Diplomacy and diplomacy

by Edi Birsan, former mayor of Concord City CA

Originally published in the The Diablo Gazette and reprinted with permission

The board game of Diplomacy dates back to 1959 and is a seven player game set in Europe as it was in 1901 before World War One. It is a simple game with two types of pieces (army and fleet) and a simple goal to control 18 of 34 Supply Centers on the map placed into about 74 places from Norway to the coast of Smyna. It is a game without cards or dice, and has a simple simultaneous move adjudication system where players write down the orders for their pieces and off you go. The key part of the game is the negotiations mostly in secret with the other players where you are NOT bound by anything you say, or promise. Betrayal, back stabbing, outright invasions and attacks as well as less than subtle passive aggressiveness or failure to help an “Ally” are punctuated throughout the play of the game. After all there are 7 players and only one can win, though several can have a draw or a stalemate. It is promoted as the game of International Intrigue and has had various slogans associated with it such as: “Diplomacy, ruining friendships for years.”

I love this game and been playing it since 1965. I travel all over the world to tournaments that are an excuse to get together and have some fun. It has taught me to recover from loss, be gracious in victory or as some say to be viscous with grace. It helped me go from a repressed introverted teenager to a rather opposite motif.

Dealing in local politics there are lot of things that you learn and constantly need to practice in the game if you are to reach world class levels of play. Some of which are:

  1. Do not take it or make it personal (the current trend of demonization of the others, is a no no).
  2. Listen and talk to everyone especially your enemies, after all when your friends and ally’s betray you who is left in power?
  3. Keep your goals in mind and see what other’s goals can be met or made the focus of the others while directing them away from your goals.
  4. People ally with you for their goals not yours.
  5. Trust will rust, constantly review the situation and do not rely on last turns good will to be either remembered or repeated.

In the course of the game there are a lot of excuses and expressions for some of the more dramatic moves. However, in the real world of City Politics, each and every one of these I have heard in the last 10 years around our local reality of our own pit of intrigue.

“It was true at the time I said it.”
“If I wanted his opinion I would have told him what it was.”
“You did not understand the tone of what I said.”
“What? I can’t change my mind?”
“I hope you understand that I was only promoting good policy.”
“It made sense at the time, but I did not have time to tell you.”
“It helped you more than me, which is why I could not support it.”
“If I wanted it to succeed I would not have ask him to introduce it.”

If you want to learn more about the game go to Google and put in Diplomacy Teach Birsan, or simply contact me at EdiBirsan@gmail.com, there are games every other month in the Bay Area as well as a Tournament coming up in April.

Email writer thumbnail Edi Birsan

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