The Great Patriotic War (qh07)

by Nicky Palmer


This is a fairly ambitious attempt to provide a “Tournament Diplomacy”, i.e. an improved version which is closer to reality, and has more play-variables to aid to the possible strategies open to each player, but which doesn’t lose the essential feel of the game.  The rules stand up to a solo trial (play-testing is difficult in Denmark) and I think any rule problems which arise can probably be settled by a GM without too much difficulty.

The main new features are industrial strength, multi-factor units with rules changed in accordance, neutral armies, isolation, and aircraft carrying out strategic bombing against industry.  The setting is World War II, although the variant has the Soviet name for that war so as to avoid confusion with the variant World War IV, and because the developments on the Soviet front between the two European “superpowers” are crucial for the outcome of the game (as of course they were in the War – two thirds of the German forces were permanently engaged in the East).  Turkey and Austria become neutrals, partly for historical reasons but mainly because experience suggests that seven people is rather a large number of get together for either FtF or postal play.  America plays no direct part, as her virtual invulnerability to invasion from Europe would give her an overwhelming advantage.  England and France are strengthened in comparison with 1939, partly for play-balance and partly to reflect heavy American Lend-lease help as a “compensation” for the absence of American participation, Italy appears deceptively weak, but with Austria and Turkey gone, she can flourish in the Balkans while the other countries fight each other to the death….perhaps.

One new option for players is to build up industrial strength without attacking anyone, except for a few neutrals, with view to equipping a much larger army later on; devotees of the game of Nuclear Destruction will recognize this idea.  However, if the armed forces are reduced too much to save resources for industrial expansion, one risks occupation of the home supply centres and with them some of those lovely factories…

The multi-factor units and the new combat system are in some ways the most radical departure from Diplomacy, but frankly I think the present system is the least satisfactory side of Diplomacy, with the rarity of casualties (annihilations) and the relative unimportance of them when they do happen (you just build another unit next Winter), and above all the blocked situations (which seem to occur with increasing frequency as players get more experiences at defending long lines across Europe) leaving a boring stalemate.  The concentration of forces made possible by multi-factor units allows quick penetrations of enemy forces and gives a fast-moving game from start to finish.  The combat rules are still not particularly realistic by, say, Avalon Hill or SPI standards, but they are in my view substantially better in this regard and not much more complex then Diplomacy rules once you get the hang of them.

The reduction of players to five and the increased emphasis on tactics may possibly prove to draw too much attention away from the Diplomatic side of the game, and this may also seen to follow from the different strengths of the countries, which in many games (e.g. Third Age, Imperialism IX) leads to an obvious alliance structure.  However, I think there are only one “obvious” alliance; that between France and England, which from a historical point of view is fair enough.  They have a difficult decision on whether to help the Soviet Union against Germany at once (risking a Soviet win) or to sign a non-aggression pact with Germany and build up strength while Germany weakens Russia, coming in just in time (they hope) to stop total German victory.  Similarly the Soviet Union, which (as in the actual event) is much less mobilized than Germany, must either try to destroy Germany at once with Anglo/French help or if England and France won’t play on this (as happened in 1937-8) then try to keep Germany sweet by a division of the neutrals in E. European while frantically arming for the struggle to come.  Germany can move against Russia, or against England and France, or go for the E. European neutrals, preferably with Italy’s and/or Russia’s help.  Italy can help Germany against France and/or try to get a share of E. European and try to stab an over-extended Germany at the right moment.  These are at any rate my provisional analyses, but other possibilities no doubt exist.

Comments and queries are of course welcome, and I should very much appreciate it if zine editors who are reviewing the variant or who are offering openings for play in it would let me know (and reverse a place for me); conversely, if anyone wants to know of an opening I shall probably be able to tell them if they write to me.

On to the rules…..where not stated they are the same as Diplomacy.

1. Geography:  The Diplomacy board is used, with the following changes:  Turkey and Austria are neutral, Switzerland is passable, and Ireland and Sardinia (the larger of the 2 islands north of Tunis) become neutrals.  Movement restrictions are as in Diplomacy as far as geographical restrictions are concerned; thus the Diplomacy Rule VII 1(Movement) para 3 and 4 still apply.

2. Players:  There are 5 players, playing England, France, Italy, Germany, and the Soviet Union.

3. How to win:  One player wins by controlling more Industrial Points (IPs) than all the others put together.  (Several players may agree to a joint win if they control all the IPs on the board.)

4. How to lose:  If you lose all industrial strength (IS) of IPs you are eliminated.

5. The seasons are as in Diplomacy; the first year is 1939.

6. Multi-Factor units:  All units may have the strength of any whole number, and are denoted accordingly, this:  A3 (a 3-factor army), F7 (a 7-factor fleet), etc.  Units may be broken down or amalgamated at will if they are the same type and nationality (e.g. French armies or Italian fleets), and any number of units of the same nationality may appear in any province, including for instance fleets on each coast of St. Petersburg with an army in between.  Units may attack or support or convoy or move in different directions out of a province, but if the province is attacked they all count in defence.  Note that the situation after a turn or after builds can be described by the total A and F strength in a province, with F’s possibly divided from different coasts, as the total can be split up again next time for different actions if desired.

7. Aircraft:  Off the map, each country keeps a record of the number of squadrons of aircraft they possess; they are not on the map to avoid cluttering it up.  The planes are “somewhere in the home country”, distributed among the home supply centres.  If these are captured, an equivalent number of squadrons are deemed destroyed (not captured) on the ground; this is rounded down.  Example:  If England has P6 (6 squadrons) and loses a home centre he loses 6/3 i.e. 2 squadrons, leaving four.  If he recaptures it, and then loses it again without building any new squadrons in the interim he loses 4/3 i.e. 1 (rounded down) squadron that time.

8. Industrial Strength:  Each country is assigned an industrial strength (IS) at the start:  Germany 19 IPs, Soviet Union 16, England 10, France 10, and Italy 8.  All land provinces (not just those marked as supply centres) outside the 5 major powers have an IS of 2, except Arm and Smy, which have no IS.

9. Neutral Armies:  All land provinces outside the five major powers have an A2 defending them, which may not move or support (though they may be supported), and which is eliminated if forced to retreat; Sweden has an A3 and Switzerland an A5 which are subject to the same restrictions.  The Black Sea has a similarly restricted (Turkish) F1.

10. Supply, builds and factory-building:  You can do three things every winter with your IS:  (1) You can supply already-created units at a cost of one IP per unit factor (so an A6 costs 6IPs); all unsupported factors must be disbanded, but this can be done simultaneous with new builds and at will; (2) You can build new units in unoccupied controlled home supply centres, at a cost of 2IPs per unit factor (creating a unit is and should be more “expensive” than supplying an old one, unlike the situation in Diplomacy); (3) You can build new factories in your home country at a cost of 4IPs for every IP (the new IPs may not be used until the following winter).  The same IP cannot, of course, be used for two different things in the same season.  You can also give IPs to other players after using them that year.  New IPs may not be built outside the home country.

Example:  If England, by Aut 1939, has taken Nwy, Bel, and Ire without losing any home centres (lucky so-and-so) and has at that stage the total unit strength F4A2, composed of Fl (Ire), Fl (Nwy), F2 (NTH), A2 (Bel), then be might; build P1 (costs 2 IPs), supply F1 (Nwy), F1 (NTH), A2 (Bel) (cost 4 IPs), build A3 (Lon), (cost 6 IPs), and create one new IP (cost 4 IPs), cost totalling 16 IPs which are available (10 from England, 2 each from the minors).  F1 (Ire) and F1 (NTH) must be disbanded; observe that what the other half of the NTH F2 was supplied and remains.

11. Starting positions:  Germany starts with P2, all the others with P1.  The other forces are:  ENGLAND F2 (Lon), F1A1 (Lpl), F1A1 (Edi),; FRANCE F1 (Bre), A2 (Par), A1F1 (Mar); ITALY A2 (Ven), A1 (Rom), F1 (Nap); GERMANY A5 (Nun), A3F1 (Bor), A1F2 (Kie); Soviet Union A2 (war), F1 (StP nc), f1 (StP sc), A3 (Nos), A1F1 (Sev).  Of course StP should really be Leningrad and Warsaw should be neutral at the start – but the board is far too convenient for that. Sticklers for reality can call them Leningrad (Len) and Brest-Litovsk (Lit) respectively.

12. Losing Industrial Strength by Occupation:  The national home IS is (like the air force) deemed to be distributed equally around the home supply centers, so if a supply centre is a major country is captured in an autumn turn, it is deemed to contain a proportion of the IS equal to the reciprocal (rounded down) of the total number of supply centres at home that the player has left before that turn; thus, if in the example in section 7, England had lost Lon, he would have left 10/3 i.e. 3 (rounded down) IPs there, which would be added to the invader’s haul of IPs from foreign provinces.  If and when Lon was recaptured by England, the IS would be equally redistributed again, so if England had built up 10 IPs in the interim by diligent factory building, he would now have 13, and would lose four if any supply centers were lost.

13. Combat:  Combat and movement are both ordered in Spr and Aut turns but are now considered as separate actions, either of which may be undertaken without the other, or both of which can be undertaken.  Units which stand, support, or convoy are described as defending units; these may not engage in combat or movement.  Combat is designated by “a” for “attacks” as in A3(Vie) a Bud.  Movement is designated by M, as in A3(Vie) M Bud.  They may be partially or wholly combined as in A3 Vie a Bud, A2(Vie) M Bud (3 factors attack, 2 advance) and A2(Vie) aM Bud (2 factors attack and advance).  One can move, attack and support whenever one could in Diplomacy (making allowances for the new provinces).  You may not attack or support an attack or move to the same province, or change places.  Combat is resolved as follows:

1) If an attack is against a province which is unoccupied at the start of the turn, the unit does not move.

2) If an attack is made on an occupied province (whether or not some or all of the occupants are attacking elsewhere), then the total forces, including supports, on each side are calculated.  Note that, differing from Diplomacy, one may support units all or part of which are attempting to move elsewhere against attacks on their present positions, although one can’t then support their attacks with the same units as well, the different types of support can be written thus:  A(Vie) S F(Tri), F(Tri) aM Alb; and A(Ser) SF(Tri) aM Alb, F(Tri)aM Alb.  New units of a country attempting to  move into a province already occupied by units of that country are not included in combat because they don’t arrive in time.  The smaller force then loses a factor total equal to the difference in size between the forces, while the larger forces loses 1 factor if it less than twice the size, remains unchanged if it is twice as large but not three times, and  gains 1 factor (from desertions and improved morale) if it is more than three times as large (this last does not apply if the smaller force is a neutral other than Switzerland).  If an occupied province is attacked by two or more forces, the attacks are calculated separately against the full defending forces.  If a defending unit is used as a support for an attack on any province except that from which the attack on itself comes, then the support is not cut, but the defensive value of the unit is halved (rounded up–one factor units are unaffected).  Losses and gains (for 3-1 attacks) are only taken from/received by units directly involved in the battle, not any supports; if more factor losses are called for than are involved directly in the battle on that side, then the unit is eliminated without loss for supporting units.

3) At the same time as ordering combat and movement, players may designate any of their units as NR (no retreat), in the manner of Hitler’s instructions to the German Stalingrad army; in this event, such defeated units, i.e. some units which were involved in combat with units of greater strength (including supports on both sides) lose 2 more factors but do not retreat.  All other units which are defeated must retreat.

4) If two forces are equal, neither side loses any factors.

5) If forces from two provinces attack each other then a separate battle is calculated in “each direction”.  This is necessary to cover the situation were each side attacks only with part of the force in his province, perhaps using other forces for other attacks, as the defending force is always the total force in the province.

6) If a player is due to lose factors and has not specified in which order they are to be taken off, the army forces are lost before fleet factors.  If fleet factors are involved on both coasts, then unless otherwise instructed the GM shall remove factors according to a policy which he shall lay down in advance (either at random, or according to what he thinks is in the player’s best interest).

14. Movement:  After all the battles have been resolved, the movement orders are considered.  These succeed if the destination of the unit involved is empty and the units are larger that all other units from other countries attempts to enter; for this purpose units may be taken to mean both armies and fleets, and may come from different provinces.  An order to enter an occupied province fails unless all  the occupants have been ordered to retreat of have successfully moved out on the same turn.  Units or sections of units may not exchange provinces; this is a standoff.  Movement cannot be supported.  If two forces equal in size attempt to enter an empty province it is a standoff.  You can always successfully enter a province already containing units of your own country, unless they successfully move out in which case it is deemed to be empty and you must be the largest unit.

15. Retreats:  As in Diplomacy, these can be arranged in Summer/Winter turns or prophetically:  all units defeated and not under the NR provision (see “Combat”) must retreat after movement or be eliminated the restrictions on retreats are the same as Diplomacy except that is 2 units retreat to the same space then the larger succeeds and the smaller is eliminated.  I urge GMs using prophetic treats to order retreats themselves (either at random, or according to what he thinks are the players best interests) if they are not pre-ordered, as one can’t think of everything and annihilation is more painful in this variant is more painful than Diplomacy because of the extra cost of building new units.

16. Isolation:  If a unit after an Autumn turn is unable to trace a “supply line” of at most 7 adjacent land or sea provinces which are neither occupied by units of another country nor supply centres controlled by other countries, then that unit must be removed (disbanded).

17. Convoys:  An Fl suffices to convoy, and other F factors may be used to support convoyed armies in attack (but not in moving, this an A7 (Yor) may be convoyed at attack Den by 1 factor of an F5(NTH), with support from F4, or to convoy other units with different points of departure or arrival.  If the F is eliminated in combat or defeated and has no NR order attached to it, then all convoys fails.

18. Air attacks:  Any nation may include in his attack/support/movement/convoy orders air attack or defence.  One may attack or defend any major country, but not neutrals (too beastly; and/or because they one would have to back track of neutral IS as well, this way all neutrals except Smy/Ank keen an IS of 2).  Total defenders and attackers over each country are added up, and losses calculated as in land/sea battles.  However: (1) if there are at least five more attackers than defenders, the defending country loses 1 IP for every 5 squadrons in the attackers’ surplus; (2) unless the order of losses of squadrons of different countries has been agreed upon by the countries concerned the GM chooses them at random, giving each squadron an equal chance of being shot down (this if 2 Russian and 3 French squadrons attack Germany against 6 defenders, the lost squadrons should have a 40% chance of being Russian); a die ot playing cards can be used for making random decisions.