Teaching Diplomacy, any tips?

I know how to play and have played quite a few though PBEM. I own the board game and want to bring it to my friends, but I need some advice. The game is not the board but really about the interaction of the different players and I was wondering if anyone out there had any tips about how to get a group of good natured people to think like conniving backstabbing bastards?

There was a pretty good podcast on this recently - I’ll try to find which one.
Be very clear that people WILL break promises, and that is part of the game. What happens in the game stays in the game.

A computer program that resolves orders can speed up the game considerably.


Agreed with **N9IWP **: Diplomacy is the game of backstabbing, and I’ve seen it turn ugly when people take it a bit too personally (or worse, when people resolve their RL conflicts by being assholes to each other in the game). Make sure everyone is clear on that, and don’t let it spill out of the game into actual rows.

At the same time, clearly emphasize when you explain the game that NOTHING compels them to follow through on whatever agreements were made during the diplo phase. OTOH, make it also clear that 1) treason for treason’s sake hurts you more than it hurts the betrayed, and 2) a strong, trusted alliance is the best thing that one can have. That is, until your ally’s crowding you or gaining more from the alliance than you are :]

As for turning people into backstabbing bastards, I’d say it happens naturally over the course of a few games, as long as everyone’s clear there’s only one winner. Once the good nature of good natured people has been taken advantage of a few times, they learn :D.

Diplomacy will bring out the backstabbing bastard in them. You won’t need to train them for it. Just be prepared to lose your friends. :slight_smile:

“You can only play Diplomacy with your best friends or people you will never see again” is a self-fulfilling statement. :slight_smile: A house rule that I always liked is that you must always refer to each player by their country’s name, not the player’s name. That really helps new players compartmentalize the game. And then after the game you can bitch about how France screwed you without making it personal.

For teaching new players, set up a few interesting mini-scenarios and walk them through how you would negotiate from each country’s perspective. Point out what each country can gain either by following through or backstabbing.

Also consider playing the first game as a dunce. In the long run, you gain nothing by beating or otherwise discouraging the new players. So play it straight the first time–don’t backstab anyone yourself. You should also point out to the new players what moves would be very stupid to do (or fail to do).

Oh, where do I find one?

I really like the idea of calling everyone by their country, I think that’ll help.

You may want to play a few turns with no negotiations, only to learn the movement rules. As simple as they seem to me, I’ve had many people utterly baffled by them. I’m not talking about the deep and complicated resolution problems you can run into, I’m talking about, “how can the boat piece occupy land?” questions.

You might try looking at Diplomacy | Board Game | BoardGameGeek for info on adjudicators. Here is one (I make no claim it is the best or even good)


I’ve used Realpolitik for adjudication before. It’s simple and solid.

Furthermore, it was written by a friend of mine, Jim Van Verth. We were in grad school together and worked together at Red Storm Entertainment years ago. He’s written a math book for game programmers and gives math tutorials at the annual Game Developers Conference.

If you and all of your friends have laptops, I would recommend scratching the board altogether and just play at www.webdiplomacy.net . It gives drop-down boxes for each of your pieces, making it impossible to submit invalid move orders. I’ve found this to be great for new players their first few times out of the gate.

If everyone has their own laptop, there’s no reason you can’t still all be in the same room and do all the negotiations face-to-face.