How to Lie Diplomatically
by Dave White
From Diplomacy World #21
I 'm sure that everyone who reads DIPLOMACY WORLD knows how to lie (a very significant statement about the readership!), so what is the point of this article? Remember when you were little and you used 'to do bad things, things that you knew you were going to get punished for? Remember how you used to lie and blame those things on your brother sister or dog? Don't lie, now! Remember the story about the little boy who cried, "Wolf!" The point of [this article is to explain how to be a discriminating liar.
What makes Diplomacy the game that it is is the section in the rules about diplomacy. ''The rules do not bind a player to anything he says....” Quite a number of people I have played, both face-to face and postally, take this to mean that you are supposed to lie at every available opportunity. While technically this is true, it's not too smart. Usually, this tactic of lying all the time is successful on a limited basis the first time that it's used, but, alas, the end result is the same as for the little boy who cried "Wolf! This is disastrous in Diplomacy because opponents will either listen to you and then ignore everything you have said as they write their moves, or they will simply ignore you altogether rather than risk believing the line of crap they know you're going to dish out. I guarantee that once you acquire a reputation as a liar, it will take you ten times as long to get rid of it than it did to gain it.
How do you get rid of a reputation as a liar? Well, first you try not to acquire one in the first place! Failing that, you must go against the grain of your very fiber and (God forbid!) TELL THE TRUTIH! I know that it will be tough, but believe me (yes, I know this article deals with lying, therefore you should NOT believe me), it will be worth it. I recall a face-to-face game where I was playing Austria. A fellow whom I introduced td the game several months earlier, and whom I’d stabbed on numerous occasions, was playing Russia. He took off for Turkey, while I discouraged Italy enough that he left early, giving me the simple task of restoring order to that poor country with my troops. Russia and I than entered into an agreement to divide the Balkans evenly while he headed for Scandinavia and I headed for Germany and France.
For three interminable years I kept every agreement I made with him, even when he didn't. Even though we had a non-aggression pact, I still had units lined up along the border as he eventually got further and further strung out. Patiently, I bided my time, and struck like a coiled rattle snake when he was most vulnerable, breaking all of our agreements in one move. Even then, he said he wasn't mad at me; he said that he would have done the same thing in my position. Before all of this happened, though, I suffered through about five games where no one talked to me. In fact, they headed straight for me on the very first move, stabbing me before I had the chance to stab. I am still healing from some of those stab wounds.
Just as there's more than one way to "skin a cat," there is more than one way to lie. Of course, there is out-and-out fabrication, but I have found this to be the least effective method for two reasons: One, you have to make sure that your lie is plausible, which is sometimes difficult; and Two, all future statements have to coincide with your original fabrication to avoid its detection. So what other options are available?
One of my favorites is simply to withhold information that would be detrimental to me if revealed to another player, or which would help another player. For example, you are Austria. It is Spring 1901. You get a letter from Germany that says he plans to move F Kie-Den and then bump Russia in Sweden in the Fall. Russia and Austria agree to non-aggression, but you don't trust Russia. Russia asks you point-blank, "What is Germany going to do?" You know, or think you know, what Germany is up to, but you simply sidestep the issue and say that all you discussed with him was non-aggression, saying nothing about F Kie-Den. Too many times, though, I have seen novices pass along everything verbatim to everybody, only to ponder too late about lack of security.
Another favorite ploy is the "misdirection," the principle here being to direct an opponent's attention elsewhere to either set up a stab or free you to pursue other activities. For example, you are France in Spring 1901. You have negotiated non-aggression with Germany. Even so, you know that he is greedy as hell and has his eyes on Belgium. Here, you tell him that you have indications that Italy might head into Tyrolia to go for Trieste and simply point out that an open Munich would be tempting.
This is not really a lying technique, but it is a deceptive and effective one. The only way you can get someone to do something for you is because he wants to. Make him an offer he can't refuse! Use logic to explain why your proposal is in his best interest, because of gaining a supply center or an advantageous position. Offer your services for free; then, later on, you'll be able to ask for his help, and he will remember gratefully how you helped him earlier.
One last tactic for deceiving opponents: TELL THE TRUTH! Did he say what I thought he said? Yes, you heard right. Oftentimes, truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Why lie if "the truth” is so bizarre that no one will believe it anyway? Besides, the more you tell your colleagues the truth, the more they will expect it out of you. It's just like rocking a baby to sleep. They'll think, “he has told the truth so far, he’ll most likely tell the truth again."
And then… GOTCHA!
Whatever you do, use your deception sparingly; it will be much more effective. When you lie, do it with conviction; put enthusiasm into it until you believe it yourself. Cover your tracks by being nebulous about your sources. That way, you can blame someone else for any misunderstandings that may arise.
This is by no means a complete list of deceptive practices that you can employ, but only a few of my personal favorites. Try them; they may add a new dimension to your game. Trust me! Have I ever lied to you?