It’s been quite a while

And I’ve missed it, honestly. I like writing this blog, putting my woeful thoughts down on… well, whatever this is… sharing the good stuff that’s out there about Diplomacy.

However, I think I have an excuse: organising the Online Diplomacy Championship has been taking up a lot of time. And, just when I thought we were there, having set up the first round of games, I realised the hardest thing would be to get those games started!

It’s difficult enough to get a tournament going anyway, I guess. The ODC, though, involves people from all over and getting non-Playdip literate (to quote one of the entrants) used to following the organisation, reading PMs, joining games on time, confirming… If I had hair to pull out, I would have done it. Let’s just say my nasal hair is tidier than it has been for a while.

Still, ODC IV is up and running, sort of, and I hope, when this weekend is over, I can sit back a little, although I am going to be organising a couple more tournaments this year.

One is on Playdiplomacy only – the Playdiplomacy Gunboat Cup. 7 Elimination rounds, then a 2-game final. That’s going to start in May sometime. If you can join Playdiplomacy and get a Premium membership you can enter.

The other is a little more…. ambitious. The Online Diplomacy League will be run from September 2022 to May/June 2023 (ish). This will feature three separate Conferences – one on Playdip, one on webDip, and one on Backstabbr. The top players from these Conferences will then progress to the ODL Championship, featuring games on each platform.

Whether this final project comes off or not we’ll have to wait to see. Whether I have enough enthusiasm at that point is questionable.

So it’s going to be a busy year. Exciting I hope.

Oh, and I’m trying to get into some VDL games, too, although I’m failing at that side of things. But more about that later.

ODC IV – How do I enter?

This is just another post about the Online Diplomacy Championship, this year being hosted by Playdiplomacy.

For some background on the ODC, see my previous post. Here, I just want to give some info about how to get involved.

First, register on Playdiplomacy.com. Registration is free and playing in the tournament is also free. Yes, Playdip does have a Premium Membership feature to get full access to everything on the site, but you don’t need it to play in the tournament. You’ll want it, but you don’t need it!

Second, make sure you’re registered on the Playdip forum. The tournament is being organised there and all communications about the tournament will be through the Forum.

Third, follow these step-by-step instructions (how helpful am I?):

  1. On the Forum, go to the GAMES section.
  2. In this section, open the PlayDip Tournaments forum.
  3. Then go to the PCO – RULES & SIGN-UP: ONLINE DIPLOMACY CHAMPIONSHIP post (or just follow that link).
  4. Go to the last page and add your name.
  5. Go to your USER CONTROL PANEL (located under the banner at the top of the Forum).
  6. Click on Board Preferences.
  7. Make sure you’ve selected ‘Users can contact me by email‘ and ‘Allow users to send you private messages’ – I’ll contact entrants by PM but may need to use email, too.

Yep, that simple!

At the moment, here are the deadlines:

  • Deadline to sign-up is the weekend of 26/27 March 2022
  • Confirmation for those already signed-up will be sought from the weekend of 19/20 March
  • If you sign-up after from 19 – 27 March you will be automatically assumed to have confirmed
  • Deadline for confirmations will be 27 March
  • Round 1 game starts will be sent out on the weekend of 2/3 April

There is some room for movement in these deadlines but these are what I’m working towards.

Go on – sign-up! You know you want to!

The Online Diplomacy Championship 2022

Playdiplomacy is hosting the 2022 Online Diplomacy Championship – ODC IV!

You can find the basic tournament information on the Playdiplomacy Forum or the Diplomacy Hub. To enter you’ll need to be registered with Playdip but the tournament is free to play (for those of you who don’t want to go Premium).

The host tournament is the inaugural Playdiplomacy Classic Open. This is a four or five round tournament, featuring four qualifying rounds, and a final Medal Round.

The tournament will be decided in the Medal Round Championship Board. Here, the top seven players from qualifying will fight it out to win the Tuggle Trophy for winning the POC, and be declared ONLINE DIPLOMACY CHAMPION 2022.

Even more excitingly if you’re a fan of the Diplomacy Broadcast Network, the PCO/ODC IV is likely to be a listed tournament for the DBN Invitational tournament (the DBNI) in 2023!

DBNI

The DBNI is a virtual tournament. To enter you need to be invited and it’s how you get the invite that counts.

There are two qualifications:

  1. You must have played 2 virtual Dip games in the previous year/season. You can do this by entering any vFTF tournament, frankly, as a tournament has at least two games (well, usually). This requirement is to ensure that the DBNI isn’t your first experience of virtual Diplomacy.
  2. You need to have scored enough qualifying points to be in the top 28 of potential entrants. To do this, you need to score points in tournaments across any format – FTF, vFTF or Remote (what the DBNI peeps call “Extended Deadline”) – as long as the tournament is listed. Points scored are weighted by tournament size. Some tournaments are so big that there is an automatic place if you win it!

The POC/ODC IV is waiting to achieve official listing status for DBNI 2023.

If you’re interested, take a look at the DBN semi-final coverage of DBNI 2022’s semi-finals: Rounds 1&2, Rounds 3&4. And the DBNI Final will be covered too!

ODC

The Online Diplomacy Championship started in 2015 and is a tournament that runs every two years. In 2015 and 2019 it was hosted by webDiplomacy, and in 2017 by Playdiplomacy. With no ODC in 2021, POC was offered the title in 2022.

I think, originally, it was also going to be offered to other Dip sites, but currently on webDip and Playdip host it.

So, if you’re interested, go sign-up. Even if you don’t usually play on a website, it has to be a good way to get some points towards the DBNI, doesn’t it?

Do we need a Short Game rule for Tournaments?

Phew. It’s been a long haul but I’ve finally come to the end of the series on tournament scoring, which started here.

As I’ve said before, when I have posted a new post, I tend to post a Tweet. Not always, especially when I’ve completed more than one post a day, but often. This one will be Tweeted, too.

One of the replies I got from one of my Tweets started a brief discussion with two people, Bryan Pravel (@BCPravel) and Asso Francophone des Joueurs de Diplo (@asso_diplo).

  • @BCPravel commented: “I’d love a new edition to be printed that brings back the ‘rules for a short game’ and makes topping the objective instead of a solo. It’s a variant, but I would argue a useful one for f2f club play and some tournament formats. I was once a draw based / solo purist but have found the ‘short game’ rewarding board tops to be extremely fun in its own way. The best players can adapt to both styles of play.”
  • @thediplomaticon: “Well, I think it’s obvious from my blog posts that I dislike it as a set of official rules. Certainly not what ABC had in mind! But if a Dip group or a tournament recognises it, within the scoring system, that’s what you play towards, absolutely.”
  • @asso_diplo : “The official rules are the original idea of ABC but I think the limited time games did not displease ABC. I believe he created for that a scoring system: Within the limit of thrice its number of centers, we score: – 10 points for staying alive; – 1 point per center; – 2 points if you are first alone; – if we are not first, minus 1 point per center that the first has, from his ninth center included.”

I want to expand on these thoughts here and put it in the context of tournament scoring.

The Short Game rule

The Short Game rule was introduced in 1961:

Since gaining control of Europe takes a long time, it is generally advisable to set a time limit for the game. The player with the most pieces on the board at that time is the winner.

“Rules for Diplomacy”. Games Research Inc, 1961. Accessed from the Diplomacy Archive: http://www.diplomacy-archive.com/resources/rulebooks/1961GRI.pdf 3 Feb 2022.

This rule was in place, with some re-wording, through to the 1992 3rd Edition of the rules.

In 2000, the 4th Edition of the rules removed this rule, and it is absent in the latest set of rules, misleadingly called the 5th Edition, published in 2008.

In 1959, when the game was first published commercially before Games Research purchased it from Calhamer, the rule was absent.

I don’t think this rule was ever needed. Here is the 2008 version of the rules with regard to winning the game:

As soon as one Great Power controls 18 supply centers, it’s considered to have gained control of Europe. The player representing that Great Power is the winner. However, players can end the game by agreement before a winner is determined. In this case, all players who still have pieces on the game board share equally in a draw.

“The Rules of Diplomacy.” Wizards of the Coast LLC, 2008. Accessed from: https://media.wizards.com/2015/downloads/ah/diplomacy_rules.pdf 3 Feb 2022.

This rule, again worded slightly differently, existed from the start.

What you can see from this is that there was already a short game rule for Dip: if the players agreed, the game could end with everyone sharing in the draw. What the 1961 version added was that the agreement should be set before play, and a certain point be arranged to end the game.

It seems to me that the rule was introduced by Games Research Inc. There’s little to suggest that Calhamer had any input into this rule.

So this brings up the following questions for me:

  1. Did Calhamer support the additional rule?
  2. Why was it introduced?
  3. Why was it removed?
  4. Should it be reintroduced?

Did Allan B Calhamer, creator of Diplomacy, support the Short Game rule?

Of the questions above, 1-3 can only be speculated on. We don’t know, frankly. Perhaps Avalon Hill/Hasbro could tell us why the rule was removed, but I doubt it.

The answer to the first question can’t be known. However, there are clues to the possible answer. The first is in the rules to Diplomacy themselves. As mentioned above, this rule wasn’t in the 1959 edition. Why not? Because it wasn’t thought necessary; the short game was already covered by the objectives.

Another major clue, for me, is within Calhamer’s writings… or rather not in his writings. You won’t find anywhere Calhamer referring to this rule.

One problem with this is that the only easily accessible writings that I can find in the public domain are from the Diplomacy Archive. There is a section on the archive on Calhamer’s writings. One article especially stands out on this subject, an article I’ve referred to a number of times on this blog: “Objectives Other Than Winning”.

The article was published in the 1974 edition of the IDA Diplomacy Handbook. The Short Game rule had been in place, by then, for 13 years. It isn’t mentioned in the article. The only consideration in the article is that a game ends in a solo or an agreed draw.

Now, I’ve stumbled across some articles by Calhamer in Diplomacy World that are not listed on the Archive, which is disappointing. Perhaps they’re not there because DW keeps its own archive of past issues. However, I know that some of the articles from DW are listed on the Archive, so it seems that the Archive is a very unpredictable place. That may mean that a new archive is needed …

Anyway, the question should perhaps be asked why Calhamer doesn’t consider the Short Game rule as being a part of the discussion. One answer could well be that he wasn’t considering this type of game for the article, that he was only considering games played by mail. Short games were only usually found in tournaments or the like.

Another reason is that Calhamer gave no credence to the rule.

Why was the Short Game rule introduced?

Purely speculative here.

I’m not sure any tournaments would have been in place by 1961, just two years after Diplomacy was first published. In DW#5 (published Sept 1974) an article by Calhamer states that: “The first national Diplomacy convention … was held in Youngstown, Ohio. The sixth of these annual affairs was held in Chicago in 1973.” Assuming that one had been held every year, this would make the first NDC in 1968. That’s not to say that other tournaments hadn’t been held, but it gives some kind of time frame.

From this, then, it is unlikely that the rule was introduced to cater to tournaments. It may have been introduced following fan requests; in the same article Calhamer says that questions about the rules are sent to the manufacturer and passed to him.

Perhaps, after all, he had some input in the Short Game rule. Frankly, though, given that he never discussed it (that I can see) suggests that the rule came from Games Research Inc as a way to counter how long even a shorter game of Diplomacy was.

Why was the Short Game rule removed?

Given that this happened in 2000, when a new rule was introduced, it’s perhaps more likely that this was in response to fan input. Again, though, this is pure speculation.

I suppose, when it comes down to it, why the rule was removed isn’t important – it was removed and that’s that.

However, another possible reason is that tournaments have changed somewhat. If you look through the early description of tournaments (again, from Diplomacy World), they were very different to those of today. In DW#2 Calhamer describes a tournament as having just two rounds! In those days, apparently, games might end in a solo, in an agreed draw or in what Calhamer calls a “curtailment” (DW#8 “Thoughts on DipCon VII”). Today games may end in a solo, a draw, or a concession (where players agree that a player is going to go on and win). It’s rare that players will simply stop playing, which is what this curtailment involved.

Perhaps, then, by 2000, it was decided that the rule just wasn’t necessary. Perhaps it may be that the publishers realised that it just wasn’t what Calhamer had in mind.

Should the Short Game rule be reintroduced?

Well, as far as the rules go, I don’t see why it should be. It doesn’t add anything to the game and, frankly, if people decide to come up with their own way of playing the game then they will anyway!

But this brings me circling back to the Twitter chat.

Bryan suggests that the rule being introduced would:

  • Be useful for F2F club play and in some tournaments;
  • Be a fun variant in its own right, and
  • That good players can adapt to it.

For me, these reasons aren’t reasons to reintroduce the rule. Why would Dip clubs and tournaments need it as a published rule? If you’re participating in a tournament, the tournament will have its own house rules and these often have the way the game ends as different to the published rules. Certainly, as the widely used scoring systems tend to be SCS systems, then this probably encourages short game rules (although this isn’t always the case). Reintroducing the Short Game rule as an official published rule isn’t necessary.

It can be a fun variant, I’m sure. I might even find some enjoyment in it myself, as someone who thinks it’s non-Calhamerian and not what the game’s about. And I’m sure good Dip players can readily adapt to it – they’ve been having to adapt to various tournament scoring systems for decades! But, again, as a group of players, is it impossible to adapt the game to the way you want to play it?Impossible without this being a published rule? Surely not.

Reintroducing it as an official rule isn’t necessary. It was never necessary. The rules have always contained alternative ways to play: games for fewer than seven players, for instance. This rule should have been introduced in this way, rather than as an official alternative ending.

As far as tournament scoring systems go, well Calhamer did have the Calhamer Point system I’ve discussed previously. Then there is the Calhamer Tournament Scoring System which is described, a little misleadingly, in the Diplomacy A-Z.

Now I’m learning something different about this but I haven’t yet found this scoring system described other than in the Dip A-Z. There is something similar in Diplomacy World #10 from Calhamer. Neither of these match the system described by @asso_diplo.

I’m going to reserve judgement until I’ve actually managed to find the definitive Calhamer system for scoring tournaments. If it is based on the DW#10 system, then it doesn’t match today’s tournaments as it is based on curtailments. And, given that games that end in a solo or an agreed draw result in some division of 34 pts, it is effectively a DBS system, other than dealing with games that don’t end in a win or an agreed draw.

In terms of tournaments, then, I can’t find anything that suggests that the Short Game rule should be introduced into the rules again. If tournaments want to use a different system to end games, then they can simply apply it. Online tournaments, where a Game End Date is often used, do this by scoring games as if they’d been drawn at that time. (There may be some Calhamerian argument to say that these are ‘curtailed’ games rather than drawn games, I guess.)

In terms of tournament scoring, I haven’t yet seen anything definitive which ascribes an SCS system of scoring to Calhamer that fits in with modern tournaments. There is some evidence that Calhamer would accept this in games which just ended without a solo or an agreed draw. However, I don’t accept that SCS based systems are something Calhamer would like, given what I’ve read.

Even in that DW#10 article (and there were three in that issue, so the one we’re looking at is “On Rating Face-to-Face Diplomacy Games”) the use of some form of SCS scoring is almost begrudgingly accepted by the Great and Good ABC.

But I’ll keep looking.

As far as tournaments go, I don’t have a problem with any scoring system or tournament organisation they choose to apply. The same goes with any agreed way to end a game or score a game. Do what you are happy with!

What I will always hold to, though, is that some methods aren’t part of the Calhamerian design or concept for Diplomacy. And for me, that’s important. As I’m looking at running a tournament in the near future, you can bet whatever you want it will be Calhamerian!

Mean Comparison Scoring system

Remember the Hurst Tournament Scoring system? No? Go and read about it, then, because the Mean Comparison Scoring system is based on HTS.

In this case, however, MCS scoring is a DBS system, whereas HTS is an SCS system. In other words, MCS is based on points awarded by the outcome of the game.

What is the MCS system?

This is my version of HTS but based on DBS scoring. It’s never been used in a tournament, and I’ve never trialled it. So, yeh, yet another concept rather than a proven system. Woohoo, eh?

Like the HTS, it doesn’t deal with games as single entities. Instead, while games are scored singularly, they are scored for tournament purposes, over the whole tournament.

So, if you’re playing Germany in your game, your outcome will be compared with every Germany played in every game to get your ranking in the tournament.

Game points are scored as described below:

  • A solo scores 420 pts; everyone else scores 0.
  • Draws are scored by dividing 420 by the number of players in the draw.
  • This is denoted by p – player score.

When scoring the tournament:

  1. Find the total number of game points scored by each power in every game played – T (power total).
  2. Find the average of T for each power – aveT = T/g, where g = number of games.
  3. For each entrant, calculate the difference between p (player score for the game) and aveT; s.
  4. For each entrant, find the total of s across all games played – Sc.
  5. Divide Sc by the number of rounds played (R), which produces the number of points the player has – Pts.

Let’s assume, in a four round tournament, an entrant controlled England, France, Austria and Russia and got these scores in each game: 140, 105, 0 and 105.

The average of points for each power across all the games for England, France, Austria and Russia were: aveE (average for England) = 95, aveF = 150, aveA = 63, aveR = 82 (I’ve just pulled these figures out of thin air).

For the powers the entrant controlled their s is: E = 140 – 95 = 45, F= 105 – 150 = -45, A = 0 – 63 = -63, R = 105 – 82 = 23.

The player’s score (Sc) for all four powers is then: 45 – 45 – 63 + 23 = -40.

Their final tournament score (Pts) is, then Sc/4 = -40 ÷ 4 = -10

If the player managed to qualify for the final, and this was a one-off game, then they could still win the tournament by winning the game. If the game ended in a draw, then the score for the final would be doubled (putting an emphasis on the final). The points would be recalculated (divided by 5 rounds), and the player in the final that ended on the highest number of points across the tournament declared the winner. (The entrants who played in the final would have a separate top seven table for themselves to prevent the final moving them down the tournament rankings.)

1. What is the MCS system designed to do?

Simply put, to score tournaments. It couldn’t be used as a Ratings system because, over a larger number of games, the scores for each power would tend to level out.

If the tournament was awarding credits for “Best England”, “Best France”, etc it is ideal – all you need to do is look at who got the best s for each power! Any ties could be split by how many SCs they held at the end of the game in which they played that power.

2. Is the system effective in differentiating between players/results?

It would be very effective in achieving this result. This is because, over the whole tournament, it is unlikely that the points awarded at the end of the tournament would be the same. This is because the aveT scores would differ significantly.

The stronger powers would have higher aveT scores and, although it is certainly possible that players may get the same score in terms of the total of scores across all games, the difference between the scores for each power and the average score for that power would produce a total points that is different.

3. What are the objectives when playing to the system?

As with all DBS systems, the objectives are to solo or prevent someone else from soloing and surviving to be in the draw.

In a draw, the fewer players involved in the draw the more points a player will receive.

4. Are the objectives consistent with the design of Diplomacy?

Unlike HTS, the number of SCs has no impact at all, which is – frankly – what Calhamer wanted from a game.

The games could be DIAS or DINS (non-DIAS); this isn’t really important. I’d suggest DIAS is the preferred option as DBS games tend to run on longer than SCS games. This would mean there’s consistency when using a Game End Date (GED) to end games at a certain point.

5. Is the system a ‘good’ system?

I don’t know, frankly. I can see no reason why it wouldn’t be: it is compatible with Calhamer’s design for Diplomacy and it would produce differentiated results, which non-comparative systems may not.

One possible negative is that it compares results not just in a game, but across all games. I know some players would look at this aspect and not be impressed. Scores the games as separate entities, they’d cry. But this is a tournament and every game is affected by every other game in any tournament, so why not have this reflected in the scoring system?

It would also even out the differences between comparative power outcomes in games. If you’re one of those people who believes that scores should be weighted because some powers – Russia? – are demonstrably more successful than others – Italy? – then the MCS system removes this issue. Your outcome as Russia is compared with the outcome of every Russia in every game. This is markedly different from comparing Italy’s outcome with Russia’s.


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Diminishing Value DBS system

It’s only recently that I came across a scoring system similar to this one. Not quite the same so I decided to go with it anyway. It’s another of my systems.

The basic idea is that this is a DBS system. Your share of the points depends on how many players are in the draw and, crucially, how many players were defeated.

What is the Diminshing Value DBS system?

The difference between this and other systems I’ve discussed in this series is that each player puts up an ante of 60 points. I say potentially because the value of the game lowers based on how many players are defeated.

  • A solo = 360 pts + 12 bonus points
  • If you’re defeated you score -60 pts.
  • If you lose to a solo you score -62 pts.

For games that end in a draw, every player not involved in the draw still loses 10 pts. In a draw, use the formula: Pts = 60n ÷ N where n = number of players who lost and N = number of players who shared the draw.

This provides the following points:

  • 2-way draw: (60 x 5) ÷ 2 = 150 pts each.
  • 3-way draw: (60 x 4) ÷ 3 = 80 pts each.
  • 4-way draw: (60 x 3) ÷ 4 = 45 pts each.
  • 5-way draw: (60 x 2) ÷ 5 = 24 pts each.
  • 6-way draw: (60 x 1) ÷ 6 = 10 pts each.
  • 7-way draw = 0 pts.

1. What is the Diminishing Value system designed to do?

This is a tournament scoring system but it could, with a modification, be a Ratings system.

For a tournament, it is of limited use, on its own, for differentiating between results. Given that you would expect, in a tournament, to have a number of games that end with the same result, probably 3- and 4-player draws would be the most common results, then you’re going to have players ending the tournament on the same scores. Obviously, the more rounds in a tournament the fewer ties in terms of tournament points players would get.

2. Is the system effective in differentiating between players/results?

As mentioned above, no.

There would need to be some thought into what is used as a tie-breaker. You would need to be careful about not introducing a secondary scoring system that would clash with the DBS system itself.

A suggestion would be the following hierarchy of tie-breakers:

  1. Head-to-Head: How did players compare when they played in the same games? If all players involved in the tie were involved in the same game(s), what outcome did they have? How many points did they amass in those games only? However, if they didn’t all share a game in common, this should not be used.
  2. Power-to-Power: How did the players compare when they played the same powers? If all players involved in the tie played the same power(s) across their games, how many points did they amass for those powers? However, if they don’t all have powers in common, this should not be used.
  3. Superior Player Comparison: How did the players compare when they played against other players? Go down the rankings to find a player that all tied players have played against. Find the average point score each tied player won when playing against this player. Rank players based on this score. If players are tied on this score, it is possible to go back to the (1) and (2) above for these players alone.
  4. 0 for defeat modifier: Recalculate scores by removing the -60 pts for a defeat from the calculation.
  5. SC Count: Yeh, I know. But if everything else is tied…

3. What are the objectives when playing to the system?

Clearly, a solo is the best result possible from a game.

If you can’t win, then a smaller draw is better than a larger one. This means that draw-whittling is going to happen.

From this point of view, it is very Calhamerian in that it matches the Calhamer Point system, modified to 0-sum the games.

4. Are the objectives consistent with the design of Diplomacy?

As mentioned above, this is very Calhamerian. Win or prevent someone else from winning. Perhaps eliminating players to raise the points won in a draw is not very Calhamerian, but it fits in with his scoring system, so this can be overlooked.

5. Overall, is the system a ‘good’ system?

Well, it relies very heavily on tie-breakers. Perhaps, then, whether this system works or not depends on the sympathy of the tie-breaker system in use.

Because this is almost a basic DBS system, it depends what kind of play is employed. If players play more cautiously, aiming to draw, then games aren’t going to be of the highest quality, perhaps. However, given that a solo, on its own, is better than 2 x 2-way draws on their own (final totals of 192 and 180), making a play for a solo is better than playing for a 2-way draw.

It should encourage players, therefore, to prevent a solo, which is part of good play. You lose more points if you lose to a solo, as punishment for not getting your stuff into gear to prevent it. On the other hand, if you don’t attempt to get a solo, your points total is significantly less. Solos, then, should be an attractive proposition. You need 3 positive results to overturn a solo.

It may encourage 2-way draws, which I, personally, don’t like. Making games DIAS will discourage this, however.

The system would work best in the traditional online tournament, where a series of qualifying rounds is played and then a final game, where everything can be won and lost in the final.


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More about the C-Diplo scoring system

When I post a new blog post I tend to Tweet it. When I Tweeted my critique of the C-Diplo tournament scoring system, I got some interesting feedback from @asso_diplo.

The AFJD

@asso_diplo is the … I’m going to say ‘official’ … Twitter account of an organisation I hadn’t heard about before: Asso Francophone des Joueurs de Diplo (the Association of Francophone Diplomacy Players).

First, it says something about me that I wasn’t aware of this organisation. I suppose it’s the same with any wide community: within that community we stick with the people with whom we’re more comfortable. For me, linguistically, that’s Anglophones. I can mutter my way through the odd French phase, but that’s it.

Secondly, I need to find out more about AFJD. If you’re interested in doing the same, here are some links:

If you’re a French-speaker, take a look. If you’re not – take a look. I might even develop my French…

Anyway, back to those Tweets.

What is C-Diplo in reality?

In response to my Tweet advertising the C-Diplo post, we had this short Tweet exchange:

  • AFJD: “In most French tournaments with C-Diplo, 73 points for solo.”
  • Diplomaticon: “Yes, I thought that was the case. I know there are a number of different variations on C-Diplo. I wanted to use the original one, though. Especially as the C stands for 100.”
  • AFJD: “Several significations for “C”: the first, before 100, is that the letter “C” and the words “c’est” have the same pronunciation. ‘C-Diplo’ for ‘c’est Diplo’: that to say ‘it’s Diplomacy’. Moreover, the point of participation came later [than] the birth of C-Diplo with only 93pts, not 100.”
  • Diplomaticon: “interesting stuff, thanks.”

There are indeed variations on C-Diplo. Here are some links to look at:

Diplomaticcorps starts by explaining how C-Diplo was designed. It was designed to be 100-points-based. I don’t really know enough about Bruno-André Giraudon’s design to know whether the ‘C’ stands for ‘C’est’ or ‘100’ or not but, well, Anglophone bias aside, the idea that it stands for 100 seems to make a lot of sense, whereas: “It’s Diplomacy” makes less sense.

There seems little doubt, given the Diplomaticcorps and WDD info, that C-Diplo was designed with 100 points as the base for the scoring system. However, I am aware that it has been modified.

Diplomaticcorps tells us that C-Diplo awards 73 points for a solo: 38 pts for first place, 34 pts for dominating the board (winning the game) and 1 pts for playing. This fits what AFJD tells us about how most French tournaments adapt C-Diplo.

Diplomaticcorps explains that this balances solos more effectively against draws. In other words, a soloist simply scores the total points scored rather than a flat 100. Well, maybe this does balance scoring more effectively but, given that C-Diplo scoring is pretty much designed for games that don’t feature a solo, because the games are often too short to result in a solo, personally I think a solo should probably be rewarded more rather than less.

WDD calls what I discussed as the C-Diplo system the ‘C-Diplo 100’ system. However, if you go to the main page on WDD for “Scoring Systems” there are no less than seven versions of C-Diplo, including the C-Diplo 73 system described already (which was also designed by Bruno-André Giraudon).

The fact that Giraudon designed both C-Diplo 100 and C-Diplo 73 suggests that the original design was probably 100 pts for a solo, then adapted to 73 pts.

WDW focuses on the C-Diplo 73 system, giving info on the C-Diplo 100 system as an alternative. This, with what I’ve looked at above, suggests that C-Diplo 73 is, indeed, the way C-Diplo is used in reality. Which is fair enough.

AFJD tells us that the point awarded for participation came after the C-Diplo system was designed, which could mean that the C-Diplo 100 system was actually the C-Diplo 93 system! Again, I don’t know just how accurate this is; to me, it feels questionable but that doesn’t prove anything. If accurate, though, then “C’est Diplo” would be more accurate than the ‘C’ meaning 100.

Other C-Diplo adaptations

1. World Masters Email Tournament: This tournament adapted C-Diplo by awarding different points for the positions of the players, starting with the Top of the Board scoring 32 pts, then halving the number of points awarded down to 6th place, with 7th place scoring 0. Unfortunately, the link to the WMET doesn’t work on the WDD.

2. C-Diplo 73 DAANZ system: DAANZ (the Diplomacy Association of Australia and New Zealand) adapted C-Diplo 73 for the final tournament rankings, using a long list of tie-breakers. This really isn’t a C-Diplo 73 adaptation but a way of ranking final positions.

3. C-Diplo 80: This system awards points by scoring 25pts (not 38pts) for Topping the Board and awards no participation points. A solo is worth 80pts.

4. C-Diplo Argir: A solo scores 93 pts, with other players scoring 1 pts rather than 0 pts. If there is no solo, the Board Topper scores 37 pts.

5. C-Diplo Namur: A solo scores 85 pts with nothing awarded to anyone else. The 85 pts comes from 38 pts for topping the board, 1 point for playing, and 46 pts for owning 34 SCs, which is in based on 29 pts on the Namur scale for holding 17 SCs plus 17 additional points for the remaining SCs. In a draw, the top three places are awarded the standard 38, 14 and 7 pts respectively. However, rather than scoring points per SC, the Namur scale is used so that, 1 SC = 5 pts, 2 SCs = 9 pts, 3 = 12 pts, 4 = 14 pts, 5 = 16 pts, 6 = 18 pts, then each additional SC scores an additional point. The WDD explanation doesn’t mention any points for participation; the WDW explanation includes this addition. However, I think that the participation point has simply been missed from the WDD explanation, as part of the 85 pts for a solo includes the point.

6. C-Diplo Namur (18 SCs): Oh, wow. An adaptation of an adaptation. Here, the Namur scale is adapted from 4 SCs. Until that point, the Namur scale is as described above; however, after 4 SCs a player scores 1 additional point per SC, so that 17 SCs scores 27 pts. A solo, then, scores 83 pts: 38 pts + 1 pts + (27 pts for 17 SCs + 17 pts for the other SCs).

Yeh. At least EIGHT different versions of the C-Diplo system in all!

For me, this suggests that C-Diplo isn’t, perhaps, the most satisfying scoring system. However, the fact that C-Diplo 73 is the most utilised (it seems) then that is, perhaps, what we should accept as the standard C-Diplo system.

Still …

OK, so let’s take C-Diplo 73 as the true standard system. Does that alter an assessment of C-Diplo as a scoring system? Frankly, no.

My criticisms of the system remain, regardless of the actual version used:

  • A point for playing, not universal in all C-Diplo modifications but common to the majority, is – to me – silly. If it is true that it wasn’t part of Giraudon’s initial design, it would mean that it was introduced solely to raise the game score in a drawn game to 100 to match the points awarded for a solo. Let’s face it, if all you have to do to score at least something is start the game, that’s an incredibly low standard.
  • I will always argue that awarding points based on the number of SCs at the end of a game that ends in a draw has little to do with the design of Diplomacy. A draw is a draw, regardless of the number of SCs held – that’s Calhamer’s design. That might not be very useful, on its own, as a way of differentiating scores in a tournament (over a small number of games) but it isn’t impossible to introduce ways of utilising variations on a Draw-Based Scoring system.
  • As C-Diplo awards additional points ultimately based on SC count, in the form of positional points, this is both an exaggeration of SC count and another perversion of Calhamer’s design. In a drawn game, it doesn’t matter whether you have more SCs than anyone else: you drew the game. The concept of places at the end of a drawn game is nonsense, in the same way that finishing in second place to a solo is nonsense.

Toby Harris, WDC winner in 2015, first came into contact with C-Diplo at the European Diplomacy Convention in 1997. He didn’t win. However, in the next EDC C-Diplo was used again and Toby became European Champion. The 1998 EDC was held in the UK (at MasterCon) and it was the first exposure of C-Diplo to the UK Hobby.

Toby plays (or played?) a lot of tournaments. He’s a good Tournament player. He knows what he’s talking about when it comes to tournament play and scoring systems.

In his article “C-Diplo – Saint or Sinner?” he points out the pros and cons of C-Diplo 100. The cons are practical ones. He says that it matches Calhamer’s ideas about how Diplomacy should be played because the tendency in a game scored using C-Diplo is that, when a leader or leading alliance emerges, the other players gang-up on them and pull them back. A new leader will emerge only to be pulled back, and so on.

Wait – where’s the leader again?

Yes, I can see how play would develop in this way under C-Diplo, and that is – indeed – one of Calhamer’s designs: play to win and play to stop someone else winning.

He also points out that C-Diplo wasn’t liked by a lot of players at EDC 1998. It was a very different system to those used widely in the Anglophone hobby. He compares it favourably to Sum of Squares, for instance, where the points scored by players with a narrow SC difference between them is exaggerated. With C-Diplo, while positional points exaggerate small SC differences at the end of the game, the difference is smaller.

The other major pro for C-Diplo, in Toby’s eyes, is the impact he says it has on the Hobby as a whole. He points out that the French Hobby is (was?) the strongest FTF community in Europe. He suggests that this is because of the way conventions are organised and the fact that C-Diplo encourages new DipPups (novices) because they can feel that they’ve done well in a game while not actually “winning” it. In fairness, as he implies, this might also be because the French hobby ends games significantly earlier than in many other places; this, in itself, is why C-Diplo was designed the way it was. Shorter games maintain longer attention spans and greater interest.

And, of course, C-Diplo is a simple scoring system. To do well, you have to finish on more SCs than other players and place higher on the board. As Toby says: “Table-toppers get the points, amen.”

For me, as far as it goes, Toby is probably correct. What this means, though, is that C-Diplo is possibly the best tournament scoring system in wide use. That doesn’t mean, though, that it is a good system when in the context of Calhamer’s design, for the reasons I’ve argued above.

It is true that playing to the C-Diplo system means that Grand Alliance play (stop-the-leader play) should be part of the game. However, what Toby doesn’t seem to consider is whether board-topping and positional play is part of Calhamer’s design, and it isn’t.

For me, what type of play is involved in a game under any system is of lesser importance than the way the system awards points at the outcome of the game. After all, in tournament play, the aim is to maximise the points taken from the game, however you play it!

DBS systems are often criticised as producing boring games. Because, if you can’t win, you simply play for the draw, it means alliances can be built to last the game, there’s no jockeying for SCs to grab the extra points, it’s not important to pull the leader back. All this is true, as far as it goes. Under a DBS system there is a point in pulling back the leader if they’re close to winning, of course. And I’d argue that, as a leader can quickly become a winner if not drawn back, this aspect of the game is also an element of a DBS game featuring good players.

In conclusion

I find the details of C-Diplo interesting. You may not, in which case why the hell have you read this far?

When it comes to how ‘good’ a scoring system is, though, it doesn’t matter what C-Diplo variation you use, it’s focus is on managing SCs and topping the board, both of which are alien to Calhamer’s design for Diplomacy.

For all the positive points Harris brings out about C-Diplo, the final paragraph gives the biggest weakness to the system:

“Am I missing something here or should the ideal system (which most accurately simulates the game’s inventor’s ideals) not encourage a style where everyone jumps on the leader? One simple method is to reward the eventual board leader with all the gold, and the others with a few crumbs. Hence a final reason I consider C-Diplo to be “as good as any”, but it doesn’t mean I’ll not enjoy playing any system.”

Harris, T. “C-Diplo – Saint or Sinner?” First published in The Freaky Fungus Online #26. Accessed from http://www.diplomacy-archive.com/resources/ftf/c-diplo.htm on 29 Jan 2022.

Yes, the ideal system should simulate Calhamer’s design. But he then goes back to the tournament players’ ideal: Topping the Board. If you can show me where Calhamer’s design includes Topping the Board, I’ll accept it. I don’t think you can.

C-Diplo scoring system

The C-Diplo scoring system was invented in the French Hobby and it is a simplistic system. That’s not to say anything negative about the French Hobby, just in case you were able to imply that it does. Sometimes, simple is good.

Sometimes.

What is the C-Diplo scoring system?

The “C” in the title gives the game away. It is based on each game being worth 100 points.

  • A solo is worth 100 pts. Everyone else scores 0.

If the game ends in a draw, points are awarded such that:

  • Each player scores points equal to the number of SCs held at the end of the game.
  • Topping the Board (finishing on the highest number of SCs at the end of the game) earns 38pts; finishing in 2nd place earns 14 pts, finishing in 3rd place earns 7 pts. When positions are tied, the points are averaged between the players.
  • All players score 1pt for playing.

The system is designed so that a solo is clearly better than finishing a game with a draw.

In a drawn game, the best result is to Top the Board on 17 SCs, obviously, scoring 56 pts; the worst result which still results in Topping the Board (finishing on 6 SCs) scores 45 pts.

If two players finish on a 2-way split (17SCs each), each player will score [(38+14)/2] + 17 + 1 = 44pts. The worst score for 2 players finishing is equal top is: [(38+14)/2] + 6 + 1 = 33 pts.

If three players finish on a 3-way tie at the top of the board, each player will score at best [(38+14+7)/3] + 11 + 1 = 32 pts (rounded-up). The worst score for this is [(38+14+7)/3] + 6 + 1 = 27pts

You can see that the worst possible result for Topping the Board is better than the best possible result for a 2-way tie. This seems harsh but if the game finishes on 17-17, no player has Topped the Board.

1. What is the C-Diplo system designed to do?

It is purely a tournament scoring system. It aims to differentiate between players across the whole tournament rather than in a single game. If you tie in a game, you get the same number of points.

It rewards SC count, but also game management. The best players will look to keep a balance in the game, based on SC count, until as late as possible. At the end of the game, position is more important than SC count, in that the points awarded for the top three positions outweigh the number of SCs held, often.

C-Diplo was also designed to be used in short games. The European Hobby tends to end tournament games early, and this could be as early as 1907! This means gaining a high number of SCs would be less likely and so position is more important.

I suppose C-Diplo is more about SC management than pure SC count.

2. Is the system effective in differentiating between players/results?

Across the whole tournament, yes. Slight numbers in SCs held, will likely make a difference, and when players finish on the exact number of SCs held across all games, then positional points will be the difference.

3. What are the objectives when playing to the system?

Well, to solo. That’s the main objectives.

If we accept, however, that a solo isn’t very likely in many tournament games, then the aim is to manage the number of SCs you and your opponents have, not just about collecting as many SCs as possible. Of course, in general the more SCs you hold, the better, but it is more about playing for position at the end of the game.

For instance, if I finish in first place on 9 SCs, I earn 48 points. There could be three players tied on 8 SCs behind me, they would score 16 points each: [(14+7)/3] + 8 + 1. That makes my one SC lead three times more successful than a 3-way tie in second place on just one SC less than me! If two players tied for second on 8 SCs – [(14+7)/2] + 8 + 1 – they score either 19.5 or 20 points (depending on whether the scores are rounded-up or not), which means that I’m better than twice as successful as they are.

4. Are the objectives consistent with the design of Diplomacy?

No, they aren’t.

Once more we go to the old article by Allan B Calhamer, “Objectives Other Than Winning“, as well as the rules.

The objective of the game is to solo and, while this is the main objective of the C-Diplo scoring system, realistically – especially with the short games it was designed to for – the solo is highly unlikely (unless someone throws the game to you).

Where C-Diplo differs, as with Detour98F, is that it is about SC management and playing for position – the draw isn’t important. If you survive to the end of the game, it’s about what position you finish the game in and how many SCs you hold.

Playing to stop the solo is important but, again, with short games it isn’t really a consideration, unless someone hits 9 or 10 SCs by, say, 1904. I suppose that it could even be better – in the long run – to throw the game to someone else if it means that you still finish well across the tournament as a whole. Not so much in a structure that ends without a final but, if you’re playing to reach a final game, then doing this may well eliminate other players and see you progress.

5. Overall, is the system a ‘good’ system?

It’s intriguing, or I find it so. It isn’t just about SC count but more about managing SCs and grabbing that last SC off a near rival to improve position. This sets it apart from a lot of other SCS systems.

The level of differentiation is adequate, across the whole tournament, although there will be ties at the lower end of the rankings.

The fact that draws aren’t important of themselves removes the secondary objective from the design of the game, though, in favour of styles of play which don’t really belong in Diplomacy, whether they are SC count, SC management or positional play.


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Detour98F scoring system

When it comes to scoring systems, the Detrour98F is… well, it can’t be one on its own, as I was going to say, because I guess there were Detrour98E, D, etc. Although I could be very wrong. That happened once, I think.

I came across the Detour98F scoring system in an online tournament. At the time, I seem to remember it was used by DAANZ (the Diplomacy Association of Australia and New Zealand). I don’t know if it is any more but I kinda hope it isn’t.

I was new to online Dip back then and, for me, Detour98F seemed like a great system. I’ve grown up a little since then.

What is the Detour98F system?

This system is generally based on SCS, although it is littered with bonus points. It doesn’t use raw scores but standardises the scores so that a game is usually worth 100 points, which is the nice thing about it.

  • Solo = 110 points. Every other player scores 0.

When a game ends in a draw, the points are awarded such that:

  • 1 point for every SC held at the end of the game.
  • Top of the Board scores bonus points equal to the difference between the number of SCs they hold and the SCs held by the player(s) in second place. If more than one player ties for first place, 0 points are awarded.
  • If you finish Top of the Board, you score 4pts; 2nd place scores 3pts, 3rd place 2pts, 4th place 1pt. If two or more people finish on equal numbers of SCs, the lower total is scored. eg: if two players finish equal Top of the Board, they score 3pts each; if three people finish in equal 2nd place in terms of SC count, they score 1pt each. (I’ve seen this modified to score the average number of points, however, so that if two people finish Top of the Board, they score 3.5pts each; if three people finish in equal 2nd place they score (3+2+1)/3 = 2pts each.
  • Any player that survives to the end of the game scores 1 bonus point. In games where the draw doesn’t include all survivors, players will still get this point.
  • Any player that survives to Spring 1905 gets a bonus point. I’ve seen this scored as surviving to the end of 1905.

In a drawn game, the scores are then standardised by:

  • Finding the total of all raw scores as calculated above – this is the Game Score.
  • Dividing a player’s raw score by the Game Score, and multiplying the quotient by 100.

So in a drawn game, a player’s score is their raw score as a percentage of the Game Score.

1. What is the Detour98F scoring system designed to do?

Very simply, it is a tournament scoring system. It is designed to give differentiated scores that are mainly based on SC count, but which also includes bonus points based on the outcome of the game. As the majority of these BPs are based on SC count too, it is very strongly an SC system.

It does reward solos over draws, which is good. However, it is conceivable that two strong, board topping scores would produce a total of points in excess of a single solo.

2. Is the system effective in differentiating between players/results?

Not particularly. If you finish a game on the same number of SCs as another player, you will score the same number of points as that player.

However, in terms of the final positions in a tournament, it would be unusual for multiple players, with decent results in most games, to finish on a tied score. This is likely to be all that is needed given that players that get decent results in most games will be towards the top of the rankings anyway and probably don’t require tie-breakers.

3. What are the objectives when playing to the system?

Basically, survive and get as many SCs as you can – it’s an SC collecting system.

However, the first objective is to survive until 1905. If you’re on the board in 1905, you’re taking something from the game.

If you survive until the end of the game, you’re going to get a raw score of 3 points as a minimum, and likely to be more. It doesn’t matter if you’re part of the draw at the end of the game or not – you just need to survive.

It encourages players to try to build a gap, in terms of SCs, between themselves and players behind them and to reduce the gap between themselves and players ahead of them. If you’re the board leader, increasing the gap in SCs between yourself and the player(s) in second place is rewarding. And, of course, finishing as Top of the Board is a reward in itself.

4. Are the objectives consistent with the design of Diplomacy?

Absolutely not.

Because this system completely ignores the draw as a result, and reduces it as simply a way to end the game, it ignores what could be termed the secondary objective of Diplomacy: to survive to the end of the game and share in the draw.

We’re back again to Calhamer’s article on “Objectives Other Than Winning“. In this article, Calhamer states that a system such as Detour98F rewards play that isn’t part of his design for the game. SC count at the end of the game is not part of the design. Finishing “Top of the Board” has no value in his design.

Bonus points for surviving to 1905… Well, why? What has that to do with the result of the game?

Frankly, the only scores that meet Calhamer’s design are the results for a solo and the bonus point every survivor gets at the end of the game.

5. Overall, is the system a ‘good’ system?

Let’s try to be positive.

If you solo, you’re rewarded far above not winning outright. That’s good.

It will, over the length of the tournament, give sufficient differentiation between players to provide a ranking that is unlikely to require tie-breakers, at least in the top positions. There may be some difficulty if the tournament structure is based on the top seven players from the rankings progressing to a play-off game for the title, but this is still unlikely.

If you subscribe to the idea that a scramble for SCs towards the end of the game, and the dynamism this brings, is a good thing, then Detour98F should provide that. Personally, I don’t see this as any more exciting towards the end of a game than the battle to prevent a solo, or to survive, but still…

And that’s just about it.

In terms of playing Diplomacy, rather than simply playing a game that involves a scramble for SCs, Detour98F is a poor scoring system. In the article “Objectives Other Than Winning” Calhamer points out that most of what this system rewards is well outside his design for the game, and that just underlines that it is a poor system.


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The Next Conversation

If his mouth’s open, he’s lying.

How many of you, the Diplomacy players out there, feel that about some of the people you play against? In Diplomacy, lying is part of the game. It isn’t unique in that respect; look at how many cooperative games there are that involve people lying as part of the game! For instance, take a look at “Blood on the Watchtower” from the No Rolls Barred YouTube site (be aware, it’s a long video!)

A lot of good players will tell you that Diplomacy isn’t actually about lying but about being truthful – as far as you can be. There’s no denying, though, that withholding info and out-and-out lying are part of the game (whether you like it or not).

So, what do you do after you’ve sold, or bought, a big porky pie? That’s the topic of Chris Martin’s Diplomacy Academy #3 video on YouTube.

Before we get into the review, I can’t stress how important it is to continue communicating with a player you’ve lied to or stabbed. And, if you’re the victim of this nefarious act, then it is equally important that you continue communicating with the basta-, er, perpetrator of the act. Why? Because Diplomacy is as much a cooperative game as any other, as well as being hyper-, non-Euro-board-game competitive.

But you know that already, don’t you? In which case, you know how important it is to keep those lines of communication going.

Great. So why do you clam up in these situations!?!

I’m saying nuttin’!

Well, perhaps the answer to that challenge is because it’s difficult to know what to say post betrayal. After all, that fuc-, sorry, player has just lied to you; how the hell can you trust them again? And, if you’re on the other side of the board, what do you say to the suck-, um person you lied to?

Well, Chris has the answers.

1. Address the lie

By this, Chris isn’t suggesting that you write something like, “So, Mr Liar …” (or, as Jacob Rees-Mogg would insist: “So, Liar, esq …“) He means, acknowledge the lie. If you don’t, he says, the lie will undermine all future communications between the two of you.

If you were lied to, then how can you trust that liar again? If you told the lie, you are going to be concerned that the other person is going to always be thinking you’re lying again!

Simplistic solution: don’t lie. I’m becoming convinced that players who constantly say they don’t lie, if they’re being honest about that (which, in fairness, they probably aren’t) it’s probably because they just don’t know how to deal with the consequences of lying. Well, that or they’re delusional. Let’s face it, apparently you can get elected to head of state and be delusional…

Chris says that you need to acknowledge that that just happened and look beyond it. Either: “Well, yeh, I lied to you but let’s see what we can do now,” or: “So that was a nasty thing to do. Where do we go from here?”

2. Establish a new working relationship

There’s no question in Chris’ mind that you need to establish this relationship, and you do. You don’t know what’s coming in the game (no matter how super a soothsayer you are) and you’ve been communicating, and probably working, with this player already. You may not be able to trust them implicitly again, but you need to keep something going.

If you were lied to, Chris says, and you came out of the debacle with a positive outcome, you have the “moral high ground”: you were lied to while being scrupulously honest yourself (obviously). You also have the better tactical position: the lie didn’t work.

It’s easy in this situation to take the high ground. “Idiot,” you say. “A liar and a pretty bad one at that!” Well, that’s not the best next move (although it’s tempting to savour it!) Instead, acknowledge the lie and then begin to establish how you can work with the liar going forward.

That’s so unfair!

If you were lied to and it worked out well for the liar, then the easy thing to do is take offence, clam up, threaten to become a Kingmaker or, as happens all too often in Webplay, leave the game with a sulky, abusive comment.

Instead, you need to work on moving forward by seeing if you can establish some kind of agreement with the liar. What do they want to put this unhappy event aside and look at working together again?

If you do want to prevent this player from getting any success from the game, well, fair enough; sometimes you just don’t want to find a way to work with them again. Probably a little closed-minded but, well, it is what it is. Still, you need to make sure you can establish this relationship, too.

Now, what if you’re the villain of the piece? Well, your main job is to find out what reaction the victim is likely to have, what their objectives are now, what they feel about you. Don’t expect flowers or chocolates, though!

Sometimes the lie didn’t leave anything bitter. Perhaps, Chris suggests, it was a minor offence: you might have lied about a minor change in orders that hasn’t done too much damage (apparently) at this time. Perhaps, then, the victim can be talked into just moving on because nothing significant has happened.

For you, though, the important thing is to work out what the relationship is going to be like going forward. If you’re in a better position, what terms can you set that will allow the other person to work with you. And, if things didn’t go well, what terms are you going to have to live with to work together again?

3. The next tactical moves

You then need to refocus on the board. What, practically, is going to happen now?

Chris says there are two possible things to consider:

  • What do you want to do next? What, specifically, are you going to want to happen on the board and how is the other player going to fit into this?
  • What do they want to do next? Do they have a specific ask about moves on the board? How do you react to this?
I’m bad

Is there a working relationship, still? If so, do you want to work with the other player, or do you want to take advantage of that relationship? It’s sometimes better – in your self-interest – to repair the relationship and then take advantage of it again! Oh, you devil, you!

Alternatively, do you believe you can’t trust the other person now? If so, then you need to act accordingly. In this case, you still need to consider what they tell you, and work out from what they say and how they say it, what orders you can put that work best for you. You also want to try to work out what they’re going to do next.

As Chris says, in a game you can find that you’ve lied to them, they’ve lied to you, you’ve kept communications open, and you know they’re lying to you again, and they know you’re lying… again. That’s fine, as long as you still come out of that writing the correct orders anyway.

4. Reading between the lines

Or, as Chris puts it, listening. Chris has in mind FTF play whereas in this blog I concentrate on Webplay, playing your Diplomacy on a website. Either way, this is something that you need to be doing all the time; in a situation when you’re dealing with the aftermath of a dirty, rotten liar (who could well be you) it’s crucially important.

Giving the big bird
  • What are they telling you? How are they telling it to you? How are they structuring their arguments?
  • What aren’t they telling you? What situation are they ignoring? What topics are they avoiding?
  • And, just as importantly, how do you react? Do you bring your insights to the fore, or do you pretend to have missed these subtle clues?

As part of this video, Chris presents an actual negotiation, caught on video from the 2016 World Diplomacy Championship. It’s a short clip but it shows what might happen in the apocalyptic, post-lie world. Just so you know what’s gone on: Peter Yeargin is playing Austria and he’d previously lied to David Maletsky is playing Turkey.

Interestingly, to me, Yeargin starts by implicitly acknowledging the lie. However, he tries to gloss over it by saying that he is simply going to allow Maletsky to dictate what Austria’s units do in the coming turn. He does this by saying how tired he is of “Goff and Brand and their nonsense.” As an aside, this is, of course, Andrew Goff, 3-time World Diplomacy Champion, and Chris Brand, WDC in 2016 (with Goffy in third place).

Maletsky comes back by saying he would like what they said they’d try to happen this turn. Peter agrees and they work on that basis.

Chris pulls out some great analysis of this (and one of the things he mentions I’m going to leave until the end of the post). He points out that Peter acknowledges the lie but Dave doesn’t. Dave seems to be listening, but Peter doesn’t. They both come up with a specific set of orders – and both have lied again.

Austria tried to persuade Turkey to attack Russia in Rumania. Instead the Austrian unit that was to support A Bul-Rum, A(Ser), was actually ordered A Ser-Rum. However, Turkey also changed the order for the Bulgarian army to A Bul-Ser. Because Andrew Goff ordered A Rum S Ser-Bul (and Austria ordered F Gre S Ser-Bul) Yeargin got the better of the turn and Maletsky lost Bulgaria. Still, as Chris points out, Yeargin won’t now be able to work with Maletsky again (and Brand and Goff probably took full advantage of this!)


As with all Martin’s Diplomacy Academy vids, this is great. I’ve always been a great proponent for not letting communications drop but I’ll admit that sometimes it’s difficult to know how to start the next conversation, let alone what to do with it!

There are a couple of things that I think are worth commenting on.

If you’ve been lied to, you’re going to be stupid to not expect to be lied to again by that evil son of a Bismarck. Equally, if you’re the liar, then you must expect that the other player isn’t going to believe you any time soon.

From this perspective, expecting to be able to repair the relationship is a misplaced notion. I have been in games where I’ve managed to rebuild trust with another player (from both sides of the board) but it’s taken time and other developments to force that relationship to be rebuilt.

However, Chris isn’t talking about ‘rebuilding’ the relationship but about ‘re-evaluating’ it. If you’re going to work together again (or pretend to work together again) you can continue with the relationship but it will be on different terms. It would be stupid to do anything else.

You want me to build what???

Chris doesn’t consider what to do if you’ve lied to a player and they now transform into a the Spirit of Vengeance (not so much Ghost Rider, with his burning head, but George Dubya, with his burning bush). How do you handle that?

There’s a couple of reasons Chris doesn’t mention this:

  • First, because that isn’t the topic of his post. He’s not telling you what to do when your betrayal leaves an Armoured Duck or a Kingmaker across the border. He’s considering what you should be doing in response to whatever the new dynamic is.
  • Second, frankly, what can you do about it? If the other player is simply spitting venom in your direction, or not communicating at all, then there’s nothing you can do about it – you just have to work out how to deal with that. That’s the price.

The stubbornness of some players knows no bounds.

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