Elder Scrolls Universalis is a wonderful mod with over 2000 years of gameplay and hundreds of nations to choose from with gorgeous lore throughout. However, starting out can be daunting and difficult to decide which nation to start as. This guide will present easy, moderate, interesting, and challenging nations to play as. It is designed for new players to the mod or veteran EU4 players interested in the mod but without a huge background on Elder Scrolls lore. Because the mod covers many of the events of the First Era, and the Elder Scrolls games are placed in the Third and Fourth Eras, most players will be unfamiliar with the tags available and the starting dynamics of different regions. This guide serves as an intro into the lore, dynamics, and relative power of nations in the opening start dates.
- 1 Three Easy Starter Nations
- 2 Five Moderate Starter Nations
- 3 Eight Interesting Starter Nations
- 4 Eight Challenging Starter Nations
Three Easy Starter Nations
White Gold Tower (WGT for short) is an Ayleid Culture nation starting with Cult of Meridia religion. They represent the Ayleid owners of the preeminent Imperial City and were possibly the original Mer to construct the tower there. Located in the Heartlands of Cyrodiil, WGT sits in the most optimal position for rapid conquest and the development of a massive empire.
With many events throughout the course of the game, WGT and its later variations have the most lore content attributed to them. For players who enjoy forming larger, more centralized, and more powerful empires, over the course of a thousand years WGT can go on to form the Ayleid State, face a major revolt to become Alessian Empire following the 8 Divines, go on to form the Alessian Empire following Marukhism, and finally return to 8 Divines with Imperial culture in order to form Cyrodiil.
With the heartlands being one of the three end trade nodes in the game, money can be steered here for huge economic prowess. Strategy should focus on consolidating the heartlands region before expanding into the rest of Cyrodiil, building up a vassal swarm to deal with external threats, and dominating world trade.
Falinesti represents the seat of Eplear Camoran of the Camoran Dynasty in Valenwood. While modern bosmer (from Oblivion and Skyrim) are a weak political entity and viewed as a sort of backwards people, they were at their pinnacle in the first Era. In fact, the beginning of the first era and all recorded history was established with the domain of the Camoran Empire. At the time, centralized nations were uncommon and empires nonexistent. By uniting the cultural and religious peoples of Valenwood under a common banner, Eplear succeeded in setting a precedent for later empires, especially human led ones in Cyrodiil and Skyrim.
Strategy should focus around the mission tree, which represents the political and expansionist goals of Eplear Camoran as he united an entire geopolitical region. The mission tree ends with the formation of Valenwood with regional control and empire rank. In ESU there are 10 government ranks with empire being the most powerful and vastly superior to gov rank 1, at which most nations start.
Falinesti also has one of the best starts in the game, with 2 personal unions and a very comfortable position to gain a third, Southpoint, who has 3 vassals. While the mission tree takes some time to complete because these PUs will need to become integrated, most players can be safe and play tall if they want, or attempt to invade Cyrodiil and Elsweyr.
Players of Skyrim will recognize Windhelm, which sits as a regional power in ESU. In the first era tensions are high with surrounding dwemer and snow elves and nothing is certain. However, Windhelm has the strongest start in Skyrim, several vassals, and opportunities to get personal unions with Whiterun, Solitude, and Falkreath. Eventually the player can form Eastern Skyrim, Skyrim, and the Old Kingdom. The Old Kingdom was a federation of Nordic states which historically went on to conquer much of High Rock and Morrowind before encountering resistance from foreign coalitions and scheming with regional Jarls. These Jarls would eventually establish the realm of Skyrim as the second most successful human Empire on Tamriel.
Five Moderate Starter Nations
Alinor starts as the Holy Emperor and the most powerful nation in Summerset Isles, following Altmeri faith and culture. The Holy Roman Empire in ESU represents the union of elven and human nations that would later come together and form the Tamrielic Empire of the Septim Dynasty. In the first era, however, nothing is certain and tensions are high. With Alysinetta to the North in High Rock and other powerful nations residing in Summerset Isles the emperorship is not to be taken for granted and other electors may seize it.
Despite this, Alinor has a great starting position and the option of conquest or elven diplomacy. A unique subject type in ESU, available to the emperor only, are imperial subjects. These don't take up a relationship slot and cannot be integrated, they will join any offensive or defensive war the emperor is in, as long as they are loyal. Conditions for these subjects include having specific provinces located throughout western Tamriel and that the nation remain emperor. If the emperorship passes to another nation, these subjects will become independent.
Whiterun is second-most powerful nation in Skyrim at the start and has a great position for expansion, despite being landlocked. There is an event later on which gives the choice between becoming a lesser partner in a PU with Windhelm, or facing the consequences of a divided Nordic Skyrim, so players should be prepared for this. Players can focus on playing tall and maintaining diplomacy in the Great Plains region or attempt to unify Skyrim under one banner and perhaps form the Old Kingdom.
Alysinetta is the regional Altmeri power in High Rock and in a great position to form the Direnni Hegemony, the historical overlords of High Rock in the First Era. As an elector it is rather easy to secure the emperorship from Alinor early on and begin consolidating power. Expansion is plentiful, as the player can control High Rock and move into Hammerfell, Skyrim, or Summerset Islands. Alternatively the player can play politics in the HRE and use High Rock as a regional power base. It should be noted that becoming the emperor changes government rank to 10/10, which has many very powerful bonuses.
Kragenmoor sits as a regional power in Morrowind with several vassals. As a dwemer nation following the Cult of Reason and Logic 'religion,' they have notable bonuses to tech and institution spread. They are in a relatively safe position and are housed in a lot of highland and mountain terrain for great defense. There are a lot of events throughout the campaign, many of which center around the dwemer culture. The most notable one allows the player to form Dwemereth and gain cores on dwemer culture provinces throughout Tamriel. As long as these provinces remain dwemer culture, the cores will not expire.
Leyawiin is a Nedic republic in the Nibenay basin of Cyrodiil. They begin with Cult of Mehrunes Dagon religion but early on become one of the centers of reformation for Eight Divines and it is highly encouraged to make the switch to Eight Divines quickly and efficiently. This nation is in a great position to play tall and benefit from trade income. However, there are notable places to expand into. The most lucrative option is to expand into Heartlands region and take over Imperial City and dominate the end trade node there. Alternatively Leyawiin can expand laterally into Elsweyr and Argonia.
Eight Interesting Starter Nations
The dragon cult nation of Broadwall represents the Atmoran priests who worship the Dragons of Tamriel. They begin in the isolated region of Atmora where they can quickly dominate the area through conquest and events aimed at integration. This nation also features patriarch mechanics with interesting options such as sacrificing the ruler for certain buffs. Once the region is secure, the player can go on to invade Skyrim or even Akavir with a large navy, and is insulated from outside forces for the majority of the game.
The regional seat of Morrowind, Mournhold is the center of the Morrowind end trade node and has numerous options for expansion. Starting as a chimer state with several alliance members, players are encouraged to consolidate the Morrowind trade node and then work towards integrating all of Morrowind under their grasp. Much of Morrowind is chimer, and the main competition will be annexing dwemer lands with cult of reason and logic religion, all of which are west of Mournhold.
Markarth represents the regional seat of the Reachmen and is in a prime position to form Reach by decision or event. With mountainous terrain surrounding the player it sets up a nice defensive position to expand into eastern Skyrim, Hammerfell, or High Rock.
Nilheim is the preeminent Snow Elven state and is in a prime position to form the Snow Elves and dominate Skyrim. Because the player is close to Cyrodiil it's advised to secure trade in the Jerall Mountains and if possible the Heartlands, where a lot of money can be made to fuel this forgotten empire.
The Orsimer State is the orcish stronghold in High Rock with Orsinium as its capital. While they must face dire threats on all sides from Bretons, Altmer, and Reachmen if they survive the beginning the player is in an optimal position to smash through High Rock and conquer it for the Orcs, as well as expand into Hammerfell and Skyrim. The orcish nations get an event called orcish fury every 25 or so years which gives them huge buffs to military ability and it is encouraged to declare difficult wars when this modifier is active, as it allows for easy stack wipes.
Sentinel is an elector nation in Hammerfell and relatively isolated for playing tall. Expansion can focus on consolidating the Corelanyan nations in Hammerfell or even venturing into High Rock, although Alysinetta/Direnni Hegemony may pose a decent threat to expansion there.
Situated in Coldharbour, Lightless Oubliette starts as an empire rank nation with Molag Bal as an immortal ruler there. Because of its isolation expansion is slow but can focus on uniting the vampire nations of Coldharbour. This will allow a decision for beginning the planemeld and invading Imperial City.
Shiung begins as the Emperor of Akavir and players can take advantage of the mechanics in this region to consolidate it before invading Tamriel.
Eight Challenging Starter Nations
Solitude begins in its historic seat within Northwest Skyrim. With numerous events for it to fall into a PU the player must be savvy and defensible. With few nations actually bordering Solitude there is a good position to play tall, colonize the surrounding area, and begin the conquest of Skyrim.
Forelhost is another nation in Skyrim. It has Atmoran culture and follows the Cult of Dragons, a lost remnant of the original dragon priests who migrated to Skyrim. With numerous large nations surrounding the player one must be quick to seize opportunities before the great powers of Skyrim declare an inevitable war.
The third nation in Skyrim, a region vast with political strife is Volkihar. They are the only vampire nation in Tamriel and have to face continual cultural and religious integration throughout expansion. An interesting decision due to their culture group is the ability to form Tamriel, providing the player can access and annex the 50 provinces required to do so.
A small HRE nation sitting on the tip of High Rock, Daggerfall is immediately threatened by its neighbors and securing alliances is the quickest way to survive. One possible strategy is to become an imperial subject of Summerset or the current HRE Emperor. This special subject type will allow you to be an alliance member of the Emperor while retaining a decent amount of autonomy, necessary to defend against Alysinetta.
The Minotaur nation of Chorrol is saddled between Nedic, Snow Elven, and Ayleid nations all vying to expand their civilized domains into Cyrodiil. If the player can survive they have the option of forming the powerful Minotaur State. In most cases, White-Gold Tower can be allied at game start to help ease this transition.
The pirate nation of Topalia sits in the Nibenay Basin of Cyrodiil and remains open to the threats of Leyawiin and later Nibenay. Relatively isolated, the player should seek to consolidate power and expand into Black Marsh, where its culture group and religion are dominant.
An Orcish nation situated in Valenwood, the wood orcs were historically stomped out by the Camoran Dynasty. Because of neighboring Falinesti, this start is remarkably tough and alliances are paramount to success. Use the orcish fury modifier to your advantage and wait for a hopeful country collapse of Falinesti.
Another nation in Valenwood, Barkbite is Imgan and must content with the civilized forced of Bosmer surrounding it. This is a tougher start than Moonmont and recommended for advanced players.