Lecture #4: Reading the Board


If you received a message, you would read it wouldn’t you? No sense in not seeing what it said, even if it contained no new information, right? Well, you might be surprised how many players don’t read one special type of message they get each and every season. It is the first message they receive, but it is not in the message box.

Slide your cursor to the right of the main game screen and find the link labeled “Order History.” Click it, and then in the new pop up window, select the phase that just past, in this case, Spring 1901. A map and arrows showing all the movement from the prior season will appear, and more important, every power’s orders are listed below. READ THAT LIKE A BOOK. EACH AND EVERY PHASE. Even if you think you know what people ordered and why their pieces ended up where they are, read it anyway, every line of it. You’ll be surprised what you can learn and what others might miss.

Understanding the diplomatic framework is crucial to success in Diplomacy. You get a lot of insight by just communicating with people, but ultimately, the orders are “where the rubber hits the road.”

Evaluate the orders that powers entered:
* Did anyone lie about what they were doing?
* Did they make any mistakes?
* Did they try to attack someone and fail?
* Did they help someone?
All this is information above and beyond just where the pieces are placed on the board.

* Did they make a support order for another power but the “order does not correspond?”
That is information about both the orderer and the power for whom the order didn’t help.

Also understand this: your orders are how the other players are evaluating you! Do not focus solely on tactics with your orders. Think about the “message” you are sending when you put in your moves too.


I am going to read the board so you have an example. I do not intend to analyze orders except for this one time; from here on in, it is up to you. However, if you would ever like to evaluate moves after a season, feel free to schedule a time to meet in the chat room and we can talk about what is going on in the game.

Before I begin, I must start with a significant disclaimer: MY ANALYSIS COULD EASILY BE WRONG. I have not read any of the press between the powers, so all I have to go on is what I see in the orders. What I interpret as “anti-X” or “pro-Y” may not have been what was intended. In addition, not everyone will agree on how to interpret certain orders, so take this with a grain of salt.

Part of my analysis that won’t be wrong is the identification of where it possible for the pieces to move. (I will only comment on possible SCs to capture and will leave other moves to you.) What is possible is not the same as what is probable, but you start by identifying the former as you analyze the board. As we say in the hobby, “the pieces don’t lie.”

To begin, going around the board clockwise, starting with Russia:



The Diplomatic Pouch has a fun resource, The Library of Diplomacy Openings.


It is not the most useful tool, but if you need inspiration in an opening, or someone drops the “name” of an opening and you don’t know what they are talking about, it has its place.

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