Remembering the creator of a game that inspired all types of diplomatic maneuvers, launched a hobby industry, and passed many long hours with intense negotiations:
Over the years, Diplomacy — “Dip” to its most fervent adherents — has inspired a welter of fanzines, international tournaments and, most recently, online competitions.
Diplomacy plays out on a map of pre-World War I Europe, with each player — it is ideally suited to seven — representing one of the Great Powers of the age: England, France, Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Russia and Turkey.
The game ends when a player wins by capturing 18 of the board’s 34 strategic “supply centers,” or when all players still standing agree that they are simply too bleary-eyed and cranky to continue.
Unlike many board games, Diplomacy leaves nothing to chance: there are no dice to roll (as in the comparable board game Risk, which relies on armies to conquer the world), no cards to shuffle (ditto), no pointers to spin. Instead it relies on strategy, cunning and above all verbal prowess.
In each of the game’s compulsory negotiation periods, which involve whispering furtively in corners while simultaneously routing eavesdroppers, players in weaker positions band together against those in stronger ones.
What emerges from these sessions, which govern the moves on the board, is a world of quicksilver alliances: joint military campaigns are planned; deals are made, then abrogated, and new agreements arise to take their place. Foe is friend and friend is foe, and it is seldom possible to tell the two apart.
In short, Diplomacy rewards all manner of mendacity: spying, lying, bribery, rumor mongering, psychological manipulation, outright intimidation, betrayal, vengeance and backstabbing (the use of actual cutlery is discouraged).
It also rewards staying power. A typical game lasts at least six hours, and 16-hour games are far from unknown. In Diplomacy-by-mail, a version for far-flung players first popularized in the early 1960s, a single game can unspool over years.