Payola Classic (rm94)

by Manus Hand and John Woolley

1. Basic Concept

1.1 Boring Stuff

Mercenary Diplomacy is played on a normal Diplomacy board, with seven relatively normal people (oh, wait, forget that part), taking the parts of the normal Diplomacy powers, using the normal Diplomacy rules (except as amended here), and with all sorts of other normal things going on.

1.2 Exciting Stuff

Each player maintains a treasury, and uses this treasury at each turn to influence the movement order for any or every unit on the board. Yeah, I thought you’d be excited, so let’s get into this a little more.

 2. Money Changes Everything

2.1 Swiss Bank Accounts

Before every Spring movement phase, each power on the board will receive — to be added to its treasury — seven “Swiss mega-francs” for every SC they own. (For the mathematically challenged, this means that at the beginning of the game, every power starts off with 21 Swiss mega-francs, except Russia, who receives 28.) This money will be disbursed to the players by the Swiss “banker to the world” (also known as your friendly GameMaster).

2.2 No Swiss Army Knife Expeditions

It is very important that (per Rule 1.1) Swiss neutrality is never breached by any power. If Switzerland is ever successfully invaded, by any player, the game is over (since Rule 1.1 was broken big-time), and the Master is immediately declared the winner, and He gets all the Hall of Fame points. 

3. You Can’t Take It With You

3.1 Soldiers of Fortune

No self-respecting pack of soldiers or sailors are going to work for free. What do you think this is? Fantasyland? Ha! You’ve certainly got a lot to learn.

3.2 My Country, Right or Wrong

But at least they’re patriotic as all get-out, right? Don’t be so sure. I mean, if you were a French army commander, and the President of France tells you that if you follow his orders you’ll get a salary of say, a single solitary Swiss mega-franc, which might barely be enough to feed you and each of your starving men one and only one of those little snails which you Frenchmen love so much to eat, but then the German and English leaders both come to you and say that they’ll each give you four Swiss mega-francs (!) if you do what they ask (and the prospect of getting your hands on eight Swiss mega-francs simply fills your little French brain with a snailfest that would boggle the senses!), what do you think you would do? Don’t answer that, because it doesn’t matter what you would do. In this game — like in real-life — the units go for the snails, every last time.

3.3 Love It Or Leave It

Yes, that’s right. If your men don’t get paid enough for them to do what you want them to, they won’t do it. In fact, I bet you’ll be surprised just what they will do for money! 

4. Graft Is Such A Dirty Word For It

4.1 Is That Mega-Franc Yours? You Must Have Dropped It.

Instead of submitting orders for each of their units (as happens in standard Diplomacy), each players instead submits to the Master an “offer sheet” for each movement phase.

4.2 How Cheap Do You Work?

An “offer sheet” will contain (one guess…) a series of offers. An offer consists of a unit (any unit, of any nationality, anywhere on the board), followed by the order which the player wishes to bribe that unit to follow, and the number of Swiss mega-francs (zero or more) which the player agrees to “pay” if the unit does indeed follow that order. As I said, a unit will always follow the order which pays it the most, after all the offer sheets are submitted, and all offers totalled. A player may not offer money to the same unit for two different orders on the same phase. Choose one. Geez! If you try this, both offers will be ignored, and the unit commander will call you nasty names like “waffler” and “blockhead.”

4.3 Moral Dilemmas

So let’s say France asks his soldiers in Paris to HOLD, and all the cheapskate promises them for doing so is one measly mega-franc. And let’s say no other player on the board feels like ARMY PARIS HOLD is worth any money to them, so the boys in Paris are looking at spending the season on the Champs-Elysses, although their meager one mega-franc salary really can’t support such a lifestyle, but heck, it’s the best offer they got. Oh, but wait! Italy offers the Parisiens one of his mega-francs if the boys will slide on down the road to Picardy! What a problem! Two different orders, for which the unit would receive the exact same amount of money. Oh dear, what shall they do? Well, I’ll tell you.

4.4 Here Are My References

In addition to “offer sheets”, the Swiss banker will also keep a “reference list” for each player. A reference list must be submitted to the Master with the first “offer sheet,” and it can then be updated at any time. A reference list is simply an ordered list of every power in the game. If ever a player’s unit would receive the same amount of money for following any one of two or more different orders, then the player’s reference list is consulted to decide which order it will follow. The power which is listed highest (among all those powers which submitted offers for the competing orders) on the piece’s owner’s reference list, will have his offer accepted, and that order followed. Naturally, each country will probably list itself first on its own reference list, but there’s no rule that says it must do so. If there were, I’d have told you about it.

4.7 Buddy, Can You Spare A Dime?

Sure, you can give your money to another player. Just send the banker a “check” and he’ll make the transaction and inform the lucky recipient of your gift. Why you’d want to do this instead of just use the money yourself to do whatever it is he plans to do with it, I don’t know, but hey, I’m your banker, not your mother. But if you send a check to someone, that person can not send you a check until the next movement phase. I don’t want two or more players just having a ball sending checks back and forth all the time, ten times a phase or more, just to annoy me. Checks are really stupid, and I don’t see why you’d want to use them, but it’s too late — I already said you could.

4.6 Will You Cosign A Loan For Me?

Let’s say you have 50 Swiss mega-francs to your name. Does this mean that the total of all the offers on your offer sheet cannot be more than fifty mega-francs? Certainly not. Offer whatever you want! Offer them the moon if you like! But…! What happens to you if more of your offers are accepted than you can afford? Well, in keeping with the idea of these rules, I’ll tell you. Here’s what happens. Every single one of your bids — yes, every single one — gets lowered by one Swiss mega-franc, and then all the units on the board decide all over again from scratch which orders they will follow. If the same situation occurs again, then another mega-franc comes off of each and every offer made by that player, and the units all re-decide again. Eventually, unless the laws of nature have changed since I last looked, the units will decide what they’re doing, and every player will still be either in the black or, at worst, flat broke.

4.7 Don’t Insult Me

Unit commanders are notoriously arrogant, and if you try to get smart with them and hand them an offer of, say, 4-and-a-half mega-francs, they will assume you mean five mega-francs (with a kickback of a half-mega-franc to the commander personally). So don’t use anything but whole mega-francs in your offers. Bankers do not appreciate cheapskates. Fractional offers will be rounded up.

4.8 It’s Just A Slow Leak. I Can Drive On It.

When a unit decides which order it will follow, the money offered for that order is subtracted from the treasuries of those players who offered money for that order. Money offered for orders which are not followed will stay in the player’s treasury.

4.9 Rolling Around In The Vault

Income (which, as I said, is paid out once a year — before every Spring movement phase), is simply added to whatever amount is currently in a player’s treasury. Money is only subtracted from a treasury when offers are accepted by the various units or when you’re actually crazy enough to give some of your hard-earned cash to another player, like I made fun of in rule 4.5.

 5. Don’t I Ever Get To Issue Any Orders In This Stupid Game?

5.1 No

The Master will issue all the orders for all the units after he determines, from the offer sheets, which order each unit will follow. 

5.2 Yes

Except on retreat and adjustment phases, the country is yours to do with as you please. No one can bribe your factory workers, because you’ve got secret police patrolling the streets to, shall we say, reinforce the patriotic will at home. And routed troops which suddenly find themselves running for their lives also seem to suddenly find a very patriotic conscience (surprise, surprise).

 6. Everything You Never Wanted To Know

6.1 Well, At Least They Still Write Home

It doesn’t matter if, say, Italy is the only one who paid for the French army to enter Munich. It’s still a French army doing so, and so the French player gets the build, even though maybe he had no knowledge of or intent to perform the invasion.

6.2 Help Me! Help Me!

This probably also goes without saying, but you can certainly ask other players to help you get your own units to do something. Because, remember, all the offers from all the players for each order are totalled, and the winning bids are then subtracted from the treasuries of all the contributors.

6.3 What Am I, Chopped Liver Over Here?

If absolutely no one offers any money at all to a unit, it will simply HOLD. It can receive support. The men in that unit will probably feel bad, and certainly more than a little resentful, and the HOLDing action will be wasted, because the military passes issued to the men won’t be very fun, since the men will have no money to go spend on the town. But hey, you want to treat your men like that, go ahead. It’s your conscience.

6.4 Gone But Not Forgotten

Players who suffer the unfortunate fate of having their last unit eliminated may continue to use any money they have to influence the remainder of the game. Also, other players will never be told when or if an eliminated player has run himself broke, so governments-in- exile remain free to use and/or threaten to use real or fictitious money. The services of eliminated players may even be available for a price; by writing them one of those stupid checks I talked about.

 7. What Did He Know And When Did He Know It?

7.1 Ignorance Is Bliss

Although you will find out how much each of your own units got paid to do what it did, you will never find out who spent money to get the unit to do what it did. You will also never find out how much money each of the other players has in their treasury. What’d you expect? You’re dealing with Switzerland, after all!

7.2 Balance Your Checkbook

The only thing which you will get are the results of the moves and then something telling you how much money you have in your treasury. That’s all you get. If that’s not enough for you, then you just wasted your time reading all these rules, because you obviously don’t want to play. Well, fine. Be that way. Take your ball and run away home. See if I care.

7.3 What If The Master Can’t Add Or Is A Cheat?

Unfortunately, there’s no way for you to know, so try not to think about it. But at the end of the game, the Bank of Switzerland will open itself to a public audit, and the complete litany of all offers made in the game will be revealed for everyone to see.