Diplomacy is the game of negotiating your way to an advantage over another. There is no hope acting alone successfully unless the game is sufficiently far along that it is you attempting a solo and the rest of the board is aligned against you. Most of the game is spent talking to other players, coordinating actions, and negotiating outcomes. Although an entire book could be written about this, my aim in this article is to discuss the broad brush approaches to negotiating with other players. Each point I make could have its own article written about it, so hopefully what follows will be a general outline of future content to come.The first thing you should keep in mind when entering negotiation is that you are about to talk to another thinking, capable person with similar objectives as yours, but which might conflict. You can’t just present what you want to them and expect them to acquiesce. Nor should you insult their intelligence. Attempting to be overly clever in negotiations makes you come across as disingenuous, and will cause your partner in negotiation to think less of you, and perhaps suspect everything you say to them even if you are well-intentioned.
If you want to negotiate with someone, like any set of orders you make, you should ask yourself two questions about any communication you have with another player:
- What do I want to achieve with this message?
- Does it have what is necessary to achieve this?
If the goal is to establish an alliance against a third party, outline how you suggest to proceed, in detail. If you are Austria, and you are suggesting you and Russia attack Turkey, don’t send the following press:
Hey, I think we should get rid of Turkey. Let’s do that.
It’s short and direct, which is fine, but it indicates that you have not thoroughly thought through the proposition at hand. Russia might be disinclined to play along, and you’ve tipped your hand in case Russia and Turkey are also communicating. This is another point I will get back to later.
A better press might be
I think we could do some damage to Turkey. Would you be interested in splitting Con-Gre and Ank-Smy, or would you prefer to control Con to get your fleet out into the Mediterranean? I think my Italian front is secure, but if you could check with Italy that would be helpful. If it is, I can open Tri-Alb Bud-Ser Vie H, and this would put me in the position to occupy Greece, while you send your fleet into Rum and move an army in Sev. This would set us up to get into Gre in the Fall, then Bul in the Fall.
It gives a very clear plan of action, indicates the long term results that you both desire, and provides suggestions for how you could collaborate in achieving these goals. Russia would be hard pressed to interpret duplicitous goals from such a press unless he has reason to suspect it from a third party.
All this talk of “a third party” brings me back to an earlier point I hinted at: when you send press, it is not a one-on-one communication. Including the larger context is absolutely critical to sending good press. If you send a press to Russia suggesting that you attack Turkey, and send a press to Turkey suggesting that you attack Russia, without knowing what either will say, you are begging for an RT gang-up. Don’t lose sight of the other five players in the game, you are talking about them just as they are talking about you.
Of course, as a corollary to this, it is rather important to not spread rumors about another player’s intentions unless you are confident that you can rebut anything coming back to you through smooth words. If you aren’t sure, it’s better to not say anything about a third player.
Of course, not all press has to be spreading innuendo or talking gory, grey tactics and strategy. Light hearted banter, discussing past diplomatic battles, and other gentle chit chat can lighten the mood in the game, and is also useful for helping develop a friendly relationship that might pay tangible dividends. I would rather finish out a game with a well-meaning, good humored player who may not be the most tactically competent than be saddled with a tactical virtuoso that never lets you forget about it or a curmudgeon in a strong position. Social pleasantries go a long way, even when reading emails.
This is a game of communication, and the winner and loser is usually determined by who can communicate the best. Do not underestimate the importance of being an alliance builder. I personally have eked out five way draws creating stalemate lines with massively outclassed allies, by simply being persuasive. Below is a final map for a game I played as Turkey a while back. Italy and I had been sniping at each other all game, while England and Germany casually plunged forward. We arranged a stalemate line, and forced our vastly outmatched opponent to accept a five way draw.
What we managed to do was to produce an end result for a game in which we had no right to end with a result at all. Check the map, Italy had meandered through Austria and into Sev, and we desperately needed that army to complete the stalemate line. So I snuck away with another game that I saw the end of, when a failed diplomat might have seen an EG conclusion to the game. Tactics and strategy were important as well. It was absolutely key to understand that every single SC not in English or German control was impervious to any attack, which required a lot of patience and analysis. But this couldn’t have happened without skillful negotiating involving all parties.
This is just a general survey of the simplest keys to negotiating. Many more articles about negotiating war gains, the art of lying, the art of aggression, and all the other material will be covered in greater detail in future articles.