Through the Looking Glass

The Newsgroup in July 1995

Mark Nelson

This article summarises postings to the usenet group It is based on the posting which remain on my usenet feed at the time of writing, roughly speaking the middle two weeks in July. I have excluded some non-Diplomacy postings. The Summer is traditional a time of peace and tranquillity on RGD. Students have returned home after their exams and most lose net access in the move. In a couple of months all will be hectic as the "old hands" return and a new year of students discover the attractions of free net access! This tranquility is reflected in a great reduction in the number of posts this time, down from 178 in March to 80 in July.

I have classified the 80 postings in this period into the following groups:

Clueless Newbies

Of the three clueless newbie posts, two were from aol accounts....


There were two threads in the GM'ing discussion. One thread concentrated on what GM's should do with endgame statements once the game has finished. The concensus was that the tradition of distributing them over the group should be restarted.

The second thread started when --- not bold enough to give his/her name to their opinions --- launched an attack on Joel Furr: "I'm not grinding an axe here... Joel's "work" here serves his own ego more than it does us, or the game in general." The reason for this attack was not clearly stated, but stemmed from a game where Joel (as the GM) did not bow to the wishes of one particular player. This led to a discussion of who "owns" the game, and under what conditions the GM should change game parameters. The onus is clearly on the players to read the game conditions prior to joining, and the GM does not owe a responsibility to the players to change parameters once the game has started. Once it was clear that the mysterious enigma has no support in the Diplomacy community he wrote, "this thread has begun to bore me," and tried to kill the discussion.

David Kovar, himself not a Joel Furr fan, wrote "It's people like you who make me wonder why I've invested close to five years in this hobby and uncountable number of hours, days off, and vacations to support the Judge, mailing lists, news to mail gateways, and the like. I deeply dislike the attitude of people like enigma. It's uniformed, destructive, caustic, immature, and very undesirable."

It's worth noting here that of the eight posts announcing new game openings, four, that is 50%, were from Mr. Joel Furr. Joel may not be a SMOF, but his GM'ing is in demand.


The main thread in the miscellaneous section (8 posts) was started by the following comment made by John Twilley on 13th July: "[I suggest] transcribing the Diplomacy rules into HTML to make it easier to move from section to section, to add margin notes (such as Judge peculiarities or newsgroup comments) or even images of specific rulings."

Producing a hypertext version of the rulebook is an excellent idea, an excellent idea which would make it much easier to use the rulebook and understand it. Unfortunately, as other posters commented it would lead to legal problems; the rulebook is copyrighted material, and redistribution of it could lead to Avalon Hill shutting down the judges. However, Melle Koning, posting from Holland, suggested that "the legal threat should be ignored and the rules made available to make it easier to join the internet hobby!"

The only other miscellaneous threads to have two or more posts were the announcement of ManorCon (two) and of Chris Read's ( multi-player version of Diplomacy that runs on MacIntoshes over AppleTalk/Internet (also 2 posts).

Opening Strategy

There were two threads on Opening Strategy this month. Three posts provided advice on "How to Play Turkey." Andrew Caddock suggested an alliance with Austria against Russia, opening to BLA and Arm after first agreeing a DMZ in BLA with Russia! Jeff Cochran suggested neutrality with Russia, aiming to split Austria and Italy. The other thread discussed the "Western Lepanto" in which Italy makes an early attack on France. As long ago as 1987 I analysed Italian openings and calculated an expected Calhamer point gain for each type of opening, the Western Lepanto was one of the worst! This doesn't mean it can't work -- it can work because diplomacy is always the key -- but that it's harder work than other options.

Rating Systems

The discussion on rating systems concentrated on a system designed by Bruce Duewer called YARS (Yet Another Rating System). In this system, the number of rating points you score depends upon the quality of the opponents against whom you are playing; you score more points for beating good players than for beating bad players. To test the system , Bruce made some (pretty outrageous) simplifications and rated only games in which the top 15 HoF rated players had played. The top five YARS players were: Dan Shoham, Alan Bick, Conrad Minshall, Jamie Dreier, and Michael L. Frigge.

Rules Questions

The following rules question isn't difficult, but it was amazing how many people didn't get it right. Can you do better?

Adjudicate the following:
Russia: A(Bud)-Tri, A(Ser) SA(Bud)-Tri, A(Rum) SA(Ser).
Turkey: A(Gre) SA(Tri)-Ser, A(Tri)-Ser.

Names have not been named, but two postees got it wrong, including one who said the following: "The reason the Turkish attack into Serbia succeeds is because you may not support a unit that is not holding or convoying."

Standby Positions

The seven standby postings split into four positions and a three-article thread. Pitt Crandlemire started this thread moving by writing a long article on the different philosophies open to mercy standby players: I see 3 options for the mercy position player. One, play your little power for all it's worth and try to stay alive as long as possible. Call this the Survivor. Two, do your best to maintain existing alliances and continue the flow of the game as it has developed already. Call this the Maintainer. Three, try not to rock the boat, be as innocuous as possible, and just enter necessary orders so that you can be quickly eliminated and allow the game to continue. Call this the Disappearer."

Incidentally, the standby positions included a 19 center Italy, in a Youngstown gunboat game.


The three variant postings divided into one for Machiavelli (a request for more gamestarts) and two for Colonial. Internet has only just started its first e-mail Colonial game, people are so used to playing on the Judges that the idea of playing in a hand-moderated game has novelty value! Gianni Stanizzo, a player in the Colonial game, commented that it is "An interesting variant of the original. Nice board (except for the several glaring mistakes), nice price (that's sarcasm)."

Finally, a posting from Andy Schwarz advocated the use of hypermedia to make information readily accessible and easily understandable. His post contained some good naked egotism --- this man could go far! Said Andy, "I am toying with the idea of creating a virtural WWW companion to Nick Fitzpatrick's Hall of Fame.... Ideally we would have URLs or GIF images of every registered (or active) player, and could link them in. Then when Nick catalogues a game's results, we could get a map up in the virtural hall of fame, with links to the EoGs, the summary, and the photos of the winner/drawers.... As the hobby becomes increasingly on the cutting edge of technology, game-wise, this would enhance our stature and maybe make ME famous, which is my secret aim!"


Who contributed to the discussion? 51 individuals posted to, of which 18 made two, or more, posts during the period under consideration:
2 Posts: Jef Cochran, Scott W. Davis, Bruce Duewer,
         Manus Hand, Melle Koning, Peter Lund, Bill McNair,
         Mark Nelson, Rob Paar, Bruce Regittko, John Twilley,
3 Posts: Rick Desper, Jim Jowski, Robert Rehbold.
4 Posts: Joel K. Furr.
5 Posts: Ken Samuel, Andy Schwarz.
The July 1995 "Diplomatically Challenged Dipster of the Month" is shared between Ken Samuel and Andy Schwarz. Congratulations, guys?

Mark Nelson
University of Leeds, UK

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