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Strategic Concepts of Colonia

by Jack McHugh

from Diplomacy World #62 


Colonia, while using the mechanics of Diplomacy, is a somewhat different game in strategy from Dip. Colonia puts more emphasis on the grand strategic view than its parent game, and leads to more stress on alliance play.


A game of Diplomacy begins with the players' objec­tives dictated, to a large extent, by the board. That is to say, Austria will attempt to be Balkan power, England a naval power in Scandinavia and northern Europe, Italy a Mediter­ranean power, etc. It is difficult, and in some cases impos­sible, for the players to significantly alter these enforced stratagems.


Not so in Colonia. Although it is true that most players have a home area in Europe, the players can change the nature of their holdings by trading various pieces of real estate around the globe. For example, France could trade Dakar to Portugal in exchange for Alaska, accomplishing a switch of colonial build centers in America and Europe. The result strengthens both powers as they each have concentrated their build centers in one area. This also reduces the possibility of stabs as neither player now would want the other's centers on their respective continents.


No longer is one' power in the board designated the "naval power" 'when one plays Colonia. In Diplomacy, England generally builds little but fleets and is alone in doing so. However, in Colonia there are often other powers, such as Portugal or Netherlands, that also may adopt the fleet policy  with some measure of success.


What Colonia asks of its players is strategic imagination and flexibility. It is possible for a player to completely relocate from Europe to his colonial holdings. A power could, for example, gain control of all the build centers in North America by trading his European holdings for help in Amer­ica. This would give that power four new build centers in America, which is more than anyone (except Russia) starts out with in Europe.


Those are my opening remarks. Now I would like to enunciate some strategic rules that future Colonia players may find useful.


Rule 1: Play Game Long Alliances. Since there are so many units it is almost impossible to win solo in this game. Given that fact, why not have an ally or two right from the beginning and increase your chances of winning?


Rule 2: Don't Hesitate to Concentrate Strength. As I said earlier, it is possible to do some horse trading early and thereby concentrate your holdings.  This will strengthen your hand and discourage stabs. Decide where you want to be a major power and don't be afraid to trade away or lose the rest.


Rule 3: Control the Choke Points. On the Colonia VI board there a number of choke points, the control of which is imperative for a successful strategy. Geography should influ­ence your tactics in this regard, though not as much as it would in regular Dip. If you are playing Austria and decide on a Pacific strategy, you should count on keeping both Polynesia and the Central Pacific Ocean clear of foreign units after the first few turns.


Rule 4: Draft Orders Carefully.  Because Colonia involves a large number of units, you will need to spend a lot of time both in planning and actually writing your moves. I find it necessary to number my units so as not to overlook any of them. You will also need time to check out where other countries' units are and where said units can move to.


Rule 5: Develop an Overall Growth Plan. The first two years of any Colonia game are spent with all powers gobbling up neutral centers that surround them. This early period is ideal for talking to other players and deciding exactly where builds are to be concentrated. If you are playing the Netherlands, this is the time to decide to cut a deal with the Turks about Goo or to talk to Austria about trading your help into Poland for their help in the Pacific.


Rule 6: Be Open to Other Offers. Although I have emphasized the importance of making your own plans, sometimes an uncooperative neighbor will make those plans difficult to execute. There are more players in Colonia than Diplomacy, so if someone wants to work with you don't be afraid to radically alter your plans to make such an alliance practicable. In fact, it may be better to plan to grow in more than one area. Down the road you can decide which area to concentrate on based upon least resistance and/or most coop­erative allies.


Rule 7: Write Early and Often. The most critical part of any game, whether it be Diplomacy or a variant, is early in the game. Even if you can't follow up your first letters within a turn or two, it is crucial to write everyone the first turn. This is even more true in Colonia, as many powers who are not European neighbors may be close to one another overseas.


I can scarcely overemphasize this latter point.  Once players hear nothing from you while other powers are in contact with them, they are less likely to change their plans later even if you become a more reliable communicator. And, of course, don't think that other players aren't busy telling everyone what a louse you are and how you never write in any game you are in… and how you should be killed here in this game, immediately, for this breach of Diplomacy etiquette.