Unattributed comments are by Mark Nelson (amt5man@amsta.leeds.ac.uk)
HTML conversion by Simon Szykman


This file is a collection of diplomacy variants reviews. But before we reach the reviews: What is a diplomacy variant?

((Reprinted from The Novice Package, 1987.))

By Steve Doubleday

One of the things that strikes a person new to playing Diplomacy is that, once the game becomes more than a little familiar, it is rather simple. The major part of the interest and the complexities rely on the way in which alliances are formed and broken. Mind you, there are still tactical points which require concentration from even the most experienced players.

After a while, even if no-one's mentioned that the game can be altered to provide a similar, perhaps, but subtly changed version of the game, the thought invariably occurs... "What if..."

The simplest variants often come about through necessity; if you can't get seven players together, then how do you cope with having fewer players? Some cursory attention is paid to this problem in the rulebook, but few are satisfied with the solutions proposed there.

It was precisely in this way that Adrian Baird and myself came to design probably the most popular variation on the basic game (otherwise known as a variant), Intimate Diplomacy. This simple variant allows two players to select starting counties and then bid for the `non-aligned' countries. The objective is simpler than the standard game: merely to take one of your opponent's home supply centres with one of your own units. However, the addition to the game, the bidding for the non-aligned countries alters the game quite substantially, because it becomes possible to `buy' help; but beware how you bid... you could end up bankrupt and totally without help.

ID came about because two people wanted to shrink the number of people; Youngstown came about because more people than the basic seven wanted to play the game; the board was expanded in this case westward to include China, India and Japan; the mysteries of the east enter upon the board --- no longer does Turkey have a corner position and the Russian bear looks even more powerful and over-extended!

These two give you an idea of some of the simple variation possible. Further variations come about because people feel that it is possible to create something out of the standard game which will satisfy something which they want to achieve; the chameleon game can change its skin to suit its surroundings and those of us who want to play a game based in the milieu of our choice.

One of the most popular of themes is that of the wonderful story of The Lord of the Rings. There have been a large number of variants based on this book. These include: Middle Earth, The Downfall of the Lord of the Rings and the Return of the King, Third Age, Mordor vs the World, The Great Years, Dark Tower etc... all of which have seen the light of the world in many versions. This thematic presentation of the standard game includes treatments of Andre Norton's `Witch World', Ursula LeGuinn's `Wizard of Earthsea', Tolkien's 'The Silmarillion', Asimov's `Foundation and Empire' and Blish's `Cities in Flight'. It is no coincidence that many of these are science fictional or fantastic; as these world's appeal to the games' designers and games' players alike.

There are also many variants which are based on different historical periods: the fall of the Alexandrian Empire; the Rise and Fall of Rome; the conflict between the Greeks and the Persians; the English Civil War; the conquest of the New World; the Second World War (including modern weaponry).

Yet other variants are based upon a quirky idea; the `what if...' idea taken even further. For example, what if the land provinces in Diplomacy gradually get submerged by a second flood? Gradually the land provinces would become sea provinces... the variant's called Deluge.

Some variants are based on making the original game more complicated. At one extreme there is the incredible Hypereconomic Diplomacy which encompasses the whole world with over sixty players taking part, each making important economic as well as military decisions. Unfortunately, though a fabulous game to play, Hyperec has proved too complicated for most GMs who have tried it in the past. However there is now the prospect that the game may become feasible to run using the high powered microcomputers now available at a reasonable price. Mercator by contrast is a popular whole-world variant which has been run to conclusion many times. There are Mercator enthusiasts who refuse to play regular Diplomacy because they feel that it is too shallow by comparison.

And there are many more variants besides. If you want to know more, then send a stamped addressed envelope to your nearest Variant Bank Custodian and ask the Custodian to tell you how much their variant catalogue costs.


"This file is a collection of reviews of diplomacy variants." I know this because that's what I wrote at the top of the file! However it is more accurate to say that this is a *random* collection of reviews.

One ideal form of this file would be a version which contained a review of every diplomacy variant every written. This is not possible. No-one would have time to read the rules for these variants and then comment on them. Another "ideal form" of this file would be if it contained reviews of the "Best Diplomacy Variants". The disadvantages of this approach are two-fold: Determining what the "best" variants are and then finding people to write reviews of them.

My eventual aim is to make the file as complete as possible. Ideally this file would be used by people who are thinking of ordering variants from a variant bank, or are thinking of running a variant. Such people would use this file to find out more about the variants that they are interested in before either purchasing them or running them. If you want to know what the "best" variants are look in the Appendix where you will find some commentary on that question.

The reviews in this file have mostly been taken from diplomacy fanzines. Different reviewers have different ideas on what constitutes "good variants" and so you should take all the comments with a pinch of salt. The ideal review tells you what the aim of the variant is, what changes there are between it and regular, if the game has been run postally, how the variant compares to other designs using similar ideas and if the variant is any good. Not many reviews meet this exacting standard!

Since this file is primarily distributed by email I have tried to ensure that the file contains reviews on all the games that are runnable through the Judge program.


VERSION 1.0 was compiled by Mark Nelson (amt5man@amsta.leeds.ac.uk) and proof-read by Harold Reynolds (reynolds@geog.utoronto.ca) and David Kovar (kovar@netnoc.net). It was distributed to rec.games.diplomacy in May 1993. It contained reviews of 101 diplomacy variants.

VERSION 2.0 as compiled by Mark Nelson (amt5man@amsta.leeds.ac.uk) and proof-read by Harold Reynolds (harold@ca.utoronto.physics.rainbow). It was distributed to rec.games.diplomacy in January 1994. It contained reviews of 201 diplomacy variants.


An entry takes the form:

NAME (designer) arda
<reviewer>, <zine> <date>.

Here NAME is the name of the diplomacy variant, designer is the designer(s) of the variant, arda is the classification number of the variant (where known). >reviewer< is the person(s) who reviewed the variant, is the date when the review was written and >zine< is the zine in which the review first appeared. If a variant has more than one review then these are listed in chronological order.

Variants A-Z is split up into several files. You can jump to the first file and just start browsing, you can take a look at the appendix, or you can jump to a specific letter.

On to the first file variants A-B