One of the best things about meeting people who have played Diplomacy is hearing their "war stories" if you will. Generally, PBEM stories are pretty bland because they lack that human element. Nothing beats face-to-face, and I hope some of these stories show why. Anyway, enjoy this story, it's all true, although I've had to consult old orders to jog the memory a bit.
Without exception all of my games took place in the student union of the University of Northern Iowa, and the players were all collegues and friends of mine from around Cedar Falls and in the History Department, where I worked. (But mostly played diplomacy!) This particular game was quite fun, marked as it was by a...
STAB OF ENGLAND!!
This occurred in a five or six player game in which I was Russia. It was very early in my Diplomacy "career" if you can call it that. I was playing it close to the vest and relying heavily on the advice of my friend Tyler, whose board we were using that day. Tyler was playing France, and with my trusting him, he was doing quite well that afternoon. Tyler is a tremendous diplomacy player, largely because he is a great liar, able to keep his emotions and motives hidden. In another life he would be a great snake-oil salesman. As it is, he's a history teacher, but I think he missed his true calling as a car salesman or politician.
Anyway, Tyler was really rolling along by the time the game began to approach midpoint. I was doing well too, growing modestly in the north but coming to tentative blows with England, played by Fred, our resident Germanophile and extreme right-winger, who in-between his rantings about the liberal media managed to grow at the expense of Germany, primarily by snatching Denmark, which I had my eye on. However, I got back at Fred by fighting him for Norway, much to his dismay.
Austria, as was so often the case, had been gobbled up by myself and Turkey. This was good and I was able to put some extra muscle in the north, but tensions were growing between myself and Turkey, who also was struggling with France over Italy (Italy was a neutral in this game. Well, actually we have several variations we use when we're short a person, I'm not sure which one we used.)
Well, to get back on track, Germany was reduced to nothing more than a buffer power. England (Fred) and France (Tyler) were, surprisingly, beginning to come at odds with each other over the German spoils. I, at the urging of Tyler, ignored most of those squabbles (Tyler felt he could handle Fred on his own and wanted me to check Turkey so he could gain in neutral italy--a wise strategy.) and stabbed at Turkey, played by the ever-troublesome Brian. Now, Brian is a good player, but not as good as he thinks and not as good as Tyler. He's very aware of this and so he is extremely conscious of what Tyler is doing. So when I stabbed him and grabbed the last piece of Austria for myself he began a very logical argument that if I stabbed him further it would allow France to win the game.
I brushed him off and continued to campaign in his area, but he persisted. Soon it was apparent that Tyler (France) was making headway against England in their race for continental supply centers, and soon Fred (Eng) joined in the argument. Fred also wanted to divert my attention from him, as my northern fleets were what was costing him mobility against France. So I relented...and the three of us formed a plan, by which my Norwegian army would be convoyed to London by Fred's English fleet in the Spring. In the fall His channel fleet would put my army on French soil, where it would tip the scales in favor of our English-Russian alliance. Turkey was all for this and began to make plans for taking over italy. I did very little on the planning of this but went along with it, convinced by their arguments that Tyler (Fr.) was about to win the game.
Now, Tyler wasn't really about to win the game, but the handwriting was starting to appear on the wall that he would, so long as I remained a thorn in turkey's and England's side. Neither one of them could concentrate on France while I was a power in the east. Meanwhile france was beating them both and pushing into central europe.
When the spring orders were read a raucous scene ensued and heads around the union turned. It was clear by Fred's convoying of my English army to London and by my other moves threatening Kiel, that I had joined forces with England against France. And mind you, I really did intend to do this. I enjoyed the thought of putting a russian army into France, where it would be guaranteed either Paris or Brest the next year. All of us got a kick out of that.
But Tyler (Fr.) isn't a good player just because he plays with me all the time (although that doesn't always hurt). And he took me aside and in the 10 minutes before we wrote our next orders he managed to turn me completely around. Sort of. Tyler knew he couldn't fight all of us and last out the hour. He had to get me to back up. But how? I was already so committed to an attack on him. Well, this is what he did, and let this be a good lesson to those of you who resond to a stab by curling up into a little ball or swearing revenge, or resigning, etc. It's never too late to turn lemons into sweet lemonade!
The simplicity of Tyler's plan still makes me shake my head. He pulled me aside and thrust his hands into pockest, a grim look coming over his face. "Now look, I know you're kind of stagnating over there, I don't blame you for trying something like this. (Of course he was upset but--hint to good players--he acted as if he didn't.) But there's one thing I want you to consider. Fred (Eng.) is no doubt promising you this and that once you help him, Right? Well I can offer you three centers right now."
My attention, of course was grabbed.
"Stay in London," Tyler (Fr.) said.
"Huh?" I said, finally beginning to grasp the obvious.
"Just stay there," Tyler said. "When he writes his convoy order just have Army London hold. It will destroy him. There's no way he can get it off the island, ever. (England was unoccupied, though fleets were around it) Now, he's also going to support you into Kiel right? Don't worry about that. I'll just vacate it and you move in. Then I'LL support YOU into Denmark. Fred will LOSE three centers, I'll stay the same (tyler had picked up a build from Eng. in the spring which he was going to hang onto) and you will GAIN 3 builds." [I paraphrased this conversation, but this was the heart of the deal]
Needless to say the plan was tempting. We carefully looked over the board, Tyler motioning at the move angrily, so as to not let Brian (Tur.) and Fred (Eng.) know what was going on. We broke up, Tyler went and argued with Fred. I surveyed the board...the move was winner. Fred would be defenseless, even if he knew it was coming. But did I want to stab Fred? We had made such a good pact, and after our previous fighting agains each other it was a relief to be on the same side (another hint for players--sometimes former enemies make the BEST allies because they are relieved to be rid of the stress of combat. Watch out for this.)
I wavered, not knowing what to do. Fred, unaware of his mortal danger, discussed the rosy forecast ahead for us, and all the centers we would gain. We would gain lots of ground if we took out France, although it would be later, not sooner.
With the clock ticking, Tyler gambled and told Brian (Tu) about the plan he proposed. I am not 100 percent sure what reasoning he gave Brian as to why it would benefit him if I stabbed Fred (Eng.) but it must have been at least half-way convincing, because Brian pulled me over and asked me if I was going to do it. He thought I should keep the pressure on Tyler (Fr.) but he added that it would be "...a great move if it worked." I think Brian didn't really believe that Tyler would give me all the support he had promised me, but he also said later he thought (I don't think Tyler put this in his head--Tyler said this was Brian's own line of reasoning) that no matter what happened he would benefit in the long run. Of course, he didn't want me to gain 3 centers in one swoop, but he really thought the whole thing would just embroil Eng, Fr, and Russia allowing him to win.
So Brian never leaked it to Fred in England. Instead he sat back and waited to see what would happen. I myself didn't know what I was going to do until I erased the order I showed Fred [A Lon-Pic] and looked at A Lon...
So I sat there while eveyone wrote their orders. Tyler said he would let me into Kiel and support me into Denmark. He even showed me the orders...Of course we allowed erasing...which I had done after showing Fred the orders he wanted to see...What if he backed out? I would not get Kiel as I would have cut my own support to it in Denmark, and instead of getting 3 SCs I'd get only one, and a new royally pissed off enemy in Fred (Eng.) It would be a great move by Tyler to really blunt this stab. But it would still hurt him...and he did tell Brian about it. He must be serious about supporting me. Should I risk my new alliance to join my enemy? Who really was my enemy?
Well, what do you think I did?
I wrote "hold" after A Lon...and when the orders were read the look on Fred's face was priceless. Eyes bugged out, mouth hanging open, unable to speak, Fred watched as three of his supply centers were conquered, and the prospect of taking off units would leave his trousers down, to say the least. To top it off, his capitol, London, was pillaged by barely civilized hordes of Russian troops. To Fred, who lived and breathed German history and always played the game in a different kind of reality (what difference did it make if London is captured--it had no more significance than any other center--but to Fred it did) losing to the Russians was unthinkable, absolutely devastating. Brian howled with laughter and pounded the table "London held! London held!" Tyler celebrated the downfall of his rival and I sat embarrassed, trying not to gloat over Fred, who finally looked up and said "How could you?"
It was glorious. Fred recovered after a minute or two and we all enjoyed the incredible turn of events, moving the pieces around and supplying all the inside info that made the move possible.
We continued the game, which we decided to end in a four-way draw due to time rather than positions. I followed my stab of Fred in England by attacking Brian in Turkey, and we all agreed that the game would end with Brian crowning the winner by deciding who he would yield to in the south, Russia or France. England still had a couple of rogue units around, intent on harrassing me in Russia (Wouldn't you?) But after the BIG stab there wasn't much energy left in the group, so who knows.
Anyway, we talked about that stab for years. And I've never seen it duplicated. In fact I've never seen anyone in any of my games purposely let the weasel into the hen house and then get stabbed so swiftly. It's also one of the all-time fastest destructions of a power I've seen, when you consider England was fairly strong and we were approaching mid-game. We started calling it "Fred's Pearl Harbor," and then someone would always add stuff like, "except he let the Japanese bomb San Franciso too," or "Yeah but then Fred invited the Imperial Army to visit Washington D.C." stuff like that. We got a lot of mileage out of it, and amazingly, Fred and I formed many strong alliances in other games, and stabbed each other both at times, always bringing up "Army London hold" when we did.
Well, I hope this helps you when fortunes take a sudden turn in your games.
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