Chris Martin is a former World Diplomacy Champion. He won WDC in 1998.
The Diplomacy Academy is a YouTube site. It does what it says in the title – explains ways to play Diplomacy. What is impressive about the Academy is that it explains the game in an uncomplicated way.
Martin’s first post is titled “Unintended Antagonism” – which seems to undermine what I said above! But go have a watch of the video, and I’ll add my thoughts below.
The video, if you haven’t watched it yet, is about what can happen when you issue orders that don’t gain you anything and makes your neighbours believe you antagonistic towards them. As Martin says, this is something you really don’t want to do – you are the best ally your neighbours could possibly want, are you? Well, you should be.
The example that Martin uses is perfect for this. It’s a novice mistake, made by a central power: trying to overstretch yourself. Martin shows us how Germany manages to antagonise both England and France in 1901.
The first mistake is ordering A Mun-Ber in S01. Martin says this is a questionable move anyway, saying that it’s something that is only a good move if it succeeds or if it is part of an arranged bounce with France. However, he says that France asking for the bounce is unusual.
I don’t think France – or Germany, for that matter – asking for a bounce in Burgundy is that unusual. It’s a good way for both powers to prevent the other from getting in there. There was even one situation when I was playing Germany and told France that, no matter what, I was going to order A Mun-Bur in S01; that doesn’t really match the situation Martin is discussing, however, because it was based on what I knew the French player did when they played France. That was a situational choice: it’s worth looking for the way a player plays their power as part of your planning for a game. But don’t think of the moves you may choose to make as being good in general – they’re possibly good situationally.
However, in the context of Martin’s discussion, it’s a very good point. What did Germany hope to achieve with this move? Well, probably it was because they didn’t know what to do with the Munich army. (OK, actually, the player probably didn’t know what to do, period.) Germany was moving F Kie-Den and A Ber-Kie – two very standard orders. What do you do with Munich in this situation?
Well, unless you think you know something, A Mun-Ruh is a pretty standard order. The alternatives are A Mun-Sil/Tyl/Bur. A Mun-Sil antagonises Russia and, unless you think Russia is ordering A War-Sil/Pru serves no purpose with the other moves Germany entered.
A Mun-Tyl antagonises Italy and/or Austria. It’s a good move if you’ve been asked to go there by one or the other (probably Austria asks this, as Martin points out, because it prevents Italy’s A Ven-Tyl). On it’s own, however, at this stage of the game, it means Germany is involved in an Austro-Italian conflict that they shouldn’t be involved in. Letting the other two central powers fight it out means that they’re not interested in moving north.
Did Germany choose A Mun-Bur simply to defend against France ordering A Par/Mar-Bur? Possibly but, in this situation, why not simply order A Mun H? Holding isn’t a good order for any unit at any stage of the game – there’s usually something more constructive to do. But in S01, A Mun H is a decent order unless you’ve something specific to do with the unit.
Then, in F01, Germany enters these orders: F Kie-NTH, A Kie-Hol, A Mun-Bur. Here, the red orders fail. Why A Mun-Bur again? France had ordered A Par-Bur, A Mar S Par-Bur in S01 and therefore occupied Burgundy. If Germany thoughts France would order A Bur-Bel – and this succeeded – then A Mun-Bur would probably succeed… but to what end? There’s no threat to Marseille, so A Mar-Spa was almost a certain order, and there was no threat to Brest, so F MAO-Por was almost certain. France was going to get at least two builds – what good would Germany having an army in Burgundy do them?
The absolute worst order, though, was F Kie-NTH. This is a good order if you’re working with France (and probably Russia) to attack England. It’s a fairly good order is you’re working with Russia to prevent England getting into Norway.
In this game, though, Russia couldn’t prevent England getting Norway. England had opened with the Churchill Opening: F Edi-NWG, F Lon-NTH, A Lpl-Edi. England could convoy her army to Norway, Denmark, Holland or Belgium; she could take Norway with either fleet. She actually ordered F NWG – Nwy, A Yor-Bel, F NTH C Yor-Bel.
Martin makes a great point: why would England vacate the North Sea in this situation? If she wants to land an army in Norway, Russia can’t prevent this. If she wants to land a fleet in Norway, Russia she only needs to move one fleet. If she is going after Russia, order F NWG-BAR, A Yor-Nwy, F NTH C Yor-Nwy. There is no sensible scenario in which the North Sea fleet moves.
Germany, then, has ordered in a way which tells France that they’re antagonistic towards them, and that tells England that – if you had moved out of the North Sea they would have moved there. At best, Germany has told everyone that they’re an opportunistic player.
What I would take from Germany’s orders is that they don’t know what they’re doing. Sure, they’ve gained two centres – Denmark and Holland. But – in the meantime – they’ve annoyed two or their neighbours. Given that France also supported Italy into Munich (ITALY: A Tyl-Mun; FRANCE: A Bur S Tyl-Mun), and Germany was subsequently forced to retreat A Mun-Ruh, there is already a Franco-Italian alliance against her. The chances are that England, with her army on the continent following her F01 orders (F NWG-Nwy, A Yor-Bel, F NTH C Yor-Bel) then why wouldn’t England join France and Italy in a Spaghetti Western alliance against Germany?
In both of these turns, Germany had no reason to enter the orders they made. OK, A Mun-Bur is possibly understandable if Germany’s been tipped off that France is moving there. But a French army in Burgundy is no danger unless Germany’s moved out of Munich… and if Germany is worried about a French occupation of Burgundy, A Mun H is generally better by far.
If you have no definite plan for your units, is there anything they could be ordered to do that is going to look positive towards your neighbours? In this situation, Germany could have ordered A Mun-Tyl. As far as the outcome would have been concerned it would have made no difference, but if Italy hadn’t ordered A Tyl-Mun, then Germany would have prevented A Ven-Tyl in F01. That would have helped Austria out if Italy had ordered A Tyl-Vie/Tri and A Ven-Tyl to back-up that order.
What I like most about this entry into the Diplomacy Academy is that it’s rare to see such a topic discussed. If you look at a lot of Dip articles, posts or other content, there’s a lot about how to play different powers, discussion of strategy or tactics, how to communicate, etc. This is different and it’s a very useful thing for new players to learn.
Watch the moves
Martin says that good players will think about every move, submitted by every player, every turn because it will tell you something about what the player is looking to achieve. This is a great tip and not something I often see from players.
Well, when I say I don’t often see it, it’s not something that is easy to judge when playing online. When you’re communicating with other players, the chances are you’re going to simply be looking at what has happened that interests you both, the crossover areas of the board where your common interests lie.
If you’re Turkey and you’re talking with Austria, for instance, you’re probably not going to discuss what England has done. However, when I’m playing, I’ll be aiming to message every player very regularly, probably every turn. I may not reach the “every turn” goal with all the players but that is what should be happening.
If you’re going to do that, you need to have thought about all the moves on the board. How can I, as Turkey, talk to France if I haven’t looked at what France and their neighbours have done? What do I have to talk to France about otherwise?
Diplomacy isn’t about only talking to your neighbours. If you do that, then the only relationship you’re going to have is with your neighbours. When I need to be corresponding with France later in the game, I’m not going to have anything to build that relationship on and will be starting from scratch… which makes me a low priority for France.