Playing Dip Adequately - 6. The Stab

What are your winning tactics? Kill them all? Discuss strategy for the classic and variant games using the classic map, or visit the sub-forums for the variant maps.
Forum rules
Strategy
In addition to the general Forum Guidelines (see here: http://www.playdiplomacy.com/forum/view ... 30&t=15441), there are additional rules for posting in this forum.
1. When discussing strategy, reference should not be made to any active game. This section of the Forum is for general strategy discussion, not specific situations within games.
2. It follows that links, images, game name and/or number should not be added to a post if the game is active.
Posts which refer to a specific situation in an active game, or which link directly to an active game, are subject to editing or removal.

Playing Dip Adequately - 6. The Stab

Postby rick.leeds » 11 Apr 2011, 14:50

Stabbing: the name makes it sound bad, doesn’t it? Especially when you know it is an abbreviation of back-stabbing. It is, therefore, despicable. Attacking someone when their back is turned? The height of cowardice. There are, perhaps because of the derived feelings that accompany the term, players who assert that they don’t stab others in Diplomacy. Uncharitably, I always view this with a certain amount of scepticism (with apologies to the sincere). Why? Because it’s part of the game. Yes it is possible to win a game without needing to stab but how good were the players in that game? In the vast majority of games the soloist has had to stab.

So the question is: when do you stab? There are a number of questions you should ask yourself before stabbing:
1. Will my opponent be able to hit back?
2. Will my opponent be able to compensate for his loss?
3. Will my opponent be badly damaged by his loss?
4. Will I gain a better position as a result of the stab?
5. Do I have a replacement ally already, or can I gain that potential ally’s support?
6. What are the long-term ramifications of my stab?
If you ask these questions, and the answers are favourable in the situation of the game, then stab away.

But first, when not to stab. Don’t be an opportunist. The opportunist will stab at any opportunity. She sees a weakness and goes for it. Sometimes it is successful in damaging the opponent fatally, often not. Certainly, if I were the third party, I’d love to see an opponent opportunistically stab another. Nothing like that to make a new alliance. Generally speaking, an opportunist stab is a bad stab. Unless it does fatally wound an opponent it has limited impact. Opportunist stabs are usually one centre strong. More rarely they are two or more centres strong. In the latter situation, I would suggest that it isn’t really opportunist but planned and the result of manoeuvring from earlier phases. That becomes the fault of the stabbed rather than the stabber.

Do you stab in Spring? The perceived wisdom is not to do this, but this isn’t always the case. Certainly if you are contemplating a stab and the answer to question 1 above is YES, then this isn’t a good idea. A Spring stab must result in, at the least, a strong tactical position. If you give the opponent the chance to hit back, he will, and others will see this as you being weakened. The problem with a Spring stab is that it also gives your opponent a chance to compensate in Fall. However, there are times when the Spring stab is useful. A Spring stab has the advantage of not necessarily being expected and, with negotiations working out well, can also see your ally’s units moving away from the area of the stab in that turn. As long as you can make further effective progress in Fall, or at the very least hold onto the centre(s), a Spring stab is fine.

A stab that opens up a second front is also of questionable value. To open a second front you need to be sure that you can afford to do so. If you have units that can defend against the new enemy, without detracting from the war on the other front, then it isn’t necessarily a problem. You do need to think about the long-term issues, though. You will be at war with two opponents; are there others who might be able to take advantage of your two-front war? If there are, then don’t open up the new front. The last thing you want is for you to be facing a series of attacks from the rest of the board. The second front carries advantages when the power you are fighting already is facing an attack from another power that you AREN’T at war with and has to deal with that too. If the power you open the second front with is also in that situation then it could be a good idea to stab. Also, if you are in the position of being able to close the first front then the second is not going to be too big a problem; just keep in mind that someone you have stabbed is going to look for an advantage to retaliate if she can.

A good stab has one or more of the following outcomes: it increases your empire, it insures a win or draw, or it cripples your opponent. These are reasons to stab, and are useful or not so useful – to a greater or lesser degree – depending upon the outcome or situation. Again, ask yourself the above questions and decide if the reasons for stabbing justify the action.

Increasing your empire is perhaps the weakest of the three on its own. Certainly, an increase of one centre, without your opponent also losing SCs elsewhere, is rarely a good idea. This is short-termism at its worst. If you can do more damage, then it becomes correspondingly more effective. An acquisitive approach on its own, though, is likely to be remembered and not likely to result in success very often.

If a stab can ensure a solo, then of course it is should be done. If the follow-up to the stab will allow you to take control of more SCs in the future and reach the 18, then you pretty much have to do it. Failing to do could be seen as a dereliction of the aim of the game you are playing. There are also situations where you could enforce a draw by stabbing. If it prevents your ally in gaining a solo, then that is a worthwhile outcome. The draw as a target is fine If you can’t solo yourself.

Crippling your opponent is also a worthwhile objective for a stab. This would normally be accompanied by a change in alliance structure and is usually a mid-game tactic. Its objectives would be to prevent your opponent from being able to strike back effectively and/or to allow a new ally to make gains. This type of stab is not necessarily to gain SCs. It could be to grasp a tactical advantage. However, the aim would be to make gains the next turn or the next year AND to have your new ally make gains too (hopefully more limited than yours).

A Fall stab, if it is carried out correctly, should gain you centres. There isn’t time for the one-time ally to strike back and regain the SC or take an SC from you elsewhere. The thing to keep in mind, again, is how much damage you will do? Will your opponent suffer? If she is taking SCs elsewhere, then you need to consider how easy it will be for her to hit back at you in the following year. If the stab means she doesn’t manage to build, then it could work out well for you. If it means she will still get builds – should she get a net increase in SCs from elsewhere – then it is correspondingly less effective, but if she can’t hurt you immediately with her builds then it may be worthwhile.

The false stab should also be remembered as a decent tactic. There are plenty of times when, in negotiations with an opponent, you will be encouraged to stab an ally in return for their support. In Spring this can be effective, but is most effective in Fall. As long as your ally knows about it (and doesn’t over-react to it) then it can help force a change in strategy from an opponent, which can be taken advantage of. Ideally the false stab shouldn’t lessen the strength of your ally, or if it does she has units that can be disbanded without breaking the effectiveness of her frontline.

In general, stabbing needs to not be indiscriminate. It needs to have a point. It needs to further the main thrust of your game plan. Anything else will not allow you to gain anything from the game. To go back to those six questions:

1. Will my opponent be able to hit back? If YES, then the stab needs to be seriously questioned. Sometimes hitting back isn’t going to be a major problem, if she is weakened by your stab anyway and she is under simultaneous attack from elsewhere or will be as a result of the stab.
2. Will my opponent be able to compensate for his loss? If YES, then be careful. If your opponent can prop his position up and not suffer badly for the loss, it may simply be making an enemy with no realistic gain for you.
3. Will my opponent be badly damaged by his loss? If the answer is NO, then you need to look at why you are stabbing. If it will carry with it a new alliance, then it may be worthwhile; otherwise it may be more useful to wait a little longer.
4. Will I gain a better position as a result of the stab? If the answer is YES, then it is a good idea. You need to think about how much better a position it gives you.
5. Do I have a replacement ally already, or can I gain that potential ally’s support? If you know there is a more effective alliance is in place, then it is a good idea. Making alliance structures fluid, as long as you benefit, is usually a good plan; it keeps everyone on their toes.
6. What are the long-term ramifications of my stab? This is the question poor players forget. A stab that means you make yourself look like an unsustainable ally in the game should be questioned. If that isn’t a problem, then go for it.

Successful stabbing is all about the timing and effectiveness. As Machiavelli would have said, players “... ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done ... ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.”
World Diplomacy Forum.
Online Resources editor at the Diplomatic Pouch.
Don't let the stepladder get you. Watch where you're stepping. ANY step could be a doozy.
User avatar
rick.leeds
Site Admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 8360
Joined: 11 Jan 2009, 04:40
Location: Wherever I am, I'm scratching my head.
Class: Diplomat
Standard rating: (1158)
All-game rating: (1070)
Timezone: GMT

Re: Playing Dip Adequately - 6. The Stab

Postby Cryhavoc » 11 Apr 2011, 16:39

rick.leeds wrote:Successful stabbing is all about the timing and effectiveness. As Machiavelli would have said, players “... ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done ... ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of reveng


Or as Lemmy said "Dead men tell no tales"

I've actually just finished reading Machiavelli's 'The Prince'. I enjoyed it; and managed to translate at least half of it into this game :twisted: Probably essential reading for all players.
When without a previous understanding the enemy asks for a truce, he is plotting. Sun Tzu.
User avatar
Cryhavoc
 
Posts: 188
Joined: 18 Dec 2009, 17:16
Location: Scotland
Class: Ambassador
Standard rating: (1000)
All-game rating: (1000)
Timezone: GMT

Re: Playing Dip Adequately - 6. The Stab

Postby Kian » 11 Apr 2011, 16:46

I am surprised that Rick in an otherwise very thorough article has neglected to ridicule the pig's tail stab...
"Tell the truth, and so puzzle and confound your adversaries. ” Sir Henry Wotton

"I'm better pleas'd to make one more,
Than be the death o' twenty." Lines on War - Rabbie Burns
User avatar
Kian
 
Posts: 2710
Joined: 30 Dec 2008, 01:52
Location: UK
Class: Diplomat
All-game rating: (1000)
Timezone: GMT

Re: Playing Dip Adequately - 6. The Stab

Postby Jlet » 11 Apr 2011, 19:44

Kian wrote:I am surprised that Rick in an otherwise very thorough article has neglected to ridicule the pig's tail stab...


What is that?
Member of The Classicists.
User avatar
Jlet
 
Posts: 913
Joined: 28 Dec 2008, 21:56
Class: Diplomat
Standard rating: (1247)
All-game rating: (1248)
Timezone: GMT-5

Re: Playing Dip Adequately - 6. The Stab

Postby Kian » 11 Apr 2011, 19:50

Jlet wrote:
Kian wrote:I am surprised that Rick in an otherwise very thorough article has neglected to ridicule the pig's tail stab...


What is that?


A stab is a pig's tail stab...
when it it's twirly (too early)!!!
"Tell the truth, and so puzzle and confound your adversaries. ” Sir Henry Wotton

"I'm better pleas'd to make one more,
Than be the death o' twenty." Lines on War - Rabbie Burns
User avatar
Kian
 
Posts: 2710
Joined: 30 Dec 2008, 01:52
Location: UK
Class: Diplomat
All-game rating: (1000)
Timezone: GMT

Re: Playing Dip Adequately - 6. The Stab

Postby DacoTrilar » 13 Apr 2011, 01:36

Talking about stabbing in Spring or Fall:
I'm still pretty new to Diplomacy, but it seems to that it all depends on where the stab is taking place. If it is on the front lines and you have troops right up next to the opponent then yes, Fall makes sense. However, I often find that mid-game alliances involve the two nations fighting on a front line away from their home SCs. To avoid tying up too many units they agree to DMZs between them and only leave the occasional unit back to defend. In this case, I think Spring stabs are much more effective, because chances are good that you can't take the ally's SC in one move without drawing a lot of suspicion. Also, if your ally's home centers are within a year's march of your own home centers, then you can make the stab in the Spring with absolutely no suspicion from the ally. This should give you a massive tactical advantage as the ally is being attacked at a point of weakness, unlike a Fall stab on the front lines. I'm sure there is a reason that rick said Fall is the standard and I'd like to hear the reasoning behind that.

Daco
This is a signature, I dare you to prove otherwise
User avatar
DacoTrilar
 
Posts: 93
Joined: 06 Dec 2010, 22:50
Location: MA, USA
Class: Star Ambassador
Standard rating: (993)
All-game rating: (993)
Timezone: GMT-5

Re: Playing Dip Adequately - 6. The Stab

Postby Caladin » 13 Apr 2011, 03:11

Brilliant reading :)

Thanks
Caladin
Premium Member
 
Posts: 576
Joined: 14 May 2010, 20:52
Class: Diplomat
Standard rating: 973
All-game rating: 949
Timezone: GMT+10

Re: Playing Dip Adequately - 6. The Stab

Postby rick.leeds » 13 Apr 2011, 21:32

DacoTrilar wrote:Talking about stabbing in Spring or Fall:
I'm still pretty new to Diplomacy, but it seems to that it all depends on where the stab is taking place. If it is on the front lines and you have troops right up next to the opponent then yes, Fall makes sense. However, I often find that mid-game alliances involve the two nations fighting on a front line away from their home SCs. To avoid tying up too many units they agree to DMZs between them and only leave the occasional unit back to defend. In this case, I think Spring stabs are much more effective, because chances are good that you can't take the ally's SC in one move without drawing a lot of suspicion. Also, if your ally's home centers are within a year's march of your own home centers, then you can make the stab in the Spring with absolutely no suspicion from the ally. This should give you a massive tactical advantage as the ally is being attacked at a point of weakness, unlike a Fall stab on the front lines. I'm sure there is a reason that rick said Fall is the standard and I'd like to hear the reasoning behind that.

Actually, I thought I said the opposite of the Fall stab being standard. I said perceived wisdom (or something like that) and there are a number of reasons behind Fall being seen as the time to stab rather than Spring but perhaps the most important one is that if you take a Centre (which you pretty much HAVE to do if you stab in Fall) then your opponent doesn't have the time to hit back. Stabbing for position in Fall is OK but it gives your opponent a whole year to do something about it. I would personally only stab for position in Fall if I thought the solo was on, or my opponent was likely to be losing Centres elsewhere so minimising any retaliation. What I said about Spring was that if you stab then, and the stabbed player hits back and gains from you, or regains the SC you captured in Spring by doing so, she will (or should).

With stabbing at ANY time it is about timing it. A good stab at any time - that gives a favourable answer to the majority of those questions - is worthwhile. Spring is just giving your opponent the heads-up earlier. The Fall stab that takes a Centre - preferably more than one, of course - cannot be challenged immediately.
World Diplomacy Forum.
Online Resources editor at the Diplomatic Pouch.
Don't let the stepladder get you. Watch where you're stepping. ANY step could be a doozy.
User avatar
rick.leeds
Site Admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 8360
Joined: 11 Jan 2009, 04:40
Location: Wherever I am, I'm scratching my head.
Class: Diplomat
Standard rating: (1158)
All-game rating: (1070)
Timezone: GMT

Re: Playing Dip Adequately - 6. The Stab

Postby DacoTrilar » 14 Apr 2011, 01:28

Ah, I took the "perceived wisdom" comment to mean what people usually think. Which I guess it does, but that doesn't make it right. I have just never knew the Fall was thought of as the "right" time to stab. I agree with you that it is all about timing. I like to make sure they are destroying units in the next Build Phase, since that usually means their lines will weaken and your stab will be fatal. Good Post :D
This is a signature, I dare you to prove otherwise
User avatar
DacoTrilar
 
Posts: 93
Joined: 06 Dec 2010, 22:50
Location: MA, USA
Class: Star Ambassador
Standard rating: (993)
All-game rating: (993)
Timezone: GMT-5

Re: Playing Dip Adequately - 6. The Stab

Postby Cryhavoc » 14 Apr 2011, 10:54

I think the 'perceived wisdom' is such, because its usually right. I'm not suggesting a Fall stab is always correct, but in my experience, it usually is. But i'd qualify that; First Rick's questions are pretty much spot on and if they're not being met, don't bother. But second, a stab should really hurt; if it doesn't then its not a stab; its suicide by another name. Once you've stabbed some-one, they are highly unlikely to ever work with you again, so if you're going to alienate another nation, it needs to be for a good reason. Which I'd say, is what Rick was going on about re opportunistic 'stabs'. They are, actually, extremely poor strategy.
When without a previous understanding the enemy asks for a truce, he is plotting. Sun Tzu.
User avatar
Cryhavoc
 
Posts: 188
Joined: 18 Dec 2009, 17:16
Location: Scotland
Class: Ambassador
Standard rating: (1000)
All-game rating: (1000)
Timezone: GMT

Next

Return to Diplomacy Strategy

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests