The Qin was one of seven (yes, seven) "warring states" in China several hundred years B.C. During its rise to power, it often followed a policy of "ally with the three far states against the three near states."

Has anyone won (or lost) a game of Diplomacy using such a strategy? Does it work better using some countries than others (e.g. England, allied with Turkey, Austria-Hungary, and Italy against France, Germany, and Russia)? Or are there any good articles on such a strategy?

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    Being on the team of 4 in a 4vs3 certainly sounds like a good plan.. Not sure it deserves its own name though!
    – Nick
    Commented May 15, 2013 at 9:50
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    @NIck: 4 vs. 3. That's why the Qin won with it. But it is a sophisticated, complicated strategy fraught with pitfalls. Which is why the Qin made a name for themselves when it worked for them. I believe that's how CHINA got its name.
    – Tom Au
    Commented May 15, 2013 at 12:13

3 Answers 3


I have a hard time seeing this being successful. The problem is that it doesn't mean much in the early game for England to be allied with Austria or Turkey. So effectively you'd be playing EI versus FG, while Austria and Turkey teamed up on Russia. The likely scenario is that the 2 v 2 battle doesn't go very far, and the 2 v 1 battle goes well, resulting in a stronger Austria and Turkey. At that point, Turkey pretty much has to attack Austria or Italy, and either way doesn't seem to bode well for England.

In general, having an ally across the board is nice, but it isn't a replacement for having an ally that you can coordinate with directly, especially in the early game. You'd need to look at it as more of a long-term alliance. Perhaps as England you coordinate with Austria, Turkey, and Italy, but you start by getting Germany to help you take apart France quickly (with Italy's help), then activate your cross-board alliance to take out Germany. It's debatable whether that really meets the criteria of a "Qin strategy" though.

  • It's close enough. "Qin" preached a particular strategy but didn't follow it dogmatically. And that's probably the key.
    – Tom Au
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 1:46

There are certain context for this strategy. Qin's strategy was only used for the major powers, any of which could crush others and were ready to do so. In general, there is great distrust among great powers, who cannot be permanent allies due to conflicts of major interests.

In that case, allying with your neighboring powers against farther powers is not a good strategy. Because first of all, maintaining interests faraway is costly; Even if you can afford it, neighboring powers would be threatened by the encirclement so that they alliance could not be genuine. Their betrayal could be deadly. Instead, working with farther powers is much easier. They have "common interests" (containing your neighboring powers who are more likely to threat their interests than you are) with you. Combined you are also in an advantageous strategic position. They can also be lured into an alliance by greed. The infamous example is the short alliance between Hitler and Stalin.


In Diplomacy you are not playing countries; you are playing your opponents. There are tremendous advantages to allying with nearby countries; as there are tremendous advantages to allying with non-adjacent countries. Which is better in any particular game has more to do with the players, than the countries. That is why the difference between countries diminishes as the player quality increases.

In a really strong game I don't see any particular disadvantage to playing Italy or Germany, but in a weak game it is important to be Britain or Turkey.

Every country starts with three neighbors, except Italy and Russia who start with four. Anyone who starts by quickly making enemies of all neighbours is on the fast track to finish seventh. A strategy like the Qin strategy (which of course was also popularized by Machiavelli) only works for someone who is actually stronger than his collective neighbours, or can at least withstand them singlehanded. In Diplomacy, as in Survivor, you win by having more allies than your enemy does.

  • This doesn't really seem to address the question at all. If you're saying that the question can't be answered, that probably makes more sense as a comment.
    – bwarner
    Commented May 15, 2013 at 15:33
  • @bwarner: It worked in "real life," which is why I asked if it might work in Diplomacy. But the connection might be hard to make on a gameboard.
    – Tom Au
    Commented May 15, 2013 at 15:59
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    @bwarner Yes it answers the question. Because it says you choose allies in diplomacy by player, not by "farthest 3". Commented Feb 22, 2014 at 7:03
  • Is winning a diplomacy tournament like winning a session of matchpoints? That is, do you win a tournament by finishing average (fourth) or better in all games, and getting the occasional "top", and avoiding the bottoms (or even fifths and sixths)?
    – Tom Au
    Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 11:38
  • @TomAu: That's like asking about a Backgammon Tournament: "Do you win by declining a double?" - It depends on the tournament rules and situation. The one Diplomacy tournament I participated in, First Year University, scored best 4 results over the year. I won with a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. Games counted if they started with at least 6 players, and (IIRC) scored 7:6:5:4:3;2:1 for 1st through 7th place. That 4th place result was as A-H and being backstabbed on the first turn by Italy's "F VEN - TRI". A fun game after that scrambling for a 4th place. Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 19:06

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