Reviving a surrender


A change at the top

by Rick.Leeds

"Do you, don't you? Which one? And then what on earth to you do with it"

What goes through your mind when you consider picking up a surrender?

Ouch! Oh here we go, the bug’s bitten you again. The bug that comes with a government health warning: “DANGER! Starting another game of Diplomacy can seriously damage your sanity.” But it’s bitten and what can you do? The venom is already pulsing through your veins, surging remorselessly towards the stabby centre of your brain. And as it hits your hand acts independently, moving the mouse and suddenly you’re looking at the Join Games tab.

But then the reasoning part of your mind fights back. You really don’t have time for a full blown game. So what are you going to do? Fighting the urge is impossible; the answer becomes obvious: the active games box is fluttering it’s eyelashes seductively…

What have we got, then? A Gunboat game. Good choice. Not really any different to starting one; no need for any of that diplomacy stuff there. Just slip in, pretty much unnoticed, and do your best. Good.

But no, that isn’t going to satisfy the unreachable itch inside your skull. A challenge, that’s what you want… Here’s one: Fog of War. That’s a challenge. But reason reaches in again. FoW is a challenge anyway; taking over a surrendered country on top of that?

Spring 1905, England. Take a look, go on. One unit, a fleet in Edinburgh. Blue units in Liverpool and London and the aroma of garlic wafting around your (potential) unit from the seas. Well….

Ah, here we are: four unit Turkey; possible alliance with Russia; Austria under pressure; Italy encroaching on your seas. France has just built a fleet in Marseilles, though, and Austria could be in position to fight back… if you wanted. Glancing north, you see an English army in Norway and a fleet in Norwegian Sea. Germany has an army in Denmark and a new army in Berlin. PO-TEN-TIAL.

Four choices, which way do you go? The Gunboat game’s a nice option, but it isn’t what you want to do. The FoW game is a toughy; plenty there to test your Dip skills, both diplomatically and strategically. The Spring ‘05 England game… oh, yes, your diplomacy’s going to be tested there. For a year, anyway. Turkey: needs a lot of diplomacy, pretty regular strategy: wonder why Turkey surrendered?

Your mind flickers over what you’re going to need to do as Turkey. The strategic position is tenable, by the looks of it. So it’s going to have to be pretty much diplomacy which is needed here. The main problem in joining an active game is working out and breaking up the established alliances. Find out who was/is allied with whom. Find out who expects you to be allied with them. Was that French fleet build in Marseilles expected by Italy? You’re going to need to look through the Order History to help, as when you talk to people you’re going to be told that everyone was really acting with your interests at heart.

Oh, yes, and talking is a must. Why would you help Austria out? How can you help Russia against Austria? Why should Italy turn around and face west? What will France gain by pushing south against Italy? How can England gain by pushing hard against Russia when it will take time for you to push north against same? And do you want Germany moving east?

Straight down to business, or an introduction? Well, you’re the new player. You’re different from the old Turkey. You’re better than the old Turkey, more trustworthy, more tactically aware, friendlier. You’re the best friend the other player has in the game now. Each player needs to know that, needs to believe that. They need to see you’ve done your homework on the game history.

Yeah, I can do that. I’ll join the game. Now I can see the messages, what will I see? Will Turkey have had decent communications with everyone? Will she have had good communications with the natural neighbours, at least? Or will there have been little communication? To some extent it doesn’t matter as you’re going to have to talk your socks off anyway, but if there has been good communication in the past you’re at least going to have be as good or the other players are going to discount you almost straight away. If there’s been little communication then making it better is the main priority. Getting a response is important; you don’t want to be ignored by anyone. Then you can judge the quality of the response. If it’s short then they’re probably disinclined to change anything just because there’s a new government sitting in the Porte. A longer one gives you a foot in their door.

And what do the past messages tell me? Let’s combine what each player said with the moves they made. Do they match? If so, then they’ve been straight with Turkey in the past and show a measure of trustworthiness. If they don’t, is there a reason for this? If not, then they might have been using Turkey for dis-information purposes. England told you she wasn’t interested in putting an army in Norway because she was aiming for Belgium. Oh, and she asked how Turkey’s relationship with Russia was going.

Italy: “I’m going to push west with my fleets as I don’t trust France at all.” Interesting, then, that there’s a little green fleet in the East Mediterranean Sea. Oh, but hang on, Italy did switch fleets east after Turkey’s first NMR. Maybe there’s hope there after all?

Germany: “I’ll bounce Russia from Sweden if you’ll bounce him from Rumania.” Of course, Germany didn’t do that (but you didn’t bounce Russia in Rumania, either). Austria tried it and that might be why Russia’s knocking loudly on his door.

Do the messages and moves give an indication as to which alliances exist? Does the Shoutbox help? The latter has some banter in it (as well as Anonymous shouting “Juggernaut!”) so it was a fairly friendly game, it seems. Could be good for you, as it might indicate that no-one is taking the game too seriously and won’t be afraid to stab. Could be bad: are they friends? Are you the outsider? Deep breaths, deep breaths. In through the nose…

OK you’re in now. Announce yourself in the Shoutbox. Set your ideal and fall-back strategies, send those initial messages off. Remember to check back regularly and not be lazy. Don’t NMR… well, that’s obvious, but even moreso here: one player’s dropped from Turkey, don’t be another. Slap on your best smile, polish-up your dirk and get in there. "