Machiavelli - State of the Art of the State
Machiavelli is one of my favorite variants, and my favorite that is supported
both by the Ken Lowe Internet judges and is in print. That I
happen to be relatively good
at it as well is a bonus. I've gotten a lot more requests lately for information
regarding certain oddities in the current state of the Machaivelli implementation
of the judge than I have in a while. Apparently, we've got a lot of new
players (a very good thing) and they are justifiably annoyed when they
run into places where things happen differently than they expect. Thus,
in this first article on Machiavelli (yes Manus, that's a promise that this will
be a short series) I will ignore various pleas for a
strategy guide, first trying to make sure everyone can go into games with
a relatively even playing field. This article is my attempt to address
three burning questions in the hearts of most Judge Machiavelli newbies
and many GMs:
- What are the real rules?
- How will the Judge screw up?
- What do we do when the Judge screws up?
Section I: The Rules
The Judge implementation of Machiavelli is based on the original release,
rather than on the more recent Avalon Hill re-release. Thus, when playing
on the judge, the first principle
to remember is to ignore the new release, or you will get very confused.
There are actively used sources of knowledge about what the rules are.
- The file rules.machiavelli.
This generally takes precedence.
- The judge code. It's got bugs (to be discussed later), but where
it does not agree with the rules.machiavelli file, it takes precedence. I've always tended to
view all disagreements with rules.machiavelli as bugs, but some disagree.
- The original Machiavelli rules by Battleline Publications. These
are dangerous, since they contain many things that were changed in the
judge port. Still, they occasionally provide greater detail on ambiguous
matters. In most respects the judge port uses the most advanced version
of any given rule, rather the the beginner's section version.
- Tradition. Certain people have gained a reputation as knowing how
things are supposed to happen, and are sometimes asked what the deal is
when something goes wrong. I've recently apparently paid my dues
enough to join these august ranks, if my mail influx is any indication.
Probably on the theory that because I've played so many games, most
of the odd things that can happen have happened to me already.
I'm going to risk causing great confusion by stating what I think
the proper way to play is on the less-than-clear points, and I invite others
to write me with comments. Hopefully at least on the points where we can
reach a consensus, either rules.machiavelli can be updated or an
can be added to the distribution. I apologize for the laundry-list nature
of this, and how things that are simply
easy to misread will be mixed in with things about which
serious contention exists. Some of these are also occasionally handled
inconsistently by the judge and will be addressed in that respect in sections
II and III. GM's are welcomed to include a statement in the house
rules for games either affirming or denying agreement with this document
until we produce something more official.
- The only place fleets can convert to garrisons, and garrisons can convert
to fleets is in fortified cities with anchors. This is true in any phase.
- As implied by the above, fleets cannot retreat to garrison form in
- Fleets can only siege anchored cities.
- Fleets are not barred from taking unanchored cities.
- Fleets can only be built in anchored cities.
- Armies can use anchored cities in the same ways they would unanchored
- Rebellions do not remove ownership of an area
- Rebellions can seperately affect a province and a city
- When rebellions form in an area, if there is a garrison in the city
the city does not enter rebellion
- It is impossible to retreat by garrison conversion into a city with
a rebellion directed against you in it.
- The only ways to remove a rebellion from one of your cities are to
siege it, to pay to have it removed, or for someone to take the city from
- Rebellions form due to either a bribe specifically creating one,
or during the process of assasination.
- Variable incomes are tied to who can use the home area the roll is tied
to, not ownership of the capital of the home area. If a power controls
a home area yet doesn't control any of the cities, they still get the income.
Similarly, rebellions and assasinations do not prevent the collection of
- Genoa is unusual in that it is not considered a home area for purposes
of victory conditions or building units. But it's variable income roll
is treated just like those of major powers, insofar as rebellion, famine,
and active sieges do not prevent income from the variable roll. Ownership
of the Genoa variable roll is based solely on ownership of the city.
- Contrary to rules.machiavelli,
cities under siege still produce income.
I agree that this is a good thing, but strongly feel that this is a place
where revision of the rules file is needed.
- A garrison may not convert once a siege has been established. It retains
the ability to support units into the province however. Note that
this means that once a siege is established, a normal unit can keep a special
- A unit may not retreat into garrison form unless that is the only retreat
- A unit that retreats into garrison form should keep the city under
the control of the unit's owner.
- Since the province and city of Venice are the same space, and venice
only borders the Lagoon, a unit in Venice cannot retreat.
Timing of ownership changes
- Ownership change checks should occur essentially constantly. For example,
if a unit is purchased, it immediately gains control of the area it is
in when purchased even if it immediately moves out.
- Because of this, if a unit in a city is removed during builds, and
a unit in the province is not, the power owning the unit in the province
should gain control before spring movement.
- Also because of this, if a unit is purchased and in the same round
moved, the person gains control of where it was bought before it leaves.
- If a power controls only it's initial home area, it is removed immediately
when it loses ownership of all its home cities after units have moved (ie,
if someone buys the unit in one home city and the power even retreats into
another of their home cities before the end of the season they are OK).
- If a power takes control of another home area, from that point on it does
not lose control of a home area unless another power gains control of it.
- If a player loses all home cities of all home areas they currently own, the
judge eliminates them in the same way as if they lost all their home cities
with just one home area. Based on feedback and recent GM rulings, I think
the majority of the community agrees this is good to leave as is.
- If a power controls all of another power's home area at the end
of a season they gain control of it, picking up the ability to build there
and the variable rolls from the area.
- Note an implication of these: If a power in
the same season takes control of another power's home area, while losing
all his current home areas, they are eliminated before a check is made
to gain a new home area, and all their territory goes neutral. They do
not live on in the new home area in this case.
- Counterbribes can only be in multiples of 3d.
- Counterbribes can only be used to protect units (that is, you can't counter
a rebellion or assasination).
- Bribes can only be in multiples of 3d.
- Bribes against garrisons in cities of value greater than 1 cost twice
- If this flag is set, bribes directed at units can only be directed at
- For purposes of this check, unit type is irrelevant. For example,
a fleet in Dalmatia is "adjacent" to an army in Bosnia, even though the
fleet cannot go there. Similarly, an army in Romagna is "adjacent" to the
- This flag turns off random events. These include Famine, Plague, Assasination,
and the Bank.
- Variable income rolls are now predictable. They alternate by year,
sometimes all 4, sometimes all 3.
- Fleets along coasts can be used to convoy armies.
- Inland armies cannot be convoyed. Armies must start in an area adjacent
to the coast or sea zone of the fleet at the front of the chain, and end
in an area adjacent to the coast or sea zone of the fleet at the end of
- Convoys cannot jump coasts; for example a fleet in Croatia/sc and
Croatia can't convoy an army from Dalmatia to Carniola.
Special movement rules
- Piombino and Messina control straits; rules.machiavelli explains this
- Each nation gets one assasination chit for each other nation at game
- Transfer of assasination chits can occur at any time.
No one is notified when the transfer occurs, not even the receiver.
- To see your chit list, sign on to the game then list it.
- The 25d limit is on principal, not interest.
- One can pay money to the bank then borrow more on the phase a loan
is due, and the bank will collect at the end of that phase, if doing so
prevents an assasination.
- If moves that do not prevent assasination are in place however, none
of them will be implemented, and all orders will be converted to holds,
and rebellion rolls will occur.
- Cash can only be transfered when one is not in debt.
- One can transfer money then borrow money during the same phase.
- Elite and Professional units have twice the normal strength for moves,
holds, and supports.
- Citizen and Professional units cost twice as much to bribe.
- Special units if attacked have their entire support broken in a normal
- Each player may only have one special unit in play. One cannot build
or buy an additional special unit if one already has one.
- Fortresses are not in use in the current scenerio. They are the boxes without cities
in them. Ignore them.
- Any unit may be removed during build phase.
- Only one unit may be built in each home city/province pair each build
phase (that is, one can't build Garrison Rome and Army Rome on the same turn).
- A city or province may not be the site of both a build and disband,
but it is okay for a city/province pair that a disband occurs in one while
a build occurs in the other.
- The judge does not limit the total number of units of a player (or the
of armies, fleets, and garrisons). This is contrary to rules.machiavelli
and the original rules, but in my opinion the limits were an artifact
of number of pieces supplied with the board game. I recommend modifying
rules.machiavelli rather than
the judge code here, and playing with unlimited normal unit builds.
- Earn no income, but are automatically maintained.
- Assert control of the province their city is in whenever it is unoccupied.
- When these are created, they should hold. They immediately remove
control of the city they are in from its former order.
- The master should state the victory conditions clearly in the game listing.
- The minimum victory conditions for a relatively balanced game are
23 cities and two home areas. Three home areas is in my opinion even better.
- For ranking purposes (in my opinion), 15 city games should be ignored, and treated
as unrated teaching games.
Art of the State
- This is actually unrelated to Machiavelli, but I thought it would be
cool to work into my title. Art of the State is an album by AD,
released in 1985. It features the talents of Kerry
Livgren, former writer of Kansas (remember "Dust In The Wind" and "Carry
on Wayward Son"?), at least one other former member of Kansas, and some
Section II: Judge Bugs
The Judge has several known bugs, and probably several unknown bugs. Here
is a description of some of the most common ones, and a short description
of the fix. Let me know if you know of more. For the purposes of this list
I'm assuming that my interpretations in Section 1 are correct. Any
judge coders who are motivated to do so are welcome to shrink this section.
In my opinion, adding additional ownership checks at certain key points would
do the most good for an easy change.
Retreat City Ownership Bug
This occurs most commonly when a unit is dislodged and retreats to
become a garrison. The Judge awards ownership of the city to the power
who just conquered the province rather than leaving the ownership in the
hands of the person whose garrison is in the city. The problem appears
to be that units in retreat are in a strange kind of limbo, where the check
to see if they get the what they retreated to is overruled if someone else
took the province that season and thus might have gotten the city under
a different retreat.
- If this doesn't involve a home city, happens in a season besides
Fall, and the garrision and army are not immediately destroyed by famine
or plague, then one can play on -- the judge figures out the garrison takes
control of the city the next season.
- If the ownership of the city does matter immediately, I recommend
that the game be rolled back, and the orders for the unit be changed to
a garrison conversion. If the unit broke any supports, or had any other
affect on the turn, these must also be implemented by modifying orders
of the appropritate units. Note that there are times when rolls after the
movement in question may be affected by the change in moves (for example,
if a power would have been eliminated). I always consider any rolls proceeding
from an invalid adjudication to be wrong, and that the rolls from the rollback
and reprocessing are the valid ones.
Missing Ownership Checks
This could be considered a more general version of the retreating garrsion
bug. This is when the judge fails to check ownership as frequently
as it should, and someone winds up owning (or not owning) something they
should. Examples include if one has an army in a province and the garrison
is removed, but the judge does not credit the owner of the army with
ownership of the city (often when the army moves out the next turn).
Another effect of the lack of change at retreats in particular is that
retreating units don't remove rebellions in all cases when they should.
This can cause many different problems. Do what is necessary to make
the game state as it should be. Often data file modification is needed.
See section III.
Repeated Rolls Bug
Some versions of the judge (such as that in use on USEF) will get stuck in a
pattern where the same famine, plague, etc. rolls occur year after year.
- Bite the bullet and move the game to another judge. Moves should
be generated by the GM to move the game state to the end of the first game
year; assuming the problem was detected due to the famine and incomes repeating,
the new judge's rolls for the second year are now the valid ones, and proceed
- If the problem was not detected until much later in the game, again
move to another judge. Reshuffle the powers and start over if gunboat,
otherwise the GM need not bother with the reshuffle.
Negative or Out of Bounds Rolls
This occurs in some versions of the judge code, and usually affects income.
Often it results in a power getting much larger income than it should.
Master rerolls manually to replace the invalid rolls, but leaves
the valid ones for the same turn. If it simply resulted in extra income,
things are easy, a few extraneous counterbribes can take care of the extra
cash. For rebellions and such, editing judge files may be needed.
Extra Special Units
Sometimes the Judge will allow a player to enter a state where they have
more than one Special unit. Most often, this seems to happen as a result
of a bribe.
Master rolls back turn and eliminates the build order or purchase
order that led to the extra special unit.
Truncated Order Reports
Sometimes a player's order report (or other messages) will be trunctated.
This actually can happen in non-machiavelli games as well.
This happens due to some strange situations where a period is created
on a line by itself, which at least some sendmail programs treat as an
end of message marker. Keven Roust reported one such incident
to the Judge Maintenance mailing list, where a bribe had the effect of
clearing a rebellion. The tacked on message to the bribe line due
to this was just long enough to place a period on an otherwise blank line.
The JK can get the actual expected message contents with a little
fiddling, as well as tweak the judge code to prevent a given cause from
- If the JK is not one of the ones that tends to respond quickly,
a quick and dirty way to get past the problem in most cases it to intentionally
set the error flag (to prevent processing while you fix it), erase the
offer or order from your sheet that leads to the truncation, get the rest
of the offers the way you want them, save a copy of that receipt, then
put in a message that both clears the error flag and adds the bribe back
in. Make sure that this message is in every repect correct, since if you
accidentally fail to fix the error flag, or leave a unit unordered, then
your will have no way of knowing.
- If it's press instead of offers that causes the problem, just ask the sender to repeat themselves,
being careful about line endings.
Frankenstien's Autonomous Garrison
When a unit is made autonomous by a bribe, it will retain the last order
given it. This is wrong; it should hold.
Rollback and make the garrison hold.
Illegal Conversion Retreats Allowed
Sometimes the Judge will allow a retreat that should not be possible. One
example of this is allowing a unit to retreat into a city in rebellion
against it, another is if a conversion to garrision is allowed when a unit
has been dislodged by a conversion.
If retreats haven't happened, tell the player the illegal retreat
is not an option.
- If the retreat has happened, rollback and change the retreat order
to a disband.
Illegal Venice Retreats Allowed
A unit in Venice that is dislodged is allowed by the judge to retreat to
garrison form. This creates a situation where two units occupy the same
space, and various bad things can then occur.
- If retreats haven't happened, tell the player the illegal retreat
is not an option.
- If the retreat has happened, rollback and change the retreat order
to a disband.
Mishandling of 3d multiple rules
The judge allows people to enter counter-bribes that are not multiples
of 3d, and rather than rounding down to the nearest 3d will actually let
the excess cause bribes to fail.
If this causes a bribe to fail that should have succeeded, roll back the game,
and change the counterbribe to the proper amount (the largest multiple
of three less than or equal to the counterbribe originally entered). Add
another counterbribe that will not affect the outcome of the turn to burn
the extra money the player ordered.
Victory Not Detected
The judge is not very good at detecting when someone has reached a victory.
The Master should note when a player wins, and manually make all
the powers agree to a concession to the power that won, so that the records
Unreal Dislodgements of Convoys
In one case, there was a standoff involving an elite fleet and
a pair of normal fleets in an area which contained a fleet doing
a convoy. The elite fleet belonged the the owner of the convoying
fleet. The results flagged the fleet as dislodged and the convoy
disrupted, but the unit was not listed as one of the units to
retreat. The convoy should not have been disrupted; the unit was
Roll back the turn and change the orders involved in making the
standoff so that the convoying fleet is not actually attacked, and
all units wind up where they should.
Sometimes a paradox will occur, like Pandin's in standard. For example,
if two players each try to assasinate the other at the same time, then
what happens? Or what happens if a player sieging and a player under siege
are assasinated at the same time? The rules do not cover these situations.
For the sake of there being some standard, here are the calls I would make
in these situations, as well as the judge calls.
- For the case of double-assasination and sieges, the judge goes through
the players in processing order, doing each assasination separately.
If the player under siege is reached first, the unit is destroyed, otherwise
it survives. This is not (in my opinion) a good way to solve this. My ruling
would be that all units under seige always survive the siege when the power
sieging them gets assasinated, whether they are assasinated as well or
- For the case where multiple assasination attempts, I would rule that
attempts to assasinate are not prevented by one being assasinated. This
avoids the paradox, creates another problem,
that of whether a failed assasination costs money in such a case. I
would say yes to this as well.
Usually it's a lot of work to deal with these situations. You better
read section III now.
Section III: Dealing With Bugs
Rollbacks are a simple judge mechanism whereby a turn is returned to a
state before the turn. All players orders are set to the state they were
immediately before processing. At this point, the GM can change the orders
or expenses of any power using the "become" command. Once they have
all been set to what is necessary to overcome the results of a given bug,
the "process" command is used to move the game forward again. Simple, eh?
Well, actually there are side effects. While use of seed values for
the semi-random dice generation routines means that usually rolls should
be the same when a phase is reprocessed, all this really does is make it
soe that if nothing is changed the rolls will remain the same. If something
is changed (say a power is eliminated) this may cause additional rolls
to occur or not occur and thus things get out of sync, and for essential
game purposes a whole new set of rolls is created.
The principle I use is that if the moves were wrong, the rolls may
also have been wrong, and the right rolls are those that occur after
Of course, sometimes an error occurs and in order to fix it by rollback
it would be necessary to roll back far enough that movement or build
phases which depended on the changed rolls have occurred. In this case,
it is no longer okay to throw out the old rolls -- anything a player has had
to act on should not be pulled out from under them. Another solution should
be employed if feasible.
Cash Wasting Bribes
Sometimes a power will have more cash than they should. An easy way to
get rid of this cash is for the master to add (or require the player to
add) a counter-bribe or bribe for something that will have no effect on
the game. For example, a large counterbribe on a unit noone else who can
throw a bribe has adjacency to (in an Adjacency game). Or an attempt to
purchase where the purchase offer is less than 18d.
Moving a game to a different Judge
Sometimes it is necessary to move a game to another Judge in order for
it to continue. Assuming this is done without the availability of the data
files, but with at least a listing of the proper game state, the normal
way to do this is for all the players to sign on to a new game on the new
judge setting their preference list as appropriate to the circumstance.
Then the Master enters the necessary orders to bring the game up to proper
current positionings and bank state (remembering to borrow money at the
right times is one of the harder things, as is dealing with rebellions
being in the wrong place during assasinations. If you make the assasinations
happen sooner, you've got more time to correct this). Finally, the Master
may have to have the final state somewhat different from the real one (ex,
famine locations if the rolls were valid to create them). In this case,
he will have to either modify the judge files or do various order adjustments
before each processing until things can be brought back into sync.
Alternately, if one has the data files, or can create them, they can
be moved to the new judge. See the techniques discussed below.
Editing Data Files
Sometimes, this is the only way to fix a problem. It is easier on some
judges than others, but I've found that almost all JKs are willing to send
you the necessary files, and then put them in place when you return them.
So I describe what I know of the file setup here to help you when you start
hacking on it.
The judge keeps the files for each game mostly in its own directory,
with the directory name being the name of the game preceeded by a capital
D. Some of the game info is also in the dip.master file, but this is all
information which is duplicated in the directory as well.
The files G001, G002, etc are the files used to store all the indepth
information about the game state. These are what you need from the GM;
specifically, you need the one for the phase which you which
to change the state for. The phase identifier is the first line in
After this, is a list of units. If all you need to do is add, remove,
or move a unit around, this is easy to do. Note that the the power IDs
are the same as the press IDs, and autonomous units are identified using
the & character.
After a -1 token, comes the next section which can be somewhat more
confusing. It is a series of values regaring provinces laid out in a semi-horizontal
fashion. The N: lines is the first letter of the province name, n: lines
are the next two. The odd thing here is that Mach uses five-letter abbreviations
for tracking provinces -- the three letter abbreviations here are not unique
and in fact some repeat (there are three Wes entries for example). Determining
which is which can be interesting.
The next lines are the 0:, C:, and H: lines. I need to verify this with
some tests on USVT, but if I recall correctly, they represent various sorts of ownership --
that of owning the province, owning the city, and counting the city as
a home city. The final line is F:, which I think contains the flags associated
with the province and city (famine and such).
After the sections of N: et al, comes a set of lines that are pairs
of D: and A: lines. The D: lists the treasury of the power, then 12 more
numbers. I assume they have something to do with debt, but haven't out
the details yet. The A: line lists the power, then the assasination chits
owned by that power. Note that while most of the information in the game
data file is visible to all players, the assasination chit data is not.
The next sections are playerlists of the normal sort from dip.master,
fairly similar to what you'd find in a normal Diplomacy game. You shouldn't
need to mess with them, except perhaps the cash and unit count entries,
when directly editing the file. Note that these are the sections which
duplicate info in dip.master, so if you want to change them you'll want
to notify the JK to modify the appropriate part of dip.master as well putting
them back in (the last section [between the "-2" and "-" tags]is the
dip.master entry minus the passwords, so how to do that should be obvious
once he has the fixed DXXX file).
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