by Geoff Tonks
I think that most players will agree that the two main inequalities in Diplomacy are the comparative weakness of Italy and the inflexibility of Turkey. However, I believe that the questions of balance and flexibility extend beyond these two countries. I would contend that there is a definite bias in favor of Germany, France and Russia and against Turkey and Italy, in any game of a reasonably good standard.
I realize that any statistician can easily produce figures which appear to disprove my claim. However, most Diplomacy statistics are distorted by the number of games which feature stooges, idiots and drop-outs. Games which do not include any NMRs are probably more indicative of any bias, and the results of these games, though few in number, tend to support my view.
Some of the reasons for bias are relatively easy to find by considering the normal stalemate line, which runs south-westward across the board from the StP/Mos boundary to Tyh and Tun. The countries to the north-west of this line (i.e. England, Germany, France and Russia) can claim 7 neutrals, while those on the south-east (i.e. Turkey, Italy, Austria and Russia) can only claim 5. Although, in the early stages of a game, an Italian attack on France is more likely then a French attack on Italy, it must also be noted that Russia invariably commits most of his units south. Thus, the northern powers effectively start with more units. The only compensation for the south-eastern powers is that they are more likely to resolve their own deadlock quickly in more inexperienced games, due to the vulnerability of Austria and Russia when played carelessly.
Another effect of the stalemate line is to reduce the winning chances of those countries farthest from it (i.e. England and Turkey). Since England must gain entry to the Mediterranean early if he is to have any chance to win, and since Turkey normally suffers from claustrophobia, these two countries also have less scope of diplomatic flexibility than the rest.
Egypt Diplomacy is designed to try to overcome these problems, with the minimum of change to the normal game. The basic idea is to provide another southern supply center at Cairo and a link between the Eastern Mediterranean and the Atlantic via Suez and the Red Sea. My initial suggestion is that the south of the board is extended to include four more provinces, namely Libya, Cairo, Suez and the Red Sea:
LIBYA would border Naf, Tun, Ion and Cairo;
CAIRO would have a split coast and border Libya, Ion, Eas, Suez and the Red Sea;
SUEZ would border Cairo, Eas, Syria and the Red Sea, and fleets could pass through it using the canal, in the same way as in Kiel and Con.
The RED SEA would border Cairo, Suez, Syria, Mid and Nat.
My hope is that the extra supply center will help to balance the game, and that the Red Sea (Mid-Atlantic link, which is surely logical, given three-month season) will help to open the game for the corner countries.
FRED DAVIS later suggested the following “improvements” for this variant…
1. Let Red Sea be a Box instead of an ordinary space. Then there would be no limit on the number of units which could occupy this Box at the same time.
2. If Red Sea is made a Box, permit the usual convoy rules to continue to apply, so armies can continue to move back and forth.
3. Permit Turkey the option of building Fleets in Syria (South coast)
4. Allow Italy the option of starting with F(Rome).