Tips From the Masters

by Bruce Regittko
with help from Jamie Dreier and Andy Schwarz

Introduction by Andy Schwarz

The Judge which Ken Lowe, blessed be he, endowed the Diplomacy community with in his wisdom and grace, has brought thousands of players together all across the globe. Postal Diplomacy and and its e-mail cousin both existed before the judge, and both continue in good health, but the ease of Mr. Lowe's creation has led to an explosion of interest in and play of Diplomacy.

But, here's a heretical thought: the Judge is hard to use. No, not for wiley veterans with thousands of dedication points, but for the newcomer -- either to Diplomacy in general or to the Judge in particular -- the first baby steps on the Judge can be fraught with peril. Consider how easy it is for a newbie to miss a deadline, create an error flag without knowing it, accidentally broadcast his or her identity in a gunboat game, confuse grey press and fake press, etc.

Many resources exist to help newcomers (modestly, may I recommend The Newbie's Guide to the Judge as a good starting point), but nonetheless newcomers often find themselves in a game without an iota of a shred of a hint of a clue. In one such game, fornew, which ran on the USEF judge in 1995, the GameMaster, Bruce Regittko, chose to help out his new players with a series of tips on using the judge more easily and more productively. I was an observer in this game, having been one of the two people who got Bruce involved in Judge Diplomacy. Jamie Dreier was the other, and he also observed this game. Many of the tips Bruce shared with his players (and now here, with the DP audience) came from Jamie, and a few came from me.

I was so impressed with Bruce's compilation of tips and tricks I submitted it to Manus to run in The Diplomatic Pouch. And now, here it is, available for all to read. This is highly recommended for new judge users, and I bet even old-timers may learn a thing or two. Thanks to Bruce for having authored this fine text, and to The Diplomatic Pouch staff for sharing it with us all. Consider this catechism a Diplomacy Christmas gift from Bruce, et al., to the world.

Andy Schwarz
December 25, 1996
on vacation in Madison, Wisconsin


From time to time, I will be broadcasting some information about the judge either from my own experience or as a response to one of your questions. The title of this series -- Tips from the Master -- is really a play on words. Many of my tips I learned from making some blunder when I was just starting to play Diplomacy on the judge.

Tips from the Master -- Tip #1

I have "tweaked" the deadline settings slightly to ensure that the next movement phase deadline is 3 days hence and that the next retreat or adjustment deadline is 1 day hence. "Why was this necessary", you ask? When the "next" setting is 72, it means that the earliest the next deadline will be is 72 hours from when the moves processed. Normally, the deadline then slides up to 11:30 p.m. EDT for a move but the orders will be processed as soon as everyone has submitted error free orders.

However, if someone has "set wait" then the orders won't be processed until 11:30 on the day of the deadline but due to the actual time it takes to process the orders and whether or not any other games are processed before our game, it may be a few minutes after 11:30 before the next deadline is calculated. Thus, if for example, the judge processes orders at 11:45 p.m. on Tuesday, 72 hours later will be 11:45 p.m. on Friday and the deadline will slide up to 11:30 p.m. the following Tuesday. With a 71 hour "next" setting, the new deadline would be on Friday at 11:30 or 3 days.

I am also going to change the "clock" setting for retreats and adjustments to 1410 so that their deadlines will be set at 11:30. This will make things a little easier for you knowing that any deadline will be at 11:30 and should not slow the game down much.

Tips from the Master -- Tip #2

I see that as of this writting, only 3 of you have submitted orders and one of those has "set wait". I encourage each of you to submit orders as soon as possible and to "set wait". When you issue the command

set wait

you are telling the judge to not process orders before the deadline. You may change your orders at anytime up until the judge processes your orders. This way, if something comes up, you won't miss the deadline and receive a late message (and lose a dedication point). Once you are sure that your orders are final, you can turn off wait with the command

set nowait

Tips from the Master -- Tip #3

A game that is rated will award or deduct dedication points from players based on whether or not they get their orders in on time. Rated games also require that players attempting to signon have at least a minimum number of dedication points. The default minimum is -10 but I have seen this vary from a low of -2000 (no, that is not a typo) up to over 200. Basically, players with a dedication rating over 100 or so are considered fairly reliable while players with a rating under -100 or have most likely been naughty in the past.

Everytime you get your orders in on time, you will receive three dedication points and you will lose one for every "late" message the judge has to mail to you. If you have the bad form to not submit orders and allow the grace period to expire, you will be listed as "abandoned" and lose 100 dedication points. This can be difficult to recover from since most games have a higher minimum to signon but occasionally a rehabilitation game will form with a very low minimum but ask yourself, "Self, do I really want to play with a bunch of people who have proven to have problems meeting the deadline"? More information can be found in the deadlines file from the judge.

And now for the real tip: Make sure that you confirm that your orders are received by the judge and are free of errors. As you are aware, anytime you send the judge information, the judge sends back confirmation to you and lists the status of that turns orders. If you have partial orders or errors, the orders will not be processed and you will miss the deadline. It might look like it is okay, but any error (even if you submit valid orders and then try to change them later on and have an error in the new set) will cause the judge will show you the orders but also say that "unless error free orders are received by the deadline, you will be considered abandoned" or words to that effect.

You *MUST* submit some valid orders or else you will have problems, that is the last set of orders, either full or partial, must be error free. If you liek the orders entered but have an error message, just signon and then signoff. That will clear the flag. In a game I was playing in recently, I submitted some valid orders and then did something silly; I changed my orders and tried to have a fleet support an army in an inland province. When the judge confirmed my orders, there was the error message but it also listed my previous valid orders so I assumed that all was well and went away for a few days. When I returned, I discovered that I was listed as CD and had missed the deadline but when the grace period had expired, my orders were processed (it was an NMR game). This mistake cost me 150 dedication points (I think) and held up the game for a few days.

In this or most any other game, if you know that you are going to have problems making a deadline for some reason, as the GM for an extention. Most will grant one for a good reason.

One final comment: Dedication points do not carry over to other judges. It is possible to have a very high rating on one judge and a poor rating on another so whatever you do, get those orders in on time.

Tips from the Master -- Tip #4

Everytime that you correspond with the judge, the judge will comfirm receipt of your message by emailing you a reply. If there is a problem with the judge, you obviously won't get your reply.

The instinctive reaction by most people is to send the message again or to send multiple requests for game listings. Once you know that the judge is down, you should not send any "test" mail to the judge because when the judge eventually does come back up it will have to process all of its waiting mail including your "junk" mail which will just slow everything down.

When I suspect that the judge is down, i.e., I have not gotten a reply from a message, I send one, repeat one other message. The chances that two messages were missent or lost due to my own fumbling are remote (I hope). Negotiations can still be carried on via direct email with the other players unless the game is a gunboat variety where the identities of the other players are unknown.

Usually the judges are very reliable and if a problem occurs, it is fixed in a matter of a few hours. The judge keepers will usually post a message on r.g.d. if the problem will take longer to rectify. Nevertheless, occasionally a deadline will be missed and a player could lose some dedication points and even become abandoned. If the amount of dedication points is small, don't bother asking the GM to have the points restored. However, if you inadvertenly wind up CD or abandoned, ask the master to have the judge keeper restore the points if you feel you need them.

Tips from the Master -- Tip #5

Anyone who is runing either a postal or email game of standard Diplomacy should get a Boardman Number (BN) from the current Boardman Number Custodian (BNC). The BNC for email games is Nick Fitzpatrick and he automatically assigns a BN to every non-variant, non-gunboat Diplomacy game begun on any judge of which he is aware. For gunboat games and variants, BNs are not used but rather, Miller Numbers (MN) are assigned. Nick is also the email Miller Number Custodian (MNC). If you ever play in or moderate an email (or postal) non-judge game of Diplomacy, you should contact the BNC/MNC and ask to be assigned a BN/MN. More information can be found in _Diplomacy A-Z_, edited by Mark Nelson.

Tips from the Master -- Tip #6

While this game only has "white" press, you should get into the habit of specifying the color of your press even though you have no choice. I'll assume that you all know what the difference is between white and grey press and I won't touch fake press in this tip.

In other games, both white and grey press may be enabled and one of them will be the default. To avoid an embarrassing or potentialy disasterous mistake, you should *always* indicate the color of the press. In a game that I am currently playing in one of my allies sent me a message via grey press, which is the default in that game. At first I was suspicious as to whether or not he was the true author since he proposed a rather radical idea. When I asked him for confirmation, he indicated that he thought that white press was "automatic" and did not specify it. Had the deadline been closer, I would have probably just have ignored the message since I could not have expected a reply in time.

Imagine the problems that could arise if the reverse situation were true. A devious yet not too bright player decides to send a grey broadcast questioning the reputation of other player's parents but does not specify grey. In a white default game, this player could be victim of massive shifts of alliegence.

Finally, on a related topic, *always* make sure that you spell "endpress" or "endbroadcast" correctly. In another game I was in, a player put a space between end and press and I got a look at his orders further down in his text. Fortunately for him, he was not stabbing me that turn. May you always stab one turn before your ally.

One power sent me the question: How do you set press white and grey?

Do you mean, "How does a player indicate white or grey press"? If so, you indicate the color of your press after the command "press" or "broadcast". For example,

press white to AF

would send a message to Austria and France and they would know that you sent the message. Of course, in this game, white press is the only press allowed so it is not absolutely necessary to include the word white. To send a message to England and Russia and not let them know who sent the message, use the command

press grey to ER

Remember, however, that this game does not allow grey press so the last example will not work. In games that allow both types of press, you should always specify which color press you want. If you omit the color, i.e., you send

press to TG

the default color will be used and if you forget which color is the default, you (and the recipients) may be surprised. Always specifying the press color even in monochrome games is a good habit to get in so that you won't make a mistake in a game allowing both types of press. As for the question, "How does the master set the press of a game", I'll refer you to the index file that you can get from the judge. If you do not have this file, which has all of the commands the judge will accept, you can get it by sending the command

get index

to the judge. Another useful file is flist which is a list of all of the files you can get from the judge. The command

get flist

will retrieve this file for you.

By the way, don't try to send grey press to the master in a game that allows grey press. The master will always know who sent the press and you will look silly at best.

Tips from the Master -- Tip #7

If you don't want the judge to process orders until the deadline, include the line

set wait

in the body of a message to the judge after your signon command. (Of course, don't put it in a press message since the judge ignores stuff in press.

This way, you can submit tentative orders well before the deadline and negotiate without fear of those orders being processed until the deadline. You can change the orders at any time up until the judge processes them. After you are satisfied that your orders are final, you should "turn off" the wait flag. Issuing the command

set nowait

will clear the wait flag and allow orders to processed before the deadline (assuming no other power has set wait and all powers have submitted orders).

Tips from the Master -- Tip #8

One thing that took me a while to figure out was that if I had submitted orders for all units and later wanted to change the order for one unit, all I had to do was submit the new order for the one affected unit. The other unit's orders were unaffected. This can be a real time saver when the number of units under your control is in the double digits and can also help you avoid typographical errors. Not that I have much experience with having that many units but I'm working on that.

However, for technical reasons, when you want to change your adjustment orders (builds or removals), you should resubmit orders for all units you wish to build or remove.

Suppose you have just one build. But you send in a whole long list of them. The judge takes only the last one seriously. Suppose you have two builds, but you send in a whole long list of them. The judge takes only the last two seriously. Suppose you have n builds, and you send in a long list of builds. The judge takes the last n of your build orders as the real ones. That's why a new build order will replace the *first* on your current list of accepted builds, not the last. See? It doesn't matter whether the bunch of orders you send are all in the same mail, or not.

Tips from the Master -- Tip #9

You can always find out the status of each power's moves by listing the game. Before the deadline, each power that a move is required from that turn will have the word "move" following their power's name. Note that this does not mean that you have or have not submitted a move yet. It only means that you must make a move before the deadline if you have not done so already. Powers that have been eliminated and powers that do not have to make a move (such as in retreat and adjustment phases) will have this field blank.

After the deadline, powers that have submitted error free orders will be listed "move". Powers that have not submitted moves will be listed as "late".

Below is the current (partial) listing of our game which shows that everyone has submitted moves except for Turkey.

The following players are signed up for game 'fornew':
   Master                  124
   Turkey     late    1/1  -38
   England    move    3/3   69
   Germany    move    6/6   33
   Russia     move    8/8   30
   Austria    move    5/5  -31
   Italy      move    6/6   99
   France     move    5/5   51

Tips from the Master -- Tip #10

Now that one power has been (virtually) eliminated, I guess I better explain how the game ends. The most obvious way is for one person to control eighteen or more supply centers after a Fall retreat phase. Sometimes though, things don't work out that way. A stalemate line can be set up by one or more powers that could prevent another from obtaining an outright win or two or more close allies could decide that they were satisfied with the way things were after eliminating all of their competition.

This game is set up as DIAS which means Draws Include All Survivors. Basically, that means what it says. If two powers have 17 supply centers each and the third has only 2 when a draw is agreed upon, all three share equally in the three-way draw.

To vote for a draw, you must not be eliminated and you must send the command

set draw

to the judge. Everyone must "set draw" or the game will continue. Furthermore, the "voting" is secret. You can broadcast a message proposing a draw and then not vote for it -- a sneaky tactic to be sure!

Finally, if a draw fails after you voted for it, you must "set draw" again the next phase if you still want to end the game. The draw flag is cleared after each phase processes.

Note that I am not suggesting that this game should or should not end in a draw. I'm only mentioning this now for informational purposes.

Tips from the Master -- Tip #11

I received a message from a power asking, "How do you let the judge know that you've changed e-mail addresses?" Here's the answer. From your new address, send

iamalso old-email-address

using your old e-mail address, of course. The judge will update the file that it stores email addresses in.

The FAQ also says that you may wish to re-register, but that it is not necessary. However, if you don't, anyone who does a whois command to request your e-mail address from the judge will get the old address.

You also need to know that, in addition to the iamalso or re-registration actions, each game you happen to currently be in will need to be informed of the new address (assuming you want the new address to be your primary one). So you must sign on to each game and send

set address new-email-address

Bruce Regittko

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