Here's a game that I've had sitting on my shelf for over a year, but I didn't get around to trying it out until a few weeks ago. I'd played the previous versions, having picked up a copy of EU-I many years ago for only a few dollars at Mardens.
For those of you unfamiliar with the game series, EU is something of a historical conquest game akin to Risk. There are different timeframes and scenarios to play, including The Grand Campaign (starting 1399), Age of Exploration (1492), Age of Revolutions (focusing on the American & French Revolutions), and several other times and events in-between. While the starting points and nations are all historically accurate, your decisions during game-play can change fate considerably, making it fun and unpredictable.
Getting to Europa Universalis III; this game has several improvements over the previous versions, including a Court of Advisors, which gives you different bonuses to your research values, military prowess, and financial stability. The military units are now more diverse and varied. We also see the introduction of "National Ideas" which help to shape and direct the course of your nation.
Colonization and exploration are now more accessible. Once you reach a certain Naval Technology level, you can pick a National Idea that lets you recruit explorers and conquistadors, where in previous version of the game you had to wait to get such a unit either at random or due to a real world historical event (which means in many cases you simply didn't get one). Without a naval Explorer, you can't venture beyond known sea-lanes, and without a Conquistador, you can't explore unknown land spaces. So, this is a major improvement in my opinion. There is a new "colonial range limit" that can be frustrating at times, but it does keep things realistic and challenging.
Another great improvement in this version of the game is the ability to play any nation. In previous versions, you could only select from a certain group of "primary" countries in any given scenario/timeframe. In EU III, you can pick any nation in existence, even some North American Indian tribes, only you do remain hindered by historical reality. In other words, if you're playing a primitive tribe, they remain primitive, and their technological advancement is slow to non-existent. Still, it is nice to have the option of variety, and it is fun to pick from the hundreds of different countries found across the globe.
One thing that I dislike about this new game are the "sprites" used to represent the different armies and navies. In previous versions, you had a little ship or a soldier to represent a unit. In this game, you have a flag. Yes, just a boring old flag! This sadly gives it more of a board-game look, and this is the one feature I find truly inferior to the previous games.
The only other thing that I'm not real keen about are the North American territory boundaries. While the basic geography is recognizable in most cases, the territories are chopped up into unrecognizable blobs that don't resemble the provinces, states, or even the old colonial territories in many regards. That, and the names are mostly unpronounceable and hard to remember (generally based on some old native settlement or a single county in the area). They still need to work on their representation of North America a bit.
If you enjoy complex strategy games, Europa Universalis III should pique your interest, and allow you to wile away hours of valuable time. Overall, I'd give it a solid 4 out of 5 stars.