Which country has the best defensive
position in Diplomacy?
Doug Massey
Here's an interesting exchange I
had with someone I've never met:
First, her original email:
“Hi, I was on a Diplomacy website
and saw that you were the email guy, so I thought I'd ask you a question. Now,
I know this sounds dumb, but at here at work we have a question of the day and
if we know the answer we get popcorn (dumb, I know). Today's question is
something like "Which country has the best defensive position in the board game
Diplomacy?" So I have been looking all over the web for the answer because I
have never even heard of this game.”
“So if you could answer the
question, I wold appreciate it. I am dying for popcorn! If you don't get this
message today, that's OK. I just thought I would try. Thanks.”
Now, my reply:
“It's not a blackandwhite issue
 it's kind of like asking who the best football team is, but without a Super
Bowl to actually decide it. However, I'd guess the answer is Turkey. Let me know
if that's the right answer!”
Then, her response:
“Sorry, but the ‘correct’ answer
is England. I asked the lady how she came up with the answer (I told her that
Super Bowl stuff) and she said she got the answer from Trivial Pursuit. Hmmm.
My friend took a stab at it and got it right, so in the end, I did get some
popcorn. But thanks for responding!”
I've played Trivial Pursuit but
don't remember ever getting this question. I'm glad though  I can just imagine
that my girlfriend reads me the question and says “That's not fair  how can
you get a DIPLOMACY question?”
And then I get it wrong. She
would laugh for a week.
*****
Stephen Agar
An interesting question – and one
that I would instinctively answer as either England or Turkey – though, like
Doug, I wouldn’t be sure which to go for. One way to answer the question would
be to just stick to the topography of the regular Diplomacy board and consider
the relative closeness of other Powers home centres. You get the following:
Those who have read my articles on
balancing variant maps will know that I measure the best defensive position as
the Power with the least vulnerable supply centres  in practice those with home
centres the furthest from everyone else's home centres. If you examine the board
closely you will find that the number of enemy SC's within 14 spaces of each
Powers home SC's is the following:

1 Space 
2 Spaces 
3 Spaces 
Austria 
1 
4 
5 
England 
0 
1 
3 
France 
0 
3 
4 
Germany 
0 
5 
7 
Italy 
1 
4 
4 
Russia 
0 
6 
4 
Turkey 
0 
1 
4 
If you then apply a simple scoring
mechanism of say 4 points for a hostile SC 1 space away, 3 points for one 2
spaces away, 2 points for one 3 spaces away and 1 point for one 4 spaces away,
then you get the following scores:
Vulnerability Points
E = 5 points
T = 6 points
F = 10 points
I = 15 points
R = 16 points
A = 16 points
G = 17 points
So A/G/R/I have roughly comparable
poor defensive positions, France is in the middle and Turkey and England have
the best defensive positions (with England slightly ahead).
From my point of view it is quite
a relief that the method I use to balance variants seems to bear out my gut
instincts with regards to the strength of a defensive position  i.e. England
and Turkey best, France better than the others. It also bears out the
observation that E/F/T have corner positions while R/I/A/G are all middleboard
powers to all intents and purposes.
