Lecture #12: Tactics Time: Tempi 2 of 2


Do you play chess? Have you heard of the concept of tempi? It is the plural of tempo, and refers to the speed and efficiency of movement of your pieces.

Diplomacy players should think in terms of tempi as well. We often refer to winning a game of Diplomacy as the “race to 18 SCs.” Keeping tempi in mind with your orders can help you win that race.


* Holds, supports, and standoffs cost tempi as your pieces are not advancing;
* Shuffling back and forth (usually from strategic indecision) wastes tempi;
* Moving in a column, where one unit follows the next, risks lots of tempi because one standoff stops multiple units;
* Moving in a row, where one unit moves beside another, may minimize risk to tempi.

Sometimes spending tempi is OK. You can exchange tempi for other objectives (like safety) and sometimes it is unavoidable. In general, however, you want to avoid squandering turns with orders that aren’t advancing units.

A typical Diplomacy game has only 20 to 30 moves before it is over, so use each one wisely. You are in a race to capture 18 SCs, and rarely can you win by just methodically collecting dots. There are several “pinch points” on the Diplomacy board where just a few units can block a more powerful attacker: at Gibraltar, the Ionian/Tyrrhenian Seas, around Switzerland, St. Petersburg. Advancing units quickly and efficiently to get to and through key positions should be just as important to your tactical thinking.

Where will you need to attack next? What will be the next threat you face? Order your units thoughtfully and with urgency, as if you are in a race, if you want to win.


A couple of good articles that address tempi and other chess concepts in the context of Diplomacy are

Caissa at the Dip table

Caissa annotates a no-press game

While he doesn’t employ the concept of “tempi”, Pulsipher’s discussion in “The Art of Tactics” section of his article in the Gamers’ Guide does reference the value of advanced units as well. It is worth a read if you haven’t already.

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