How to Play Postal Diplomacy and Win
(or at least draw)
A game of
Diplomacy is more than just an exercise in strategic planning and tactical
manouvering - it is a clash between seven diverse and often discordant
personalities. No two games are ever the same. There are probably as many
different ways to play the game as there are players. Not everyone will find
sympathy with my approach, but nevertheless I will proffer some suggestions
about how you can best organise your games and conduct effective negotiations in
order to achieve profitable results.
all then, you need to ORGANISE ALL AVAILABLE INFORMATION about your game. Some
kind of filing system is required. I use a ring folder, into which I file all
incoming correspondence; I keep a record sheet in the front of the folder with
the GMís and the playersí addresses and phone numbers, and I record the date
each letter is received or sent.
impractical, and seldom convenient, to set up the board every time you want to
consider your moves, so each session I make a map of the current position which
I carry in my pocket to study at leisure (a simple photocopy of the board with
symbols for units and a different colour for each country). This also helps me
to keep track of who owns which supply centres throughout the game. The map is
filed in the game folder after each adjudication when a new one is drawn.
useful to keep a copy of all your correspondence to other players and to the GM
(especially if your memory is as erratic as mine). I use duplicate books and
keep a mote of the page number sent to each person on the record sheet (each
book contains 100 pages and I am currently on volume 28...), but many players
prefer to type their letters and keep a carbon copy which cam be filed in the
Obviously you must ensure that you always get your orders to the GM before the
deadline. Make a note of the date on a calender or in your diary, or on the game
map itself. Itís a good idea to submit a set of orders as soon as you receive
each adjudication, you will probably want to change them again later as a result
of your diplomatic efforts, but at least you will have a set of orders on file
in case you forget the deadline. Always keep a copy of your orders.
LOTS OF LETTERS. Write to everyone in the game every season if you can manage
it. Write long, friendly letters (itís a very friendly hobby, enjoy your
correspondence). Analyse the game, exchange information, suggest possible moves
for your allies, ask for suggestions for your own moves. When you canít
discuss the game, discuss the weather, or what you did on your holidays etc. get
to know your opponents; introduce yourself at the beginning of the game by
giving some personal details about yourself, the others will usually
reciprocate. Stay friendly with everyone for as long as possible.
QUESTIONS. A question will provoke a response, your correspondent is obliged to
reply. Ask direct questions, make your opponent commit himself. ďWhat do you
intend to do with your A(Bur) next season?Ē If he tells you, all well and
good. If he doesnít, or is evasive, then you have good reason to be suspicious
about his intentions (so ask him again). If he tells a lie, then you can claim
he has double-crossed you and you have an excuse to stab him (if you want to).
TRUTH. Too many players think Diplomacy is about treachery and deceit. Itís
not - itís about honesty and trust. You will have to trust people throughout
the game, and you will want the other players to trust you. They wonít trust
you if you demonstrate a willingness to tell lies. Tell the other players what
your moves will be when you can, especially during the early stages of the game
- build up a reputation for being truthful, this will prove to be very useful
STAB INDISCRIMINATELY. If you are going to stab then make it count, itís not
much good if you donít make substantial gains. Attack the weak - persuade
others to attack the strong. Be sure you have good reason for the stab; if you
are the aggrieved party (ď... he continually doubleócrossed me ...ď) the
neutral powers will not be so concerned by your belligerence. Try to avoid being
seen as the aggressor. Apologise to your victim immediately, and point out the
very good reasons why you were forced to take such drastic action (blame another
player if possible); remain on friendly terms (you might need his help later and
you donít want him to bear any grudges).
expect to be stabbed yourself. Each season, work out what damage your neighbours
can do to you and be prepared for the worst. If you are stabbed, write to your
Assailant in good humour (disguising the exasperation) and discreetly point Out
the dire consequences of his rash decision. Whatever happens, keep negotiating.
IS NEGOTIABLE. Promises are not binding (although you can claim they should be
if it is someone else who is making them). Keep your plans flexible and your
options open, donít commit yourself or your forces to any long term strategy.
Be prepared to respond to the changing fortunes of the game.
finally, KEEP A LOW PROFILE. You donít want to become a target so avoid
getting a reputation. If you do win a few games, donít tell anyone. Donít
start your own zine or become involved in hobby politics. And donít write any