A Weekly Threat Assessment of the Diplomacy Community

"For you, the Cold War is over!"
November saw the exciting end of the Nexus Cold War 4 Tournament. Tournament mastermind Babbo Natale writes: "After three well-fought games, Superwerty defeated Kutusov in an all-Italian breathtaking final between our two Enfant Prodiges.
Props to Superwerty (also called the Super-Rat) for having proved to be the best tactician around! The Tournament has involved 52 players producing high-level clashes during a two months time frame: I would like to thank all the participants for having contributed to this schow!"

You can find full results and further details on Diplomacy Nexus.
Facebook Bot Practice
Facebook/Meta is holding a no-press Diplomacy tournament open to any players from around the world. Meta AI Research is offering to pay any lab rats willing to help develop their no-press Diplomacy bot. Check out the announcement here for more details and email Noam if you are interested.
December 17th-19th sees the 2021 Virtual Diplomacy Championships take place. Make sure to sign up for the biggest VFTF event of the year!

Multiple boards are also filling up in the next round of Virtual Diplomacy League games on 11th December. Sign up here.

The Champions Corner is where recent tournament winners share a specific move or strategy that they believe helped them to emerge victorious. This issue, we welcome the winner of Nexus Cold War 4, Superwerty.

Many will not believe me when I say that after the end of my three-game long Cold War final, I felt like a weight had been lifted.


Playing Cold War is an exhausting experience, especially if your opponent is as skilled as Kutusov. Finding a reasonable set of orders for 10 to 16 units may not seem such a difficult task. However, sending the first moves that come to your mind is not going to yield much fruit: if you are unaware or unconcerned of the scenarios which may arise after the resolution, you can't ask to win consistently. 


The alternative approach, which is playing methodically, is very demanding and time-consuming. A good player takes into consideration several sets of moves before submitting his orders; and the only way to make an informed choice between those options is to anticipate what your opponent will do. In other words, you have to sandbox every turn and try to predict its outcome. After all, CW is a two-player variant, and your opponent's decisions will shape the game as much as yours. Obviously, you don't know in advance what your opponent is going to play. This means you have to evaluate all the potential combinations between your specific set of orders and the many sets your opponent could choose. The results of this analysis may be unsatisfactory, leading you to adjust your moves or change them completely. The new set of orders, in its turn, needs to be tested and evaluated. Thus, sandboxing can easily become a long and difficult operation.


This work of analysis cannot be avoided if you are playing competitively. Sending orders without full knowledge of what position you may obtain will lead to your defeat. However, even if sandboxing remains an essential tool, it doesn't tell you the correct way to proceed. When playing CW, the "best" or "correct" set of moves is the exception, not the rule. Most CW positions don't have a solution: usually, every single set of orders you can submit can be countered. Or at least, you can solve them ex post, not before the resolution.

This brings me to two considerations. First of all, CW is not a rational, deterministic and completely skill-based game. Luck heavily influences what happens on the board. The classical example is a 50/50 guess situation. This is particularly true in a match between two strong players, who can hardly outsmart each other, but easily outguess each other.

Secondly, when deciding what to do, you have to base yourself on the concept of risk. The typical dilemma is whether to submit safe moves, which may improve your opponent's position (e.g. covering a center or a province), or to take some risks (e.g. using your unit for something else). In general terms, you have to find a right balance between the two extremes. Eliminating every risk may lead to strategically inferior positions, where your opponent's units are more active and better placed than yours. On the other hand, risking too much may result in guessing something wrong and losing the game on the spot. Another important concept is probability. The likelihood that your opponent plays a specific set of moves also depends on how easily it can be countered. Most of times, there is one way to refute your orders, but it is such a remote and obscure possibility that you can't afford to worry about it. Likewise, brilliant-looking moves which can be countered in many ways are not as strong as they look.

These concepts may look too abstract: let's apply them to analyze what happened in a key moment of my final against Kutusov: 

This screenshot is from the third game, which decided the outcome of the tournament. It is spring 1962, I am playing as NATO, and I'm down 12-13.

My opponent, Kutusov, has a decisive advantage: in 1961, he correctly guessed that I would cover Japan and that I would not cover Los Angeles. His fleets in Asia are very well placed, and he is up a unit.

My counterplay relies on a slight positional advantage in Europe (I have a fleet in the Norwegian sea and an army in Greece), and on the Indian fleet. 


The first plan that came to my mind is convoying my Brazilian army to Europe (through WAT and NWG), landing in Norway or in the Urals. A similar move has a clear strategical purpose: attacking the theater where USSR is weaker and unbalancing the game. I was also planning to move my Indian fleet to Pakistan, in order to prevent USSR from freely moving to Europe with its army in Iran.

If they are winning in Asia, I have to strike back in Europe - I thought.

However, I soon realized the convoy would have been a risky gamble. In fact, USSR had a lot of ways to counter it: Norway had two units around it, The Urals had three. Ussr could do a simple self-bounce or any other pre-emptive move, and that would have cost me the game. When you are down one unit and you have a precarious position in Asia, the most important theater of the board, you can't afford to waste the movement of three units (in this case, my army in Brazil and the two fleets needed for the convoy). I also persuaded myself that, since Kutusov had an advantage, he would go for a defensive set of moves and cover those two important provinces. 


That's why I changed my orders, and I decided to fight my opponent's advance in Asia. I applied pressure on Panama and Indonesia rather than convoying an army to Europe and moving to Pakistan.

This was the result:

The resolution went unexpectedly well: I managed to make the best out of my units, and activate them without risking too much. I gave up Japan but I put myself in a position to retake Indonesia and one out of Los Angeles and Panama in the fall.

On the other hand, USSR used two of his units to cover the Urals, losing some crucial tempo and allowing me to do without the extra unit in Europe. Spring 1962 was a pivotal moment, where I fully came back into the game.

Lady Luck assisted me in the fall. There was a complicated series of guesses in the Mediterranean and I correctly chose to cover Istanbul rather than Egypt. In addition, Kutusov's loss of time allowed me to exchange West Germany for Sweden and Albania. 


I had gained 4 centers and lost 2. After that season, I was leading 14 - 12 and I easily converted my position into a win.


  • 17th-19th - Virtual Diplomacy Championship - Sign-ups to come on vWDC


  • 29th-30th - Cascadia Open - Email tournament organizers here


BPA (webpage):

Nexus (Discord server):

PlayDiplomacy (webpage):

webDiplomacy (webpage):

This issue was brought to you by Bryan Pravel. Thank you for the support!
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