Diplomacy (game)

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Diplomacy is a board game involving seven players in early 1900's Europe created by an American, Allan Calhamer. The majority of the quotes can be seen at the 2nd source.

In General[edit]

  • In a changing world, some things do not change. It may be fashionable to decry the simple Virtues, but we still like to find them in our friends. Loyalty, honesty, frankness, gratitude, chivalry, magnanimity - these are the hallmarks of the good friend, the good husband and father, the nice guy we all hope our daughters will marry.
  • In the amoral world of Diplomacy, however, they are the hallmarks of the born loser. If a fallen enemy reaches out a hand for assistance, the wise man lops it off. If a friend does you a good turn when you’re down, wait until he’s down, then beat him to death. If an ally asks for your help in planning the next season’s moves, give it freely and copiously, then do the reverse of what you agreed and let him take the counter-attack. Try to surround yourself with people who trust you, then let them down; find an ally who will gladly die for you and see that he does just that.
-The opening paragraphs to "The game of Diplomacy" by Richard Sharp 1978.
  • While you have a single unit at large, you are still in the game.
-"The game of Diplomacy" Chapter 2.
  • There it lies on your doormat, its elegant oblong shape contrasting sharply with the harsh squarishness of phone bill and tax demand, its staple glinting in the grey morning light. It has no envelope; it’s just folded over, and your name and address are scrawled in a blank space on the outside sheet, amid incomprehensible catch-phrases and exhortations to the postman. It is your first copy of your first Diplomacy zine, telling you which country you have drawn in your first postal game; it is likely to make little sense to you on first reading, but it may be the first strand of a net that will ensnare you for years to come in the strange, exclusive, yet world-wide hobby of postal Diplomacy.
It began in New York City in 1963. Its parents were as ill-matched a couple as one can imagine: two contrasting postal hobbies, wargames and Science Fiction.
-TGOD Chapter 11.
  • In order to get to end game in good shape, you have to have an overall plan and, when I say overall, I mean board-wide. In every action you take, be it military or diplomatic, you MUST consider how it will affect every country on the board, not only now, but later. Don't forget that, in building up one country, be it yours or your ally's, it will have effects all the way across the board.
-Cal White, "Opposite Theatre Alliances".
  • Now you can only go where the provinces are named.(Points to Ireland)Now we all know this is Ireland but these clever Irish figured out that if you don't name it no-one can invade them.
-Edi Birsan, The Game of Diplomacy pt 1 - Introduction
  • The Players
Austria: Malcolm Whytock (dro A04, out A08, 7th);
England: George Foot (3rd);
France: Shaun Derrick (4th);
Germany: Bob Kendrick (Won);
Italy: Barry Ibbeson (out A19 - 5th);
Russia: John Jackson (out A18 - 6th);
Turkey: John Clarke (2nd).
Imagine this. You are a relative novice playing Germany - indeed, you are so inexperienced that you forget to order any builds in 1901 and are thus not able to build the two units due to you! By the end of 1902 you’re down to four centres and by the end of 1904 only two units remain. You stay on two centres until 1909, but you’ve nowhere to build, so you don’t get back up to three units until 1910. Would you have written this game off? Signed your units over to someone else? Dropped out, disillusioned? Bob Kendrick didn’t - he took a two centre Germany in 1908 and turned it into an 18 centre winner by 1921, and this is the story of how he did it.
-Stephen Agar on Game 1979JD-FOE 29.
  • Okay, you plan to lie to one or more of your opponents and need some help. The first question you must ask yourself is why. Why do you need to use a lie? Some players use lies all to often, sometimes without reason, and the result is a player that finds that no one wishes to ally with him and no one trusts him. Even when such a player speaks the truth, other players do not believe him. This is bad. Use lies only when it benefits you and not as a routine diplomacy trick. A good lie depends on the fact that the player who utters the lie has some reputation of telling the truth. If you have a good reason for lying to your opponent, then go ahead to read step 2, but if you do not you might be better off not lying. Believe it or not, honesty usually actually is the best policy.
The next question is, "How do you lie?" For some, this comes naturally, but for those of us who are not accustomed to telling lies straight into the face of another person, it can be very difficult. Well, practice makes perfect and if you plan on becoming a master Diplomacy player you need a lot of practice. When constructing your lie you must take some things in consideration. Will the person to whom you lie believe the lie? Never underestimate your opponent's intelligence; he is almost always smarter than you give him credit for. Your lie must be as plausible as possible so that he can see the thinking behind your lie, and the reasons why it could be true. If you play England and negotiate with France at the start, promising him that you will happily help him get Belgium, Holland, all of Germany, and Denmark too, as long as you simply get Norway, the Frenchman will be extremely suspicious and probably not believe you. His understanding of the game will tell him, hopefully, that this offer is a lousy deal for you and that this offer is simply too good to be true. If you instead present a well-planned and detailed attack in which Germany is evenly split between the two of you, the French player will be much more likely to believe you, even if you have no intention of following through on this plan (intending, of course, to instead attack France). If your lie sounds plausible and you believe that your opponent will fall for it then go ahead to the third and last step.
Once you have lied, there may be no going back. So you must ask yourself, "What do I do when the opponent sees my moves on the next turn and realizes that I have lied to him?" Do not expect someone who has just been stabbed in the back by you to be very keen to cooperate with you in the future. Hopefully your lie has given you a good advantage over your opponent, good enough that you can deal with his lust for revenge. The optimal lie, of course, is one that your opponent will never spot, but these are often the creation of master diplomats and in games with many high-caliber players, one could honestly say that one player's lies is another players truths. In such games, then, lies are truths and truths are lies. If you deal with the aftermath, and the way your lies might be converted (inconveniently for you) into truths by quality opponents, then by all means, start lying; you probably have a good chance of success.
In true life it is said that if you lie about big and important issues, people tend to more easily believe you. However, in Diplomacy the situation seems to be the opposite. Small, subtle lies about very likely possibilities are more often believed and an experienced diplomat knows how to tell cunningly lies from cunning truths, and how to spot attempts to deceive. Remember, paranoia is a way of life and this is even more a truth in the game of Diplomacy. Trust me on that.
-Hanz Johansson, "How to lie to your opponents"


  • Similar relationships exist between England/Austria (Russia should be weak), France/Austria (Italy & Germany will be in trouble), Germany/Turkey (probably a weak Russia), Russia/Italy (bye bye Austria & Turkey). Keep in mind, of course, the fact that none of these pairings represent hard and fast laws, but, rather, handy rules of thumb.
-Cal White, "Opposite Theatre Alliances"


    1. Always stay on good terms with everyone for as long as possible, or longer.
    2. Try to arrange accidents for neighbours, rather than attacking them.
    3. Concentrate on home centres. By this I mean that you should play to get your neighbours so entangled with one another that their building potential is zero.
    4. Use the deadline
    5. Always tell the truth
    6. Stab in the Spring.
-Richard Sharp on how to avoid stabbing


  • Believe me, as one who has tried it, if the initial attack on France fails at the first move, forget it.
- Stephen Agar, "A personal view on English opening strategy".


  • Napoleon almost won his own personal game of Diplomacy, yet despite dominating much of Europe he eventually came a cropper because he did not rule the waves. This article will suggest that the same is true of Diplomacy, that the French player who takes control of the seas and neutralises England can win the game, while those who head eastwards without first tackling London will merely be repeating Napoleon’s mistake.
-Stephen Agar, "Napoleon's mistake".


  • England (astonished by a German set of orders) Will someone please tell me what the hell is going down around here?
Gamemaster Conrad von Metzke: You are.
-Game 1974-N quoted in TGOD Chapter 5.
  • Playing Germany is not easy: it requires skill and subtlety. But the time will come when you savour the marvellous sensation of being allied to everyone, dominating the play, knowing in almost every detail what each season’s moves will be before they happen. This is the way to play Germany, and there’s nothing else quite like it.
-TGOD Chapter 5.
  • It sits there, almost in the geographical centre of the board. It is totally landlocked and borders on two other supply centres, five provinces, and impassable Switzerland. It is in the middle of the most regularly occurring stalemate line that runs diagonally over the board from north-east to south-west. It is Munich, often the key to victory.
-Richard Hucknall, "Munich - The Most Vital Supply Center On The Board"


  • Second in the popularity stakes, inexplicably, is the Austrian Attack: moves as above but with F(Sev)—Rum. The favour shown to this opening convinces me that 16.9 per cent of Diplomacy players are insane... Playing this opening is like playing Russian roulette with all six chambers loaded and hoping the one that comes up will be a dud shell. Not recommended.
-Sharp on the "Austrian attack".
  • Next, with a frequency of about one game in twelve, is the Turkish Attack: This opening does, however, have two distinct disadvantages : it is unequivocally anti-Turkish, making subsequent negotiations more difficult; and it is very weak if Turkey attacks you, as he usually will. So reserve this one for the occasions when you are at least ninety per cent sure Turkey is an idiot.
-TGOD Chapter 6.
  • Apart perhaps from Germany-Austria, there is no more certain natural alliance on the board than Russia—Italy. Italy is your great hope, who alone has every reason to wish you well. Buy him drinks, listen to his marital problems, sympathize with him over the evil fate that deals such a fine player such a useless country.
-TGOD Chapter 6 (useless country is meant in game terms alone presumably).

The Juggernaut[edit]

  • It was not always thus. The Russo-Turkish alliance used to be frequently seen, and well deserved its names, ‘Juggernaut’ or ‘Steamroller’. Once established, it was simply unstoppable. The reason is easily seen: freed of the threat of attack from Turkey, Russia at once becomes as powerful as any two other countries; freed of the need to attack the mighty northern neighbour, Turkey has only one direction to go in, and can throw everything into the westward drive with single-minded violence. But the overwhelming strength of the Juggernaut is also its critical weakness: Austria’s bleats for assistance are sympathetically heard from Marseilles to Edinburgh, and whatever Austria asks will be done (or should be). If the Juggernaut is met vigorously from the outset, it can be held.
-TGOD Chapter 6.


  • All these can be loosely grouped together as versions of the Lepanto Opening, which overall is probably the most popular system for Italy. I prefer to call it a system rather than an opening, as the same result can be achieved in a variety of ways.
The opening is well named for the Battle of Lepanto (1571), the last great sea battle of the age of the galley, in which mainly Italian and Austrian forces under Don John of Austria smashed the Turkish stranglehold on the eastern Mediterranean area in a great naval victory off the Greek town of Lepanto. This is exactly what the Diplomacy-board Austria and Italy are trying to do, and their co-operation can be the most effective counter to the Russo-Turkish 'juggernaut'.
-TGOD Chapter 9.


  • Introduction
The basis of any good opening is a set diplomatic workings that support a dynamic thrust to control the flow of the game and to dominate a neighbor. Standing alone as a tactical exercise all openings fall short, it is the diplomatic framework that the players must achieve that make the opening work. This is even more so in the case of the Sealion Opening, named after the German invasion plans of England in World War II.
  • Diplomatic Framework
The German player must be confident that Russians are absorbed in the South and ideally having a major blowout with the Turks over the Black Sea. The German player also has to be focused on a quick take down of England and the demilitarization of the lowlands so that he can turn quickly east after the strike.
The French Player wants to see the Italians going on a long slow road to the East, hopefully a Lepanto type opening. he also wants to see the English go down like a rock and is willing to take the lead in this and the initial risks.
  • Tactics
Spring 1901
F Brest to the English Channel
A Paris to Picardy (or Burgundy depending on the Germans)
A Marseilles to Spain
F Kiel to Denmark
A Munich to Ruhr
A Berlin to Kiel
Fall 1901
F English support German F Denmark to North Sea
A Picardy to Belgium
A Spain to Portugal
F Denmark to the North Sea
A Ruhr to Holland
A Kiel to Denmark
Winter 1901
Germany can build an Army and a Fleet, France can build a Fleet and an Army but all the forces they need are already in play for the next move.
Spring 1902
A Holland to Yorkshire, convoyed via F North Sea
A Belgium to Wales, convoyed via F English Channel

At this point the game for the English is over. If the English use their fleets to dislodge the Germans they can still retreat to threaten the English center and the French crush first London and then walk up the Island. If the English go after the French then the Germans walk around the Island.
Either way, England is crippled quickly, the Lowlands are demilitarized and the French-Germans have three units each to pursue their next targets.
The opening is clean, quick, and deadly with a little imaginative diplomacy on the western side.
-Edi Birsan, "The Sealion opening"


  • I remember a friend telling me of a nightmare he had had, in which he was shut up alone with an unreliable ball-point pen, a pad of absorbent paper and a supply of weak instant coffee, and asked to write 5,000 words on Turkish opening theory. In planning this section, I have understood how he dreamt he felt.
No country has less choice in the opening.
-TGOD Chapter 7.


  • The phone rings.
‘Hallo?... Who?... Oh, Margot, hallo.... Well, I’d love to come round and look at your beer-mat collection, but I’m just going to start a game of Diplomacy.... Well, not for six or seven hours, probably, unless - hang on will you?... Hallo, you still there?... It’s all right, I’ve drawn Austria. I’ll be with you in twenty minutes....’
Exaggerated? Well, perhaps. But there is no doubt that drawing the red army out of the hat very often means the early bath. If Austria survives the early years, it is a better country than most; but it’s a big if.
-TGOD Chapter 8.
  • Before considering individual openings, let’s get one thing clear: anything that doesn’t put a high premium on defence is useless. Austria’s record is entirely horrific.
-TGOD Chapter 8.


  • I have never played in a face-to-face game that Italy won, not counting one that was conceded at an absurdly early stage. (It was opening-time, of course.)
-TGOD Chapter 9.
  • Italy can reasonably negotiate with any country on the board from the start; the trouble is that they will all have troubles of their own, and what you have to say may not be of much interest to some of them.
-TGOD Chapter 9.

The Chainsaw[edit]

  • 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 achieve by unreasonable statements, threats and demands, that which you were unable to achieve previously through reasonable negotiation.Chainsaw Diplomacy is called for if, and only if, you have exhausted all conventional means of effectively communicating with another power in the game, and you absolutely must be believed by that power on a specific point or points. Keep uppermost in your mind that the single, utilitarian purpose of press in Diplomacy is to communicate with the recipient. Never send a Chainsaw letter just because it makes you feel better to vent your emotions. Never send a chainsaw letter without knowing what reactions you wish to provoke.
-Paul Windsor, "Chainsaw Diplomacy".
  • That's when I broke out the chainsaw.
Appropos of nothing, I sent a press addressed to France, Italy and Austria. In it, I informed France that his nefarious plot to convince Austria and Italy that I was out to get them had been uncovered. I accused him of engaging me in conversation solely for the purposes of forwarding doctored press to my allies and other low manipulations and lies. I told France that this was the last press he would receive from me as that I no longer had time or energy for any other goal in the game than his destruction. Like Chainsaw Al, I very publicly burned that bridge in order to demonstrate my loyalty to my current allies.
The reaction of my two "allies" was quite instructive. Italy was amused. He was also reassured by my gesture and ready to press forward with the A/I/T. Austria, on the other hand, was furious. Further exchanges with Austria went nowhere. I had upset his plan to eliminate me and now he wanted to pout and punish me. My chainsaw press had done exactly what it was supposed to do. It showed me who my real friends were. In the immediate aftermath of the chainsaw press, I arranged a stab of Austria with Russia, Italy joined in the fray, and Austria was quickly eliminated.
Unfortunately, the story does not have a happy ending. France eventually won the game as Germany continued to war uselessly with Russia and allowed himself to be steamrolled by France, while Italy never did regain enough faith in me to allow for joint I/T fleet maneuvers in the Med. I did take some solace in knowing that I had taken the Turkish position from the brink of elimination at the hands of A/I/R to the most powerful of the four Eastern powers in two years and had also seen the Austrian who plotted against me eliminated from the game.
-Paul Windsor, "Chainsaw Diplomacy".
  • That's when I decided to reach for the chainsaw.
The one goal of my chainsaw press was to convince England to do anything other than move or convoy to Brest. I decided that the most straightforward way to do that was to tell England that I was going to cover Brest by ordering F Mid-Bre. England had to be convinced that this was no mere bluff. England would have to be given no choice but to believe what I said.
When I began to compose the letter to England, I completely changed my tone and style. I decided the letter should be angry. England had, first, stabbed me, then ignored me. How dare he! The tone of anger was not bitter, though. It was high-handed, pompous, arrogant, and expansive. I told England that I accepted the fact that I was going to be eliminated in this game and that, as far as I was concerned, his treachery was completely to blame. I very haughtily explained to England that jumping into the Channel was a "beginner's mistake" and that I intended to teach him a lesson by ensuring that he would never profit from his mistake. I then went about explaining to England exactly how I was going to bring him down with me, as that was going to be my version of justice.
The first thing that I told England I was going to do was order F Mid-Bre and A Bur-Bel. This, I informed him, was to ensure that he could not capture these SCs himself. I then pointed out to him that Russia was surely going to bump him out of Norway with his army in St Pete, while Germany was going to sit on Holland and Denmark. I then told England that I had good intelligence that Germany would not support England into Belgium under any circumstances (a half truth, based on Germany's press). "No builds for you this year!" I crowed (actually, I turned that statement into an annoying chant that I repeated several times throughout the letter).
The next thing I told England was that, naturally, I couldn't fight a two-front war. Therefore, I was only going to defend one front: the English front. Burgundy, Paris, and Marseilles would be an open runway for German armies while I defended Picardy, Brest, Gascony and Iberia from all of his attempted incursions. "No builds for you next year either," I informed him, "unless you can beggar one from Germany." Meanwhile, I informed him, he could watch the Russian build fleets and sail into Edinburgh, unless the German stabbed him first.
This piece of chainsaw press went on at length, about three and a half pages in all. When I sent it, I also sent it to Germany, to reinforce the idea to England that my threats were real. I then ordered F Mid-Por, A Mar-Spa, A Bur Holds and held my breath.
When the move report come out, I discovered that England convoyed his army to Belgium, with German support. Brest was safe and I had two builds for a fleet in Brest and an army in Paris. Germany sent me the following note, almost immediately after the move report came out: "You king-sized liar! Well, where do we go from here?" Germany recognized my chainsaw press as a calculated strategy and was impressed enough to be ready to switch sides, which he eventually did.
What I found out from the German was that until I sent my chainsaw letter, England was set to attempt the convoy to Brest. England's reaction to my letter, however, was full-bore panic. After he got my letter, he immediately told the German that he was convoying to Belgium and demanded to be supported there or the alliance was off. Germany complied, but he wasn't happy in the least with his English ally after that. England, meanwhile, was quite sheepish after the move report. As a result, he was remarkably easy for Germany and me to stab.
This story has a happy ending, as I eventually went on to win the game. I couldn't have done it without my trusty chainsaw.
-PW, "CD".
  • Sometimes chainsaw press can backfire. I was Russia in a game where a Western Triple formed and I was being quickly hacked to pieces. Conventional methods of breaking up the Triple weren't working, so I broke out the chainsaw and went to work on the German. It looked like it was working, too, until . . .
The Master sent a broadcast, reminding players that impoliteness and intemperate tone had no place in Diplomacy and that he would ensure that anyone violating these mores would face grevious penalties. The Master didn't name names, but the German and I knew who he meant. I quickly apologized to Germany (though he had not asked for one from me) and told him that I did not mean to offend and felt that I was within the boundaries of the game with my press. Germany, for his part, replied that he had taken no offense from our spirited exchange and emphasized that he had not sought intervention from the Master. So, everything was cool.
Unfortunately, the spell was broken. Germany breezily informed me that he was simply going to continue with the Triple and que sera, sera. Total failure.
I tell this story as a cautionary tale. Break out the chainsaw at your own risk. There's no telling who you'll offend, but the penalty for that offense will almost certainly be death (and I am not even speaking of offending the Master). Chainsaw press is truly the last resort of the desperate dipper. I generally save it for when I feel I've got nothing left to lose.
  • Never fire up that chainsaw unless you're prepared to face the consequences.


  • I have read many articles on strategy and listened to many "old-hands" talking about the Lepanto or the Hedgehog, Juggernauts, Steamrollers and such like. However, when it comes down to brass tacks, the only really effective way to win is to have at least one good alliance. In a seriously competitive game it is the opponent who knows the one RIGHT way to persuade players to ally with him who will win through every time. The answer? THREATEN YOUR OPPONENTS WITH PHYSICAL VIOLENCE.
-Jeff Smith,"One certain way to gain alliances".
  • What they say / What they mean
I've always wanted to try this opening: I've never found anyone gullible enough to go along with this opening.
The plan involves some really major risks: I might lose a Supply Center.
This plan involves some fairly minor risks: You might lose a supply center.
Which ever plan you choose, let me know: I can stab you either way.
France told me over the Phone: France told me nothing of the sort.
Your letter didn't get here in time: I didn't want to do what you asked.
He's an awfully strong player: Hey, attack him, not me.
A 17-17 draw is a very satisfying conclusion: I can't figure out any way to get my hands on an 18th center.
I get only short term benefits: I get to build immediately.
You get the long term benefits: You'll build on the 12th of Never.
I'm sure your luck against Italy will change next season: I'm not going to send him your moves this time.
Let's make Tyo a demilitarized zone: I don't have the strength to attack Tyo yet.
I had completely forgotten that Belgium was yours: You forgot to defend Belgium.
We can sort out the SCs later: My bargaining position will be much stronger later.
It was so obvious that I neglected to mention that: I knew you wouldn't like it.
The general gist of your letter was that...: I only skimmed your letter before pitching it.
My fleet-to-army ratio was getting unnaturally low: I need fleets to stab you.
My misorder was accidental: It was deliberate.
My misorder was deliberate: It was an accident.
I think we trust each other enough to skip the arranged standoff: I'm finally ready to attack you.
The tactic you mentioned hadn't occurred to me: I was hoping you wouldn't think of that plan.
Since you picked the tactics last season, it's my turn: It didn't matter what we did last season.
I'm sure you analyzed this very carefully, but...: I can't make heads or tails of what you wrote, so I'm going to do what I want.
I've heard that rumor too: I made up that story two weeks ago.
I don't play for ratings, I play for fun: I'll do whatever it takes to win.
-Mark Berch, "Dippy double-talk"


External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about: