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Breaking Stalemate Lines

By Eric Verheiden

From Diplomacy World #11


While a great deal has been written on the topic of creating and maintaining stalemate lines, relatively little has been published about breaking them, though of course this is of importance for those of us who find ourselves on the winning side once in a while.


Diplomatically, the most important thing is to sow dissension among the ranks.  It has been said that when a group of Democrats wants to form a firing squad, the first thing they do is to form a circle.  The same is often the case of a group of players trying to form a stalemate line.  There is always someone dissatisfied with his position in the scheme of things, someone worried (perhaps justifiably so) about the vulnerability of his position, some budding Napoleon who simply cannot resist the temptation of all those lightly defended supply centers, someone who suddenly decides that now is the time to settle hus grudge with player X over 1971DI.  These people are asking to be exploited and you should not hesitate to oblige them.  Promise them the moon (or, at any rate, a two-way draw) – but don’t move your fleets too far away from the Ionian.


Now to be fair, it is not always that easy to break down the opposition.  Smaller alliances make for more stable lines and if the alliance ever gets down to an alliance of one, well then, your work is cut out for you, isn’t it?  The thing to do is find the weak link and then to work on that link.  The less-experienced player is usually your best bet; he may not yet have acquired the necessary cynicism and incredulity which come only after having been shafted a few times.  Better yet, he may still have some quaint ideas about loyalty and honoring agreements and may be amenable to “revenging” himself on an ex-enemy who had the audacity to attack him earlier in the game.


Tactically speaking, the task is simpler.  Once the break comes, the first objective should be to make sure that Humpty Dumpty will never be put together again.  Taking specific supply centers should, in the early stages, be a means to an end, not an end in itself.  For instance, in a typical eastern stalemate running through Italy, the critical space is the Ionian; once it falls, the rest will usually follow.  The corresponding space for a western stalemate through Iberia is the Mid-Atlantic.  Consequently, if say you have a choice between dislodging a weak enemy army in Rome or crashing your way into the Ionian, in most cases you should choose the latter.  This does not mean of course that you should follow up your move into the Ionian with a single fleet attack against a triply-supported Army Smyrna; the idea is to make solid growth for the most part, so that yours will be the last conquest of those areas you do take, not merely one of a continuing series.


Once the line is broken for once and for all (and sometimes even before), the idea is to put the pressure on and keep it on.  Casually waiting for your units to be in optimum position before moving is not the way to win Diplomacy games.  Rather keep pushing and wait for something to break.  Sometimes players become defeatist prematurely; be prepared to take full advantage of that NMR.  An indifferent defense will often crumble in the face of a determined attack.  Lack of coordination among your opponents can provide unexpected opportunities (I thought you were going to support it).


Finally, just keep in mind your objective; you are not after a gentleman’s draw – sheer greed propels you into demanding and taking it all for yourself.  Be prepared to act accordingly.