Help me host a Diplomacy FTF game

As a birthday gift a few years ago my wife gave me a shopping spree at a local games specialty store. Walked out with a stack of games on the recommendation of the helpful owner guy - most of which I’d never heard of before. We’ve played and continue to enjoy Settlers of Catan, Puerto Rico, Tigris & Euphrates, Carcassone. If you haven’t tried Bananagrams yet, rush out now and pick up the banana-shaped zippered bag-of-fun. One game in the stack I’ve been intrigued with yet daunted by: Diplomacy.

Well, a few weekends ago my son had a few of his friends over. My brother also popped by - count’em all up 6 guys with an empty evening. I bribed my wife (with promise of a ½ uninterrupted back rub) to round out the 7 players required, blew the dust off the box, slogged through the rules then we finally dove in.

What fun! We didn’t finish the game (we started the game proper around 9-ish) But we’re eager to play again.

I mentioned all of this to a few of my buddies and there seems to be enough interest to get an adult game going. So I’m planning a party.

What tips/tricks can you share so the event will be as successful as can be?

Diplomacy is great, but as you have discovered it can take a LONG time. Have ample refreshments on hand! You might also want to have some movies or some kind of entertainment available for the people who get eliminated early.

I’ve read to expect 4-6 hours. Does it usually come down to two players at the end with 5 twiddling their thumbs waiting, or is it more typical that most (all?) players are still involved right to the end? Is there a typical “elimination rate” (i.e. expect the first to go around Fall 1905, a few more over the next three rounds) or does it widely vary from game to game.

In my (not all that extensive) experience, there are usually 3 or 4 players still alive at the end (it would be rare for there to be only 2, since they would each need to have exactly 17 supply centers in the turn prior to the end). I would say that games typically go until around 1910, though there can be wide variation. I would guess that the first elimination most often happens in 1904 or so, and then they drop off gradually from there, but this again is highly variable from game to game.

Google introduced me to Edi Birsan and his great teaching/scripts/guides, etc. I’m putting together a package containing my attempt to summarize the game, along with links for anyone who’s interested to follow. I figger if I send all this out before hand we’ll be able to hit the ground running when everyone shows up - start off with a quick precis then get into the game.

Good idea, or should I save all introductions for the day-of?

The last couple lines of Birsan’s Teaching Script puzzle me:

What does that mean “your diplomacy has probably failed”? I thought the object of the game was to secure 18 supply centres.

Well, if you are at 18 than you have broken all your alliances as opposed to say having a joint victory. It isn’t a bad thing.

I guess that makes sense. The phrases “by force of the rulebook” and “if you have to go that far” throw me, suggesting that a win-by-18 is a “technical” win only, and there is some kind of more diplomatic alternative way to win.

One of the things that appeals most to me about this game is almost anything goes during negotiations.

When playing the game I described, I wrote my intended orders during negotiation so I wouldn’t forget. By the time “order writing” started I was usually done. One of my son’s friends noticed this. He was part of an alliance that approached me with an offer. After concluding the discussion I wrote down my move as usual. He snatched it out of my hand, ran into the bathroom and locked the door.

I read in one tournament, during negotiations one player sneakily stacked more armies than he was entitled to on the board then quietly snuck away. Anyone assessing the situation would of course overestimate the strength of his position. Before order writing he removed the extra armies and the officials of the tournament had no problem with that tactic.

When mentioning things like this to the guys I invited, I could see the wheels turning. Do you have any inspirational (or cautionary) stories I could tell them?

I’ve played successfully in the UK Diplomacy Championships.
Both the above are completely against the spirit of the game.

If you can snatch orders, why can’t you beat up other players? :rolleyes:

No player should touch the board in a tournament - only the referee.

The point of Diplomacy is that you can promise anything in negotiations, but that at heart it’s a game of skill.

I would have thought snatching orders (again not during the “write orders in secret” step) was closer to eavesdropping/spying than resorting to violence. I do admit my first reaction was temptation to call foul as host. But in the end it was a memorable moment - it added to the fun of the evening.

I know our game crossed the line when my son promised to wash/dry/fold a load of laundry if my wife would let him keep Sweden. I later read an article denouncing such “meta-gaming” - recommending it be made clear up front such things are not allowed. Knowing the guys coming to the adult party I’m planning on throwing the emphasis will definitely be on outsmarting rather than any tests of physical prowess.

(Thanks for your pointing out the tourney you were in would not have accepted stacking the armies - I had a sense the guy in the other forum may have been stretching a bit.)

The last time I played Diplomacy it was fifteen minutes per turn and when you’re ready you write your orders down and place them in a box. I strongly recommend that you use a kitchen timer. If someone’s orders aren’t in the box then they’re “bogged down with political concerns” and don’t do anything. Obviously if everyone turns in early then you go ahead. A time limit will help speed the game up quite a bit. I know Diplomacy players are used to having days to work with turns but if you’re playing it as a board game you have to do something to get the time under control. :slight_smile:

Another helpful trick for keeping track of things is cutting out some little arrows from construction paper in each player’s color. Then you can set them on the map to indicate troop movements similar to a history textbook as you resolve them.

It depends on how you want the game to go. But given you’ll be spending hours on it, you need to set the tone. Who wants to mix hours of diplomacy and analysis with someone who just does what their spouse tells them (and doesn’t understand the game anyway)?
If someone snatches your wallet in the street, I call that a mugging. So I would always play:

  • no physical contact or coercion
  • no deals outside of the game board (no offers of laundry or promising sex*)
  • strict time limit (as Just Some Guy said)
  • appoint the most accurate and serious players as referee for purposes of moving the pieces (they should check legibility of orders; read out orders by country; move pieces to straddle borders - thus showing what they intend; adjudicate conflicts; check numbers of pieces)
  • don’t touch the board! (if you can get another board or provide photocopies for analysis, that’s good)

*who am I kidding?! If a gorgeous woman wanted to, she could have all my supply centres…:wink:

Cool idea. Do you suggest different indicators for “move” and “support” or is just “move” sufficient?

Hmmm… with the contacts I made arranging my buddy’s bachelor party, I just might be able to set something like this up. Better wait for maybe the second game - get the basics down first :slight_smile:

Two different indicators would be the way to do it. Though just writing “SUPPORT” on one side of the arrows would be sufficient so you could turn it over as needed.