by David Hood

Originally published in Diplomacy World #50, Spring 1988

EDItorial note: the debate on various forms of triple alliances has been around for decades. The Western Triple, AIR, RAT, and RAG were common points for argument in the 60's as well as from here in the 1980's. David's article was in response to one by Mark Berch on the value of the Russian-Austrian-German alliance and touches upon the philosophy and structure of alliances that I thought would be of interest these days.

When I heard that March Berch was writing on the RAG Alliance, I just had to get my two cents in.

Personally, I detest triple alliances for three reasons. First, they tend to slow down the game and squash the diplomatic fluidity which to me is essential to a good Diplomacy game. This is due mainly to the shock effect of seeing three players working together — it almost invariably forces a multinational response. Then you've got a boring fight for a stalemate line.

Second, there is the ever-present issue of how to coordinate effectively within a trilateral framework. In face to face Diplomacy, it is a dead giveaway to the rest of the board when three people go off to talk together. And in play by mail Diplomacy (which is essentially a bilateral channel of communication) the coordination can become even more difficult. [This was before the advent of email — Editor]

Now you can always just say that people can talk in Paris with each other to pass on information — but then it's not really a triple, is it? At that point it becomes what I think it should been all along — a set of bilateral agreements which, when taken together, form a three power front. The essential difference is that the basis fašade of multilateralism isn't there to cloud people's judgment of the motives of other powers.

My third problem with Triples is the question of stabbing. Now we can talk about trust, playing for an alliance, etc.; but if a triple does utilize speaking in pairs, then the third party will always suspect perfidy. Needless to say, triple alliances often have a problem with alliance stability, given the fact that it is usually easier to stab in your own Heartland than to continue the triple into the other heartland.

DP Zine Editor

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