Further Reflections from a Diplomacy Newbie

Stephen Lepley

Our first Diplomacy "club" game mercifully ended. Germany and Russia, with a two-to-one advantage over what was left of France, Turkey, and Italy, were stopped at a stalemate line. No one was willing to change loyalties. The game was at a stalemate. In what is (no doubt) a move frowned on by the Diplomacy community, I rolled Russia over to Germany and ended the game by helping Germany take the solo. Darn frustrating to have a two-to-one advantage and not be able to crush the enemy.

Our second club game is now underway. This one is an 1898 variation of regular Diplomacy, and is Gunboat. In the normal Gunboat game, one must never reveal the fact that they are in the game at all. Gunboat is the judge's term for an anonymous game; what the postal world calls "gunboat" -- the silent game -- is known to the judge as "no-press gunboat". Gunboat, then, means that no one knows each player's name or that you are in their gunboat game. This is all taken care of by the computer. Any leak from you and you are history! Kicked out of the game.

Club2 isn't your normal gunboat game, though. We all know each other's names. We simply aren't sure who is playing which country. With several moves behind us, most of us know who a few players are, and some of us think that they have worked out who everyone is. Writing style is not easy to hide. But still, it's "don't ask, don't tell." We retain a little of the mystery of the traditional gunboat.

1898 is the variation of Diplomacy in which each player only owns one of their home centers at the start of the game and thus has only one unit to move in Spring 1899. The general lack of 1898 strategy information available may make this game interesting to someone thinking of trying the variant.

The setup of the pieces is well thought out. It does seem obvious that certain countries are so set up so as to encourage them to ignore their home centers early and go wandering. England has the only fleet. Her move to the North sea puts a number of non-English centers at risk in the first year. Russia has an army in St. Pete, and is clearly being tempted to take Norway on the first move (thus risking Russia's traditional southern position). Turkey can move to threaten Sevastopol and take it if Russia bites on Norway. Austria can invade Italy on the first move or Germany by move two (if Germany moves west). Not much of an option If Austria invades Italy and is stalemated by the third move.

France, Germany, and Italy don't seem to be quite as tempted to wander. Italy clearly has the fewest starting options and is the only country that can't leave home at all in the first year.

With a few moves behind us now, the game is shaping up. Russia did indeed move on Norway. However, Turkey did not take Sevastopol. Germany wound up with Sweden and then took Norway from Russia. Now Russia only has three centers to face the 11 owned by Germany and Austria.

England tried but never got that fourth build. With Germany and France moving against England (13 centers to three) she is looking like the first to be eliminated. The Russian move against Norway kept England out of Scandinavia.

France, Italy, Germany, Turkey, and Austria have all expanded in more or less normal Diplomacy fashion. They have their home centers and usual free expansions.

At the moment, England and Russia look as if they have suffered the most in this 1898 variation. Now that most countries have their normal sphere of is more like a regular Diplomacy game.

I would predict that the biggest effect the 1898 variation had on our game was to make it more difficult for England and Russia to survive. Mostly because of the Russian move to Norway. Had Turkey moved on Sevastopol, Russia would be nearly gone already.

More as my life unfolds....

Stephen Lepley

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