Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash: Pick Two (aghrivaine) wrote,
Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash: Pick Two

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cacofunny recently started up an online version of the classic board-game "Diplomacy". His genius was to use a regular bulletin-board style forum with various threads for each faction to make deals. If you've never played Diplomacy, it's as simple as pie to learn; it's Europe, circa WWI, and all the Great Powers are represented; Russia, Austro-Hungary, Turkey, France, Italy, Germany and England. Each player has a certain number of territories with resource centers in them, and each occupied resource center affords them one military unit, either Army or Fleet. Conflict occurs with each unit providing 1 point of power - so one army on one army is a draw. Which means to attack successfully you must outnumber your opponent. This means, perforce, you must make alliances or be swallowed up.

So cacofunny creates a forum for each player to relate to the others, and only those two players (and himself) have permissions to post. Each turn lasts some length of time, a few days - partly a diplomacy phase, and then orders submission phase. Once all orders are in, cacofunny processes them, and posts a new map with the changes in the political disposition. I had a lot of fun playing this game. It's been years since I played Diplomacy, and I'd forgotten many of the intricacies. I was (sorry to let the cat out of the bag, cacofunny) Russia in this game. Several other people I know were in the game, but it was all anonymous. I denied that I was playing the game, and listened keenly to two of the players (daogre among them), talking, unaware of my presence. To further throw them off the trail, I referred to myself in all diplomatic communications as "Mother Rodhina".

I started the game wanting to test "game theory" - that states in a closed system of interactions, the most efficient possible strategy to take is that of mirroring the other players. If they help you, you help them. If they attack you, you attack them. Start out from a position of trust, and switch to distrust once the other player does something to violate that trust. This informed several of my decisions - for instance, despite the fact that Germany was clearly massing against me, and had made an alliance with France, I didn't invade German territory until after they attacked a Russian province. I made an early alliance with Italy, and because Italy was always true to the alliance, I was too. I also made a deal with France early on - and despite the fact that in the end game, France was a clear aggressor and the biggest threat to win the game, I never once attacked a French territory, because French forces never attacked Russia.

And, interestingly, it worked! I won the game. At the last second it looked like it was a sure thing for France, they were way ahead in supply centers, and other than a drawn-out fight with Germany my only neigobhor was my Itallian allies. Having made an honored a strong alliance with Italy, I could make the obvious move and snap up his unguarded supply centers in a turn, putting me well ahead. However, I elected not to, even though it was strategically the best move. And then, fortune favoring both the bold and honorable, apparently, Itally actually invited me to take his supply centers, knowing that he couldn't win. I grabbed two in the first turn, and then the game ended, leaving me in a strong first place.

Of course, my anonymity is now shattered and in future iterations of the game I doubt that I'll get away with quite as much. And in fact, I owe a great deal to the advice of the Italian player, who pointed out some very good moves for me. Without my Italian ally, I couldn't have won the game, I'm sure of it. Really it was an Italian win with a Russian proxy. There were a few turns I was proud of, when I exactly predicted a players' moves, and countered them handily. In fact, I only really soundly got outfoxed once, by Turkey (daogre is a brilliant bastard, but still a bastard) who made a very surprise move to grab one of my home territories just when I thought I had him on the ropes, thus delaying dealing with him by a couple of years. But anyway, the point is, it was a great deal of fun, and I enjoyed the process. cacofunny is to be congratulated for superb execution of a great idea, and a lot of hard work for him. He's talking about running the game again, and if he invites you, play! If he doesn't, and you're interested, pester him!

Here's a link to the first board, which you can poke around and persue, if you're that geeky.

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