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Subject: I'll Try To Keep This Diplomatic... rss

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Jeff
Canada
Ontario
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There's no simple explanation for anything important any of us do, and yeah the human tragedy consists of the necessity of living with the consequences, under pressure, under pressure. -Courage (For Hugh Maclennan): The Tragically Hip
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Sometimes I find the rating system on BGG a little wonky. Giving Diplomacy a 2 seems harsh. However, based on what a 2 in BGGs rating system means, it's the closest to how I feel about the game.

Diplomacy is a war/negotiation game set in the years leading up to WWI. The 7 major European countries are represented on the board, which is in fact a map of Europe. To win, a player has to control 18 specially marked provinces on the board. Every country starts with three of these provinces, except Russia, which starts with four. In order for anyone to do well at all they are going to have to form alliances with other players. However, these alliances are fragile at best as players never know how much to trust each other, and are always looking for an opportunity to turn on their allies when it's most advantageous.

Diplomacy is an incredibly well thought out game. All countries have more-or-less even strength to start, and are immediately threatened by at least two other neighbouring countries. I really appreciate and applaud the game for its design.

I hate long games. I just don't want to invest hours upon hours of time to one game. Despite this I really wanted to try Diplomacy, which has a reputation of going long. Now I've played it, and my desire to play has been quenched - forever. This is why I rate Diplomacy a 2. It's because a 2 indicates that I never want to play the game again. For one thing, the game had gone seven hours before the first (and as it turned out only) player was eliminated. A big reason for the length is that you can only go so far before getting bogged down in stand-offs with other countries' military units. These impasses are frequent, and slow progress down considerably. Second, you have to lie to other players and stab them in the back. This is known about the game, and my group even discussed it before we started. We reminded ourselves that it's only a game, so don't get too upset when someone turns on you. However, when I stabbed my friend in the back, who thought we had a rock-solid alliance, he was angry. I didn't like making him feel that way. I also didn't like betraying his trust in me, even though it was only within the game. I've realized that if a game causes negative emotions I'm just not into it. I sold my copy of Intrigue after one play for this same reason.

So, I doubt I'll ever play Diplomacy again. For the reasons mentioned I can't recommend the game either.
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Simon Maynard
United Kingdom
Exeter
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I only played the physical game of this once, many years ago.

Since then I got into playing this (for a while) by mail with a game moderator. It was a great way to play it. The Moderator hosts the game board on a website so that all players can see the current state of play. Then players discuss, plan and form alliances by email as each turn is played over a week. When all players have submitted their orders the moderator executes all actions and updates the board again.

Not only does this break up what is otherwise a very long game into manageable chunks, you are also playing with strangers. Perhaps that will make you feel less bad when you come to stab them in the back.arrrh
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Chris Schumann
United States
Saint Paul
Minnesota
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It's certainly not for everyone. Now you know.
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Dandelion
Canada
Halifax
Nova Scotia
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Quote:
you have to lie to other players and stab them in the back. This is known about the game, and my group even discussed it before we started. We reminded ourselves that it's only a game, so don't get too upset when someone turns on you.


I think the fact that you had to have this conversation before the game is a good sign you weren't the right group for the game. In my groups betrayal and trash talk is expected in almost every game played from Risk onward, so diplo is really nothing special. if you have to check and discuss, and its not immediately obvious that the game would go over great, I would suggest that maybe your group isn't the right fit.

It's also unusual, if it was a f2f game, that it took 7 hours for someone to be eliminated. That speaks of overly cautious and unnecessarily gentle play, IMO. did you enforce the recommended 15 min diplo period between turns? if so I think that you all were playing far, far too cautiously.

it's not uncommon for someone to be basically out after a few turns in our games, to limp along and die shortly after because of beginning alliances. Sealion, anyone? I love crippling england hard, right off the bat. take them out of the game before they even have a chance to play!

ironically, cautious play would extend the pain of elim/stabs and make the game more hurtful, I bet.

anyway, like the above poster said, now you know it's not the game for your group.

edit: by way of comparison, our average game time for f2f is around 6 hours, which isn't really so long, for a wargame that plays 7. That's normally the time it takes for only 2 of us to play a wargame. Bonus 5 players for no added time at all!
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Sean Conroy
United States
Winchester
Virginia
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Played the game a couple of times and was in the same room as the WBC tournament playing another game. Love they was movement and resources are handled, have come to hate the "you have to lie/betray to win" aspect. Saw someone storm away from the WBC tourny. Slowly realizing I'm only keeping my AH bog box for the pretty components.
 
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Mayor Jim
United States
Fort Wright
Kentucky
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I've only really played this game via e-mail. I feel that that's the best way to really enjoy it. You have a week between moves to negotiate, obfuscate, connive and plan your next move. Face to face can be fun but is limited by time and space...when folks see you talking too much to one faction, they get suspicious whistle
 
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george atkins

Minneapolis
mn
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Well, perhaps your friends never played competitive chess or bridge, or they'd take Diplomacy in stride. Anyway...

What many people fail to grasp is that - even in opposition to what a lot of us Diplo players will say - Diplomacy IS---in part---a role-playing game. By role-playing I mean that you are one of seven diplomats/negotiators all seeking the same goal: To win the game. In this respect, it is no different than any other competitive game. But since the game mostly involves personal interaction and deal-making, players can easily slip into the false premise that their ego and rep are on the line. But it is all role playing.

Consider actors: They play roles that are sometimes, if not often, completely different from their real selves and values. Think Matt Damon playing Jason Bourne and who is actually a strong gun-control advocate in real life.

In your role as a Great Power diplomat you sometimes may bend the truth, even lie, in order to seek your goal. You may even have to attack an ally at some point. But lying and stabbing are merely tools and not the main thrust of the game. Players who constantly (or even frequently) lie and stab are marked by other players who give them a wide berth or an early exit. But it is not necessary to lie to win. Stabbing means to attack somebody (who happens to be an "ally" of yours up until that point). But that is not always necessary. But you do have to attack to win. It's that simple.

It's not about you, personally. In a Diplomacy game you are England, or France, or Italy, et al; you are not playing yourself. You are not really the minister of Russia. You are playing a role. Therefore, there is absolutely no reason to take anything in the game personally, except for not playing your best.

In fact, you can sometimes have fun working out a deception that fools your current target. But resist getting personal in the game. No personal insults. It's okay to say (or write) "The English strategy had the effectiveness of wet toilet paper!", for example; but not "John played like an idiot." I'm not saying losing or getting fooled is fun, but it just means you got outplayed. So work harder and wiser the next time.

If all of the players in your group could look at a game of Diplomacy as if they were acting in some kind of bizarro play or movie rather than putting their egos on the line, they'd probably be less likely to get personally offended or hurt, and have more fun playing all out.
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Richard Spruce
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Its very interesting because the original poster seems to have the same issues our group encountered...

We've played twice, face to face - the first time with 5 players the second with 7.

Both games were played over 7 hours with 1 or 2 countries elimated by the time we had to call it quits. No-one was even close to victory at the end of 7 hours, the most supply centers controlled by 1 player was 8 and the game had developed two very strong alliances and this led to incredibly slow progress or even a stalemate.

Thing is, I really quite enjoyed the actual game. The negotiation, the strategy of moving your forces in a way so that 3 turns later you can take that country you need, the backstabbing and lying to the faces of your opponents etc. It seems like a well balanced game with some interesting, thematic mechanics.

I think where it's flawed is the win conditions. Without exaggeration, I think we could have played for a further 12 hours and still wouldn't have had a player with 18 supply centers. It is unsatisfying to play for 7 hours and there be no sign of a conclusion. I feel what the game needs most is for it be shorter.

Maybe in a 7 player game 10 supply centers would be enough to win? Maybe there should be rules for a shared victory? Maybe 2 countries could have 18 between them to win?

The definition of the word diplomacy I found online was "the conduct of the relations of one state with another by peaceful means. 2. skill in the management of international relations. 3. tact, skill, or cunning in dealing with people." The word I found most interesting word from this definition was "peaceful" - not wiping your opponents of the map using military means, finding a common ground to work together towards an aim - and I feel thematically a shared victory would work (just look at WW1 and WW2 - alliances won, not a single country on its own).



 
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