The 4 DeBruyn-mandments

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The 4 DeBruyn-mandments

Postby lazarus13 » 15 Jun 2020, 21:48

There is tons written about standard openings and long-term strategies for each power and map variant. But something that seems to be missing in the diplomacy articles I've found is explicit advice about how to shed poor novice habits and move along the path towards being an expert. This post aims to bridge that gap.

I recently got my rear end handed to me by adebruyn666 in a recent Versailles match (The Great Crucible, #175766). ADB was Germany / Spain and I was Poland / Sweden. I believe we developed a genuine rapport (although who can truly believe anything in diplomacy) and he shared with me general strategic advice. In addition to manipulating me like a puppet. With his permission I'm sharing excerpts and my reflections below.

adebruyn666's principles, in his own words, aka The 4 DeBruyn-mandments

1. DON'T LIE

I know it's weird, but I very rarely lie, unless it's a matter of life or death. The truth is so rare on the board that when you encounter it, it's a pleasant surprise. Building trust in Diplomacy is winning against the odds. There is a beauty in it. If I tell you I'm going to support you, I will; if I tell you won't backstab you, I won't. I'm an avid poker player, and what novice players don't realize is that bluffing in poker is overrated. Sure, once in a while, it's useful, but a solid player will beat a serial bluffer any day. Lying in Diplomacy is overrated as well.

2. START SMALL

Being allies means nothing. It's a game, not marriage. So, I make small proposals, nudges, suggestions. If I find we're on the same page, I take more risks. You don't go to a bar and ask a random girl to marry you. You start small. That's how lasting relationships start. And besides, we're all human beings. I've just agreed to a 4-way draw in another game where a 3-way draw would have been very easy to achieve, but I just liked the other player too much. :)

3. REEVALUATE CONSTANTLY

Your worst enemy one turn could become your only chance to survive the very next one. If you hold grudges, you're shooting yourself in the foot.

4. ACCEPT THE INEVITABLE

Sometimes, small decisions create a chain reaction that you can't do anything about. [adebruyn666 then explains this by sharing what led his neighbor France to become embittered and unwilling to work with him. However this in itself is a rather elaborate deception - he is manipulating me while we have a side conversation about strategy! - as adebruyn666 misrepresents some of what actually happened while leaving out other key details. See more on this below.]

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Now, you may be thinking to yourself, lazarus13 come on we've read much better than this. Brother Bored just posted something quite similar last month! Well what I have to add comes below. By playing a game with ADB I didn't just get to read abstract principles, I was able to see them in practice. Below are my observations of adebruyn666's playstyle that dovetails in many cases quite nicely with the above rules. I should note that this is his playstyle when he was placed next to me, a clear novice.

My observations of adebruyn666's principles in action:

1) Quick Decision-Making. While he is committed to rule #3 - reevaluate constantly - ADB makes QUICK assessments of other players. He sent out similarly phrased opening messages to his neighbors, in this game many of them used the phrase “quid pro quo” (note how this will help build alliances small as per rule #2). And based on the initial replies to these messages adebruyn666 must have mapped out his plans for the first couple of years, relying on rule #4 - accept the inevitable - to account for the fact that these initial plans will alienate and even eliminate some of the neighbors he is claiming to want to work with.

2) Evade Often. His messages are full of information that is almost always true (rule #1). But he leaves out SO MUCH and will even often present information as “possibly true” when he knows for sure that it is or isn’t. For example in our Versailles match he controlled Spain, but often wondered out loud to me about if Italy or Turkey controlled Spain. In order to be honest, he often simply ignores direct questions. But he gets away with it because he’s still sending tons of information and practical proposals, which leads me to:

3) Overcommunicate to Set the Tone. (I should note that this is a tactic ADB used in a game with mostly novices and would imagine that a top-ranked player is able to vary playstyle quite often.) Overcommunicating makes it MADDENING for a novice like me to play next to him. I received a barrage of information and strategic advice but couldn't trust it because adebruyn666 never told me enough be convinced I wasn't going to get attacked. I even made two tactical retreats when I was convinced a stab was coming which ADB explicitly mentioned were not mistakes, just poorly timed. Lastly, by being the player that was sending others advice, ADB was able to shift my focal point away from his true goals each turn.

To conclude, here is a final example that I think is so fitting of ADB's playstyle. In the previous message about rules, he left out a key detail about why France’s demise was inevitable. It was not due to miscommunication between France & Germany & Italy, but the fact that Germany controlled Spain! France’s unfortunate placement between Germany & Spain meant that before he typed a single word to France, adebruyn666 was going to attack France.

"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me." Playing a single match with adebruyn666 exploded my diplomacy head. I knew that I needed to stop entering games looking to make an ally for life. But now I've seen how it can be done. Thanks Arnauld for the lessons. I hope this long post is of help to other novices.

Yours in the struggle,

-Jeff aka Lazarus13
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Re: The 4 DeBruyn-mandments

Postby adebruyn666 » 15 Jun 2020, 22:07

Note to myself: only play anonymous games from now on... ;)
"Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul." --- General Douglas MacArthur.
"Diplomacy: destroying friendship since 1959." --- My favorite t-shirt

Star Ambassador, Platinum Classicist, and a f*ing son of a bitch (according to ungrateful friends I introduced to the game)
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Re: The 4 DeBruyn-mandments

Postby DirtyHarry » 19 Jun 2020, 00:17

Well, I like the first 4 things you highlighted, but I'm not sure that evading questions and over-communicating with irrelevant information will work against experienced players. I always notice when I ask a question and I don't get an answer. Most people don't like to lie, so if they don't answer a question, that can be very significant. If I think they got distracted by something else I wrote, then I'll ask again. But if the answer is important to me, I not going to simply forget the question wasn't answered because I receive a bunch of irrelevant information instead.

You mentioned BrotherBored - here is a link to an epic and amazing read about one of his games in the Online Diplomacy Championship for 2019. I think reading this will help even strong players with their communication approach and skills.

https://brotherbored.com/online-diploma ... roduction/
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