International Relations (rv20)

by Michael Golbe

Standard Diplomacy simulates the diplomatic intrigue of WWI wonderfully, but as if the seven great powers were operating in complete isolation, as if the world consisted on nothing but their diplomats, generals and admirals. As a result, games rarely follow historical patterns all that closely. This variant is designed to add the element of world opinion to the formula. During the real WWI, nations that were at first non-aligned (like the United States and some nations in Asia and South America) gravitated toward one faction or the other, based at least in part upon public opinion regarding matters like the breaking of treaties and acts of aggression (and atrocities). The rules seek to represent these dynamics without changing the map or the number of players. They undoubtedly over-emphasize these added elements a bit, but that just makes this game a bit ahistorical in a different way than the standard one.

Since much of world public opinion was based on the behavior of states vis-a-vis treaties they had with others, such treaty arrangements are formalized in the rules.

Standard rules apply except as modified below.


A point system is used. Players earn one base point for each SC owned. Base points are good, just like in the standard game. But in addition, they can earn penalty points for taking actions that would anger world public opinion (picture Peoria). Since such public opinion is always fleeting, all penalty points eventually wear off. Some types take longer than others. Some actions earn more penalty points than others. At any point, subtracting penalty points that have not yet worn off from base points yields “Victory Points”. It takes seven victory points to win a solo victory. Exception: because Russia starts with four SCs and thus four victory points, until 1910 he needs eight victory points to win.

In addition to solo victories, coalitions can win the game. A two-player coalition needs twelve victory points combined, a three-player coalition needs sixteen. Coalitions that include Russia DO NOT need to have one extra victory point before 1910.

There are certain conditions that must be met to win any of these victories.

Once the point total needed has been met at the end of a fall turn, the player(s) must publicly proclaim their intention to claim the victory. They do this by posting to that effect below the fall adjudication posting no later than the deadline for the following spring turn. They must state whether they are seeking a solo, two-way or three-way victory. All members of any coalition must post. Note that it is possible that two or more players or two (and possibly even three) coalitions could post simultaneously.

To actually win the solo, a solo claimant must still have at least seven victory points at the conclusion of the following fall turn. In practical effect, this gives everyone else one turn to try to prevent the solo. Coalitions must meet their goal at the conclusion of the SECOND following fall turn. In effect, this gives everyone else two years to prevent their coalition victory.

Whenever any player proclaims his intention to claim either a solo or coalition victory, all treaties he may have with other powers, except those with his coalition partners if he’s claiming a coalition victory, are immediately abrogated. Since treaties prevent one ally from attacking another, abrogation means hostilities can immediately begin.

Parties to a coalition victory may not have outstanding penalty points being applied against them for any acts of aggression they may have committed against a coalition partner. If they do, they may not proclaim an intention to claim a coalition win with that power. Players who have announced their intentions to claim a coalition victory are NOT ELIGIBLE to earn a solo victory following either of the two fall phases that follow the declaration of the intention to claim the coalition victory. During the period between the postings and the claiming of the victory, intra-allince treaties can be abrograted, no abrogations can be announced, and none of the allies can earn any penalty points for aggressing against any other.


Powers may be neutral to each other, allied in one way or another, at war, or in a condition of “imminent war”. Allies cannot attack each other. Any orders to that effect would be deemed invalid. If a player attacks a power with whom he is neutral towards, that is deemed an act of war, and earns a penalty due to the international condemnation such an act would evoke. When powers are at war, acts of aggression between them earn no penalties. The effects of a state of “imminent war” are explained in the MDT rules below.


There are two types of treaty (two forms of alliance): “Mutual Defense Treaties” (MDTs) and “Aggressive Alliance Treaties” (AATs).

Entering (signing) a treaty: This must be declared to the GM by BOTH players along with fall orders (i.e. France writes “Enter MDT with Italy” and Italy writes “Enter MDT with France”). The GM announces the treaty with the fall adjudication and it takes effect the following spring. It has no effect on play during the fall turn it is ordered and announced. If only one of the two players orders the treaty with his fall orders, the GM will also announce this and the fact that no treaty therefore exists.

When players have either an MDT or ATT, neither may aggress against the other in any way that would earn a penalty. Any such orders received will be considered invalid.

MDTs allow (but do not oblige) one party to come to the aid of a partner if attacked by a third party. The ally that was not attacked enters into a state of “Imminent War” with the third party attacker, and thus can attack him without penalty. However, the third party that attacked the first partner cannot also attack the second without earning an additional penalty. Example: France and Germany have an MDT. Both are neutral towards England. England attacks France by ordering a fleet to Brest. England earns a penalty for that unprovoked aggression and England and France are now at war. Because of the MDT, Germany is also immediately placed in a state of imminent war with England. Germany can now attack England without earning a penalty. Such an attack would be considered “coming to the aid of an MDT partner”, and not “unprovoked aggression”. But England cannot attack Germany without earning a penalty for aggressing against a major power.

Entering an MDT only obliges each party to come to the aid of the other for attacks that launch wars AFTER the signing of the treaty. Example: if Italy is at war with Turkey, and then signs an MDT with Austria (who was neutral with Turkey), continued attacks between Italy and Turkey would not trigger the MDT.

AATs oblige the parties to share all penalties of aggression against other major powers (but only for attacks against other majors). When one ally launches an unprovoked attack against a third party (other than a neutral), and thus earns a penalty, BOTH allies earn a penalty and both are then in a full state of war with that third party. “Imminent war” is not applied, and the power that was attacked by one ATT partner can retaliate against BOTH without penalty. Example: Russia and Turkey have an AAT with each other. Both are neutral toward Austria. Russia attacks Austria, earning a penalty for unprovoked aggression, and causing a state of war between them to apply. Turkey also gets the a penalty, and is also immediately in a state of war with Austria. If Turkey then attacks Austria, or Austria attacks Turkey, no further penalties would apply. In addition to the above, AATs also act like MDTs – an attack from outside on one ally is like an attack on both. “Imminent war”, however, would be replaced by full war.

When an ATT ally earns a penalty because his partner attacked another major power, the penalty’s duration is half of what it would be normally.

Entering an AAT only obliges each party to join in aggressions launched by the other (and share the penalties) AFTER the treaty is signed. Example: Germany and Austria are at war. Germany signs an AAT with Russia (who is neutral with Austria. Russia is still neutral with Austria.

Because entering into an AAT is, in itself, rather an aggressive act, it earns both parties a penalty even before they have made any attacks.

Players may not enter into treaties that would cause an immediate relationship conundrum. Example: Italy has an MDT with France. This MDT was signed after a war had started between France and Germany. Italy is still neutral with Germany. Italy may not sign an AAT or MDT with Germany.

The effects of treaties get complicated when there are many of them in existance, and when player X, who has a treaty with player Z, attacks player Y, who also has a treaty with player Z.

MDT ALLY ATTACKS MDT ALLY: Imagine a three-party relationship that could be plotted like “V” – two parties who are neutral to each other each have an MDT with a common third player. One of the neutrals attacks the other. The third player is obliged to come to the aid of the ally who was attacked. The treaty with the player who launched the attack is immediately abrogated, and the relationship between those two players immediately is converted to a state of war.

MDT ALLY ATTACKS AAT ALLY (OR VICE-VERSA): AATs always take precedence over MDTs. The MDT is abrogated and the relationship is immediately converted to a state of war.

AAT ALLY ATTACKS AAT ALLY: Since AATs are aggressive alliance, the one with the attacker is honored. The other relationship immediately is converted to a state of war. The penalty for the attack is applied to both remaining AAT partners.


Treaties may be abrogated by either party by submission of orders to that effect to the GM as part of the Winter phase. The notice of intent to abrogate is posted by the GM with the Winter adjustments. The abrogation takes effect immediately after the following spring turn. During that spring turn, any units of the abrogating player that happen to be inside the territory or occupying the owned SC of the ally may receive no orders or supports. Abrogating an MDT causes the application of a small penalty. Abrogating an ATT does not.

During that Spring turn the player abrogating the treaty may not attack the other, but the player being abrogated may attack the abrogatee (and thus earn a penalty).


Note that penalties are always applied based on orders written (i.e. on intent), and success or failure of any move is irrelevant.

1) ATTACKING ANOTHER MAJOR – Attacking a major power with whom you have a neutral relationship: two penalty points for eight years. This penalty is applied for attacking the “Controlled Territory” of another major power: a) ordering a unit to enter, or supporting a unit into, or participating in a covoy into, his home territory, as defined by the thicker lines on a standard map, unless that province is occupied by a unit of a third player with whom you are at war; b) ordering a unit to, or supporting any unit into, or participating in a covoy into, any province or sea zone occupied by a unit of that player, regardless of the orders given to that unit by the other player (note: if two neutrals each order a unit to a province or sea zone not occupied by either, they can bounce, or one can prevail due to support, and no aggression is considered to have occurred – no penalties get applied and no war is started); c) ordering a unit to enter, or supporting a unit into, or participating in a covoy into, any minor (aka “neutral”) SC (like Belgium) that now belongs to the other player, unless occupied by a unit of a third player with whom you are at war. Note: Once this penalty is applied, the two powers are in a state of war, and further attacks by either upon the other earns no penalties. This penalty applies only to the first attack of one neutral upon another.

An ATT ally of a player earning this penalty earns a 2-point penalty that lasts only four years.

2) ATTACKING A MINOR – Ordering a unit to enter, or supporting the entry of another unit into, an unowned (aka minor or neutral) SC (like Belgium): one penalty point for seven years.

3) ENTERING INTO AN AAT – one penalty point for five years.

4) FIRST SHOT PENALTY – any player(s) who first incurs any penalty whatsoever (except for entering into an AAT) is considered to have “fired the first shot”. (Note that all seven players could theoretically qualify simultaneously.) First-shot penalties are applied as follows:

–if incurred in S01: 2 points for 10 years.

–if incurred in F01: 2 points for 9 years.

–if incurred in S02: 2 points for 8 years.

–if incurred in F02: 2 points for 7 years.

–if incurred in ’03: 2 points for 6 years.

–if incurred in ’04: 2 points for 5 years.

–if incurred in ’05: 1 point for 5 years.

–if incurred in ’06: 1 point for 3 years.

–if the “first shot” is fired in 1907 or later there is no penalty.

Turkey does NOT earn a first shot penalty for attacking Bulgaria in 1901 (even though he still earns the penalty for attacking a minor), but would for attacking Bulgaria after 1901, or for attacking anything or anyone else that would earn a penalty.

5) VOLUNTARILY ABROGATING AN MDT – one point for three years.

6) UNALLOYED EXPANSIONISM – the accumulation of excessive penalty points shall be considered a sign that the player is pursuing a policy of unalloyed expansionism. If, at the conclusion of any fall phase, a player has for the first time accumulated five penalty points, all further penalties shall be increased by one point and one year’s duration each. If, at the conclusion of any fall phase, a player has for the first time accumulated twelve penalty points, the increases shall be increased to a two points and two year’s duration each.


The standard-game rule that prohibits self-dislodgement applies in this game between allies. An order to move into a space occupied by one of your own units OR THAT OF AN ALLY may not succeed if that second unit fails to leave that space. The order would still be valid for other purposes, however, such as standing off an equally well or less well supported attack on the same space by units of other countries. Similarly, an order by one country which supports an attack by another country against a space occupied by one of the first country’s units, OR THAT OF AN ALLY, does not permit a move dislodging that unit, but may be valid for other purposes.

Just as the unit of one power cannot cut the support another unit of that power may be providing, so the unit of one player can not cut the support being tendered by the unit of an ally. In sum, units of allies are treated for all movement, convoy, defense, support and attack adjudication purposes as if they belonged to a single player.


Units of one ally may not be ordered into the “Controlled Territory” of a partner, as defined above in rule E(1), unless the partner, in the same turn, writes explicit permission for the move in his orders. Even if/when a unit is inside the ally’s home territory, further moves inside that territory must be given permission. Under no circumstances, however, can rule F be bypassed.

If a unit is inside allied territory, and in a province surrounded by other “Controlled Territory”, and during a fall turn the ally does not permit any movement of the unit, the owner may choose to disband it that winter.

If a unit is permitted by an ally to move into an SC owned by that ally, the owner of the unit does not necessarily take control of that SC even if he occupies it at the end of a fall turn. Only if, during that fall turn, the owner of the SC writes explicit permission in his orders transferring ownership would such a transfer occur. Such transfers are permanent, barring re-transfer back to the original owner (which would require his occupancy there at the end of a fall turn). Note that the permission may have to be written before the unit of the new owner has actually achieved occupancy during a fall turn.


Prior to the Spring 1901 phase, there will be a special phase during which players may MDTs and ATTs that will take immediate effect at the start of play. The GM will announce a diplomacy period to accomodate this phase approximately equal in duration to a normal movement phase and a half. During this phase only, treaties come IMMEDIATELY into force only when both parties notify the GM by the deadline, and any such notification by one player that is NOT reciprocated by the other is NOT announced by the GM. (In effect, this is the time for secret strategic negotiations.) Players may also withdraw treaty ratification or proposal messages to the GM any time before the deadline. After this phase’s deadline, the GM simply announces those treaties that are in force at the start of Spring 1901. Any penalties applied for entering ATTs during this phase will wear off at the end of Fall 1905.


Because there is no limit on how many MDTs and ATTs might be made, it is possible to get into a situation where unless one or more gets voluntarily abrogated, no real combat could occur. Therefore, if, beginning with the 1903 Winter, a Winter season ends with all players who have units in contact with one another having MDTs or ATTs (with none pending abrogation) , then all treaties will be automatically abrogated the following Winter and a special “International Conference” will be called. This will be exactly like the “Initial Alliance Creation Phase”, during which players can secretly order treaties with as many or as few other players as they choose, and at the deadline the GM only announces those that have gone into force because both players so ordered. If the result of this phase is still that all players who have contact with each other (as defined by the GM in a public posting prior to the phase) STILL have treaties with each other, every treaty will be considered void and abrogated and the game will proceed with all players in a relationship of neutrality to all others.