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A Draw is not a Win

By Stan Johnson

From Diplomacy World #63


I recently had the unpleasant experience of playing Diplomacy with a pair of players who made no attempt to win. These miserable excuses for Dip players were suffering from what is commonly known as "Good Ally Syndrome." Everyone who has been in the hobby any length of time has had the misfortune of encountering these pathetic creatures masquerading as true Diplomats. They are easily identifiable by their plaintive cries of "Oh, I could never STAB anyone" or "I couldn't stab a faithful ally just to win a game!" These, along with the oft-repeated call, "I'm just in the hobby to make friends."


Disgusting, isn't it?


If all you want to do is make friends, join the local quilting club. A real Dipper plays to win each and every time. If I played Diplomacy against my mother and grandmother, I wouldn't show them any more mercy than I show anyone else. And that, of course, is none. I don't hide my light under a bushel, either, as everyone who has played against me can attest to. I expect my fellow players to do the same to me in



If, on the other hand, you enter a Dip game knowing full well you plan to play for a draw, you have perverted the game. Indeed, you are playing an entirely different game. The idea that everyone is trying to win is what creates the ebb and flow of the game, and the shift in alliance structures that make the game fun. The good ally Dip game compares to real Diplomacy the way a stagnant, putrid, polluted pond compares to a fresh, swift-moving stream.


Why would anyone do such a thing to Diplomacy? One theory has it that these Good Ally players feel secure thinking "No one will like me if I stab them." Among real Dip players this is simply not the case. The Icons of the hobby, men like Walt Buchanan, Doug Beyerlein and Edi Birsan are winners all. Walt Buchanan's record was, I believe, seven wins in seven postal games; yet I am unaware of anyone who knows him who does not speak of him with anything but respect.


A second reason might be that these spineless jellyfish are ratings hounds. Their strategy involves kowtowing to deviant ratings systems that equate a two-way draw as half a win, a three-way as third of a win, and award points accordingly. But to a real player, the win is worth ten times one two-way draw, if not more. The jellyfish think that if they just pile up those two or three-way draws they will move up in the rankings. Perhaps if a more correct ratings system were instituted that properly reflected real Diplomacy values, such wimp attitudes would not be so prevalent in the hobby.


I'm sure some of you are saying, "Where does this Johnson fellow get off copping this attitude? What does he base his holier-than-thou attitude on?" My short answer is: The Rulebook! For years two things about the Good Ally Pukes annoyed me. One was their smug air of moral superiority, implying that they were too good to stab their loyal allies. The second thing was a sneaking suspicion that their "Good ally from start to finish" strategy was in fact a thinly-disguised form of cheating. Now I know I was right all along. Almost all postal House Rules state that "The 1971 Rulebook will be used", then they turn right around and allow people to vote for draws that exclude some surviving players. Not only are these guys wimps, but they are too lazy to honestly earn their draws by eliminating the competition.


But just take a look at the Rulebook. Section II, under the heading "Object of the Game", clearly states ''Players may terminate the game by mutual agreement before a winner is determined, in which case all players who still have pieces in the board share equally in the draw." So unless the zine's House Rules specifically declare that section of the Rulebook void, all those other declared draws are in fact illegitimate, and should not be considered for ratings purposes.


David Hood has mentioned that the statistics he received with the Dragonstooth Ratings System may be defective. I suggest he compile his own stats, counting only wins and draws that were Draws Include All Survivors (DIAS), or were played in zines (if any) where the House Rules specifically legitimize voted draws. If players feel that using the correct rules would make the game too long, I refer them to Section III of the Rulebook, entitled "The Short Game."


The whole accomplishment of Diplomacy is beating six other players. One over six. When you change this to 2 over 5 or(heaven forbid) 3 over 4, then the glow rapidly fades. Let all right-thinking Diplomacy players stand up and be counted. Together we can get the game back on the right track. Let's put an end to all these disgraceful draws. The only legitimate use of a draw is to end a hopelessly stalemated game.  If a draw is declared, the Rulebook should be followed and it should be DIAS. This by itself should greatly reduce the number of draws of convenience and this "play to a draw" attitude.