F2f vs. on-line play: tactical issues

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F2f vs. on-line play: tactical issues

Postby lsfinn » 21 Jul 2020, 06:09

Dear All -

By way of background, my previous Diplomacy experience is all f2f (and from many years ago, but that's a different matter). I'm now engaged in my first non-f2f, postal-style (e.g., 48h between moves, platform-mediated secure communication) online game. In the course of play I've come to note how differences between f2f and this "postal-style" play can affect tactics, diplomacy, and - to a lesser extent - strategy.

For example:
* f2f play is generally fast, with not much time for thinking; postal-style play with several days between orders provides more time for in-depth analysis, tactical planning, and - at least in principle - diplomacy/negotiation.
* In f2f play you generally know who is talking to who. You may not know what is said or agreed to, but you can keep your eyes open (and even, sometimes, your ears). Likewise, in f2f play you have access to body language and various "tells", which can inform your own negotiating and decision making, and which you can use to your own advantage for the purpose of unsettling or deceiving an opponent. In on-line play knowing who is talking, or not talking, to who is much more difficult to determine. While you don't have visual tells, if you have enough communication with a power you have access to writing tics. While these cues are not necessarily as evocative as body language and visual tells, they do provide something. Mind-gaming, on the other hand, is next to impossible.
* In online play there are tactical plays that are just not possible in f2f play. For example, in postal-style play a power can appear to disappear. Are they really gone and automatic hold orders being processed? Or, are they playing possum? In f2f play a power that disappears is physically not present, which is kind of hard to be mistaken about.

This is just a short list of my immediate impressions.

Some things surprise me. For example, I recognize that powers in postal-style play are not devoting their full attention to any given game, and so will not be spending all day and night writing to other powers. Still, I would think that postal-style play would involve much more communication between powers than f2f play. My very limited experience is communication is very direct and telegraphic, without any "foreplay" or other trust-building efforts: e.g., a first communication might be along the lines of "Gimme Serbia and I promise to help you later with Vienna", "Want to kill France?"

For those of you who have significant experience in both worlds - f2f and postal-style play - what are the difference you have observed between the two styles of play? How do those difference affect how you approach tactics, negotiation, and strategy in each?

I'm looking forward to a lively discussion and learning from everyone's insights and experience.
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Re: F2f vs. on-line play: tactical issues

Postby ruffdove » 22 Jul 2020, 23:58

I don't have significant experience in both worlds, but in my limited FtF experience I find that mis-orders and poorly thought out move combinations occur a LOT more often because players don't have days to think their moves over and consult the rulebook. Sometimes orders are written out (or revised) very hastily at the last minute and you see a lot more dumb mistakes than you do in online play. In my admittedly limited FtF experience, which featured a few players who were really neophytes, this had a significant impact on results.

Both FtF games I have played in ended in solos for an experienced player who had inexperienced players in key positions during their solo run. In one, Italy had a neophyte Austria (allowing him to grow fast early by first taking A under his wing and then stabbing her), and a neophyte France and England who (thanks in no small part to botched orders) allowed Italy to get over the stalemate line early and exploit that position (his final 18 included Liverpool). In the other game I soloed as France with neophytes playing England and Italy and an experienced German who did not handle pressure well and frequently scribbled out misorders.

Note: I realize I counted myself as "experienced" right there with only two FtF games. What I mean by experienced is someone who is very conversant with the rules. I probably had fewer FtF games played than the "neophytes" in my games, but I had a lot more on-line games played and I am sure I'd read more strategy articles and such.
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Re: F2f vs. on-line play: tactical issues

Postby DirtyHarry » 11 Aug 2020, 00:40

OP - I think you'll experience much more "foreplay" :-) in games that are a bit higher level, for instance, games organized by the Classicist group. I highly recommend looking into the Classicists for high communication and high reliability games. Also, the PDL - PlayDip DIplomacy League is always looking for subs and new players and because the games are competitive and results kept for the league, I think you'll find a higher level of communication there also.



I hope you'll explore these groups, because thing beats what follows good foreplay! :D
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Re: F2f vs. on-line play: tactical issues

Postby hsiale » 11 Aug 2020, 15:29

DirtyHarry wrote:I highly recommend looking into the Classicists for high communication and high reliability games.

Unfortunately the Classicists games recruitment forum is nearly dead currently. This year there have been three threads attempting to organize a game, and even with that small amount one of those didn't find enough players.
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Re: F2f vs. on-line play: tactical issues

Postby jay65536 » 12 Aug 2020, 21:08

lsfinn wrote:For those of you who have significant experience in both worlds - f2f and postal-style play - what are the difference you have observed between the two styles of play? How do those difference affect how you approach tactics, negotiation, and strategy in each?

I have "significant" experience in both, I think. (Mainly my experience is in FtF, but I played the 2017 ODC on this site and a few other games.)

A lot of the difference in style of play comes down to the players, so not all of the differences can be attributed to the format. Nevertheless, here are some differences I've noticed about the two different "scenes":

-While misorders do happen more in FtF because you have to physically write your moves (and because of the time crunch), I think the overemphasis on the poor quality of play by new FtF players is misplaced. I am fully convinced (and have been for a long time) that the highest-quality play you can find anywhere in the world is in a game between top FtF players. The best FtF players are the best players. I'm sure the online community will find this very counter-intuitive, but in "serious" games, the tactics are better in FtF than online. I think it must be because you don't get to the point of being a veteran FtF player without serious dedication to the game, so much so that analyzing a board in mere minutes is just part of the game for you.

-In my experience playing and observing online games, people really use the shield of anonymity. Top players (in my observation) play with the expectation that their lies will not follow them from game to game, and that each game is a clean slate in terms of credibility. This is not at all true for FtF; the best players achieve their results with all the other players knowing who they're up against. Also, the best FtF players are honest with their opponents more often than the best online players (though with some notable exceptions, both are often honest).

-As a result of this, in my experience in FtF play, I have encountered far more situations where people place a high level of trust in their allies and use that trust to play unconventionally and aggressively. Top online players stick to "standard" plays more often--and my experience shows they are correct to do so, because in an anonymous environment you really have much less of an idea whether a non-standard approach will pay off. You can't "play the players" as much as you can in FtF.

-In FtF, you are not allowed to negotiate during retreats or builds. This matters more than you might think if you've never played this way.
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