So you've played Diplomacy for a while, and have done moderately well,
winning some games, drawing more, and losing even more, and you ask yourself,
what do I have to do to take my play to the next level? Well, the answer
my friends, is in this column. Simply read it, and heed my advice! This is good
stuff! Trust me...I wouldn't lie to you just to win a few more games,
now would I?
Well, as an initial installment of the Diplomacy Survival Guide, I
thought I would give you the Ten Rules for Surviving at Diplomacy.
Well, ok, maybe not the Ten Rules, but the first ten. Oh,
someone sues me for false representation, these are the ten rules for
surviving. I never said anything about winning, right?
- Paranoia is a good thing.
Do you ever get that creepy feeling when playing Diplomacy that
everyone else is out to get you? Do you ever suffer from delusions
and irrational fears? Well, relax. Those fears are perfectly rational --
everyone is out to get you.
- Too much of a good thing is bad.
Although a healthy dose of paranoia is good for you, you have to
learn to put it aside somewhat. After all, maybe you can get some of
the others before they get you, right? Maybe you can be friends with
someone and beat up on the others, then finish your friend off before he gets
you? Then again, maybe not. The point is if you don't trust
one of the six other scheming bastards (yes, you are one too), then
you won't get anywhere.
- Security in numbers...or, let's all beat up on Russia!
If you organize an alliance which will take on another country, then
there are a few advantages that will follow. First, while you're
all attacking that other country, you're not getting attacked yourself.
Second, you are in reduced danger of a stab, since if one of the countries
in an alliance stabs another, then there is a greater chance of the
other members in the alliance coming to the rescue. This is because
that makes people feel good, and even though we're all backstabbers,
we don't like to admit it. Third, you have more friends that won't be
expecting you to stab, because of my second point, so if you stab,
it'll be a real surprise. Finally, you get to grow and have more units, thus
the security in numbers (you didn't think I meant the number of countries
in your alliance, did you?).
- Talk to everyone.
Ask them about the weather, their national football team, whether
they've ever tried lasagna and would like to meet in this nice little
restaurant in Rome that you know to try it out (especially if you're
Austria talking to France). Even if you're not going to ally with
someone right away, it's always a good thing to keep the channels of
communication open. That way you can get an early warning of a stab
from someone else, or, even better, spread disinformation when you're
about to stab someone! It's also easier to start working with someone
late in a game if you've talked with them earlier.
- Don't stop talking.
Even if you've stabbed someone, or if they've stabbed you, don't
end the communication. If nothing else, you need to either gloat and rub
it in or swear and vent your anger (as the case may be) to get the most out
of the game!
More than that, though, if you've
been stabbed, you may induce a guilt trip in the stabber and convince him
to call off the attack (or see something better which the two of you
could attack together). Then you can get your revenge in a few years....
And if you stab someone, you may let yourself be convinced
to recant -- thus letting your victim get even more out of
position, and getting the chance to stab that player twice in a row! It
may also be worthwile to let him live as a puppet state for a few turns
and use his support against others before finishing him off (remember
he'll likely be looking for revenge!).
...It's often usefull to misleed other players about your jeenyus-level IQ.
After all, although your brane power may excede that of the other six
players cumbined, you do knot want to let them no....
- Brains are deadly...or, if you're smart, don't show it!
Someone who seems to
know a lot, and talks about all sorts of openings and proposes brilliant
plans that look 5 years into the future will probably get clobbered
immediately by the other players because they'll recognize that he's
too dangerous (call it instinct). Therefore, make a few spelling
and grammar errors, propose a plan with an obvious mistake, or ask
someone what a Lepanto is or what the correct syntax for a convoy is.
They will then think you are harmless (or at least sufficiently so), and
will have a tendency to ally with you early in the game, since they'll
think themselves able to take advantage of you later on.
- The early worm gets caught -- by the early bird.
When starting a game, don't decide too early on who your allies will
be and what your strategy is. Speak to everyone first, getting an
idea of who the players are and who the fools are. Then make standard
opening moves in the Spring and decide who to attack in the Fall or the
Spring of the following year. The worst way to start off a game is to
attack someone right off the bat and have someone else attack you.
- One enemy is good. Three enemies is bad.
If you seem to be friendly and allied with everyone, your neighbours
will all start to get suspicious, since they'll be expecting a stab,
and it'll be harder for you to work with anyone. You may even provoke
one of them to attack you -- which could happen at the same time as
you attack someone else, and really spoil your situation. Therefore,
try having an enemy at all times; someone weaker and smaller than
you, of course!
"There are three types of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics"
- Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield, British PM 1868, 1874-1880
- Brush up on your opening moves and best alliance statistics.
The Hall of Fame will give you a breakdown of which alliances win
the most and which countries are the best. You can also get a list
of opening moves and discussions about which win the most often and
which are the most effective, etc.
Well, not all alliances are created equal, and they usually tend to
favor one side over the other. Here is my view of the best primary
ally for each country, as well as the best secondary ally (you shouldn't
just have one ally, but at least two, so that you can stab one and still keep
the other). I would say more, but that would be another article (Manus, do
I hear you calling?).
- Austria: Italy, Russia.
- England: Germany, Turkey
- France: England, Russia
- Germany: Italy, France
- Italy: Turkey, Germany
- Russia: England, Italy
- Turkey: Russia, France
- Play England.
This is the easiest one to follow - Turkey being a good second choice
if you can survive the first few years. I've actually never been
eliminated in a standard Diplomacy game when playing England.
Unfortunately, I've never won either -- but that's not the point, right?
The fact is, England is the most defensive country there is, because
it has a natural moat surrounding it. There's not even a drawbridge
to be lowered to let the troops in once the castle wall is breached.
Unfortunately, this same obstacle also makes it hard for England to
get her armies out onto the continent.
And here's a final, bonus tip...
- Reaching 18 centers helps.
You'll definitely survive if you reach 18 centers. I guarantee
it! (Standard games only -- yes, there's always a catch.)
Well, I hope this will be of use to you. I really recommend that you
change your goal to survival from winning. After, with the likes of
Dan Shoham out there, you don't even stand a chance, right? Just let
me know which games you'll be playing in!
Oh, and this article is shareware, so you may use it for a period of one
month. after which you must register by sending your name, address and
five dollars to the author. (Just kidding.)
If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author, and clicking
on the mail address above does not work for you, feel free to use the
"Dear DP..." mail interface.