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Dev Diary #25 – The Cost of War


Dev Diary #25 - The Cost of War

Today marks the final entry in our 4-part overview of the warfare mechanics of Victoria 3. If you’re just tuning in now, we have previously covered The Concept of War, Fronts and Generals, and Navies and Admirals which introduces many of the core concepts fleshed out in this diary.

That war costs substantial money and resources is hardly a novel concept. Most strategy games impose a cost for creating military units, some have upkeep costs, and even in Pop-less Paradox GSGs a metric such as a Manpower pool often has to be regenerated in order to replenish damaged units. A few games even encourage you to peace-out of wars that are so costly your treasury can’t bear the expense for as long as it takes to win, even if you still have armies left standing.

In Victoria 3 we aim to take this to the next level by modelling the truly astronomical, often lasting expenses of war in the economic system. This includes letting players and Pops profit off of wars; employ economic tools such as trade disruptions to gain military leverage; encourage upgrading not only your military but also industrial output to match; reform your Laws to fit your military to your economy; ensure your Infrastructure is sufficient to maintain your country while at war; and invest in medical corps and medicine to treat your population traumatized by the frontlines.

The intention here is not only to give the player a lot of economic levers to pull to prepare their country for war, although that is certainly part of it. A big reason for making wars approach the real-life cost is to encourage the player to think hard about the opportunity cost of war – that is, what you’re missing out on by spending your resources on war instead of something else – and incentivize solving your diplomatic conflicts before war breaks out. If war was a cost-effective way both of increasing your power and decreasing your enemy’s power, diplomacy would be relegated to nothing but faux formalities before fighting begins. But if neither party truly desires a war, no matter the power discrepancy between them, that’s when the Diplomatic Play intimidation game to see who blinks first can become real and tense.

It also means that it’s a skill to know when to stop. If war was an all-or-nothing affair this would not be an issue, but in Victoria 3 wars rarely result in one side getting everything they asked for (as we will learn more about next week, when we cover the Peace Deals system). Once you have hurt your enemy enough you might accept a consolation prize and sign a truce, knowing you will recover better over the next five years than they will.

With that said, let’s dig into the details.


Your ability to sustain your war machine is of crucial importance in peace as well as war. At the start of the game many countries can get away with maintaining an army of self-supporting Irregular Infantry to keep the costs of arms down, but this won’t be possible for long. And while wages might be affordable when your country is underdeveloped, increased productivity and labor competition will eventually raise expectations.

Goods for Military Buildings


Your country’s Army Model is a type of Law that governs who makes up your military and how they are organized. We currently have four Army Models planned:

Under a Peasant Levy model, a permanent military force supported by Barracks is non-existent or minimal in size. Instead the country may raise large numbers of conscripted levies of irregulars during wartime, led by Officers originating from the aristocracy. This model is cheap to maintain during peacetime but can get very expensive (particularly in lives) during war. Conscripted Battalions can also take a long time to organize, and provide no Power Projection that affects the country’s Prestige.

The National Militia model limits your standing army and Power Projection in much the same way as Peasant Levies, but permits you to conscript a large part of your population into a well-rounded national defense force if needed. These conscripted troops cannot be mobilized and are therefore automatically assigned to their local garrisons, unavailable to Generals to use to advance Fronts. It’s the model of choice for countries who want to focus on homeland defense, or countries desiring to democratize the military and limit the power of the Armed Forces.

Mass Conscription becomes available once you have unlocked the Society “tech” Nationalism. It lets you enlist the same large number of conscripts as National Militia but does not limit the size of your standing army, and all these conscripts are assigned under Generals as needed. In addition, conscripts are trained faster but are limited to infantry troops only. This is the correct choice for countries fighting no-holds-barred existential conflicts where sending regular waves of fresh meat to the frontlines is imperative.

A Regular Army model lets a country maintain an army of any size even in peacetime. While it also permits for conscription of a smaller number of civilians as needed, its standing army is the pride of the nation and confers considerable Prestige onto it. This model has the greatest flexibility in terms of military Production Methods, letting countries configure their armies without restrictions. Technologically advanced countries relying on more expensive crack troops rather than sheer numbers favor this Law.


Like all Laws, changing your Army Model will be popular with some Interest Groups and not with others, and in most cases you need to have at least a semi-legitimate government that favors the Law in order to have a chance to pass it without major complications. The icons you see for these Laws are not yet finalized.

Army Model


Conscripting the civilian population into military service is an option available to all countries, but only during wartime or when the country is at threat of war (i.e. when it is actively participating in a Diplomatic Play). Conscripted Battalions do not Project Power and therefore do not impart Prestige, and under some Army Models they do not have access to certain advanced Production Methods that require specialized training. 

Conscripts can be activated state by state or all across your country at once. Activating conscripts creates a Conscription Center in the state where civilians are recruited into temporary military service, and the cost of these conscripts are only incurred as they become active. This means relying on conscripting civilians as needed can be a compelling strategy to keep the military budget down, but it does not come without its own costs.

First and foremost, when the Conscription Center appears, recruited Pops will leave their regular places of work en masse which could cause major temporary disruptions to your nation’s economy. If the conscripts in a certain state happen to primarily originate from the lower strata of its underpaying Lead Mines, this will reduce output and thereby affect the Glasswork and Munitions Plants that consume the lead produced in your market, which in turn will impact all its Urban Centers as well as your very military machinery. If you have enough Pops in search of labor this situation will correct itself over time as the Lead Mines rehire their lost workers, but in the long run this simple action of initiating conscription in a single state will still mean a shift in Wealth distribution, political allegiances, population distribution, industrial profitability, and so on. Even after a successfully prosecuted war those men returning home alive may need to look for new opportunities to regain their old Standard of Living. Everything has consequences.

Second, conscripted Battalions are always created from scratch which can take a lot of time. This means they lose any experience gained in the last armed conflict as they stand down, while your standing army units will get more and more impressive over time. Soldier for soldier, conscripts give you less bang for your buck.

Third, conscripted Battalions are distributed among your Generals by their normal Rank-based proportions and aren’t automatically mobilized as soon as they emerge. So first the conscript Battalions need to be recruited and created from scratch, and then any conscript Battalions assigned to mobilized Generals must also mobilize in order to be able to leave for the front. As we explored in the Front and Generals diary, when such a large number of Battalions are raised all at once it is Infrastructure that governs how quickly they will be able to get ready, so this needs to be taken into account when choosing where to recruit your conscripts.

While all of the above happens automatically with the press of a button, the impact can be complex and will be experienced over time. Choosing to activate conscripts in the populous but rural vineyard valleys of Rhone will have a very different effect on France than activating conscripts in industrialized, well-connected Paris.


Mass Mobilization may provide access to vast numbers of fighting men, but redirecting up to 25 percent of your capable workforce to the war effort (in this case 60 Battalions, or the equivalent workforce required to staff about 12 levels of farms, mines, or manufacturing industries) could play a real number on your economy. These visuals are a work in progress, but demonstrates how the player functionally interacts with the map through the “lens” system either through clicking directly on regions of the map or by selecting options from a list.

Activate Conscription Center


A very tangible cost is of course the actual money you are spending on military goods for mobilized troops in the field. While Barracks consume military goods at all times in proportion to the number of Battalions it supports, units that are mobilized consume twice the normal maintenance level of goods. Not only does this double the quantity you need to buy, it also puts a lot of additional demand on the goods, raising the price-per-unit as well. As long as they can keep their production levels steady, your domestic Arms Industries, Munition Plants, and War Machine Industries will see profits skyrocket off of this increased consumption of your mobilized troops.

This also means other nations – allies or neutral parties – will see the sudden benefit of exporting arms to you. If you normally export military goods to others you may wish to cancel these routes to keep prices down, while if neutral parties import arms from you this may be a good time to Embargo (or at least Tariff) these goods. Every little bit helps your treasury and ultimately your frontline troops.

Trade routes criss-crossing the ocean are susceptible to your enemy’s Convoy Raiding fleets. Until a patrol discovers them and sends them to home base for repairs, such a fleet can do considerable damage both to your supply network as a whole (affecting all Trade Routes as well as the supply of overseas Generals) and to some shipping lanes in particular, possibly crippling your country’s access to strategic goods like Small Arms or hard-to-find imports such as Radios. Compromising a country’s access to industrial, luxury, or even staple goods can also be devastating to their ability to stay in the war, as we will learn more about next week!

Convoy Raiding fleets can also damage connections to overseas markets, for example by compromising the East India Company’s connection to London. This could potentially devastate the economies of clusters of dozens of states who may have come to rely on such a connection to survive, particularly if their economies aren’t locally well-balanced but relying on cash crops or specialized manufacturing.


Many countries rely on foreign trade to supply them not only with the additional arms they require during wartime, but also the consumer goods required to keep morale up on the home front in this difficult time. Ending up on the opposite side of your trading partners during Diplomatic Plays could be catastrophic for the war effort. On this screenshot we can see the British used to supply the Ottomans with 100 units of Artillery each week, but with Great Britain now siding with Russia they will have to try to find a new trading partner as soon as possible – or try to hold the Russians off despite an Artillery shortage. Another potential crisis the Ottomans have to deal with is the imminent stoppage of a smaller amount of Liquor and enormous quantities of Luxury Clothes, at least the latter of which is prone to make many wealthy Pops feel this war might carry too high a price.

(On this screenshot we can also see some suspiciously round numbers of Available vs Required Convoys – these are currently placeholder values, which will be replaced with values properly scaled to the number of units traded across the number of nodes)

War with Russia has broken out!


The goods, technologies, and in some cases Laws you have access to practically limit which military Production Methods you have available to you. These determine the composition of your army and navy and include both “upgrades” and “options”. As always, this list is not finalized but represents what is in the current build of the game only.

Your Infantry Organization Production Methods govern the organization and doctrines of your army’s core fighting force. They consume mostly Small Arms and Ammunition and include Irregular, Line, Skirmish, Trench, and Squad Infantry. Offense, Defense, and Training Rate are the most commonly affected attributes.

Artillery Support Production Methods consume expensive Artillery and Ammunition to boost the Offense, Morale Damage, Kill Rate, and Devastation attributes of the Battalions. Cannons, Mobile, Shrapnel, and Siege Artillery are represented.

Your Battalions’ Mobility options affect their ability to get around and scout the terrain, impacting their ability to do damage during an Offense and capture larger amounts of territory at the conclusion of a won battle. Cavalry forces are the default, which can eventually be supplemented with Bicycle Messengers, and after the turn of the century Aerial Reconnaissance or even an Armored Division supplied by late-game War Machines Industries producing Aeroplanes and Tanks.

Your standing army can unlock various Specialist Companies for Barracks to focus on. These include Machine Gunners, Infiltrators, Flamethrower Companies, and Chemical Weapon Specialists. These specialists consume various goods to inflict quite specific effects.

Medical Aid determines what sort of battlefield medicine your troops have access to, from the default of Wound Dressing, through First Aid, to fully fledged Field Hospitals. These consume Fabric and Opium to treat the sick and wounded to minimize the casualties inflicted by attrition and combat alike.


Access to Opium permits you to care for your injured population during wartime, but while the country is at peace the excess Opium floating around your market may result in Pops developing an unhealthy Obsession with the drug. This is less of a problem if you are the producer than if you’re relying on imports for your supply, of course.

Barracks Production Methods


Similarly, Naval Bases also consume goods to produce Flotillas with different attributes. These are due for a design pass so I won’t go into details which are prone to change anyway. But in broad strokes, the fundamental Production Method determines the class of the central vessel that defines each Flotilla: is this a Man-o-War, Ironclad, Monitor, Dreadnought, or Battleship? In addition to the class of your central vessel, do you have Submarines or even Aeroplane Carriers accompanying your fleet? All these have pros and cons for different types of missions, letting you specialize your fleet for protecting or attacking trade routes, performing naval invasions, or blockading ports.

If you’ve paid especially close attention you might now ask: we know you must mobilize your army and Generals to see effective use of them in wartime, but what about mobilizing your navy and Admirals? In fact, navies are considered to always be ready and in active service and do not need mobilization. You also cannot recruit conscripts to start manning your warships just as a war breaks out, for obvious reasons. This means expanding and upgrading your navy is both a long-term process and a long-term investment. Navies are excellent at Projecting Power however, so while an impressive navy might not be particularly useful outside of armed conflict it will at least grant you considerable Prestige even as it burns its way through your treasury.

Since navies do not cost any more during war than in peace you may as well use them! You can set up most Orders for your Admirals any time, even while at peace. Once they spot ships flying hostile flags they will take action automatically.

A less direct cost of war which nonetheless can have severe consequences is Devastation. This reflects direct damage to an entire state and its infrastructure caused by battles transpiring in that state. Particularly large degrees of Devastation is inflicted by battles involving heavy and sustained artillery barrages. Devastation directly impacts Infrastructure and thereby Market Access, making the state economically unsustainable. It also tends to cause migration away from the state, an increase in Pop mortality, and other very detrimental effects. After the war this damage will be gradually reversed, but this rebuilding effort can take a long time and cause a lot of economic upheaval in the process.


The Greater Caucasus region before and after substantial Devastation has been inflicted. Numbers are, as always, not final.



Finally, of course, there is the human cost of war. Some wars end with only a few hundred casualties on both sides; some wars claim millions of lives with no peace deal in sight. In Victoria 3 it is your actual population who fight and die for your causes – the same population that harvest your fields and work at your assembly lines, who vote for their preferred party or rebel against your enlightened rule, who learn to read and write or pack up and move in search of greener pastures.

Many men fall in battle of course, but more commonly they perish on the way to the battle, or after the battle, whether from disease, starvation, infections, or exposure. Simply mobilizing your forces to the front will increase their risk of dying or suffering lifelong disability. To counteract this you can research and invest in good frontline medical care, or favor Generals with proven ability to reduce such needless casualties.

Those casualties who do not recover from their injuries and return to the frontline will either return home as Dependents or die outright. As a result of both of these effects, after a major war your Pops are likely to consist of an outsized proportion of Dependents to Workforce. While this will self-adjust over time (especially if birth rate is high) there may well be a post-war period where you’re forced to deal with a large portion of your population not being economically productive. It’s in cases like these you’ll be glad you’ve enacted a good Pension System to ease this impact during the recovery period.

In closing and to reiterate, Victoria 3 emphasizes the cost of war for several reasons, including:

  • It raises the stakes and thus increases the payoff for solving conflicts diplomatically
  • It creates meaningful economic interplays between the economy and military, increasing the need to prepare and build a reliable “engine”
  • It enables cost/benefit analysis as a strategic tool, making the best strategist not necessarily the one that uses overwhelming force but the one that uses just enough force to get what they want

Next week we will learn more about how you can leverage the effects of these exorbitant costs by making Peace Deals favoring you look relatively attractive to your opponent. Until then!