webDip’s Lack of Mistakes

Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think? One of the issues I have with webDip is that you’re not allowed to make a mistake with your orders. That, in itself, is a mistake.

webDip’s ordering system is click and select, as is Playdip’s. I think Playdip have an alternative ordering system but I’ve never wanted to use it. Why would I? Click on a space and place your orders – simple.

I know some people have a problem with this. Perhaps its sausage fingers on small screen, I dunno. I think it’s more of the snobbish idea that it doesn’t teach people how to write their orders and so doesn’t prepare people for moving from online webplay to FTF play, as if webplay is an introduction and a lower form of format. [I feel another discussion post there.]

Anyway, moving on.

When you click on a space on webDip you can choose your orders. In no particular order (I’m not in a game on webDip currently and I can’t remember the order they options are presented in):

  • to HOLD in the space the selected unit is in,
  • to MOVE from that space to a neighbouring space,
  • to SUPPORT a unit from another space into a neighbouring space, or to support a unit in a neighbouring space to hold in that space,
  • to CONVOY (fleets only).

This is fine. You can make any order you’re legally allowed to make. A fleet in a coastal space doesn’t get the option to convoy, and armies never do, and Playdip has this built into their move options too (I believe – I’m doubting myself now!)

The problem is that, whichever action you choose, you are then limited as to where that action can be applied.

For instance, let’s assume I have a fleet in the English Channel and I choose to move it. I am then provided with a selection of destination spaces: I can move from the Channel to London, North Sea, Belgium, Picardy, Brest, Mid-Atlantic Ocean, Irish Sea, or Wales. These are, of course, the only spaces to which a fleet in the Channel can legally move.

However, what if I want to order this fleet to Holland? Well, that’s not possible. It can’t move there. If I entered that order it would be judged to be illegal and the fleet would stay in the Channel and the order would be translated to a HOLD order. If I had another fleet in Wales, I could support the fleet to hold in the Channel.

This is where webDip falls down: you simply can’t order F ENG-Hol – it isn’t an option available to you.

OK, so why would you want to enter this order? It isn’t going to work and it makes you look like an idiot. Well, maybe I’m playing at being a noobie and I want to make it seem like I’ve made a mistake, as if I thought F ENG-Hol would succeed. I’ll come back to this.

Let’s look at the SUPPORT order. Instead of moving my fleet I want to use it to support another unit’s action. In this scenario I have a fleet in the Channel and a fleet in the North Sea; France has an army in Belgium. France wants me to support the Belgian army to Holland. I can do this by using my fleet in the North Sea. However, I want my North Sea fleet to do something much more useful to me and so I plan to make a ‘mistake’.

I therefore plan to misorder, specifically F ENG S Bel-Hol. On webDip I select the English Channel and choose SUPPORT for my fleet. webDip than asks me where I want to support to or in. If I want to support the French army in Belgium to Holland, after I’ve clicked on the Channel and selected SUPPORT I then have to select Holland. The next option is to support where the unit I’m supporting is currently situated – in this case Belgium.

So webDip’s choices are:

  • Click on ENGLISH CHANNEL
  • Select SUPPORT
  • Select HOLLAND
  • Select BELGIUM

This, of course, partially reverses the way the order would be written, which is: F ENG S Bel-Hol. Instead or writing the order that I’m supporting a unit from x to y, I’m entering that I’m supporting a unit to y from x.

Does this matter? Yes it does – even without considering the deliberate error I really want to make. In any other format (and from what I’ve seen on any other platform) the way the orders are written/recorded are support to… from. It means that webDip is counter-learned: what you know is the ‘correct’ way to record your orders is reversed on webDip. Not a problem for noobs but just wrong for anyone else.

Now, let’s look again at the fact that I want to make the mistake – it’s deliberate. This, again, isn’t possible. I simply aren’t allowed to order this support option because I can’t legally support a unit in or into Holland and webDip won’t allow me to make this order.

From one point of view I understand this. Why let players misorder? They don’t want to misorder, do they? And, if a player makes a mistake, aren’t they likely to become frustrated with being allowed to make the mistake? In fact, you occasionally see this frustration on Playdip where players can enter illegal orders.

I understand that you don’t want players dropping from games because they make a mistake, having not understood the rules. For instance, it isn’t unusual to see a complete noobie ordering England’s units:

  • F Lon-ENG
  • F Edi-Nwy
  • A Lpl-Bel

in Spring 1901.

Of course, the order for the Edinburgh fleet and the army are illegal. I struggle to understand why anyone would try to play a game without trying to understand what you can do in that game, frankly, but it happens. Idiots occasionally show up in a Dip game. What I find completely stupid is when the player tries some variation of the illegal orders again in Fall 1901!

So, you don’t want those players who make a mistake dropping out. Well, OK, if someone makes those orders for England in S01, you probably won’t miss them if they drop out, but in general.

However, if someone is remotely intelligent and they enter an erroneous order, then they want to know why they made the error, don’t they? Why didn’t A Lpl-Bel work? And so they’ll ask and learn. There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes, as long as you learn from the mistake. You might have royally buggered your game but. well, you’re better off next time (when you don’t order F Ank-Sev, do you?)

But the other aspect is the deliberate mistake. Now, OK, if you suddenly make the error of ordering your F ENG S Bel-Hol, after making no other similar mistakes previously, and you try to pass it off as an honest error, you’re being a little stupid expecting it to be believed. So let’s look at something else.

You have a fleet in the Gulf of Bothnia and you’ve agreed to support another player’s fleet from Norway to St Petersburg. You’re planning, however, to make a mistake and St Petersburg, being a space with two coasts – a north coast and a south coast – is a prime choice for making a deliberate error.

Now there is an argument here about whether players should have to specify the target coast when moving a fleet from Norway to St Petersburg, for instance. If I wrote an order stating that I wanted to move the fleet in Norway to St Petersburg, there’s only one coast to which it could move: surely there’s no other possible outcome? The rules say that these orders should be accepted but that ambiguous or illegal orders can’t be accepted. This is another discussion that can be had, but not here.

What I’m looking at here is, when the website states that I must enter the completely accurate order for it to be accepted, then I would have to order F Nwy-StP(nc): anything else would make the order illegal and therefore it would fail.

Now, on Playdip, in the scenario above, I have to order F GOB S to StP(nc) from Nwy. Again, counter-learned but let’s ignore that. What if I wanted to deliberately misorder? I would have to do this by ordering F GOB S to StP(sc) from Nwy. This would work right up to selecting Norway as the origin space. If I was to support a unit to St Petersburg’s south coat, I’d only have the following options for the final selection: Sweden, Finland, Livonia and Moscow: Norway wouldn’t even be an option.

What I really want to do with my deliberate mistake is enter the wrong coast or not enter the coast at all. I want to order either F GOB S Nwy-StP (which doesn’t work if a fleet is in Norway as I would have to select StP(nc) under most automated systems) or F GOB S Nwy-StP(sc) which is illegal because a fleet in Norway can’t move to St Petersburg’s south coast.

In short, webDip doesn’t allow players to make deliberate mistakes. This is an error. Players should be allowed to deliberately misorder. The feeble excuses for this deliberate error are rarely believed by other player, fair enough, but as an option it’s a valid.

I believe, then, that webDip’s order selection system actually contains two errors. First, it’s a mistake to not allow mistakes; being able to misorder is important, no matter what format of Dip you’re playing.

The second error, the logic progression of ordering support to then from is a mistake. It’s that way to prevent misorders but, even leaving that aside, if you are ordering a MOVE on webDip you order from then to – the reversal of this when ordering support is confusing. But also it is the reverse of the way the orders ought to be presented, as per the rules.

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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