• Published 13th Aug 2013
  • 4,532 Views, 149 Comments

Games Ponies Shouldn't Play - DagaYemar

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

  • ...

Winter 02

“Lyra, can I speak with you for a moment?” Raindrops asked, still using that overly calm tone of voice. Lyra swallowed and nodded, following the pegasus away from the table. The rest of the ponies watched the pair of them, momentarily fascinated by the tension in the air.

As soon as they were a distance from the table Raindrops turned to the musician, and with an intense look on her face, said, “OK, they’re all still looking. Keep acting nervous.”

Luckily Lyra had her back to the table at the moment, so the expression of surprise that crossed her face remained hidden. “Wait. So you’re not mad at me?”

“Not really.” Raindrops said. “I left myself open and you took advantage of it. I probably would have done the same thing if our positions were reversed. But I was thinking that now you owe me, and it might make the others think twice about attacking me for a few turns if they believe I’m furious right now.”

Lyra started to breathe a sigh of relief, but remembered herself and cringed a little instead. “Well, good. I was worried for a minute that you’d let a simple game go to your head-”

“Of course, I’m not going to let you keep that space.”

Lyra paused, and then a thin smile settled on her face. “Do you really think you can get it back that easily?”

“I’ve got two units and you’ve only got one. It seems like a foregone conclusion.”

“Did you forget about my air force in Tatanka?”

Raindrops smile slipped for a second. “That only works if I don’t attack Tatanka myself.”

“Yes, but you’d have to give up on getting Killa back this turn. And then I’ll have surrounded your navy on all sides, and split your forces in two.” Lyra bowed her head slightly and started backing away, still speaking softly enough for only the two of them to hear. “I’m the one holding all the cards here. Let’s not forget it.”

She backed away, maintaining eye contact with the pegasus without letting the others at the table see what she was doing, and Raindrops let her go. For the life of her, she couldn’t think of anything to say.

“I would give almost anything to hear what they’re talking about.” Ditzy said, watching Raindrops and Lyra having their showdown.

“Me too.” Cheerilee agreed, turning her attention back to the ponies sharing the table with her. “Anyway it looks like the game will be taking a new turn soon, eh Trixie?”

The showmare didn’t respond immediately, acting unusually quiet. Then she looked up with determination. “Ditzy, Cheerilee, could you give CT and I some space? We need to have a talk.”

Cheerilee blinked and looked about to say something, but Ditzy laid a hoof on her shoulder and pulled her back. “Of course.”

Trixie waited for the two of them to get up and walk away before turning to look her friend in the eye. Carrot Top tilted her head questioningly, clearly unsure about how this was going to go down. Trixie sighed, took a moment to gather her thoughts, and reached out to tap the game board between them.

“I’ve been thinking of how to stop you from taking any more of my territories,” She began, indicating the green air force smack dab in the middle of her country, “but that last move was just… genius. I have no idea which of my supply centers you’re going to attack this turn. The only way for me to defend them both is to retreat all of my own air forces, and that means giving up on gaining any new territories. It would also leave only my navy to stand against the rest of your pieces and you’ll be able to push it away easily.”

Carrot Top tried to interject, but Trixie held up her hoof quickly. “Let me say my piece. There’s no way I can beat your armies back in the game. Nopony else’s unit are near enough to do anything to help either. I’ve though up a half dozen different ways to try and trick you into messing up, but I don’t think any of them would work. Your playing has just been too perfect.”

Again Carrot Top tried to speak, but Trixie quickly moved on.

“So there’s only one thing I can think of to try and not get knocked out.” She breathed in and out slowly, and then leaned forward in earnest. “Carrot Top, please don’t eliminate me from the game.”

The farmer blinked. Whatever she had been expecting, that wasn’t it. “Trixie, I…”

“We’ve only been play for less than an hour,” Trixie interrupted, wanting to get it all out. “And all I haven’t been able to do much of anything so far. I’ve wanted to play this game for a long time and I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to play again and I don’t want to stop playing so soon-”

“Trixie!” Carrot Top said forcefully, clapping once to grab her friend’s attention. “Of course I won’t attack you!”

Trixie froze mid ramble with her mouth hanging open. “You… won’t?”

“Of course!” Carrot Top repeated. She came around the table and wrapped Trixie in a quick hug. “We’re friends, remember? If it’s that important for you, I’ll hold off attacking. The important thing is that we’re having fun, right?”

“Yeah,” Trixie laughed quietly, her relief evident in her voice. “…but only for one turn, OK? I don’t want to feel like you’re going easy on me!”

“Alright!” Carrot Top chuckled.

“And now I’m dying to hear what they’re talking about!” Ditzy said, watching the two of them share a hug at the table. “I thought Trixie was going crazy trying to fight off Carrot, what did she say to get on her good side like that so quickly?”

“Maybe it wasn’t her.” Cheerilee pondered out loud. “Carrot Top’s suprising good at this; maybe she’s the one who patched things up.”

Ditzy blew out a breath slowly. “Listen, I’ve been doing some thinking, and I’ve-”

“Hold that thought!” Cheerilee said suddenly, a bright light shining in her eyes for a second. “I’ve just thought of something. I’ve got to talk to Trixie right away. I’m sorry, Ditzy, I’ll be right back…”

She left quickly, leaving the grey mare alone in the middle of the room staring after her. Biting her lip and looking around, she spotted Lyra walking dejectedly away from Raindrops. Hmm… maybe I’ll have better luck with her…

“Looks like you got your Hearthswarming cancelled.” She said meeting her halfway back to the table.

Lyra looked up and spared a glance back over her shoulder. “Raindrops’s getting caught up in the game real hard. I’ve got a mental game set up that will keep her occupied for a bit, but I’m not convinced it will last very long. I don’t know… I’m not really having as much fun as I first thought.”

“I know what you mean.” Ditzy tilted her head to indicate the other three. “Cheerilee is enjoying herself, but I don’t know about the other two. I think somepony needs to win this thing and win it fast.”

“Hah!” Lyra snorted. “That’s a lot easier said than done. You’ve only got four units and unless I missed my guess, that’s going to drop soon.”

Ditzy leaned in conspiratorially. “Yes, but I think I’ve got a plan. See, I was talking to Twilight…”

“You know, Cheerilee, this idea of yours is pretty devious.”

“Call it that favor you owe me. Can you do it?”

“Of course! Who do you think you’re talking too? It’s only a little modification and the illusion-craft is foals play!”

“Well, do it now, while nopony is watching. We might just get a leg up on the others with this.”

“Just let me remember where I stashed the things…”

“I know everpony thinks I’m suddenly some well of military genius, but I don’t actually know where that’s coming from!”

“So…” Raindrops said slowly, “does that mean you don’t know what I should do about the buffalo?”

Carrot Top sighed and dropped back against the back of her chair. “I don’t know, the spaces we started with are important right? We can’t put down new units anywhere else. I think it’s in your best interest to get it back.”

Raindrops nodded, judging from the mood that the topic should be changed. “That’s about what I was thinking too. So, was there anything else you wanted to talk about?”

Carrot Top threw back her head and turned to glare down at the game board, but said nothing.

Raindrops tilted her head slightly. “Is there something you want me to do for you?”

After a few moments, the farmer nodded softly and tapped a spot on the map. “Here, right here. I don’t know why she’s left it so open, but if you can take it this whole side of the board changes. And the two of us would gain a ton for breathing room.”

“You might be onto something there.” Raindrops mused, rubbing her chin in thought. “It might take me a while to get over there, though. I don’t have a unit in the area just yet.”

“Take your time. If she hasn’t done anything yet, she’ll probably keep ignoring it.” Carrot Top said in a cool tone, but inside she was furious with herself. Why did I tell her that? Now she’ll just believe I’m a secret general even more! Unless… am I a secret general? Oh Luna, I am, aren’t I?

Maybe… maybe I should accept it…

“So what are you two talking about? You’ve spent nearly the entire round together.” Trixie asked.

Lyra and Ditzy shared a glance together before the musician responded. “Just hashing out some ideas. We haven’t had much of a chance to talk to each other since the game began.”

“Mind if I borrow Ditzy for a while? The turn’s about to end and I’ve got to confirm something while there’s still time.”

“Sure.” Ditzy nodded to one of the bookcases lining the walls and the two of them leaned against it casually. “This is about Carrot Top, right?”

“I’m not sure I can protect all of my territories this turn. Is there any way I could convince you to send anything up north this turn?”

Ditzy shook her head and chuckled. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m not in the best of situations myself.”

Trixie chewed her bottom lip pensively. “This is about the camels.”

“They’re lined up to take Broncordia from me and this time there’s no way to stop it.” Ditzy pulled out her map and gestured with her wing. “Three units, line up in a row against my two. It’s a coin flip figuring out which unit is going to lead the attack, but my money’s on the army in Pferdreich. She’ll want to keep the other two defending the coastline.”

“So what do you plan to do?” Trixie asked.

“I’m going to save the unit, at least.” Ditzy confided. “If I attack the sea space with the support of my air force, I can disrupt her navy and push it out of my way. I’ll lose my territory, but I’ll at least still be able to fight back. It all falls apart if that’s the unit getting supported instead of lending support, but like I said I think that’s not what she’s going to do.”

“Well, I wish you luck.” Trixie said, pushing the map down and gesturing at the back at the table. “You’d better go write down your moves. I’ve already finished mine.”

“Right.” Ditzy said, walking off to find a place to write on.

Trixie watched her go for a few seconds before tilting her head a little to the side and whispered, “Did you hear all that?”

“Perfectly.” Cheerilee’s voice said softly, from around the area of Trixie’s ear where an earring might be worn. Trixie smiled with undisguised pleasure at her success and, after making one last check to be sure the tiny invisibility spell was still working, walked back to the rest of the group.

“This is the second Winter turn,” Twilight began, once everypony had been seated and turned in their orders. “So this is for the new units. There’s a few… unexpected moves, so let’s get started.

“First, the elk’s moved their army from Hjort to the Western Badlands. Neither their other army nor their navy units moved, but surprisingly their air force went south into Latigo instead of one of the undefended griffon spaces.”

Carrot Top caught Trixie’s eye and the two of them shared a slight nod.

“The griffons, meanwhile,” Twilight continued, “tried to send their navy into the Iceflow Sea, but since the elk’s navy didn’t move they get stopped. Their first air force moved up into Saiuliai and the second stays put in Konja, claiming it. Trixie gets one new unit this turn.

“Now here’s the tricky part, so try to keep up. The pony's navy attacks the Sea of Tranquility with the support from their air force in Canterlot. However, the camel’s navy is attacking right back into Broncordia, with the support of the army in Paardveld and the one in Pferdreich. Three against two, so the ponies lose.”

“So I’ve got to move the navy somewhere else?” Ditzy asked, reaching over to do just that.

Twilight grimaced and held out her arm to stop her. “Normally yes, but this is a special situation here. See, the navy can’t go out into the Sea because that’s where the attack is coming from. Because it’s a navy it can’t go any further inland; your only options are to go along the coast. Paardveld is occupied, so you can’t go there.”

“So that only leaves the Everfree.” Raindrops observed. “Which is a territory no piece can go into.”

Ditzy frowned. “So what happens to my unit?”

“In this case…” Twilight used her magic to pick up the piece and placed it back into the game box. “The unit is crushed and taken off the map. It’s one of the only ways to destroy a unit in this game. Anyway, Cheerilee gains control of Broncordia and her other piece stays put in the West Dune Sea, so that’s two new spaces for her.”

“And I know just which two units I need.” Cheerilee said, already pulling them out of the box.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself.” Twilight warned, pulling a yellow buffalo flag out of the box. “The buffalo’s army in Pte moved up and took your Naqah, do your only getting one new piece this turn.”

Cheerilee sucked in a started breath and shot a glance at Lyra, who shrugged self-consciously.

“The tapir’s navy in the Azure Reaches attacked the intruder in Killa with the support of their air force,” Twilight continued, “but the buffalo retreated on their own back into Ptesan. Their air force also moved out into the abandoned Azure Reaches. Their other armies moved up into Heyuktan and stayed put in Caballeria, gaining them two new supply centers this round.

“The tapir also get a new territory this turn, as their navy in the Horse Steppes holds and claims the space. But her other navy moved back into Cavallia to protect it, leaving Zaldia to be taken and claimed by Ditzy.”

“So does that mean I still have four supply centers?” Ditzy asked.

Twilight nodded. “Yep. Even though your number of territories stayed the same, since you lost a unit you’ll get to place a new one this turn. And finally the ponies air force moved out into the Gulf of Hippopotamia. And that’s it.”

The seven ponies looked down at the board in silence, already planning out their next moves with this new knowledge. They had each finally gotten used to the mechanics of the game and now, they could begin to play in earnest.

Author's Note:

It's been a long time, hasn't it? I really need to get better at writing on a schedule... anyway, let's take a look at the board:

Click here for a closer look.

One of my favorite examples of what one can do in a game of Diplomacy is being employed in this chapter. Two people go into a separate room from the rest of the players in order to have a private discussion. What player one doesn't know is that player two has an open phone in his pocket that he left on. Back in the main room the rest of the players are gathered around another phone and can hear everything that player one is saying.

Of course, there are no cell phones in Equestria, but there are plenty of magical ways to duplicate the effect. And in a game like this, knowledge is power. Which means spying is a renewable resource...

Also, appealing to the better nature of your friends is a perfectly valid tactic as well. I just don't personally recommend using it too much. Or perhaps it's just that I need more trustworthy friends...