An Intimate Affair

by Pete Swanson

November 1973 to November 1974 saw a phenomenon in Postal Diplomacy which even now causes grown men to visibly weaken at the knees. Not since the fake Moeshoeshoe or the emergence of Richard Sharp has such a wave of hysteria swept through the hobby. The Europeans were ecstatic as they basked in the glory of this new craze and the Americans grew frantic as they desperately tried to find out what the hell was going on. This is the story of the Rise and Fall of Intimate Diplomacy, the Scourge of Diplomacy variants. 

It all actually started before that fateful day in 1973. The idea for a game of Diplomacy for only two people has plagued all players since they first bought the game and Adrien Baird was no exception. While dusting his collection of antique trouser legs, he formulated the idea of a bidding system which could be used to gain control of the five mercenary countries left over once the two players had picked their own home countries. This was all well and good for Adrien; he was quite content to have a few games with some friends, and he kept this potential monster under lock and key – until… 

One day, Steve Doubleday invited Adrien over to watch him eat. During a lull in the chewing, Adrien explained his idea for a two-player game to Steve, who was sufficiently impressed to push his plate to one side for long enough to have a game. When Adrien left, Steve resumed eating, but in the back of his brain he was developing a game. Finally, he decided he could not keep this under his hat fork any longer and wrote an article about the game, including the rules, which was printed in the NGC organ Dolchstoss number XIV, which came out on the eight of November 1973. 

Now under ordinary conditions, as with most innovations of this nature, it would have been received with little enthusiasm from the player community. However, it was at this stage that Steve Wyatt, the true culprit, arrived on the scene. Wyatt has at least two black marks to his name, and when the day of judgement arrives, he’ll be the first to suffer at the hands of the Great Diplomatist down below. the first unforgivable sin was to publicise Adrien Baird’s unfortunate fetish, a cruel mock of an afflicted person. the second was to actually offer free games of postal Intimate Diplomacy. 

Such a rash step was not undertaken without great preparation and thought by Steve. he had played a game against Richard Scott, organised through Richard’s zine Fifth Column, which until then had been the only other form of publicity for the new game. Finally, a few of Steve’s fellow players in Dippy games received the first issue of a photocopied mini-zine from Steve, entitled Orion. Steve intended to run about three or four informal games, and the first issue of Orion carried three gamestarts. The second issue started four more, the third had another six. You see, Diplomacy players had found the perfect, cheap outlet for their personal revenge. Challenges to play Intimate Diplomacy flashed back and fourth in the post, and once the games started, some of the best insulting press ever swamped Orion, the battle not being confined to the board. The new zine was elevated to dizzy heights in the hierarchy of zines. Steve, who was on to a good thing, instituted the usual zine features: subscription rates, house rules, editorial, letter column etc. Orion became one of the most interesting zines around; many people submitted articles investigating the game, suggesting rule revisions, and even totally new games based on the original version. After much discussion, some rules were revised, although these mostly concerned the problems of postal play. Everything was rosy. Steve Wyatt’s meteoric rise to fame had to have some adverse consequences – not even Gerald Ford had had such a smooth ride. Anyway, Steve dropped out… 

It was about November 1974 that Orion No.14 came out, carrying 24 games, and Steve’s regretful decision to restrict publication of Orion. We never saw another issue. Of course, we still saw Intimate Diplomacy. The NGC started its own zine for that purpose, Betelgeuse, but with game fees and deposits, very few games got going and its editor, Greg Hawes, soon abandoned the project to run the mainstream Diplomacy zine Turn of the Screw. There were occasional challenges run in other zines as well, but after the ease and simplicity of Orion, well, the game fell into the inevitable chasm filled with other “boring variants”. Orion’s orphans lay abandoned. 

Meanwhile across the Atlantic, during that same summer when Intimate was at its height, it won the Calhammer Award for the Best Variant, and Orion won the variant zine award. Amidst the horror and confusion when the Americans heard how the “upstart” Europeans had won their awards, certain questions were of course asked. One of them was “What the hell is Intimate Diplomacy?” By the time the Americans had figured what the damn thing was Orion was on its last legs, and we had pushed Intimate Diplomacy to the back of our minds. to this day, America is still not sure it even existed; could it be another von Metzke fake? 

So, what are the rules of this game, the one that put Baird off his trouser legs, put Doubleday off his food and sent Wyatt to Australia (where he still resides to this day)…

(taken from the 1975 IDA Diplomacy Handbook)