SCORING DIPLOMACY 3: What Should a Scoring System Achieve?

I’ve previously discussed various scoring systems common to Diplomacy tournaments. Each system has pros and cons. None of them are perfect, and it often comes down to how you believe a Diplomacy game should be played.

How should Diplomacy be played?

Calhamer had it that games should be played with a primary objective in mind: to win the game by securing ownership of 18 of the 34 supply centres (SCs) on the board. That’s how you win the game.

He also had a secondary objective for when games couldn’t be played to this ultimate conclusion, which was to end the game by unanimous agreement and have all surviving players share the draw equally. This is commonly referred to as a DIAS system of drawing the game – Draws Include All Survivors.

Modifications for tournaments

Tournament games may need modifying. Some tournaments feature Game End Dates (GEDs). This is when a game ends before it has finished. In other words, when a game reaches a certain point, usually the end of a given game year, then it ends.

When a GED is used and reached, the game will use the DIAS system. However, the game may end before the GED if someone achieves a solo, or if the players agree to end the game in a draw early.

An alternative to DIAS draws is what I call the Draws Include Nominated Survivors (DINS) system. This is when players agree that only some of the surviving players will be part of the draw. For instance, if there a four survivors, three of these players may be involved in the draw, with the fourth not. In this scenario, the game would end in a 3-way draw. Still, all surviving players need to agree to this, which means that one player has voted to exclude themselves from the draw.

Why would you choose this? There could be a number of reasons, certainly in a tournament setting. For instance, you might be making up the numbers in the game and not be overly worried about scoring points. You may fear being eliminated completely and the scoring system being used will still recognise what you have achieved in some way, whereas if the game continued you might be eliminated altogether and score nothing. It could simply be that you have a pressing need to end the game!

The impact of the scoring system

No matter what scoring system is used, in a tournament there is one big difference to the way Calhamer designed the game: the game you’re playing doesn’t stand alone but is part of something bigger. You’re not just playing for fun; no matter how competitive you might be in a stand alone game, playing in a tournament you’re committing to playing competitively.

Scoring systems will further change the way Diplomacy is played. A Supply Centre Scoring (SCS) system will mean that your aim is not necessarily to win the game outright but to gain as many SCs as you can while not losing the game to a solo. Depending on the system being used, it may be important to be ranked higher than other players based on SC count; to make sure you’re the highest SC count on the board; to try and keep the other players lower but fairly equally matched, etc. In short, managing your own and others’ SC count.

If you’re in a tournament using a DBS system, the priority might be to not be eliminated. This can lead to cautious play. You might play to eliminate as many players as possible as the fewer players involved in the draw, the more points you’ll score.

Some things stay the same. Winning the game is always going to be important because a solo win is very often scored highly (with nobody else scoring anything). Similarly, surviving is always going to be important because, if you’re eliminated you’re likely to get nothing. However, this may be modified to surviving at least until this stage in the game because you may earn points for that.

For these, and other reasons, tournament games are not played like a one-off, stand alone, friendly game of Diplomacy. Players who do well in tournaments are undoubtedly good players, no matter what, but they are also skilled at playing the tournament scoring system.

(One result of this is that, when they’re writing articles about playing Diplomacy, they tend to focus on what to do in a tournament situation, perhaps subconsciously. I’ve seen players write about how to get to x SCs when playing that power. This is because if you can achieve this, yes, you might get the chance to go on and win the game but it will also mean that you’re in a position from which you’re likely to go on and survive the game and/or get a decently high number of SCs.)

Ideally, a scoring system needs to encourage play that gets as close as possible to playing a one-off game. I know that once you’re no longer playing a stand alone game you’re playing a variant but making that variant a different type of game because the scoring system doesn’t reward playing as if it were a standard game is silly.

I’ve mentioned before how scoring Diplomacy based on positions in the game is ridiculous, given the rules, as is rewarding players who have lost to a solo but got a decent number of SCs. For me also, if SC count – in one form or another – is the primary way to score a game it means that you’re not playing Diplomacy as it was designed. The only time SC count should have an impact on the result of the game is when someone has achieved ownership of 18 SCs, or they don’t have any SCs on the board at the end of a Fall Retreats phase and so they’re eliminated. If a game ends in a draw, the number of SCs you hold is irrelevant.

However, it is also clear that awarding points based solely on the number of players in a draw, over a short series of games, is going to result in a commonality of equivalent points, and this doesn’t effectively differentiate between players. Let’s face it, you want to know who’s won and where you’ve finished in the tournament!

Draw Based Scoring (DBS) is the most Calhamer-friendly way to score Diplomacy but it doesn’t work well for a tournament because most games in a tournament will end in a draw. SCS systems result in games becoming about collecting SCs and take Dip games away from the objectives of Diplomacy, but make scoring more differentiated.

The only aspect of scoring systems I really don’t like is those that award points for incidentals. Systems to award survival to certain years, for instance, so a player could gain points despite being eliminated, are ridiculous and are only designed to introduce something different. Systems to reward positions in a game, based on SC count or even year of elimination, ignore the fact that it is the end of the game that counts. Which other competitive scoring system says that you should get points for what you did part-way through the event?

A new scoring system

I have come up with a number of different scoring systems, which I’ve used to run online tournaments. Some have been systems I don’t reflect the way Diplomacy should be played. Some have been pretty different from most current scoring systems but have had weaknesses.

The system I will propose in the final post of this series is the DC(C) system. It makes DBS the main scoring system (6/7 of the points awarded for a game) but uses SCS as an element (the remaining 1/7) as a way of bringing some differentiation between results.

As a basic scoring system it is pretty simple. It’s more complex when applied to tournaments which feature replacement players and as a way of adapting scores for player who play in less than all the rounds of the tournament.

Posts in this series:

  1. The Introduction of Scoring Systems to Diplomacy.
  2. Discussing Various Scoring Systems.
  3. What Should a Scoring System Achieve?
  4. A Suggested Scoring System for Tournaments.

Published by Mal Arky

I'm a Diplomacy nut... if you haven't guessed. I write about the game Diplomacy, mainly as played online on websites, such as Playdiplomacy, webDiplomacy and Backstabbr. I write books on Diplomacy, too. First one to be published soon!

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