The image above is a representation of the Diplomacy board. The seven powers are:
- England (dark blue)
- France (light blue)
- Italy (green)
- Germany (grey)
- Austria-Hungary (red-ish)
- Turkey (yellow-ish)
- Russia (white)
Don’t worry too much about the colours! This map represents the colours used originally – almost. On most Dip boards Germany is black – it’s just that black isn’t very friendly for typing over! You’ll find different sites use different colours. I simply chose this map because it is pretty clear.
So, which of the powers would you play, given a free choice?
Dippyists have their favourites. England and Turkey tend to be good defensive powers. Being effectively set in the corners of the board, they are difficult to get to.
England, if you’re looking carefully, starts with two fleets. She need them! She has, at some point, to get her armies onto the mainland. Played well, a player drawing England should be able to survive to the end of the game.
Turkey can also defend herself effectively with fleets. There are only two access points across land – Bulgaria/Constantinople and Sevastopol/Armenia. It usually takes a fleet to support an army into Turkey, unless she’s left herself undefended.
France has two easy SCs at the start of the game and if she’s played offensively, with a solid alliance or two to protect her at the start, she can often do well. France is heralded as a good power for a new player to draw because she offers a varied range of possibilities. I’m not convinced; while a new player can often do well as France, it could well be that the range of options is bewildering.
Russia also tends to do well. Nothing to do with her four SCs at the start. Russia’s main problem is the size of her frontier and the number of powers that can get to her – Turkey, Austria, Germany and (not immediately but early in the game) England. She also can be easily stymied in the early part of the game being cooped up without an SC gain in the first year. Russia shouldn’t be played overly offensively at the start – she’s too easy a target – but then needs to become ruthless later on.
That leaves the central powers – Germany, Austria-Hungary (often called simply Austria) and Italy.
Germany has a problem in common with the other central powers: she’s encircled. However, she has two easy gains in Holland and Denmark. If she can get protection from most enemies – and she often can: Austria doesn’t want to head north, Russia needs Sweden which Germany can prevent, and one from England or France will want to ally with her – she can do well early on. Her problem is that she can become a target simply because she expands quickly and she has to worry about a lot of borders.
Italy is one of many players’ least favourite powers. She has the guaranteed build of Tunis but, once this SC has been taken, she can too easily lose momentum. She wants to be allied with both France and Austria, her western and eastern neighbours, and to expand she often has to betray one of these allies. She needs a confident player.
Austria-Hungary can also be difficult to play. With Germany, Russia, Turkey and Italy surrounding her, she is a tempting target. While she can gain Serbia without any worries in 1901, and while Germany is often happy to stay neutral towards her, she sits deliciously between an I/R/T triangle.
The fact is that any power can win the game. You will, should you be bothered enough to look, find heaps of advice about how to play all these powers. The question is: What advice is the right advice?
Confusingly, none of it and all of it! The point about advice is that it counts for nothing when the game starts. How you play the game, how you approach playing the power you get, how you use your diplomacy to build relationships with other players, affects how your game goes.
And the other players in the game impact on your game also. What does your neighbour see as the best way to play his power? Are the players cautious or aggressive? How do they relate to you – are they easy to get on with?
On the other hand, you will find some useful tips. The people who right them will tell you how they play the powers, or how they think they should be played. Anything like that is worth keeping in mind. Just remember that the game you are in is not the same game the writer has played/studied.
So, go on. Which power would you play or, if you’re a Dippyist already, which power do you enjoy playing most – and why?