Academy: Key Skills for Dip – 2. Tactics


There are so many skills needed when playing Diplomacy, but I am going to concentrate upon the skills of “Diplomacy”, “Tactics” and “General Tips”. This article deals specifically with TACTICS (that is, moving units).


I’m going to start again with what many will see as the obvious, because it isn’t always: Movement Rules. Make sure you know them. There are some tricky situations and they can usually be found answered here. However, there is really no substitute for making yourself aware of the rules, especially in the more common scenarios, so get hold of a copy (the most recent copy is the 2008 Edition (off-site link) but they are no different to the 2000 Edition (off-site link) and the 2000 Edition is quicker to download and much more economic to print (if not as pretty). There’s nothing going to mess up your game more than ordering Brest to Portugal in Spring 1901!

Next, Know the site system. The point and click system is pretty intuitive but I’m going to lay down here the most important things to remember:
1. Your orders for each unit MUST be complete. When ordering a fleet to a coastal space with two coasts, make sure you say which coast.
2. Your orders need to match EXACTLY. Again, a two coast phenomenon mostly. Best presented as an example:
England has a fleet in BARENTS SEA and is moving it St Petersburg. England has to order BAR-StP north coast.
Germany has a fleet in Livonia and is supporting England into StP. Germany has to order Lvn SUPPORT BAR-StP north coast.
Germany MUST specify the coast. When entering the order he’ll be given the choice of StP north coast, StP south coast or StP. Orders MUST match.
3. When an army is ordered to move ALONG a coast, if there is a fleet in an adjacent body of water, the army will have the option of moving “via convoy route” or “via land route”: you MUST choose the option you want; if you don’t, the order won’t go through.
4. When convoying via multiple fleets, the army must be ordered to it’s destination province and EACH fleet must be ordered to convoy form the army’s start point to its end point, eg. Army Lon-Tun, Fleets ENG CONVOY Lon-Tun, MAO C Lon-Tun, WMS C Lon-Tun.

Most importantly, ALWAYS click on the space the unit is in, NOT the unit. The system recognises orders relating to spaces, not units (although it also recognises the unit type). So a fleet in Albania will partially rest in Adriatic on the map. If you click on the unit it may be that the system recognises that the order is for a unit in Adriatic not Albania. Click on Albania.

And check your orders. As you order each unit the order appears, in stages, below the map. When each order is completed successfully it appears in the ORDERS tab: use both of these to check what you want to happen is going to happen.

So the basics are out of the way. How can you use movement orders to your best advantage? Let me say first that I am NOT going to go through different order possibilities here: there are, frankly, too many to do so. If you want more in-depth tactical or strategic advice, take a look here for our on-site STRATEGY section, or in The Diplomatic Archive (off-site link). What I want to do here is give some of the tactics that can help you out.

The self-bounce is a tactic which can help you defend THREE spaces with two units, FOUR spaces with three units, etc. It is based upon the fact that units moving without support stand-off (bounce) and stay put. So, let’s use the following example:
Germany wants to defend Munich. She has armies in Kiel and Berlin. She orders Kiel-Mun and Ber-Mun. These will bounce.
France, feeling aggressive, tries to take Munich and Kiel. He orders Bur-Mun and HEL(Heligoland Bight)-Kiel.
Russia has a sneaky hankering for Berlin and orders BAL-Ber.
The outcome: Kiel-Mun bounces with Ber-Mun and Bur-Mun: all stay put. Because Kiel stays put, HEL-Kiel also bounces; because Berlin stays put, BAL-Ber bounces. Germany has successfully defended all three SCs.

Of course, this situation isn’t foolproof. If France has expected the tactic, he might well have ordered Bur SUPPORT Kiel-Mun. In this case, Kiel-Mun would have succeeded and so HEL-Kiel would also have succeeded!

It is also useful to remember that you cannot dislodge your own units. Again, this can present good defensive tactics. It allows you to defend a vulnerable space without fear of losing that space.
Russia has an army in Rumania, an army in Ukraine and fleets in Black Sea and Sevastopol. Austria has armies in Galicia, Budapest and Serbia.
Austria orders Ser-Rum, Bud S Ser-Rum and Gal S Ser-Rum.
Russia orders Rum HOLD, Ukr-Rum, BLA S Ukr-Rum and Sev S Ukr-Rum.
In this situation Ukraine attacks Rumania with BLA’s support and Sev’s support; a attack of three. Austria ALSO has an attack of three. This is a bounce.
But supposing Austria had ordered something different: Gal-Ukr. NOW Russia has an attack of three and Austria has an attack of two. Austria is till unable to take Rumania, but and if this rules wasn’t in place – you can’t dislodge your own unit – Rumania would be dislodged, Ukraine would move to Rumania and Galicia would move to Ukraine. But it doesn’t work because Russia CAN’T dislodge a Russian unit in Rumania and everything stays where it is.

Similarly, remember that you cannot successfully support a foreign unit to dislodge your own unit, and you cannot cut support by attacking your own unit. No self-harming in Dip.

Along with movement tactics could be included knowing when to enter illegal orders. What’s the point? Well an illegal order just isn’t followed. A unit ordered to do something illegal will, instead, HOLD. Also, intentionally mis-ordering is sometimes a good tactic. It allows you to pretend to follow an opponent’s wishes but accidentally – obviously! – you weren’t able to do that. For instance, not making your orders match (see above) by supporting BAR-StP not StP(nc)… “Oops! Sorry”. The downside to this is that your opponent might just give up on you as an ally, thinking you’re too dim to help (although that might also help you!). You also can’t use this very often. Not everyone likes this tactic, but don’t write it off.

One tactic that perhaps isn’t played often in Dip is the sacrifice play: giving up space to put yourself in a better position and/or leave an opponent’s units out of position. This needs to be judged carefully, especially when it involves a supply centre: best done in the Spring, in that case, or when you can gain a replacement elsewhere. The very worst time you should be considering it is in the Fall and when you will lose a unit somewhere: in this case, ONLY consider it if you can make a very definite positional improvement. NEVER do it if the unit you may have to disband is a frontline unit that is key to your position post-sacrifice.

There are two advantages of getting this right, one to do with tactical positioning, the other to do with disbanding a unit that would be better elsewhere. There’s really not much that can be said about the tactical positioning side, other than what I’ve mentioned already. The idea is to pull your opponent out of position, leaving key spaces – ideally SCs – not properly defended OR to place yourself in a better position. You have to judge when it would be useful. The other aspect, deliberately letting a unit be destroyed, allows you to rebuild the unit in a Fall adjustments (builds) phase, providing you can at least maintain the number of SCs you have. This can be very useful. For instance, you really don’t have a use for a fleet in Prussia so you allow it to be destroyed and rebuild the unit as an army in London which can be convoyed to the mainland for a better position. A side-aspect of this tactic is to have an ally help you out. One situation where this is useful is when Russia and Turkey agree to get rid of Russia’s southern fleet. This gives Turkey more security and allows Russia to re-build the fleet, perhaps as a second or third fleet in the north.

The great advantage to a sacrifice play is that your opponent will not usually expect it. There are too many other things on his mind: gaining the space you want to give up, expecting you to defend it, putting everything into trying to take it or force you to hold it. Judged well, it can be a game- or, at least, a position-changing move.

And finally here, no discussion of tactics would be complete without mentioning stalemate lines. Some players put more store in these than others, believing that any stalemate cannot be guaranteed solid. Indeed there are many aspects of stalemate lines that can be weak: holding a stalemate means the players involved need to recognise it’s importance, be consistent in placing orders, make the right orders and, often, be able to agree appropriate tactics with other allies. So I’m going to focus on how important it can be to get units across these lines.

Stalemate lines are established when one side cannot break through the other side’s defences, so bringing the game to a stalemate. If you want to see the different stalemate lines look here (off-site link). It can be important, sometimes early in the game, to think about how you are going to get units beyond possible stalemate lines, eg getting a fleet into MAO or WMS, getting an army beyond Munich or Piedmont. Certainly, if you are in the position where you can seriously think about a solo you’ll need to be able to get units beyond these lines. Conversely, it can also be important if you think you AREN’T going to get a shot at a solo to make sure you don’t allow enemy units to get through the line you believe will hold them up. What is important to remember, though, is that you shouldn’t throw everything at these lines too early in the game as doing so may well mean you lose chances to advance your cause more effectively elsewhere.

There are, of course, other issues to consider tactically, such as when or if to stab, and whether to be defensive or offensive. Some of these I have left to the final article in this series on GENERAL TIPS. There may be other issues I have left out that other people think are important and they may be added. But the most important thing about your tactics – indeed your whole strategy, including Diplomacy – is to plan your way forward (again mentioned in the final article) but to be flexible. Remember, the more flexible you are, the more able you are to adapt to fluid situations that may include NMRs, surrenders, new players, seemingly illogical moves and – just occasionally – down-right idiotic play (hopefully from others), the better your chances of success will be.

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