by Brian Cannon
It s a brand new game. You ve opened the latest issue of your favorite Zine to the gamestart announcement and discovered you are <hmmm> the Kaiser! Well”, you think to yourself, it could have been worse – I could have gotten Austria.” Experienced player that you are, you immediately begin contacting the other players and formulating your Master Plan. After the first round of cards and letters the Witches seem to have become the focus of some general concern and a passable strategy begins to suggest itself.
First you ll join France in taking out England, while instigating an A/I/R crushing of Turkey. Then you ll encourage France into the Med and play on the Italian fears to form a G/I to defeat France (and secure the West for yourself). Meanwhile, you ll talk Austria into a G/A to defeat the Czar (pointing out HIS need to have a rear free of enemy forces). By this time you ll have Germany, England, Scandinavia, the Low Countries, St. Pete, and Northern France for 14. By focusing Austria on the threat the Italian navy poses to his Med provinces, you ll have been encouraging the build of an Austrian fleet or two and you’ll use that to raise just enough tension between A/I to stab and lunge into War, Mar, Spa, and either Venice, Por, or Moscow for the Solo. OK, it ll take refining and certainly lots of slick talking along the way. But, hey! Who ever said winning a Dip game was easy?
With your Master Strategy firmly in mind, you set to work to talk the other players into following YOUR plan. Throughout 1901 letters fly fast and furious, and as you review the Fall 1901 game report you can see everything is falling into place for you. France is in Bel & the Channel and is +2; you re in Den, Hol, and the North Sea and are +2; A/R are attacking Turkey; Italy is set for a Lepanto invasion; and (warned by you <heh, heh>) Turkey is making the best defense possible. He ll go down, but it ll take a while – which suits you fine. 1902 & 03 breeze by with you and France carefully coordinating the demise of England, the splitting of the spoils, and the placement of pieces while I/A/R defeat Turkey, splitting his spoils three ways and getting their units a little mixed up in the process. What could be better for you ?!!? You shift into Phase-2 of your master plan independently writing Italy (about G/I vs. F) and Austria (about G/A vs. R) and wait for the Zine with barely restrained glee at how clever you are and how well everything is going. . . . . . . .
Huh ?? Hold on here!?! This must be the wrong game. The GM must have read the wrong orders!! Sure, Italy is moving against France (that s good) BUT Austria just passed up an easy stab and, WITH Russia is moving strongly against . . . YOU ???? Wait just a dog-gone minute!! What happened ?? You write again to everyone and are rewarded with . . . Total Silence (???) from I/A/R. You don t dare stab France now – you NEED him to fend off that awful Eastern menace. Maybe you can patch up a stalemate line and find some advantage . . . but . . . aw heck – this wasn’t the way things were supposed to go!! Everything was going so smooothly and then <crash> <bang> <thump> the motor just fell out!!!
What Went Wrong ???" you cry out to the Fates.
What went wrong had nothing to do with “The Fates”, nor with bad luck. It wasn t some subtle clue you dropped in one of your letters, or the machinations of that treacherous and perfidious wight in Vienna or that frog in Paris. It wasn t that the Czar suddenly and for no reason took a disliking to you and decided beer might be a welcome change from vodka. In fact, what I/A/R just did was perfectly reasonable, logical, and <worst of all> PREDICTABLE given the circumstances. What went wrong was quite simply this – You Forgot Your Strategy. While you were busy coordinating the defeat of England and figuring the everything was going just as you planned, the Eastern alliance was watching the development of a solid (and threatening) Western alliance (G/F) coupled with a sudden silence from those players. When they finally received the German offers in Winter 03 they were faced with choosing between continuing an alliance that was working well (and profitably) or stabbing an ally and trusting the good intentions of a player that (a) hadn t written a meaningful letter in two years and (b) could quite possibly use the resulting confusion to stick with HIS ally and roll to a solid G/F two-way – at their expense. Given those choices their decision was to be expected. The sad thing is, all of this could” have been avoided. Remember, you had them eating out of your hands (figuratively) back in 01 as you spun your webs & tales and worked your diplomatic magic. And then . . . you let yourself get distracted by the Western battle, neglected your diplomacy, and allowed the Eastern players to recover from your spells long enough to see the threat you posed.
And this brings us to the point of this article – The first fundamental characteristic of the Expert Dipper: The Eye of the Eagle” – the ability to keep focused, through thick and thin, on what will be needed to emerge victorious with a solo victory. Remember, as a player in Dip you will almost never have the ability to DIRECTLY control the moves of any other player (barring an occasional puppet). They will make the moves you want only when you can beguile them into seeing those moves as actually being in their interest. And that takes constant attention and effort. As Lincoln said to Grant when he wanted to ram a particularly necessary (but unpopular) action down the throat of the War Department in 1864 I repeat to you it will neither be done nor attempted, unless you watch it every hour and day and force it.”
So you too, if you would succeed with minimum reliance on the fickleness of luck, must show yourself diligent in (shall we phrase it this way?) keeping the wool pulled over the eyes of your victims." Sure It s difficult to maintain this focus. It takes concentration and discipline. Not everyone can do it. But then, did you think a Solo win in Dip came easy?? Oh you silly, silly, you (:-). And remember this - your opponents face the same struggle. If you can keep your focus while they" get distracted, it can make the difference between a solid draw and the ultimate goal of the Dip Purist - a Solo Victory! So, what can you do to help pull this off? So glad you asked. <grin> Read on!
Emotion can be your worst enemy – and your greatest ally!! Like fire, it can save your life … or destroy you. Time after time, in game after game, Dipsters, right and left, allow themselves to be swayed by: anger and lust for revenge due to a stab by an ally; fear over the threat posed by one opponent s concentrated attack; excitement over the success of a particularly dangerous or clever tactic; wide eyed, too eager, anticipation when an ally leaves their rear wide open to a ridiculously easy stab; and more. The player begins to think primarily about that one enemy, or ploy, or opportunity. Their correspondence becomes filled with discussion of how they want revenge for that stab that @$#$% can t be allowed to get away with it” or what tactics they and their allies can use to counter that threat or exploit that opportunity. If they think about the future at all, they mostly assume they will be able to work something out” once they ve dealt with this one matter. How much better it would be to keep the master plan on track and not NEED to work something out.” After all, if you can get to your goal (that elusive Solo) what does it matter what others did in the process. If you WIN, it means they ve LOST – and you can hardly do anything worse to them than that!!!
So here is a cardinal Rule for those who aspire to Dip Masterdom – First, you must Master yourself” (that is, your own emotions). When the unexpected (and unwelcome) has occurred, put aside your instinctive fears or angers or hopes; take some deep breaths; reexamine the ENTIRE board and the moves of EVERY player (who else is doing what to whom); and ask yourself afresh with the current position and apparent player opportunities, what strategy can I employ to get the other powers fighting each other instead of me – to position myself for a comeback or a win?” and How can I convince other players that the current board position actually threatens them more than me – or will if they aren t careful?” This doesn t mean that you have forgotten about the event that aroused your emotions – only that you have found a Stratagem that (with its possibilities for improving YOUR position and advancing YOU toward a victory) is, frankly, far more important than any petty fears or angers.
Next, if Emotions can be so devastating to your own Diplomacizing, don t be afraid to use emotions to sabotage your opponent.” In one game, I absolutely needed an opponent to lay off my ally long enough for him to accomplish a breakthrough elsewhere on the board. So I wrote this opponent telling him (quite truthfully, actually) that his best bet was to keep on with the attack. But I wrote the letter as a flagrantly arrogant demand for him to do so and with a belittling tone that indicated he lacked the ability to see for himself what was in his best interests. And it worked. As desired, he promptly pulled back from my ally and threw all his forces against me. He was dead set on punishing me for what I had said and done (I had also implemented a piddling little one- center stab the season before). As a result – due to my ally s being free to fashion his breakthrough – I jumped in two years to a solid 15 en route to (with good tactical play) a solo win!
And there are other emotions you can stir in your opponents and victims to aid your ends such as. . . . Discussing how E/G/F seem to have stopped fighting and so have likely formed a Western Triple invokes Fear to get I/A/R off your Turkish case (long enough to regroup). Offering (as Germany) to support France into the North Sea splitting England s forces in two (and gaining an unopposed walk-in to Edinburgh in the Fall) invokes Eagerness and Anticipation to get him utterly committed to a war with England (and vice versa) that will hold E/F in thrall even when you and Italy later plow into the French underbelly. Discussing with Turkey how your R/T alliance (having defeated Austria with Italian help) will just steamroll thru Italy and all other opposition invokes Hope and Great Expectations of success to lull him to the TRUE reason for your fleet moving thru (into) Constantinople in the Spring – a vicious stab by you and your new Italian ally. The list is limited only by your own creativity and deviousness. But in each case, the main goal is the same – to use emotion to distract your victim from the greater strategic implications of the game so that you can sell him on YOUR spin and manipulate him to YOUR ends.
Does this sound Difficult? Dangerous?? Demanding??? It s also worth the effort!! There is nothing more exhilarating than watching 6 other Dippers dance to YOUR tune move after move – secure in the unshakable belief that THEY are the ones pulling YOUR strings <heh, heh>. Is this Devious? Is it Dasterdly?? Is it Underhanded and Sneaky??? Oh Yes!!!! And you ll just Love It when the plan comes together.”