Diplomacy: the Greek opening for Italy

I’m playing Italy once more in a postal game with hellishly long deadlines. It’s 1901 spring now, and it’ll be a week before the year is out. I’m going to time-delay this post until later in case my fellow players read it and get any ideas about my play. Not saying that I’ll use this, but I might.

The actual topic here is to describe a pretty nice Italian opening strategy that I’ve tried out a few times over time. The basic concept is to take Greece and then proceed flexibly to gnaw both Austria and Turkey as the situation warrants, including an especially sweet double-stab against Turkey. I don’t know if it has an actual name out there somewhere, so I’ll just call it the “Greek opening” for reasons that’ll become obvious. Read the rest of this entry »

The Tuonela line of card games

One of the highlights of the boardgame conference in February was that the local game publisher Jussi Autio invited us to check out his game store. Tuonela has this sweet run-down business locale within walking distance of downtown Oulu; it’s small and grunge, including the stock of boardgames, which veers towards the eccentric, local and rare – Finnish games have the pride of place. It’s more like a specialty boutique than the more typical gaming superstore, reminding me of a small record store that insists on quality over quantity. The sort of place that I’d love to have carry my stuff, really.

Anyway, one of the things I did was that I grabbed the chance and purchased a few copies of the new Tuonela card games for sale in our own webstore – we sell roleplaying games, usually, but Finnish games are also a tradition, and I for one don’t really care about the divide, so might as well try it. I haven’t yet gotten around to adding the titles to the webstore, but I have played the games themselves. This is surprisingly good stuff! Read the rest of this entry »

The boardgame conference in Oulu

I’ve been busy, obviously – editing and laying out a genealogy of my paternal family line, mostly, but also some other stuff, such as participating in an interesting boardgame conference in Oulu this last weekend. Some notes follow – this might interest any and all Finnish game design and development people out there. Read the rest of this entry »

Challenging the Diplomacy rules?

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! Read the rest of this entry »

Overview of the Diplomacy scoring conundrum

Diplomacy is one of the most played and researched of modern designer boardgames. Regardless, many interesting theoretical issues remain. One I’ve been occupying myself with is scoring games – or more generally, evaluating player performance. I have some vague notion that this’ll be useful when we have tournaments here in Finland, but mostly I just find this issue an interesting theoretical problem. It’s so challenging, in fact, that I don’t have any ready-made answers – I can formulate the question, but I don’t have a perfect response. Read the rest of this entry »

Passable Diplomacy Variants for 8-10 players

The local teenagers are after Diplomacy like cats in heat. We’re going to play some again tomorrow, and I’ve been told that there’s a good chance for having more than seven players present. Even if I might myself well stay out of the game and act as a rules arbitrator, it’s still possible that we might be looking at an 8, 9 or even 10-player game.

Consequently, I spent some time last night trawling the net for suitable variants for this number of players. I wrote earlier about my aesthetic preferences in regards to Diplomacy variant design, but in the local situation they are not only aesthetic: a bunch of teenagers, some of which have only played a couple of sessions of Diplomacy, need a clear, solid variant with no complex special rules, and not some horrid mess with special characters, double-strength units, garrisons and such. Read the rest of this entry »

Analytical boundaries of Diplomacy scenario design

Busy, busy… I started writing the new TSoY book, and I have all seven sorts of whitecollar monkey business on my plate, too. In my free time I’ve been speculating about Diplomacy variants a bit again. This time I decided to write down some basics about what makes a Diplomacy variant. This isn’t necessarily that interesting for Diplomacy players so much as game designers interested in system aesthetics – there are certain aesthetic principles to Diplomacy, and they can be used to determine when something goes over the line and becomes something else than a Diplomacy variant.

I should note that the following might seem slightly mystical. That’s Diplomacy for you, some of us take it far too seriously. Read the rest of this entry »