Fidelity is one of the most important aspects of a vassal-overlord relationship. For that reason, it can be absolutely devastating for an overlord to discover their vassal is secretly consorting with another space-nation who is supporting their independence.
When the inevitable diplomatic breakdown occurs, many overlords are completely blindsided. However, there are some warning signs that might help you unearth vassal duplicity and protect yourself in the longer term.
Vassal Betrayal: The Warning Signs
1. Communication breakdown
This could be little things, such as your vassal no longer sending you 100 minerals intermittently to appease you, or not responding as promptly to your tribute requests. You may hear legitimate-sounding excuses like “I can’t afford to send you food because we’re having a famine right now” or “but you already have access to everything anyway.” Don’t fall for it, they’re being evasive and you need to look into it.
2. Personality change
This is a big sign of infidelity. Is your vassal being more secretive? More argumentative? Perhaps they’re sending more insults than usual? Sometimes this is the result of feeling guilty. Backstabbing vassals tend to try to rationalize their own behaviour, and one way they do this is projecting blame onto you, their benevolent overlord. Their leaders tell themselves you’re not as powerful as when you first met, you’re not as generous with gifting resources or they want more open-border relationships with other space-nations. Remember - if you’re questioning yourself, your attention is being averted away from your vassal.
3. Change in integration drive
Suddenly your vassal has no drive for integration anymore. Or perhaps it’s gone the other way, and they won’t stop trying to integrate? This is a classic sign of guilt. The vassal feels remorse for cheating and is trying to cover it up, because they’re thinking about getting integration elsewhere. Another worrying sign is if your vassal starts suddenly introducing new techniques and activities to facilitate integration. As much as you might enjoy this, it’s possible they’re learning these processes outside of your diplomatic relationship.
4. Change of schedule
You’re at war, you flag your fleets to lead, and you wait for vassal support to show up. Except they’re not there. If your vassal starts showing up late or stops showing up at all to your very justifiable wars, it shows they’re not making an effort for you anymore and they’re just not invested in a shared future. Lack of alloys, slow build times and sub-light traffic delays may be the typical excuses you hear. In actual fact, your vassal is probably trying to save resources to swoon your neighbouring rival space-nation.
5. Spending sprees
If there are dramatic changes in your vassal’s economy, or suddenly they have less energy credits available, it’s possible that they’re siphoning resources towards getting another space nation to support their bid for independence. The costs can add up quickly for cheating vassals - resource gifts, re-armament etc. If it’s unusual behaviour, you should follow the energy trail.
6. Hiding map colours
It’s an accepted standard that vassals adopt the map and border colour of their overlord. This is a tradition dating back hundreds of years and is an outward display of diplomatic matrimony. If your vassal suddenly starts hiding their map colour by switching to the non-union map mode, they’re yearning for pastures new.
7. Your other vassals are uncomfortable around you
With vassal treachery, the overlord is nearly always the last to find out. The cheater’s fellow vassal peers often know about the infidelity right from the start. This knowledge typically causes these vassals to feel uncomfortable around you. They might also start ignoring your requests, or sending you seemingly pointless gifts of minerals. Be aware, and remember they may squeal first if you apply just the right amount of pressure.
Vassal Betrayal: The Confrontation
An overlord accusing a vassal of betrayal is an emotionally fraught time for all involved. Tensions will be running high. If not contained, it’s likely succession and all-out war will erupt.
In the next issue we’ll take a look at 10 tips for confronting a cheating vassal.
Remember - you can’t take back the accusation of vassal cheating once you’ve made it, and it’s going to look really awkward when you’re halfway through planet-cracking all of their inhabited worlds only to find out they’ve not done anything wrong.