by Pete Clark

This article is reprinted from Diplomacy World #60, the Fall 1990 issue of Diplomacy World. It provides an interesting statistical analysis of the performance of the Great Powers.

"Any country can win in Diplomacy."

"All the Great Powers are basically equal,"

These are two of the basic premises of Diplomacy. I've often wondered just how true they really were. Certainly anyone can win, but does everyone win about the same number of times? Are the countries equal; do all the countries do about the same over time? I finally decided to test these honored principles with a quantitative study — one that was as broad as possible. So, using Everything supply center charts, I gathered the information for my database.

300 games of Play-by-Mail Diplomacy played between 1982 and the present were included in the study. I felt that such a number would eliminate varying player skills from the variables that might affect the outcome. Also, only the games considered "regular" and ending after 1905 (unless some country won outright before then) were included. I decided not to attempt to judge the reasonableness of the draws, and counted them as recorded.

Table 1
Power Total
Wins Draws
2w 3w 4w 5w
Austria 9844 1843 20 6 27 15 3
England 13512 2305 21 15 50 14 2
France 16203 2499 22 14 42 15 3
Germany 11430 1987 20 11 32 11 2
Italy 12308 2193 11 10 20 8 1
Russia 16287 2295 33 16 32 10 2
Turkey 14600 2342 21 14 42 11 2
Total 94184 15451 148 43 84 22 3
Average 13455 2207 21 12 36 13 2
Table 2
Power Average Number of Centers by Year
'01 '02 '03 '04 '05 '06 '07 '08
Austria 4.5 4.3 4.8 5.0 5.4 5.5 6.9 7.4
England 4.3 4.5 4.9 5.2 5.8 6.8 8.3 9.0
France 4.8 5.1 5.6 6.3 6.8 7.5 8.7 8.9
Germany 4.9 5.0 5.0 5.6 6.0 6.3 7.0 7.5
Italy 4.1 4.4 4.9 5.2 5.4 5.6 6.7 7.5
Russia 5.5 5.8 6.2 6.6 7.6 9.0 9.5 10.1
Turkey 4.2 4.3 4.5 5.2 5.8 7.6 9.2 9.3

From this database, a lot of other things can be computed. With the information from Table 1 we can answer the first question: "Does every country win equally as much in PBM Diplomacy?"

The answer is no. Every country does win, but Italy with just 11 wins, a paltry 3.66% of all games played, does it half as often as the rest of the board. The average country wins over 21 times — approximately,7% of all games. And Russia wins half again as much as anybody else with 33 wins; an astounding 11% of all games played!

A statistic that caught me off guard was the total number of wins — almost 50% of all games ended with victory for one of the Great Powers. I would have guessed that number to be lower. It seems to me that there are an awful lot of draws in Dipdom, but I can't argue with the numbers — counted them twice!

Draws are also a type of victory, so I combined the total number of draws and wins together in Table 3. The results show that there are different groupings. Russia, France, England and Turkey are at the top of the heap in combined victories. Germany and Austria a step down the ladder. Poor Italy is all alone at the bottom with a involvement in the win only 1/6th of the time.

Table 3
PowerWins/Draws% of Games
Austria 71 23.66
England 102 34.00
France 96 32.00
Germany 76 25.33
Italy 50 16.66
Russia 93 31.00
Turkey 101 33.66

To answer the second question, "Do all the Great Powers do approximately the same over time?", I had to compute a few other statistics as seen in Table 4.

Table 4
PowerAverage Centers
per Game
Average Years
per Game
Average Centers
per Year
Austria 32.81 6.14 5.341
England 45.04 7.68 5.862
France 54.01 8.33 6.484
Germany 38.10 6.62 5.752
Italy 41.03 7.31 5.612
Russia 54.29 7.65 7.087
Turkey 48.67 7.83 6.215
Average 44.85 7.36 6.069

Clearly, Austria and Germany do not get as many centers on average, or survive as long on average, as most of the others. When compared on the centers per year chart, they do better, which is perhaps to say that when they get eliminated, usually it is swiftly. France seems to be very durable in this study, surviving better (8.33 years) than any other nation. Thus, the question is again answered with a no. Countries fare very differently in the game of Diplomacy, and we need to be aware of that. To illustrate this, an overview of the statistics and what they mean for each country is in order.

  • AUSTRIA-HUNGARY; Low man on the totem pole in 5 of the 10 tables and 6th in 3 of the remaining five. Only in wins, where Austria is average, and in 4 way draws is Austria out of the cellar. Why this is probably has to do with the position on the map. Many neighbors and densely packed centers make Austria a tempting target. There are few mediocre Austrian positions, you either do well or get destroyed.

  • ENGLAND: Average performance in 7 of the 10 tables. England is involved in more draws than any other country, probably because it is difficult to overcome when it has a lot of fleets, but conversely has trouble winning those same games. The difference between survival and victory is probably dependent on getting the right ratio of armies and fleets.

  • FRANCE: France is either 1st or 2nd in seven of the 10 tables and is 3rd in the rest. France's position in the game is strong in every respect, with good defensive and offensive prospects on every front. Always a tough customer, France has some inherent capabilities that can put it in or near the top of the hill in most games.

  • GERMANY: Germany is 6th in 4 of the 10 tables. In the rest it ranks 4th or 5th. An average number of wins along with a low number number of average years surviving shows that, while Germany has potential, it must be realized early, probably at the expense of one of its many neighbors. Only Russia has a higher average number of centers in 1901.

  • ITALY: Interestingly, Italy is average when it comes to total centers and length of survival. It's number of wins and draws are abysmal dead last. This is perhaps because Italy has a hard time doing better than average as shown on Table 2. This suggests that while Italy does O.K. in the opening stages of the game, it struggles to reach the 7 to 10 center positions needed to have a good chance at wins or draws.

  • RUSSIA: As Calhamer stated, Diplomacy is often very much a win or die situation for Russia. First in wins by a mile, Russia does only average in survival statistics and draws. Russia's high count in average centers_on Tables 2 and 4 certainly have something to do with starting with four home centers.

  • TURKEY: Turkey has perhaps the most interesting statistics in Table 2. Notice the abrupt rise in average number of centers starting about 1906. This suggests that perhaps one of the best strategies for Turkey is to lie low for the first few years, watching world events and developments then come out later with guns blazing. Turkey is another country that does no worse than third in all 10 of the tables. This is certainly due, in part at least, to its insular corner position.

All of these numbers, averages and statistics are, overall, probably little surprise to anyone. They mostly confirm what Diplomacy players already have long known from experience. I feel that the greatest impact these statistics might have is upon ratings systems and tournament scoring. Here we have hard evidence that all countries are not created equally and perhaps such mundane things as ratings and tournaments should take that into account for the sake of fairness. Next time, I'm going to try the same thing for Gunboat— unless my wife divorces me for spending too much time with these "stupid game things." But isn't that a prerequisite (Rule 10) to becoming a member of the Senior Dip League? Ah, the joys of Dipdom!

Pete Clark (7095 N Fruit #143, Fresno CA 93711) publishes a subzine in Moire called BootHill, and wishes to thank Don Williams and Matt S undstrom for their help in preparing this article.

Pete Clark
c/o the Editor

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