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"I got my buddy. I'll trust him with my car, my computer and my rent. I will not trust that son of a bitch with Belgium, though"
A Turn-Based Strategy board game, and one of the all-time classics, created by Allan B. Calhamer in 1954 and first published in 1959. While playing the game, a practice of dealing honestly and fairly with your opponents (inside the rules of the game) can be described much more succinctly as "losing". Possibly the most intense board game experience ever created, it has incredibly simple rules, is still popular fifty years after its publication, and will break your tiny little mind. As an added bonus, there is a complete absence of any influence of random chance over the game: whatever happens, happens as a direct result of player decisions. Including stabbing you in the back, taking over your entire empire, and driving you out of the game, all because you believed the guy playing England when he said he was going to invade Tunis this turn.
Originally designed as a game aid to teach people about diplomacy and the world situation before World War I, the game has been destroying friendships, making people pass out from stress, and ruining lives ever since.
The basic form of the game (there are many variants) is a Take Over Europe scenario set in The Edwardian Era. Each of seven players, playing one of the key powers of Europe, has to gain control of 18 of the 34 available supply centres (named after cities or provinces) in order to win. Players move together (submitting their orders in written form to the adjudicator/judge) and each unit has equal strength. In order to take a territory from someone else, you have to have other units supporting your attack.
Switzerland is impassable, while Kiel, Constantinople and Denmark can have a fleet travel through them if no-one is in there.
The two types of units are armies and fleets, with fleets being able to convoy armies across seas and travel along coasts, while armies can go into landlocked territories, where many supply centers are.
The game operates in a five-phase turn representing a year, starting from 1901 (games generally last between 5 and 20 years):
- Spring Movement phase
- Spring Retreat/Disband phase (ejected units move elsewhere, entrapped units are destroyed)
- Autumn Movement
- Autumn Retreat/Disband
- Winter Build/Disband
- You can have as many units as supply centres you control. To make new builds, you must have one of your "home supply centres". England starts with two fleets and an army, Russia with two fleets and two armies (although both its fleets have a hard time getting anywhere and its border is huge), everyone else two armies and a fleet. Lose all your supply centres, you have until winter to get one back or you're out.
Has been often done by post. It's a popular email/forum game too, with some good banter known to occur.
Between these moves there is much negotiation. Back-stabbing, lying, alliances etc. is positively encouraged and widespread. There are some actions though (i.e. altering your opponent's orders, impersonation in correspondence games) that are considered ungentlemanly. It is impossible to win the game without making allies, and even more impossible to win without subsequently breaking them.
To bring an example of the convoluted nature of negotiations, it is not unusual for, say, France to engage in coordinated standoffs with Italy in order to fake a war with him, in order to satisfy Turkey, who demanded that France attack Italy in order to prevent Italy from attacking Austria while Turkey and Austria invade Russia together; the only reason France cares about what Turkey wants from him is that he and England are attempting to invade Russia's allies in Germany, and the Turkish invasion will distract Russia's attention and prevent him from opening up another flank with England. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to France or Turkey, Italy has already made a deal with England to hold off his attack on Austria until the conquest of Germany is completed, at which point he and England will turn on France. It Makes Sense in Context.
It is also not unheard of for some bizarre game position to occur, In one forum game, Russia found itself in Spring 1905 with German armies occupying Moscow and St. Petersburg, Warsaw under German control, the only Russian-controlled home territory being Sevastopol and his Baltic Fleet parked in Berlin. In another face-to-face game, an Italian fleet somehow ended up invading Edinburgh.
Diplomacy is an example of the simultaneous-resolution campaign-level type of TBS game, and shows both its benefits (very pure strategy, as each player has the same positional information available to him - diplomatic information is another matter, making persuasion all-important) and its drawbacks (the chance for endless negotiations).
This game contains examples of:
- Alternate History
- Attack Pattern Alpha: Many custom names have been created for openings, strategies and alliances, often derived from the late Richard Sharp's book, The Game of Diplomacy, for example the Lepanto, an Austrian-Italian alliance to quickly eliminate Turkey, named after a 1571 battle.
- Many of these names are so ubiquitous that it becomes a case of Calling Your Attacks. The "Juggernaut" in particular is thrown around in every game, regardless of Russia and Turkey allying.
- Balance of Power
- Betrayal Tropes (Have fun. And we hope to ...Stab You Soon!.)
- Celebrity Endorsement: a 1962 release noted it was played in the Kennedy White House, while a mid-1970s release pointed out this was Henry Kissenger's favorite game
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Although doing it too much just means buying distrust from everybody.
- Color Coded for Your Convenience: Although it may vary, each country has usually these following colors: England is blue/pink, France is turquoise, Russia is white/purple, Turkey is yellow, Germany is black, Austria-Hungary is red, Italy is green, and neutral territories are beige/white.
- The Dragon: A winning player often has another player working for him, popularly called a "janissary." Be careful because he will likely be The Starscream.
- Often the agenda is simply to make sure that someone else besides the guy that rendered him incapable of winning himself is the final victor. Because revenge is a dish that is Best Served Cold.
- The Edwardian Era: The game officially begins in Spring 1901, but the map is closer to 1914. The primary difference is that the 1912-1913 Balkan Wars wouldn't have happened yet, so Turkey would still have a land connection to the Adriatic Sea. Sweden and Norway would also be a single country until 1905.
- The Empire: What everyone wants to be.
- Enemy Mine: We call this an "alliance."
- Evil Overlord: Every player.
- Espionage Tropes (Any you can fit in the context of seven players. As exchanging information picked up from conversations with other players is perfectly legal, so is all the trickery associated with such.)
- Flying Dutchman: The name was appropriated for the tactic of sneaking a counter onto the board when nobody's looking. It's generally considered legal so long as it's taken off when called on it (however, turns are not replayed if it's been making stuff happen).
- Gambit Pileup: With each nation having its own secret agenda, the negotiation table can get rather messy.
- Government in Exile (If a player's home Supply Centers are captured, the player can still survive as long as he has at least one SC left. But a home SC is necessary to raise more forces.)
- Gunboat Diplomacy: The name of a variant in which players cannot communicate with each other.
- In-universe, it provides an alternative interpretation as to why (for example) Norway would align with England after a fleet pulls into port.
- House Rules
- Kingmaker Scenario: A player in a weak position may still be able to tip the balance between two more powerful rivals. Possibly subverted if the player is able to take advantage of the situation and extract concessions that enable him to get back into contention or even win the game himself.
- Love Dodecahedron: With wars and alliances instead of hate or love relationships. It's worse because instead of A < B > C > D < E <> F, everybody has some kind of relationship with almost everybody else.
- And Heaven help you when there really are mixed genders at the table and willing to flirt to win.
- Melee a Trois: And how. For a game with seven powers and no default alliances, anything goes.
- Playing Both Sides: Pretty much the best situation one can be in. Cue everyone trying to achieve it...
- Pragmatic Villainy: It is the general consensus that players should keep their treachery level to a minimum. So that when they really need to backstab someone, it will really hurt.
- Put on a Bus: Montenegro, and a few other tiny states.
- Rage Quit: A problem on the judges. Several systems have been put in to account for this when selecting players.
- Real Time with Pause: Specifically the simultaneous-execution style. This is part of the reason that the potential for gambits and backstabbing for which the game is famous exists in the first place.
- Risk Style Map: Just look at it
- Take Over the World: Sort of. You win by having more then half the supply centers on the board in your control which means you can claim to be the most powerful Evil Overlord in the world.
- The assumption is that once you own more than half the board, you can crush the opposition by yourself.
- Sliding Scale of Turn Realism: Round by Round.
- Stop or I Shoot Myself: A desperate player may claim that he will move all his forces to face the one he is threatening, so that someone else will have a power vacuum to take advantage of, while the one threatened will get very little.
- There Can Be Only One: Depends on the game. Sure, it's played straight in some games, but other players in stalemates are more content to announce 2-way, 3-way, and even up to 7-way ties as long as no power has been completely eliminated.
- True Companions: Don't play this with them or you'll need a new set when you are done. Or take an oath to hold nothing that happens in the game against one another.
- Xanatos Planned This Game
- War Has Never Been So Much Fun
- World War I: In Name Only. The map borders are actually from 1914, and anything can happen from there.
- World War II: The variants exist.
- Variant Chess: Not chess, but Diplomacy is known for having many variants, including a briefly commercially-released Youngstown Variant that extended the map to Japan and India.