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Score: 80%
ESRB: Early Childhood
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Paradox Interactive
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 7
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy/ Board Games

Graphics & Sound:

As it is a computer rendition of what was originally a classic board game, Diplomacy takes a very primitive approach to its graphical layout to ensure ease of accessibility. The game board really looks like a board that you would lay out on your dining room table (with the addition of some simple water effects), and the pieces look as if they had just been snipped off of their sprues. The downside to all of this is how the game is presented and how the camera is handled during the transition of turns. Camera movement is jerky at best, and when actions take place on the board, the camera instantly jumps to it but gives no indication as to what is going on.

In a video game adaptation of a board game, sound is usually the least of anyone’s worries. A couple of original musical tracks will normally suffice, but in this case, the added score and effects do more to hurt the game than to help it. While the music isn’t bad, it definitely isn’t anything to write home about. Of more consequence are the sound effects. Every action on the board is signified by that country’s avatar making a constipated grunting noise. These cryptic audio clips are difficult to get used to and convey no sense of the action that is taking place. Apart from that there is little else to listen to, which drags the overall experience back into that of a board game instead of an interactive video game.


Diplomacy is the computer version of the classic board game of the same name. In it, seven European powers vie for dominance, or at least until a stalemate has occurred. The layout of the board is the same every time, and you can play as any of the seven countries which makes for some great replay value. Every game starts at the beginning of the 1900’s, but the timeline is more of a placeholder than anything else. After the starting shot, the fate of Europe is up to you and your neighbors.

Diplomacy is a turn-based strategy game in the same vein as Risk, but instead of leaving the negotiations in the players’ hands, this game comes up with a whole set of very intricate rules that streamline the diplomacy process. Less emphasis is put on armies and more emphasis is put on your relationships with other players. The depth that results from these negotiations and alliances makes for an entirely different experience from other turn-based strategy games.

The point of undertaking a game with such a Machiavellian rule-set is to control as many of the resource centers on the map as possible. Like other board games, Diplomacy breaks the map up into different tiles called regions. A few of these regions are designated as supply centers, and each country starts with about three supply centers. These allow you to build more forces, and are ultimately responsible for your victory or defeat at the conclusion of the game.

Right off the bat, it is apparent how the scales are tipped away from military might and more towards relations with the other countries. That is not to say that you can simply get by with a meager army, but the fact that there are only two different types of units and each country can only control a handful of them at a time should tell you something. Also, every unit is the same strength, which makes you rely on assistance from other countries in order to gain victory in each region.

Each year in the game is broken up into phases. The year starts in the Spring phase, and this is where you place orders and make negotiations. After that is the Resolution phase. Once everyone has placed their orders, they are carried out simultaneously, so you’re never sure what your opponents will do even if you have negotiated with them. This unknown is what makes the game so much fun, as well as complicated, as rules get very particular when certain situations arise. After the Resolution phase comes Fall, which carries on in much the same way as the Spring phase, except after its Resolution comes the Build phase. This is where the supply zones come in handy, because you can only have as many units as you do supply zones.

Diplomacy is strictly an adaptation of the classic board game, so there are no real alternative setups or options for you to tweak the rules with. Fortunately, a good Multiplayer system has been included. You are allowed to play with up to six of your friends over a LAN, or you can use Paradox’s Metaserver. Capable of being accessed in-game, the Metaserver is an app that lets you find other Diplomacy gamers online. This easy to use application is what brings out the best in Diplomacy, as the AI, even as good as it is, can never prove as much fun as a scheming human player.


Due to a very intense seven part tutorial, Diplomacy can be played (with effort) by just about anybody. Without this stellar learning tool, the game would have been shunned all but the most diehard of strategy fans. The complex system of moving your units in tandem with other players and negotiating deals is by no means an impossible one to get a grip on, but the learning curve can be fairly steep at times. The impatient player will be the one who will be turned off the quickest. Diplomacy is deceptively simple at first, as you really only have a small amount of commands that can be used, but the combinations in which they work are many. This game is definitely not fit for a lighthearted bout of strategy, but it can be rewarding beyond measure if you are willing to give it some time.

Game Mechanics:

The inherent simplicity in Diplomacy is also apparent in its interface. Everything is done by either drag and drop or a dropdown menu. It may not seem like a big deal at first, but it really makes Diplomacy shine in Multiplayer mode. Because you make diplomatic negotiations strictly through an iconic interface, Diplomacy breaks the language barrier and allows anyone who understands the game to play with anybody else, regardless of what everyone’s native language may be.

The core of Diplomacy is in its diplomatic negotiations. You can negotiate with as many of your opponents as you want, and with any number of combinations of them. When you initiate a diplomatic negotiation, there are three phases that must be carried out. The first is to make a diplomatic Draft. Here you issue imaginary orders to your units and, if you choose, to the units of the opponent you are negotiating with. You then send this Draft to those you are conversing with and they determine whether they like it or not. The third phase is to actually carry out these orders, since they were imaginary in the first place. These Drafts can be altered every turn, but they are not set in stone, and backstabbing your diplomatic partner is very much a part of the overall strategy of Diplomacy.

Giving commands in Diplomacy is easy, but trying to follow the turn resolution isn’t. Each country has an avatar that will appear onscreen as moves are carried out, and their only form of communication is a number of grunts that are supposed to resemble how a real person would react to what is going on. The camera is also a bane here, as it sporadically jumps around the map trying to show you what is occurring at the time; a very inelegant and disorienting way of showing the action.

Diplomacy is much like a piece of stale cake you’d pick up in a school cafeteria. The outside is rough and inedible, but there is a sweet core that lies within. Only those with the determination to wade through the outerlying mess will ever reach this delicious center. Like the cake, Diplomacy has an impeccable core, one that can bring much satisfaction to those who find it. Those who have played the board game will find this task much easier, but it isn’t the most accommodating game to the newcomer.

-Snow Chainz, GameVortex Communications
AKA Andrew Horwitz

Minimum System Requirements:

Pentium 3 – 800 MHz, 256 MB of RAM, Windows XP or 2000, 8X CD-ROM, DirectX 9.0, 32 MB of Video RAM

Test System:

2.4 GHz Processor, 1 GB RAM, 256 MB Video Card

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Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated