Diplomacy drives strategy: strategy drives tactics.
Openings in Diplomacy are not based on tactics alone, but rather they support a strategic plan, the contours of which are shaped by the diplomatic framework of Europe. While it often takes a few turns of communicating with powers and analyzing their orders to fully understand the diplomatic relationships that have formed in a game, top players react to the diplomatic framework they have perceived, as well as helped to influence, in the first diplomatic phase in their opening.
What is a “diplomatic framework”? It is all the “human” influences in a game. At its most basic, it is the answer to: who are allies and enemies in this game? But more than that, it includes: what motivates and influences each player? What are their objectives and biases, and their styles of play and communication? Most important, whom do YOU think you can work with and how would you go about it? All of this is the diplomatic framework.
A player that tries to win on the strength of superior tactics alone will usually fail when up against even an average diplomat who can wield influence far beyond the orders he writes for his own units.
What is more, your diplomacy is critical in creating more options and opportunities for your power. No matter what you think at the outset, there are 6 other powers in Europe whose actions may render your plans obsolete. If you are not talking to other powers, even your enemies, you are going to be handicapped over the course of the game when you find you need to change plans and need to coordinate with other powers to do it.
***** OPTIONAL READING *****
Another hobby resource I want you to know about is, The Diplomatic Pouch, www.diplomatic-pouch.org. Gaming activity at the Pouch has declined substantially over the years, but it is still the home of one of the two best zines in the hobby and it has tons of great resources.
I’ll get you started with suggesting this Pouch article. It is a bit abstract & analytical. It explains why, unlike Chess or Backgammon, there is so little general opening theory in Diplomacy. The reasons Mr. Dreier gives – the dual influence of diplomacy & imperfect information on tactics – are dead on.
Two more worthwhile hobby sites are, The Diplomacy Archive,
and the granddaddy Diplomacy hobby zine of them all, Diplomacy World.
These sites are just loaded with articles and resources. Peruse them in your spare time. In later lectures, I will link to some specific articles at these sites, but for now, just explore as you desire (or not.)