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 fellow Dippers.
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 aforementioned goals.
Here is a summary of basic "philosophy" pointers I think in general will get you through a successful opening for every country.....
1 Don't stab or lunge at any foreign power region!!! 2 Don't aggressively lie or be deceiving. 3 Don't be greedy in negotiation or movement. 4 Use your personality and always be thoughtful. 5 Write everyone. 6 Don't push unless pushed. 7 Make simple proposals.
Comments, Clarifications (referring to above numbering)
1 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.
2 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.
3 Don't be greedy in negotiation or movement.
4 Obvious one here: Players like to write those who are entertaining and friendly. Never hurts and always add to the fun, win or lose.
5 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.
6 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 example here).
7 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 applicable.