by Cooper Durvine

I first started playing Diplomacy after I stumbled upon on it on Wikipedia. It looked extremely interesting, so I decided to give it a try. Therefore, I found a rulebook online, found six other guys willing to give it a whirl, and we started our first online game. Later I actually bought a real game board, and by the second online game, everyone had a firm grip on both the rules and the way Diplomacy was played. However, as I scanned the Pouch, reading old articles, and playing online at, I began to see a gaping difference between my "home field" play, and the bigger, online and world wide play. Therefore, I decided to make a few interesting points that I don't think have been discussed at the pouch yet — playing with novices.

First off, I want to make clear that by novice, I don't mean "never played before, first game ever" novice. I mean one who, although he or she has played several games with people he/she knows, has never played online, or read any strategy. Therefore, when you play with these sorts of players, what is usually considered the norm in online Diplomacy is often thrown out the window. The statistics of such games are also very different than for the online games. For instance, according to major statistics published on this very website, Russia and France are considered the best countries on the board. However, in the five official games played without any online 'pros,' France has the second worst rating. Russia has the third worst rating (in case you are wondering, Austria is first, and it is simply dreaded in our club of players). Nevertheless, there are several things to consider while playing with novices.

  1. Novices see the game short term. It is far easier to persuade a novice to join you when you offer one territory next turn rather than several in the long term. Novice players rarely look into the future of the game, and look for "instant gratification."

  2. Personal relationships matter much, much more. There are many examples in our home club how players will refuse to ally with someone else, because they never "hang out" or "don't know each other well." To experienced Diplomacy players, this is ridiculous, but it plays a major role depending on the mix of people you are playing with.

  3. Alliance play is much more widespread. Novices take the "you can't win alone" maxim to the max. In two games we have played (with different people), both had board sprawling alliances of 4-3 countries, and 5-2 countries. Novices will often not commit themselves unless they have the backing of more than one person. Therefore, two way alliances are more rare, while multi people alliances, three-way or even larger. Novices will commit themselves to a huge alliance even if they get a tiny share of the spoils, just because they know they are with the majority.
Although I have pointed out a few differences in novice playing, which can all give experienced players some advantages, never underestimate any player. Some people, who may be regarded as novices, have a natural talent for the game, and can be surprisingly good even for their first game. Note — My Home Club has had five official games, two unofficial ones (less people), and about 14 people have played in one or more of the games. two were played face to face, three by email. The top country? Turkey, with two wins and one draw. (Italy was in a narrow second, with one win and one draw.)
Cooper Durvine

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