- Just another Steve(sdonohue)United States
Diplomacy may be one of most divisive games there is. Players seem to either love it or hate it with very few falling in the middle. I have to confess that I am in the love it category
The game comes with a rulebook, a gameboard, a set of paper maps (for plotting) and 7 sets of pieces, one for each player. The pieces are split evenly between armies and fleets.
The setting for the game is Europe with the map showing the countries more or less as they were in 1900. Although it has this as a theme, the truth is that Diplomacy isn’t a very thematic game unless the players make it so.
The rules for diplomacy are very simple, which is what makes it popular. Each player is randomly assigned one of the 7 great powers. For the first turn players are allowed 30 minutes to negotiate with others and then write their orders. All orders are revealed and resolved simultaneously. Any unit may Hold (stay where it is), Move to an adjacent legal square (armies may not move to water nor may fleets move inland), or Support a unit’s action in a square where it could move. Fleets have the added ability to Convoy and army making them essentially a bridge.
The resolution of combat is done by simple majority. If one unit moves to an empty square it succeeds. If two different units (even of the same color) move to a square, neither moves. If two units move but one has support then the one with support wins. Support can be “cut” if a unit is attacked by a unit from another location and a convoy is disrupted if the fleet is dislodged, but that is about it.
Any piece which is dislodged may move to an empty undisputed space. If it can’t find such a space or it’s owner chooses, it can be disbanded.
The game is played in years and seasons. The first turn is Spring 01, followed by Fall 01. There is an adjustment in pieces between 01 and 02 which is often referred to as Winter but this is not in the official rules. In the space between years, each player’s units are adjusted so that he has as many units on the board as he has supply centers under his control. These new units must be deployed in his home territory, typically by secret order.
None of the rules really conveys the true spirit of the game. Between turns there is 15 minutes of negotiation with the other players. During this time players are free to make offers, threats, or concessions. They can propose treaties, they can pretty much make any deal they’d like. They can betray their staunchest ally or continue with their combined plans for world domination.
This is at once the games greatest strength and its greatest weakness. In Diplomacy, you rarely win (some would say never) without betraying your staunchest ally and a few other players along the way. This lying and betrayal leaves some people with a bad taste in their mouth.
The game has been produced in many different editions in many different countries. I own the Avalon Hill bookshelf and Deluxe editions. I prefer the wooden pieces and larger board of the Deluxe edition. Take a look at the gallery here to see other editions. The game components are not language dependent.
This is my favorite board game bar none. I think everyone should try it at least once or twice. The tricky part is that you have to play it with people who can accept the betrayal aspect of the game. If you can’t find opponents like that, it may be worthwhile to check out one of the many PBEM options.
Truthfully though, everyone should play Diplomacy face-to-face at least once.
Edit - home not homer territory
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