Online vs live board play

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Re: Online vs live board play

Postby luckythirteen » 05 Aug 2016, 02:20

I have been playing a mix of house games with family and friends and online games for over 20 years. This year I joined the Windy City Weasels (a face-to-face Diplomacy Club in Chicago) and can tell you there is nothing else quite like it. I can't speak for other clubs, but the Weasels have been welcoming, haven't been cliquish at all, and great people to play with. A phrase uttered among the club is "great friends and lying bastards" and I think that sums things up very well. Among my friends I was always the "Diplomacy guy" who was passionate about the game, tried to organize games, read strategy articles, etc. With the Weasels I found a group of likeminded players who took the game just as seriously as I do. I have learned a ton, played some excellent competition, and discovered I wasn't as good at this game as I thought I was.

Initially face to face was overwhelming. The Weasles play a mix of monthly bar games with 10 minute rounds and a fixed end time and house games which usually follow the rule book timing with no fixed end time. Coming from primarily online play the short clock was a huge adjustment. You don't have time to plan through every possible outcome to find the perfect move. Even worse, you don't have time to explore multiple strategies, particularly cross board. In some cases having any plan at all is better than trying to find the perfect plan and running out of time. Once you adjust though it's a blast. It's like a sprint compared to a marathon. You are constantly moving at full speed trying to get orders in, talk to people, and in my case, avoid misorders. It can feel frantic at time but that is part of the fun! Also in my experience people are more likely to make mistakes in face to face games so a patient player can capitalize more so than in an online game, plus people don't have time to cool off so sometimes you get emotional decisions. Managing the human element is a huge part of face to face games and IMHO infinitely more rewarding and interesting than the tactical side of the game.

I also too the plunge and attended the WDC tournament which was another style of Diplomacy itself. Being around 100 passionate Diplomacy players was an amazing experience.

I still play online. I love the online game and thinks it helps me as a player. But. I thing compares to the face to face experience. If you are lucky enough to find a dedicated group (or start your own!) I highly recommend giving it a shot. For me it elevates the game to an entirely different level. Try it!
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Re: Online vs live board play

Postby Carebear » 05 Aug 2016, 06:50


First thing that comes to mind in your response to the original post is that I feel you didn't really address the questions that were posed. It is pretty clear that the OP was asking questions about contrasting online play versus face-to-face and tips for playing F2F.

Some other comments about your response below:

Octavious wrote:I guess a lot depends on what sort of live board game you're looking at. Too hear some people talk the only real diplomacy is presided over by the close knit bunch of chaps, clustered for the most part in a couple of parts of the US, Northern Europe and the UK, who run the world cup and various local tournaments. I imagine a far greater amount of diplomacy takes place in universities and schools and homes by groups of friends who have nothing to do with the tournament crowd. I dare say the dynamics are quite different between them.

This whole paragraph has the feel of being pejorative towards the active F2F groups in the hobby; another paragraph later extends it. You imagine that a greater amount is played in universities and elsewhere in comparison to the "close knit bunch of chaps". I seriously doubt that and I guarantee the quality does not compare. I first learned to play Diplomacy at university. The professors in the Diplomatic History department helped keep the interest alive. While an occasional game was had, we more often played other boardgames. That is when I made my initial foray into online Diplomacy thirty years ago. While a few of us made it into the more serious Diplomacy hobbyist groups after college, most did not. After college, I became part of a boardgame group. This was a very large group that had several really skilled Diplomacy players, a number of whom traveled to play Diplomacy. However, we almost always played other games because "real" Diplomacy takes a long time. In my experience, Diplomacy does get played F2F outside of the die-hard hobbyist crowd, but it is not played as frequently and certainly not at the same skill level.

Octavious wrote:Then you have the play by mail / email lot, who from my understanding made up the vast majority of regular players until fairly recently.

Not asked about for comparison in the OP. Not sure why it was brought into the conversation. One of my friends was a longtime mail player. I played once. With the ubiquitousness of the internet, I suspect as this crowd ages it will eventually die-out.

Octavious wrote:It's probably also worth dividing the online website based players (those using sites such as webdiplomacy, vdiplomacy, bounced, Facebook diplomacy, and indeed our very own Playdip) into live games and long games.

This is an interesting point, online live versus online twelve hour+ turns. The OP did not distinguish between them. While I have visited three other Diplomacy websites, their interfaces did not encourage me to stay. So, I cannot speak about them. However, here at PlayDip, the ratio of long to live games is quite high. The OP specically mentions two day turns. So, I think we can reasonably remove online live games from the scope of his questions.

Octavious wrote:All of these groups tend to argue that they are the way the game should be played, and tend to play very differently.

Not sure this addresses anything in the OP. Having played significantly in just about all the venues you describe, I feel safe in saying that F2F play and online long play require some of the same skillsets and some disparate skillsets. Each game environment has their strengths and weaknesses.

Octavious wrote:Face to facers on the face of it seem to have the best claim on this, but looking at their stats you quickly find that their games are remarkably short with victory more often than not determined by ludicrously complex points per supply centre systems. To onliners used to playing until a natural conclusion is reached, the whole "stop early for supper" philosophy can be something of a shock. If you've spent the game growing slowly and building up diplomatic capital, having a game cut short and "victory" granted to the plump fool you've been grooming for a stab can be somewhat galling.

While C-Diplo often has fixed turns, like to 1907, most American tournaments have unlimited-time rounds. Boards can and do agree to take meal breaks and return to continue, did that twice at the WDC. Draws are secret and you can force play until the "natural conclusion". Because multi-game tournaments are often held over long weekends, I could see a tendency to try to take a good score and run so that you are not exhausted for the next round. However, I attribute the lower percentage of solos to the more even level of skill, the higher level of skill, and that drop-outs are very, very, rare. The PDET Gold board was the most dynamic game I have played online, but I regularly get that F2F.

Octavious wrote:In an ideal world the game should be a one off played in a grand old house with plenty of spare rooms by seven seasoned players determined to stick it out to the end. Such conditions are as rare as hen's teeth.

That is what more or less occurs with tournaments that have final boards.

Octavious, the tone of your post really seemed to disparage the F2F Diplomacy Hobbyist play and some comments seem misinformed. I have some questions:
  • Do you live in a community that has an active F2F Diplomacy group? If so, do you participate in their games?
  • Have you participated in any serious tournaments like the European or North American championships?
  • How many F2F games have you played? Can you roughly break down that number by boards full of casual players, serious Diplomacy players, and tournament games?
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Re: Online vs live board play

Postby jamn » 05 Aug 2016, 11:26

Thanks for your reply and it is nice you have taken the real objective of my original post so seriously. However, i wonder if you have spent an awfully long time dissecting a post by another without adding very much to the discussion yourself? That said it is interesting to hear about online live games, that isn't something i have come across yet.
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Re: Online vs live board play

Postby Octavious » 05 Aug 2016, 12:06

@ Carebear

Is it a rule of this site to stick like glue to the questions of the OP? I generally take it as a guide to the general subject, will answer some of the questions of it if there are any, and will happily talk about other points I feel are connected. If this approach is not welcome that's fair enough, I have no wish to cause any problems and will stop using the forum without complaint.

However, here at PlayDip, the ratio of long to live games is quite high. The OP specically mentions two day turns. So, I think we can reasonably remove online live games from the scope of his questions.

I couldn't disagree more. Most of my online games have been 5-10 minutes per phase. Just because Playdip is relatively poor at servicing this segment of the diplomacy playing community (which I am hopeful will change in the future) does not mean we should ignore it. I view it as a cornerstone of the online game. I doubt diplomacy for me would much more than a little used boardgame gathering dust in the loft without it.

In answer to your questions:

No I do not live in a community with an active ftf group. This is true of a huge number of us outside a handful of major cities, and is the biggest problem that the ftf community has. You either have to be lucky enough to live in the right places or be willing to invest a great deal of time and money traveling. For this reason I've not entered any ftf tournaments.

As for the breakdown, what on earth is a serious diplomacy player :p? We are all casual, are we not? Like I say, I have had very few opportunities for ftf. My observations come from looking at tournament boards from curiosity's sake, which tend to show games ending very early time and time again. If you have evidence to the contrary I'd be delighted to view it.

It's interesting you compare it to the PDET gold board. The game doesn't strike me as being a particularly fine example of an online game. Good communication, but poor in terms of will to win. I think it suffered from the tournament scoring system and tournament fatigue.

Anyway, I'm not trying to talk down the ftf community who clearly get a lot out of the game. But it is a community open only to a privileged few. I would urge you to try more online live games, as your perspective as a regular ftfer will be most interesting.
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