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Welcome to The Diplomatic Pouch

So you have found The Diplomatic Pouch but you don't really know what to do with it. You're wondering just what this game of Diplomacy is, why there is a Diplomatic Pouch at all, and how -- in addition to serving the active player -- The Pouch can help you enter the Diplomacy Hobby. Well, you have come to the right place to get the answers to these questions. Let's get right to it, shall we?

What is Diplomacy?

The game of Diplomacy was invented by Allan Calhamer over a period of years, taking its final form in the mid- to late 1950's. Mr. Calhamer marketed the game privately for a time, and then through various game companies. Hasbro, Inc. now holds the rights to the game.

While Hasbro forbids the publication of the rules of Diplomacy (an understandable protection of their copyright), players of the game are of course free to instruct you as to the play of the game using their own words. The rules are simple enough that it is very possible to learn the game this way, and indeed, even perusing the articles here in The Diplomatic Pouch can serve to educate the new player. I will not attempt here to tell you how the game is played, instead offering only a brief description of the game. I encourage you to purchase the Rules to Diplomacy from Hasbro, if not a complete gameset. Diplomacy is available in all respected game stores.

The standard game of Diplomacy is set in the Europe of the early 20th century, and is played by seven players, each taking the part of one of the Great European Powers of that age. Players order two types of units (armies and fleets) into combat against each other in a war for control of Europe. This control is symbolized by ownership of "supply centers" (or SC's), of which there are 34 on the Diplomacy board. Control of a majority of supply centers will bring a player victory.

Diplomacy has been called "the chameleon game" because it is uniquely "variantizable" -- that is, from the basic ruleset any number of new "variant games" have been and can be invented.

Diplomacy has been played person-to-person over a gameboard since its invention, and a number of tournaments (including annually-scheduled national and world championships) are held regularly for the so-called face-to-face player. Long ago, Diplomacy was adapted for through-the-mail play by John Boardman, and many postal games have been played ever since, with the moves made in each game published issue by issue in a great number of postal magazines ("'zines") which are produced by hobbyists worldwide. With the development of electronic mail, Ken Lowe wrote an automated Diplomacy move adjudicator, which also routes diplomatic mail messages to the various players and enforces deadlines for the reception of orders. This system is used by a growing multitude of play-by-e-mail hobbyists.

The beauty of the game of Diplomacy lies not in the tactics of the movement of the pieces on the board, but in the fact that these movements are simultaneous, meaning that the orders of all players are executed at the same time on each turn. Whose moves succeed and whose fail are easily determined by the simple rules of the game which permit and govern the combination of multiple units to strengthen (or weaken) any single move or other action.

Crowning all this, however, is the fact that any player of the game is lost without allies. To play the game without receiving assistance from the pieces owned by other players and without lending assistance to other players' pieces is to set yourself up for failure. Indeed, the most important part of the game is the wide-open, free-for-all, promise-the-moon negotiations which occur before each move; negotiations which establish alliances, elaborate war plans, and backstabs.

Backstabs? Yes, because regardless of what a player promises to do before the turn, what he actually does is wholly determined by the secret orders he submits for his pieces.

Combining with other players to defeat a common foe, secretly arranging peace with the enemy, and suddenly turning on your ally, who has trusted you and worked with you since the first move, is all part of the game. All's fair in love and war, so the saying goes, and in Diplomacy, one is often simply a mask for the other.

The final outcome of a game of Diplomacy is always the responsibility -- for better or worse -- of each player. Diplomacy offers a totally chanceless (there are no dice to roll, no tables to consult, no random events to deal with) competition of wits and wiles.

Why The Diplomatic Pouch?

Well, you've already answered this question, or at least part of it. The Diplomatic Pouch, the home page for Diplomacy on the Internet, exists in part to invite, welcome, and escort new players into the Hobby.

The majority of The Pouch, however, exists for the education, entertainment, and edification of the players of the game, among whom we hope to be able to count you soon. Though the rules of the game are astonishingly simple, the game is tremendously complex, and is an unending subject of widely disparate discussions. The Diplomatic Pouch offers the Diplomacy player a fountain of information on all aspects of the hobby.

The Pouch provides players of the game in all its forms -- face-to-face, postal, and e-mail -- a location where their hobby is discussed and where events are announced. Additionally, The Pouch regularly publishes a magazine which contains articles generally of interest to a player involved in any forum of gameplay, discussing everything from the strategy and tactics of Diplomacy to the personalities of the hobby. Beyond this, The Pouch provides an area where individual games are publically played or reviewed, giving observers of the game the benefit of first-hand knowledge and experience. Finally, The Pouch houses a plethora of links to other Diplomacy-related sites on the Net, and maintains a library of reference documents useful to the player.

The Pouch plans to grow over time to become even more useful to the Diplomacy hobbyist. Knowing this, you're surely ready to learn how to start making sense out of The Pouch, so that you too can join the ranks of the uncountable addicted Diplomacy players.

How Can I Get Started?

As mentioned above, The Diplomatic Pouch contains an Online Resources section, where links to the various sources of information on the hobby are categorized for your ease. You should make the Getting Started page in the Online Resources section your first stop on your journey into the Diplomacy hobby. There you will find information which is slanted a bit toward assistance in entering the play-by-e-mail (PBEM) hobby, but you will also find some useful information for every new player.

If you have any questions about the game, feel free to ask anyone on the DP Council (the maintainers of The Diplomatic Pouch), or to make proper use of the newsgroup rec.games.diplomacy, which serves the hobby.

If I haven't convinced you by now to join the Diplomacy community, then the failing is mine alone. I cannot do the game justice in this short article, and you are urged to overlook my shortcoming and to investigate the game of Diplomacy further. I can guarantee that you will be hooked on the game if you do.

Once Again, Welcome To The Pouch!

Manus Hand
(manus@diplom.org)
Pouch Keeper

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The Diplomatic Pouch is brought to you by the DP Council.