Academy: Key Skills for Dip - 1. Diplomacy

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Academy: Key Skills for Dip - 1. Diplomacy

Postby rick.leeds » 03 Sep 2011, 15:42

There are so many skills needed when playing Diplomacy, but I am going to concentrate upon the skills of "Diplomacy", "Tactics" and "General Tips". This article deals specifically with DIPLOMACY (that is, negotiating or talking).

DIPLOMACY
The first thing to remember seems obvious, but I am always amazed how many games I play and have seen where NO diplomacy is carried out! Do some people forget what the game is called and why it's called that!?! There was one game I looked at recently where one player said something along the lines of: "I don't usually send messages in Spring 1901..." This is a player I would love to play against, because that is the season when you set yourself up, and not just tactically.

So, first thing to remember is start talking. Every power has other powers that she MUST open negotiations with, those she NEEDS to open negotiations with and those she SHOULD open negotiations with. They are usually pretty obvious but I'm going to detail them below.
MUST
England - France and Germany. They're neighbours, she's going to sort out which she wants to start her opening alliance with, Belgium needs sorting out and there's the possibility of the Western Triple, too.
France - England, Germany (for the same reasons as stated above) and Italy, because Italy is her neighbour in the Med and Piedmont needs to be agreed over.
Germany - England, France (see England), Russia - the fact that Russia immediately borders Germany in the east means she needs to sort those spaces out, as well as the relationship over Sweden - and Austria. Austria is a strange one. Usually Germany and Austria will not go to war, as they are both central powers, but there is that space of Tyrolia to sort out.
Italy - France (see France above), Austria - that Tyrolia issue again as well as the fact that they share SC borders in Venice and Trieste - and Turkey. Italy and Turkey are pretty likely to be enemies later in the game but, initially, the issue is the Balkans and Turkey's relationship with Austria.
Austria - Italy (see above), Germany (see Germany above), Russia and Turkey. These latter two have a similar relationship with Austria as the one that exists between E/F/G. Austria needs to decide which of these two she is going to immediately ally with and the Balkans need sorting out.
Russia - Germany (see Germany above), Austria (see above) and Turkey. Apart from the fact that the Eastern Triple and the Balkans need sorting, as was explained above, there is also the issue of Black Sea. Oh, and don't forget Galicia.
Turkey - Italy (see Italy above) as well as Austria and Russia, as discussed above.

NEEDS
England - Italy and Russia. Italy's actions may affect England's dealings with France. Russia is going to be as important in Scandinavia as Germany is within a year. And England needs to try and prevent Russia joining any F/G alliance against her.
France - Austria, due to Italy being sandwiched between them, and Russia. Russia is often neglected by France - there's a lot of room between them. But if France is going after England, Russia will be as useful an ally as Germany. And then there's the issue of Germany in the mid-game.
Germany - Italy is almost a power she must talk to. The chances are one of Austria and Italy will want to be in Tyrolia. Italy is as dangerous there as Austria. But Italy - as with England - may well have an impact on Germany's relationship wit France.
Italy - England (see England above), Germany (see above) and Russia. Similarly to the I/G relationship is the I/R relationship. If both have similar goals in the early game they can work well together. But also this is a good relationship to have in the mid-game.
Austria - France (see France above).
Russia - England (see England above), France (see France above) and Italy (see Italy above).

SHOULD
These negotiations are generally about establishing relationships for the later part of the game.
England - Austria and Turkey. This doesn't have any immediate tactical ramifications but Turkey's relationship with Russia will have growing affects, as could Austria's with Italy, Germany and Russia.
France - Turkey as they could both be fighting over the Med later.
Germany - Turkey: interesting to know the T/R relationship as well as the T/A one.
Austria - England.
Turkey - England, France and Germany - all discussed above.

Not everyone will agree with these specific classifications but experienced players would tell you that you should open a discourse with all the powers. If nothing else, it establishes you as someone who wants to play the game, who will talk with everyone and it can be the springboard to other, more important communications early in the game.

The second thing to remember is keep talking. It is easy to drop the level of communication as the game progresses. There are perhaps two main reasons for doing so:
First, there doesn't seem much to say. This can be the reason why those powers you SHOULD be talking to, you ignore. Certainly, there may not be any real strategy to discuss and it is definitely more important to maintain a high level of communication with those powers you are immediately dealing with. But don't neglect communication, even if it's to send a message congratulating powers on success, swapping some tidbits of information or something more substantial. Keep communications open. Ideally one message a season.

Second, you are at war with a power. There are times when it appears that you and an enemy don't have anything to say. Certainly you won't necessarily be swapping tactical information. But there may come a time when you need to mend the differences in order to stop a common threat. Again, keeping communications open to some extent is important even if it's a throw away comment about something happening elsewhere in the game, something happening in real life... anything.

The third thing to remember is to include appropriate details. Again, possibly too aspects to this. When you're communicating with an ally (and remember, your allies are not necessarily allies for the length of the game, but simply a power you are cooperating with) you will be discussing tactics a lot. The thing to remember here is to maintain a level of detail. If discussions require a lot of detailed strategy at one point in the game, then you need to maintain at least the number of messages in other stages, and at best maintain the detail of you include. This is hardest when you are looking to stab your ally. Obviously you don't want to send out the details of your tactics if this is the case, but neither do you want to send the message of your impending stab by becoming less communicative. Certainly, if someone reduces the detail in a message then it is a good hint that something you don't want to happen to you is about to happen. This is a difficult skill, but something the best players manage.

The other aspect of this is almost the opposite. Don't trust any opponent - ally OR enemy - with too much detail. You may need to coordinate moves, so those details may need to be swapped. Even then, only do this if you believe the alliance is something both you and your ally are irreversibly tied into for the time being. Certainly be aware of it in the early game. Also, make these messages only deal with the units that need to be discussed. Those units that aren't immediately involved don't discuss, unless they are directly mentioned by your ally... and even then, take care what you reveal. Remember, your ally is also your opponent: you both came into the game to win a solo. Your ally may well use information you provide to talk to other players.

The fourth thing to remember is to keep communication pleasant. Avoid offending your fellow players. This may mean watching the language you use. Remember: the words you use amongst friends may not be acceptable to everyone. Of course, we can't always compensate for what some people find acceptable and others don't but if you sense you have offended someone, then avoid using similar language again. Why? Because this is a game built around communication. Similarly, don't easily take offence at the language used by others: remember your standards may not be their's. Certainly, and more importantly, do not be abusive. There is no more definite a way to make an enemy of another player than being abusive. Remember what I said above: there may come a time when you need to mend the enmity and if you have offended a player to the extent that she just isn't interested in a playing relationship with you, that won't work.

If someone is abusive to you, you have a dilemma. There are a number of things to consider when you are contemplating your response to this:
1. Why is she being abusive? Have you just stabbed her? Have you broken an alliance? If this is the case, then it might be best to just take it on the chin: it's likely to be an immediate, not properly thought-through reaction. Is it likely that she is simply trying to knock you off your game? This can happen when a player sees the only way to beat you is to distract you. If you respond in an offended way, then she may well be succeeding.
2. How offensive is it really? Was it a throw-away comment? Is the offensive nature due to an ignorance of your personal circumstances? Remember that Moderators do not monitor in-game messages for this reason, so unless it is extreme then don't report it: it is private correspondence so you are the person who needs to deal with it. You need to judge what you are prepared to deal with.
3. How should you respond? You could respond in a similar style, you could tell her what you think of her, you could laugh at her or, better still, laugh it off. Remember, to a great extent, there is nothing against the rules of the game that says abuse is illegal. You may decide to tell her you are not going to communicate with her if that is the standard of her play. You may ignore it and communicate normally. This is something you need to decide for yourself.

If the abuse is in Public Press, however, this is something different. This is no longer private correspondence, it is public. Use the Report Inappropriate button in Public Press if you feel it is necessary. Remember, though, that Moderators need to feel that the abuse fits in with the guidelines on what will be acted upon (see thisfor guidance).

The fifth thing to remember is that Dip is a game of telling the truth. Yes, it is a game of deceit, but if you play the game by packing your diplomacy with lies then you're not going to build a good reputation. Being as honest as possible is usually a good guide. Make your lies necessary ones, if you need to lie. it is always better to give as much of the truth as possible. If you want to hide something from another player, don't talk about it, if possible. Oh and it is good advice to look at what your opponent doesn't say as much as what she does say.

One aspect of diplomacy - negotiating - will come up in all these articles: role-playing. There are two aspects of role-play: taking on the part of a national identitiy, or the role of a specific character; and taking on a different personality to the one you normally display (eg more aggressive). Both may affect the way you communicate. National characteristics may be fun. There's nothing wrong with this. What you need to be aware of, however, is that not everyone in the game may want to do this. If you let your relationship with another player be affected by whether she joins in the role=playing or not, then you are not playing the game as it should be played. It is close to meta-gaming. Changing your personality is fine, too. Don't let it affect your play, and it you are going to do this, you need to make it consistent throughout - not as easy as you might think.

Diplomacy is the key to this game, not surprisingly. Certainly you're not going to do well if you have no knowledge of how to play it tactically, but without good diplomacy you aren't going to do well no matter how sound your tactical knowledge is (Gunboat games excepted, of course). Make the time to talk to other players. It isn't always easy, but if you want to succeed you need to put that effort in.
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