No, the headline has nothing to do with what follows. I just wanted to grab your attention. After all, who would read an article called, THE FOUR “ITYS” — KEYS TO SUCCESS IN DIP?
Well, Heath would. He’ll read anything if it might get him a dot or two! This article desperately needs a graphic. Unfortunately I’m not computer savvy enough to provide one. So it’s up to Chris or Heath or somebody to do it for me. Guys, help me!
[copy editor’s note: You’re on your own, Larry. –hdg]
This article is a tribute to the two finest Dippers (out of many hundreds) that I’ve known: Allan Calhamer (who passed away recently) and Edi Birsan (who will be here to celebrate the hobby’s 100th birthday, I’m sure). Each in their own way was/is a master of the game: Allan as a designer and Edi as a player. This article focuses on their playing.
I never actually played Dip with Allan, although I did play chess, National Pastime, and Go with him. I’ve played Dip with Edi a few times over the last forty years (players like Edi don’t have to play with cannon fodder like me) but I have a pretty good idea of how each played The Game.
Hopefully a few thoughts on that topic may broaden your horizons when it comes to picking a style for your next game of Diplomacy.
Now: think of a piece of pie (My favorite is Dutch Apple, but pick your own fav.). A quarter or a third of a pie is a good sized piece. Pumpkin works well for this analogy. Place the piece of pie in front of you. Center point to the left, outside edge to the right. Label the top edge PROACTIVE. Label the bottom edge PASSIVE. Edi’s the perfect example of the Proactive player. Whether it’s strategy, tactics, or diplomacy, or just interacting with other players, Edi’s always out there. It’s what made him the best Dipper in the world. He may not always win, but he always gives it his best shot with gusto! I first wrote something like that forty years ago, and I see no reason to change my thinking. If you want to be a success as a Dipper you need to study Edi’s games, but if you want to win as a Dipper you need to watch him in action.
Allan, on the other hand, was the quintessential Passive player. As far as I know Allan never met Winston Churchill (but who knows?) but Churchill perfectly described Allan when he wrote, “They also serve who only stand and wait,” describing the role of the coastal guard in WWII. The fact that Churchill stole the quotation from Milton, who wrote “They Also Serve Who Only Stand and Wait,” would only matter to Bernie Madoff’s lawyers, or maybe Rubert Murdoch’s. Allan would wait, and watch, and scheme, and then pounce — usually not with much success, but always with great glee. Who’s to say which was/is the better technique? The fact is that each suited the player.
But there are other options. There’s the middle way, of course, that compromises between the two. It’s often picked by what I call the “wishy-washy” players, although they to have their moments of success. That’s me, in case you hadn’t guessed. Our motto is “Vacillation Uber Alles!” When it’s time to attack, we pause. When it’s time to defend, we hesitate. Sigh. A one-center stab may not move them to action, but it will make them drool. A two-center stab may stimulate them to action, but they’ll worry about the consequences. A three-center stab will send them into orgasms of delight, and scare them shitless. Such is our fate.
And then there are the paths less tried. Consider them the next time you’re looking for something different to try with your friends.
The WAFFLE can be graphed as a wavy line drawn between the center point of the piece of pie and the closest point on the outer rim. It represents a deliberate pattern of moving between the PROACTIVE and PASSIVE styles. The key goal is to keep the other player(s) off guard and off balance. You might be proactive with one and passive with another, and then totally reverse approaches with both, but it’s always done with calculation and deliberation. The only real risk to such an approach is that you may irritate your fellow players so much they gang up on you just to get rid of you. This player makes a game challenging. Can you name such a player?
The OPPORTUNISTIC can be graphed as an erratic line moving wildly across the piece of pie. There is no rhythm or reason as the player mooches on the turf of the PROACTIVE and PASSIVE players. The point is to keep them all in turmoil, and to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself. Whether it’s a chance to grab an unguarded supply center, occupy a strategic space, or an irrational move that makes no sense to anyone (e.g. A Smyrna-Syria in Spring 1901?) this player makes a game interesting! Melinda Holley, we salute you!
Of course, the ideal player, like the ideal chef, would combine bits and pieces of all these styles and put his or her unique skills and talents to work with them. Where are you, Julia Child?
[Your image is ready, Larry. –hdg]
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