Diplomacy - Comedy of Manners

A Comedy of Manners: Diplomacy in SR2010 is an article by Il Duce discussion diplomacy between regions in SR2010. This article is not authoritative and is drawn mainly from Russian and European scenarios played by Il Duce; specifically, this article applies to single player games against the AI. It is part one of two in Il Duce's Guide to Diplomacy; see part two for the World Market.

Since SR2010 offers so many scenario and starting points, it is very difficult to characterize or generalize about it. Please take this article as largely one individual’s view--if you have something constructive to add, please jump in.

Terminology

Diprelate
The measure of diplomatic relations between governments (high values are favorable).
Civrelate
The measure of a region's population's view of another region (high values are favorable).
Causus Belli
The measure of justification for war between two regions (high values indicate justification for hostilities).

Each region has one of these values for each other region on a map. These values may vary independently – for instance, one region may have a high (favorable) civrelate for another, but this regard may or may not be reciprocal. Similarly, two governments may have high diprelate values toward each other, but the civrelate values of their populations may be mutually low. It is also possible for a government to have a high diprelate value towards another alongside a high belli value for the same region.

Regional Treaty Integrity
Self-explanatory. Can be problematic when you inherit a low value from the start of the map. In certain maps all parties have a low integrity rating, in others the values may vary.
Buildcap
The point value of all your military facilities that can build units. At present (patch 2 and 3), this is a heavily weighted scoring of your hostility posture.
DoW
Declaration of War.
Research capacity
I believe that there is a developer term for this but I don’t know it. It is not deeply discussed, but I believe that it is also a significant posture indicator. I’m just not sure what it signifies. It seems to mean a lot to the WM.
World Market Approval Rating
Though not specifically a diplomacy rating, it may influence others as a measure of prestige or favor. It definitely indicates how the WM regards you. As with the Regional Treaty Integrity rating, it may be problematic when you inherit a low value from the start of the map.
World Market Subsidy Rating
Similar to WM approval. This is where the WM puts there money where their mouth is.
Adjacent / Non-Adjacent regions
This concept is unique to my perspective, and you will not see it discussed by anyone by me. However, the relations between regions seems to be very much influenced by whether they share a border or not.
Complete versus reunification victory conditions
Some scenarios and initial campaign maps provide for a reunification vote to end the map, while some require "complete" (military) victories. In the latter, you will fight to the finish. Diplo has a very different meaning under each of these circumstances. This article focuses more on scenarios with a "complete" victory condition.

Discussion

One of the basic questions that appears on the BG Forums is “how do I influence diplo ratings?” To date (Oct ‘05) there has been no real satisfactory answer. The other question is “How do I influence the WM?” and this also falls into the diplo category, but with a different set of dynamics. I will take up WM relations at a later time, and focus on peer regions here.

When I first asked these questions, the basic answer was “throw money at the problem.” Yes, it is possible to buy just about anything from anyone. Personally, I have a fundamental mistrust of bought diplo: If I can buy ‘em off, so can anyone else. As an alternative, in patch two at least, I made a point of sending only surplus commodity, never cash. (See MECHANICS, below, for specific protocols.)

In the original version (corrected in patch 2 and 3), it was possible to buy territory for very low amounts. Unless you really needed a specific piece of real estate for its mineral assets or strategic location, it was never clear to me what you could accomplish by doing this. Which brings me to a key point – before you embark on diplo activity have a strategic rationale for it. Concentrate on a few key diplo partners, and avoid both opportunism and thrashing.

There are many opinions and experiences of diplomacy in this game. One school of thought suggests that AI regions do not put much strategic thought into alliances. Another point of view is that given enough cash or goods, AI regions will always eventually accept a diplo proposal. Be that as it may, it still makes sense for a human player to make diplo selections as if they mattered, without much regard for the diplo competence of the other regions. One way to look at it is that AI regions have only two ministerial persona to choose from – Kissinger or Chamberlain.

Because I am not a warmongering ruler, and because the initial positions of so many maps have inherent hostilities, I considered diplo for two objectives: First, I was looking to forestall unwanted invasions by adjacent regions, and Second, I was looking for ways to stabilize the map to subsequently cause conflicts to occur where I needed them to happen, in the order that I needed.

In this context, not only do you need to know how a given action or posture influences your neighbors, but whether their response is ultimately desirable. Because diplo, specifically civrelate, develops over time, it seems that posture – a consistent posture – is more important than one or two specific actions. This takes you back to the initial setup of the game, with ministerial choices and the establishment of your economic direction.

NOTE: Your minister of state is a figurehead. This minister is only sparsely implemented, and is essentially passive. Pick a pleasant individual, and direct them without guile – trade for profit, trade for tech. You will never hear from them again. Diplo is strictly micromanagement, so plan on watching the clock and pausing frequently and regularly for diplo activities. It is unknown if the character or priority settings of your other ministers influences diplomacy – one assumes that an aggressive stance by the Operations or Defense ministers sets a tone.

The next items to consider are: (1) with whom you will ally, (2) why you wish to ally with them, and (3) how deeply you will ally with them.

In general, I would use diplomatic transactions to minimize or stabilize, but not eliminate, hostile adjacencies. If you have four adjacent neighbors, you probably want to neutralize half of them with some level of treaty. If you are in a conquest-only map, understand that you also need to figure out how these treaties will eventually be neutralized (preferably by someone else conquering your adjacent ally). In this regard, you probably do not want a full formal alliance, but you do want an embassy, migration, or free trade treaty. If you can’t stand the tension, you may want to opt for a line of sight and/or transit treaty. I am increasingly reluctant to offer line of sight, but I usually have a few non-adjacent hotspots that I am willing to trade line of sight for.

In the following section (“Mechanics”), I note specific protocols with observed results. As you read them, please give some thought to the “startup” or first-year activity the you perform. Most regions start out with significant economical instability. For newer players, the first game-year is spent struggling to balance the economy. You may do one or two reviews of your diplo conditions, but you are mostly watching DAR/MAR. And somewhere about the second year you turn your thoughts to diplo. Too late. Your econ activity will have already set the baseline, and you will now have to spend another year or more in recovery. Diplo starts from day one, even at the expense of delaying your economic stabilization. This does not mean that you start right in with diplo transactions as such, but it means that you are careful not to thrash the world economy making your peer’s initial economic stabilization even harder. If you have to sell off a commodity surplus to get out of bankruptcy, try setting the stage for this first. First, identify your competition--who else is selling what you are selling? Second, identify your buyers. Watch the trade screens. The “remnants” on the trade screens represent offers-to-sell that are not taken. If you are selling 1.5 million units of petro at 69.50, and you see a neighbor’s offer of .5 million at 70 flat get left on the table, try backing your 1.5 mil off to 1 mil flat and let them sell some at 70. It is likely that they can’t compete with your 69.50 (it would be a loss to them). This will very likely reduce belli – or at least not increase it - with those neighbors. If you want a high belli with that neighbor, fine, go ahead, just be aware of it when you are doing it. At the same time, if you are backing off your sell quantity to get the prices up, look for regions which may be adversely affected by your leverage activities. Send them some free oil BEFORE you start to squeeze the market, and daily (or weekly) as you are doing this. This will definitely improve your diprelate. Just remember that they are now dependent on you, and honor that dependency with a free trade treaty, so they get a discount (from you) on future purchases of the oil you have made so expensive.

In the forum postings, one frequently hears that reducing your buildcap is a fundamental step to establishing a better diplo rating (and also increasing WM favor). It is basically good advice, but let’s consider some of the subtler aspects of this. If you watch the score panels and the news items, you will see that whoever has the highest buildcap inevitably becomes the recipient of DoW’s from everyone. Many regions will declare against the highest buildcap region despite the fact that there is no immediate threat or opportunity to act on that declaration. One of the advantages of declaring against a non-adjacent region is that, being at war, you can escalate to defcon 1 in preparation for a real conflict against an adjacent region without declaring against the adjacent region first. This makes up for a reduced buildcap by making the existing buildcap more productive. Hopefully, future versions will incorporate a buildcap score that is more related to utilization of capacity, but that is not the case in patch 3.

Overall, I concur with reduction in buildcap as a diplo posture, at least in the game as it exists today. Be in the top five, but do not be number one in buildcap. As it turns out, those with the larger buildcap can rarely afford to build as many units as capacity allows, or at best, they build cheaper (obsolete) 'throwaway' units, which they can't afford to maintain. This is now getting into military planning, which is not my scope here, but military plans as far as you can see them are obviously part of a diplo strategy as well. Regions with high buildcap may be more receptive to diplo advances than those in the mid-range, if only because they are less likely to get diplo transactions.

Although common wisdom and the blitzkrieg demonstrated that static defenses are useless in the real world, I find that a few emplacements go a long way to improving the effective quality of units placed in defensive positions. They have no maintenance cost, and better yet, they seem to have no diplo cost. I have seen situations where placing additional defensive units into a position will trigger a DoW. Replaying these situations and building an emplacement under an existing stack without adding to the stack did not trigger a DoW. The message was clear – I am reinforcing my defenses, not preparing to attack. Good fences make good neighbors. Build less, build better. Use Airstrips and Supply Depots to maintain and extend your supply infrastructure while reducing your overall costs and buildcap.

As the devs have indicated, having strong internals (good cash flow, better than average DAR, adequate research, etc.) and being a fair international neighbor will go a long way to keeping belli against you low. If your regions looks like it will have to pillage and plunder to get by, the other regions will be on guard. Likewise, if you look like you are arming to conquer, they won't like you either – pretty simple. More subtly, most of the smaller poorer regions know that they will be absorbed. If you look like a reasonable despot (instead of a cruel despot), they will be more inclined to capitulate to you when the time comes. There is nothing wrong in a quick-conquer warmonger style of play ' just don't expect to include a lot of diplo in your run. On the other hand, on a map with lots of regions (more than four or five), and lots of adjacencies, your long-term strategy probably should include diplo, especially with non-adjacent regions. Pick one or two regions to be long-term allies, and stand by them, sending cash and goods to support their efforts.

In the "Treaties" section below, I have comments about some of the meanings and potentials of the various treaty types. In general, I avoid Formal Alliances, for a couple of reasons. First, an otherwise friendly peer may not be able to afford publication of the relationship. Second, publishing the relationship would endanger other arrangements that I have. Three, agreeing to a formal alliance will cause me to receive emails about shortages experienced by my partners and I will be obligated, in the court of world opinion, to pony up resources to keep them going. Occasionally Formal Alliance is useful. Don't rule anything out--never say never.

Do not get overly excited about the news announcements of alliance formations. Understand that all will be betrayed eventually. If you have an ally who forms an alliance with one of your enemies, try not to overreact. It may or may not be meaningful. (As mentioned, there are some who believe that AIs are incapable of strategy through diplo.) Your partner may just be trying to protect themselves from something you can’t help them with. The meaning of such counter-alliances is probably more significant in reunification situations, where crossed alliances obscure the predictability of reunification votes. It is always wise to see if this alliance has placed new techs at the disposal of your partner, and you should of course bargain for those techs. They may have been doing you a favor by gaining an enemies’ tech to level the playing field. This is especially true, for instance, if you are a naval power, your partner is not, and after such an alliance they have a new naval tech. If you are not a naval power, and you have a good ally who is, and the WM offers you a naval tech, I would assume that it is a test to see how quickly you take it and offer it to your ally.

Follow through: Yes, it's just a game, and yes, the engine keeps no statistical history, but then again, what are diprelate, civrelate, and belli but a cumulative rating of your follow-through? Most of my experience comes from playing the stronger regions on the map. Less affluent regions are like mistresses – expensive to maintain. More affluent regions must be treated like partners ' if they get involved in war, you are obligated to keep them supplied. After all, you allied with them to give them the wherewithal to take on your opponents. If you treat both of the parties fairly, you should expect to see no losses in civrelate, minor ongoing losses in diprelate, but curiously, anything is possible in belli here.

Cross alliances: As in real history, it is possible to find yourself (for any number of reasons) allied with both parties of a conflict. This is one of the reasons that I avoid published formal alliances. I do not want to pick. During such conflicts I go out of my way to provide equal maintenance and support to both parties, or withhold support equally. In these situations I am more concerned with maintaining my Treaty Integrity rating rather than with who wins the conflict. These are also situations where you may find that your allies’ belli raises against you. AI’s rarely throw a tantrum and cancel a treaty.

Dependencies: If you pick an ally who is strong but deficient (e.g. St. Pete in the Russia map), prepare for a long parasitic relationship. If you formally ally and follow through (assuming you are one of the larger strong states with lots of oil to subsidize St. Pete), but do not declare on Moscow, everyone will respect you (positive dip-and civrelate), fear you (low belli) because you have a substantial and untapped military, and be too afraid to rock the boat with additional war (fearing that you will cherry pick and favor anyone who looks like a winner). If you ally but do not publish, you get low dip and civ from everyone else (as you have not demonstrated leadership), and low belli as you are still a large untapped military force. It’s all a matter of diplo posture. You military intentions are secondary: you will never get the belli you need to declare on anyone else but Moscow, or possibly Kirov, a steppingstone to Moscow. Although I have not studied all of the maps with such intensity and replays, I suspect that there is an underlying diplo solution to every map that paves the way to victory. Without the diplo, its just a shoot-em-up, reload, and shoot some more kind of game.

Mechanics and protocol

In general, offer balanced treaties, unless you explicitly intend to assume a threat posture. Offering embassy and free trade for embassy, free trade and transit (for example), ultimately signals to other regions that you are an unfair bargainer. It is possible to intimidate smaller regions into giving this kind of arrangement to you, but overall I suggest avoiding it. This is the sort of thing that causes a rankling degradation of civrelate, diprelate and belli. If you are going to threaten, then threaten, but not with treaties (demand tribute payments instead). If you want your partner to break a treaty, then persistently offer a buck or two for three or four of their key techs. Do this on a daily basis. Show them a lot of disrespect and you may be able to incite them to attack you.

Watch your trade balances. If you control a key commodity, don’t overexploit it. It is possible to corner a market, up to and including cornering petro to the extent that you can shut out even the WM. Guess what? All of the AI players will know that you can do this, and you will get along better if you just go with the flow. It is far more effective to let the WM raise a commodity price trend and use this as an opportunity to be a white knight to a suffering region. I tend to watch key commodities (petro, water, m-goods) looking for two things: who is a heavy seller, and where is the price trend. Consistently offering a commodity at trend-setting prices seems to have a direct influence on belli – in my experience this is a major mechanism. Consistently offering trend-setting price in quantities that shut out other competitors is practically guaranteed to cause all your relations with those competitors to deteriorate (generating high belli against you), possibly to the point of unrecoverability.

AI regions have very little bargaining finesse, and they have no way (except for diprelate, civrelate, and belli) of communicating their moods or intentions (normal events in real-world diplomacy). AI’s rarely initiate diplo. This does not mean that they are not receptive to it--they just aren’t that sophisticated. As such, 99% of your diplo initiatives will get a “sure, just throw in half your available cash with that” response. Depending on how well you have laid the groundwork (diprelate, civrelate, and posture), you can typically respond with, “well o.k. but I can only offer you about one tenth of the cash you want.” If your relations are very good, you may also bulk up the substance of the proposal as well as reducing the cash. For instance, you request peer embassies. The AI responds with o.k., peer embassies and gimme 1.5 billion. You reply o.k. peer embassies, free trade, and migrations and only 150 mil, and possibly most of that in surplus commodity, which you actually know to be better than cash to this particular peer. Your partner happily accepts. If not, you did not really examine your partners’ situation.

When I want to trade techs, I always look for regions that have high diprelate and low civrelate (and low belli) towards me. Obtaining treaties or embassies with such peers is unlikely ('Our people hate you, don't bother us with treaty offers'). Cash for techs seems unfair, but is sometimes the only option--you have nothing they need except cash. Again, sending surplus commodities you know them to need is more courteous than sending cash (or so it seems to me), and you get more bang for the buck (conserving cash while drawing down excessive surplus. What? You have no excessive surplus? You should develop one, even if i's just timber or uranium).

You can give commodities to anyone. You can give techs to anyone. You can give cash to anyone. You can give missiles to anyone. You can only give units to adjacent regions. Be careful about this. If you give land units to non-adjacent regions, they just change affiliation and station themselves on the base they were discharged from. If you give air units, they fly to the nearest border, circle and eventually crash. I have raised this with the devs, but never received a conclusive answer. It raised all kinds of questions about the role of the WM. Having an ally’s units hanging around your bases raises interesting possibilities in the event of an attack. Depending on the nature of your alliance, the units either have to jump in and help (including forcing your ally to declare on your behalf), suffer collateral damage (again forcing your ally to declare, or suffer), or turn against you (forcing your ally to betray an unpublished alliance). Use caution. Never ask a question for which you do not already know the answer.

I am inclined to believe that giving consumer goods has a uniquely positive effect on civrelate. If you give lots of them, it might facilitate a temporary or permanent reduction in domestic markups at your partner, so ultimately, having materially contributed to the populations’ well-being they tend to respond. This is strictly a subjective observation.

Treaties and their meanings

Embassy
A mutual sniffing of tails. Embassy and Extradition are purely used to create impediments to surprise attacks. With Embassy in place, a peer has to either cancel the treaty (i.e. negotiate before opening conflicts with you), or pay the treachery penalty of reneging on a treaty if they attack you. It's a bondage thing.
Criminal Extradition
A lovely and meaningless expression of an enlightened society (until such time as the devs add embezzlement as a treasury minister capability, in which case there might be a criminal to actually extradite). A nice gambit for opening negotiations. Similar to Embassy.
Free Trade
This actually has a real dollar value, and puts your money where your mouth is. True Friendship.
Formal Alliance
You have announced your engagement, and are waiting for the shotgun wedding. Or you want to warn off an overly aggressive neighbor of your partner. Embarrassing to break one of these.
Non-Aggression
yeah, sure, that'll last a thousand years. 'm treacherous, but 'm not stupid.
Mutual Defense/Missile Defense
Probably the most serious commitment of all – it actually enumerates the specifics of the participation. My brother can beat up your brother. On the other hand, it may be necessary to prove a point, and if the geography is right, i.e. your liability is limitable, it could be useful.
Transits (Sea+supply, land+supply, Air)
better than mutual defense, as it gives you the right, but not the obligation to help protect an ally, on terms that you choose in the moment. Personally, it better be packaged with Line-of-sight.
Line of Sight
Desirable and useful under the right circumstances. However, since I prefer balanced treaty arrangements, and I guard my deployment status jealously, I do not offer this lightly or widely.
Immigration/Emigration
A double edged sword unless both parties have stable economies. Potentially, It could raise belli of an ally with a bad inflation situation (as leaking population to you would just aggravate their inflation, or vice versa). A bargaining chip, but a less attractive chip than extradition or embassy.
Free Flow of Labor
I recall some discussion about this in the context of inflation and unemployment, but I forgot how it worked. Similar to Immigration/Emigration in my book (and this is my book).