Eagles (ar09)

By Ed Greenwood 

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Enthusiasts of the popular Diplomacy have been designing their own variant games (with either new rules, a new board, or both) since the game first appeared. This simple variant is ideally suited for players who have tired of the “straight” game, but have not yet discovered some of the tactically complex pseudo-Diplomacies.

Eagles can accommodate up to twelve players, but it is recommended that four to six play. The bulk of standard Diplomacy rules are adhered to with exceptions that fall under the general headings of Sea Warfare, Barbarian Lands, and Reinforcements given below. Naval activities in particular are very different than in the standard game. It should be noted that a Diplomacy game set is needed to play this variant-and also that, unlike standard Diplomacy, this version provides variety and interest for just two players.

The time is 117 (A.D.). The Emperor Trajan has just died and his corpse is barely cold ere news comes from Roma that his successor, Hadrian, has been assassinated by unknown hands in the troubled city. No one acclaimed or influential candidate exists with a clear claim to the throne which gives every powerful Roman general a chance to become Emperor!

Much diplomacy follows, and by Spring, A.D. 118 (the opening move), many of the important centers in the Empire have declared their support for various candidates. The struggle begins.

Each player assumes the role of a general and begins play from one of the following supply centers (roll a D12, or pick names from a hat): Alexandria, Antiochia, Byzantium, Caesaraugusta, Caesarea, Carthago Nova, Dyrrhachium, Ephesus, Leptis Magna, Londoninium, Lutetia, Mediolanum. Note that no general may begin play in Roma itself.

Two supply centers ally themselves with each player (again, choose at random by rolling a D20 or drawing names from a hat, each player choosing in turn). Note that such centers may be far removed from each other and from the general.

The centers are: Apulum, Aquilcia, Burdigala, Carthago, Colonia Agrippa, Corinthus, Eburacum, Lugdunum, Moguntiacum, Memphis, Nicomedia, Nisibis, Olisipo, Palmyra, Petra, Sinope, Sirmium, Tarsus, Thamugadi, and Tingis. If more than ten players are taking part, add the following centers to the list: Bulla Regia, Durocortorum, Hispalis, and Massilia.

Play begins with the Spring 118 move, players writing orders and engaging in diplomacy in the usual manner. All rules of the standard game are followed with the following exceptions:

Sea Warfare

Naval warfare in Eagles is less predictable and efficient than that in Diplomacy: any number of friendly or hostile fleets may enter or remain in a body of water at any time. In every move, fleets may convoy, attack, or ignore each other.

Fleets may not convoy or attack in the same move. A fleet may successfully attack any enemy fleet in (or entering into) the same naval area; an attacked fleet is never “bounced back.” An attacked supporting fleet cannot support, whatever the outcome of the attack. An attacked convoying fleet, if it survives an attack, carries out its convoy function successfully. In the rare event that a convoying fleet is destroyed (having no adjacent water or coastal area to bounce into), the army being convoyed is lost (removed from the board) with it.

All naval movements are made before attacks are resolved (a fleet may thus move into an adjacent area to avoid attack). All players state attacks, and if there are any conflicts (players may of course ask to see writen movement orders at this time, and these must be followed), players roll dice for the order of attacks (all attackers roll the same die; high score goes first), and all attacks, as far as possible, are enacted in an area, the orders must state which fleets are attacking which targets. Friendly attacking fleets may combine their strength against an enemy, (only) if this is specified in written orders.

An attacking fleet rolls a D6. If two fleets are attacking together, one is added to the die roll. If three or more fleets are attacking together, two is added to the die roll. (Each attacker does not roll its own die.)

Die RollResult
1One attacking fleet destroyed.
2All attacking fleets (involved in this attack) destroyed.
3Attacker and defender both destroyed. If more than one defender involved, the defending player rolls a die. Even equals two fleets of each side destroyed. Odd equals one. Excess fleets (above two) of either side survive.
4No effect.
5No effect.
6(One) defending fleet destroyed.
7(One or two-attacker’s choice, assuming more than one defending fleet involved) defending fleet or fleets destroyed.
8(One-or two, if more than one involved) defending fleet or fleets destroyed.

If a “defender” survives this attack, it may well become an attacker in turn within the same move. Note that a seaborne fleet may attack a fleet “in port” in a coastal area. Fleets in port may not attack or support overland, but may attack and support along the coast into adjacent coastal areas.

Any fleets not in a port (coastal area) in the winter (i.e. between a Fall move and the following Spring move) must roll a D6 to determine storm effects: each fleet rolls a die.

Die RollResult
1Fleet severely damaged: may not move, attack, support or convoy in spring move (can defend itself only, until fall move).
2Fleet destroyed.
3Fleet lightly damaged: may not attack or support in spring move but (may move, convoy and defend itself normally).
4No effect.
5No effect.
6No effect.

Barbarian Lands

Any forces which enter a barbarian area must roll a D6 and immediately suffer any effects:

Die RollResult
1No effect unless in desert. In desert areas, force destroyed by sandstorms and lack of water.
2Force destroyed by Barbarian attack.
3No effect.
4Force repelled by Barbarian attack (back to original area move was begun from).
5Force destroyed by Barbarian attack.
6No effect.

Forces suffering a ‘no effect’ result may support or move freely on the following move. Note that a D6 must be rolled on each occasion a barbarian-controlled area is entered, but any surviving force may remain in a barbarian area for unlimited time without being subject to further rolls.

A force repulsed back into or “bounced” into a barbarian region does not suffer such a roll unless it remains in the area at the end of the following move (whereupon a roll must be made). Barbarian armies do not otherwise enter the game; no player may conduct diplomacy with, or use any forces of, Barbarians.


Reinforcements may be brought into play after every fall move, subject to the usual conditions, in any of a player’s three original supply centers (player’s own choice). If a player captures Roma, Herculaneum, Pompeii and/or Brundisium, does not occupy these centers on a Fall move (but does not allow them to fall to another / player), and has captured enough supply centers to gain forces, he or she may elect to bring friendly armies or fleets into play on one or more of these central cities.

If a player has a force in Roma, and is forced at the time to remove any forces through loss of supply centers, that force in Roma must be removed from play first. (After it is gone, other losses are chosen freely by the player as usual. Occupying forces in Roma are resented by the populace and are subject to bribery, dispersal and time-engagement by petty officialdom, debauchery, thievery, mob violence, and persuasive diplomacy to an extent unmatched elsewhere in the Empire.

Note: Buttons may be used to represent the many non-playing armies. All supply centers in the Empire, except Roma (which has none) are assumed to have defending armies, and must be captured with one support.

Whether you like Eagles or think you can do better, the result should be the same: experiment with other Diplomacy variants, especially your own. One of the most fascinating and educational-facets of gaming is seeing how much a game system can be changed without losing the strengths of the original. Diplomacy, you’ll find, can survive a lot of modi­fications; for example, from Roma to … Oz.

Reprinted from Gameplay No.7 (Aug 1983)