The 10 Advisements


As a way of getting into the idea of playing Diplomacy well, I wanted to present the key aspects of the game. Diplomacy is a game which is, basically, simple. Each unit is equal in strength, so you need help to make progress; each unit can only move one place at a time (with the exception of the convoyed army, of course); to progress you’ll need to make alliances with other players. The principle objective of the game is also simple: control 18 Supply Centres and you win. I think, perhaps, the general simplicity of the game makes is deceiving. It is easy to play, and just as easy to play badly. To get anywhere near your target of 18 SCs, you will need help from other players… and those other players will want to achieve the target before you! Playing Diplomacy well, then, is much more complicated. These “Advisements”, then, are overall ideas on how to play the game at least tolerably well. Luckily, they number ten the way I present them.

1. Know the Rules.

It sounds simple, I guess. Before playing the game, know how to play it! The basics, as I say, are simple but the way to achieve them is much more complicated. Especially you need to be aware of how to give support, how to cut support, how to convoy, how to predict possible outcomes, etc. So let’s start with the published rules, as the site follows them. You can download a set of rules at these two links: 2000 Edition and 2008 Edition. The later edition looks prettier and may be clearer, but it takes longer to download and the rules haven’t changed since 2000.

The site uses these rules. There are some cases where things have been adapted to make the site system work, however, so if you’re not sure of anything take a look in the RULES section of the Forum. There is a Common Questions section too were the most commonly misunderstood rules have been explained. If you’re wanting a very basic explanation of the rules, you can see Rules Tab which has a YouTube section at the bottom.

2. Check your orders.

The point and click system the site uses is pretty simple but it is possible to make mistakes. If your order is illegal the site will accept it so make sure you haven’t made an illegal order by mistake. The key to using point and click is to click on the spaces not the units. When you issue orders they appear in red at the bottom of the map. You can also check them by opening the Orders tab in the game. Don’t get caught out be a mis-order.

3. Enter provisional orders.

This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it does help. Imagine waiting until you’ve received replies before entering orders, aiming to get on site just before the deadline… then finding you can’t get on for some reason. It is much better to enter orders at the beginning of a turn so that your units have something to do if you miss the deadline. If you don’t they’ll all HOLD and you’ll get an NMR (No Moves Received) against your stats. It is easy enough to change orders by simply re-issuing a fresh set of orders for the unit in question. You can also delete orders in the Orders Tab by clicking on the X.

4. Beware of Finalizing.

If you “Finalize” orders, it means you are ready to progress with the adjudication of them: you’re basically saying, “OK let’s move to the next phase.” Don’t, then, finalize until you are ready! If you enter provisional orders, don’t finalize. Don’t be pressure into finalizing by others who are impatient to progress unless you are happy that the plan you and your ally have hatched is in place. However, neither should you delay finalizing if you are ready; doing so to simply delay the game for no real reason will simply antagonise your opponents.

5. Communication, Communication, Communication.

There is no substitute! Make sure you communicate regularly and often. if you go quiet, your opposition will assume something is wrong. If you don’t communicate and you are attacked because of it, you have no-one to blame but yourself. Also, it is easy to not communicate with someone who has attacked (stabbed) you or with someone you have attacked. This is a mistake. At some point during the game, you may need their help! Try and keep communication open. And don’t be personally abusive. The game is called Diplomacy for a reason: you are a diplomat.

6. Be truthful (within reason).

Diplomacy is a game where deception, if not straight-out lying, is needed, of course. I’m not saying you should tell an erstwhile ally: “Look, I’m going to stab you next turn,” unless it’s part of an elaborate plan! But the game is played best when the truth is told, if only partially. If you lie regularly, habitually and often then no-one is going to believe you when you say there’s a wolf on its way. It is better to be as truthful as you can be… although it is a skill that needs to be developed.

7. Have a plan.

There game has one main objective: to achieve the “solo” by gaining 18 SCs. When you go into a game, you need to have an idea about how you want to achieve it. This plan develops in the first year when you build your relationships with other players. I’m not saying be rigid in your planning, but certainly have a good idea of the way ahead. There are other objectives, too. You may find that the solo is out of reach, so the next best thing is the “draw”. If you believe the solo is unlikely, plan how you need to get a draw and which powers you will need to draw with.

Right at the beginning of the game, of course, there is one over-riding objective; to survive. To achieve the solo or even a draw, you need to be in the game at the end. In 1901, then, you need to plan how you are going to get extra units, how you are going to be positioned to progress through the next years and how to not be at war with the powers best placed to eliminate you… at least, not all of them.

8. Stay focussed.

It is easy to lose focus in the game. An ally stabs you and emotions take over. You need to manage them and make sure you know how best to deal with the damage.

But most importantly is making sure you don’t act opportunistically. You know the thing: your ally suddenly leaves an open SC that you could take; tempting, I know. However, is this the best time to break the alliance? Attacking any power in the game needs, ideally, to be measured. Whilst the opportunity may be there, that doesn’t mean it is the right time to take it. By all means plan to take it but only at the right time. A badly timed stab is an easy error to make.

9. Be flexible.

You have a plan, you have allies, you have enemies. Great. What you need also to do is prepared to change things. The plan will seldom go exactly as you want. Whilst you are being careful, an ally may not time her stab upon you and suddenly you have another front opened up. Whilst you have a good alliance, there may well come a time when that alliance needs to end. Remember, 18 SCs is the ultimate objective: it is seldom reached by an ally letting you do so without opposition! Don’t hold onto an alliance to achieve a draw just for the sake of it. Players should expect you to go for the solo, as you should expect them to do. Similarly, don’t stick to fighting the same enemy if you think there is a better way forward. Being dogged and stubborn and losing the game is an error.

10. Never give up.

It’s easy, sometimes, to throw the towel in. It is harder to keep working at something. Remember, though, at all sorts of things can happen. Better players will keep working at a game even when things may seem impossible. Very importantly, try and avoid surrendering from a game, simply because your position seems to be untenable. There is very little more annoying than a player who packs in simply because he feels he has nothing to play for. Not a reputation you want! Also, trying to fight back from a tough position is a great step to learning the game yourself.

These, then, are my 10 Advisements. I’m sure others will have other things to mention, and comments to make on these. What is better, though, is you play the game enough to come up with your own “Advisements” and keep them in mind.

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