Reflections of a New Diplomacy Newbie

by Dave Simpson

With apologies to Stephen Lepley, who wrote the original “Incoming!” series.

Getting (back) into Diplomacy

I’ve owned the Diplomacy boardgame since I was a teenager at High School, but had never played a 7 player game, let alone finished one, despite 4 years at 2 universities. It seems that Role Playing Games took up most of my free time back then, but I didn’t see any sign of anyone playing any Diplomacy anyway.

Fast forward to the autumn of 2006 and whilst planning what to do with some spare time during a weekend Disaster Recovery exercise, my boss suggested we play a game of Diplomacy. After some fun during the day attempting to “Escape from Colditz” we finally set up a Diplomacy game in our hotel foyer and although we only had 4 players and we didn’t get to finish, three of us were sufficiently keen to try to find a way to get a 7 player game going. A few days later, I informed my colleagues that I’d found some really cool websites and discovered that you could indeed play the game online, as I had hoped. The three of us signed up on the judges and have all carried on playing online.

I’ve now finished two games and currently have 3 more on the go. One of those completed games involved your previous editor, Heath Gardner, and from there it was a relatively short step to this, as every aspect of Diplomacy needs Cannon Fodder, err, volunteers, I should say.

Is it easier being a Newbie these days?

We’re 12 years down the line from Stephens “Incoming!” series that started in the initial S1995M issue of the Zine. I have only just had this series pointed out to me by Charles, with the offer of penning something similar for the Zine. One question that immediately sprang to mind is has a lot changed for the new player over that time?

It was very interesting to read Stephens initial article at this early stage in my Diplomacy career. The points about organisation and resources struck a chord in me as I have paper all over the place full of the collected wisdom of Diplomacy players sourced from the Pouch, the Diplomacy Archive and the like. I’ve scoured ebay for my copy of “The Game of Diplomacy” and a copy of Calhammer’s book will arrive one day, so my favourite online vendor promises me! I’ve learned how to use Realpolitik and joined some Yahoo! Groups. Like Steven then, I was keen to learn as much as I could and be able to keep it to hand for reference.

Certainly the advent of broadband has significantly reduced the cost of being online. The phone bills involved with the BBS days and early dial-up access to the internet have thankfully vanished for me. These days a 24 hour connection is something that most of us take for granted. That has to help a newbie get in to Diplomacy, right?

Nope! Not necessarily. Everyone else is able to be online just as much, to read just as much, to observe just as much. Plus they’ve probably played the game before, maybe right to the end! I think I could get up to speed faster now than in 1995, but everyone else can do the same. Just like an arms race, the pace of development tends to increase over time.

I am sure that there is a lot more information readily available for a new player to try to grasp these days, but you still only have 24 hours in a day to try to find the time for Diplomacy from. You can only realistically write one message at a time on that fancy dual core processor, with more RAM on your graphics card than capacity on the hard drive you ran Windows 95 from. You can still only think about one game at a time and so on.

So I guess I am saying that the Newbie standard could (should) be higher these days than it was back then in 1995. I’d like to think so, as a lot of people have put a lot of time and effort in to my Diplomacy education up to this point. Thanks one and all!

But is this supposition true? Is the standard higher? Well, since in 1995 I was playing Doom, not Diplomacy, I’ll have to leave that question to someone with more experience than I to answer…

Dave Simpson

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