Mailing List
Mailing List
Web Links
Lspace Games Homepage

Early leader Syndrome



Have you ever noticed in Diplomacy how a power can be doing extremely well one minute, friends in every quarter, everything coming up rosey, life is a bowl of cherries and so forth - when all of a sudden...

*#~@ CRASH! @~#*

All the power's allies seem to become enemies, they all attack in just the right way to completely devastate that power's advance, often crippling that power for the rest of the game?

That power has become a victim of ELS or Early Leader Syndrome.

ELS is a problem which any diplomat must come to grips with, the problem may be stated thus:

  • In order to win at diplomacy one must gain the lion's share of supply centres
  • Everyone else will be trying to do the same thing. Everyone else will be trying to stop you winning
  • Ergo If you gain power disproportionately then your neighbours are liable to see you as public enemy number one, and ally to reduce the risk - often it'll be reduced to near zero - once an attack is underway the placement of forces often makes it undesirable to stop.

The obvious solution to ELS is not to become an early leader - give the other guy the easy gains (not too many of 'em!), then you can point out that so-and-so has become a significant amount stronger than all the other players. "If we don't stop them now then they'll just walk all over us - we'll regret not having done anything - here we are, with a chance to do something, aren't we lucky."

VultureThe key thing is that you should be in a position to benefit from the fall of the Early Leader - I.e. if your are France then Germany and England are prime Early Leader potential and so on... and ideally benefit in such a way that you don't become the next biggest threat!

When discussing how to bring down the Early Leader (and they ARE a real threat if not bought down) also bring in players who have no direct influence (if they can be trusted... erm, reasonably expected not to blab). Why bring in, say, France if Russia is the country to be attacked? The main thrust against Russia is likely to rely upon the German - but the German cannot do anything if he is going to have to defend against the Frenchie.

I have been the early leader in a game. Fortunately the other players could not get their acts together, and I profited from the infighting, bickering and opportunism. It helped that the Leader of the Resistance was my opposite number - I was Turkey, England was trying to rally the troops, and this automatically lead to some suspicion that England was himself preparing to attack! - an early leader rumour is your friend...

As an early leader you cannot prevail against a united Europe - the only thing to do is to try and disunite it ("do you realise that if you move against me here then this player can attack you like this" - and - "do you realise that if this player does attack me then he'll be open to you attacking just so...").

I have also been in games where players were very good at making and changing alliances, as soon as someone stuck their head above water then we all pushed to keep it under... the problem here is to know WHEN to go for the upper hand and make the dash for victory.

There is also the psychological early leader, someone who, rightly or wrongly, is perceived as a larger threat than your average player, i.e. "so-and-so is a demon player, we need to take him out before he has a chance to move against any of us". This sort of tactic usually goes on during pre-spring 1901 negotiations based upon the previous performances of players (it is not cross game diplomacy - it is "knowing your enemy"). In a tournament setting the eventual winners often conspire to "scrape through" the early rounds, so that when they get to the finals they can use this tactic against the people who stormed the early rounds...

It's worth bearing in mind.

By the way - have you noticed how dangerous Mike Smith is? That John Fouhy is a bit of a hotshot too....

Since writing this article I have come across another article upon Early Leader Syndrome on the Diplomatic Pouch.

Files Return to the files index.