What is Postal Gunboat Diplomacy?
by Fred Davis
There are no written rules for Gunboat, because it is so simple. A Gunboat game is simply a Postal game in which the players are unknown to each other, and there are no mail or phone negotiations between them. The majority of the games permit the use of press for negotiations, so anyone GM’ing a Gunboat game has to expect the receipt of a great deal of press. GM’s usually try to have not more than one person from any city in any one Gunboat game, so that they don’t accidentally learn of each other’s identity through some social meeting.
There are some games in which even Press is forbidden, to prevent a leakage of identity. The game can be played FTF. This requires the players to remain seated in chairs placed a few feet apart, and to avoid any conversation about the game. This also requires a rather strict GM to prevent game-related communication. Even facial expressions are frowned upon. Eliminated players are sometimes asked to still go through the motions of writings orders to preserve the secrecy.
Where press is permitted, the use of black press (press alleging to be from a different country) is often allowed. Anything in the press which may indicate the name of it’s author or his country is deleted by the GM, who must keep a careful eye on what is being submitted in the way of releases. One press version is called “Anonymity III” (rb03), although in that version the names of the seven players are known – you just don’t know who is playing which country. (That’s similar to the Secret Powers in the Woolworth games).
Otherwise, all of the regular rules are used in a regular gunboat game. Almost any variant can be played as a gunboat game, too, although I believe that about 95% of the them use the regular board and rules. Gunboat games are now quite popular; with about half of the 1986 miller nos. being issued for such variants. Non-press gunboat games are especially popular with people who find they don’t have enough time for a lot of letter-writing. Even in a press game, the amount of required writing is usually far less than in a regular game. It’s a rather easy game for a novice GM or publisher to undertake. All you have to add are your own house rules.