Pugs_Incredulous(1)Let’s talk about Diplomacy.

No, not the brokering of international relations. I want to talk about Diplomacy: the board-game.

Board-games you say? I thought Stonepug was a video game company? Well get ready to expand your mind a bit, cause Stonewall and Pugs do have lives beyond crappy retro children’s videogames. Sometimes we play convoluted games for vindictive adults.

Sidenote: Asimov has been blabbering about “focusing our content strategy to target a specific niche” and how we need to “narrow Stonepug’s focus to high search volume videogames” or some such garbage. We decided we couldn’t abide that kind of sass, so we locked him back up in the broom closet.


So let me tell you how much fun diplomacy is!

  • The game can only be played with 7 people.
  • Diplomacy can often last somewhere between 12 – 14 hours.
  • There can only be one winning player of the game, with other players being eliminated throughout the entire playing period. Be sure to bring a book if you get stuck with Italy and get knocked out early!

Doesn’t this sound like fun? I thought you would like it.

I actually own this board-game I love it so much. However, people always always seem to be sick or fleeing the country when I try to get a game together…

No, diplomacy is not like Risk. There is no luck involved. Before each turn, each player has a chance to conference with the other world powers to support their troops. When the turn is up, you submit your troops movement orders in secret and then moves are adjudicated.

Here it’s simple: follow the handy example below.

Germany’s commander promises to be BFFFF’s with Russia in Spring of 1939. However, in Fall 1939 Germany issues the following secret orders

  • German Army Prussia move to Warsaw
  • German Army Silesia Support Prussia move to Warsaw

At the same time the Russian player gets a feeling that, despite everything, Germany may not be so trustworthy. Russia issues the following secret orders in Fall 1939:

  • Russian Army Livonia move to Warsaw

In diplomacy 1 unit vs. 1 unit always ends in a tie. However, Germany moves into Warsaw with 2 units which beats Russia’s 1 Army from Livonia. The Germans spend the winter in Warsaw, capturing the supply center and stealing valuables from the poor Poles so they can build a new Army in Berlin. Russia has to disband their army in Livonia since they’ve lost a supply center. The game ends when one world power controls 18 cities/ supply centers! SO MUCH FUN.


OK I lied. Nobody in their goddamn right minds plays this game with a physical board in one 12-14 hour sitting. Most of the time Diplomacy is played via email, or in the old days snail mail. For example, open negotiations are allowed throughout the week and orders are due every Friday. Case in point – the gif above was made from backstabbr.com, it’s a great site for playing Diplomacy online. Seriously backstabbr.com is awesome, go check it out.

I lied about another thing too. Even most professional games don’t end with a single victor, despite this technically being the only path to victory. There is often a 2 or 3 way tie. At some point most people scream and beg for mercy rather than continue a pointless gridlock.

I love this game for many reasons. It’s a game of strategy, set in pre-war Europe, with intrigue, backstabbing, lying, and deceit. It’s cooperative, to a point, and every play through is different. Although it drives certain people mad I actually like that it usually ends in a tie (more on that later). This is not Call of Duty where a one man army can take down a whole terrorist cell. Diplomacy is a hard-fought war where you forge uneasy allies and the victors almost always have to settle for less than total victory.

All Quiet on the Western Front

I’m going to give you a rare glimpse into correspondence from a game that ended in a 3 way tie between England (My Nation), Germany, and Turkey. These are highly sensitive documents just recently declassified.


Here’s the last turn of the game: Observe England (myself) and Germany struggling to blockade the Turkish juggernaut rolling in from the east. Turkey has grown powerful through the foolish actions of Austria and Russia earlier in the game and is one supply center away from winning the game alone. Germany and I know that we will lose if either one of us tries to stab the other. Turkey knows that he must break our alliance if he is to win that final center. Let’s see how this plays out.

Germany knows what’s up. Germany and I have been in contact since midway through the game.

Germany wrote in spring 1907:
Yes, Turkey is getting rather close to 18.
I can try to get some armies into Italy and you’ll need to move your fleets to the Mediterranean (too far away for mine)..

For some reason, Turkey had no suspicion that I may actually be allies with Germany

Turkey wrote in spring 1907:
I’m sorry I had to take Tun. It was necessary to make Germany believe I’m their friend. And they really moved one army (now in Lvn) far away from home. 🙂
As Germany is wide open now, Turkey will start its assault. I’ll send one fleet into LYO to offer support for your attack on France. Mos will be able to offer support for your taking Stp in fall.
If things go well, Germany will lose 4-5 supply centers this year.

Turkey’s response is below after I did not, in fact, take Turkey’s advice and invade St. Petersburgl to piss off Germany. Especially after Turkey had just stolen Tunisia from me with no warning. No hard feelings though 🙂

Turkey wrote in fall 1907:
I knew England has a better commander than Germany. 😉

After Germany and I continued to bolster our defensive position Turkey tried laying on the flattery a little more heavy.

Turkey wrote in fall 1908:
Great. Simply great. It’s a pleasure to watch your orders. Your 8 units are in command of Germany’s 10. Thanks for an inspiring lesson so far.

It had been 4 turns of stalemate. Or 5 weeks of earth time. At this point I asked Turkey if he would settle for a Three-Way-Victory.

Turkey wrote in fall 1908:
I’m afraid I won’t settle for a Three-Way-Victory. I really was heading for a Two-Way-Victory shared with Germany, but their lack of audacity and risk-taking wasn’t exactly encouraging.
A Two-Way-Victory England/Turkey would be an adequate result though. Of course my initial plan was to win this match 😉 and I even think there’s still a slight chance to break the tie, but Turkey made two mistakes: a) stabbing Austria too early and b) letting the English fleet into the Mediterranean Sea.
So, in the face of an English master commander, I’d suggest a Two-Way-Victory. It would be an honour. I really have learned a lot in this match and I’ll have to take a closer look at your strategy after the war. 😉

“You think Turkey is getting tired yet?”

Now hold on a minute. Earlier Turkey was talking about how he was going to stab Germany, but now Turkey says he was rooting for a German-Turkish tie all along? I ask him what a two-way Anglo-Turkish tie would entail, mainly for shits and giggles at this point.

Turkey wrote in fall 1908:
An English-Turkish tie would stretch along the line Tun-Rom-Ven-Vie-War-Mos. Probably Germany won’t accept its defeat right now.
So here’s my suggestion in case of Germany’s disobedience: Let me take Ven this fall. From next year one, you command all Turkish units ie. you send me your orders and I’ll instruct my armies and fleets accordingly.

Oh yeah man, I totally trust that your units will do as I command. I decide to check in with my pal Germany to see if he’s had a similar proposition.

Germany wrote in fall 1908:
Yes, he’s been feeding me a “let’s split Europe 17/17!” line, which sort of suggests he thinks I’m a bit of an idiot.
I think we can stalemate him from here – but I will probably retreat from Venice so as to set up in Mar+Pie, which is more defensible.
And you’re 100% right about our need to stick together now. The alternative would be for one of use to somehow completely defeat the other without letting Turkey take a single other centre.

Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany meeting Enver Pasha, the Turkish Minister of War: “Yeah dude, Europe is totally ours. Let’s go for a halfsies split, cool?”

My boy Germany is smarter than that. Good man. Turkey follows up his offer again.

Turkey wrote in fall 1908:
As I told you: England will command my armies from now on.
Even in Diplomacy there’s a point when stabbing is no longer possible because it would be cheating. We’ve reached this point.
Thanks again for one or two important lessons. You’re one of the most determined commanders I’ve seen. Well done.

Cheating? This is diplomacy, stabbing is the name of the game. So despite this tempting offer Germany and I continue to blockade Turkey’s advance. Turkey is not pleased.

Turkey wrote in spring 1909:
This is really disappointing. If you can’t trust an Englishman, who can you trust?

I once again beg Turkey to stop this needless bloodshed and call a three-way-tie.

Turkey wrote in spring 1909:
Thanks for your reply.
Call me narrow-minded, but a 3 way tie completely ridicules the object of the game. It’s Diplomacy we’re playing, not some kind of nearly-everybody-can-win game. 3 way ties are Anti-Diplomacy in a way. IMHO no serious Diplomacy player should even consider this kind of result.
I agree this has been a challenging game. The most interesting part is over though, and I really think England and Turkey have been the most apt players. There’ll be some seesaw changes around TYS, but this is not what Diplomacy actually is about.
So – yes, the match is getting tedious now, but – no, I can’t accept a 3 way tie. For me, from a strategic perspective, this match is OVER and there’s no room for stabs anymore.
Is it really my trustworthiness you’re doubting? I’m quite moral a player in real life. Or do you think finishing off Germany is too risky?

Considering that Turkey was throwing around the possibility of stabbing Germany, I can say that trustworthiness was more than a little in doubt at this point. This is where diplomacy ends 99% of the time. Two or three powers gridlocked, unable to move, for fear that one may end the game and they all will lose. Turkey said it himself, although he did not want to accept the reality “the match is getting tedious now … this match is OVER and there’s no room for stabs anymore.”

After an intense period of negotiation Turkey finally capitulated. By ‘negotiations’ I mean Germany and I decided to ignore Turkey and blockade him until we died of old age.

Turkey wrote in spring 1909:
A tough cookie you are.
O.K. I agree. Let’s finish this standoff. Could you tell your ally please?
Press to You, Turkey,  Germany
Turkey wrote in fall 1909:
England convinced me that a 3-Way-Victory is an adequate outcome of the game. Nobody trusts Turkey, so there’ll be no 2-Way-Victory … unfortunately. 😉
Thanks for an exciting match.

And there you have it folks. A rousing game of Diplomacy. The game to end all games.

Armistice Day November 1918 in London

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