Diplomacy? · 29 May 2011

“...I keep getting backstabbed…”

I was recently lied to, attacked, and backstabbed. And I had a great time! After all, I was just playing a game of Diplomacy.

For those who do not know what Diplomacy is, here is the short version of an explanation. It is a board game of world domination with no element of chance.

In Diplomacy, people negotiate with each other (which often just means they lie) to form and break alliances in order to conquer Europe. My kids think it is a board game version of the TV show Survivor. I just think Diplomacy is a great game. Even if I keep getting backstabbed on the very first move.

I was first introduced to the game of Diplomacy when I was in eighth grade. A couple friends and I played and we had a great time. It took quite a bit of time to play since there was negotiating before orders were written and moves resolved. My friends and I had fun figuring out what alliances to make and when to fight against whom. We chose our battles and then figured out (or resolved) whose armies and navies had to retreat or be destroyed. Then when the dust settled, we had to figure out who got to create more armies and navies and who had to get rid of some. I have no idea who won that game.

Recently, I had the chance to teach some other players how to play the game. Now I would not recommend getting new players to Diplomacy or any other game the way I did. I grew my two new players. Two of my kids are old enough (13 and 19) to want to play a turn-based strategy game like Diplomacy with me. They do not always want to play chess, but they do like Diplomacy. And even though Thing 1 is living far away, we can start playing with him now that we found out about an online version. is one of the online sites where people can play Diplomacy. It has forums and other pages to help people learn how to play the game. And there are players from around the globe who go to the site to find out who will rule the world. Or at least Europe.

I found out about from my students, who insist on checking their games between classes. Many of them get sucked into the game from playing it in their social studies classes. Since the game is based on Europe in the early twentieth century, there is value in playing the game during history class. Truth be told, there is also value to playing it in programming class. At least for research into what makes a good game. But sometimes, the kids get carried away in their “research” and wonder why I keep telling them to get some work done. They argue that if it is not research for my class, then it is surely work for somebody else’s. Alas, I cannot get too mad at them all since most of them get their work done for me. Besides, I must also keep in mind my own self preservation. For surely, one of my students (or my kids) will rule the world one day in real life.

My son, Thing 2, thinks that the critical thinking and negotiating skills necessary to the game are indeed necessary for success in the world. After all, he reasons, everybody needs to know how to backstab their friends and play it off as a necessary strategy to get to the top.

Thankfully, in real life, I am not usually the victim of liars or backstabbers. But I have a great time playing Diplomacy with those who will do those things to get the win. Still, I hope Thing 2 is wrong. I hope that lying and backstabbing are not necessary to get ahead in life. And I hope that the only place that we ever suffer those indiscretions is while playing the game, Diplomacy.

© 2011 Michael T. Miyoshi

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  1. Michael,

    Love the article! Thanks for the mention of the community at, I’m sure the site owners appreciate it! I’d offer that your son may have a point in that skills in Diplomacy may translate into real life — after all, if one can handle a betrayal in game with poise, they may be better equipped to handle such a potential incident in real life.

    — Niakan from · 4 June 2011, 23:19 ·

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