Friday, June 2nd, 7 would-be Napoleons gathered at my house
to play a game known as “Diplomacy.”
In order of arrival, we had Brian (No Last Name), Bob Noblitt,
Anita (Swamp Fox) Williams, Tom Flaherty, Jeannie Finn, Steve Frolich,
and of course myself.
Here is a
fairly good description of how the Game works:
"Diplomacy” is a
sophisticated game that rewards both military strategy and the ability
to make strategic alliances. Each player represents one of Europe’s
major powers at the turn of the last century. In the early 1900’s
Europe was a seething cauldron of intrigue, alliances, and secret
pacts that eventually pulled the entire continent into World War I
including Russia, Turkey, Austria/Hungary, Italy, France, England, and
Germany. The only time “Chance” ever enters into the game is at
the start when you pick the country you represent. After that, there
is no further “luck” involved and no dice rolling.
The game quickly boils
down to simple math. If two powers wish to move into the same
territory, it is a 1 to 1 standoff unless a third power decides to
“support” your action, making it 2 against 1. You
must gain the cooperation of your neighbors as you attempt to outwit
your fellow players in diplomatic negotiations. By forging alliances
based on mutual interests and trust with other players, you seek the
ultimate control of Europe.
You actually bargain and
cut deals with other players in order to gain an advantage. Then at
some point just when you get ready to launch a major attack on the
enemy and you have left your back unguarded to an ally, imagine the
surprise when one of your “allies” turns against you and sends
units into your Homeland!
The addition of the
“Treachery” aspect is a fascinating feature that places this game
several psychological cuts above simply rolling the dice. The players
soon find they need cunning and cleverness to combat the deception and
back-stabbing that characterized the diplomatic relations of these
same countries during this complex period of European history.
Sometimes described as
“Risk” for adults, the Machiavellian aspect of “Diplomacy”
allows its players to learn some interesting lessons in the subtle art
politics that can be carried over into Real Life.
So here is
how the Game went. Early Alliances included Russia (Jeannie) and Turkey
(Tom). No, despite the rumors, we did not call Mr. Flaherty “Tom
Turkey” to his face. I believe we called him “Mr. Turkey” if my
memory is correct. England (Rick) and Germany (Steve) formed a
non-aggression treaty. France (Brian), Italy (Bob), and Austria-Hungary
(Anita) did a lot of talking, but to my eyes never quite jelled with an
alliance. This would prove to be their downfall.
had problems right from the start. England-Rick tried to get Austria
into a three-way alliance with Germany, but Anita had trouble following
directions. Early in the game, I had given Anita a crib sheet to help
her write the complex directions for her troop movements. Right before
the “writing Directions” phase ended, Austria-Anita wadded up my
crib sheet and tossed it at me. I still am not sure what this gesture
meant, but Anita soon discovered that without any strategy, Turkey and
Italy got Hungary and, like Hannibal Lecter, ate her for lunch. Yumm!
England immediately began to butt heads, both involved in a standoff for
control of the English Channel. Brian had the temerity to suggest that
when he got control of this area, he would rename this famous body of
the water the “French Channel”. Hmm. England was not amused.
France had a problem. Initially pre-occupied with England, France was
stunned to discover that Italy quickly invaded the French port of
Marseilles. France-Brian was getting a firm lesson in the difficulty of
defending two fronts simultaneously and trying to expand at the same
time. England smiled because Italy had signed on as an early ally of
England. France was forced to retreat!!
was doing well. Unworried about traditional enemies such as France or
England, plus secretly pleased at Austria’s problems, Germany was able
to quickly invade Scandinavia and gain strength.
never made much progress through the game. A strong ally of Turkey,
Russia was frustrated to find that Germany’s superior strategy flanked
her much of the time. As Austria and Russia both found, diplomacy is
nice, but strategy and the ability to anticipate your opponent’s moves
were also critical.
other hand, Italy-Bob and Mr. Turkey were having a good time. Mr. Turkey
had only one direct enemy: Austria-Anita. He just waltzed up the Balkan
Peninsula and grabbed Serbia, Rumania, Greece, Bulgaria almost at will.
Since Russia was on his side and with Austria-Anita in strategic
disarray, Mr. Turkey had nothing to fear.
also flourished. Austria and France had no clue how to attack Italy.
During Phase One, Italy had success invading southern France, the
Iberian Peninsula, and Austrian homeland. Italy-Bob was a serious
of Diplomacy involved expansion into unguarded territories such as the
Balkan Peninsula, Spain/Portugal, and Scandinavia. Early winners in the
expansion process were Turkey, Italy, England, and Germany. They got
more free slices of the pie than their neighbors did. Since you are
rewarded for expansion, this made the winners stronger than the losers
and allowed them to begin to dominate head-to-head struggles with their
Two, the strong began to devour the weak. Germany advanced on Russia
with some help from England. Turkey was so strong it annihilated Austria
with some help from Russia and Italy to forced Anita out of the game.
Austria was the first country to go since it had no allies and three
enemies. Anita was a good sport and took her drubbing well – she
decided to borrow some of my cat food to go home and feed her new baby
bird that had fallen out of a nest. My take on this move was that lost
birds of a feather were flocking together. England never did figure out
why Austria had ignored its strategic advice.
loser from Phase One managed to reverse his fortune. England noticed
that France-Brian did not have a prayer against Italy with England on
its back. England decided Italy was a greater threat than France, so
England forged an alliance with France and began to push Italy back.
Italy soon lost its hold on Marseilles (southern France) and Spain.
Italy was in retreat!
something terrible happened. The World was quickly coming to an end!
Yes, the players suddenly decided it was getting late and they
wanted to go home. England-Rick was in a quandary. Russia was in deep
trouble due to Germany’s approach. England had a long-term goal of
attacking Turkey. The plan was to first chew up Italy with France’s
help, then to carve up the Turkey with the help of Germany and France in
a three-pronged attack. Then with Turkey out of the picture along with
Russia and Italy, France, Germany, and England would begin Phase Three
against each other. At least this was the plan.
had not counted on the real world desire for the players to have lives
beyond Diplomacy. Apparently the lure of Free Pizza only goes so far.
Their bellies fed, their curiosity satisfied, the game was losing
interest. Fine, that happens all the time to players who see they have
no realistic chance, but England did not anticipate EVERYONE deciding to
quit in fifteen minutes.
the unanticipated abrupt end to the game, England made a bad move – I
turned on my allies. I secretly poached one of Germany’s territories
captured from Russia (St. Petersburg) and one of France’s territories
(Portugal). However, I made the mistake of forgetting there was one move
left. Clearly miffed by England’s betrayal, France talked former enemy
Italy into a sour grapes, cheap shot act of revenge. Combining their
remaining strength, on the last play of the game, France kicked England
out of Spain with the help of Italy. This proved significant because it
cost England the overall victory. France and Italy were clearly pleased.
Their move was very similar to Saddam’s move of igniting all of
Kuwait’s oil wells.
Germany wasn’t very happy either. Despite its best finish in memory,
all Germany could do was fret and fume about England’s move into St.
Pete. In other words, Germany did not bother to remember that
England’s alliance had allowed him to knock off Russia, no mean feat.
Instead, Germany left with bitter feelings concerning England’s
backstab in St. Petersburg.
France-Brian show any gratitude towards England. England’s rescue had
allowed him to pull a Lazarus and return from the dead. Did France
remember this? No. All France could talk about was one silly little
backstab in Portugal. Did England ever attack Paris? No. Did England
ever molest his Brest despite many pleasant opportunities? No. So what
could account for all France’s venom over one little peccadillo in
Portugal of all places? England’s
theory is that Brian had been upset from the start due to the refusal to
rename the English Channel to the French Channel. Plus I was unable to
remember his last name. Details are the hobgoblins of small
France was actually able to get some revenge. Despite the fact that
Italy had once been on the verge of annihilating France, all France
cared about was getting back at England for a single, almost
unnoticeable indiscretion. France’s seizure of Spain on the last move
of the game cost England the victory. It was an obvious case of what
have you done for me lately. England was forced to settle for second
came in third. This is the best showing Germany has ever had. Germany
always loses because it is an easy country to dislike. As people sit
down at the board, they have to attack someone. After all the war movies
we have seen, Germany is ALWAYS the bad guy, so people naturally gang up
on Germany. Not this time: Steve Frolich quickly expanded into
Scandinavia during Phase One and by the final move of the game had
captured Russia’s Moscow. Germany was poised to move on Turkey.
However, we ran out of Pizza. Deprived of fuel, Germany was thwarted
again. Oil, Pizza, whatever, it seems Germany always has supply
Mr. Turkey was the winner. He had
no one ever attack his homeland. His only enemy was a strategically
impaired, alliance-less sitting duck that was easy pickings. Tom
Flaherty played a flawless game. He was just on the verge of carving up
Italy when the game ended. Unfortunately his main ally- Russia - was
near vaporization. It is unclear if Mr. Turkey would have been able to
forge a new alliance against the three-way Axis of
Germany-England-France in Phase Three. However, knowing Mr. Turkey, I
have little doubt he would have tried to sweet-talk one of them into
Tom or I will host another Diplomacy Game in the first week in July. If
you are interested in playing, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org I might add if you decide to play, watch out for Jeannie Finn and Tom
Flaherty. They took a copy of the rules home with them. This is never a
you won’t have to worry about me. After seeing the pain on the faces
of my friends in France and Germany, I know now I could never betray
another country. I have learned my lesson.