Tag Archives: Diplomacy

Not yer Daddy’s 4H

I spent last week in the company of some of the brightest and most talented teenagers I’ve ever had the opportunity to be around. As one of the instructors in the 4H Technology and Expressive Arts Camp held at Mississippi State University, I spent the week teaching “Graphic Storytelling” to a group of teenagers interested in that art. Other tracks offered at the camp were logo design, dancing, robotics, gaming and creative writing. Dancing seemed to be the most popular track—Dancing with the Stars, I guess?

I’ve taught Graphic Storytelling before and hope to do so many times again in the future. Graphic storytelling is something I enjoy and I like the idea of helping to pass on that love to younger artists. The cool thing is that the concepts work not just for comic books or graphic novels, but also for movies, animation, and even video games.

I was also able to meet the best-selling author Bryan Davis (Dragons in our Midst) and hear him speak at the camp. What an incredibly nice guy he is! I’d recommend picking up one of his books on that fact alone!

But really, I was most impressed by the kids. And before you go there—yes, I probably allowed myself to pre-suppose what the kids were like: this was a 4H camp, after all, they’re used to working with horses and goats and cows. Boy was I surprised. One group of the campers built a robot using legos…and then controlled it with a Wii remote! It was a working forklift robot and it was demonstrated on the last day—I saw the thing work!

Then there was this group of incredibly gifted musicians that played/performed during most of the breaks. Music wasn’t one of the tracks, it just happened to be what they did in between sessions and during breaks. I first heard them and saw the display of talent the first night we were there during a talent show. Seems a bunch of the kids, though, are part of a group called “Southern Sounds” and travel around considerably so that they can perform. Brittany sang Sky Full of Angels for her part in the talent show and was later asked to be a part of the group. Before the week was over, the group was doing several new songs and performed for a luncheon on Friday. Brittany sang Proud Mary with them, a song which she’d never heard before. One of the Moms caught it on video, so I’m hoping to get a copy and post it on Youtube before long. Yeah—I’ll post it here when I do!

One really fun thing I was able to do was teach an entire new group the incredibly awesome game of Diplomacy! I’d planned to only do the game one night, but they had so much fun they demanded I run it the second night as well. A couple of the players even asked me where they could obtain a copy for themselves. Of course, it is out of print so I could only send them to ebay. However, they’ve let me know already that they’ve signed up for an online game.

Needless to say, I learned a lot about 4H last week…and there seems to be so much more I need to learn!

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Diplomacy should be a requirement

With schools cranking up again, it made me think once again of the board game Diplomacy. I think that every student should be required to learn to play the game Diplomacy as part of the required school curriculum. Not only would it be fun, but it would help prepare students to play the games of politics in life and in their chosen careers.

As I’ve stated in this space before, I enjoy playing games, particularly board games which require using the brain for strategy of some sort, usually with some historical significance and most of the time with territory to conquer. With most games there is some bit of luck or chance involved as most involve die rolls or probability charts.

Not Diplomacy.

There are no die in this game, which first saw the light of day back in 1958. The only luck and chance in this game is that which the player creates, not the roll of a die.

Diplomacy is a board game set in pre-World War I Europe. It is best played with the maximum of seven players, each controlling a European power of the time: England, France, Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Russia. Modeled after the chess board, Diplomacy’s map board is made up of 64 total spaces with 34 supply centers. Each power’s territory contains three supply centers initially (except for Russia, which has four) leaving a total of twelve “neutral” supply centers.

The object is to control 18 supply centers and declare victory. It is similar to Risk, except that players cannot mass armies, only one piece may occupy a territory at any given time, and players get only one piece per supply center they control. Thus, there can never be more than a total of 34 game pieces on the board at any one time.

The true task of the game is to convince the other European powers that you are the player with which to build an alliance. Simply, players must be “diplomatic.” Of course, those same alliances are likely to be broken over the quest of supply centers. The Balkans, for instance, contain four un-owned supply centers at the beginning of the game. Guess where much of the early conflict takes place.

The game has three phases: negotiation, order writing and order resolution. By far the most difficult is the negotiation. But it is also the most fun.

Generally, game turns begin in spring of 1901, and each player has 30 minutes to negotiate with every player (privately or publicly) before handing in written orders. In a usual game situation, the mapboard is located in a central location and very little negotiation goes on near because it could be easily overheard by the other players.

Generally each player will initially talk to every other player, listening to offers of alliances and territory, and offering the same.

The players must then decide who is “telling the truth,” and who is offering the best deal to most likely propel the player to the ultimate goal of 18 supply centers.

The orders are read and executed simultaneously—it is during this phase that you discover if your ally has stabbed you in the back and crossed into your nation’s borders or remained true to their alliance with you.

Diplomacy is often called a game of back-stabbing, and it is a well fitting description. The Russian player may promise you (assuming you are Turkey) all control of Austria if you will simply allow him to control Rumania. Once he has acquired Rumania, however, he may decide that he will ally with the Austrian to conquer your territory!

Or, that may have been the plan from the beginning and he may have misled you intentionally in an effort to catch you unprepared. The Austrian may have cut him a better deal.

Life is the same way.

Throughout life, you will have allies and you will have enemies. Like the game of Diplomacy, you must be able to use your intuitive skills to determine who is lying to you, who is telling the truth, who is out to help you, who is out to harm you or who may even be neutral to you.

To succeed, you have to be able to learn to read the other “players” to determine these things. And, like the game, you will often have to take risks on who you trust with an alliance or even with just information. In the same way, you’ll have to take chances on the moves you make.

Some might say this is a depressing or pessimistic way to look at life. Personally, I don’t see it as depressing, as I’ve said, I like playing Diplomacy.

Diplomacy is probably my all time favorite game and I feel it is likely the best game ever made. Some of my fondest memories of college are of late-night weekends playing Diplomacy with such pals as Ashley Koostra, Bill Sawyer, Mike Schexnaydre, Eric (the Kahn) Amundson, David Rogers, and a whole host of others. For years, The Avalon Hill Game Company put out Diplomacy. Recently it was purchased, though I forget by whom. Copies are still available though, and maybe we can convince the School Board to add Diplomacy to the curriculum.


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