Conquest leads to reputation points (also known as BB (Bad Boy) or Infamy points), which have consequences even at low levels (including hurting trade and diplomacy) and very serious consequences when you exceed the threshold (a base of 30 but modified by the ruler's diplomatic abilities and it can be increased by ten by using the Despotic Monarchy form of government) - essentially all of your neighbors will attack you at once. See the reputation page for details. Study those numbers; most of the strategy herein is a natural consequence of those rules. Reputation is like golf; a low score is better. Unless you are (on the one extreme) playing an entirely peaceful game, or (on the other extreme) so strong that you don't mind going over the threshold, managing reputation is key. The following is specific to In Nomine (IN) - most of these tactics will also work in earlier versions, but the best expansion tactic pre-IN (force-vassalizing nations and then diplo-annexing them; see Diplo-Annexing Strategy for a variation on this) no longer works in IN.
Limiting Reputation Gains
The key to managing reputation gains is to get the best "value" for your reputation points. That is, look at reputation points as a kind of currency that you spend to conquer your neighbors. You want the most conquest for the least reputation gain. There are two main sources of reputation gain for a conqueror - DOWs and taking provinces.
DOWs: You want to minimize DOWs and to have a Casus belli (CB) when you do declare war, as they cost two reputation points without a CB and one point with one. Guarantee and warn your neighbors; this will serve both functions as you will be able to enter some wars without a DOW and have a CB when you do need to declare war. Also, maximize the "conquest" you get from every war - take all you can from each opponent. When you do declare war, try to declare against a nation with allies (to the extent possible; obviously there are trade offs here). Be careful not to make peace with the alliance leader until you have made peace with each of the other members of the alliance.
Taking provinces: The key here is to avoid forced annexations - especially of same religion nations. Basically, taking a same-religion province "normally" is only one reputation point (or zero for a core). But forced annexation of a nation with the same religion is SIX reputation points (three for a core). That's just not a good "value." By and large, avoid forced annexation. Take all but one of a nation's provinces, then vassalize them. Not with the idea of eventually diplo-annexing them (as was the strategy before IN), but with the idea of having them as vassals indefinitely (or until you are so strong that the BB limit no longer matters). There are plenty of other "fish in the sea" (provinces) to conquer. Don't spend six precious reputation points on one province when you can get six provinces for that "price." Obviously there will be a number of exceptions to this rule, chiefly for certain missions (e.g., the reconquista, which reduces your reputation by 20, nation formation and for some provinces that are particularly valuable for strategic or economic reasons. Moreover, if you have a core on the province, the three reputation points are often worth it.
Another good "strategy" (but one which you don’t have complete control over) is to "let" another nation force annex your "target" nation, and then go to war against the annexing nation, taking the target from the annexing nation. A similar "trick" involves one province vassals of other nations. Assuming you are at war with both the vassal and the overlord, you can only conquer the vassal in a peace negotiation with the overlord. But if you do so, you pay only the normal reputation cost for a province - not the cost to force-annex. There are some ways to take advantage of these game mechanics, though some might consider them exploitive. For example, guarantee a one province nation that you have your eye on, and then come to their “defense” when they are attacked. Lay siege to the attacking nation’s provinces, but let them siege and annex the minor nation that you are “defending.” Then siege and take that province yourself, along with the other provinces of the attacking nation, and take that province along with whatever else you can get from your foe in the ensuing peace negotiation. Or de-vassalize a one province vassal, but stay allied with it. In your next war, let your opponent siege, take, and annex that province, and then take it back in the peace negotiations.
Prior to 1650, reputation costs are lower for taking provinces from and annexing pagans, heathens and heretics. For heretics: 1 for taking a province in a peace negotiation and 3.5 for force-annexation; for heathens 0.5 for taking a province in a peace negotiation and 2 for force-annexation; for pagans, you may force-annex the entire nation at one time (assuming 100% war score) at no cost in reputation points regardless of the number of provinces (previous to IN the cost was 5 reputation points). All these numbers are for non-cores; see the Reputation reference page for more details, including cost for cores. For this reason pagans, heathens and heretics are often better targets from a reputation perspective (though not necessarily in other respects). Note also that taking a same-religion province from a nation that has a different religion costs zero reputation points. However, in the early stages of the game, especially in Europe, most of your neighbors share your religion. After 1650, reputation costs are the same regardless of religion.
This will be slow under the best of circumstances.
- The biggest component of this is not under your control - there will be a yearly decrease between 0.30 and 0.90 in reputation depending on the diplomacy skill of your ruler.
- Probably the best way to lower your reputation is through Diplomat advisors. Assuming availability of good advisors, anyone accumulating reputation points should probably devote one (or even more) advisor slot to lowering reputation.
- Being the Papal Controller also reduces reputation by .25 per year.
- Additionally, the Cabinet National Idea reduces reputation by an extra 1 point per year.
- Finally, you gain a one time reputation reduction of one point per province if you release a vassal (in other words, once you have totally annexed a nation, putting them on the "Create Vassals" button on your Overview pane). That’s normally not a good trade, but is a possibility under some circumstances when you are gaining other advantages from the release.
Specific, nation-dependent badboy reducing missions:
- For Castille or Spain: Finish the Reconquista! for −20 badboy (reward changed with ).
- For Ming or Manchu: Relations with the Oirats for −10 badboy (mission removed with ).
- For the Papal States: Combating the heresy for −5 badboy.
- For Russia: Defend Russia from the Tartars. for −5 badboy (reward changed with ).
- For Bohemia: Silesia relationship for −5 badboy (since 5.2: −2 badboy).
- For Austria: Securing the imperial border for −3 badboy.
Additionally, many missions reduce BB by 1 or 2.