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War Amongst Friends

or 'I'll be there for you, when the stabs start to fall'



"The essential difference is that war is not an exercise of will directed at inanimate objects, as is the case with the mechanical arts... In war, the will is directed at an animate object that reacts. It must be obvious that the intellectual codification used in the arts and sciences is inappropriate to such an activity."
Carl von Clausewitz, On War (b2, ch3 War is an act of human intercourse), quoted by Edward Luttwak in 'Strategy, The logic of war and peace'

When discussing the human side of Diplomacy the emphasis is normally on the use of secrecy and deception working alongside partnerships to win overall control. There is another human aspect that plays an important role in the overall game dynamics where eight people together for periods of a year or more are involved. That aspect is the way Real Life (tm) interacts with the game.

An analysis of Carrot

My first diplomacy game was the afpdip game Carrot. The game lasted substancially more than twelve months during which time my real life fluxed between glorious highs to the depths of despair - you see, at the start of the game I was happily married, but by the time the game ended I was divorced (in all but paperwork) and living in Merkia. When analysing the game, as one does at its climax, I noticed that my RL mood was often reflected in my game fortunes.

Paradoxically it seems a positive mood swing could have one of two effects; my game fortunes got better or they got worse. The same with a downswing of mood; game could get better or it could get worse. Extremes of mood can make gameplay more unpredictable, sometimes in an all out kamikaze foolish way, or in a tactical genius way as one gets absorbed in the game, or perhaps in a 'devil may care' way where the game goes to pot. Some may put this down to coincidence, however it seems undeniable to me that there is a connection that can be used in gameplay.

The trick is know which way to jump. This is where your judgement and knowledge of the other person comes into play. Now is the time to get as much contact with the opposition as possible. The email responses will give them away so study them and look at how they change over time.

War and paradox

It is a well known phenomenon that war is unlike any other form of interaction. Parodoxical behaviour wins purely because we spend our time trying to outthink and outplay the opponant - whether the troops are small plastic pieces or men and women whose blood will stain the fields for generations.

Si vis pacem, para bellum they say - perhaps the best known war paradox. Why prepare for war to have peace? Because we need to affect the mind of the opponant; and if he is easily influenced by our posturing, all the better.

The strategy of real life

Putting these two points together see that during a twelve month game the players go through a great deal together. They become friends, or at least aquaintances, and know each other well.

When playing Carrot how much better would Alex, Mike or Hippie done if they had known my state of mind at a given moment. Had they known me better they would have known the times I was so high as to be invincible, able to detect all the nuances of each move of their troops or conversely where I was so vulnerable in real life that the game was just something I had to do because I made a commitment to some guys and I didn't care if I lived or died.

To someone vulnerable in real life the chance to ally with someone is valued highly whereas to someone self-sufficient or beligerant about 'relationships' may spurn even a carefully planned and beneficial alliance. So how do you spot these times? Of course if you know the person its easy but what about if the only contact (albeit over a prolonged time) is email we can pick up signals. Afpdip is a community; we know each other much better than many email or PBM Diplomacy groups. Often news creeps out, or signs can be seen from the email responses. Make sure you follow all postings even for other games (but don't play across game).

Conclusion: War with friends

It is frequently held view that friends playing in the same game can cause problems, usually based on the premise that close friends will tend to ally with each other. The counter point to this is that a friend has the opportunity to study his opponent, a chance to examine his moods and motives.

A diplomacy newbie insecure in his own diplomatic abilities may seek alliance with a close friend, however the Diplomacy expert would be more likely to use his knowledge wisely.

To conclude then, it is innevitable that players in afpdip will get to know each other and will see the highs and lows in their opponants real life. We know that peoples moods and feelings are a key factor in how they behave in warlike posturing and war itself. I urge you then not to treat the knowledge of your opponants as the stuff that gets in the way of the game but as part of the game.

Get to know your opponants; Piers just made a big sale.... Murky has heard The Muppet Show has been cancelled... Ydris split up with his wife... Mike had a baby.... Its exam time (for those dippers still at school).

Then get to know your opponants moods. How does he or she react to pressure? Are they vulnerable or stronger when under RL pressure? Now get out there and WIN!

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