There are a number of different strategies to try during Setup. In general, each unit placement should either help ensure your own ability to recruit in an area by gaining the majority of adjacent city locations, or deny your opponent the same. If a placement can do both, then all the better!
You need to take and strongly support at least one victory city. Your opponents may move first and beat you quickly if they capture and you cannot recapture the city. Teamwork is vital during setup. Work with your partner(s).
Taking a large number of points in the setup will begin you with a head start towards victory, and you will be closer to an immediate victory through holding all of the victory cities. However, if the opponent does not have many high-point cities, it can be difficult during play for you to gain many points, as there are less valuable targets your opponent needs to defend. Conversely, you will not be able to strongly defend all those points all over the board, resulting in a fast victory track acceleration for your opponents!
Though this is randomly generated, it should not be randomly used. There are distinct advantages to being first, last or in any position for that matter. Earlier positions in turn order will give you a chance to act before your opponents, while later positions give you more control over Political. Be aware that you or your opponents may have multiple turns in a row by moving at the end of one round and the beginning of the next.
Order of Card Play:
Cards have three different functions: muster/recruit, political and combat. Of course you want to use each card towards its strength. The best way to facilitate that is by husbanding your cards in hand. An unnecessarily strong play on your turn will leave you vulnerable on your opponent's turn. Saving cards can also give you a stronger turn later at a more opportune time.
As in many games, it can be a good idea to save actions that do not depend on the opponent until after actions that do. If you plan to play a card to Political, it is always a better idea to keep it in hand until you've finished the rest of your actions just in case a battle goes badly and you need to play it to muster. Furthermore, if an opportunity for an easy, low-risk win against an out-of-supply enemy arises, the card might be better used in battle than political.
Choosing the battle: Overall, you battle to try to take city value to push your economic marker forward. However, in the short term, it can be more important to fight to establish your own recruitment areas and deny your opponents'. In addition, you may want to attack targets of opportunity – enemy's locations that are out of supply, or contain only one unit and no river defense can score you easy points and cards. You may also consider making spoiling attacks that deplete your opponents' good cards for bad cards from your own.
On the attack, you usually only want to play one card, as a victory is a victory whether you played one card or five. However, playing more cards can make you more likely to win in critical battles, especially if you have many good military cards and you believe your opponent does not. Also it can be beneficial to use multiple cards when using your high value cards, so that they are not eliminated before being deployed by Partisans, Artillery or Aircraft.
In one-card battles, Infantry and Armor are effective on the attack, while Partisans, Artillery, and Aircraft are more effective on the defense, because the defender deploys first.
Place units carefully! Watch out that you do not hinder your partner(s) by having stacks of units in areas your partner needs to attack from! This will limit his attack value or even deny him access if you have 4 units in a town he needs to attack from.
Tag team one of your opponents whenever possible to deplete his hand. A sacrifice by one player can result in a victory for your partner in a critical position.
Do not ignore the value of this aspect of the game. The team with the player who is going last in turn order has the tactical advantage here. If that is your team, then a careful count can usually win it for you with a minimum commitment. If you are not in the last position, use bluff on occasion with a few low cards. At the least you cause your opponent to think hard and possibly make a major commitment. Be prepared to make calculated risks and give up entirely on political commitment on occasion, since you can't win them all.
The political arena gets especially dicey near the end of the game. On occasion you might even play your entire hand to political commitment.