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(I'm planning a game of Diplomacy with my friends for this weekend. The problem is, none of us have ever played before, so I'm trying to fill the gaps in my understanding so that our inexperience doesn't reduce the fun.)


How do you use the paper maps that come with Diplomacy? I know they are supposed to keep track of the units on the board while you go elsewhere with your negotiations, but I'm not sure of the best way to do that. Should I pencil in letters to show where the units are and update them as the game goes on? Does this usually prove difficult enough that you only keep track of your own units and your neighbors'? What updates do you usually make to your map after each round is finished? How would you recommend a new player use their map?

An image of a map being used during a game would be great if possible! :)

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    You might want to encourage people with tablets or smartphones to use a website where they can update the map easily, that would accomplish a similar purpose to the paper maps with less erasing. But whether paper or electronic, updating maps time is definitely "on the clock".
    – bwarner
    Mar 11 '13 at 16:18
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Make copies of the map (it's expressly authorized) but you'll find most folks won't write on them. The pattern I see in both home and tournament play is that during adjudication everyone will write down the units they have down the left side of what will become their order sheet. During negotiations they'll consult their list and look at the map, often indicating moves by tapping their pencil at the start and end of the move their discussing. Once they're ready to write orders their turn their inventory list into their orders and submit it.

My larger piece of advice is to keep the pace of the game as fast as you can. Start the negotiation timer as soon as the previous turn has been adjudicated (don't let everyone take time outside of negotiation to write their units). Similarly, don't give separate time to write orders after negotiation is done -- that's something you do during negotiation and if you don't get them done your units are in civil disorder. Along those lines be sure to enforce the "no negotiation during builds

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The actual moves are recorded on the Diplomacy board by moving the pieces at the end of each round, after the orders are read and the "combats" are resolved.

The maps are for reference. Suppose you were playing e.g. France, and on the second turn, you said to England, "If I move Army Picardy to Belgium against Germany's Fleet Netherlands to Belgium, would you support me using your fleet in the North Sea?" you'd use the maps to show England what you mean.

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  • So you wouldn't recommend writing on them at all? Mar 11 '13 at 23:31
  • @You can, of course. But then you can't "recycle" them for future games--unless you make copies.
    – Tom Au
    Mar 12 '13 at 22:16
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The main point of the paper maps is so that players can reference the geography of the board while having secret discussions away from the table. My group ended up making a few higher quality laminated maps for this purpose as the paper maps are a bit small. For a typical in-person game of Diplomacy, there is a "main room", where the board lives, and a number of auxiliary locations, where players can have secret discussions (other rooms, outside the house, hallways, etc.). Having a reference of the map while in an auxiliary location is key as remembering where units are is much less to keep in your head than the entire geography of the board in your head. There is the added benefit of aiding in secret discussions in auxiliary locations that don't have good sound insulation, as players can point to locations on the map rather than saying them. When people in my play group go off to an auxiliary location, they almost always bring their order sheets and a paper map with them.

The secondary point of the paper maps is so that players can have a reference for the map (for territory abbreviations and adjacency) that they can look at closely without giving away to other players where on the board they are looking.

While you can write on the paper maps, this isn't usually of very high utility since the state of the board changes every turn. If people in my play group do write on one, it's in pencil and to plan out and agree on a particularly complicated maneuver involving a discrete set of units (and they will probably erase it afterwards). People in my group keep track separately of where the relevant pieces are, such as writing down their units on their order sheet (which they will need to do anyways to submit orders) and/or taking a picture of the board with a phone (pre-phones, people would periodically pop back into the main room to look at the board to remember where units are). We also occasionally write on a paper map to save the game state if we're putting it down for a session.

If you have people that really like writing on paper maps, it is probably worth getting a few higher quality maps on stiff paper laminated, and getting white board markers to go with them so that they erase better (if you don't have a laminator, packing tape can work as an alternative). We have one such map that I keep with my diplomacy set.

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