Allan Calhamer, Inventor Diplomacy Board Game, Dies at 81 –

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.

via Allan Calhamer, Inventor Diplomacy Board Game, Dies at 81 –


2 thoughts on “Allan Calhamer, Inventor Diplomacy Board Game, Dies at 81 –”

  1. This game sounds like fun! I love different aspects that are included in the game that are so relatable to real life diplomacy. For example, countries are not typically “delt a bad hand” or “roll the right number” in order to fail or succeed in global interactions, but rather they work out their own fate. There are alliances, and friendships, enemies and liars who band together to work against another set of countries. I think this game would be instrumental in the learning process of how global diplomacy works. The idea behind global diplomacy is a very broad, and all inclusive topic that can be hard to grasp for some people, specifically students. This game could be very helpful to learn the strageties and interactions between countries all over the world.

  2. I find it interesting that we take real life issues, that a select few have to deal with, and convert them into game. It’s almost like they are trying to get a taste of what is like to be a diplomat. And yet, I bet that if a real life diplomat made a mistake or something equally irritating, they would forget their experience as a “pseudo” diplomat and instantly rag on the diplomat. Food for thought about our perspective about happens in politics and diplomacy?

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