War and Peace: Secret Master's Guide to Diplomacy and Imperialism
For those coming to the Victoria franchise with the release of Victoria II, diplomacy and warfare can be a bit bewildering. Conquests generate infamy, which in turn can cause the whole world to declare war on a player if it goes above 25 infamy. As for more peaceful forms of expansion, it can seem that the entire world is playing a diplomatic game that is against the player at all times. In fact, some players have complained that the game seems to punish imperialism against ones neighbors, and rewards sitting around and not getting in to wars. This is not actually the case; however, until you understand the AI’s behavior and how certain game mechanics work, the path to conquest can be a bit opaque. With that in mind, I have developed a guide to help guide you in these matters.
Note: This guide assumes a working knowledge of game mechanics, as explained by both the manual and tutorials. If you are very new to the game and just feeling your way around, this guide might be less useful to you than some others.
Picking Appropriate Targets for Conquest
The first thing you have to understand before declaring a single war is that the Great Powers jealously guard against all imperialism except their own, much like their 19th Century counterparts. The AI in Victoria II is programmed not only to conquer its neighbors through wars, but also to prevent others from doing the same. The Great Powers will often put other countries in their SOI in order to get their resources, and sometimes they will form alliances as well. However, the best tool the Great Powers have is the ability to intervene in wars that others have started. This can be a real problem, because the last thing anyone wants is the United Kingdom sending a thousand brigades to intervene in your conquest of a colonial concession in China.
But Great Powers can only intervene in wars when they have a diplomatic status of Friendly with the country that is being attacked AND when the country in question has not added any wargoals. This means that there are a couple of rules you can follow to ensure that you do not run afoul of the Great Powers when you want to conquer your enemies.
Rule #1: Do NOT attack any country that has Friendly status with other Great Powers unless you want them to intervene. If a country has a status of Friendly with a Great Power, consider it a certainty that the Great Power will intervene to stop your aggression, unless your MIL score is substantially larger than the Great Power in question.
Rule #2: Attack uncivilized countries early and often. The longer the game goes on, the more countries that will fall into the SOIs of Great Powers or have Friendly status with them. You might be tempted to wait until you develop Nationalism and Imperialism so that you can use the cheaper Protectorate casus belli to annex multi-state uncivilized countries for only eight infamy, but 1.2 reduced the effectiveness of this technology by making it impossible to Protectorate any uncivilized country with five states or more. This typically includes the uncivilized countries that are most valuable, including Japan, Egypt, Siam, and China. You should be building ships and brigades to attack uncivilized countries from day one if your long term plan includes conquering pieces of Asia and Africa.
Rule #3: When attacked by other countries, feel free to smack them around. Great Powers cannot intervene in offensive wars, so if you enemy has added a wargoal, it's time to crush them.
Rule #4: Great Powers will sometimes intervene in larger wars that you start against other Great Powers. The set up looks like this: Say you are Germany, and you declare war on Austria. Austria brings in its allies, including Serbia. If Serbia has Friendly status with Russia, Russia might intervene on the side of Austria to “protect” Serbia. This is far less certain than an intervention in a war declared directly against Serbia, but it remains a possibility. You should have a contingency plan in case this happens, or nullify this problem by using your influence.
Influence: An Offensive Weapon
It may seem counterintuitive, but the rules I listed in the previous section should illustrate one of the most important and least understood parts of the diplomatic game in Victoria II. Influence is not just a tool for soft imperialism (putting nations in your SOI). As of patch 1.2, Influence is, in fact, a weapon to be used liberally in advancing your own conquests and limiting the conquests of others. It is a pity that too many players just look at Influence as a way to expand economic markets by adding countries to your SOI or as a way of unifying Germany and Italy, because when you properly use you own Influence, you can neutralize the ability of other Great Powers to intervene against your conquests and you can block the imperialistic ambitions of other Great Powers.
But how do you do all of this with Influence?
First, you must remember that Great Powers can only intervene in a war if they have Friendly status with a combatant. This means that if you want to annex an uncivilized country like Brunei, you have to make sure no other Great Powers have Friendly status with Brunei, otherwise they will likely intervene and make your life difficult. But you can remove that Friendly status using your own influence. This takes time, especially if the Great Power really wants to keep their relations up with the country in question. But with enough effort, you can not only pry minor powers out of the SOIs of Great Powers, but you can eliminate the possibility of the Great Power intervening in a war of conquest.
Keep in mind that once you reduce the Great Power in question to Cordial or worse, there is nothing stopping them from trying to get back to Friendly. If you declare war too soon after dropping them to Cordial, they other Great Power will simply generate influence back to Friendly and then intervene six months into your war. And you cannot use your influence once you declare war on a country, so you cannot block their diplomacy. The best option you have is to reduce them to Cordial, and then ban their embassy. That buys you at least a year, not counting the influence they have to generate to get back to Friendly. Finish your war quickly and there is nothing the other Great Power can do to stop your aggression.
Influence can also be used to block the imperialism of other Great Powers. The AI is programmed to respect Friendly status when you have a good MIL score. So, if you are one of the world’s leading military powers, you can protect minor powers without even having an alliance or putting them in your SOI by buying yourself up to Friendly status. Other Great Powers will take note of your status and will leave the minor power alone until they kick you out or you are involved in a war elsewhere.
Even more interesting, if you think one part of the world has the potential to be a flashpoint for future conflicts, it might pay to spend some influence so you have the right to intervene. Gaining Friendly status with countries like Wallachia, Japan, China, Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, and Denmark (before German Unification) will give you the option to meddle in these conflicts if you so choose.
China deserves a special mention here. The Great Powers readily understand the importance China has in the world. Any heavily industrialized Great Power that manages to get China into their SOI will experience a substantial economic boost, as China has the largest single market on the planet. This is not news to anyone. What is more interesting to think about is how both the United Kingdom and the Russian Empire like to snag pieces of China for themselves. Unless you are the United Kingdom yourself, it is to your detriment that the United Kingdom annexes pieces of China or snags the whole country into its SOI. At the same time, China’s score is so high, even as an uncivilized country, that generating influence is difficult. Assuming you do not want to concede the market of China to the United Kingdom and Russia, and assuming you want a piece of it for yourself, then what can you do? First, I would annex either Korea or Dai Nam to get a land border with China. This makes generating Influence much easier. Second, and this is vitally important, you need to get yourself to Friendly status without screwing over the other Great Powers that are not the United Kingdom. You should focus your Influence on either advancing yourself or reducing the United Kingdom’s position. If France wants to generate Influence, let them. Why? Because chances are that the other Great Powers will keep trying to establish a position in China, and the United Kingdom will be forced to spend Influence in ridiculous amounts to counteract the other Great Powers. Banning France from China only helps the United Kingdom focus on you.
Once you have Friendly status, you have to decide whether you think you can put China into your SOI and keep it there, or whether you want pieces of it for yourself. If you have enough influence to put China in your SOI and keep it, despite the efforts of the Great Powers, you might as well go for it. Annexing a state or two will not bring the same economic benefits that putting them in your SOI will. Of course, deciding to do this will likely consume most of your Influence for the rest of the game; the other Great Powers will never leave China alone.
If you choose to take a piece for yourself, consider also hurting the United Kingdom at the same time. The United Kingdom generally has a land border with China through Burma, which they almost always conquer quite early in the game. This makes it easy for the United Kingdom to generate Influence with China and invade. To solve this problem, why not use the Free People war goal and liberate Chinese provinces that border the United Kingdom/Burma? You get a piece of China that will automatically be in your SOI, and you can use it as a buffer state to keep the British from having as much diplomatic leverage in China. You can also demand those provinces as a Colonial Concession, but that will give you a land border with the British. Depending on your long term strategy this might be a bad idea.
Unless you get lucky with random events or play a country that has cores on a neighbor, offensive wars will generate infamy. Some players like to wait until they get a legitimate casus belli so they can declare war without infamy hits; however, contrary to what some players claim, all countries lose infamy fairly quickly while at peace. For every five years at peace, a country loses six infamy. One will lose 120 infamy during an entire game. This may not seem like a lot, but it can be budgeted in such a way as to allow for plenty of conquest without waiting for random events. Consider the following points.
First, the most expensive way to annex territory is via the Conquest wargoal. This can normally only be done to civilized countries that comprise only a single state (it may also be used in wars between uncivs). It costs 20 infamy, making it a horrendously expensive. In most cases, annexing minor powers in this fashion is not worth the infamy. You would do better to put them in your sphere instead.
The Acquire a State wargoal is the next most expensive. It costs 10 infamy per state, regardless of whether you annex a single province state or seven province state. In terms of infamy, this is still expensive; however, it also only applies to civilized countries and full states, not colonies. Colonies of civilized countries are acquired using the Place in the Sun casus belli, which costs 9 infamy. This is still expensive, but it does mean that conquering colonies from your neighbors before they become states is to be preferred.
In terms of uncivilized countries, annexing a state via the Colonial Concession wargoal only costs 4 infamy. Complete conquest of an uncivilized country via the Protectorate wargoal only costs 8 infamy. You can only Protectorate one state uncivilized countries early in the game, but the Nationalism and Imperialism technology allows for the annexation of uncivilized states with up to four states.
But there are other ways to expand your base of power. You can force a country into your SOI via the Add to Sphere wargoal for only 5 infamy, regardless of size; however, this only works on countries that are currently not in an SOI, and other Great Powers will intervene if they have Friendly status. You can also liberate a country that has been conquered by another country for 3 infamy per state using the Free People wargoal, and the newly liberated country will be in your SOI.
There are also a few wargoals that do not directly expand your own power, but penalize other countries. The Cut Down to Size wargoal grants you income from the defeated enemy and halves their military at the cost of 11 infamy. Humiliation costs 3 infamy, and Releasing Puppets costs 0.5 infamy. Also, taking a country out of your enemy’s SOI and putting them in your SOI only costs 4 infamy, as opposed to the 5 infamy of Add to Sphere.
There are a number of important lessons to be taken from these costs, and you would do well to keep them in mind.
1. If you are interested in acquiring large swaths of land, you should be attacking uncivilized countries and you should research Nationalism and Imperialism ASAP. You should also be attacking them early and often, to prevent other Great Powers from protecting them.
2. Taking land away from civilized countries is generally very expensive. You should be engineering the possibility of border disputes (very low relations and a common border) in order to generate the needed random events. And when you get them, use them effectively by annexing the right states.
3. If you want to cripple another Great Power, you do not want to take land. That is too expensive. Instead, use the Free People wargoal to dismember your enemies cheaply. The best way to do this is to either liberate people directly, or put a country in your sphere that has cores on your enemy (Egypt has cores on the Ottoman Empire, for example). Then you can solidify your own SOI by beating down other Great Powers cheaply and effectively.
4. Keep your wars short; you lose very little infamy while you are in a state of war, regardless of who initiated the war or the war goals involved. While it might be tempting to drag China into a five year war for five colonial concessions, you end up budgeting your infamy better by quickly running up a warscore of 25% through battles and demanding one or two states in a war that lasts six months or a year. You can always demand more concessions later after the treaty expires, although the best RGOs are probably in a few select states.
Long Term Strategies for Conquest
While it can be gratifying to just conquer large tracts of land, you really should make intelligent choices when it comes to conquests. Assuming you are not going to conquer the whole world, you have to make some tough choices on where to attack and when.
One consideration is that while coal and iron are valuable in the early game, in the late game, coal and iron are oversupplied on the world market. In the late game, the most valuable RGOs are timber, rubber, oil, and precious metals.
Thanks the United Kingdom’s vast consumption of timber in countless paper mills, you will find it difficult to supply your own needs in the late game if you do not conquer other sources.
As for rubber, while the world’s supply might seem large, it is more than possible to use up the world’s supply for two reasons. First, lots of the rubber in the world is to be found in either uncivilized countries or low tech civilized countries. Putting these countries in your sphere will not help increase their production; conquest will ensure not only a steady supply, but that your technology and infrastructure can be used to extract the maximum amount. Second, the demand for rubber shoots up because it is used in multiple stages of the production of high tech luxury goods like aeroplanes and automobiles, to say nothing of expensive military goods like barrels.
Oil is also an important resource if you are not the United States or Russia. If you intend to build many cruisers and dreadnoughts, you will need to refine hundreds of units of fuel a day, which in turn will require well over a hundred units of oil a day. Owning your own supply will make for some very valuable RGOs.
As for precious metals, they are pure profit, and you can find many of these RGOs in Johore, parts of China and Japan, and in parts of Africa.
Keeping these thoughts in mind, the Dutch colonial possessions in the Pacific Ocean are actually very valuable in the late game, thanks to oil, rubber, and precious metals. They are also near valuable uncivilized countries like Siam and Brunei which also supply these resources. A player that is thinking ahead might begin annexing those states during the first half of the game in order to get those critical resources. With some forethought, you can control enough of the world’s supply of rubber to be able to produce all the cars, electric gears, and airplanes the world market demands. This can be very lucrative.
Another consideration is that carving concessions out of China can supply plenty of timber, coal, and iron, in addition to a wide variety of other resources. If you want to break the United Kingdom’s monopoly on tea, conquering large portions of China and applying advanced technology to the harvesting of tea will supply your own SOI with plenty of tea; however, it will also oversupply the world market, lowering the price even further.
Egypt is a decent target for annexation, but only for its population density around Cairo. Ethiopia is a decent target as well, though the coffee RGOs will oversupply coffee to your SOI unless you have enough POPs to consume it. Morocco can be a tempting target, but unless you intend to colonize Africa, the resources there are not tempting enough to justify the infamy cost. Abu Dubai might be a tempting target for the oil they will discover later in the game, but places like Brunei supply more.
North Africa and the Middle East are not the best places for imperialism (central Africa has access to rubber, a critical resource if you can get people to move to those provinces). They have states with low populations and resources that are not really critical. You will spend infamy annexing these states for little benefit, unless you need naval bases for colonial range.
Much like the historical Concert of Europe, the Great Powers in Victoria II will aggressively attempt to limit territorial expansion by other countries. However, like your 19th Century counterparts, you can play a smart diplomatic game and arrange the foreign policy of rival nations in such a way as to achieve your goals. Just remember to avoid making rash decisions for war. Always think five to twenty years in advance, considering how you might set up an opposing nation so that when the time is right, you can strike at them without anyone coming to their aid.