What is a Newbie?

By Joe Brennan

Been accused of being too good to be a novice lately? I have. I went through some self-examination, and decided it was time to move on. But what criteria should help us come to that decision?

There's nothing to force you to "graduate" to intermediate or expert. It all comes down to when you feel you're ready. I'll tell you my story, and see if it helps you come to your own conclusion.

I first started playing Diplomacy fifteen years ago. That's about when I finished playing, too. I left school, and all my Diplomacy contacts. Last year, a friend asked me to comment on a PBEM game he was in, and after a while I decided I wanted back in. I went to the DipPouch and signed up for a newbie game, speedo.

"Why are you in a newbie game?" my friend asked. "You're no novice." But I was! Although I had considerable tactical knowledge of the game, I had little idea how to deal with the Judge, or how to treat the other players. I felt it was only fair to play against novices while I picked up the game again.

After some initial successes, I found myself a victim of the tall poppy syndrome (aka the early leader syndrome), and everyone is now beating the stuffings out of me. Hm, there's a lesson in there for me somewhere....

I have entered five other games as a replacement player since then. I've played around with grey press and broadcasts, honesty and stab stab stabbing,*secret glee* Yesterday I discovered that the list command will show me the dedication rating of other players! (Okay, you're all smiling at me, thinking, "What an idiot! I'd love to play against this dolt.") I learned how to get the Diplomacy Mapper up and running - I even worked out how to add Hellas2 to the variants on Version 1.2 !!!! I've travelled all over the DipPouch, and even written a letter to Manus Hand! (I know you're all saying, "Wow!" Get this, then: HE WROTE BACK TO ME!!! DOUBLE WOW, now I'm really someone...)

So every time I've thought about changing my registration, I learn some new trick or other that makes me stop and wonder if I'm ready for the big league....

A month ago I joined a game, selo, as Turkey. I took the opportunity to stab Russia and Austria in successive turns. Both worked perfectly (one year on, both Austria and Russia have been eliminated from the game) and another player wrote to inform me that my play was in no way indicative of a newbie, and did I know that this game was for newbies? I was flattered, but shades of guilt rose up in me. Was I a wolf among sheep?

So, when is a newbie not a newbie?

When you've been playing for a couple of months?

When your dedication rating goes over 100?

When you've played a game through to its completion (win or lose)?

When you get your first solo victory?

When you feel guilty?

So, here it is, Joe's Rule: If you can communicate with and through the Judges and understand the rules of the game, and have played for a couple of months, you ain't no newbie no more.

It is unfair for veteran Diplomats to play in games designed for newbies. On the other hand, don't underestimate newbies. I'm observing a newbie game at the moment where Russia was somehow allocated to a player with over 400 dedication points. He was hit in 1901 from three sides, and had to disband two of his units in the Winter phase. I don't think he's got much chance of surviving 1902. Mighty brutal, dem newbies....

Should I have felt guilty for joining a fifth game as a newbie? Even as a replacement? In hindsight, I don't think so. I'm still learning some fundamental stuff (like list). Besides, a total idiot might have played Turkey more poorly, but the opportunities were glaring, and other players in the game were not reticent in giving me advice that caused Turkey to grow quickly. Now I'm stuck up against a huge Italy, and I don't think there's a lot of room for growth. But that's my problem, isn't it?

But now I'm ready to move on. So if I can just work out again what my international phone number is, I'll re-register as an intermediate player. I'm ready (I think...) to go into the world of gunboat diplomacy, so that I can compete against Manus, Simon, Dan, and all those other big names from the DipPouch. I'll show them how to really play the game....

A final question for you, if I may: Why do you want to stay as a newbie? To get some easy kills? Score some quick points, build a reputation for yourself? Or are you scared to move on? Attack the veterans I say, and show them you can handle the big league. My experience is that you learn fastest when you tackle the big guys. Win or lose, you can pick up from their style.

Joe Brennan

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