Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
Artist: Janos Orban
Playtime: 3-4 Hours
Ruining friendships and making tactical decisions is the name of the game in Diplomacy!
A Brief How To Play
To set up, every player is assigned a country and gets 3 supply centers (except Russia, which gets 4) and places them according to the table provided in the rulebook. After each center is placed, the game is ready to start. Easy!
Diplomacy revolves around negotiations, forming and breaking alliances, and making tactical promises, requiring players to balance trust and deceit to ultimately stand alone as the winner. Gameplay involves private discussions to form alliances and coordinate moves, followed by the secretive writing of orders for each unit, with the game advancing through Spring and Fall turns where units move, retreat, or are removed, and players adjust their forces based on the number of controlled supply centers. Spring consists of the diplomatic, order writing, order resolution, and retreat/disbanding phases. The Fall phase is similar but adds a gaining and losing units phase at the end.
During the Diplomatic Phase in Diplomacy, players negotiate and form alliances through private or public discussions for bargaining and military tactics. In the Order Writing Phase, each player secretly writes orders for their units, which are then revealed and verified simultaneously, with legal orders being mandatory to follow, while illegal or unclear orders result in units holding their position. The Order Resolution Phase requires players to resolve conflicts from revealed orders, leading to successful moves, failed moves, standoffs, retreats, and disbandments, and accordingly adjust the units on the game board. In the Gaining and Losing Units Phase, players adjust their units to match the number of supply centers they control, resulting in the disbandment of excess units if they have fewer supply centers, or building new units in their home country’s unoccupied supply centers if they have more.
After a Fall turn, if one Great Power controls 18 or more supply centers, the game ends and that player is declared the winner.
This is a heavily simplified summary of the rules. For the full rulebook, visit the Renegade Games website.
Pacing and Interaction
While Diplomacy is an exhaustingly long game, it isn’t too heavy once players get the hang of it. The rules are quite clear, and there aren’t too many available actions. The majority of Diplomacy is a social game, and too much time isn’t spent making decisions when all of the negotiations are made. The result is a game with a nice flow that moves quite smoothly. Turns can be long depending on how players set things up, but that flexibility works in Diplomacy‘s favor.
The majority of time spent in Diplomacy is just talking. It’s negotiating, lying, creating pacts, and making threats. Some are written (or texted) while the rest are done in public, possibly for showmanship. The actual actions are quick when players understand all of the mechanics, and there is very little downtime as a result. It helps that everything sort of happens simultaneously. Moving and attacking are essentially the same, so it’s one less thing to keep up with while playing out all of the programming.
Board games aren’t any more interactive than Diplomacy. It’s incredibly long, therefore it is easy to get invested in all of the deals that are made. Bonds are forged throughout Diplomacy, and the inevitable betrayals hurt even more than one would expect. Players who don’t like backstabbing won’t enjoy that the majority of interactions in Diplomacy are negative. If this is your thing though, this will be your jam. There is no luck in Diplomacy, and all of a player’s success hinges on successfully manipulating their opponents.
Diplomacy is an incredibly difficult game to get to the table. It simply doesn’t play well at any player count but seven. Without every nation slot filled, players simply won’t get the best experience. Because of this, Diplomacy‘s long-term viability is dependent on the group size and how consistently they can meet up. The group also needs to be able to commit hours into just one game and be willing to be eliminated early on. If all of these things don’t line up, groups will be lucky to have Diplomacy hit the table more than two or three times.
Theme & Components
Upon opening the box, the player is introduced to the Quick Start Rules, which is a welcome addition since Diplomacy is a game that can be taught as you play.
Regarding components, wooden armies, and fleets are a nice touch, giving the game a more timeless feel. The wooden pieces are a nice touch for such a classic game and make the entire package feel more expensive than it is. The board itself is nice, with a great-looking map that is easy to keep up with regarding the color scheme.
Diplomacy Is Great For Fans Of…
Anyone who has ever wished that Risk isn’t luck-based will like Diplomacy offers. Anyone who enjoys backstabbing, and I mean really enjoys it, will love Diplomacy.