Fink Variant Rule (rb10)

by Howard Mahler

By adding this rule to regular Diplomacy, one gets an interesting and unusual variant.  As for those curious cats out there, the name Fink Rule refers to an abandoned variant on the Mob in New York City in which the idea was that a criminal could turn State’s evidence.  So now, brought back single-handedly from deepest, darkest Brooklyn, we present for your amusement and perusement, the Fink Rule.

Being a Fink is like being the President’s friend–they each have their disadvantages.  First and foremost, the Fink may never build any units.  This includes the winter a player becomes a Fink.  However, since he may try to become a Fink and fail, he may send in build orders that winter.  These will only be executed if he fails to become a Fink.  (See below on how to become a Fink.)  Secondly, the Fink’s units may not successfully receive support from another player’s units.  However, since the Games master is supposed to try to keep the Fink’s identity a secret, he will only reveal that such a support was unsuccessful (for example, by /ngf/ = no good fink) if said support affects the adjudication.

How does one achieve the honour of being shunned and reviled by your fellow rulers?  During any winter season, a player may give the order, “I want to turn Fink against __________,” where the blank is filled in with the name of the country.  The Fink will only be allowed to fink on this country’s units.  If there’s no Fink at that time and the player is the only one to ask to become the Fink, then he does so.  If the former Fink is eliminated one winter, then a player can become the new Fink that same winter.  If, by some outbreak of mass insanity, more than one player wants to become a Fink, the one with the fewest supply centers gets the honour.  Ties are broken by a random method.

When someone becomes a Fink, the GM will not reveal who the Fink is but will only announce that there is a new Fink.  Naturally, he’ll inform the new Fink of his new status.  The Games master will only reveal a finking order when it’s successful, and this is the first you’ll know about which country has been turned fink against.  The GM will also announce when a Fink is eliminated during the winter.  He will not say who the Fink was, so if more than one player is eliminated in the same winter, you may never know.  So in general, you can’t be certain of the identity of the Fink, unless he’s eliminated or a military situation is affected by the Fink’s inability to successfully receive support from another player’s units.  If you abandon the secrecy concerning the Fink’s identity, the finking rule can be used without a Games master.

Each spring the Fink may send in an order such as “I fink on Ionian Sea,” but only one such order per spring.  If after the spring moves, excluding retreats, a unit of the “right victim country” (the victim country is chosen when you become a Fink) is in the correct space, then that unit is dislodged.  The Fink, rather than the owner of the unit, may now choose among the legal retreats, other than off the board.  If the unit has no legal retreats, then it is eliminated.

Please notice that when I refer to the correct “space” I mean “each province of body of water” as defined in the 1971 Rule Book.  Thus, one could fink on Spain without specifying North or South Coast.  If a unit was forced to retreat by a military action that spring, then it may not be successfully finked on.  A Fink may not repeat a finking order which was successful (caused a unit to be dislodged) for him at any time in the past.  Naturally, if a Fink should be eliminated (owns no more supply centers), then he loses his right to fink.  Optional Rule:  Even after losing all his supply centers, a Fink continues in the game with full finking powers.  In other words, a “phantom fink” can come back from the grave to haunt you.

Just as it’s the rich and the poor who pay no income taxes, so they are the ones who may want to turn Fink.  First, there’s the player whose country is so shrunken in size that all the player wants is survival and/or revenge.  Secondly, there’s the powerful player, for example, with 13 or more units and driving for a win, who is strong enough to forsake the privilege of building units.  He may turn Fink either to prevent others from doing to at a later date or for the tactical advantage of finking order brings.  To say the least, the finking order can be pretty useful in breaking a stalemate line.  By the way, there’s nothing to stop a Fink from winning since the object is to control 18 supply centers and not to have any fixed number of units.

In the modern world, smaller countries are constrained by the big powers, who in turn are constrained by the threat of nuclear war.  Thus, we get the modern concept of limited wars.  Similarly, with the Fink Rule, there may be consequences of trying to eliminate a country or of otherwise going too far.  Since a player can threaten to become a Fink against a certain country, the finking order adds a new weapon and thus a new dimension to the diplomatic negotiations.  Finally, the Fink Rule heightens the chance of enjoying the sweet taste of revenge.  In other words, it’s fun and after all, that’s the whole point of playing the game.