How to Lie to Your Opponents

By Hanz Johansson

True Lies or False Truths?

Winning a game of Diplomacy is very hard. Regardless of what country you have pulled, what variant you play, and who your opponents are, you seldom have a high percentage of wins in Diplomacy. A game of Diplomacy requires a player to exhibit several different abilities, and you seldom find a player that possesses all these traits. To be a splendid tactician, able to construct advanced support chains and stalemate lines without the ability to talk to other players and convince them of the need to participate with you in your tactical plans is useless. Such a player is easily defeated by a more charismatic person able to rally people behind his ideas and turn them away from him and toward his enemies, even if that charismatic person has little or no tactical ability whatsoever. This article hopes to point at the importance of one the key elements in Diplomacy, the ability to tell lies and spot lies. Face it, even if you are intent on playing a fair game, you will unavoidably tell some lies during the game -- we all do; don't feel bad about it. The lie is a two-edged weapon and can both aid and hurt you; therefore it is important that you think a bit before lying to your opponent. Before you decide to, lie stop a moment and go through my "three steps to a good lies."

  1. Okay, you plan to lie to one or more of your opponents and need some help. The first question you must ask yourself is why. Why do you need to use a lie? Some players use lies all to often, sometimes without reason, and the result is a player that finds that noone wishes to ally with him and noone trusts him. Even when such a player speaks the truth, other players do not believe him. This is bad. Use lies only when it benefits you and not as a routine diplomacy trick. A good lie depends on the fact that the player who utters the lie has some reputation of telling the truth. If you have a good reason for lying to your opponent, then go ahead to read step 2, but if you do not you might be better off not lying. Believe it or not, honesty usually actually is the best policy.

  2. The next question is, "How do you lie?" For some, this comes naturally, but for those of us who are not accustomed to telling lies straight into the face of another person, it can be very difficult. Well, practice makes perfect and if you plan on becoming a master Diplomacy player you need a lot of practice. When constructing your lie you must take some things in consideration. Will the person to whom you lie believe the lie? Never underestimate your opponent's intelligence; he is almost always smarter than you give him credit for. Your lie must be as plausible as possible so that he can see the thinking behind your lie, and the reasons why it could be true. If you play England and negotiate with France at the start, promising him that you will happily help him get Belgium, Holland, all of Germany, and Denmark too, as long as you simply get Norway, the Frenchman will be extremely suspicious and probably not believe you. His understanding of the game will tell him, hopefully, that this offer is a lousy deal for you and that this offer is simply too good to be true. If you instead present a well-planned and detailed attack in which Germany is evenly split between the two of you, the French player will be much more likely to believe you, even if you have no intention of following through on this plan (intending, of course, to instead attack France). If your lie sounds plausible and you believe that your opponent will fall for it then go ahead to the third and last step.

  3. Once you have lied, there may be no going back. So you must ask yourself, "What do I do when the opponent sees my moves on the next turn and realizes that I have lied to him?" Do not expect someone who has just been stabbed in the back by you to be very keen to cooperate with you in the future. Hopefully your lie has given you a good advantage over your opponent, good enough that you can deal with his lust for revenge. The optimal lie, of course, is one that your opponent will never spot, but these are often the creation of master diplomats and in games with many high-caliber players, one could honestly say that one player's lies is another players truths. In such games, then, lies are truths and truths are lies. If you deal with the aftermath, and the way your lies might be converted (inconveniently for you) into truths by quality opponents, then by all means, start lying; you probably have a good chance of success.

In true life it is said that if you lie about big and important issues, people tend to more easily believe you. However, in Diplomacy the situation seems to be the opposite. Small, subtle lies about very likely possibilities are more often believed and an experienced diplomat knows how to tell cunningly lies from cunnint truths, and how to spot attempts to deceive. Remember, paranoia is a way of life and this is even more a truth in the game of Diplomacy. Trust me on that.
Hanz Johansson

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