This guide is a port of Toldi's guide. The original guide can be found here
This guide will give a brief overlook on key points to keep in mind while conducting your diplomacy in Dominions 5. This guide is meant for multiplayer (MP) diplomacy, as in single player (SP) the AI is known for notoriously ignoring diplomacy and fighting total wars.
(Normal MP games, no special rules or restrictions, not disciples games)
While diplomacy can be completely ignored in MP, it is highly advised that each player engages at least in some basic forms of diplomacy with their neighbors or players within the game. This can help avoid misunderstandings or escalations of conflict, while also facilitating mutually beneficial trades. If one thinks that they are unstoppable and do not need to rely on “stinky” diplomacy, more power to them. But beware, if you disregard diplomacy in a MP of Dominions 5, you are handicapping yourself.
Important note: People can and do lie, both in real life and in games. Never fully trust what others have told you while conducting diplomacy (except if certain aspects are enforced by game host, based on house rules for the game). Therefore, your motto should be “trust, but verify” while conducting diplomacy.
Here is a brief (not inclusive) list of reasons of why you should engage in diplomacy in MP:
Being able to set your borders with your neighbors without actually having to physically take all those provinces gives you an edge over players who have not done the same thing. It allows you to concentrate your expansion parties in other directions towards other players with whom you have not set borders, who do not want to do diplomacy, or whom you wish to attack in your first war).
Depending on your play style, trustworthiness and how much you trust your neighbors, you can sign Non-Agression Pacts (NAPs) with them. Basically, a NAP is an agreement that says “I promise to give you x number of turns of notice before hostilities commence or resume between us". This allows you to slightly demilitarize certain borders (never do it fully, or your neighbors most likely WILL exploit this) and focus those forces elsewhere. Beware, though, that most games have Machiavellian diplomacy, and, therefore, NAPs are not enforced by game hosts.
Diplomacy supplements your scouting in giving you a better understanding of the game state and the position of the other players. Players can and do routinely provide misinformation. Therefore, never fully trust information given to you while conducting talks with other players in a game. Yet, diplomacy is still an incredible way to figure out the following: what special magic sites a third nation has; what bless do they have; how are they scripting their armies and thugs; what is their research level etc. This information, in turn, allows you to make more meaningful decisions for what you should do.
Diplomacy allows you to trade for items, gems, pearls, slaves and gold with other players within your game. This can considerably aid you in a game, as you could trade for magic boosters that allow you to break into new paths, summon certain commanders or units, put up certain Globals, convert gem income into a research boost (fire gems fors, for example), get thug/SC/mage gear etc. This harkens back to the basic tenants of modern economics: trading can be mutually beneficial.
or “how to avoid everyone ganging up on you, while you run away with the game”
Other players will also realize that diplomacy is a great asset. Coalitions can and will form if you become the game leader, are close to throne rushing or you are playing a particularly cancerous nation (Sceleria, pop-kill nations, elves, UW nations etc.) You can use diplomacy as a means to nudge players in certain directions so that they avoid making decisions that are unfavorable to you. For a good example of this, watch Perun’s MA R’lyeh series on Youtube.
Dominions 5 has a relatively small/niche community built around it, a part of which engages in the multiplayer scene (mostly on Reddit and Discord). While not every player you interact with will become your friend, it is very likely that while you conduct diplomacy you will develop friendships with certain players. This makes Dominions 5 much more enjoyable.
The early game incentivizes active diplomacy to maximize your expansion while also minimizing your expenses. This is especially true in map nuke games, where the capital location (or general direction) of other players is known. If you are able to agree upon borders with at least one of your neighbors, you can commit yourself to securing your borders in other directions first. This allows you to take more provinces in the direction of players with whom you were not able to agree on borders - or with whom you did not wish to discuss borders, as they are your first war target.
While border gore (borders between nations looking aesthetically unpleasing) is less prevalent of an issue in Dom 5 than in other similar games, diplomacy allows you to trade provinces you might have secured for provinces that another player has secured on your shared border. Here, caution is advised. Before trading any province confirm the following (so that you don’t get hosed):
All of the aforementioned factors impact the ‘value’ of the province, meaning that if you still want to trade it, either you or the other player has to compensate for the higher attributes of one of the provinces. Special care should be given in trading caves, wastelands and forests to nations that use it to summon or recruit their nation specific units and commanders. Such a trade will generally favor the player that is thus gaining access to an incredibly valuable province. A province that might be almost worthless to you, may have an enormous indirect value since you can deprive the other player from it.
Diplomacy and discussing borders with neighbors is vital throughout the game. If two players are fighting the same nation, they need to coordinate to a certain degree to avoid killing each other’s armies instead of the armies of the player that they are both attacking. Drawing up borders during an active war with a still undetermined conclusion should be done with extreme care. If you lose your army that was supposed to take a key fort, province, capital or throne, the other player might ‘assume’ that they are then free to take that province from themselves from the third player. Therefore, if conducting diplomacy during an active war to divide the ‘spoils’, always be prepared to revisit the agreement, or make sure that the other player will also stick exactly to the agreement that has been made. Generally, being fair/equitable in splitting the spoils of war is the right course of action, if both nations put in the same effort/commitment. If a nation disproportionally put in more effort, you will have a hard time convincing them that you deserve half the spoils anyways. Having clear goals of what you want and maintaining flexibility is key to make the most out of each and every deal.
Non-Agression Pacts are worth as much or as little as you trust them. There is a small, but significant sub-set of players in the Dominions 5 MP community who a priori do not believe in or sign NAPs. It is generally pointless to try to convince such players to reconsider for your sake.
Sign NAPs from a position of strength, not weakness. Generally, one should sign NAPs that benefit them more than it benefits the other player. If I am an elvish nation with a good early game, I would like to sign a few NAPs with my neighbors so that I have more peace when I rush down my first target. NAPs can delay, but not completely diminish the possibility of a coalition forming against you. Yet, one should never fully demilitarize their border after signing a NAP. By doing that, you invite the other player to reconsider the grounds upon which they signed a NAP with you in the first place (that hostility would be mutually disadvantageous at that point in the game).
Signing a NAP should be clearly agreed upon by both parties. If diplomacy is conducted through Discord, it is advised that one of the players writes a message
Game: KingForADay NAP-3 between Helheim and Ermor
This messaged would then be pinned to the conversation with the other player, so that both can quickly tell if they have a NAP with said player or not. It is also important to clarify with the other player that you have the same understanding of the meaning of “NAP-3”. To do that, you can spell it out “NAP-3, so three turn warning before hostilities can resume.” This is important, because there have been players that have misinterpreted a NAP-3 to mean “no hostilities for the next 3 turns” or “no hostilities for 3 in game years”.
If the NAP is no longer useful, inform the other player (or they will do it to you) that you are ending your NAP. Being a good sport about ending a NAP will retain goodwill with the player that you are ending your NAP with, which is vital for continued diplomacy. Therefore, end NAPs when the new turn roles. Sending message that you are ending NAP on turn 60 just as turn 60 is rolling over into turn 61 is viewed as ‘dirty’ by most players, and should be avoided.
Minimalists and Maximalists
There are two main trends in ‘counting’ when a NAP ends: the “Minimalist” and the “Maximalist” view (thanks to Naaira for this). Make sure to clarify with other player which NAP format you are using, to avoid unnecessary aggravation and arguing.
Minimalist (short and sweet):
If you inform the other player about ending the NAP on turn 60, then turns 60, 61, and 62 are the NAP turns (no hostilities), and normal and magic phase attacks can be scripted on turn 62, to arrive no earlier than on turn 63. (In other words, N+2 turns and hostilities may commence).
Maximalist (long and enjoyable):
If you inform the other player about ending the NAP on turn 60, then turns 60, 61, 62 and 63 are the NAP turns (no hostilities), and normal and magic phase attacks can be scripted on turn 63, to arrive no earlier than on turn 64. (In other words, N+3 turns and hostilities may commence).
Most MP games in Dominions 5 use Machiavellian diplomacy, named after the Italian diplomat from the Renaissance. While this reading of his ideas is rather crude and inaccurate, his "ideology" is often depicted "as godless, scheming and self-interested." This means you can be as scheming and deceitful as you want, but, keep in mind, acting in such a way will quickly gain you a certain negative reputation, that might make conducting diplomacy in future games more difficult.
Trades for items, gems, gold, and slaves, on the other hand, are generally excluded from Machiavellian diplomacy and will be enforced by game host (check game rules before trading). Trade deals involving provinces or diplomatic agreements (I pay you 50 gems so that you attack player A in 5 turns) are not enforced and fall under Machiavellian diplomacy.
NAPs are rarely enforced by the game host (the same way that trades are enforced/are binding). Therefore, you are bound to come across a player (or many players) that will break their NAPs with you. Breaking a NAP means attacking the other player without giving them the 3 turn warning agreed upon in the NAP agreement. Most players view NAP breaking negatively, and WILL be prejudiced against you for the length of the game (or for future games as well). Always keeping to your NAPs and never breaking them can spread the word in the communities where you play that you are a reliable diplomatic partner, whose word can be trusted.
Instances when NAPs can be broken:
Remember, communication is vital when signing/maintaining/ending NAPs.
The many uses of the Eyes of God
5, 50) that gives you access to all graphs and shows you all magic sites, labs and fort locations on the strategic map. It also negates the province ownership hiding mechanic of certain nations, and tells you the name of each throne.is a Global (Enchantment 5,
You can recoup much of your pearl investment in casting it by selling information that you acquired through this global enchantment. For example, a score graph for 5 (retain the right to not include yourself in those graphs), throne names for 3, special magic site information for 2 etc. Keep in mind that the spell 4, 75) will blind your Eyes of God caster. Therefore it is highly recommended that you do not cast it with your pretender. The Eyes of God might also push certain players to attack you earlier than they otherwise intended, as they will see your information advantage as a direct threat to them. (Evocation 4,
Keep in mind that Eyes of God will not tell you how many mages the enemy has, or what exactly they have researched, but it will give you a good feeling as to how powerful the other nation is.
Why it is useful and how to go about it
In Dominions, like in real life, you are never aware of the whole picture. You must calculate and act based on incomplete information. In terms of warfare, this is called the “Fog of War”. To ‘see’ through this fog of war, one can recruit scouts/spies to gain knowledge about their enemies (capital location, forts, army disposition, army composition, mage support etc.).
Fog of War: Communicating with other players through diplomacy allows you to gain vital information about third parties:
Be careful about sharing information about yourself, so as to avoid inviting attacks. For example, you might say that you have had a tough expansion, but do not say that you have only taken 6 provinces etc. Be only as specific as you absolutely need to. Keep in mind that the other players will do the exact same thing: either exaggerating or diminishing the importance of certain events (how high their income is, how many provinces they have taken, how big their losses were etc.) Remember the motto “trust, but verify.”
The flip side of gathering information (or hoarding it in certain cases) is that you can then use this information to influence other players. If you found out that player A has lost a large army while fighting player B, then leaking that information to player C might cause player C to attack player A (or B), but in either case, it will keep people from attacking you (if that is your goal at that stage of the game). Follow the example of the Romans “divide and conquer” with your informational edge, but do it in such a way, that to everyone else it will look like “unite and lead”. Therefore, you are not gathering a coalition against player A to put yourself into a position to throne rush, but you are organizing a coalition against player A because they are the game leader or are about to throne rush (the veracity of such claims is less important than the perception of it by the other players).
Thrones: Generally, thrones that are on the border between two nations are divided based on the “first come, first served” rule. Talking to the neighbor might allow you to ‘trade’ that throne for another province(s), or another throne that you both border. In either case, exercise increased caution when negotiating for thrones, to avoid giving the impression that you are positioning yourself to throne rush (which you might be doing, but the other player do not need to know about it ahead of time).
Information imbalance: Regardless of the situation, there will always be an information imbalance when you do diplomacy with other players. Keep this in mind, because if your diplomacy partner is also aware of this information imbalance, that will influence how they negotiate with you. “Sharing is caring” when it comes to passing along non-vital information to your diplomacy partners. The more freely information can flow between you two, the less likely the other player will suspect you of… nefarious activities/plans. Remember, there is only one Pantokrator at the end of the game.
Setting the price
You should ask for a higher price if you only have a national hero or your pretender that can forge the item that the other player wants to buy from you, to signify the premium that is placed on the mage turns of heroes and pretenders.
Higher level items, particularly magic boosters ( , , ) should demand a special premium.
Construction 8 unique items should be rarely traded, particularly the three items that can boost Holy paths ( , , ), as they can allow a nation with only H2 priests to claim several thrones at once (one with pretender, one with prophet, multiple with 2 priests with holy boosters. A similar feat can be achieved with , but not all nations have UW provinces to summon them).
Trading can, and usually does, play a critical role in most Dominions 5 MP games. Trading allows you to convert unused or unneeded gems into other gem types, gold, gear, research booster, magic booster etc. As mentioned before, most games have certain house rules set by the game host. One of the most common house rules is “binding trades” (for items, gold, gems). This usually does NOT extend to deals for provinces, NAPs, or promises to attack another player for a sum of gems or gold. This does not mean that you cannot offer player A some gold or a few gems for them to attack player B, but it does mean that if player A does not follow through on your deal, the game host will NOT enforce this trade.
As with all diplomacy, confirm that the other player is on the exact same page as you regarding the proposed trade. For example:
This is just an example. Trades can happen much quicker if there is trust between the players and if the player has the items/gems in stock to send right away. Being clear on what you agreed upon is also vital in case the other player does not hold up their end of the deal, because at that point you can turn to the game host to arbitrate your disagreement. But, for the game host to side with you, you will need clear evidence (message screenshots etc.) showing that you agreed with the other player about a binding trade.
Trade rates: A rule of thumb is that items cost their upfront forging cost (not includingor national discount, although this can be discussed) + 2 gems (as compensation for the mage turn used). You can set your own prices, and you can even set different prices for different players. After all, no one is forcing you to be ‘fair’ in your trading. Just keep in mind that if you state a price that is too high, you are unlikely to close the trade deal.
Note: Nations like MA Ulm have a national discount in forging items (above discount given by) from most elemental paths, therefore it is advised to take that into consideration when trading with them or playing as them.
Dangers of trade: One has to be especially careful when trading with ‘cancer’ nations that have particular weakness that could be surmounted through trade (like MA Ermor wanting research boosters to increase their research per turn). Trade should be mutually beneficial, but it might not be advisable to trade with another player who can benefit several times more than you from the trade. An exception from this rule is if you are trading with a player who is losing a defensive war. Making favorable trade deals with such a player helps to prolong the conflict and weaken your neighbors/allies.
or “How to avoid everyone ganging up on you, while you run away with the game”
This is the offensive, or aggressive, application of “gathering information.” Information is good in itself, but, at the end of the day, you want to use it to benefit you. This is where misinformation/propaganda comes into play. For example, if you and player A are currently leading in the game (by province count/thrones etc.) it is advisable that you contact the neighbors of player A and try to organize a war/coalition against player A (citing the growing power and throne rush threat from player A). One has to be careful and prudent about trying to gather a coalition (as it might just as easily turn on you instead of player A), but if successful, this will give you much needed time to prepare your own future wars/throne rush.
There is also a case for passing along information to third parties that would incentivize the third party to attack another player. One should be careful when doing this to avoid gaining a reputation for having a loose mouth (not keeping secrets/not being trustworthy) and one should also be careful so that they do not give another player a greater advantage by sharing the information.
It is therefore vital to keep communication lines open with all second/tertiary powers in the game (if you are a first rate power) to have the ability to call them into a coalition war against the game leader. If you are in the position of a second/tertiary power, you should also follow this same advice, but in this case highlight the fact that you can hold off the big player, but that the other players can make ‘easy’ gains by attacking the larger player who attacked you. Care should be taken when doing this, to avoid your neighbors from attacking you instead of the strong player.
Dominions 5 has a niche, but active community. While playing your games and conducting your diplomacy, you will get a chance to get to know some of the other players.
Conversations struck up during diplomacy can lead to budding friendships and fruitful cooperation in the future (to bounce ideas off the other person for pretender/bless/scale builds for various nations, to discuss strategies in upcoming battles or wars etc.). In addition, if one wants to try out a MP disciples game (more on this bellow), then they are advised to start in teams with people they either know already (friends or acquaintances) or more experienced players who can guide them (like on the Immersion discord server).
Keep in mind that for some people it is harder to wage total and unscrupulous war against friends. If you fall into that category of people, remember, your friend can always get revenge in the next game, if you pummel them this game.
Coalitions are when two or more players get together to take down another nation, usually a nation that has grown so large or so powerful, that they are bound to win if they are not stopped immediately. Some nations do not need to grow to a large size before their neighbors believe them to be an existential threat (Sceleria, Nazca, MA Ermor etc.) and will coalition these nations in the early/mid-game.
From the perspective of diplomacy, coalitions are a power multiplier. They allow you to enlist the aid (resources+troops+time) of another player to help you fight an enemy. When reaching out to a player about joining a coalition against another player, always clarify why you think the coalition is necessary (to convince the player) and what measures are you willing to take to fight the nation that needs to be brought down. This allows you to segueway into what you think the other nation can do as part of the coalition to take out the strong nation.
Keep in mind that gathering players into a coalition, and keeping them inside a coalition is almost like herding cats (situation and position of each player changes over time, and they might not be able to contribute to the fight against the strong player if their own borders are threatened by others). If you want a coalition, plan for it dissolving or at least weakening in 10-15 turns. Count yourself lucky if all original coalition members are still actively participating in the coalition after 20 turns (although at that point the question is how come you still haven’t taken out the strong player with all this support).
Just as coalitions can be powerful when aimed at your enemies, they are equally dangerous when aimed at you. If you become the target of a coalition, then you have multiple options:
Those who have not played Dominions 5 might be surprised to find out that defensive pacts are almost non-existent in the community. In a Dominions 5 MP game you exist in a state of nature (as Hobbes would describe it), where anyone can attack you. NAPs are tolerated as they allow one to focus on other fronts. A defensive pact is somewhat less rare then an alliance.
Generally two nations agree to come to each others aid if one of them is attacked. Since diplomacy is not binding, one should only sign such pacts with players they trust or have known for a while (and can thus determine how the player will honor their word regarding the pact or not). Defensive pacts can be limited “I’ll help you if and only if Player B attacks you”, or general “I’ll help you regardless who attacks you.”
Defensive pacts usually should be kept as a secret, if publicized, they should be publicized in such a way as to act as a deterrent to aggression, rather than it acting as a magnet that draws negative attention on to the two players who signed the pact. Sometimes it is sufficient to let a player C know that you will come to the aid of player B if they get attacked by player C.
If defensive pacts are like white ravens, alliances are like people who win the lottery… twice. The level of cooperation within what is referred to as an alliance can vary greatly, but should include: information sharing (scouting etc.), trading with minimal tariffs, mutual defense, and, possibly, coordinated attacks/territory dividing. In my 20+ MP games I have signed one alliance. Both of us were middle sized powers and afraid of a much larger, stronger power nearby. Our alliance lasted most of the game, but got strained after my ally got attacked by player A, I joined the war against player A, but then player B also attacked my ally, and, since I didn’t share a border with player B, I was unable to help on that front. This led to my ally quickly loosing ground, forcing him to sign peace with player A (the stronger player), while he fought off player B (the weaker player). This also left me inan unfavorable war against player A.
‘Vulturing’ is the act of taking lands from player B, after player A has crushed most of the armies of player B. This leads to great antipathy from player A, who expects to receive all the spoils from fighting player B. Your act of swooping in like a vulture and picking off pieces from player B is thus viewed in a negative light. If one wants to vulture, it is better if they at least participate in the war against player B (to have some legitimacy to the claim of some of the lands of player B). Barring that, you should reach out to player A and politely negotiate for some of the spoils from player B citing: your rested and well equipped armies, your future goodwill towards player A, the importance of ‘nice’ borders (whatever that means), and importance of maintaining the ‘balance’ after player A has taken all/most of player B’s lands.
If one cannot be bothered to reach out to the other player, then do not expect positive results. On the flip side, one can also reach out to player B, and ask them if they are fine with you taking some of their lands, so that it does not fall into the hands of player A. Most players will agree to this, and will wave any NAPs you might have with them in this scenario.
Some players, notably Perun, would argue that one should not vulture on side that is losing, but on the side that is winning, so that you can gain a weak, but loyal ally (player B, whom you ‘saved’ from annihilation) and take out a potential enemy (player A if he gotten the lands of player B).
Use your own discretion when making these calls.
There are remote assassination spells that do not show/tell who was the caster.is one of them. Only use these tools if you can achieve plausible deniability (other nations/players within spell range who could and would cast that spell). If one uses this carefully, and feeds misinformation to both sides, they could spark a war between two other players. Great finesse is required for this, and therefore it is not advised.
There are also spells that are reported as random events:, etc. These generally cause unrest and/or kill population. Use them judiciously and if you have plausible deniability. If you are at war, then use it as much as you like, but beware, that you will receive a similar treatment from the enemy (as this will be viewed as an escalation of your conflict).
Don’t trust some of the older players who scoff at scouts. Get scouts. If you don’t have them natively, summon them (black servants etc.). Gaining knowledge of where the enemies armies are can be vital for your survival, or as a trade item with another player. For beginners, seed all the provinces of your neighbors with scouts. Once you become more comfortable with using scouts, you will be able to diminish the amount that you need.
Things to pay attention to while scouting
All of this information can be vital.
Most of the advice for conducting diplomacy in a disciples game is the same as when you conduct diplomacy in a normal MP game. There are certain exceptions/caveats though, which will be covered bellow.
If you are very sure of your diplomacy skills, you can cut deals with players within enemy teams, without consulting the diplomat of the team (or without having to reach out to the enemy team as a whole). This requires great finesse, and can lead to confusion when you agree with the player that you will take a province for a turn to move army across their lands, and the players teammates think that you have started an invasion. In other cases, agreements with individual players can achieve results faster than if you contacted the team as a whole (settling bump/border dispute, facilitating trade etc.).
In very rare cases, a skillful diplomat might play off members of the same disciples team against each other by feeding them half-truths. By making it seem like the players are doing diplomacy behind the back of the team, or bad mouthing other teammates, it is possible to sow the seeds of division in another team. Great care, attention and prudence is required to pull this off, but if you are successful you can crush the enemy teams desire to continue waging war against you/desire to win the game (and Machiavelli would be proud of you). Do keep in mind that this can greatly back fire, leading to the collapse of your ‘reputation’.