Victoria 3 Beginner Guide

Our Victoria 3 beginner’s guide will show you how to run your country in Paradox’s 19th-century political and economic strategy game.


You’ll need this Victoria 3 beginner’s guide because there is a lot to learn about Paradox Development Studios’ latest grand strategy game. You will play as “the spirit of a nation,” making decisions about important policies, industries, trade, and relationships with other countries around the world. There is a lot to learn at once, but our Victoria 3 beginner’s guide will help you get up and running quickly.

Even though Victoria 3 can be scary at first, you can always stop time for as long as you need to make decisions, figure out what’s going on, and give orders. When the strategy game gets too hard, just hit the spacebar. Keeping notifications coming at a reasonable rate can also be helped by running the game at a slower speed, so try those as you play. You won’t get more prestige points if you do everything as fast as possible. Our guides for trade and diplomatic plays in Victoria 3 can also help clear things up.

Choosing your first country

In Victoria 3, your first choice won’t be which country to play. Instead, you’ll choose a goal. You can make a society where everyone has the same rights, become a military superpower, or build an economic powerhouse. You can also choose “learn the game” as your goal. This first choice will affect the journal entries you see as you play, and the “Learn the Game” option gives you a helpful set of tutorial goals and lessons that will help you get used to Victoria 3’s systems and quirks.

There are a few suggested starting countries for each goal, but you can also choose your own. In either case, the goal-oriented entries in your journal will help you stay focused on short-term goals at every stage of the game.

If you’re new to grand strategy games and don’t feel like starting with one of the recommended nations, here are some things to think about:

Look for a country that isn’t too low on the prestige list. It will be harder to get ahead if you start with a small GDP and no development.

Look for countries that are made up of a good number of states—four or five is a good starting point.

Try to stay away from countries that can’t get to the ocean. If you can get to the ocean, you can make up for many problems you might have at home.

The first steps you take in Victoria 3

When your game begins, it will stop. This is a great chance to look around and see how things are set up. Start by going to each of your states and looking around to see what buildings are already there. Are there any changes because of the land or resources? How much does it cost to live there? All of this information can be found by clicking on each state on the map and then looking through the tabs in the menu that comes up.

You should also look at the diplomatic situation of your country in 1836. Are you involved in any wars? Do you answer to someone else? Do you have any trade agreements or treaties that are already in place? To find this information, click on the flag in the upper left corner of the screen to bring up the menu for your country. You should also check out the countries that are next to yours. Try to figure out who might be your friends and who might be your enemies. Also, look for weak countries that might be easy to conquer and take over early on, depending on your long-term goals.

Next, you should check out your military situation. You can find the military menu button along with a few others on the left side of the screen. Here, you should look at your barracks and where your headquarters are. You should also check to see if any of your regular battalions need generals to lead them. Finally, you should look at your naval fleets and the admirals who are currently in charge. If you have battalions or fleets that don’t have a leader, fill those positions.

Lastly, look into the politics of your own country. This menu can be found in the leftmost row of buttons (where the button for the military panel is). Here, you should look at each tab in the menu. The “Overview” tab will tell you what kind of government you have and who is the monarch, president, or other leader at the moment. Under the “government” tab, you can see which groups are in charge and what they think about you. Under “Laws,” you can see what laws are in place for each policy area, such as who can vote, if slavery is legal, how much the government controls trade, etc. The last tab, “Institutions,” shows how much you spend on things like schools, police, and health care.

As you look through these menus, keep an eye out for areas you’d like to focus on. There are probably laws in your chosen country that should be changed as of 1836. You’ll want to figure out what might get in the way of industrialization and trade, and these are good places to start.

Putting up your country

But before you start time moving, you should start building. Our guide to building and construction in Victoria 3 can help you get started, but for now, find the states with the most people and build a couple of construction sectors in them. You’ll be able to do more building work each week with these, but you’ll almost always start with way too few.

You should also start looking for raw materials that you can start to gather. In this way, wood, iron, and coal are all good choices for early construction, but your states may have other resources you can use. In the building tab for each province, move your cursor over the plus sign next to each industry to see how much the new building is expected to affect your weekly budget. A good rule of thumb is to build if the number is green, which means it’s good.

Your pops has needs, and they will always want food. Make sure to build farms in each state as soon as you can, and think about adding food industries to large states with lots of cities. Again, look at the estimated effect on the budget and go from there.

Read the newspaper again.

No matter what big goal you set at the start, the journal will keep giving you smaller goals to work on. If you chose the Learn to Play goal, these entries will usually tell you not only how to do each task, but also why you should do it. This is a great way to figure out what Victoria 3 is all about.

But the journal is more than what meets the eye. A few goals will work on their own without you having to do anything, but these might not always work with your current situation. If this happens, don’t worry: if you click the journal button in that vertical row on the left side of the screen, you can see more journal entries that you can choose to make active. Sometimes these are more useful than the entries that the game chooses for you.

Also, keep in mind that the journal menu has a tab called “Decisions.” Here, if you feel up to it, you can choose from a number of big projects. These projects are different for each country, but they can include things like building the Panama Canal, finding the source of the Niger River, or going to the South Pole. Several of these could help you get a lot of prestige (or kill a lot of people), so keep them in mind as you play.

You can now stop pausing Victoria 3 and go out into the world. If things still seem too hard to handle or you just don’t want to deal with budgets and opposition parties, check out our guide to cheats and console commands for Victoria 3; they’ll let you do just about anything you want. Check out our list of the best PC games for ideas on what to play when you’re done with this huge game.