MÉNAGE À MACHIAVELLI

by Kevin Burt


In my opinion, of the manifold Diplomacy variants, Machiavelli is the best, and one of the best war games, period."

—Stephen Knewtson

I agree.

Step One: I admitted I was powerless over the allure of Machiavelli — the man, and the game.

I was introduced as the newbiest of newbies to the Game of Princes. I was recruited by a desperate Sergio Lidsell to replace an abandoned Papacy. It wasn't a good experience for anyone. I was chased from the game by veteran generals who had no time for a role-player, who didn't know this was not Version Two. I've remembered that experience ever since, and have tried to be a mentor when I recognize an inexperienced player. Diplomacy, with all its variants, needs new blood, if you will. Weren't we all entry-level players once?

But I persevered, and joined other Machiavelli games — never totally successful. But the game had such fascination the threadbare expression "it matters not who wins, or loses — but how one plays the game" applied. I enjoyed it that much.

After a long break from Diplomacy of all sorts, I sought out Machiavelli again. I languished at USTP judge waiting for games to fill. After several years, no exaggeration, I gave up.

Fortuitously (a Machiavelli word!), I came upon a 2014 Diplomatic Pouch Zine article by Josť Antonio Martin Prieto. Condottierigame.net is his creation, and is an exquisitely designed and operated web site that has to be experienced to be believed.

I am new there. I am painfully learning the mechanics of the site. If you're already versed in Diplomacy, they're awfully simple, really — just new and different. But the rules of Machiavelli prevail, with only slight enhancements. See both the "Help" and "Wiki" sections of the site. Additionally, see Rules and USTP's Machiavelli Rules. Always be sure which variation (I or II) you're engaged in. The rules vary. Verify with the game's Maestro.

In hopes of providing a syllabus of fundamentals for the new player, I present the following. It compiles several Machiavelli-related Diplomatic Pouch Zine articles, and, I hope, arranges them in a logical step-by-step way to expedite the learning process.

I have attempted to "taunt" standard Diplomacy players to give Machiavelli a try with a condescending "Checkers is to chess, as Diplomacy is to Machiavelli". Let me taunt you.

Niccolò Machiavelli, the man, produced The Prince as a gift to Lorenzo di Medici of Florence in an effort to "get back into the game". He gifted us with what would become a political science masterpiece — a book of empirical examples of military, and diplomatic skill (virtue, or virtù) and, the oft unanticpated effects of luck (fortuna) for the new ruler.

Machiavelli the game asks you to provide the virtù; the game provides the fortuna with the effects plague, famine, and storms at sea. Finances are included: incomes, expenditures to mount armies and fleets, bribes, counter-bribes and more.

Finance is a very important aspect of Machiavelli. The articles below aren't sufficient to protect your purse. Virtù is necessary to plan loans and pay them back. I just left a game after being assassinated for not providing Shylock his pound of flesh. I did not have the requisite virtù: I ended up borrowing heavily and "banking" on an income that, alas… didn't come.

I have "catalogued" the number of Diplomatic Pouch Zine articles about the Machiavelli variant in a more (I think) logical and concise, if not sequential, order:

(Those articles not otherwise attributed are from the gifted pen of Bruce Duewer.)

And finally, but with some hesitation, I share Machiavelli: Loan Repayment Java Script Application by Jon Ashman — Spring 2014 Movement. I am ambivalent about this ingenious device. On one hand a general takes advantage of every arrow in his quiver; on the other hand part of the challenge of Machiavelli lies in maneuvering the loan shark-infested waters of finance. Is this an unfair advantage for the knowledgeable player? You need only consider the number of articles above relating to the importance of financial virtù. This is a topic for another day…

I would be happy to respond to your comments and questions at the email below. Mr. Prieto's Twitter contact is included with his article.

Allow Machiavelli to have the penultimate word on fortuna:

For my part, I consider that it is better to be adventurous than cautious, because fortuna is a woman, and if you wish to keep her it is necessary to beat and ill-use her; and it is seen that she allows herself to be mastered by the adventurous rather than by those who go to work more coldly.

She is, therefore, always, woman-like, a lover of young men, because they are less cautious, more violent, and with more audacity, command her.

—Niccolò Machiavelli

Arrividerci, I'm off to find donna fortuna in renaissance Italy!



Kevin Burt
(kjburt9309@gmail.com)

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