• Published 13th Aug 2013
  • 4,535 Views, 149 Comments

Games Ponies Shouldn't Play - DagaYemar

Trixie and her five best friends are about to play Diplomacy. Let's watch.

  • ...

Summer 01

No one moved for the first few minutes as everypony watched Twilight setting out pieces onto the game board. Each piece was color coded to their respective nations and had a hoof, sail, or wing stamps on it depending on what type of unit it was. Lyra immediately noticed that she was at a bit of a disadvantage from the others. Whereas each of the others had a mix of different units, Lyra’s all started as armies.

I might have to start very aggressively. I’ve got one of the largest areas to defend. Lyra mused. Fortunately there seems to be a lot of ‘supply center’ territories around me. I wonder if I should strike out for those along the coast or hold the ones nearby first…

Lyra looked up, along with everyone else at the table, when Trixie cleared her throat. “Well, I think I know who I want to speak with first!” So saying, she hooked Ditzy around the shoulder and walked her off to a quiet corner of the library.

“Guess it’s time to pair off and do the diplomacy part.” Cheerilee said brightly. She nodded her head in Lyra’s direction and the two of them wandered off towards the little kitchen area to get some privacy.

“Any plans yet?” Cheerilee asked as soon as they were far enough away, whispering conspiratorially.

“Not completely…” Lyra responded. Each of them had gotten a paper copy of the game board along with their notebooks, and she gestured to her nation on it. “The Buffalo lands are just a big horseshoe at the start, with this entire unclaimed bit in the middle. It seems like a better idea to try and hold this area for a bit before moving out.”

Cheerilee nodded as Lyra finished talking, starting intently at the proffered map. “Makes sense. But there is the slight issue of this territory here.” She tapped her hoof on one of her own.

Lyra leaned over and checked where she was pointing. “Naqah?”

“I start with an army in that space and there’s only two ways it can go.” Cheerilee explained. “I’d rather not take Pte from you this early in the game, so that means moving into Samak. Are you all right with me going that way?”

Lyra thought for a moment, working her way through the next few turns. “You want to take the West Dune Sea?”

“It’s a much better use of the unit than not moving it at all. Besides, if I can get a navy out there in a few turns I can completely control the western oceans. I don’t have any plans do anything with the army after that. It can just sit there and keep Raindrops from sailing north.”

Yeah, but that locks her down with me. Lyra thought. She pretended to be studying the map to give her some time to think. Plus it’s just a little worrying having that unit wandering around at my back. Although… the West Dune Sea is further away than Naqah. If I can form a wall of armies while she’s busy…

“Alright.” Lyra said, setting aside her map. “You can go ahead and take it.”

“Thank you!” Cheerilee said, giving her a quick hug. Lyra hugged her back, but a tiny worm of unease coiled in her belly. It wasn’t really a deception, but it was still there. And she felt that it was just the first of many…

“You want to form a team?” Ditzy said in surprise.

“Keep your voice down.” Trixie admonished, waving her hoof to calm her down. “It’s the best way to win one of these games. And the two of us are in the perfect position to pull it off.”

“How so…?” Ditzy asked warily.

Trixie gestured to her map for emphasis. “We have the most free supply centers near us. None of the others can stop us from doubling our forces in the next few turns. You take those ones in the east and I’ll focus on these already around me.”

The offer was very tempting. Ditzy mused over it before coming to the inevitable question. “So what do you get out of it? I can’t stop you from getting those places either; why bring it up at all?”

“So that we can come to a cease-fire, of course.” Trixie said. “We’ll both have our hooves full dealing with the others and this way we can have a border we don’t have to patrol.”

Ditzy thought hard about it, but in the end it wasn’t a very hard decision. “I like it. You’ve got a deal.”

“Great!” Trixie said, and spread her map on the floor between them to plot on. “Alright, the fastest way for you to get over there is…”

Carrot Top twisted her player card nervously between her hooves a couple times. She’d discovered the back of the card went into further detail about the capabilities of each unit and she wanted to make sure she had everything right before committing to any hard planning.

“Each turn, a unit can move into an empty space, attack a space with an enemy in it, do nothing and defend the space they’re in, or support another unit’s action. An attacking unit must outnumber a defending unit or else the attack fails and nothing happens. A unit must be adjacent to both the unit it’s supporting and any space that unit is moving into, except for the air force which can support a unit from one space away…”

“But the air force will lose in a one-on-one fight, unlike the army or navy, so it balances out.” Raindrops said.

Carrot Top started and nearly dropped her card, then blushed in embarrassment at her reaction. “I didn’t realize I was speaking out loud.”

“Not the whole time, but I got the gist of it.” Raindrops shot a quick glance at the other two pairs. “Looks like the two of us have been left out, for now. You know what you want to do yet?”

“Not really.” Carrot Top sighed. “Something tells me I’m not going to be very good at this game. I mean, where do I even start? There’s only one supply center near the Elks and both Cheerilee and Ditzy will probably be going for it too.”

“Pferdreich isn’t actually very important.” Twilight said absently, keeping most of her attention on the hourglass as the sands ticked away. “It’s just slightly too hard for anypony to protect very easily. Besides, the Elks have a bigger problem in the early game that they need to focus on…”

“Huh?” Carrot Top asked, shooting a questioning look at Raindrops. The two of them had almost forgotten the unicorn was still at the table with them.

Twilight blinked and shook her head. “I probably shouldn’t say any more. I’m supposed to be the impartial judge.” She left the table and returned to shelving books, levitating the hourglass after her so she could keep track of it.

Raindrops open her mouth to say something, but changed her mind when she saw Lyra and Cheerilee breaking off from their talk. “Oh, I’ll be right back. I want to talk to Lyra while I’ve got a chance. Excuse me.”

“It’s alright.” Carrot Top said, giving her a wave as her friend left the table. She turned her attention back to the game board with a frown. “Another problem, huh…”

“Lyra!” Raindrops said, catching her friend before she could get to the table. “Got a sec?”

“Sure. We probably should go over some things.” Lyra motioned to the side and they leaned against a book shelf to talk.

“I was thinking that I wanted to go up the west coast here, and take these two territories.” Raindrops said, pointing out the West Dune Sea and Alpaclan on her map. “Is that Ok by you? Only, you’ve got more armies in the area and could shut me out easily if you wanted to. I’d rather not waste the turns if you were going that way.”

Lyra was quiet for a while, staring at the board intently like she was mulling over something. “…Are you sure you want to head out that way? You could reach these three on the Cavallia peninsula pretty easily.”

“Yeah, but then I’d be split up on two different sides of the board.” Raindrops said. “It doesn’t take an expert at this game to see that divided your forces like that is a bad idea.”

“Good point.” Lyra muttered. “And you know… if you hold the West Dune Sea, you can control any unit going along that ocean for the rest of the game…”

“Hey, you’re right! That’s a very good plan. Are you sure you don’t want to do it?”

Lyra was already shaking her head. “The only supply center I own on the coast is Tatanka, and it would take me far too long to get over to the west ocean. I’ve got no use for the ocean route.”

“Nice!” Raindrops said, bumping hooves with her. “So I’ll head up that way. Thanks for the idea!”

“No problem.” Lyra smiled. If the smile was a little too wide, Raindrops didn’t notice.

“So how are you doing?” Cheerilee asked, sitting down at the table next to Carrot Top.

The farmer glanced at the teacher and smiled. “Doing my best. How about you?”

“I think I’ve got a strategy going.” Cheerilee confided. “Though I can’t really put it into place for a few turns. How about you? You’re going for Pferdreich, I expect.”

“Possibly…” Carrot Top said, tapping idly at the map as she thought. “But I don’t think I can keep it. Do you want to take it?”

Cheerilee frowned. “Uh… sure, if you don’t want to go for it. Are you sure? There isn’t anywhere else for you to go, is there?”

“It’s not that. I just might have my hands full…” Carrot Top looked up. “Do you think you could do me a favor? Sometime later in the game, could I take it from you for a couple of turns? Just in case…”

“I suppose that’s alright, if you mean I can get it first. I could really use the help right now.” Cheerilee said, giving her friend an appraising look. Huh, looks like she’s getting into this game better than I am! Who’d have thought?

“Halfway point!” Twilight called.

Ditzy looked up and blinked rapidly. “Already? Wow, the time sure flies, doesn’t it? We haven’t even talked to anypony else yet.”

“Well, we had a good talk. You’d better go do your thing with the others.” Trixie said, walking the grey pegasus back out into the main room. She waved at Cheerilee to join her. “Hey, can we talk for a minute?”

She jumped straight to the point as soon as the schoolteacher had joined her. “I was just wondering, have you really never played this game before? Not even when you first got it?”

“No, I could never find enough ponies who wanted to play.” Cheerilee tilted her head questioningly. “But I’ve got a good grasp of the basics, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Why, is that important somehow?”

“No, just…” Trixie shrugged. “I have heard that the Naqah Caliphate have it the hardest. Surrounded on three sides and with their pieces split by the Crescent Sea. I just wanted to see if you wanted any help handling the situation.”

“I think I know what I’m doing.” Cheerilee said warily. “What kind of help do you mean?”

Trixie tapped her chin thoughtfully. “Well, I could draw attention away from you, if you want. There’s not much I can do about Lyra right now, but know that Ditzy won’t be looking in your direction. And if I draw away the Elks…”

“… I could expand to the north without opposition.” Cheerilee finished, looking at her friend in a new light. “That seems a little underhanded, though.”

“Not really, it’s just how the game goes. You gotta take advantage while your opponents are looking somewhere else. So, what do you think?”

Cheerilee tapped her chin thoughtfully. “Well, you’re going to be doing all the work for now. I suppose you’ll want something in return down the line?”

“Just to see you and me in the end game!” Trixie said cheerfully, putting an arm companionably around her shoulders.

And to know that you’ll look threatening to the Elks. Trixie thought to herself. This is just like how I thought the game would go. At this rate, I’ll know just where everypony will be going! It’s almost too easy…

“What are you writing?” Ditzy asked, sitting down at the table next to Carrot Top.

Carrot Top looked up and smiled, although she did cover her notebook slightly. “Just writing out my orders so I don’t forget. Have you started that yet?”

“No, but I probably should.” They were quiet for a few minutes as they wrote, needing their mouths to hold their pencils. Ditzy blew her pencil out of her mouth with a sigh when she was done. “Well, that’s that. With any luck, right?”

“I think there’s more than luck here.” Carrot Top mumbled around her pencil, still carefully studying her orders for anything she’d missed. “It’s all very deliberate. If anything goes wrong, you only have yourself to blame.”

Ditzy blinked in surprise. “I… hadn’t thought about that, but you’re right!”

“It’s probably like that on purpose.” Raindrops said, sitting down at the table and breaking out her own notebook. “After all, without pressure, every game would probably be very similar. Especially if you know what you’re doing.”

“Too true.” Ditzy agreed, and then paused and looked at her friend thoughtfully. “So, does that mean you’re confident in your moves?”

“Pretty sure, yeah.” Raindrops said. “There doesn’t seem to be any better way for the tapirs to start, far as I can tell.”

“It’s not really as simple for the ponies, apparently.” Ditzy said with a sigh. “Guess we’ll see how it turns out.”

“Oh, Trixie, hold up a bit!” Lyra said, stopping the other unicorn as she was approaching the table. “You seem to know what you’re doing. I just wanted to get your opinion on something.”

Trixie blinked but smiled at the complement. “Sure! What do you need?”

“I was just wondering if you think I should go on the offensive this early in the game.” Lyra asked. “It just seems like a better idea for me to sit tight and let the others duke it out first. What do you think?”

“Well…” Trixie considered the idea. “That may seem like a good idea, but you aren’t going to win if you don’t take any territories. After all, you can’t have any more units than supply centers. If you let everypony get them first, you'll find yourself outnumbered before you can do anything.”

“That is what I was thinking, but…”

“Look, why don’t you head east at first?” Trixie suggested, a hint of a smile in her tone. “Cabelleria and Garanha are right next to you. You can take those two, no problem.”

“That’s a good point.” Lyra conceded. “Plus I can always turn back if it gets too difficult.”

“If that’s what you want.” Trixie said with a dramatic sigh, shaking her head slowly. “But with those you can make more armies, and then it would take Ditzy and I working together to stop you from just continuing on. It’s a pretty good start if you ask me.”

“Only one minute left!” Twilight called out. “Write down your moves and bring them to me!”

“Look, I have to finish writing. Just think about it, Ok?” Trixie smiled one last time before hurrying to the table.

Lyra watched her go with a frown. “But you and Ditzy are working together, aren’t you?” she asked softly. "You two certainly talked for a long time..." She sucked in a breath and lifted her notebook and pencil with magic, quickly making some adjustments right before Twilight called time.

“Alright, I’ve sorted it all out.” Twilight said, fluffing the stack of papers torn from notebooks before her into a neater pile. She was starting to get into the mood of being the rules-keeper. “I’ll move the pieces now.”

The group huddled around the table and watched as Twilight moved the tiles around with her magic. “The tapirs are moving their two navies into the Alpaca Sea and the Azure reaches, and their army is taking Alpaclan.” Twilight levitated a purple flag from the game box and placed it on Alpaclan, marking its supply center for the tapirs.

“The buffalo armies are marching north into the South Dune Sea, west into the North Dune Sea, and east into Caballeria.” A yellow flag was placed on the board.

“This is going well so far!” Lyra said, shooting a grin at Raindrops.

“The camel’s army moves down into Samak.” Twilight continued. “And their northern army goes into the Western Badlands. Their navy slips south into Heyuktan.”

“The navy units don’t have to go out into the ocean to move first?” Carrot Top asked.

“Not if they are just moving along the shore.” Twilight explained, moving on to the next nation. “The ponies send their navy into the Sea of Tranquility unopposed. Their army moves down into Konikticut and their air force takes their place in Hyasanguia.

“The griffon’s navy also hugs the coastline and moves into Viljujsk, and their air force takes Konja.” Trixie smiled as a red flag was planted on the map. “But this is where the first conflict happens. Both the griffon’s air force in Haupstadt and the elk’s air force in Hirvi tried moving into Elnais.”

“So what happens?” Ditzy asked.

“Well, since neither had support, neither of them gets to move. But the elk’s other units still go, the navy heading out into the Iceflow Sea and the army heading into Dadyr.” Twilight quickly moved the last few pieces and sat back. “And… that’s it. The first turn is over.”

“Interesting…” Cheerilee mused. “And no one puts down any new units yet, right?”

“Right.” Twilight confirmed. “You only put down new units every other turn. Now, from this point on you only get fifteen minutes to plan. The second turn starts… now!”

Author's Note:

So the game has officially begun! Let's have a look at the board:

Click here for a closer look.

By the way, the flags are not color-coordinated with the players like the pegs are. The flags are colored for their respective nations.