Starting out in Diplomacy can be hard. Not many guides give you help on card selection at the lowest levels. Presented below is one very simple strategy to get you started. It's not invulnerable, but it is highly effective and should also provide you a basis to start developing your own strategy. This guide assumes that you have read What do those numbers mean? It also uses the term "strategy" as it is defined in Vanguard: strategy is the five (and later, eight) cards selected from a player's Abilities. During a parley, a player may only play cards from the strategy tray.
Each Expression type -- Demand (red), Reason (green), Inspire (blue) and Flattery (yellow/gold) -- has a card with Influence of 3-3 that costs two points of that type's Expression to play. The cards are:
All four of these cards will make up the core of the strategy. I will refer to these as the "Influence-3" cards.
For the fifth card of our strategy, we're going to use one of four cards to "jump-start" one of the 3-3 Influence cards. As before, each Expression type has one, but this time we can only pick one of them for our hand.
To decide which one, you should first know your race's favored Expression type. Then select the card of that Expression type from the list below:
- Frank Discussion - Red/Demand
- Exchange of Views - Green/Reason
- Moral Authority - Blue/Inspire
- Common Ground -- Yellow/Flattery
These cards all have zero Influence, zero Cost and provide 2 points of their Expression type to you and 1 point to your opponent. They each also have a Refresh Timer of 3-5. I will refer to this as the "jump-start card."
Basic play for an InterviewEdit
We begin with an Interview -- a conversation type that allows all four Expression types.
On the first turn, play your jump-start card. In all likelihood, your opponent will take control of the conversation. However, now you should be able to play your Influence-3 card of the same Expression type as your jump-start card. You will also likely take back control of the conversation.
As your opponent plays, he will add Expression points to your side of the board. By now, your opponent has played two cards. In most cases, you will have two points of another Expression type. Play the Influence-3 card of that Expression type.
Once you control the conversation by at least three points of Influence, be cautious about playing additional cards. It's better to Listen and deny your opponent additional Influence points. Remember, as long as the Parley Indicator is on your side of the board, you're getting closer to winning.
If you do not have enough Expression points after the second card is played, don't panic! Just Listen and wait. If necessary, wait until your jump-start card refreshes, then play it and play your Influence-3 card again. (This very rarely happens.)
Keep an eye on what Expression points are building up on your opponent's side of the board (especially if you find yourself losing). If you need to parley this opponent again, you'll want to adjust your strategy to favor that Expression type. Also notice what Expression type(s) your opponent is using most. Then adjust your strategy to avoid that Expression type, much as if you were having a conversation type that disallowed that Expression type.
Adjusting for other conversation typesEdit
Only the Interview conversation type allows all four Expression types. Each of the remaining conversation types "negates" one Expression type.
(An interesting point to note: cards of the "negated" Expression type may still be played -- as long as they have zero cost. For this most basic strategy, we'll ignore this fact. We come back to it in Improvements on the basic strategy: Undermining a nuker. Most of our cards have Expression cost anyway, so they couldn't be played.)
When the conversation doesn't negate your jump-start cardEdit
For three of the four conversations, only one of our cards will be excluded -- the Influence-3 card of the negated Expression type. Again sticking to a very basic strategy, we're going to pick the replacement card from a group of cards that are similar across all four Expression types. What these four cards have in common is that they all have zero cost and they all provide one point of every Expression type to the opponent (i.e., the Expression-to-Opponent is 1111). They differ in Influence and Refresh Timer.
- Piece of Mind (Card) - Influence 3, Refresh 5-5
- Snippet of Wisdom - Influence 2, Refresh 3-3
- Flash of Inspiration - Influence 1, Refresh 1-1
- Bit of Charm - Influence 2, Refresh 2-4
As you can see, we can pick a card with high Influence and a long Refresh Timing or a card with low Influence and a short Refresh Timer. Pick whichever card you like. However, whichever card you choose, you want to avoid playing it. I will refer to it as the "emergency card." (If you absolutely can't decide, pick Piece of Mind. It has a long Refresh Timer, but you should only need to play it once, if at all.)
Play should proceed similar to Basic play. Start with the jump-start card, then play your Influence-3 card and try to maintain control of the conversation using just your Influence-3 cards and Listening. You may think it will be harder to gain the two Expression points needed to play the other Influence-3 cards. However, since your opponent is playing more cards of those Expression types than he or she did (or would) during an Interview conversation, the points build up faster and allow you to play the Influence-3 cards.
As before, if you have firm control of the conversation, use Listen. Don't play needlessly and give your opponent Expression. You'll find that you win many parleys by simply "starving" your opponent of Expression versus pummeling him with card after card.
You may find the parley almost over and the Parley Indicator hovering around zero. If your emergency card has enough Influence to turn the tide for you, use it. Keep in mind that you're giving your opponent a lot of Expression to use against you if you play one of these cards. (Of course, what you provide and what your opponent can actually use aren't always the same thing.)
If you have to resort to an emergency card in order to win a parley, there was probably a better way. Read the section on Improvements on the basic strategy, analyze the parley and see if you can find it. In most cases, it will be a simple matter of picking a different jump-start card or undermining a nuker.
When the conversation negates your jump-start cardEdit
The previous section covered strategy when only one of your Influence-3 cards was negated. However, there is always a conversation type that will negate your jump-start card, too.
The simplest solution is to substitute one of the other jump-start cards for your main jump-start card. At the start of the parley, you play your substitute jump-start card and follow it with the Influence-3 card of the jump-start card's Expression type.
The rest of your play should follow when the conversation doesn't negate your jump-start card.
I decide to play a Dwarf, so my racial Expression type is Demand (red). My basic Interview strategy consists of:
My first two plays would be Frank Discussion followed by Aggressive Statement.
If I had to have a Convince conversation, my strategy would change to:
- Aggressive Statement
- Itemized Comparison
- Bit of Charm (Emergency Card)
- Enticing Whisper
- Frank Discussion
My first two plays would be the same as for an Interview conversation. (Note that I picked Bit of Charm at random for this example.)
Finally, for an Entertain conversation (the Conversation type that negates my favored Expression type, including my jump-start card), my strategy might change to:
- Bit of Charm (Emergency Card)
- Itemized Comparison
- Loud Criticism
- Enticing Whisper
- Moral Authority (substitute jump-start card)
My first two plays with this strategy would by Moral Authority followed by Loud Criticism.
Improvements on the basic strategyEdit
Beginning diplomats are given two Ability cards based on their race and class. These cards are typically better than the "1111" emergency cards. Try substituting one (or both, in turn) during a (non-Interview) parley and see how the play changes.
Choosing a better jump-start cardEdit
Choosing your jump-start card based on your race's favored Expression type helps you access your race's special Ability card. However, sometimes your opponent will also favor the same Expression type. In those cases, since your jump-start card also gives your opponent one Expression point, try picking a jump-start of a different Expression type. You can also consider the opponent's class or Station. Read the article Predicting an NPC's Deck for more information.
Undermining a nukerEdit
Some NPCs are able to quickly build up Expression points in a single Expression type, allowing them to play cards with a high Cost and a large Influence (greater than your Influence-3 cards). The bad news is that you'll probably lose to them the first time that you parley. However, you should now know what Expression type they favor. Modify your strategy as follows:
- Choose a jump-start card of an Expression type other than their favored one.
- Look at which Influence-3 card gives their favored Expression type. Remove it from your strategy.
- Find the Ability card that has zero Cost and deducts two points of Expression from the opponent. Add it to your strategy. Note that this card may be of an Expression type that is "negated" for the given Conversation type. Even so, as noted near the beginning of this article, the card can still be played since it has zero Cost.
This strategy is relatively simple but it wins most low-level parleys. As you follow it, moving cards in and out, watching your opponents play, you'll begin to see your own strategies. As with many things, you can often learn more from failures than from successes. The great thing about low-level parleys is that they have no negative consequences if you lose (unless you count having to wait for the "cool-down" timer on the NPC so that you can parley again). You should win often enough to give you confidence and only lose just enough to actually improve your play.
If you have another strategy, be sure to add it to this article!