The Diplomacy Survival Guide

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The Diplomacy Survival Guide

By: Vincent Mous

Reprinted from the Diplomatic Pouch - Spring 1995 Movement Issue

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, and before someone sues me for false representation, these are the ten rules for surviving. I never said anything about winning, right?

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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?).

4. 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.

5. 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....

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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

9. 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, 
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 

10. 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 

And here's a final, bonus tip...

11. 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.)

Vince Mous