This article began as a post in the Strategy & Tips forum. I owe my thanks to some of the forumers who commented on my post with refinements of their own, notably pdescobar and Yndy.
I play on Monarch level, and nearly every game my win is a diplomacy victory. Many players here at CFC have commented that diplomacy victories are "easy" or "cheap." I disagree. While there are exploits involving Mutual Protection Pact (MPP) entanglements that can make a diplomatic victory easy, playing a game from the start with the intention of developing your civilization toward a diplomatic victory poses some interesting challenges.
The challenges of working toward diplomatic victory generally reward a peaceful builder approach, but war is not out of the question. Indeed, war is often necessary, either to weaken a key opponent, grab desirable territory, or secure a vital resource. But there is a reputation cost to declaring war, so limit your aggression and whenever you can, provoke another civ into declaring war on you.
I am extremely careful with my reputation. This is the first and foremost thing, because if you trash your reputation no amount of gifts and bribery can fix it. Taking care with your reputation is tricky. Some of things I do include
- Never, ever razing an AI city. Ever. When at war I use artillery to bomb the population down and after I take them I starve them down to 1 pop point; with strong culture and a strong garrison I never lose captured cities to culture flip this way. The AI doesn’t mind me bombing and starving them to death, but razing an AI city will destroy your reputation.
- Never, ever engaging in Right of Passage (RoP)-rape, or the other actions that the AI treats as RoP-rape. That means making sure you have no units in their territory when you declare war – not even a lone ship a few squares away from one of their cities. I declare war on the diplomacy screen either by choosing "prepare for war" or by calling up the peace treaty from "active" agreements and canceling it.
- Never turning down a deal without offering something else in return. When the AI offers me a deal I do not want to take (like "World Map" for "World Map and Combustion" ) I say no, but then give them the world map for free (for example). This is the only time I use gifts. Trading is key to maintaining strong healthy relations with your neighbors. It is important to have many active trades, and be generous. If I have traded a technology to two or three large civs for a lot of money, but a weak civ can only offer me 10 gold and a world map for it, I make that deal. There’s no reason not to – the weak civ can’t use the technology to harm me, and their vote counts.
- Never, ever, break an existing deal. If I want to wage war, I wait until active trades with the target civ expire. Then I call up that trade and cancel it. Then, and only then, will I declare war, again making sure there’s no RoP-rape.
- A corollary to the above is, never entering MPPs. I want control over when and with whom I go to war, because breaking deals trashes my reputation. So I simply do not enter MPPs. I will grant RoPs to civs that ask for them, but I take MPP off the table. I will also use military alliances when I want to draw another AI into the conflict to force my enemy to fight on two fronts. When I do that, though, I always wait 20 turns and end the military alliance before making peace, in order to avoid breaking a deal.
- Finally, understanding that not every civilization will like me. I usually wage two or three large wars a game where I cripple my nearest neighbor or strongest rival, to get their resources or just to make sure I am the leading civ. The civs that I fight with will never like me, no matter how honorably I conduct the war. That’s okay – I don’t need every vote, just a majority.
As you can see, it takes some work and care to maintain your reputation. But when I follow the above steps, I will nearly always win a UN election. (I have never lost one, although they are sometimes inconclusive.)
As I mentioned above, I generally follow a peaceful builder type of strategy with a few strategic wars sprinkled in. By doing so, I develop a rich economy and a healthy tech lead by the middle of the industrial age. When aiming for diplomatic victory, there is no harm in trading technology to your rivals if it can keep you wealthy and popular. I trade nearly every technology, generally maintaining only a one or two tech lead. Thus it is never a problem for me to build the UN soon after entering the modern age.