Diplomacy Academy 6: Improve your Tactics

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Re: Diplomacy Academy 6: Improve your Tactics

Postby DQ » 19 Feb 2018, 19:17

Jack007 wrote:Really, I don't know what you mean. I don't know what "mechanics" is, I don't agree with you definition of tactics, and neither with your description of strategy. If the terms are not clear, what is the sense of saying: improve your mechanics? That's like saying to a depressive man: improve your self-esteem. That's for nothing, even counterproductive. So please explain first your terminology, then tell me HOW to improve, on a practical base.


Ok, sure.

"Mechanics" are the rules of how the pieces can be ordered to move. Pure understanding of things like "you cannot cut support for an attack on yourself" and how convoys work, etc. Fundamentals of the game.

"Tactics" are how to get to an optimal set of orders in any given conflict. Good tactics mean choosing the best set of orders to counter your opponent in a specific situation, which depends on your analysis of how the other player is going to act.

"Strategy" is the ability to plan for the growth of your position from its current state towards an optimal result, ideally 18 centers, but "better than it currently is" in any case. You predict how the rest of the board is going to develop, and adjust your strategy accordingly.

"Apprehending the butterfly effect" is about understanding how seemingly minor actions have large ripple effects on the board.

Does that help?
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Re: Diplomacy Academy 6: Improve your Tactics

Postby Pootleflump » 19 Feb 2018, 23:26

The psychiatrist in me says that maybe mechanics refers to the bit of your brain that processes visuospatial patterns and order. Some people are just naturally better at it than others. They see and understand intuitively how boats and tanks move across the board.

I'm shit at that bit. I've met players who are genius at it. Complex movesets make my brain hurt. Other people love the visuospatial jigsaw puzzle and have a talent for it.

Maybe gunboat will make me a bit less shit (like my ability to reverse park). I doubt it will make me genius, no matter how much gunboat I play.

Tactics require mechanics plus emotional intelligence, flexibility and changing what you do based on what other people do. That stuff is processed by a different bit of the the brain.

Top players will be skilled at both.
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Re: Diplomacy Academy 6: Improve your Tactics

Postby nanooktheeskimo » 20 Feb 2018, 06:29

I want to chime in briefly to say that mechanics can absolutely be acquired as a skill. For a long time, I could see mechanics when they were brought up to me, but I struggled to come up with tactics and strategies on my own. Over time, I've gotten much better at not just being able to see when someone else has a good idea, but to be able to visualize moves ahead of time and see what are good moves. I'm still not great at it, and my tactics/mechanics pale in comparison to the better FtF and online players, but I can give a good showing in a gunboat game now whereas two years ago, I was lucky to. Playing live games here and then playing some FtF last year helped that a lot, actually, as it forces you to process things much quicker and make snap judgments, which in turn forces you to rely on instinct rather than sitting in front of the board for an hour gaming out possible moves.

So to add to the gunboat suggestion for improving, I would say that FtF and live games are the best way to improve mechanics once you have a basic grasp on how things work, because they force you to take what you know and turn it from something you can apply with conscious thought into something you apply by instinct. I wouldn't recommend that as a starting point, but for players that have moved past the sort of introductory "Ok this is how pieces move and interact with each other, these are some basic strategies" level, it can be very useful at helping you take the step up from intermediate or average to decent or good (or great, if you're got a skill for it!). Obviously not everyone has those opportunities, but if you do you should take advantage of them.
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Re: Diplomacy Academy 6: Improve your Tactics

Postby Pootleflump » 20 Feb 2018, 14:54

I think I'd be even worse at F2F than I'm going to be at Gunboat, lol. However if any of the esteemed UK Collaborative are prepared to put up with my Scottish arse newbie-ness and show me the ropes, I'd be interested in giving it a go.

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Re: Diplomacy Academy 6: Improve your Tactics

Postby nanooktheeskimo » 20 Feb 2018, 15:00

Good talkers with middling grasp of tactics/strategy can do just fine at FtF, actually! You do need some understanding of how the pieces move, but you don't have to be a tactical wiz by any means if you're convincing. I'd recommend getting a live game or two in here on the site just to give you a little hint of what it's like, then getting out to a FtF game if you've got the chance. I know JamesTurner9000 used to be involved in a game in London fairly regularly, I'm not sure if he still is or not, but that's probably a decent place to start. There's also a group of playdippers (including Big Gun and GPD and I forget who else) that made it out to WDC this past year and played a couple games of Dip at a smaller convention in the Fall, but I'm not sure if they're doing a semi-regular thing or if it was more of a one-off event.
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Re: Diplomacy Academy 6: Improve your Tactics

Postby mhsmith0 » 25 Mar 2018, 01:40

I'd actually revise the suggest here to say that if you REALLY want to improve your tactics, you should play some 2 player challenge games (particularly France vs Austria and Germany vs Italy). Both of those setups will FORCE you to pay attention to stalemate lines, key centers, and thinking multiple moves ahead. The specifics of these setups vary from what you'll see in a lot of standard diplomacy games, obviously, but there's a lot of relevance to particular tactical situations, particularly

1) Figuring out what is the right way to attack or defend a key space
2) Figuring out how to set up or prevent the setup of a stalemate line (PARTICULARLY important for lategame play).

I'd actually say the stalemate stuff is super fundamental to the 2pc games...

France vs Austria in large part boils down to whether France [slower to grow but more flexible in unit construction and projection of power] can put the right units in the right places to setup the Versailles stalemate line, which often includes forcing Austria back to the stalemate position since in general Austria will puncture the line SOMEWHERE in the first couple of years of play; and of course Austria needs to stay out in front of France because Austria can't spam fleet growth, and Austrian fleets are awkward to push forward, so there's something of a race to see if Austria can get to 18 before he loses control of Germany and/or Tunis and/or STP.

Similarly, Germany vs Italy in large part boils down to whether Italy can force through the Juggernaut line. MAO in particular is utterly vital, and Italy pretty much MUST force through it before Germany can set up an impenetrable wall... and of course Italy must do so without allowing Germany to ram through Italy's positions elsewhere on the game board. Italy also has the early game option of setting up some coin flip scenarios where winning puts him in good position while losing borderline loses the game outright... so there's defintiely some potential value in trying to predict what your opponent is going to do before he can do it, and respond accordingly.
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Re: Diplomacy Academy 6: Improve your Tactics

Postby DQ » 25 Mar 2018, 03:11

mhsmith0 wrote:I'd actually revise the suggest here to say that if you REALLY want to improve your tactics, you should play some 2 player challenge games (particularly France vs Austria and Germany vs Italy). Both of those setups will FORCE you to pay attention to stalemate lines, key centers, and thinking multiple moves ahead. The specifics of these setups vary from what you'll see in a lot of standard diplomacy games, obviously, but there's a lot of relevance to particular tactical situations, particularly


1v1 challenges are new-ish, and honestly I haven't given them much thought in terms of how they could help learning. But now I will, thank you! Great suggestion! Could you please post that on the youtube video, maybe with a link to where they could sign up for such games here at PlayDip?
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Re: Diplomacy Academy 6: Improve your Tactics

Postby mhsmith0 » 10 Apr 2018, 01:52

So apparently I don’t have youtube account access, so I can’t post something, but feel free to copy/paste the following:

Gunboat will do a decent job of teaching you tactics, but what it REALLY emphasizes isn’t tactics so much as reading the board. A good gunboat player will see peoples’ move sets and have a pretty good idea of who intends to ally or attack who, what kind of board states are ripe for a good stab, and so on and so forth.

That’s certainly useful in and of its own right, but if you REALLY want to get down to brass tacks and truly focus on the specifics of tactics, you should be spending time playing some 1v1 games (France vs Austria and Italy vs Germany primarily). Both have a fair degree of popularity on webdiplomacy (where you can create a new game or search for a new game for “Classic – France vs Austria” or “Classic – Germany vs Italy”) and playdiplomacy (where you can do the same, but selecting “2player challenge” with Austria attacking France or Germany attacking Italy).

These games (which involve just the two given powers, where all other supply centers are unoccupied neutrals) focus greatly on tactics, both in terms of how to effectively attack and defend in general, and in terms of how to effectively establish or penetrate key stalemate lines.

France vs Austria hinges on the Versailles / Main Stalemate Line. Austria is the faster growing power, while France has more flexibility and can run the board if Austria cannot penetrate the stalemate lines fast enough or effectively enough. Want to understand why Munich is the single most important center on the board in most endgame states? Try to take it when your opponent has lined up enough bodies to hold it indefinitely. Want to understand why southern powers tend not to put too much time and energy into conquering St Petersburg? Try taking it as Austria, lining up armies in Livonia and Moscow, and watching as France kicks you out anyway (or try doing that to Austria when you are France). Want to understand why Tunis is so critical a conquest for French and English solo efforts? Try to take it when Austria has set up navies in Ionian Sea and Tyrhennian Sea, as well as armies in Italy to prevent you from sliding fleets that way.

Germany vs Italy is similar, except this one focuses far more on the so-called Juggernaut line. Want to figure out how to take the next step as an Austria that’s hit six units and needs to grow north against Russia? Try using Italy to break through Germany’s armies above the Balkans. Want to figure out how to stick the dagger into Austria when you’re Russia? Try using German armies to break through the Balkans. Want to know why MAO is such a critical space for Italian or (sometimes) Turkish solo efforts? Try figuring out how in the world you can make your 18 after Germany has put a couple fleets in the area and only has to backfill English centers to hit his 18.

Both of these setups will force you to think through what units can be put into critical centers when, what centers can be taken later vs what centers must be taken as fast as possible, etc. If you’re a power at 13 or so centers, or you’re working an alliance to fight against such a power, learning what spaces are critical to attack or defend, and what spaces can be taken later, can be absolutely vital to prevent or secure a solo.

All of these skills will be honed by 1v1; you simply can’t win without them, and developing these skills will pay off handsomely as you try and become better at understanding how to win key tactical battles and how to even identify what tactical battles are key in the first place.
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