Searching for Strategy Games with Deep Diplomacy


I’ve been playing games for a long time and one thing I really find lacking in games is decent diplomacy. After watching the Stellaris streams I can’t help but think of how all diplomacy in that game is War, very limited trading, and Defensive agreements which boil down to saying you will kill the people who attack your ally, or the people your ally attacks.

All forms of interaction or change come from war. Revolutions don’t happen on their own you make them happen by invading a country and changing their government. Trade is only a bare bones exchange of resources. You used to be able to “push” your borders in order to take over parts of the map without going to war and get the asteroids and non-colonized planets within but that was removed when the apocalypse expansion was added.

When I look at a game like Stellaris I initially think of all the plotting and strategizing I could do but after the initial phase of expansion the map is quickly filled and never changes except through war. So I’m looking for strategy games that the player can interact with outside of just war.

The first one I know of is Crusader Kings 2 where the politics of a situation aren’t determined solely by the map, who hates or likes who, and who has the biggest military. In that game things can be changed dramatically by marriage or untimely death and while war is likely inevitable it feels like the result of the world changing rather than the only force changing it.

I know the Civilization series is a popular choice and there are many ways to win the game without war. There are a ton of games that follow the Civ style of multiple ways to win and one of my favorites is a game called Star Ruler 2. In that game there was a really deep diplomacy system where you would spend influence to buy cards that you use for political actions and proposals. You could do strait forward things like spend influence on cards that improve your ships or planets.You could make proposals that, if they pass, allow you to become leader of the Galactic Senate, or take permanent control of a planet or solar system. You could also do subtler things like rush proposals through so others have less time to stop you, or you could slow them down, you could call out other nations so they would have to weigh in on a proposal or give you leverage against them. If you become leader of the senate you can be the biggest scumbag and manipulate the voting process by giving one nation more voting power or stopping a nation from taking part in a specific vote. All of this is happening in real time as you play the game. Too bad the devs are inactive.

So are there any other strategy games you can think of where you can make significant changes to the world outside of war?


I, too, would love to hear more about this. I always thought Civ would be nearly perfect were it not for its rudimentary and unpredictable diplomacy.


The difficult thing with a lot of these is something that @kcin lludes to above, which is the context of what you mean. If you’re looking for a game like this with AI, I don’t have a great example off the top of my head (although I’m sure there must be examples). War often becomes the most obvious or fleshed-out system for interacting with other players.

When you’re playing with other humans, the nature of the games decidedly change, particularly in a competitive context. Not only do you open the door to non-video games, other players are different than AI in terms of what they are willing to barter with and for in order to achieve their ends (whatever those may be). Unlike a directionless (or extremely directed) AI, a player might want to shoot for being a powerful city-state, religious bastion, or mercantile money-maker and that opens up new roads for diplomacy. Seeing Europa Universalis IV played by a team of people in competition with one another reveals how elaborate that game can become & the manifold paths towards victory that it provides.

So, I suppose: which do you mean?


I’m not sure really. I know that AI isn’t likely to develop to the point where the diplomatic systems I’m looking for will actually be used to there fullest extent. At the same time it feels like when a game lets players do all the diplomacy among themselves the result is usually one half Machiavellian diplo and one half people who are just there to mess around. Those games can be great, but I just wish there was a game where more aspects of diplomacy were systematized rather than developing informally because I feel that would allow for a greater breadth of interaction.


The only examples I can think of are board games - computers just can’t do it.


I think to a certain extent computers can do diplomacy…they can offer to do a thing in exchange for another thing (as well as do so with no intention of following through on their side) and negotiate if you initially refuse their offer.

What computers historically haven’t been able to do is offer up plausible rationales for why you should do the thing beyond “so and so is a threat to us both” when actual skulduggery involves saying stuff like:

“if you help me out with x over here, then x has to devote more resources to dealing with me, which means he has fewer resources to help his vulnerable ally y over there on your side of the board…it would be a real shame if someone were to take advantage of that lack of support”

when x has zilch to do with the real motivation which is

“if I can convince the player I’m talking to that y is ripe for the picking, then the chances of them allying with y are diminished and any fool can see that if they allied with each other their combined strength would be sufficient to steamroll the rest of the board”