If you don’t like playing games with intense people like this one, Diplomacy’s probably not for you.
Does anyone else remember Diplomacy fondly? I do. I may have been the only twelve year old ever to own a copy, and no one in my family understood it or wanted to play it. I think my father understood it, but he wanted nothing to do with it. I didn’t play my first game with real people until college, and usually things went fine until someone realized that the game favoured Machiavellian-style Realist game play, served up with dollops of treachery that would make a Renaissance Doge approve. usually they realized this while watching an “ally’s” rapier emerging from their chest.
I played one game by mail in the days before computers (and won) but I recall that the poor GM had to find quite a few replacement players when others dropped out. All negotiations and moves had to go through the GM’s postal address, and I never knew the other players, but I recall that it was one of the best experiences of my gaming life. In my last army posting, I tried halfheartedly to get some officers together for a game of diplomacy. The idea was that we would wear mess dress with black tie, and play over brandy and cigars, but sadly they were mostly the PS generation and it never caught fire.
I still have the original set, in the big flat red box, as published by Games Research Inc, and the map board is still a thing of beauty to this day. I don’t think any other board game, even Charles Roberts’ Tactics Two which came out a year before Dip in 1958, is as iconic of the dawn of modern wargaming. But I digress.
Anyway, the purpose of this post is to flag an excellent essay, by David Hill, “The Board-Game of the Alpha Nerds" on the way Diplomacy is played today at the tournament level, and the psychologies of the people who thrive (or fail) in that highly competitive atmosphere. There’s also an NPR interview with David Hill here - it is very entertaining, especially the part where he brings a “ringer”, a former US Ambassador who has counselled four Presidents, to a tournament.
The average player, David Hill says, is a middle aged male nerd. I guess I qualify, barely.
Does anyone have any Diplomacy stories to share?