Embracing the Elephant

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Re: Embracing the Elephant

Postby Pete the Great » 18 Apr 2020, 01:35

JohnnyEvers wrote:This is true, but it's also the greatest weakness of the game, especially in an online forum.
You need to make alliances to succeed, but those alliances are unstable because eventually somebody is going to stab somebody.
It's difficult to make alliances in such an atmosphere. It's even harder to keep them.
It's also created a mindset in which players stab each other for no reason.
It's difficult for me to negotiate with another player knowing that it's all bullshit. At some level, only a borderline psychopath can do that.
So what this does is it drives the other types of player out of the game. I've played games in which I had a clear path to either a draw or a shared victory with a fellow player and there's a stab in which both of us wind up losing. Being more of an alliance builder, there really is no point to me continuing to play the game.


Not everyone will stab. There are players out there who will form an alliance and stick it through to the end. Typically these games end in 2, 3 or 4 way draws depending on the opposing alliance structure (if any) and positions as they relate to stalemate lines. Sometimes the alliance lasts until just before the end and one of the two will go for the solo.

Personally I try to form triples as I find them more stable. So long as you maintain good relationships with both partners, you are more likely to be tipped off if one of the partners is about to go rogue. Also each of the partners suddenly needs to obtain buy in from one of the others as an unsuccessful stab without agreement then means they are facing two players.
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Re: Embracing the Elephant

Postby Mr.E » 18 Apr 2020, 02:07

A shared victory... a draw, then.

I do get what you mean, that stabs for the sake of stabbing tend to be pretty prevalent. And that's not the way to win. But, frankly, stabbing is part of the game, and the game is about trying to solo, not to draw... for me.

I recently got a fantastic bit of advice, the most thoughtful I've heard for a looooooooooong time, for playing Dip, from two players that I know are great, and it made me think a lot about how I play the game. The only thing that I question about the advice is that it was in the context of FTF tournament play, which is very different to online, non-tournament play... and also very different to playing with a group of mates.

The pointless stab is such a blunt object that it isn't going to be much use. Yeh you might do some significant damage to the recipient but, unless it moves you into a far stronger position (either establishing you as a highly likely survivor or all-but guaranteeing a victory, depending on when you launch it), don't do it. The stab shouldn't be about nicking the odd SC or two, which likely isn't going to do more than damage your opponent; it should be about what it does for your position in the game. If I stab now, what will it do for me?

But each to their own. Nobody has to play the game to my expectations. It's up to me to work at getting the best result I can no matter who I'm playing against, and no matter what philosophy they bring to the game. And, if I can't do that, I need to get better at it.

For me, though, the alliance to the end of game is a cop out. If you have a shot at a solo, you should be taking it. The objective isn't the get a 2-way (which in a DIAS game, at least, is a major cop out!) or any other draw. That's a secondary objective when you realise you're probably not going to get that solo. That's not to say that I won't go with a game-ending alliance if I think that's the best result I can get, no matter how many players it's with. It's about balancing the possibilities.
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Re: Embracing the Elephant

Postby Pete the Great » 18 Apr 2020, 16:52

Win or draw is an interesting topic and can sometimes become very divisive depending on which side of the fence you are on. Several observations since reentering the hobby last year:

1) Prior to the 1971 revision of the rule book winning was defined as "a majority of pieces on the board" (The Gamer's Guide to Diplomacy, 2nd edition - March 1979). I still have my paper copy. So when Diplomacy was introduced in 1959 the definition of a solo was far different, as games were face to face and often set to a time limit of either real time or a game year.

2) I believe players in diplomacy go through stages.
A) Early on a solo is not a reality. New players need the stable alliance to act as a sounding board for tactics and strategy. Stabs for the sake of stabbing is not a winning strategy and I agree with your statement about that.

Mr. E wrote:The pointless stab is such a blunt object that it isn't going to be much use. Yeh you might do some significant damage to the recipient but, unless it moves you into a far stronger position (either establishing you as a highly likely survivor or all-but guaranteeing a victory, depending on when you launch it), don't do it. The stab shouldn't be about nicking the odd SC or two, which likely isn't going to do more than damage your opponent; it should be about what it does for your position in the game. If I stab now, what will it do for me?


I pulled the results from the SuperPastis 2020 tournament and looked at results of round 1 by rating. Of the 11 players rated less then 1300 6 were eliminated (3 England, 2 Austria, 1 Turkey) and none of them scored top board, 11 players rated between 1301 and 1700, 2 were eliminated (1 Austria, 1 Russia) and none of the 5 players above 1700 were eliminated. Note: I can not find a rating for one of the players so their results are not included (they survived as Turkey).
B) As players progress the thought of a solo moves from a fantasy toward reality as the players gain experience. As the rust wears off my game, I am starting to gain a better sense as to when I am going to be stabbed, and have started to exam how I might solo.

3) Players play for different reasons and as such define winning in different ways. I do not begrudge the player who defines winning as a solo, I only ask they do the same with my current view of doing well as my definition of a win for me.

4) Some alliances are more stab resistant. A fleet based Italy or Turkey allied with an army based Russia or Austria, or England allied with a land based power. These alliance structures make it harder to stab in coastal areas for the land based power and inland for the sea based power. Soloing then becomes a race for centers with a stab only coming into play in the late game for a final center or two.
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Re: Embracing the Elephant

Postby Mr.E » 19 Apr 2020, 14:32

I have no problem with anyone feeling that a well-earned draw is as good as a win. Absolutely. Anything that has made you work hard, if you've achieved the objective you've set yourself as the best one you can get from the game, it feels good.

But there's no denying that the objective of Diplomacy is to achieve a solo. That is a win. Find me a definition from the rules of an alternative definition of winning and I'll take it.

Anything else, though, is based on a personal definition. This, as I say, may be valid but it's subjective. Maybe if I was left in a position where I did well to survive until 1910... but was then eliminated I might feel that, in the circumstances, I did as much as I could've. Can I claim that as a "win"? Subjectively, perhaps... although that's stretching any definition to breaking point. But it's no different to saying that a draw is a win because, subjectively, it felt like it was.

Pete the Great wrote:Prior to the 1971 revision of the rule book winning was defined as "a majority of pieces on the board" (The Gamer's Guide to Diplomacy, 2nd edition - March 1979). I still have my paper copy. So when Diplomacy was introduced in 1959 the definition of a solo was far different, as games were face to face and often set to a time limit of either real time or a game year.

I'm not sure what you're driving at. If I have 12 pieces on the board, and I surreptitiously remove all but 11 or everyone else's pieces, is this a win? Or was the revision in 1971 to try to clarify the meaning of this.

In 1958, Realpolitik (the name Calhamer chose for Diplomacy before it changed) had the following victory conditions:
The game is won by the sole remaining power. If the game must be adjourned before before one power achieves this goal, a power having the majority (13/34) of the possible armies and fleets is the winner.
I'm not sure how 13 out of 34 is a majority and can only think this is a typo.

In 1959, Diplomacy proper was released. Here the rules state:
If one player gains the majority of pieces on the board, he is the winner.


As you say, this was re-defined in 1971:
As soon as one Great Power controls 18 Supply Centres... the player representing that Great Power is the winner.


The latest version of the rules was published in 2000, although 2008 pretends to be a new version. The wording is very similar.

Is there a difference between having the majority of pieces on the board and controlling 18 SCs? Potentially. It is possible that a player may have 17 units on the board and, between a Retreats and Adjustments phase, other players combined may have 16. Which is possibly why the definition of a win is clarified in 1971 to be control of Europe through SCs not units. The idea has been to control Europe.

In his article A Dozen Years of "Diplomacy" Calhamer states that:
Where there are ambiguities in the rules at present I feel no hesitation in telling people what I intended the rule to be. ... But if there is, essentially, an error in the rules - if they really say something I didn’t intend - I prefer to go along with the written wording.
This was published in 1966, before the 1971 redefinition of victory criteria. It shows that Calhamer knew there were problems in the rules, that they occasionally didn't say what he intended them to be.

Whether the pre-71 version of victory criteria was what Calhamer intended or not, it doesn't change the fact that there were still three outcomes (four if you include Realpolitik rules) - you win, you draw, or you lose. There have been other outcomes over the years but these are probably more to do with the scoring of games and tournaments than anything else.

    - There is the idea of a strong second, where a player can lose the game and still get credit for having the highest number of SCs behind the winner (see Objectives Other Than Winning).
    - Then there is the idea of topping the board, where a game ends in a draw and points are awarded on the number of SCs held (or positions based on the number of SCs held) - which has nothing to do with the outcome of a game of Diplomacy.
    - There are some players who like the "rule" that if an alliance jointly achieves a certain number of SCs, the alliance wins the game, being able to declare a draw. I actually read a tournament scoring system which had a similar idea.

Any of these things might be fine in context but they aren't based on the rules of Diplomacy. There should be a clear definition of what the objectives of Diplomacy are, in terms of success, and these are in the rules. Objectives, not subjectives. And, of course, if you enter a tournament, you play by the rules of the tournament, no matter how far those rules take you from the ideas behind the game. I would - and have - played in tournaments where the scoring system is a clear perversion of the outcomes of Diplomacy, because those are the rules of the tournament.

I cetainly don't begrudge anyone saying they've achieved whatever they want to say they've achieved. But I'm also going to compare that with what the obectives of the game say you've achieved. Occasionally I may not actually say what I think, but I'm obnoxious enough to say what I think often enough.
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Re: Embracing the Elephant

Postby Pete the Great » 19 Apr 2020, 15:44

Pete the Great wrote:Prior to the 1971 revision of the rule book winning was defined as "a majority of pieces on the board" (The Gamer's Guide to Diplomacy, 2nd edition - March 1979). I still have my paper copy. So when Diplomacy was introduced in 1959 the definition of a solo was far different, as games were face to face and often set to a time limit of either real time or a game year.


Mr. E wrote:I'm not sure what you're driving at. If I have 12 pieces on the board, and I surreptitiously remove all but 11 or everyone else's pieces, is this a win? Or was the revision in 1971 to try to clarify the meaning of this.


What I was driving at, was that prior to 1971 most games were played ftf where a set time limit or a specific year end would often be set. IE we get together at 7PM and we will play until 9PM, as everyone has to go to work in the morning. Or the group might say we will play until 1908. Hence the rule as original written allowed for a way to determine a winner in that setting. This is similar to the SuperPastis tournament format with a 1907 ending in the early rounds.

During the 60's the postal format came into being. This allowed games to avoid time constraints that would occur in ftf format, and likely had some bearing on the rules clarification. Thank you for the additional insight on the rules clarifications, how and why changes were made is interesting.
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Re: Embracing the Elephant

Postby Mr.E » 21 Apr 2020, 07:45

Ah, I get what you were saying. Missed that aspect of it completely first time round. I was trying to find links that weren't there :roll:
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Re: Embracing the Elephant

Postby DirtyHarry » 22 Apr 2020, 16:26

I recently got a fantastic bit of advice, the most thoughtful I've heard for a looooooooooong time, for playing Dip, from two players that I know are great, and it made me think a lot about how I play the game. The only thing that I question about the advice is that it was in the context of FTF tournament play, which is very different to online, non-tournament play... and also very different to playing with a group of mates.


So, what was the advice?
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Re: Embracing the Elephant

Postby Mr.E » 26 Apr 2020, 12:57

DirtyHarry wrote:
I recently got a fantastic bit of advice, the most thoughtful I've heard for a looooooooooong time, ...

So, what was the advice?

Keep two metres away fro--

Wait. I might have got that mixed up with something else...

Well, I'm thinking about where to focus on that advice and how best to write it up. It'll appear somewhere or other and I'll post when I've got around to it.
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