The rules are fairly straightforward. The map and all movement is as per standard Diplomacy. Press, however, is severely restricted. Players are allowed a single 250-word (later upped to 500, though I think 100 might suffice) public broadcast per season. This broadcast, however, has to be submitted to the GM prior to the adjudication, much like press which is published in traditional (snail mail) postal games. Players with units in adjacent provinces, however, may also send partial press, which means that powers on opposite sides of the board, say Turkey and England, may go for long stretches of the game without being able to communicate privately.
In the second playtest, equally cleverly entitled touch2 (apologies to the anti-sequel crowd, but no one seemed to confuse the games since they were not run concurrently), the liberal second adjacency clause was removed, so that one-way communication was enabled. An power with an inland army (like Serbia) could talk to neighboring powers with coastal fleets, but the power with the fleets could not send partial press back and had to use the 500-word broadcast for replies. Similarly, fleets at sea could talk to coastal armies, but the armies could not reply directly.
One final form of written communication was allowed. If two powers with no adjacent units attempted to enter the same space and neither succeeded (*bounce*), they were allowed a 30-word "communique" for each set of bounces. For example, in Spring 1901 if France orders A Par-Bur and Germany orders A Mun-Bur, they would end the turn without an adjacency. Because of the bounce, however, each power was allowed 30 words of partial press. In touch, I required both powers to send the communique or neither would receive it (I made them send the press to me and I redistributed it). This was more hassle than it was worth and in touch2, I merely monitored the communiques to ensure they stayed under the word limit. These communiques proved extremely rare, and I would consider dropping this rule from future games.
After this first advantage for AI, it still seemed that central location would aid communication in the midgame. Again, a personal weakness: managing a middle country faced with alliance between a successful western power (England or France) and a successful eastern one (Russia or Turkey) who have teamed up to eliminate the center and share a two-way or slug it out for the win. Since Touch rules might prohibit direct communication between a successful England about to enter the Mediterranean and a successful Turkey about to break past the Ionian, the middle powers would have another advantage. Or so I hoped.
Another weakness, another theory: I assumed that once a power reached a certain hegemonous critical mass, maybe 14-16 centers, it would be difficult for the scattered small fry to stop the leviathan unless they were all mutually adjacent, since the coordination would be hampered by the need to daisy-chain all press. This is something I've seen in NoPress games; stop the leader is much harder in the end-game. As a few of our readers can attest, I'm pretty good at reaching 16 centers, but getting to 18 has always baffled me.
As so many great variant designers before me have discovered, things don't always work out the way they're planned. The two games run under Touch rules, touch and touch2, could not have had more varied results, and very few, if any, of my assumptions about the impact of the press rules were born out.
Touch2 started off with a strong FG alliance which quickly reduced England to a few armies in Scandinavia and was already pressing into the Mediterranean and toward Warsaw while AIRT squabbled in the east. Italy, played masterfully by Alexander K. "Smiley" Woo (Alexander.K.Woo@williams.edu), saw he had no hope of surviving if France and Germany stayed allied, and he issued an ultimatum to Austria, Russia, and Turkey, demanding an eastern alliance and threatening to throw the game to France if he was not heeded. In touch2, as in the previous game, players were quite willing to forward partial press verbatim to those powers not adjacent to the author, so my theory of disjointed coordination against a hegemon was thoroughly discredited. Though Turkey, played by Charles Severance (firstname.lastname@example.org) took a few turns to be convinced that Smiley was not trying to lure him to his death, eventually the eastern AIRT alliance gelled and France (who had by this time stabbed Germany) was stopped just short of the victory.
However, even had I been willing (and had the time) to GM a third round, I'm not sure the players were all that interested. As I write this article, many of the judges are down, and I think I could start a game allowing only one syllable words starting with X, and I could get 7 players in a day or two, but at the time, there was not a huge amount of interest in starting a touch3. Nonetheless, if this article has stimulated interest, I encourage someone to give GM'ing a whirl. I'd be happy to send you the rules for both touch and touch2 and let you devise a synthesis that suits your tastes.
If anyone is still interested after reading these tomes, please email me
and I'll be happy to share the full rules and maybe even play. As long
as I get to be Italy!
If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author,
and clicking on the mail address above does not work for you,
feel free to use the "Dear DP..."
The View From The Trenches
What you have above is how I saw it. Scanning through the reams of broadcasts
and various EOG statements, I thought two were particularly well written
explanations of what happened from the players perspective, and these are
presented below. For touch, I've chosen
the losing Austrian's point of view, and for touch2, the galvanizing
Italian's version of how the anti-French coalition was formed. Perhaps I
like their perspective best because they were the central powers who,
even if they did not storm to victory, at least talk to the greatest number
of powers and thus had a great view as others outpaced them, though of
course, in Smiley's case, he was able to keep Austria and Italy in the draw.
If anyone is still interested after reading these tomes, please email me and I'll be happy to share the full rules and maybe even play. As long as I get to be Italy!
If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author, and clicking on the mail address above does not work for you, feel free to use the "Dear DP..." mail interface.