APPLYING
THE WAY OF THE OWL:
THE POWER OF ONE

by Jeremy Edwards


American Essayist, James Arthur Baldwin, once said "The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose." Baldwinís quote is not only true in life, but in Diplomacy as well. Sometimes, the most important player in the game is the single-unit power because they have it within their power to choose who will win the game.

How is this possible? How can a power with a single unit change the course of the game? To answer this question, we have to consider the history of the game. How was this power treated by other players? What was the political nature of the game? What was the personality of the leaders in the game? What was the personality of the single-unit power?

All of these factors influence not only the way the game unfolds, but they also influence the decisions made by the single-unit power. A single-unit power knows many rounds in advance that their time in the game is limited and that their doom has been sealed. Knowing they have nothing left to lose, the power will begin planning the destruction of those who brought about their downfall. To illustrate, Iíd like reference a few examples from some games I have played in.

One of my first games was Owls_63. In this game, I played the role of Turkey and faced a strong E/F alliance. In this game, Russia and I were allied and doing well until the E/F alliance broke down her defenses in the North. In this instance, Russia knew that either England or France would solo the game if either of us fell, so she chose to cede her centers to me, if I promised to include her in a 4WD. In this way, a single-unit power was able to force a game into a draw, rather than allow a solo.

However, not all single-unit powers are fortunate enough to remain in a draw. The key is to make your remaining center so indispensable, that you are more valuable alive than eliminated. I learned this lesson the hard way in another Owls Series game, Owls_Goethe.

In Owls_Goethe, I played England and was allied with Russia keeping France occupied, but losing ground. Despite my best efforts at diplomacy, Russia didnít see any potential in remaining my ally and chose to betray me. I knew that elimination was inevitable, so instead of resigning myself to my fate, I cut a deal with France to be his puppet and help him gain a solo. My plan almost worked, but the other powers in the game set up a stalemate line, including Russia, to keep France from a solo. I was eventually eliminated, but not before repaying my former ally for his deception.

In the 2006 Owls Series Tournament game, Owlsopen06_1b, I played Turkey and joined in an alliance with France against the entire board. Unfortunately, I could not find a way to secure a solo, so I pushed for a 2WD with France. He agreed, initially, but Russia used his single-power presence to keep me from gaining STP for a solo, giving France enough time to get into position to win the game. In the end, Russia was eliminated, but not before repaying me for betraying our alliance by throwing the game to France.

As you can see, game history, game politics and player personalities are key factors in the decisions made by the single-unit power. In each instance, the single-unit power was able to change the course of the game to their own advantage, either in more points or in retribution for a stab. So why doesnít everyone use this tactic when they face elimination?

In talking with other players, Iíve found some feel it is beneath them. Their pride as a player keeps them from selling out to anyone and they would rather face their fate with pride and dignity rather than grovel for a few extra points and give a solo to another individual.

Others simply lose interest and refuse to enter orders. These types of players affect the game just as much as a single-unit power. In games where a person gives up, but refuses to resign, they unintentionally allow another player to solo the game either by allowing players to walk into their centers unopposed or blocking a key position needed to create a defensive line.

Regardless of their reasons, it is clear the single-unit player has the ability to wield as much power as the game leader. If they use their skills of diplomacy effectively, the player can sometimes enhance their own score and still have some fun along the way, which is really what this game is all about.

Remember: never underestimate the player who has nothing to lose.

Jeremy Edwards
(twyrch@gmail.com)

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