The Etiquette of Playing Diplomacy on PlayDiplomacy.com
A personal view from Rick Leeds
the rules of the game
of us who have played Dip for years, in different forms, get that sinking
feeling when, in Spring 1901, the fleet in London tries to move to Belgium or
Russia tries to invade Sweden from St Petersburg. It’s that ‘Oh no…’ moment.
And that moment is especially poignant when you’ve chosen to work with the
player controlling that power.
lot of people will come to Playdip not having played
Diplomacy before. They don’t know the rules. That’s fair enough. Everyone
starts somewhere. If you’re going to start playing Dip, you may as well start
on the biggest Dip site!
I think should be expected, however, is that, before you get into a game
– and before you join a Ranked game especially – you know the
fundamentals of the rules of Dip. Diplomacy doesn’t have the simplest of rules
at times. But neither does it have the most complicated rules I’ve come across.
It makes sense to know the basics at least before playing.
are places on the site designed to give you some help on this:
· The ‘Guides’ tab contains lots of info on
helping with this, including some instructional videos from Edi Birsan, a legend in the Dip hobby.
· If you have questions you
can visit the Rules Questions section on the site’s
Forum; members are always happy to help. You could also post your question in
· If you’re not sure if your
orders will get the result you need, you can use the Orders Solver to enter sets of orders
and see the outcome.
· You can download a copy of the game rules. (Playdip
uses the 2000 edition of the rules. There is a later, prettier edition here if you prefer; it takes
longer to download and doesn’t offer anything new).
· You can even join a Mentor
game, run by an experienced member of the site, where you’ll be given guidance;
find a game here.
is another side to this, though, which is important to the more experienced
players: be patient. Accept that new players may make mistakes and, instead of
throwing up your hands and walking away, give them some advice. It may even
make them ally with you, after all.
you’re a Premium member and you want to play a variant, in exactly the same way
as above, find out about the rules.
the site’s rules
is bliss,’ apparently. Perhaps so but I’m struggling to find bliss if you’re
account is removed from the site because you didn’t know the rules.
you’re in the Site Rules tab I assume you’ve looked at the Site Rules summary. Good job! If you
haven’t, go and do it! This is a
summary, however, and the rules are given in full on the Forum – Rules for Fair Use and Rules for Fair Play.
aren’t the Bible so you’re not expected to know the rules chapter and verse but
it makes sense to know the important aspects. After all, you won’t want to be
removed from a game or be banned from the site because you didn’t know that
always allying with your mate isn’t allowed.
put a lot of effort into trying to make PlayDiplomacy.com a site where games
are fair. I think it isn’t too much to expect players to spend some time
learning what is and what isn’t allowed.
the right game
I didn’t mean to join this game!’ is something which fairly regularly echoes
around a stunned Public Press box. Unfortunately, there’s not much more we can
do to prevent someone entering a game they didn’t mean to join. As someone
who’s done this, I know it’s a result of laziness.
you’re setting-up a game or signing-up to a game from the start, however, you
really do want to make sure you want to play in that game. There are a fair
number of unloved games on the Join Game list, games which have
been abandoned by their owners.
are four classes of games:
· Ranked games score points.
They tend to be played more ‘seriously’. They affect your site Rating. Probably not a good
option for a new player’s first game. Rabid veterans can be quite unforgiving.
· No Rank games don’t score
points (surprising, I know). They may also be taken seriously, however: just
because the game doesn’t affect Ratings doesn’t mean the players are less
intense! However, the chances are that it won’t be as serious a game as a
Ranked game. A good option for a new site member who has some idea about the
rules but wants to learn the interface and ease herself into the site.
· Friends games were
designed for, yep, friends. A good option for site members who want to play
with friends, colleagues, family, etc. Just don’t take the stab in your back
Thelma gave you in the game into the workplace. Planning meetings will never be
· Schools games were
designed for use by teachers who want to use Diplomacy in their teaching programmes. They are unique in that the game creator
doesn’t play in the game but acts as the game’s moderator in many respects.
Great if you’re a teacher or acting as a mentor; a terrible idea for a new
player simply looking to create a game to play in! Finding you set-up a game
that you wanted to play and then finding you can’t could be a trifle
frustrating. However, Schools games are also used for the site’s mentor
games - if you want to learn the game, look for a mentor game to join.
game classes are explained in full here.
type and variant.
you haven’t gone Premium yet, the choice is simple: you can play in either the
classic game or a Short-handed variant. Short-handed games are games where
there are less than the full complement of players. They are always Friends
you’re a Premium member, there are different types of games, different variants
and even different maps to play on. You’ll find these explained here.
a look at the Create Game page. Lots of options, eh?
Well, you may find that the game you’re thinking of joining isn’t quite right
for what you want. Look here for the different
of the most important features is the game’s deadlines. This is where many
people make a bad decision when choosing the game they want to play. A lot of
people may be impatient to get on with it – great enthusiasm but not
necessarily the best deadline choice if you go for 12 hour deadlines. There
will be at least one deadline that passes while you’re asleep and dreaming of
your victory. On the other hand, longer deadlines may be too long! Choose the game which balances your excitement and
anticipation with practicality.
a deadline will affect your game and is likely to frustrate other players.
think about how many games you can cope with at one go. Premium members can
play, effectively, as many games as they want (up to 100 simultaneous games). We’ve
had some people play up to that limit. See? Males can multi-task (or they say
they can, at least). All these games need time and consideration; even Gunboat
games – where there is no communication between the players – need
some time to be invested into working out strategy.
find yourself in more games than you can handle. You may think you can handle
it. Pulling hair out stings, though.
your orders in
thing you’ll notice when you join the Playdip
community proper on the Forum is that failing to enter
orders before a deadline is a BIG bugbear.
There are a small, well-trained group of commandos waiting to be released to
hunt down rogue NMRers. They’re armed with long
very good advice is to put some provisional orders in as soon as possible when
the new phase starts. Any orders you enter can be changed later in the phase
but, if something comes along and prevents you getting onto the site by the deadline,
you’ll have some orders to be processed at least.
orders is known as an NMR (No Moves Received or, more accurately on a website,
No Moves Recorded). NMRs are the bane of Diplomacy; not a poorly thought out
character that we don’t know what to do with after he’s fulfilled a ‘shocking’
storyline and wanders around being less than formidable afterwards… this bane
stays with us. NMRs can mean the game becomes unbalanced. Do it too often and
the chances are a frustrated ‘ally’ may well decide you’re harming his plans
more than helping them.
fact, NMR on two consecutive movement phases and you’ll be kicked out of the
is the generic term for anyone leaving a game, whether they’ve surrendered
voluntarily, been auto_surrendered for consecutive
NMRs or been admin_surrendered (removed from the game
by a site moderator for cheating or breaking the site’s rules).
an argument that NMRing (see above) is worse for a
game than surrendering. The odd NMR is frustrating but isn’t terrible; NMRing a lot is grounds for releasing the commandos.
you surrender from a game, or are surrendered from it, the game immediately
becomes unbalanced. There are supposed to be seven players in a (regular) game
of Diplomacy. When someone quits it immediately presents one or more players
with an advantage. You may be surprised, but even those players who gain an
advantage from it are often annoyed by it! Not that they won’t use that
advantage, of course… This is Diplomacy, not MSF.
course, there are times when leaving a game is genuinely unavoidable. Real life
is a pain, sometimes. Fair enough… although there may be options rather than
leaving a game unbalanced to consider:
· Find a substitute.
If you know you’re going
to be away from the game beforehand, try and find someone from the community to
stand in for you. This can also work if you need to leave the game quickly, if
you’re lucky. It means someone else can play for you for a period. The process is explained here.
is never going to be popular if you simply quit the game when you don’t have
to. You may not like the French catapulting les
vaches at your k’nigits,
but don’t run away.
perhaps the game isn’t going well; you’ve come up against an alliance that is hellbent on beating you into the ground and planting roses
in you. Perhaps you’re simply having a bad game and your mates have set up a
game you really want to join. Perhaps there’s a player in the game that’s even
more obnoxious than normal and you remember those helpful teachers who told you
to walk away. These, and other reasons, may seem good to you… but where does
that leave the other players in the game? After all, ‘When the fun stops,
STOP.’ But this isn’t gambling (though it may become an addiction).
you joined the game; you ‘contracted’ to play the game. Now you’re making the
decision to walk away from that commitment. Can you hear that? It’s the rattle
of commando keyboards.
a decision you’ve got to make and live with on the site. Surrenders are stored
in your statistics, surrenders will prevent you from accessing the better
quality games and surrenders may well stop people from playing with you.
the very least, you should consider the decision carefully.
is staying in a game but not playing it. It is giving up on the game but not
surrendering. It may be a better decision or a different option to surrendering
in some circumstances but it will still unbalance a game.
may take different forms: entering all hold orders so that the power is
effectively in civil disorder; it may be moving out of supply centres so that they can be taken by anyone; it may be
giving your supply centres away to a single power
(similar to ‘Kingmaking’ below).
with surrendering, respect for the other players and the commitment you made
when you joined the game should mean you consider this decision carefully.
can sometimes be similar to capitulating but it is usually aimed at giving a single player (or, more widely, an
alliance of players) a chance at winning the game. It is accepted by (almost)
everyone as a valid strategy in certain circumstances. Frustrating? Oh yes. But
it’s been around in Dip for ages and Dippyists pretty
much accept it. Kingmaking is usually accepted when
the player who is taking the role has effectively lost the game, either as a
result of a devastating stab or when a player is facing an opponent who is deaf
to all those reasons she shouldn’t continue attacking you. Some people just
don’t see or hear the big, bright, noisy, lumbering Juggernaut rolling down the
road towards them, even when it’s blaring its horn and blasting ‘Limestone
Cowboy’ out from its radio, and are prepared to keep chasing you towards it.
Kingmaker will often make an effort to continue communication and to play,
although her play will target one or more players, and favour
one or more other players, at the Kingmaker’s expense. In other words, Kingmaking involves being active in the game whilst
throwing it away.
Kingmaking becomes problematic for most people is
when it is the first response to a stab or when it is too early in the game to
bring the game to a close. This is much more like capitulation. Kingmaking is supposed to give an opportunity to end the
game. Jumping into the role when this isn’t likely to be the result is often
seem as poor practice.
is called ‘Diplomacy’ for a reason. It isn’t a war game as such; it’s a game
where the communication between players is the main aspect of the game. You’re
a diplomat first and foremost, not a general. Communication, negotiations,
discussion, relationship-building – this is the essence of Diplomacy. Slap
‘Diplomacy player’ on your resumé; no-one will have a
clue what you’re talking about, of course, but they’ll ask you about it.
sometimes happens, however, is that players don’t recognise
the place communication has in the game. I dunno
what’s going through their heads: ‘Risk’ on a different board? At the very
least, if you choose to not communicate with others, you are likely to be a
target. Nobody trusts a silent player and nobody can work with a silent player.
It’s like reaching around behind your back and slapping a sticky note their
saying ‘Kick me’.
games involve communication. You don’t have to like the sound of your own
typing and you don’t have to write a detailed analysis and critique on Turkey’s
determined surge into Syria but saying something
is always nice.
Playdip’s in-game messaging system allows messages to be
forwarded. It was introduced to allow players to forward a previous message to
the same recipient and allow the sender to add extra thoughts. Inevitably it has
also been used by players to forward messages they’ve received from one power
to another. To some, this is anathema. But, after all, diplomats throughout
history have passed on ‘secret’ information from one state to another. And Dip
players have always been able to communicate information from one player to
another in some form or another. So what’s wrong with it?
what you write to Germany is meant for Germany’s eyes only. When you tell him
that England is a female sanitary product (and the bag it came in) you don’t
necessarily want England to know this. When you tell England that reading
Germany’s musings is like wandering through a field occupied by male bovines
who have recently voided themselves, you’d hope England wouldn’t pass this on
to the subject of your criticism. Of course, maybe it would have been better to
say things slightly differently…
Germany is a serial forwarder. She uses the ‘forward’ facility regularly to
pass on the messages from the players who write to her, using this to build
trust with other powers. England notices this. Whilst he’s bristling from
inside his bag at the knowledge of France’s opinion of him, he also wonders at
Germany’s tactics: ‘What did she do with my telling her that France should
learn to play snakes and ladders before trying Diplomacy?’
could seriously disagree that forwarding messages has a place in Dip, in one
way or another. However, use it sparingly. You don’t want players not telling
you anything useful because they know you’ll forward it.
a diplomat – be diplomatic!
are times when being impolite may be a valid tactic. Goading players, using mind
games, etc may be part of your strategy at some
points in the game. That’s fine and acknowledged as a valid aspect of the game.
However, throwing insults or abuse about for the sake of it, in response to
what you consider stupid play, when you’ve been stabbed or simply because
you’re angry isn’t going to make the best of impressions. Responding to your
anger or frustration by being insulting or abusive tells another player a lot
about you and about your game. So, yes, occasionally and under considered circumstances,
being impolite might be a reasonable strategy but it’s best used sparingly.
and being generally obnoxious is going to see players target you in a game and
probably avoid you in future games.
someone who finalizes when I am sure of what I’m going to do, I often sit back
and grin at Public Press messages that start with ‘Is everyone ready to
finalize?’ then move on through ‘Come on, guys, this game is going too slow
– finalize’ to ‘FINALIZE YOUR £@€%*&^ ORDERS!!!’ It’s one of those
little pointers that someone may be frustrated enough to make mistakes; maybe
I’ll just not finalize at all?
are two points to remember:
Finalizing is the default setting in games. This means that
players may enter a game without considering whether the game includes the
facility. You should expect a phase to last the length of the deadline, rather
than expecting that players should finalize at the earliest opportunity.
Finalizing is ALWAYS an option within a game. Just because a
player can finalize, a player doesn’t
have to finalize.
when you can.
way in which the facility is abused is when a player deliberately chooses not
to finalize his orders simply because it frustrates others in the game. If
you’re ready, good practice is to finalize. Of course, when someone does start
screaming in Public Press about people not finalizing, the gloves are off.
players to finalize.
way the facility is abused is when players consistently demand that others finalize.
There is a difference between reminding players that they can finalize, and
giving an encouraging comment to do so, and consistently demanding that players
should/must finalize. Yep, players
not finalizing deliberately is annoying but so is braying about it.
think it is pretty simple to see that refusing to finalize will lead to demands
to finalize and vice versa.
what the game’s about
is a game where deceit, lies, betrayal and stabs are part of the game, although
it is also true that honesty, being truthful and trustworthy, and maintaining
the integrity of an alliance are as much a part of the game. Dip is also a game
where players should expect to be stabbed at some point. It ain’t
this in mind, some final thoughts…
Grow a thick
you don’t like being lied to, if you don’t like the odd disparaging, abusive or
derogatory comment, you’re going to find the game a chore. People react
emotionally at times, they can be insulting about you and your strategies, they
may even be obnoxious. If you have a problem with this, this is your problem, no matter how vicious the
comments or actions seem. We do have some rules in place to deal with extreme
abuse but we won’t act simply because you’re offended.
an alliance to last forever.
some players will seek to maintain alliances until the end of the game, and
while others claim they don’t break alliances, if you expect your alliance
to last then you’re likely to be upset! Alliances in Diplomacy may be intended
for the moment or to last while they are useful – no longer. Some players
have become upset when they’ve been betrayed by an ‘ally’. Remember: allies are
free to make their own decisions when playing.
much as we might try to discourage some poor practices, players will use them
and are free to use them. As much as we may get frustrated at what we think is
stupid play – or even cheating – the player controlling the power
is free to act as he wants with his units. As long as the rules aren’t being
broken, there’s nothing to be done but bite the bullet and get on with it.
when a game is coming to an end.
are times when a player might refuse to agree to end a game. This might be
because she refuses to share a draw with another player (for whatever reason)
or because she is extending the game in the hope that one or more of the other
players will become so dispirited that someone leaves the game.
is only possible because of the nature of internet play. In a face-to-face
game, realistic time considerations would end the game. You might feel that
it’s fine to act this way – we’re playing on the web, it’s a variant of
Dip anyway, it’s part of it. However, it spoils the experience for other
players and it relies on an unnatural end to the game, so we have a procedure
– the Deadlocked Game Procedure – in place to
prevent it. If a game seems to have reached a realistic end, by all means
explore all options before accepting this but be realistic and allow everyone
to move on to the next game.
involve moderators unless it’s necessary.
site moderators are there to help ensure the smooth, enjoyable running of the
site. They act when it is necessary to act and they will happily respond to
enquiries and needs. However, before drawing the moderators into a situation,
consider why you need to do this.
the Forum there are guidelines about different situations, and when and how to
involve a Mod. They should be the last resort, especially when dealing with
problems in games. This means you should be asking for moderator involvement
only when it is needed.
the mods and admin on the site are volunteers. They give up their time –
which should be spent playing the game – to work for the site. They’re
happy to do so… but not when the situation doesn’t require it.