Diplomacy Retrospective

Well folks it’s the holiday season and that means that at least 1-5 people are going to travel home to be with their families and usually that means a board game or two pops out of the closet that threatens to ruin everyone’s holiday. Now, you might be thinking, ‘Man, I really hope he doesn’t write an entire blog post about Monopoly right now,’ and you’d be in great luck because we, at the Annex, just played a great game of Diplomacy recently. If there was a game that would cause someone to lose their friendship at the Annex, it might just be Diplomacy.


Muskegon loves classic games like Wizards of the Coast's Diplomacy
Wizards of the Coast’s Diplomacy

The disclaimer for this blog post is that all quotes are generalities on what was said for lightheartedness and to paint myself in far better a light than what would show if a tape recording was produced. Also, if a tape recording was produced, I would promptly destroy it.


Muskegon loves Diplomacy from Avalon Hill
Diplomacy with repurposed Monopoly pieces

In our most recent game of Diplomacy, we got a full complement of players which was great because there’s nothing quite like watching all the other countries feast on Italy while, as the Russians, you just think, ‘Norway seems mildly nice.’ The game plays 7 people if you are unaware, and we had a 6 way tie by the standard rules. By any other rules, I have no idea what the score was. The tie went to Italy, Germany, Austria-Hungary, England, Turkey, and France. Our lonely Russian player, me, was ejected from the game a round or two early.


Opening set up of Diplomacy
Opening set up of Diplomacy

Now, I am known in the Annex as a meta breaker and this is a fine title for me but that moniker comes with some downsides. Metas like the Annex tends to have in games are tried and true because they tend to work more often than not. People don’t specifically play the same strategy in games, but they do tend to favor certain tactics more than others. Our resident blogger and proprietor, Chris, is well known for putting as many of his pieces on the board as he can in most every game. I tend to play differently than others in the Annex, I think because I look at problems slightly differently. Is it right? Sometimes. Is it wrong? Yes, a lot. I dragged you through all that nonsense to say, I played Russia my first game (Yes, I was the sad Russia who wanted a piece of the Italy treasure trove) and I played Russia in my second game as well. In my first game, my plan was to lie to a person in the first round and do my best to get what I wanted without telling them I wanted it. That led to an angry England who distrusted me the rest of the game. In my second game, that we will spend some time with, I tried to be friends with all my neighbors except filthy, dirty Germany.


The Balkans
The Balkans: hotly contested by Russia, Turkey and Austria-Hungary

In the second game I walked proudly to Austria-Hungary and Turkey and wheeled and dealed brilliantly in the first diplomacy round, then walked over to England who had hearty guffaws with me about what grand plans we would have for Scandinavia, and finally I looked Germany dead in the eye and said, ‘We’re not friends’. One enemy is just fine in the game especially if you’re blustering. Wait. Back up. How did I get knocked out of the game if I did such a profoundly spectacular first move? It is as simple as not really doing what I thought I did.


Brazilian edition of Diplomacy
Brazilian edition of Diplomacy with cardboard standees

I asked my fellow Diplomats to throw a couple of their ideas about how their game went so that I could knowingly recount their viewpoint with as little skew as possible. All of those who weren’t resolutely in the Team Russia camp during the game obliged me. On that fabled first turn that I so eloquently planned, the other players, who oddly enough had their own agendas, saw my strategy a bit differently. Germany saw my first move as entirely militant. It was. Austria-Hungary, who minutes before had listened to me soapbox a speech about how the Balkans should be split but never replied quickly and efficiently took back the portion of the Balkans I had claimed as my own. Turkey sat back and allowed me to think he was not the invading sort. He was. With a hurt ego and a supply center deficit, I walked back to Austria-Hungary and said ‘We have a problem here, and I am going to need to fixate on you.’ Austria-Hungary was unmoved by my speech. I now have one mortal enemy in the game.


Diplomacy as a Euro
Diplomacy as a Euro with meeples

But wait, I already upset Germany. As the true peace keeper I was, I swiftly went to the proud, strong German player and pleaded with him. It was abundantly clear that Austria-Hungary was a warmonger and a traitor and should be dealt with. Apparently Germany thought that Prussia was enough of a stolen kickball that he wanted only to play on Austro-Hungarian playgrounds from this point forward. I have officially gotten myself in over my head. At least I have Turkey to back me up in real danger. Wait. The very neutral, very bearded Turkish player? Oh, he waltzed into Sevastopol at his first ability and worked to carve up his new Turkish-Russian empire.


It is at this point we can basically fast forward to the end of the game because a simple mental montage of seething rage, backing into a corner, more seething rage, becoming entrenched in the corner, a quick bite to eat, and a dash of blinding anger will get you all you need to know about how the once honorable Russian player handled himself. It is worth noting that the player who knocked out the once towering beacon of Russian pride was none other than his staunchest of allies, England. In a misplay that will go down in legend, England failed to leave St. Petersburg on his final movement of a turn and captured my last supply center. What looks to the third party observer as a case of death by head inserted into lion’s mouth was probably not as much and I will believe this until England tells me to do otherwise.


Diplomacy game (Spanish edition)
Diplomacy (Spanish edition)

After the game, a few of the players stuck around and discussed what happened for about one quarter of the time that we had actually played the game. We then, a couple of days later, discussed the game again for another hour or two this time adding in extra viewpoints from people who weren’t even around for the game. In the end, aside from the blinding rage and PTSD symptoms from a bullied childhood, the best part of the game is dissecting what went wrong and enjoying the experience that was had. So, like those people who are going back home for the holidays and will break out any sort of game that may or may not end in tears, remember to lick your wounds and have a great time experiencing the delight that is social board gaming.


Diplomacy Game

-Nick, on behalf of the Muskegon Area Gamers