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The Board Game of the Alpha Nerds (grantland.com)
315 points by swanson on June 18, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 153 comments



When I was at my last gig we had a very active board game community and Diplomacy was eventually brought out. We played twice while I was there and it sowed an unbelievable amount of enmity and discord. It was incredibly fun.

The first time we played a majority of the players had never played before. We got through one "year" a week, with Spring and Autumn troop movements due by the end of the day on Tuesday and Thursday respectively. Then we'd resolve conflicts and submit build or retreat orders. Then we'd plot.

It was really fun but I think it was too fun - I think office productivity seriously suffered for it. Especially considering the amount of time we spent thinking/scheming/talking versus the scarce minutes in the evening actually "playing" the game. Still an amazingly well balanced game once you understand the subtleties. I fared extremely poorly by treating it like Risk and being far too aggressive. On my second playthrough I became much more docile and cooperative, and was thoroughly stabbed in the back for being so trusting.


We had a game of it erupt at my office as well. I wasn't even an actual player to the game but had _far_ too much fun seeding discontent among the alliances and feeding real/fake information to the other players (all good friends of mine).

The best is when someone actually got betrayed and then I'd get to say "I TOLD YOU THEY'D DO THAT!"

Can confirm it's a game for trolls lol!


Here at Standard Treasury, for awhile we had exactly six people. We played a bunch of Diplomacy games on http://www.playdiplomacy.com/ (terrible site). It was really fun, but terribly time consuming. We eventually stopped because six games over six months with the same six people is a little much.


Considering the age and popularity of the game, I'm surprised we haven't seen a solid boxed-set that includes alternate maps for different playercounts. I would expect the mechanics to work fine with any group large-enough for flowing alliances (5+) so it should be possible to design boards that work well with anywhere from 5-12 players.

The WW1-era setting of the game is interesting but really isn't essential.

But if course, this is exactly the kind of hardcore game that attracts hidebound players who scream bloody murder at things like alternate maps.


There are actually a number of alternative maps available online. I played several games on the Ancient Mediterranean map, which works well.



...but you need 7 people.


You can play with Italy in Civil Disorder. It's a rotten variant.


I would hate that, gives too much strength to the southern powers.

Italy was my favorite country to play as. You absolutely need a strong ally, but if you don't get one, you can be a thorn in everyone's side.

I only really enjoy playing face to face. I just started a one move per week game at the office. Should get interesting.


In the only game I have played I was France with no Italy.

Far too advantageous for France.


Do you know of a better site for playing diplomacy?


I hope you won't mind if I promote my site, http://backstabbr.com. We felt like none of the other Diplomacy sites on the Internet had a modern interface (and they weren't compatible with mobile phones) so we set out to fix that. We also have a Sandbox that you can use to play around with potential moves. If you give it a shot, I'd be eager to hear your feedback. Thanks!


I'm going to need to actually see how the controls work during play, but signup and creation are far better than any of the other web judges I've played under. Good job!


There is a sandbox you can try.


The Sandbox is definitely where I'd recommend you start. It'll give you an immediate feel for how everything other than press works. (And the press is pretty straightforward.)


Looks quite nice, but doesn't appear that you have had time to make it much mobile friendly?

Is it feature complete otherwise?


Well, our website is only partially responsive (if that's what you mean) but you can definitely use the site from any of the major phone platforms. To the best of my knowledge, none of the other online Diplomacy sites are fully playable via phone.

And yes, the game is fully implemented. We lack a lot of the alternate rules and maps you can find on other sites, but our goal was to make the best possible experience for the core game instead of trying to cater to all the variations.


I was sold right up to the point where I needed a Google account to sign in. Is that strictly necessary?


I'm afraid so. We presently use Google exclusively for user management. For whatever it's worth, the only thing we take from your profile is your email address.


unfortunately the people I would want to play this with don't all have gmail accounts.


Would be nice to have some tweens/effects for movement & resolve phases.


I'm not entirely sure what you mean by that. Could you elaborate?


When you look at the resolve phase, to have the lines/units tween into their new position (or bump one another in case of a draw), makes it easier to see what went where and makes it a bit juicier.


Ah, yes. Well, I can tell you that one of the things we've talked about a fair amount recently is changing the color of displacement/retreat move orders, so that they are more visually distinguished from a regular failed move.


Similarly, I introduced our office to Conquer Club (an online, slow-turn, RISK clone [0]) and it led to such a lack of productivity that it was subsequently banned. Too much fun!

[0]: http://www.conquerclub.com/


I have a couple friend groups that I play Warlight [0] with. It can be a slow, massive multi-day game down to a fast paced 2-on-2 "realtime" game.

[0]: http://www.warlight.net/


I've been playing this with online friends:

http://triton.ironhelmet.com/

It's a space-based strategy game that has a lot of diplomatic elements, and the thing we really like is everything about it is completely deterministic, other than one researchable ability that gives you research points in a random field every turn.

Anyway, the default one turn per day is fantastic, and the game "ticks" once per hour, meaning it can take between a few hours and a couple of days for your fleets to transit between stars. It's a great pace for checking in a few times a day, and the game has calculators to help with timing coordinated attacks.

Finally, and I think this is key, do not enable formal alliances. They allow allies to share vision and they require a 24 hour notice to break the alliance, which takes all the fun out of it :)


Hey, I didn't need to get anything done ever again anyway, cheers for linking it, it looks awesome!


Here's another online Risk clone with a variety of maps and house rules: http://landgrab.net


http://www.kdice.com is my favorite risk-like


I distinctly remember people storming out of games, including one who would not talk to us for weeks afterward. It is definitely a game that fuel emotions but it also helps you understand how to best deal with people, especially sensitive types.


Back in 2009 I was playing a game with Brian Ecton. My Germany was on the decline -- I'd played the preceding game with the Austrian player and the tournament director erred and put us next to each other again. It was my turn to read the orders and Brian stepped out for a smoke. When I got to Brian's England, I intentionally misread his orders and put his army into disarray. He was a bit cross when he returned to the table.

http://www.world-diplomacy-database.com/php/results/tourname...


> I intentionally misread his orders and put his army into disarray

I've never played Diplomacy before so take this with a grain of salt...but that seems like it should be against the rules. Or is it his fault for not being present when you read the orders?


From Diplomacy rules:

"Each player secretly writes 'orders' for each of his/her units on a slip of paper. Each player reads his/her orders while others make sure that what they hear is what is written. A legal order must be followed. An order written by mistake, if legal, must be followed. An 'illegal' or ambiguous order or an order that is given an illegal order (or given no order) must stand in place. (The unit holds.) A poorly written order that has only one meaning must be followed." [0]

Assuming the rule version is the same, the rules may not have been obeyed: the written command should have preceded the spoken command. Clearly, the players wanted England dead ;)

[0] https://www.wizards.com/avalonhill/rules/diplomacy.pdf


Yes, it's in violation of the rules. However, the enforcement of rules is at the pleasure of the tournament director. In tournament play, you typically do not read your own orders. Each round, one player reads starting with his/her own orders. If the rest of the table thinks that you cocked up your orders, no one else is going to police it for you. Walking away from the table during adjudication is egregiously bad play. It's unlikely that the TD would have done anything about it.

In a match with Edi Birsan, someone misread my orders to my advantage. Should I have proactively corrected them?

Occasionally in the chaos of play, a spare unit will make its way onto the board. This is common enough that it's called a flying dutchman[0]. I've seen it happen at least twice in tournament play.

People can get nasty when a tournament is at stake. Once someone managed to lock himself in a garage and his opponents declined to let him out until after orders were due.

[0]http://www.diplom.org/~diparch/resources/calhamer/dozen.htm


Do you recall what the criteria were for the awards in the bottom-right of that page? I'm especially curious what one would have to do to merit the title of 'Kissing Pigs' or 'Golden Pickle'.


I'll write to Conrad (the tournament director) and see if he can recall.

Edit: 'Drunk' was almost certainly meant literally. 'Golden Pickle' was awarded to Frank who had traveled from the Netherlands. I believe the criteria was "furthest distance traveled".


Kissing Pigs was awarded to players who habitually got into fights.

The Golden Pickle for misfortune suffered during the tournament. One year someone won it for falling off a cliff.


The Resistance is a great bluffing and lying game. I don't think it's enough to lose friends because each game doesn't last very long (roughly 20 min.), so it gives other people a chance to exact revenge or screw other people over in future rounds. However, the length of each game can go up dramatically with arguing and bickering, thus the possibility of ruined friendships.


I introduced this to my friends and it proved very popular at first and then . . . very controversial. If you've played with 9-10 players several times you know how insanely difficult it is for the Resistance to actually win. But one round the Resistance won, and the Spies were immediately yelling and screaming. It turned out that one of the chosen Spies (not his first game but his first as a Spy) had decided that working for a totalitarian regime was immoral and that it was unethical to "spy" even though that was his assigned role in the game. Thus he passed the mission for the Resistance every time, not out of a spirit of trolling but out of sincere moral belief - and he indicated that he would always cooperate with the "good guys" no matter what card he drew. The rest of the players were angry, Godwin's Law was invoked in record time, and we never invited him back for game night.


Egads. Sounds like one of the guys I've played tabletop RPGs with in the past. He'll have a character, clearly a minion of someone of questionable morality, and then when the time comes to complete his character's part of the bargain, his real world morality gets in the way. Very frustrating, especially since he's not consistent with it so you can't anticipate what game events will trigger a game-breaking response.

He's still in a couple of groups, but if the game dies for reasons other thna scheduling conflicts, it's probably his doing or a TPK.


Sound like a good reason to punish and ostracize the most religiously ethical people. I hope this was your goal.


Sounds like a good reason to not play with people who don't want to play the game for their team.

Seriously, if you can't tell the difference between spying in real life, and spying in a game, you're not the most 'ethical' person, you're the most confused person.


In Resistance you're essentially forced to lie if you're one of the spies, so people are less likely to take it personally.


There's a fairly small but active community playing it online here: http://www.theresistanceonline.com/


Ya, I love the Resistance. The only problem is, 3 of us that play are too good at lying that none of us ever trust them which makes the game really, really hard to win. Everyone usually ends up losing as much as they win because of it.

There are only 7 of us so its virtually impossible for the bad liars to all end up on the "honest" team.


There's a new shorter one in that universe, Coup: http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/131357/coup


I've played that. It still involves bluffing etc but is much less about forming alliances. Still a pretty decent game, though.


Resistance is great. Our group made a google spreadsheet to play the game on, which adds an interesting element because there is more data to reference instead of relying on memory of past votes.


I'd argue that Diplomacy is only a game for "nerds" in a rather peculiar sense. The people who are really good at it are those that are capable of lying/acting convincingly. Face to face, that's quite difficult and falls outside of the skill set of the classic nerd. Online games are another matter. Here, I think long range analysis combined with good writing skills matter more, although the social elements are still in play.


We can split hairs over the different kinds of nerds, but I'm interested in how you would describe a group of people who sit in a room for 8 hours in a row while roleplaying foreign affairs on a fin-de-siècle map of Europe ;).


Even as I was hitting "submit" I was reconsidering my comment above, so your point is granted. I think I was just imagining the epitome of a great diplomacy player. In my head, this is someone not just smart, but charismatic, persuasive, and, shall we say, "ethically flexible." Say... Bill Clinton, for example; not someone I would have originally categorized as a nerd, but who might well meet that description upon reflection.


Political science students?


We played Diplomacy for extra credit in one of my International Affairs classes at Georgia Tech.


They are geeks not nerds.


That's a pretty unsophisticated look at the game. It's very possible to win a game of diplomacy without ever lying once. This is especially true if you play with the same people a few times: When people get to choose between being allied with a known backstabber or with someone that will tell the truth, guess what? The backstabber loses. After a big backstab, chances are you are getting clobbered in the next game, because on the first couple of turn, chances are you'll have trouble being part of an early alliance, and thus end up as food, especially if you are stuck playing Italy.

It's far more valuable to know who else is lying, and trying to gain information from other people on the table. So much of the game comes from figuring out what other people will do. Being persuasive is also very important, and it's very hard to be persuasive when people know you are a good liar.


Of course you don't have to lie to win at Diplomacy, but even in an iterated game scenario, I believe that never lying is a suboptimal strategy. As the article notes, players who do this are derisively called "care bears" and in my experience, aren't the most successful, though they may come in second fairly often (speaking from experience as something of a care bear myself.)

Over multiple repeated games with the same players, no doubt some sort of equilibrium arises where on the scale of 0 to 1, zero always being a care bear, and one always being cutthroat, an optimal strategy probably lies... well, I'd be curious to know exactly where that optimum lies, actually. Anyone care to guess? My guess would be somewhere around ~.25.


i disagree on some points. when playing these types of games with people you played many times with, its really about knowing WHEN and HOW to backstab.

playing a game where everyone is honest (especially in diplomacy where there is no random variation), you already know who is the winner from the onset. who would even want to play. diplomacy will always end in a tie if 'teams' are even and once you outnumber the enemy its over, unless someone doesnt keep their end. maybe I am remembering the game wrong


I think sociopaths is more appropriate than nerds ...


Every article that has anything to do with with involved, intellectual hobbies has to have the word "nerd" or "geek" in them nowadays. It's what sells, apparently.


Playing weekly or semi-weekly is the way to go for Diplomacy. Setting aside a full day for it and getting a full complement is too tough.

We played a game of this in the Google NY office this way. It was glorious for a bit -- intrigue upon intrigue upon intrigue. A week between turns really gives you a ton of time to stew over your plans. It got pretty serious; I remember having to call a cubemate (who wasn't part of the game) after I'd left the office and ask him to destroy a planning map I'd realized I'd accidentally left out.

Alas, the whole thing ended in acrimony. One guy who was getting trounced announced he was quitting the game -- in which case his pieces just passively stand their ground and are slowly overtaken -- but then changed his mind and submitted moves the next round after all. Another player called that out as bullshit (and let's be honest, it was kind of bullshit, but it was a friendly game and the rest of us were prepared to let it slide.) It turned into an irate shouting match in the office and the group abandoning the game halfway through. I believe there are still people in the Google NY office that avoid each other in hallways on account of that game.


I would argue that tricking people into thinking you were doing nothing is what Diplomacy is all about.


In my second-to-last year at University, eight others and me implemented Diplomacy as a "scalable web service" in Erlang. The game is hilariously brutal; I've vowed to never play it with my girlfriend. I played it on the web for a while after, but stopped playing, the complete lack of empathy in this game was too much ;) Maybe I should try it again some time.

You can find some documentation here, we were the "Erlang Solutions" project:

https://www.it.uu.se/edu/course/homepage/projektDV/ht11

The code is on github: https://github.com/treacheroustalks/Treacherous-Talks


I never played but want too. If you live near SF and want to give diplomacy a go with a few fellow hackers that don't know each other this Friday evening (the 20th), email me (address in bio) first come first serve - I'll host an event in our office (right off 16th Bart station in Mission). Once we get a small group we can coordinate logistics over email.


What an excellent article. I think this needs a documentary, in the style of Wordplay[1] and King of Kong[2].

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wordplay_(film)

[2]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_of_kong


Agreed, it sounds like this game breeds interesting stories.


Hell, it needs a reality show. Poker proved to be popular!


We played this a lot when I was younger. The biggest challenge for us was patience. The friend who was the best at it ultimately wound up a tenured political science faculty member in the DC area. Go figure.


I learned a lot of my people skills from Diplomacy. It also helped me work out a number of trust issues.

Before someone gets worried about the first statement, it does not mean that I am the kind of person who will betray someone - in fact, all my friends will testify that I am unreasonably loyal even under difficult circumstances. What it does mean is that after playing Diplomacy, I became much more self-aware about what I was doing to build friendships and/or relationships, and what others were doing, and also much more flexible at considering things from other people's point of view and therefore constructing deals that actually work for all parties.


For a really long running game that is guaranteed to lose you friends, try Riskopoly ( http://www.gilwood.org/riskopoly.htm ).

I describe it as Risk with a military-industrial complex.


Risk-tego is another, it's just like risk but every time you attack a territory you play a game of stratego to determine the outcome.


How about Risk-tego-poly?


The ultimate test of endurance is probably The Campaign For North Africa game with a listed play time of 1200 Hours with 10 people.

http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/4815/the-campaign-for-nor...


The campaign for north africa is a little much. It's two teams of five people -- and the five people each have roles if you're doing it right. Logistics officer, etc.

I'm more a fire in the east type guy: http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/8993/fire-in-the-east


That's insane. I wonder how many matches have been completed of this game.


Two more than a world series in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statis_Pro_Baseball Statis Pro Baseball?


Very interesting.

But I hate this kind of writing.

It's way to long and runs in circles to many times for my taste.


I have to agree. I'm sure it's great for those with the time, but there was nothing for those wishing to skim through and get an idea of what the game/story is about. I'm interested in this sort of game, but I already have a lot of long-form in my "To Read" bookmark folder, and a stack of books beside the bed as it is.


An ironically lengthy way of saying "tl;dr".


Except that if anyone sees this longer explanation, they can realise there are often ways to improve the way they've presented their story and create something to that appeals to a broader range of people.

Things like bullet points, pullquotes, images and so on are a bit like an inline TL;DR.


> It's way to long and runs in circles to many times for my taste.

I think the game can play like that too...


I have to put in a plug for Scott Nesin's http://gamesbyemail.com, which has an implementation of Diplomacy, as well as several other great games.


Nice!

Has anyone here played War on Terror http://www.waronterrortheboardgame.com/? Think Risk, but with an Axis of Evil, Terrorists, and a balaclava (not baclava, unfortunately) included in the game pack.

It was also branded criminal by the police - couldn't ask for better promotion: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/war-on-terror-boa...


I am always looking for people to play Diplomacy and none of my friends are interested. I think I need new friends.


You should look into A Game of Thrones: The Board Game. It's very similar to diplomacy at it's core, but has a bunch more going on. The people who just play the game mechanics tend to lose, and the people who build alliances, make deals, and break some of them at the right time are the ones who win.

It makes it to the table with my group of friends because it takes much less time to play than Diplomacy.

Just like Diplomacy, you may not want to play it with people who take the board game backstabbing stuff too seriously.


Then when you find new friends, you can play a game... and you will need new friends again.


There's no such thing as friends, only people you haven't yet played diplomacy with.


Counter: There is not such things as enemies... only people you haven't played Diplomacy with.


that is soooo true.... I've seen chairs flying thanks to diplomacy...


We used to play this in single day marathons with 30 minutes of negotiation per turn. It was glorious.

I was quite successful and lots of people hated me for having backstabbed them in previous games but that only made my game better. Having an opponent dead set against me was just barter for my trades with other people.

There is no other game like it, although I'm told Intrigue gets a little bit of the double cross feel.


Look for online play. Much better that way anyway.


In the time I spend writing e-mails for one turn in an on-line game I probably could play most of a face-to-face game.


But don't you miss the face to face interaction? Watching everything play out...


Not a bit. You'll get to watch the playing-out in your email, or on the board. And the level of secrets makes the playout so much more interesting!

If you're playing face to face and you see Russia and Germany go talk for ten of the fifteen minutes, it's no secret that they're working together. Online, it's much harder to tell.


The face to face meetings add another dimension with false signaling, too. Hey France, next round I'll talk to Germany and get that army moved out of there for you...

Oh man, the emotional investment in this game is just never replaced by online play, imo.


It's also amazing to see how emotional simple emails can become. It really does break people. Now I'm getting the itch again...


Or you might not want to mix the people you play Diplomacy with and your friends. :-)

I love the game in theory, but I felt too bad after backstabbing people. (So if we ever play, trust me! :-) )

It was shocking to realize how wimpy I really am.


I lost my best friend for several years after backstabbing him in a game of Diplomacy.


Seriously? Why do people take it so seriously...


There's a comment in the article about how the game brings out people's "true" personality. I disagree with that, as I think that optimizing your score in a game needn't/shouldn't have anything to do with personality, but for whatever reasons it's a common reaction people have when playing the game. "Oh, this person is truly truly horrible and I never realized until now." That kind of thinking generally leads to unrecoverable breakdowns in real world relations.


I think that's more or less it. I was just playing to win. Although the manner of my betrayal may have been a factor. While we were allied, my friend insisted on being the one to deliver both of our orders himself. When I broke the alliance, I allowed him to deliver the orders that we worked out together, but then I secretly delivered a separate set of orders for my own forces with a note saying that they were to countermand any other orders that might be received. It was kind of underhanded, but so was his insistence on delivering my orders (since doing so would allow him to unilaterally betray me), so I figured he had it coming.


We never got into it at my office, but there's another game that offers similar tactics and is playable online, called Neptune's Pride[0]. It offers similar amounts of negotiation (and backstabbing), and we found that the game grew so contentious that people legitimately lost trust with each other in the office. Could be that we're just a sensitive bunch, but it was surely an interesting dynamic change.

[0]: http://np.ironhelmet.com/


Everything I've read about [Eve Online][0] and [Metagaming][1] is about how this kind of diplomacy games are so socially challenging that I'm beginning to wonder if this might be a generally useful skill for anyone. I just can't figure out the balance between the time in the game and time for everything else. I don't play these games because of that. However, if you're playing against a larger pool of people (outside the office) it would probably prevent trust decay.

(Off topic) I didn't think that HN did Markdown in comments but your post convinced me that it is perfectly useful in that zero-based endnote-format style you used that I'm going to co-opt it.

[0]: http://www.eveonline.com/ [1]: http://eve-tribune.com/index.php?no=2_38&page=5


Be warned: Neptune's Pride has the fatal flaw (or killer feature, depending on who you ask) of occurring in real time. Later in the game, as it speeds up, players who log in more often gain a tactical advantage.


There's a sequel out now, at http://triton.ironhelmet.com that has the option of progressing time in steps once everyone confirms orders.

So you can set it to 12h steps, get payday every 2 steps, or whatever you feel like. With the right settings, if everyone is active during the day you can get maybe 4 or 5 steps complete and then nothing happening over the weekend.


Yep - this is what we ended up playing. Though we did just do it time-based, which also created a bit of a hit on productivity :-)


So, here's a crazy idea: create an AI to play as one of the players in the web/mobile version of the game. It's a modified Turing test.


Cool idea. I'd actually really like to see that. You could start by programming it for gunboard (no-press) games, then expand from there to adding the communication elements. (Which, while challenging, would be much easier than a standard Turing Test, since the scope is limited. Plus, even if a potential ally is able to identify the computer player, they may very well still be willing to ally with it.


There are some diplomacy AIs - I worked on a simple one as a project in college. There's a standard for communication and a range of bots already implemented. See the mailing list at https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/dipai/info


We play Diplomacy at our office and I jokingly refer to it as "team building". All said everyone has a pretty good time and can recognize it's a game. We play one move a day and games typically last around a month. I have been certainly been hurt by broken alliances, but I think it's a great character building experience to go trough.

All is fair in diplomacy.


Diplomacy. It's interesting that the movement (and support) mechanics are easy, it's the social aspects that are hard.


To elaborate a bit more: Diplomacy differs greatly from similar games (i.e. Axis and Allies, Risk) in that each army/fleet has the same 'strength'. There is no die-rolling involved to determine who wins in an encounter, it's just the number of units on offense/defense. It's impossible for a single army unit to capture a region so long as that region is occupied by an enemy unit, so taking territory requires either a concerted effort from multiple units that you own (which makes you weaker on other fronts), or it requires allying with other players in the game (which opens you up to being betrayed).

I wouldn't quite call it "the game that ruins friendships", but since it places a lot of emphasis on the social aspects of the game, rather than the strategic, it involves lots of lying and backstabbing, which can (understandably) strain relationships between the players.


I consider Diplomacy to be a brilliant game on par with chess or go - the only modern game I hold in such high regard. It's extraordinary that it's so well-balanced. Even Italy, the weakest power, has a decent win rate in online play ratings. The rules, with nothing left to chance but no alternating turns, make the game far more unpredictable than you'd expect.

And in my experience, good Diplomacy players do very little lying or backstabbing. The compulsive liar types can't get the strong alliances that lead to traction. A two or three way alliance that culminates in a later betrayal are the way to win.


Really? They're all that equal? I haven't played much, but the little bit I have Austria always gets crushed.


It's a little weird, but being weak makes negotiating easier. You get more bidders, more or less. Say you're in a 3 way dispute, with two stronger powers. It's real easy position them against each other and you're the obvious ally. This works well enough that even the weaker starting positions seem to be more influenced by alliance choices than by their objective positions.


Austria is second only to Italy in difficulty. The central board position is a strength, but also a weakness. I'm a firm believer that Austria needs to crush either Turkey or Russia as quickly as possible, so they can get their back to a wall somewhere and not be constantly surrounded. Turkey is a better target, because it enables naval operations later. But ultimately it depends on your opponents.


A solid Italy-Austria alliance (until near the end naturally) can get the job done.


Yeah, it's just hard to make Italy-Austria work, with the neighboring centers. Plus there's the ever-popular Lepanto. I love playing Italy, but if Austria offers me a Lepanto opening, I agree to it and then stab them immediately. Lepanto is a sucker's game.


The battle star galactic board game is another game where the social side is the important bit basically one or more of the payers are secretly cylons and have to subtly sabotage the game so that the human side loses.

The fun thing is part way through the game you can suddenly find that you are a cylon and have to switch sides.

The D6 generation is a good podcast that covers a lot of games both board and minatures


Or The Resistance, where some hidden spies try to fail the missions. You have to choose the team members for a mission but you don't know the spies ... unless you are the spy.


I played quite a bit in college with my friends. The most fun game I ever had was when I allied with the group's worst backstabber for the entire game and we won. The suspense every turn was awesome and the disbelief at the end was even better.


Here are the maps from the silliest game of diplomacy I ever played: http://www.jefftk.com/p/dip-space-nine

There are many rule variants, but Star Trek is just too much.


I used to play about 10 years ago via email with a small group of rotating players. It was always a frustrating, but enjoyable experience. Maybe I'll play again someday.


I played Diplomacy once. I ended up foiling a veteran player's plan to screw me over at the end, leading to a two-way tie between us. It was great!


This sounds fascinating and the kind of game I'd get a rush from. Is there a popular forum to find other face to face players?



Most tournament play is organized on mailing lists. If you e-mail me, I can put you in touch with players in Seattle.


I played one game of Diplomacy by email.

In preparation for that I read everything I found about (advanced) strategy, all the possibilities that are open to the different countries and so on.

In the end I was probably the only English player who never managed to leave his island...

After that I was so terribly frustrated that I never tried another game.


Sometimes it happens. If France and Germany decide come hell or high water they're going to take you out - maybe they've even allied in previous games, so you never had a chance - there really isn't a whole lot you can do (unless you're really lucky with all the other powers). Even so you're not likely to win, but might eek out part of a tie.


When you tell your neighbors that it is your first time, they will gut you ever so quickly. New players are usually just too unpredictable and unreliable to trust. Best you can hope for is to promise to be someone's slave and do exactly what they say so maybe you can avoid being the first one eliminated.


Or don't tell them it's your first time! :) Even if you're playing in the newbies section online, you could say you've played some FTF games, or email games on a different server or whatever. Once you figure out what power you are, just read the Diplomatic Pouch openings article for that power, and you can fake experience pretty well.

IMO you want to come off as knowledgeable but not too experienced anyway. People are looking for allies who are going to be reliable (and communicate well!), but who won't be too tough to run over when the time comes. So that's what you look like... until you're ready to pull out the knife!


Oh man this game looks right up my alley, any idea how a man on the otherside of the world could play? I don't like the idea of playing by email or mail and I also don't want to ruin any of my friendships


You really should give play by email a chance. It can be great fun. Games usually take a few months, with turns generally once a week, sometimes every two weeks. While you could invest more, it certainly doesn't need to take up more than an hour or so a week of your time. In fact... I may have to see if I can find a game now. It's been a few years!


I dunno I'm kind of hesitant to do that because I'm much better face to face and appealing to emotion than I am writing out convincing speeches to get people to support me but you and the above commentor convinced me so I'll have a look around when I get my holidays soon


Do you know where I could go to find people who are playing it through email?


I used to play at DipWorld, but it looks like it's a lot less active lately. It appears that the most active community now is at the Diplomatic Pouch. The site design leaves something to be desired, but after some clicking around, this appears to be a decent place for a new player to start: http://www.diplom.org/Email/


It's been years but http://www.redscape.com/ is one location to play by email.

Personally I play a bit on my phone using the Droiddippy app. However you can also play via web at http://droidippy.oort.se/web.


I've played face to face and by email. They are really different games but playing by email is really quite fun. The tempo is different and the games take on an epic quality. A typical play by email game will lasts 3-6 months and can go longer. You'll often be waiting days to find out the results of some critical moves. Over email there is an entirely new class of interpersonal tactics ("Oh I must have missed your email asking for support - I'm so sorry!", forwarding messages from other players, etc.)


I love Diplomacy and have played it forever, in person, by email, even as kid by snail mail. There is a great variant called 1900 by Baron VonPowell that is actually better. But it is my all time favorite game.


If you want a video game that engenders the same kind of backstabbing, tension and mistrust, you might want to give Defcon a go. It's nerve-wracking.


Played many years of it with friends... The before D&D claim is dubious on the basis of pooularity.

I've been a big friend of Avalon Hill titles over the years.


Regardless, the roots of D&D can be traced back to Diplomacy; Jimmy Maher talks about it here: http://www.filfre.net/2011/07/dungeons-and-dragons/


I have never played this, it sounds great.

If you are playing over email and one person becomes unresponsive, what is the standard thing to do?


There are established deadlines for submitting orders. When someone misses it, one of the following things happens (which one happens is agreed upon before the game starts):

- units for which orders haven't been submitted just hold still, or

- whenever anyone's orders are missing after the deadline, the game gets paused and there is an open call for replacement players in a mailing list.


Each year for the past 3-5 years me and my friends have been getting together for a weekend to play a few years of WWII. The game that we have been mostly playing is Columbia Games' Eastfront II, which covers the eastern war with Germany and Soviet Russia. It's basically a hex-based map with different terrains, rivers, weather changes, HQ-driven troop mobilization and combat - the rules are abstract but not overly so to uphold an enjoyable immersion. The game also employs fog of war with thick wooden standing unit pieces, which certainly adds to the excitement.

The game is advertised for 2 players, but we went ahead and modded the rules for 6 players + a referee. We made both sides consist of 3 field commanders plus a supreme commander. We looked at the map and divided it into 3 parts: the north, the middle and the south. For each part of the map, a German field commander and a Soviet counterpart would sit against each other and hold command of their own area. They saw only units that moved on their map. We decided that each 4 turns (a turn was a fortnight) the field commanders could all go have a meeting with their supreme commander, discuss strategy and synchronize information. We usually set these meetings to last for about 10-15 minutes.

The role of the supreme commander was to dole out repair points plus reinforcements and to send messages to their field commanders. Each turn the supreme commander could send a message to all of his subordinates, and each turn all of his field commanders could send one message to their supreme commander and one message to their fellow field commander. A message could be intercepted with a possibility of 1/6. Intercepting the message meant that the referee would toss a die and if it turned out one, he would take it to the enemy supreme commander without the sender knowing about it until the next meeting.

As an addition, the supreme commander had a map, but he had nothing in it except his own unit, which was good for moving singular units, sending paratroops and air strikes. The supreme commander would also get all the dead units brought out to him when units started dying. You would definitely know things were bad when infantry that were at the edge of Moscow 3 turns ago (or so you recall...) were handed to you by the referee!

Last year we upped the ante and tried out EuroFront II by Columbia Games. It was an epic attempt to play the final year of the war with the whole map of Europe, the winner being the one who holds the most Victory Cities (historically notable European cities) in their supply network by May 1945. With over a dozen players we anticipated problems in our message delivery system, which mainly consisted of a two guys gathering a bunch of papers from players and throwing dice for each message per turn per player side.

We opted for an easier solution and I set out to build a simple messaging system. It was a horrible PHP Slim-based Bootstrap webapp, with business rules written in postgresql functions and code structure being an implementation of pasta. I suspected it would be a maintaining nightmare (and it sure was!), but it worked without a problem during that weekend. Everyone loved it, including our refs' feet.

This year the game is Eastfront II and the messaging is modified for two player sides. We will also allow messages to pass through to their original recipient even if they are captured. With this we will experiment whether the turns will become more interesting for the players whose messages are always captured.

Based on this horrid ad-hoc prototype of mine, I'm currently working on building a more generic, a rule-based messaging system for our guys. Definitely more maintainable this time, promise.

Ps. For what it's worth, the ultimate alpha nerd war game seems to be The Campaign for North Africa. I will invite you to read the description of the game as described in Board Game Geek [0].

[0] http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/4815/the-campaign-for-nor...


don't promote shit titled like this in Hackr News


Hmm I thought it would have been BattleTech.


I would argue that its a geek game, not a nerd game.

Either way I have wasted dozens of hours playing, and it taught me how tedious other people can be.


Why would you play Diplomacy if you can play Twilight Imperium 3, A Game of Thrones the Board Game or War of the Ring instead?

Pretty sure us "alpha-nerds" would rather battle it out in fantasy/scifi settings than with boring old "real world" troops (Here I Stand is excellent if you want that). All of those games are also a lot better imo.

Always thought Diplomacy was pretty meh :)


I can't speak to the other games, but similar to Chess and Go, I love Diplomacy because there is zero chance involved in the game. Nothing ever comes down to a dice roll or coin flip.


In case it wasn't clear I thought the term "alpha-nerd" was a pretty poor choice in the article and he should have gone full cliché while he was at it. Otherwise I really enjoyed the article. I'm for anything that promotes board gaming in any way (as a graduate from the University of Duisburg-Essen @Essen that comes with the territory I suppose)


Nerds don't necessarily prefer fantasy/scifi to historical settings. You may be conflating nerds with geeks.


Because ick? Some people like games, some people like pretending to be fantasy creatures, and some people like both.




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