"We do not have time to wait for the enlightenment of our neighbors so that we can work together toward the development of Asia. It is better for us to leave the ranks of Asian nations and cast our lot with civilized nations of the West." - Fukuzawa Yukichi, 1885
All Asian and African countries (except the Boer states of South Africa) start the Grand Campaign as "Uncivilized Nations". These nations either have yet to feel the effects of the Industrial Revolution and the sweeping changes that it brings, or are clinging stubbornly to their old ways and resisting the winds of change. They do not belong to the Western diplomacy system and are looked down upon by the Western states.
As an uncivilized nation, you face numerous handicaps. You cannot become a Great power or a Secondary Power and, therefore, cannot colonize. You cannot research technologies. You cannot build any factories. You earn fewer diplomatic points. Western powers can demand territories from you for little infamy. And so on. The good news is that you can, theoretically, choose to reform your nation and embrace Westernization, though this will require some significant time and investment.
Uncivilized nations earn research points in the same way as civilized nations, but instead of using them to research technology they are stored like a currency. This currency is then used to "buy" reforms in the politics menu that lead you closer to westernization. Unlike civilized countries' reforms, these don't require upper house support, though it does make them cheaper. Progress is added in varying amounts by different reforms, represented as a percentage, with the button to westernize being greyed out until it hits 100%. If you want to westernize as soon as possible by selecting the most efficient reforms, see westernization efficiency.
There are two types of reform, military and economic. Military reforms will give you access to naval bases and forts, better troop types (most critically infantry vs irregulars, but also dragoons/cuirassiers/hussars vs cavalry), and make them more effective at fighting. This is useful for a nation that wants to stand a chance against the encroachments of the civilized world, or more powerful but less advanced uncivilized nations (e.g. China).
Economic reforms are broader: they increase RGO output, allow you to borrow money, reform education and administration and build the early mechanisms of industry. These will help with the tight budget you'll have to deal with as an uncivilized nation and improve your literacy for faster research, and the lower, industrial, techs will give you up to 30% westernization.
Reforms will anger your population (i.e. increase militancy) as you sweep away their old way of life and usher in an unfamiliar new way of doing things. Economic reforms anger liberals a little, conservatives quite a bit and reactionaries a lot. Military reforms anger liberals quite a bit, conservatives a little and reactionaries a lot. Reactionaries are likely to rise up if you let them simmer for too long, and if they win (which they often will due to overwhelming numbers) they can knock you back to the stone age.
The Upper house is key. Most nations have a large conservative contingent in the upper house, and a much smaller liberal one. Conservatives will support military reforms and liberals economic reforms, and the research cost is reduced according to upper house support. Most nations will find military reforms easier to obtain early on, while economic reforms will require much more effort.
As of Heart of Darkness, conquering areas of other nations grants research points, and the first four military reforms increase the amount of research gained this way. This encourages conquest to speed up westernization, but beware of infamy leading the established powers of the world to try and contain you.
Requirements in vanilla Victoria II
- Have researched: Post-Napoleonic Thought, Private Banks, Rights of Man, Publishing Industry, Freedom of Trade
- A prestige score of 40
- A military score of 50
Japan is a special case; it has its own, easier Westernization decision, the Meiji Restoration. The Meiji Restoration requires a prestige score of only 30, but a military score of 80, and requires only three of the above technologies.
The hardest part for a larger country will be prestige. Relying on culture techs alone to gain prestige will leave you with a very slow grind towards civilization which will last into the 20th century. One quick way to gain prestige is to humiliate other nations in war, but conquering one-state neighbours also gives a fair amount of prestige and leaves you with a larger population to draw soldiers and taxes from, the latter of which will be even more important once you civilize and can start building factories. Otherwise, you can gain prestige from Western influences and reform events, though this will be slower.
The best way to quick prestige, however, is to research Idealism as early as possible for both the research and prestige benefits. With a few uncivilized countries this can be done as early as 1840. You can't start researching it until then, but if you research nothing and save all your research points from the start of the game, you can beat many European nations to the inventions, each of which can give up to 20 prestige depending on how many countries have discovered them before you. Use your national focus to encourage clergymen in your most populous provinces from game start and on January 1, 1840, set Idealism to research. With a bit of luck, you'll have a massive head-start on hitting the prestige necessary for Westernization.
For all uncivilized nations acquiring prestige will be difficult, but building enough units and recruiting enough officers to hit a military score of 50 can be even more daunting, even more so for nations with small populations. Crank your military spending, which will allow you to recruit more units; use your national focus to recruit officers in your most populous states (you want to have officers over 0.20% of the population for the maximum leadership pool growth) as each general and admiral recruited raises your military score by 2 apiece, and, if possible, invade your smaller neighbours for more manpower and prestige.
When invading other uncivilized countries, DON'T GO OVER 25 INFAMY! Keep an eye on this in the diplomacy panel; the Great Powers, especially Britain and France, will take the opportunity to eat you alive and turn you into their next overseas colony the second you go over. Be patient and let your infamy decrease before going on to the next conquest.
Catching up to the West
Once your nation becomes Civilized, you will be quite far behind the rest of the civilized world in many fields, especially in technology. From here on, catching up will take a lot of work.
Even with a massive country that can hit Great Power status, you'll have to focus your research on the most important fields to your country - probably Army, Industry, and some of the Culture techs (particularly the National Focus and research bonus techs), with the exception of Japan for whom Navy is probably more important. (Japan may want to switch tech schools to Sea Power & the Merchant Marine for this reason, after researching important army and culture techs.)
Catching up industry-wise varies from country to country. Japan and China can achieve parity in a few decades due to their large populations. Most uncivilized nations start out as State Capitalist as well, meaning you won't have to rely on slow patchy factory building from your new capitalist class - go ahead and crank the money you have into profitable factories in your more populous states, such as glass, wine, liquor, cement, and fabric factories, lumber mills and, if you've managed to research the tech, clipper shipyards. Start churning profits, use your National Focus to promote clerks and craftsmen, and recruit capitalists to build your railroads for you.
Build every military unit you can and start claiming a slice of the rest of the uncivilized world for your own. Conquest gives you more land, more resources, more manpower and more prestige. Prestige brings Great Power status and that increases research. Encourage immigration to your overseas colonies and turn them into states where you can build more factories.
Stay out of the way of the big boys until you've caught up. Britain and to a lesser extent France can ruin all your hard work in a few months if you get too aggressive or overconfident.
Playable Uncivilized Nations
Some uncivilized nations are just too small, poor, or vulnerable to be worth the effort. While theoretically any nation in Victoria 2 can become civilized, for some it simply won't happen until endgame, or are inevitably going to be devoured by a European power, or are too tiny to be enjoyable even when they do become civilized.
The following uncivilized nations are the most playable, both in terms of achievability of Westernization and prospects thereafter:
- Japan - Has an easier time civilizing than others due to high literacy and Meiji Restoration decision and is well-poised for economic prosperity and military domination of the west Pacific once civilized. Take Korea! It has a large population and several Iron and Coal provinces. These will become economic powerhouses later in the game. Be sure to do this before you westernize so the Korean states become states instead of colonies, allowing you to build factories there.
- China - Massive population, huge industrial potential, and makes buckets of money even before Westernization. Fend off the British with some clever tactics and a massive military and reap the rewards of the largest population in the world later. Is often a target of European colonial wars, however.
- Persia - Good industrial base and has close access to the oilfields of Arabia late-game. Make sure to keep the peace with your larger neighbours.
- Egypt - If you can hold off the Ottomans you've got a good chance of catching up later on. Take Ethiopia and its large manpower boost if you get a lull in fighting the Turks - just be careful not to lose too much to attrition, and avoid attacking into mountains, which are everywhere in Ethiopia; your manpower is quite weak, especially if you lose ground to the Ottomans.
- Korea - Though not quite as powerful as its two larger neighbours, Korea produces heaps of Iron and Coal and can eat up a massive chunk of the Steel market not long after Westernization. If you can Westernize before China, conquering a few states from them gives you a big population.
The following uncivilized nations are playable, though will struggle to hit Great Power status even with ideal management:
- Panjab - Big population and an alright resource base. Will have to either struggle much of the game against the British or find a way to join them. Make sure to get access to the sea and avoid those Indian states within the British sphere. Move early in the game to avoid incurring their interference in your conquests.
- Dai Nam - Decent population but poor resource base and will be targeted by France. Take Cambodia and Luang Prabang early, while you have the chance.
- Ethiopia - Fairly big and able to expand into Egypt when they get attacked by Turkey. Unlikely to face much European opposition until the Scramble for Africa starts.
- Siam - Lower population than Dai Nam, but a better resource base. Johore and its gold mines are a tempting target, but watch out for the British - they are much less likely to leave you alone if take the rest of the Malay Peninsula.
- Bukkhara - Conquer Khiva and Kokand for a boost to the population of your National Culture. You almost certainly will run into Russian or Chinese invasion - these will be a struggle.
- Hawaii - Tiny, but incredibly high starting literacy lets it Westernize by the 1850s. Once westernized, ally the USA and use their armies to carve out a colonial empire.
- Liberia - Safe from expansion due to being USA satellite. Can break free by decision once westernized.
Reddit member /u/FlyingSpaghettiMan created an efficiency graph for Victoria 2 : HoD 3.01