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Posted on Oct 7, 2005 in Electronic Games

Diplomacy – Game Review (PC)

Armchair General

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OVERVIEW

Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘Nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.

Will Rogers, US humourist & showman (1879 – 1935)

For anyone who may have temporarily filed away their dog-hitting rocks, I think it might be time to go looking for them again because, yes, it’s back! The classic board game Diplomacy returns once more to the PC with updated graphics, souped-up AI and more backstabbing than you’ll find at a convention of deranged knife-loving paranoid schizophrenics.

To anyone who hasn’t heard of Diplomacy (and I find that hard to believe) then shame on you, but it’s not too late to get on the bus before it leaves, and I’ll even give you a brief rundown of what it’s all about.

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Diplomacy started life as a board game featuring the major powers of Europe as they were positioned at the start of the 20th century. As leader of one of these great nations, your mission (should you choose to accept it – and who wouldn’t?) is to conquer the entire continent through a combination of military muscle, lying, cheating and scheming. There are only two types of playing pieces – Armies and Navies, but unlike Risk, only one such unit can occupy territory at a time. The number of units controlled by a player is determined by how many Production Centres he or she occupies, thus the aim of the game is to secure 18 such PCs in order to dominate the map.

Sound straightforward? Well it’s not, because all the while you are trying to outwit your opponents, all six of them are trying to do the same thing to you. There are no dice and there is no luck, you must use the only real weapon available to you – your wits. You must try to outthink all of the other players by making alliances and treaties and hoping that the others will hold true to them and not stab you in the back before you make your move. And before you think you can go it alone and forego any alliances, military or political, forget it, your forces on their own are almost incapable of winning without assistance, so you must use those other players as best you can to fortify your position before betraying them, and pray that you’ve chosen the right moment to do so.

In summary – it’s tough…and now it’s back on the PC for single or multiplay. So go and grab your ceremonial sword, spruce up that uniform and take your seat at the table of international intrigue.

GAMEPLAY

There are four modes of gameplay available, Single Game, Sandbox mode, LAN or Metaserver. Single Game just involves one player against 6 AI enemies and is covered below. Sandbox mode allows players to set up situations and try out moves, it’s just like the main game except the player controls all the pieces and can recreate any game situation they desire. LAN play is self-explanatory and allows multiplay over a network whereas Metaserver requires an online login to a server where you will be slotted into a game.

Since I don’t have access to a LAN, and the Metaserver was not running at the time of my review, I’ll restrict my comments to the Single Game.

For new players, the excellent Tutorial mode gives you some incredibly in-depth insights into basic gameplay and moving your pieces, new players need not fear. Once you decide on an actual game, you must first choose a profile picture for yourself – an avatar which will represent you through your games. And look – I found a guy with an eye-patch, which is very appropriate for me.

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It’s me!!

Your next challenge when entering a Single Game is deciding which country to control, and determining how your fellow AI players will play the game themselves. How so? Well, as you will see from the screenshot below, each AI player can have one of fourteen different personalities assigned to them. This is an interesting dilemma in itself, but one that could afford certain strategic advantages if you get it right. For example, if you know from the outset that you want to try and make friends with, say, Germany, in order to secure your borders, you can effectively rig the table in your favour to ensure that you get a friend you can trust. Or so you hope…

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Choose your enemies and allies wisely

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