April 18, 2024

Diplomacy in the Classroom

Diplomacy is a game for children. No seriously, it is a game that should be played with children. I have found very few greater joys in my teaching career than seeing a student engage with adults and other student that they would not normally engage with.

I have a student playing in a game of diplomacy currently that was struggling with attendance issues. After starting the game they have been more engaged in classes, have had better attendance than at any point in the school year, and generally are talking with more students and teachers than ever before.

I started playing Diplomacy online many years ago, but only played it as a game, I never looked deeper into the social aspect of the game because I played it anonymously online with other people in games that were labeled as Gunboat Diplomacy, meaning that there was no communication allowed between players. This makes for an easy game to just participate in, but does not engage in the social aspect of the game.

One depiction of the Diplomacy Map, source unknown.

The Social aspect of the game is where the game” becomes more than just a game.

I would recommend the game of Diplomacy to anyone looking to advance their ability to strategize. We play one turn (season) per day during the school week, and each day I see students run off to talk to one another. They grab teachers who are also playing and try to work out strategy for their next set of moves. There is a cooperation that comes out of the game that is hard to capture elsewhere in life. This is a skill I think is so wholesome in our youth. When it comes to gaming through roleplay I cannot image a much better way to encourage the soft skills that are needed in life. I am enjoying the engagement and new partnerships in students that I have not seen before.

Outside the classroom, I can see this being a great game for growing relationships between people in different social settings. Just be careful of people taking the game too personally.

It is important to always remember that it is strictly a game and the act of backstabbing in it should never be taken personally.

How We Play

The first step to playing this game with my students and fellow teachers was offering to play the game. I found some students who I knew were interested in RPGs or my student who wants to work for the UN when they make it to adulthood.

After gathering a group of students and teachers who were interested I had a session where I explained the basic rules and allowed for some example move orders and situations, borrowing heavily from the diplomacy rulebook. I then used some materials from Board Game Geek, namely the Diplomacy Order Sheet to give to each player for their country.

Each day I would use the Backstabbr sandbox to update the orders from each country and then screenshot the map and email the group of players.

Original Game Box, source unknown

I play daily, so each school day the players were in charge of handing in their orders. This gives them the whole school day to approach and converse with each other other other players in the game.

Our original game has been running since coming back from Winter Break this school year (23-24). We are in the end game state currently where we have three countries currently remaining, and at the moment England in a position to win within a turn or two. I am excited to have the book close on this first game.

There are two more games currently being played by groups of students and teachers. I am refereeing one more and playing in a student refed game.

Resources for Canva Game files

I have used the variant rules from vDiplomacy to create a game for 10 players set in the Napoleonic era, and an Age of Pericles game.

I have used the tools provided on the site to create a couple Canva projects for each game that I update daily upon receiving orders form the my groups.

Napoleonic Canva Game Template

Age of Pericles Canva Game Template

Feel free to use the templates to create your own games for playing with friends, family, or coworkers.

I then send these out as PDFs through email for the players to use for completing orders.

Derek Bizier, the Halfling Ambassador” Master

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