Diplomacy makes its hazardous return to the main WBC timeframe after a few years of missteps with the Prospero’s Pride pre-con and an absence in 2005 (a long story involving the World Diplomacy Championship and a conflict with the Washington-based tournament organizers and the move to Lancaster). Suffice to say that WBC took the high road, cancelled its Diplomacy event so as not to conflict with the traditions of World Dip Con, and is now offering the event again after a one year absence. Where it goes from here is up to our attendees as henceforth it will have to qualify to repeat just like any other event.
This year’s tournament will be a three-round affair, one round per day, with each round open to all WBC attendees. Players may play in one, two, or all three rounds, but each player’s best two scores will count, so it is recommended that anybody interested in taking home some wood from this event plan for at least two games.
Diplomacy is unlike most games at WBC in that there are no dice involved and all players take their turns at the same time, writing down their moves in advance.
As is traditional for Diplomacy events, there will be seven Best Country awards and the GM will be supplementing the normal allotment of WBC plaques so that the first board all takes home wood.
Spring 1901 will be 25 minutes; all other Spring and Fall turns
will be 15 minutes. The last two minutes of each turn will be for
order writing only, and no further negotiations that turn will be
allowed. Players will be allowed to modify the time limit for each
turn, provided it does not exceed 15 minutes (25 for Spring 1901),
except for one 30-minute extension for a
Sometime after six hours after a round’s games start, the GM will announce to each table that the next Fall turn will be the last turn of the game. If the players finish without agreeing on a win or draw, the GM will declare a result based on the players’ positions. The details are on the website, but it is along these lines: if a player has at least 12 supply centers, at least three more than the second player, and more than the second and third players combined, it is a win; otherwise, it is a draw among the smallest number of players who have at least 21 SCs combined and the lowest number has at least as many SCs as the two highest not in the draw combined.
The scoring system will be:
What follows is a tournament strategy guide penned by one of the Diplomacy hobby’s leading lights, Edi Birsan. It’s not bad, and it shouldn’t be; Edi is a top player.
OVERVIEW by Edi Birsan
The purpose of this little guide is to provide players a quick look
at the aspects of tournament play that may not occur to them until
after several tournaments. For the ’new to tournaments’ player, it
is an attempt to close the gap in information on this very different
aspect of the Diplomacy Hobby. It is also there to provide a basis
for numerous discussions at the after game
WHAT MAKES TOURNAMENT PLAY DIFFERENT FROM OTHER FORMS OF GAMING
What is doing well?
General gaming is usually a single event. All Diplomacy tournaments are a series of games tied together in which the results of one game help to affect the perception or results in others. It is not enough that you end the game with a 15 center Austria, it is important that no other Austria does as well. In a social game if things get awkward and boring, you may simply say the hell with it and go on with other things. In a tournament system your actions affect not only everyone at your table but have a ripple effect on all other tables. If you decide to throw in with the front runner and help them win, not only will you affect his score, but all the country scores of those that opposed him will be affected.
Tournament play, is for most an intense period of gaming in which
the pressure to do well is greatly heightened. For many it is also
the first time that the definition of what is ’Doing Well’ has been
determined by others and may be structured in a manner that is not
in line with what the player has been accustomed to in his normal
playing areas. For example: is having eight supply
centers in a 5-way draw better than seven centers in a 4-way draw and is it
better to have tied with the most number of centers regardless of the number
of players that survive a game that is not won or is it better to have as few
partners as possible even if your supply center count is small. It should not
shock you to find out that in the last four World DipCons and the last seven
North American DipCons, the answers to these questions are different with almost
no uniform agreement amongst the
You should look over and understand what the tournament system is calling achievements that are worthy of recognition. If you disagree with it, save it for after the tournament, there is too much at stake to start complaining at the start of the convention and it is not going to change. You should decide if in your game play you are going to keep in focus what the tournament system says is achievement or whether you are going to play in a personal style independent of what the tournament rewards. If you decide on going with the tournament system, then be on the lookout for those players who either have consciously decided to go against the system’s rewards or who appear to be unaware of the system. You may be able to blend their reward system with your focus on the tournament in such a manner that both of you accomplish what you want with you gaining ground in the tournament system and the other players achieving some personal goal. Tournament players often look down on players who are unaware or ignore the tournament system, however, as the ultimate purpose of any game is to have fun and make it fun for others, sometimes the personal players have achieved a much greater sense of enjoyment and continue to come back whereas the tournament player has burned out with his own intense competition on shifting artificial goals and rewards.
Face to Face games often have social limits: play to midnight or
when the last train leaves for home. Postal play and Email play have
no limits and the game continues till a draw or a win. Tournament
play has limits. Most often it is a matter of game time or real time.
In a few systems there has been an attempt to place no limit on the
games other than to play to a win or a draw. The last method is going
out of favor, but still has some social limitations as the family
person with small children at the convention, or reasonable local
home front requirements. If you find yourself in one of those rare
tournaments where there is no set time, then at your table as part
of the pre-country assignments bring the subject up of a reasonable
end to the game and see if there is an agreement. If you know that
you are only good for 12 hours then you may want to keep in mind
those who are determined to play to the bitter end so that in the
mid-game period you can make the appropriate adjustments to leave
the end game made up of similarly minded social players. If you are
one of those who feels that his health make up and intensity can
sustain you through an all nighter then consider the pressure that
you will be putting on yourself to perform well in future rounds
if you physically exhaust yourself in an early round. Also remember
that when players in the tournament find out that you were pushing
a game far beyond the social envelop of the game, your chances of
survival in the early game goes down quickly.
It is only a game. Say it again and again to yourself until you get it straight. Tournaments bring out intense competition and narrowing focus on sometimes minor aspects of the tournament system or even the rules or reading handwriting. It is only a game. Having gotten that straight, try to treat people in a social setting and remember that nothing is personal. Try not to use any language that you would not employ in front of your mother when talking to your daughter. It is only a game. Behavior issues at a tournament that you may have to deal with are:
1. Temper: It’s only a game.
2. Cross Round Grudges: It is considered very bad behavior to bring
into a new round hard times that occurred in the last
3. Game Interference: While you generally do not have time to go
around in the middle of your game to see what everyone else is doing,
if you do have the time try to avoid contact with other players in
the other games. For example if you are playing Austria and doing
well you do not go around cheering on all other boards to kill their
Austria so your score stands as the highest country effort. Do not
interfere with other games or even discuss the tactical options in
those games when the players
This does not mean that you cannot be paranoid. Most gamers are paranoid, after all if they really are all out to get you, you cannot be crazy to think so. Here are some of the most common things that players get paranoid about in tournaments:
1. Different language at the table: In international play this is
a probably the single biggest hot button to push and drives the
2. Always going off with the same person first and last. Try to vary who you talk to and the sequence. This way players feel that you are more open to communication. Talk to everyone if you can even for a moment. You may never know when you may run into the person in a future round and need some polite prior times to build on. It is after all only a game.
3. Nationalities/local cliques: Diplomacy is a game in which if
there is one winner then there are six who did not win. Some areas
of the world have had a greater exposure to nationalistic conflicts
than others and for them it is sometimes tempting for those who did
not win to both lessen their own loss and the achievement of the
winner by claiming that there was some conspiracy of a nationalistic
or a local clique to favor their own against all others. Sometimes
there is a minority target fear: “We are the outsiders to this
country and they may all jump on us, so should we stick together?” The
reality is that in about 30 North American DipCons and international
Diplomacy Tournaments that I have watched, I have not seen any real
function of such nationalistic bias or local cliques despite some
grumbling here and there. Diplomacy as a game system attracts INDIVIDUALS
and rewards individuals. It is the egotist’s dream game.
Game Year Fixed vs Time Fixed vs Open
Fixed Game Year: The tournament ends in a certain game year. The
common settings are 1905/07/09/11. Game year endings are most common
in non-North American tournaments. French tournaments have experimented
heavily with the shortest of the deadlines (typically 1907) while,
when used at all, the Americans have the longest of the deadlines.
The Swedes have had tournaments with various dates but are becoming
more oriented towards the shorter deadlines. Why everyone picks an
The shorter the fixed deadline the more common it is for conflicts to start in 1901. For example in the 1907 fixed deadlines the following are more commonly seen:
England: Fleet London to the English Channel
You will also see far greater agreed standoffs in Spring 01 in the shorter games than you will in the longer games. The three areas of critical standoffs being: Russia and Turkey in the Black Sea, England and France in the English Channel, and Russia and Austria in Galicia. Germany and France are less likely to agree to a stand off in Burgundy because the French can force the issue by using Army Marseilles as the supporter. Further, the Germans are not gaining any momentum by having Army Munich bounce around. They are far more flexible with Army Ruhr and knowing that the French doublecrossed them by going to Burgundy when it was agreed otherwise.
Shorter games also bring out greater risk taking by both the very experienced and the newer players while average experience players tend to be cautious. This is often seen in the cases where Germany has to decide whether to cover Munich in Fall of 1901 when there are armies in either Burgundy or Tyrolia or the French/English decisions when an enemy is in the Channel.
The theory is that tournament play in general rewards the bold,
and that in a shorter game there is less reward for the defensive
move than the offensive one. In the longer game you have more opportunities
to plan a bold move sequence so that defensive play becomes more
important. Using the defense as a diplomatic tool is also very important
in the short game where you can
Shorter time games will see greater changes in alliance patterns
as players become very focused on even the smallest power difference
between each other. It is therefore in these short games that the
players who are operating outside of the reward system of the tournament
become critical partners for the tournament focused player as they
will be less likely to turn on you
Supply Center Ranking vs Draws: All tournament systems hold the
win as the pinnacle of achievement, it is what comes next where they
break down. Tournament systems come down to a simple divide:
Overall, the Europeans tournament systems through the 20th century favored the Supply Center Ranking system while the American systems tended to favor the Draw methods.
Some systems will have mix of the two extremes, but it is surprising
to note that for the most part, the tournament approaches are fairly
polarized. Know which way your system rewards achievement. You might
find it helpful to outline your own scoring in the following four
conditions to bring out the bias of the system and help you decide
if within a tournament system it is in your interest to move the
game strategically from one relationship to another:
Knowing your tournament score may decide whether you want to eliminate
the weak players to reduce the numbers in the game or to keep them
around because your relative ranking would be higher.
In the case of a good result in another table, the story could come
with information on who is also doing well on their table. The temptation
and sometimes outright advice is to go after a particular team on
your table so as to toss them back in the over all team standing.
However, this very viable team technique is actually very rarely
seen and in some circles is considered ’rude’.
Team Rounds also tend to attract more competitive players. Many of the novices will avoid a team round since they do not have a team, or they perceive the team round as something that experienced players alone do. All of which is not always the case as many pick up teams have done well, but it becomes a reality that the games are affected and that you see on average a higher degree of competition and experience in the team round games.
If you have done well in your prior rounds and you have the tournament individual results as a personal goal, then it may be to your interest to avoid the Team Game Round since there are additional outside dynamics and the level of competition is greater.
Another question of tournament play is whether you want to skip
a particular round the most obvious being to skip the first
or the second round. By skipping the first round in a tournament
that allows you to drop a round, you may have a better idea as to
who is ahead and can then try to catch up. However, if you have done
very well in the first round, you may want to skip the second round
to see who appears to be competition in the tournament and then plan
your approach based on what you may consider as your margins. All
this depends on being able to find out what the results are.
Some experienced players believe that tournaments have a certain flow or mass psychology which you can pick up in an early round and then apply in the latter rounds. This point dwells almost on the ’mystic forces of a tournament’ which may not be valid and can never really be proven either for or against. For the purposes of this guide we will discuss it because it is a fun aspect and some people really believe in it. The flows are in two areas: play on the game board and play around the game.
Play on the Game Board: It is held that sometimes tournaments will
have it out for one or another country and you will hear that ’Russia
is being pounded’. Or that one particular offensive opening is being
used extensively, such as Lepanto against Turkey. ( In DipCon 9 in
North America where there was a seminar talk to the players before
the tournament about the Lepanto opening, the resulting three rounds
of a total of 57 games saw the best Turkey in a 1909 deadline game
being a 7- center survival with 23 cases of Turkey being eliminated.
Killing Turkey, by any means, was obviously in the Flow of the Tournament).
Play round the Game Board: The most common mass psychology aspect
of the Tournament Mob is the approach to very
Individually. there is a long standing tradition of dumping on the
prior year’s winner. This is outside of what we are talking about
here as the flow of the crowd and almost a tradition of sorts that
the former champions take as a badge of honor.
Tournaments are by nature the comparison of your results with everyone else. Knowing where you stand can affect drastically the style and play of the game you are in. This is also a key question of game morality or ethics: how much should you allow your play to be affected by the results of the prior round, by the results seen in games around you. Most VERY experienced players will tell you that they more or less play each game on its own and hope for the best. Most experienced players will admit to the reality of tournament information affecting the play though they deny that they themselves are affected. Most novices seem to recognize the validity of tournament information affecting play, but are unsure on how to do it and question whether it is valid to beat on someone just because in the prior round the player did well.
Some tournaments post the results of one round as soon as it is
done, so that players can see what is the best country score and
who are the leaders. Some tournaments are very much the opposite
where cross game information and effect is considered highly rude
and anti social. This reached a height in the United States where
for several years the common method was that
Currently, it is fairly common for players to know who or which countries scored an outright win in the prior round as well as often who were the 2-way draws with high supply centers. This is the reality of a tournament as played.
It is also a common reality that on the final elimination round
to get into the top board or in the final round of a tournament to
determine overall standings that players discuss what their position
in the game means to them in terms of their tournament standings
as the game progresses and the end results of their game are about
to be determined. It is not unusual for a deal to be cut on the top
board that will give one player 1st and another 2nd. This negotiation
is based on Tournament Position and not actual game board position.
The ethics of it all and the social value of the situation is up
to you to decide. However, be
The following are the most common conservative openings in play regardless of venue:
England: Fleet Edi-Norwegian Sea, Fleet London-North Sea, Army Liverpool-York
There has been a slow trend toward having the English play Liverpool to Edinburgh and the Italians to play Army Venice to Tyrolia, but for conservatism you can not beat the above display. Tournament play brings out a sense of bravado and dash in many players and it is therefore very common to see slashing openings as part of a tournament. The shorter the time period in the tournament the greater the tendency to go with a slashing opening. Here are some:
THE SEA LION
The critical factor is the concept of taking the North Sea from the English in 1901 and opening up tremendous convoy potential and leverage for the F-G combination. The double convoy is an idea to demilitarize the Lowlands and go for 100% offense against England. There are plenty of chances for double cross in Sp 02 which will give the game some tension. Also strong chance for a quick growing Germany and France.
THE FRENCH ROLLOVER
Note Italy can make the above really obnoxious by using the Western Lepanto wherein he also moves Army Rome to Tuscany and Fleet Naples to the Tyrn. Then in the Fall he convoys to Tunis leaving Fleet Tyrn in place to move on the Gulf of Lyon in the Spring of 02 or the Western Medit.
THE MUNICH FALL OCTOBER FEST
In the Fall of 01 all sorts of things can go down. Given the above
the most common result is:
The combination of attacks on both Munich and Berlin generally means the German is reduced to one build at the most and often stays the same at 3. The Russian Fleet in the Baltic cements the1902 offensive to take the rest of Germany if the three stay together and the English decide to go vulture and make a play for Holland and Denmark.
THE BALTIC OPENING
Spring 01: Fleet Kiel to Baltic, Army Berlin to Kiel, Army Munich
THE AUSTRIAN BLOODBATH
THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION
These moves may keep the Russians from having any builds in the
first year and will attract the Vulture in the English if nothing
else. In the Spring of 02 the Doom Ring is assembled as the English
slip an army into St Petersburg and back it up by a fleet in the
Barents, the Germans move armies to Silesia and Prussia, the Turks
and the Austrians should have Rumania and
TURKISH TOE STUFFING/LEPANTO
There are variations in the plan making use of Army Venice which in what is called the Key Lepanto goes to Trieste and then to Serbia with the Austrians consent as the Italians can alternatively give up on going to Tunis and instead shift the Fleet directly in the fall to the Aegean or the Eastern Medit as the Austrians fill in at Greece and the Ionian behind them. A very tense situation for the Italians who must have loads of trust in the Italians as a compliment of the loads of trust that they gave the Italians in their Spring 01 walk through of Trieste. It is a fast move on Turkey if that is what you are up to.
FRENCH SLING SHOT
The strategic game is one in which you look at the alliance patterns
as a system. It has long been argued that a perfect Diplomacy game
is one that would resolve into a three-way draw. In the beginning
game there are basically five players against two. Usually this means
in reality that there is one or more players splitting their forces
against the two targets. In the Middle Game the situation comes down
to 3 against 2, again with at least one of the majority alliance
holding down two
Tournament play in fixed deadlines does not allow for the End Game
to develop for the most part. Therefore you have the game in two
parts: a beginning and a middle. The most dangerous situation in
a tournament is for there to be one part of the board where there
are 2 vs 2 and the other side where there is 2 vs 1. This causes
a significant power shift in tournament terms
Strategic tournament thinking also means that you have to consider if you are going to be facing any of these people in the next round. How much will your future ability to influence them be if you set yourself up as someone who is always playing against the leader even when he is your ally? While carrying game grudges is considered very bad behavior, knowing a players playing style is often critical in making a choice. Who would you want as an ally: the player who always plays against the leader or someone who is willing to run side by side with you against the enemy putting your alliance ahead of a single supply center difference in your power? It is interesting to note that players who are have been playing in tournaments with Supply Center Ranking are most prone to turn on you when you have an alliance and you pull ahead, while those who are most used to operating under a draw system tend to have longer alliances regardless of difference in supply center count.
In the games where there is a lot of time and draws are the emphasis, then strategic play comes down to choices: do you take as an alliance partners that will be crossing the stalemate lines and thus risk a doublecross with no defensive stalemate, or do you plan an alliance structure that seeks to achieve a stalemate line to guarantee results in a small draw?
Remember that most alliances bring with them a mirror alliance and
that the tighter one alliance is the more it forces its opponents
to be allies. The most common alliance is that of two players who
are neighbors: England-France, Russia-Turkey ((The Steam Roller))
are the two most powerful combinations. They also bring against them
a potential of a three way alliance which can overwhelm them given
time. Know the strategic limitations and counters to your alliance
When you start the game you set a tone for yourself that others
hear. For new players, take a good look at the openings that are
possible. When you are given a country assignment have immediately
in your mind what the most common conservative opening is and the
slashing combinations above. Know the game geography of your home
country so that you can discuss
In tournament play if you act like you do not know anything and try the technique of a victim learning to play, then you will be a victim and will not have learned the most important thing: be confident in yourself. The technique of the meek which works in some social settings does not work well in tournament play.
Irrationality as a technique works mostly in short games where you
can get away with a few “crazy” moves or paranoid plays.
“I want to see what it would be like to get an Italian Army in Silesia
in 1902” or an Austrian raider into the Mid Atlantic. When confronted
with a player that is using irrationality then you put a consistent
policy of treating them as an enemy. This way his
In longer tournaments the general reaction of players to those few who try to constantly stab and lie is to eliminate them. In shorter tournaments players tend to be more forgiving of stabs simply because players can always fall back on the old line: The tournament system made me do it…I need the center to stay even in the tournament."
Stagnation is a common error. At times you may have to play a few
turns in a Turtle mode just holding a defensive line. You should
not be content with this. An imbalance is a dynamic that wins tournaments
and breeds great players. It is also a lot more fun. When you find
yourself in a stagnate situation see if you can get your ally to
help you open things up diplomatically.
Order writing is horrible for the most part in tournaments. The handwriting is even worse. The number of mis-written orders goes through the roof. Even very experienced players make errors. The first thing to do is to make sure your starting forces are correct. Do not try to abbreviate things if you are nervous or new. Remember that a poorly written order that allows for only one interpretation generally will work. So what if you spell out North Sea, it avoids a discussion point on any abbreviation starting with Nor. Use a big piece of paper…the trees will forgive you long before you forgive yourself for a bad opening move in which you forget to complete the movement of a starting piece because the paper was cramped.
The most common adjudication error is to forget that a force cannot cut support for an attack on itself. The second most common perception error is that your allies armies are still capable of dislodging you if they are supported by your enemies. One North American DipCon was decided by an unintended support that caused Munich and a stalemate line to collapse.
Players may come across adjudication errors which may be in your
tournament interest to overlook. Polite play requires you to point
them out. Playing with illegal extra units or wrong locations may
be funny at the time in a secret inner place, but in the long run
it is not good for the game. Every tournament has a Gamesmaster somewhere,
make use of him to help in the
updated 5/11/07 by kae.
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Trademarks are property of their respective holders.