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Subject: Had no Fun at all rss

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James Reynolds
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I introduced my group of friends to this game and considered carefully when to get them to play it. They didn't enjoy it one iota.

And to be honest neither did I and here are a few reasons why:

1) Stalemates are not fun and diplomacy seems driven by them.

2) The only cost you pay is time when you fail. Well, time and patience.

3) A game based on trust that makes no effort to protect it seems broken.

4) Everything is so open and slow that every single tactic is telegraphed.

... Well I don't really intend to write a lot more.

Can someone explain to me what we did wrong? It was so tedious!
 
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JamesR87 wrote:
1) Stalemates are not fun and diplomacy seems driven by them.

Err... yes and no. Tactically, on the board, yes--there is a stalemate line that essentially runs diagonally through the board from the southwest to the northeast. But this is an asset, not a liability - it forces players to negotiate. Once the stalemate lines are hit, the only way to gain ground is to negotiate an alliance that will allow you to break through the stalemate lines.

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2) The only cost you pay is time when you fail. Well, time and patience.
Huh? Are you complaining that there is player elimination? For me, again, this is a good thing. Dip is a big boys game. The fact that you can get eliminated means there is something actually at stake with every move, every alliance. If that's not your thing, fine, go play Puerto Rico, but it's sort of... irrelevant to kvetch about it.

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3) A game based on trust that makes no effort to protect it seems broken.

Another statement I don't understand. The game facilitates the forming of alliances insofar as they are mutually beneficial (why would any player agree to do something that doesn't bring him benefit?) So yes, you have to trust each other to gain ground, but also distrust each other because eventually there can be only one winner. I fail to see how this is a negative.

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4) Everything is so open and slow that every single tactic is telegraphed.

Telegraphed? Sure. Slow? I don't quite see what you mean. Do you mean from turn to turn, season to season, things develop slowly? How is that different than the turn to turn development of your farm in Agricola--it isn't as if you can expand your house and do family growth the first turn. Again the idea that you can plainly see what everyone is doing makes this like chess--it's a good thing. It means the best NEGOTIATOR will win, not necessarily the best strategist.

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Can someone explain to me what we did wrong? It was so tedious!


I don't know. Can you provide more details? Diplomacy, in my experience is anything but tedious. I use it in my classroom every year and 120 kids per year all agree with me. Maybe you were playing it wrong?
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Did you negotiate in secret?
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Your comments seem to imply that you played the game without seeking to understand its very title. Diplomacy lives and dies on the skill in which players negotiate with each other.If chatting with other players and brokering deals was an ocassional activity (hence the staelmate) then I'm afraid you missed the point.

However if you really are of the persuasion that if a player double crosses you, then the game is 'broken' (cringe wretch etc), then this was never the game for your group. As stated above, despite the simplicity of the rules, this one is for the big boys.
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James Reynolds
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MScrivner wrote:

Err... yes and no. Tactically, on the board, yes--there is a stalemate line that essentially runs diagonally through the board from the southwest to the northeast. But this is an asset, not a liability - it forces players to negotiate. Once the stalemate lines are hit, the only way to gain ground is to negotiate an alliance that will allow you to break through the stalemate lines.


Our stalemate line was Bulgaria as me playing as Austria vs a Turkey/Russia Alliance.

It cost me 80% of my resources to box Russia and Turkey in to the corner making me utterly powerless because I was bound to writing the same support orders every turn and Turkey was powerless to join the rest of the game.

MScrivner wrote:
Huh? Are you complaining that there is player elimination? For me, again, this is a good thing. Dip is a big boys game. The fact that you can get eliminated means there is something actually at stake with every move, every alliance. If that's not your thing, fine, go play Puerto Rico, but it's sort of... irrelevant to kvetch about it.


There absolutely is Player Elimination ... As my above scenario details. In fact it's almost worse because this game can, just at the cost of a few resources from a leading player, make it impossible for someone to play anymore. And player elimination is perfectly possible given all you need to do is take and hold all of someone's supply centres by the time unit production ticks around.

MScrivner wrote:

Another statement I don't understand. The game facilitates the forming of alliances insofar as they are mutually beneficial (why would any player agree to do something that doesn't bring him benefit?) So yes, you have to trust each other to gain ground, but also distrust each other because eventually there can be only one winner. I fail to see how this is a negative.


All I'm really saying is that for a game called Diplomacy I'd expect it to have more rules regarding it than games like Risk...

MScrivner wrote:

It means the best NEGOTIATOR will win, not necessarily the best strategist.


I understand this point of view but I'd say its only true when the Negotiators all arrange to defeat the strategist.

MScrivner wrote:
I don't know. Can you provide more details? Diplomacy, in my experience is anything but tedious. I use it in my classroom every year and 120 kids per year all agree with me. Maybe you were playing it wrong?


It's difficult to explain really... We consumed the rules and played them and found the game to be not particularly exciting with our group. I can see it being a lot more fun with strangers where you aren't already fully aware of their habits but there's no depth to this game.

If you know the players, you're going to know exactly how the game plays out.
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Stefan Daniels
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Understand (and maybe you do) that Diplomacy is a diplomatic simulation, not a military one. This requires a different mindset in that the winning player is the person who best used their rhetoric to secure the win... all other players failed at this. In other words, the winner is always the person who was intellectually, charismatically and empathetically the strongest person. If you're not one of these people on that particular gaming day or not one of these people in general, Dip is NOT your game. There are others, a wide range of games, in fact which don't fit all personality types all the time.

For myself and The Guild of Losers, Diplomacy is the game by which we measure our skills as human beings and how we interact with each other (politics) - I'm not saying this is the game for everyone to measure something as subjective as the nature of humanity, but we find it a wonderful benchmark; and that benchmark does not necessarily attribute the 'best human' with the winner. I've found, amongst the myriad of gamers that I've played against, and again, this is my personal experience - anecdotal at best - that Dip players are some of the very best people I've ever had the chance to game against/with or meet.
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JamesR87 wrote:

Our stalemate line was Bulgaria as me playing as Austria vs a Turkey/Russia Alliance.

It cost me 80% of my resources to box Russia and Turkey in to the corner making me utterly powerless because I was bound to writing the same support orders every turn and Turkey was powerless to join the rest of the game.


Why didn't Russia eat you? If the Russian player didn't do that and wasn't expanding elsewhere, he wasn't trying to win. No game is fun if a player refuses to try to win, especially in a highly interactive game like Diplomacy.

Inherently, 2 vs. 1 is not a stalemate. If Russia was doing great without eating Austria, why didn't you convince Turkey to switch sides and eat Russia with him?

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JamesR87 wrote:
All I'm really saying is that for a game called Diplomacy I'd expect it to have more rules regarding it than games like Risk...


Non-sequitor. Are you expecting the rulebook to tell you how to negotiate? Who to trust? When to lie?
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JamesR87 wrote:
Our stalemate line was Bulgaria as me playing as Austria vs a Turkey/Russia Alliance.

It cost me 80% of my resources to box Russia and Turkey in to the corner making me utterly powerless because I was bound to writing the same support orders every turn and Turkey was powerless to join the rest of the game.


And what was Italy doing? Or Germany? Or even England? What of the rest of Russia's troops?

If you were unable to break the "stalemate line," that is not the failing of the game. That is a failing of you and/or Turkey to get anyone else to help you; chances are, if I were them (especially Italy), I would have been more than happy to let you two stew and not get anywhere, while I gained enough strength to roll up your backside.
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JamesR87 wrote:
Our stalemate line was Bulgaria as me playing as Austria vs a Turkey/Russia Alliance.

It cost me 80% of my resources to box Russia and Turkey in to the corner making me utterly powerless because I was bound to writing the same support orders every turn and Turkey was powerless to join the rest of the game.

So did Turkey not think to try to work with you against Russia, Or did one of them talk to Italy to get them to come for you? Did Russia talk to France, or You/Turkey talk to England? Diplomacy is a full board game. Somewhere along the line, it was in someone's interest to help you, Russia or Turkey to break the stalemate.

JamesR87 wrote:
There absolutely is Player Elimination ... As my above scenario details. In fact it's almost worse because this game can, just at the cost of a few resources from a leading player, make it impossible for someone to play anymore. And player elimination is perfectly possible given all you need to do is take and hold all of someone's supply centres by the time unit production ticks around.

Sure, you can win by overwhelming force, but moving the pieces around the board is only a part of the game. The diplomacy, the coersion, the double cross, the reading of body language, the thrill of the stab, it's all there. Sometimes not moving your pieces can be more powerful than moving them.

JamesR87 wrote:
All I'm really saying is that for a game called Diplomacy I'd expect it to have more rules regarding it than games like Risk...

The rulebook would then be almost infinately large, as there's almost nothing that you cannot do or say! I wouldn't condone physical threats or bribery, but they've been used too. There's a wealth of infomration out there about the game to supplement the rulebook. Only the games of chess and bridge have more stuff written about them.

JamesR87 wrote:
I understand this point of view but I'd say its only true when the Negotiators all arrange to defeat the strategist.

By his very nature a pure strategist is predictable as he will always make the most optimum moves, which is his very weakness. 2 communicative collaborators will put a strategist out of the game in short order.

JamesR87 wrote:
We consumed the rules and played them and found the game to be not particularly exciting with our group. I can see it being a lot more fun with strangers where you aren't already fully aware of their habits but there's no depth to this game.

I have to disagree, there's huge depth to this game, it's just that the rules regarding the movement of peices on the board are very simple.

JamesR87 wrote:
If you know the players, you're going to know exactly how the game plays out.

What an amazing advantage to have! All you have to do then, is be a little more unpredictable than them and you're on for the win. But then, won't all the other players be thinking the same thing? Playing with people you know means you know how far to trust them, how far you can push them and so on. Sometimes strangers can be too unpredictable or an unknown quantity.

Sorry to see that your group had a bad experience with the game, hopefully that doesn't put you all off for life, as for me, Diplomacy is the most intense and involving game I've ever played. But it's like Marmite, love it or hate it!

Were you playing to set deadlines? Did you feel that you never had enough time to say everything you wanted to say to everyone before you had to write and submit your orders? When you'd written your orders, did you try to work on someone who had yet to write theirs (even if just to give them less time to write!)

The possibilities are endless!
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Two questions for the OP: how many turns did you play, and how long were negotiations for each turn?

The negotiations in Dip are defined by the lack of rules. In particular, many games forbid private negotiations, Diplomacy does not.

Also: the comment that it's not hard to eliminate a player from the game: all you have to do is take all their stuff? Well, shucks. If that's easy, how does the game take very long?

Yes, there is player elimination in Diplomacy. It's an unavoidable consequence of a game of this type, and the game would be worse off without it.
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There's a lot of feedback here and I appreciate all of it but what I'm getting from most of the posts is that we didn't play it properly which I'm confident is true but I do doubt whether or not it's possible for my group to play this game right at all.

We play with a regular group of 5 (So that should answer the questions about Germany/Italy in our stalemate game, also Russia bypassed me and went into northern germany to circle around me but met resistance and by that time I had enough forces to hold both the Russian and Hungarian lines) and I know these five incredibly well. Since we know each other as well as we do the diplomacy phases can normally be boiled down to just a minute or two each given our predisposition to particular tactics and allies.

I did make the remark that maybe this would be a vastly better experience with strangers but with friends it seems flawed. I know which of my friends will break a pact at the first sign of trouble and I know which will defend a pact to his own death at the hands of a would-be ally.

Knowing these things makes manipulating the group so easy you can find a sweetspot to develop in. In our game the three super powers were Britain, France and Austria with Russia out of the game after expanding too far into Germany and Hungary literally unable to leave his home territories.

I didn't record the precise number of turns but we played about two hours before thinking we'd have an identical experience playing something like Risk except that at least then we got to throw some dice to add some dynamism to the events of conquest game. I guess we didn't really get into the hand-slamming-on-map attitude expected ... No, required ... to make this game as much fun as everyone thinks it is

I might recommend another play with these guidelines in place but I think I'll struggle to convince them to go again.
 
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JamesR87 wrote:


We play with a regular group of 5 (So that should answer the questions about Germany/Italy in our stalemate game, also Russia bypassed me and went into northern germany to circle around me but met resistance and by that time I had enough forces to hold both the Russian and Hungarian lines) and I know these five incredibly well. Since we know each other as well as we do the diplomacy phases can normally be boiled down to just a minute or two each given our predisposition to particular tactics and allies.


As was said above, if you know them so well, that's the perfect time to start wheeling and dealing as if they don't know you! In fact, since they're so predictable, you should use that to your advantage.

The question, the important question, is whether your group could survive that. By "big boys" I think others mean that you have to be able to completely role play being a different sort of person than you may be in real life and leave that behind once the game is done. That's very hard. But if you can do it maturely, the game is really fun.

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It's interesting to me I've seen so many email games that end in 3+ player draws - even 5 player draws!! I thought it was just players with ADD that got bored three turns in, but it seems more to be some sort of PC, suburbanite, kinder-gentler, horse-hockey. Players seem to play to draw rather than win. I've watched players with 17 centers vote 3-ways draws - that's just sad.
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SgtTodd wrote:
It's interesting to me I've seen so many email games that end in 3+ player draws - even 5 player draws!! I thought it was just players with ADD that got bored three turns in, but it seems more to be some sort of PC, suburbanite, kinder-gentler, horse-hockey. Players seem to play to draw rather than win. I've watched players with 17 centers vote 3-ways draws - that's just sad.


We didn't end in a draw FYI, we just abandoned the game.

We didn't claim any victors, joint or otherwise. Just two losers
 
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SgtTodd wrote:
It's interesting to me I've seen so many email games that end in 3+ player draws - even 5 player draws!! I thought it was just players with ADD that got bored three turns in, but it seems more to be some sort of PC, suburbanite, kinder-gentler, horse-hockey. Players seem to play to draw rather than win. I've watched players with 17 centers vote 3-ways draws - that's just sad.


Really? At 17 centers I'm pretty well focused on polishing up my jackboots so that I look sharp to your women-folk as I march into your capital and put your politicians to the sword. If anyone wants to vote on anything at that point as far as I'm concerned the choice on their ballot is between unconditional surrender or total annihilation.
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What other negotiation games have you played? If you've played some, how much backstabbing is involved when you play?
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JamesR87 wrote:
We play with a regular group of 5 (So that should answer the questions about Germany/Italy in our stalemate game, also Russia bypassed me and went into northern germany to circle around me but met resistance and by that time I had enough forces to hold both the Russian and Hungarian lines) and I know these five incredibly well.


Ok, so there's your first problem. Without playing on a variant map, it's seven players exactly or a waste of your time. There is a certain degree of balancing that having all seven playerss in the game does. For example, Germany and England usually put pressure on Russia's northern borders so that he can't just bulldoze Austria. Meanwhile, Italy puts pressure on Turkey's southern borders (or at least ought to) so that Turkey can't do the same. Britain and France are a powerful ally, but either can defect in a heartbeat if one of them can get Germany or Italy on board for an attack on a weak flank. Etc.

That said, you should know that Austria-Hungary is the absolute most challenging power to play - especially given the high likelihood of a Turkish-Russian alliance. The Balkans are, classically, just one giant blood-soaked killing field until one player manages to dominate that area, and the fact that you were able to strategically hold off those two for so long is brilliant, really. It means you were playing the tactical game right.

Unfortunately, because you didn't really play a real game of this, you missed out on seeing the balancing factor I noted: a German or British player crawling into Russia's northern door (or an Italian putting sea pressure on Turkey from the south.) Things would have balanced out and it would have come down to a game of negotiation - getting either Russia or Turkey to defect and stab the other would have been the preferable path.

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Since we know each other as well as we do the diplomacy phases can normally be boiled down to just a minute or two each given our predisposition to particular tactics and allies.


This is a problem with your play group, NOT with the game. I play with a regular game group who I have known for years and years, (indeed, Dip was my gateway game, and my best friend broke my backstab virginity by breaking an agreement with me on the very first turn of my very first game.) You are basically saying that the game fell flat because no one was willing to break out of the typical metagame groupthink that dominates your other gaming experiences. Well, ok. But that's not the game's fault. And frankly it sounds to me like your metagame has gotten a little stale, and what your group could USE is a little backstabbing.

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I did make the remark that maybe this would be a vastly better experience with strangers but with friends it seems flawed.


Not true at all. Indeed, I would say playing with friends makes it even better for all the reasons you are listing as excuses. If I know my friend Mike well enough to know his predilection for conservative and defensive play, I might tactically arrange my troops in such a way as to either force him to ally with me, or force another player to ally with me against him. Knowing me, he might predict that I might try this, and so might try a double-feint - pretend to ally with me, playing by his old playbook, when really he is setting me up for a backstab. Feint within feint within feint. See, I think you came to the game expecting to play the board and the pieces. But that's not what you play in Dip. In Dip, you play the other players.


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I know which of my friends will break a pact at the first sign of trouble and I know which will defend a pact to his own death at the hands of a would-be ally.


Again I am baffled. Knowing this, why didn't you use it to your advantage? If I know Bob and Bill were going to try to form a marriage alliance (till death do us part) I would have gotten all the other players in the game to rally together against them until they were eliminated or had backstabbed each other. THAT'S what Diplomacy is about.

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I didn't record the precise number of turns but we played about two hours before thinking we'd have an identical experience playing something like Risk except that at least then we got to throw some dice to add some dynamism to the events of conquest game.


I get that you like dynamism. I adore dice too. But honestly Diplomacy is SO much more dynamic that Risk because the dynamism stems from the unpredictability of the other players with all their whims, egos, and unpredictabilities. If I am rolling 2D6, there is a predictable curve of rolls that I can base my decisions on. How is that dynamic? Comparatively, if I know Bill has a grudge against me from the last game, but Bob is still raw from two weeks ago, and meanwhile, Sarah is totally new to the game (and wonderfully malleable to suggestions) and Rick and Steve are over on the other side of the map tearing each other's throats out... the game state is HIGHLY volatile. There is this butterfly effect with every order revealed. If Jim had moved into Belgium instead of Holland than England might have decided to ally with Germany instead of France. If only Italy had not botched that order and taken Greece like he said - now Turkey gets another build and is going to be heading at Sevastopol full stop now and nobody can stop him... unless we all coordinate our orders this turn... etc. How is that not dynamic?!

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I guess we didn't really get into the hand-slamming-on-map attitude expected ... No, required ... to make this game as much fun as everyone thinks it is


Uh, what? If you did that in one of my games and messed up the pieces, everyone would tell you to knock it the hell off. This isn't an RPG. It's one of the most serious and psychologically intense gaming experiences you can have.

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I might recommend another play with these guidelines in place but I think I'll struggle to convince them to go again.


I like this positive attitude. Next time get seven or play with the South America map (available as a free download in the files section.) And get ready to break the comfortable patterns of everyone's playstyle, or you really will sit there twiddling your thumbs.

edits: typos and phrasing clarification.
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MScrivner wrote:

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I guess we didn't really get into the hand-slamming-on-map attitude expected ... No, required ... to make this game as much fun as everyone thinks it is


Uh, what? If you did that in one of my games and messed up the pieces, everyone would tell you to knock it the hell off. This isn't an RPG. It's one of the most serious and psychologically intense gaming experiences you can have.


It wasn't intended literally rather I was playing to the image of the frustrated General overlooking a map in his war room. I'm suggesting we weren't in the right militant frame of mind when we played, not that we didn't actually knock enough components off the table
 
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lindelos wrote:
For myself and The Guild of Losers, Diplomacy is the game by which we measure our skills as human beings and how we interact with each other (politics) - I'm not saying this is the game for everyone to measure something as subjective as the nature of humanity, but we find it a wonderful benchmark; and that benchmark does not necessarily attribute the 'best human' with the winner. I've found, amongst the myriad of gamers that I've played against, and again, this is my personal experience - anecdotal at best - that Dip players are some of the very best people I've ever had the chance to game against/with or meet.


QFT. Boldface mine (for emphasis)
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JamesR87 wrote:
Can someone explain to me what we did wrong?


Everything. The game isn't for everybody; you should probably play something else.
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Sphere wrote:
JamesR87 wrote:
Can someone explain to me what we did wrong?


Everything. The game isn't for everybody; you should probably play something else.

I fear this is the best advice so far, although admittedly defeatest
 
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Don't play Diplomacy with 5 players! Or with any number other than 7 really. But 5 is especially bad because you have the maximum number of neutrals (with 3 or 4 players play 2 countries each). 2 players is even worse of course.

As for other factors, they could all be contingent on having 5 players, which means there is little incentive for some players to tallk to other players and makes local stalemates more likely as there are fewer neighbours to break the dealock etc. etc
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JamesR87 wrote:
there's no depth to this game.


I spit coffee all over my cat when I read this line. (don't worry, she's clean now)

Truth: you are wonderfully, terribly wrong

Solutions: play Diplomacy with some veterans (online would be good) OR never play Diplomacy again

*shrug* no hard feelings either way, dude
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JamesR87 wrote:
Sphere wrote:
JamesR87 wrote:
Can someone explain to me what we did wrong?


Everything. The game isn't for everybody; you should probably play something else.

I fear this is the best advice so far, although admittedly defeatest


Don't give up yet! Your profile says you love BSG for the bluffing and the tension. Play Dip with 7 and you'll experience a whole new level of tension. (Or with 5, have a go at the South America map, lots of people seem to like it, I've not played it yet).

I know it is difficult to find 7 dedicated players, that's why you can find stuff online to help Dip players in the UK.
like http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/ukf2fdip/
and http://www.dsct.co.uk

Shameless plugs both. whistle

I'm flying off to Edinburgh later this month to play Dip (Can't say I would do that for any other game) and am staying at the house of the guy who I stabbed and betrayed in the last game we played, so what everyone's saying in this thread about making good friends and finding out about yourself and others playing this game rings so true with me.


My Name is Dave, and I'm a Diplomacy addict.
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