The Diplomatic Pouch

Stalemates A to Y


Due to the design of the Diplomacy board there are many positions which are impregnable. If the number of supply centers within the impregnable position is equal to or greater than the number of units required to defend it the set-up (location of units, supply centers defended, conditions required on opposing forces) is known as a stalemate line.

Diplomacy players have known about stalemate lines since the earliest days of the hobby in the early 1960s; the first stalemate lines were published in fanzines in the mid 1960s. In the 1970s the hobby became enamored of stalemate lines and many articles were written investigating which positions could, or could not, be held.

Whilst "old hands" find stalemate lines, articles on stalemate lines, and discussion of stalemate lines to be exceedingly dull and dry, novices are usually very interested by the concept of a stalemate line. They are positively excited by questions such as "What are stalemate lines?", "What is a dynamic stalemate line", "How do I construct a stalemate line", "Are there any stalemate lines holding these centers" and "How do I break a stalemate line?".

In November 1993 stalemate lines appeared (again!) on

In order to help answer questions on stalemate lines Mark Nelson decided to produce a document on stalemate lines similar to the Diplomacy A to Z and Variants A to Z documents. The Stalemates A to Y file was born!

The Stalemates A to Y file contains a collection of articles on stalemate lines. Reading this document should not only answer your questions on stalemate lines, but it should also cure you of your interest in them. Perhaps the most important question that you should ask is "How on earth did Mark retype all these articles without falling to sleep in the process?". Perhaps he enjoyed the pain and agony.

14th June 1994

The Articles

Most of the articles reprinted here were originally collected and edited by Mark Berch, and were published as a summary of stalemate positions in Diplomacy Digest. Mark Nelson retyped all of these articles for email distribution, and also added a few more articles to the collection. The entire collection was later converted to HTML for the Diplomatic Pouch (including the creation of 55 maps) by Matthew Self.

Rod Walker: The Gamer's Guide to Diplomacy: Stalemates
The Gamer's Guide To Diplomacy contains a chapter on stalemate positions which is reproduced here (the book is currently out of print, and not easily available). It defines a stalemate position and categorizes them into six basic lines, which have been cross-referenced to the other articles.
(Reprinted from The Gamer's Guide To Diplomacy, 2nd edition, March 1979.)
Matthew Self: Visual Index to Stalemate Positions
A new visual index to all of the stalemate positions covered in this collection. Quickly find the ones you're looking for!
Mark Berch: Introduction to the Stalemate Position
This is Mark Berch's introduction for the collection of stalemate articles reprinted in Diplomacy Digest. All of the articles which follow were part of that collection, except where noted.
(Reprinted from Diplomacy Digest 10-11, April-May 1978.)
Robert Bryan Lipton: A Series of Progressive Northern Stalemate Positions
A series of Northern stalemate lines based on complete control of the Northern waters. The sequence starts from England and ultimately includes the Lowlands, France and Germany.
(Reprinted from Graustark #268, 1 July 1972.)
Robert Bryan Lipton: A Series of Progressive Southern Stalemate Positions
A series of Southern stalemate lines based on complete control of the Mediterranean. Also includes one Southern position that only controls the Eastern half of the Mediterranean.
(Reprinted from Graustark #282, 13 January 1973. Also includes a stalemate line by Bruce Reif published in Graustark #310, 11 May 1974.)
Robert Bryan Lipton: A Progressive Series of Asymmetrical Stalemate Positions
An unusual series of stalemate lines that are split across the board, containing both Turkey and England.
(Reprinted from Graustark #301, 17 November 1973. Also includes a stalemate line by John Beshera published in Graustark #303.)
Eric Verheiden: Minimal Southern Stalemate Positions
Minimal stalemate lines for the Southern powers to hold against the North. These positions hold Turkey, all of Italy and most of Austria and the Balkans.
(Reprinted from Graustark #306 and #307, 1 March and 23 March 1974.)
John Beshera: Fundamental Stalemate Positions, III
These South-Eastern positions hold all of Turkey and Austria, but only part of Italy. Instead, they contain portions of Russia and Germany.
(Reprinted from Graustark #304, 19 January 1974. Also includes a stalemate line by Karl Pettis, published in Erehwon #65, 1 March 1972.)
Eric Verheiden: Eastern Stalemate Positions
Eastern stalemate lines that do not extend into Italy. These positions include Turkey, Russia and portions of Scandinavia.
(Reprinted from Graustark #310, 11 May 1974.)
Eric Verheiden: Western Stalemate Positions
Western stalemate positions that do not require complete control of the Northern waters. These positions include England, France and Iberia.
(Reprinted from Graustark #313, 13 July 1974.)
Eric Verheiden: Northern Stalemate Positions
Northern stalemate lines not requiring control of the Mid-Atlantic. These expand from England and Scandinavia to Germany and France or Russia.
(Reprinted from Atlantis #77, February 1975.)
Ted Holcombe: The Holcombe Position
A Western stalemate line based on England and France, but which contains an instructive error.
(Originally published in Diplophobia #93, pre 1972. Our version from Graustark #315, August 1974.)
Eric Verheiden: The Holcombe Position: A Commentary
A reply to Holcombe's article.
(Reprinted from Graustark #318, 5 October 1974.)
Eric Verheiden: Stalemate Positions: Practical Implications
Verheiden reflects on the meaning of stalemate lines for actual play.
(Reprinted from Impassable #33, March 1974.)
Eric Verheiden: Stalemate Positions: More Practical Implications
Verheiden considers possible applications of some less-likely stalemate positions.
(Reprinted from Impassable #42, 3 November 1974.)
Robert Bryan Lipton: The Dynamic Stalemate
Defines a "dynamic" stalemate line and provides two examples. Provides general principles behind construction of further dynamic stalemate lines.
(Reprinted from Graustark #316, 24 August 1974.)
Arnold E. Vagts Jr.: You Have a Locked Up Position, So Now What?
Advice on what to do with stalemate lines, especially how to make use of them diplomatically. This article actually predates all of the others presented here.
(Reprinted from Hoosier Archives #41, 23 October 1971.)
John Boyer: Stalemate Lines are Crap!
Don't spend too much time on stalemate lines, use them as a last resort.
(Reprinted from Erehwon #87, 13 May 1975.)
Jamie Dreier: Practical Stalemate Lines
Detailed example of a stalemate line used in real play. This article was published more than a decade after Mark Berch's collection appeared in Diplomacy Digest.
(Reprinted from Electronic Protocol #246, 17 September 1991.)

There are also several missing stalemate articles that I know exist but which I don't have. Is it possible that you have one of these buried deep in your Diplomacy records?

Articles collected, retyped and archived by Mark Nelson (, June 1994.
Converted to HTML by Matthew Self (, December 1995.