Academy: Key Skills for Dip – 3. General Tips


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 GENERAL TIPS on play in general and on playing on this site.

The first question you may be asking is: What is different in playing Dip in general and playing Dip on this site? The answer is that on the site, as on most net sites, you can’t guarantee all players will place their orders. NMRs (No Moves Received) are a possibility in any game (real life intervenes sometimes) and surrenders are also possible. Neither is good for a game (nor for that matter a player’s reputation – see below) but they happen. Games may become unbalanced by these things. So the best tip I can give is stick at it. There are any number of possible scenarios where sticking at it is important. Here I’m going to focus on one and others can be seen in other sections below. No matter how difficult a situation is there is a possibility – an outside one when you are playing more committed players, admittedly – that an NMR might turn the situation in your failure. One missed move could give you an advantage in your battle.

So, the next logical tip is don’t give up on a game. It is easy to look at a game where your position is – apparently – hopeless. As I mentioned above, this might not necessarily be the case but there are other reasons to not just quit a game, whether by letting your country go into Civil Disorder (NMRing) or by surrendering. The first is the game itself. When you enter a game, you are effectively making a contract with the other players to play it. Deciding not to do so, simply because you can’t be bothered, lets them down. It makes the game that much easier for your opposition and it WILL unbalance the game. The other area to consider is your reputation. If you decide that you want to play a number of games on the site, you’ll find that the best games can be the ones that you join via the Forum. Members who are active on the Forum are more reliable and will usually stick at a game. However, they also want to play games with players who are the same. If you have a high surrender rate, or a high NMR rate, they’re going to question whether you are worth playing with.

Because real life can jump up and bite you it is good practice to enter provisional orders before the deadline. Imagine the disappointment if you wait until the deadline is close to enter orders, then find that you can’t access the site. Any orders you enter early in a turn can be changed later, even if you finalise them. However, finalising can cause problems so my advice would be to NOT finalise provisional orders, and ONLY finalise when you a happy with them. Along with that is to NOT become pressured by other players into finalising BEFORE you are happy with them. However, as importantly, unless there is a good reason to NOT finalise, if you are in a game with finalisation activated then use it. Holding off on NOT finalising, simply to NOT do so, is possibly irritating. Have a reason to not finalise, or finalise.

Make your orders match exactly. This has been partially covered elsewhere, but it’s worth repeating. The system and – to some extent the published rules for the game – require orders to match. In a face-to-face game the GM – or the players – may choose to allow orders that have only one meaning even where they don’t match exactly. Here, however, that is NOT the case. If you are supporting a unit to Spain’s south coast, then make sure you choose that in your support order. If you don’t it won’t work.

There are just two more areas I really want to discuss. One is whether you are offensive or defensive in your strategy. It isn’t a question that can truly be answered outside of a game, as it depends very much upon your relationship to your opponents. I’d suggest you consider games along the lines of three general objectives:
1. Survival. This is especially important at the start of the game. If you move too offensively, you are going to leave yourself open to your opponents, whether they are supposedly allied to you or not. So make sure you don’t over-stretch yourself. On the other hand, if you move too defensively you are not going to make enough of an impact on the early game. Make sure you get at least one build in 1901 but don’t try for three builds unless you are very happy you know what your opponents are doing (and take into account what might happen if you are the clear game leader at this point: that is likely to place a target on your back!). However you decide to play the game, you want to make sure you are established strongly enough to make it into the mid-game.
2. Draw. In a DIAS game, this is simply an extension of surviving. DIAS means DRAWS INCLUDE ALL SURVIVORS so if you make sure you are there at the end of the game you achieve it. In a non-DIAS game it is slightly different: here draws may not include all the active players. Beyond surviving, then, your goal should be to make sure you are strong enough to be included in the draw at the end of the game, at least. This has implications for the way you play the game. Too offensive and you may well leave gaps for an ally to exploit – achieving the draw isn’t the ultimate goal and she may be looking to the third objective below! So always be aware of being able to defend what you have. Having said that, being too defensive is going to mean that you are less likely to reach the final objective. There are times to take risks!
3. Win. By this, I mean achieve a solo victory. This is the ultimate goal of playing a game of Dip (as far as game objectives are concerned; others will tell you that equally important is fostering social interaction, but I’m concentrating upon the objectives of the game). To achieve this, at some point, you are probably going to have to take a risk and be more offensive. But again, reach too far and you’ll miss the chance.

So, perhaps the best way to decide upon whether to be offensive or defensive is to say be balanced. Try to keep an eye on defence, and another on opportunities to attack.

The question that is often asked is when to stab? A stab is an attack, usually on an ally but always on someone you wanted to believe you wouldn’t do it to. There are bad stabs: a stab that isn’t thought through, one that leaves the power you attacked in a position to hurt you, one that damages your unit placements in the longer run. If you can attack and make sure these issues DON’T matter, then that is a good stab. Another way to look at it is whether the stab advances your plan or not. In other words, unless there are extraordinary circumstances, don’t be opportunistic. Use a stab when it lets you close in on your goal. If stabbing an opponent will make him collapse and give greater advantage to another power, then you seriously need to question the reasons behind the attack in the first place. And beware: a stabbed opponent may well see this as a reason to throw everything at you and the game to an opponent. Think a stab through carefully.

Finally, make sure you enjoy the game. However you play it, this should be an enjoyable experience. That might mean thinking about how many games you play at once and what deadlines you play to. If you put too much pressure on yourself, then you’re not going to enjoy it! 12 hour deadlines? Can you make those AND enjoy the full experience? Yes I’m speaking from a personal point of view here, but for me the main aspect of the game is the diplomacy and I can’t negotiate and enjoy a game when I don’t have the time to carry that part out fully. And, as part of enjoying the game, I’d also suggest you get as involved as you can in the community. That might mean taking out a Premium membership to enjoy the different variants and it might mean simply dropping into and participating in the Forum. Games are supposed to be fun!

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