In the Art of War, Sun Tzu says: “The best warfare strategy is to attack enemy plans.” This is exactly why I often don’t make a strategy plan before a game. Usually all those plans will get blown out of the water in the first 5 seconds. They can be distracting and blind you from the reality of the game you find yourself in. Remember, every game of Supremacy is totally unique. Even with the same players as the same superpowers. How can this be? It’s all in the cards. Supremacy has tremendous replay value. No 2 games are alike. Each game presents you with a unique strategic problem.
Often times, I like to wait to see the cards before I start to formulate a strategy. I love the Confederate generals from the American Civil War: Lee, Stuart, Stonewall Jackson. They were outnumbered and under supplied but they attacked and literally ran circles around the Union armies. They survived on their cleverness and audacity. “True”, Tony (a friend of mine) once argued, “but Grant was better.”
What?! Blasphemy!! How dare he? “How could you possible say that Grant was a better General than Lee or Stonewall Jackson? Nobody says that!”, I responded.
“Well first of all, he won.” Tony answered.
“Well, that was just because he had more money!” I replied.
“Exactly. That’s what made him better. He understood that war comes down to economics ultimately. It doesn’t matter how clever you are. It doesn’t matter how quickly you maneuver or how bravely your men stand and fight. In the end, it all comes down to money. Grant bled Lee’s army dry by continually grinding them down with unimaginative frontal assaults. It wasn’t creative, brilliant or glorious but it worked.”
As much as I hate to admit it, Tony was right. There is a lot of truth to what he said. The same truth rears its ugly head in Supremacy. In many ways, it ultimately comes down to economics. You can be brave, clever, even brilliant in your tactics and maneuvers but if you don’t have a strong economic base behind you, your victories will be short lived.
Back to the cards. Lots of questions to ask and consider: Where are the cards? Where are most of the oil companies? Most of the minerals? Where are they in relation to you? Can you get to them easily? Can you defend them? If not, who can defend them for you? Who else can get to them easily? Can you beat them? If not can you distract them with another war somewhere else? If they are engaged in another theater, they can only commit part of their forces to your zone of interest.
Can you seize (or threaten to seize) most of the worlds production of any 1 resource easily? One good strong attack here can cripple the world economy. Yes, it will make many enemies. So what? They will all be weak enemies that can’t afford to build or attack you. “Let them hate, so long as they fear” right?
Where are your companies? Are they in Superpower areas that can be seized? Are they in minors that can be easily invaded? Are you in a position to defend them? Who is? Another option here is to sell them lots of weapons to defend themselves!
Which alliances can help you? Which can do nothing for you? Who do you want to fight? Sometimes it is advantageous for you to be at war with a superpower. How do you want that war to start? How will that look to other players? How can you get your potential allies on board with your plan?
Where are the best future cards likely to come out? Often times it is good to invade and conquer key areas BEFORE the good cards come out there. Nobody cares to much about it then. Afterwards, it’s too late.
Consider your economic weaknesses. Don’t go overboard obsessing about this. I like to spend more time thinking about how I can hurt the enemy rather than how they can hurt me. The best defense is a good offense right?
Still, what resources are you weak in? Which of your cards are likely to be lost if conflict breaks out? How can you make up for those? Maybe I can’t do much about my grain in the Philippines if someone takes it but I can easily invade Brazil to get a grain company. If you have weaknesses, start planning to research more companies in this right away. You might also look for allies that are strong in this resource you can trade with cheaply.
What sea areas do you need to control to protect your economy? Blockades? Where will you likely need a strong naval force? Who is likely to be your enemy and how can you hurt their economy? Can’t get to them? Actually, this is what ICBMs are best at. Rather than obliterating the entire globe, what if you use them to nuke out the few critical enemy companies you can’t get to easily. Used at the right time and place, this can be a devastating effect.
These are some of the questions you should be considering while planning your strategy for the game. The cards should be driving both your military builds, deployments and your diplomatic efforts. The rules to Supremacy are easy. The strategy is endless and mysterious.
-“To my enemies I am mysterious. No one knows what I will do next because when my strategy is complete, it begins again.”