Tricks of the Trade

by Stimpson J. Cat, Esq.

So, there is this variant out there called "Payola," right? Everyone know about it? If not, suffice to say it is how Diplomacy should have been designed in the first place. [No, I didn't pay him to say that. --Ed.]

I am not here to describe how to play Payola. Folks a lot more capable than I have done that already (head for the Payola Place Website for all you could ever hope to know). What I intend to do in this article is to suggest to those who have played Payola a few ways to increase their enjoyment and success rate in this most devious of Dip variants. Here we go:

Pick A Mid-Game Ally And Start Helping Him Right Off The Bat

This should be a country you don't plan on encountering until the late mid-game or the endgame. For example if you are France, Austria might be a good choice if you intend to go after England or Germany right off the bat. The mid-game ally should not be adjacent to you, as that defeats the purpose; you want an ally somewhere besides the ally you currently trust (who may well wind up stabbing you), or your current chosen enemy.

Payola is beautiful in its interactions because you can influence powers a world away, without ever being a suspect. And the recipient of your magnanimity will almost always come through for you just when you need him most. This is what I like to call the "ace in the hole" strategy.

Always Help The Little Guy

Whenever someone is in danger of being beaten into submission, come to his aid. Why? Well, Payola has this neat little trick called transfers, where someone can transfer you their money.

Now, if you were the last or only power to help that poor devil, then they will likely give you a nice little gift near the end of their time. This money can be very substantial, because if they have been shoved around for some time, their money will have reverted to their bank account, not having been spent. There is nothing better than a cash influx right when you really need it. I call this the "big brother" technique.

Never Transfer Your Cash To Anyone While You're Alive

In a no-press game, it is traditional for players to transfer 1 AgP to each other as a sign of impending alliance, but otherwise, don't do it!

The problem with transfer payments is that they start a cycle of dependency. Not to get too political about this, but we all know where this leads, right? More babies, more dependants, more plaintiffs, and another generation that expects to be supported.

Humor aside though, I have fallen victim to this, so I learned this lesson the hard way. It started out with, "I need a few silver pieces to get me by," and it escalated to, "We can no longer work together if you are going to withdraw your support." Needless to say, I found myself having to cut the lifeline, and the throat of that particular leech. I call this the "tough love" tactic.

When Cooperating, Always Control the Unit Likely To Do You The Most Harm

So, let us say that England wants help from North Sea to Norway, and you are Germany and hold Sweden. Furthermore, you are willing to help him, but your relations to this point have not been so good. However, to show support and goodwill, you agree to support his move into Norway with your Sweden, right?

Well, you damn sure better be the one who pays for NTH-Nor, or you are a fool. Let him pay your unit in Sweden to do the support. Not only does this enhance your mutual trust (if it works), it also guarantees that he won't be going NTH-Den (which, by the way, is open). This is what I like to call "covering your ass."

When You Help Someone, Only Help Him By Hurting Someone Else

When you are helping an ally, it can happen that you overextend your resources either by underestimating the forces against you or overestimating your own economic capabilities. If you only provide that help only by indirect means, not only does this protect you somewhat from these estimating errors, but it keeps more of your options open.

Russia wants you to help him take Austrian-occupied Rumania, and so, as a Turk who needs to get some breathing room in exchange, and perhaps to start a profitable alliance, you are willing to help him. The Russian estimates a cost of 40 AgP for the two key moves and wants to split the costs with you, asking you to put 10 AgP on Ukraine to Rumania and 10 AgP on Rumania to Budapest. Your counter-offer is a no-brainer: "No; I will put 20 on the Rum-Bud order and you handle Ukraine's move."

This puts you in the driver's seat. If you are serious about helping the Russian, then pay for Rum-Bud. If you are going to sell him out, then you still have a chance to say, "that wily Austrian outbid me." This doesn't mean the Russian won't be mad, but it does mean that he is probably out his full costs in the attempt, and that he won't be sure who to be mad at (at least not until you take Sevastopol from him next year).

Best yet, if you can convince the Austrian that you are going to put 10 on Rum-Sev, and that he should do the same, then you can move the Austrian to Budapest for only 11 AgP instead of 20! Can you imagine the debt of gratitude the happy Russian will owe you without having to know that it cost you barely half what you had told him you would pay? I like to call this "the weasel play."

So, get out there and play Payola if you haven't already. If you have, then these tactics might just give you an edge in your next game. Just don't try 'em on me!

Stimpson J. Cat, Esq.
(Mail for Mr. Cat will be delivered via The Pouch)

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