Report on Remote Play in Tour of Britain 2020

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Diplomacc
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Report on Remote Play in Tour of Britain 2020

#1 Post by Diplomacc » Tue Mar 17, 2020 6:28 pm

Playing face to face diplomacy remotely

Article written by Andy Harris
Date: 15 March 2020


The weekend of 14-15 March 2020 saw the third Macclesfield Diplomacy Convention take place in Macclesfield UK. I participated and played remotely from overseas in the game held on Sunday 15 March 2020 to make up the numbers.

My ‘presence’ at the game was in the form of a mobile ‘phone connected to my iPad via FaceTime. Any player wishing to negotiate with me had to find a quiet corner and take the mobile with them, and there was a set of headphones available for extra secrecy when required. I had a board set up my end so I could see what units were where, and negotiations were carried out much the same as if I had been present in person.

This method eliminated the possibility of trying to hold simultaneous discussions with multiple players via text message/WhatsApp, and also meant that players I had held negotiations with could not show WhatsApp/text messages of what we had discussed to other players.

When submitting orders, the Tournament Director confirmed when the other 6 players had submitted their orders, and I took a photograph of mine on my mobile, sending the picture to the WhatsApp group for the convention. We originally started with me verbally reading out my orders before other players orders were read out, but changed to photo submission of my written orders to ensure no written errors were made which would invalidate my orders. As it happens, this was a sensible move as I did mess up an order later in the game. Had I just verbalised my orders, this error would not have come to light and the move have been executed.

The challenges of playing remotely were as follows:
1) I was reliant on players I was negotiating with to inform me if any other players were within earshot. For all I knew, there could be another player just out of sight of the camera listening to everything I said,
2) Occasionally we had loss of signal / connectivity issues, but for the most part this wasn’t problematic,
3) Prolonged use of FaceTime drained the batteries of the mobile ‘phone quickly. Towards the end of the game we had to use other people’s ‘phones as the Tournament Directors’ ‘phone had run out of charge,
4) The movement phase took a little longer, as at the end of each movement phase we would check that my board matched the board in Macclesfield in terms of where pieces were located,
5) When playing face to face, you can see other players around you and who they are talking to. You can also see their body language and facial expressions etc. People who are good at reading body language and exploiting people’s emotions etc can take advantage of this. I only got to see whoever I negotiated with and couldn’t look around and see other players,
6) When a player concluded their negotiations with me, the mobile ‘phone connecting me via facetime was passed on to another player of put down near the board. Often headphones were left plugged in (if I was on loudspeaker it was difficult to prevent other players overhearing) so I had no way getting the attention of other players to ask if they would negotiate. I did try occasionally messaging players requesting they come and talk to me, but this was not always successful.

Despite these challenges, I found the experience of playing remotely enjoyable and didn’t feel overly disadvantaged by the challenges listed above. Players were mindful of these challenges and were happy to accommodate, and it was a good game of Diplomacy.

If ever you are short on numbers, I would consider this as a realistic option which could be used for games / tournaments. The method we used does not lend itself to more than 1 player playing remotely but all agreed that my playing remotely didn’t impact negatively on the game and worked surprisingly well.

I am grateful to Garry Sturley, the organiser and Tournament Director for MaccCon for making this possible and being so accommodating, and also my fellow players for minimising the challenges faced by playing remotely and making it such an enjoyable game and experience.
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