Bridge Diplomacy (rb16)

by Konrad Baumeister

1) All rules of regular Diplomacy, copyright 1971, are used except as amended in the rules below.

2) Before the first moves, there is a Winter 1900 build turn, where any units, according to the rules on building in Diplomacy, may be built in the Home Centers. If no specific builds are made, then the traditional builds are made, i.e. F Kie, A Mun, A Ber for Germany, etc. These are then the units which will be moved in Spring 1901. There will be a negotiation period before the Winter 1900 builds.

3) With the Winter adjustments every year, which are always made separately, each player also clearly submits to the Gamemaster a bid, an estimation, of how many centers he expects to hold in the following Fall season (of the coming year). The accuracy of this bid is central to the game, as in bridge. Bids are kept secret by the Gamemaster (until the next Fall).

A. The bids for 1901 are automatically set as follows: For Italy and England, 4 centers each, and all other countries (including Russia), 5 centers each. From Winter 1901 onwards, the players all make their own bids. (I don’t know what happens if no bids are submitted. Suggestions?)

B. Rules of bidding are simple: A country may never bid less than the number of centers held at the time of bidding. It is also obviously insane to bid more than twice as many centers are a player controls, since this goal would be impossible to attain. It is obvious that good bidding is the key to the game, as we shall soon see.

a. If after a given Fall turn, a player doesn’t have as many centers are he bid for, he makes the necessary removals and removes one more unit. Thus, if a player had 6, bid 6, but holds only 5 in the coming Fall, he must remove 2 units (1 removal and 1 extra). If he had 10 centers, bid 12, and ends up with 11, remains Even (+1 for gaining the center, but -1 for not reaching bid).

b. If after a given Fall turn, a person reaches his bid exactly (no more, no less), than he makes the necessary adjustments and builds one extra unit. In this sense, the computations are made just like with the removals. The only exceptions to this are when a player bids the number of centers he currently owns, i.e. has 6, bids 6, and keeps 6. In that case, if the player has no change in the number of centers, he also receives no special build (or removal). Even = equal. No change. (This last rule prohibits people from just sitting around massing units, waiting to make their move, and also does not allow stalemating (or -ed) powers to gain by sitting tight.) If it is impossible to build extra units because of space, then they are “saved up” for the next year, so to speak. This “saving” can go on indefinitely — until a center is open.

c. If after a Fall turn, a person gets more centers than he bidded for, then another special rule goes into effect, the fortification rule. For each extra center gained beyond the prediction, a center of the player’s choice (to be announced that same Winter, and be printed with adjustments) is doubled in strength from that Winter on. If no fortification, then the ability to fortify for that extra center is thrown away — it is not saved until another year.

Some details on fortified centers:

1. The center remains doubled on defense until taken by a foreign power, which reverts the fort back to another normal center automatically. Any given center can be fortified and destroyed and refortified and redestroyed an infinite amount of times. Each center in either state supplies only one unit (not 2 for double-strength centers).

2. Even when vacant, the center must be taken with support. If occupied by 1 unsupported unit, it must be taken with not less than 2 supports, and so on up the ladder.

4). Victory criterion is 19 units on board, not just centers. Obviously, the actual center count of the player may be over or under 19 at the time — but it’s the units that count.

Konrad’s Comments: I personally eschew all modesty (not too much trouble when you consider how “modest” I normally am) and have to say that I think that this idea is brilliant. I’ve never seen anything like it before, I have no idea why somebody else didn’t think of it. It’s so simple that it can be adopted to most variants as well with little change to the variant. I’d like to hear your comments on it, insulting though they may be.

In many cases, a bidding player will realize that he can take three or so centers, and will have the choice of whether to bid for all three or bid for slightly less. This depends upon his performance for either more units or stronger defensive positions. Since bidding can often be the victim of a well-placed knife in the back (thus hurting the unwitting victim even more than usually, since he’ll probably not meet his bid), having some centers fortified would help, since taking them would be literally twice as hard by a stab. On the other hand, extra units are not things to be taken lightly, and if well-placed, they could do a great deal of good.

Unless he’s an extremely good diplomat, or has a few aces up his sleeve, the player who loses units more than two years in a row will have a poor chance at doing well in the game, since his strength will be seriously diminished. This encourages diplomacy, as well as puppet-deals with would-be victors. In any case, if the player cannot cut the mustard from the start, they may not get a chance to do so at the end.

The “brainstorming” which brought about this variant was actually a sort of accident. I was playing the first face-to-face game I’d played in about a year with my family, and I was having a nice run of luck. I, after being persuaded to do so by the others playing, wrote down predictions one year in advance of how many centers I thought each power would hold by the end of the year. I was doing pretty well with these predictions, so of course I proposed that “we” sit down and design something around this idea. The others said, “Why don’t you do it instead, while we play on,” and promptly eliminated me from the game. So I had nothing better to do…