The Jaded Gamer

So... my attempt to reach 1000 plays of 10 games failed. What now?
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Diplomacy, or "don't ally against your wife"

Alec Chapman
United Kingdom
South London
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Anyway, how's your sex life?
I had a crowd of friends over this weekend to play games and test out the first edition of the horror movie drinking game rules.
Following a week of intense negotiations, Diplomacy was tried on both days with varying success. As an earlier blog post suggested, a couple of people expressed concern about the game so I took up Scott’s excellent suggestion of just trying it for an hour to see if we enjoyed it. Actually, we played for longer than that in both instances (We played to the end of 1904 in both, taking around 2.5-3 hours). All negotiations took place in the room and mostly at the table, though in Game two the two alliances (Austria/Italy & England/France) passed notes with vary degrees of secrecy. England made the mistake of writing his on the back of his order sheet, so we all just read them while he held it up during the resolution phase!
While talking about order sheets, I highly recommend the ones in the file section here on BGG designed by Jakob Silk as once I had given these out and showed a sample order being written it all got considerably easier. We were also able to fit several years on each in the early parts of the game so they’re even better than it appears at first.
I had a few problems with rules – the actual rulebook went missing during day two and so I couldn’t definitively answer the questions about moving from one side of Sweden to the other and one side of Greece to the other. Help with the specific fleet movement rules about places such as these would be great! I’m really confused about fleet movements into and out of coasts in general. If I take Spain with a fleet, I realise I can’t exit from the South to the North, but can I exit into any of the Southern Seas (I think Gulf Of Lyon and West Med)? Help appreciated.
So how did the attempts go?
In day one, with just five players, I drew Austro-Hungary and for reasons of encouragement did not make any moves towards Russia early on, since it was being played by a rare gamer who I anticipated being vulnerable to taking such things personally in the first game (and knowing they would concentrate on Germany and Scandinavia as passive targets) as they don’t have quite as long a history of betrayal and counter betrayal by members of this group as the rest of us. In the five player game, Italy and Germany are neutral and passive so there was no harm in butchering them. I went through Italy and after a couple of hours we felt we had the game down and resolved to try again with seven players the next day. Nothing particularly exciting happened in this game, other than an excellent level of banter and enjoyment.
Day Two’s game started slowly for me since I drew Italy and failed to persuade Austria and Turkey to let me convoy to Greece to get my fifth supply centre. The player who drew Germany got utterly wiped out quite quickly and Russia (being played by the same player as the day before) was looking in deep trouble. Neither had made any allies. This is obviously a crucial part of the pre-game negotiations that we, as brand new Diplomats, didn’t work on enough so it felt to these players that they never stood a chance when maybe they could have worked together. Particularly I thought Russia should have set up their fleet on the north coast rather than on the Bothnia coast for more manoeuvrability – perhaps they could have built a mutual convoy system to take the fight to England.
It does strike me that Germany starts in a horrible position and absolutely needs to work with someone else (I want to say Russia or England?) – Sadly England and France had made friends and just totally butchered them.
As Italy I had terrible trouble getting the fifth supply centre. Since I had reached a non-aggression agreement with Austria-Hungary, we co-ordinated the taking of Marseille by my Piedmont based army (started in Venice). I used my support from the Gulf Of Lyon and was successful thanks to his cutting of defensive support from Spain while France was otherwise engaged – in this case with the dying remnants of Germany. I was very concerned at the possibility of a back stab from Austria into Rome or Naples and this kept me from being too brave while he was in and around the Tyrhennian, keeping an Army in Naples in case of invasion and not letting my fleet go too far. I eventually persuaded him to accept Portugal as his prize for helping me move on into Spain
Sadly, by this point Turkey had come to the same conclusion as I had on Day 1; that complete invasion of Russia may lead to the gaming equivalent of mutually assured destruction and so was encroaching on Austria and Italy’s borders. I built a fleet in Venice to combat the potential threat and my westward expansion plans of giving Portugal to Austria while taking Spain for myself were in tatters.
At this delicately poised juncture at the beginning of 1905 however, peace was declared for time reasons (there had been a delay prior to game start).
While neither game was entirely successful from a general enjoyment point of view, I feel I got a lot out of them. I knew neither was going to get to the end since it would have died with this group without the majority still being involved so I wasn’t disappointed on that score.
I will definitely play again and everyone seemed to have fun at some point in each game, though the player who was England and then Germany did not particularly like either power.
That being said, I concluded that face to face is not the best way to play it. The length of time the game takes combined with the problem of player elimination for hours at a time renders it unsuitable for this particular group. I think we could all play it by email or on a client instead, with very few problems arising. A couple of these particular players would probably not be interested, but I’m certain I could find others if necessary.
Also: If you (Italy) are going to gang up with someone (Austria) against your wife (France), best not to leave your horrid notes lying around for her to read post game. Whoops! While she had an ally in England my complete ignoring of her offers of mutual non-aggression were rendered even less becoming when she found out we were going to wipe half of her forces out within the next year! Hate to think what would have happened if we’d actually gone through with it.
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