Stars!-R-Us Article

Warfare 2 - Machiavellian Politics
by: Todd Rogers

Oh, what tangled webs we weave
When we first practice to deceive.
     - Sir Walter Scott

But it can sure be a lot of fun.  Especially when the consequences aren't real.  I love using Machiavellian politics in Stars!  In another article I said that we need to know our enemies.  We need to know what makes them tick, but more important we need to know what makes them act; for when we know that we can control their them actions to the point of our power to provoke them.  The more we control our neighbor's stimuli the more we control their actions, assuming, of course, that we truly understand our neighbor.

First let's see how we can use some generalities that apply to most Stars! players to our advantage. Here are some of these generalists.


All Stars! players want to go to war.  Maybe not now, but they're building resources, researching tech, mining mineral, and exploring all in the hopes to some day build big bad killer ships.  And what's the point of having big bad killer ships? To destroy the enemies ships, bomb his planets, and take his planets.  Or in other words go to war.

A Stars! player would rather win a war than lose a war.

No Stars! player likes losing worlds.  That leads to less resources and minerals to use to go to war. It also leads to losing wars.

A single Stars! player doesn't want to take on the whole universe unless they have a chance to win. A corollary to this is that Stars! players often form alliances.

Most Stars! players are playing mainly to have fun and their world won't end if they lose.

Most Stars! players don't like micro-management.

In most Stars! games there are a few players that are outclassed and that make easy pickings.

Most Stars! players will try something new every game (e.g., a new ship design or a new strategy)

Let's look into how we can use these facts to our advantage.


A Stars! player would rather win a war than lose a war.  If you can convince the losing side of a war to join your side they might take it.  You can use this to obtain "slave races." For example you the Quigglies attack the weak Bru-marths and whittle them down to next to nothing.  They have no hopes of winning until you offer them peace on the condition that they join you in your attack on the Thumpers.  Of course as the Bru-marths are weaker than the Quiggies you are in command of the war and they must follow your orders.  Now if you give reasonable orders that will allow the Bru-marths to regain power (albeit they won't gain as much power as you) they'll continue to follow your orders.

No Stars! player likes losing worlds.  A corollary is that Stars! players like gaining worlds.  This can be used in forming alliances and preventing wars.  If you're powerful enough you can threaten to take one of their worlds if they don't do what you want.  If you have too little power or if you want to be friendly you can offer to give one of your planets in exchange for what you want.

Stars! players don't want to take on everybody unless they can win.  This is basically restating number 2, but is more specifically about alliances.  Form alliances.  If you're a good general and you can convince your allies to follow your command than you effectively control them.  Granted they're better off following you than acting independently, but it's always best to have them follow you rather than you follow them.

Most Stars! players are playing to have fun.  That means they won't work too hard to win.  If you plan more than them (which for your average Stars! opponent isn't tough to do) you're likely to come out on top.  Also remember that they may not do what's strategically best for them.  If they want a challenge, they might pass up an opportunity to crush your bomber fleet unescorted.  If they want a smashing victory, they might not notice that cloaked fleet circling to flank them because they're too intent on your HW.

Most Stars! players don't like micro-management.  Most races aren't played to their full ability.  This is good for you, but beware if things start looking bad they can increase their race's performance drastically.  It also means that the worlds you capture are likely to be rich in at least one mineral.

In most games there is at least one player who's outclassed.  Take him first if you can.  Either make him your slave/"ally," or just walk over him and use the extra expansion space.

Most Stars! players will try something new every game.  If you can get them to try your bad ideas they waste resources and make easier targets.  If you can get your allies to try your good ideas than your team is likely to become stronger.

Now let's move on to further musing.


The number 2 reason why I like to play the silent is that it's good for the general paranoia.  Paranoia in others is a good thing.  You can make them jump at shadows.  You can make them think that your fleet really is a shadow.  If they think your coming on every front, they'll split their forces 9 different ways, and you can blitz in with your fleet and take the 9 parts one at a time.  Some other ways to increase paranoia are to

Colonize a few worlds on the far side of the universe so they don't know which way your battle fleet is coming from.  This is especially effective for ITs.

Send cloaked ships into their space.  They know you have something there but not how much or where.  This is especially effective if you can send your fleet through a wormhole then they know that you didn't just sneak a small fleet past their defenses.  It's also very effective if you can send a few visible ships through the wormhole too; then they know you're there and you aren't just a shadow.

Declare an alliance with another player.  Whether the alliance is real or not doesn't matter.  If you do this enough and enough players deny the alliance they won't know who your allies really are.  It's also good at times to have your allies publically renounce you.

Build cheap capital ships.  If they look at public player scores and see that you have 10 times as many cap. ships as they do then they're likely to worry.

Relations with the galactic community as a whole are important as well.  If you start an aggression, it helps to have an excuse.  This will hinder the other side in obtaining allies and help your side.  The earlier you can document these excuses the better.  Also, don't be obnoxious in your messages.  I know of no worse way to lose favor of other players than to obnoxiously harass them.

The last thing I'm going to talk about in this article is extortion and mercenariness.  If you have knowledge of other players, you can black mail them or offer to sell it.  For example you, the Quigglies, know the location of the Bru-marth HW.  You contact them and ask for 10000 kt. of minerals in exchange for not telling the Thumpers.  Conversely you could contact the Thumpers and offer to tell them for 5000 kt. of minerals.  The same thing could be done with military force (e.g., request that the Bru-marths give you 10000 kt. of minerals to not go to war against them or offer your services to the Thumpers for a mere 20000 kt. of minerals).

I think Stars! games would be much more interesting with a little more Machiavellian politics. Personally I don't like to back stab because it prevents many good alliances in future games, but I do like to control the political situation as much as possible.  So all you leaders go out there and see if you can't control the political arena in your next game.  I guarantee the race that has the greatest control of the games politics will almost always win

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