How to Play the Diplomacy Board Game
Diplomacy Instructions, Rules, and Strategy
Following its release in 1959, famous individuals such as John F. Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, and Walter Cronkite all learned how to play Diplomacy. Face-to-face tournaments have been going on since the 1970s, and Diplomacy was the first commercially licensed game to be played through the mail. Over 50 years after its release, Diplomacy is still challenging players to conquer and negotiate their way through a pre-World War I European setting.
While two to seven players can take part in the action, this Avalon Hill boardgame works best with the maximum number. In addition to moving armies and fleets and capturing territory, players will be asked to negotiate treaties and alliances with the opposition. There are no dice to contend with, making Diplomacy a game that ignores random chance in favor of old-fashioned strategy.
Weíll discuss how to play Diplomacy in this article, as well as offering tips and suggestions for effective Diplomacy strategy. And since the nature of the game guarantees than no two sessions will ever be the same, you can be confident your money will go towards purchasing a product that will endure for years to come.
If youíve played other wargames in the past, you may notice that the Diplomacy instructions are somewhat different. For example, there are no dice or cards. Social interaction is placed at a premium, and troop movements occur at the same time.
The game board depicts a map of Europe, as well as sections of North Africa and the Middle East. There are 19 sea regions on the board, as well as 56 land areas. 14 of the territories begin the game as neutral powers, while the other 42 are divided among the seven countries controlled by the players. Thirty-four of the regions contain supply centers, and these will be the primary areas contested over during gameplay. The more supply centers controlled by a player, the more armies and fleets they can build.
Most players will begin the game with one navy and two armies, although Russia and England are an exception. The Russian player begins with two fleets and two armies, while England starts with one army and two fleets.
The following powers may be controlled by the players:
Austria - A land power that may face difficulties in the early stages of the game.
England - A sea power with a strong defensive position.
France - A balanced power with strong offensive and defensive options.
Germany - A land power with a decent defensive position. The early stages may be difficult.
Italy - A balanced military power with a decent defensive position. Since it straddles the two spheres of the games, the Italian power will need great skill and negotiating ability to pull off a victory.
Russia - A military powerhouse with strong opportunities for expansion. Weak defensive position.
Turkey - A balanced nation with the best defensive position.
According to the Diplomacy rules, gameplay is divided into negotiation and movement phases. Play begins in the year 1901, with spring and fall being the primary seasons of importance.
During the negotiation phase, players make alliances with one another. This can be done in public or private. Alliances can be broken at any time, and thereís no limit to the kind of agreements that can be made.
When the negotiation phase is finished, the movement phase begins. Players write down secret orders for each unit under their command, and then all players reveal and execute these orders at the same time. Only one unit may occupy a region at a time, and they may choose to attack, defend, support, or do nothing. Fleets can also be used to move troops from one region to another.
If an attack occurs, the players with the greatest numbers of units committed to the battle automatically wins. Supporting units cannot help if they are attacked from different quarters. If two sides are evenly matched, then a stalemate is declared and nothing happens.
After the movement phase (which takes place in the fall season), players recalculate their supply center totals based on any territory that was won or lost in the previous turn. Players who lost supply centers may have to disband troops, while those who gained in power will be able to produce additional units. If a player has no supply centers remaining during this phase, they are eliminated from the game. In order to win the game, a player must control at least 18 of the 34 supply centers on the board during the post-autumn phase.
Diplomacy strategy can come in numerous forms depending on the preferences of the player. Some enjoy making alliances at every turn, while others prefer the more martial aspects of the game. Others still seek to find a balance between these two. I encourage beginning players to try multiple tactics while their familiarity with the game grows, as this will allow them to find the balance that suits their style of play. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Be a Reliable Ally - If you only play a single game of Diplomacy, thereís nothing wrong with stabbing your allies in the back at every turn. But if youíre going to be playing with the same group of people over and over, itís important to establish a reputation as a reliable ally. Given the importance of alliances and cooperation in Diplomacy, a player whoís known to be untrustworthy will have a much harder time getting opponents to enter into agreements. And if you do break an alliance, make sure itís a move that will remove your opponent from the game.
Know Your Opponents - Learning about your opponents may help you predict what moves they will make during the game. This shouldnít be a problem if youíve known the other players for years, while trying to learn about play-by-mail rivals will require actually playing against them on several occasions.
Communication - Always keep the lines of communication open between other players. Even if an opponent is attacking you, itís important to seem willing to negotiate and exchange information. The smart Diplomacy player seeks to manipulate his rivals at every turn. If you donít talk, this goal will be impossible to achieve.
Control Your Sphere - In the early portion of the game, itís suggested that you focus on controlling your sphere before branching out. There are two spheres in the game. The western sphere is comprised of Germany, France, and England, while the eastern sphere is made up of Turkey, Russia, and Austria. Italy sits between the two spheres, meaning anyone who chooses to play Italy will have their work cut out for them.
Never Concede - As long as youíre in the game, you have a chance of winning. Never assume that elimination is certain, and always seek to bargain to remain in play. Itís not unheard of for a player with a single supply center to come back and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Fake Emotions - If a player stabs you in the back, try feigning anger and/or disappointment. The next time he considers betraying you, he might think twice.
Raiding After Retreat - If you lose a battle, you always have the option of retreating into enemy held territory and beginning to raid. This can play havoc with an opponent whoís ill-prepared, and the effects may be felt for years in game time.
Think on a Global Level - What happens in one corner of the globe in Diplomacy ultimately affects all countries. For this reason, always pay attention to your opponentís moves, even if they seem to have no immediate effect on you. If you can influence distant moves through cunning and guile, then all the better.
Balanced Military - While a balanced mix of fleets and armies are important, itís also vital that you think ahead and prepare appropriate forces for upcoming campaigns. For example, if you plan on moving into Central Europe within a few years, the wise move would be to focus production on ground troops.
Write Carefully - When writing your orders, make sure to use precise language and legible handwriting. If youíve went to all the trouble of making plans, it would be a shame to see them derailed because of sloppy handwriting that could be misread or misinterpreted.
Position - The importance of position in Diplomacy cannot be overemphasized. Even if vacant territory is calling to you, resist the temptation until youíre certain that it will not adversely affect your position and leave you vulnerable.
Fast Retreat Home - Youíll need an allyís help to pull this off, but it can often be worth the trouble. Have an ally dislodge one of your units, then disband it rather than retreating. At the end of the year, youíll then be able to rebuild the unit at one of your home supply centers.
Learning how to play Diplomacy will place you in the company of elite and famous gamers from around the globe. And even if you canít muster up seven real-life players to compete against, there are numerous options such as play-by-mail, play-by-email, and online games. While the complexity and personal interaction of the game almost assures that it will never be a mainstream hit, Diplomacy continues to delight those looking for a cerebral challenge.
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