by Randy Davis (1991)
The idea in Winter 1898 is to play Diplomacy on the regular board, with all the regular rules, except each Power starts the game in Winter 1898 with only one unit and one center. The other home centers would have to be taken first before that Power could build there. The first game year is 1899, so that home centers could be easily taken for play beginning in Spring 1901 as usual. By Winter 1900, there would be a vast array of new openings. It be impossible for a Power to lose a center in 1899, while most Powers would be growing to four centers by the end of 1900.
Here are the starting positions:
Austria start with A Trieste. This allows for the possibility of a fleet build in Winter 1898, while stress with Italy isn’t bad because she starts with A Naples. The first build should almost certainly be an army, though, allowing the taking of a leftover home center and Serbia in 1900. Certainly smart to ally with Italy at first.
England begins with F Edinburgh, thus being the only Power to begin with a fleet. Of course, this is a necessity for England. Edinburgh was chosen for the reason that it gives England good options without putting too much pressure on France, starting with A Brest. Taking Liverpool first may be smart, so as not to threaten Brest, though taking London puts two fleets on the North Sea and perhaps two on Norway (if necessary). First build should clearly be a fleet.
France has A Brest in the beginning because she needs the possibility of a fleet build against England after the first year. Starting A Paris means that she must attack Germany. Also, England is a bigger threat than Italy, making Brest a better starting place than Marseilles. Mar is a better first take and Par, though, since Spring 1900 A Mar-Bur allows a either a bounce with Germany/Spain in the fall combination, or the taking of Paris/Belgium. First French build should depend on allies, but a fleet seems most likely.
Germany starts with A Kiel. This allows for a possible fleet with more options than if built in Berlin. Also keeps distance from Russia, who’ll probably need all the help possible in this variant. Germany should likely take Munich first, to give her more Spring 1900 options. First build dependant on allies, as with France, but should probably lean towards a fleet.
Italy begins with a unexpectedly strong position at A Naples. She is unlikely to be attacked early except by Austria (who’d want to ally) but is also in a good position to mess with Austria if desired. The A Naples allows for a fleet build with better options than from Rome. As for starting in Venice, well I just don’t think A/I need the stress in the early going. Alliance with Austria would yield mega fleets, while Italy could become a major land power by attacking Austria.
Russia starts with A St. Petersburg. This gives Russia the option of a fleet in Winter 1899, whereas beginning in Sev would be just too anti-Turkish. It certainly doesn’t mean Russia should or would attack E/G, although that would be an option. Sevastopol cam be taken in the first year, allowing an anti-Turk fleet by Winter 1900. Russia’s disadvantage against Turkey is the main reason for starting Turkey at A Smyrna. In this variant Russia clearly goes from strongest to weakest in the beginning, but definitely has an enjoyable position. With good diplomacy, Russia should do well. It has the option of becoming more quickly involved in the West. First build could go any of three ways, with Sev being the probable first take.
Turkey gets A Smyrna in the beginning to help Russia defensively. Ankara would likely be the first take, followed by Constantinople in 1900. She should probably build F Smyrna first, though an army would be useful to move into Balkan territory in the early game.
This variant could go many different ways from the usual Diplomacy game. Here are two different possible opening situations, with certain seasons combined with conditionals (this would speed the early game up when run by mail):
Spring/Fall 1899: AUS A Tri-Bud-H, ENG F Edi-Yor-Lon, FRA A Bre-Par-H, GER A Kie-Mun-H, ITA A Nap-Rom-H, RUS A Stp-Mos-Sev, TUR A Smy-Ank-H.
Winter 1899/Spring 1900: AUS +A Tri, A Tri-Ven, A Bud-Vie, ENG +F Edi, F Lon-Wal, F Edi-Nth, FRA +F Bre, A Par-Gas, F Bre-Mid, GER +F Kie, A Mun-Ber, F Kie-Den, ITA +F Nap, A Rom-Ven, F Nap-Ion, RUS +A Stp, A Sev-Ukr A Stp-Mos, TUR +F Smy, A Ank-Con, F Smy-Aeg.
Fall 1899: AUS A Vie H, A Tri-Ser, ENG F Wal-Lvp, F Nth-Bel, FRA F Mid-Por, A Gas-Spa, GER F Den H, A Ber H, ITA A Rom-Ven, F Ion-Tun, RUS A Ukr-War, A Mos H, TUR F Aeg-Gre, A Con H.
Winter 1899: AUS +A Tri, A Bud, ENG +F Lon, F Edi, FRA +F Bre, A Par, GER +A Kie, A Mun, ITA +F Nap, F Rom, RUS +A Sev, F Stp (nc), TUR +F Smy, A Ank.
Spring/Fall 1899: AUS A Tri-Bud-H, ENG F Edi-Yor-Lon, FRA A Bre-Gas-Mar, GER A Kie-Ber-H, ITA A Nap-Rom-Ven, RUS A Stp-Mos-Sev, Tur A Smy-Ank-H
Winter 1899/Spring 1900: AUS +A Tri, A Tri-Ser, A Bud-Tri, ENG +F Edi, F Edi-Cly, F Lon-Eng, FRA +F Bre, F Bre-Mid, A Mar-Gas, GER +F Kie, F Kie-Hol, A Ber-Kie, ITA +F Nap, F Nap-Ion, A Ven-Tri, RUS +A Stp, A Stp-Mos, A Sev-Rum, TUR +F Smy, F Smy-Aeg, A Ank-Con.
Fall 1900: AUS A Bud-Tri, A Ser S Russian A Rum-Bul, ENG F Eng-Mid, F Cly-Lvp, FRA A Gas-Bre, F Mid-Por, GER F Hol-Nth, A Kie-Den, ITA A Ven-Rom, F Ion-Tun, RUS A Rum-Bul, A Mos H, TUR F Aeg-Gre, A Con-Bul.
Winter 1900: AUS +A Bud, ENG +F Edi, Fra +F Mar Ger +F Kie, ITA +A Ven, A nap, RUS +F Sev, A Stp, TUR +F Ank, F Smy.
As shown here, the game could go in many different directions. Going for two builds in 1900 isn’t necessarily the best plan. I think after these play tests, the starting positions are good. Russia and Turkey can still go at it or be best allies or maybe even leave each other along for a while. England can have problems, or be quite strong. It also seems that Italy could rise from the bottom of the barrel and be the strongest Power. Of course, they could take a beating if the others allied the right way.
The bottom line is that the variant injects even more options into the early game, and thus even more avenues for negotiating skills to be used.