What follows are advanced tips and suggestions for enhancing your strategy during games of Ideology: The War of Ideas. The Strategy Tips are categorized by phase. If you are new to Ideology, you should make sure you read both the Rulebook and the FAQ (and perhaps play a game or two) before delving into the Strategy Guide.
Resource Phase Strategies
1. How do I make sure I can draw enough Influence cards to equal my Global Influence?
Not being able to draw all your Influence cards during the endgame can be a major setback, and might even lose you the game. This usually occurs when you are at a Global Influence of 10 or 11 and you have several Influence cards placed on regions that aren't adding to your Global Influence. In order to keep this from happening, keep track of what your Global Influence is likely to be at the end of the turn. If that number is 10 or 11, make sure you remove Influence from extraneous regions during the Foreign Phase. These removed Influence cards go into your discard pile, thereby replenishing your deck for the following Resource Phase.
Another efficient (but costly) way to keep this from happening is to build a WMD. A WMD provides one point of Global Influence without permanently tying up any of your Influence cards. This will allow you to maintain Influence at key regions even though they aren't adding to your Global Influence.
As a rule of thumb, a player with a Global Influence of 11 can usually have only one extraneous Influence card placed on the table and still draw his or her full allotment of 11 cards. Note that in order to avoid beginning a turn with a Global Influence of 11, many experienced players try to win the game the turn after they achieve a Global Influence of 10.
Trading Phase Strategies
1. Why should I trade my cards?
It all depends on your overall strategy and the urgency of your short-term goals. If you are trying to finish bringing an Independent Region to its maximum level of Influence, for example, and all you need is one more Cultural Influence card, then it's usually a good idea to trade as much as you can to find that card. You may also need to trade for a particular card if you are trying a risky strategy early in the game. Trading cards is always a bit of a gamble, but a fortunate trade could advance your strategies quickly.
2. Should I ever avoid trading cards?
If you can see a coherent use for the cards in your hand, even if it's not the optimum strategy for the moment, it's usually a good idea to try and play with your hand. If you trade away too much of the same type of Influence card, you will inevitably come up short when you need that type of Influence card later. So if you are drawing streams of Military Influence cards, for example, you might consider filling out your Starting Region with extra Military Influence cards, or even building up extra Tactics for later in the game. It might not help you now, but you will benefit from this move a few turns later when you need extra Tactics to purchase Propaganda or Technological Supremacy.
Development Phase Strategies
1. Should I always try to develop my starting Region as high as possible before worrying about Independent Regions?
Much of this depends on the Ideology you are playing and the Independent Regions that have come up so far in the game. Many players cheer when they draw one of each Influence type on their first turn. Others prefer to start buying Advancements right away. Some Ideologies, such as Imperialism and Communism, have a better chance of a fortunate region draw at the start of the Foreign Phase, so those players might gamble and hold onto their cards.
As a rule of thumb, it's not a terrible idea to try to get your Starting Region up to a 4 fairly early, although ignoring the Foreign Phase in order to push your Starting Region to a 5 or 6 is probably not a good idea. Some players revel in the early card advantage, and sometimes there is an open Independent Region waiting for them to exploit their new card advantage. For the most part, however, it is the player who prudently combines a strategy of both developing his or her Starting Region and acquiring an early Independent Region that is in the best shape for the midgame.
2. Is it really worth it to purchase multiples of the different Level 1 Advancements?
If you have extra cards that aren't allocated to a specific strategy during your turn, it is almost always worth it to invest in Advancements. If two or more Independent Regions are adjacent to your Controlled Regions, you are probably not going to need Level 2 Advancements, but you will need Level 1 Advancements to protect you from a barrage of attacks from those adjacent regions (or to ensure that you will be hold onto what you've placed in those regions). There is also a significant intimidation factor involved with possessing multiples of the Level 1 Advancements.
3. When should I purchase Level 2 Advancements?
If the early Independent Regions are both distant and difficult to control (because they are Level 2 Regions or are adjacent to your opponents' regions), then you should definitely concentrate on purchasing one or more Level 2 Advancements. As a rule of thumb, you should not rely on paying the distance penalty more than 2 or 3 times at the same region. It is far better to spend the same amount of cards on Advancements instead of losing them paying for distance penalties.
4. When should I build a WMD?
Building a WMD could be a disastrous move if you are in desperate need of Level 2 Advancements to reach distant regions and aren't in a position to replace the ones spent on the WMD. Some players will build a WMD during the endgame in order to push themselves over the line to victory, or to fire at another player to stop them from winning the game, or even to invest in a point of Global Influence that doesn't permanently tie up their limited supply of Influence cards.
It is not a cost-effective strategy, however, to build WMD's in order to fire them regularly at your opponents. They are extremely expensive, and although their effect can severely hurt another player's strategy for a turn or two, that player will be able to rebuild his region far more quickly than you will be able to build another WMD.
Foreign Phase Strategies
1. Is it ever worth it to pay the distance penalty to influence an Independent Region?
Yes, particularly to reach Level 1 Independent Regions that the other players are ignoring or making only half-hearted attempts at controlling. If, however, you are trying to fill up a Level 2 or Level 3 Independent Region that is not adjacent to one of your Controlled Regions, it is not wise to spend an abundance of cards paying for distance penalties. Under those circumstances it would be wiser to purchase some Level 2 Advancements before extending Influence to those regions.
2. Is it worth it to extend a single Influence card to an Independent Region even if I have no hope of controlling it in the near future?
Yes, especially early in the game if you have no need to hold Influence cards to defend yourself during the Conflict Phase. There are very few circumstances where you should try to save a card from one turn to the next (since you only draw up to your Global Influence during the Resource Phase). You should therefore feel free to place a single Influence card beside an Independent Region to establish a foothold there. This will boost your Trading Influence and grant you leverage later in the game (either by allowing you to remove that Influence during a critical turn or by helping you seize control of that region during a later conflict).
3. If I have a choice of Influence type to play beside an Independent Region, which should I choose?
If you are trying to gain control of an Independent Region during the early turns of the game, you should try to place Military Influence if you are still neutral (or at peace) with most of the other players. Under most circumstances, the other players will be unable to replace your Military Influence during the Conflict Phase because they are not at war with you (and even the Islamic Fundamentalist player will have to discard an extra Military Influence card in order to declare war against you during the Conflict Phase).
4. Should I ever remove my Influence card from an Independent Region?
You might remove your Influence card from an Independent Region if another player is about to seize control of that Region during the Assessment Phase and no one intends to stop him or her during the Conflict Phase. However, if that player still has Influence cards in his hand, then he might fill in the deficient area during his next action anyway. If you think your opponent can fill in the missing spot on his or her own, you should keep your Influence card there to maintain a foothold in that region.
5. When should I remove my Influence from an opponent's Controlled Region?
You should wait to remove your Influence from an Opposing Region until it will do the most harm to your opponent's strategy. Remember that a Region can never drop below Level 1, so you should not remove your Influence card from a Level 1 Region until your opponent tries to develop it into a Level 2 Region. If you have Influence in more than one area of the same region (one Military and one Economic Influence card, for example), only remove one Influence card per turn so that your opponent will be consistently delayed in trying to advance that region to the next level. Keep in mind, however, that your opponent may attempt to replace your Influence during the Conflict Phase, so if you feel vulnerable to such an attack, you should remove your Influence card during the Foreign Phase to frustrate his efforts. You must keep a close watch against the Communist player in particular, since his "Totalitarianism" ability can be used to replace your Influence very easily at the end of the turn.
Conflict Phase Strategies
1. Should I wait until the midgame before initiating Conflicts against my opponents?
No. You should feel free to initiate Economic or Cultural Conflicts against your opponents whenever it suits your purposes, especially at Independent Regions. If other players have filled out a coveted Independent Region before you during the Foreign Phase, then you should feel free to rectify the situation immediately during the Conflict Phase. In fact, some players choose not to play several cards during the Foreign Phase so they can attempt to shift control of an Independent Region during the Conflict Phase.
2. When should I escalate to Military Conflicts?
Declaring war can be risky since you open yourself up to three different types of Conflict, but sometimes it is too difficult to overtake an important region without being able to initiate Military Conflicts. Shrewd players avoid declaring war until absolutely necessary, but this can be risky because one player might surprise his opponents by pushing forward dramatically and no one will be able to engage him in Military Conflicts until it is too late.
3. How long can I afford to ignore other players?
You can usually allow other players some sway until the midgame (when one or more players achieve a Global Influence of 6 or 7). However, some circumstances might require earlier action. For example, if Italy and Southern Europe come up very early, the other players should immediately try to keep the Fascist player from seizing both of them since he would then be able to develop his way to victory.
4. How do you defeat a player with a Global Influence of 10 or 11?
Players must band together to stop such a player, especially if no other players are in his or her league. The best way to do this is to concentrate on the player's least developed regions (i.e., those that are still Level 1 or Level 2). Once a region reaches Level 3 or higher, it is more difficult to overcome. However, with a bit of luck and a lot of cooperation, a concerted effort against a Level 3 or even Level 4 Region might achieve success.
5. Should I ever bother to attack an opponent's Starting Region?
Many players ignore their opponents' Starting Regions the entire game, while others find merit in attacking a Starting Region during a key turn, such as when one player's hand is full of cards during the Conflict Phase and his opponent's hand is empty. Such a player will usually try to hammer away at one area of Influence and then cripple his opponent during the next turn's Foreign Phase by removing all his Influence (thereby reducing a Level 5 or Level 6 Region down to a Level 2 or 3). It is even possible (under extremely fortunate circumstances) to actually conquer another player's Starting Region.*
* Michael Keller of New Jersey won the Origins 2004 Ideology Tournament by conquering Russia!
6. When should I fire a WMD?
For the most part, firing a WMD is only useful when you need to stop someone from winning the game. Sometimes firing a WMD might help you conquer a region if you are ready to move in with regular Influence cards during the same turn. However, building WMD's is very expensive and firing them regularly during the course of the game is not a viable strategy.
Diplomacy Phase Strategies
1. Why would I ever declare peace?
Two or more players who agree to team up against a common foe might declare peace among themselves to prevent a sudden betrayal. It would be very difficult for an ally to surprise you by wresting control of one of your regions if he or she is only permitted to initiate Cultural Conflicts against you.
2. When should I declare war?
Sometimes you need to replace some of your opponent's Military Influence cards in order to take control of a key region, so in this instance the decision is fairly easy. However, if one player has achieved a significantly higher Global Influence than everyone else, the other players should strongly consider declaring war against that player in order to hinder his efforts to push himself to a Global Influence of 12.
Turn Order Phase Strategies
1. Is it always better to go first in the Turn Order?
No. In general, it's great to go first in the early turns of the game because extending Influence during the early game is of vital importance. During the endgame, however, going first is a severe disadvantage because the other players can watch your moves carefully during the Development Phase and then decide which Advancements to purchase and how many cards to save for the Conflict Phase. Of course, you cannot refuse your place in the Turn Order during the Turn Order Phase. However, some players actually avoid developing some of their Controlled Regions during the Development Phase so that they do not stand out as being in the lead until they are ready to push forward for the victory.
© 2003 Z-Man Games, Inc. All rights reserved.
Game Design © 2003 Andrew J. Parks
Illustrations © 2003 C. James Parks