Payola Diplomacy

Unfinished Variants


Okay, imagine this. A game of Payola Diplomacy. Fourteen players, though, rather than seven. So there are two Turks, two Austrians, etc. However, the players from one set of seven cannot talk to any players from the other set. All offer sheets still come to the single GameMaster who adjudicates them for the single set of board pieces. So one Turk could be working at cross-purposes with the other and not know it. Perhaps it's even more confusing, with the set of six players which each country can talk to being a jumble from both sets. (This idea is extensible to more sets of seven, of course.)

When I sent this idea to John Woolley, his initial response was to ask if I had left my medication at home. But he one-upped me with the following.

Payola with 21 players — one for each pair of powers. Each player gets money for both his powers. Russia may be at war with Turkey, but there's at least one player friendly to both.

Or how about we assign one player for each trio of powers, topping (just barely) even Chaos's player count And how about if the AEF player could talk to only those dozen players who shared two of his powers (i.e., AEG, AEI, AER, AET, AFG, AFI, AFR, AFT, EFG, EFI, EFR, and EFT). Or only to each of the four players who didn't control any of his powers (in this case, GIR, GIT, GRT, and IRT). In this case, if GIT ever wanted to get a message to GIR, he'd have to have AEF pass it for him. This might dissuade the five ?RT powers from saying to each other "let's juggernaut, baby!"

Spiro Agnew Diplomacy

I was once told that in their original form, the rules to Payola Diplomacy were slightly similar to a Lew Pulsipher creation called "Ghods Diplomacy". Ghods Diplomacy, I've heard, also permits bribing the GameMaster, something which has been, in fact, considered for Payola. Here are some of the ruminations on that idea, which I note are similar to the recent discussion on "Oracular Diplomacy".

Once, right before a critical Fall move was to go through, there was a player replacement in a Payola game. The replacement player picked up Austria, a country which at this point owned only Trieste and Serbia but had only one unit since he had had nowhere to build the previous year, having just retaken Trieste. In the ensuing Spring, his army had been bribed to move to Albania while Italy entered Trieste. From the Fall offers which I had received before the new Austria submitted his, I, as the Master, could tell that his 18 silver piece balance was sufficient, if properly spent, to give him a build. In fact, it would have only taken 10 silver pieces. But he didn't know that, of course, so his offers were insufficient. He would keep Serbia (bouncing Turkey) but Italy would retain Trieste. Seemed kind of sad, I suppose, so I got to thinking. What if I, the Master or Banker, were as corruptible as the units on the board? What if, mixed in with offers like "4 : a tus - ven", I got offers like "5 : banker"?

And what if the high banker-briber were then (upon deduction from his account) given the offer sheets of all the other players before the deadline and allowed to change his own offers? The other players, of course, wouldn't know which (if any) player got this privilege. Maybe add a bit more grain to it:

5 : banker tells me Italian offers
2 : banker tells me French offers
3 : banker tells me what my units would do and lets me change my offers
8 : banker tells me Russian bank balance
6 : banker tells me how much it would take to bribe A Ven
International Monetary Fund (IMF) Payola

In IMF Payola, the players decide, in a public vote, whether tax income for the current year is to be distributed as usual or kept by the Master in escrow until the vote passes on a subsequent year. Players from whom votes are not received are considered to have voted for distribution of income, and any tie vote results in distribution. Eliminated players retain all voting rights.

This subvariant was conceived by Michael Yatcilla.

Armand Hammer Diplomacy

In "Armand Hammer Diplomacy," the GameMaster maintains a bank account for each observer of the game. These observers are free to bribe the units just as if they were players. The initial balance and annual income into observer accounts shall be determined by the GameMaster and announced before the game.

UN Sanctions Payola

Under this variation, the GameMaster penalizes players by subtracting from their account balances, for tardiness in submitting offers (for example, one silver piece for each late notice). The policy must be announced before the game, and if a position is taken over after an abandonment, all penalties imposed on the position on the current turn must be restored to the account.

The Spoils of War

Under this variant, any power with a unit which, after a Spring turn, occupies a supply center which is not owned by that power, may inform the GameMaster that the center is "looted". This will result in an immediate (that is, before Fall Movement offers are processed) award of silver pieces to the occupying player. The amount of the award to the occupying player is equal to one silver piece for every supply center controlled by the owner of the occupied center. The GameMaster will inform a center's owner whenever that center is looted, and any pending offer sheet for the Fall turn which had been submitted by said owner is forgotten (thus giving the owner of the looted center a chance to reorganize his offers). At year's end, the tax income of the owner of any center(s) looted during the year will have his tax income reduced. Tax income for this variant is calculated as follows:

Tax income (from the table given in Rule 2.1) for
"the number of centers owned by the power"
Tax income (from the table given in Rule 2.1) for
"the number of these centers which were looted
(even if by the owning power)
after the most recent Spring turn".

I initially considered letting a power even loot his own centers after a Spring move, but this seemed to give too large an advantage to a player who controls a lot of centers. For instance, a player controlling 17 centers could loot every center which he occupies at the end of a certain Spring turn, gaining 17 silver pieces from each, and then should be able to easily win the game. By restricting looting only to centers owned and occupied by different powers, this advantage is removed.


Generalissimo is an ambitious Payola variant in which each of the armies or fleets on the board is commanded by a player — a "general" or "admiral". Thus, there are political leaders (the usual powers) and there are military leaders (each of whom "commands" some number of units on the board). The political leaders pursue the same objective as in standard Diplomacy, and they do so by bribing the military leaders to cooperate. Each military leader has the objective of finishing the game with more money than each of the other military leaders. The following rules are contemplated.

  • Each military leader, at the beginning of the game, receives 50 silver pieces. Any portion of this money can then be offered to political leaders in exchange for a command of a specified army or fleet. Each political leader must assign a commander to each of his units. Political leaders are free to accept any offer they wish to accept for command of a unit, or may gift the command to any military leader free of charge. Payment for the command is then transferred from the military leader's account to that of the political leader. Whenever a political leader gives command of a unit as a gift (i.e., no payment involved), the command must be accepted.
  • Military leaders are free to enter any order they wish to enter for their unit, and all bribes for that particular order (if any) will be paid to that leader from the accounts of the bribing player(s). Military leaders do not need to issue the offer which will pay them the most money; they could, in fact, issue an order for which they have received no bribe!
  • Military leaders may offer bribes to other military leaders.
  • Any number of persons may take the role of military players. Unless otherwise agreed, there shall be no limit to the number of units which a single person may command militarily.
  • If a political leader is dissatisfied with any military leader controlling one of his units, he may replace that military leader, but only after obtaining consent from the military leaders of at least half the units of his nation. Upon obtaining this consent, the political leader must then immediately give or sell the usurped command to another military leader player.
  • If a majority of the military leaders of a nation become dissatisfied with the political leader of their nation, they may stage a coup d'etat, replacing the political leader with any willing military leader, and making the political leader a military player. All units controlled by the military leader turned political leader must be given or sold (either by the new political leader or, in the case of foreign units, an existing political leader) to another military leader at that time.
  • All bribe offers are delivered to the GameMaster and to the military leader who is being offered the bribe. Military leaders shall inform the GameMaster before each deadline what order shall be issued for their unit.
  • When a unit is disbanded or removed, the military leader of that unit loses his command of that unit.
  • Whenever a new unit is built, the political leader must immediately give or sell command of the unit to any military leader.
  • All players may communicate freely with all other players.
  • All military players who are without a command for an entire year will receive an annual income of 50 silver pieces from "private sector employment" at the beginning of the next game year. It is thus worthwhile for military commanders to keep all other military leaders employed (and to bribe political leaders to make this the case).
Carnegie Payola

Carnegie Payola, named for the fellow who bankrolled the Latin American wars, involves seven powers and seven bankers, one for each country. Bankers own the silver piece accounts, and powers have no money at the beginning. Bankers bribe units of any country, and the power that owns that unit receives the accepted bribes for that unit. But powers cannot spend what they collect on bribes — they just collect. Bankers receive the tax proceeds for new builds for their respective countries. The power or banker with most money at the end of game is the winner.

Everyone can talk to everyone. Powers are free to solicit bribes from any of the bankers, lie about how much they have been offered for other plans, etc., etc.

So the power does not necessarily have the incentive to follow the wishes of its banker unless it gets paid enough, and the banker does not want to overpay for military success. Both share an interest in military success of the particular country, but the banker would probably want to accomplish this by bribing the armies and navies of another power; the power, of course, would rather do it the old-fashioned way.

This idea may need some work, as bankers may lack any incentive to offer bribes at all, but the cross-purposes involved should make for a great game.

Auction Payola

This is a Tom Koutsky idea, although John Woolley and I had tossed around a similar concept. In the correspondence I held with Tom, and which is paraphrased below, Tom indicated that his interest level in it would extend to a willingness to Master games of this variant.

Auction Payola would be kind of like fantasy baseball drafts, and would require a lot of GameMaster involvement, though it can probably be automated. Movements would be decided by what is called "simultaneous multiround bidding" — that is, each player simultaneously bids on whatever movements it wants (thus the "simultaneous" part), the GameMaster accumulates the bids and transmits high bids for each piece to all players (though not the identity of the bidding player or players), and another round of bidding is set up (thus the "multiround" part of the title).

In real auctions, this continues until the parties get tired, essentially — that is, bidding ceases when no higher bids are received or the high bid is only slightly higher.

In this variant, it would always be "movement time" — there will be deadlines for the various rounds, which could be short (in PBEM-land, two to three days), diplomacy can occur during the bidding, and players get to follow the bidding as it occurs (although they do not know who is doing the bidding). The GM has the sole discretion to stop the bidding on a piece-by-piece basis, so it is possible that the world may already know that the army in Tyrolia is going to Munich, and this fact would impact the bids on the Army in Silesia, the Army in Berlin, the Army in Burgundy, etc. which may still be going on.

John Woolley and I had kicked around the idea of two rounds of bidding, with the totals (again, not the origin) and the orders to be given published after the first round. Then the second round would be held and the results would come out. We also thought about cutting off the bidding for any unit which in the first round received a bid something like 5 AgP higher than any second place bid to that unit (and obviously, not divulging what the winning order was until after the second round).

However, to actually publish the winning order for a unit when it is decided (and perhaps before others are determined) would make for a very interesting game, one in which it would make sense to raise or remove the two round bidding limit — instead, the bidding would continue until all units fell under the 5 AgP rule. That could be done by allowing withdrawals and re-entry without penalty.

With this, the decisions on the various orders would be made and published in different phases, giving the game a great dynamic ("Good lord, here come the Black Shirts over the Alps! What can I do to stop them?"). Executing a stab would be real tricky and would take a lot of diplomacy ("My heavens, someone is really bidding up your Black Sea fleet! I wonder who that could be!").