Scramble for Africa Belgium Strategy (Deity)

It’s tough to write my usual historic background for a guide for the Scramble for Africa Belgium strategy. Mainly because the real “Belgium Strategy” in their Belgian colonial empire was rather scary. Belgium, only independent from the Netherlands since 1830, showed up for the Scramble for Africa quite late. Without support of the Belgian government (Belgium was a constitutional monarchy), Leopold II created a state under his own rule — the Congo Free State — and achieved international recognition in 1885. This is what started a damn violent and bloody history of the Congo Free State (1885-1908), Belgian Congo (1908-1960) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (since 1964) / Zaire (1971–1997).

In a nutshell

Here’s the Dos and Don’ts for playing Scramble for Africa as Belgium:

  • never open borders with any other European power
  • block other European civs, mainly Germany from settling further inland
  • explore quickly towards Ethiopia to find Mt. Kilimanjaro and Source of the Nile for 300VP each

Unique unit and unique power

Egypt’s unique traits are quite useful. It’s unique unit, unique building and unique trait all benefit our goal tremendously:

  1. Unique unit: Force Publique – Gets a bonus against wounded units. Also starts with Drill1, proving a bonus in rough terrain. Incredibly powerful combined with the Belgian ->
  2. Unique power: River Steamers – Moving across rivers and adjacent tiles only costs 1 Movement point. So beneficial when conquering Ethiopia.

First steps

The first steps are crucial for any Scramble for Africa Belgium strategy to succeed:

  • in my 2nd game I moved Boma (the capital settler) 2 tiles inland – thus it’s easier to cover more land and contain Germany easier
  • the 2 extra settlers provide you with 2 options:
    A: Move inland to get closer to Ethiopia and contain Germany with both of them or
    B: Move one settler down towards Zululand and settle there (also higher chance for Coal).
  • Only 2B gives you a chance to snatch some Zulu cities when Portugal defeats the Zulus, but victory is possible without them, too

Dr Livingstone I presume?

Dr Livingstone I presume? Steam Achievement

Playing as Belgium, move your Stanley Explorer to within a tile of England’s Livingstone Explorer.

This one is a bit tricky. Often assumed broken it also seemed broken for me at first. You’ll have to walk around Dr Livingstone for a while. For me the achievement only got triggered, once Dr Livingstone stood next to me when England’s turn started. As soon as he moved, the Steam achievement popped up.

Conquering Ethiopia

For any European Civ in this scenario it’s essential to capture Ethiopia. Otherwise there’s not a chance at winning due to their incredibly high score (check graphs below). Also Ethiopia most often possesses the Source of the Nile natural wonder granting +10 Happiness which come in handy.

A 2020 replay of my Scramble for Africa Belgium Strategy

Inspired by writing this guide about a 2014 playthrough resulting in 4000+ VP I wanted to play Belgium again to confirm my Scramble for Africa Belgium strategy. Unfortunately things didn’t quite go as planned, resulting in an incredibly intense game full of suspense until turn 98!!!

Until in 2014 this year I took note of all things I did and all things going wrong. Here’s my build order:

TurnBomaLeopoldvilleBanningville (9)
WatermillWatermill
5IronworksWorker
14Heroic Epic (wrong!)Worker
4x CaravanCaravan 5Worker
25AmphitheaterAmphitheaterStable
CavalryCircus
Caravan 6Caravan 7/7Bank
32FactoryWorker
2x CavalryAmphitheater
43BankCircusFactory
Garden
Stock Exchange
+ buy a Settler
Bank
52Settler
56XP buildings + UnitsStock Exchange

I can’t tell what I did 2014, but I conquered more Zulu cities further south. In this game I was happy I could capture 2 of their cities that had been severely bombarded by Portuguese Rifled Cannons.

Scramble for Africa – European Social Policies

Here comes the next mistake I made: Since Europeans don’t gain much culture in this scenario, we can only rely on getting 3 of the 6 Social Policies available. I made some wrong choices:

  • Sphere of Influence: 50% price of purchasing tiles and 33% cheaper unit purchases
    • Colonialism: +25% tile improvement speed and 3 free Settlers
  • Advanced Siege Tactics: +30% combat bonus attacking cities
    • Principal of Effective Occupation: +30% combat bonus attacking fortified units + free Courthouse in each captured city
  • Trade Unions: -50% maintenance costs of Roads and Railroads and +2 Happiness for each Luxury resource
    • Capitalism: +1G for each trade route, +1 Happiness for each city connected to the Capital

Guess what: To easier block the other Europeans I chose “Sphere of Influence” first. But it only leads to Colonialism, which is useless, because by the time we get there, everything is settled anyways and it’s a wasted Social Policy choice. Then I went for the Military tree, where #1 is nice, but #2 unnecessary. By that time I much more would have needed the +2 Happiness per Luxury resource from Trade Unions.

Universally true for the Scramble for Africa Belgium and Germany strategy: Ally and marry those City states. You’ll generally use mainly their units to conquer Ethiopia:

Bornus and Sokotos Units, later reinforced by Bunkeyas Units, together with only a handful (~5) Rifled Cannons will conquer Ethiopia. But it’s gonna take a while, so I wish I had started sooner:

The longest rail line: A Scramble for Africa Thriller:

The worst case in this scenario for any European civ (other than Italy) is for Italy to conquer Egypt early. As (of course) happened in this game. Italy swept through Egypt and extended it’s rail line to a whopping 28 tiles in turn 65!

I measured and realized: I could only overtake this with a city at the Horn of Africa. Problem: They were Portuguese! So not only did I need to wage war vs. Ethiopia myself, no: THEY needed to successfully conquer these European colonies there. And: I needed to capture them right from the hands of said Europeans.

Within the last 10 turns of this game, I:

  1. Allied and married Zanzibar to get their Navy (Privateers only)
  2. Captured the remaining 5 Ethiopian cities
  3. Finished a rail road until Tete

I’ve written it before and will write it again: The longest rail line is not # of connected tiles. I’ve built my rail line winding it’s way from city to city, not connecting some parts between to extend it, but that’s not working. The longest rail line counts as the # of tiles between 2 of your cities connected by rail line (e.g. Western to Eastern city or North to South).

Here’s the Belgian Colonial Empire by the end of the game:

In the end this game was a lucky win. Had Boma been founded 1 tile further East or Tete 1 tile further West, my rail line had been exactly the same length as Italy’s. I would not have taken home those 500 VP and thus had lost. The score of 3027 is nothing compared to the 4766 of the first game.

Conclusion

The first successful game (2014, 4766 VP) and the second game (2020, 3027 VP) show that this scenario is not only versatile depending on the civilization you play, but also strongly depends on internal factors. A strategy can be based on several best practices, but can never be perfect. I’m most certainly surprised by the great re-playability of The Scramble for Africa Scenario.

With an overall playtime of just about 5:30h the Scramble for Africa playing as Belgium is short but intense fun. Winning is possible even on Deity difficulty, but doesn’t come easy. Enjoy!

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