Concerning Stabbing

Thaddeus Black

There are some Diplomacy players, are there not, who go to great lengths to convince others, generally, on principle, that they should be very reluctant to stab. But this is foolishness; the game is Diplomacy, after all. As well to say to an American-football lineman that he should be very reluctant to lay a trap block. Why even bother to play football, if you're not going to play football? A trap block, laid within the bounds of the rules, is fair play in football. It would not improve football to get rid of or to reduce the number of trap blocks. The same may be said of stabs and Diplomacy: that is, if a player is reluctant to stab us, then what is even the point of our even playing Diplomacy with him?

Some players need to lighten up a bit, in my view, and learn to take the stabs in stride. The more stabs, the better. The burden, inside a game of Diplomacy, lies wholly on the target player, to make certain, if possible, that he is not an attractive target to stab.

Are we claiming, then, that the victim is to blame for the crime? No, of course we aren't. A Diplomacy player is not a victim, after all, and a stab is not a crime.

Are we claiming, then, that the target is to blame for the stab? Of course we are. Naturally. Dead on target. Who else would be to blame? Don't go blaming the stabber; he came to play Dip. As well to blame the lineman for laying the trap block. Fair is fair.

Of course, very often, it is really just the general situation on the map, created by the unpredictable interactions of the seven independent agents at the table, that is to blame.

Or partly to blame. If I choose a risky strategy that might possibly, depending on what the other six players do, leave me open to a stab, and then things just fall out such that you discover an unexpected opportunity to stab me profitably, then who is to blame? Not you.

A Diplomacy player who foregoes a good solid chance to stab is, generally speaking, being a poor sport and ruining the game for the other players. That is, if I am Germany and go to all the work to help set up a good solid chance for Italy to stab Russia, to Italy's advantage, and then Italy does not stab, because he doesn't want to hurt the Russian's feelings, or to damage his own sterling reputation for being a no-good stabless Diplomacy drawmonger, then, I ask you, what kind of Diplomacy is that? No kind of Diplomacy I want to play.

Thaddeus Black

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