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Rat Diplomacy 2: Fish Cannot Carry Guns

Discussion in 'MP Gaming' started by sqeecoo, Jan 6, 2017.

  1. sqeecoo Arcane

    sqeecoo
    Joined:
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    Dear Codexers, it's time for another round of Diplomacy Online! A game of betrayal, backstabbing, and romance! Welcome everyone!

    [​IMG]

    For those who are new to it or need a reminder, I'll shamelessly reuse my writeup from the last one in the spoilers below.

    Show Spoiler
    Diplomacy, a Backstabbing and Betrayal Boardgame! Basically, you get a simple map and a couple of units, and seven lucky players duke it out in a free-for-all. The rules are simplistic but serviceable; all units have the same power and there are no dice rolls. So while good tactics and strategy matter, it is hard to beat an evenly matched player. Unless, of course, you have allies or betray him horribly - hence the name of the game.

    The game will be played at http://www.playdiplomacy.com/ and work just like any other Play By E-Mail (PBEM) game - everyone submits their turns before the timer runs out, and once it does all the moves are processed simultaneously. This is originally a board game, so it lasts much shorter than, say, a game of Dominions 4 or SMAC. The rules for face-to-face games allow for 20 minutes of diplomacy between players followed by 5 minutes to write down their orders, to give you an idea how much it takes to play. But we will have turns lasting 48 hours for a nice speedy tempo.
    It's also pretty likely someone will be eliminated in the first half a dozen turns or so. When my friends and I played it, we actually had a surrender on turn 1 once, by England. "We will fight on the beaches" indeed.

    Here's the starting map:
    [​IMG]

    The little cannons are armies, the ships are fleets. These are first turn positions - as you can see, each country has a color and there's some neutral territory in between.

    Troop movements are pretty simple. Armies move on land, fleets move on seas and coastal provinces. If both the units in, say, Munich and Venice move to Tyrolia (usually abbreviated to Mun, Ven, Tyr) they will just bounce off and stay where they are, both having a strength of 1. If the Austrian army in Vienna (Vie) is ordered to "Support Venice MOVE to Tyrolia", the Venice army will effectively have a strength of 2 and will enter Tyr, with the Mun army bouncing off and staying in place. Units can support other units if they border the province the unit is moving to - or the province the unit is holding in. Armies can't support fleets in the sea, obviously; the supporting unit has to be able to move to the province it's supporting into. Be careful when setting orders, since the game lets you give invalid orders. Still, it's pretty simple.

    If, however, in our previous example Russia had an army in Galicia and ordered Gal MOVE to Vienna, it would bounce off the army in Vienna but would "cut" the support Vienna was giving to the Venetian army. An army that is attacked, successfully or not, cannot give support. In such a case the Vie and Mun armies would have a strength of 1 since the support was cut, and would bounce off.

    Fleets can convoy armies over sea - the fleet needs to be in a sea adjacent to the army. The army is ordered to MOVE where it needs to go, and the fleet should have the order to CONVOY the army from where it is to where it needs to go. So for instance, if Italy wants to convoy an army in Naples to Tunis via the Ionian sea, the army will be ordered to MOVE to Tunis, and the fleet will be ordered to CONVOY army Nap to Tun. You can also chain convoy armies via multiple fleets to distant areas - pretty useful. Unlike support, convoy orders are not cut by attacks, but if the fleet is dislodged and forced to retreat the convoy order will fail.

    As to victory, you win if you hold 18 centers in a Fall turn. Sounds simple enough, but in fact winning a solo victory like that is very difficult in Diplomacy. If someone wins a solo victory in this game, he can truly be crowned the Rat Diplomat of the Codex, and fame and fortune deservedly awaits him.
    This is because there is no fog of war - it will always be obvious who is about to win, and unless you can find someone to help you out and play kingmaker for you (perhaps because of a grudge against another player) it will be extremely hard to get those 18 centers if the rest of the board does the rational thing and unites against you. Just getting to 10+ centers first can be dangerous, as players will tend to ally against the early leader. This definitely cost me in the past.

    Even if you are actually stronger than everyone, some areas of the map are hard or impossible to breach when properly defended - primarily the areas around Switzerland and the entrance/exit to the Mediterranean sea. These are called "stalemate lines", and it can be very useful to get even a single unit past them early, if you can - otherwise you might find yourself within reach of winning the game but simply stalemated in those areas. More info can be found in the strategy articles I linked, but I for one never bothered to learn all the details of the stalemate lines. It's enough to know that your last push to victory must be a blitz, since other players can usually organize a near-impentrable defence against your victory if given the chance.

    Anyway, the game can also end in a draw: any player at any point can propose a draw between any number of surviving nations. If all surviving nations agree, the game ends in a draw according to the proposal (not all surviving nations have to be part of the draw proposal, but all have to agree). The game will usually end in a three-way draw. A two-way draw is theoretically possible, but will require irrational trust between the two winning allies. With just two players, someone can always backstab the other and go for the victory.

    As to economy, each game year (we start in Spring 1901) has a Spring and Fall turn (Summer and Winter are reserved for retreats). If your unit ends the Fall turn in a province you haven't conquered yet, it will be conquered and turn your color. After each Fall turn (i.e. every other turn) the number of supply centers, the provinces with stars on them, is counted; if you have more star provinces than armies (and fleets), you get to build a new one but only in one of your original centers - the ones you start the game with - and only if you have an empty one.

    Turns are submitted before the timer ends, and processed simultaneously.

    That's pretty much it!

    Oh, and one more thing!

    Here http://www.diplomacy-archive.com/resources/strategy.htm you can find tons of strategy articles on the game. None of them are required reading, but I suggest you read one or two (they tend to be short) on your country once those are assigned.

    Anyway, here's some descriptions for every country! These are of course my personal views - any game may go off in completely different direction and change things completely, and much better players than me may well see the nations completely differently. General concepts and terms are in bold :)

    Turkey
    Turkey is kinda a turtling nation. Excellent defensive position and a guaranteed early gain in Bulgaria, but hard to expand from there. May take it a bit slow early, but has a good chance of ruling the Mediterranean and pushing its armies into Europe through Austria or Russia. Turkey has an incredibly strong ally in Russia, and that alliance is called the "Juggernaut" in Diplomacy jargon. Basically, the two of them can easily run over Europe unless pretty much everyone else drops what they are doing and opposes them, so their alliance often uses fake clashes to disguise itself. On the other hand, Russia and Turkey have a difficult border that is bound to spark tension, especially around the Black Sea - one of those two powers getting a fleet into the Black Sea gives a huge advantage over the other.

    Russian and Turkey will often have an arranged bounce there - i.e. both order their starting fleets to move there by agreement, bouncing and keeping it empty.

    Of course, Turkey doesn't have to ally with Russia - early on it can probably bring down Russia on its own with a well-timed attack since Russia has multiple fronts to worry about. An alliance with Austria is unlikely to last the whole game but gives both nations a safe flank early, which is very valuable. Relations will always be strained with Italy unless Turkey agrees to limit its fleet builds, in which case that alliance can work very well too, with Italy having a safe flank in the sea and Turkey marching its armies onward with their naval support.

    Russia
    Russia is the only nation with 4 starting armies and centers - all others start with 4 instead. It shares the advantage of being able to build fleets both in the ocean to the north and the Med sea with France, albeit in sub-par positions. Remember, you can only build new units in the centers you start with. Anyway, RUSSIA STRONK! This can be a double-edged sword though, as players may become worried as you quickly climb to 5+ centers.
    Also, the Russian position in the north is very tenuous unless you focus heavily on it and depends on whether the Western Triangle nations (England, France, Germany; there's also the Eastern Triangle - Russia, Turkey, Austria; Italy is kinda the swing(er) nation) are busy enough with each other to ignore Russia or use it as a minor ally, since both England or Germany could obliterate its north forces if they concentrate on it while Russia concentrates elsewhere. Russia will have to look to its south and find an ally there as well. Fortunately, Russia pairs well with both Turkey and Austria - the only problem being that Russia is large and flexible and usually benefits more from either alliance, which may mean your ally will stab you sooner rather than later.

    That can be resolved by keeping parity in conquered centers between allies - the path to a fruitful, betrayalless alliance :)

    Austria
    Austria is the high-risk high-reward nation. It's by far the most likely to be eliminated early, being in a central position with at least three neighbors eyeing it, but if it survives it has a prime central position to expand with short supply lines in any direction it wants, in an area very rich with supply centers.
    Surviving those first few years is tough, and you have to find a firm ally among your neighbors. It helps that if Russia and Turkey obviously team up against you you can scream "Juggernaut!!!" and some players may actually listen :)
    Austria usually works closely with Germany, since they are neighbors but both have problems of their own to resolve in their respective Triangles. If you read some of the strategy guides for Germany, you may find advice like "tell Russia you wont let him into Sweden on turn 2 if he moves into Galicia on turn 1" and such to help keep Austria alive, from a German perspective, so there's a good chance that you can count on Germany to have your back as Austria. Or not, who knows!

    Generally, Austria will use the army in Budapest to grab Serbia on turn one and the two other forces to defend, possibly with an arranged bounce in Galicia with Russia. If you trust Italy a LOT, you can go ahead and move your fleet from Trieste to Alb to contest Greece on turn 2.

    Italy
    From what I've read, there are two schools of though for Italy: about half of the players think you should ALWAYS attack Austria, and the rest say you should NEVER attack Austria :)
    Attacking Austria early encourages Russia and Turkey to go ahead and grab their piece, making your piece small and leaving you next to two powerful nations without a buffer state. On the other hand, not attacking Austria early often has you just grab Tunis (often by convoying an army there via the Ionian sea - holding that sea is crucial for Italy) and then stagnate: it's hard to attack Turkey to the east with ships when France could pounce on you at any time, and going for France will let Turkey just waltz into your centers with his fleets. On the other hand, Austria makes an ideal ally in that situation - help him fight Turkey and then rush to meet France in the west! Of course, Austria will be in prime position to backstab you if you do that.

    Italy is a nation with a potential for remaining a mediocre power due to stagnation and a nation of tough decisions - only a couple of turns lost moving your fleets east or west can mean your death. On the other hand, it's the prime naval power in the Med sea and has a central position, no real threats, and generally everyone is happy to request help or ally with Italy at the start.

    France
    France has a pretty decent position and some guides recommend it as a good nation for noobs. You get two pretty much guaranteed builds in the first year in Spain and Portugal using the fleet in Brest and the army in Mar (that is if Italy is not up to any crazy attacks against you), and can even contest Belgium with your Parisian army. However, unless you trust Germany a lot, it may be smarter to arrange a bounce in Burgundy just to make sure a German army does not sneak into your lines. If you grab those two centers in your first year you can hold out fairly well even if Germany and England decide to gang up on you. Not forever, but long enough for help to arrive form the east or Italy.

    In general, having an enemy army move in behind your front line is a huge pain, since eliminating just a single army behind your lines takes a hugely disproportionate force, at least 3 of your own units usually. This is because while you can dislodge that enemy army and force it to retreat, it can still keep retreating and cutting support or taking centers from behind your line until you actually corner it and destroy it (a dislodged - attacked by a unit with more support - army is destroyed only when there is nowhere left to retreat).

    In any case, France has the very nice advantage of being able to build fleets both in the Med and in the north - and in much better and more forward positions than Russia. Balancing when you will build armies vs. fleets and whether you want to concentrate north or south is tough however, and mistakes can cost you the game :)

    Germany
    Germany shares the advantage of a central position with Austria but without the horribly precarious earlygame position. Russia usually has the south to worry about and is keen on good relations with Germany to secure its northern holdings, and Austria is happy to see someone that's not thinking about killing them. That usually lets Germany focus on its west at the start of the game, unless you choose to go for a risky early attack on Russia. However, by midgame Germany will probably be surrounded by strong powers to its east and west, and in a slightly more exposed position than an Austria that survives the earlygame crucible.

    Standard opening moves for Germany are moving the Kiel fleet to Denmark and then threatening Russia to bounce him in Sweden if he goes for Austria, and grabbing Hol with the other armies. You can contest Belgium if you like as well, but that may be pushing it.

    By standard opening moves I mean those most commonly suggested based on the strategy articles and my experience - but this does not mean that other moves are not possible, or clearly better in some games. As Diplomacy players are fond of saying in strategy discussions: It's situational.

    England

    England, like Turkey, has a good defensive position but can easily get "stuck". As long as you can hold the North Sea province you are pretty safe - although arranging a DMZ (demilitarized zone) in the English Channel with France is smart. Of course, you could move there yourself right away, but that leaves it up to Germany to decide who to support - you have shown your hand are are committed. The same hold for France and the Eng channel as well. Grabbing it on turn 1 is a strong move, but leaves your fate in the hands of Germany and who it chooses to ally with.

    In general, DMZs mean that either side entering that province means war. There's no wrong way to play, but the way we did it was not so much making deals that you promise not to break, but rather saying "either side not holding to this will constitute war". The situation changes too quickly in Diplomacy to make long-term deals easy, like the NAPs used in Dominions 4. Not impossible though, and whatever playstyle you think is best/suits you the most is the way to go :)

    Anyway, England will normally grab Norway by moving fleets to the North Sea and Norwegian Sea (to have support available if Russia moves the Moscow army to St.P and can potentially block a lone English fleet from taking Norway) and then either convoy the army to Norway (usually seen as anti-Russian) or take it with a fleet, perhaps contesting Belgium with the army and other fleet.

    After that it's easy as England to get stuck taking bits of the northern coasts here and there and not doing much else. To prosper, England will eventually have to both get armies to the mainland and breach the Med sea - not an easy task while keeping France and/or Germany happy. In fact, because England is likely to have naval dominance in the north and thus is likely able to backstab their German or French ally with impunity, France and Germany are sometimes reluctant to ally with England. This is balanced by the fact that even a joint attack by France and Germany on England is slow and painful if the English defend tenaciously, and the delay may leave France and Germany behind their eastern opponents in tempo.

    Of course, a careful arrangement of relative fleet strengths makes alliance with Germany and/or France perfectly possible for England - just slightly more complicated than usual.

    There you have it, I hope that helps or at least makes for a semi-interesting read :)


    Already subscribed are Eadee, jeroendstout, Kulja, and me. We have three more spots open, and everyone is welcome to join!

    Lizzurd, Dayyālu, Matalarata, KoolNoodles, Joined on the 4th of July, expressed some interest or played in the previous game. I hope I haven't forgotten someone :)

    Spots are taken first-come-first serve, but I'll give preference to people who were in the last game and want to play again. Still, there'll probably be room for a noob or two, if there are any takers. The game is very simple so you won't have any trouble learning the rules in the few days it takes to start, but the strategy and diplomacy is very deep. Time investment is low, though, so no need to worry about that either. Hope to see you in game!
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2017
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  2. Eadee Learned

    Eadee
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    [​IMG]
     
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  3. KoolNoodles Arcane

    KoolNoodles
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    Cautiously interested maybe. I think I'm in a good spot with other PBEM games, but as you know....I drop off for a few days at a time. In a game like Diplomacy, that's unforgiving. :|
     
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  4. Dayyālu Arcane

    Dayyālu
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    Nein. I almost popped a vein last time: I can maybe get another noob to join in, but he's diplo shy so I don't know how he would manage.
     
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  5. Tigranes Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Tigranes
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    Is this alive? If players are needed I could. I know the rules and have played, but I'm still pretty much a noob. Mostly run by forum PMs and thread or?
     
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  6. Muty Prophet Patron

    Muty
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    Wasteland 2 BattleTech
  7. Eadee Learned

    Eadee
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    It is alive, allthough Sqeecoo barely is these days. We don't expect to get all 7 players together within a week, we will simply start when full.
     
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  8. sqeecoo Arcane

    sqeecoo
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    It's alive! Sorry guys, as Eadee says I was pretty badly sick. So, I'll count KoolNoodles and Tigranes in, great! What about you Muty, does that "Hmmm" mean you are in as well? :)

    Dayyalu I was sure you'd be in, we had such fun killing you last time!
     
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  9. Muty Prophet Patron

    Muty
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    Wasteland 2 BattleTech
    yes
     
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  10. sqeecoo Arcane

    sqeecoo
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    Such a verbose and diplomatic response! I see you will take to the game like a fish to water, Muty.

    Anyway, KoolNoodles and Tigranes, please confirm your participation, and then we are all set! And yeah, communication is either through the ingame message system on the game's site or here on the forum (or skype/steam, whatever you like). We are all noobs, I think, no one has played this extensively. I have like maybe half a dozen games under my belt?

    What's your preference for the turn timer? 48h? Bear in mind, extensions exist however not at the admin's discretion but if all players vote yes - and people will probably miss your extension request, so effectively extensions are unlikely. And stalling hurts the whole match, so please, no stalling.
     
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  11. Eadee Learned

    Eadee
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    Well jeroendstout said: "If Muty is in, I'm too. Gotta show this guy how this game is played!"

    This is totally legit and don't listen to jeroen if he tries to claim something else.
     
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  12. Tigranes Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Tigranes
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    My cannons are erect. Probably 24 or 48 to keep it simple, I don't mind.
     
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  13. KoolNoodles Arcane

    KoolNoodles
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    Lemme think about it a day or two, or see if this big ice storm destroys the electrical grid. One or the other.
     
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  14. Eadee Learned

    Eadee
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    I vote for 48 hours (or longer). Turns will go quicker if EVERYBODY finalizes. And everybody finalizing their turns is much more likely than everybody agreeing on an extension in time.
     
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  15. jeroendstout Educated

    jeroendstout
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    I don't know if I can just join in this game right off the bat - someone just dragged me into this :P I'll sit this one out and watch you play.
     
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  16. Joined on the 4th of July Arcane

    Joined on the 4th of July
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    I'll pass. (No suicide-bombing English privateers this time, Dayyālu !)

    It's good to have diplomacy in a strategy game, but Diplomacy doesn't have much else. I like to have those complex mechanics also. Like in Dominions.
     
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  17. Eadee Learned

    Eadee
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  18. sqeecoo Arcane

    sqeecoo
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    Well, I prefer playing Dom4 as well, July, but there is a perfection in Diplomacy's simplicity. And if there is only diplomacy, then the diplomacy becomes very complex; I think your experience was the result of you playing diplo like in dom4, a couple of messages every few turns. In the east Eadee, Lizzurd, Kulja, Dayyalu and I had crazy complex diplomacy and literally plots within plots within plots.

    Human interactions and bending others to your will aren't something I'd call simple mechanics :) Of course, everyone has their preference, that's nothing wrong with that.
     
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  19. Dayyālu Arcane

    Dayyālu
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    I maybe got one of the crazy italians I know on board.

    He always wanted to try something "light" on the nets.
     
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  20. sqeecoo Arcane

    sqeecoo
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    You gotta join him then bro! One crazy Italian is not enough!
     
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  21. Projas Information Superhighwayman Patron

    Projas
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    Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    I'd be interested if you still don't have players or someone drops out. I'm a seasoned gunboater, but got very little experience in full press.

    Also if I may suggest using the vastly superior webdiplomacy.net for all of your diplomacy needs, it has actual non-retarded interface for inputing moves and no features behind a paywall. Don't support the playdiplomacy jew.
     
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  22. Eadee Learned

    Eadee
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    Well, I haven't played with webdiplomacy yet.

    Can you tell us some details which make webdiplomacy less retardet? I didn't encounter any problems when we played at playdiplomacy last time.
     
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  23. sqeecoo Arcane

    sqeecoo
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    Glad to have you Projas! I'm happy with Playdiplomacy and never needed the paid options, I don't mind them charging a bit for extra stuff as long as the vanilla game is free. But if there are other advantages to webdiplomacy we could give it a shot, especially if they have freer extension rules.

    We are still waiting on KoolNoodles' decision on whether he'll join or not :)
     
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  24. Tigranes Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Tigranes
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    I used webdiplomacy before as well, it's definitely simple and good, so that's my vote.

    Re. countries do we grab them or are they distributed randomly at game start? Webd allows for the latter I think.
     
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  25. sqeecoo Arcane

    sqeecoo
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    Last time we used the option on playdiplomacy where you select three preferences and then the nations are assigned as well as possible based on those preferences. Does webdiplo have something like that?
     
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