Diplomacy Review (PC)

Great Power politics have always decided the fate of nations. Emperors, Kings and President met to decide the borders of the world and how the wealth should be divided. When Diplomacy failed, force of arms was the next solution, as Clausewitz said, war as a "continuation of politics by other means." This was very true of the early part of the 20th century, and it is the subject of Paradox Interactive's latest release, 'Diplomacy' for the Personal Computer.

Can you dominate Europe?

The agents of the Great Powers await you

The game brand of Diplomacy goes back to the board game of the 1950s, and this adaption of that classic is faithful to it. Designed to be a multi player game, seven people assume the roles of the seven great powers of Europe in 1900. In no particular order they are Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Russian and the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire. Players maneuver two kinds of units, Armies and Fleets on a map of Europe and North Africa in an attempt to control the continent.

The object of the game is to control a certain amount of supply centers. There are marked on the game map in various locations. Players conflict is assured as there is a limited number of open centers, most are controlled and must be fought over. The number of centers determines the mount of units you can control, one center for each unit. If you have more units then centers each fall, you must eliminate units until you are again on a one to one basis. You cannot take on new units unless you retain an open home center (a center you start the game with, which must have no units in it) even if you have more centers then units.

The combat system is simply, each army or fleet is worth one point. To take an area, you must have one point more then the defender can muster. Since only one unit can be in an area at a time, the concept of support is used. Any unit can support any other in the game. Even foreign units can support you or the defender. For an area to change sides, it must be controlled in the build phase of the fall turn, there being four turns per year.

Choose your nation and the AI's personality

Animated diplomacy is the heart of the game

The diplomacy aspect of the game is in making deals to support the other players or have them support you in a case by case basis. To do this with the AI, you contact the nation you want by clicking its display, and an animated avatar of that nation's leader appears. To make the offer you wish the AI to carry out, you move the AI's and your own pieces to show the computer what you intend. The same system is used with live players, to aide ease of play and possible language barriers. If the proposal is accepted, a symbol appears to tell you so, if rejected, the offer is removed from the screen.

These agreements are not binding in any way. The game will tell you if your move violates a treaty or agreement you have made. The only consequence with the AI is it will start to distrust you, and it will become more difficult to get the AI to agree to anything. Depending on the type of agreement you break, the severity of the dislike responds accordingly, so if you attack when you were allied its a major breech and its unlikely you will ever be trusted again. Human players will react in a similar manner I suspect.

The game map is of Europe devided into land and sea zones. Since all units move one zone (an exception being convoys, which is rather complicated and a spacial case and is explained in the game booklet) there is no movement allowance. The fleets and armies look like the plastic pieces of the board game, rather plain actually. The board changes color depending on whom controls a particular area, and this is calculated in the fall turn. If a player losses all supply centers that player is eliminated from the game.

A running total of events is kept

Amass your forces for victory!

For contact each great power has an avatar, an animated figure in period dress. There are a choice of faces, and the faces indicate the personality of the AI players. Human players have a default choice. These faces are animated, and their expressions help you to determine if the AI might be more receptive to you, or a deal for example. During movement and combat resolution, which is simultaneous, you will see the avatars indicating alliance moves, attacks and retreats, pleased or displeased.

There is no voice over in this game, nothing speaks, all is done through text and symbols. The game music is pleasant enough, and the game includes sounds are tips for actions and events. The game keeps a running total of supply center control, when a player has enough to win, it will stop the game and declare a winner.

This game was originally designed to be played by seven people at a sitting, and works best in that mode. The AI is competent enough, but should be easy to beat once the game basics are understood. Veteran Dippy players will be pleased with the game as it is a good simulation of the board game, but most people that play single player would probably be disappointed, as the AI provides a limited challenge at best.