Formulating a Strategy
few years ago Larry Peery was offering a booklet on how to play each country,
from openings to middle and end game strategy. While I am not one to knock such
projects, I refused to buy a copy. I didn't want to be told how to play a
country, I wanted to make mistakes and learn from them. Thus the purpose of this
article: how does one formulate a strategy for Diplomacy based on one's own
goals and interests?
a strategy in Diplomacy can be just like formulating a strategy in business or
sport. In any of these ventures strategy can be defined as the establishment of
goals and the means by which we achieve these aims, The belief that there is no
need to form a definite strategy (that one must play the game in the present and
not in the future) can only be carried so far. Perhaps we should look at some
business strategy. A corporate strategy is necessary because (1) there is an
inadequacy in stating goals in terms of maximum profit and (2) the necessity of
planning ahead in undertakings with long lead times. A good business strategy
will recognise that to make the maximum profit immediately may mean foregoing
larger profits in the future.
same goes for Diplomacy - an early stab of an ally may double your centre count
from four to eight but may leave you without any allies and no one trusting you,
meaning your inevitable downfall. If you did not stab, then you could later do
so and win all the marbles. A tennis player who goes all out in the early going
will find himself winning but running all over the court. Once he is tuckered
out his opponent will take over and win easily. The necessity of planning ahead
is also important. Attacks should be executed efficiently and quickly. If you
have your units positioned well in advance for an attack then you will be ready
to strike hard and fast but still have a chance to change plans should the
it is necessary to establish not simply any strategy, but also a flexible one.
Over dedication to a certain plan may result in lost opportunity. A Russian
player who is determined not to stab his Austrian ally until Turkey is
eliminated may find a perfect opportunity for a stab while Turkey still has a
couple of centres. Failure to take such an opportunity might mean the failure of
establishing a strategy, then, the following questions should be answered:
Does the strategy exploit full opportunity? An Anglo-German alliance may
find that if it doesn't attack both Russia and France they may lose the centres
of those countries to other powers.
Is the strategy consistent with present and projected resources? A small
company with a new product will quickly lose her market if she cannot meet
demands to competitors marketing copies. In the Anglo-German alliance it must be
considered whether there are enough units to battle both France and Russia.
Is the chosen level of risk feasible? For the tennis player, is it worth
trying some possible winning (but risky) shots, perhaps losing a game or perhaps
winning the game and destroying the opponents morale. An Italian attack on
France may seem smart but the profits might be reaped, not by the Italian, but
by the English and Germans. Perhaps it would be better to prop up the French
against the Anglo-Germans.
(And most important) Is your strategy consistent with your aims in the
game? A doubles tennis player may win by poaching (that is, taking shots not on
his side of the court) all of the time, but will his partner enjoy the game? Are
you playing the game to win or are you interested in having fun and making
friends with the other players?
of this may seem fairly obvious but I am surprised at the great number of
players who do not have a strategy for each game. To sum up, then:
establish your goals and decide whether they are realistic, and
establish a means of achieving those goals and decide whether that method
Reprinted from Rats live
on no evil staR No.3 (June 1976).
First published in Paroxysm No.31 (June 1976).