities to be relatively high, depending on how the rest of the world treats them. Conclusion I'm not really trying to predict what will happen as much as suggest a guideline or something. Spain can do whatever the hell it wants (anyone can) but I predict that it would be in Spain's best interest to concentrate on the Gulf and expect certain things in the process of doing so. A strong nation will be the one that can (somewhat) satisfy both a craft/trade path AND that of battle because each path strengthens the other. A nation with a good, diverse economy will be able to support a stronger “military” through its ability to more easily and cheaply produce upgrades, ships, etc. Of course a good “military” will also be able to support a stronger trade/craft economy by protecting it’s merchants from pirates and other nations’ encroachments. All of this however, presumes a few things; that the layout of neighboring ports to the nation’s capital are easily accessible and defensible and that the nation's "cluster" has access to a broad variety of free ports around it. Militarily, the USA can “turtle” (is super defensive) but potentially slow to advance, the UK is very much on the offense and extremely agile but also a target for literally everyone, and Spain can potentially be something truly powerful and massive if it can control the two choke points into the Gulf of Mexico. It’s hard to say which nation (of these three) I would rank as having the most potential. The Netherlands and Pirates meh, they’ll probably never be as massive as the previously listed nations. The rest of ‘em, well… the “FranSweNorDen” cluster will probably be too busy eating itself up to expand elsewhere but it will certainly be a lot of action for anyone who chooses to play them. Economically speaking, the UK might have the biggest advantage of anyone both in terms of global access and diversity in its markets but it will depend greatly upon both how well the Netherlands can exploit trade/conflict issues in the East and however self-sufficient the Gulf of Mexico will be for Spain (these three could potentially be a tie). Pirates and the US markets will be, to some degree, intertwined with each other. If they can “secretly” work together, then combined they’ll be very powerful but that probably won’t happen and they’ll still have an issue with market diversity. Pirates on their own will always have a difficult time trading, even compared to the heavily cornered USA. “FSND” area might have some nice little self-sufficient port clusters within itself for trade but they’ll be fighting for safe passage to the West for diversity. - Combined rankings for the largest and most powerful would probably be a tie between Spain, UK and Netherlands, followed by Pirates, then USA, then Cluster-Ville. Player diplomacy and simple nation popularity and numbers will almost always be the winning factor for all the nations but this post is more theory-craft than prediction. I know my verdict is pissing off someone out there, maybe I’ll change this later because I am still half-drunk after all. *hic* PLEASE respond and discuss! I’d like to hear other suggestions and thoughts on the matter and kudos to anyone who actually read this whole stupid thing! P.S. ... I drew a picture in MS Paint. I feel so special!