by Jeff Smith
It took me twelve years to learn this lesson. Since then I have been teaching it to newcomers to Diplomacy and experienced players alike. It has brought me many letters of thanks – letters which have told me that the writer’s whole conception of the game has been changed – letters from men who have been playing for many years, who have written to say that they never before realised that what they were doing wrong. Yet when I explain it to some young man who wants to become a force to be reckoned with, I can sense his surprise as he says, “Oh come on, that doesn’t really work. Haven’t you got a simple formula for wining more games? That’s something I really need.”
I have read many articles on strategy and listened to many “old-hands” talking about the Lepanto or the Hedgehog, Juggernauts, Steamrollers and such like. However, when it comes down to brass tacks, the only really effective way to win is to have at least one good alliance. In a seriously competitive game it is the opponent who knows the one RIGHT way to persuade players to ally with him who will win through every time. The answer? THREATEN YOUR OPPONENTS WITH PHYSICAL VIOLENCE.
The majority of players are too conscious of being hurt in this situation. They approach their opponents in a namby-pamby, toady way, try to sweet talk an alliance and then get shit on. It may take you two, three, four, five or six games to master the art properly, but you can do it. And when you do it, it will increase your wins.
Now, here is the secret. You can only make a threat like this in a conversational manner and you must learn the art of relaxation. You need to learn to relax, because unless you are completely relaxed you will not be able to persuade the other players that you are serious. Just think about it for a minute or two. It seems easy doesn’t it?
When you are completely relaxed you don’t feel nervous, you don’t feel tense. Another important point – your voice normally drops a tone or so. It sounds more sinister. relax right now. Go on, this very second! Put down this zine and relax. You may be sitting with your legs crossed, but you can’t relax like that. Sit in the lotus position on the floor and let your mind go blank. repeat these words:
“I feel no pain, I fear no man, I can win more Diplomacy games.”
Remember that by learning this you will enjoy good health and achieve a stronger personality. but that is not the main idea behind it. The main aim is to enable you to find allies.
The Conversational Technique
I was playing France. The wimp playing England had just finished talking to Germany in the corner. I approached him and pushed him against the wall. I gave him my best psychopathic smile and made my eyes into two slits. “hello England. Do you see this?” (At this point I open my flick-knife or cut-throat razor.) “I’m going to slice you into fucking pieces if you don’t do as I say.” I then tell him what I want and finish with, “And if you say one word to the other players, or anyone else, I’ll fucking get you after this game’s finished.” So the sucker falls for it. Or does he? If he looks as though he may scream, calm him down and say it’s a joke – your weird sense of humour. Then, when he’s calm, say, “Don’t fucking try anything this time. I really mean it.” and again produce your weapon. Simple? Yes. But so many people will not try it. Lack of confidence can be overcome with relaxation. so relax. Talk to the guy.
The Implication Approach
This works well with players who know your reputation. You will have a reputation after you’ve threatened one or two people. Take out your knife and pretend to pick your teeth. Spin your gun on your finger like a cowboy. Smack your clenched fist into your open hand. Do any of these while smiling at your potential victim. He’ll soon come round.
Well, that’s it. Don’t expect it to work every time. Some people are awkward and won’t be threatened, but you’ll always find at least one ally if you use this method. Don’t mind the beatings you’ll receive or the times when you’re thrown out of games-meets or cons, just keep up the good work and… relax.
Remember: “I feel no pain, I fear no man, I can win more Diplomacy games.”
First published in The Church Mouse No.21 – April 1984