1972 – A Year in Diplomacy

by Hartley Patterson

1972 started with only four active European Diplomacy zines in operation. Albion had been first into the field in 1969; originally a Diplomacy zine, it had moved into board wargaming and adult games in general, Diplomacy games being relegated to a subzine CourierWar Bulletin, after some nine months with Dave Berg as editor, had fallen into my hands in the summer of 1971. It struggled on as a two pager carrying only one game (1971BU, recently concluded), but by Jan 1972 a comeback was being staged with 1971DS and the renowned, 1971Uct, the Hannibal game. In Belgium, Michel Feron was in the process of reactivating Moeshoeshoe, which after running one game had ceased publication. Michel Liesnard’s On Les Aura! with its Youngstown Variant game was soon to disappear, the game being transferred to Moeshoeshoe.

Looking back at WB 25, the January issue, I find the first signs of what was to come. “Ethil the Frog (Piggott & Haven) reportedly is about to start a game.” For this was to be the boom year in British Diplomacy, the year when it all happened! As it turned out the only influence Will Haven had on Ethil was in suggesting the name, John Piggott deciding to publish on his own. Ethil was soon recruiting players outside the WB / Albion circles, and with Ian Maule duplicating in coloured foolscap from Newcastle the zine was soon establishing its independence.

In WB 26 (Feb), apart from the scandal of the missing Russian build, I see I was announcing the first edition of Niflheim and wondering whether some kind of Diplomacy Organisation would be welcomed. XL, the zine covering Colin Hemming’s game of Diplomyopia, was at last starting publication: renowned for its covers portraying well known cartoon characters. XL later started the first game of Liesnard & Macedoni’s air force variant LIMA, and recently acquired a Monochrome Supplement with Jeff Oliver, another of the Manchester FTF group, GMing regular games. WB 27 noted the start of Les Dossiers De L’Hyene Harra, Michel Liesnard’s genzine which printed out the map and rules for a number of variants. Dick Vedder was giving advice on how to play Diadochi, and in the small print on the back Hannibal made his first appearance.

WB 29 (April) produced a bombshell in the form of the British Diplomacy Club, which had just been announced in Albion. The original advert in Albion contained some unfortunate phrases (“co-ordinating all Diplomacy games in the UK” or some such) which led WB intrepid editor to descend on the BDC’s organiser, one Graeme Levin, to investigate. Mr Levin was found in the throes of launching his glossy magazine Games & Puzzles on an unsuspecting public, and the BDC was to tie up with this. Don Tumbull of Albion was writing a Diplomacy series in the magazine and was to GM games sponsored by the BDC for its members, Levin would publicise the BDC in G&P and produce a regular newsletter. Existing Postal players were generously offered free membership for the first year, though most in fact ignored the whole affair. John Piggott later advanced his own criticisms of the BDC in Ethil, which were received with similar disinterest, so the subject was dropped by the fanzines.

WB 31 (May) announced the next new zine, Graham Jeffery’s Der Krieg, with the usual regular / variant mixture. A standard pattern for zines was appearing: subscription + small game fee, “winter” adjustments taken with autumn moves, etc. though iconoclasts like Hemming & Turnbull continued to offer alternatives to this. WB 31 also had the ChessmanCon photos of course, with my Instamatic capturing some of the Masters of European Diplomacy for posterity. 4OOOAD was by now under discussion in WB – a game eventually started in WB 34 and the inventor of the game turned up in WB 38. Other games were being tried postally – Origins of WWII in Courier and Strategy 1 in Will Haven’s zine Bellicus – but all seemed likely to remain of minority interest.

In July Science Fiction fans convened in Trieste for the first European SF Congress. With Feron, Liesnard and myself present some Diplomacy activity was inevitable, and an evening was spend attempting to teach fans of various nationalities the rudiments of the game. Feron was collecting names and addresses and later sent a special issue of Moeshoeshoe to all concerned. In August I was up in Manchester visiting Colin Hemming, and in September Bilbo Baggins’ Birthday and the descent of various Tolkien fans on “Finches” was a good excuse for throwing a Diplomacy party as well. The result exceeded my wildest nightmares – Scots arriving by mini-bus; Belgians by aircraft , and a 36 hour event in which eight GMs and a number of players participated.

WB 35 noted the forthcoming appearance of Richard Walkerdine’s Mad Policy, while a BDC game was just starting: Don Turnbull was GMing all the rest, and BDC membership was over the 100. Hannibal had stolen a Tardis and was in communication with a game of “Third Age” in Ethil – he had also started making guest appearances in various other zines. In WB 39 a regular London games meeting was announced which, after a shaky start, soon gained a regular clientele of games addicts, with several Diplomacy games every Sunday in the basement room of a hotel. This was another branch of the G&P complex, which also issued a weekly newsheet.

The list of zines received (WB 39) shows that trading with the USA had begun to increase beyond the standard few – this is true of most UK zines. Such international contacts are naturally to be welcomed; though what influence they will have remains to be seen – I would guess though that Europeans will continue to influence each other far more. Brian Yare’s Grafeti, the newest Dippyzine which squeezed in its first two issues before the end of the year, seems set to follow the now established pattern, Brian did however promise some novelties – reports of FtF games were to be a regular feature.

So what of 1973? Some events may be safely predicted: more Dippyzines will be started, more players will join games and the hobby will generally expand. There are still plenty of untapped sources of players – Colleges and Universities, a number of which seem to have FTF groups already; Minature Wargamers have not se far been approached.

One unpredictable factor is the BDC. It is undeniable that GAMES & PUZZLES is becoming a catalyst for what may well be an “adult games. explosion” in Britain – those who take the “Sunday Times” will have seen the spread they gave in the Christmas Eve issue to adult games …. the Diplomacy rules were described as “very complex”, and similiar discouraging descriptions were given to two of the simpler Avalon-Hill games. Still, there was plenty of hard information as well. No doubt Diplomacy will be carried along with the-bandwagon.

Reprinted from War Bulletin No. 41 (Jan 1973)