Utterly Ludicrous Diplomacy (yp01)

by Pete Doubleday

Well, nobody paid any attention to it in the first place, so why not try it again, I asked myself? I’ve also just now out of spare copies of Thing 25, so this is as good an opportunity as any to give it another whirl. (That’s where it first appeared, dummy….)

OK, as originally advertised, this game is meant to heal the breach between FRP and Diplomacy Hobbies. Now that,with a little help from my frog, I seem to have contributed even further to this breach by setting up a serious Zine Poll instead of the farce that poor RJW ended up with through no fault of his own other that soft-heartedness, I suppose I had better do something about it. So, publicity please, maestro, and he we go:

The first thing to note is that it is played on the normal board. We don’t want to make it too difficult for these junior types, do we? The main difference between ULD and standard Diplomacy is that press is incorporated into the game itself as a central game mechanism.

How is this miracle wrought, you may well ask, unless you want your head kicked in for not paying attention? It’s very simple. Actual militarist endeavor, being as any trendy pinko-type FRP fan knows a dangerous retrograde practice leading to the shedding of blood, nineteen-year-old acne and inadvertent human ivory netsuke, is an element of standard Diplomacy which should be weeded our as Unsound, not to say naughty. What to replace it with? Fresh from my enlightening experiences at King’s, I would envision the armies of the future standing on a battlefield and trading intellectual arguments at each other – thus the sub-title, “War is Hegel”. As the astute Marxist-Leninist (claret-swilling branch) will know, Hegel’s basic, indeed only, thesis is that history is a series of dialectical oppositions between ideational systems which synthesize to produce a new system, soon enough opposed by the next wave of the future. Now, the way this applies to a board game is quite staggeringly simple. Ready? Upright again? The thins is, young Friedrich believed, and I’m not saying I agree with him but for the purposes of the game I say as well, that every ideational system is embodied in a nation state. In this case, the seven nation states which comprise the standard Diplomacy mob. I’m not just asking you to role-play philosophies here, I’m asking for entire countries! You should see ULD as a game with the scope of Hypereconomic Diplomacy – all human life is here – the complexity of Hypereconomic Diplomacy – you could profitably spend a lifetime of deep contemplation on each move – and the unplayability of, er, Hypereconomic Diplomacy. But the advantage is that it only takes seven players to get it going.

The mechanisms of play are very simple in theory but hell to describe. Clearly, each nation must have a basic philosophy of some sort (you can’t have shapeless ideational systems; Mothercare wouldn’t stock them, because they wouldn’t sell). The main problem is that for a proper exchange of views you need a sequential system, whereas Diplomacy is essentially a parallel process. The only way I could see around this is to have arguments posed at the end of a turn, after movement, and counter-arguments posed before the subsequent turn, which is therefore consequent upon the success or failure of the counter-argument. Let’s have a go at setting up the rules for this:

0) The normal rules of Diplomacy apply (1971 rulebook and house rules) except as modified or superseded below.

1) The Winter 1900 season, to be published in the zine, will consist of a short statement (a paragraph will do) of national philosophy by each of the players. This may be as basic, as intellectual, as silly as the player wishes. Pictures are welcome.

2) This philosophy will determine the outcome of future conflicts until such time as it is superseded by a further statement of philosophy.

3) In a conflict involving one unit of either side, whether this be over an unoccupied space or one which is occupied by either unit or by another unit, the outcome will be determined by rule 5.

4) No supports as detailed in the rulebook are permissible. Should a player now wish to support a unit to stand, he must submit an argument based on his national philosophy which justifies its remaining in that area (one argument only is required, irrespective of the number of units giving support). Similarly, should a player wish to support a unit to move into another area, the supporting units must provide philosophical justification for this action. Support from units of another player requires a justification of their action in terms of their own philosophy. The GM will decide whether justifications are acceptable, and then apply the normal rules for support as in the rulebook.

5) Any unit, whether ordered to stand or to move, which the player believes may come into conflict with the unit of another power or powers should be given an argument to deliver as it stands or moves. The other player(s) involved must then submit a counter-argument with their moves of next season, the conflict to be resolved according to rule 7 before the moves of the next season are adjudicated. In the course of such a resolution the victor moves in (if applicable) and the vanquished retreats (if applicable).

6) Convoys using fleets of different nations are admissible only when the convoying fleet submits a justification for convoying the army of the other power.

7) The GM is the supreme arbiter of which arguments beat which other arguments, which arguments are acceptable under the national philosophy and which arguments permit support or convoying. Note, however, that any evidence that players have actually co-operated in setting up their arguments by prior communication with each other will be regarded favorably by the GM.

8) Units of the same nation never disagree with each other. Units not given an argument are automatically vanquished if attacked. Only one line of argument is allowed per unit.

9) A player may change his statement of philosophy at any Winter season, at his own request or at that of the GM. The GM reserves the right to refuse him use of his new philosophy and insist that he carries on with the previous one, although this rule will only be applied in spectacularly silly cases.

10) Arguments may use logic, spurious statistics, crudity, humor, art work, or anything else the player considers appropriate.

11) The GM is allowed to change the hyper-philosophy under which the game is played at any time, with prior notice given to the players.