Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun, affectionately known as "Vicky" among its fans, is a complicated Real-Time Strategy / Turn-Based Strategy4X game created and published in 2003 by Paradox Interactive.Chronologically it follows its sister series Europa Universalis and precedes its other sibling, the Hearts of Iron series. Vicky starts in 1836 and ending in 1920 (or 1936, if you bought the Expansion Pack). The game is noted for being arguably the most complicated of the Paradox Interactive games, dealing not only with war but also with an impressive economic and political system. It is noted as one of the better aversions of the Command And Conquer Economy.The game was noticeably buggy at release, but some patches, the Expansion Pack (which changed totally the way the economy works) and some great work by modders has made the game far more stable.As the game covers most of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, but displays the entire globe it will naturally cover The American Civil War, The Wild West and World War One. Since an important part of the game is European Imperialism, Darkest Africa comes into play at times. Also covers the very end of Jidai Geki.The game is (in)famous for being almost incomprehensible to newbies, due to the vast array of interlocking factors, especially in politics and economy and how those two affect each other. (and how, generally, these things depends on your political party) The effect of these is often to create a rather fascinating effect where as an autocracy you are desperately trying to keep popular support from overwhelming you while a democracy has to take it relatively easy to avoid reactionary insurrections.A sequel to the original game, titled Victoria 2, was released on August 13th 2010, turning this Paradox title into a new series. Two major expansion packs have been released:
On February 2nd 2012, an Expansion Pack called A House Divided was released. Ostensibly focused on the American Civil War, it added a 1861 start date and made the Confederacy less doomed. Additionally, many new mechanics were added, such as new ways to influence other nations and generate Casus Belli, a system of political movements and repression, new map modes and interface improvements, and most importantly, this expansion recolored Prussia from a sickly yellow to the proper Prussian blue.
On April 16th 2013 a second Expansion Pack was released, titled Heart of Darkness. It overhauled the colonization system, expanded naval combat, balanced the land combat, made twinges to the industry system, and added a more in-depth diplomacy system for Great Powers. Specifically, "crises" can now develop in high-tension areas (such as Greece demanding land from the Ottoman Empire), prompting all Great Powers to pick a side to support, or stand aside. These situations can escalate until one side backs down, or a Great War is triggered between both sides.
Alternate History: The inevitable outcome of every game. It's pretty much alternate history the moment you unpause the game.
Victoria 2's main menu art is a picture of Confederate soldiers fighting British redcoats. The expansion A House Divided changes this to show American ironclads bombarding London. As of Heart of Darkness it's an Imperial Russian boat in an African jungle.
The American Civil War: Exists as a starting scenario and will (via Event Flags) happen in most ordinary games as well, although in those cases due to the weakness of the South it tends to be... anticlimactic. If you want to play as the CSA in the Grand Campaign you'll have to play until the Civil War and then reload as them. Noticeable this is one of the more complex event chains and was, for the longest time, quite buggy (mostly due to a certain party having to win the election in a certain timeframe to trigger the war) There is also an alternate version where New England secedes.
Victoria 2's A House DividedExpansion Pack lets players start in 1861, includes more historical Event Flags and actually gives the South a fighting chance.
Anachronism Stew: Provinces and states are divided according to the post World War 1 map, which doesn't always correlate with actual historical divisions. This is most obvious in the Middle East, which is divided along the lines of the Sykes–Picot Agreement rather then the original Ottoman division.
Apathetic Citizens: Averted. It takes quite a bit for citizens to actually take arms against the government, but its usually about lots of little things (unemployment, political repression, nationalism) rather than one big thing that upsets them.
A House Divided adds an additional step where POPs will join political movements. If you ignore them or repress them too much, they will take up arms against the government eventually.
Artificial Brilliance: People automatically try to find the highest quality of political and civil freedoms, even though it's not actually a stat. Playing a particularly liberal power with an oppressive Britain? Expect lots of Indian immigrants.
Artificial Stupidity: Something of a problem in Victoria II. The capitalist AI loves to build luxury clothes factories in countries where nobody can afford them, while other countries will happily continue to research philosophy while you're slaughtering their armies with machine guns and poison gas. To add to this, the AI frequently marches its soldiers in massive columns through harsh deserts and freezing mountains, leading to some truly horrific attrition levels which can leave armies decimated before they even see battle. Watching armies lose significant numbers of soldiers before even crossing the border is not that uncommon.
Also, to unite Germany one of the states you need is Holstein, a satellite of Denmark. This is not much of a problem, as anyone looking to unite Germany has a unification Casus Belli and Denmark isn't really in a state to resist. So when Prussia invades they take control over Jutland without much problem. But the AI sometimes gets overexcited, and annexes Jutland instead of Holstein. Congratulations AI, you've delayed (if not outright stopped) the unification of Germany for the gain of a small peninsula.
Fortunately, such an occurrence is rare, simply because game-mechanics wise, this occurs when a country can only fulfill some of its war goals, instead of all. Because Denmark is such a weak country at the start of the game, when this is likely to happen, it's unusual for Prussia to be in such a situation. However, this still leads to the odd scenario where Germany rules all of the Jutland Peninsula.
AI USA tends to ally itself with Mexico in the beginning of the game and then sit and watch it annex Texas and never actually fulfill Manifest Destiny and take California.
Though fixed in a recent patch, since the US gets a core on all of what is now the US through an event. Though somewhat unfixed with the newest expansion, where it's more common for the UK to take Oregon or Washington.
Artistic License - Economics: The capitalist AI in Victoria II at launch only looked at the maximum possible profit for a good when deciding what factories to build - even if nobody in the world could afford it, with the effect that capitalists would sink thousands of dollars into building luxury clothes factories and then immediately go bankrupt. This has been patched, thankfully.
Even then, there are often problems with economies under the Laissez Faire policy (where the player has almost no influence over their industry) as there is a tendency for AI to sometimes never build advanced factories (Automobiles, Electric Gear, etc) because they are not profitable in the short run.
The Assimilator: Democratic states (especially the United States) and countries in both Americas get a bonus when assimilating immigrant POPs to their primary culture.
USA in the first game got special, country-specific stat. It was not only one of major factors attracting people, but also allowing US to assimilate virtually any kind and amount of immigrants, pronto. It was almost impossible to see non-American POPs in States. This was heavily nerfed in the second game, but still USA got sizable advantage over other nations when it comes to assimilation, thanks to few flags set by decisions.
Taken to ridiculous extremes in countries with multiethnic populations like Austria and the Ottomans, which, by the time of 1900, usually has completely marginalized all their minority populations and replaced them with their primary culture. When looking at the nationalities tab, it's often common to see half of Europe covered in Germans. This was mostly a result of nerfing both Austria and the Ottomans in terms of their acceptable cultures, thus assimilation kicked over large chunks of the population who were before left intact. Second game got enough factors to halt almost any conversion, especially in those two countries.
It was fixed by the time of The House Divided - POPs get absurdly high penalty to conversion if they are in their core provinces, eg. Irish can't be converted into British while in Ireland, but will gladly turn Yankee when reaching the USA. Colonial POPs got this and colonial penalty to conversion, thus no longer Africa is ethnically European by the end game.
Autosave: The game autosaves periodically, at intervals that can be set by the player (e.g. every 3 months in game time, 6 months, etc.). The player can also save manually at any point in the game.
Back from the Dead: The Byzantine Empire can be reformed by Greece if they can be turned into a Great Power and have taken all the provinces in Thrace and the Asia Minor coast. Quite fittingly, this take quite some patience and skill, but can be achieved by a determined enough player.
Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: A rather "gamey" tactic by players who wish to change their government type is to encourage a specific type of rebels and then let them take over your country and enforce their demands - the player takes a prestige hit, but it's not the end of the world. In fact, the game itself uses this technique with Garibaldi and his Redshirt army, whom the game treats as ordinary rebels that, if successful in taking over any other Italian state, unite Italy under Sardinia-Piedmont.
Balkanise Me: One of several war goals is forcing another country to release states from under their control. Inverted with fragmented countries like Germany and Italy, which have to annex several other countries in order to properly form.
Unification and Balkanization are typically rare given that the AI never puts drastic effort into its wars. Expect countries to only go to war for one wargoal and quit despite possibly being able to tack on more if they stayed with the war.
The Heart of Darkness expansion makes this more likely, as any area with sufficiently high nationalism will eventually create a crisis, which will allow a new nation to form without any war.
China. It (and its substates in the expansion) starts out with an absolutely enormous population and huge armies to draw on. Yet, when actually engaged in battle, folds over like a paper tiger. But in hands of human player China is beyond the scale of game-breaking powerful.
Downplayed with the Ottoman Empire, which starts out as a Great Power and gradually declines as its highly illiterate and conservative society refuses to modernize with the rest of Europe and eventually becomes a pushover. Averted when the AI decides to research specific techs early on (they are picked at random), or with a skilled enough player who can work with the Ottoman Empire's weaknesses while developing their strengths.
The British Empire: One of the principal world powers. Starts ranked at #1, they will typically stay there for the entire game if left untouched, generally only being replaced by the US, and rarely France or China (if it westernizes). Removing it from the Great Powers is however, a very difficult feat for any player.
Brick Joke: In the sequel, there's an event called Comet Sighted. At least with the expansion pack, there are two options, which both increase research points, one called "Thank God we live in such enlightened times." A reference to EU 3, which has an event with an option added each expansion, which all give you negative stability points, also called Comet Sighted. If you decide to explore the Valley of the Kings, though, there eventually pops up an event which says your people think it is cursed. One of the responses is "What next, comet sighted?"
Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Want to take over a country, but don't want the Great Power they are allied and/or in sphere of getting involved? Simple, become friendly with that nation and make them break the sphere or alliance. Then go to war.
Colour Coded Armies: All civilized nations use basically the same soldier model with a different colored coat. Some countries' models are a bit more unique — for example, South American soldiers wear sashes and Prussians wear pickelhaubes.
Subverted by the time the 20th Century rolls around, as everyone starts wearing duller browns and greys. However, the design of the various uniforms also become more unique.
Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Each country has an associated colour (Britain: red, France: blue, Russia: green, Germany: grey), some of which carry over into other Paradox titles.
Command And Conquer Economy: Oh so averted. You don't even technically earn money from producing stuff: Instead your population does, and you can either tax them (which means they can't buy as much stuff...) or raise tariffs (which makes imported goods more expensive). All POPs have their own "needs" of stuff they want (everything from grain and coal to opium and radios) based on their class and type. If you can't satisfy them they'll move somewhere else or starve. Oh, and did we mention that under two of the games' four economic policies you don't actually build factories yourself? Instead your capitalists do (using their own money, that disappears if you tax them too highly). The problem with capitalists, of course, is that they build factories that are the most profitable to them, not the factories that you would prefer built. (For instance, the ones that produce guns).
Downplayed under Planned Economy. You're in charge of deciding where to build the factories, and you can put them where they'll benefit the nation the most. One of the perks of being a Dirty Communist. You can't though tell people what to consume, which still adds in some difficulty.
The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Averted. If you play above 'normal' difficulty, then the AI does get some bonuses to production, but otherwise it follows the exact same rules as the player. If the computer appears to be cheating, it is making use of some sort of mechanic that is not readily apparent. (Such as: The second game opens at the beginning of the Texan Revolution; if you play as Texas, you will soon discover that the Mexican army has better morale than you. But not because of this trope, rather because it has an Engineers brigade attached, which gives +10 to morale.)
Creator Provincialism: The three Union Tags that have special ways of being formed are Germany, Italy, and... Scandinavianote The odd one out in that it failed, as opposed to, say, Romanian unification. For those unaware, Paradox Interactive is a Swedish company.
Darkest Africa: Treated as a malaria-infested uncivilized hellhole populated entirely by subhuman savages that only machine guns can tame - in other words, exactly like the European powers of the time saw it. In second game it's actually impossible to colonize 95% of Africa before your army got machine guns.
Heart of Darkness expansion for the second one makes it so that you can colonize it without machine guns, but you still either need an equivalent technology or to be late to the party.
Deliberate Values Dissonance: The game encourages the players to stomp over peoples' rights, colonize huge patches of land and violently suppress political movements in the name of progress, science, tradition or downright profit. All of these match the actions of the real life nations of the time.
Department of Redundancy Department: In the second game, states that are not completely controlled by one country have their names show as <owning culture> <state>. This leads to gems like "British British Columbia", "Hawaiian Hawaiian Islands", "New English Northern New England" and "Luang Prabangni Luang Prabang".
The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: In regards to flags. Every single possible country has a flag for all types of governments (Kingdom, Communist, Fascist, and Republic), and many of them use imagery from lesser-known movements in the country. In a nod to a commonly-held misconception, the flag of the CSA is the historically accurate "Blood-stained banner", but under fascism it's the naval jack that is often called the "Confederate flag".
That said, they also made choices like having the British republican flag be identical to the monarchical one rather than using the flag most commonly in use by 19th century British republicans.Note Though this might be because said flag is nearly identical to that of Hungary.
Dirty Communists: They show up in 1848 (when Karl Marx published The Communist Manifesto) and remain an important factor for the second half of the game.
More specifically, Socialists show up around 1848. Communists (basically radicalised and angry Socialists) don't show up until later.
Divided States of America: Taken Up to Eleven. Although some of them, like California and Texas, were nations in their own right before being absorbed into the USA, there is also a number of ahistorical nations. Among the nations that can be formed from United States Territory are: the California Republic, the Cherokee Nation, Columbia (with parts of Canada), Deseret, the Manhattan Commune, New England, and the Republic of Texas.
It also adds a reversed American Civil War — if the USA favours slavery enough that the southern states never secedes, the northern states will instead secede as the Free States of America.
Eagle Land: The United States starts as a Great Power, ranked #7. They are the only Great Power to start as a democracy with extensive political freedoms, and as such get a huge boost to immigration. They also start with slavery still legal, which is is important later on.
Easy Logistics: To some degree. Your units requires a ton of different kinds of resources to produce (basic infantry requires small arms, canned food and manpower) but upkeep "only" costs you money.
No longer the case in Victoria II, where upkeep requires small arms, ammunition, explosives, liquor...
Though they can still get this no matter where they are stationed, and are just peachy as long as you aren't putting them in a province about their attrition limits.
Elite Mooks: Guards in Victoria II are a form of this — they're much stronger than standard infantry, and have a higher reconnaissance value than cavalry, but are expensive and can only be recruited from your primary and accepted cultures. French AI just loves to build them, never looking on the costs.
Certain countries under certain forms of government are also listed as Empires, be it unified Germany, imperial China, tsarist Russia or Mexico during French intervention.
Event Flag: Abused in the original, almost as much as in Hearts of Iron. Breaking the first game's reliance on these was one of the major design goals of the sequel.
The Federation: Any reasonably liberal Great Power arguably counts. The US, UK, France, Italy, and even Imperial Germany (if formed through a liberal revolution) are all particularly likely candidates.'
Flaw Exploitation: Once the Obvious Beta was patched, Rebels became laughably easy to pacify when revolting; you only need to pass a Reform with a high amount of support behind it and your Rebel armies will disband within days. Even Nationalist rebels.
Fog of War: The standard version: The player can only see what goes on in his or his Allies' territories, and only into foreign provinces bordering his own.
Glorious Mother Russia: Entirely possible. Russia starts as Great Power, but it's technology and political freedoms are lacking, while it's starting tech-group favours culture over such silly things like industry, commerce or military. Under the AI it will either be on the tail of Great Powers or the most powerful Secondary Power and the Red October is inevitable.
Great Offscreen War: The Napoleonic wars are referenced occasionally in some events as a ground-shattering event that brought forth the ideas of Liberalism to the Ancient Régimes of Europe.
Hegemonic Empire: Great Powers can increase influence by building factories and railways in minor states.
High-Class Glass: your capitalists will, naturally, dress in top hats, wear monocles and smoke cigars.
Hopeless War: Texas and Tripoli are set up to be like this; Texas starts off with armies named after the three battles it lost! Both are weak nations facing down secondary powers with far more divisions. However, this can be averted by a skilled player (or rather, a player who knows how to hold out until the US comes in, in the case of Texas, and who can exploit the attrition mechanic, in the case of Tripoli.) The Victoria II wiki has advice on how to survive as both powers.
Imperial Germany: The historical path of German Unification leads to this. You can do it in other ways though.
Includes the formation of Greater Germany if the player can defeat and sphere Austria. Or, in the sequel, defeat and sphere Prussia as Austria.
Imperial Japan: Japan starts the game as a fairly well-developed uncivilised nation. Even under the AI, Japan westernises sometime around 1880 and can easily become a Great Power by the endgame.
Land of One City: Minor countries such as Moldavia or Texas start with only one State, usually made up of several provinces. However, some really small countries like Krakow and many German Minors have only one province within a single state. Also, it is impossible for a country with only one State to become a Great Power, no matter how powerful they actually are.
A civilized, industrialized China is truly a thing to be afraid of. Heck, even just civilized China can curb-stomp pretty much everyone, since their absurdly big population of artisans can made up for lacking industry for decades.
As pointed out below, Any German State, from mighty Prussia to middle-power Bavaria to little Saxe-Coburg-Gotha can form Germany through multiple paths.
This includes Luxembourg. Besides being a micro-nation, Luxembourg is the only German state that also has French POPs as an acceptable culture. If you manage to form Germany as Luxembourg, you can potentially have a Germany that can take over France with none of the usual rebellions from the population that would usually provoke.
Chile starts as an underdeveloped backwater wedged between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific. However, they're a democracy and get a huge boost to immigration, meaning they can become a Great Power much easier than Argentina (Presidential Dictatorship) or Brazil (Constitutional Monarchy with slavery). Having precious metal province also doesn't hurt, since it both provides sizable profit and attracts immigrants.
Japan starts out as an uncivilized nation just like the rest of East Asia, but gets a huge bonus to its westernization ability. This, along with its relatively large and hugely educated population, means that it can become civilized relatively quickly and immediately become at least a secondary power with an ideal position to dominate China and Southeast Asia.
Panjab starts out as one of the few, yet largest, Indian minor states not a puppet of Britain, and thus stands the best possible chance of eventually working itself up to GP status and kicking Britain out of India. The AI will never accomplish this, but a skilled player can actually unite India around 1870 and with luck - by 1865. One of the most award-winning After Action Reports for Victoria 2 is from Panjab perspective.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Suppose you've worked up the diplomatic relations to add China to your sphere of influence. They're an uncivilized country at the start of the game, so having them in your sphere means your population has 100% access to their market of natural resources, as if your country made them (your population is coded to buy domestic goods before importing, having a country in your sphere of influence means that country no longer counts as an importer). However, China has such a large population, that they will outproduce anything your country can make. Even manufactured goods made in your factories can't compete with Chinese artisans who craft them by hand. Your population will therefore spend their income buying resources from China instead of your own market; demand for your nation's domestically produced goods goes way down; the owners aren't making money anymore; they can't pay their workers anymore and unemployment goes way up; unemployed workers make no money to spend, exacerbating all of the other problems; your whole economy collapses. Nice job bankrupting yourself.
A House Divided had a partial solution: China was divided into several 'substates' (like satellites/dominions, but with somewhat less independence) under Qing China. Conquering a substate still requires going to war with all of China, but sphereing one does not, allowing for roughly-historical zones of influence in China (and making it significantly harder to sphere all of China).
Nintendo Hard: China deliberately receives many crippling penalties to it (such as having 90% of its population be non-accepted, terribly inadequate military, and constant rebellion events) such that players complained China was unplayable/unfair. Paradox simply responded that China was made to be unplayable on purpose because China really was a political quagmire at the time and also because if they didn't, China would constantly turn into an a-historical superpower.
Non-Entity General: Even though in-game messages are addressed to the leader of the country (eg "King" or "President") you most certainly can continue playing even if your country falls to a revolution.
No Swastikas: The flag used to represent Fascist Germany displays an iron cross rather then a swastika.
Notice This: To differentiate them from the hundreds of ordinary events that pop up routinely, truly momentous events (the American Civil War, the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb, the writing of Heart of Darkness, etc.) have a special, major banner with fancy bordering and your flag flying suggesting the public notices used in the period.
Not-So-Harmless Villain: Excluding Prussia and Austria, most Germany countries are rather weak and will usually end up just being annexed by whatever powerful neighbor happens to border them. However, occasionally some lucky German nation will expand enough and can form either the Southern German Federation, or the Northern German federation. Both of which are usually ranked as great powers in the game and can (when they're not controlled by them) match Prussia and Austria in status and power.
Obstructive Bureaucrat: There's an optimum number of civil servants you need to run your country. Any more than that and all they do is draw a paycheck.
Conversely, if you don't have enough bureaucrats, your civil service will quickly descend into chaos and your country will suffer as a result.
Obvious Beta: Extremely buggy on release with sup par AI. One of the most egregious parts is the impossible to pacify political radicals who often stage massive rebellions when it makes no sense for them to. AI countries would often get overrun by rebels demanding Democracy from a democratic nation. Etc.
Old Save Bonus: You can import games from the Europa Universalis series. You can export them to Hearts of Iron 2. Considering Crusader Kings has an export feature to Europa Universalis II, you could in theory pilot the same faction from 1066 all the way through 1964 via the four games, a true feat of Paradox fanboyism.
At least one person has actually done so, leading to a world that's...quite different from our own by 1836 - for one, the Spanish Reconquista failed, and America was first discovered and colonized by Muslims; taking the place of real-world Mexico is the Islamic Republic of Mazula - and that's one of the smallest changes. Here's◊ the state of the world in 1946 (at the end of an enormous war) as a result of the events of this playthrough.
Pretext for War: The casus belli system functions like this. A House Divided expands the system so you can manufacture them, your ability to do so depending on how free your press is.
Public Domain Soundtrack: The entirety of the original game's soundtrack was classical music from the era. Averted in the sequel.
Prussia: Starts as #5. Generally will face early conflicts against Austria.
Puppet State: Satellites (civilized) and Dominions (uncivilized), using the same mechanic as in most PI games. As of "Heart of Darkness", the AI tends to release these more often and become more efficient rather than remaining monolithic and bureaucratically choked.
With good reason: as of A House Divided, Communist nations immediately get a permanent "Spread the Revolution" casus belli on all their neighbours.
Well, their non-great power neighbors which has at least some communists.
Refining Resources: Factories (and Artisan POPs in the sequel) turn raw materials into finished products. For example, cotton is spun into fabric, and then combined with dyes to make clothing, which is then bought by citizens or used by the military for uniforms.
Relationship Values: Two different scales. One measures their opinion of you, which means how likely they are to ally with you. The second is available only for Great Powers and measures how much influence they have on smaller nations. That said, including a nation under your sphere of influence would usually mean they're more likely to ally with you.
"Risk"-Style Map: Hundreds of provinces (used mainly for fighting in) groups of provinces are grouped into "regions" (where your factories are).
River of Insanity: There are event chains that simulate expeditions up the Nile, Amazon, and so on. More often than not they disappear without a trace...
Royal Mess: When playing as a monarchy, in-game text boxes address the player as "King". Even if you're playing as a not-Kingdom like Austria or the Duchy of Baden, or if you're the United Kingdom.
RPG Elements: Military leaders have "backgrounds" and "personalities" which have positive or negative effects on the units they lead. A House Divided introduced the idea of leader prestige: the positive effects of leader traits increase with prestige.
Scare Chord: The sound that accompanies the message that someone has declared war on you.
Schizo Tech: Depending on your research focus in Victoria II, it's possible to have such combinations as dreadnought battleships powered by water wheels.
Shout-Out: Tons, mostly in event texts, especially the "You have lost X amount of X resources" random events. After getting these dire news the "accept" option is usually a witty remark, for instance, for cotton it is "Frankly, I don't give a damn!" and for Precious Metals it's "My precioussss!"
In Vicky 2, one of the in-game events that happen if New England achieves independence is the foundation of the Miskatonic University.
Also in the sequel, the existence of the Manhattan Commune as a possible nation is a reference to The Difference Engine.
invoked One of Victoria 2's election events is on immigration, with one possible choice being "Immigrants? In 'my' <province>?" Doubly hilarious if it happens to the island of Victoria.
One of the news stories added in Heart of Darkness references the Spanish language short story "A Letter to God".
Another news stories makes reference to Mass Effect 3's ending controversy by using Sherlock Holmes. The article states that new ending for Sherlock Holmes will provide "additional clarity and closure".
This pulls double-duty as a reference to the actual Sherlock Holmes franchise, as Conan Doyle's first attempt to end it ("The Final Problem") was... not well-received itself.
The Sound of Martial Music: Austria (or Austria-Hungary, depending on whether it loses a certain war) is a prominent player, especially in the early game. Anyone seeking to unite Italy or Germany has to face them at one point.
It is easy to avoid facing them when uniting Germany in the sequel, but the way ensures that they will be a very prominent player indeed: play as them.
Though it's much easier to just declare war at the very beginning, humiliate them, and watch them slowly climb back up the ladder. Until, of course, you annex them for the glory of Großdeutschland
Unfortunately they took out all of the Casus Bellis Prussia used to get at the start of the game, making this much more difficult.
Even if you don't actually go to war, there will be extremely intense diplomatic battles in order to get spheres of interest away, with one side constantly throwing out the other's diplomats or discrediting them.
Tsarist Russia: Starts in a rather comfortable #2 spot, blessed with lots of empty land, illiterate peasantry, backwards infrastructure, and a reactionary upper class.
Vestigial Empire: Something that rarely happens, as the AI typically won't war against other nations enough to do it (since it is avoiding a high infamy score which gives everyone free containment casus belli against it). But it can happen to anybody, even your own country if you're that bad/lazy. Bolivia often has this happen to it.
Ottoman Empire is a clear example of this under AI. In 9 of 10 games it ends up as pushover of it's neighbours, loosing more and more land to all the tiny states that emerged from it's collapse in real life. In the remaining 1 of 10 games under the AI it barely holds together and fends off Russians.
For example, enforcing labour regulations such as limited work hours and safety standards make factories more expensive and will hurt your economy.
Video Game Cruelty Potential: It's entirely possible to end the game with the world under the domination of a fascist dictatorship with institutionalized slavery.
Plus, it is almost impossible to play a great power without committing atrocities, colonial or otherwise. Drive Native Americans off their lands and set up mining operations? Yup! Forbid Africans from teaching in schools in their native tongue? Sure! Execute minorities for trying to oppose your foreign rule? Why not?
Video Game Historical Revisionism: Due to the high level of detail present in the game, there are often mistakes made, sometimes for Acceptable Breaks from Reality reasons, sometimes because they can't be arsed to fix it (somewhere though, a modder will) most divisive tends to be the allocation of minority cultures and POP's.
War for Fun and Profit: One war cause lets the victor demand concessions from the loser. Plus, countries can actually create a military-industrial complex, which boosts army/navy/industrial research, but hampers both cultural and financial research.
We Are Struggling Together: It's fully possible to have rebels rise up when their party is in power (Jacobins when the liberals are in charge, etc.), or when you have a system of government they want already (Jacobins when you have a democracy, Commies when you have a communist dictatorship, etc.). One particularly bad example is when you have a revolution only for the same rebels to rise again. Players agree this trope is likely the best explanation for why this happens.
We Have Reserves: Played literally with the 'mobilization' option that lets you conscript a large amount of ordinary workers into your army, ostensibly as canon fodder since they aren't nearly as effective as regular soldiers.
The AI typically like to group soldiers into gigantic armies, which often times causes horrible attrition on long marches through territory that can't support so many soldiers at once. Combat also usually devolves into throwing huge amounts of armies into one battle trying to overwhelm the enemy. In fact, it's the only way uncivs even stand a chance against the Great Powers.
China in particular suffers this most of the game, as trying to fight the Great Powers results in your armies dying by the thousands just to kill hundreds of their guys.
World War One: Usually would not happen in the first game, except for the scenario designed to specifically simulate it. However, the sequel now has generic 'Great Wars' which trigger whenever a war between at least two Great Powers on both sides occur. These cannot easily be ended, and the penalty for losing a Great War is a massive reduction in military forces and repayment of war debts. The 'crisis' system added in the ''Heart of Darkness' expansion now also better simulates scenarios that can lead to Great Wars very similar to World War One.
Wrong Turn at Albuquerque: The "botanical expedition to the colonies" events in the sequel have a fairly high chance of resulting in the party either disappearing or turning up again much later and worse for wear, as in real life. However, they don't check to see which province the expedition was sent to first, and generate a random destination. This leads to such situations as a character going to Canada and ending up in Morocco.
You Require More Vespene Gas: No less than 47 different resources. Basic types like iron, coal, wheat, and wool are all present, as well as more esoteric goods such as tea, opium, tanks, and luxury furniture. Raw materials such as coal or wheat are mined/harvested by worker POPs in provinces, and are either consumed ore refined into other goods. Some advanced goods, like Radios, Aeroplanes, and Tanks require a production chain that is pretty complex. Luckily you can buy all resources from the world market, assuming there is SOMEONE somewhere who is producing the stuff...though price fluctuations can make an import-heavy economy very vulnerable to shortages.
Different powers have different levels of priority for resources, and some resources repeatedly prove problematic. For starters, liquor is required for a variety of units and you can find yourself in dire shortage of it. Cue the British Empire not being able to build artillery because they can't get any liquor.
Also an economic powerhouse for any economic policy capable of choosing its factory type rather than leaving it up for the AI to decide since anyone making these low priority but high demand goods will earn absurd amounts of money for them due to their demand.