Diplomacy: Allan R. chimes in

Game Commentary

I’ve asked Allan “Scoops” Rothberg to comment and generate the occassional analytical piece on Singluarity 1, our first DIPLO game. Here’s some excellent general points on early game play and general strategy:

Diplomacy – for a change of pace – early game strategies and where we are at.

Part I

Most game of Diplomacy start out with several possible cyclonic systems on the map.

System 1 is centered on the Balkans and involves Turkey, Ausria-Hungary and Russia. 2 of these 3 ally to bash the jejeezus out of the third. As Austria-Hungary and Russia have back doors, so to speak, it is generally Turkey that draws short straw in this system.

System 2 are the Benelux nations. This time it is Germany, England and France that rotate around these neutral centers, and 2 pounce on 1 and shut the odd man out. The situation is slightly different than in the Balkans, as the two countries with a map edge to one flank have some immunity – England courtesy of the big ditch and France because of the Iberian peninsula.

There are only 2 centers up for grabs here, and all three powers can look elsewhere for neutrals, so things are usually less dire than in the Balkans with its 4 centers, and almost the only neutrals AH and Turkey can go for.

System 3 is Scandanavia. Generally only England and Russia can vie for more than 1 center here, and even then, it is difficult without peaceful borders elsewwhere. Germany can grab Denmark with ease, but is hard pressed to advance anywhere else, without building a navy or unless France and Russia are occupied heavily elsewhere.

Systems 4a and 4b are the Iberian peninsula and North Africa. Both are normally default captures for France and Italy, respectively, although England can, if he so opts, throw significant power into Iberia and along the French coast, tying up French garrisons that cannot be used to secure Spain and Portugaul. Likewise, France can bedevil Italy in the Med. and prevent capture of Tunis.

Part II

Beginner games of Diplomacy often see the 3 board end nations as winners – England, Turkey and France, although France less so than the other two. Early game alliances are less common, and these three nations have either easy neutrals, France in Iberia, or smaller or protected borders – Turkey and England. The middle nations, Germany, AH and Italy, often see themselves shut out of the game unless they can form an early alliance with one of these board edge nations, see part I for the usual groupings. Italy occupies the potentially weakest and strongest position in the game. With only 1 neutral nearby, and a full 2 moves away, Italy has no easy builds. However, if the game devolves, and it so often does, into cyclonic systems 1 and 2, Italy sits in the perfect position to either dog pile on the odd man out on either side, or to hit the rear of one of the nations ganging up on the lone players. And while AH and Italy have adjacent home supply centers, a war between these two nations usually dooms both of them to an early exit to the game. However, it has been said that one of the strongest defensive alliances in the game is that between Italy and AH. Germany and Austria often get squeezed to death from the map edge nations, although it takes concerted effort to stamp either one out as they have compact home centers that can mutually support each other defensively.

Part III

I don’t often see games break out into all out open warfare as early as this. Near as I can tell these are the following conflicts:

England-Russia Germany-England France-Germany Russia-Turkey Italy-Turkey Austria-Italy Austria-Turkey

(Did I miss any?)

The only neutrals unclaimed are Spain and Tunis. Spain due to a rules mis-understanding, and Tunis due to distance and a distracted Italian Fleet (we want Byzantium back!). It looks like the only idle piece on the map, not on the front lines, is that Russian Army in Warsaw.

The early game alliances are shaping up, although they often fall apart when the proposed division of spoils doesn’t turn out quite like everyone thought they would. Still, with this crew, the personalities may predominate over the strategic situation.

Part IV

Rule Number 1 in Diplomacy – don’t stab an ally in the back unless you stand to gain something substantial out of the move. 1 center, except at the very end game, isn’t going to make or break your nation, losing an ally will. Still, Diplomacy is very much like checkers, the moves are finite and determinable, so a stab on turn X could lead to several supply centers captured on turn X+1 or X+2.

Rule Number 1 in Diplomacy – if you leave yourself open to a stab, you will be stabbed. Conservative play will keep you alive longer.

Rule Number 1 in Diplomacy – no single country can go it alone. Without an ally, you are simply too weak to do anything, and you will probably be facing an alliance if you try and do so anyway.

Rule Number 1 in Diplomacy – never count on your allies. They will always have something better to do with their armed forces, they will always demand more than they give, they will always suspect you of getting more out of the alliance than they are, they are certain to stab you at the first opportunity or sign of weakness on your part, and they will never trust you at your word.

Put that all together and what do you have? Beats the ever loving daylight out of me, but Diplomacy is the best, most fun multi-player game ever designed as far as I am concerned.

My only advice, don’t carry a grudge from one game to the next, it will only spoil your fun.

Next time, some tips and tricks on game play.