by Stephen Agar
The history of how Diplomacy came to be published is fairly well-known. In 1961, Games Research acquired the rights to Diplomacy and brought about the first widespread release of the game. The box was redesigned, but the map and the rules used were the same as Calhamer’s 1959 version. However, in the course of the 1960’s many ambiguities and problems were discovered with the rules – mainly as a result of the explosion of PBM Diplomacy in the USA. Consequently, postal GMs had to have quite long house rules detailing how they rules on these ambiguities – and as different GMs had different views this led to a degree of divergence in how Diplomacy was actually played.
For those of us who started playing Diplomacy after the major rules revision in 1971, it can be quite surprising to find out how it was played in the 1960’s. Indeed, I have a whole A4 folder full of excerpts from US zines in the 60’s discussing various house rules issues. For example, Brobdingnag No.84 had an article some 26(!) pages long commenting on the various issues on which leading US GMs interpreted the rules differently. The various different interpretations were named after their originator (e.g. Koning’s Rule, Boardman’s Rule, Beshara’s Rule etc.).
During the summer of 1970 two different draft revisions were prepared – one by Rod Walker (publisher of Erehwon) and another by Stephen Manion (a Harvard student commissioned by Games Research Inc.). In the autumn Rod combined the two different drafts into a working draft, which Stephen Manion then refined into a final draft over Christmas 1970. All of this was done taking on board suggestions from Allan Calhamer. The rules finally appeared at the end of 1971. Whereas the 1961 rulebook ran to 8 pages, the 1971 edition was 11 pages long. Once it appeared in the US, it was quickly adopted in the UK.
The new rules were more detailed and a lot clearer than the 1961 version – so what were the areas of uncertainty and what was decided?
· It was finally settled that a dislodged unit attempting to move could not stand-off another unit (Koning’s Rule adopted).
· A dislodged unit cannot give a valid support (Miller’s Rule adopted, Boardman’s Rule (which said the converse) not followed even though it was preferred by Rod Walker).
· A convoyed attack does not cut the support for an attack on the body of water containing the convoying fleet (Brannan’s Rule adopted).
· The convoy of an army with two or more possible convoy routes will fail if any of the convoys is disrupted (e.g. F(NTH) C A(Bel)-Lon*; F(ENG) C A(Bel)-Lon; A(Bel)-Lon; F(Nwy) S F(Den)-NTH).
· If two units try to retreat to the same space, neither succeeds and they are removed. Allan Calhamer preferred giving the player’s a second chance to retreat elsewhere, but the postal GMs didn’t like the idea as it would delay the game.
· Support in Split Provinces: The new rules clarified that (for example) a F(Mar) can support an action anywhere in Spain, even though it could only move to Spa sc itself.
· Retreats: Players were now allowed to abandon a unit rather than retreating it (called by many the “fast retreat home”). This was included largely to help out the PBM GM’s who didn’t know what to do when no legal retreat was ordered. Until then various US zines had various rules for bringing about automatic retreats.
· Exchange of Spaces; This was permitted (a) where three or moves pieces were involved (e.g. F(AEG)-Smy; F(Smy)-EMS; F(EMS)-AEG) or (b) where convoys were used (e.g. F(NTH) C A(Bel)-Lon; F(ENG) C A(Lon)-Bel). However, the coastal crawl (F(Spa)sc-Por; F(Por)-Spa nc) was not allowed (contrary to the practice of most US GMs).
· The Beleagured Garrison rule was adopted: namely a unit attacked from superior but equal forces from two sides was not dislodged.
· Victory: The original rules stated that the winner was the first to have a majority of the pieces on the board. This was altered to the first player to control 18 supply centres – a very unpopular decision with US GM’s at the time (including Rod Walker).