A Weekly Threat Assessment of the Diplomacy Community

Cold War 3 Results

The third edition of Nexus' Cold War tournament is in the books! This round's champion was Leviathan, with Conq coming in second. Lafouine and OfficeDBC made it to the seminfinals.
Leviathan won the finals 2-0 in a best of 3 matchup. 90 players participated in all; and many thanks to Babbo Natale for organizing. Check out the final games in the Nexus server here.
Who Do You Need to Kill?

In this latest MasterClass/Diplomacy Dojo article on BrotherBored's blog, data journalist Dave Ainsworth writes an excellent deep dive on the change in each power's chances to solo based on which other power has been eliminated. Don't forget to also give a listen to Ainsworth's guest appearance on Brother Bored's podcast, Diplomacy Dojo, here

In an excellent piece of news, MasterClass and BrotherBored have partnered to do a recorded series of Diplomacy related content that will be published on BrotherBored's site. Check out the archives here.
Deadline News

The May edition of Deadline is here! Tune in for a panel discussion with recent tournament winners on different modes of play. David Hood also brings us the history of DixieCon, the Club Growth Initiative, as well as a round-up of the headlines of the hobby.

DBN has upcoming live coverage of both VDL League Night and the Nexus Speedboat Championship. Tune in this Saturday at 8:00pm EST for all the exciting live action!
The Champions Corner is where recent tournament winners share a specific move or strategy that they believe helped them to emerge victorious.
For this issue, we welcome the victor of eCarnage, Katie Gray
I started playing Diplomacy almost by accident. I joined a game at a friend’s invitation before I knew the basic rules. The game was a confused mess, but by the time it ended, I had made an ingenious discovery: units could support one another! And with that, I realized that meant I could try to get other people to support my units! I went into my second game ready to form alliances and strike some deals.
And over the course of the next two and a half years, I worked out the main strategy I have going into each game: find people who I want to work with, and manipulate them into liking me - I mean… figure out how to get them to want to work with me, too.

I've done my fair share of procrastinating real work in favor of studying strategy articles, bashing my head against stalemate lines, and wildly overthinking detailed tactical scenarios. After all this time, the only one of those things I excel at is procrastination. Where I’ve really found success is by finding people who wanted to help me. Sometimes that’s because I can help them in return, sometimes it’s because I’m friendly and honest, and sometimes it’s just because someone else angered them and they want revenge. The only reason I was able to win eCarnage is because enough other people ended up wanting me to win.

I drew France in my first game. The board was absolutely stacked, featuring well-known players, tournament winners and even a world champion. I quickly bonded with the German player over our mutual feelings of being in over our heads. I’ll leave out the tedious details, but our FG alliance was successful and put me in a fairly strong position where I was competing for the board top with Italy. Italy’s Turkish ally wanted him to top the board, and was giving him centers - but my stalwart friend in Germany wanted me to match that, and aimed to end the game with Italy and I in a shared board top. The Russian player supported that outcome, after the Turkish player had lied to him throughout the game, and helped hold the line while generously allowing me to take German dots. In the end, Italy topped the board and I finished with a solid second place on 11 centers.

My result from the second round was nothing to write home about, but a decent draw kept me in the running for the tournament win.

In my final game I played Austria. I quickly organized an efficient AIR alliance, and we were eventually joined by England. There were sub-alliances and mini stabs and all the right kinds of scheming. Despite the dynamic nature of the game, somehow I’d found three players who were all alright with me topping the game to go for the tournament win.

But we all know what they say about too much of a good thing. France and Germany, fighting against a 4-player alliance and hoping to shake things up, offered to throw me the solo. In a few short turns, I went from having 5 people all supporting me growing to finding myself kicked out of a conversation among every remaining player about how to stop me from winning the game. As someone who plays this game to work with people, this isolation was crushing. And more importantly, I knew that my position would collapse immediately if everyone worked against me. I vowed not to try for a solo, wanting only to secure the board top that would get me the tournament win (which we were all aware of, as the other game had finished before ours), and I was allowed to continue negotiations. We drew once I'd gotten the 14 centers I needed for the tournament win.

I'm pretty convinced I could have gotten a solo from the final board position, but I didn’t need it and I have zero regrets. I know that I was successful because I had good relationships with people, and because people had strained relationships with my competitors.

Although, even with my massive carebear play in the end, I’m sure this win will put a target on my back for future games. So in an effort to convince people to still work with me, I’ll publicly accept that my role in my next few alliances will flip, and I’ll be the one helping others into dots - first come, first served!

The Virtual World Diplomacy Community hosts regular sessions where a hobby expert hosts a discussion of a topic in which they excel. The Briefing's own strategy correspondent Natty Shafer brings us a synopsis of the talks. This issue he reports on Brotherbored's MasterClass discussion on how to tell if someone is lying. Link to the MasterClass archives here.

Detecting Lies

Q: How do you tell when Diplomacy players are lying?

A: Their lips are moving.

Jokes aside, the better Diplomacy players are good at reading people. Occasionally, Diplomacy players have been known to tell the truth, and it is a useful skill to be able to separate lies from the truth. In a Masterclass on May 2, Blake (a/k/a BrotherBored) led a discussion on how to tell if someone is lying.

Most people focus on the sexier skill of spotting “tells” as they are called in poker. However, BrotherBored argued that it is more useful to discern lies through other methods.

First, as a matter of definitions, we are excluding mere manipulations from what might be called “lies.” In order for a statement to be a lie, it not only has to be untrue, but the player must know that it is untrue at the time the statement is made. Sometimes players make wrong predictions, and while frustrating, this article will not help spot those.

Consider the Content

The starting point for determining lies should be to consider the content of what a player is saying. According to BrotherBored, it takes quite a bit of work to tell a lie. Players have to work to create a narrative for a lie. When lying, they often use statements (or in written press games, write messages) that are too vague or too short. They are less likely to give long, detailed explanations for their plans. Similarly, a player may become too quiet. Many players prefer not to lie if it can be avoided so they will just go radio silent.

Talk to the other players about what everyone is saying. If every player is hearing a consistent claim it is more likely to be true.  Players don't want to lie to everyone, especially early.

Be wary of players that tell you things that are too good to be true. A great tactic for a liar is to tell a person what they want to hear. For example, the player could promise to help you win. Similarly, players may too readily acquiesce to your demands. That can be a sign that you are being mined for information so you can be stabbed. It is helpful to force other players to state concrete intentions to help discern lies. Repeat back concrete actions they will take. 

For example, when trying to execute a Juggernaut, the Russian refusing to state concrete actions to disband F Sevastopol may be because the Russian is telling you what you want to hear. 

Consider the Source

Some players are just liars. Beginners are more likely to lie just for the fun of it. Some experienced players like to sow discord and lie about everything and things that don't matter.

BrotherBored makes mental notes of players who tell lies that were unnecessary. Such players are not to be trusted. (Conversely, he keeps mental notes of players that will carebear.)

Consider the Incentive

Better Diplomacy players conserve their credibility as a precious resource. The incentive to lie is greatest when the payoff is highest. 

One needs to understand Diplomacy “holistically” to understand the incentives. For example, an experienced player is less likely to make a one-dot stab and so their incentive to lie is reduced.

There are occasional exceptions where it does make sense to take a single supply center. England taking St. Petersburg from Russia may foreclose Russia from ever counterattacking England, and the lie could cause Russia to defend improperly. That’s a big incentive for England to lie, even if it is only for one supply center. A good player must understand the relative values of different supply centers and territories to properly consider the incentives.

Finally, yes, there are a few tells. However, BrotherBored posits that most people are better at spotting tells than they realize. Lying makes people nervous, and that nervousness can be spotted in person, but it shows up even in writing.

Some people are generally nervous, but a change in demeanor could spell trouble. These are some tells:

  • Face touching or clenching. 

  • Refusal to look you in the eye, especially if this has not been a past problem.

  • Hesitancy: when a player spends too much time thinking about what to say, it may be a sign they are thinking about their lies. (BrotherBored suggests that to lie better in Diplomacy, speak more methodically and slower all the time.)

  • Negative emotions: people become upset when their lie is questioned and they may apply emotional pressure to get what they want. Some players are always abrasive, but a chummy player that becomes abrasive might be lying. (Also, if a player stops caring about irritating you, it could be because they are planning to attack.)

  • Loss of interest in conversation or personality: in both in person games and written press games, if a player stops all small talk.

  • Acting weird in any other way: sudden change in demeanor could be a sign they are acting.  Listen to your gut if someone is behaving differently.

If you have determined someone is lying, you have to act on your knowledge. Veteran players often speak of their spidey sense that a betrayal is coming. BrotherBored says in Diplomacy, “it pays to be paranoid.” A strong defense can cause opponents to switch to easier targets.

If you can suss out that someone is lying, sometimes the lie reveals the truth.  Discerning the reason for the lie might allow you to reverse engineer the moves of the lying player (which is immensely satisfying.) However, preemptive anger is not effective, and confrontation is not necessary.
It’s okay to tell another player “no” when you suspect they are setting you up for a stab.

BrotherBored concluded with the thought, “If you must eat crow, eat it when it is young and tender.” You are better off apologizing for distrusting your ally than being too trusting.




This issue was brought to you by Minnesota Diplomacy Club. Thank you for the support!
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