“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one that is most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin
A common mistake, applicable throughout the game, is worth emphasizing in the mid-game:
* Don’t be inflexible. Too often players get to the mid-game with one ally (or less!) and one plan. The lack of strategic flexibility gets exposed when they don’t handle adversity well, either from a stab or if stuck on the losing side against a larger coalition. Inflexibility (and perhaps lack of foresight) is also indicated when you see leaders run up to a stalemate line only to be halted. Achieving consistent success in Diplomacy requires being willing to play dynamically when the situation calls for it. If what you are doing isn’t going to work, you need to shake things up.
Before moving on to the last two common mistakes to avoid, we need to look forward and introduce a concept from the end-game. If we are thinking ahead to the end-game, we can avoid mistakes in the mid-game.
THREE POWER STABILITY. 3-way draws are the most common result in a game with experienced players. To see why that is, realize that in a 2 v 1 situation when they are the last 3 powers on the map, the 2-power alliance would be under great strain and will usually break down once there is an advantage to one of those powers (and given the nature of the Diplomacy map, it is VERY difficult to keep 2 powers in perfect balance). What is more, the third power can threaten to kingmake and throw the game to the less aggressive of the other two allies, so each of the major powers has a strong incentive to be less aggressive than the other, and ultimately to leave the 3rd party alone. For these reasons, 3 powers are typically in a strategic (if not tactical) stalemate and a draw is called.
With that in mind, it follows that:
* If you are playing to win, don’t whittle the field. Rarely is it a good idea to march through the game eliminating smaller powers. That likely moves the game closer to the strategic stability of a 3-way draw. If you want to win against competent opposition, you need to keep the game complex and competitive to create an opportunity to capture 18 SCs. Otherwise you are counting on either bad play from your opposition or a 3rd power throwing you the game to win.
* Don’t be blinded by a 2-way. True 2-way draws are rare. They can happen if the losing powers have surrendered or vote themselves out of a draw, but without those outside factors, they are extremely hard to pull off. Much more common is to see a dominating 2-power alliance eventually break down. If you are part of the winning alliance but haven’t recognized that risk, your ally may stab for a solo at your expense. If you want to go for a 2-way, don’t forget to protect yourself while you are at it. It requires careful tactical planning to pull it off.
***** OPTIONAL READING *****
Continuing on the challenges of 2-way draws, this article by Ledder and Provislis reviews in detail the stable positions and alliances for such an outcome. I actually think with creativity, more 2-way alliances can draw than they allow. Nonetheless, their article highlights the challenges involved and is a good starting point for study.