"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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