Playing Dip Adequately - 4. Essential Targets

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Playing Dip Adequately - 4. Essential Targets

Postby rick.leeds » 02 Apr 2011, 18:10

To slightly mis-quote Pope John Paul II: "It is only through a conscious choice and through a deliberate policy that [you will] survive."

There is really only one target in Diplomacy: gaining and owning 18 supply centres. However, at the start of the game this ultimate target needs others before it:
1. Survive.
2. Draw.
3. Win.
A word of warning, though: not everyone will agree that drawing should be a target at all. However, these are steps to success. First, survive; then make sure you are going to be in the position of AT LEAST being in the draw; then make sure you are looking for the win.

The immediate target, then, is to survive. There is no point, at the start of the game, working out detailed plans to gain the solo – identifying the SCs you want to take, identifying the strategy to achieve victory – without first making sure you can survive. Survival means a number of things. It means having the alliance structure in place. You need to have allies who share and recognise your target of survival. An ally who, off the bat, talks about a game-long alliance is someone you should be wary of. This is a player who probably has reverse targets to yours, ie win/draw/survive – and may not even have the survival target. It is a player who may turn kingmaker or even stop playing effectively (perhaps even surrender) when things look more difficult. Having said that, you may just come up against someone who thinks the game-long alliance is the best way to survive. What I'm saying is that, at the beginning of the game, you need to make sure you aren't going to wiped out early on. There are no guarantees when you enter an alliance that your ally is sincere, so survival is more than that.

Survival also means keeping your units effectively placed. Of course you have to go for the neutral SCs that are open to you, but if you are going to do something outside the safe start moves, then you need to be more secure in your alliance. For instance, if England decides to avoid being immediately engaged in Scandinavia, then she needs to be sure that Russia and Germany aren’t going to be attacking her. If Turkey is to ignore Bulgaria, then she needs to be sure she is going to get the alternative SC.

To survive, you do need to achieve gains in 1901, even if it is only one centre. The big thing with not making gains is the impression it gives other players. Even the strongest ally, seeing you stuck on the same number of SCs in 1902 that you started with, is going to be thinking about whether he should be sticking with you or not. Not only do you appear a soft target – your units are likely engaged in conflict, striving to gain the SCs you have been denied, and therefore your home SCs will be beckoning seductively – but you are also a questionable ally on a tactical basis. If worse comes to worst, should something happen which means you don’t manage to gain any SCs in 1901 (there are possibilities for that happening for Russia, to a lesser extent England and, if they read situations wrongly, Turkey and Italy), then you will need to make sure you watch out for what your “ally” says. Be prepared for the possible stab (I'll be writing about how to avoid the stab later on).

You also need to make sure nothing is left too invitingly open, unless you are going to make gains that would more than balance the loss of an SC. Do not, therefore, invite a stab. Make sure you have some units in place at the end of 1901 – at the very least – that will discourage a stab from an ally that early in the game. This is also important in later years. Even when you feel your alliance is solid, you will need to keep in mind that you both have the main target: solo. When looking to expand, make sure you don’t reveal a soft underbelly to your defence.

When you keep survival in mind, you can then look to make sure of your other targets. This means looking to be in the draw at the end of the game, at the least, but also going for the solo victory. Of the two, the victory is the prime target, but is not going to happen too often (when playing against good or experienced players, at least). In other words, whilst looking for the chance to press towards the 18 SCs, and having a route sketched out to achieve that, there are other issues to keep in mind. What you don’t want to do is face a restructuring of the alliance system that doesn’t meet your ends. Doing something that splits you and your ally/allies could be disastrous. That may mean ensuring a rough balance of SCs between the allies, although too great a focus on that might lead to missing the chance to break an opponent or the opposing alliance. A small imbalance isn't a terrible thing. Keeping your allies happy may also mean sacrificing some tactical targets or at least postponing them. Sometimes it is necessary to put your ally's survival in front of your expansion. Preventing a restructuring it the alliance structure definitely means not stabbing too early. This can be tempting, but wait your time. Make sure she - your ally/potential target - is fully committed to the frontline before grabbing those poorly defended SCs.

The other thing to remember is that gaining ranking points ISN’T a target. If you feel you are going to have to settle for a draw, then you need to be aware that hanging around to eliminate extra powers to achieve a better points total only gives the other players the chance to do that to you. Succeeding in Diplomacy isn’t about where you stand in the site rankings; it’s about how you rate within the game. A solo is a victory; a draw is a draw, no matter how many players are involved in it.
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Re: Playing Dip Adequately - 4. Essential Targets

Postby Baneslayer » 02 Apr 2011, 18:42

Nice article !
"A draw is a draw " is a good thing to rerember for a lot of
players. So far ive finished 3 games on this site.
In two of them draws were thrown away....
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Re: Playing Dip Adequately - 4. Essential Targets

Postby cs » 02 Apr 2011, 19:03

rick.leeds wrote:A solo is a victory; a draw is a draw, no matter how many players are involved in it.


I would have to disagree with you that all draws are created equal. Yes, a solo is much better than a draw of any sort, but I personally think there's a big difference between a two-way and a three-way draw. A two-way is much harder to pull off, IMHO, for any number of reasons, therefore I find it much more satisfying.

Of course, I think this is a matter of opinion, and there are plenty of folks who would argue both sides of the case. Perhaps the insight there is that it's important to recognize that people have different opinions, as one can often leverage that to ones advantage. I've had situations where I've gotten a share of a draw when I should have lost outright simply because three other players felt as you do and figured it wasn't worth eliminating me simply to achieve a three-way rather than a four-way draw.
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Re: Playing Dip Adequately - 4. Essential Targets

Postby sock » 02 Apr 2011, 20:26

I think tournament play adds another dynamic. I recently walked away from a potential solo because I had secured victory through the point system, so frankly it did not seem worth the risk.
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Re: Playing Dip Adequately - 4. Essential Targets

Postby SidneyKidney » 02 Apr 2011, 21:15

Whilst I agree with most of what you say Rick I would go with the others here. All draws are not created equal. Sure if you dont solo you dont achieve your primary target, but from a purely points argument (if thats your bag) then ask yourself: how many points do you get for a 2-way draw? How many points do you get for a 5-way draw? Are those points equal? No. By extension, all draws are not supported equal.
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Re: Playing Dip Adequately - 4. Essential Targets

Postby rick.leeds » 03 Apr 2011, 19:28

"Out of context!" came the cry.

Succeeding in Diplomacy isn’t about where you stand in the site rankings; it’s about how you rate within the game. A solo is a victory; a draw is a draw, no matter how many players are involved in it.

Now, if we're restricting this to site play, and you are looking at rankings, yes then some draws are better than others. What I'm saying, though, that in a stand alone game, which is what I'm really talking about, a draw is a draw. In a stand alone game the ultimate aim is to solo. Earning a draw is a compromise and, in general (see below) it doesn't matter whether there are two players or seven players in it: it isn't a win.

Ignoring site rankings for a moment (I'll come back to it), I accept the claim that earning a 2-way draw is better than a 5-way draw in any game but only in a DIAS system: in a system that allows players to be eliminated from the draw but still survive in the game is isn't as clear. For instance, a player who has 5 SCs who is excluded has a very good argument that she did better than a player with 1 SC who is included because she holds more centres. It could be argued that the 1-SC player managed to stay on board with the winning alliance and that therefore his diplomacy was better, but that isn't necessarily the case. It could also be that the 5-SC player realised that she was going to be eliminated eventually anyway, but has she really not achieved something? In a DIAS system if you have earned a 2-way draw that means there are only two players remaining at the end of the game, which IS a better result than any other draw. It is, though, still a compromise as much as a 5-way draw is.

To come back to the site rankings: they really SHOULDN'T be what you have in mind when you enter a game. For instance, I was told by someone on site who was organising a "tournament" (no, not me; I only talk to myself when I'm playing Dip) that the potential players had debated amongst themselves about whether the games should be ranked. This was because they would all be playing other players in the top end of the rankings and they didn't want these games to potentially affect their rankings position. I also recently had one potential player in a tournament I am organising say that he would enter if the games were unranked, although no reason was given for this (and so I may be ascribing a wrong reason behind it). It seems to me that this is looking at playing Dip the wrong way around. Why would you want games to be unranked? Because, for whatever reason, you didn't want the game to affect site rankings. But if you don't want games to be ranked because you are playing players who might beat you and lower your ranking as a result, then that is putting rankings before the game.

I accept that playing here some people see the rankings as part of the game or as part of the site experience, and I have said enough times that I don't, which means that my opinion here is biased. However, for me, the rankings are a long way down on my list of priorities when I play a game. I want to enjoy myself, first and foremost. I play Dip to relax (believe it or not I do relax when I'm working out how to get Liverpool when I'm playing Turkey) and have fun. I also want to win as that's the objective. I want to be there at the end of the game as part of the draw, if necessary. I definitely want to survive. And pride means I don't want to get my ass handed to me in the first few years. If the end result means my ranking improves, all well and good; if not well that's tough - did I enjoy the game?

For me, each game stands completely alone unless, as sock says, it is part of a tournament. Then games are related; then the points DO matter. For any other game it is a single entity. I'm not going to play for points, it just happens that points are awarded for the result. It does mean I'm not going to eliminate people to gain points. Im going to eliminate you to get the best result for me. If that means taking out France so that Germany, Russia and Turkey can assure themselves of a draw, I will do so. If it means eliminating France just to get the extra points, I won't. If it's a DIAS game, France has to go. If it's non-DIAS, France might well accept the draw and the game can end. It is, however, still only a draw.
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Re: Playing Dip Adequately - 4. Essential Targets

Postby Thyrfing » 26 Apr 2011, 00:36

rick.leeds wrote:for me, the rankings are a long way down on my list of priorities when I play a game. I want to enjoy myself, first and foremost. I play Dip to relax (believe it or not I do relax when I'm working out how to get Liverpool when I'm playing Turkey) and have fun. I also want to win as that's the objective. I want to be there at the end of the game as part of the draw, if necessary. I definitely want to survive. And pride means I don't want to get my ass handed to me in the first few years. If the end result means my ranking improves, all well and good; if not well that's tough - did I enjoy the game.

Awesome paragraph, it's all about the fun. I mean, I'm sure if you are in the top 10 or something like that there must be some competition and rivality between the players. But damn, in many games caring too much about the rankings takes out all of the fun for me. I never want that to happen with Diplomacy :)
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Re: Playing Dip Adequately - 4. Essential Targets

Postby gsmx » 14 Feb 2013, 00:48

I actually have to say, the rank aspect of games really is a carrot for me. A little while back i ended up playing a norank 1900 game and it just ended up feeling a little uninspired. I try not to obsess too much over ranking but it does help motivate me and thus enjoy the game more.
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