The Art Of Diplomacy
by Richard Sharp
I’m going to try to summarize in a few paragraphs the qualities that make
up a good player. Please note that I am not claiming omniscience - just trying
to formulate my own ideas that other people can use for comparison. So
here are my ‘golden rules’, in gradually diminishing order of importance.
1. Always stay on good terms with everyone for as long as possible, or
longer. The player who commits himself to one ally, and hence against the
rest, is unlikely to win many games. It is fascinating to discover how the same
set of moves can be presented in two different lights to two opposed parties so
that both find then acceptable. The most flagrant stab may be a phoney...and
then again, it may not be, after all. A good player who decides to go in for an
unambiguous stab should still mend his fences by apologising, pointing out that
it was essential for his survival, and trying to negotiate a new deal. Nothing
annoys me more than the lunatic who attacks me and then refuses to answer any
further letters, convinced that my only aim is revenge. He may be right, at
that, but what a boring, cowardly way to play.
2. Try to arrange accidents for neighbours, rather than attacking them.
This is not easy to do, but very satisfying when it’s done well. A typical
sequence would be: tell A to move in a certain way which is "almost 100%
safe", except in the remote event that B does so-and-so; then make sure B
does do so-and-so; then commiserate with A (who’d have thought B was such an
imaginative player?). A may be as suspicious as hell, but he can’t prove
anything. By getting your neighbours to do your dirty work for you, you commit
them to your side while retaining your own friendly relations with the victim,
as prescribed in rule 1.
3. Concentrate on home centres. By this I mean that you should play to
get your neighbours so entangled with one another that their building potential
is zero: as I’ve said before, the ideal situation for Germany in about A04 is
to have English in StP, French in Lon and Lpl, and Italians in Mar! If you can
achieve this very desirable state of affairs, you can stop worrying about your
"allies" becoming too strong, always a problem otherwise. While they
are trying to sort themselves out, you can go on growing, and even if they
notice they can’t do a thing about it.
4. Use the deadline. Provided GMs are on the phone, considerable
success can be achieved by last-minute changes to plan; they give you some
security against the danger that your earlier plans may have been leaked, One
favourite device is to write to another player saying you have changed your mind
and your orders - making sure he gets the letter just too late to act on it
(sending it to the house next door is one cunning way of doing this). This will
give you chance for a genuine stab that might otherwise cause relations to
deteriorate sharply. But you must be able to rely on your GM not to
accept late order changes: in at least one zine some players used regularly to
phone allies after the deadline to find out how they had moved, then ring the GM
and change their orders, which was always allowed!
5. Always tell the truth. Well, nearly always. I rather enjoy the
challenge of finding a set of orders which I can confidently tell everyone in
advance without damage to my own position. The advantage is obvious: people will
tend to get into the habit of believing you, and when you finally hang one on
them it’ll come as a shock. I can see no virtue in the ‘trust no one, lie to
everyone’ approach, which simply ensures that no one believes a word you say
after Autumn 1901.
6. Stab in the Spring. This is the direct reverse of the advice
usually given but it works better, beyond any doubt. Spring stabs are much more
likely to catch people with their knickers down, and provided you follow sound
tactical principles (play to annihilate, aim for home centres) you should be
able to consolidate in the Autumn. Many players regard Spring as a time for
marking time and. picking daisies; by taking advantage of this you can stab at
longer range, and bring more units into the struggle.