A Dip Noob's first experience
of Diplomacy at a Con

by Dave Simpson

As I touched on in the last article I wrote, I took my life into my hands and went to ManorCon in July ‘07 to play Diplomacy the way it was meant to be played. It’s nearly time for ManorCon 2008, so this article is quite timely and writing it served as a good reminder for me.

After years of being held in Birmingham, ManorCon is now held in Leicester; and as I was born and bred there, it wouldn’t be far to run back to my folks house if I didn’t like facing people over the board “for real”. Plus, I could spend some time with my parents anyway, so there were several good reasons for a trip home.

I’d registered in advance, I’d booked the time off work, and finally the big day arrived. I set out from Brighton on the south coast of England shortly before midday, to drive 170 odd miles to my original home town. The plan was to call in to see my folks to drop off my bags and grab a bite to eat, then get on over to the Con in time for the 6pm Friday start. Easy!

It had rained quite a bit that week; and sadly, it took me over 4 hours to do the first half of the journey, with our (in)famous M25 motorway doing its usual job as a parking lot. So, having changed plans and told my folks that I’d not see them until about midnight, I finally got to the Con, registered and got to where the Dip tournament was taking place, to find it 5 minutes into Fall 1901! So there was my chance to win the tournament gone already . I was surprised that there were only 2 Dip boards running on the Friday; but the weather was bad, and maybe more sensible people had decided not to travel.

I immediately signed up for the Saturday game, and found out that the games would run to 1911, which was new to me. I was used to games on the judges that ended either as a solo or DIAS; so some new tactics would obviously be required here, as every dot would count over the next two days. Slightly depressed by missing the start of the tournament, I had a quick look around the con at all these people playing a whole load of other games that I had never seen before. Then hunger took over and I decided to go see my folks early after all and eat.

ManorCon is held about 15 minutes from my parents house, so Saturday saw me arrive with time to spare. The sign-up sheet filled up slowly until once again, there were enough players for 2 boards. Game on! My initial excitement was tempered slightly when I was drawn as Austria, but this only increased my resolve not to tell anyone that this was my first ever 7-player face to face game. I knew I was in for a tough day trapped between Emeric Miszti’s Russia and Steve Agg’s Italy when those two scampered off to talk Turkey (and Austria!) as soon as they could. Andrew Singleton, playing Turkey, was new to the ftf scene, just like me. Suffice it to say, we didn’t do all that well. I guess the two new guys should have sworn to stick together through thick and thin, just to stay alive. I’ll bear that in mind for the future.

By mid Saturday afternoon, I ended up holding one dot in Germany in a key portion of the front line to prevent a Russian solo. Unfortunately, the “stop Russia” alliance didn’t quite get its act together in time. I was eliminated in 1908, and Emeric got his solo in 1909. I ended day two on a grand total of 0.8 points. However, by this stage I had learned all about writing your orders early, talking to someone at length to prevent them changing their orders at the last minute, thought about having 2 sets of orders, been suckered into telling more than I was told in return, and had all sorts of other great and useful experiences! I’d heard tell of some “other” tournament tactics as well. Was the non-appearance of Toby Harris on Saturday morning the result of a “stop the leader” alliance feeding him beer all night long on Friday?! I think we should be told.

On Sunday, I was given France. This was a bit more encouraging for me, as I had actually played France in a PBEM game. To the finish. A whole once. This meant that I was a bit more confident, as I knew a bit about what I was doing. I was facing Emeric again (as Turkey this time), with the other players including Rick Desper as Austria and Gihan Bandaranaike, who had finally thrown his hat in to the Diplomacy ring, as England. It was the four of us that ended up in the shake-up towards the end. Emeric needed a half-decent score to win, and Rick was looking to secure a top 3 finish too; so it was no surprise to see those two marching together towards the stalemate line. By this time, though, I had taken the 3 “normal” French expansions and a small slice of England and Germany. With the 1911 deadline to play to, I was pretty certain at that stage that I had enough of a position to ensure I stayed in the game, which would be a first for me. I managed to fend off Tom Garretty’s Italy until Emeric and Rick swallowed him up. With the eastern powers looming, I managed to lock the door out of the Med right on schedule. Gihan and I had resolved to ensure that the centre of Europe was held too. With the stalemate thus formed, the game ended in an agreed draw a couple of years ahead of schedule, with me more than happy to get my first real score on the board.

Congratulations were then offered to Emeric, who’d done enough to secure the tournament win. For those who may want to check out all the final scores, you can find them at the ManorCon website.

Knowing nothing of the other games taking place at the con wasn’t helped by the fact I was staying off-site with my parents. It turned out that Gihan knew that there were other folks from Brighton at ManorCon; and on his recommendation, I now play board games every week (, and I fit some other game days in too — there’s quite a gaming scene around Brighton.

When I go back to ManorCon this year, I will be staying on site, so I can play something else once the serious business of the day is out of the way! I’ll even take some of my own games this time. Primarily though, I’m looking forward to playing some more ftp Dip. I’ve read quite a few accounts which refer to the number of people who play Diplomacy face to face “because of the people” and now I understand that. I hope that ManorCon 2008 sees me meeting up with a lot of the 2007 players again, as they were a great bunch of people. I’m working on tempting my boss to play at ManorCon in 2008, he’s a big fan of and it would be great to get someone else into the ftf part of the hobby.

Editor's Note: Dave originally submitted this article for the Spring 2008 Retreat issue, which unfortunately was cancelled. Since ManorCon takes place in July, by now it has already come and gone. However, we here at the Pouch are happy to note that this time, our "newbie" placed ahead of last year's champion!!! Congratulations, Dave!!!
Dave Simpson

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