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Colonization is the process of turning states not owned by any state into colonies. It offers several important benefits for any nation that desires to be a Great power:

  • Colonies are one of the most effective ways to earn prestige in the game
  • They provide a nation with rare trade goods and increase the abundance of other goods.
  • They provide fairly large populations of Soldier POPs

There are colonizable areas in mainly Africa, South East Asia and North Western North America.

In Heart of Darkness

Colonization is now a much more involved aspect of the game in Heart of Darkness. To build a potential colonial empire, a nation will need a strong navy and the right technologies to allow them to expand into inhospitable areas.


There are three stages to colonization.


To colonize, the colony must both be within the nation's reach and at or over a nation's minimum life rating. A potential colony is within a nation's reach as long as the target province is close enough to the nearest naval base, or is adjacent to an already-controlled province. (Adjacency to a satellite state also counts.) A nation's minimum life rating is affected by its discovered technologies.

Sending an expedition will tie up a base of 100 points of colonial power, but will only take 80 if it is adjacent to an already-controlled province.

After an expedition is sent, there is a waiting period before anything else can be done with the colony. If no other nations make an effort to colonize the area, the colony can be turned directly into a protectorate at a small additional cost of colonial power. If other nations compete, however, it becomes something of a race as the two nations continually upgrade their expeditions until one withdraws their colonial power from the race and concedes defeat.

If a colonial race carries on for too long, it will eventually drift into a crisis. To see how close the race is coming to a crisis, check the colored bar on the state-level view.

Colonial province / protectorate

A protectorate can be created when a Great Power or Secondary Power's expedition is not contested by another country (possibly because all other competitors withdrew), or when one country invests three levels more than the nearest competitor.

Colonies cost more in colonial points upkeep than protectorates, but they provide the country with more tax, and the country can raise troops from them. However, factories cannot be built in colonies.

Colonies are also created when a civilized country conquers a state from a primitive country with the Demand Concession or Establish Protectorate wargoal (despite the name, the latter actually creates colonies).

Civilized nations can conquer colonies from each other with the Place in the Sun wargoal (even very non-sunny colonies such as Alaska).


To convert a colony to a full-fledged state requires the colony to have a population of at least 1% Bureaucrats mini.png Bureaucrats of accepted culture. This conversion costs colonial points.

Colonial Power

Colonial Power is given by:

  • +100 from the technology Post-Nelsonian Thought (listed as "From Improved Technology"). This serves as a base for all Secondary / Great Powers.
  • +30 for each naval base built in a core province
  • +20 for each additional level on a naval base in a core province
  • Combat ships in the nation's navy (if the naval supply limit is exceeded additional ships will lower colonial power):
Class Colonial
Power per
Frigate 2 1 2
Man'o'war 5 2 2.5
Commerce Raider 8 3 2.6
Ironclad 12 3 4
Monitor 10 3 3.3
Cruiser 16 20 0.8
Battleship 15 50 0.3
Dreadnought 22 60 0.36

Frigates, Man'o'Wars and Commerce Raiders can be used to gain colonial power in the early game, but should be replaced by more efficient Ironclads or Monitors as soon as the latter are available. Ironclads are the most efficient ship class with four colonial power per supply point. However, they are expensive to build, take a long time to finish, and can't be constructed overseas. Thus they are only viable for countries which have many non-overseas naval bases and high preparation time. Countries with few home naval bases or little time to prepare should focus on building Monitors instead. Cruisers, Battleships and Dreadnoughts become available much too late to affect the colonial race and are also by far the least efficient ships.

Colonial Power is invested in colonial races and in making protectorates colonies. If a nation has enough colonial power free, and a colony meets the accepted culture bureaucrat requirement to be made a state, they can incorporate the colony into their nation. This will free up additional colonial power, allowing them to develop new colonies.

The required free colonial power to integrate a colony increases with distance, though, and can easily outstrip the potential colonial power of even a great empire. If a nation wishes to colonize more land, they can release a contiguous group of colonies as a dominion. This is done from the Release tab on the Politics screen, the same way states released as satellites.

Life Rating and Technology

A nation begins the game with a minimum life rating of 35. Though there are a few areas that can be colonized so early, most potential colonies are not so hospitable.

Three inventions can decrease a nation's minimum life rating. They are:

Prophylaxis against Malaria has a 2% chance of being discovered by a nation that has learned Medicine, and reduces the minimum life rating by 5.

Mission to Civilize and Colonial Negotiations are more complicated inventions: they have no base discovery chance on their own, but gain a 10% discovery rate both when a great power or a neighbor invent them, and 25% discovery rates when the nation discovers technologies from later decades. Specifically, Mission to Civilize requires techs from 1850:

And Colonial Negotiations requires techs from 1870:

The bonus from discovering any one of the later-era technologies outweighs the combined bonus from a great power and a neighboring power already having the technology.

Generally, if the player is the first to get Colonial Negotiations, and thus able to colonize, the rest of the major powers will quickly (if not immediately) follow suit due to the neighbor bonus. This causes a rush of colonization in the 1870s, especially in Africa where most empty provinces have life rating 10 or 15. (Historically, the Scramble for Africa began in 1881.) Any country who hasn't researched Breech-Loaded Rifles by 1880 will probably miss the boat and find all of Africa already colonized.


Early colonization (before 1870)

A handful of provinces have life rating 35 and so their states can be colonized in 1836:

  • Alberta and British Columbia: Typically the USA USA grabs the parts of BC that the United Kingdom United Kingdom doesn't already have, but otherwise only the United Kingdom is in a position to colonize them, and almost always does so.
  • Oklahoma, Colorado, Oregon and Washington: These are contested between the USA and Mexico Mexico. They often go to war over them (when the USA takes the "Manifest Destiny" decision giving them cores on all of the continental US), and the USA usually wins.
  • Sakhalin: An island north of Japan Japan. Both Russia Russia and Japan have cores, but Japan starts uncivilized and so can't colonize for at least a couple of decades, leaving Russia free to grab it after building a Pacific naval base.
  • Turkmenia: Initially inaccessible to any power, Russia can colonize by conquering Khivan Uzbekia; the Ottomans would have to conquer two states from Persia.
  • Bornu: Being in the interior of west Africa, colonizing this requires conquering part of Sokoto Sokoto. This is a strategically important location that can give the player a big advantage during later colonization.
  • Lourenço Marques, Zambezia (not to be confused with Zambezi) and Mocambique (sic): Inaccessible to anyone but Portugal, they will start colonizing these from day 1.
  • South Madagascar: Portugal Portugal and France France can try for Comoros and Mayotte (despite the state name these islands are north of Madagascar), and the United Kingdom can build a naval base in the Seychelles or Mauritius; anyone else probably won't have range.

A few more have life rating 30 and can be colonized with only Prophylaxis against Malaria. With luck, a quickly westernizing uncivilized country may be able to take some of these, but they are still mostly restricted to an exclusive club.

  • Manitoba and Saskatchewan: Only the United Kingdom has access here, unless the USA manages to seize BC.
  • Alor, Sunda Islands: Bordering the Netherlands' and Portugal's colonial possessions in Indonesia, this can also be picked up by Spain Spain. The United Kingdom will have to build a naval base first.
  • Darfur: Even the AI will conquer Dongola from Egypt Egypt to get access to both this and a coastal province for a port. Only Fasher in the south has life rating 30, but this allows colonizing the entire state.
  • Amhara and Oromia: These states border (and are partially owned by) Ethiopia, who can get them immediately if they somehow become a secondary power in time; anyone else will have to conquer land from Ethiopia.
  • South Georgia: Usually taken by the United Kingdom, this island, historically only ever used as a whaling station and never permanently inhabited, can also be taken by Brazil Brazil or Argentina Argentina if they become a secondary power at the right time.
  • South Island and North Island, New Zealand: Only the United Kingdom has anywhere near the range to get these.

The following can be colonized from 1850, once the country has Mission to Civilize:

  • East Angola and South Angola: More African states that only Portugal will have access to. These are also the only provinces that can be colonized with only Mission to Civilize and without Prophylaxis against Malaria, but you will want Medicine anyway.
  • Interior of Australia: In 1836 the United Kingdom has already colonized the entire coast of Australia, so only they get access here.
  • Northwest Territories: Part of Canada, only the United Kingdom is likely to have access.
  • Etorofu and Shumshu (the Kuril Islands): Like Sakhalin, both Japan and Russia have cores here; unlike Sakhalin, Japan stands a chance of colonizing them if they're quick to westernize and get colonization tech.

The Scramble for Africa (1870s)

All other uncolonized provinces, including almost all of Africa, have life rating 15 or 10 and can only be colonized with both Mission to Civilize and Colonial Negotiations. Since most powers who have researched Breech-Loaded Rifles get Colonial Negotiations at almost the same time, there is a rush of colonization activity soon after any great power has discovered it. Those with life rating 10 also require Prophylaxis against Malaria, but any savvy power will have it anyway. A more in depth guide can be read here: Guide to Scramble for Africa

In the base game and in A House Divided


To colonize an uncolonized area, the following requirements must be met:

  • Have a country status of at least secondary power (i.e. civilized and rank 16 or better);
  • A naval base in range OR share a land border with the target colony;
  • Have the technology to tolerate the life-rating of the area.

All nations start with a life-rating minimum of 35. Most colonial areas only have a life-rating of 15. However, you can lower your minimum allowed life-rating through research:

Once all the requirements are met, select the "Colonize" national focus on your target to began the colonization process. Since most uncolonized areas are out of reach until both Machine Guns and Nationalism & Imperialism are researched, large scale colonization will not begin until 1870 at least. However for a colonial power to succeed, it would be important to prepare naval bases and rack up focus points in the years prior.

Conversion to a full state

To convert a colony to a full state it is necessary to have 1% Bureaucrats mini.pngbureaucrats in the colony state in your accepted culture. In general, having this number of bureaucrats is achievable once an acceptable culture makes up approximately 5% of the population of the colony. There is a greyed out button next to the national focus icon that tells you your progress, when that number is reached, you may press the button to convert the colony into a state. A colony may only be converted to a state when you are not at war. Note that due to these requirements, the vast majority of colonies in the game will never be able to convert to states.

Factories can only be created in states, so creating states can help a country's industry.