Diplomacy the Game


The other evening I was wandering aimlessly through the games section of Amazon, as is my want, when I came across a product that stirred a strange little memory - partly warm and fuzzy, partly uncomfortable. It was a board game called Diplomacyand when I spotted it I felt a zap of recognition and surprise because I hadn't seen it for years.
My older brother and sister and their friends used to play this game when I was growing up and frankly, as an onlooker, it drove me mad. As I was apparently "too young" too understand the cutthroat and complicated nature of international diplomatic relations, I was excluded from play. I still haven't played it, so this isn't a review but I can attest to the dedication, seriousness and profound involvement it inspires in its players.

Political Intrigue and Alliances

The game of Diplomacy usually involves seven players who become totally consumed by the game play, which can go on for many hours, during which time alliances will be formed, traitorous actions performed, slimy promises made, heated words exchanged and copious amounts of tea, coffee and various snacks consumed.
Long suffering little sisters who are not allowed to play will often be sent on tedious missions to provide these nourishments and non players will get annoyed and frustrated as living areas are completly taken over by the game.
Oft described as game of "intrigue, trust and treachery" this is not a game for the faint hearted and in truth I'm not sure how hard it is. As a young teen, I could never make head or tail of it but then, I was never given the chance to learn properly. I mentioned this re-encouter to my star Diplomacy playing brother recently and I don't whether this may be an unfortunate, innate sexism within him but he tells me my older sister, who wasallowed to particpate, never really understood the game either: according to him, she just "pretended too". (Oh my, I know she'll be furious if she reads this.)

The Birth of Diplomacy

Diplomacy has been commercially available since 1959 and was created by Alan B. Calhamer in 1954. The story goes that, as a boy he was intrigued by an old geography book found in an attic that showed a map of the world prior to WWI. Years later, while at Harvard Law School and recalling the geography book, he developed a game of strategy and alliance, which put seven players in charge of the major world powers.
For those who really get into Diplomacy in a big way, there have been tournaments held since the 1970's and playing Diplomacy by mail and now emailhas been an option since the 80's. Not so surprisingly, it's Henry Kissinger's favourite game and evidently John F Kennedy was also a fan.You'd think these politicians would have got enough cuttroat intrigue in real life wouldn't you? Apparently not.

Rules of Diplomacy

There are no dice in this game - it's all about negotiation. The game is set around the turn of the 20th Century, when the major world powers vie for supremacy. According to the folks at boardgames.canada.com,who seem to know all about it:
Military forces invade and withdraw, shifting borders and altering empires with subtle maneuvers and daring gambits. Form alliances and unhatch your traitorous plots as you negotiate and outwitin a delicate balance of cooperation and competition to gain dominance of the continent! In Diplomacy, your success hinges not on the luck of the dice, but your cunning and cleverness.
Yes, from memory that sounds about right. One of these days, I'll get around to playing this game and what's more, I'll damn well win! I know how to be ruthless if I have to...

The Diplomacy Board. Image from boardgamescanada.com
The Diplomacy Board. Image from boardgamescanada.com