An Introduction to Death, Destruction,
and the Decline of Western Civilization
as We Know It

by Arthur Bismark*

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of articles which were written anonymously back in the late 1980's in Australia. The author has been the subject of many a guessing game within the Aussie hobby, and, although many are convinced they know who it is, nobody has ever admitted to being Arthur Bismark. The Bismark cup (awarded to the best Aus/NZ player in a calendar year) is believed to have been inspired by these articles.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Could the lobotomy patients kindly stop growling, please? Thank you. Now, if we could have all the Napoleons, Adolf Hitlers, Julius Caesars and Alexander the Greats on the left of the aisle, and the Venusians, Martians, Moon men and all those receiving extra-terrestrial messages on the right side of the aisle. Thank you.

So you want to play Diplomacy? Try this quick quiz:

  1. Would you steal from your mother?
  2. Could you lie plausibly even under a lie detector test?
  3. Consider this well known expression: "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game." Does this strike you as weak-kneed and limp-wristed?

If you have answered yes to all three of the above — congratulations! You are in the right place. You have the psychological profile of a first class paranoid schizophrenic. By an amazing coincidence, you also exhibit the three traits necessary in the best Diplomacy players — you are unscrupulous, lie brilliantly, and believe winning is everything.

The latter three traits are the holy trinity of the hobby, the perfect distillation of qualities. Of course, experienced players hide behind a mask of statesmanship. They appear to be cautious, controlled and reasonable; their every utterance is designed to say "I am a solid, reliable partner who wishes for nothing better than a Game Length Ally".

The latter is a childish mythological character invented by really good Diplomacy players to fool gullible novices such as yourselves. When anyone uses the term "Game Length Ally" around you, protocol demands that you sternly rebuke the fellow in internationally recognised Diplomacy jargon e.g. "Don't you jive me, @$$#*!^. Stay offa my turf, you gravy sucking pig!", and so on. This will establish your credentials as a sophisticated negotiator of unexpected subtlety and depth.

In reality, the only solid ally is the one who can be perceived to gain as much as you do from the alliance — once the scales tip, however slightly, you must expect your "Game Length" ally to shaft you in the most devastating manner available to him. Patients from the Paranoid Schizophrenic Wing will know what I mean.

Occasionally you will come across a Diplomacy patient who will bewail the decline in the spirit of the game, the loss of the role-playing dimension where players acted as they considered the statesmen of the early twentieth century would have acted. This is a sure sign that a player has been tragically struck down with senile dementia, and by the strict code of honour to which all Diplomacy players adhere, it is incumbent on you to stab him into dog meat at the earliest opportunity. Such an act is, of course, a humane form of euthanasia — and believe me, his family and friends will thank you. The consummate Diplomacy player bases his actions on Real Politik rather than historical sentiment.

Much has been made of the theory of the game, the various openings, middle and end game strategies etc. My personal opinion is that I wouldn't give a pinch of defecation about most of this self-conscious posturing. No doubt the intention has been to develop Diplomacy into a respected intellectual pastime on a par with Chess and Bridge. If the odd nervous beginner becomes intimidated by the mere mention of a Lepanto opening or whatever — so much the better. All's fair in love, war, and Diplomacy.

The truth is the game is so variable that established opening moves played along the lines à la Chess seem superfluous. When you have seven different personalities in seven different countries, it is surely impossible to quantify the "right" or "wrong" moves, the "good" or "bad" strategies. There is only success or failure. In this way Diplomacy does reflect real life — the victor, however he attains his victory, is always right. History is written and interpreted by victorious dominant cultures, and losers tend to suffer in the hindsight of their defeat. The moral is — don't lose.

And if you do lose, take a couple of the bastards down with you.

And now ladies and gentlemen, I suggest we adjourn to the recreation room for coffee and medication. Musical entertainment has been thoughtfully provided by the Lithuanian Piano-Accordion Trio. Enjoy. Would the last person leaving please wake up the lobotomy patients? Thank you.

*About the author: Arthur Bismark is a Fellow of the Institute of Pathological Mental Disorders, and an internationally acclaimed authority on paranoid schizophrenia. In 1969 he delivered a series of lectures designed to introduce the art of Diplomacy to hospitalised schizophrenics. These lectures were later published in the Envoy from 1988-1990 and again in FIST! from 1995-1997, and are considered a vital part of the modern day diplomatic arsenal.

Next time: Lecture 2, in which Arthur probes still deeper into the blood and mucous core of the Diplomacy hobby, and rips out its heart for clinical dissection.

Arthur Bismark
c/o the Editor

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