Crystal Ball Diplomacy
Manus Hand and John Woolley
- 1.1 BASIC CONCEPT
In Crystal Ball Diplomacy, players must submit orders for each turn before
they know what really happened on the previous turn. In other words, the
results for any given movement phase are not revealed to the players until
after every player has issued (unchangeable) orders for the
subsequent movement phase.
To put it another way, your units don't begin to respond to their
orders until the next movement phase beyond the one when they'd
normally respond. You always have two sets of orders, not one,
"in the pipe." There's a big premium on correctly discerning
now what's going to happen later; you can't respond to anything
immediately; you watch in frustration as your units go on trying
to execute a plan that's already failed, etc. -- just as in real
If regular Diplomacy is (as has been remarked) like a knife-fight in
a dark room, Crystal Ball Diplomacy is like a knife-fight in a dark
room on cough syrup. Conducted in Aramaic. With earplugs.
But remember General Patton's comment: "it rains on the enemy, too."
- 1.2 EXTENT OF THE VARIANT
The delay in the delivery of adjudicated results to the players (mentioned
above) is the main difference between standard Diplomacy and CBD.
However, to prevent abuse of the rules by card-carrying fortune-tellers,
a minor change is introduced regarding the submittal of orders.
Otherwise, the underlying rules of Diplomacy remain unchanged and in force.
Note that retreats, builds, and removals are not planned
(or misplanned) in advance. Players enter orders for retreat and
adjustment phases as these phases occur; players do not need to
"forecast" such orders (though they do need to have thought out
these contingencies if they hope to have an order entered and waiting for
a new or retreated unit).
- 1.3. PHASES OF THE GAME
Thinking about Crystal Ball Diplomacy and the sequence in which its world
unfolds can be a bit confusing. To chart a path through that confusion,
the sequence of a game of Crystal Ball Diplomacy is shown below.
In Crystal Ball Diplomacy, submission of movement orders differs from
the usual order-writing procedure of standard Diplomacy. This difference
is discussed in detail in the next section of these rules.
2. ORDER LISTS
- 2.1 ABOUT ORDER LISTS
Orders for a movement phase in Crystal Ball Diplomacy are submitted in
"lists." In addition to the usual adjudication (bounce, cut support,
and so on), some orders may turn out to be impossible due to the fact
that the unit mentioned does not exist (or at least does not exist
at the specified location).
Thus, some or all of your orders may turn out to be void.
That is your fault. Or maybe (if order lists are being made public -- see
below) you did it on purpose to deceive
someone. But then, that would be wrong, wouldn't it?
- 2.2 ORDER LISTS REQUIRED
An order list must be received from each player having units
in order to advance the game to the next phase.
- 2.3 ORDER FORMAT
Each order in an order list must contain the type of unit (Army
or Fleet) being ordered, followed by the province or body of water in
which the player imagines it to be situated when the list will be
processed, followed by the order to be given to that unit.
if the player is unsure whether he will have an army or a fleet in London,
he must use two separate orders to make sure to order that unit to
must be a valid, legal Diplomacy order (with the single assumption made
that all units mentioned in the order do in fact exist). That is, a
unit may not be ordered to an impassible space, nor may a convoy order
be issued to a fleet on land. This restriction is to prevent use of
the order list as a plain-text mechanism for sending messages between
players in no-press games, such as
F BRE - ENG HEY GERMANY: I'LL BE PLAYING SEALION THROUGH 1902
3. ORDER LIST PROCESSING
- 3.1 CONSIDERED AND IGNORED ORDERS
An order list may contain as many orders as the player wishes to
issue, but only a certain number of them (from the top of the list down)
will be "considered." The number of orders that will be "considered" is
the same for all players; it is the number of supply centers controlled
by the largest power on the board at the time the lists are processed.
[Note that this applies only to non-PROXY orders.
PROXY orders (which may appear anywhere in an order list)
are counted and handled separately. See Rule 3.3.]
For example, if England controls seven supply centers, and no other power
controls more than seven, then the first seven orders in
each player's order list will be considered. The eighth and
subsequent orders in each list (if any) will be marked ignored.
Thus, for Spring (and Fall) 1901, each player may issue four orders for
consideration (since Russia owns four supply centers). So if you are England,
you might issue the following Fall order list:
F NWG C A Edi - Nwy
and all four orders will be considered, meaning that if you have a fleet
in the Channel, it will try to take Brest, and if you don't (because
your Springtime attempt to move there was bounced by France), you will
once again try to leave London to cause trouble for the Frenchman.
A Edi - NWG - Nwy
F Lon - ENG
F ENG - Bre
This rule makes it a bit easier on the smaller
countries and tougher on the larger countries, tending to even out the
game. Thus, if you are poor at predicting your future (and your strength
in the game begins reflecting this), you'll get a better chance to defend
yourself than would someone who might be a little better (luckier?) at
The number of orders in an order list is unlimited. Players are free to
use any orders (usually, those they know will be ignored) to convey messages
to other players, which might be handy in a no-press game. For example,
England could have used his fourth (or a fifth, etc.) order to write
A Mun-Bur, which might tell Germany something -- though
probably too late!
- 3.2 VOID AND "NO UNIT" ORDERS
Some or all of the considered (i.e., non-ignored) orders in a
list may specify an impossible action (for example, an attempt to convoy
using a fleet that is not there, or an order of support for a
non-existent unit). Any unit whose issued order is impossible will
HOLD during the movement phase for which it received the
impossible order, and will be eligible to receive support.
Considered orders that are issued for units that do not exist (or that
do exist but are owned and controlled by another power) will be marked
"no unit" or "noProxy" respectively.
Such orders have no effect other than the use
of an order in the total number of considered orders for that player.
- 3.3 PROXIED UNITS
A player may, in his order list, issue PROXY orders, each giving
control of a particular unit for that phase to any other specified,
As with non-PROXY orders, only a certain number of PROXY
orders are "considered," the others being ignored. In the case of
PROXY orders, the number that can be "considered" is the number
of supply centers controlled by the smallest (uneliminated) power
in the game [credit for this rule goes to Pitt Crandlemire].
Unless contradicted later in the list by another considered
order for the same unit, every considered PROXY order in
an order list will be honored.
Let's say that you are England, allied with France, and you theorize
that in a certain Spring you will have armies in Belgium and Ruhr, and
France will have a new build in Paris. You and France plan that at this
point, France will use his Paris army to take Munich with your support.
However, your order lists are:
By the time France knows that your army, not his, will be in Burgundy,
his Fall BUR-MUN order will be locked in. Your proxy will
save you the trouble of issuing the order yourself, freeing up a
"considered" (non-PROXY) order spot. In short, you look like
an evil genius.
|A BEL - BUR|
A RUH S A BEL - BUR
||A RUH S A BUR - MUN|
A BUR PROXY TO FRANCE
Units proxied from one power to another must be ordered
(or left unordered, but may not be "re-proxied") by the power
receiving the proxy. Any unit that is proxied twice on the same turn
(first by its true owner, then again by the power receiving the owner's
proxy) will HOLD.
- 3.4 UNITS ORDERED TWICE OR NOT ORDERED
If two or more dissimilar orders are given for the same (existing) unit,
and if any two of these are considered (that is, not
ignored), then the last such considered order is followed.
As in standard Diplomacy, any units left unordered in a movement phase
will HOLD and may be supported. This applies to PROXY
orders in that if the power granted the PROXY does not issue an
order to the unit, the unit will HOLD.
- 3.5 ORDER LIST ANNOTATION
When each turn is adjudicated, each of the orders in an order list is
annotated according to the list below:
- ordered if the order is issued to one of the power's
- no unit if the order is given to a unit that does not
- revoked if the order is countermanded by another
(non-ignored) order to the same unit appearing later in the order list,
- proxied if the order is a proxy order that
is issued for one of the power's own units, and the receiver of the
proxy has issued an order to the unit,
- noProxy if the order is given to a unit owned by
another power, and for which no proxy was given to the ordering power,
- refused if the order is a proxy order to a unit that
is not given an order by the power to whom the proxy was offered,
- byProxy if the order is issued to a unit owned by
another power, by virtue of the ordering power receiving a proxy
for that unit,
- reProxy if the order is a proxy order for a unit for
which the ordering power himself received a proxy from the unit's owner
(the unit will HOLD),
- ignored if the order appears too far down in the
player's order list to be considered,
- default if the order is a HOLD order added
to the list automatically to provide an order for a unit left unordered
by the owning power or the power to whom a proxy was offered.
- 3.6 ORDER LIST SECRECY
The GameMaster may not divulge the contents of any player's "locked-in"
order list, in full or in part, to any other player, even if requested
to do so by the player who had submitted the order list.
In a game that allows communication (press) between players, the full
annotated order list submitted by each player for an
adjudicated phase is available only to the submitting player.
Each player has full access to all of his own order lists for
the game, but has no access to those of other powers until the end of
the game, when all order lists are revealed.
However, in no-press games (and optionally in press games), the
lists are made public immediately. This allows players to
use extra, ignored, orders to communicate their intentions and wishes.
4. GAME TERMINATION
- 4.1 SOLO VICTORY
If a player achieves a solo victory, players may actually submit order
lists for an unnecessary Spring movement phase. If the Game Master
realizes a solo victory has been achieved, he may process the
final Fall movement phase early (without having collected order lists
for the subsequent Spring).
- 4.2 DRAWS
Players may agree to share a draw equally among all surviving players at
any time. Such agreement is immediate, and is not contingent on any phase
of the game that is yet to be processed.
- 4.3 PLAYER ELIMINATION
A player who is eliminated in a Fall movement phase will not know about
his elimination until after he has submitted orders for the subsequent
Even if a Game Master notices that a player is eliminated,
he must not inform the player of his elimination before the
orders accomplishing his elimination are processed. Such a player is
still eligible to share in any declared draw, and other players may
be negotiating with him on the basis of his supposed survival.
Additionally, if any other player had issued PROXY orders for
the coming Spring phase, which give to the now-eliminated player the right
to issue orders for any unit, those orders will be honored.
That is, despite being eliminated, the player will indeed
be able to receive and execute any proxies he was offered by other
players for the initial Spring turn after his elimination (but not
for any subsequent turn).