I am pleased to present the seventh episode of The Gameshelf, a product of over four months' work from both me and my totally stellar cast and crew. In this episode, we focus on a single board game: Diplomacy, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of its original publication this year. In usual Gameshelf fashion, we show you a game in play. But this is a very unusual game, so we took an unusual approach to filming it. I hope you enjoy it.
Watch it through the embedded player above, or download it as a high-quality Quicktime video file.
This was the most ambitious show we've ever made, and I am as proud of it as I am looking forward to returning to humbler (read: easier to edit) show styles.
Some show notes and links:
- A Chicago Magazine profile of Diplomacy's designer, Allan B. Calhamer, from earlier this year. Describes the life of a trailblazing game designer in a time when the world wasn't quite ready to support his chosen passion, which is why he spent most of his life as a mail carrier. (He's now retired.)
- The two websites I mention towards the end of the show:
- The Diplomatic Pouch, a Diplomacy fansite with deep roots, collecting lots of resources related to the game. It includes an archive of a "Dip" fanzine nearly as old as the web, and links to print zine archives decades older.
- WebDiplomacy.Net, an online implementation of Diplomacy with some pretty sweet graphics, and the ability to browse games in progress. This website was brought to my attention from Matt Sakai (Italy), who hadn't played Diplomacy at all before the weekend of filming, and then went on to play several games online.
- Wizards of the Coast's Diplomacy page. As mentioned on the show, WotC is the game's current publisher, and kindly provided the copy we used to play.
- This is the weddingest episode of The Gameshelf ever:
- Kevin Jackson-Mead, who played Russia, flew off to real-life Russia the following weekend to get hitched. (He wrote a blog entry about his experiences there as a visiting gamer.)
- Dave Heiman (Turkey) and Diana Mirabello (France) got married to each other earlier this month.
I'm fairly certain that, in both cases, the weddings were planned well in advance of our game shoot. But who knows how existing passions may have been further enflamed by the desperate clash of anthropomorphized nation-states?
- We set up a "confessional camera" (a MacBook with a webcam app loaded) in a closet. All the players (and some of the crew) made healthy use of it, but I ended up not using any of the footage so collected in the final show. I plan on releasing a "bonus episode" that will simply concatenate all the confessions into a single document of world domination.
- This was the first episode of The Gameshelf filmed without any use of the Somerville Community Access TV studio, though I still made use of their camcorders, with gratitude. All filming took place in my home, including the greenscreen bits.
Thank you for all your hard work on this, Jason. I think it really came out well, and watching it with people was the most fun I've had in a while.
One small correction: two weekends later I married my non-mail-order Russian bride here in the U.S., and then we had a two-week honeymoon in Russia.
Hey. Excellent video. One issue i noticed is that in spring 1904, that English fleet couldn't have moved from St Pete to Bothnia Sea as Both Sea borders the southern coast of St. Pete. (not the northern one from which she entered). I don't know if this would have changed the course of the game, but you may want to let the other players know that England may have won on a bad call from the officials. :-)
Yes, someone on BoardGameGeek pointed out that apparent error as well. I cannot now say whether that actually happened during the game and was allowed to stand, or whether it's a result of an edit I made.
I am happy to let it remain in the video for the purpose of narrative clarity, so long as no wiseacre tries using the episode as a rules arbiter in the future!
A belated note: I mentioned this episode to my father, who was a Diplomacy fan back when rocks were soft. (He says that his first game, the board had some erase-marks on it, because the designer only just finished tweaking the map.)
I shall quote his recollection of the only two *immutable* rules of Diplomacy in his group:
1) No moving the game pieces *behind other people's backs*.
2) Do not lie about the game rules *to a less experienced player*.
diplomacy is really important
Excellent video. Your hard work is clearly visible. Congrats.
Excellent video, the best I've seen on Diplomacy.
Another - in my mind the best - site to play Diplomacy online is www.dipbounced.com
Nicer to look at than the Pouch, imho, and very playable.
Really enjoyable! Brought back a lot of memories about playing my own first game.
Did people like the game enough to play again?
I know that Matt (”Italy") played the game a bunch online afterwards. I don't think anyone else tried this particular game again, but it may helped to ignite an interest among us in negotiation games that don't take 8+ hours to play...
Really fantastic video - Watching a full match of Diplomacy play out in "reality show" style was great to watch. I've always wanted to do it myself, but alas, I can't find six friends who would be willing to play a board game for an entire day. Oh well.
Just some quick thoughts on the match: I thought England and Italy were the strongest players by far. Italy was far more ruthless and England more loyal, so probably if multiple games had been played Italy would have stopped being trusted by anyone. Germany didn't seem nearly as strong as them; just lucky to have such influential friends. I think if the game had continued they probably would have taken him out and split the victory.
Turkey was far too defensive for is own good, Austria didn't talk with the other players enough, and Russia just got screwed over by having aggressive enemies and weak friends. France - I have no idea why she did that stab against Germany. It just made no sense from a diplomatic standpoint to betray such a strong alliance that early in the game. Had she remained in England's good graces she might have salvaged a split victory