Is Diplomacy in the UK Unbalanced?
1979 The Game of Diplomacy the first
hardback book on the game of Diplomacy, was published.
Written by a person singularly qualified to write: Richard Sharp, not
only a writer by profession, but also a major league player.
The Game of Diplomacy is an excellent book.
After a brief review of the game it tells how to negotiate before moving
onto the tactical aspects.
continues with seven chapters, one on each country. It is my suggestion that Sharp's exposition is biased towards
some countries and unnaturally indifferent to others with the result that those
two countries have received undeserved attention to the detriment of the
remainder. In short TGoD's chapters
on Germany and Austria is a lopsided approach so that the question is asked:
Could it be said some five years later, the effect is that Diplomacy in the
United Kingdom has become unbalanced, as more and more people play the Sharp
me say at the outset that the foregoing is not a criticism but simply an
observation. It may be that the “free-for-all” style advocated shuts out any
other form of serious analysis. Nevertheless there are it would seem weaknesses
and omissions in certain evaluations of the countries.
The chapter on England for example, states "ENG at all cost!"
and a close reading reveals that England and France must always be at war. In
truth any serious opening against Ger. is omitted.
It would also appear that no mention is made of how England can arrange
matters so that France / Germany end up in a fight over Belgium.
Furthermore there is no discussion on the concept of The Western
Alliance. The only conclusion is that the author has seen to it that England has
pulled her punches as far as Germany is concerned.
the chapter on Germany, Sharp is quite open about his preferences, "playing
Germany in good class postal diplomacy is the most enjoyable experience
Diplomacy has to offer". Earlier
in the book his anathema for two-country alliances is expressed,
"Fundamentally, I do not believe in alliances", yet with Germany the
idea of Anschluss is advocated. The
Germany /Austria Anschluss is far more than a two-player alliance.
It means Austria will become Germany's puppet right from the start.
I think it is vital to appreciate the chasm of incongruity here. With
Germany, a two-player alliance for broadly the duration of the game is proposed
in direct contrast to the free-for-all style suggested elsewhere for the other
countries. As regards enemies,
Germany is assured that conflict between England / France will be easy to
arrange and is further informed that a France / Germany alliance or England
/Germany alliance is of no help to Germany in the long run. It would seem that
some of the ideas omitted that would weaken the strategic concept of the
Anschluss are that F(Kie) can move to places other than Den and that Bel
does not have to be abandoned. The
chapter on Germany is of great importance for Germany is singled out as
warranting the status of a “special country” (which I suspect may be true). And is not the result that UK players seek out and play
Germany as a special country, which with Austria aboard effectively increases
her centres to six?
it is seen that the tilt has been towards Germany. With Russia the imbalance
continues. The chapter on Russia is
hostile towards any form of a Russia / Turkey alliance. As this R/T alliance is
capable of explosive growth at the expense of Austria (and by corollary Germany)
it is not surprising The Game of Diplomacy
is disinterested. With Turkey
the one-sidedness is open. "I
dislike playing Turkey. Turkey bores me to death".
in this short summary I think that it will be agreed that one thing is clear; THE
GAME OF DIPLOMACYis as Richard Sharp feels the game should be planned,
negotiated and played out. And why not? My theme is not that The
Game of Diplomacy is badly written but simply that it is heavily biased
towards Germany and Austria. Evidence
has already been presented, but consider now the statistics.
Diplomacy World Winter
76 set out the results of 721 games. Out
of the 516 wins the statistics were: Aus-70, Eng-71; Fra-71; Ger-73; Ita-48;
Rus-112 and Tur-71. The
contributor's statement sums it up: "Note the virtual tie between A, E, F,
G & T. An eloquent statement on
the balance of the game". But
now consult The Finishing Touch No 43 (July/Aug 83).
The UK Table is: Russia first, with Germany second, being ten wins ahead
of France. The only conclusion must
be that as the Anschluss Theory spreads and is taken up by devotees so Germany
moves upward to the top of the league. Could
it be that one day Germany will replace Russia as the country with the most wins
thus affording the final proof that Diplomacy in the United Kingdom has become
published in Richard’s Bull Run No.3 (Feb 1984)]
by Steve Jones
the article "Is Diplomacy in the UK Unbalanced?” I would like to say two
things first. First I agree with the substance of the article, particularly
about Sharp's book; more on this anon. Second, an important point should be
recognised, namely that the game was unbalanced to start with, in that Russia
was until recently, the most successful country.
The Game of Diplomacy, I agree totally
with your suggestion that Sharp is biased towards some countries and indifferent
to others. In particular the chapters on Italy and Turkey are far too negative,
for a number of reasons. Primarily, I felt that the reason for this is that
neither country is suited to Sharp's professed style of play. The plain fact is
that the countries which Sharp tended to prefer, namely Germany, Austria, France
and Russia, are, in a crude generalising sense, fast growth countries who tend
in the main to win quickly. Consequently they are favoured by players who like
to make things happen in the early stages - namely, the John Norriss' and
Richard Sharps' of this world.
the other hand the countries Sharp was negative to, namely Italy, Turkey and
England, are slow-growth countries, which, when they do win, tend to win long
games. Consequently, these countries must be played to a completely different
tempo; in the early stages they tend to react to events rather than make them.
To do well, they must bide their time and wait for the middle game when their
real strength can come to the fore. You need patience to play them well.
think that you have hit on another reason for some of the negative attitudes to
these countries in The Game of Diplomacy. The
strategies which might do them some good - the Juggernaut for Turkey, the
“Superpower” Opening for Italy etc., are not seriously considered because
they tend to be anti-German/anti-Austrian. This is particularly true regarding
the book's "advice" to go for ENG (both for England and France)
which is blatantly pro-German. The plain fact is that England's best plan is to
concentrate on the North, going either for Russia or Germany, with Germany being
the better bet. Conflict with France should not be considered until any
potential threat from Russia or Germany is removed, in one way or another.
published in Richard’s Bull Run No.6 (May 1984)