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Diplomacy Metaphysics

By Michael Hopcroft

Originally Appearing in Diplomacy World #60



Diplomacy is an odd game, and some odd people play it. Being of a philosophical bent by nature, and one who is always willing to look foolish in a good cause, I thought I would speculate for a moment on what the pieces mean.


Suppose the Diplomacy map represented a real world? Suppose the moves made by Dip players were, in some alternate cosmos, actually happening?


A real war fought in the manner of a Diplomacy game would be odd. There isn't much historical evidence I can see of countries changing sides in the middle of a modern war. There would be much confusion on the lines were that to happen.


"Say, aren't those our allies marching in?" "They sure are. But their bayonets are fixed and they don't look happy. I suggest we duck."


Neutral capitals would be a frenzy of activity.  Diplomats from all sides would meet in Switzerland in secret to arrange the changes of sides. The dealing would be fast and furious, as great powers suddenly cease to exist.


The war itself may or may not be bloody.  Soldiers would seem to be very willing to give up territory rather than get squashed. Neutral countries, accepting their lot as part of the vast empires, won't resist at all. Maneuver is emphasized over fighting, and when faced with overwhelming odds armies invariably retreat.


How does the individual soldier feel? Caught in seem­ingly endless fighting against enemies who were once friends, the individual soldier would have to feel his effort pointless.


What about the civilians? War breaks out everywhere suddenly after almost a century of peace, for no reason whatsoever. I'm sure shock would give way to ennui; "So who's conquering us ibis time, I wonder?" "The English." "Better stock up on tea then."


Only a select, slightly mad few would realize that their world was crumbling because somewhere in the infinity of space-time seven people are playing a game. I know that it would threaten my sanity to realize my universe is merely a game board!


Michael Hopcroft is the former publisher of Not Up to Modern Graphics Standards.