In this blog post I would really like to talk about one of my favorite games. It can be a game that you begin to love just in principle when you hear about it, and you can certainly learn to love it after playing it the first time. I have only completed the game twice, maybe three times; it depends on your definition of completion, and it has to be pretty loose for me to say that I've ever completed it at all.

The game is Diplomacy, and it is probably the purest board game of its genre. At first it may seem much like Risk, which is in fact probably the most popular game of this "conquest" category. Diplomacy is entirely different than Risk, however, in that there is no element of luck involved beyond the selection of one's starting position. Once you get to a certain skill level in the game of Risk, you may as well be playing Candy Land, as the outcome depends totally on luck.

In Diplomacy, success depends on each player's ability to interact with, cooperate with and take advantage of the other players. Almost nothing can be achieved without the support of others- thus the name of the game. In Risk or other games such as Axis and Allies, game play is almost completely independent of any ability to interact with the other players. The moves one makes are just based on numbers and strategy, not the alliances and deals you make with other people.

Just as I prefer language and social sciences to science and math, I prefer Diplomacy to other board games because the inconsistency (or perhaps, consistency) of human nature is far more interesting than impersonal numerical calculation and game strategy. And of course, it's more relevant! Dealing with people diplomatically to achieve common ends is an important thing to practice, even if it's with little imaginary armies on a map. Go is of course the exception to the boredom of the impersonal, as its game play elements are of unparalleled complexity.

Diplomacy is set in the context of Europe at the turn of the 20th century, although there are many alternate versions. Seven powers are present, and the goal is to conquer as much of the continent as possible. The rules are simple and could probably be learned just by looking at the history of finished games on this site, which is also where you can begin playing the game.

Try it out! You might enjoy it. The type of strategy and game play that Diplomacy provides is lacking in today's video game era. I enjoy computer and video games myself, but in many cases simple board games are far deeper and enjoyable than the most complex program.

Good luck in conquering Europe.


  1. I sent a copy of the games address to your Uncle Bruce. He plays Risk on the computer every day.


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