Further Example of how Hobby Statistics Help Us Devise A Diplomacy Strategy


This post, like all the other School of War (SoW) tagged posts, are part of a live demonstration game hosted by WebDiplomacy. There is a corresponding thread in the forum for public discussion of the game. You can select all of the SoW posts on my blog by clicking on the tag SoW at the bottom of this post.

The last post here analyzed the game from the perspective of the Italian player and suggested a strategy by which Italy might improve his chances to attain a solo. Here, we will look at the same question from the perspective of Germany.

Germany was stabbed by his former French ally, who has now revealed his secret weapon–an English toady. However, the Frenchman misordered and the English army never landed in Belgium where it might have been a disruptive force.  As a result of the misorder, Germany significantly improved his tactical defensive position against France.

Italy has moved an army into Tyrolia. This is Italy’s most influential unit. The order written for Army Tyrolia regulates who is winning and losing in the war between Germany and France. The placement of that unit is like Tony Soprano holding a cocked gun to Germany’s head and asking for favors in exchange for help . . . or hurt. Army Tyrolia makes Germany’s first order of diplomatic business facilitating Italian happiness.

On the diplomatic front, Germany must also sow discord to keep France and Italy from allying. To France, Germany writes about how the ongoing war with Germany will only benefit the Italian in the long run and cost both of France and Germany on a strategic level. Germany should also anticipate that France is offering Munich to Italy.

To Italy, Germany points out that there is a French fleet invading the Mediterranean Sea. That fleet could move to Tyrrhenian Sea or Tunis because Italy needs his eastern fleets for the Turkish naval operations. Any builds for France, due to Germany’s weakness, could mean more fleets in the Med!

Aside. France made a strategic blunder by moving to Western Med. He should have negotiated with Italy a DMZ. Because Italy is still at war with a strong Turk, there was little risk Italy would break the DMZ. Maybe France just intended to bounce units in Western Med like last move, but now France has created a new potential enemy in Italy just when he needed Italy’s help against Germany. All students should review the Diplomacy Academy video unintended antagonism by former World Champion Face-to-Face Diplomacy player Chris Martin.

Germany has something positive to offer Italy. He can order Army Ukraine to Sevastapol. That order cuts potential Turkish support for Rumania. If that support is cut, and Italy writes the right set of orders, there is nothing Turkey can do to stop Italy from taking both Bulgaria and Rumania. The two new builds allow Italy the option of building two fleets and movement to the western Mediterranean even if France moves Fleet Western Med to Tyrrhenian Sea.

Joshua McOwen’s brilliant A Look at the Statistics of Diplomacy (May 2011) is a must have reference for aspiring Diplomacy players. If you hope to improve your game and you’re not using McOwen’s charts, you’re short-changing yourself. The information there will give Germany some ideas about his strategy.

germany wins elims

The first thing to note here is that Germany tends not to achieve solo victories as often when Turkey is eliminated. Therefore, by helping the Italian as I advise above, Germany effectively reduces the probability of a solo. Ironically, France has a similar interest in keeping Turkey alive:

french win elim

So here Germany might find some useful common ground for a strategic discussion with France aimed at ending the war between them. As it is now, Germany has no choice but to help Italy wipe Turkey off the map which decreases the odds of either a German or French solo victory.




Using Hobby Statistics to Make Decisions in Diplomacy


The School of War game continues. I’m writing about this Fall 1905 turn because it brings into focus an interesting strategic choice intersection for Italy.

Just a bit of background. The Italian formed an alliance with Turkey to stab and eliminate Austria. Italy has now stabbed the Turk (6), who is still a viable power and who occupies the strategic corner of the board.

Meanwhile, in the west, England is on the cusp of elimination. France has just stabbed Germany. In my view, there are three major players in this game. Italy (9), France (8), and Germany (7). Italy faces a choice of which of the warring western Great Powers to support and how fervently will be Italian support.

How to make that choice? Diplomacy Hobby statistics help. Keep in mind that stats are but a guide. A solo can be achieved without compliance with the numbers. Diplomacy games, like economies, are heterogenous. But the data should be considered.

Below are three graphs used to illustrate how one might consider statistical factors in planning an Italian strategy. The chart below shows the Great Powers eliminated in Italian solos.

italy solo

Austria is dead which is great. Eighty percent of all Italian solos involve dead Austrias. Who next to kill to improve Italian solo chances? Obviously, that target would be Turkey, a decision this sharp Italian has already made.

Great Diplomacy players are skilled at managing events in all theaters. Even theaters in which they no longer operate. Italy has no units in the west. But the west is vitally important to Italy and events there will impact his opportunity to solo.

France has the upper hand against Germany at this point. Germany, while still strong, is at war on two fronts with Russia and France. Possibly, France has an English toady besides. Germany could be quickly eliminated if Italy helps speed that process. Is that a smart course for Italy?

German Eliminations

The data above suggests that would be unwise for Italy to attack Germany. Italy’s chances of a solo bottom out when Germany dies. Considering the current diplomatic situation, a German elimination is much more likely than a French.

What happens to Italy’s chances when France is eliminated?

french eliminations

Based on the data here, Italian solos decrease in likelihood when either France or Germany dies. This leads me to conclude that Italy’s choice here should be to come to the aid of Germany. Maybe Italy does not even insist on Munich.

Italy’s chances for a solo increase best by killing Turkey and keeping France and Germany locked in a wrestling match for a while, neither gaining an upper hand on the other.

Based on this analysis, Italy should insist on Russia disbanding some of his northern units, and promote Russia joining a southern campaign against Turkey. It would be ideal if Russia keeps his northern fleet, which could swing the balance in favor of Germany in the French-German struggle. In exchange, Italy makes Germany give Russia Warsaw. An Italian mediated peace between Germany and Russia needs to happen at this point in the game for two reasons. One, Russian help will expedite the Turkish demise. Second, Germany can neutralize the French stab and that helps Italy in the long run. There you have it, Italy.

Thank you Joshua McOwen for a brilliant piece. A Look at the Statistics of Diplomacy, Joshua McOwen (May 2011)


Diplomacy as art


I’m going to make the remarkable assertion that every Diplomacy game is a potential work of art. A great Diplomacy game is art. The number of twists in the story of the game are potentially multiple. The plot and tension of a good game rise and fall.

Listen to Kurt Vonnegut discuss the shape of stories and imagine a diplomacy game where the players are the author of the game. I used the term singularly because it is a singular story written by seven players together.


A good game of Diplomacy is a great story. A great story is a work of art. Students, you are the artists who write your own game.

Imagine, if you will, the story of England. He starts out as an average boy. But Professor edouche says unkind things and England becomes unhinged, emotionally unstable. Things go from bad to worse as England makes a series of wild accusations against professor edouche and everyone else involved the Diplomacy game too. England makes so many accusations, and so wild are they, he cannot sink much lower. All England’s neighbors begin to imagine he is a pariah. England feels very sad and isolated from the community. The fortunes of England decline precipitously.

But England regrets his actions. He is sorry for what he said and did. He is especially sorry for his remarks about edouche, who he now recognizes as a benevolent savior of England. He repents. Makes conciliatory posts on global. Makes amends for the past wrongs inflicted upon partially innocent neighbors. A neighbor, or maybe two, forgive him. They forgive because that is what human beings do at their highest and greatest. England is redeemed! Restored to her rightful greatness! Praise for edouche! Could this be the story of England in School of War?


Lecture on Drama, Human Emotions, and Diplomacy


Spring 1903

Reacting to drama in a Diplomacy game

One of the reasons Diplomacy is a great game is because the game is played by human beings and not automatons. A Diplomacy game is designed to create human drama. A Diplomacy game is full of conflict and tension that effects human emotions. A Diplomacy game is unpredictable because the emotional range of seven human beings in conflict is heterogeneous.

A lot of people play Diplomacy because they love gaming. Most of us understand that we are just playing a game and don’t take anything other players do in it (like when you get lied to and backstabbed by a friend) too personally. Veteran Diplomacy players shrug stabs off and congratulate the stabber for pulling it off. Being philosophical doesn’t mean you won’t try to extract revenge. It means the stab is not personal. You realize it’s in the game and part of the fun.

In the face-to-face (FTF) Diplomacy world, we stab and get stabbed. After the game, we drink a beer with our game enemy and laugh about the game, vote for the “I got hammered award,” and talk about the stab–how it was executed and played out, the look on your face—happily reminiscing about the game’s twists and turns with the very person who killed or maimed us. We are friends who love Diplomacy. We understand the treacherous ways of the game. Not everyone in the FTF world (or here) is an ideal Diplomacy player able to remember it’s all just for fun. The drama makes it difficult even for the most thick-skinned among us.

Sometimes people become emotionally unhinged and let their emotions rule their play. Diplomacy is not a game for everyone. It involves scheming, lying, and backstabbing. That kind of unethical action can cause the victim to become emotional. Recognizing that you may run into an emotional person while playing Diplomacy is a reality you should anticipate. It’s going to happen.

What if you are in a game with an emotional person? What should you do? First, you need to recognize whether the person’s emotional reaction is authentic. It could be fake. Feigning madness to convince you he intends to make irrational, emotional moves might be a ploy to stab you. Discerning whether he is an authentic madman or a great actor is sometimes difficult. Let’s say you determine the madness is real; how should you use it?

Unlike most of us, an emotional player is playing for reasons other than winning, getting into a draw, survival, or points. His motives are emotional. He wants nothing but to kill the target of his emotional wrath. Satisfaction of his honor is his most important objective.

If you are in a Diplomacy game with him, you could use the player’s emotional goals to advance your strategy. Once you figure out his emotional objective you can offer strategic advances of your units that also to help him to extract his revenge. Empathize with him and agree that the target of his wrath is deserving of his madness. Sometimes you can ride an emotional player to a solo. But doing so may seem like you’re flying a glider in the eye of a hurricane. You never know when the hurricane might turn and catch you in its swirly wind.

On the other hand, what if you’re the target of an emotional player? What should you do? First, talking to an emotional person rationally probably isn’t going to work. But maybe you can use drama and emotional appeal to divert the madness toward another. Meanwhile, try and convince other players to help you. If you see someone exploiting the other person’s emotion to gain strategic advantages, show the other players in the game how that player is doing it. Or you can try meta-gaming arguments. Emotional people are not good for The Hobby. Gamers don’t appreciate madness. It causes fear. It creates an unease. It disrupts the fun of the game. Your meta-argument might work even when the other player could benefit from the madman’s moves against you. She might be more repelled by the madness and the negative energy it brings.

Running into emotional players in Diplomacy is normal. It is one of the reasons why Diplomacy is a great game. The human element and the drama, make every game refreshingly unpredictable and unique.

Using Public Press In Diplomacy


Fall 1902

Lecture on Deceptive Moves and Public Press

A good diplomacy player uses the entire game environment, public press, and moves on the board to her advantage. I am going to use two examples from the Fall 1902 moves and post Fall 1902 press to illustrate how a player might exploit these weapons to advance a stratgic cause.

Let me start by observing that England and Turkey are two intimately connected powers. It is counter-intuitive because they start the game on opposite corners of the board and seem to be very far and disconnected from each other. I am going to assume that the English and Turkish players here are keenly aware of this and could have executed a brilliant move to dramatically advance their partnership influence over this School of War game.

To recap. In Fall 1902, we saw Turkey take Greece with a perfectly executed support order and move, but ostensibly make a blunder in his ordering of F Con and A Smyrna. Had Turkey properly written his order, his second fleet would have entered the Med on Bulgaria(south coast). But from Bul(SC) a move into Black Sea is not possible. The misorder here keeps possible F Constantople to Black Sea in the spring.

One of the best pieces of diplomacy advice I have learned is that you look at the location of the pieces on the board. These are the best indicator of a player’s true intentions.

Using a misorder to fool another player is only effective when the player you’re trying to fool thinks you are capable of a mistake. Even the best players can misorder. However, there is a sliding scale of how believable the misorder might be depending on the experience of the player supposedly making the mistake. See diagram below:

diplomacy graph

In this case, the target of the deceptive misorder is Turkey’s ally Russia. The main objective is to stab and secure Black Sea. Even if Russia bounces the move, A Ank-Arm is assured. Meanwhile, A Greece S A Smy-Bul; F Aeg C Smy-Bul; A Smy-Bul; gives Turkey outstanding position against Austria, a potential alliance with both Italy and Austria.

The other thing to note here is an outstanding effort by the English player to facilitate his ally Turkey’s stab of Russia. He even takes his public press to this thread, a clear violation of the agreed rules, but also not unprecedented as other players have mistakenly posted here earlier.

The English public press on global and here was outstanding. In the global section he orchestrates hue and cry about a Steamroller alliance. Here, he gives the impression of a broken teacup upset by a mean professor’s stern lecture. He supports the insulted Turk who the professor said made an “abysmal” move. The English player cleverly weaves the professor into the deception, implicitly and explicitly suggesting the mistake was by a novice, beginning player and the professor is too insulting and not understanding of the level of inexperience for the players in this game. A deception of Russia could not be more brilliantly orchestrated by two potentially allied players, Turkey and England.

Should a shark, in a sea of anonymity, hide?


The curse of a world champion Diplomacy player. I’ve seen it over and over in the face to face Hobby. A player rises to fame by playing championship caliber Diplomacy and cements his reputation by winning Worlds.

When that player next enters the tournament circuit, he is beaten time and again. Lied to by everyone and hammered. Diplomacy is a humbling game. World Champion one year. Frequently eliminated the next. Fear does that to people. Fear of a shark.

Sometimes it gets so bad that the former World Champion drops out of The Hobby in frustration. The shark gets eaten.

One of the benefits of sharks playing online at places like WebDiplomacy is that you can join anonymous games. Sharks swim with the newbies and there are usually three or four newbies in most Diplomacy games there. Its fun to solo.

As stated in this post, my strategy on WebDiplomacy evolves around identifying and limiting the more dangerous players in a game. It stands to reason that other sharks in the game are doing the same thing. The last thing you want, when you are a shark, is for another shark to spot you and organize diplomacy aimed at killing you.

Therefore, walk a fine line in communication with other players. You do not want to write too much and too deeply early or you might reveal yourself as a shark to another shark. Your prose needs to concise and direct. Avoid verbosity. I realize this is contrary to most of the advice given to new players, who are frequently told to write, write, and write some more. A shark must write. But she writes concisely.

Next, avoid Hobby terms. Butcher them on purpose. As Italy, I might write to Austria or France and say that I am thinking of making a La Panto move. Or I might tell Turkey that Austria and Italy want me to La Panto on you. Also, occasionally use weird abbreviations. Not too much to be obvious, but just enough to cause the other sharks to misidentify you as a newbie.

Last, be very careful in discussing strategic vision. This is a tricky one because you have to lay out enough vision to establish an alliance. But ideally by the time such a message is required, you have identified a reliable newbie with whom you can work. Then, open up because it doesn’t matter. A newbie doesn’t know the danger of living next to a shark. If your initial alliance is with a more experienced player, take his advice. Let him take the lead. Just make sure you get a fair balance of the centers and try to create problems for him by using diplomacy. Usually, this diplomacy involves telling other players he is a shark.

I have exploited the inexperience factor frequently on the WebDiplomacy site. My ghost rating is an unbelievable 5/3694. I am not this good at Diplomacy. I consider the GR achievement largely a product of good luck and use of the tactics described in these SoW posts.

Spotting sharks in a sea of anonymity


This post relates to general advice about how to do well playing in anonymous games on the WebDiplomacy site. In an earlier post, I argued that one’s strategy ought to be aimed at eliminating the best player. This begs the question. How does one figure out who is the most dangerous player in an anonymous WebDip game? Read on for some insider tips.

First, use the process of elimination to figure out which players are new to the game. New players often admit to being new. That helps. Even when a player doesn’t overtly admit to his being inexperienced, his moves or his diplomacy suggest a lack of experience.

Once you’ve narrowed it down some, then you listen to the remaining players. Are they loquacious? As your professors have told you, a player seeking to bring his game to the elite level communicates with everyone. A player who regularly publishes press is a good Diplomacy player.

You also should listen with a keen ear to the message he sends. Does he use Hobby terms like LepantoSea Lion, Anschluss? More importantly, can you discern in his press a strategic vision? Does he show an understanding of how something happening on one side of the board can effect the other? The latter is most important. Such press reveals the player as one with an understanding of strategy. He has outed himself as a strategist.

Finally, watch how players move their pieces. Open the big map to see all the moves. You should sometimes even click on the “orders” section and read the orders. When you see a player make sharp tactical moves combined with an understanding of strategy and regular, inviting press, you’ve spotted a shark.