Opening Strategy, Part I: Philosophy
by Jake Orion
Introduction to the Series
Welcome all. I am glad to see you have enough
interest in the fascinatingly challenging and yet delicate
game of Diplomacy to spend some time to read about it. I
used to read a lot of articles about Diplomacy myself, but I
found that it became necessary for me to condition myself to ask the
question, "How does that help me become a better player?"
What I was finding was that many articles about Diplomacy
supplied great detail about the game, but gave little
insight as how really to play it better.
It is my intention here to
be poignant, brief, and as clear as possible.
My Opening Strategy article will be divided into three sub-topics:
philosophy, reading fellow players, and final
pointers. This article is part one, Philosophy. After
this series, I plan to detail additional insight
into the particular options available to each specific
country, if you are further interested. If you are a novice
or intermediate player, I would like to think the coming
suggestions will make you a better player (in opening
strategy) on average. Let me remind you that although these
comments may appear very general and, being general, are applicable to
any country (as the name of the article suggests), the information is
specifically about Opening Strategy (meaning the first
year). Please do not forget this important caveat. Okay,
let's get on with the good stuff......
After year one, it is my goal:
- to have no outright enemies (imminent conflicts);
- to have cultivated a strong position to bond with at least one
strategically close neighbor;
- to have established my personality; and
- to have developed a reasonable portfolio as to the nature of my
This all sounds pretty good. I am sure
the semantics of the wording above can be mangled many times
over to sound more technical, polished, and/or precise.
However, the above four points are the basic idea in the
beginning... namely, make friends, have options, and avoid
getting enemies. The above is pretty obvious after a quick
read-by, but there are important semi-tacit points here and
general rules that I think optimize your chances of achieving the
Here is a summary of basic "philosophy" pointers I think in
general will get you through a successful opening for every
- Don't stab or lunge at any foreign power region!!!
- Don't aggressively lie or be deceiving.
- Don't be greedy in negotiation or movement.
- Use your personality and always be thoughtful.
- Write everyone.
- Don't push unless pushed.
- Make simple proposals.
Comments, Clarifications (referring to above
- Don't stab or lunge at any foreign power region in year
one (especially the spring!). Unless the move is necessary
for defense or was positioned through request (e.g. Turkey
being given Greece, instead of Austria, in exchange for
peace), straight attacks from the get-go are the mark of
poor play. Time and time again I see players snubbed
because they vaulted into foreign territory and provoked an
endlessly slow stalemate only to lose to a power who
effortlessly overruns territory after territory. Classic
cases for spring moves such as Italy moving into Trieste or
England seizing the Channel will far more likely result in
failure than success. The key is, always remember that you must
maximize your chances of finding reliable allies and avoid
risking enemies. Until you know who is friend and who is
foe, you are best-off to take advantage of the generous
local supply centers which lay unoccupied and contribute
ample growth for the coming year's campaigns.
- Words early on travel more freely than at any point in
the game. Later on when nations have sculptured their
posture toward fellow powers (friend or foe), then
communication clarity inevitably decays. However, being a
snitch or finger pointer in hopes of generating fear or
whatnot often is easily filtered and eventually portrays you
as slimy rather than worthy.
- Don't be greedy in negotiation or movement.
- Obvious one here: Players like to write those who are
entertaining and friendly. Never hurts and always add to
the fun, win or lose.
- Every player deserves a word early on. Opening the
door for the first time, so to speak, helps the hinge's lubricant to do
its job. To do so will make supplemental contact easier. I will write
more about this in a later article.
- Handing out information about plans or ideas for
expansion can be dangerous; play what you're given and keep an
open mind. If the pusher demands information, take a
neutral course of action and look for the positive side as
much as possible. For example, R-T always talk a lot about
the Black Sea. Statistically one nation gets it, but in the
beginning, if issues get heated (a.k.a. Russia says
forcefully that the Black sea should be demilitarized and you are
nervous) look to bounce instead of risking the calamity of a
nasty stab. When pushed, seek a conservative, equitable and
honest solution. Note: I will detail the Black Sea more
in my future articles (perhaps too controversial an
- Making simple proposals is very important and is done far
too little. This is an excellent tactic which has never
done anything but help me. If you're Austria, why not contact
Germany and seek a demilitarized zone in Bohemia and Tyrolia? What can it
hurt? You get a treaty for yourself, mollify the fears of a
neighbor, and more likely than not open a door for a
future alliance. It's amazing how a demilitarized zone in Galicia,
Prussia, Silesia, the Baltic, and the Channel can open the
way for future goodwill in territory which is rarely tread
upon by friendly powers. Failure to achieve such a treaty
may very well occur (which is always a useful piece of
information) but the impetus of asking for a demilitarized zone is always a
sign of a good-natured neighbor and that will more likely
than not play in the minds of those receiving dimilatarized-zone proposals.
Besides demilitarized zones, simple proposals like mutually talking to a
fellow power about an issue or assuring a neighbor that you
recognize his/her reign in a neutral territory are similarly