Diplomacy (game)

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Players 2-7
Age range 12+
Setup time 2 minutes
Playing time Up to 6 hours
Random chance Power Selection
Skills required Tactics

Diplomacy is a strategic board game created by Allan B. Calhamer in 1954 and released commercially in 1959.[1] Its main distinction from most board wargames is negotiation: Players spend much of their time forming (and betraying) alliances with other players.[2] Set in Europe just before the beginning of World War I , Diplomacy is played by seven players, each controlling the armed forces of a major European power. Each player aims to move his or her units - and defeat those of others - to win possession of a majority of strategic cities and provinces marked as "supply centers" on the map; these supply centers allow players who control them to produce more units.

Diplomacy was the first commercially published game to be played by mail; only chess, which is in the public domain, saw significant postal play earlier. Diplomacy was also the first commercially published game to generate an active hobby with amateur fanzines; only science-fiction/fantasy and comics fandom saw fanzines earlier. Competitive face-to-face Diplomacy tournaments have been held since the 1970s. Play of Diplomacy by e-mail has been widespread since the early 1990s.[3]

Diplomacy has been published in the United States by Games Research, Avalon Hill, and Hasbro; the name is currently a registered trademark of Hasbro's Avalon Hill division. Diplomacy has also been licensed to various companies for publication in other countries. Diplomacy is also played on the world wide web, adjudicated by computer or by a human gamesmaster.

In its catalog, Avalon Hill advertised Diplomacy as John F. Kennedy's[citation needed] and Henry Kissinger's favorite game. Dr. Kissinger described it as his favorite in an interview published in a games magazine.[4] Walter Cronkite was also reported to be a fan of the game.[5]


[edit] History

The idea for Diplomacy arose from Allan B. Calhamer's study at Harvard of nineteenth-century European history, and from his study of political geography.[2] The rough form of Diplomacy was created in 1954 and its details were developed through playtesting until the 1958 map and rules revisions. Calhamer paid for a 500-game print run of that version in 1959 after rejection by major companies.[1] It has been published since then by Games Research (in 1961, then a 1971 edition with a revised Rulebook), Avalon Hill (in 1976), by Hasbro's Avalon Hill division (in 1999), and by Wizards of the Coast (in 2008) in the USA, and licensed to other boardgame publishers for versions sold in other countries. Among these are Parker Brothers, Waddingtons Games, Gibsons Games, Asmodée Editions, and several others.[6]

[edit] Basic setting and overview

A Diplomacy board, showing the different regions of each continent and ocean

The board is a map of Europe divided among the seven powers of the game: Austria-Hungary, England, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Turkey. The map contains fifty-six land regions and nineteen sea regions, including portions of the Middle East and North Africa. The regions on the board are named after the general regions (e.g. "Bohemia") or countries (e.g. "Serbia"). Many regions or even playable countries (such as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, referred to as England) are named after a significantly smaller part of the region actually on the board (Budapest for Hungary, Holland for the Netherlands, etc). Tunisia is called "Tunis" on some boards.[citation needed] Thirty-four of the land regions contain supply centers, corresponding to major centers of industry or commerce (e.g. "Vienna", "Rome"); this includes several home supply centers controlled at the start of the game, named after capital cities of the time (e.g. "Constantinople," "Berlin"). The number of supply centers a player controls determines the total number of armies and fleets a player may have on the board, and as players gain and lose control of different centers, they may build and must remove units accordingly.

All players other than England and Russia begin the game with two armies and one naval fleet; England starts with two fleets and one army, and Russia starts with two armies and two fleets. Only one unit at a time may occupy a given map region. Balancing units to supply center counts is done after each game-year (two seasons of play: Spring and Fall). At the beginning of the game, there are twelve "neutral" (unoccupied) supply centers; these are all typically captured within the first few moves. Further allocation of supply centers becomes zero sum, with any gains in a player's resources coming at the expense of a rival.

[edit] Comparison with other war games

Diplomacy differs from the majority of war games in several ways:

  • Unit movement is simultaneous, not turn-based — all players secretly write down their moves after a negotiation period, and then all moves are revealed and put into effect simultaneously.
  • Social interaction and interpersonal skills make up an essential part of the game play.
  • The rules that simulate combat are strategic, abstract, and simple, not tactical, realistic, or complex as this is a diplomatic game, not military.
  • Combat resolution contains no element of randomness — no dice are rolled and no cards are shuffled. (Individual players may attempt to incorporate randomness into their choice of moves, as a strategy to prevent their opponents from outguessing them, a strategy suggested by game theory.)
  • The game is especially well suited to postal play,[2] which led to an active hobby of amateur publishing.

[edit] Game play

Diplomacy proceeds by seasons, beginning in the year 1901, with each year divided into two seasons: "Spring" and "Fall" moves. Each season is further divided into negotiation and movement phases, followed by 'retreat' or 'disband' adjustments and an end-of-the-year Winter phase of new builds or removals after the Fall adjustments.

[edit] Negotiation phase

In the negotiation phase, players use any verbal means necessary amongst each other to form alliances, or some other form of arrangement, with one another. Such arrangements may be made public knowledge or kept secret. Since players are not bound to anything they say during this period, and thus no agreements of any sort are enforceable, communication and trust are unusually important for a strategy game; players must forge alliances with opponents and observe them to ensure their trustworthiness; at the same time, they must convince others of their own trustworthiness while making plans to turn on their allies when others least expect it.

[edit] Movement phase

After the negotiation period, players write secret orders for each unit; these orders are revealed and executed simultaneously. Units can move from their location to an adjacent space, support adjacent units in holding an area in the event of an attack, do nothing or assist in attacking an occupied area. In addition, fleets may transport armies from one coast square to another. One fleet per sea space traversed is required if multiple bodies of water are to be traversed. Armies may only occupy land regions, and fleets may only occupy sea regions and land regions that border the sea. Only one unit may occupy a region; if multiple units are ordered to move to the same region, only the unit with the most support moves there (if two or more units have the same highest support, no units ordered to that region move). A unit giving support that is attacked has its support broken, except in the case the support is being given to an invasion to the region where the attack it suffered comes.

During an attack, the greatest concentration of force is always victorious; if the forces are equal a standoff results and the units remain in their original positions. If a supporting unit is attacked (except by the unit against which the support is directed), its support is nullified, which allows units to affect the outcome of conflicts in regions not directly adjacent.

[edit] End-of-year and supply centers

After each winter move, newly-acquired supply centers become owned by the occupying player, and each power's supply center total is recalculated; players with fewer supply centers than units on the board must disband units, while players with more supply centers than units on the board are entitled to build units in their Home centers (supply centers controlled at the start of the game). Players controlling no supply centers are eliminated from the game, and if a player controls 18 of the 34 supply centers, that person is declared the winner. Players may also agree to a draw.

[edit] Variants

Several boardgames based on Diplomacy have been commercially published. Additionally, many fans of the game have created hundreds of variants of their own, using altered rules on the standard map, standard rules on a different map, or both. An index of over a thousand variants is available at the Diplomacy Variant Bank web site (see External links, below).

[edit] Rulebook provision for fewer than seven players

The rules allow for games with two to six players, closing parts of the standard board, but these are used only in casual play, and are not considered standard Diplomacy in tournament, postal, or most forms of online play. For example, if there are six players, everyone plays one country and Italy is not used; for five players, Italy and Germany are not used. The original rules did not include additional guidelines, but the Avalon Hill set included suggestions, such as individual players using multiple countries, and additions.

Another approach to solving the problem of less than seven players is the use of the Escalation Variant Rules by Edi Birsan:
1. Players start with no pieces on the board
2. Players put one piece down on the board in any province one at a time (starting with the youngest player)
3. After reaching the maximum number of pieces the players start the game with ownership of their starting provinces.
4. At the end of Fall 1901 with their adjustments players write down their three HOME centers for the rest of the game.
This is done without negotiations and may result in two players declaring the same province. However in order to build there they still must own it and the province must be open. Players may choose any supply center as a HOME for example: EDI, DEN, ROM

It is suggested that for the number players the following starting pieces are used:
Two - 12 units
Three- 8 units
Four -6 units
Five- 5 units
Six - 4 units

It is also suggested that for games with 2-3-4 players that the 'Gunboat' rule applies which means that there are no discussions.
For 4 or 5 players the 'Wilson' Rule applies which means that all discussions must take place in the open at the table with no whispers or secret signals.
For 5 or 6 players regular negotiation rules apply.

[edit] Commercially published Diplomacy variants

There have been six commercially released variants of DiplomacyMachiavelli, Kamakura, Colonial Diplomacy, Hundred, Ard-Rí and Classical. Imperial is a boardgame with enough similarities to be described as a Diplomacy variant.

[edit] Machiavelli

Machiavelli was published by Avalon Hill. Set in Renaissance Italy, the board is controlled by the Republic of Florence, the Republic of Venice, the Duchy of Milan, the Kingdom of Naples, the Papacy, Valois France, Habsburg Austria, and the Ottoman Turks. The game introduces many rules changes such as money, bribery, three seasons per year, garrisons, and random events such as plague and famine.

[edit] Kamakura

Kamakura was published by West End Games in the early 1980s. Its setting is feudal Japan.

[edit] Colonial Diplomacy

Set in Asia in the late 19th century, much of the board is controlled by various colonial powers: England, Russia, Japan, Holland, Turkey, China, and France. The game introduces three special features:

  • The Trans-Siberian railroad extends across Russia from Moscow to Vladivostok. The railroad can be used by Russia to move armies anywhere along the railroad. The TSR may only be used by Russia. Russian armies are allowed to move through other Russian armies, but foreign armies can block the passage of armies on the TSR.
  • The Suez Canal is the only way to move between the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea. Use of the Suez Canal is controlled by whoever is in control of Egypt. The use of the Suez Canal increases in importance later in the game as expansion becomes both more important and more difficult.
  • The ownership of Hong Kong counts as a supply center for any country except China.

This map was used as the basis of the Imperial Asia expansion map.[7]

[edit] Hundred

Hundred is a map of Andy D. Schwarz on Hundred Years' War created in 1996 and published by Stupendous Games in 2000[8].

[edit] Ard-Rí

Ard-Rí is a map of Stuart John Bernard on medieval Ireland created in 1998 and published by Stupendous Games in 2000[9].

[edit] Classical

Classical is a map of Andy D. Schwarz and Vincent Mous after death of Alexander the Great created in 1998 and published by Stupendous Games in 2000[10].

[edit] Most-noted Diplomacy variants not commercially published

[edit] Youngstown Diplomacy

An extension of the normal map, including Asia and colonies there. For example, in addition to the usual home centers, France starts with a fleet in Saigon (in Cochinchina). Some countries didn't have colonies in Asia, so they were given more home centers (e.g. Posen, next to Berlin). Also, three new Powers were added - India, China, and Japan. Named after the city of Youngstown, Ohio where the variant was invented.[11]

[edit] Modern Diplomacy

A variant set in 1995. Every country with 30 million citizens was made a power with three centers, every country with 60 million citizens was made a power with 4 centers, and Russia (pop. 145,000,000+) was given 5. There are ten powers: Spain, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Ukraine, Turkey, Russia, and Egypt. Iran would have been made a power, but the board would have needed more extension so it was just made a neutral supply center.

[edit] Tournaments

Diplomacy is played at a number of formal tournaments in many nations. Most face-to-face Diplomacy tournaments longer than one day are associated with either a Diplomacy-centered convention (such as DipCon or Dixiecon) or a large multi-game convention (such as the Origins Game Fair or the World Boardgaming Championships). Some conventions are centered on the games and have a highly competitive atmosphere; others have more focus on meeting and socializing with other players from the postal or e-mail parts of the hobby.
For a current listing of Face to Face (FtF) tournaments go to

[edit] Tournament play

In some tournaments, each game ends after a specified number of game-years, to ensure that all players can play in all rounds without limiting the tournament structure to one round per day. At other events, a game continues until a winner is determined or a draw is voted. Tournaments in Europe are generally played with a specific end year whereas tournaments in North America more often are played until someone wins or a draw is agreed.

[edit] Major championship tournaments

The World Diplomacy Championship (WDC or World DipCon) is held annually in different places in the world, to determine the World Champion of Diplomacy. WDC was first held in 1988 in Birmingham, England, and was held at two-year intervals before becoming an annual event. WDC's site rotates among three regions: North America, Europe/UK, and the rest of the world.[12]

The North American Diplomacy Convention (DipCon) is held annually in different places in North America, to determine the North American Champion of Diplomacy. DipCon was first held in 1966 in Youngstown, Ohio[13]. DipCon's site rotates among West, Central, and East regions.[14]

The European Diplomacy Convention (Euro DipCon) is held annually in different places in Europe, to determine the European Champion of Diplomacy.

Over a dozen other countries hold face-to-face national championship tournaments[15]

[edit] Other major face-to-face tournaments

Many of the larger multi-game conventions, such as the World Boardgaming Championships, Gen Con, Origins, and Dragonflight also host Diplomacy tournaments. On occasion, WDC or DipCon will be held in conjunction with one of these conventions.

[edit] Major play-by-email tournaments

The play-by-email field is constantly changing. There are numerous tournaments generally associated with different websites. As of 2008 there were no official events sanctioned by the manufacturer (Wizards/Avalon Hill). There have been and continue to be events with various sizes and self designated titles such as:

  • World Masters - every two years in the Worldmasters E-mail Tournament composed of both team and individual events
  • Diplomacy National World Cup - modeled after a Soccer National Cup (players are in teams competing by countries), started in 2007[16]
  • Winter Blitz - The Winter Blitz offers 2 rounds of speedy blitz play - the only online tournament where you will play two rounds - starting in January, and complete by June. Starting this January, registration still open.

[edit] Other ways to play

Despite the length of face-to-face Diplomacy games, there are people who organize ad-hoc games, and there are also various clubs that have annual tournaments and monthly club games.

To overcome the difficulty of assembling enough players for a sufficiently large block of time together, a play-by-mail game community has developed, either via Postal or Internet Diplomacy, using either humans to adjudicate the turns or automatic adjudicators.

[edit] Postal play and postal hobby

Since the 1960s, Diplomacy has been played by mail through fanzines. The play-by-mail hobby was created in 1963 in carbon-copied typed flyers by John Boardman in New York, recruiting players through his science fiction fanzine Knowable. His flyers became an ongoing publication under the Graustark title, and led directly to the formation of other zines. By May 1965 there were eight Diplomacy zines.[17] By the end of 1967 there were dozens of zines in the USA, and by 1970 their editors were holding gatherings. In 1969, Don Turnbull started the first UK-based Diplomacy zine, Albion.[18] By 1972, both the USA and UK hobbies were forming organizations. In the 1980s, there were over sixty zines in the main list of the North American Zine Poll, peaking at 72 zines in 1989;[19] and there were nearly as many in the major Zine Poll of the British part of the hobby. In the 1990s and 2000s, the number of postal Diplomacy zines has reduced as new players instead joined the PBEM part of the hobby. As of 2008, there are only a few active postal zines published in the USA, one in Canada, and several in the UK and elsewhere.

[edit] Play online

A web-based Diplomacy generated map

Diplomacy has been played through e-mail on the Internet since the 1983 debut of The Armchair Diplomat on Compuserve,[17] with adjudication by computer starting in 1988.

Recent online Diplomacy sites such as phpDiplomacy, Play Diplomacy, Stabbeurfou, and World Leaders also allow entirely web-based games of Diplomacy.[20]. Diplomacy forums, online and email play has been available at Diplomacy.ca since 1985.

[edit] Diplomacy computer games

Screenshot from the Paradox computer game.

Avalon Hill released a computer game version of Diplomacy in 1984-1985 for the IBM PC.

Hasbro released a computer game version of Diplomacy in 1999. A major fault was that the computer AI was considered poor, one reviewer remarking "Gamers of any skill level will have no trouble whatsoever whaling on the computer at even the highest difficulty setting."[5].

Paradox Interactive released a new computer version in 2005, which was given negative reviews.[21][22][23] None of the computer games supported voice chat, which limited the possibilities for complicated alliances, until voice chat was added to the Paradox game in a later patch.

[edit] Awards

Diplomacy was inducted into the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design Adventure Hall of Fame in 1994.[24]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b Calhamer, Allan. "The Invention of Diplomacy", in Games & Puzzles, No. 21, January 1974.
  2. ^ a b c Parlett, David. The Oxford History of Board Games. Oxford University Press, UK, 1999. ISBN 0-19-212998-8. pp. 361-362.
  3. ^ Bach, Deborah (August 5, 2000), "No one's bored with board games at this event", Baltimore Sun: 1E, 8E 
  4. ^ Games & Puzzles magazine, May 1973.
  5. ^ McClellan, Joseph. "Lying and Cheating by the Rules," Washington Post, June 2, 1986.
  6. ^ Diplomacy page of BoardGameGeek [1], retrieved January 25, 2008.
  7. ^ Imperial - Asia Expansion Map and Rules | File Info | Imperial | BoardGameGeek
  8. ^ Hundred on BoardGameGeek and [2]
  9. ^ Ard-Rí on BoardGameGeek and [3]
  10. ^ Classical on BoardGameGeek and [4]
  11. ^ DipWiki: VZ
  12. ^ Peery, Larry. "A History of World DipCon". Diplomatic Corps. http://www.diplomaticcorps.org/History/WDCHistory.txt. 
  13. ^ At John Koning's home, August 31st 1966
  14. ^ Birsan, Edi, et al.. "The DipCon Story". Diplomatic Corps. http://www.diplomaticcorps.org/History/DipConHistory.txt. 
  15. ^ World Diplomacy Database
  16. ^ Tournament website
  17. ^ a b Meinel, Jim. Encyclopedia of Postal Diplomacy Zines. Great White North Productions, Alaska, USA, 1992.
  18. ^ Sharp, Richard. The Game of Diplomacy. Arthur Barker, UK, 1978. ISBN 0213166763.
  19. ^ "1989 Runestone Poll Results", Diplomacy World, Issue 56 (Fall 1989), pp. 69-71.
  20. ^ Web-based diplomacy screenshot
  21. ^ "GameSpy review". http://pc.gamespy.com/pc/diplomacy-2005/665958p1.html. 
  22. ^ "GameSpot review". http://www.gamespot.com/pc/strategy/diplomacy2005/review.html. 
  23. ^ "Eurogamer review". http://www.eurogamer.net/article.php?article_id=61923. 
  24. ^ "Origins Award Winners (1993)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design. http://www.originsgamefair.com/awards/1993/list-of-winners. Retrieved on 2008-01-19. 

[edit] Further reading

[edit] External links

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