A year of Diplomacy
from the viewpoint of a Dip noob

by Dave Simpson

Well, it's just turned 2008; so it must be just over a year since my return to Diplomacy. This has given me some cause for reflection. With Diplomacy World reaching its 100th issue recently, there has been some interesting reflection in those pages as well, so I thought I had better return to these musings of my own, which I started late in 2007.

The past 12 months has been a rocky road at times, as I will explain below. My fondness for the game and the time I have available to get involved with it have both oscillated wildly in 2007. I have tried not to take on too many PBEM games at a time, but sometimes, impatience with a stalled game resulted in me signing up for another! Fortunately, I didn't over extend myself at any time — a problem that I could see affecting someone who suddenly has a change of circumstances.

At times in the past year, I have sent a lot of press and at other times I have hardly sent any. This is partly due to the amount of time I have had to devote to the hobby, as the latter part of the year saw me undertaking a lot of overtime and giving me cause to spend what free time I had doing family stuff. This is just real life I guess, but I hoped to be keener at times. My other reason for not sending a lot of press was that sometimes, I just couldn't be arsed, as we say here in the UK. The nature of certain games at certain times either lent themselves to limited communication or sometimes communication seemed pointless! Maybe more importantly, I'd also hoped that others who have signed up for games to also be keen enough to stick the game out, as a lot of games spent time waiting for a replacement player.

I've been in games where the number of replacement players is larger than the number of original players left in the game! For me, as a relatively new player who wants to get in to a few games and enjoy the hobby, I have been put off by the number of delays caused by abandonments and almost as importantly, the impact on the game of 6 players having to treat with a new player who has no sense of what messages went on before. Often the game changes when a new player arrives on the scene. In almost all cases, this seems to have a detrimental effect. I've read more than one commentary on this problem in our hobby and I have no answer for it, other than trying to work my way into those circles that are populated by the more dedicated players, be it Diplomacy Direct, Dipsters, the Vermont Group, and so on. I've just realised that I've clocked up enough games to get into the latter 2 groups, and my applications have just been accepted!

Being short of time and sometimes short of patience has occasionally spoiled games I have been involved in and I have to admit that I have at one stage thought of throwing a game, but I couldn't do it. I guess that giving up would not be fair to the other participants, plus there would be the decision of who to actually throw the game to and if anyone should deserve such a gift — far too much bother to decide!

It's interesting that the original "incoming" series penned by Stephen Lepley contains many parallels to my own experiences. You can read Stephen's original Incoming series in Vol1 and Vol2 of the DP Zine. Stephen had issues with new players entering games as replacements, he felt pressure to get press out and at times didn't care if he didn't get much sent or if a deadline slipped by and there were also times where he suffered or observed emotional outbursts! I've been through that too, I guess everyone has. My considering throwing a game has to be a bit of an emotional outburst, although I wasn't angry or insulting to anyone. I've never met Stephen and I doubt I ever will, but I do feel a connection with him.

Don't get me wrong, there have also been some high points on the road to this reflective missive. I've been involved in a couple of 3-way ties (including my first game) and I grabbed a solo in my second game, thus really feeling keen at as early stage of my PBEM career as this Diplomacy lark must be real easy! (Hah! That feeling didn't last long!). I've also been in a game where I managed to get myself in to the position of being the central European power broker for a couple of years, with my one remaining Austrian army. That was probably the most fun I have ever had on the Diplomacy board as I had absolutely nothing to lose. I still start new games with an enduring sense of anticipation and optimism though, so I guess I am here to stay!

I managed to get myself in to the RT Dip scene on a couple of occasions, which was a rush! For those of you that haven't tried it, it's fast, it's gunboat. Did I say that it was fast, because it's really, really fast! Those guys on the RTDip yahoo group play with 3 minute deadlines for the main seasons and less for retreats and builds. Yeah, yeah, easy when you have 3 units, but what about when you have 15? I started out in my first game as France and all was well, I managed to get rid of England (it turned out that England was a bot — which is useful when you can't get 7 players together quickly enough) and I had expanded into Iberia, the Low Countries, Italy and Scandinavia. Then disaster struck. I had 15 or 16 dots and simply hadn't got enough time to think, nor to order moves for all my units. I was really under pressure! Then I realised I wasn't taking a centre from Germany because my unit that was supposed to be giving support to my attack was actually supporting the German unit and not my own! I think I did that for 3 seasons straight before I realised and then I got battered by the Turk! Ho hum, more lessons learned I suppose. I've played a few RTDip games, but nothing frequent. This is an enjoyable scene, but as it's based in the US, games that start at a nice sensible time, like 8pm EST, are 1am for me. Not good when you have to get up for work the next day!

Then there was face to face. A whole new board game (sorry, I couldn't help myself!) I went to ManorCon in July Ď07 to play Diplomacy the way it was meant to be played. ManorCon is now held in Leicester and as I was born and bred there, it wouldn't be far to run back to my folks house if I didn't like facing people over the board "for real".

For those who may want to check out the final scores, you can find them at the ManorCon website. You can also register there for this year's event. David Norman runs a great tournament that deserves support, so go on, you know you want to!

Knowing nothing of the other games taking place at the con wasnít helped by the fact I was staying off-site with my parents. It turned out that Gihan Bandaranaike knew that there were other folks from Brighton at ManorCon and on his recommendation, I now play board games every week. When I go back to ManorCon this year, I will be staying on site, so I can play something else once the serious business is out of the way! Iíll even take some of my own games this time. Primarily though, Iím looking forward to playing some more ftp Dip and hopefully meeting a lot of the 2007 players again in 2008, they were a great bunch.

We all like to play "The Game" for fun, but you have to be competitive as well!, so before I go, thereís one more thing… The JDPR. Iíd love to know how Iím doing as a Diplomacy player, so I would love to see the ratings updated. Iíve seen some posts in the Vermont Group forum that mention the work that is being done by Rob Farley and others, so I am confident that something will be forthcoming this year. I have a lot of respect for anyone who gives up their time for things like this and Iíd be more than happy to offer my assistance in compiling or checking some of the results, although I donít really know what to do!

To summarise, I think that this has been a yo-yo year, but maybe that is just typical. Perhaps one or two of you who have more experience in these matters could let me know!

Dave Simpson

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