Lecture#1: Basic Strategy: It’s a Numbers Game!

Basics Strategy

“A country that has “lost the diplomacy” and finds itself fighting superior numbers can rely on tactics only to delay the issue while it tries to save itself diplomatically.” Allan Calhamer, inventor of Diplomacy

The tactics of Diplomacy are pretty simple, and all things being equal, superior numbers will always win. (Granted all things rarely are equal, but I’ll get to that in later lectures.)

That has a very obvious implication for your strategy; to win, you must be on the side with greater numbers!

Seeing as each power starts out with about 1/7th of the units on the board, it is clear why Diplomacy is a game of COOPERATION as well as CONFLICT. No power on its own has the superior numbers it needs to achieve victory.

Given this basic reality of the game, first priorities for everyone in the opening are usually the same: 1) figuring out relationships with the other Great Powers, and 2) planning to capture the near-by neutral SCs to increase your own numbers.

The key relationships at the start are dictated by geography; the powers nearest to you will be most critical in the opening. But don’t be short-sighted. It doesn’t take long for every power in the game to come into play. The best players communicate with every power from the start.

As the most basic form of cooperation, it is common to see 2 powers coordinating to attack a third, the superior numbers of the allied powers providing the decisive advantage in a regional conflict. Often you will see two or three such 2-power alliances, sometimes coalitions of 3 powers (aka triple alliances), and even 4 or more powers working together (more likely later in the game).

It is in this dynamic of numbers, with coalitions of different size & power forming and dissolving over the course of a game, where the interplay of diplomacy and strategy occurs. A good strategist always tries to keep his nation part of a winning (larger) alliance. He both learns what the alliances structures are and influences them through his diplomacy.


Hopefully by now, you have all had a chance to read the complete rules. If you still need them, you can download them here:


If you only read one more thing prior to starting play, I’d suggest it be the New Player’s Guide, by Birsan. It is a very good overview and I can’t recommend it more. Here is a link:


If you are having any trouble at all figuring out how to get started, this article is loaded with inspiration and advice.

Finally, I’d like to introduce you all to The Gamers’ Guide to Diplomacy (2nd ed.) by Avalon Hill. It is a seminal work for new players. Packed with articles, it presents a great deal of information on every aspect of the game. Don’t feel like you have to read all of it in one go – it is long. I just want this to be in your arsenal as you learn the hobby. Here is a link:


The Gamers’ Guide discusses many topics that I will in later lectures. Be forewarned, I don’t necessarily agree with everything the authors of the Guide say. And that is fine. It is a reminder that there is no one right way to play, but many successful approaches.

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