Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category

Greetings, New Readers

I’ve noticed a recent increase in traffic, and to the readers, I’d like to welcome you to our little project. We really do hope to share our experiences and strategic understandings, but Diplomacy is such a deep and sophisticated game that we might very easily miss out on some good ideas, or make a comment that isn’t as spot on as we’d like. Part of any learning process is feedback, so if you read something and feel you have something to add, by all means, sign up and make a comment. We welcome your feedback, suggestions for articles, or any other interesting ideas you might have.

Again, welcome to Press Central, and we hope you keep coming back.


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Shuhari and Diplomacy

In Japanese martial arts, and other disciplines, there is a concept called Shuhari, which translates roughly as “obey, digress, separate” or, more loosely and in context, “learn the rules, question the rules, transcend the rules”. It is a continuous cycle that is the basis for expanding from the fundamentals to a higher level of ability, and usually returning to fundamentals again.

As applied to Diplomacy, I believe it applies just as well to players of varying skill levels. The serious player, the one who really wants to do well, will spend hours reading strategy and tactics articles, telling you specific details and rules of thumb, proverbs of a sort, that the diligent student will apply religiously. These are, of course, learned in a rather academic context, and while they prove effective, after some experience, the astute player will begin to wonder why certain openings work, and why others won’t. They try other openings themselves, they try radical tactics and diplomatic strategies, they create alliances that shouldn’t really work.

In doing so, the budding expert begins to see why certain rules are, and what they are good for, and when they are really applicable. Eventually, the player begins to flow freely, playing a game that is independent of any discernible tactics or strategy that were taken from a book or internet article. Perhaps they develop a few moves of their own that nobody else had really employed, or they begin startling other players with their adept play.

The curious thing about this last stage, Ri, is that it eventually cycles back to studying Shu again, but with new eyes. There are deeper and deeper meanings to the rules. Germany and Austria don’t go to war, and not just because it causes problems for them in 1902. English fleets in the English Channel aren’t just a problem because of France’s need to cover Bre. There are layers that are very situational, and which can only be appreciated with a high level of analyzed experience.

I think that’s the key point here, is that the experiences of each player must be analyzed. Many players pick up the game, play through, do poorly, pick up another game, play through, do poorly again, and never ask why they aren’t progressing. Some are too arrogant to even admit failure, blaming the poor play of the opposition when it is that player’s own poor positioning that led to their early demise. Once the individual tactics and strategies of the game are memorized, the real learning requires that the question “Why?” be asked ad nauseam, either from more experienced players, or by self-reflection and studying why the game went a certain way, where the turning point was, and how to sway it the next time. Only by assimilating this and then making such judgement calls in the live game rather than after the fact, by seeing the game for what it is, can real mastery be attained.

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Welcome to Press Central, a blog dedicated to commenting on strategy, tactics, and the flow of the board game Diplomacy.

For those not in the know, Diplomacy is a grand strategic board game invented by Allan Calhamer, featuring the seven great (and not-so-great) world powers of 1900 Europe: England, France, Germany, Russia, Turkey, Italy, Austria, Germany. The game requires seven players to play in the base map, and an endless number of variants exist, introducing new powers, different maps, and new unit distributions.

Unlike traditional war board games, Diplomacy has no roll of the dice, and all players submit their orders simultaneously. These orders, along with just about anything else, are negotiated between the players in the intervening time. It is the intricacies of these negotiations, the reading of various personalities, and the move to find common gain that drives the game. There’s little room for solo efforts, and players who do not find a friend early are usually the first to go.

The novelty of player cooperation carries over to the end of the game. While most games have a clearly defined set of rules which characterize the “end” of the game, Diplomacy games frequently end in agreed upon draws between two or more players, although a solo victory is possible if one player can take over more than half of the board, a difficult feat to achieve.

To read more about the rules, visit the Diplomacy Archive and while you’re there, browse through the strategy and tactics articles.

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