White-Partial Press

Tim Miller

Hello, ladies and gentlemen. Yup, it's me, back to annoy you some more about press. In our first exciting issue, I shocked the Diplomacy community with my opinion that press is the most important part of any Diplomacy game (except, of course, no press games). Think about it, how often does Austria use ESP to set up a Lepanto with Italy? And so, without further ado, let's move into this issue's topic, plain ol' white-partial press.

White-partial press is a type of press that the vast majority of us use and, from a study of games on USIN and USEF, the most common type of press setting. For this article I am including WGP- with W-P- since how many people use the gray press in these games? Data from the other judges show that the most common press settings are W-P- or WGP-. From this we can see that most dippers are experienced and enjoy playing in W-P- games.

This only makes sense, because W-P- is most like face-to-face. You know who you are talking to and you can have a private conversation without other people knowing every last word you say. With this in mind, one would think that the PBEM Dip community pretty much has W-P- down and I can move on to more exciting and different press variants like W---, -G--, or even WGPF. Bzzzttt; wrong.

In many of the games I play my opponents seem to have some misconceptions about the use of W-P- press. Let's take a look at them now:

  1. Press is only to be sent to powers bordering yourself.
  2. Communication with adjacent powers with whom one is not allied is unnecessary after DMZs and neutrality agreements have been established.
  3. Press should not be sent to enemies.
  4. Cross-alliance press is unnecessary.

Let's look at each one of these in turn.

Misconception 1: Talk only to bordering powers

One would be surprised at the number of games I have played in where the only press I received was from players adjacent to my own power. Surprisingly, the first game I played in had a good amount of press between non-adjacent powers. The only exception was Austria. As France, despite my constant queries, I did not hear anything from him until the mid-game when I had stabbed his Italian ally. In many of my later games, the situation was even worse, and I heard nothing from powers whose units were not intermingling/interacting with mine, despite my fervent attempts at communication.

This type of reticence is one of the worst mistakes a Diplomacy player can make. Obviously, the majority of press should go to the players who are adjacent to and therefore affect your destiny the most. However, a good Diplomacy player must think about the strategic situation, not just the tactical situation. Strong mid-game alliances most often result in early communication by the two powers involved, even though they may not be directly of service to one another. The reason for this is simple. Alliances require trust, and this is easily built in a non-confrontational sharing of information between two powers. For example, suppose you are England, and ally with Germany to take out France and Russia. Open communication with Austria and Italy will be valuable. This is because G/A/I often communicate, and with any luck England can pick up snippets of information about possible German stab etc. England can also recruit allies from A/I when/if she wishes to stab her German partner. Obviously, she also benefits in knowing if Russia will have an easy time of it by allying with Austria against Turkey. Diplomacy with Turkey here is also valuable. I could cite many other examples about why one should communicate as much as possible, and I hope my message is clear: If you have partial press use it as much as possible! it will be to your advantage!

Misconception 2: Only talk to your bordering non-allies early on to establish DMZs and neutrality agreements

This relates to my first point. After DMZs have been established between two countries (G/R DMZing Sil and Pru for example) they should not turn their back on each other and sally forth in their respective spheres giving nary a thought to their supposedly pacified neighbor. A usual example of this is France and Italy, who usually agree to DMZ Piedmont but then do nothing to communicate or to reaffirm that the DMZ exists. Many times the first substantial communication between the two will be after the DMZ has been broken. Another set of two countries who often fall into this trap are Austria and Germany, who communicate very little after establishing initial DMZs in Tyr, Boh, etc.

Clearly, press between countries who are not working together but only have DMZs separating them is useful and needed. It keeps the integrity of the DMZ intact by broadcasting a clear "I am still talking and open for suggestions" attitude. This often makes the other power feel more at ease than a wall of silence. I know that this sounds like basic stuff to all the experienced dippers out there, but you would be surprised at how often simple little things like this are neglected in many of the games I play and GM.

Misconception 3: Don't talk to your enemies

Another fallacy that many newbies and even some more experienced a players bring to the game is that press sent to enemies is unnecessary. I am not trying to say that you should talk to your enemies every turn, every year, or even at all! I am merely saying that it is wise to talk to hostile powers when it is in your advantage to do so.

If you, dear reader, remember the example in my opening article where I was playing France, about equal in position to a German who had recently stabbed me. The German used press to convince me his stab was a mistake. He got me to put in some moves that he was able to exploit in a second stab that actually worsened my position and allowed him to take Paris. Part of my mistake was on account of newbie gullibility (it was my first game and Germany had been my game long ally), but part of it was the use of press by the German player in a situation that many dip players do not use press. Yet another example of when press to an enemy is useful is when two countries work together against a third, but do not quite eliminate the third before one of them stabs. If the stabber is wise, he will sign a peace treaty with the power he had been attacking, so as to be able to concentrate his full forces on the power he has just stabbed. Shifting alliances are an integral part of Diplomacy, and thus a truly good Dip player must be able to confront even his enemies in press.

Misconception 4: Don't talk to powers outside your alliances

Another major misconception about press is that once you have allied with another power, press to powers in other (not necessarily hostile) alliances is unnecessary. A common newbie mistake that I myself made is that in an alliance both powers should agree on what press to send out to powers not in the alliance. This, to a large degree, is silly. Remember that even in an alliance you are an autonomous power and you, not your ally, should conduct your foreign affairs. While it is necessary for allies to agree on the general scope of their foreign policy and to occasionally make an effort to send out press that conveys propaganda or flat out lies to the rest of the board, individual members of an alliance must maintain sovereignty over press.

There are many occasions where maintaining sovereignty in press comes in handy and even becomes a vital aspect of survival. The most obvious example is the stab. Press can be used to keep open lines of communication to neutral powers, who can keep an eye on your ally and alert you to stabs. Also, you can form plans with other coalitions to help you when you decide to stab your partner. This follows my basic theory of maintaining contact with everyone to further your own diplomatic interests.

The misconceptions about press that I have enumerated upon above are common among many newbies just starting to play the great game of Diplomacy. A careful study of press, based upon the theory that the more you talk the better off you are, will lead to much more success at the board. The ideas I have spelled out in this article are nothing new, in fact some of the earliest articles in postal 'zines that I have read enumerate on the same basic principles. Nonetheless, I find these principles being lost in the surfeit of articles explaining strategy and tactics with just a scanty mention of the vehicle needed to put these into action.

At this point, I would like to make a plea to the few readers I have left at this point. Send me war stories about how you used press or some of the most blatant misconceptions about press that you have seen. I would like to print some of these stories (with credit, of course) in my next article in this series. I hope that all these articles from the next one on will have a full and bouncy war stories section. Speaking of which, I have decided that W-P- press is so common and important that now having dispelled some of the common newbie misconceptions of it, I should spend another article discussing its more subtle uses, techniques, and traps, which should be of more interest to both newcomers and more experienced players. So stay tuned for that in the next exciting installment of this wondrous series (I can hear the groans already).

Until then, happy Dipping!

Tim Miller

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