Why Should They?

I’ve written strategy posts on four of the seven powers in Diplomacy now.  Still have Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Russia to go.  But I’ve found myself asking a question repeatedly:

Why should they?

“Why should they what?” you may ask.

Well, why should they anything? 

Let’s put some context to this vague and meaningless start.  I’ve found myself analysing positions and opportunities and having to point out that achieving certain objectives is difficult because gaining the support from other powers is difficult.

Here’s an example from my post on Italy:

The Russian Option isn’t really something Italy can quickly get involved with.  For this to happen, Austria and Turkey would both have to agree to give Italy passage through to Russian SCs – and why would they?

Well, OK – would rather than should but you get the idea.  Why would Austria and Turkey want Italian units on Russia’s borders?  Why not simply use their own?  Why run the risk of Italian units in striking range of their own SCs?

This is the very essence of Diplomacy.

Let’s go back to basics.  Seven players, all competing to win the game, none able to win without the help of others in the game.  The dilemma is that, if you help another player to achieve her objectives, you are helping her closer to victory; but, if you don’t help her, you’re not going to get her help when you need it.

Without players helping others towards victory, so limiting their own chances of success, no player can win.

I will write something on negotiation later in the blog but it should be clear, by now, how important negotiations and relationships are in Diplomacy.  Here, in this post, I want to focus on one aspect of negotiating – persuasion.

Successful negotiation isn’t achieved through bullying, threatening or otherwise using a forceful approach.  This may gain you immediate, short-term success – and sometimes in Diplomacy that is needed – but it won’t help build a good relationship.  And good relationships with players are important in Diplomacy; good relationships tend to get you a favourable position in wider negotiations.

Good negotiating revolves around identifying common ground.  In Diplomacy that means finding common objectives.  If I, as Germany, want to attack England, I will need the help of another power to do so successfully, either in direct action or in securing passivity.

This is a complicated business.  It will involve negotiations with every other power.

I want French help.  I need, therefore, to persuade France that her interests lie in defeating England, too.  I’ll need her to agree that it is in her interests to not attack me instead of England.  I’ll need her to use her fleets.

I will need Russian help.  I don’t want Russia to cross the line of SCs that act as a buffer between Warsaw, on the Russian side, and Munich & Berlin on my side.  I will need to find a way to gain Russian passivity and even hope for Russian help in Scandinavia.  I may need to persuade her that Russian interests involve my taking Sweden while she takes Norway.

I will need Austrian help.  I don’t want Austrian units moving north.  If she wants to move to Tyrolia, I want her not even considering an attack on Munich from Tyrolia.  She needs to know that there are common interests in not attacking each other.

I will need Italian help.  Again, I don’t want an Italian army crossing from Tyrolia to Munich.  I might even want her giving France cause for concern in Marseilles by having Italy move A(Ven)-Pie.  Why is this in Italy’s interest?

I will need Turkish help.  While Turkey cannot have any immediate affect on my plans, I would like her to draw the attention of Russia.  If Russia is strong in one area, she will become strong in the other.  Why is limiting Russian strength in Turkey’s interests?

Why would, why should, another player help me?  Because it is in that player’s interest to do so.  This is still the case if it clearly isn’t in her interest to help you!

And this is where persuasion comes in.  You have to persuade the player that what she perceives as being in her interests is not the case.  You may need to dangle some temptation before her; you may need to exaggerate another power’s threat to her.

Whatever you try to do, persuasion is difficult unless you have something to build on – a solid relationship.

This is the foundation of any negotiations and players who neglect this aspect of Diplomacy are giving themselves a more difficult task.  If you can build a positive relationship, hopefully built on trust and honesty, you have a springboard to success.

Success in Diplomacy is based on relationship building, on negotiation skills and on persuading players that your interests overlap… along with a dash of betrayal and the odd forceful negotiation.

If you ask yourself: “Why should they..?” when you are thinking about persuading someone to help you, and if you can find a realistic answer to that question, you’ll do well.

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