At the Master's Feet

by Jim Mazza

Charlie was the friend of a friend. While I was a novice at Dip, he was an expert, having played for decades. I had played my first two games where Charlie was a player, but I wasn't positioned or around long enough to interact with him. Regardless, I was gaining a reputation as a more than adequate strategist and a bald face liar (read savy negotiator).

I always wanted to work with Charlie, study at the feet of the Master so to speak. My third game, I had that opportunity, but not the way I envisioned.

I was Turkey and Charlie drew Austria. But Charlie refused to ally with me and I ended up allied with Russia and Charlie with Italy. Needless to say, by midgame, Charlie and I were at three or four and the grinding edge of the two opposing camps. Both our "Big Brothers" were at 8 or 9 and pretty much ignoring what was happening in the southern Balkins. We had been in a stalemate for the last three turns when, sensing an opportunity, I had a proposal for Charlie.

Our Big Brothers were out of position and begging to be stabed. Austria and Turkey could each grow two and reduce them and we would all be in the 5-7 range, but a central alliance of Austria/Turkey would hold a positional advantage as England/France were still active.

I took Charlie aside and made my pitch. We were being ignored and it would be a true bolt from the blue. Charlie agreed and we worked out our orders, showing them to each other.

As there were still a few minutes to go before turning in orders, Charlie went for a beer. I myself began to have second thoughts and quickly wrote a second set of orders, basically the old stalemate we had going on. I stuffed these into my shirt pocket.

Well, Charlie rejoined me at the table and we were winking at each other and showing each other our orders. The GM called time and began to collect orders. When he came to Charlie, the Chuckster tipped his head toward me and told the GM to collect mine first. The GM would have no part of that and demanded Charlie's ordres. With a sigh and a humble grin, he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a second set of orders, orders that would benifit him at my expense. "What can I say?" he smirked.

I smiled back and reached into my pocket to pull out the perfect set of countermanding orders. The look on Charlie's face was priceless; surprise and admiration. His regard for my ability growing noticably.

Charlie and I never grew another unit the entire game. For six more turns we issued the same set of orders, completely stalemated on our front. Sadly, we never played together in another game. But I got part of my wish, I learned something from the master. And something else, it was probably the most fun I ever had in a Diplomacy game.
Jim Mazza

If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author, click on the letter above. If that does not work, feel free to use the "Dear DP..." mail interface.