Diplomacy Games are Like Onions

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Re: Diplomacy Games are Like Onions

Postby jay65536 » 09 Nov 2019, 21:37

Haven't had as much time to post as I've wanted, but I'll give it a try now.

This is what I said earlier, before you had finished your third and fourth blog posts, and I stand by it even more now:

jay65536 wrote:I guess I'd say, to me, what you refer to as politics, tactics, and strategy are not stratified, with a top, middle, and bottom, but they're a triangle, all feeding into each other.


Two big things jumped out at me, reading the last article, and they're connected. The first is your claim that you should always assume your opponents are good players who are playing to win. I cannot stress enough how strongly I disagree with that statement. When I'm negotiating with my opponents on a Diplomacy board, one of the things I'm trying to interpret from them is what mistakes they might make as the game progresses. If I can figure this out, then I can form a strategy based on exploiting those mistakes that will help my game.

I think this differs from your claim in a very important respect. If someone says something that is clearly bad from a strategic or tactical standpoint, the advice that is in line with your article is that you should assume this is a lie, because your opponent should know better than to actually believe it. But in practice, this kind of thinking could end up damaging relations with people who might otherwise help you improve your result!

The second, related point, goes back to your second article. In part of it, you discuss this "politics can trump tactics" idea, and you are quite dismissive of it. When you frame it the way you do, it's easy to accept your argument; but in fact, I think your arguments against "politics trumps tactics" are a bit of a straw man. When a great player says that Diplomacy is about trust, not tactics, I think what they (usually) really mean is not that politics can trump tactics, but that politics can determine strategy.

When phrased this way, I think it's clearly true. The reason I think this is because of all the different things I used to believe about strategy and tactics that I have now seen counterexamples to, as played by some really good players. (This includes at least one of the examples in your strategy article itself, that you seem to take as so obviously true that it can safely be used as an example, but that I no longer believe at all!) The bottom line is, what you call the "political" layer of the game, the "outermost" layer, can help players craft strategies (and even sometimes tactics) that are most likely to get them the results they want. In other words, while tactics are more "real" than words, in the sense that words may not mean anything, and while strategy almost always determines tactics, strategy is itself subject to an interpersonal element. The three "layers" aren't really "layers" to me--they are all mixed in together, feeding each other. It's not a one-way street; it's more like they are three points on a circle.
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Re: Diplomacy Games are Like Onions

Postby ColonelApricot » 10 Nov 2019, 03:44

Dear BrotherB, your articles are well researched, well written and well presented. It's wonderful that undoubted experts such as yourself are willing to spare their invaluable time to educate the rest of us. I am sure that many of us can only aspire to meeting you one day across the bored just to have the opportunity to bask in your reflected glory.

And to think all this time I thought diplomacy games are like artichokes!

Yours in adulation.

..CA
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Re: Diplomacy Games are Like Onions

Postby BrotherBored » 24 Feb 2020, 19:29

jay65536 wrote:The three "layers" aren't really "layers" to me--they are all mixed in together, feeding each other. It's not a one-way street; it's more like they are three points on a circle.


Jay, I think there's something missing from our communication here.

I believe I said exactly that in my article:
BrotherBored wrote:The Onion Theory is Just One Tool for Understanding Diplomacy
I predict that some critics will accuse me of over-simplifying how Diplomacy is played in order to make this topic more digestible.

To that I say: Diplomacy is just so immensely complicated that some kind of simplification is necessary in order to explain what is going on. I’m trying to teach the reader how to “see through lies”—and one useful tool, among many, is to think about the game in terms of the Layers I described and in the way I described them. Some players really need help, and they have to start somewhere.

My Onions theory (my hierarchical placement of Politics, Tactics, and Strategy) is not intended as an all-purpose theory for understanding everything in Diplomacy. In general, Politics, Tactics, and Strategy are interwoven and any one of the three “Layers” could give rise to something in either of the other two. But when it comes to seeing through lies and manipulations, I do think the Onion theory is helpful.


So I hear you presenting your point as a disagreement between us...but I don't understand why.
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Re: Diplomacy Games are Like Onions

Postby jay65536 » 25 Feb 2020, 19:55

It's mostly not actually a disagreement. I don't disagree with the quote above this post, for example.

The one major point of disagreement is the idea that you can spot an opponent lying by comparing his words to what you think his strategic goals must be. Sometimes your opponents just play weird strategies!

Let me give an example from my own experience. A few years ago I was in a game in which I was Italy, and an F/G had formed. When England had been eliminated, France really only had two ways to go: after me, or after Germany. So I talked to the French player and he told me he was not doing either of those two things. According to him, he was just going to sit on his 7 centers and wait for the game to be drawn--unless either of us stabbed him, in which case he would fight back and leave himself open to the other one.

Now I think someone who had just read your article would say "That is a clear lie!" But amazingly, he did exactly what he said he would do. He did not fight anyone for the rest of the game. Had I opened hostilities against him believing he must have been lying, my result might have suffered.

I guess my main point with this story is, sometimes assuming that people's strategic goals are in line with what you think they should be is a sizeable mistake, and you can miss opportunities that way.
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Re: Diplomacy Games are Like Onions

Postby BrotherBored » 27 Feb 2020, 01:49

Jay, I'm still unsure how we disagree.

Diplomacy players mostly tell the truth. But sometimes they lie. I wrote my articles to assist a player who is struggling to detect those lies.

It's sounds to me like you're giving different, non-contradictory advice. Something like "Here's how to take advantage of noobs/care bears."

Maybe (?) contained within that advice is the assumption that the player you're advising can tell the difference between those players and the ruthless kind. If I understand that aspect of your point correctly, then I still think we don't disagree. Neither of us have given advice on how to detect strange truths.
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Re: Diplomacy Games are Like Onions

Postby jay65536 » 28 Feb 2020, 15:54

This is the main point of disagreement, quoted from your article:

You must assume that your rivals are playing to win. In other words, you must assume that they are willing to do whatever will facilitate their victory.


This is the statement that I strongly disagree with. Very often it happens that your opponents are NOT playing to win. And if you assume that they are, you can potentially make plays that have bad consequences for you. This is not just theoretical--with getting into much detail, this happened to me in a recent (well, last year) game of mine. I made a play that would have worked better if two other players in the game had been playing to win instead of to take a safe draw. Instead, I was hung out to dry and eventually (much later) eliminated.
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Re: Diplomacy Games are Like Onions

Postby David E. Cohen » 28 Feb 2020, 19:07

As always, the surest path to victory lies in knowing the minds of your opponents.
Play every game of Diplomacy as if it will be the last game of Diplomacy you will ever play.
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