As 4th idea group I picked espionage - just actively avoiding religious/humanist for a change, and I'm way past the point where diplomatic/influence would matter. Espionage is actually quite decent - extra diplomat, province trade power, advisor cost, liberty desire reduction, corruption reduction, and some spy bonuses. It's not very focused group of bonuses, and they're not huge individually, but it helps big empire in many ways.
I didn't feel like waiting 15 years to fight Ming, so I attacked their tributary. I couldn't make Ming cobeligerent, but I grabbed 3 low development border forts anyway.
Ming lost Ainu, Korea, and Ryukyu as tributaries, but established Blackfoot instead thanks to their Alaska colonies. Oh come on, that was my plan. Sadly by the time I got West coast colony, Ming and Aztecs settled everything there so I couldn't make anyone there my tributary.
Ming then attacked Korea to reestablish tributary. Korea was allied with the Oirat, so instead they lost Oirat immediately. Even with zero mandate penalties however, Ming won, reestablished overlordship over Oirat (but not Korea), and got some of Oirat's land in process.
It was a sweet opportunity for me, as Ryukyu was allied with Ayutthaya, so I could get some land without getting Ming involved.
And once I finished coring Ming's forts, I wanted to get Ming involved, so I attacked Ligor to separate peace Ming and reset my truce with them.
My tributary Yarkand which I defended and separate peaced twice got full annexed by Rajastan. Instead I asked my allied Jianzhou horde to become my tributary, as let's face it - they're so behind on tech, they'd be a completely worthless ally anyway. As our borders were now much closer, and they lost a good chunk of land to Korea, they ended up agreeing to that.
And I almost got Tengri Horde island of Falklands as one more.
Ming tributaries are now:
- 7dev Mong Yang
- 12dev Oirat
- 16dev Kucha
- 35dev Anxi
- 46dev Blackfoot
- 113dev Kham
I annexed 20 more vassals. World conquest progress is now:
- own: 4875 ⇒ 6122
- vassal: 6092 ⇒ 5542
- tributary state: 2625 ⇒ 3061
- colony: 559 ⇒ 590
- foreigners: 7672 ⇒ 6815
- uncolonized: 1396 ⇒ 1321
Ming minus a few forts
Byzantium and Ming vassals much reduced.
Ming ate some Oirats at least, so they're not losing everything yet.