There was a discussion about Diplomacy on Twitter (the game, not the general concept; nobody’s been diplomatic on Twitter since August 2007); it’s a political game of negotiation, bluff, alliances and the resultant inevitable betrayal and backstabbing, infamous as a cause of arguments, resentment and grudges. Jon “Jon Shute” Shute tweeted “It’s been on my list for a while but I’ve never gotten around to it. My gaming group is too friendly :)”
We are a friendly bunch (I think), and when playing as a group tend to get on best with European-style games where conflict is more indirect rather than players outright attacking one another; not exclusively, we do enjoy a bit of Small World amongst others, and you know where you are in a two player (or team) head-to-head like Netrunner, but multi-sided games can get a bit more complex in both tactical and interpersonal terms. Not taking things terribly seriously, we play more for laughs than cut-throat competition. While demonstrating Munchkin at the weekend, the first card Melmoth drew was a level 18 monster that he couldn’t possibly defeat, so of course the logical course of action was for the next player to interfere with the encounter by playing a card adding another 10 levels to the monster; by time the rest of the table had chipped in with assorted curses, potions and wandering monsters he was facing three opponents with a combined level of 49. A complete waste of cards from all concerned, with no levels or items of his own Melmoth wouldn’t suffer any ill effects from anything that was played, but everyone rather enjoyed it, especially the player who started things off with the +10 level card, who happened to be his daughter… Over the rest of the afternoon it seemed even the gaming gods sensed our reticence over direct confrontation during a couple of rounds of Betrayal at House on the Hill, a game that casts the players as investigators searching a creepy old house. At some point during the game there is a Haunting, a random event based on dice and cards, that usually results in one of the investigators becoming a Traitor and turning on the others (the titular Betrayal), but neither of our Hauntings resulted in a Traitor with one game ending in an every-player-for-themselves treasure hunt, the other with everyone banding together to fend off evil doppelgängers.
With that in mind, I wondered how we might handle a game of Diplomacy:
@jonshute Turn 1: "These current empires look fine, attempts at territorial expansion would result in a crippling war, truce everyone?"
— ZosoZ (@ZosoZ) September 4, 2014
Causing Jon to ponder Pandemic (channelling Tom Baker in Genesis of the Daleks):
@ZosoZ I also wonder if we have the right to play God in pandemic. Who are we to destroy a virus?
— Jon Shute (Senyek) (@jonshute) September 4, 2014
And other games that could surely be solved in a friendly and non-confrontational manner…
Ticket To Ride: “All this competition over a limited number of routes is very inefficient, let’s renationalise the rail system to ensure universal access to a high-quality public transportation system with consequent benefits to society and dramatic reductions in carbon emissions. Comrade.”
Hungry Hungry Hippos: “Obesity in captive or domesticated animals is no laughing matter, you’re restricted to one plastic ball each until your weight is under control.”
Magic: The Gathering: “Y’know, with these magical powers, rather than fighting to the death we should found a wizard school for orphans. I can’t believe nobody’s thought of that before.”
Mouse Trap: “I can’t help but feel that, rather than this elaborate set of stairs and balls and… is that a bloke in swimming trunks ready to dive into a tub? I don’t even… Anyway, rather than this frankly ill-thought-out mish-mash of stuff, a simple humane trap and release of the mouse into open countryside would be much better for all concerned.”
Betrayal at House on the Hill: “Guys, guys, there’s a big spooky house in the middle of the forest of death and blood (so called because everyone who goes there dies of death and blood) and nobody who’s gone to explore it has come back, shall we go there? Or Nandos? Fair enough, Nandos it is.”
Chess: “Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony side by side on my piano keyboard, oh lord so should our chess pieces.”
Cluedo: “My god, there’s been a murder! Quickly, call the police, and for heaven’s sake don’t touch anything, this is a crime scene and we’d cause havoc with the forensic evidence if we wandered around at random grabbing anything that looks a bit like a weapon!”