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Repeating What You Never Heard

by Mark Berch

from Diplomacy World #64



Usually, when you lie in a Diplomacy game, you speak for yourself. You discuss moves you have no intention of making. You give explanations that have nothing at all to do with why you actually did what you did. But these have severe limitations. These explanations are generally not verifiable. And anything we say of ourselves is treated as self­ serving and hence very suspect. But a lie about someone else can get around these problems, and therefore be much more believable.


I had the opportunity to do this in a postal game, 84HW in Fol Si Fie. I was France, corresponding actively with England and Germany at gamestart. Neither seemed to be interested in a western triple (EFG).  So I wanted to poison any and all EG relationships.  But how?


Germany had, early on, written me a very specific and very aggressive proposal for an FG attack on England, starting right in Spring 1901. I knew him to be an active and thorough diplomat, so it occurred to me that he had probably written a very analogous letter to England. I figured that he had probably proposed an immediate F Lon-Eng, A Mun-Bur plan for Spring 1901.


So I wrote Germany, and casually mentioned to him that England had told me of the F Lon-Eng and A Mun-Bur proposal. I fleshed it out a bit to add plausibility. I did this for two reasons. First, I needed an explanation for why I had moved A Par-Pic, A Mar-Bur that first Spring. I said I wanted to take some precautions against this plan without doing something as drastic as F Bre-Eng. Second, I did this to sow EG discord.


Of course, the truth was that England never told me of any such plan!


The German player did believe this fabrication about England. He confirmed my guess by pointing out that there was nothing wrong with him having made such a proposal to England early in the game. And during the crucial pre-Winter 1901 negotiations, he expressed distinct annoyance that England had done this. My plan basically worked.


Germany could have asked me for his original letter to England, but that would not have exposed my fib since I had never said that England passed me a copy of that letter. The German could also have asked for a copy of England's letter to me, though, in which case I would have fallen back on a general policy against letter-passing.


But Germany didn't ask me for anything, and I wouldn't expect him to. The point here is, if a lie appears on its face to be plausible, then suspicions are never aroused as to its authenticity. Since my guess about the German letter was correct, it probably never occurred to him that the "England told me" part wasn't correct.


Opportunities to pull this particular type of deception on someone aren't going to come very often, obviously. But you should be alert to the possibility of passing along non-existent gossip that the recipient would have had good reason to believe. And, as a more general rule, if one aspect of what you are saying is true, it's a lot easier to slip in another aspect of it which is far from the truth. This is the case particularly when what is ostensibly the most important part of the message is true. That was the case here, and it will be the case other times as well. Pay attention, and capitalize.