Tips on Diplomacy
Start Talks Early
You want to start talking to other players on Turn 1. One easy question is “are you willing to exchange information about your approximate location in the cluster? North/East/West/South?”. Tips: don’t divulge your location until the other player agrees to the trade, and don’t agree to trade this info if you’re the Borg, Empire, or another race that takes a long time to get its economy moving. In this last case, you want to stay under the radar for as long as possible.
You want to start thinking about alliances, or at least formal Non-Aggression Pact (NAP) treaties, by Turn 10-15. You should be working on these treaties as soon as you determine who your neighbours are, and possibly even earlier if you have several “natural enemies” that you need eliminated.
- Greet all players.
- Send ambassadors to all players.
- Send individual messages asking to trade general location on map (North/West/East/South quadrant). Make sure they agree to the trade before you tell them your quadrant! If you intend to attack the first neighbour you see because you’re an early strike race (Lizards, Birds, Fascists), you might want to skip this step…
- Public broadcast to Cyborg re: Fireclouds destroyed on sight if in or approaching my territory (so they can’t “cry foul” later)
- Players who respond promptly to messages (even if they don’t really say anything substantial) are good candidates for allies.
- Don’t lie. You’ll only get caught later, and then no one trusts you.
- Don’t commit to anything too early. Most diplomatic blunders occur when agree to something and don’t yet know enough to gauge its impact on the game. For example, don’t promise not to trade away certain ships, nor to lengthy NAPs, before you have a feel for the flow of the game. It may also prevent you from eliminating a weak player when you have the opportunity.
Always Respond to Messages
If you don’t respond to your messages, the sender will simply assume that you are hostile, or so disinterested in the game that you’re going to be a weak player (i.e. a target). Even if you respond and don’t say anything of much importance, it’s far better than silence.
Role-Play the Bad News
When I have unpleasant messages for my enemies, I usually spice it up by role-playing it out a bit. I find that this approach allows me to be a bit more subtle with my messages, and lets my opponent “read between the lines” at what I’m really trying to say. That is, I can usually be more vague, without the other player asking for clarification of my exact intent. I also think it’s nicer to create a little story for your fellow player to read, rather than just bluntly telling him “yes, I am taking those planets, and no, there’s not really much you can do about it.”
Public Announcements & Legitimacy
You may want to “explain” anything unusual that’s happened on the scoreboard in a public post to all players. Why? As it was put very well in another article: whoever speaks publicly, tells the story, and their actions gain legitimacy. That is, it will appear that you had good cause for the action you took, and your reputation in the game and in the community is less likely to be portrayed as “some underhanded stuff happens around that guy”.
One example of a situation: your warship score jumps up suddenly. Players may wonder how this happened, and may suspect a betrayal or that you got the ships in an underhanded way. Perhaps an opponent suddenly sets his Friendly Codes to give you all his ships the turn that you arrive to attack him, and then he quits the game. Alternately, a player agrees to be your vassal rather than being wiped out completely, and gives you a lot of his ships. In both of these situations, you look a lot more trustworthy if you bother to explain to the other players how this happened. That doesn’t mean you have to tell them everything… but what you DO say should be honest.
Control Information Flow
You want to be the one who knows what’s going on throughout the cluster, while leaving as many players in the dark as possible. If you are allied with another race, DO NOT broadcast this information! Keep it secret for as long as possible, and let players discover it as you and your ally decimate their empire!
A lot of information can be gained from the scoreboard, and from reports. If you congratulate a player for a military score jump, and take a guess at what it might have been, he might even reveal to you what it was that caused the jump (to “correct” you)!
There is a great article on interpreting military score at Planets Magazine. You can also view a list of components and their score. Note that minefields, torpedoes, fighters and defense posts are also counted in the score.
If ship explosions are broadcast to all players, ensure to change all the names of your ships! Only the ship NAME is broadcast! While it defaults to the ship type, there’s no reason you have to leave it as that. Instead, change your ships’ names to generic ones like “Gold One” or “Blue Five”.
I’ve heard many stories where opponents found loopholes in non-aggression pacts (NAPs) and make moves that didn’t violate the letter of the treaty, but still caused a lot of pain for the player who thought he was safe. There is a definite line between the spirit and the letter of a treaty, so be specific when forming one!
For example, a Colonies player could sweep mines on behalf of another player, while not directly attacking planets or ships of the player with which he had a treaty.
Non-aggression pacts usually involve the following:
- A time limit (number of turns, or expires on turn X)
- A border agreement (these planets are mine, those are yours, colonized or not).
- A promise not to attack or steal from each others’ ships or planets
- A promise not to lay minefields in each others’ territory
However, as I mentioned above, you should also get the treaty to cover the following (unless you intend to weasel around the treaty yourself):
- No sweeping of each other’s mines
- No lurking above planets with cloakers, or otherwise scouting within the other’s territory
- A rough idea of which direction each player intends to expand
- A suggestion for a NAP to turn into an Alliance (if you’re looking to do this… if not, try to avoid the subject).
Aggression on one side, Ally on the other
Your best situation is to ally with one neighbour and make war on the other, or help your (more aggressive) ally make war on his neighbour. You or your ally should try for a non-aggression pact with the other neighbour, and both of you should help defeat one opponent utterly before making your next moves.
The Neighbour Sandwich
Another tactic is to ally with the player on the other side of the player you intend to attack, such that you crush the one neighbour from both sides and divide the spoils. Your other neighbour, you should form a non-aggression pact with, but keep a close eye on. The risk in this situation is that a two-front war will develop, as the player you are attacking may ally with your other neighbour, or simply take advantage of you when your attention and forces are diverted to the opposite side of your territory!
If you DO end up in a two-front war, you might want to just go with it, and try the Double-Decker Sandwich.
The Double-Decker Sandwich
A higher-risk play where you encourage both of your neighbours’ neighbours’ to attack your neighbours on both sides. For example, if you are the Rebels, and the circular start pattern goes Colonies, Empire, Rebels, Crystals, Lizards, then you would encourage the Colonies to attack the Empire, and the Lizards to attack the Crystals, while promising both neighbours that you’ll attack the Crystals and Empire. Try to avoid any promises to anyone other than the promise to attack. You are buying time for yourself, while keeping your neighbours busy building warships instead of freighters, and focusing on their own defense instead of on attacking you.
The fine line you want to walk is to attack to fulfill your promise, but not do so much damage as to irrevocably anger your target (initially), because you want to be able to pick the winning side. If the Crystals in the above example were to crumble quickly, you would move in and take as many planets of theirs as possible. If they stood strong and held off both you and their other neighbour, then you would sue for peace and focus on the Empire’s demise, instead.
In the aftermath of the mess you just created, pick one of the winners and ally with them. Likely, your choice of allegiance will probably be determined quickly based on player skill. If you are in a newbie game, some players might even drop out under the heavy pressure.
The Double-Decker should ONLY to be tried with appropriate race combinations. The most favourable circumstances are:
- You are a mid-game but defensive race (Crystals, Robots)
- Your neighbours are mid-game aggressive (Feds, Rebels, Colonies) or late-game races (Cyborg, Empire)
Number of Allies
Based on the number of allies you’re allowed in the game, your strategy is likely to change. Here are some suggestions based on one or two ally victory settings. Note that you can also have more complex arrangements, often called “coalitions”, where you attempt to have all allies hold the top rankings, regardless of who actually “wins”.
One ally, adjacent
- eliminate one of your neighbours. One ally expands into this space, the other ally expands to the middle while forming a non-aggression pact with his neighbor.
- One of you should build a 2nd starbase ASAP, preferably near the allied border, and before turn 10. Both players can fund/supply it if needed. More ships earlier = faster expansion, exploration, harassment, etc.
- Ships: Try to get cloaking, utility (RGA/Pillage/Dark Sense/Lokis/Terraformers/Cobols/Web Mines), and big carriers.
- Economy: Try to get HYP ships (Rebels/Empire/Borg), and either a money or mining boost (Lizards, Feds, Colonies). Privateer speed also boosts economy nicely.
- The furthest (non-adjacent) ally gets ships sent to him to clone and whatever MCs you can spare. Send a fighter-builder to them if possible (makes Starbases much more easily defended).
Two-Race combination suggestions:
- Privateers and Crystals (super-annoying. Privs for offense, Crystals for defense)
- Colonies and Feds (great ship mix, lots of utility)
- Privateers + big carrier race (Cyborg, Empire, Robots). GA ships towing big carriers = nasty surprises.
- Robots + Colonies (minefield dominance)
- Cyborg + Lizards (Lizards for early-mid game, Borg for lategame, 150% damage Cubes)
- Fascists + Rebels (nasty ground attack options, good ship mix)
- Rebels + Empire (Dark Sense + RGA is annoying, cheap fighters for Empire makes them deadly)
Three-Race combination suggestions:
(In general, you want big carrier + cloaking + economy)
- Privateers, Crystals and Lizards/Feds/Colonies
- Cyborg, Feds, Birds/Privateers
- Lizards, Feds, Empire
- Rebels, Fascists and Feds
- Robots, Colonies and Crystals (minefield dominance)
… you’ll notice that Feds make good allies for everyone, since they have a good variety of ships, amazing money, the “Scotty” bonus, “extra” fighter bays, and super-refit.