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The Significance of Tactical Competence

By Gary Behnan

From Diplomacy World #13


Throughout the hobby it is a common concept that the prominent emphasis should be bestowed upon your diplomatic endeavors.  Admittedly, this is correct.  However, competent tactical execution is irrefutably expedient to a “winner’s” strategies.


Numerous articles on play have frequently exemplified the eminence of diplomacy over tac­tics in singular significance. Inadvertently, these articles have exaggerated the premise that participants in Diplomacy condone the deterioration of competent tactical performance.


Logically, once a player secures his col­leagues' trust and cooperation, he desires to transpose their strategy into a tangible tacti­cal form. Obviously, they fancy the most accel­erated means to their ends.


The maximum utilization of the minimum force is the dogma of every efficient tactician. This theory is easily applicable to Diplomacy. Invariably, players commandeer their forces in­consequentially, thereby eradicating even the most brilliant diplomatic exhibition.  When these tactics are employed by an indigent tac­tician, the justification is repeatedly cautious play.


The foremost folly of cautious play must be the "hold" order. For the infinitesimal quantity of competent use, it is vastly exercised. There are numerous applications that are all markedly superior.


Should a unit be holding for lack of appli­cation, it may be employed to cut a support.  For example, the Germans have armies in Holland and Munich, the French an army in Ruhr, and the English a fleet in Belgium. If the Germans attack Ruhr and use Holland as support, it may be cut by ordering F Bel-Hol, thereby permitting French Army Ruhr to retain its position.  My examples will be gross simplifications as they adequately convey my intent.


You may decide to attempt a stupendous tac­tical ploy, the intentional stand-off.  I refer to the preceding example; however, Army Holland is now positioned in Kiel. Should you order F Bel to HoI in conjunction with A Kie-Hol. the result amounts to retaining all economic centers as the army in Ruhr cannot slip in behind you nor can he conquer Holland for lack of force. Additionally, it permits you to maintain your present position instead of forcing you into a less advantageous location.


Even if you are beset with isolation, you can still interfere with your opposition's ap­propriation. By striking out into a province, you may suppress an attempt to attain this province and consequently detain your aggressor.


If indeed your unit must retain its present province, then instead of sitting idly, you can use it for supporting actions. For example, if we had a French army in Belgium and a fleet in the North Sea opposing a Germany army in Kiel, you may support F Nth-Hol, thereby allowing you to conquer Holland where otherwise you would have been stood-off.


Another application would be to promote goodwill through support. Again, I allude to the Belgian sector; however, the nationality of the fleet is altered to that of the English. By ordering A Bel S GA Kia-HoI you would not only obtain German appreciation, but you may lay a foundation for diplomatic negotiations that were previously refused or neglected.


Finally, you can employ your unit to dis­rupt or interfere with a stand-off. I again al­lude to the Belgian sector, example two. Should the enemy order F Nth-HoI in unison with A Kie-­HoI by supporting one or the other, you will open one of the provinces and/or alter economic center ownership, thereby forcing a disbandment.


Another aspect of cautious play is its to­tally inefficient manipulation of forces, best exemplified by the massive support of one as­sault, where an efficiently executed thrust would have obtained strategical instead of tac­tical success.


Usually cautious play is associated with the idea that diplomatic prowess overcomes tac­tical incompetence. This ideology frequently results in a stab and the player becomes anger­ed. Actually, the fallible play rests on the stabbed party however, armed with his warped ideology so that he is blind to his own fault.


There are those who advocate that cautious play and its associated ideology can surmount all tactical obstacles. If anyone is contem­plating this self-deception, you should realize that it repeatedly results in stab and/or stale­mate positions.


In this article, I aspired to enlighten players to the significance of competent tacti­cal execution. Habitually, the emphasis is so disproportionately allocated that the necessity of diplomatic and tactical coordination are either neglected or ignored.