A Series of Guides covering the very basics of Total War. Each guide will focus on a single part of the game in as much detail as possible.
Basics of Diplomacy
Now I know for a lot of you this may seem basic, and that’s totally fine, but some of you might never have played Total war at all and are looking to get into it but are scared of the apparent learning curve. This series of guides aims to help you get to grips with the basic mechanics of total war so that you can get off to a much smoother start and also understand my more advance guides more easily (shameless plug).
Diplomacy is one of the core mechanics of total war Warhammer. It dictates many things such as your enemies and allies and can provide you with extremely valuable information as long as you know how to understand it properly.
Lets start by going over what each part of the diplomacy screen means. The middle section of the screen is where you’ll be spending most of your time looking while you’re in this screen and from here you can see every faction you’ve encountered as well as their strength rank, number of settlements, trade status with you, treaties and wars with you and finally their relations towards you. Its also worth noting that you can sort the factions by any of these criterea.
The Strength rank is separated into 2 parts. The actual ranking and the comparison to you. The rank is obviously how strong a faction is when compared to every other faction in the game. The comparison is basically an overall version of the balance of power bar you see in battles. It shows how the balance is if every single one of their armies put together was against every single one of yours put together so is essentially telling you how likely you are to beat them in war. Take this with a huge grain of salt however as just because a faction has a lot of armies, doesn’t mean they’re using them all that well. They can have a bunch of armies off at the opposite end of the map and have barely anything left defending their home settlements making them easy pickings and obviously making the war easier to win.
The number of settlements is pretty straightforward but it is worth noting that it doesn’t take into account how developed these settlements are. This means that they could be a large collection of newly colonised ruins or a small number of heavily fortified, max size settlements with super tough garrisons and steady income.
Trade status will always show 1 of 3 options. Trade agreement in place, no trade agreement in place but there’s a possible route, or no trade agreement and no possible route. If you hover over the icon it will always show you the potential income from a trade agreement unless you’re playing as or interacting with a faction that cannot trade such a hordes or the Orcs.
The treaties tab shows you your diplomatic status with each faction both friendly and hostile. It lets you know what level of relationship you have and by default what actions you can perform such as moving into their territory and setting war targets which we’ll get to in a little bit.
The relations you have with another faction is basically how they feel about you based on your actions in the campaign. You can improve these by having treaties with them and their allies, being at war with their enemies or performing certain hero actions. Certain factions can change the relations between other factions and their own such as the high elves and the Empire, more details on how that works are available in the High elf guide and the upcoming empire rework guide, both of which will be linked once they’re available. Once you get to a certain power level then you will start to be penalised with “great power” which will make it much harder for you to perform diplomacy based on how much stronger you are than other factions. This can be removed via modding which I would highly recommend as it makes the end game so much easier and doesn’t punish you for doing well. Finally aversion is basically the penalty you have with factions that you’re historically hostile with. Most of the “evil” factions get this penalty for basically all other factions outside of their own race which can make diplomacy quite difficult but not impossible.
Moving away from the central part of the screen we have the 2 cards. The left one will always be your factions and the one on the left will be the faction you have selected from the menu. Starting on the left we can see our reliability rating which is a lot more important than you might think. We also have our current treaties, trade partners and trade resources.
The reliability rating is dictated by a lot of things and it isn't always clear but I think I have a good enough idea to explain. You can raise it by performing diplomatic actions and honouring them. This basically means get pacts and alliances and have them last a long time while not declaring too many wars. Betraying your allies, declaring lots of wars and violating treaties will cause your reliability to drop and when it does, other factions will be much more wary when engaging in diplomacy with you and will be less hesitant to declare war. It’s always worth keeping this up as much as you can so that you're getting the best deals in diplomacy over the course of your whole campaign.
Your current treaties are divided into military and defensive alliances, things like non-aggression pacts and vassals aren't displayed here so be careful to not forget about them just because they aren't as obvious.
The trade partners section is pretty self-explanatory so I won’t bother to explain.
The trade resources section shows you what resources you have access to in your empire and can export for profit in trade. You can also see what resources you are importing which is very useful for factions such as the dwarves who need specific resources for crafting.
The card on the right is very similar but obviously displays all this information for the other faction. It also will show you the traits that the faction has. These vary from faction to faction and will give you an idea of how they will act in your campaign. Aggressive factions will be more likley to attack and declare lots of wars whereas a defensive faction will prefer to keep to their lands and avoid conflict all together if they can get away with it.
Finally we come to what you'll actually be spending most of your time in this screen actually clicking, all of the different diplomatic actions. The non-aggression pact, defensive alliance, military alliance and vassal options will replace each other when you get the next tier up so don’t be afraid to skip to the top if you can.
The non-aggression pact is basically a promise that you both wont attack each other without warning. This doesn’t mean its impossible for a faction to retaliate if you push them enough so you should still be reasonably careful how you act when you’re trying to build relations. If either one of you does decide to declare war you first need to cancel the pact and wait 10 turns before declaring war to ensure your reliability doesn’t drop.
The defensive alliance is the next stage of the relation, 2nd base if you will. We started by holding hands and having pleasant conversation and now we move on to white knighting for each other. This treaty will mean that if anyone declares war on one of you then the other will come to their aid. For example if factions A and B have a defensive alliance and C decides to declare war on A, faction B has the choice of joining A in war to fight C or they can also choose to break off the alliance and not get involved which will obviously hurt their own reliability and relations with A substantially. For this reason I can only recommend you make these kinds of alliances with strong factions that aren’t going to get war declared on them every other turn.
The military alliance has everything else we’ve discussed, but now the 2 allies can pull each other into declared wars. So, if A declares war on C then B can choose to join or break the alliance. Again, I usually reserve these for stronger factions that are going to last till the end game otherwise you just end up getting pulled into too many wars to protect a 2-settlement faction. If the defensive alliance is 2nd base then this full marriage and you have to defend your spouse no matter what or just cut your losses and get out.
The final stage of the relationship takes it in another direction. Making a faction into your vassal is less of a relationship and more of a dominatrix position as the faction pays you a tribute so that you will protect them and not wipe them out and, while it is possible to do this to your very weak allies, I find its more suited to using when you’ve crushed a faction to the point of extinction and want to milk a little more gold from them. Even then though I still normally prefer to just take settlements rather than keeping around a faction that I don’t like anyway and have to defend.
When you have a defensive alliance or better and are at war with the same person then you can designate war coordination targets which will basically tell your ally where you want them to attack so that you can either coordinate and attack the same place or attack on all sides to overwhelm them. It can be very useful if your allies actually act on these targets which they often don’t but its always worth using nevertheless.
Confederation is separate from the other forms of alliance since they’re only possible when you’re interacting with factions of the same race. When you confederate other faction you basically gain everything that they have like settlements, armies and heroes. Since the AI uses cheats to fund many armies at once then this can cause you some serious economy problems so its best to go around once you’ve done it and take stock of what you have and disband what you don’t need. Factions only really accept confederations when you have very strong relations and are much more powerful than them in military strength. Some factions such as Bretonnia and the empire re-work (links in the card) can confederate using different methods that are better explained in their own videos. Its worth noting that it isn’t all good doing this. Your entire faction will get hit with debuffs to public order and relations with the same race for 5 turns following the confederation so its worth making sure your empire is secure before doing this.
Military access stands by itself and its really pretty self-explanatory. It allows you to move armies within each other’s borders without affecting your relations so is great for when you need to avoid taking a huge detour to avoid diplomatic penalties. The AI will generally wander through your borders without asking anyway but its at least useful for when you are building your relations.
Trade agreements don’t protect you from any war declarations but they do provide incentive for enemies not to attack you in a different way. It allows you to gain access to each other’s resources and gain income from what you are exporting and is, in my opinion, always worth doing with as many factions as possible.
Any of the above treaties with the exception of confederations can be cancelled at any point from this screen too. You simply click the cross next to the treaty’s icon and confirm your choice. Cancelling any kind of treaty can hurt your reliability and will always have a large negative effect on your relations with the other faction so you want to only do this when you’re sure it’s what you want. Its worth noting that since the alliances replaces each other, cancelling them will take you back to square one rather than simply putting you down a tier.
The payments tab is used for offering or demanding payments and is useful when you want to sweeten a deal for either faction. If a faction offers you a deal and you feel like it isn’t quite worth your while then this is great for getting a little more from it. Same goes for the other way around if you need to persuade another faction to take a deal you really need. You can also demand and offer money with nothing else on the table if you are trying to extort a weaker faction or sweeten your relations with a stronger one.
Finally we get to the name sake of the game. The join war option allows you to ask or offer to join each others wars, often in exchange for something else you need. It can be a very powerful bargaining chip when you’re trying to get a tough deal closed and don’t have the fund to bring them around. It also has another use that isn’t to obvious. It allows you to bypass other faction alliances if you only want to declare war on one of them. If a faction is at war with 3 others and they’re all in an alliance, you can offer to join the war on just one of them and the other 2 wont declare war on you (at least immediately) allowing you to pick them off one by one.
Declare war is so obvious I’m not even gonna go into it.