The Mysterious and Secretive Vic Champs

As Told By a Run-Down Drunk from Doncaster
Otherwise Known as Rob Stephenson, Diplomacy Master

[Comments in italics by Brandon Clarke]

Rob Stephenson is arguably the number one ranked Diplomacy Player in Australia and New Zealand. Under the Master Points System, Rob is the only person so far to have achieved Master Rank. He is the current holder of the Bismark Cup, an annual award for the best performance for the calendar year in D.A.A.N.Z. affiliated tournaments. He's also one of the colourful characters of the Downunder Diplomacy scene, renowned for being the last one standing in the all-night gaming and drinking sessions that accompany Australian Diplomacy tournaments.

Rob wrote to the OZDIP-L mailing list after the recent Victorian Diplomacy Champs as follows. It provides an interesting window on the thriving tournament Diplomacy scene downunder....

What follows is some scribble I wrote down on a pad as soon as I could after the tournament in Victoria.

It's 15:30 hours on Easter Tuesday and the perfect film for all Dip players to see -- Assignment to Kill (1968), starring Patrick O'Neal and John Gielgud -- just ended on optusvision. I recommend you all watch it.

The house almost looks presentable. The tournament is officially over now that I've cleaned up all those cans/stubbies of beer (192 is my best guess), half a bottle of Sambuca, five or six stoles, some vodka, Craig's bottle of bourbon and a few various cans of mixed drinks (that was just my house).

So what the hell just happened?

Two Weeks Earlier

I think to myself, "I wonder what is happening with the Vic Champs at Easter. I'll go and see Bill."

The Visit to Bill and Resulting Thoughts

So it is on, says Bill, and Frank is the GM. No official mailout. [John Cain, doyen of Australian Diplomacy tournament organisers usually organises the Victorian Diplomacy Champs each Easter, but this year he was out of State at a conference.] My computer at work sits silent. Why am I going on the word of Bill? Have I been cut out of the hobby? Have I finally done it? Did I kill Ken by accident at the last tournament after a few beers? Blimey, I'm getting paranoid. Oh, well, if I get to the venue and I'm the only one there I can go play in that game "Paranoia." I think I can play it? It can't be that hard (can it?).

The Reflection on a Somewhat Tainted Reality

The phone rings and it's Craig with his flight details, Rohan rings, Ken rings, Bill rings, Rohan rings back, Bill rings back, Melinda rings, then a wrong number, then Bill rings again. Right, it's organised (the first official Dip tourney sponsored by Telstra). [Telstra is a communications company in Australia.]

The Plan

  1. Go to a train station I've never been before to pick up Brandon in a place he doesn't know either.
  2. Meet him by the foot bridge.
  3. Pick up Rohan.
  4. Drive to airport; pick up Craig and Chris smoother.
  5. Meet Ken and Bill at my place. Hit the juice.

Sum Up of Plan Execution

SNAFU. (If you're wondering what SNAFU is, it's an acronym.)

We all know that with every plan there is always at least one spanner thrown into the works and this was not going to be the exception. Brandon and I, with the toughest part to work out, arrived within five minutes of each other after finding out when we got to our foot bridge that it wasn't a bridge but a pedestrian underpass. We moved on to get Rohan. Perfectly executed, we head off to the airport. Craig's plane is late but he arrives twenty-five minutes later. Now just Chris and where back on track. So United Airlines are running a tad late. Eventually Chris arrives and we are really late. [Chris arrived, but then his bags never showed up. They'd been lost. We were really late...] With only five minutes to drive to Blackburn via Doncaster (fifty minutes approx. travel estimate), the Datsun wasn't up to it. At this point I was supposed to be having a quiet drink with a few mates and heading off to the tournament in the morning. (Just another Dip plan that went horribly wrong.)

The First Game

I really thought I could do it. With Ken, Bill, Craig, Rohan, Brandon, Chris and me all together in the one place at the start of a tournament, it would be easy to get them do what I asked. It was just another game of real life Dip. (I think Ken and Bill are secretly allied, though. Again. Just like in every other game. Does everyone know they worked together?)

Let's take a look at what actually happened, and see if we can relate this to the final results of the tournament.

Bill stabbed me and took Ken to the footy where they were having secret discussions with Brandon. At the footy, Brandon (they are setting you up, Brandon -- don't go! Join me!) split up with me and joined Bill's alliance but Ken (I still think Bill's sent him on reconnaissance, but you just have to trust this bloke) switched to join me again and I was back in the driver's seat with a full car. Andy Goff and Geoff Kerr tried to cross board and joined Bill and Brandon at the footy. [Footy is Australian Rules Football. It's not a sport, it's a blood-curdling way of life to Victorians. This was my first experience of "Footy season" in Victoria. Amazing.... Otherwise dedicated Diplomacy players sitting out a round of the tournament because they wanted to go to the footy!]

Tournament Placings of the Nine Players Named Above

A Few Tips on Tournament Play

What did we learn from the game?

  1. Ken and Bill always ally. (3rd and 4th place.)
  2. Never cross-board (15th and 18th.)
  3. If you ally with me, don't piss me around -- I won't wait for you to catch up. "Go hard or go home." (1st and 6th.)
  4. Stabbing. Someone must die it wasn't personal, merely practical. (12th, 13th and 17th.)
  5. Always be the puppet-master in the alliance. (1st and 6th again.)
  6. If you're in the driver's seat and the road ahead is clear, drive!!! Don't be a follower. (Driver Bill 4th, Driver Rob 1st.)
  7. Don't switch sides. Set a goal and go for it. (BC 12th.) [Yes, love! I know, love....]
  8. Set new goals and be flexible enough to switch.


Please remember everything I've just written was after a tournament that started for me on Thursday morning (when I commenced on my journey to pick up people) and ended when I finished dropping people off (and cleaning up) at 1:45 PM on Tuesday. I'm stuffed but I'm writing now before it gets confused. Some of my statements will no doubt be disputed. I may have got one or two of the facts wrong on the games discussions and lessons learnt, but overall, I would say this document is a fairly accurate description of what to do and what not to do at a Dip tourney.

[Full results of the Victorian Diplomacy Champs, and all other D.A.A.N.Z. affiliated tournaments can be found on the Web pages of The Diplomacy Association of Australia and New Zealand.]

Brandon Clarke
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