The overall objective of Demokratia is to get as many citizens in return for the citizens you play as possible. This means that attention to tactical opportunities is important. Although this doesn't exclude long-term strategies, they must be based on a tactical understanding so let's start with the basics.
First, a game typically lasts 5-7 rounds, depending on the number of players and the rate of new citizens. Make sure to keep track of how many new citizens are distributed per round and how many that remain in the pool. This will help you assess the expected return of a citizen before the game ends.
Next, a citizen on the hand generates a risk-free return of 1 citizen if played to an Athens tile but only for 1 round. A citizen played elsewhere may or may not generate 1 citizen per round. This means that you shouldn't play a citizen elsewhere if you don't expect to get at least 1 citizen back (unless, of course, a citizen to an Athens tile would benefit other players more).
Last, play citizens to the Boule first and to the Athens tiles next to prevent other players from taking advantage of your Athens tiles and play to the Boule before you. It's true that there's no formal first-player advantage when playing to the Boule and that other players may follow. However, the more citizens played to the same color, the less new citizens will each player get, so players will usually be discouraged from following and look for other opportunities instead.
Let's look at some scenarios.
The first round: Spread your citizens
In the first round, it may be tempting to play both your starting citizens to the Boule to maximize the number of rounds they will generate new citizens. However, Athens is very open in the first round, allowing the other players to play Athens tiles of any color. Most likely, they will play Athens tiles that don't benefit you and in the worst case give you no return the first round, making the value of your citizens in the Boule similar to citizens played there the second round. Playing both citizens to Athens isn't good either, as the other players will be able to see which Boule seat that increases in value and play their citizens there. Instead, play 1 citizen to an Athens tile, which will not only return 1 new citizen but also promote the color of the citizen played to the Boule.
After the first round, you should start playing your citizens to the Boule more aggressively.
The early rounds: Follow the crowd
In the mid-game, some colors in the Boule can be expected to be more valuable than others but also more crowded. Imagine the following situation where you are the green player and consider playing 1 citizen to the blue, red or green tribe in the Boule:
No matter which tribe you play to, you will get 1 citizen back, provided that the power of the tribe increases by at least 1. So it doesn't matter to which color you play your citizen then? Not quite. The probability that a tribe power increases is greater the more players that have an interest in that color. In addition, if the power does NOT increase, your playing to a crowded tribe will ruin the game for as many other players as possible.
Don't make the mistake of assuming that low-power colors have a greater chance of increasing than high-power colors - the power levels are determined by the players and although the colors are equally distributed between the tiles in the game, it's the players who decide which to play and their decisions will lead to unequal power levels during the first half of the game.
The middle rounds: Bigger is better but not too big
In the mid-game, the number of citizens on each tribe in the Boule will most likely be higher than the power levels (otherwise the return of playing citizens to the Boule will be higher than the return of playing citizens to Athens tiles). The special distribution rule for new citizens, where you look at most citizens first, second most citizens next and so on, has some important implications:
* Majority players get citizens first
* Minority players may lose out
* A majority of more than 1 will not always pay off
Consider the following example:
All players have 6 citizens in the Boule but distributed differently. As long as the number of citizens equls the power level, all citizens will generate 1 citizen and all are happy. However, if the power level decreases (or the number of citizens increases), some players will receive less than 1 new citizen. How do you avoid being on the losing side
The simple answer is to always be in majority, as this will ensure you the first citizens generated. In the example above, blue player has 2 majorities and yellow player has 1 majority while red player has spread his citizens. If all power levels fall by 1, yellow player will lose out as his least prioritized citizens on the blue and red seats will receive nothing and this is not compensated by the big majority on the yellow seats. If all power levels fall by 2, red player will also lose out. Of course, to actually get those majorities in the competition with the other players is another question.
The later rounds: Getting the left-overs
In the later rounds, the risk-free return of 1 citizen for the Athens tiles gets more attractive again as the new citizens to the Boule get less likely to return more than 1 citizen. Now (but only now) it makes sense to start looking at the remaining Athens tiles. Why? Because players will get more desperate to get them out on the board to get those risk-free citizens. Previously neglected tribes may now see their power levels increase so look at the table to deduce which colors that remain in the pool and claim those seats before other players do.
The use of Rhetors and Monuments
While the return Athens tiles and Boule seats can be estimated fairly easy, Rhetors and Monuments are more difficult. Given that each citizen you play should return at least 1 new citizen, you shouldn't waste a citizen on a Rhetors or a Monument if you don't expect to get it back, and similar to Boule seats, you should aim for them in the early rounds to be able to use their benefits as many rounds as possible. But how do you use them?
Let's start with Rhetors. It's usually good to get one Rhetor (but seldom not more than one), as it lets you relocate your citizens from weaker tribes or other players' citizens from tribes where you want to be strong. The tribe where you currently has a majority is usually the best to invest in a Rhetor from. Nevertheless, don't feel that you have to use the Rhetor every turn. If you're happy with the balance, let the Rhetor stay quiet. Often, the presence of a Rhetor may refrain the other players from challenging you.
Monuments must usually be aligned with your strategy to be useful (see below) but can be very powerful if used well.
* Theatre and Parthenon: Use them to optimize your playing citizens to the Boule by finding the best tribes. Theatre is best with fewer players, as your ability to play two vote cards get a relatively higher impact, while Parthenon is best with more players, as your ability to see all vote cards lets you see unexpected shifts in the Boule before anyone else.
* Academy and Walls: Use them to optimize your already played citizens to the Boule by finding the right Athens tiles. Both are best if you focus on one or two tribes, where the bigger hand of the Academy gives you more freedom to play Athens tiles in the early game, when Athens have many open building spots, while Walls are better in the later game, when Athens gets more crowded. and then when you place a normal building of the color of the same tribe.
* Stoa: This may look purely defensive, as the removal of a Rhetor doesn't give you any direct return. However, it can be used to blackmail Rhetors to stay away from your interest. If you are the law, take advantage of it!
When to bribe
Bribing may seem too expensive, since it not only costs you a citizen but also gives another player a citizen. Thus, it should be used with caution. It's best used when one player has many citizens and another player almost none. The first player may not be able to use all citizens with a good return but the second player may have Athens tiles that benefit both players. Also, since the second player is falling behind, the risk of giving him or her a citizen is smaller.
Another use of bribing is to divert attacks, for example an ostracism or some particularly devastating black Athens tiles.
In other words, bribe is not something you offer others to do what you want, it's something you demand from others for "protection".
When to ostracize
The purpose of ostracism is to bash leaders and that's how it should be used. To be most effective, an ostracism should be well timed. An early ostracism is the most powerful, since this will delay the ostracized player's citizens, but the cost of an early ostracism will most likely delay you as well. A mid-ostracism is less powerful, since the ostracized players most likely have well positioned citizens in the Boule already that will earn him or her citizens in addition to the unplayable ones on the hand. An ostracism should thus be delayed to the second to last round (since it most likely will be too late in the last round), to prevent the player from playing safe Athens tiles and let him or her end the game with unused citizens on the hand.
So how do you time the ostracism then? Simply keep track of how many new citizens the leader gets each turn (counting both new citizens from Athens tiles and from the Boule). If the player gets more new citizens than he or she has left in the citizen pool afterwards, it's time for ostracism!
With all those tactical tips in mind, let's finally look at some different long-term strategies.
Strategy 1: The Democrat
For a Democrat victory (depleting your citizens first), you must carefully choose how to play your citizens to maximize your benefits and minimize the other players' benefits. Given your starting hand, choose two tribes for which you'll fight for the majority in the Boule and more or less ignore the other tribes. Typically, those will be your starting tribe and the one matching the color of your votes and Athens tiles. Claim and defend those majorities and play citizens to increase their power to maximize your return but avoid playing citizens that will increase the power of other players. If you must play another color, negotiate with the other players to get one of your colors played in return.
This strategy typically requires one or possibly two of your favored tribes to help you defend the majority by removing opponents' citizens. Do consider temporary removing your own citizens as well, if you have better use for them elsewhere. This may be the case if you have enough majority already or if you expect another tribe to be powerful a round. (In the latter case, you should of course work to decrease the other tribe's power but while it's strong you should take advantage of it.)
Strategy 2: The Oligarch
For an Oligarch victory (5 citizens in a tribe with power 10 in the Boule), you must focus on one tribe only while at the same time earning enough new citizens to increase the power of this tribe. In the early game, you can negotiate with other players to promote your tribe in exchange for your promoting theirs, but in the later game, they are not likely to help you.
Rhetors cannot help you, as their role is to change majorities rather than increasing power. Instead, there are several Monuments that can help you. The Theatre can turn votes against your tribe into votes for your tribe (if you have two vote tiles on your hand supporting your tribe that is). The Academy will increase the probability of drawing Athens tiles of your tribe and The Long Walls will help you place Athens tiles of your tribe. Consider one or two of those Monuments as early as possible.
Strategy 3: The Tyrant
For a Tyrant victory (5 citizens in a tribe in a block of 10 in Athens), you must focus on Athens tiles. Drop some citizens in the Boule in tribes which the other players seem to prioritize to get a steady flow and then find one or two blocks where you may add Athens tile with buildings of the same color. When placing the Athens tiles, place them so that other players must follow suit. This means that you should be careful playing crossroad tiles with the white buildings towards the open spot or turns with a building of another color towards the open spot.
When it comes to other tiles, Rhetors won't help you but both the Academy and the Long Walls will similarly to how they help Oligarchs above. The other players will try to block you, in which case you should carefully decide whether to fight (with the Long Walls) or find another opportunity (with the Academy).
Strategy 4: The Monument Builder
As a Monument Builder, you play citizens to Monuments whenever they cannot get any immediate return and use them to maximize your return instead. To succeed, it's important to time the use of them to prevent other players from follow. For example, if you have the Parthenon, you should use your knowledge of the votes to play citizens to the Boule last in the round, and if you have the Theatre, you should exchange vote cards when it's too late for the other players to adjust their strategies.
But what do you do in rounds where you're not the last player? Let other players do the work for you! For example, if the last player has a Rhetor, offer to tell him where it's best to place a citizen if that player uses the Rhetor to move one of your citizens to a better place. Or, if you have the Stoa, force the other player to move one of your citizen or threaten to execute the Rhetor!
Strategy 5: The Rhetoric Master
As a Rhetoric Master, you invest in two or three Rhetors and use them aggressively to move citizens back and forth in the Boule to get as many majorities as possible and thus maximize the return of your citizens. This requires that you carefully watches how the other players play to predict which tribes will generate most citizens each round.
The Rhetoric Master cannot afford to play citizens to Monuments as well but may very well cooperate with a Monument Builder and exchange movements for information. However, you must bear in mind that one of you will break the deal eventually and you want to be the one breaking it!