Which Diplomacy Power is Best?

In theory, the game of Diplomacy is balanced. Seven countries, in seven unique but equal positions. The three Western powers counter and check each other, the three Eastern powers do the same in their sphere, and Italy exists to set the wheels spinning. Perfectly, balanced, as all things should be. In practice, though, we all know that some countries are better than others for purposes of winning the game. The purpose of this post is to rank each country in the game from best to worst.

The object of the game is to solo, so I think it only makes sense to say the best country for purposes of soloing is the best country in the game. Therefore, the logical question one has to ask when deciding which countries are best is: which country is best for soloing?

According to the PlayDiplomacy website, the most common countries to get a solo, in order, are as follows:

TURKEY (4170)

RUSSIA (3723)

FRANCE (3221)

GERMANY (3210)

ENGLAND (2660)

AUSTRIA (2411)

ITALY (2225)

However, there are other rankings that contradict PlayDiplomacy’s statistics.

According to a 2007 article published by Josh Burton here (http://uk.diplom.org/pouch/Zine/F2007R/Burton/statistician3.htm), the most common soloing countries in full press games are:

Russia

France

Turkey

England

Germany

Austria

Italy

According to an article published by Stephen Agar here (http://www.diplomacy-archive.com/resources/postal/chances.htm), the countries in order of odds of solo are:

Russia

Germany

France

Turkey

Austria

England

Italy

I read another article, called Geography is Destiny, by Paul Windsor, which referenced two other compilations of win rates.

One of those compilations, by Conrad Minshall, ranked the powers’ win rates as follows:

Russia

England

France

Turkey

Austria

Germany

Italy

The other, by Matthew Self, ranked the powers’ win rates a little differently:

France

Russia

Austria

Turkey

England

Germany

Italy

Looking at all of the above information gets us as close as it’s possible to be to an objective assessment of each power. The worst country to draw in a game of press Diplomacy is undoubtedly Italy. Italy is at the bottom of every objective ranking of which country is most likely to solo. Players who draw Italy are objectively less likely to win the game than players who draw every other country. Even if Chris Brand is really good at playing Italy, that’s a bit like saying that Inigo Montoya is good at fencing with his left hand. Yes, if you’re a master of the game, you’ll be good at whichever country you play with. That’s not the same as the situation the rest of us face.

Additionally, according to Mike Morris (http://www.diplomacy-archive.com/resources/strategy/articles/italy_morris.htm), Italy is statistically both the least likely to solo and the least likely to share in a draw out of the great powers. That’s important, because even if you’re unlikely to win, if you don’t even make the draw, it generally means you didn’t even come anywhere close to winning at any point.

Austria appears to be the consensus pick for second-worst country, despite the fact that it is one of my personal favorites (and the country with which I win most frequently). I think the problems with Austria almost explain themselves: it’s very likely to get completely crushed by 1903 or so, and that’s a very natural thing for three of its four neighbors to participate in. Unless Austria is played by someone who is very good at the politics of the game, it tends to get taken out before it can awaken to its true powers. I’ll be frank. If I was ranking this based on my personal feelings rather than on statistics and objective factors, I would put Austria much higher. When I play as Austria, it usually feels more like: “Sir, the enemies have us heavily outnumbered, and we’re surrounded!” and my reply: “Magnificent. Our position is perfect, surrounded by easy targets. We’ve got them right where we want them. There’s no escape for them now.” However, objectively, Austria is the second worst, although I say that with great affection.

As for which country is better between Germany and England, I think that’s almost a toss-up. In 2 of the 5 statistical rankings I looked at in preparing this, Germany was stronger. In the other 3, England was stronger. For that reason, I suppose I would say Germany is the fifth best, and England is the fourth, but it seems just as reasonable to me to say they’re a tie. The interesting thing about the rankings as they stand, in my view, is that the three central powers made up the bottom three of the rankings. To me, that indicates that the biggest obstacle to a high likelihood of victory is the likelihood of being taken out early on, which I think those powers share in common. By contrast, each of the top four countries has a corner to themselves at the beginning of the game. That’s the only thing, for me, that marks a tie breaker between Germany and England in which is more likely to solo. England has much greater difficulty in getting across the key stalemate lines than any of the other countries on this list other than Turkey, in my opinion. The only thing that elevates English prospects over German ones is England’s greater survivability, which results in England having greater chances of getting into a draw than Germany on PlayDiplomacy, even though Germany has slightly higher odds of solo on that site. If Germany can obtain a corner position, it becomes much more likely to draw or solo, of course. Unfortunately, Germany has a difficult time obtaining a secure corner position, since that means defeating and absorbing the better part of England, France, or Russia. Unlike Germany, England doesn’t have to do anything to be relatively secure, which gives much more room for contemplating how to get your other fifteen dots.

I think it’s no coincidence that Russia, Turkey, and France are definitely the top three countries in these rankings. Those three countries are, in my view, usually the most secure in the game, if they’re played by competent players. If any of them get dogpiled by two neighbors at once, they’ll probably get taken out, the same as Italy, Austria, or Germany, but they do tend to be more robust than the central powers both when it comes to likelihood of enduring such an attack and to likelihood of that happening.

Turkey is third best. Even though it comes in at the top of PlayDiplomacy’s rankings of which country is most likely to win, it doesn’t come in at the top of any of the other statistical compilations that have been gathered. In fact, it doesn’t land in the top three in most of the other rankings. For that reason, I think Turkey’s strength in the PlayDiplomacy rankings is because of a combination of the online environment making a corner power even stronger and because of the unique meta of PlayDiplomacy specifically. I do think Turkey is a strong country, which is why I place it above England and Germany. It seems as if the meta in a lot of communities is such that Turkey doesn’t frequently get outside of its box in the corner, which will prevent anybody from soloing. That is the main reason why Turkey doesn’t displace the second power in this ranking. Speaking of which…

France is second best. Many people will say it should fall even higher on this list. However, for me, France is barely better than Turkey. Statistically, the odds of France being taken out early are low, as with Turkey, although I think Turkey’s odds of surviving the early game are slightly higher. What gives France the boost over Turkey, in my view, are the greater power it has generally, and the fact that it has access to two neutral centers uncontested early on, which is better than any other country’s early prospect of growth. France is very beginner friendly for that reason, and it is more difficult to really screw up than any other country on the map. However, aside from the slight edge I’ve just described, I would argue France doesn’t have any other qualities that make it better than Turkey. And usually, unless a Western Triple appears, I tend to see Turkey grow faster in the Mediterranean, their shared area of interest, than France does. So, although I rank France above Turkey on this list, that comes with a very big asterisk. I think it’s as difficult to solo with France as with almost any other country, and what gives it better chances are almost entirely its extra early dot and consequently greater base level power.

All the above said, Russia is best. Ironically, the country that a child would think is best, because of the extra center it starts out with, actually does have an elevated chance of victory according to most of the statistical breakdowns. I would say it’s more because Russia is born with one foot on each side of the stalemate line rather than because the extra unit grants extra power. However, many people will object to the idea that Russia is better than France, because France does perform better for a lot of people. Very bluntly, I would say that France is easier to play for beginners and people who do not like to communicate as much. Russia is riskier. It is easier to get eliminated earlier on than France. However, by the same token, Russia is a very high reward country to play. There is a reason why it has an elevated chance of soloing. Unlike France, Russia has something to offer every single country early on without having to exercise too much creativity. Russia fights on two different fronts, and that gives it an enhanced chance of exercising political influence and grabbing extra dots that could fall into anyone’s hands in the midst of political instability. Russia has an alliance with Italy that has a name, Wintergreen, and an alliance against England with France and Germany that has a name, the Sea Lion, and an alliance with England against the Southern powers that fellow Diplomacy enthusiast 0wl expressed great interest in, in our last conversation. In other words, Russia has well known early game collaboration opportunities with every country. The same is really not true of France.

On a personal note, I should state that while I usually do not lose as France, I am noticeably more likely to win as Russia. More on that in a post I’ll make analyzing my own gaming statistics and history, which is radically different from this content, which will be available via Patreon. Just an aside, which I suspect a lot of players who are good at the politics of Diplomacy will agree with: playing a country that has more influence over the entire board from the beginning of the game is just better—even though France tends to quickly become roughly as large as Russia, size is not the same as position. So, that’s my ranking, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it. From worst to best, it’s Italy, Austria, Germany, England, Turkey, France, and Russia. Please comment below with your own rankings, based on whatever factors you think make sense, and I’ll engage with your incorrect opinions. Until next time, FloridaMan out!

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