From Hell’s Heart I Stab at Thee!

Diplomacy: a Primer

I’m still on a bit of a diplomacy binge. I’ve another guest writer in who’s going to tell you all about it.

Bob Burke is an old gaming friend of mine (I don’t know him that long he’s just old). No I’ve known Bob a long time and played manys the fine game and campaign with him not to mention lots of diplomacy.

He’s good at diplomacy is Bob, he’s also good at writing in fact Bob is an Author and has published to date three books (which lets be honest is more than you’ve done).  They’re rather good I recommend you go check them out

Anyhoe here’s what the wise Bob has to say about Diplomacy….

At first glance, Diplomacy seems very ordinary. Set in Pre-WW1 Europe, it has armies and fleets, each moves one space and the greater attacking force wins the contested space. First to capture 18 supply centres wins. So far, so very conventional.

What makes it different is the diplomacy aspect from which the game gets its title. A quick glance at the board will show that getting to the magic 18 supply centres all on your own is pretty much impossible. You will, therefore, have to engage with at least one other player to work together until such a time as one no longer needs the other. At the start of each turn a set period of time is assigned for these discussions to take place. During this diplomatic period, agreements are made, treaties may be signed and, here’s where the fun really begins, nothing you say or do at this stage is in any way binding! England needs to work with either Germany or France to get its forces on the mainland. If it talks to just France, then Germany has a reasonable expectation they’re working together. If England talks to both then one will know the other is a viable ally. They won’t find out for certain until the moves are revealed. If France and Germany then also talk, then England might get left out in the cold. Result: distrust, paranoia and downright skullduggery.



When the moves are eventually made – and all moves are revealed at the same time so as not to spoil the fun of one player discovering they’ve been well and truly shafted by another – friendships are broken, seeds of mistrust are properly sown and at least one player will have discovered the folly of believing in the bountiful and somewhat incredible promises of territory from their former friendly neighbour.

It’s this combination of negotiation, simultaneous movement and lack of random events that make Diplomacy almost the perfect game. There’s no luck (other than what the players make for themselves); strategic awareness and the ability to build worthwhile (albeit short-term) alliances will determine the ultimate winner.

Diplomacy does have its weakneses: Italy is notoriously vulnerable, having no place to go after the first few turns, and Austria-Hungary – surrounded by four other nations – can make some short-term gains before becoming crushed by its more powerful neighbours. This makes it more difficult – but not impossible – to win with either country. The game can also get bogged down in a stalemate line where equally powerful forces on both sides of the map can’t make any breakthroughs while the game winds down to a slow, dull halt.

In Diplomacy, apart from actually winning, nothing can beat the satisfaction of performing the ultimate stab at just the right moment, a stab that both confirms a winning position and destroys the chances of an erstwhile ally. Ultimately, that’s what Diplomacy is all about. As to whether friendships will be maintained after a game: that’s another story!


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