Which country has the strongest starting position?

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Which country has the strongest starting position?

Postby citylights » 21 Jan 2020, 04:26

Hello all! Just an interesting thought came to mind, and that is the question of what you think is the strongest starting position of any of the countries--frankly, I'm not sure. Everyone knows, of course, that the seven powers in Diplomacy don't exactly begin the game in equally good positions; I've heard countless times Italy and Austria begin the game slightly worse in position, and I feel this is likely true, at least about Austria. Often, I've been told that Turkey has the strongest starting position of all countries, being in a great defensive location, and, in addition to that, I've been told Russia is the winner here, too.

Just out of pure curiosity, I wonder, in your opinion, which country *does* begin the game a bit more advantageous and stronger than other countries? Any person insight on the matter?
Last edited by citylights on 26 Jan 2020, 22:16, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Which country has the strongest starting position?

Postby UM85 » 21 Jan 2020, 05:37

This has been debated many a time over the years. I think it important that "strongest" be defined. If it means having the most SC's to start the game, then Russia. If it means the strongest defensive positions to start out with, then many players would say England or Turkey. If it means the best chance to get to 5 SC's after 1901 while not being surrounded on all sides, then probably France. If it means greatest chance to get to 5 SC's after 1901 and sitting on the stalemate line giving greater hope for the future, then Germany is likely cited.

For my money, give me Germany. Depending on how the diplomacy goes, you have a reasonable chance to start strong and be across the stalemate line in the later stages. Or you die quickly and you don't need to be too bothered about it later.
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Re: Which country has the strongest starting position?

Postby NoPunIn10Did » 21 Jan 2020, 14:23

By what measure are you considering strength?

If you look at long-term overall performance results, it’s generally either France or Russia.
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Re: Which country has the strongest starting position?

Postby Strategus » 21 Jan 2020, 14:54

It would be interesting to see analysis of performance per country by ranking. For instance, does Germany do better with better players?
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Re: Which country has the strongest starting position?

Postby NoPunIn10Did » 21 Jan 2020, 19:15

Strategus wrote:It would be interesting to see analysis of performance per country by ranking. For instance, does Germany do better with better players?


This was an interesting question, so between some SQL magic and so forth, I have a graph that can show the trends by country. I used Standard Game ratings in this instance and excluded (1) surrendered positions and (2) players whose ratings were equal to 1000, which tends to designate a brand new player to the site. I also limited the games to only the last rated 2-3k games that fit these stipulations.

Image

To be clear, what's shown above is a visualization of the calculated regression curves, not the actual results (which were chaotic and all over the map). Linear regression is, in general, not a great way of analyzing data like this, but it can identify rough overall trends. Likewise, these don't show the distribution of persons with those ratings for each country.

To your question, as it turns out, Germany (on average) appears to be the country whose performance is least impacted by player rating.
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Re: Which country has the strongest starting position?

Postby jay65536 » 21 Jan 2020, 21:27

citylights wrote:Hello all! Everyone knows, of course, that the seven powers in Diplomacy don't exactly begin the game in equally good positions; I've heard countless times Italy and Austria begin the game terribly, and I must agree. Often, I've been told that Turkey has the strongest starting position of all countries, and, in addition to that, I've been told Russia is the winner here, too.

Just out of pure curiosity, I wonder, in your opinion, which country *does* begin the game a bit more advantageous and stronger than other countries? Any person insight on the matter?


In my experience:

-No country begins with the game with an inherent advantage. The countries' positions are certainly different, but none is better.
-Because different players have different styles, and different styles are differently suited to different countries, players will do better with some countries than others. I think this accounts for a lot of the claimed superiority of certain countries. I think this can be true unevenly, thereby accounting for the unevenness of NP's stats, but I don't think that implies positional superiority. (Correlation is not causation.)
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Re: Which country has the strongest starting position?

Postby ColonelApricot » 21 Jan 2020, 21:46

France and Austria are most affected by player rating.
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Re: Which country has the strongest starting position?

Postby Pope Pius IX » 21 Jan 2020, 22:01

I would say that for starting positions, I'd favour France.

Unless by prior arrangement, other players entering one nation's territories is always a bad sign. France can see Burgundy occupied in Spring 01, an indication of a hostile Germany. This is behind England and Russia (no possibility of sovereign territory falling in Spring 01), equal with Turkey (Armenia going Russian) and Germany (Silesia or Prussia going Russian), and ahead of Italy (Piedmont going French, Venice going Austrian) and Austria (Trieste going Italian, Bohemia or Tyrolia going German, Galicia going Russian.)

Additionally, neutral supply centres nearby play a part. Very few would contest that after the first turn, Bulgaria can be anything other than Turkish, for instance. I am aware this is subjective, but here we go. Russia can usually guarantee one out of Sweden and Romania, and often will get both. Turkey can count on getting Bulgaria; Italy can be sure of Tunis. Austria can secure at least one and usually both of Serbia and Greece. England will usually get Norway; they may also make a play for Belgium. Germany will usually secure Holland and Denmark. But France can gain Portugal and Spain as a minimum, by at least two different methods, and with the right combination of moves, shrewd judgement and negotiation may be able to secure Belgium as well.

Those two points together help form my view, but a third factor also plays a part, which is the attentions of the other powers. One reason the Balkans is such a bloodbath is that three or four powers are looking to get involved. However, Spain and Portugal are so far from any other power that there's no real reason for France to encounter conflict when moving on them. This means that they can avoid any real ties to other powers until later, giving the player a bit more flexibility.

Just my view, of course, but that's what the article wanted.

Incidentally, I really thought the graph was very interesting, although I'm not sure what conclusions I will necessarily draw from it.
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Re: Which country has the strongest starting position?

Postby NoPunIn10Did » 21 Jan 2020, 22:03

jay65536 wrote:In my experience:

-No country begins with the game with an inherent advantage. The countries' positions are certainly different, but none is better.
-Because different players have different styles, and different styles are differently suited to different countries, players will do better with some countries than others. I think this accounts for a lot of the claimed superiority of certain countries. I think this can be true unevenly, thereby accounting for the unevenness of NP's stats, but I don't think that implies positional superiority. (Correlation is not causation.)


I'd say that some positions do begin with inherent advantages and disadvantages, but the social nature of this game is such that people account for that in their negotiations (especially as they gain experience with the game over time). Italy and Austria are probably the clearest example of this, as no other pair of countries has to begin the game with a neighbor immediately adjacent.

The geography can and does create advantages and disadvantages, but it's not the only element at play. Likewise, overall statistical trends over a wide playerbase do also show that, on average, some countries do better than the others. This can show an imbalance, but an average is just a midpoint; it's never the final word on the subject.

The point being that we shouldn't take the notion of Diplomacy's balance as a matter of faith, but we also shouldn't over-value the trends when so many other factors can impact an individual game.
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Re: Which country has the strongest starting position?

Postby NoPunIn10Did » 21 Jan 2020, 22:10

ColonelApricot wrote:France and Austria are most affected by player rating.

Austria is in particular interesting, as it seems to be one of those most affected by player rating while it also has a lower intercept than the others.

What I'm most surprised by in this data is how Russia has landed in the middle along the whole course. My earlier data samples tended to show a much higher rate of success for Russia. The big difference between this dataset and that one is that I excluded surrenders here; it may be that Russia, on the whole, benefits more often when somebody else surrenders. Or that Russia surrenders the least often. I honestly don't know.
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