The Grantland Discussions, Introduction

I don’t know when I came across the Grantland article on Diplomacy, but I’m glad I did. I’ve read a number of articles on the game; this one, “The Board Game of the Alpha Nerds” by David Hill, is the best by far.

The reason it works is that it was composed ‘at’ the 2014 World Diplomacy Championship, or World DipCon if you prefer, when it was hosted by DixieCon. It captures what it’s like for a tournament novice. It’s not easy. When you read it, you can see just how difficult it was for Hill to cope with playing Diplomacy at the highest tournament in the world.

The article isn’t just about the tournament, though. Sections recount how Calhamer invented the game; how one of the Hobby’s foremost Diplominati, Edi Birsan, got into the Hobby, and it features interviews with Dippyists at the tournament. It’s a name-dropping article: Dave Hood, Brian Ecton, Siobhan Nolen, Chris Martin, Toby Harris, Andy Martalone, Thomas Haver, Dave Maletsky and Chris Brand are all involved.

And it brings up some great talking points, which is why I’m basing a series of posts on the article. As I was re-reading it recently (yes, it is good enough for a re-read) I thought about how some of these talking points are worth recycling.

The rest of the posts in the series will feature my take on the points that are brought up in the article. There are plenty of them and they’re worth covering again:

  • The clash of styles
  • Carebearism
  • Inclusion
  • Diversity
  • The nature of the game

All of the above, in one article. Wow.

Hill doesn’t really go into a great deal of detail about any of them other than the nature of the game. And this is what the whole article is about. He has a tough time – a very tough time – at the tournament. Perhaps this is something that he should have expected: it was the World Championship, after all. There were accomplished Dippyists and more than a smattering of Dipmeisters there. From what I can see, Hill isn’t that experienced a player and certainly he wasn’t prepared for the nature of FTF tournament Diplomacy.

One little warning: if you know your board game history, you have to overlook the error made right at the start of the article.

Before Risk, before Dungeons & Dragons, before Magic: The Gathering, there was Diplomacy. One writer enters international competition to play the world-conquering game that redefines what it means to be a geek (and a person).

There are, in fact, two errors. Let’s start with the second: “… to play the world-conquering game.” Diplomacy isn’t a world-conquering game – it’s set in Europe. Still, I suppose that it could well be considered as a “world” conquering game in that, in Diplomacy, the ‘world’ of the game is Europe.

The big error, though, is “Before Risk …” There’s not much in it, but Risk slightly predates Diplomacy. Risk was released in 1957; Diplomacy – as Realpolitik – was released in 1958. Risk was purchased by Parker Brothers in 1959, the same year Diplomacy was commercially released by Calhamer, although it wasn’t until 1961 that Games Research Ltd bought it.

It is true that Calhamer first produced Realpolitik in 1954, but that doesn’t really count.


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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