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The Out-Come Oriented Approach, or

"If I had known you had wanted to win, we could have done something about it!"

by Tom Hurst

from Diplomacy World #42


In my last article, I indicated that players approach the game of Diplomacy from three different directions, outcome-oriented, process-oriented, and other-­oriented.   In this article, I will examine the first of these approaches, the outcome-oriented.


The outcome-oriented approach is the realm of those players who are most concerned with the ultimate outcome of the game. They concern themselves little with how they got there, or why they played in the first place. Members of this group can be divided into four sub-groups:


  1. The Emperor
  2. The Henchman
  3. The Survivalist
  4. The Scavenger


The Emperor

The Emperor is the player who, like Napoleon, goes all out to conquer the world. To him, there can be no substitute for first place, as anything other than this is considered losing. In order to win, a player of this type will stop at nothing.


An Emperor’s playing style is characterized by the offer of one-sided deals benefitting himself most. Alliances are dropped just as soon as they can no longer benefit the Emperor, usually for an alliance that allows him to rip off his former partner. A true Machiavellian, the Emperor doesn't care who he's with or what he does, just as long as he comes out on top.


Surprisingly, the Emperor rarely has need to lie to anyone, as his "What's in it for me?" attitude puts everyone on notice that everyone is his friend for just as long as they help him toward his win, and not one second longer! Unfortunately, he is disappointed often, and usually ends up surly and a burnout before too long.


The Henchman

The Henchman is the second sub-type of the outcome-oriented approach. This is the type of player that believes that Diplomacy is a team sport. If he finds another Henchman on his side of the board, watch out!  They will form an immediate alliance which they will stick to through thick and thin, and use the combined forces of their countries like a single superpower in an attempt to sweep the board! Never will there be even the remotest possibility of a Henchman stabbing his ally. The Henchman's ultimate goal is a draw with his ally.


A Henchman's playing style is characterized by a game-long plan for domination of the board with his ally. Any and all offers from other than his primary ally will be accepted for only so long as they fit into that master plan. A Henchman rarely writes to anyone other than his primary ally, unless it is to convince others of something that would benefit the alliance. The Henchman can and will lie often, except to his partner in crime.


An interesting sidelight is what happens if a Henchman forms an alliance with what he thinks is another of the same ilk, but is actually a closet Emperor. When the Emperor finally stabs him and takes the win all by himself, the Henchman's screams can be heard throughout the hobby. Often, the Henchman then plots revenge by stabbing his partner back in any other game they might be in together (a process known as cross-gaming), and blackening his partner's name by telling everyone he has contact with about how "untrustworthy" he was. Be very careful when allying with a Henchman. They are very clannish. Once you stab one, rest assured you will never ally with one again!


The Survivalist

The Survivalist is the type of person that never walks out of a basketball game before the end, even if the home team is losing by 70 points!  "By God, I've paid for the ticket, and I'm going to get my money's worth!"  That's his philosophy. He believes that the yardstick of good play in Diplomacy is not whether one wins or draws, but whether he can keep from losing, losing being defined as being wiped out. To this end he will use any tactic.


The Survivalist never actually starts a game believing that he won't win or draw. However, his dread of being wiped out leads him to make friends with everybody, stifling his growth because he won't attack anybody. He thus usually never grows much beyond his original strength, save for a neutral or two snagged in 1901. When his weak sister status is taken advantage of later on by the remaining powers, the Survivalist will go to any lengths to avoid being wiped out.  Whining, groveling, and boot-licking then becomes a way of life for this character. This is the type of player the word "toady" was coined to describe.


If the Survivalist manages to convince his attackers to let him live on until the end of the game, even with only one center, he will feel that he has accomplished a great feat of negotiation. No matter that he had no influence on the game from the first turn.  He will then bore the socks off anyone who cares to listen, telling them just how well he played.


The Scavenger

The Scavenger is the person that would have you believe that second place is good enough. After all, doesn't that mean that you were better than five other players? At heart, the Scavenger is an Emperor that doesn't like to make an enemy, or at least make an enemy that can fight back.


A Scavenger doesn’t actually begin the game working for second place.  He is perfectly willing to take a win if it is presented to him on a silver platter!  Failing in this, however, he starts the game much like a Survivalist, keeping his head down and not becoming a target.  Unlike the Survivalist, though, he will grab a center here and there, usually from the backsides of the targets of other alliances, most times under the guise of "helping prevent them from sweeping the board." At the same time, the Scavenger is negotiating with that same alliance, "helping" them take this guy out so that they can go on to bigger and better things. After all, it does not pay to make an enemy that can hurt you!


The end of the game usually takes a Scavenger by surprise, as a player who doesn't mind making an enemy takes his last one out for the win, leaving the Scavenger a center or two from winning himself. The Scavenger then tries to convince everybody that second place was what he was after all along, If this happens often enough, he may even start to believe it himself!


In Closing

The outcome-oriented approach is the realm of those players who are primarily interested in how the game turns out. However, this is not the only way to approach a game of Diplomacy. Some players are more concerned with how the game is played than with its outcome. These players will be the subject of the next article in this series.


Until then, Ciao!