Review of Micropose PC Diplomacy

By Johnny Bravo 17/11/99

1) Graphics - Fair, it would be nice to have a choice of units. As it is you have metallic looking "stars" and "anchors", mounted on bases. It seems a variation of the plastic pieces from the latest AH release. An option for the original wooden blocks would have been great. Even better would have been an open format so players could use whatever pieces that suit them. You have one zoom level that shows about a quarter of the board, one intermediate level would have been nice.

2) Variations - The following are supported Standard, 1898, Shift Left, Shift Right, Fleet Rome, and Variants for 3-6 players. 6-player, Italy just holds, 5-player, Germany and Italy just hold. 4 players, it's combined powers (England vs Austria/France vs Italy/Russia vs Turkey/Germany), for 3-players its (England/Germany/Austria vs Russia/Italy vs France/Turkey), each combined power plays as a single country. Gunboat is an option for all variants but supposedly cripples the AI (it would be hard to tell the effect of this, since the AI is lobotomized already). In short, only variants you can play on the standard map are supported.

3) Time Control - Each Phase has it's own timer. Defaults are 2 Negotiation Phases with 30 mins for the first one and 15 mins for all others, with 5 mins to issue orders and another 5 to view them. The summary phase is 5 mins long. A pretty long default for an online game. The problem is that if you get someone who is losing, might start using every second of the available time rather than quitting, and each year ends up taking an hour to play.

4) Interface - I don't know if it is just my system, but I meet the requirements (P200 and 32MB RAM), but every time I click on a button it takes about three seconds to get a response. This makes the game more work than fun. It got worse as the game went on, around 1910 it was taking more than a minute to order a couple of units as it took over 10 seconds to process each click and many times the order just wouldn't take so I'd have to repeat it. Luckily for me the game was over in 1911.


1) Gunboat is useless, you cannot enter an order you can't perform, so much for convoying your opponent to switzerland to indicate peace offerings and such. In this it fails badly, as the game specifically allows you to make invalid (but legal) orders.

2) AI is worse than expected, it is non-existant, leaving centers open, stranding units (Italy convoyed an army to Tunis and spent the entire game moving it back and forth to North Africa). I played one game as England (with all AI set to high), in 1901 I took Brest, in 1902 I started a fight with Russia in the north, in 1904 I attacked Germany as well. The AI powers did not gain more than 2-3 centers each the entire game, they just kept making the same bouncing moves over and over. I soloed in 1911, it could have been quicker but I built too many fleets. I never lost a center to enemy moves, even when I deserved it. I had one unsupported fleet in Brest, France kept ordering Gascony-Brest and Burgundy-Munich, rather than Burgundy-Paris and kicking me out of Brest the next season, France made these orders for more than 4 game years without changing them. Random legal moves would have been more of a challenge.

3) Negotiation with the AI - I never got to make any demands, the AI would rush into the room, make a list of demands and if I didn't start accepting them it would just leave within seconds, if I dealt with the AI demands it would leave seconds later. By the time I looked at the map and decided exactly what I wanted from the AI, I was standing in an empty room. And for the AI completely unnecessary as you can kill the best AI even if they are all against you.

3a) Negotiation with the Players - There are 4 chat rooms and you can only be in one of them at a time. This makes it a bit cumbersome to negotiate with 6 other people. I think a better solution would be everyone in the same room, you have a map, 6 buttons for the other powers, you just click the power(s) you want to send to and type away. This would speed things up as you can negotiate with everyone at once. I think time is of serious consideration for online games, any speedups would be very welcome, even if they aren't quite the same as face to face play.

4) Display of turn results, it takes about 2 seconds to display each move that was made during the turn and you have to sit there and watch them play out one by one. I wish I could set an option to display all the moves on the map at once rather than wait for 60 seconds for the same info. This game is long enough as it is without needlessly adding to the delays. After 1902 I just stopped looking, just hit next and went on to make my moves on the updated map, it was just too much trouble trying to determine what moves the AI made.

Bottom Line - I'd rather play face to face or use the Judge, this program fails in all the wrong places. It looks pretty, that's the only thing going for it, there is no AI to speak of and multiplayer just isn't up to Judge standards (no Judge support in the game). To run real time diplomacy, you would be 100% better off using ICQ, Realpolitik and a GM who would just upload a current picture of the position to a web page for the players. Save your money, this isn't worth $40 just so you can play online at the zone in games that are even more likely than the Judge to see massive dropouts, and the quality of play will be much worse if those dropouts are replaced by computer players.


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