Communication in
No-Press Diplomacy

Simon Szykman


In this article, I'll be discussing how to communicate in Diplomacy without press. The readers of this article probably cover quite a range of expertise, including players who have never played a no-press Diplomacy game, players who have played or observed a no-press game without realizing that communication is possible, players who have some experience with no-press Diplomacy, and "the experts" who know all the in's and out's.

This article should benefit people in almost every category. For people in the first two categories, it should provide a good introduction to the concept of communication without press. For people in the first three categories, it should give a variety of techniques for no-press communication. I've done some extensive testing of the play-by-e-mail (PBEM) judges, so there are probably even a few people in the fourth category who can pick up some useful information that they didn't know from this article. I myself, having played in 25-30 no-press games, still learned a couple of little things I didn't know in doing that testing.

The first time I played a no-press Diplomacy game, I was a member of the first category and had no idea that one could communicate without press. I assumed everyone was playing with an every-man-for-himself strategy (excuse the sexist idiom, but in this community it's probably not too far off). Needless to say, I was rapidly obliterated by players who (unlike me) knew what they were doing.

Subsequently, I picked up the idea of communication, but it took quite a while to learn how to do it well (or at least as well as I can do). I'm not really one for observing games, so I'd play in no-press games, and try to learn the ropes by watching what the other players were doing, losing quite a few games in the process. When I finally won my first no-press game, I felt I had paid my dues getting there, having a win-and-draw to loss ratio quite a bit lower than for my with-press games. Had there been an article like this one, I probably could have cut that learning curve by quite a bit, and so I hope that other people find this article useful.

This article is meant to be useful for the general reader. Since many (if not most) of the readers of The Diplomatic Pouch play Diplomacy via the PBEM judges, the next section discusses information about the syntax of various types of orders. In the absence of press, the only way to communicate with other players is through the orders you submit for your units. Players of PBEM judge Diplomacy, even those who are familiar with the general syntax of orders, should still read that section because in addition to the basic syntax, implementation-specific information is given, regarding what the judge does and does not allow. This, in turn, affects the types of communication that can be achieved via the judges. Players of hand-adjudicated (face to face, postal or non-judge email) Diplomacy may want to skip directly to the section on communication which follows the syntax section. That section contains a general discussion of ways to communicate without press, and describes the subset of those ways that are actually allowed by the judges. The article then concludes with a brief commentary on the judge code.

Finally, while this article is directed towards people who want to learn about communication in no-press games, it should be noted that all of the techniques for communicating without press can also be used in games that do allow press. In games that allow press, players tend to scrutinize move results less carefully, and it is more likely that attempted communication will be missed. However, the lack of scrutiny can also work to your benefit. For example, in a no-partial press game, you can't use press to make plans without having everyone see them, but there's a possibility that you can communicate without press to suggest moves or encourage an attack without everyone noticing it. If you are lucky, the intended recipient will notice, and the intended victim won't. Of course, keep in mind that it could also happen the other way around and backfire.

Disclaimer: The information supplied in this article is based on Version 7.2 of the judge code and is believed to be factual at the time of printing. No warranty or guarantee of this information is made for this or future versions of the judge code. The author will not be held liable for any loss of position, games, or HOF points resulting from inaccuracies in the information contained herein. Reading of this article constitutes acceptance of this disclaimer -- if you do not accept this disclaimer, please return to the previous page without reading any further. Any messages regarding errors or omissions are welcome, as are general comments.

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Simon Szykman

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