Playing Against Better Competition

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Playing Against Better Competition

Postby GhostEcho » 20 Jul 2016, 02:29

You've read the advice columns. You've played the game for a while. You've talked to the best. You've taken everything you've learned, and incorporated it into your game.

Then you join a game, and you look at the player list - or if it's an anonymous game, maybe the revelation comes around Spring 1902, when your best efforts don't seem to be producing the desired results - and you realize you're outclassed. What now?

Step One: Change Your Expectations

Note that I don't say, "Change your goals." Your goal remains the same: if your more skilled opponents slip up, have your own dagger ready to win you the game. But also realize that's unlikely: scale back, and ensure you make the draw. Virtually every scoring system - some more, some less - reward draws and survival, whether we're talking about the bare rules of the game or the systems designed for tournaments. Some players will resent you "stalling" the game or making it more about survival - all that means is that you've annoyed them by preventing their solo and your own loss - in other words, you've succeeded.

Caveat: if you get too annoying too early - or make your goals too blatant - you risk getting yourself eliminated as a nuisance instead of just by bad tactical play.

Step Two: Change Your Strategy

You probably won't be able to execute the game-long strategic vision we all dream of carrying out - especially if it takes you a couple years to realize your relative skill level. You're going to have to take a shorter-term view. And here, you have many, many options, but they mostly fall into one of two categories:

Be A Good Ally

Make yourself absolutely essential to at least one player. Make your honesty so obvious that you can gain small concessions because your partner - and ideally more than just that one other opponent - knows you'll do what you say and you're not a threat. Of course, you may have to give up a little at the start to gain this trust - make sure it doesn't cripple you.

Create Chaos

Although I'd recommend trying to find a solid ally as the better option - especially if you find out your inferiority after the game starts - if that fails you need to take the opposite route. You still want to maintain your own honesty as much as possible - it's a valuable strategic tool - but your goal is now to confuse the board as much as possible. Not for the sake of confusion: what you're trying to do, when this isn't your initial game-plan, is to keep anyone from focusing on you, because they have too many other problems.

These aren't absolutely mutually exclusive options, actually. If you choose to prioritize an alliance, it serves you and your ally well if the rest of the board is a muddle. And if you decide to mess up the board, you're going to want at least one friend you can count on not to attack you.

Who Am I to Talk?

Yeah, I'm not a great player. I do a little better with more time - I've scored much better in forum games than on the main site. But I still don't have a great record. But really, that's why I'm writing this. I go into most games thinking I'm likely to be one of the less-skilled players, and these are techniques that - when I stick to them - have served me pretty well in getting results. They don't work every time, of course, and your style or skill set might be one that demands different priorities and techniques. I merely offer this up as a brief system of thought that may help some players.
"When you absolutely don't know what to do any more, then it's time to panic." - Johann van der Wiel
"I'm not panicking, I'm watching you panic. It's more entertaining." - Elli Quinn
"[Diplomacy:] No dice or chance. Just calculated insincerity." - Counter Trap
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Re: Playing Against Better Competition

Postby Radical Pumpkin » 20 Jul 2016, 07:37

GhostEcho wrote:Create Chaos

Although I'd recommend trying to find a solid ally as the better option - especially if you find out your inferiority after the game starts - if that fails you need to take the opposite route. You still want to maintain your own honesty as much as possible - it's a valuable strategic tool - but your goal is now to confuse the board as much as possible. Not for the sake of confusion: what you're trying to do, when this isn't your initial game-plan, is to keep anyone from focusing on you, because they have too many other problems.


This part seems hard to pull off against superior opposition. In my mind, trying to sow chaos is an advanced move, and a stronger player could easily read a mediocre attempt as crassly manipulative. If it's not possible to find a solid ally, I'd think the easier approach would be to develop a reputation as a straight-shooter, i.e., not even try to play a game of mutual manipulation that you're likely to lose.

Have you had success trying to create chaos on a board of players you see as better than you?
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Re: Playing Against Better Competition

Postby Octavious » 20 Jul 2016, 10:24

GhostEcho wrote: the revelation comes around Spring 1902, when your best efforts don't seem to be producing the desired results - and you realize you're outclassed. What now?


You lose. Diplomacy is as much about belief as anything else. Once you've convinced yourself that the other guys are better than you you're a dead man walking.

Truth of it is that the top ranking players ain't much different to anyone else. As long as you keep talking, keep fighting, and have guts enough to stab from time to time, you stand a decent chance. Their armies are no more powerful and their fleets are no faster. They die just like the rest of us.

Go forth and kick bottom!
Guaaaaaaak!
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Re: Playing Against Better Competition

Postby rd45 » 21 Jul 2016, 00:40

GhostEcho wrote: the revelation comes around Spring 1902, when your best efforts don't seem to be producing the desired results - and you realize you're outclassed.

That's way too early to be throwing your rattle out of the pram. Unless you've completely misjudged your opening, which is on you, not your intimidating opponents.
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Re: Playing Against Better Competition

Postby gsmx » 22 Jul 2016, 02:37

I've heard of this "better competition" unicorn you speak of, but I find them rare to stumble upon them in the wild. I've encountered a couple lucky-potiumses who have managed to get one over on me, but that's a completely different breed.

But we'll run with the hypothetical.

If there's somebody in the game that's seeming a huge threat, plenty of things you can do. Some of these may be echoing GhostEcho's points.

Keep your Enemies Closer
Downplay your skill and become the "better players" best friend. Great players often have a common weakness, and that's ego. If they think they're carrying you it's quite possible they'll let their guard down later on and give you an opening if you're skilled enough to be able to capitalize on it. Quality players are pretty good and not exposing their necks, but if you're convincing enough that you're a super loyal lacky who's gullible and will do whatever he says he may be willing to take a few chances.

Throw on that Spotlight
If he's obviously that high quality of a player then sound the alarm and rally the forces against him. A great anti-propaganda campaign coupled with some "pretty good" strategic skills and a likeable enough personality to get people to listen to you can still out-weight an amazing strategist who's short on friends. It takes foresight to know how to play your exit-strategy or else you may become saddled with a situation where a draw with your recruited buddies is the only option available, but it does halt the threat and keep the game going so you can at least work out another angle.

Hearts and Minds Not just the best places to shoot a person.
Much like GhostEcho previously mentioned, there is always the approach of being the hero of the game through your honor and virtue and hoping it creates something. When you get a handful of exceptionally good players in a game, more often then not if a solo happens it's not just because one player was that much better then the others it often is because they're so much more likable. It's not unusual for the 'losers' to have a tonne of influence on pushing a solo into one one players lap or the others. Sometimes it's spite (i'll show him for stabbing me!), sometimes it's ego (i just can't bare the idea of losing to somebody i feel is worse then me!), and even sometimes it's just the enjoyment of seeing an underdog take it (i want somebody who played honestly to win!).
The first quality that is needed is audacity.
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Re: Playing Against Better Competition

Postby ColonelApricot » 23 Jul 2016, 01:38

Play anonymous games if you want to eliminate the "player perception" factor.
Dog of War in ToS
GRU of the Despicables in TTT
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