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Subject: Eurogame in Disguise rss

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James Collins
Australia
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NSW
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Eurogame in Disguise

There are already reviews that do a good job of describing the flow of play and the rules are freely available. This review will take a different approach…

I often hear Diplomacy described as a tediously long war game, particularly by all of my eurogamer friends whenever I’m trying to organise a session. I’m not sure if this is indicative of general opinion among eurogamers. I’m not sure if wargamers would classify Diplomacy as a wargame. I would place Diplomacy squarely in the camp of eurogames, albeit a sometimes tediously long one.

First off, start with an abstract game… lets say chess. Now imagine what chess would be like if you only started with a small number of pieces and occupying certain spaces on the board allowed you to place more pieces. Let’s call the spaces supply centres. The number of pieces we will allow players to keep on the board will equal the number of supply centres they control.

We are going to mix things up a bit by making all pieces equal strength, but nearby units can offer support, increasing offensive of defensive power. Pieces can no longer capture others unless their total offensive strength is greater than the opponent’s defensive strength.

Complicate the move-countermove nature of chess by forcing both players to perform their moves simultaneously. Suddenly there is an element of guesswork. You must now attempt to second guess your opponent’s move and as a consequence optimal moves becomes much less clear.

Now we are going to do something crazy. We are going to add another five players to the board bringing our total number of players to seven. Now consider that the game cannot be won by a solo effort. Any attempt to control extra supply centres will invariably open your own supply centres to attack by other players. So clearly you have to trust someone to watch your back, at least temporarily. But who?

There is also no way we can divide the players into equal teams considering that seven separate alliances of one cannot work. At least one team is going to have an initial numeric advantage over at least one other. It now becomes clear that alliances will often shift as each team’s power waxes and wanes and that negotiation will play a large part in the formation and maintenance of alliances.

Now we shall formalise the negotiation process. Before each round of simultaneous moves we shall allow the players a brief period to persuade, threaten and lie to other players in order to convince them to move the way they want them to.

So now we need an endgame condition. The most obvious one seems to be a majority control of supply centres on the board. Let’s allow players to share in a draw if together they control a majority of supply centres (stalemates often occur).

Now lets throw on a World War I theme and make each player a great power whose pieces are armies and ships moving around on a map of Europe. Oh wait, this game has been done before…

So there you have it, Diplomacy as a eurogame. I hope that gave you an insight into how the game feels during play. Perhaps this may spark some interest in eurogamers who haven’t played it, or maybe convince some who already have and dismissed it as a wargame to give it another shot.

I rate Diplomacy as a 10 on the BoardGameGeek scale. However this comes with some hefty caveats. Diplomacy must be played with seven people. There are variants that play with less but in my opinion these do not do the game the kind of justice it deserves. It also requires a huge investment in time. We may be talking in the vicinity of a whole day, maybe an entire weekend to complete a game.
 
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Byron Ward
United States
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I agree- great game, but seven players and lots of time. Both are tough to gather.
 
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Philip Thomas
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In eurogames, everyone is in contention for the win right up until the end. This is not true of Diplomacy (Admittedly, all surviving players can hope to be included in a draw, but that isn't the same thing).

Otherwise, yes it has plenty of meaningful decisions and 'multiple paths to victory' (plenty of literature on which alliances benefit which countries etc). So it sort of fits.
 
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