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The DW Interview: Gary Behnen

From Diplomacy World #61


Q. What is your age and occupation?


A. I am 30 and a salesman.


Q. How long have you been in the hobby? How did you start?


A. I started playing Dip in 1974 when a friend gave me the game and I wrote Rick Loomis over at Flying Buffalo.


Q. You have several postal wins. Is there any particu­lar one that stands out in your mind?


A. Every win is fun and memorable in one way or another, but one of the most interesting to date was a game in The Appalachian General. I was France, and although he was doing well my German ally reversed his offensive against Russia once England fell, then NMRed out! Meanwhile, the AIR finished Turkey while Italy harassed the Austrian flank. Eventually, Russia stabbed Austria and allied with Italy and the game began to go Russia's way. Italy refused to join an A/F alliance against Russia so A/F moved against Italy as Austria executed a strategic retreat from the Balkans. The new German player agreed to join the A/F and we began to build a stalemate line against Russia. Germany misordered, then NMRed, so it finally came down to a winter supply center count of R-17, G-2, A-I, F-14. For the next year we could take a Russian-held center and then had a 50/50chance of holding it, but the following year would see Russia win in any event. Graciously Austria and Germany both agreed to thwart Russia by ultimately sacrificing their centers to France. In the Fall, we held and France won due to A/G cooperation and our tactics.


Q. What does it take to win a postal Dip game?


A. Unfortunately there is no formula to assure a win. Most wins require frequent communications, a blend of diplomacy and tactics, and usually a successful series of alliances... some broken.  Sometimes a little luck helps, too!


Q. Who has been your strongest adversary? How about your best alliance partner?


A. I've had numerous strong adversaries and great allies, and some were both! I really can't pick one individual as the strongest or best overall, but I do have a favorite game alliance. It was an I/G 2-way that Don Williams and I forged in Fall 1901 in our first game together. Everything we did diplomatically and tactically worked as planned and when it came time for one of us to go for the win, we both decided the best conclusion was our planned draw.


Q. Do you have a favorite zine to play in


A. Yes, the one Igot in the mail today! Seriously, my favorite zine of all time was Claw and Fang by Don Horton. It was very well done, punctual, had articles and even recipes at “The Diplomat's Other Table.”  If anyone knows what Don is up to these days, I'd love to find out.


Q. How have NMRs impacted postal games you have played in?


A. Ah, the proverbial skeleton in our closet. Unfortu­nately some games are fundamentally changed by NMRs. All you can really do is try to adjust, grin and bear it.


Q. What is your favorite Great Power, and why?


A. Russia is my favorite country. It has tremendous potential in Spring 1901 and is the only country that can appreciably effect both the West and East from the start.


Q. You are also an experienced tournament player. How do postal players do in FTF games as compared to their postal play?


A. I guess the "logical" assumption is that a postal player doesn't do as well FTF as postally. My experience is that your postal record is not a good indication of your FTF play. Indeed, a generally conservative Postal player can be a loose cannon when put on a FTF board. I believe personality and tactical prowess are your greatest attributes when you play FTF.


Q. Which was the best convention/tournament that you have been to?


A. Best Con? No contest: PoolCon, hosted by Vince and Melody Lutterbie. Definitely on my schedule every year.


Q. What is the biggest problem facing the Diplomacy hobby today?


A. Really the only problem I see is the politicizing of the service offices, like the BNC or MNC. No one person or group can or should "control" or "guide" this hobby and I emphasize the word hobby. As long as we have individuals like the BNC willing to do the work, why fight about it?


Q. Any other comments about the game or hobby?


A. Not to be argumentative, but I must disagree with Eric Klien's argument in the last DW Interview that PBEM will completely take over the Diplomacy hobby, at least not in the near future. First, not everyone can afford to play by com­puter or has a desire to get one! Second, although the quick turnaround for turns may be preferable to those who have gravitated to PBEM, such speed isn't for everyone. I admit that sometimes postal games seem to drag, but I for one could not meet or enjoy two-day deadlines. For me, this is a hobby - one that I don't always have time to "play" and (I hate to admit this) which sometimes piles up a week before I get back to it.  Although PBEM may quickly pass the PBM hobby in sheer numbers of games played, I look forward to my mailbox ritual. With apologies to Joe Biden, the news of PBM's hobby demise is greatly exaggerated.


Note: Gary is the top-ranked postal player in N. America.