Diplomatic play

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Victoria 3: November 2021 Update. A summary of last month's dev diaries, including: Rank and Prestige, Relations, Infamy and Interests, Diplomatic Actions, and Diplomatic Plays.

A diplomatic play is, in essence, diplomacy at the point of a gun. It allows the player to try to achieve any objective normally achievable by war by diplomatically maneuvering to force the other side to give it to them without a fight.

Starting a diplomatic play

Diplomatic Plays start by when a country demands something from another country. For example, that they cede a particular state to you. In fact, there is no "declare war" button in Victoria 3. Instead, wars are always preceded by Diplomatic Plays. To start a diplomatic play, you need a declared interest in the relevant Strategic Region, defined by the location of the war goal/demand. For example you need an interest in western Africa to start a diplomatic play for dutch Ghana, but you don't actually need one in the Rhine (the location of Netherlands proper) You cannot start a Diplomatic Play against a country you owe an Obligation to.

Once a Diplomatic Play is started, there's a number of things that happen immediately. First, the country that is being targeted is of course notified, along with any countries that are considered Potential Participants in the play. Who is considered a potential participant depends on the exact nature of the play, but usually it includes any country with an Interest in the Strategic Region where the Play is taking place as well as allies and the overlord if the target is a subject.

All countries with an interest in the strategic region will get a Diplomatic incident with every wargoal, lowering relations in proportion to the amount of infamy generated by that wargoal. This can gradually turn countries hostile from repeated infamy-producing diplomatic plays in a region, or make countries sympathize more with the defender when multiple large demands are made.


During a diplomatic play, the primary active participants on each side (the Initiator and the Target initially, though this can change if the overlord of either side steps into the play) have a limited number Maneuvers. The amount primarily depends on Rank, with higher Rank countries having more maneuvers, but can also be increased by certain technologies. All actions, both adding more demands and trying to sway countries, during the diplomatic play costs a certain amount of maneuvers. So a country that piles up demands quickly, can see themselves being upnumbered during the play without any means to react.

Demands (or Wargoals when/if war breaks out) includes a wide variety of requests-under-duress such as ceding land, giving up claims or becoming a subject. Only the primary participants can add Demands, but in addition to demanding things on their own behalf they can also demand things on behalf of other countries backing them, if said country agrees that the Demand is something they want.

Rank Diplomatic maneuvers Infamy Infamy for attacker
Great power.png Great power 100 +20% +100%
Major power.png Major power 75 +10% +50%
Unrecognized major power 75 +50% −30%
Minor power.png Minor power 60
Unrecognized regional power 60 −40% −25%
Insignificant power.png Insignificant power 50 −10% −10%
Unrecognized power 50 +30% −50%

Primary and Secondary demands

There are two different types of demands in diplomatic plays: Primary and Secondary demands. They differ in the fact that primary demands are enforced if the other side capitulates before war breaks out. Secondary demands on the other hand, will only be enforced if war breaks out.

The initial demand that started the play, as well as the defenders first demand are considered primary. In addition, if a third country is swayed with a demand against the primary initiator/target, it is considered a primary demand. If a country is swayed with a demand against another third party, it is only a secondary demand.

Each sides primary participant can promote a demand from secondary status to primary status. Doing so costs an additional 50% maneuvers and generates an additional 50% infamy of what adding the initial demand cost.[1]

Once a demand has been made, it is not possible to remove it again, and it is not possible to "un-promote" a demand either. Infamy from any Demands that end up not being pressed (for any reason) is partially or fully refunded, though their negative impact on relations remain.

The phases of a diplomatic play

There are three distinct phases over which a Diplomatic Play plays, based on the level of Escalation, which is a value that increases each day after the play is started:

  1. Opening Moves - the first 20 %
  2. Diplomatic Maneuvering - the middle 60%
  3. Countdown to war - the last 20%

Opening Moves phase

The first phase is Opening Moves, during which participating countries take stock of the situation. The target can set their Main Demand (automatically considered primary). Both sides can add further demands, as well as promoting them to primary demands. During this phase, it's important to note that only the Initiator (the country starting the play) and Target (the country targeted) are active participants. All other countries will only act during the next phase.

During the Opening Moves phase, it isn't possible for other countries to fully commit to one side or another, with the sole exception of overlords of the primary participants. It also isn't possible for either side to back down. This makes it possible to actually have time to add additional primary demands without the target just capitulating immediately.

Diplomatic Maneuvering phase

Once Escalation reaches 20, the Opening Moves phase ends and the Diplomatic Maneuvering phase starts. If by this point the Target has not set their Main Demand, they are automatically given one (usually War Reparations). This is the "main" phase of the Diplomatic Play, which occupies the majority of the escalation scale and during which most of the "action" takes place.

During this phase, potential participants can now set any stance towards each side; They can either commit without getting anything in return (though it is rare to see in practice), to announce that they lean to a certain side or remain completely neutral. It's also possible for countries that have not committed to one side or the other to simply Declare Neutrality. They will exit the play altogether without any way to re-enter the negotiations.

During this phase the two primary participants can use maneuvers to sway potential participants to their side, in addition to adding further demands.

While this may make it sound like it's a good idea to spend your maneuvers piling on as many Demands for yourself as possible, there's a couple reasons not to. First, adding certain aggressive Demands (such as demanding land) will generate Infamy and degrade relations with countries you need to support you in the Play. Second, being seen as greedy and unreasonable in your Demands will in itself make it harder to get countries to back you up, and may in fact make it so undecided participants side against you just to put a stop to your mad dreams of conquest.

Swaying potential participants

Swaying, on the other hand, is the main way in which the primary participants get undecided participants over to their side, by making them a promise. This promise may be in the form of owing them an Obligation or promising them a Wargoal/demand. If the country agrees, they will be set as backing the Swaying side in the Diplomatic Play, and will fight on their side if war breaks out, just as if they voluntarily set their stance to backing that side. When giving an AI country an offer, it is possible to see if they will accept it or not, and their reasons to do so.

However, if you think the Play is over just because France threw their weight behind the Initiator and there isn't anyone strong enough to oppose them, you'd be wrong! It's possible for countries that have promised to back a side to betray that promise and go back to being undecided, or even switch sides entirely. Doing this of course makes them lose out on anything that was promised to them and negatively impacts on relations with the betrayed side. If an owned obligation was used to sway the country, they will also suffer a prestige malus. There is no limit to how many times a single country can switch sides in a Diplomatic Play (the AI will be rather reluctant to offer something to a country that has already forsaken them once unless they desperately need their support, though).

This also means that trying to "play it smart" by burning through your maneuvers immediately to sway all the countries you think you need early in the Play can backfire, as the other side is then free to try and "bid over" on your supporters while you're unable to do anything. Furthermore, it can also make it risky to not be upfront about your own territorial demands - doing the swaying first and then saying ‘oh, and by the way, I want London' might result in your side of the Play looking very empty all of a sudden as your former supporters scramble to distance themselves from you. Swaying and adding Demands during Diplomatic Maneuvering will also both pause Escalation for some time when carried out, to make it possible for the other side to react even if those actions are taken right at the end of the phase.

Last but not least, it is possible to back down, which will cede all primary war goals, but the play ends, war is avoided and all secondary demands are saved.

Countdown to War phase

The final phase of the Diplomatic Play is Countdown to War; the last 20% of the diplomatic play. During Countdown to War, both sides are locked down and it's no longer possible for countries to declare or abandon support for either side, nor is it possible to add new Demands or do any Swaying. In fact, the only thing that is possible during this phase is Backing Down, and this is usually the phase when you will see one of the sides give in.

The aggressor side might actually in some cases want the Play to escalate into war (and hence, to not stack the odds in such a way that the other side sees no path to victory), as to gain both primary and secondary demands. It's possible to back down all the way up until the Escalation meter hits 100, at which point the Diplomatic Play is over and War breaks out.

List of war goals

Most war goals cannot target decentralized nations and civil war countries. Starting a diplomatic play requires an interest in either the region containing the target state or the capital of the target country, depending on the war goal.

Each war goal has an objective associated with it. Fulfilling an objective reduces enemy's war support faster, and war support can't drop below 0 if there are unfulfilled war goals targeting that enemy. Occupying a country's capital counts as an objective for all war goals.

Name Effect Requirements Initiating? Can be added? Ticking war score Base infamy
Annex Subject Target is completely annexed Target is an annexable subject type Yes Yes Any land of the target is occupied 5.0
Ban Slavery Target is forced to adopt "Slavery Banned" law Target does not have "Slavery Banned" law Yes Yes The capital of the target is occupied No
Conquer State Target state is ceded Target state is not a treaty port, Neither the target or the agressor is a subject of the other Yes Yes All land in the target state is occupied 5.0
Cut Down to Size Target releases all subjects (possibly bugged), and all states conquered in last 10 years Target is a Pariah (infamy at or above -100) Yes No The capital of the target is occupied No
Humiliation Target's prestige is reduced; target cannot join diplomatic plays opposing the war goal owner for 5 years Target is a rival Yes Yes The capital of the target is occupied No
Independence Owner becomes independent Target is the overlord of the war goal owner. Does not require an active interest Yes Yes Subject's capital is not occupied No
Liberate Country Target releases a specified country as an independent nation The target owns at least one state in which a non-existing country can declare independence No Yes Occupying at least some of the states in which the potential new country will be released No
Liberate Subject Target becomes independent Target is a subject of another country Yes Yes Occupy at least some of the the target's states No
Make Dominion Target becomes owner's dominion Target is independent; target's rank is lower than owner's Yes Yes Any land of the target is occupied 3.0
Make Puppet Target becomes owner's puppet Target is independent; target's rank is lower than owner's Yes Yes Any land of the target is occupied 3.0
Make Vassal Target becomes owner's vassal Target is independent; owner is unrecognized Yes Yes Any land of the target is occupied 3.0
Open Market Target is forced to adopt "Free Trade" law Target does not have "Free Trade" law Yes Yes Captured capital city No
Regime Change Target loses prestige and is forced to change government interest groups to match those of war goal owner Governments of the target and the owner are not too "ideologically similar"; target is not owner's overlord Yes Yes The capital of the target is occupied 0.5
Return State Target is ceded War goal owner has a claim on the target state, Does not require an active interest, Neither the target or the agressor is a subject of the other Yes Yes Any land in the target state is occupied 2.0
Revoke Claim A claim is removed Target has a claim on at least one state outside of its control No Yes Target state is not occupied No
Take Treaty Port A treaty port is created and ceded Target state is either a treaty port or a state with a valid treaty port province Yes Yes Any land in the target state is occupied 2.0
Transfer Subject Target becomes owner's subject Target is a subject of another country; owner can have that type of subject Yes Yes Occupy at least some of the target country 2.0
War Reparations Target transfers 10% of tax income to the owner No requirements No Yes Any land of the target is occupied? No
Force Recognition Aggressor becomes a recognized country Target is a great power, Aggressor is unrecognized, Target is not a subject of the aggressor Yes Yes Any land of the target is occupied No


  1. Prior to version 1.2, it was not possible to promote a secondary demand and the terminology was instead 'main demand' and 'other demands'