I’m something of a fanatic when it comes to the rules of Diplomacy. I have a reverence for them that must be quite unhealthy – I consider the game one of the most perfect designer games, a wonderfully powerful and robust engine that does exactly what it purports to. Thus I’m very hesitant to give my blessings to even small deviations from the rules, unless they display the same sort of universal power we get with the Calhamer rules. (Ironic how I am still capable of participating in those detailed arguments about convoy paradoxes and such; those parts of the rules text are and have long been a mess, even if the rules as they are played around here are very clear and logical. As always, I try to play according to the Platonic ideal of the rules, not so much based on any particular edition of the text.)
I myself haven’t had any strong inclination towards changing the rules of Diplomacy with house rulings of any sort, and I usually just yawn at any variants that add things on top of the basic structure, making it more complex. So it’s quite surprising that for a while now I’ve been iddly wondering about one particular rules change that I can’t quite dismiss on the grounds of inferiority. Could I have figured out a rule that actually improves Diplomacy? I’ll need to test this one and find out!
My industrialization rule
My new rule is simple: instead of home centres, Powers now have “industrialized” centres that are marked with a suitable marker on the board. At the beginning of the game the home centres are all industrialized. A centre that changes hands always loses the industrialization; a player may industrialize a new centre by foregoing a possible build during the winter phase – the order is “B(uild) I(ndustrialization) [centre]”. When a power builds new units, the builds have to happen on empty industrialized centres.
The experienced Diplomacy player should immediately see what this rule is intended to cause:
- Variants have difficulty with Powers that do not possess coastal home centres. This rule allows a country to add suitable new centres into their industrial base for a cost, removing the need for annoying ahistorical compromises with where you can build fleets. The map notation is also simplified in many cases, as it no longer is necessary to keep track of home centre status – just industrialization status.
- The Calhamer map is notorious for the many stalemate lines it has. This rule changes the end-game by making it possible for all countries to build fleets at any coast, provided they can hold a centre on the coast and empty it for the winter season.
- Powers dispossessed of their home centres or forced to fight a protracted war on top of them are hampered to such a degree that those powers really have no room for negotiation with their opposition. By allowing new industrialization new diplomatic opportunities also open up: a Power might recover from drastic losses by creating new home centres away from their original home, given time and resources.
- Large variants suffer from a slow-down of play due to the increasing time it takes to get units from the home centres to the frontlines. Allowing the players to make their own industrialization decisions allows dynamical speed-up in large variant end-games while keeping small variants near unchanged. Meanwhile the new opportunities cannot be used for cumulative power stabs (the phenomenon where stab gains are leveraged into instant forces that are used against the same target next year) outside the home area because the newly industrialized center is at risk of being overrun by the opponent if it’s situated immediately on the frontlines.
Looking at uncertainties, on the other hand: I’m not entirely sure whether this rule would be beneficial in small-power midgame defense situations. It is already pretty difficult for a power to recover after being reduced to 1-3 centres; imagine how much more difficult it’d be if you’d also need to rebuild the industrial base after the war to get new units. Another issue with this is that industrialization could only be achieved by first creating a surplus of supply centres, which might be too difficult for the small, relocating government-in-exile. Might be that I’d need to have a rule for disbanding an unit on top of a centre to industrialize it – the unit sort of lays down its arms and joins the city, if you will.
This rule is so simple that it seems a very natural part of the rules set, aesthetically speaking. The only variation I could imagine in it would be in which centres would be applicable for industrialization – it could be beneficial to require the new industry to be built in an empty centre (like new units are), or perhaps to require that the centre has been in possession for the last year (to prevent an immediate industrialization after capture). This latter especially wouldn’t be a too onerous limitation, but might prevent misusing this new rule to create more efficient offensives. I’ll need to test the rule and see if this is a concern.
Is there some way in which this rule is worse than the default concept of “home centre”?