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 »

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 »

Chromatic Diplomacy

We played Chromatic Diplomacy with the teenagers a while back. As I’m always interested in Diplomacy variant design, it was pretty good to get to play this comedy masterpiece my Millington & al. from the early ’90s. The reason for playing the variant now was really that I happened to have a snazzy laminated map on loan from a friend in the south, and that we happened to need a 5-player variant. In hindsight it probably wasn’t smart to play something that has more comedy value than anything else, especially when half of the players hadn’t played Diplomacy before and couldn’t really appreciate the comedy. Read the rest of this entry »

Diplomacy: The Triangle Theory of Variant Design

I’ve been fiddling with a couple of Diplomacy variants based on the Baltic area during various times in European history. My interest has mostly been in figuring out how to make Diplomacy work well for different numbers of players. This is a non-trivial task, as most Diplomacy variants tend to leave different players in grossly different situations. While this isn’t alone much of a problem, it tends to leave a bad taste for players who didn’t expect the situation. A recent concrete experience had me play an 8-player variant from the variant banks called Medieval Diplomacy with the teenagers around here, and I can’t say that I’d been entirely happy with it. The variant has half the players fighting over the Italian centers in the middle, while the rest go about calmly picking and choosing their targets. Especially Turkey is in an idiotic position; an attack from the north takes a full two years to reach a Turkish center by land, which basically means that the Turkish player never needs to worry about such an attack.

Anyway, my topic: as part of my variant exploration efforts I’ve produced a number of graphs concerning the triangle theory of Diplomacy map construction. I’ll present those and explain the triangle theory, too, in case the reader is not familiar with it already. Read the rest of this entry »