GAMES: Diplomacy

I’m not sure if any of you have ever hear of or played a game known as “Diplomacy”. It’s a strategy board game that involves 2-7 players.

Personally, I find it a thousand times better than say Risk or Axis & Allies, because it’s not so unit based, and nowhere near as based on chance. However, there is a downside (or if you are me, an upside) to this. The game compensates with this by almost always requiring you to betray and lie to the other players in order for one to win.

The other downside is that it’s almost impossible to find seven experienced players. It was recently re-released after an eight year hiatus out of print, so that makes it just a tad bit easier to find people to play with.

My question is: Is it immoral for one to lie to the other players (even if it is a standard procedure) during a board game?


It sems to me that in the context of the game, wherein all the players know that there is a chance … even a likelihood … that they are being misled, there is probably no problem.

Consider that while playing the game you are an actor acting a role. You are “stepping outside of yourself” to act a part.

NOW… the question might be asked if acting that part often may desensitize you to the wrongness of lying when you are not playing the game. And it is a fair question. You should examine your conscience to see if a pattern develops, and make choices accordingly.

But the game, as a game, seems to present no particular problem.


Wow. Just… wow. Isn’t being paranoid about sinning a sin of vanity? If you really have to question whether lying in a board game is sinful because the rules of the game call for it, then… I don’t know.

I think it is a legitimate question. If you read the CCC’s section on the 8th commandment, it comes down pretty hard on lying, so I can understand why someone would be worried. That being said, I agree with jprioli that it’s like being an actor in a movie and not likely a sin, it’s not like “lying in real life”.

I have heard of Diplomacy but have never played it. (I don’t think I’d like to try it since I’m not very good at games that require lying / bluffing / that sort of personal interaction).

However, it is a popular game among “hardcore gamers” (those into D&D, Warhammer and the like) and often gaming societies or gaming conventions run official Diplomacy tournaments. See if you can fnd out about any in your local area. I know there was a Diplomacy tournament in Sydney recently.

I love Diplomacy. I’m one of the few people I know who will happily set aside 10+ hours of a weekend to play a game start to finish (most people want to quit after 6 hours or so). The best I’ve ever done is to capture 12 supply depots as France. Everyone wanted to quit after that turn, but if we’d have gone another year, I would have taken a full 15 without requiring any additional support.

The worst I’ve done was to get stuck as Austria/Hungary and get completely eliminated on the third turn when Russia, Turkey, Italy, and Germany allied against me. That was not cool.

I love playing as Italy or France. I’ve never played as England or Germany, though I would like to. Thing is, pretty much everyone who plays as Austria-Hungary ends up gone by the third round unless they ally with Italy and pull a Lepanto. (If they survive that, though, they’re pretty much guaranteed survival until after mid-game) But you’re right, it’s really difficult to finish a game without the other players wanting to quit after six hours.

Flopfoot, I’m not really that into D&D or Warhammer… they’re based to much on chance for my liking. I’m not really near any huge cities, and I doubt that I’d want to go to any tournaments with gas prices as they are now.

Larowyn: Yes, I am vain and conceited. But that’s not why I was asking this question. It can get really tense between people while playing Diplomacy, especially if you have someone who takes the game too seriously. And that’s when the deceit aspect of the game comes into question.

Thanks to all for your responses.

It’s not your fault if someone else is a bad sport.

Do you use standard settings for Italy? Our group found that no one likes playing Italy according to the standard rules because they’re so “trapped” and can’t expand fast enough. When we play, we give Italy two navel units and one army unit rather than two armies and one navel.

I haven’t played Diplomacy, but that “trapped” feeling you described sounds fairly accurate for Italy in that time period.

We play normally whenever there’s seven people. Because although Italy is trapped, it still has a good defensive position (unlike France or Germany). It usually ends up allied to Austria-Hungary or Russia (which is my least favorite country to play as). Sometimes France. But when there’s only five people, the one guy is always Germany rather than Austria-Hungary.

is the gentle art of letting the other fellow have it your way.


Diplomacy is the game that started my board game addiction. There’s just nothing else like it. The best way to play is to get 14 people (it has happened a few times) and partner up.

I’ve always wanted to play board games like Diplomacy but I never knew anyone who would play.

You can find play-by-email games of Diplomacy online. If you can find four or five or (ideally) six friends to play with, it’s not too difficult… you have to buy a board, of course, which recently was put back in print… they can be bought online. If somehow you and your friends can manage to set aside 5-10 hours, then it’s a done deal. That’s the tricky part. But it is a really fun experience, and I recommend it.

A couple of my friends told me that it was kind of like Rome: Total War. I’ve never played it, but it could be used as a selling point to some people who aren’t sure if they should play or not… just a suggestion.

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