Deceiving other players

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Deceiving other players

Postby tiobenito » 09 Nov 2018, 17:24

I'm relatively new here, only have been playing for a few months. I'm not very good at stabbing so I usually try to ally early or whatnot. But I have a question about the etiquette on deceiving other players in this game.

From my experiences, it seems like deceiving others is often looked down upon. I've encountered several players who have bluntly told me not to lie to them, one even saying just tell me the truth or don't respond. I've also faced lots of flak from other players whenever I do lie. Sometimes they are the expectedly bad, newbie lies that come from a new player and I would understand people being upset over, but others were legitimately designed to be tactically deceptive. In addition, some of the 'how/when to backstab' posts online (such as Keith Hazelton's http://www.diplomacy-archive.com/resources/strategy/articles/to-stab-or-not.htm post, which delves into 'Reputation' extensively) make me feel like I shouldn't ever even stab or deceive others or else I'll be forever labelled as this one guy who does that. I feel like being able to deceive one's opponents is a key trait of any good commander or leader, no?

These feelings have left me paralyzed in some games, leading me to basically just stick in my home centers unless my neighbors decide to gang up on one of the others. How do I approach this and what is the etiquette for deceiving (note: I really don't mean blatant lies here) other players?

Disclaimer: To be clear here, I know that ideally I would hardly ever lie and instead be clever enough to fool others without needing to deceive them. But I know that there has to be some threshold since the whole point of a backstab is to deceive someone into leaving their centers open.
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Re: Deceiving other players

Postby condude1 » 09 Nov 2018, 17:55

Generally I find that lying's a risky proposition. It gives others an easy reason to gang up on you, and you'll stop being trusted eventually. My rules for lying are:

1. In '01 it's fine. You're reaching out to everyone, an '01 stab hardly even counts. Stick with the people you really start scheming with though.
2. Past '01, stab only for huge gain (At least 2 centers), defense of an ally, or if it's your only choice (the ally's doomed no matter how you play). Even for huge gain it's sometimes not worth it.
3. If you can honestly tell someone you're going to attack them, do it. If you can't, don't.

It comes down to the fact that each theatre usually partitions into 2 alliances. R/T vs. A/I, for example, or R+I vs. G+A. If you break your alliance, say turning the first one to R/T/I vs. A, you eviscerate that player, sure. The problem is that now the other two have to choose between the ally that they've stuck with the whole game and supported them in a conquest, or the turncoat who jumped on his ally for a couple centers. Usually you're the next victim.
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Re: Deceiving other players

Postby Charleroi » 09 Nov 2018, 18:26

I would say that a 'never lie' approach is too conservative. That generally means you form one alliance at the beginning of the game and either win or lose but stick with it throughout. That's a boring way to play. It makes the game less interesting for everyone else - the whole point is to persuade and cajole other players and if you just decide to pair up then it's just an elaborate game of checkers that takes two months. Game-long alliances really suck the life out of the game.

That said, no one will believe you if you lie regularly or in a petty way. It's always a calculus of (a) what impact will this lie have on my reputation and (b) is the gain worth that impact? In some cases, a lie won't have much impact. For example, violations of 1901 DMZs are sort of par for the course - intruding into the Channel or Burgundy or the Black Sea will make a neighbor angry but (usually) doesn't tip people off that you're an inveterate liar. But once you're into the thick of things, each lie has a greater impact on your reputation. You will need a good reputation later on, the game swings enough that you can't know that you can burn a bridge forever. That's where the second factor comes in - a lie and a stab is worth it if you get enough from it. The other player should be able to look at the board afterward and say "wow, you really got into a fantastic position after that stab, if I had been in your place I would have done the same thing." Generally that means 2 or 3 centers and some sort of momentum shift - the destroys will make it impossible for you former ally to defend against you, etc. That's a good stab and is absolutely worth lying to get. Just be up front about it afterwards - don't make excuses for yourself or blame it on the stabbed ally, just say "look, I had this fantastic opportunity to put myself in a significantly stronger position. I'm sorry the brunt of it fell on you, but it was an opportunity I had to take." If you can, stay in touch with the stabbed ally - you may need to work together later and, depending on your relationship, you may even be able to talk them into a Janissary relationship (they work as an extension of your armies and will even help you to solo. In exchange you promise them that they will share in the draw if you are forced to agree to a draw).

The last point I would make is something that's often overlooked - when you can be honest about attacking someone, do it. If someone asks for a support or a bounce you can't give, just say so. If you are going to attack someone and there's nothing they can do to stop you, don't bother hiding it from them. You get huge credibility points for telling people (respectfully) when you're going to do something they would prefer you didn't do. And if you need their help later, they're much more likely to trust you.
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Re: Deceiving other players

Postby Strategus » 09 Nov 2018, 19:45

If someone asks you a direct question, you can either tell the truth, lie, or avoid the question. In my experience, avoiding the question is the most infuriating, and at the same time an obvious sign you are about to get dicked. Sometimes better to tell someone you are going to take Belgium. But as has been said, sometimes a lie is the best way to carry out a stab. Stabbing is a part of the game. If you can win without doing it you are a better player than me. There are probably players who can do that, but I suggest not many. It comes down to balance. Really stabby players can get a bad reputation. But I personally really respect a good stab against me. If I get fooled to that extent, then hats off. And I am generally talking three centre stabs. They are hard to refuse, unless somehow it will lose you the game. Two centres and position is also good. One centre - ask yourself what you are getting. An enemy for one dot. And if they are a good player they will make you pay with dividends. But for me one beauty of the game is timing a stab perfectly. Just before you get stabbed yourself. Guessing when they will do it, and gaining the initiative. Harder than it sounds, but the games I have enjoyed most are the ones like that, and I am talking about those I lost as well. There are a couple of players on the site that always outguess me, and it keeps me coming back for more, so don't worry and go for it. If you play the game properly people will respect it.
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Re: Deceiving other players

Postby blazebbc » 09 Nov 2018, 20:27

I generally agree with what has been said, but... I add a layer. I try to tell the truth (or a version of it) to everybody. And, I attempt to hold alliances with everybody possible. I am not in any games as France right now, so I'll use that as an example.

1901: I offer alliances to Germany and England separately. Both are genuine offers: I don't care with whom I ally. I'll see who agrees and/or seems to be the more suitable ally. At that point, I will continue to talk with the other as an ally, hoping to learn his specific moves and take full advantage of them. If the duplicity can be continued into the fall or even 1902, I will do that. However should their be an opportunity to attack, I will. I prefer to attack early as it secures an alliance.

Meanwhile, I create peace with Italy and set an agreement that we work together later. I keep stroking this relationship until the time comes to turn on another player. (Germany?) I do the same with Austria and Turkey. I also try to work closely with Russia. I want to know when he plans to come west. I'll set up agreements with him to move against either Germany or England depending on who remains. as soon as he is ready to come west. Etc.

So as France, in 1901, I try to cement alliances something like this: F-G, F-E, F-I-R, F-T,, F-G-A... Etc. I honor all of these alliances truthfully, until forces to make a decision- i.e. move against a new opponent. When I do that, the player I attack might feel betrayed, but the rest of the board thinks that I am doing nothing more than fulfilling my end of the alliances. Throughout, I do not consider myself to be lying to any of the allies. I honestly do not now which alliance I will honor down the road. So, I put forth a significant effort maintaining them all until I have to make a decision. This allows me flexibility should something unexpected happen on the other side of the board or should I get stabbed.

Of course, once I know whom I must attack, I continue to work with that person - deceiving them - so that I know precisely where their units are going to be at the chosen moment. I do not often count the number of centers in a stab. Rather, I look at what type of response there will be to my stab, both strategically and diplomatically. If my stab will result on infuriating two of my other allies, I had better be certain that I am going to be strong enough to overcome a fight with both of them. In this case, even a three-center stab can be a bad idea. If, however, I am going to be cheered on by all of my other allies - and I have a clear and unheeded path to home supply centers, a zero-center stab can be very effective.

Post-stab communication... This varies for me, depending on what I want the results to be. For instance, if my stab will put me in a very strong position, making other allies nervous, I might be a touch condescending to the player I stabbed, so that s/he focuses his forces on me - and leaves his backside open for my ally, helping him to equalize in power. If I would rather have a janissary, I might say that I could not resist the temptation, put it all on myself and offer to keep the player around. This can all be really delicate - and, whatever my post-stab communication, I need to be ready to deal with full fury of whomever I stabbed. If I have done my job well previously in the game, I can predict the other player's behavior.

If you want to win at this game (not draw), you will have to lie and deceive the other players. No other player will agree to let you win outright in 1901. If you are happy to have two and three-way draws every game, you will have some success by never lying. However, if you happen to have somebody like me as a partner, you might find yourself painfully cut out of a draw.

I find that there is no one path that always brings victory... I have games where I find it best to stick with my initial ally almost all game. (i.e. F-E until the near end.) In others, the alliance I keep the longest might be one form across the board. (i.e. F-T until I cross the main stalemate line in two places.). I never know what path the game will take.

I don't have enough games here to amount to much of a record, but I am the #9 player on Bounced. Here are my numbers:
In 83 total games (68 starts, 15 replacements), I have 21 solos and 23 draws of various types - only one two-way draw. Most of the replacements were losses as I don't mind picking up bad positions for the challenge of it. I believe all 21 of my solos were form games I started. I don't like picking up strong surrendered positions - it feels cheap to me. (My two games completed on this site so far - at least since the new scoring system - were one center Italy positions, from which I was pretty quickly eliminated.)
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Re: Deceiving other players

Postby tiobenito » 15 Nov 2018, 17:41

Thanks for the thorough responses everyone, some really good insight here. I will remember this when I go to "deceive" someone in my next game! :D
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