The Editor and the Readership
Well, it looks like we've reached the end of another issue of the Diplomatic Pouch. I can't say that putting together the Deposits this time was as trying as Brandon's task last issue, but I think there are a number of interesting letters that I hope you'll all read.
Not surprisingly, the Deposits were dominated by mail regarding Manus' article on The Blue Water Lapanto. I look forward to seeing Manus' response to some of the comments he's received on the subject.
There were also a few letters on Simon's and Manus' article on Eliminating the Paradox in Diplomacy from the Fall Movement issue. Those you won't see in this issue of the Pouch, but there will probably be a follow up article on the subject in the Spring Retreat issue, and I'm sure that those letters will find a place in any future article on the subject.
Before we dig into the mailbag, here is a quick question sent in by David Cohen:
In standard Diplomacy, what do these four provinces, and only these four provinces: Liverpool, Moscow, Rome and Smyrna, have in common?Think you know? Send us the answer!
What can I say? I love it!
Playing Austria, my biggest concern has always been "what shall I do with the drunken sailor?" (referring to the Austrian fleet nearly always on shore leave). This article gives a very valid tactic for putting it into good use, and I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes quite popular now the secret is out.
I have a theory regarding your article. It seems that many openings, after getting published in the pouch, gain a certain amount of popularity in PBeM play. So, as a pseudo-scientific study, you publish an opening which cannot possibly work in genuine play, and then go through subsequent Judge games to see if that opening was used at all. If you are correct, then the Zine is as effective as you have always hoped it would be, and you can rest on your laurels.
Seriously though, I can imagine impressionable newbies looking at this article and thinking, "yeah, don't talk at all to Italy, now thats a plan". This is contrary to everything most top players are trying to push in this game! The most likely result of such an opening would be a pissed off Italy with a possible rocking RT Juggernaut in the East. I like the retreat concept where Austria gets to choose the open Aeg/Eas sea. However, the damage to get such an opening is huge. First of all, the Austrian fleet does not hang around "like an army", it can serve as support into Aeg. Alternately, if you like the idea of the multi-national convoy, you can order Gre-Ion, Ion-(whatever). Austria gets the extra build, Italy gets the extra security (and can send the Ven army into Russia if you really want or Germany or France or whatever, possibilities are endless..
Point is, Italy gains NOTHING out of this, Austria can (as you pointed out at the end) screw Italy bad if he feels like it. If I were Italy, and an Austrian pulled this on me, I'd probably be rather pissed, and I am a rather forgiving player. Unfortunately, in this hobby, I have found the grudge to be the norm.
Perhaps a "nicer" Blue Water could be fabricated, one that doesn't piss off Italy as much but rather gets him in with the plan. Something to think about.
Really liked the article. However, can't this be more easily arranged by simply doing the Balkan Gambit? If Italy and Austria are well coordinated, the Blue Water lepanto can be achieved _without_ locking the Italian army in Venice, moving to Adr etc.
I believe that the variant is more powerful (for both A and I) when Italy is not bullied along but actually cooperating.
What do you think?
I enjoyed reading your piece about Austria - and it reinforces my belief that Austria, despite most players' reluctance to take it on as a power, is actually the most versatile power to play, especially in the first two years.
The opening you describe depends to some extent on how quickly Turkey and Russia get it together. If I was playing either of those two, as soon as I saw Austria move into the Adriatic, I might sense an opportunity. Russia and Turkey could profit well from Italy's paranoia and Austria's inability to take Greece in the fall.
I am playing Austria in a game on SEPO at the moment ("bjork"), where I have enjoyed outstanding (and admittedly unexpected) success with an opening born out of losing too often to the juggernaut. In this game, by the end of 1902, Austria had control of all of the Balkans. By the end of 1904, Russia and Turkey had been eliminated.
The opening takes advantage of Austria's central position on the board to offer as much as possible to neighbouring powers. Above all, Austria seeks the friendship of Germany and Italy. It also endeavours to turn Russia and Turkey against each other.
There is one caveat. The speedy occupation of the Balkans and quick elimination of both Russia and Turkey only really works if Russia opens by not moving to Rumania and sends A Mos-St P. So, if Russia leaves two units on his southern borders and sends two units north, the strategy will work. Otherwise, it is not likely to.
In this case, Russia opened A War-Ukr; F Sev-Bla; A Mos-StP; F StP-GoB. Turkey opened A Con-Bul; F Ank-Bla; A Smy-Con.
Austria has in the meantime done no more than establish cordial relations with Russia and Turkey. It welcomes a Russian presence in Rumania and a Turkish presence in Bul. Gre is open for discussion.
As for Italy, because Austria's biggest fear is the juggernaut (a joint Russian-Italian attack from the start is possible, though requires both powers to establish a strong bond at the beginning and is rare... the two tend to get together more if Austria moves against either one of them or soon after Turkey has been eliminated), he does everything possible to keep Italy on good terms. He makes it very clear to Italy he wants a strong alliance.. "all too often", he says, "Italy and Austria fight and both lose out...". Austria makes it clear to Italy they both have a common enemy in Turkey and this could be good grounds for co-operation. Austria suggests openings to Italy that suits them both. Both keep armies in Trieste and Venice. Menawhile Italy also orders A Rom-Apu and F Nap-Ion - a standard Italian opening that keeps him happy. It is flexible and can be turned to whatever opportunity arises. Austria understands all this, says this makes great sense. DMZs are established in Tyrolia and the Adriatic.
Austria opens A Vie-Tri, F Tri-Alb and A Bud-Ser. This is standard. It is Austria's strongest opening and, despite the slim risk of an Italian-Russian alliance is the best foundation for expansion.
Concrete plans are put to Italy after the Turkish-Russian bounce in Bla. Austria tells Italy the bounce could mean two things: either Turkey and Russia have both broken a DMZ agreement (and now distrust each other), or they have fallen out over whether one or the other should occupy Bla, or they are allied and the bounce has demonstrated to them they can work together. Whichever is true - and it has to be one of the three - it gives Italy an opportunity. He has to act if Russia and Turkey are allied and go for the Lepanto in his own interests. Austria tells him the juggernaut will leave Italy with nothing. If Russia and Turkey do distrust one another, this again is an opportunity... the Lepanto is also the best option.
At the same time, Austria has secured himself Greece. Turkey abandons claims to Greece and is beginning to feel hemmed in. Instead, he starts asking for support into Rumania. Austria relays these messages to Russia and says he is more than happy for Russia to occupy Rumania. In this way, tension between Russia and Turkey is stoked. Austria tells Turkey he thinks Turkey should have Rumania and promises support the following year.
Russia occupies Rumania in the fall with A Ukr, supported by F Sev. The situation is Rus A Rum, Turk A Bul, Aus A Ser and Aus F Gre. Turkey, meanwhile, has moved to Bla again on Austria's suggestion. Turkey thinks he has an ally in Austria against Russia. Russia thinks he has an ally in Austria against Turkey. The Italian, meanwhile, takes Tunis and grows more convinced a Lepanto might be possible.
Austria's opening for Spring 1902:
A Bud support Turkish A Ank (a new one) -Rum (via Bla)
This is a risk since it leaves Trieste unguarded, but the Italian, increasingly certain of the Lepanto after Turkey builds an army and is supported into Rum, sees the merits in an alliance with Austria. In the fall, he vacates Ven, moving to Tuscany.
For Spring 1902, Italy moves:
A Ven hold
A Tun hold
Remember, the Turk moves:
A Bul support A Ank-Rum
F Bla convoy A Ank-Rum
A Con support A Bul
The Russian has moved:
A Rum hold (dislodged and destroyed)
F Sev support A Rum
So, the Russian is now angry at Austria. But his army has been destroyed and he is impotent to do anything about the incursion into Galicia. Warsaw is also exposed. The Turk, meanwhile, is confused. Austria has helped him into Rumania, as agreed,but moved to Aegean. Moreover, the Italian - as Turkey had suspected since the build - is going for a Lepanto.
Tense exchanges take place between Austria and Turkey and Russia. The Austrian blitzes both with messages, telling Turkey the move to Aeg was to bounce the Italian who had requested support there... what a cunning devil that Italian is etc... looks certain he is going for the Lepanto. Profuse apologies to the Russian for the incursion into Galicia and support for Turkey.. withdrawal to follow immediately etc. More friendly messages with the Italian (and also with Germany who has Russian units in Scan to contend with - here Germany now sees some sense in co-operating with Austria... neother of themwant a strong Russia).
Trust of a sort is re-established with Turkey. The sultan has little choice in the matter really. Turkey and Austria agree to bounce on Smy to prevent the Italian taking it.
For the fall, Austria orders:
A Gre support F Aeg-Bul
A Gal support A Bud-Rum
A Ser support A Bud-Rum
Net result is both the Turkish armies (in Rum and Bul) aredislodged. The one in Rum is destroyed,the one in Bul retreats to Con as Turkey has ordered A Con-Smy. He had inadequate support (only Bla) for A Rum. Support for A Rum from A Bul was cut.
The Italian meanwhile convoys to Syria. The Russian supports F sev with A Ukr.
So, Austria has the Balkans,. Turkey is finished, Russia is powerless. A quick dismemberment of Russia follows by both Austria and Germany.
This may have been fluke. I think iot owed a lot to the naivety of both Russia and Turkey. But it does show how quick and hoew effective Austrias can be. It relies, specatcularly, on Austria's central position and the diplomatic influence it exercises in the early stages.
Up Austria (and sorry for long-winded tale)
I very much enjoyed your article on this unexpected opening. But I wonder....
Would it be just as effective, and easier to manage if you just present the whole idea to Italy at the start as a deception to the world to disguise the A/I alliance?
It just seems to me that Italy could be so spooked by your opening and especially by your SILENCE in the early going, that you may never be able to garner his trust in a way that would aid your long term plans.
Just a thought.
Yours is the second response to make this point, and I agree that this is also a good way to play it (and in retrospect, I should have spent more time on that possibility).
So far, then, it's two mails saying, "tell Italy" versus one saying, "Yes! This is exactly what I need as Austria -- a way to force Italy into alliance without risk."
I have a comment about your devious and excellent Blue Water Lepanto article in the Winter 1999 Zine, in which you guide Austria to an opening against Turkey with eventual help from Italy.
In it, one suggestion for means of diploming with Turkey is lying about cooperation with him. For example, you suggest telling him that Austria let him have Greece, when in reality Austria will bounce him in Greece. This despicable and immoral lie serves to prevent Turkey from moving to Serbia, which YOU SAY would let Turkey have two builds.
However, it seems to me that Austria could also order Tri-Ser in Fall 1901. This would prevent Turkey from taking Serbia, and an Austrian army would already take Greece. The new Austro-Italian alliance would be that much more advanced. The best would be if Turkey were made to not move to either Serbia OR Greece. This would give Austria two builds and achieve the best possible advance. What's more, Italy should have even more reason to believe that Austria is not Turkey's friend. A possible pledge of turning Greece over to Italy or support for taking Smy should help the cause.
There is still the nasty risk that Italy is annoyed enough to join Turkey (and/or Russia) against you, but that is what good diplomatic skills are for. Italy should be made to see how clear your intentions are, especially after the Spring 1902 Retreat Ion-Eas or Ion-Aeg.
The reason Austria should be reasonably safe to move Tri-Ser in Fall 1901 is that Italy should, as you said, feel obliged to support himself in Ven. Even if Italy dashes into Tri, it would require that Ser-Gre and Tri-Ser both succeeded, and Austria would still get a build. This may give Austria more reason to be nervous, but it is still quite reasonable to think that an Austro-Italian alliance can be formed --and with an even greater element of surpise. Besides, the odds of Ven-Tri are low. Either way, an Austrian/Italian alliance only gains by trying for both Ser and Gre.
So I'd suggest that Austria instead try to prevent Turkey from moving to either Gre or Ser. It's logical to enhance the illusion of an Austria seeking Turkish alliance by offering support for Bul-Rum, or simply hide the truth even longer (past the Fall 1901 moves) by asking him to let you take Gre and Ser in return for future help against Russia.
There's no guarantees in life or Diplomacy, but there are some strategies that offer attractive probabilities. The real question is can you do all this without ticking off all your neighbors?
And finally, I have to reiterate that there's no room in this game for inflexibility. Unless you want to play that way. Aw, heck, do what you want. As long as it's actually what I want you to want....
I believe you have personally caused severe damage to the Diplomacy community with that article.
Please, hear me out. You did make some very excellent points in there, like that AT is a good alliance when the precendent is that it is not. But I believe you made one horrid, disturbing mistake, that has scarred the game. Before the article, everything was fine. Austria and Italy could do things together, like Lepanto, or ignore each other and pursue thier own goals. Now, after reading your article, I believe people get the impression that the best thing for Italy to do is attack Austria in 1901. Sure, you said this should not be done unless Italy has rock-solid agreements with R or T, but this is often ignored in comparison to the main statement that Italy should not be afraid to attack Austria. Let me provide some examples. I have been chosen as Austria an abnormally large amount since the GiD came out, so I would consider myself a master on this subject. All of the following examples are no-press (eg. no rock-solid agreement with R or T exists) and were all petty one SC stabs.
[Editor's note: In his letter, Mr. McClure provides us with the names and judges for the games he mentions, but I have removed those for the sake of preserving gunboat.]
Game 1. This one is my favorite of a stupid thing for Italy to do
S1901M: A Ven S F Tri
F1901: A Ven -> Tri
Net result: I was gone by 1904, Italy soon after RT bowled him over.
Game 2, 1898 variant
S1900M: A Ven -> Tri (*bounce*)
Right, he has two units and he plans on bouncing me when all his neighbors will soon be too large for him to defend against? He and I will die at the hands of an R or T twice as large as us. It is going to happen, I know it.
S1901: A Ven -> Tri
This is an RT game. Italy is soon to be gone. Turkey is in the Ion, and Italy has NOTHING to defend it with. All his units are in Adr, Tri, Tyl and Ven.
Basically, I am trying to point out to you either the error in your logic, or the fact that you hid away the most important point about IA wars, namely the rock-solid agreement. I am tired of teaching Italy a lesson, and I am trying to see if your article is the source of these recent crises. It could be just that people are trying out your suggestion. I did. This you'll love.
Game 4, WGP-
I am Italy. I had the rock-solid agreement with T, so I felt I could stab A. And how!
Movement results for Fall of 1901. (torres1.002)
Italy: Army Venice -> Trieste.
Italy: Army Tyrolia -> Vienna.
Italy: Fleet Ionian Sea -> Greece.
Austria: 2 Supply centers, 3 Units: Removes 1 unit.
Italy: 6 Supply centers, 3 Units: Builds 3 units.
Is this more of what you were planning when you wrote that article? WRONG! My previous agreements to have Russia go north were distracted by a tasty Austrian corpse, and Turkey felt the same. Only natural that they now put aside thier differences and hostile Armenian armies and ally. I am now down to three units, with Turkish fleets in Nap and Ion. Austria is still at two, despite 1902 attempts by Turkey and I to kill him, before the Juggernaut formed.
I would love to hear how your thoughts have changed since GiD was published. Perhaps you agree with me. Perhaps not. Perhaps you didn't choose to read my email. All this is fine. Just please never be Italy on the same judge as me, just to be sure. :)
First, be certain that I listen to the most severe critics of my work as closely as those who praise it. You have good company, in that Grant Flowers (no slouch of a diplomat) also has deep reservations about what I'm doing to the minds of Dippers. Let me reply to you as best I can. Also, I'm going to be sure that Manus publishes this exchange in the Pouch.
Setting aside your thesis statement that I've ruined the game ;-), let's move to your next point, on which we can both agree: if Italians attack Austrians in S01 without securing those agreements with Russia and Turkey (you do not mention it, but they must also judge the conditions to be favorable in the West as well), they are acting *contrary* to the advice of my article, not in accord with it. I tried to make that as absolutely clear as possible in my article, and I'll take this moment to repeat: it is *bad* play for Italy to attack Austria in S01 without setting up the ideal diplomatic conditions for the assault across the *whole* board. Anything less than ideal simply will not do.
Now, let's move on to your no-press examples. First, I think it should go without saying that it is simply *impossible* to carry out the advice I gave for playing Italy in a no-press game. [Side note: if you really want to improve, stop playing no-press. Just a personal opinion.] I would certainly hope that no Italian player would ever cite my article (or, for that matter, the "Go Fasta" article) as a reason for attacking Austria in S01 in no-press. Second, however, I see that you do not yet have any direct evidence that these attacks were motivated by my article. It's my understanding that this kind of bad no-press play by Italy occurred well before I ever arrived on the scene with my articles. I wouldn't be so quick to conclude that my own articles motivated these attacks. Let's be clear about it, though, so that there is no misunderstanding: the Italian leader who attacks Austria in S01 of a no-press game and cites my article is horribly misapplying the logic of the article. I can't be more clear than that.
Moving on to your last example, the game in which you successfully stabbed Austria, but later fell prey to a Russo-Turkish alliance, I have a few observations. First, a successful 1901, as measured by SC-grabbing, does not predict much in the way of long-term success. I'm pretty sure that I recall somewhere in the Pouch, there is an article containing statistical analysis that Germany wins fewer games after a three-build start than after a two-build start. Early Leader Syndrome can be a powerful force, and a difficult one to master in response.
Second, if you had a solid alliance agreement with Turkey, what were you doing grabbing Greece in 1901 instead of giving it to Turkey and sharing the builds more evenly? Little wonder that Turkey was motivated to switch alliances, after you took three builds in 1901 while he settled for Bulgaria and war with Russia. I can't really critique your diplomacy without seeing it, but what little you've told me makes me suspect that you sacrificed too much of the global long-term thinking I tried to encourage to get that 3-SC 1901. Perhaps if you had given higher priority to alliance maintenance with Turkey on this occassion, Turkey would have been more motivated to pursue I-T than R-T?
Third, alliance-shifting happens. For that matter, unpredictable humanity happens. Geography lays a nice foundation for crafting strategies, but one simply can't force ideal geographic strategies to come about. That's why you always need a "Plan B" and a "Plan C". I tried to emphasize that, as well, for the Italian situation. This logic is not any less true as the game wears on. When you feel the ground shifting under you, you have to adapt new ways to cope. In your case, it seems pretty clear that you needed to start adapting the moment you got a three build 1901, Turkey became concerned, and Russia was not so committed to a northern campaign that he couldn't turn around and pursue new strategies. [BTW, you mentioned nothing about western affairs in your analysis, though I tried to emphasize that, in all cases, Italian strategy would be as strongly affected by events in the West as events in the East.]
Perhaps that "severe damage" I've done will be curbed by my article appearing in this issue entitled "The New World Order". Readers of my work will see that, in general application, I do not endorse the S01 lunge attack at a neighboring power in PBEM play. This advice applies to Italian players as much as any other power. This advice goes double or triple for no-press play. My new article restates something I've said before, but perhaps bears repeating for emphasis: Caissic/Geographic principles lay an important foundation for good play, but diplomatic evaluations must *always* be held as the more value-weighted portion of any fornula for good play. [So I say again, quit playing no-press :-)] Pursuing what is diplomatically possible must always trump pursuing what is Caissically/Geographically ideal. Just as other people before me have emphasized that one should never damage a good alliance relationship to snatch up extra SCs, I'll also emphasize that one should never lightly throw away multilateral opportunities (see New World Order) in the mad unilateral pursuit of Geography and tempo. The name of the game is "Diplomacy".
A final word on no-press: There is a tremendous misimpression that no-press is a pure game of tactics which, apparently, leads to the possibility of a misimpression that Geography principles can be blindly applied in no-press to improve results. Nothing could be further from the truth. The importance of good individual tactics is elevated in no-press, but so is the importance of understanding how to identify and pursue alliances when only severely limited and abstract communication is allowed. The limited nature of that communication makes it *more* important, not less, that you pay attention to the signals others are sending via their play and mold your own play around them. If ideal geographic play must always be tempered by knowing what is diplomatically possible, then the no-press environment, which puts severe limits on diplomatic possibilities, is the least likely environment in which to force geographically ideal strategies to come about. It should go without saying that, if you lunge at a neighbor in S01 in no-press, you have done so with *zero* evaluation of the diplomatic signals of others. You should not expect to succeed.
I hope this clarifies things; not just for you, Brendan, but for everyone.
As I was reading "Geography is Destiny" I noted with interest that the ratings of country success rates differed quite a bit from the old pbm figures cited in Avalon Hill's Gamer's Guide to Diplomacy. What I remember most is that Russia used to be high solo/high elimination, being knocked right out second only to Austria, while Austria was the second highest winner. Germany was much better in those figures, being a third high-solo/high elimination nation. I wonder if you were aware of this and if you had any thoughts on what might cause the difference in results.
My gut feeling is that Diplomacy is a better balanced game than the 1995 figures you cited make it out. Is it possible that inexperienced players, not knowing any better, are more likely to take the less desireable countries, thereby slanting the stats even more? It also occurs to me that part of the problem may be that some countries are just plain easier to play competently than others--case in point is your analysis that suggests that people have been misplaying Italy. I think the same might be said for Germany, which is a tough draw but a country which gives a much more likely shot at a solo than Italy or even more solid countries, like Turkey.
Nice to hear from you. I've always got time to exchange a few words.As I was reading "Geography is Destiny" I noted with interest that the ratings of country success rates differed quite a bit from the old pbm figures cited in Avalon Hill's Gamer's Guide to Diplomacy. What I remember most is that Russia used to be high solo/high elimination, being knocked right out second only to Austria, while Austria was the second highest winner. Germany was much better in those figures, being a third high-solo/high elimination nation. I wonder if you were aware of this and if you had any thoughts on what might cause the difference in results.
Actually, I am aware that it didn't always used to be this way. Stephen Agar has commented on RGD in the past that, back in the day, powers fared differently. I've heard that all of the center powers used to be much better, that England used to be considered the strongest power on the board, France's results were closer to average, and no one ever wanted to be Turkey.My gut feeling is that Diplomacy is a better balanced game than the 1995 figures you cited make it out.
I actually agree to a point. The starting positions *are* imbalanced, but experienced players, being aware of that, should make sure that awarenesses of imbalances inform their strategies from the beginning. This should lead to balanced play, even on an imbalanced board. But IMO it all begins with understanding the balances inherent in the board, which was a good reason for me to write the article (or so my thinking went :-)).Is it possible that inexperienced players, not knowing any better, are more likely to take the less desireable countries, thereby slanting the stats even more?
Definitely. I think that the pernicious effect of the power assignment aspect of the Judge program is underapprectiated. If I were king of the Dippers, I'd banish that as a strategy and have the Judge randomly assign powers in every game. Methinks, however, that would make me an unpopular monarch, which is why things are the way they are, because people like it that way.It also occurs to me that part of the problem may be that some countries are just plain easier to play competently than others--case in point is your analysis that suggests that people have been misplaying Italy. I think the same might be said for Germany, which is a tough draw but a country which gives a much more likely shot at a solo than Italy or even more solid countries, like Turkey.
How can I but agree with you, seeing that the majority of my assertions at the end of my article about commonly held perceptions that I believe are wrong involved Germany? Probably the single worst wrong that's been done to Germany and to England together is all of those articles on opening strategy that tell you that E-G is a bad alliance for Germany. So in PBEM, you have a much tougher time, as England, convincing Germany to ally with you, and you wind up opening F Lon-Nth much more often than F Lon-Eng. I think that there is a relationship between this and the fact that England and Germany both do more poorly now than in the past, while France does much better.
When I said in the article that I prefer England as an ally when I play Germany, I practice what I preach. That was my opening alliance in each of the last two games I played as Germany. When I say that I am not afraid of England's stab potential, it's because in each of those games, I successfully stabbed England, to the point where he was eliminated before game end in both games. Unfortunately, I managed to get stalemated both games and settled for a 4WD and a 3WD, but I think the point is made: a well-led Germany can prosper in an E-G alliance.
E-G is also just plain better for both powers. The dynamic of the E-G allows a two-front attack to be pursued against the two most powerful corner powers early on in the game. E-G working together can reliably and decisively squeeze both F and R out of their northern neutrals, then out of their home centers. Contrast this with the E-F, or F-G combinations, the success of which leaves the successful powers in control of fewer overall centers and which also leaves Russia to her own devices, generally to the greater detriment of both E and G.
The tired advice to Germany to eschew alliances with England sacrifices the longer-term strategic benefits of that alliance on the altar of fearing the short term stab. That's not right.
There's a similar dynamic in the south, with the mighty reputation of the "Juggernaut" making life way too easy for Russia and way too difficult for Austria. It is primarily the Sultan who needs to wake up and smell the Turkish coffee on this score, but Austrians who irrationally fear A-T alliances (the mirror of Germans who irrationally fear the E-G alliance) also get their share of the blame.
My hope in writing Geography is Destiny was that, if players knew the geographic score from the beginning, they might formulate their strategies in a different manner -- restoring some needed balance to the game.
Response to the response from Cliff Johnson (email@example.com):
Thank you for the thoughtful response to my letter.
Your series on Caissic analyses was very interesting and rewarding -- I found them particularly useful as a check against hastily judging other powers by SC count alone -- however, I think that it is your "Geography is Destiny" that calls for a real paradigm shift, and a welcome one at that.
Your commentary on 'Fear Factor' will (I hope) become a Diplomacy standard because it explains so much that otherwise gets lost in the mass of competing details and theories. One of the special things about playing Germany I find is that it is only when you've played that power that you begin to appreciate the nearly paranoid attitude of German governments since Germany became a unified state. The fear goes both ways, of course. A German player is always afraid of being hit from an unexpected quarter, but all his neighbors know that he's capable of explosive growth (that's what's happening in my current game). I think it takes a real Bismark type to get the best out of Germany, but as you point out it can certainly be done. That's why I responded in my last letter to the suggestion implicit in those statistics--that Germany was a bad draw, 7th out of seven. Well, somebody's got to be last, but Germany is an emminently playable country, as we both agree.
What will be really interesting is to see whether people start playing Italy more along the lines that you suggest, with Austria and France sharply defined as enemies #1 & #2. Both Turkey and Italy should start moving up in the stats if players of those countries start looking elsewhere than at each other as their natural routes of expansion.
Please keep those articles coming.
I'm afraid I disagree with both Chris and Edi. I think the lack of growth in Dip, particularly in the U.S. is due to two interconnected cultural movements. First, the general softening of the population. Psychologically Diplomacy is a very tough game to take. This has to do with the psychology of "selling." A complete explanation of this could take pages. The short cut explanation of this is that when we reach an agreement with another player in a Dip game which involves something that player wants us to do we are emotionally connected to that player. We therefore expect that player to reciprocate. When, instead of reciprocating, this player stabs us we react emotionally. It's very much like unrequited love. Second is computer games. We can now sit in front of a computer and try to conquer the world in an afternoon. And if the computer gets the upper hand we can just turn it off. What could be better that playing war games and never having to lose.
The real question here is, of course, DIAS vs voted draws and by extension the scoring system I use at "DonCon". Dip comes with a very simple scoring system. 18 centers wins everything else is less than that. When played within the confines of a tournament where the results of several boards have to be compared, and within time restrictions (some people want to sleep & most have to go to work on Monday) the simple beauty of this falls apart. It then becomes necessary to create a new one. The lowering of victory criteria (as they have done it Denver) it one way to approach it. My system is intended to make the game move faster. Generally speaking, to play it successfully you have to play agressively and take chances. My choice of voted draws is intended to reward those who have achieved some degree of success in a given game. I feel it is more important to reward success than to protect the unsuccessful. Darwin as applied to Dip.
Whether this has an effect on turnout at "DonCon" is unclear. Overall, participation has declined some. However, there are factors other than the scoring system which can have an effect on participation. A good sign is the fact that the number of players increased in 1999 over 1998.