Pins and Magnets

Aids to Playing Diplomacy on the Internet

Scott Kauzlarich

At some point those of us who play Diplomacy on the net have experienced the frustration on trying to follow moves and plan orders without the benefit of a Diplomacy board (Heck, sometimes without even a map!).

This is made worse when you are in multiple games. And let's face it, some of us are just too visually oriented to be able to plan a stab without pieces to push around on a board.

I first encountered this problem in college when my computer access was limited to my office. It just wasn't practical to set up a board over and over whenever I wanted to consult my next set of moves. What I needed was some kind of portable, mini-board that I could set up and leave set up.

What I needed was a standard cork bulletin board. This was easy to find in my local Wal-Mart store. Finding seven different colored pins was more difficult. I eventually had to go to a special store for teachers in order to find those little pins with round tops. Luckily I was able to get six of the colors in Diplomacy. I had to settle for pink for France. It all cost a small fortune, but boy is it worth it!

The board has been a handly little tool that I highly recommend for all Internet Dippers. I'm sure many of you have something that you use similar to this. I currently have two games going and the board lets me operate quickly and efficiently. Sometimes I like to think of my little bulletin board as my aide-de-camp, my support staff, handling the administrative duties while I concentrate on strategy and tactics. I've even named it "John Rawlins" (obscure U.S. Civil War reference).

But, since we are human and thus never able to acquire enough convenience, a friend of mine suggested that magnets would be better than pins and cork. This presented a number of unique challenges, like where to find seven colors of magnets in the shapes of stars and anchors. My friend decided to buy a sheet of magnets and cut it into squares and triangles, adequate substitutes for Avalon Hill's plastic star and anchor shapes. Then, he bought construction paper in different colors and cut them into squares and triangles and glued them to one side of the magnets. Now, all that was needed was a big metal board.

He went to a lumber store and got a big piece of steel or something. He also bought a great big bulletin board and tore out the middle, inserting the big hunk of steel. When it was all done, however, it was a little on the heavy side, sort of like a piece of armor plating from a Sherman Tank.

Well, to make a long story short he eventually found a piece of lightweight sheet metal and taped on a couple of blown-up conference maps. It sure is sweet! Now we can take out our John Rawlinses (second obsure U.S. Civil War reference) and slide pieces around with out fear of a pin falling out and pricking someone's finger.

Yeah, we take our Diplomacy pretty serious here in Iowa....

Scott Kauzlarich
University of Iowa

If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author, click on the letter above. If that does not work, feel free to use the "Dear DP..." mail interface.