Why Even Engage In Diplomacy?
Your first question probably is "What's the point?". Maybe you have dabbled in diplomacy with a non-aggression pact here or a trade agreement there, but never applied it systematically. While you still want to build up a strong economy in your regions and a powerful force on the battlefield, diplomacy plays a supporting role in Total War: Warhammer which can help you reach your goals.
Here are some advantages:
Control: You secure can your flanks with the help of allies to focus on your primary goals. No surprise attacks from your neighbors anymore!
Money: While a single trade agreement may not help much, it can accumulate quickly if you have lots of trading partners and goods. You can also ask for gifts.
Protection: Powerful allies will prevent other factions from ganging up against you. This is a very typical problem for weak and strong player factions.
Stronger garrisons: At some point, your allies will build outposts in some of your cities. These outposts will contribute troops to strengthen your garrisons.
Allied troops: Building outposts in the cities of your allies will allow you to recruit units of your ally. This can potentially fix blind spots in your roster. You don't even have to pay money (for recruitment, that is)!
Better organization: The ability to trade cities allows you to complete regions for commandments without violence. You also can subjugate whole factions as vassals or integrate them in your empire (if you share the same race with them).
Remember: There is no disadvantage in engaging in diplomacy and you don't necessarily have to invest money (although it helps a lot). It is an additional way to play the game and may help you to win!
Step 0 – Check Your Faction's Capacity For Diplomatic Relations
When it comes to diplomacy, not all factions are created equal. So before you even begin playing the game, you should think about which faction you choose and what you can expect regarding your diplomatic relations. There are a few factions which are naturally talented at politics, whereas others have a very hard time forming even the most basic agreements.
Here are some examples:
High Elves are one of the factions which have the easiest time having good diplomatic relations, naturally with other dependable "order" factions. They have technologies aiding their relations with other races and trade is crucial to their gameplay.
Due to their undead nature, the Vampire Counts face a natural aversion from many other factions, including the Empire, for example. But at the same time, they can counter this disadvantage with researching the right technology and using the Lahmian bloodline in their blood kiss mechanic. Of course, they can also choose to team up with factions which hold no grudge against them.
Despite being undead as well (though generally not vampiric), Tomb Kings have neutral relations to most other factions. This means you have much more freedom in choosing allies and you are less determined by the game's starting situation.
On the other side of the spectrum, Beastmen are horrible at diplomacy. Their main focus is the destruction and looting of settlements and they are unable to use resources to create merchandise, making trade agreements rather pointless and unprofitable. Also, most factions hate you and would rather massacre all of your people instead of reaching out and be your allies.
The Chaos Warriors used to be in the same place as the Beastmen are now, but with the huge influx of more chaos-aligned factions in the third instalment of the series, they now have much more options for diplomatic relations.
The Slaaneshi factions (Daemons of Chaos and Warriors of Chaos) also deserve a special mention, as they are very strong in diplomacy due to their "seductive influence" special mechanic. This offers a huge boost when dealing with human, elven and beastmen factions and offers an easier way to vassalize their victims.
So your diplomatic experience depends very much on your intended playstyle. If you mostly want to maim and kill with the Beastmen, you may forge just a single alliance with a Skaven faction who picks up the scraps in your wake. This can be extremely fun, but you most likely won't have many diplomatic interactions.
However, the good news is that most factions fall in between and do have at least some diplomatic options with some bonuses and penalties. This potential can also be greatly enhanced if the player acts accordingly. In the next steps, you will learn how to do this.
Step 1 – Check Your Local & Global Options For Diplomacy
When you start your game, you always face a minor faction which is at war with you. This is your first option of expansion and you should generally use it, as it helps to establish your faction as an emerging power.
But once you have defeated your first enemy, you should take a look at the map and plan your preferred expansion in advance. Take your starting relations with your neighboring factions into account: Who likes you, who does not like you? It is absolutely possible to "turn around" an unwilling partner, but it takes time and resources, so it is certainly more challenging.
After you have decided who you want to have as your brother in arms, you can take the appropriate actions to make your initial agreements and form your first alliances.
Step 2 – Choose Your "side"
The world of Warhammer is complex, just like reality, so the border between political blocs is anything but clear-cut. But this is good, because this makes things more interesting.
However, because each faction has a history, the world starts out with a bloc of "good" factions (also called "order" factions, somewhat more appropriately) on one side, "evil" factions on the other and some factions in between who have shades of both of the sides, but are not fully integrated and/or opposed, either.
Examples for "order" factions: High Elves
Examples for "evil" factions: Chaos as a whole (Beastmen, Norsca, WoC, Demons)
GreenskinsNote: Actually, "evil factions" doesn't quite cut, as vampiric factions generally also hate Chaos (not Heinrich, though) and may form fragile alliances with the Empire for example. What unites them is being (mostly) resented by order factions.
Examples of mostly neutral factions: Lizardmen
Remember that there are always (minor) outliers to mix things up. For example Marienburg, who doesn't get along very well with the Empire. Also, there are special lords which offer alternative alliances, like Arkhan the Black of the Tomb Kings, who gets along with vampiric factions.
However, if you choose a partner which is opposed to your bloc, this may lead to difficulties with your other diplomatic partners. If you are playing Norsca and befriend Kislev/The Great Orthodoxy to secure your flank, your other chaotic brethren may take offense in that.
Step 3 – Start Your Diplomatic Campaign
Now that you've chosen who to ally with, it's time to kick off your diplomatic relations. The earlier you can begin, the better. So check your diplomatic options immediately in turn 1.
By the start of your diplomatic campaign, you should also get to know your "toolbox" of diplomatic actions and what they entail for future reference. You generally have the following options:
Non-agression pact: This is usually the first step on the diplomatic road. Neutral or minimally positive relations are typically enough to broker a NAP. This sounds easy enough, but you should still watch out: Do not have NAPs with weaklings you take no interest in. It may be tempting to have NAPs across the bord with everyone willing, but this will hurt you more than it helps, as indiscriminate agreements necessarily conflict at some point. Besides, if you are the stronger one in an NAP, your partner will most likely not think about attacking you, anyway. So this doesn't benefit you at all. In some situations, however, it can be beneficial to engage in diplomacy with a much weaker faction (see vassalage).
Trade: Trade is awesome, because it does not only improve your relations with your partner factions, but is also a steady source of income. Some factions are naturally better at trading (High Elves) and some can acquire bonuses by research (Norsca) which can turn your trade network into an essential part of your economy. However, trade agreements are still a political matter, so they may have negative consequences regarding your relations to the enemies of your trade partners. Sometimes it might be better to deny a trade agreement despite it being "free money" if you want to keep a more important relation intact.
Gift: A gift is simply that: a certain sum of money or maybe something else, like a whole region you give to your partner. In my opinion, gifts are absolutely essential for a quick and successful diplomatic campaign. They are seriously underestimated by many players. Check out step 5 for more information regarding gifts.
Defensive alliance: Here I will simply quote the wiki article, because there is not much more to say: "The defensive alliance is a lesser form of a military alliance, where factions promise to aid one another in case of attack on either, but won't actively join a war effort. It is, however, an excellent prelude to achieving total military cooperation."
Military alliance: Military alliances are the closest two factions can cooperate save confederation and vassalage. Both parties pledge to aid the other in a war, no matter how this war came to be. But there is a catch! Once one of the partners wants to make the other join a war, the other party is actually asked if they want to honor the alliance (similar to a random dilemma). So it is possible for you or your ally to quit the alliance when things are getting serious. This is a huge problem, because it may cause you to be caught off guard in a very inconvenient moment. However, the danger should not be overestimated, as long as you keep good relations with your allies, fight the same enemies and do not upset them with conflicting diplomatic agreements. If you don't give your allies reasons to do otherwise, they will generally honor their agreements, even the evil factions (except the Skaven, but that's a given).
Confederation: Confederation is a great way to grow your empire. It is only possible to confederate factions of the same race as yours, but it is very powerful, as it integrates the whole faction into your own. For instance, you can confederate the High Elves on Ulthuan one by one if your relations are good enough and ultimately rule the whole group of islands. Watch out, though, because confederation has a (temporary) negative effect on other factions of your race, mostly for balancing reasons. So if you already have bad relations with one faction of your kin, a confederation may push them over the edge!
Vassalage: Vassalage can be a hugely useful tool if you really want to be a big player in the campaign. If your relations to a faction are good enough, you can turn them into your vassal and completely subjugate them. They will still continue to exist on their own, but they will lose their diplomatic autonomy and pay tribute to you (you can still trade with them, though). Cultivating vassals can also be a good way to curb your management effort. If you simply want manage your core regions, you can give conquered land to your vassals for them to take care of. You will still profit by cranking up the tribute and strengthening your closest ally. Unlike the military alliance, both partners are not on an equal footing: You are the boss and your vassal is your subject. They have no choice to serve your or not! Vassalage is open to any faction which can engage in diplomacy, so it is a nigh-universal option.
War coordination: This is not actually an agreement by itself, but comes bundles with a defense alliance, a military alliance and a vassalage. By having one of the mentioned agreements, you slowly acquire "Allegiance points" which you can spend on giving your allies tasks to perform (like defending a settlement or attacking another). According to my experience, however, you can not always count on your ally to act accordingly. Apart from giving directions, you may also construct outposts in the settlements of your allies and ultimately, you will be able to recruit up to four units (per army!) out of the rosters of your allies. An incredibly cool feature in my opinion!
Declaration of war: NPC factions declare war frequently, but you should really think about doing it yourself. Once you are at war, there is almost no way back until one of the warring factions is eradicated. This can get out of control quick, for example when your carefully planned campaign is interrupted by another attack out of thin air. If you are not the dominant force in the region, several declarations of war in the matter of a few turns may spell your doom, as all of your weaker rivals gang up on you and tear you apart like the hyenas they are. On the flipside, you can actually do the same for your own advantage: If you see a faction which is weak and almost wiped out, you may want to sneak in a quick declaration of war before they are gone. That may earn you some free favor from their enemies without negative consequences for you. Just check who actually likes the faction you want to kick in the ribs, because they won't like it.
Peace treaty: Peace treaties barely play a role, as the requirements are typically so huge that you can't afford it or simply don't want to. If a faction is finally offering a peacy treaty by themselves, they are usually in such a bad place you'd do better to just put them out of their misery.
At the beginning, it completely suffices to have a non-aggression pact or a trade agreement. This will set your future ally on the right course and your relations will get better every turn (as long as you do nothing to upset them). This is important to remember, positive agreements will keep improving your relations over time and build the foundation for further deals.
Sometimes, your initial relations to another faction are too bad to have a non-aggression-pact or a trade agreement. In that case, you should consider to balance it with money. Especially at the beginning, you probably want to invest every gold piece into your troops or your settlements. But handing out a wad of cash for diplomatic reasons early might be much more valuable in the long run.
Step 4 – Act Deliberate & Consistent, Do Not Get Tangled Up!
This is a very important step, as the right management of your relations is key to a successful diplomatic campaign. There is always the danger of ruining your existing your existing alliances by carelessly brokering new agreements.
Take heed not to have agreements with the enemies of your ally, as this will hurt your relations with this ally. This can be difficult to track, as long as they just resent each other and there is no active war going on. Tip: A quick and easy way to check the relations of a party with others is clicking a settlement of that party. The green and red faces at the bottom left corner, which normally display your own relation with others now display the perspective of the chosen faction.
Don't be afraid to deny an ally their request of declaring war to their enemy if it does not further your goals! Your ally will not take offense, you will simply not receive the money they offered you (which is usually not worth it).
Here are two examples to show you what I mean:
If you are playing Norsca with Wulfrik the Wanderer, you will quickly encounter the Warriors of Chaos faction Shadow Legion on the small islands in the west, which is Albion. In most games I played, they eventually declared war on me and constantly harassed me by attacking the norscan west coast. This is extremely annoying and costs a huge amount of resources and time better spent marauding the southerners. After expanding around your starting location, you will first encounter the Tzeentch minor faction The Sightless. You will be able to form a non-aggression pact and possibly a trade agreement quickly or even instantly. Beware! They are weaklings and will be wiped out by the Shadow Legion in a few turns, anyway. If you have a pact with The Sightless, you will gain basically nothing, but your relation to the Shadow Legion will suffer, long after The Sightless kicked the bucket. The Shadow Legion will prevail and become stronger, while already hating you for backing the past enemy. So what do you do? You simply ignore The Sightless completely until they are gone and once you encounter the Shadow Legion, you try to get a diplomatic foot into their door by gifting them money or (if you have enough) offer money in exchange for a non-aggression pact. 5000 Gold may seem like an obscene amount in the early game for something like a NAP with no immediate benefits, but trust me, it is worth it. Your relation with the Shadow Legion will get better with time and your would-be enemy turns into a brother-in-arms. You turned a liability into an asset. Well done!
Kislev starts out in a highly contested area of the map, with Chaos Warriors, Skaven, Empire factions, Greenskins, Ogres, Dwarfs and Wood Elves all fighting each other. There is an extremely high risk of being attacked from multiple sides which your meagre income at the beginning will not allow you to defend. You need to prevent this! Playing as Katarin, the first thing I did was checking my surroundings after wiping out my norscan starting enemy and taking their settelements. Nagenhof (originally owned by Ostermark) has already been turned into ruins. A perfect opportunity to acquire some bargaining chips for my diplomatic machinations! I sent my army to Nagenhof from Fort Jakova and settled it before the Ogres from Tree Hammer could take it. Now I checked which faction had the best potential to become a regional power. Tree Hammer had one settlement, they wouldn't make it. Osterland (which actually likes me) already had to give up Nagenhof and was losing their war against the Wargrove of Woe. The latter being the strongest of the adjacent factions. Despite Osterland being my "natural ally" I gifted the settlement to the Wargrove of Woe. This improved our relations and enabled me to broker further agreements later. The strategy was successful, as both Tree Hammer and Osterland were wiped out soon after (with my help, though). If I had supported either of those factions, the Wargrove of Woe would have attacked me next, in addition to the Skaven from the north and the Greenskins from the east. Instead, I made a valuable ally and secured my own position in the region. A bit tragic for my friends down in Osterland, but is the way of Machiavelli!
Step 5 – Three Rules To Be Successful
There are three basic guidelines I want to give to you which will greatly help your diplomatic campaign:
1. Always keep track of your relations: Total War Warhammer III has a much better and clearer diplomacy screen than its predecessors. Put it to use und check this screen every few turns to see where things are heading. Pay attention to what the other factions are doing: Who forms an alliance or confederates, who engages in a war? The news section after every turn is very useful for that. If anything happens which may cause you to be isolated in the long run, you have to react immediately. Nothing is worse than being successful on the battlefield and building your settlements only to be overwhelmed by a gang of individually weaker factions who feel threatened by you.
2. You must invest to earn a benefit: Passively using your military power to make others want to be allied to you is okay. Your might will attract other factions who want mutual protection. But building up respect of other factions simply by NAPs, trade agreements and time is slow and tedious. You may be outpaced by your rivals and left behind. Be ready to invest money and to hand over newly conquered regions to others! Especially the latter is highly effective to quickly gain a trusted and powerful ally and potential vassal.
3. Always take the strength of your partner into account: I have told you before, but it bears repeating: Diplomatic agreements with weak factions drag you down! If the circumstances are right, you can have trade agreements, but nothing more. Indiscriminate NAPs (or even worse: defensive or military alliances) will weaken your position greatly, limit your options and may cause a strong faction to hate you which you actually wanted to have as a ally.
Diplomacy demands some attention and resources, but if you play your hand well, it pays off!
Step 6 – Exert Your Influence: Confederation & Vassalage
In anything you do on the diplomacy screen, remember what your goal is. The diplomatic options of confederation and vassalage are the culmination of your efforts, everything leads towards them (although you don't need to use them of course).
In my personal opinion, it's especially the vassalage which makes the mid- to endgame much more fun and manageable. Sure, it is possible to let the AI manage your own settlements, but I never liked this idea. I like it much better to have my personal realm surrounded by the fiefdoms of several vassals which take care of all attacking enemies from the outside.
This strategy allows me to focus solely on my offensive efforts, which result in even more conquered settlements which I can fork over to one of my vassals, which in turn increases the tribute they pay me. Everybody wins! Well, everybody except the unorganized rabble which still opposes my empire.
Now that you have reached the end, I want to thank you for reading my guide! I hope it helps you to hone your diplomatic skills and enables you to be more successful in your campaign.
If you liked my guide I would be very happy if you gave it a thumbs up and/or add it as a favorite!
And now: Back to the negotiation table! :)
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