A Guide to Victory in Multiplayer Games
In Victoria multiplayer games, there are certain laws that seem to apply, outside of the common experience with single player games. Of course, factories still make you money, and culture techs still give you prestige, but there are certain things that tend to happen in multiplayer games that any new player ought to be familiar with. These things tend to affect two sectors of game play—diplomacy and economics.
There are several things that people quickly learn about multiplayer diplomacy. Mainly, it’s cheap. Not just in cost, but in terms of honor as well. Cheap techs and cheap shots. That’s the name of the game.
In terms of technology, you’ll find that the going is quite rapid. Unlike in single player games, technology becomes exponentially more important in MP. It becomes a tool of war. Players will support their other human allies with technological offerings, while also withholding tech from aggressive countries. Techs will also go for a much cheaper price in MP, as a country will offer openly that it wants to buy a particular technology, and then will entertain bids, watching one country undercut the price of the other until the lowest bid has been reached. You don’t know what this means until you’ve seen Interchangeable Parts go for 15,000 pounds.
The other aspect of tech trades in MP is that they happen much more frequently and often come with few penalties. As you may know, there is a research penalty for getting a tech in a trade you initiated, but there is no research point penalty for getting a tech in a trade initiated by someone else. Therefore, in MP games, tech trades will almost always be initiated by the seller, not the buyer, to avoid the research penalty. This has the effect of increasing the rate of research dramatically.
There are veritable technological wars in MP games. Since the technologies you and your opponents have are easily visible in the diplomatic screen, there will be arms races over army and navy techs, and the culture techs often get taken up very quickly. My recommendation is to avoid these races if you can. They lead you to waste research points and valuable time you could spend doing other things.
I suggest researching commercial techs. Your opponents will have the same skill as you in developing their economies, so every pound matters in the grand scheme of things. Commercial techs can vastly increase your tax revenue, and they can help fund infrastructure expansion at a greater pace.
MP gamers have less to worry about when it comes to badboy. This especially true in large MP games where most of the potential AI aggressors are being played by humans. Badboy, recall, is a number reflecting your transgressions against the balance of power doctrine. There are ways to skirt badboy—two-step annexation, for example—that will no longer function in MP. Your human opponents will see you taking provinces from an uncivilized country regardless if it gives you badboy, and they will react accordingly. This means that expansion in MP must be slow and methodical, with the constant approval of your allies, and even of your opponents. The best situation is to bargain; let your opponent conquer one country if he lets you conquer another, for example. That way, you get what you want, he gets what he wants, and no one’s the worse off.
This understanding is key: unilateral expansion in MP games is a dangerous business. Your opponents will be watching for any signs of an increase of power from you, and they will react with their own aggressive actions. Your best choice is to make multilateral decisions. Instead of conquering Burma, for example, split it between you and another human player. You’ll get less, but you’ll also avoid a potential war.
Rapid expansion should only be undertaken in MP if you are certain you have the military strength to put you money where your mouth is. Otherwise, you could find yourself in over your head.
Alliances, Guarantees, and Deceit
There are many tools in your diplomatic arsenal that often go unused. Others seem unnecessary. MP gaming will change those perceptions. When in an MP game, all your tools are useful.
Alliances, so easily formed in SP, are a complicated business in MP, especially when made with another human player. An alliance with an AI controlled country can signal strength; an alliance with a human can signal aggression. Moreover, human allies will tend, unlike the AI, to balance each other out. If Russia and Prussia ally, for example, France and Austria may ally as well, simply to balance out the other alliance. So choose your allies carefully; they’re hard to come by, and they’re very important.
Beware, also, of your allies switching on you. These agreements are ones of convenience, not of the long term. You may find yourself having to ally with your former enemy in order to balance out against a new threat.
Guarantees of independence are of limited use in SP, but they can be powerful tools in MP games. Guarantees will tell an opponent that you are committed to the defense of the country, that only by winning a war against you will they be able to take over the nation they desire to annex. You can limit the expansion of your opponents into populous or rich regions of the world. You can box them in by guaranteeing the independence of their neighbors. In other words, you can restrict them so much that they have to fight a war against you in order to break out. If you’re prepared for the consequences of that, it can be very useful.
Guarantees are, essentially, a unilateral way of saying “don’t go there”. You could negotiate with your opponent, but they might be unreasonable. With guarantees, you can avoid pointless negotiations and skip strait to the declaration.
Deceit is a law of MP games. Never take an opponent at his word, and always have a backup plan just in case things don’t go your way. Remember, in MP, there’s no going back to a previous save, so you’d better make each move count. Make certain you’re flexible enough to avoid being pinned down while at the same time boxing your enemies in. Set human players against one another. Conclude several deals at once. Make your opponent feel confident, while at the same time plotting behind his back. It may seem underhanded, but trust me, he’s doing the same to you.
The Steel Dilemma
MP games are notorious for their ability to ruin the steel industries of everyone involved. Why? Because there simply isn’t enough iron to go around. In two-player games, it can get expensive. In games with several players, by the middle of the game, only the highest ranking players in prestige can buy it on the WM. Basically, you can still produce steel, but the factories will lose money. This is a fact that you will have to live with, unless you want to cap your steel production at your domestic output of iron, which would be severely limiting.
This means you have to make your money elsewhere. Clothing factories are a good investment, as cotton tends to stay relatively cheap, even to import en mass. Furniture is also good, but to a lesser extent. And, of course, there is the luxury goods market, which always guarantees a good profit—if you can get your hands on tropical wood, which disappears relatively quickly.
The other effect this has is that, since iron gets so expensive, it is profitable to export. In MP games, iron RGOs are some of the most frequently expanded. The laborers that work in these RGOs will also produce valuable income for your nation, and iron itself becomes more profitable than many manufactured goods, especially in games with more than four human players.
Like, iron, sulfur is in very short supply. But sulfur is more rare. If you do not have a domestic supply of sulfur in your country, move quickly to secure some for yourself. If you are fortunate enough to have a domestic supply, take a deep breath, exhale, and then go and conquer more sulfur. You always need more sulfur. You cannot have too much. That point cannot be stressed enough, so I’ll repeat it—get as much sulfur as you can. Remember, there’s only a limited amount in the world. The more you get for yourself, the less your opponents have to divide between them, and if you constantly use what you produce, in the form of ammunition and fertilizer, for example, your opponents won’t have any to buy off the WM.
Sulfur rarely reaches the price of iron, but it is necessary for the entire ammunition, small arms, and artillery chain to function, and being without any of these would be bad for your military.
Surprisingly, there have been instances of lumber becoming scarce midway through larger MP games. This seems to be because lumber and timber are so cheap at the outset that players will convert laborers from their timber RGOs rather than from more important ones, like coal or sulfur or iron. Soon, though, this leaves a shortage of timber, and then, lumber, a necessary good for expanding infrastructure. Keep a close eye on your timber supply, lest this happen to you as well.
In a SP game, you can sometimes afford to be lackadaisical with your industrial development. Not so in an MP game. Every moment available must be used to pump up your industrial strength. Use your initial machine parts to build enough factories to supply you with cement, steel, and lumber. Whenever you have free cash, build railroads. The more your country can produce, the more wealth you can channel into defeating your opponent.
Remember to use as many craftsmen and clerks of your national culture as you can, but if forced to choose, make clerks from your national culture instead of craftsmen. Early on, you will need to produce as many research points as possible and all along you will need to maximize production efficiency and clerks are anywhere from 150% to 200% better than otherwise similar craftsmen. Hopefully, you can find enough POPs of your national culture to have a sizeable industry.
It is also in your best interest to become self-sufficient in promoting craftsmen and clerks as soon as possible. Paper, furniture, clothing, and the other necessary goods are always more expensive in MP because there are more human players promoting POPs as fast as they can. The sooner you can provide for yourself, the better.
In MP games, armies will be composed differently than in SP. Encirclement and destruction of your enemy’s army is paramount. Unlike the AI, which will spread out its armies in groups of two or three divisions, human players will mass their forces. If you can surround and destroy one of your opponent’s armies, it can mean a rapid total victory.
Also, as human armies tend to be more well developed and armed, they will fight to the death more than normal. In other words, their morale will often be so high by the middle of the game that they will fight until their divisions are destroyed more frequently than they will surrender.
Given the ability of a human to repel the attacks of another human, you must rely on different styles of attack than you may be accustomed to. Utilize fortified and easily defendable positions. Rather than hold at the border, it is often better to hold one province back, if that means you have to be attacked across a river or in the mountains. Build fortifications. These can prove invaluable when the showdown comes. Finally, never underestimate the ability of another human player. Do not learn that the hard way, like I did.
Navies in SP rarely seem to be the crux of a war, but they often are in MP. As well as being a force projector, control of the sea allows you to land at spots on your opponent’s coastline, bypassing fortified or strongly defended positions.
Navies also allow you to control the movement of land troops in certain places. For example, control of the sea is necessary in order to be able to march troops from Sweden to Denmark, from Denmark to Prussia, Sweden to Finland (via Mariehamn), across the Bosporus, and across the Panama and Suez Canals, once they have been built.
Navies also allow you to isolate certain fronts. If you opponent has a large colonial empire, you can trap some of his divisions there while you wreak havoc across his homeland. If he cannot send a navy to bring them safely back, those troops might as well not exist.
In MP, attachments add a great more value to a division than in SP. If you have some artillery brigades, leave them to defend your fortified emplacements while your faster units move into enemy territory. If you can build some hussars or cuirassiers, use them to encircle the enemy’s army. Speed and quality count. Guards are good. HQs will give you needed organizational bonuses. Engineers will give you an entrenchment bonus. A smaller, highly trained army is always better than a larger, poorly-equipped one.
Knowledge of your opponent is vital to success in MP games. Use whatever tools you have to observe him. If you can get an alliance, great. Take the opportunity to examine the layout of his forces, their relative strengths, their qualities (native, colonial, regular), whether they have attachments, what kinds they are, how high his maintenance is set, and how high their morale is.
You can also use your navy to observe. Send some spare ships off the coast of your opponent’s country. Watch his armies move, if you can. Remind him of your power to be there in case of war.
Constantly check his technological advancement. Do this by going through the motions of making an offer to trade technology. Once in the diplomatic screen, you can see what tech he has that you don’t, and vice versa. Whenever you see that he’s conducted a trade, check the tech gap at the first available opportunity, so you can see if he’s gained anything.
Also, use the ledger. Never forget about the ledger. Military score is one thing, but the ledger lets you see exactly how many divisions and ships your enemy has and what kind they are. It will tell you the state of your opponent’s economy, the leading producers of all the commodities in the world, what party is currently in power, and what his national value is. The ledger, if used correctly, is the best tool you have for gaining information in the game. People sometimes complain about a lack of an espionage ability; they don’t know how to use the ledger.
Just to recap, remember that you’re playing against human beings, that you can’t ever assume that they’ll fall for the ploys you’re used to pulling on the AI. Every good you’re used to having more than enough of, get used to having just enough of; and every good you’re used to having just enough of, get used to having not enough of. Set goals early—sulfur and iron provinces, for example—and take them early in the game so you have time to develop them. Stay in constant communication with your opponents, and always watch their moves in any way you can. Follow these principles form the start, and you’ll have a good, fun, and interesting game.