Starting out in the game of Diplomacy can be wildly intimidating. There are, however, a few simple things that you can avoid doing, and since I love lists of ten, here are ten things you should not do if you’re first starting out:
- Do not wait for other people to contact you. Reach out and be proactive. Good players will see this as a valuable trait in an ally, mediocre players will view you with a touch of respect, and bad players, well, you don’t generally want to get lumped in with them anyway.
- Do not go it alone. Going it alone in Diplomacy is the fastest possible way to get wiped out. You cannot stand up against two powers working together, and unless you are playing England or Turkey, if you go it alone you will not last past the second year.
- Do not hold grudges. Past happenings exist to inform current decisions. If Russia screwed you on a support order at the beginning of the game, but you need Russia’s help now, Russia is a potential friend. Use past actions to make enlightened decisions: if a player repeatedly lied to you about his support orders, or continually fed you false intelligence, he will not change. However, if it was an honest grab for supply centers, and the dynamic of the board has changed, it might be worthwhile to find a new friend.
- Do not ignore the far ends of the board. If you are playing as Russia, what France does will not affect you in the first turn or two, but keeping a close eye on how France plays, what France does, and even attempting to keep an open line of communication can yield big dividends in the long run. This can alert you to early solo attempts and allow you to rally against it, as well as play for a long term division of the board.
- Do not stab for no reason. A lot of new players get the impression that stabbing is the name of the game. It isn’t. The name of the game is “diplomacy”, and gains should be made through overt means unless there is no other recourse. Stabbing should be done either to kill off an opponent or to solo, and no other reason is worth the shaking up of the stability of the board and the inevitable black mark on your reputation a stab creates.
- Do not be rude, brusque, or otherwise unpleasant to other players. People will be more inclined to forgive transgressions or otherwise cooperate if you are remembered as a pleasant player.
- Do not lose contact with another power. Even if they stab you, betray you, or talking to them makes you grind your teeth. You can glean remarkable information from off-hand comments by other players.
- Do not tip your hand. If you have long term plans, it is best not to share the details with even your closest ally. Keep your future as nebulous as possible in the eyes of other players. This keeps them from using this information against you, and it also keeps you from overcommitting in case something goes bad and you have to adapt.
- Do not count supply centers. A lot of players play with the idea that the best strategy is to gain the most supply centers. This gives you more units, which gives you more power. However, it also makes you a target if you start out with an early lead. Playing this way also has a way of leading you into untenable strategic positions, even if you gain the tactical advantage. Diplomacy is a game of leverage, not brute force. Before attacking a supply center, ask yourself what risks you take from moving there. If the list starts to grow too long, it might be best to just hold back.
- Do not be a sore loser. Nobody likes playing with someone who refuses to acknowledge when they are beaten. As a corollary, do not be a sore winner. Gloating about a victory has the same effect on people. But there is also an extra dimension to this. By resting on victory and refusing to acknowledge that you were defeated by anything other than chance or bad luck keeps you from seeing the holes in your game. If you found yourself hopelessly outnumbered at the early onset of the game, ask why, don’t just assume it’s how the dice fell. If you won a solo, ask what led you to be able to achieve the solo. Never assume that a result is a consequence of anything you could not do better.
As always, and with most things in Diplomacy, every one of these rules are malleable to the situation. Perhaps your opposition only responds to rude threats. Perhaps you want to appear weak so that you can ride the coat tails of a more powerful ally. However, it has been my experience that these ten things, among many others, are relatively simple, common things that any player can implement without a lot of practice, and which many bad players choose to ignore.