Diplomacy In Space part II

In the ongoing game Be Ye a Pirate a great discussion broke out about the tension between trust and betrayal. As the participants are all skilled and experienced players, I thought I’d memorialize the discussion n case other readers find it helpful.

The context is that most of the remaining players were members of a disciplined trading cartel that was running away with the game. It turns out that the cartel was not quite as monolithic as I had imagined, and several players tecched up noncartel members who were fighting cartel members. Accusations swirled, and tempers flared. But good stuff came of the kerfluffle!

The article referenced was highlighted here: Diplomacy - The Board Game of the Alpha Nerds

And here is the relevant discussion, names have been changed to protect the innocent:

I have played many games with close friends that I can both rely on, and expect to betray each other. The thing about playing with the same people is that you HAVE TO backstab your trusted ally at some point. Like M… said, he was allied with two teams here. I have done that myself. I honestly knew the decision would be made, probably against me, and it would be hard. I bear no grudge.

Did anyone read the article Jay posted before about the board game “Diplomacy”? It’s what Triton is, at it’s heart.

I read that article some time ago and the similarities are intriguing. I really want to give Diplomacy a try.

I told ya R… (and thanks fer the tech , better late than never), earlier and I might have removed one of these thorns from your side. But that is in the past. Sounds like quite a contentious alliance you all have here!

I see both sides but betrayal and the opposite loyalty are the most satisfying aspects.

Brian Lafitte (KO)
I am glad you brought that article up, R… I couldn’t agree more. Some of you know me as a player willing to backstab. I am. I don’t do it because I enjoy the act per se. I do it because it makes the game more interesting. I also think that the games are interesting for everyone if everyone plays to win.

Not everyone is wired that way. I respect that. Some of you prefer to play in teams, partly because it reduces the stress of worrying about a shank. That’s OK with me.

What I object to is when a group of players joins a game, and works to make one player the winner. Because it’s his turn, for whatever reason. So the others by definition are not playing to win. When that group is talented technically, it makes it very difficult to keep up with the tech race, and it reduces optionality for the other players. And also runs roughshod over newbs, which is not good for the long term health of Jays game, fwiw. Games like that feel rigged in favor of small clique of veterans, and strike me as a waste of my time. So I object to that behavior as much as some of you object to the backstab.

The first time I was backstabbed it was painful as hell. So I get it if some would rather not. But the avoidance of such also can lead to imbalances in the game. And I would hope you could see that from my point of view.

Very well spoken Brian B. Your point of view is very validated and probably more sensical then the way that most of us here in this group left, play. No offense but I honestly think it is more a sense of morals than play type. M…. would have never have turned on F……. if he had another option besides me. And not to say I am worth more than F…… but he had to chose. And you have very valid points and thought processes on how this game works underneath the hood but not everyone is like you and can just backstab everyone you make a friend of. in fact you have a lot of enemies because of how you play and I think your victory and rank reflects that. And by the way, F… you dude

Like the article on Diplomacy clearly shows. It’s about trust, building relationships, knowing when to concede, knowing when to turn on your allies. It is never simple.

Brian Lafitte (KO)
Lol, I guess I had that coming. I think my victory and rank reflect more that I play one game at a time, and take off time in between. And that I care much more about spending my limited play time in a quality game, win or lose, than in beating a game full of newbs or AI.

This is actually the first game where I’ve been targeted for my past “sins”. And been made aware that I am a participant in a meta drama. I am perversely flattered. But then I’m perverse.
Which is interesting because to my knowledge I’ve only ever shanked one of you. In the truest sense of the word, meaning stuck the knife in an ally who had his back to me, getting ready to claim the win. I’m looking at you BS…

That game actually illustrates well my philosophy. We were surrounded by AI, and your conception was a race between allies, may the best consumer of AI win. I find that sort of game boring. I would much rather fight a skilled opponent. In that circumstance I will shank. Count on it.

I will a backstab the leader of a runaway game in order to attempt to win, in order to keep it interesting . Otherwise, I am also a loyal, fight to the bitter end teammate. But I believe that the only good win is an earned win.

Good discussion. I think its important not to take it personally. This game I tied my entire strategy to the trust for BS… For most of the time that worked really well. I knew eventually one of us would likely turn on the other but I decided it wouldn’t be me. So here we are. I guess I have the moral victory but it’s his right to go for the actual victory

Anyway now I have a better measure of BS… as a pragmatist and Lafitte as a crafty adversary and ally. In other words I’m better off than when I started

Brian Lafitte (KO)
Sorry for the spam, but I find this interesting.

“More about morals than play type”. Morals? I play this game the way it is meant to be played. If you doubt that, just ask Jay. I never make a promise I can’t keep. I never promise anyone the win. I never promise an ally I won’t shank, unless it is a team game.

In your conception of morality, you will never ever shank a friend. So the rest of us need to track who is related to who, who is boyfriend and girlfriend, who are BFFs. Sheesh. That’s where the metadrama comes from.

BR… (KO)
Just for the record, if I ally with someone and they backstab me, they earn a Toxic badge so everyone can see the kind of player they really are.

Seems a fair system, but I wouldn’t be so eager to pass out that badge, unless it was repeated again and again.

What makes the whole game great is the tension between loyalty and betrayal.

Gives it a frisson. For instance, I could have betrayed BS… many times, and I probably should have, and it was quite a dilemma. For me, that balancing act was quite interesting and enjoyable. In the end, I stuck with loyalty over pragmatism, the wrong move as it turns out, but for me, ultimately the more satisfying. Presumably, BS…s will take that into account the next time we meet. Also, the interplay of relationships as an ally becomes an enemy or vice versa is really fun.
And also, this tension adds to the intrigue. It forces you to manufacture pretexts for betrayal or seek other avenues, use subterfuge to undermine your ally, your neutral parties or of course your enemies. On several occasions I beefed up an AI’s weaponry to subtly affect the outcome of a battle, but with (some) deniability. Twas grand fun!

For those who don’t enjoy the diplomacy, the scheming and the placing your faith in an ally, well then basically none of the above is going to be any fun at all.

I was in a 64 player game, within which I did quite well, but at one point an ally said “look, sometimes you’re just going to have to trust someone”, which turned out to be a very good piece of advice. At some point you have to put your faith in the other player, and at another point, you might have to revoke that faith. Tough decision sometimes, but if it wasn’t then it wouldn’t be so fun.

Segueing a bit, I’m curious as to what strategies others have tried in cementing alliances. One that I thought of earlier, but forgot about (and should have tried with BS…) would be having hostage stars. Basically exchanging high level stars deep in each other’s territory. Another would be a demilitarized zone - ie abandoning a mutual border. Anyone tried either of those?

Brian Lafitte (KO)
That’s a great idea re the Toxic Badge. I could award it to known members of (as I put it to S…) " that smug cabal of fun-robbing point harvesters" who always ally when in a game together, and who, if crossed, typically squeal in the message boards like a stuck pig, in a most unsportsmanlike manner.

I merely point out that “toxic” behavior is very much in the eye of the beholder.

Brian Lafitte (KO)
Suggestions to cement an alliance with a stranger, or a known backstabber, or a friend who you would rather not backstab:

  1. Ensure that your arrangement is mutually profitable, and that can you see it being that way until game end. Conversely, Mutual Assured Destruction can focus one’s attention powerfully.
  2. Trade, obviously. Trading weps is an act of faith.
  3. Vacating the shared border is essential, especially early game. If you catch a ship concentration on the next scan upgrade, assume the worst.
  4. Establish an NAP with a clear notice requirement.
  5. Ally if enabled. The notice requirement is hardcoded, and the scanning transparency is key.
  6. Communicate frequently, and reaffirm constantly your mutual dependency. If circumstances change, and both parties no longer need each other, assume the worst.

Thanks for posting BB. An interesting read. I was in the game but was knocked out early. I was trying to organise a resistance to the large trading cartel but just couldn’t get us organised in time.

On my list of todo’s is to make sure that trade in scan range in on by default, and I won’t join large games without this setting in future.

I want to wholeheartedly agree with you on this point…

This is what ruins a game for me. I think all players should be playing to win.

However, I must admit that sometimes, at the end of a long fought battle, I just don’t have the energy to stab an ally for a chance to take the victory. I don’t mind the race to clean up.

Also: I have a Toxic badge and wear it with pride. I hope to see more players with them soon.

Oh, also, carrying a grudge from one game to the next is also very uncool.

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Maybe this should be added to the FAQ, in the Acceptable Behavior section.

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Good read, how many players were in this game?

I’m fascinated with this aspect of the game and have also played Diplomacy a couple of times, but I much prefer NP’s blend of strategy with diplomacy.

My favorite tabletop game at the moment is Resistance (5-10 players) which is social deduction game where you get to lie/bluff your way to the end. I think any game which allows players to inject their own personality and creativity into the play makes it infinitely more fun.

I lost a friend over this very game. Safe to say I’m about done with it and hope it ends ASAP.

24 players, 32 stars per player, custom map

I have pretty strong feelings about players that aren’t playing to win. Intentionally nominating a “winner” either before a game or during it, is bad sportsmanship, IMO. If you sat down at a poker table with the intention of throwing the game to your friend, no one would hesitate to call that cheating. I’m jot saying it’s cheating here, but this is not a team game by design. It’s an individual game.

I’ll say it. Thats cheating.
No better than creating more than one account for yourself.

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I meant to chime in on this post earlier, but just recently stumbled across it again.

First, glad I wasn’t in this game - NP can be emotional, but at the end of the day, it’s just a game.

Ditto what Jay said below about an interesting read BB.

To echo what Jay said above, Trade Scan Only is a HUGE help to slow down the trade cartels … in the very first 64-user game, there was a mega-block of at least 8 players - see image below.

The only reason they got defeated was Jay had the duplicate IP warning enabled back then so the rest of the players could see that they all (presumably) knew each other and worked/lived at the same place. Personally, I’d like to see that come back, but then Jay gets all sort of nasty-grams about duplicate accounts when it’s explainable as co-workers.

The rest of the board ganged up on 'em because of this … but otherwise, it would have been very hard to realize until too late they are all coordinating/trading tech even though they were spread out on the board. So yea, enabled Trade Scan Only is a BIG help in addressing the cartel issue.

I’ve seen the cartel’s in action (or as I’ve been told “my cabal”) and it just sucks (especially for new players) to be basically canon fodder from the get-to. I rarely play extra Anon games because you can hide under an alias … and it’s much harder to sniff out out the (as Brian said above) smug cabal of fun-robbing point harvesters" who always ally when in a game together, and who, if crossed, typically squeal in the message boards like a stuck pig, in a most unsportsmanlike manner.

I’ll add that there is a certain satisfaction in figuring them out and then successfully rallying other players to defeat 'em … :wink:

Note that Trade Scan Only FORCES more diplomacy as you have to be friendly with your neighbors that you may eventually turn on … so there could be even more angst with that!

I guess I’ll be the outlier in this; I actually think there is a perfectly reasonably place for using information about the players and their actions in past games.

Consider poker; poker as a game is at least as much about playing the player as playing the odds. Knowing what kind of player your opponent is, their tells, how aggressive or cautious they are is all very much part of the game.

Similarly, in NP, there’s an art in understanding the other players and maneuvering the diplomatic component of the game. If you literally know nothing about another player, the diplomacy angle is more a question of luck than diplomatic skill. Having some of the players in a game be like that is interesting; having everyone like that I find more like I am playing Bingo more than I am playing chess.

Different people are inevitably going to enjoy different kinds of game - some like the pure strategy of it, some like the enhanced anonymity versions where you have zero information to base your diplomacy on.

Personally, I do play often with people I know, but while I consider them “known elements” and that may factor into my decisions as to how much I trust them in an alliance or to ally, it’s not an automatic full alliance. My first few months of playing have revealed a definite bias on my part for the kinds of games I like, which not everyone will like and that’s fine - they’re free to join them or not as they prefer, and I for any games they create.

Well I play with Heretic a lot and a certain other group of people that I’ve known for ~30 years. The thing is those players will just as much take me out early as they would ally with me. It’s fun trouncing your friends in strategy games. It’s MORE fun than trouncing strangers even. :smile:

Oh, and on extra anon. I like it sometimes. It depends on the specific game. The thing is I have no wins. I have found that certain players will talk down to you based on looking at your stats at the bottom. Or assume they can take advantage of you in an alliance. So there are certain games, with the right mix of players and settings where the extra anonymity comes in handy.

If player behavior in past games is not meant to affect strategy and diplomacy in the present, why have badges or True Aliases?

Player reputation certainly has a big impact. I spend a fair amount of time trying to discern who’s who in extra anon games. I view it much the way @Heretic does. Most importantly, early identification of those players who joined as friends and likely to ally with each other is critical to forming counter alliances on a timely basis.

Previous experiences with players, good or bad, also have an impact, because that is human nature.

What is uncool, as Jay suggests, is to carry over a grudge from a previous game and have it completely drive your strategy in the current game. I have seen some players join games simply to kill other players, for whatever reason. To go Captain Ahab on some poor Moby Dick, without regard for in-game strategy.

Sadly that’s happened to Golden Ace in his last several games. We used to play Star Trek-related games and people would follow him to kill him once he won one. There was one specific player that was all out to defeat him even at his own death.

Oh, I see and I agree that’s inappropriate. This may be just a language thing. I would use a stronger word than ‘grudge’ for that – griefing or even bullying.

I don’t think I agree that it is morally wrong to play vindictively. Mind you, I’ve been on the receiving end of a griefing/bullying player, who for no other reason then I lied to him, carried a grudge over to several other games. That was fine with me, because two could play at that game. That was perhaps 10 games ago, and I no longer keep track of him in the games I do play. But, you do reap what you sow. However, even in a fish bowl community like NP2 (which I think is relatively small in terms of its over all population of players), escape is relatively easy to find in a 2nd account. Isn’t it?

Why is a 2nd account needed when you can use aliases?

I don’t think morality has anything to do with it. It has more to do with quality of gameplay. I think the games are better for everyone if everyone is playing to win. If you play to win, plus take down a meta enemy, that undeniably adds a little zing to the game :wink:

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In a 64 player game I can look right through people using aliases, and identify them using their win, rank, and renown as can anyone else.

True enough… I didn’t realise people cared that much! So you keep a record of player’s vital stats to what, take out the most dangerous dudes ASAP, or to exact revenge for their treachery in previous games?

I’ve not tried a 64 player game yet, sounds like it attracts regulars.