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A Weekly Threat Assessment of the Diplomacy Community

V.W.D.C. Results!

The Virtual World Diplomacy Classic has finished and was a great success! Congratulations to this years Champion, Morgante Pell. A hearty thank you to Bill Hackenbracht for organizing the tournament.
There were over 100 who participated in vWDC making it the largest virtual tournament ever.  Check out the final standings and also be sure to watch the in-depth analysis of the games from the Diplomacy Broadcast Network.
Diplomacy Games #83
Kamer and Amby interview academics Jordan Boyd-Graber and Denis Peskov about their paper on using Diplomacy as a means to study concerted lying. The guys also interview one of the players involved in the study, Sloth, as well as discuss the Webdip tournament they are playing in.

The Champions Corner is where recent tournament winners share a specific move or strategy that helped them emerge victorious.

Morgante Pell is this year's VWDC Champion, winning as Turkey on a final board with such stalwarts as Matthew Crill, Nicolas Sahuguet, Farren Jane, Peter McNamara, Bill Hackenbracht, and Maxim Popov. 


In August this year, I stumbled into the Diplomacy hobby through a post on Reddit about the Liberty Cup. I was immediately hooked—after almost five months of quarantine, the combination of socialization and competition Diplomacy provided was addicting (especially with every weekend free for the foreseeable future).

However, although I had played casually with friends for years (though never finishing a game), I was in for a rude awakening when it came to competitive play: tactics will only get you so far.

In previous games, I only sought short-term alliances and relied on stronger tactics to establish a dominant position on the board. When playing with casual friends (some of whom might not even fully understand the rules), this was more than enough—but against stronger opponents, I found myself quickly coming up short. Enemies would counter my attacks while allies saw obvious stabs coming. To succeed, I quickly learned I actually have to be less ruthless in competitive play than I would be in a casual game. The core of my strategy since realizing this has been to forge strong alliances by always considering the best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA). Repeatedly cultivating this over the following months eventually led to my victory in the vWDC championship game as Turkey.

In my early game strategy, striking a strong alliance is all about presenting a concrete plan of attack for both partners—and comparing that to the BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement). From early negotiations with Italy, it quickly became clear that he was my best alliance partner: my alternatives in Russia and Austria only offered a junior role or slow gains respectively. To Italy, I presented how his best alternative (allying with Austria in a traditional AI) would lead to him making very slow gains while leaving his back exposed to the formidable Bill Hackenbracht in France. It was clear to both of us that a strong IT was the best option. 

Coming into the midgame, it’s important to continually assess your BATNA to estimate stab opportunities—and to ensure your ally continues to stick with your alliance. In Fall 1905, I stumbled on the second part by spooking Italy into thinking working with me would lead to a 2-front war. This was the darkest moment for our alliance, with Italian fleets breaching the Eastern Mediterranean. 

I managed to turn things around though by talking Italy through his alternative: if he continued to stab me, the primary beneficiary would be France instead of him. BATNA, not angry tirades or outbursts, is typically the best way to prevent a stab or maintain an alliance. 

Once the endgame approaches, alternatives focus on win conditions: if a player isn’t going to top the board, what are they playing for? Is it to achieve a certain point score, to finish as quickly as possible, or to ensure a particularly reviled enemy does as poorly as possible? Knowing these conditions for yourself and others gives you an edge in those final negotiations. In the championship game, I knew that Italy’s focus was keeping his 5th-place spot in the standings so throughout our final discussions I emphasized my pledge to leave him with the centers he needed to get that score. This kept him firmly on my side until the end and ensured my victory.


With less than a year of competitive play under my belt, I certainly have a lot to learn but there’s one commitment I’m sure of: rarely will I find a better alternative to spending a weekend immersed in this hobby.

January

  • TBA - Asia Pacific Diplomacy League Championship - Join Discord

 February

March

January

This issue was brought to you by Conrad Woodring. Thanks for the support!
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