by Edi Birsan

Your new friendly editor has asked me to write about the first game I played in. However when I look back at my start in Diplomacy there are several 'first games'. I immediately ran into the problem of getting 7 people together to play the game. With my neighbor and close friend Bob Komada, we quickly played through the country variations in the game box for two player and came to the conclusion that all of them were way out of balance. It was then that I made the rules for Escalation and we had dozens of one on one games. I wrote off to John McCallum in Medicine Hat Canada who was running the ads in The General and he directed me to my first postal game. I wound up as Austria playing with a new player for Italy who was also playing his first postal game: Larry Peery. Larry came up with this bizarre plan to move the Italian armies up to Tyrolia, Bohemia, Silesia, Prussia to attack Warsaw and reach Moscow and St.Pete as his goal in the game. I thought this was rather strange but I did not see anything wrong with letting him go that way. I seem to recall that he never got that far and that I took Naples, Rome and Venice in one game year leaving his armies stranded in Russia and his fleets in some odd places. My own result is lost in memory and probably was a mid game crushing elimination as I had a lot of problems in early games.

Through McCallum I got in contact with other postal players in the New York City area and Bob and I headed down for our first face to face 7 player game in Brooklyn at Gene Prosnitz's place. Taking down the subway to there Bob and I played in our first full game. I was Italy, I think Bob was in the west and Gene was Turkey. He became the very first victim of the Lepanto opening years before it was ever published or named as such. The game was short in game years, I seem to recall that it ended around 1906 or 8 and was a called a draw. The time was about 6 PM so we were doing about an hour a game year. Bob and I had a great time riding the train back to Queens and going over the moves. We were both surprised at the level of our own tactical play compared to the others (all of which were adults in their 30's) and our familiarity with the board. Our one on one gaming had seared into our minds the map and many of the complex support cutting and convoy order options were second nature to each of us... of course we were both still teenagers and as such lying-scheming-backstabbing-double dealing pagan dogs with the subtlety of a cockroach in a bag of sugar, but it was fun.

My first 'Con' was DipCon Two which was held at John Koning's house in Youngstown Ohio. We started to play standard Diplomacy when three fellows from Cleveland showed up including Tony Pandin (of Pandin's Paradox which actually happened then...the only time in 42 years I ever saw it occur naturally). So we went to the 10 player Youngstown Variant. I cannot remember exactly what happened other than John Smythe going around saying that unless each player allied with him Japan was going to win, this was in 1901 and 2.

My first 'tournament' game was also the first tournament game in the hobby in 1970 in Oklahoma City at DipCon 3. It was a blast with a bunch of games being played over a three day weekend and a trio of gamemasters deciding who won the tournament. It was won by John Smythe and was universally recognized at the time as the right choice. The convention was a great time with a nice balance of Diplomacy, socialization and other games... we played an hysterical WW1 battleship game using Fletcher Pratt rules (where you called ranges like 230 inches and put little inverted golf tees to show where the splashes were). Being Diplomacy players we (I was with the British Battlecruisers) made a deal with the German Battlecruiser commander that if he would shift to the north and leave this obnoxious player alone with the Derflinger alone out front we would leave the British Battleship line on their own. The Germans also did not like this player so after the quick fake left go right routine of the German and British battlecrusiers the Derflinger was stuck out all alone between the two lines. The Germans 'accidently' called their shots very short and the entire British line scored on the poor fellow whose ship vaporized.)

As for my first Email game... well flash forward 30 years and I tried the game on a judge thingee. I hated the interface, I hated the syntax, two players dropped out, one of which missed his Fall 01 orders. The entire game was decided by where you were relative to the drop outs and another player who basically did not want to write to anyone. It was a horrible experience. I tried several other email games with human GM's and found it fairly consistent that there were 1-2 drops or non-communicative players in the game. So I shifted to invitation only games and even then had some problems. Email players are a very different subset of Diplomacy players and I just do not enjoy the games as much as with face to face players.

My first real time game was played a few years ago using the Paradox system with 5 minute moves. The game suffered from the same sort of problems that the email games did with the added problem that players would drop out and feel that it was ok to do so, if they were knocked down to 2 or 3 units combined with a lot of connectivity problems from servers around the world. I played about 200 hours worth of real time games trying to help Paradox get their system working, but alas it failed. Again, this game is not meant to be played real time on a computer... that is sort of the worst of all possible ways of playing it.

So there is a quick summary of my First Games in the hobby.

Edi Birsan

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