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Diplomacy, Ectoplasm-Style
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Date: 06/11/07 05:06
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Diplomacy, Ectoplasm-Style

A couple people said they'd read a Diplomacy report if I wrote it up, so here it is. I'm pretty sure this is's first Diplomacy report. Go me! Currently it doesn't have many pictures, but it may get excessively long, at which point, hamsters beware!

Assuming you haven't played the game before, right now you are probably thinking, "What is this Diplomacy thing, anyway?" (If you have played, just skip down here.) Well, sometimes it's the process by which you get everybody to ally against the dumbass in a FFA. In this case, it's the name of a turn-based strategy game manufactured by Hasbro, set in Europe before World War I, with the object of taking over the world. You do this by moving armies and fleets around the board, negotiating with the other players to make sure you succeed. When negotiation fails, backstabbery and lying ensues. The normal board looks like this:

The regions with dots are called supply centers. Starting in one of the colored regions, the countries England, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Russia, and Turkey, you attempt to expand your influence to control more than half of the supply centers on the map. To control a territory, all you have to do is successfully move an army or fleet into the territory, either without the movement being contested, or by overcoming any resistance you encounter.

Gameplay Basics

Each turn opens with a negotiation phase. During this time you attempt to bargain, lie, swindle, ally, mislead, and backstab your way into a position where your armies will be able to seize the territory you desire.

At the end of this phase, you write out orders for your units and turn them into the GM. Units can move into a new territory, support the movement of another unit, or hold in the territory they are currently in.

All units are considered to move at the same time.

All units are considered of equal strength.

The GM then works out the results of everybody's orders, and resets the map to reflect the situation.

If necessary, players then take a brief time to decide where dislodged units will retreat. (If you capture an occupied territory, the unit there is not destroyed, it is forced to retreat to a neighboring territory. Only if there is no open retreat will it be destroyed.)

Every second turn, you have to count your SCs to see how many units you can support. You then build new, or disband current units until your military unit count is the same as your SC count.

These are the basics. Everything else will be explained in the course of the game, for two reasons. First, Hasbro has stipulated that no one post the full rules of the game online. I suspect I'd not remember all the rules; I also suspect Hasbro probably doesn't even know exists; but on the other hand, there's no real need to risk it. Why? Well, because of the second reason. Quite a bit of the gameplay doesn't really make sense without examples. Periodically, the results of a turn are counter-intuitive without an explanation of how the rules work, so it's easier to just explain as I go than to have my readers scroll back up to the top asking, "Wait, how did he just lose Venice?"

I must now apologize for something beyond my control. The map this game takes place on is not the normal map. It is a variation designed for nine players, and looks like this:

The chief differences are the addition of Spain and Israel as playable countries. The other powers have been moved a little and renamed: Eire instead of England, Burgundy for France, Sicily for Italy, Poland for Germany, Hungary for Austria, Ukraine for Russia, Byzantium for Turkey. All the concepts remain the same, the negotiation is just a little more difficult.

First Turn: Spring 1901


I am given Burgundy to start out with. At the beginning of the game, negotiation is largely to determine whom you have to deal with first, and whom you can leave alone for the time being, but it doesn't affect your first move too much; options are limited.

Standard strategy would be for me to move into central Europe, taking Hessia on my first turn with the Hague fleet, Bavaria on my second with the Brussels army while the fleet either holds or moves to Holland. The Dijon army meanwhile takes Languedoc on the first turn, and either holds or moves to take Piedmont as well. Moving to take Brittany instead on the second turn is an option, but would leave me vulnerable to Spain or Sicily, as well as annoying Eire, Spain, or both. This gives me three more supply - possibly four, and a solid position in west-central Europe. However, there are two drawbacks.

First, it can leave Brittany open to either Spain or Eire to take (Spain on the second turn with the Santander fleet, Eire on the third with the Dublin fleet); worse, the possibility of an Eire-Spain alliance, essentially smashing my forces between them and the central powers of Poland and Hungary. To prevent this, I want to negotiate at least a temporary alliance with Spain, Eire, or both. Less usual, but possibily as effective, would be an alliance with Sicily against Spain; with the Spanish threat diminished, I can contain Eire.

The other drawback is that, by taking Languedoc, I put myself between Spain and Sicily, who very probably will end up fighting. Sicily cannot easily expand except towards Spain, unless she allies with Spain to take over Burgundy. Regardless, it puts me in harm's way, but I need the SC. Essential to maintain my position, then, is an alliance with either Sicily or Spain. I could ally with both, but their goals are mutually incompatible, and I would end up backstabbing one or the other much sooner than I would like. It makes you look untrustworthy. Not that playing this game really makes you a trustworthy person in the first place.

Much less orthodox, but a possibility, is to make my first goals an alliance with Spain and a bargain with Poland for central Europe. I then move as quickly as possible to knock Eire out of the game. The moves are something like follows: The Hague fleet moves to Hel and then Denmark. The Brussels army moves to the Ruhr and then Hessia. The Dijon army moves to France and then Brittany. On the third turn, I now have six supply to Eire's five (Eire adds Wessex and Norway), and I have Eire surrounded. Poland pushes through Scandinavia, and I move into England. If the cooperation with Poland holds, Eire is gone by turn six or seven, and I have most of its SCs. Poland probably insists on getting Edinburgh and keeping Norway.

Despite the potential payoff, this is incredibly risky. I am counting on my alliance with Spain to keep Sicily busy, and on Poland to contain Eire. If either of them fails, or worse, attacks me, I have to divert units to defend my territory. The best possible scenario in this case is an Eire weak enough that it is forced to ally with me for the time being. The worst possible scenario - and much more likely - is that I lose my mainland SCs, Eire allies with Poland, and I die by turn seven or eight.

The other risk is that Hungary or Russia will attack Poland, diverting its attention from Eire and weakening the containment. If the two ally against Poland, then my best bet is to immediately figure out a new plan.


While I am still analyzing my options, Spain offers an alliance, on the condition that she (he? it?) gets Languedoc. I can keep Piedmont, assuming I can get it. Spain wants Sicily gone: logical, since Sicily can contain Spain's Mediterranean expansion. Additionally, with Languedoc, Spain can launch an amphibious assault (more on that later) from Languedoc to either Tuscany or Rome by convoying across the Ligurnian Sea, a second punch to complement a southern assault through Africa. Spain advises me to take Brussels, Bavaria, and Piedmont.

Analysis of the offer: The concession isn't really a concession: Spain can't take Piedmont until and unless she can get support into the Ligurnian Sea. Meanwhile, it is almost certain to fall to either Sicily or myself. But I can't be sure to take it by the second turn either, especially if Sicily wants it. Thus, Spain is giving me bad advice. Does he know it? I don't know, but I have to assume so.

I thank Spain for the "concession" of Piedmont, thank Spain for the advice, and accept the alliance. I plan to take Brussels and Bavaria, and decide to take Languedoc anyway. With luck, this puts Spain in a bad position without my actually having broken my word. Spain will probably move to take Languedoc with the Toledo army, but can't take it without support once I have it.

I offer an alliance to Hungary. If Spain successfully manages to drag me into war with Sicily - which I'd rather avoid - I want to make sure someone is contesting the middle with Poland. I don't trust an alliance with Poland. We both need the middle too much. Hungary doesn't respond. Well, darn.

Eire offers cooperation in Scandinavia and against Poland, in return for Brittany. I accept, but mention Spain is probably going to take Brittany. True? I have no idea, but I would if I were Spain. I neglect to mention my alliance with Spain; Eire sees Spain as threatening me, and there is no need to seem stronger than I am. At this point I refine my plan, planning to move into Holland on my second turn after taking Hessia.

At this point my plan is set, and I send my orders in. No other offers are really going to affect the first turn.

Sicily throws a monkey wrench into the long-term goals, however, by proposing non-agression. We both are sort of nervous about Hungary, and Sicily thinks Hungary wants us fighting. I don't want to fight Sicily anyway, since it's so easy to defend while relatively poor in SCs. I agree. I give Sicily some advice (uneeded, he's played more than I have) about possible ways to defend against Hungary. I mention that I think Spain wants to fight him. I don't mention my alliance with Spain. The more I think about it, the more it seems like a bad idea. Working with Eire and Sicily, Spain would have been esay to marginalize without much effort. I'd rather not betray him now though, as he'd live long enough to get word out. Such is life.


This is the confusing part. Orders are given in abbreviated form. For now, we only have to deal with move orders, indicated with an arrow. If I want to move an army from Odessa to Rumania, I write it out as follows: A (army) Ode (Odessa) -> (moves to) Rum (Rumania). The other basic order, if I want my army in Odessa to stay in Odessa, is a hold order. It is either not written down (and thus the unit is assumed to hold) or written (in this case) A (army) Ode (Odessa) H (holds). Simple enough. Alright then, here are the orders:

A Bru -> Ruh
A Dij -> Lan
F Hag -> Hes

A Ath -> Bul
F Con -> Ana
F Smy -> Car

A Alc -> Yor
F Dub -> Iri
F Edi -> Nth

A Bud -> Aus
A Sze -> Tra
F Zar -> Adr

A Dam -> Syr
A Jer -> Dam
F Cai -> Ala

A Rig -> Nov
A War -> Mus
F Gda -> Bal

A Rom -> Tus
F Nap -> Mal
F Pal -> Tyr

A Tol -> Cat
F San -> Por
F Val -> Wme

A Kie H
A Ode -> Pod
F Yal -> EBS

Nine sets of orders. What does it all mean? That is most easily seen on an updated map. Therefore, I present the Spring 1901 end-of-turn map for your pleasure.


As far as I am concerned, everything is going to plan. Sicily thinks Spain wants to backstab me, which would be unfortunate. On the other hand, cooperation with Sicily is currently even closer than anticipated, as the original Sicily dropped out and the new one thinks working with me is a good option. In central Europe, my goals will be achieved without any trouble, aided by the fact that Poland and Hungary both went East.

Let's look at what the other nations are probably doing.

Byzantium - The Byzantines have taken their two "gimme" SCs (think natural expansion), Bulgaria and Anatolia. The interesting move is the Smyrna fleet. Israel is weakenend by the move north, and Byzantium apparently intends to bottle the Jews up and grab a couple of their SCs. Will it work? No idea.

Eire - Eire is obviously preparing to assault Scandinavia, while moving a single unit down to take Brittany due to my generosity. So far so good for the Irish.

Hungary - The descendents of the Huns are apparently trying to pick as many fights as possible, moving towards Poland (taking Austria), Sicily (moving into the Adriatic), and Ukraine (moving towards Rumania through Traherne). With only 3 units, I don't think he could possibly bother more people. However, everyone else is moving away from him, so he might get away with it.

Israel - The aforementioned Jews are moving towards Cyrenaica, unsurprisingly. Equally unsurprisingly, their armies are moving north. Unfortunately, Byzantium, true to history, seems somewhat hostile.

Poland - While the move towards Sweden is standard, the fast push east is anything but. In fact, Poland has overextended, and will certainly lose either Warsaw or Muscovy if Ukraine takes any initiative.

Sicily - The ancestral relatives of the Mafiosi are apparently picking a fight with the bull-fighting Iberians, moving not one but two (aka all) fleets west. The Hungarian threat is ignored. Far more standard is to move the second fleet (in Naples) around to Apullia to contest the Adriatic. However, Sicily is probably counting on myself, Burgundy, staying neutral at worst.

Spain - A risky plan is truly jeopardized by less than fully cooperative Burgundians: however, Spain will come out next turn with two new SCs, and with, say, Hungarian help, pressure will be fully relieved and Spain might pull through.

Ukraine - so far, the most conservative planners, the not-quite-Russians are pushing towards the gimme that is Georgia, as well as threatening Poland from a position of strength. A Ukrainian-Byzantine alliance could ruin the game for everybody else.


With the first turn over, negotiations have begun for the second turn, which will be presented in the second report in this series. I hope you enjoyed reading, and please comment! Constructive criticism is more than welcome.

Thanks to JV, admins, etc. for making this such a great community, and letting me hang around long enough to produce a report at least somewhat worth reading.

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