"Basic Diplomacy" by Mathias Dellaert 1997 Any

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Basic Diplomacy

by: Mathias Dellaert

In this article I am trying to shed a light on one of the most interesting topics in Stars! : Diplomacy.


Why would you want to use Diplomacy ? In my opinion the main reason is just for the fun involved with it. Diplomacy, when done right, is one of the (not to say the) most challenging and Interesting thing about Stars! IMHO, It's much more fun then the Monster races.

The other reason is the power of it. Diplomacy can and WILL make the difference between winning and losing a game. Every game will force you to use Diplomacy.

1. I PRESUME ... ?

One of the most important things in the start of the game is let people know what your intentions are (except if you want to play Invisible, more about that later). In most games, you will get a few messages of the other players greeting everybody. Most likely you will also have done something like that.

That first message is very important. At this early stage the game could be decided.

Your message needs to be modest. Let them know your people are friendly, and that you want to be everybody's best friend. Your message should look a bit like this :

We, the Atoms, are a friendly race that are starting to explore the wonders of the Galaxy.
We invite everybody to contact us so we can meet other people and expand our mutual understandings. This might later evolve in a friendship between our races, which is all we want.
Sincerely, the atoms "

Don't try to intimidate people in the beginning of the games, this makes people careful and will probably evolve in nobody trusting you.

You could ad some lines explaining that you are fond of your privacy and request the other races to try to keep their ships out of your space (they will probably respond by asking where you live, just kindly reply them that for the safety of your people you are not allowed to say so, but that they will be warned if one of their ships gets too close).


After a while, you will meet your neighbours. Probably this will inflict a discussion on the topic. There are a few rules you should obey :

1) Don't get exited/angry

Always try to be reasonable, or at least appear like that. You will probably want to have these people as allies, the first contact with them is crucial.

2) Defining Borders

When it comes to defining borders, try to be reasonable. Explain them carefully why they can't have that planet (e.g. to close to your HW for your safety).

3) Your intentions

Always tell them that you have the best intentions and really hope for a closer alliance.

4) Giving some planets up

If you have a wide enough planet you can give up planets you already populated (providing you didn't build to many installations yet). It will convince them that you are an ally and they will easier trust you.

5) Be firm

Although this might seem to contradict with what I said earlier, it really doesn't. You have to be firm in whatever you do. This will give the impression that you are a steady ally, one they can trust.

Sometimes, you will not need to define exact borders. E.g. if your hab. ranges don't overlap. This adds to your alliance, making a bigger co-operation possible.


You need allies.

You need allies that you can trust. "Good" allies. Having a good first contact is the best start for an alliance and the most important.

IMHO, there are 2 situations that will get you alliances.

The first situation is the one discussed above : neighbours.

These alliances need time to grow. The first thing that will happen is the discussion about Borders, described earlier.

To give your alliance a better start, you might want to give him a gift, like ships or minerals. Don't ask anything in return for it.

After that the first thing you will probably do is exchanging tech. How this will happen is entirely up to you. I suggest you read the article about "Tech Xfers".

The second situation which can form an alliance is the need for one. This need will most likely be a mutual enemy or some other kind of danger. These alliances will form much quicker and are therefore less strong.

This situation is explained in more detail in the next chapter.


What if you have an enemy who is getting to strong ? What can you do against it ? You probably won't be strong enough to handle the threat own your own so ... you'll need help.

First, you have to find somebody to help you. When choosing the right ally there are a few things to keep in mind :

1) Don't let your enemy know you need help. This will make him careful or make him attack you before you had time to get stronger or anybody responds.

2) Choose your allies right. Make sure they aren't allies or friends of your enemy.

3) See to it that your positions are useful. Don't take an ally at the other side of the Galaxy. Your best choice is to take an ally that is also a neighbour of your enemy and experiences an equal threat.

How to ask for help

When you chose the right ally, time has come to contact him. In the contacting message, try to convince your (future) ally of the danger your enemy exposes both of you to. Also, try to convince them that THEY need an alliance, not you

Your main goal in this stage will be defence, not attack.

Your contacting message should look something like this :

"We, the atoms, have experienced a threat coming from the raptors. Looking at their expansion and their preparations, we believe they are preparing for a war. This worries us.
To ensure our mutual safety, we think that we are considering an Alliance with your noble people, enabling both our races to face the threat of the raptors.
If you have any troubles with them, please contact us and we will do anything that's in our power to help you.
The Atoms. "

This is a good method of getting allies when you need them. However when you have some more time you can give the alliance a better chance by sending him some messages warning him about the raptors.

"We, the Atoms, have noticed a lot of activity going on in the raptor empire. We think they might be preparing for a war.
We suggest you are very cautious and keep an eye on your borders."

This will make it much more easier to form an alliance with them when the need arises.


In Stars! Every PRT has diplomacy benefits or options. In this chapter I'll take a look at them.

HE: The Diplomacy king. If you have this race trait you are going to need a lot of diplomacy (many people will hate you). Unfortunately there are only few things you can give. As a matter of fact I can think of only one : Small, very gatable transport ships. These are based on the spore cloud design but with a cargo pod instead of a colonisation module. Their advantage is their settler's delight engine.

SS: When you have the SS trait the main thing you will offer is knowledge. This knowledge will be either tech levels or, more important, information about other players. I have already discussed this in another article: "Diplomacy and Super-Stealth : trading knowledge" but as most of you probably haven't read it I will sum up the Basics :

Build high-cloaked good-scanner ships and send them out in the galaxy (I suggest the frigate hull). Later you can use this information as either a manner to form an alliance with someone or as a manner to keep an enemy under control (threatening to give away it away).

As a SS you also have other things to offer : highly cloaked mine sweepers/layers by example.

WM: For a WM, it's a bit more difficult to form an alliance as many people won't trust a WM race. One way to fight this is to use the things discussed in chapter 1 (I presume). OTOH, when people want protection or need an ally to fight an Enemy, WM is very popular.

As a WM you will offer protection and weapon tech.

CA: Easiest race for Diplomacy, people won't fear or hate you like with the previous PRT's. On the contrary, they will want an alliance with you to get your terraforming help. This terraforming is very powerful as it works both ways. As long as they are friends you will help them but as soon as they do something you don't like you can de-terraform their planets (keep the terraformers in orbit). People will think twice before declaring a CA as enemy.

IS: IS is a difficult race for Diplomacy as you haven't got much to offer, only Super freighters and tachion detector ships. However, people will trust you easily because of your friendly and defensive nature.

<-- I was a bit wrong here like Jason Cawley said. As an IS you can also trade other things like e.g. early fuelers-->

SD: As for the CA, the SD's diplomacy options work both ways. You can fill their space with minefields to protect them but if they try to back-stab you, they will be immobilised by the same fields that used to protect them.

PP: Packet Physics is not a real Diplomacy race. They have virtually nothing to offer except to fling packets for their allies (which won't happen often because that would mean that the ally needs to give him the minerals).

IT: IT is together with CA and SD a very powerful race for diplomacy. You can offer them to use your unlimited gates to transport their ships. Ally's will want a planet of you nearby their planets for that reason.

AR: The AR are like the PP not very good in diplomacy. The only thing that springs to mind is using your HW mineral potential to Trade.

Joat: Same. You can offer to scan.

There are also some LRT's that improve your diplomatic position. Not having one of the limiting LRT's (NRSE, OBRM, NAS) springs to mind. You can give ships with technology the other one can't build. Same for the ARM and IFE traits.


When the alliance is formed, the hardest part is over. There really are only a few things to do to keep an alliance alive :

1) Share information about planets and other players. Warn him when someone sends a fleet at him

2) Exchange tech

3) Help him whenever you can. Give him support his defence and, if you have a close alliance, his attacks.

4) Never give away info about him.

5) Don't get arrogant. Treat him as an equal.


This is in my opinion one of the best parts about diplomacy : trying to convince the masses.

I used these techniques for winning a fight without having to build one warship.

The situation was the following : I was a HE and my enemy was a HE-hating SS who happened to be my neighbour. He tried to convince people that I should be exterminated before I grew to much and started to attack my fleets.

The resulting was a word fight between me and him, both of us sending our messages to everybody.

The thing was that I was a better diplomat and after a while he gave up and we came to a peace agreement.

1) When fighting these word battles, try follow the following 'rules' :

2) Be reasonable and calm. Give good arguments for everything you say.

3) Act like your enemy has hurt your feelings, try to justify your actions

4) Never swear

5) Try to make your enemy look bad by giving your view on what he recently did, but do this like said in rule 1.

6) Warn people about your enemy. How evil he is.

7) Fight what he said, unravel his lies.

Here's an example (I used a similar message in the word battle I was talking about) :

"We, the atoms, want to warn other races about the hostile nature of the raptors.
We have unsuccessfully tried to negotiate peace talks but they keep refusing to talk.
We hope nobody pays notice of the messages from the raptors to unite and fight against our peaceloving race.
We don't understand what we have done to deserve their hate but if they can tell us we will try to change it.
Further more, we resent their practices. Killing a defenceless colonist transport is in our opinion one of the lowest things you can do.
To their allies we say this : be warned of back-stabbing"

You can use these public messages also to justify your actions. E.g. he did that, that and that. We are a patient race but even to our patience comes an end. Unless he stops these practices we will have to take actions.


Peace is a wonderful thing. You should do as much as possible to preserve it. Peace treaty's are necessary for this. Always try to turn war into peace when wars is a bad thing for you (which is often the case).

For this you can choose out different peace treaty's :

1) Close Borders treaty

With this treaty you decide to have a closed border between your empires. A close border means that no ships of involved races may cross it and that all ships in enemy space must be pulled back immediately. This ensures peace only for a short period of time as tensions will be high. Remember the Cold War ? This treaty should not be formed with SS players.

2) Give and take treaty

This treaty is for solving smaller disagreements. You decide that : (a) will give this ship and that planet to (b) and that (b) will give this planet and that amount of minerals to (a). At the same time (a) and (b) agree not to attack each other's ships. This could be done with or without Closed Borders.

3) half-surrender treaty

This is only possible if party (a) is much stronger then party (b) but party (b) is to big to get defeated without (a) having many losses. Party (b) becomes a part of party (a)'s empire and has to pay him a yearly amount of minerals to (a). However (b) is allowed to keep his independent government.

There are of coarse other treaty's, but these are the most important.

If both parties are equally strong then you need to negotiate peace talks.

These peace talks are often started by a message coming from one of the parties, looking like this :

"We, the atoms, would like to initiate peace talks between our two races.
We believe that a war at this stage of our races development would be unfavourable for both of us."

After that it comes to discussing peace. When doing that, use rules 1 and 5 of the Border formation section. You may forget the others as they are mainly to get an ally.

Important when discussing peace is to set your limits and don't go over them. Don't let your enemy think you are afraid. If you want at least 5 planets, don't settle with 3.

On the other hand, don't be too arrogant. If you are, your enemy might decide on not having a treaty at all.


This chapter handles three topics regarding back-stabbing : handling allies that back-stab you, back-stabbing an ally and getting someone to back-stab an enemy. All these topics regard one of the most dangerous diplomatic actions : back-stabbing.

Handling back-stabbing allies

What to do when an ally back-stabs you ?

Actually there are only a few diplomatic things you can do:

You can kill a few of his ships, threaten him and that way try to get him back at your side (providing he isn't stronger then you are).

You can try to talk him back. Reasoning with him and make the ground under his feet shake (not literally). When doing this, try to follow the same rules you used when defining borders. However, you can make yourself a little angry.

Go over to Mass Diplomacy. Tell everybody he back-stabbed you and therefore is not a safe ally. This won't bring him back but will make other players think twice before they form an alliance with him.

If you are stronger than him you can attack him, using mass diplomacy to explain your actions to other players. This will make your other allies think twice before they back-stab you.

Back-stabbing an ally

Think very careful before you back-stab an ally. Make sure that you are much stronger than him or that you can form an alliance with someone else (prob. his enemy).

Make sure that he doesn't find out about your intentions. Surprise is very important.

Getting someone to back-stab your enemy.

Here you can show what a great diplomat you are ! Trying to get someone to your site is one of the (if not the) most difficult diplomatic actions.

It requires much planning and much careful talking.

The first thing you have got to do is convince him that your enemy isn't a safe ally. You can use the same methods used in chapter 4 but very careful. Don't try to speed things up. Just make him feel not at ease with his current ally. If you have to, just drive him paranoid.

This first step should ideally be done without sending a message directly. If necessary make one of your allies send him some disturbing messages.

Then, when he is feeling uneasy, send him a message to convince him to back-stab your enemy.

In this message, try to be as sincere as Jason Cawley, but don't use as many words.

You will need to offer him things (planets, minerals, a yearly income...) to make him betray his ally. Your gifts should reflect his importance.

Here's a sample message :

We, the Atoms, offer you an alliance with our empire.
If you decide to accept it and run over to us, we will give you :
-The mineral-rich planets La Te Da, Cassiopeia and LGM 3.
-In addition to that we will give you 5 000 Kt of minerals and provide you with a yearly income of 1 000 Kt minerals delivered to you by mineral packet."

Of coarse, you can first convince him why an alliance with your empire is better than one with your enemy's but that depends on the personality of the one you try to convince.

Try to keep these negotiations a secret. Don't let your enemy find out about them. Even after you convinced him it's likely that you want to keep the alliance a secret until you come in action.


I believe this is about all I have to say about diplomacy for now, if I think of something else I'll write an addendum.

I hope you can use what I wrote.

If this article gets good response, I might write another one regarding battle tactics with multiple players involved.

Mathias Dellaert