Pouch Deposits

The Editor and the Readership

Mail Call

Before we see what we have in the mailbag, I'm going to try and stimulate some letters for next issue by putting out a public question. Long time readers will know that this is something I used to do at the top of every Deposits column, but without spectacular results, response-wise. I might be setting myself up for failure again, but here's a question that I discussed recently in an e-mail correspondence. Maybe I'm the only one who has an answer to it (because it's kind of a strange question), but I'm curious to find out....

Do you have a "favorite" border?

What do I mean? Well, as you probably know, I serve as GameMaster for quite a lot of games, and well, over the years I've developed a fondness for a particular move order (made sometime during the game) sending a unit across a particular border from one space on the board to a certain other space. I just love seeing it. (It's not the only move that I truly enjoy seeing, but there is one border I just love seeing crossed.) I won't tell you which border it is until next issue, because I'm curious if anyone else will have the same answer.

So now that you know the crazy question, send me your crazy answer (or just tell me I'm crazy)

Okay, On To The Mail

...And there's a lot of it!

Mail Received Concerning
Incoming: Observations of a Diplomacy Newbie

From José Torres (r28738@email.sps.mot.com):

I finally found the DipPouch and discovered that I was engrossed in the articles written by Stephen Lepley from the initial 'zine on 'Insights of a Newbie.' I sent the message below to Stephen, and I pass it on to the 'Zine to give everyone a chance to comment.


You seemed to learn a great deal about yourself and human nature from your experience playing Diplomacy. Your insights on the powerful emotional destruction that some players suffer after a stab engrossed me enough to stay awake until 3:00 A.M. reading them at the DipPouch, even though I need to be at work at 8:00 A.M.

I recognize a need to learn more political skill and I believe that I would learn it playing Diplomacy, but I could see myself becoming bitter just as you describe if my creation were destroyed after months of work.

I am 27, have a wife and a child, and a very busy life. My question is this: Based on your experience, will the knowlege and experience I will gain playing Diplomacy by e-mail be worth the price I will pay for it personally/emotionally?

(Yes, I'm known for overreacting, but I'm genuinely curious for your response.)

P.S. - So this is how Pandora felt!

Publisher's response: I'm hoping others also will write in to respond to you but my own advice is not to let anything stop you from playing Diplomacy. Don't be worried about the emotional toll it will take. Playing Diplomacy is a good way to gain control of your emotions. Just remember one thing: they're just little blocks of wood (well, nowadays they're just plastic) and circles of ink. (If you're playing by e-mail, they're just little spinning electrons.) They're really nothing to get upset about, even if you've invested a couple months trying to collect the little things. This isn't life and death here. It's a game. (Well, okay, it's The Game, but you get the point.) You'll soon enough learn to congratulate your fellow player when he gains himself a circle of ink at your expense. He's not really your "enemy" (though we use that term enough to describe him); he's just another guy doing the same thing you're doing. So, to specifically answer your question, you most definitely profit by playing. The insights you gain into your own nature, the nature of your fellow players, and human nature itself are immeasurable. Learning who to trust and when your trust might be misplaced is a valuable lesson that can be taught by careful study at the Diplomacy table. (A lesson that is just as easy -- and, admittedly, even more fun -- to teach as it is to learn.) Trying to outwit others while preventing others from outwitting you is the ultimate test of your concentration, nerves, tact, self-discipline, and resolve. All things that are very useful everywhere in life.

Simon Szykman, elsewhere in this issue, contributed a number of letters he received in repsonse to a recent article (also discussed below). I mention this here because among those replies are some that also can be applied in answer to your specific question.

Mail Received Concerning
Mona Lisa's Eyes

From Fatma Görce (marketing@sa.com.tr):

Regarding the eye color of Mona Lisa, I have something to say. As I have visited and left messages on the Web page of Mona Lisa, I am just likely Mona Lisa herself, and indeed my eye color is also sometimes "brown" and sometimes "hazel."

Somehow, their color changes to brown from hazel and back. For example, if I have makeup on or in cloudy weather, my eyes seem to be brown. In sunshine, they are always "hazel."

As a matter of fact, nobody can be sure about the colours. Better to simply accept, admire, and appreciate Mona Lisa's eyes however they seem to be at that moment.

Mail Received Concerning
Grey Broadcast Press

From Robert Watkins (robert.watkins@mincom.com):

One important point to remember with Grey Press is to ensure that you don't send out a bunch of press, with different personalities, all at the same time. Such an act is tantamount to shouting, "Hey, these are all from the same person!"

This applies even more to Grey Partial Press. In a newbie game I am Mastering, several players are using grey press, and are also sending out white press (frequently to the same people!). This is making it a fairly trivial exercise to deduce who is sending the message.

This also raises an interesting tactic, to be used with impersonation. If you determine that a given personality regularly posts at about the same time, or regularly posts in conjuction with another personality, an impersonation attempt will be more successful if you reproduce those conditions.

One way to avoid this, of course, is to stagger press delivery. Many e-mail packages can arrange for delayed delivery of messages, and this feature would be very useful to many players, I am sure.

Author's response: That is a good point you raised. I have actually used the message timestamps in grey broadcast games to my advantage, but didn't include the trick in my article. I was playing one grey broadcast game as Austria, and was dismayed, after the fall 1901 builds, to see three messages, from Russia, Turkey, and Italy apparently agreeing to attack me. However, I looked at the timestamps on these messages and found them to have been mailed about two minutes apart. I immediately broadcast this fact and suggested that the faker try again with a dumber opponent, or something to that effect.

Mail Received Concerning
A Sneak Peek at Hasbro Interactive's Diplomacy

From (camerlo@dm.unito.it):

I looked at the screenshots from your article about Hasbro Interactive Diplomacy. I noticed that the Italian flag appearing in the pictures is the one we have nowadays, which is different from the flag Italy had at the years covered by the game. At those times, the flag had the Savoy (royal family) symbol in the white field of the flag.

I think it could be nice to warn Hasbro about that, to let them make the correction in the final version of the game.

Publisher's response: I have indeed dutifully reported this and other errata to Hasbro (another one I remember getting a lot of mail about was the fact that Finland needed to be colored to appear as Russian territory). So (assuming they fix what we've reported), if there's anything wrong with it now, it's your fault for not reporting it.

From: Mike Connaghan (mdconnag@concentric.net):

Okay, I saw your preview of the game. In case anyone wants to hear my opinion: I love the look of it. I really like the idea of being able to sit down and play solitaire vs. computer opponents. Imagine: no one to wait for, no conflicts of schedules! It won't replace the human games -- in fact, think it will help. It should be a real nice way to experiment and learn more about the game. I suspect the pool of players will actually grow a lot if it appears on store shelves all over the place. I was very happy to see that the Pouch was getting mentioned in the boxed literature -- or did I read that wrong?

Now how do I get an advance copy? Surely Hasbro is dying to hear from me, Mike Connaghan.

Maybe not.

Thanks to you and Simon for those interviews and the preview! You made my day!

From Steve Messier (SEMessier@aol.com):

Thanks for your efforts in bringing this information. Well done.

I have to agree that the Meyer/Glass team has the best job in the world programming computer games, Diplomacy in particular. (As a Pediatric Resident, there are times that I think that serving hot dogs would be better than what I'm doing now. But those are few and far between.)

Any mention on the computer specifications needed to run this Diplomacy software? (I ask this with a cringe, as my computer is about four years old and software now being produced is starting to be just beyond its ability to run it.)

Publisher's response: Sorry for neglecting to ask about the tech specs. They can, I'm sure, be obtained from Hasbro, and now that your letter has been published here, we shall certainly get them.

From Clay Snyder (clay.snyder@insosf1.netins.net):

Thanks, DipPouch, for all the great Dip stuff. You guys really put out a quality newsletter. I only wish it came more often! I'm looking forward to the changes that come with Hasbro Interactive's Diplomacy game (thanks a million for that article, too... my mouth actually watered at the screen shots!). Take care, guys.

Mail Received Concerning
The Grand Alliance

From Theo Kermanidis (TKERMANI@baea.com.au):

Why Should the Grand Alliance be Formed? is an excellent article. Well done Roger. It gets down on paper some of the views and methods that I had seen and employed over the years. I guess now I have a point of order to raise with the article. Normally I would agree with "I submit that all players have a duty to the game of Diplomacy..." however I feel now my views have changed and I see the statement as a form of altruism to the game itself. I feel more acurately it should read "... players should have a duty to play the game of Diplomacy (to the best of their ability)." I feel now to some extent that the game exists for players to participate to do their best to win but to allow them to form their own conclusions and for what ever motives and that should be okay despite the outcome. After all it is just a game. I certainly have moved away from the thinking that the players exist for the advancement of the game. I feel that is the wrong way of looking at it.
Author's response: I accept and am comfortable with the idea that people play for different reasons and for different goals. I do not want to start a carebear vs. cut throat debate -- the 'I believe' was meant to state explicitly that it was my opinion only. That opinion is that the game is better when everyone tries to win or at least not lose. However, I concede that there are many things more important in life than a game. Even though I play to win, I am not upset if I lose. I do my best, expect others to do so, and extract the most enjoyment I can, no matter what the outcome. I think that our opinions are not that different, really.
As was stated "... to play their position as if real citizens actually depended on their efforts'', I feel taken in context much of the conflicts that occur in Dip would not ever occur in reality. Your statement is aimed to rationalise the need for grand alliances at the end of the game and never at any other stage during the game. Why? because of the sudden interest to prevent an arbitrarily defined outcome (ie a solo victory), and this certainly does not reflect on reality in anyway. I wonder how game play would differ if the terms for victory was complete domination. I would presume grand alliances will never form, because there is no motive for them because its would be near impossible to gain all 34 centers (though it could be done in principle).
Author's response: There are some small stalemate positions on the board. I do not know them off the top of my head, but yes, taking all 34 centers may be impossible. That is why the game designers probably set the victory condition to 18. My statement about playing as if real citizens were involved was aimed at my goals in the game:#1 prevent my elimination (even if someone else wins) #2 prevent someone else from winning #3 attempt to win the game

Of course, I prefer #3, but I do not go only for #3 and sacrifice the others.

I admit that many of my comments in that section took a very black and white view of things. I admit that things are typically more grey. But when I craft my Diplomacy messages to my fellow players, I typically argue that things are black or white, which ever is best for me :-)

Resons for game play: revenge, loyalty, admiration, apathy. et al. are certainly based on reality and I feel somewhat that are just as valid reasons for playing the game than achieving a conclusion like a draw or solo.
Author's response: People all have different opinions. Mine is that my honor requires that I set aside revenge, etc. and have a duty to the game to try and prevent someone else from winning. Only if I am about to be eliminated will I consider helping someone win (as my final act). But that is my belief, not everyone's.
I do not condone bad play, to which I define as players being abusive. However a player that decides to not take part of a grand alliance should not be subjected to an inquisition.
Author's response: During the game, I will use all my efforts to convince you (or anyone else) that you are wrong and should join the grand alliance. After the game, I will congratulate everyone on a good game, try to understand why you did not join the alliance. Politely discuss the point with you and try to learn from it. I agree that just because someone did not buy into the stop the leader alliance, they are evil. They just play differently, and that is fine.
Whatever their motives, they are equally as valid as saving a solo victory, and it is not a sign of bad play at all. If other players don't like it, well tough! Now all of a sudden we see a situation that makes the game more interesting and the negotiations more delicate, more cut-throat and much more realistic.

Too often we see the games develop as follows: Opening/Stab/Mid-Game/Stab/End Game (solo or draw), and when we play each stage we sometimes pay little or no heed towards subsequent stages in our negotiations and actions. Therefore we operate a little strategically blinded at times. Then faced with a scramble at the end of the game to salvage a favourable conclusion. I conclude that "Grand Alliances" are necessary at every stage of the game and not just in the end-game. Why? because we should always arm ourselves at every stage of the game to be prepared for any eventuality. Grand Alliances should not be expected and not demanded "just because..." and players should give all due care and respect to other players because it prepares you for later stages of the game. I ask you the question: would you partake in a Grand Alliance in a game where after negotiations for commencing an alliance (to which a condition of the alliance were to follow the agreed plans), a cheap stab followed by abusive behaviour being directed at you to be furthered by borish behaviour because you chose to sit out the alliance and remain neutral. I would think not! "It is a matter of honor to put the duty to the game over the pull of the emotions..." does not always apply. I think there is room for other factors like respectful behaviour, attention to strategic issues and good negotiations go along way further towards avoiding solo victories. A grand alliance should never be expected nor granted.

Author's response: I admit that it would be hard to stick with the alliance after the behavior you described. There are always exceptions and I do not mean to claim that it is everyone's duty to prevent a win at all cost. I suspect that in this situation I would try to calm down, and then try to figure out a way that I could put myself in the position that I could still try to work with the boorish person to prevent the win. If he continued his behavior then I would have the option to throw the game away from him. My having that power may be what finally causes him to behave. If not, then the other person won and they deserved the win.

Please understand that the point of the article was to discuss the idea of trying to create an alliance to prevent a win between players that have recently been at each other's throats. Overcome the feelings of wanting to throw the game to do what is arguably in one's best interest (i.e. take part in a draw) was interesting to me and has often been challenging. The paragraph which bothers you was added as back ground on why this topic may be useful.

I do appreciate your writing to me. Our differences in opinion are what make discussing a topic worth while. Perhaps one day we will play in a game together and can explore the idea more completely. However, I expect that neither of us would be 'the jerk' that deserved to lose. I might stab you horribly and make you think me evil, but I will be polite about it.

Thanks for both reading the article and taking the time to respond!

From Edi Birsan (Edi@mgames.com):

One of the main issues in this article is that it is the goal of every player to try to stop the winner if you can not win. I must take exception with this. I come from the old Win Only school of play that got some fame in the mid Sixties. The approach there was one of either you win or there is another result. As such if the game was a two-way or seven-way draw or someone else won these were all equal outcomes in the concept of another result.

There is also another common schools of thought in that if you did not win then before you turn to stop the winner you should consider if the win by the other player is such a horrible thing.

The issue of the Grand Alliance is that when players have stabbed you into the ground, lied to your face/your phone/your Net-provider, then somehow all that goes away in the mad rush to stop some body on the other side of the board who may have not done anything to you. If people know that you are a Grand Alliance player then will they have less resistance to stab you since your philosophy is that you will turn on the front-runner and forgive what was done to you. This sort of predictability is exactly what you do not want to do in a game where reputations carry over.

Therefore, while the structure of the Grand Alliance article is very good in describing what to do, the basic essence that it draws from has a flaw in it for the player. Players should use the Grand Alliance as just one of the possible responses to a growing power on the other side of the board.

Mail Received Concerning
Caissa Annotates a No-Press Game

From Geoff Speare (geoff@igcn.com):

I would like to thank you for your Dip Pouch articles; both your earlier article on force/space/time, and the recent article dissecting a no-press game, have been extremely entertaining and helpful. In trying to analyze games of my own using the concept of tempi, however, I have noticed myself second-guessing the technique you use to calculate tempi numbers. While I understand that this is an art and not a science, an article explaining how you come up with those numbers (perhaps using the same no-press game as an example) would be very helpful, and at least by me, very well received!
Author's response: Thanks for your kudos.

On the subject of tempo: In the No-Press game article, I explained that what I'm measuring in those numbers is the number of steps distant from it's SC of origin each unit is at that point in time. I actually tried two other methods for measuring tempi before I settled on that one. My first try was to just count every successful movement. That turned out to be simply too inaccurate (e.g. if you credit Italy in the game I published with a tempo for each successful order, he gets way too much credit for shuffling his units back and forth in the same place). It also wasn't the way I tended to think of the lesson of "tempo" from my chess experience.

My next try was to measure tempo as an "ideal," meaning I would only credit tempi for distance from the nearest home SC (which would "penalize" backwards builds and minimize the credit a power gets for moving pieces inside his own borders). This made keeping track of tempo too complex and subjective for the purposes of a teaching article (though it's probably closer to the way I look at tempo as I'm examining my own ongoing games).

That's when I hit on the more rigorous forumla for tracking tempo you see in the article I finally wrote. Since that was my third try at coming up with a meaningful tempo formula for purposes of teaching and analysis, I added the disclaimer about it being more art than science. Maybe I also should have added the traditional YMMV (your mileage may vary) disclaimer too :-)

I don't really want to write a whole article on tempo, so I'll compromise with you and ask Manus to publish this exchange in the Pouch Deposits column. In a related matter, watch for an upcoming article from me [slated for the W1999A issue -Ed.] which subjects the Standard Map to scrutiny, largely using tempo as a tool of analysis. Seeing this different practical use of tempo may help to expand on the subject and explain why I think it is so important.

Mail Received Concerning
Power Assignment in Diplomacy

From Jeff Ladd (jeffladd@wizard.net):

I recently signed onto a game (I was the first to do so) and didn't get the first power on my list. In fact, I got the fourth. Was there an update to the assignment code? Is there some other variable that you didn't notice when you examined the code? Is it possible for me to take a look at the code? (where could I find it... do you have it yourself?)
Author's response: This does not surprise me. Buried within the Judge code is the power assignment subroutine. This subroutine claims the following: "This procedure uses an ACM algorithm (Algorithm 415) to assign powers to the players, according to their preference lists, their order of signing on to the game, and (unfortunately) the order that the powers are listed in the power letters list for the variant."

I have never heard of the ACM algorithm (nor met anyone else who has). Additionally, when I studied the Judge code, I came to the conclusion that although the order of signing on did effect random number generation, there was no truth to the widespread rumor that the first person to SIGNON to the game will get the first choice on his preference list. Part of the problem is that the Judge code for power assignment is unecessarily redundant and not completely efficient. I suspect that this subroutine had been copied from someone's code prior to the Judge being written, which explains some of the rumors and problems. It would be easy enough to rewrite this portion of the code, but it clearly is not a high priority at this time. As near as I can tell the Judge code method of power assignment is a variant of Method 1, Variation C described in my power assignment article.

For those who are interested, the Ken Lowe Judge source code can be downloaded using a link found in the Pouch's Online Resources Section.

Mail Received Concerning
What's Your Point?

From Clay Snyder (clay.snyder@insosf1.netins.net):

Well, howdy! I've been a big fan of the Pouch ever since a friend first turned me on to it about a year ago, but I have to say, aside from responding to a survey now and again, I've never really corresponded with you guys. So what made me finally do it?

There was an article in the last issue; "What's your Point?" (I believe it was called). This article just shed a whole world of light on the actions of PBEM opponents I've had in the past year. It's funny how one shapes his own opinions and style, and then just asumes that is the "natural" way to do things. So, this article let me look at things from a new perspective, and while I don't think you can really classify people into just four categories, it gives great insight into the reasons behind moves you don't understand. I find that it's easier to deal with a guy who commits suicide when he gets down to two centers nowadays.

Author's response: This is the most rewarding response to the article that I could have hoped for. [I've received several letters that read like this actually.] The whole idea of the article was to increase awareness that there are competing philosophies underpinning how and why to play the game. You can take advantage of this fact, but only if you, first, recognize it and, second, cultivate it as a strategy, rather than fighting against the "wrong" opinons of others.
So anyway, the real reason I'm writing. Right now I'm just finishing up a Loeb9 game wherein I play England. Throughout the game, France and Spain have had an alliance, and I've worked completely in conjunction with them, never really feeling threatened by them (I have more centers than the both of them), and never feeling the need to threaten them either. Through good-humored press and a little joking around, I've actually come to like these guys, whoever they may be. The strange thing is, this year, the last remaining other player, the Turk, decided to keel over and let me take his centers. Now, I consider myself a Classicist for purposes of your article, but I found myself disappointed by this, and actually considered calling a draw, just so that I wouldn't have to take the solo over these guys who have become my "friends." What's happened!? Did Pouch-Gremlins somehow get into my head and change me into a social player?! I can't help but think it was your article that put these naughty ideas into my subconscious, allowing them to change my style of play. I can only hope it isn't permanent.

Author's response: So do I! My God, I've created a carebear!

Mail Received Concerning
Face to Face Tournament Scheduling

From Kurt Elder (mouse@chase3000.com):

For Pete's sake...

You publish all sorts of articles saying come and play in New Zealand, or in Sweden. Ah, why not? If I plan on going that far. My point is that there just aren't that many Diplomacy tournaments in the Midwest U.S. Sure, there may be one in Denver or in Kansas City, but those are far and few in between. Why can't there ever be tournaments in Omaha, Nebraska. (I am from Nebraska by the way -- could you tell?)

This letter may not mean a whole lot to a rather large lot of potential players, but to us in the Midwest, this is serious business.

Publisher's response: I'm sure the established face-to-face hobby would love to come to Omaha and hold a North American or World Championship. But that won't happen until Omaha area players organize and create a tournament scene to host it. Everything starts locally. Get your local hobby established to the point of feeling ready to invite the world in.

As a Denver resident myself, I'm not just talking out of one side of my mouth. I have taken it on myself to join with other local players out here to begin to form the Association of Rocky Mountain Area Diplomacy Adversaries (ARMADA). Yes, there are Diplomacy tournaments in our area, but we're looking to get them under the ARMADA banner and get the local Diplomacy community organized to the point of being able to host a DipCon or World DipCon.

Other U.S. regions have organized hobbies (the Carolina Amateur Diplomats and their DixieCon, and the Dragonflight crowd up in Seattle cover the south and the Northwest, for example) and we Rocky Mountaineers are hoping to join them. But nothing will happen locally unless local players organize it.

Mail Received Concerning
The Results of the Risk-Taking Experiment

From Jeff Serandos (jserandos@pipeline.com):

I've been too busy to write to you until now to suggest that your paranoia experiment may have been a success after all. In my case, I set up the position on a real board before analyzing it.
Author's response: Ahh, now that problem is one I didn't consider.
I even went out of the page and back in, so even if there was any influence, there's a 50-50 chance I was seeing a different board than the one I saw the first time (and ignoring it since I was already done).
Author's response: Actually, due to Manus' magic in setting up the script, the map you saw was dependent on the IP address of the machine you are on. Therefore, if you checked the page two different times from a machine with a static IP address, you'd have seen the same map.

Publisher's Note: Simon actually received a whole bagful of mail about this article. Be sure to check out the whole collection of feedback sent to Simon discussing his experiment.

Just One of the Many Mail Messages Received That
Generally Backpatted The Pouch

From Klaus Bakdal (klb@stevns.dk):

Thank you for a simply marvellous homepage. We are a group of players from Denmark who started to play Diplomacy only 18 months ago, and the help and inspiration from The Pouch is simply indescribeable.

Mail Received Concerning
The Growing Worldwide Influence and Significance of The Pouch

From Simon Szykman (simon@diplom.org):

It looks like The Diplomatic Pouch is appealing to an ever-growing group of people. The St. John's University Library thinks that the Online Resources section at The Pouch is a good resource for people interested in government and politics. I couldn't agree more! It's listed at: http://wwwsju.stjohns.edu/library/staugustine/GovernmentAndPoliticsTOC.html
Publisher's response: Hmmm. I checked the site and I don't understand something.... Why are they listing all those other sites too?
Also, the Lycos World Wars Guide lists the top rated sites on the topic of Causes of World War I. One of the games in The Pouch's Diplomacy Showcase is listed there! Unfortunately, we're only rated 50/100. I'd have thought The Pouch had a greater impact on WWI than that. Oh well.
Publisher's response: 50/100? Sheesh! I suppose there's no accounting for taste.

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