Pouch Deposits

The Editor and the Readership

Hello again, and welcome back to The Pouch Deposits! We had a whole lot of mail this time, so, in the interest of letting you read it all, I won't take up too much of your time up here. However, I did want to say that the plan for this column, which was that I present a topic, go on and on about it, and then ask for comments from the readership to be published, was vindicated by the fine responses I received on the (repeated) topic of build waiving. Some of these are below, and my own take on the issue appears beneath them.

So, with build waiving out of the way, let's see what we can do with that other topic I presented: unit removal. Who can provide us with a nice example of a unit removal that actually turned the game in someone's favor? Surely there are many. However, can anyone point to a unit removal that actually turned the game in the favor of the player who removed the unit? This may be a bit harder, but I hope that someone can come up with either a real-life or a fictional example of just such an event.

On the same topic, does anyone have a unit removal philosophy, or a "rule of thumb" on when to remove a unit which is near home and when to remove one that is in the far-flung reaches of the board? This is surely situation-specific, but any thoughts on this type of thing would also be welcome!

To make things easier, I'll even open the question up to unit disbands. I personally have my own pet disband, one which I've been meaning to write a complete article about (by saying this in print, I'm hoping it will spur me on to actually do so for an upcoming issue of the Zine!). Let's see if anyone steals my thunder by talking about my favorite disband.

So there's your task. Disbands and unit removals. Go to it, and I look forward to a lot of mail!

Stab you soon,

Manus Hand

Mail Received Concerning
The Discussion Topic Presented in the Last Issues

From Etienne Brodeur (599240@ican.net)

Greetings and congrats to the Great DipPouch Editor,

My example of build waving happened as follows:

I was playing the English in the Colonial variant and had managed to occupy six centers in the first year's moves. I therefore doubled my units from six to twelve. The other powers considered this to be a bit too much (I surmised), and therefore I choose to waive a couple of my builds in the Hong Kong and Singapore home centers. This actually worked rather well as the Dutch and French became my allies against Chinese agression.

From Michael Sandy (mehawk@peak.org)

There are (at least) two categories of reasons for waiving builds.

The first is strictly tactical, either you need the flexibility to build a fleet on a particular coast, which would take more than a year to get there if you built in an alternate place, or the power in question is so large that no unit could get to the other end of the country in a year's time.

The other category involves diplomacy.

France may get three builds in 1901, but out of a desire to refrain from pressuring the Italian refrain from building in Marseilles. Or recognizing that he might not get any builds anyway for a while, wants to preserve a means of regaining the initiative.

If the player has a feel for the long term trends, he may realize that he has enough units on his front now, and that the front won't move much with an additional unit. However, in a year or two his forces will be past the bottleneck, so he'll either need a unit at the front then, or guarding his rear.

[Editor's response: First off, thanks again to all those who offered their comments on the build waiving topic. The way I see it, there are six distinct reasons to waive a build (you might argue there are only five, since one is an amalgamation of a couple of the others). Some of these reasons have already come up. I offer my own take on each of my six reasons here.

  1. Because you have to. If I'm France and I'm eligible to build four or more new units, you can make book that I'm going to waive at least one of them. (Some people don't claim this is a waived build, but an "unusable build," so maybe this is cheating a bit.)
  2. To avoid the wrath of others by appearing smaller than you actually are. I have used this to my advantage more than once, claiming that my ability to build "so many" units came as a total surprise to me, and that "I sure don't need that many!" Hard as it may seem to believe, it is the case that players tend to judge your size not by the number of SC's you control, but by the number of units you have on the board. A 5/8 power "looks" a lot more harmless than an 8/8 power, and you will be surprised how much of a difference this makes to your ability to form and maintain alliances.
  3. To enable more than one build at a specific location. On the standard board, the place this is used most often is St. Petersburg. If the Russian wants to attack England, he would be wise to use one of his two builds to set a fleet at the north coast, and wait until next year to build another. This is far better for an anti-England Russian than to build only one fleet and use the other build in a faroff theater. If Russia doesn't secure another SC in the coming year, there is no chance that the second fleet can be built.
  4. To placate (or lull) an ally. If you are a Russian with four builds and a Turkish alliance, you might be wise to waive the Sevastopol build. Especially if you want the next build you put there to be a fleet which will stab the Turk, and he's just not quite far enough from his homeland yet. I have got to admit I've done this as well, and used my build waive as indisputable evidence of my devotion to the Juggernaut alliance ("so you should feel very secure repositioning your Constantinople army in Serbia this year!")
  5. To stay on even-footing with an ally. This is similar to the previous reason, but where it was more concerned with avoiding occupying a certain build location, here I speak of avoiding getting to a certain size. This is also similar to the first reason I gave, but here I am less concerned with what your apparent size does to all the other players on the board (the prototypical example is the dreaded "Early Leader Syndrome") but on what it does to an ally. As an (extreme) example, the two members of an alliance could simply agree that neither will grow larger than the other, with an "I won't build until you do" pact.
  6. In Payola games, there is a sound reason to waive as many builds as you possibly can, and that is that your units are nearly as dangerous to you as they are to others. In Blind games, it may also be prudent to waive builds to hide your size. For example, since France and Austria can "see" Munich at all times, the German might decide to better hide his true strength from these powers by waiving builds every so often. Even though the topic is now officially closed, I hope everyone feels free to comment on my reasons and to add to the list any more that I may have missed.]

    Mail Received Concerning
    Previous Issues of The Magazine

    Mail Concerning The Diplomacy Tactics Library

    Hey Manus!!

    I just read the tactics section of the DP! That was totally cool! I can't believe I asked you this weird question, the answer was right there in the DP and of all things -- (the author, Matt Self, claimed) this was your favorite problem!! I swear I just happened to ask you this question only because you're easy to get a hold of and seem to know what's going on. This is pretty cool.

    I also just realized that the Payola rules I've been using "claim" that you wrote this variant. If that's true I'm very impressed. It's a pretty cool idea. So, I guess once again I was inadvertantly asking just the "right guy" for help!! How often do you actually get to play Dip vs. just help all the poor souls (myself included) who are Dip starved?

    I'm curious how you got started in all of this Dip stuff (your name seems to be everywhere, and every time I think I've broken free from your apron strings you're there again). Maybe we should get you a cape and tights, with a big "D" on a sweater!! ;>)

    [Editor's response: "D" for "Dunce," maybe (smile). Thanks for the kind words. I'd apologize for always being one step ahead of you, but that wouldn't make me a very good player. Todd has actually corresponded with me quite a bit, finding out how much I've already thought about all of his ideas (smile), and he will be starting a series of articles for The Zine, beginning in the Winter 1996 Adjustment issue. As far as how I got started, whether and how I manage to play anymore, etc., thanks for asking. One of the things which seems to be continually on my plate is to supply this kind of information to the Hobby, concerning myself and other members of the community. See this issue's About The Pouch article for a continuation of this lament.]

    Mail Concerning Sherlock Holmes's
    Hunt for the Venison Camper

    From Robert Rehbold (rehbold@dippy.franken.de)

    First another cheers towards The Diplomatic Pouch, the only web zine I am reading on a regular basis because I'm getting a lot of entertainment as well as new ideas from it.

    Second, more special cheers to the Sherlock Holmes story and a poor excuse as to why I did not attempt to solve the puzzle after the spring move issue: it escaped me that the version of the story with the interesting places already marked was available via a link and I was too lazy to go through the text myself (not being a native speaker of English, I most probably would have missed alot anyway).

    [Editor's response: Robert, as it turns out, was only one of many who answered my second call for attempts to solve the puzzle. Happily, a lot of mail was generated this time around. Robert's solution, with some of the others which were received, are presented in the Sherlock Holmes article this issue!]

    Mail Concerning The Diplomacy Survival Guide

    From Vincent Mous (vim2@rocketmail.com)

    You may be interested in knowing that my first article, The Diplomacy Survival Guide, which I wrote for the Spring '95 Movement issue, I think, has been translated into both Japanese and Chinese. I got requests from two people in the last six months to be allowed to translate it for their local BBSs and I gave them permission! So we are being read! :-)

    [Editor's reponse: Great news!]

    Mail Concerning The Big Dipper's Look at Switzerland

    From John Roberts (jroberts@gulf.csc.UVic.CA)

    Great article! One thing you forgot, though - the value of Switzerland in no-press games, as a draw proposal, as in
       Turkey: F Bla C French A Spa - Swi
       Turkey: F Aeg C German A Swe - Swi
    Works nearly every time. Of course, in 1900 I don't think Geneva was the centre of international agencies it is now, so it may not have had the same connotation then.

    From Vaughn Ohlman (vaughn.ohlman@SIL.ORG)

    You seem to have left out one very important question and discussion in your remarks on switzerland. What if Switzerland, in addition to being passable, was a supply center!

    [Author's response: It's an interesting point which, I admit, I didn't consider. How do you think it would change the effects of Switzerland being passable from those I mentioned in my article?]

    It seems to me, semi-newbie that I am, that if it were an SC then people would not only be interested in going thru it to get against someone, but also to hold onto. Thus I would think the dynamics would be different and people living on the other side would be a trifle safer.

    I have thought of another possibility. Switzerland could consist of two provinces, on completely enclosed in the other. Each could have an army in them. A zur (the enclosed) could always be ordered by the master to support A Swi. This way Switzerland is passable... but only with effort. Thus the standard openings... but more later!

    What do you think?

    From Michael Sandy (mehawk@peak.org)

    I think that a way of making Switzerland passable without greatly affecting the initial power balance would be simple to design: Switzerland is occupied by a neutral army that always holds.

    [Author's response: Interesting suggestion. I see that this makes Switzerland somewhat more difficult to enter. However, I don't think that it addresses the problem. At best, it just delays it a bit until one of the bordering powers can bring two armies to bear to dislodge the Swiss neutral army.]

    If you play with Switzerland as a supply center, consider the neutral unit as having one free support to hold. This bonus would only apply to the neutral power, not its conqueror.

    [Author's response: I don't like that idea; both because of the "single-unit, strength of two" factor and because it really just further complicates the issue. By making Switzerland an SC, you're now guaranteeing that someone will want to take it and you're simply increasing the chances of an unproductive tangled border war between FGI.]

    Perhaps the Swiss could also be 'liberated' during the build phase, being turned back into a neutral power.

    [Author's response: If you do that, what's the point in taking it?]

    French German wars would no longer bog down, but would likely to be a quick war, possibly with interpenetration of each others front.

    [Author's response: I don't see it that way but...there's one way to find out. Why not run a variant game with your suggestions and see how it works out? It would be interesting to try it. Thanks for your comments and feedback. I'm glad you found the article of interest.]

    Mail Concerning Alexandria Rises Again

    From Alexander K. Woo (Alexander.K.Woo@williams.edu)

    From my experience (two Modern games), I think that alliance with Turkey is the best option for Egypt.

    Going for Turkey risks a long drawn out stalemate. Italy can grow quickly in the beginning, and can easily invest two fleets (and, if Ukraine is attacking Turkey, two or three armies) in keeping the balance of power between Turkey and Egypt. Considering it would require at least 4 or five fleets against a strong Turkey or Egypt that is going west, this is a very good investment for Italy. (If Turkey had not been replaced, this might very well have happened in 'odessa')

    Allying with Turkey, on the other hand, allows you to proceed west, generally at a rapid pace. You have to make sure that Russia will not attack Ukraine so that Turkey doesn't grow much more rapidly than you, but it is generally quite safe beyond the first two years. In an ET alliance, Egypt builds fleets and Turkey builds armies. War between Egypt and Turkey requires fleets. Ergo, Egypt has an advantage in a future stab in about 2007.

    Turkey is the real sucker in an ET alliance. Just like France is somewhat of a sucker in an EF alliance.

    I might be off; I don't have much experience playing peripheral powers. My strengths tend towards survival and less towards growth, so i tend to play powers that need work to keep them alive and then pretty much grow automatically (like Austria).

    Mail Concerning The Diplomacy Academy's Look at
    It Came From Outer Space!

    From Nate Johnston (nmj3e@virginia.edu)

    I just finished the third installment of ICFOS played FTF with a group of friends of mine. Quite an interesting experience.

    Here are the openings in Game #1, played by six people.

    Bleakh Bloc War, Mun, Par
    Tunguska Event StP, Nor, Edi
    Bad Actresses Spa, Nap, Gre
    Static Klingons Bud, Sev, Kie (bounce)
    Tetra Koi Lon, Kie (bounce), Bel
    Thermites Tun, Kie (bounce), Ank

    You can see that some engaged in a "sprinkle" action (Klingons, the Bloc), but most kept to a general zone (like the Tunguska or the Actresses). The Klingons and Thermites had formed an alliance from the beginning, before the drops, although most countries simply declated by fiat a general area and stuck to it.

    The Koi were very aggressive and claimed all of Germany/Lowlands for their own (which is why they were so heavily bounced by the others). The bounces cemented an alliance between the Klingons and the Thermites. Tunguska quickly tried to take out the impaired Koi, successfully siezing northern Russia, Scandanavia, and Endlad. The Actresses were successful in blocking any success from the Bloc in France, and took Italy, although Naples fell to the Thermites in Fall 1905.

    Because of their bounces the Koi, Klingons, and thermites were at a distinct disadvantage. The other two were able to compensate by alliance, but the Koi were DOA. The Bloc was caught between the three large powers, the Actresses, Tunguska, and Klingons/Thermites (also called the Balkan Boys), and were not able to parlay their situation into a successful defense, and were eventually dislodged from Trieste in 1907. Then the other two united against the Tunguska, who had moved up to 15 centers, having taken Germany and stabbed to gain most of France/Iberia.

    Now the Tunguska had adopted a strategy of utilizing the orbiter as much as possible. A Nor-Swe-Den became A Nor-ORB-Den This was the key to the eventual win, because the other nations failed to colonize non-SC provinces, so a sudden beam-down of armies to Armenia, Albania, and Apulia allowed Tunguska to take the win.

    I will send you my reccolections on these games as they come to me, and if you would like more elaboration then I would be glad to show you transcripts of the movements, etc. The game was a tremendous hit, being able to play on the standard board and to play in totally random or wierd characters. We all loved it (including myself and my miserable performance as the Bleakh Bloc). The only difficulty was one rambunctious player (the Koi). Oh, and also the player for the Bad Actresses, who used photographs clipped from magazines he brought with him and wrote an "A" or an "F" on each photgraphed forehead to represent his units (resulting in orders like Army Meryl Streep-Rome, Fleet Pam Anderson-Portugal; Army Roseanne supports Fleet Goldie Hawn-Brest was one of his favorite orders).

    Mail Concerning I'll Remember You

    From Danny Loeb (loeb@delanet.com)

    Ray Setzer writes:
    Perhaps the most challenging games of Diplomacy I have ever played have been against six other people with whom I have played more than once. Here the trick is not only to utilize the knowledge of the tendencies of the other players, but to honestly appraise ones own tendencies and attempt to use this against the other players. Are you known for long alliances? What better time to lead an opponent down the golden path to a trap.
    Perhaps I may be of the "small minority that would call this `Cross Gaming'" but I doubt this was your "most challenging game." By your own admission, you have access to prior knowledge of all six of the other players. If any pair of your opponents are unfamiliar with each other, then they will be starting with a disadvantage in their relationships as opposed to you. Your advantage is "unfair" in the sence that it is derived not from skill, and is not available equally to all players.

    Given your style of play, newbies must contend not only with their insufficient knowlege of the rules and tactics, but also with a "clique" mentality where players prefer to ally with players who they know well. Is that how we should encourage new players to enter our hobby.

    Moreover, given your style of play, players will take actions in one game for rewards in future games. This will lead to "cartels" who ally in game after game to the disadvantage of the occasional player or anticrossplay player (like myself) who takes each game as an entity in and of itself.

    Mail Concerning the Commentary on the Uncommon
    North Sea to Picardy Move

    From "Tarzan" (Tarzan.MonkeyMan@Verizon.net)

    After reading your article (I laughed out loud at Situation B) I have decided that (tongue-in-cheeks aside) there is now a real use for suggesting F Nth-Pic:

    Dear (power occupying Nth),

    May I suggest the Move F Nth-Pic in the coming season. As I'm sure you've read in the article titled "North Sea to Picardy" by Manus Hand, this move may have some merit under the current situation. As you know Manus Hand is well known within Diplomacy circles and has thoroughly evaluated this move (no need to read the article now -- you could read it next season). Let's make this rare move and really catch everyone off guard!


    Your Ally

    [Editor's response: Let me know if it works.]

    Mail Concerning the Conference Paper
    Application Extensibility in Python

    From Jamie McQuinn (mcquinn@lib.udayton.edu)

    I was aware of Kissinger's interest in the game of Diplomacy, but had never heard of JFK's. Can you document that? The game was still in its infancy when he was shot.

    [Editor's response: Yes, it was, but on the back of my Diplomacy box set (a 1976 edition), the claim is made that Kennedy played The Game (with Bobby and others) in the White House. It was noted that European leaders, on hearing of this, remarked that they hoped he usually won.]

    Well, there you have it. Another Deposits column. Yep, it sure is.