I'll Remember You


Does anybody really know their neighbors until they have
pillaged and looted Budapest together?

Ray Setzer

Normally, when one thinks of the mechanics of Diplomacy, what comes to mind is negotiations and tactics. There is however a third, and very important aspect. The relationships built up between the players plays a very important role in how each player forms a decision. While this process is involved in all games to some extent, it is most easily observed in the Club (sometimes called Classic) style of play as opposed to the "Judge" style of play due to the less infinite pool of players.

Because the Club style of play presents the possibility that players may face each other with a frequency of more than once of lifetime and less than every game, the smart player will begin to make a mental book on the tendencies observed in other players during the course of any given game. Examples of some types of notes which a player may make might include. Evaluation of relative skill level, situations under which a player might or might not be trusted, reactions to stabs, behavior after a stab and so on. Collecting the information however is one thing, making effective use of it is quite another.

While this information is useful in a current game setting, it is in a subsequent meeting that the full analysis can be put to greatest use. Consider the following examples.

  1. You are beginning a game and your immediate neighbor is someone who you had the opportunity to observe in a prior game a year or so ago. Your observations at that time were that the player made an alliance with another player and did in fact pass up a good chance for a stab. Will these observations influence your decisions to attempt alliance with this player this time? Doggone right they will!
  2. Two players offer you an alliance at the beginning of a game. One player you recall from a past game, quit in a snit when things were not going well. Is this useful information? Absolutely.
There might be a small minority that would call this "Cross gaming", but in reality, unless one is playing a game with Vulcans, it is not only not improper, but in fact essential that a player learn all one can about the opponents. As in most wars, the side with the most accurate information wins. A friend of mine coined what I believe to be perhaps most complete and certainly most concise definition of the game of Diplomacy with the phrase. "Everything counts."

Perhaps the most challenging games of Diplomacy I have ever played have been against 6 other people with whom I have played more than once. Here the trick is not only to utilize the knowledge of the tendencies of the other players, but to honestly appraise ones own tendencies and attempt to use this against the other players. Are you known for long alliances? What better time to lead an opponent down the golden path to a trap.

There are those who might feel that Diplomacy is challenging enough with out having to analyze the other players, but to others, it is just this diversity that keeps the game fresh. The opportunity to observe and participate in this miniature laboratory. A laboratory that combines seven distinct personalities and then purposely puts them all in conflict with each other. And the really amazing thing about it all is that in many instances these people become longtime friends.

Ray Setzer

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