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Grantland Tackles Boardgames
June 18, 2014 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Competitive board gamers are a serious lot. Perhaps none are more serious than the players of the most ruthless and harrowing board game of all: Diplomacy.
posted by absalom (188 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
Taking the game seriously is a sure way to have a short, sharp playing career.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:01 AM on June 18


I will not play this game in person, as I have seen many tables flipped and many friendships irreparably damaged. Too much stress.

However! I am very interested in the email version of this game, and would entertain the idea of a Diplomacy email game. Tempers can cool, responses can be thought out, and the flipped tables would look like this

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻)

instead of like something I would have to clean up and repair.
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:02 AM on June 18 [10 favorites]


Metafilter had an email version of this a few years ago. It was okay, but people insisted on role-playing, which I thought was pretty dumb.

It is indeed a nasty game to play, perfect for social studies class, perhaps, but not so great at all for friends.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:04 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


KokuRyu: Metafilter had an email version of this a few years ago. It was okay, but people Rock Steady insisted on role-playing, which I thought was pretty dumb.

Well, I enjoyed doing it, anyway. I guess Diplomacy really is the game of pissing people off.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:12 AM on June 18 [4 favorites]


I would love to play an email version, as my real life friends are woefully . . . ill-prepared for a game of this caliber.
posted by Think_Long at 11:12 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


aw, I liked the role-playing! With or without it though, I'd be down for another PBE game with you folks.
posted by xbonesgt at 11:15 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


I love games and basically every halfway successful relationship I've had has had a strong foundation of chess, checkers, scrabble, boggle, rock-paper-scissors, mancala. That said, I have a longstanding policy that I will never, ever play Diplomacy with anyone I'm dating - and that's probably the most ironclad rule I've ever had or will ever have about my love life.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:15 AM on June 18 [3 favorites]


My husband will not play this game with anyone we want to be long term friends with. I asked why--as I have never played it, nor indeed heard of it until we got married--and all I got in response was a mournful look off to the middle distance.
posted by Kitteh at 11:16 AM on June 18 [56 favorites]


Metafilter had an email version of this a few years ago. It was okay, but people Rock Steady insisted on role-playing, which I thought was pretty dumb.

I would have delighted to have played if I'd known these salient facts.

Although I always adopted a chipmunky voice when I played my Skaven army in WH so I am probably a dumb person too.
posted by winna at 11:23 AM on June 18 [3 favorites]


I played this game once. And left early, because I could tell it was not a game for me...too intense, too involved in manipulating and betraying others.

I love board games. I love pen and paper RPGs. I love reading and watching Game of Thrones.

But Diplomacy...man...Diplomacy is something on another level.
posted by nubs at 11:25 AM on June 18


Yeah, I don't play Diplomacy with friends without a long list of caveats and addenda and the explicit statement that, "If you violate this agreement, we will no longer be friends. No, seriously. I will not attend your funeral, as you will already be dead to me."

That said, I figured the "official" game of MetaFilter would be Nomic.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:25 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


I love Diplomacy so much, but have not played much in recent years, because yeah, it is rough on personal relationships. To this day, it is the only board game I've ever played that resulted in players literally leaving the game crying.

It's a perfectly awful display of humanity.

Also, FYI, PBEM or online Judges are nice and all, but not a panacea. On the one hand, yeah, it can kinda provide some distance between you-the-person and you-the-player. However, the rate of play can actually make betrayals worse, particularly if you know the people outside of the game.

I mean, sure, it stings to be backstabbed 3 hours into a boardgame, after you spent a bunch of time conniving and planning with a good friend. However, imagine how much worse that feels when you've been collaborating for 3 months, instead.

It can be pretty unpleasant.
posted by tocts at 11:27 AM on June 18 [4 favorites]


I play an online variant of Risk (Warlight) that allows for Diplomacy-type deal cutting (private chat messages). Let's just say that I'm glad I play with friends I rarely see. Given enough time, most of them forget how badly I've rat-fucked them all year online when we eventually meet up.
posted by KingEdRa at 11:27 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


It was okay, but people insisted on role-playing, which I thought was pretty dumb.

Given its influence on the creation of D&D, that seems appropriate.

I'm down for a game if anyone's starting one
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:29 AM on June 18


I made a post about Diplomacy at Gamefilter.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:29 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


I know people who've held grudges over Risk and Settlers. I'm not going to let a copy of Diplomacy be within 5 city blocks of them.
posted by kmz at 11:31 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


The game of thrones board game is a pretty fun variant on diplomacy's core mechanic

http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/103343/a-game-of-thrones-the-board-game-second-edition

it introduces a little bit of extra luck to shake things up, but the fundamental make/break alliances thing is still there.
posted by The Ted at 11:32 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


My husband will not play this game with anyone we want to be long term friends with. I asked why--as I have never played it, nor indeed heard of it until we got married--and all I got in response was a mournful look off to the middle distance.

I am that husband. I actually just gave away my 1968 copy of Diplomacy to a friend, because we're moving into a much smaller place, space is limited, and I realized that at 41 I need every friend I've got.

In other news, if Trevor Bainville of Uxbridge, Ontario, happens to be here and reading this post, I am profoundly sorry about the Heligoland Bight and realize now after 23 years of reflection that I may have in fact been in the wrong.*

(gazes into middle distance)

*I was not in the wrong
posted by Shepherd at 11:36 AM on June 18 [75 favorites]


The most full game I ever played was in college, Norwich University Tactical Society (NUTS) full table event. Playing against my roommate I already had grown to despise on a personal level, another gaming club player who kind of came in and factionalized the club, and a handful of other people I was on generally good terms with. I ended like this:

It was probably 4 in the morning? I was in control of a strong plurality of the board. Certainly not unassailable, especially with so much time for Catalines to develop. Still, in a strong position but with several hours of hard grind to get to the final number. Vote was taken to break up for the night and pack up. I said I was fine with that, but it should be understood I was the victor. That motion was voted down.

I think i said something along the lines of: "We've been playing this game for six hours and if we break now god damn it it is just because these two little shits are trying to cheat me out of a win because they suck. And you all suck for doing it! I won this god damn game no matter what you paltry fucks say!"

And then I stormed out of the room, leaving them to clean everything up.

Because that's what winners do.
posted by absalom at 11:38 AM on June 18 [22 favorites]


I've always wanted to play in teams of three: a King and two diplomats. The diplomats do all the negotiating with the opposing diplomats and then they convene and the King makes the decision about what to actually do. That means the diplomats can say "The King overruled me" or the "King decided to go with the other diplomat" instead of "Yeah, I lied to your face but you should definitely trust me now", which helps to deflect the hard feelings.

Also there is a certain amount of historical realism, the diplomats are often working at cross purposes and neither may actually have any influence with the King and so are constantly writing checks that they can't cash. Which is more or less how WWI got going.

Also you can bring the King physically into the negotiations when it really becomes lie-to-their-face-to-close-the-deal time as a (meaningless) trump card.

Anyway, I'm sure that I didn't invent this and people play this way already.
posted by Kwine at 11:40 AM on June 18 [20 favorites]


By his own admission, Edi was introverted and repressed. A year after his mom took off, Edi was in therapy. His therapist saw in him a need to channel his bottled-up aggression, and to learn how to trust people again. She gave him a gift — a board game. I read in a magazine that this was Kennedy’s favorite game. They’d play it in the White House. She told him it would help him deal with betrayal.

Oh man, just got to this point in the article, and it seems like the start of a supervillain origin story.
posted by yasaman at 11:41 AM on June 18 [24 favorites]


Heh. And now I read the article, and see the article makes the same point I did - easy to get a new player in, hard to keep - too intense.
posted by nubs at 11:44 AM on June 18


She told him it would help him deal with betrayal.

When you try to reduce arachnophobia by repeated controlled proximity to a spider, isn't it supposed to start with like, one, tiny spider? Not starting in a dunk-tank of Goliath bird-eaters?
posted by anonymisc at 11:45 AM on June 18 [24 favorites]


Would there be enough interest to make possible a game along the lines suggested by Kwine but with seven players per nation -- one monarch and one diplomat to each of the other six nations? Because, not having played the game for probably a decade now, I am suddenly really excited to play one this way.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 11:46 AM on June 18 [8 favorites]


I still harbour grudges against people I played this with in 1991 - 2. And I still bear the scars.
posted by dowcrag at 11:47 AM on June 18


I now want to play this as an email game in character so badly. Damn your eyes.
posted by corb at 11:51 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I don't play Diplomacy with friends without a long list of caveats and addenda

I can't be the only person who wonders what that list is.
posted by jeather at 11:52 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


I'm also curious. Those of you who have been seriously wounded by Diplomacy ... at what stage in life did you start playing it? Basically, I wonder whether your age at first exposure matters to the chances that you will be hurt by the game. (I played a lot of Diplomacy in junior high and high school, but I just can't imagine myself being really hurt by in-game backstabbing. The dishonesty just seemed expected.)
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 11:54 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


One of my flatmates in my first year of uni said her parents once played Diplomacy with another a couple and a mutual friend, all of whom had known each other for over 25 years. One of the other couple broke a treaty, which escalated into an argument, everyone stormed out and her parents have never spoken to the other three players since.

I immediately knew I had to play this game.
posted by RokkitNite at 11:54 AM on June 18 [4 favorites]


Aha!

I'm reading a fascinating academic course book on games, and it makes these relevant points:

Games without luck have the drawback that they are very unforgiving to new people. There is nothing to blame if you lose, and the greater skill of experienced players means you lose all the time. Experienced players think this is a benefit, of course, because it means that they win more often, but then they can't find any new people to play with. There is a reason that most historically-successful games involve luck (notable exceptions: go, and chess, which has a solution in the form of a ranking system so you play people of equivalent skill).

Politics games - games where players can interact with each other - can go on a long time because of the natural tendency to pull down the front-runner and indeed can go on forever without some game mechanic to stop them.

Further, the outcome of games where players interact can often be strongly influenced by a weak player: if you start next to a weak player in Diplomacy, for example, you may be able to pick them off and gain an advantage. This leads to particular resentment towards poor players, who also tend to be new players.

So Diplomacy (1) is unforgiving to new players and (2) can go on for a very long time. Given that, it's a credit to the basic (evil) mechanic that it has been as successful as it has.
posted by alasdair at 11:55 AM on June 18 [15 favorites]


I am happy to hear about this, inasmuch as now I can walk around, relieved that I never have to play it.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 11:55 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


I've always wanted to play in teams of three: a King and two diplomats.

This was done very early on in PBM games.

I recommend to anyone reading this the book Playing at the World, which is about the creation of D&D, but traces its roots from Kriegspiel, the Rand Corp. role playing excercises, and Diplomacy.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:55 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


This guy rolls into a national tournament and then proceeds to act as a spoiler for 8 hours ruining the game for everybody but one dude? I would strangle him with his own belt.
posted by Megafly at 11:57 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


corb: I now want to play this as an email game in character so badly. Damn your eyes.

I mean, how can you beat communiques like this:
Message from Italy to France in ez1_mefi:

Emile,

You are nothing short of "fantastique", as I believe one says in your
language. I had a feeling the Czar was trying such a maneuver, but I am
stunned that he would clue you into his intentions like that! Surely
the fact that I have not manned our mutual border for several years
must clue him into the fact that we are working closely together? I
wonder if it isn't misdirection...

No matter. We still must prepare as if it were genuine. The Russian
will be soon be able to bring a massive amount of firepower to bear on
MAO, and we must be ready to thwart him. I was already planning on
peeling one of my Mediterranean fleets back towards the Atlantic, but
it will take me some time.

I do not presume to dictate to you, but if you will allow me to make a
few suggestions that I think will benefit our control over the
Mediterranean:
1. Move your fleet in Marseilles to Spain now -- this will enable you
to support/move to MAO next season.
2. I think the German army in Burgundy must pay more attention to
Munich than they will to Marseilles, but you could bounce any possible
move there with your army in Gascony, if you wish.

I wish I had seen this possibility sooner, frankly. I fear we may
already be too late to prevent him from getting into the soft
underbelly of the Mediterranean, especially if he is working closely
with the German.

Well, good luck, my friend.
Primo
I was Italy, and if memory serves, I was completely bullshitting France.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:58 AM on June 18 [14 favorites]


I've always wanted to play in teams of three: a King and two diplomats.

I'd do that. I love the diplomacy, negotiation, and rp but making decisions gives me the green apple splatters.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:00 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


First game, first round I ran into the case of Schroedinger's Defender. A single piece attacked a support for an attack on itself. It wins by both attacking, disrupting the support, and defending, against the supported attacker, which... madness. I've forgotten what happened round two but it was another case of "you tried something clever that makes sense within the rules but here's 12 pages of exceptions your opponent memorized, exceptions that aren't necessary if you stick to the simultaneous timing and state-based-unit rules the game claims to ground itself in."

I think its a terrible game. To boot, I've only ever found the most manipulative gamers I know trying to set up these games, everyone else flees after the first experience. A toxic mess.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:03 PM on June 18


Metafilter had an email version of this a few years ago. It was okay, but

but then I stabbed Turkey pretty viciously and knocked robocop is bleeding out of the game and had to record a song to apologize to Sumru, his ambassador to Austria.

I love this stupid terrible hateful game.
posted by cortex at 12:03 PM on June 18 [6 favorites]


I've not tried it, but I understand VASSAL makes it very easy to run a PBEM game of this. Has anyone here given that a shot? Or would like to?
posted by jbickers at 12:05 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Man, I played that game with my siblings as a child. It was frequently awful. Now I can't imagine having the time to spend seven hours playing a game, even one without the stressful interpersonal dynamics of this one.
posted by suelac at 12:06 PM on June 18


Oy, my college boyfriend basically broke up with me so he could play Diplomacy on some extra-giant map that he and his friends had made.

Luckily, my current SO is content with us playing Dominion all night long instead.
posted by mlle valentine at 12:07 PM on June 18 [3 favorites]


Has anyone here given that a shot? Or would like to?

Go for it. We seem to have enough interest.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:08 PM on June 18


First game, first round I ran into the case of Schroedinger's Defender. A single piece attacked a support for an attack on itself. It wins by both attacking, disrupting the support, and defending, against the supported attacker, which... madness.

That's actually not how the rules work. A unit cannot cut support of an attack directed at the province it is within. To literally quote the rulebook:
Support is cut if the unit giving support is attacked from any province except the one where support is being given.
posted by tocts at 12:10 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Errr, maybe I am completely misreading this, but the rule you quoted would seem to support Slackermagee's interpretation. Support *was* cut since the unit giving support was attacked from a province that was not the province it was supporting.

That's also why I don't really like the game. Politics and betrayal, sure. But these sort of little niggling rules gotchas and the degenerate strategies that arise from them are really terrible.
posted by Balna Watya at 12:21 PM on June 18


OK, I've set up a game on http://www.playdiplomacy.com/, it is game number 84108. MeMail me if you want the password to join.

(I have never played this game before, and am equal parts excited and terrified about this.)
posted by jbickers at 12:23 PM on June 18 [5 favorites]


I am really curious about how the points system works in tournaments and how they were misled.
posted by jeather at 12:26 PM on June 18


Errr, maybe I am completely misreading this, but the rule you quoted would seem to support Slackermagee's interpretation.

Nope. The full rules are online: https://www.wizards.com/avalonhill/rules/diplomacy.pdf

See page 10, diagram 16. It outlines this exact scenario. The only way you can cut support from the province being supported into is if you dislodge the supporter.

Honestly, I don't get your statement about niggling rules points. The rules for diplomacy are really very simple, in my opinion. It's the strategy, and the alliances / trust / betrayals, that's hard.
posted by tocts at 12:27 PM on June 18 [6 favorites]


A single piece attacked a support for an attack on itself

Unless the person explicitly wrote the order that way -- "Army Holland supports Army Ruhr to Holland", it doesn't work. A support order has to explicitly support a unit in a move from X to Y. More than one attack in Diplomacy has failed because the person wrote the support order wrong. More than one of those mistakes wasn't a mistake. :- )

I could, however, see someone screwing up and writing Army Holland support Army Ruhr to Holland instead of, say, Army Belgium support Army Ruhr to Holland. If they did, and if it was a valid move, then, well, Yeah, Army Holland supports an attack from Ruhr to Holland. It's still hard to imagine, but Humans Do Dumb Things.

The funny thing is if someone else wrote "Army Belgium to Holland", *both* attacks would fail. Belgium -> Holland fails 1-1, and Holland, being attacked, loses the ability to grant support, so Ruhr -> Holland fails 1-1 as well.
posted by eriko at 12:27 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Oh, man, "I miswrote that order" is, like, Diplomacy 101.
posted by absalom at 12:29 PM on June 18 [6 favorites]


A friend of mine coded up a PHP play-by-email web app version of Diplomacy based on the geography of Middle Earth ages ago. I played as the Mouth of Sauron, whose persona I decided to base on a combination of Bush administration press secretary Dana Perino and Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. All of my public statements and friendly communications were written in the chirpy Perino voice, and all of the threatening ones were written in "DO I AMUSE YOU?!?" Pesci-speak.

That was fun, up until the point where Gondor and the Easterlings decided to pincer my ass and take me out in the fifth turn.
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:30 PM on June 18 [5 favorites]


Sign me up for this, if anyone's going to judge it. I've lost a few IRL friends to Dip, but I don't like any of you people.
posted by Etrigan at 12:30 PM on June 18 [7 favorites]


Actually, Avalon Hill's FAQ states that you cannot dislodge your own unit, and orders to support such attacks automatically fail.

I think Avalon Hill is sensible about this, but they're wrong in the heart. :-)
posted by eriko at 12:33 PM on June 18


Oh, man, "I miswrote that order" is, like, Diplomacy 101.

That's why you write orders like this

A Hol (space) Ruhr

With a little mess in the space, and you say "God, I'm sorry, I didn't write the S clearly…..

(Plausible deniability is Diplomacy 201)
posted by eriko at 12:36 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


The one time I tried playing Diplomacy (which still sounds like an awesome game to me!) , it was in college and I went with another undergrad friend (we were both new to the game) to the University Diplomacy Society or whatever. Anyway, I did everything my friend asked for until the very last round where he had an elaborate last stratagem and then I backstabbed him (or tried to, it was kind of a fizzle but it undermined his plan anyway). I was surprised that he was very upset by this. Then the winner of the game (who I had only just met that evening) came up to me and slapped me playfully on both my cheeks several times in celebration;the winner dude was embarrassed when he saw this upset me because I found it inappropriate. My friend was still mad at me the whole way walking home.
posted by Bwithh at 12:39 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Ok, that makes sense. I was thinking that a unit "supports" the army in a friendly province into an enemy province, but that is wrong. A support order is for an enemy province, not a friendly one. Just like the 32 example scenarios of combat lay out for this very simple game.

(Finishes setting up his deep cover for the later "miswritten" orders)
posted by Balna Watya at 12:41 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


I confess: I was that guy who, once betrayed, spent the entire rest of the game ensuring that my betrayer was defeated. I no longer cared to win, I cared only for revenge.

...even one surviving unit can, correctly used, ensure the doom of our hated foe at the hands of our somewhat-less-hated foes.
posted by aramaic at 12:46 PM on June 18 [9 favorites]


My friend was still mad at me the whole way walking home.

That just means that you played the game the way it was meant to be played. You're doing it wrong if everyone is happy at the end.
posted by octothorpe at 12:47 PM on June 18


octothorpe: "That just means that you played the game the way it was meant to be played. You're doing it wrong if everyone is happy at the end."

I've been boardgaming for 25 years with the same group of friends, and our one ironclad rule is that no game where this sentiment is axiomatic is permitted.

It's served us well.
posted by scrump at 12:54 PM on June 18 [7 favorites]


I've avoided playing this because I'm the kind of guy who will take a dive in Bang! to keep an actual child from winning.

(In my defense he'd spent the entire turn bragging about how he was going to win and I couldn't BEAT him but I could take a dive and let the guy to my left win instead, so I took the dive)

((I may be an awful person))

(((I am definitely an awful person)))
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:56 PM on June 18 [19 favorites]


I don't understand this at all. If the players know going in that shifting alliances and backstabbing are part of the game, why do people get so mad during gameplay? Never having heard of the game before this post, it sounds kind of like throwing a tantrum because your friend put a hotel on Boardwalk and then insisted that you hand over your Monopoly money, as per the rules.

Can someone explain to me how/why it ends up so emotionally fraught?
posted by mudpuppie at 12:58 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


I always wanted to play it through the mail with penmanship and mail art enthusiasts. Flowery cursive, artstamps, maybe wax seals, the whole nine yards.
posted by 5ean at 12:59 PM on June 18 [3 favorites]


I don't have the time or emotional energy to play directly, but if jeather above is uncomfortable or people don't want to learn a web platform interface, I'm happy to table lead and press release summary for a pure PBEM as a non-player. It's not unheard of in these parts.
posted by absalom at 1:02 PM on June 18


>It was okay, but people insisted on role-playing, which I thought was pretty dumb.

Given its influence on the creation of D&D, that seems appropriate.


I played a lot of D&D when I was in high school and there was some role playing. The same group played Diplomacy, and there was none at all.

I don't think role-playing works well with Diplomacy, since in D&D, for example, you have all sorts of checks and balances such as alignment, rolls for charisma, etc.

In Diplomacy, you're just playing you. At least that's the way I experienced it.

Having some guy trying to fake a German accent while rolling is mustachio via email is just annoying. And I played Turkey which fucking sucked.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:03 PM on June 18


I don't understand this at all. If the players know going in that shifting alliances and backstabbing are part of the game, why do people get so mad during gameplay?

It depends. When someone cripples you, sometimes it is "curse you and your inevitable betrayal" that is at least kind of Glorious Bastard territory.

Sometimes you get fucked by someone who doesn't see the snout under the sheepskin and you just watch helplessly while they throw you under the bus to advance their own fortunes marginally in the short term and at their expense in the long term. That's pretty frustrating, sort of like watching millions of poor white rural people vote for the Republican Party.
posted by absalom at 1:05 PM on June 18 [7 favorites]


It's like how Gandalf must have felt when he showed up in Rohan just to find goddam Grima Wormtongue.
posted by absalom at 1:07 PM on June 18 [3 favorites]


In Diplomacy often there are two kinds of players - those who have played the game before, and those who have not played it. It's easy to prey on the inexperienced players, who can get quite made at the Kissinger-esque realpolitik of the game.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:08 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


I was Italy, and if memory serves, I was completely bullshitting France.

I was Germany in that one, and eventually I ended up winning. Russia and I took out England pretty early and then had good luck holding everyone else off on the mainland. Neither of us backstabbed each other until near the very end whereas there was a lot more infighting between the other powers.

I confess: I was that guy who, once betrayed, spent the entire rest of the game ensuring that my betrayer was defeated. I no longer cared to win, I cared only for revenge.

That's actually the way I always play games where players have the choice of cooperating or attacking each other. I always try to cooperate until attacked, and then attack back enough to ensure that the outcome from attacking me was a net negative. I feel like Diplomacy is one of the few games where the cooperation/conflict balance is just right, too many games either don't give players enough of an incentive to attack or don't force them to cooperate enough.

That said, I figured the "official" game of MetaFilter would be Nomic

Oh man, I joined a MetaFilter Nomic game a while back and it went so badly. It was basically just Heated Arguments About Something Pointless: The Game.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:12 PM on June 18 [4 favorites]


Can someone explain to me how/why it ends up so emotionally fraught?

Unlike Monopoly, virtually nothing happens in Diplomacy that is not the result of someone being trusted. After the first few moves, you simply cannot play the game without at least telling one or more of the other players, "Here's what I'm doing; please don't interfere," and more often asking one of the other players, "I need your support to do this; please help; in return, I will help you to do something else."

And when all that accumulated trust is shattered because someone got a better deal from a different ally or is going for a solo, it hurts, and you know that the only reason you're suddenly losing is because you trusted the wrong person. It's not because of a bad roll of the dice, nor the wrong card being flipped.

Whereas, when someone beats you in Monopoly or Settlers or whatever, it's not the result of you trusting them, because you never needed to trust them.
posted by Etrigan at 1:15 PM on June 18 [12 favorites]


If the players know going in that shifting alliances and backstabbing are part of the game, why do people get so mad during gameplay?

I blame the simultaneous resolution and the lack of randomness. Many people aren't used to either of those mechanics and so their expectations for what 'shifting alliances' and 'backstabbing' mean means that they think they're going into a different game than they actually are.

Take, by contrast, Risk: say I betray you. My betrayal may or may not succeed, given a roll of the dice, and any position is theoretically recoverable (albeit unlikely). In Diplomacy, you can simply lose, be stuck losing, and then continue to lose, with no real hope of recovery save for other people attacking the person who attacking you -- it's out of your hands but you still need to play things out. The better you're doing, the more options, and agency, you have; the worse, the less.

(I will say that some of the most fun I've had in Diplomacy has been simply trying to stay alive after 'losing' -- most memorably sacrificing armies to keep others alive, running one army from the balkans roundabouts through russia, germany, france, and finally stalemating in Portugal after about a decade in-game)

Similarly, in Diplomacy betrayal is sudden and absolute: not only may someone be attacking you, they're also, at the same time, not supporting you -- you can see all of your actions fail due to their lack of support, and then see all of their actions succeed...while destroying your armies. Whereas in, say, Risk, they get to go, then you get to respond to it -- alternating turns cushions the blow a bit.

Finally, the lack of randomness means you can actually plot turns out several rounds ahead (as in chess) contingent on outcomes -- so there's occasionally a case of you being betrayed by someone who hasn't thought the game out as far as you (you think), and who is not merely betraying you but also making the game worse for themselves, while you have, in your mind's eye, a perfect hypothetical board state that benefits you both but then you went and seized the Black Sea instead of Seveastapol you jerk and -- ahem.

Some people like taking risks, some people like playing conservatively; with dice, or cards, you can use that to justify backstabbery -- 'oh, I didn't like the odds of our attack succeeding.' No, you just misread the board (or: I think you misread the board). You're disagreeing over something that has the feel of object truth, rather than statistics.
posted by cjelli at 1:16 PM on June 18 [9 favorites]


Count me in among the people who refuse to play this game. I already hate Risk, and it seems like the worst parts of that combined with the worst parts of...grad school?
posted by Tesseractive at 1:30 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Whereas, when someone beats you in Monopoly or Settlers or whatever, it's not the result of you trusting them, because you never needed to trust them.

It's also very zero-sum, unlike a lot of other games. The only way you can improve your standing in the game and eventually win is by taking territory controlled by other players, so almost every action in the game that helps you also inherently hurts someone else. A lot of similar games have a mechanic where each player just automatically gets more powerful as the game progresses, and attacks are just a way to negate that progress or otherwise make it more difficult for the other players to win. It's very easy in those types of games to create a situation where whoever stays out of the fighting as much as possible ends up winning while players who get into wars of attrition against each other just prevent each other from winning. So in Diplomacy there are a lot more situations where you can't stay out of it or make everyone happy and still have a chance at winning, which leads to people who would ideally play nice with everyone having to make the choice to screw over their friends.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:31 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


It's not really surprising to me that the one gaming friend I have who always wants to get people to play this game also always rolls a rogue who steals from the party.
posted by Tesseractive at 1:33 PM on June 18 [5 favorites]


Man if you hate Risk, never play Axis & Allies. What a pointless waste of time. The whole game consists of building armies and ships and planes and destroying them. What a grind. It is a good way to teach (for those who are willing to be taught) about the pointlessness, waste, and futility of war.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:33 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


That said, I figured the "official" game of MetaFilter would be Nomic

burnmp3s: "Oh man, I joined a MetaFilter Nomic game a while back and it went so badly. It was basically just Heated Arguments About Something Pointless: The Game."

In true Metafilter fashion, you're agreeing with them in a form that has all the window dressings of disagreement. =)
posted by pwnguin at 1:36 PM on June 18 [4 favorites]


Finally, the lack of randomness means you can actually plot turns out several rounds ahead (as in chess) contingent on outcomes -- so there's occasionally a case of you being betrayed by someone who hasn't thought the game out as far as you (you think),

I used to play quite a bit of PBEM via the Judge with folks from plastic.com chat, and several of us used a Javascript Diplomacy mapper (JDip?) to better visualize the board, and map out possibilities. It was helpful to suss out all the supports and cuts and convoys and so on, but it was an incredible tool of persuasion. One could put together several turns worth of very convincing move combos, which goes a long way toward convincing your mark that they are in on the con (after all, why share so much detail!).

As for playing in character or not. I've played it both ways and my view is that it is much, much easier to lie and stall and distract when you're pretending to be someone you're not.
posted by notyou at 1:36 PM on June 18


A number of years back a couple friends and I on a lark set out to put together our own web-based Diplomacy implementation, after having played some PBEM games on the venerable Diplomatic Pouch. The result (jokingly named Backstabbr) has been rather infuriatingly popular, in that we keep thinking about turning it down but more people keep showing up to play games on it.

The Diplomacy adjudication engine is an interesting beast. Fortunately, Lucas Kruijswijk wrote an amazingly encyclopedic set of Diplomacy Adjudicator Test Cases as well as a clever partial-information based recursive algorithm for order resolution published as "The Math of Diplomacy".

The test cases are excellent reading for understanding the mechanics of the game, and we've only discovered a few bugs and omissions in the four years we've been running games. The most interesting are the paradoxes, such as 6.F.22:

England:
F Edinburgh - North Sea
F London Supports F Edinburgh - North Sea

France:
A Brest - London
F English Channel Convoys A Brest - London

Germany:
F Belgium Supports F Picardy - English Channel
F Picardy - English Channel

Russia:
A Norway - Belgium
F North Sea Convoys A Norway - Belgium


Without any paradox rule, there are two consistent resolutions. The supports of the English fleet in London and the German fleet in Picardy are not cut. That means that the French fleet in the English Channel and the Russian fleet in the North Sea are dislodged, which makes it impossible to cut the support. The other resolution is that the supports of the English fleet in London the German fleet in Picardy are cut. In that case the French fleet in the English Channel and the Russian fleet in the North Sea will survive and will not be dislodged. This gives the possibility to cut the support.
Different paradox adjudication rules can have different results there; Kruijswijk suggests (and we implemented) the Szykman rule, which sets the convoyed movements to failure, so the supports are not cut, and the French and Russian fleets are dislodged. I'm in awe of the folks who have been adjudicating the games by hand for decades.
posted by lantius at 1:37 PM on June 18 [18 favorites]


It's also very zero-sum, unlike a lot of other games. The only way you can improve your standing in the game and eventually win is by taking territory controlled by other players, so almost every action in the game that helps you also inherently hurts someone else.

That's only sort of true. I mean, there are 12 supply centers that are unoccupied at the beginning of the game. Each nation starts with three (except Russia, which gets four), and you "only" need 18 to win outright.

It's true that you eventually have to take things from other players, but in the early stages, (at least in games I've played), everybody grows by moving into the unoccupied territories.

It's only after the first year or two that the game becomes zero-sum.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 1:37 PM on June 18


I always kinda like Supremacy, but maybe that's also because I was the tool who immediately scaled up a huge nuke arsenal and then proceeded to use it to lay waste to all possible avenues of attack against me and stopped just short of nuclear winter so that nobody else dared go nuclear afterwards.
posted by aramaic at 1:39 PM on June 18


Play by email game started at playdiplomacy.com.

Game Name: Metafilter1
Password: theblue

Be prepared for a long haul. I've set move deadlines for 3 days (because very fast games are no fun, and people miss 24 hour deadlines) so the game will probably take a month or two to run its course. Please only join if you really want to play. Dropping players is no fun.
posted by 256 at 1:39 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Ah, just noticed jbickers game above, please join it instead!
posted by 256 at 1:45 PM on June 18


The only way you can improve your standing in the game and eventually win is by taking territory controlled by other players, so almost every action in the game that helps you also inherently hurts someone else.

That's a very good point. In that sense it's closer to Risk than Monopoly or Settlers, except even more so: with Risk, the number of armies on the board goes up over time, even as players trade land -- every turn brings more armies to the field. If everyone called a truce and sat around doing nothing, some players might benefit more than others, depending on board positioning -- one player controlling a continent bonus will come out ahead of another player with an equal number of territories that don't give them a continent bonus. Whereas in Diplomacy, there's an absolute cap on the number of armies on the board, and it's quite low -- you'll like hit it after four turns.

That's only sort of true. I mean, there are 12 supply centers that are unoccupied at the beginning of the game. Each nation starts with three (except Russia, which gets four), and you "only" need 18 to win outright..It's only after the first year or two that the game becomes zero-sum.

Because the overall number of armies is capped (at one per supply center), the contest for the neutral centers is also effectively zero-sum: 'I need to attack this neutral center so that guy doesn't take it.' Not even necessarily so that you do: simply so that he doesn't.
posted by cjelli at 1:47 PM on June 18


Yeah, if there's one thing Diplomacy teaches, it's "grow or die."
posted by notyou at 1:48 PM on June 18


Jbickers - I memailed you. When am I supposed to start hating everybody? Can it be now??
posted by Think_Long at 1:49 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


(But don't grow too fast, otherwise the rest will stop taking your calls.)
posted by notyou at 1:49 PM on June 18


'I need to attack this neutral center so that guy doesn't take it.' Not even necessarily so that you do: simply so that he doesn't.

Oh, absolutely. But that is compatible with my point that there is growth in the early stage of the game. My point was just that it's not the case that every gain in units for me means a loss of units for someone else (which, I was taking to be the meaning of "zero-sum" in this context).
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 1:51 PM on June 18


256 - my game just filled up, so go ahead and keep yours open, if you would.
posted by jbickers at 1:52 PM on June 18


Okay, join my game, you beautiful masochistic bastards!
posted by 256 at 2:00 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Diplomacy is one of two games EVER someone has looked at me, shaken their head, and replied to an inquiry about it with "Nah, you don't wanna play that".

The other was when I asked the card room pit boss, who knew I played hold-em, about Pai Gow.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 2:00 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


I'm in, 256. I'd like to see how horrible it really feels to play. My doctor upped my antidepressants a couple months ago so I think I'll survive it.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:02 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


anytime I see "Diplomacy" and "never played this game before", I always think of cortex's comment from a previous time we tried this.
posted by xbonesgt at 2:02 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


I am too liable to drop out of this, but is it kibbitzable for those who are curious? I admit I cannot imagine how it would be.
posted by jeather at 2:05 PM on June 18


Ok, 256's game. Having never played Diplomacy, this should be interesting...
posted by Maecenas at 2:14 PM on June 18


Should we maybe start a total newbies game for us more cowardly types?
posted by Think_Long at 2:15 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Sounds like it's already mostly newbs in 256's game....
posted by mudpuppie at 2:16 PM on June 18


Just joined the 256 game, but some cabron already snapped up my username. So over there I'm Papa_Azucar.
posted by COBRA! at 2:25 PM on June 18


jeather, most of the fun is in the negotiations, so unless you get access to someone's message box, it'll be less interesting.
posted by isauteikisa at 2:25 PM on June 18


jeather, that said, it looks like if you go to the Active Games link under the games tab, enter the game's name in the Game Name filed, a description of the game will appear at the bottom of the screen. There's a 'view game' link that looks like it might work for you.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:29 PM on June 18


I'll commit now to releasing all of my messages after the game to anyone who wants to post-kibbitz.

Unless, of course, I lose, in which case it's because I was so thoroughly lied to by everyone ganging up on me.
posted by Etrigan at 2:30 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Heated Arguments About Something Pointless: The Game.
posted by roystgnr at 2:40 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


I don't think I can take the stress of playing (and after cortex ruined Thanksgiving by stabbing Turkey, I'm not sure my wife would want me playing), but would be happy to do up a newspaper type thing via a Wordpress blog - report on moves, try to interview heads of state, etc. - but that only works if people lean towards the more roleplaying style. It'd allow non-players to follow along and may be a way to recruit for future games.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:42 PM on June 18 [6 favorites]


happy to do up a newspaper type thing via a Wordpress blog - report on moves, try to interview heads of state, etc. - but that only works if people lean towards the more roleplaying style. It'd allow non-players to follow along and may be a way to recruit for future games.

Fuck yes, this is a thing in our game now. I will start a metatalk thread tonight.

we're waiting for one more player, btw.
posted by 256 at 2:45 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


For those starting new games, I have to really recommend lantius's Backstabbr site. The interface is much nicer and easier to work with than the alternatives I tried, and the exploratory sandbox feature is fantastic.

No affiliation, just really like it.
posted by felixc at 2:48 PM on June 18


So tempted to join 256's game... so tempted.
I am wondering if I will have the time given my 1 month old child...
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:50 PM on June 18


I am wondering if I will have the time given my 1 month old child...

Do you really want to lose all faith in humanity at this stage of the kid's development?
posted by Etrigan at 2:50 PM on June 18 [4 favorites]


Wait no more! Confirm away, everyone!
posted by corb at 2:50 PM on June 18


Looks like I already lost. 256's game is unjoinable, so I assume it's filled up.
posted by FJT at 2:55 PM on June 18


Can someone explain to me how/why it ends up so emotionally fraught?

Very simply: at the beginning of the game you have one-seventh (roughly) of the board and to win you need more than half the board. There is no way to win without cooperating, but at the same time, there is no way to win without betraying those you cooperate with.

Some people can deal with it, some cannot. Personally, I am always happy to play the game even if in the midst of it I am gnashing my teeth and beating my breast for playing this stupid game.

No one in my circle of gamers holds grudges in the fashion we seem to be talking about (lasting damage to the friendship), although people will ruefully recollect being the victim of especially impressive stabs -- the game that I as Russia picked up five supply centres in a single turn lives on in local folklore. Note that grudgery can take many forms: when we played regularly a quarter century ago, one player was notorious for his extensive note taking and statistical analyses -- "Hmm, if ricochet biscuit gets betrayed through a supposedly incorrectly written support order, there is only a 19% chance he will retaliate, but a direct attack will piss him off 82% of the time. If I get a third party to stab him, though, there is only a 34% chance he will focus on me."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:57 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


The basic mechanic of the game is convincing other players that you can be trusted and then betraying that trust. People bring different amounts of baggage into the game and, for example, it's not uncommon for a romantic couple to start playing with one half of the couple having proposed to the other ahead of time that they form an unbreakable alliance to dominate the rest of the field. The problem is when the second half of that couple doesn't realize that the first half is already playing the game.
posted by 256 at 3:02 PM on June 18 [7 favorites]


Looks like I already lost. 256's game is unjoinable, so I assume it's filled up.

Someone blocked your move before you even got started in the game. Man, Diplomacy is harsh.
posted by nubs at 3:06 PM on June 18 [6 favorites]


If you end up straining a friendship playing Diplomacy you could always patch things up with a nice friendly game of croquet...
posted by yoink at 3:11 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Point for newbies in 256 game, once the game has started, just because someone says they are a newbie doesn't mean they are a newbie. We played this a lot at my school chess club, it taught me alot about negotion, international diplomacy and the futility of war.
posted by Drew Glass at 3:17 PM on June 18


Oh man, I got incredibly pissed about mafia. No thanks.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:18 PM on June 18



Looks like I already lost. 256's game is unjoinable, so I assume it's filled up.

Indeed, we are full and just waiting for all players to confirm before the fun gets underway.
posted by 256 at 3:28 PM on June 18


(btw, if you are signed up and haven't received an email asking you to confirm, you should check that you entered a valid email at playdiplomacy. They have never spammed me and you will definitely want to be getting those game emails.)
posted by 256 at 3:30 PM on June 18


Metatalk
posted by 256 at 3:34 PM on June 18


Can someone explain to me how/why it ends up so emotionally fraught?

Some people just CANNOT stop themselves from getting mad about games. I used to play EVE, a game notorious for backstabbing and stealing and shenanigans. A game that encourages them in its mechanics. A game where the most famous stories are about backstabbing and stealing and shenanigans and there may as well a sign saying ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE on the launcher.

And yet people still flipped out when I stole from or backstabbed them or otherwise got up to shenanigans. Last time I logged in, a guy I'd ripped off four YEARS before that was instantly sending me messages threatening to kill me and the usual internet shit-talking and death threats. I couldn't even remember what I'd done but he still had his jimmies rustled.

I played an assigned character in a tabletop game and his description was basically "Raistlin Majere but without any common decency" and people still flipped out when he did evil and terrible things even though it was entirely in-character and we were supposed to be playing shady-leaning-evil people.

There's a strain of GAMES ARE SERIOUS BUSINESS running through a ton of people in the hobby.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:35 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


I don't for a second doubt the relationship-ending power of Diplomacy, but the couple of times that I've played it were surprisingly free of any emotional outbursts or crying. I worry that the whole "ALL YOUR FRIENDSHIPS WILL END. DO NOT ATTEMPT ANY DIPLOMACY HERE," warnings end up limiting the number of people who will consider playing what is very neat game.

And I say this despite the fact that in my second game, on the very first turn I was roundly and immediately betrayed by my two neighbours who really had no cause whatsoever to fuck me over. What's worse was they were both my employees. Of course, I got them back - they ignored poor little England in favour of the great continental war until it was too late... oh yes, I had my revenge...

Ahem. And yet, we are still all friends!
posted by adrianhon at 3:57 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Just now via my phone, today's Word of the Day from my SpanishDict app:

pelear: to fight
posted by Celsius1414 at 4:02 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Can someone explain to me how/why it ends up so emotionally fraught?

For me, I think it comes down to a couple of things:

-I enjoy games, but part of my enjoyment is playing with a focus on playing well. I play to be social, but I also want to win - or make it hard for someone else to win. When there's an element of chance involved, it's frustrating but understandable when your strategy doesn't work in the face of a bad roll or two, or the turn of the wrong card. In Diplomacy, there isn't that possibility - your strategy hitting a roadblock is the direct result of other players deciding to deliberately frustrate or betray you or team up against you. No chance involved - it's everyone's decisions that lead to the outcome, and the fact that someone has decided to act that way is somehow more challenging.

-The manipulative part of the game makes me incredibly uncomfortable; it's just not how I like to be, even in the context of a game.
posted by nubs at 4:05 PM on June 18


Some people just CANNOT stop themselves from getting mad about games. I used to play EVE, a game notorious for backstabbing and stealing and shenanigans. A game that encourages them in its mechanics. A game where the most famous stories are about backstabbing and stealing and shenanigans and there may as well a sign saying ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE on the launcher.

And yet people still flipped out when I stole from or backstabbed them or otherwise got up to shenanigans. Last time I logged in, a guy I'd ripped off four YEARS before that was instantly sending me messages threatening to kill me and the usual internet shit-talking and death threats. I couldn't even remember what I'd done but he still had his jimmies rustled.


I think it has much more to do with the mechanics of this kind of game than with individuals who just can't handle games, though both certainly play into it. What in these games makes those betrayals sting so badly? In EVE, it's the sheer amount of time and effort you put into building yourself up, so that when it all gets taken away, or worse, simply destroyed for no good reason, hours and hours of your life have gone to waste. Which makes everything that Etrigan said about trust in Diplomacy go double for EVE, as EVE's late game has a lot of simulated high-stakes diplomacy. As for Diplomacy itself, I think cjelli puts it well. These games' mechanics make them sting.

That said, on preview, I do agree with adrianhon that the tone of discussion about Diplomacy can get kind of exaggerated.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:05 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


The value in exaggerating the direness of Diplomacy's influence on players is that the outcome of joining a game tends to range from "well, they warned me" to "pleasantly surprised" instead of from "you are a fucking asshole for making me play this" to "profound survivors guilt".

I wish everybody liked Diplomacy, but I think a lot of people will be happier never having played it and that the people most likely to actually enjoy it are the ones who are most likely to grin at the warnings and sign up anyway.

Diplomacy is a horror film that a lot of people think is a wartime adventure serial, basically. Don't spring horror films on people who don't like horror films.
posted by cortex at 4:21 PM on June 18 [11 favorites]


The thing that's upsetting about Diplomacy is that persuasively fake-lying to someone requires exactly the same skills as persuasively really-lying to them, and that can be really uncomfortable.

My husband and I don't play bluffing games at all - not even poker - because he gets too upset when I successfully bluff him. (Although tbh, I don't like playing competitive games with him anyway because he is a SORE WINNER.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:38 PM on June 18 [9 favorites]


You've just gotta stop showing him your bluffs.
posted by bashos_frog at 4:45 PM on June 18 [5 favorites]


My final game of Diplo was over 20 years ago. I still don't talk to some of those guys and one I didn't attend his funeral.

The idea of characters with silly accent and whatnot is that is creates a prophylactic barrier. It's not ME lying to YOU, it's France lying to Russia!
That little bit can prevent a great deal of emotional stress.
posted by Megafly at 4:51 PM on June 18 [3 favorites]


Great piece. Never played. I can't think of a game which sounds less for me.

(Against a computer? Sure.)
posted by Trochanter at 4:58 PM on June 18


I feel like it's a game that it would be basically impossible to play against a computer.
posted by 256 at 5:05 PM on June 18


It'd be pretty dumbed down, that's for sure. More of a game and less of a cruel 60's era psych experiment.
posted by Trochanter at 5:11 PM on June 18


I mean it might come close to unplayable. Without meaningful communication between the players, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to differentiate between good moves and bad ones. The AI for a computer-player would need to be able to negotiate, to build trust, and then to betray it, all in a way that was not transparent.
posted by 256 at 5:16 PM on June 18


Oh crap. Why did I sign up to play jbickers' game? This is going to consume again, I can already tell.

At least the playdiplomacy interface is a lot better than the old system we used to play on.
posted by octothorpe at 5:25 PM on June 18


Metafilter: the worst parts of [Risk] combined with the worst parts of...grad school

(Sorry, couldn't resist. And I needed to get this thread into my Recent Activity somehow.)
posted by Westringia F. at 5:26 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Diplomacy can certainly lead to anger and hurt feelings, but despite playing it a few times, Heroclix, of all games, is the one that gave me GAME RAGE like no other. Oh, it was wonderful at first, I had a blast playing with friends and we all spent what was probably an unwise amount of money on it, considering our poor college student status. But when we went to a regional gaming con, and decided to drop in on a game this guy was running... it wasn't that he outspent us on clix, or that he clearly had more experience with the game. It's that the motherfucker came prepared with a binder full of printed out rules clarifications from the game designers on the forums. A one-sided, fast, brutal death by errata. ("Sorry, but you can't actually attack me in this situation, if you look here..." "Actually you take three more damage because if you check out the errata...") There were three players, and we almost immediately realized we had to team up against him for a chance, but we were destroyed in the most clinical, soul-sucking fashion of any game I've played. Immediately killed any love I had for that game and I haven't touched it since.
posted by jason_steakums at 5:30 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Alright, apparently I can sign up for games, but I can't seem to join any. Is there some trick to this?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:43 PM on June 18


Across the span of 30 years I can still hear a friend scream, "BUT YOU SAID YOU WOULD HELP ME!"

And the rest of the players looked at him and replied, "He lied."

Great game.
posted by grimjeer at 5:51 PM on June 18 [7 favorites]


Heroclix, of all games, is the one that gave me GAME RAGE like no other.

Tigris and Euphrates was this for me, actually. Every damn thing I built was stolen! Just leave my crap alone! It was the worst. I'm a very self-contained person and resent anything where I have to rely on others for my success or deal with their shit in any way. Basically my favorite board game is solitaire.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:46 PM on June 18


I always wanted to play it through the mail with penmanship and mail art enthusiasts. Flowery cursive, artstamps, maybe wax seals, the whole nine yards.

unwise.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:24 PM on June 18


I feel like it's a game that it would be basically impossible to play against a computer.

Maybe not impossible, just incredibly pointless. A game of Diplomacy is generated by the (ideally seven) personalities involved. The rules are a tiny framework to channel the mental energy. The name of the game literally is diplomacy, in gaining trust and gauging honesty. There is no point of engagement for a computer except to play it as a very complicated game of checkers.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:31 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


and all of the threatening ones were written in "DO I AMUSE YOU?!?" Pesci-speak.

Chainsaw Diplomacy
Chainsaw Diplomacy is the press equivalent of bareknuckle fighting. It is press that is deliberately designed to be upsetting and unnerving to the recipient. After reading an effective Chainsaw dispatch, a potentate should be trembling. He should be thinking: "My God! I've got a madman on my hands!" Chainsaw press is irrational, demanding and/or intimidating. It should not even admit of the possibility of a reasonable reply. An effective piece of Chainsaw press should leave the recipient 100% certain that the letter writer is going to do exactly as he says. It's fundamental purpose is to deliver a message which cannot be ignored, even by the most suspicious, and usually with all of the subtlety of a black rose valentine.

That being said, let me also state what Chainsaw Diplomacy is not. It is not crude. Foul language has no place in any press, including Chainsaw press. It is not insulting -- threatening perhaps -- but not insulting. Name calling will not serve the purpose of getting your message across. It is not venting your spleen. Chainsaw press may be crafted to appear like an emotional outburst, but it never should be. It is a cool, calculated attempt to acheive by unreasonable statements, threats and demands, that which you were unable to acheive previously through reasonable negotiation.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:24 PM on June 18


Intellectually I get how Diplomacy can be so emotionally taxing for people but my friends growing up & I never had any of the insane breakdowns, ended friendships or swearing off the game for life people talk about & we played it pretty cutthroat with false order sheets, order sheets secretly snuck under the board when nobody was looking, all sorts of dirty tricks. At the end of the day I guess we all understood it was just a game. It also didn't hurt that when we first heard about the game from my older brother who'd played it with his friends, all the making-&-breaking alliances, backstabbing & other underhanded maneuvers were one of the major attractions of the game for us. Maybe we just lucked out or maybe we were all just a bunch of manipulative sociopaths who'd banded together to have some fun. Either way, I'm definitely going to see if we can revive the old crew & play a few games over the Net since we're (me, mostly) not easily able to play it in person. And you can bet you'll be seeing me playing against you, my fellow MeFites, though probably not under this handle.
posted by scalefree at 8:24 PM on June 18


In my first game of Diplomacy, I drew Turkey, and didn't understand how moves were interpreted by the system, so my opener, as submitted, was

F ANK-CON
A SMY-CON


In true Diplomacy fashion, I went on to win that game.

Proof!
The entire game
posted by squorch at 8:25 PM on June 18


I feel like I have basically the opposite experience with Diplomacy of everyone else in this thread. Instead of Diplomacy ruining my friendships, it helped get me and my now-girlfriend together during the Negotiation phase. Neither of us won that game, but regardless, I love Diplomacy. Diplomacy is great.
posted by branduno at 8:27 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


I've played only twice, but I never had any hard feelings because of it. I play games to have fun rather than to win, so the minute it looks like trying to win won't be fun, I'll stop. Introducing chaos is also fun.
posted by emeiji at 8:52 PM on June 18


The best games are games of fucking over your friends (well, if the people in your gaming group are good at striking a dish it out/take it balance). I haven't been as big a gamer lately as I was in years past, but my last favorite when I was playing regularly a few years ago was Infernal Contraption (with the Sabotage! expansion). Oh, you built an amazing, intricate machine that's handing you the game turn by turn? Here, let me use it against you!
posted by jason_steakums at 9:25 PM on June 18


Nomic wiki and FAQ are down :(
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:07 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


I was Austria in that game, squorch, iirc, and until now I have been certain that that blunder was a ploy to lull the rest of us into complacency.

"Keep your SLOCs clear," indeed.
posted by notyou at 10:20 PM on June 18


Wow, this article and this thread are a fascinating glimpse into a game I will never play. I'll stick to Cosmic Encounter. Which is also a game of alliances, diplomacy, and betrayal, but one with just enough randomness to make it Not So Serious.

One of these days I will figure out if my boyfriend always tries to ally the whole rest of the game against me to get out relationship stress, or if he does it because he really IS kinda scared of my CE skillz like he says after the game.
posted by egypturnash at 10:45 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


I think I could play this game with any of my friends and relatives, and not get mad at all.


... he said, self-deludingly.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:22 PM on June 18


I adore Diplomacy, but I think it has something to do with me grabbing more dots than pretty much everyone else on a regular basis.
posted by markkraft at 1:30 AM on June 19


I always kinda like Supremacy, but maybe that's also because I was the tool who immediately scaled up a huge nuke arsenal and then proceeded to use it to lay waste to all possible avenues of attack against me and stopped just short of nuclear winter so that nobody else dared go nuclear afterwards.

You should really look into Twilight Struggle....
posted by JHarris at 3:12 AM on June 19 [3 favorites]


I've always been curious about Diplomacy.

I'm surprised to hear about all of the (apparently not facetious) tears and broken relationships over the game. Do...people not know how to separate games from reality? I mean, I've been shot to death by friends in multiplayer FPS games, probably thousands of times, and yet somehow I'm able to compartmentalize those offenses as "just a game".
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:14 AM on June 19


escape from the potato planet, at least in my case, my relationship broke my boyfriend wanted to play the game more than hang out with me. It wasn't that I played with him and it drove us apart. But I can see how the lying aspect of it could cause strain; like Eyebrows said upthread, the skills involved in lying to someone are the same whether it's "just a game" or real.
posted by mlle valentine at 5:56 AM on June 19


I've been shot to death by friends in multiplayer FPS games

It's really, really, entirely different from that. In some senses, perhaps the polar opposite.
posted by aramaic at 6:07 AM on June 19 [2 favorites]


Do...people not know how to separate games from reality?

Reasonable people can disagree on this point. I personally have dealt with enough shitty status jockeying, backstabbing, and fake friendship to last a lifetime, and those things inevitably piss me off--even more so when followed by people expressing obvious satisfaction at having successfully fooled me. It's not fun. It doesn't mean I'm unable to comprehend the concept of a game. It means I don't like being lied to or about, even recreationally. I'm not sure that's hard to understand.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:35 AM on June 19 [6 favorites]


Do...people not know how to separate games from reality?

As mentioned upthread, part of what's disturbing is discovering that someone you've always thought of as honest is very, very good at lying to your face.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:37 AM on June 19 [2 favorites]


Do...people not know how to separate games from reality? I mean, I've been shot to death by friends in multiplayer FPS games, probably thousands of times, and yet somehow I'm able to compartmentalize those offenses as "just a game".

As I said above, FPSs aren't about trust. Oh, sure, there's some component of "Don't shoot me for strategic reasons" or simply "Don't be a dick," but Diplomacy is all about trust, and frankly... No. People haven't learned to compartmentalize that, because so few games have it as such a key feature. It's a new mechanic, and that takes time to get used to.

Plus death in Diplomacy is permadeath (for that game), and by the time you get to being dead, you've devoted somewhere between hours (live) and months (PBM, online) playing a single game. You don't get to respawn. That can hurt.
posted by Etrigan at 6:37 AM on June 19 [3 favorites]


It's really, really, entirely different from that. In some senses, perhaps the polar opposite.

True. As I said above, the rules are minimalist and exist only as a framework to channel the mental energy. When you are playing Call of Duty, you are controlling some guys sneaking around a French village in 1944. You might be in the same room as your friends, but your attentions are all fixed in the screen. When you play Diplomacy, no one is immersed in thinking they are in 1903 Silesia, but you do know that the friend who has been looking into your eyes and discussing things intently for the last two hours has been planning to betray you for some/most/all of it. Or you have been lying to your friend. Either way.

And it is not a tabletop games vs. video games thing. I have never seen people get especially upset over a game of Advanced Squad Leader or Axis and Allies or anything. I have seen a Diplomacy game include (although amusingly, not end with) a fistfight.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:38 AM on June 19


I'm surprised to hear about all of the (apparently not facetious) tears and broken relationships over the game. Do...people not know how to separate games from reality? I mean, I've been shot to death by friends in multiplayer FPS games, probably thousands of times, and yet somehow I'm able to compartmentalize those offenses as "just a game".

Flip the logic on its head: Your friend, whom you like and trust, lied to you and betrayed you just so they could win some dumb little game.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:42 AM on June 19 [4 favorites]


I'm surprised to hear about all of the (apparently not facetious) tears and broken relationships over the game. Do...people not know how to separate games from reality? I mean, I've been shot to death by friends in multiplayer FPS games, probably thousands of times, and yet somehow I'm able to compartmentalize those offenses as "just a game".

There's a few reasons it happens. Some of it's human, and some if it is just how the game is structured.

In terms of game structure, Diplomacy is very unlike an online FPS, because the refractory period (for lack of better term) between "losing" in Diplomacy and being given another shot is very, very long.

In an FPS, whether it's short single-life rounds or longer rounds with respawns, if you are killed, you will be back in the action not long afterwards -- and, more importantly, you'll be back on a level playing field. So, sure, you don't enjoy the fact that someone killed you in an FPS, but you're going to be back in the game, with another chance to prove yourself, almost immediately.

In contrast, when you lose at Diplomacy, it's within the context of a game that could take 4-6 hours to play, that you likely won't be re-playing anytime soon (unless your game group is a bunch of masochists). Worse, "losing" in Diplomacy isn't nearly so cut-and-dried as in an FPS. In many cases, you're basically the walking dead -- you've been dealt what is clearly a fatal blow, you know you cannot possibly win, and yet you're still going to have to take part in the game for hours before you are really knocked out.

In addition, Diplomacy's stock in trade is deceit. I don't know of any FPS where there's any ambiguity about who is on what side outside of spy-like characters -- and in fact, in an FPS, a player on your team working against you would be considered a griefer. In contrast, Diplomacy's whole premise is that before you can do anything, you have to try to hammer out agreements with people who are almost all ultimately working out how they're going to later break those agreements. So, when you are finally attacked, it's not from someone who was your enemy from the start -- it's from someone who lied to your face about how they were your ally.

Add in to this: there is no randomness in Diplomacy. Nothing happens except due to the will of the players. Thus, there is no veneer of fate or chance whatsoever. If you lose, it is because others were better than you -- which typically means, they were better at lying than you.

Anyways. Point being, there's big structural reasons why someone taking you out in Diplomacy feels so much worse than an FPS (or even another boardgame).

On the human side, well, some people just don't deal with competition well. In particular, there are people who think of themselves as liking competition, but in reality, they like indirect competition. So, "who can run the fastest" or "who can build the best economic engine" is fine, but "who can trick the other competitors the most" is not. There's a reason a lot of popular board games are referred to (derisively, by the more conflict-loving gamers) as "multiplayer solitaire" -- they have competition, but not direct conflict, and that is preferable for a lot of people.

The other human aspect is simply that people may not understand what they're signing up for with Diplomacy. Honestly, I think it does get slightly exaggerated as far as how bad it can go, but it really can seem shockingly harsh if you don't understand the dynamics of the game before going into it. I was not kidding about the crying in my earlier comment -- I have personally witnessed it happen, and I'd attribute it largely to players not understanding up front that lying and deception are the whole game.

Despite all this, I really do love the game. I think it can be great fun with the right group.
posted by tocts at 6:53 AM on June 19 [3 favorites]


I personally have dealt with enough shitty status jockeying, backstabbing, and fake friendship to last a lifetime, and those things inevitably piss me off--even more so when followed by people expressing obvious satisfaction at having successfully fooled me. It's not fun. It doesn't mean I'm unable to comprehend the concept of a game. It means I don't like being lied to or about, even recreationally. I'm not sure that's hard to understand.

I, at least, get it. However, it seems to me that playing out the vagaries of interpersonal conflict when there is nothing at stake besides how to spend an afternoon acts as a catharsis. Better this than in almost any other situation.

For those of us who are fans, the appeal comes from the ultra-elegant design: there is no luck and no hidden information. I am tempted to say that WYSIWYG, but the truth is that you usually don't see what you get (the knife in the back). When you lose a game, it cannot be blamed on a bad hand being dealt or a series of unlucky rolls. You make your own fate. (On preview, tocts said thois more eloquently in the comment immediately above.)

The odd thing is that the closest mass culture has ever come to replicating the feel of Diplomacy -- the negotiations, the shifting alliances, the sudden but inevitable betrayal -- is likely Survivor, which has been a hit for a decade and a half now. At least, I am told by other Diplomacy players that Survivor feels like this; I have no taste for it.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:01 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


it's within the context of a game that could take 4-6 hours to play

Or, by email, weeks or even months. You get a wee bit invested in the outcome.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:24 AM on June 19


I confess: I was that guy who, once betrayed, spent the entire rest of the game ensuring that my betrayer was defeated. I no longer cared to win, I cared only for revenge.

On a side note, I meant to respond to this earlier: this is not something to confess guiltily. This is something to be celebrated.

Winning is great, but coming back from certain death to revenge yourself against your betrayer is very nearly as sweet, even if you only manage to do it with your own last breath.
posted by tocts at 7:47 AM on June 19 [2 favorites]


From Hell's heart, etc.
posted by Trochanter at 8:19 AM on June 19 [5 favorites]


I feel like it's a game that it would be basically impossible to play against a computer.

This sounds like a true Turing test.

Count me as someone who will never play this game. I do not take to overt deception well. I will happily compete against people in various games (I'm currently in love with Quantum which is not just a solitaire, as was mentioned upthread). However, and maybe this is just me, once some one lies about something so masterfully to me about something that I care about, I wonder whether I can trust them again.

Now that I think about it, I do have two friends (both in other parts of the country) who I would trust with my life but I am pretty sure bullshit me all the time. They lie about basic stuff, like jobs, significant others and exploits, but I know they would back me up in hard times (they have in the past). So all I need is four more friends who lie to me all the time. Shouldn't be that hard.

The advice I always heard with diplomacy was to play it either with really really good friends or with people you will never see again.
posted by Hactar at 8:44 AM on June 19


Your friend, whom you like and trust, lied to you and betrayed you just so they could win some dumb little game.

I wonder how much of it is based on real-life roleplaying experience? Because tabletop or LARPing both involve an element of plotting against other characters who are your friends in real life, often while making complicated alliances with them. That's why I think the roleplaying element is so much fun in Diplomacy - it puts a thin veneer between, "Joe, Lord of Austria" and "Joe, my best friend."
posted by corb at 10:09 AM on June 19


For those of us who are fans, the appeal comes from the ultra-elegant design: there is no luck and no hidden information.

The one major clarification I'd make here is that there is luck and hidden information, but not in the sense that those words get used to refer most often to competitive games. The role of both luck and of hidden information are much more constrained and have basically everything to do with the lack of human telepathy.

There's no luck in how a set of orders will resolve; given everybody's moves, the ruleset will unambiguously resolve the orders and create a single resultant game state. There's no lucky rolls like in Risk, no just-in-time card draws. It's true and core to some of the tactical appeal of the game that what is on the table is what is in play, and everybody can do the math if they're willing to figure out the odds.

But there's a layer of luck and of hidden information that comes with the simultaneous resolution of privately-submitted orders. Because the possible interactions between e.g. two Austrian armies and a Turkish army and a Turkish fleet and a Russian fleet in the vicinity of the Balkans are myriad, and which interaction will actually happen is something nobody knows until it does happen. You are in every turn reacting to a matrix of possible moves by multiple players who are all doing the same.

In even a simple tete-a-tete scenario with two isolated players and very few units, you might both be calculating what comes down to coinflip odds: if, say, you move north and they move south, or vice versa, you reach a point of advantage over them. If you move north and they do too, or south likewise, they prevent your advancement and solidify their position with other pieces in the mean time. So, north or south? You're both asking that question, and you're both left, potentially, with the same answer: flip a coin. It's a bit of luck. In large scale you could say that's not luck, that's probability, and that if you encountered that same coinflip scenario a thousand times and answered it with north 50% of the time and south 50% of the time then you had played correctly, and that's fair in a way, but nobody plays a thousand games of Diplomacy at a time. They play one, and everything hangs on that coin flip, and sometimes it's a triumph and sometimes it's a tragedy.

Chess and Poker had a really weird baby in Diplomacy.
posted by cortex at 10:16 AM on June 19 [6 favorites]


To me, there is no more "luck" in Diplomacy than there is in chess -- one could say that a chess player's "luck" is based on what his opponent does, but I think most of us are using the word to mean things like dice and cards and such, where no matter how any of the players act, things aren't necessarily going to happen the way they all want them to.

For instance, I could play all six sides in a game of Risk, and I still wouldn't necessarily be able to make Red win, if the dice just go fucking nutso on me. But if I'm playing all seven sides in a game of Diplomacy, then I can absolutely get Austria to win a solo in 1906.
posted by Etrigan at 10:29 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


In large scale you could say that's not luck, that's probability, and that if you encountered that same coinflip scenario a thousand times and answered it with north 50% of the time and south 50% of the time then you had played correctly, and that's fair in a way, but nobody plays a thousand games of Diplomacy at a time.

One of the incidental bonuses to people playing Diplomacy online is that games get recorded, which has created a nice set of data to draw from.

Some statistical analysis based off of ~4,000 PBEM games:
What are the best powers to play?
Supply Centers in 1901 and 1902
Solo Victories


From the first of those:
What knowledge can we glean from all these numbers? Several facts become readily apparent. First of all, the conventional wisdom regarding France and Italy is true: France really is the best power to play, under almost any circumstances, while poor Italy is usually the worst. Austria also has a consistently bad record, though not as bad as Italy's. All the other powers can be strong or weak, depending on what kind of game you're in and what your goal is.

Secondly, there are some noticeable differences between press and no-press games. The more that players can communicate, the more equal are their chances: the Frenchman is at less of an advantage, and the Italian less of a disadvantage, in full-press games. (By the numbers, France's relative advantage over Italy is more than twice as big in no-press as it is in full-press.) Full-press games are also drawish, while no-press games are more likely to lead to a solo victory: every power except Russia is more likely to solo in a no-press game than in a full-press game. (This is undoubtedly because it's easier to organize a Stop-the-Leader alliance in a press game.) If you want a fair and balanced game that's unlikely to end in a solo, play full press. If experiencing the thrill of victory is more important to you than giving everyone a fair share, play no-press. For a compromise, play incomplete press.

Interestingly, Russia fares much worse in games with less press. This makes sense: Russia is the only power that cannot guarantee for itself any neutral supply centers in 1901; the Russian player therefore needs to negotiate just to get a build. Russia also has a lot of nearby provinces that are usually declared DMZs in a press game, but cannot be agreed upon as such in no-press. Unable to use diplomacy to secure any neutrals or DMZs, Russia often gets pushed back on all fronts (attacked in Galicia and the Black Sea; bounced out of Sweden; forced out of Rumania) by the kind of aggressive defensiveness that is quite common in no-press. I suspect that many people like to attack Russia at the beginning of a no-press game, precisely because it is easy to find allies for such an attack. Hence the Russian player is often doomed quickly in a no-press game. And, apparently, Russia's loss is Germany's and Turkey's gain, since those powers are both stronger in games with less press.
posted by cjelli at 10:41 AM on June 19 [3 favorites]


Are there any games *like* Diplomacy? It seems like it basically defined and then occupied the category. Most alternatives are its variants (symmetrical maps, etc.)

It was partially a parent to RPGs, but those (oddly?) are usually very cooperative
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:49 AM on June 19


Are there any games *like* Diplomacy?

Depends on your definition.

A lot of wargames are "like" it, in that there's some component of cooperation and betrayal.

There are a fair number of co-op games, and a lot of them have an element where one of the players is actually playing against everyone; many also have individual victory conditions so players can win "more" than the other players. Munchkin, for instance, has the players fighting against each other but also helping each other occasionally.

Werewolf and some of its variants (e.g., Two Rooms and a Boom) have similar elements, especially with the expansions.
posted by Etrigan at 11:03 AM on June 19


One of the incidental bonuses to people playing Diplomacy online is that games get recorded, which has created a nice set of data to draw from.

Some statistical analysis based off of ~4,000 PBEM games:


But can we trust the numbers reported? Maybe the writer is just setting up future opponents by giving them faulty information.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 11:20 AM on June 19 [5 favorites]


Are there any games *like* Diplomacy?

Pax Britannica is like Diplomacy. So ... many ... betrayals.
posted by me & my monkey at 11:39 AM on June 19


It's not completely chance-free the way Diplomacy is, though.
posted by me & my monkey at 11:40 AM on June 19


The closest thing to Diplomacy I've played in the board game space is, oddly, Battlestar Galactica. Essentially the playgroup is split into Humans and Cylons (mostly humans) but no one knows which side anyone but themselves is on. The game hinges on the humans figuring out who else is human while the cyclons try to sow suspicion and discord. Convincing the humans (as a cylon) to throw another human in the brig for suspected cylon tendencies is almost as rewarding as a good backstab in diplomacy.
posted by 256 at 11:51 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


Fencing (sport) is chance-free like Diplomacy, and it doesn't involve lying through your teeth to your own friends and then backstabbing them.

You stab from the front.
posted by anonymisc at 11:52 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


Are there any games *like* Diplomacy? It seems like it basically defined and then occupied the category. Most alternatives are its variants (symmetrical maps, etc.)

As with anything, it depends on how you define your terms. Machiavelli is the closest I can think of in its mechanics and general gameplay (except for Colonial Diplomacy, which is the game transposed to Asia with a few tiny rules tweaks like the Trans-Siberian Railway).

If we are talking about games that have the same intangible feel... BSG, as 256 mentions above, trucks in the same can-we-trust-each-other atmosphere although it ultimately resolves to We vs. They. Advanced Civilization has some of the same multilateral negotiations with fairly simple mechanics. The Republic of Rome feels a bit like it in its aura of treachery and its knife-edge balance between cooperation and competition, and with the added complication that the game is actively trying to take down all the players. However its rules take an hour to learn, not the ninety seconds that Diplomacy's do.

All these latter three have some degree of chance, though, although much less than something like Risk or Munchkin.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:05 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


To me, there is no more "luck" in Diplomacy than there is in chess -- one could say that a chess player's "luck" is based on what his opponent does, but I think most of us are using the word to mean things like dice and cards and such, where no matter how any of the players act, things aren't necessarily going to happen the way they all want them to.

Fair for a lot of the theory-of-mind, "what are they going to choose to do" stuff, although I'd disagree on the specific issue of the tactical coinflip type scenario I laid out above. There are indeed scenarios where neither of the acting players in a tactical confrontation has any useful information with which to choose one or the other option. They're both flipping a coin; they're both purely guessing, except insofar as we're willing to posit some straight-faced version of a "...clearly I cannot drink the wine in front of you" deduction. At that point, for that decision, it really is luck, not skill or strategy.

It does speak to how little Diplomacy is really about the core tactical game, rather than the strategic and diplomatic game, that that's how far down you have to drill to actually produce a truly luck-based outcome, so I'm not arguing that this isn't a quibble on my part.
posted by cortex at 12:05 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


Hrm. The thing about Mafia/Werewolf/BSG/etc. is that your role is determined for you.

Risk and other multiplayer wargames are probably closer, but there's the element of pure chance involved (which is arguably more realistic.) And the vanilla rules don't include private communication.

Diplomacy seems unique in its chess-like resolutions, undefined roles, and "in camera" negotiations.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:07 PM on June 19


ChurchHatesTucker: "Are there any games *like* Diplomacy? It seems like it basically defined and then occupied the category. Most alternatives are its variants (symmetrical maps, etc.)"

A Game Of Thrones: The Board Game is heavily influenced by Diplomacy. But it adds a lot of new mechanics that reduce certainty of victory and make it easier to play the game without alliances. You have a hand of numbered cards, most with abilities, that you simultaneously play when resolving attacks. So even if you're matched evenly on the board, you can play a strength 4 card to your opponents 3 and win. There's also a collective action event, where everyone has to bid to win the event, risk suffering the consequence of failure. And instead of simultaneous resolution, there's bids every so often for turn order. And bids for a +1 bonus usable once a round, and for stronger action tokens like defending with a +1 bonus, mustering new forces, or a third march order with a +1 bonus. Oh, and there's three different kinds of land units.

But there's still support orders that can be used to support a different player, naval convoys, and supply centers (castles / strongholds). Brokering alliances will help you win the game, and the victory condition is still to be the first to capture X supply centers.
posted by pwnguin at 12:19 PM on June 19


The Republic of Rome feels a bit like it in its aura of treachery and its knife-edge balance between cooperation and competition, and with the added complication that the game is actively trying to take down all the players. However its rules take an hour to learn, not the ninety seconds that Diplomacy's do.

Oh, man... after we'd played a few rounds of Diplomacy, my online circle of friends "graduated" to Republic of Rome, because apparently we felt like keeping the backstabbing, adding accounting and randomness, and getting rid of all the elegance. It's a great game (in that Twilight Struggle / Here I Stand vein), but a certain amount of D&D rules-loving is necessary.
posted by Etrigan at 12:39 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]


a certain amount of D&D rules-loving is necessary.

Oh, I do not disagree. Republic of Rome is many fine things, but "simple" is not one of them. Still, I feel it is worth it for moments like the game where I played with several seasoned gamers who were nonetheless new to RoR. I knew about matching wars and enemy leaders and things and I felt like Cassandra, begging my fellow senators to build sufficient legions and fleets to go take care of the 1st Punic War before Hannibal and Hamilcar arose. They seemed to be thinking they were in for an easy ride because things went pretty smooth the first turn or two. Somewhere around turn six, with Rome beset on all sides by barbarians, the state treasury plundered to try to raise forces in the face of crippling manpower shortages, and the population starving and angry, the consul made his state of the republic address and rolled so badly (with all the modifiers from see above) that an infuriated mob stormed the senate, killed half the senators and sent the rest skirkling into exile. It is a good day when you can start the Dark Ages half a millennium ahead of schedule.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:04 PM on June 19 [4 favorites]


Winning is great, but coming back from certain death to revenge yourself against your betrayer is very nearly as sweet, even if you only manage to do it with your own last breath.

This, of course, is something that those who would backstab must consider. Can Turkey really hurt me later?

And that's not all. It could be that a betrayal, when viewed from the outside, is merely a ploy among allies to draw the mark in (how do I, whose name is not "Mark" but sounds like it in RL, know this?)... and so on.

Wheels within wheels.

(I've read about a fella, America's greatest face to face Diplomacy player, who is well-recognized by everyone at the conventions and everybody agrees they'll work together to knock him out early... and yet he still wins. He somehow is able to turn his notoriety into a winning position. I wonder what he does for a living?)
posted by notyou at 8:07 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


The Republic of Rome feels a bit like it in its aura of treachery and its knife-edge balance between cooperation and competition, and with the added complication that the game is actively trying to take down all the players. However its rules take an hour to learn, not the ninety seconds that Diplomacy's do.

I really like that two sentence summary of Republic of Rome. I think anyone interested in US politics should play a couple of games of RoR. It gives one a sense of the balancing act between self-aggrandizement and greater good that politicians must find for them (and the rest of us!) to succeed.
posted by notyou at 8:18 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I have said before on the blue that Republic of Rome is the best political game I have ever played. It is funny how once you have a business interest in shipbuilding or armaments, how many problems become solvable by having lots of fleets or legions, respectively. Likewise the best guy to prosecute this war is already dangerously rich already and the next best guy is too popular with the masses (and so on), so the Senate ends up dispatching the fifth-best choice -- some mediocrity who is sure to bungle things.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:20 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


This thread made me think of Megagame Makers, which I cam across when Team Shut & Sit Down played "Watch The Skies".

Maps, negotiations, deception, press releases, and yet no one seems to be reaching for a hot fireplace poker at the end of several hours.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:26 AM on June 20


Maps, negotiations, deception, press releases, and yet no one seems to be reaching for a hot fireplace poker at the end of several hours.

Just watching a bit of that, but the immediate differences that I see - player creativity is encouraged (i.e., if a team decides to try something for which there isn't a "rule", one of the game moderators comes up with the chance of success, and rolls a die), which is more like an RPG; there are also no dice in Diplomacy; and it doesn't necessarily seem clear what the victory conditions are because one of the teams in the game is operating in isolation from the rest of the teams, so motives and plans are opaque. Even with that, I've seen at least a couple of testy exchanges on the game floor.

In Diplomacy, there is no random chance, so deception and negotiation are your only tools, and the outcome of each move is dependent on your choices and the choices of other players. Every piece on the game board has the exact same capabilities of moving in exactly the same way as every other piece, so no creativity is possible.
posted by nubs at 11:57 AM on June 20


More randomness & role-playing, less acrimony and anti-social personality traits.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:41 PM on June 20


For those not following the Metatalk thread, 256 has started a third game for people who want to play but didn't get into the first two.

And, as many people have expressed interest but no one has stepped up, I have gone ahead and started another game, though I will only take part if it is necessary to fill out the 7.

Game Name: Metafilter3
Game Number: 84336
Game Password: thegrey
posted by 256 at 12:18 PM on June 20

posted by mudpuppie at 1:52 PM on June 20


One more, since that one filled up.
posted by mudpuppie at 7:11 PM on June 20


I also set up a new game. I think mudpuppie and I did it simultaneously.

mudpuppie's game has a short 24 hour deadline for each move, mine has a more laid back 3-day window.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:34 PM on June 20


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posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:56 PM on June 21


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