The NOT TO DO list


When you begin playing a game like Diplomacy on the net, it can be frustrating, especially if you haven’t played it before. It isn’t Risk where you just need to wait for your turn to “roll” the dice and make your moves; it isn’t Supremacy (the net game, not the board game – the latter is MUCH more involved) where you just give out a list of orders and watch or wait for them to execute. Dip is a game where you NEED to communicate with the other players, where you NEED to be a diplomat…

Never have guessed that from the name, huh?

It is also a social game. You need to build relationships with other players and use those relationships within the game. You need to be consistent and to prove yourself a worthwhile ally. In short, you need to put work in.

Because of all this, there are some mistakes which someone who hasn’t played the game very much, if at all, can make when playing the game.

1. Don’t assume you can get by without communicating much.

Unless you’re in a Gunboat game (which is a Premium-only variant in which there is no communication) playing without communicating is a BAD idea. At least in 1901 you really ought to be writing to everyone, even if it’s just to introduce yourself and open communications. It is very tempting to only write to your neighbours. England, for instance, might only write to France, Germany and Russia. They are the powers that may well have an immediate impact on England’s early progress. That, though, is a very short-sighted view. What happens if you manage to get beyond the early stages? You are then in the position where you need to communicate with the others you ignored early on. It is MUCH more difficult beginning a relationship then, when they have already been working together. The key to Diplomacy is communication, and the key to GOOD Diplomacy is LOTS of communication. Think beyond the early game and plan for the middle game.

Oh, and it should go without saying, that if you want to play the game even half-well, don’t be silent. Don’t wait for them to contact you. If you do, they’ll have no reason to make the effort either. They’re going to be talking to someone else.

2. Don’t NMR if you can absolutely help it.

NMR means “No Moves Received”. It is a term which comes to web Diplomacy from the days of the play-by-mail hobby. In this form of the game, orders were sent to Game Managers and mailed off. If the GM didn’t get any orders, or the orders were late, it would be recorded as an NMR. On site, it means that a member hasn’t entered any orders for her units.

Occasionally, this can’t be helped. Occasionally, you may find that you miss being able to get on site and enter orders for a whole turn. However, that has to be seen as a rare event, assuming you have joined a game with deadlines you can maintain (see 5 below). If you DO NMR, then, it means you have failed, and not just failed to enter orders. It is likely that you will be temporarily allied with another player and he has been waiting to hear back from you over co-operating with moves. If you fail to enter the correct moves, he is likely to be a little annoyed.

In fact, if you NMR, the chances are more than one other person in the game is going to be a little annoyed. Remember, this is a game in which you have agreed to play with up to six other members. Part of that agreement is to take part in the game. One of the worst things you could do, then, is fail to do that. Whilst your neighbours might be OK with you NMRing, and your enemies will be fairly relieved (especially if you were doing well against them), no-one will be happy. Not a good way to maintain a social game.

A good tip: when the phase begins, enter some orders for your units. If you don’t manage to get onto the site by the deadline, at least your units will have something to do then and you don’t need to take an NMR.

3. Don’t surrender.

There are three ways to surrender from a game. The one you absolutely won’t want to happen to you is an admin_surrender which will mean you have been removed from the game for breaking site rules. Of course, you have no control over that… apart from you NOT cheating, of course. The two other ways are if you choose to surrender or are auto_surrendered.

Of these two it is a case of which is the least obnoxious practice. If you need to leave a game, of course, then surrendering is the best thing to do. The other option is simply to not bother playing any more and waiting for the system to automatically remove you for NMRing in consecutive movement phases. As you can imagine, the second of these is very frustrating for the other players as your power sits there, doing nothing, before someone has the opportunity to take over the position after your removal.

BUT surrendering should be the last resort. The fact is, if you surrender from a game for any other reason than a real life need, you are going to be building a very negative profile for yourself. Wait a minute, you were losing the game and just wanted to start a new one where you might do better? Selfish. What about the other players in the game you have abandoned? Oh, you wanted to start a game with your friends and needed to free-up a game slot because your’s is a non-Premium account and you can only play three games? Well, that’s nice… but, again, the players in the game you have abandoned aren’t going to be interested in that. And, when it comes right down to it, a surrender NEVER looks good on your stats.

As I say, sometimes real life gets in the way and you need to leave the game. THAT, however, is the only reason to surrender. Quitting is never a good look.

4. Don’t be over-aggressive.

It sometimes seems to escape some people that they are, in this game, a diplomat. Diplomats are supposed to be in control of their feelings and present a business-like facade. This means maintaining your cool in almost all situations. You got stabbed by your “ally”? That’s harsh, but it is also the name of the game. Someone messed up? That’s a shame but it isn’t the end of the world (even if it might be the end of the game). Someone has offended you? Well, that might mean you feel like getting your own back – and in some cases it might be a good idea to pretend that you’re annoyed – but it is going to burn all your bridges.

There are times when you might actually calculate that losing your temper is going to be a good idea but, and this is the key, the fact is you have CALCULATED that is the right thing to do. In other words, it is a ploy… and one which should be used sparingly. On most occasions, losing your temper is going to be music to your opponent’s ears. It means you aren’t thinking right, it means she has a good chance of predicting what you will do in the game from then on. Definitely NOT a good idea.

5. Don’t join a game unless you KNOW you can make the deadlines.

There is a lot to be said for being patient. It is common for players to want to move the game on and that might mean you want to play the 12 hour deadline game. The problem with that is that it means two deadlines pass within a day, at least, and that is without finalising. You do need to sleep and, more importantly, you absolutely DO need to have time to negotiate. If you may not be able to make a certain deadline with consistency, DON’T join games with that deadline!

It sounds simple, but the games with powers with the most surrenders are 12 hour deadline games.

6. Don’t finalise unless you’re ready.

Finalisation seems to cause some confusion. It might be best to explain what it is first.

If you finalise your orders it means you have entered the orders, you are happy with them, you have carried out all the negotiations you want to, and you are happy for the turn to process. If you don’t finalise the turn won’t process until the deadline is reached but – assuming you have entered them – your orders will still be carried out. You don’t need to finalise at all. If you finalise, you can still change your orders, assuming the phase doesn’t process before you do so.

However, if you DO finalise, that might just end the phase then and there. The way it works is, if you are the last person to finalise, the phase will end and begin processing. That was your only chance. So ONLY finalise when you are ready.

7. Don’t be a finalise bully.

If you haven’t come across this player yet, you will do. He’s the player in the game who lacks patience; the one who is constantly posting in Public Press the demand that others should finalise, simply because he can’t WAIT for the next turn.

Being absolutely honest, there are some players who will not finalise even if they are ready, for whatever reason. However, that is their right. Nobody HAS to finalise. And it is likely that if a player hasn’t finalised there is a reason behind that. However one of the most annoying things you can do on site is be the player in your game who is always moaning that everyone HAS to finalise. Don’t be that person.

Diplomacy, by it’s nature, can be a pretty emotional game. If you are playing it right, you will have put a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of emotion into the game. But it IS only a game. You are meant to be enjoying it, and the other players are also meant to enjoy it. If you keep in mind that enjoyment is the reason everyone is playing – and that you all have some responsibility to foster that enjoyment – you will avoid the NOT TO DO list.

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