More Reflections from a Diplomacy Newbie

Stephen Lepley

Manus asked for a "Newbie" follow-up regarding what I had learned and how it actually held up under game play. My own "rules" of engagement, if you will. I not only made up the rules, I got a chance to try them out in another game for newbies. By the way, some of these "newbies" have been playing Diplomacy for years! That makes it tough on us REAL newbies!

What follows are my first "rules of engagement" and more or less how they worked out. Also, a bit of personal feelings regarding the game. Since I am playing Russia in this new game (it is still underway), I have to be a little careful here.

Rule #1: Make one or two allies early on and try to stick with them.
This worked out pretty well. Turkey and I seemed to hit it off and we promptly took out Austria (with help from Italy). Do you remember the recent "Integrity Thread" on the dip news group? It was "our" Austria that started it (regarding his sudden demise). I, unfortunately, stabbed Turkey in order to convince France and Italy to attack Germany, who was killing me! It seemed to work out all right. They attacked Germany, Turkey and I made up, and now R/G/T are facing off against I/T. Rule one is a fairly good one I think.

Rule #2: Get VERY aggressive VERY fast.
In my first game, my Italy sort of "wimped" out. I was determined not to let my Russia do that. Rule two was easy! With Turkey as an ally, Austria was a natural target! A few lies, a few moves, and Austria was history. Never having played beyond the first opponent, I became a little lost after that first enemy was gone. It all got much more complicated after that. I think rule two is a good one though.

Rule #3: Take advantage of 24 hour a-day home access to the internet.
I had read that those who sent out volumes of press did better than those who didn't. I spent hours sending the stuff out! I was determined to bury those who have press limitations. Did it help? I don't know! Austria is gone. England is just one nomadic fleet. I am a part of a three way alliance and have 7 scs, the same as my other partners. Rule three may be good, but next time I will not send out so much press. I do have a life! Or rather, I used to!

Rule #4: Take advantage of the emotional players who become involved in real spats in the game. Go out of your way to side with them and use their emotional over-involvement for your own good.
I wont comment on where and how I used this. But I did, and it worked. Nasty? I know! Distasteful too. Will I do it again? Is it good strategy? Is it moral?

Rule #5 Settle the Balkan issue quickly.
In game one I saw how the Balkan conflict could ruin the game for all involved. Once I had a Balkan enemy, I was paranoid about getting rid of him fast. I moved Moscow south on turn one to help. I didn't want another Balkan disaster to ruin my chances. This worked out pretty well. Italy nearly gave me a Balkan headache but I eventually landed upright and the Balkans are not keeping the east from standing up to the west. Not much wrong with this "rule." It's usually good to settle all your conflicts quickly and favorably.

Rule #6 (Last rule) Project all moves out two or three moves into the future.
Boy did this rule bomb out! Mostly due to all the "what ifs" in the game. Also due to my still lacking basic knowledge of how to do things. Not to mention the fact that it takes hours and I am not willing to give it that time.
I didn't realize that I had come into my second game with a basic misconception. I had felt that the basic philosophy of the game was to lie, and stab your way to the top. I came into game number two determined to lie and stab with the best of them! However, more and more I disliked the lying. The knowledge that the lies actually, personally hurt some of the players bothered me as well. I became more depressed about all of it and decided that game #2 would be my last Diplomacy game ever. About the time we wiped out Austria, I was starting to put-off dealing with the game. I just wanted out.

At this point, Austria started the "Integrity Thread" on the dip news group. I assumed that everyone would just blast him. I was amazed at the actual responses. Many feel that a basic honesty and civility should be the rule. Lies and stabs only come in where diplomacy and strategy can no longer work. Someone mentioned how cut-throat diplomacy can ruin your game, in the end. Man was he right! I felt some of that backlash in this game. One player said he was going to gladly commit suicide seeing that my game was ruined. He then proceeded to effectively do it. Only by stabbing a good ally and lying did I save my position.

The "Integrity" thread was a turning point for me. There are all kinds of valid philosophies one can use to play this game. I am starting do find a technique that I can live with. I am glad I wont be alone in it. I'm now more interested in the game, a better allie, and still willing to lie and stab where need exists! So, I'm back before I even left.

I would still like to see an in-depth discussion of these emotionally over-involved players! The using of them for your own good. Manipulating them at a point when they are vulnerable as human beings. The morality of manipulating individuals who really aren't prepared emotionally to deal with Diplomacy. Those people are out there!

Take it from me, the life of a Diplomacy newbie can be a bit of an emotional roller coaster as he learns to juggle all the elements of this "game."

Stephen Lepley ( is a Process Technician for a manufacturing firm. He lives with his wife, three birds, and Chow Chow dog in the hills of western Massachusetts.

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