A – Variant Descriptions

ABERRATION III (Rod Walker) ???/09

(1) GORDON McDONALD in AC-MONG 45 (April 1992).

A popular variant a few years back. This game is a 9 player: Burgundy, Byzantine Empire, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Poland, Sicily, Spain and Ukraine.
The map goes east into Iran and south as far as the Sahara with 54 supply centres and the victory criterion being 28 units on the board at any one time. Builds may be on any owned supply centre, providing you controls at least one home centre. There are also special spaces similar to off-board boxes found in some other variants and also a number of canals.
Each of the Great Powers is a nation which might have become a Great Power in history if things had turned out a little differently. This variant gives one the chance to play in a large variant without going as far as a giant such as Mercator and this design was voted higher in the 1988 Variant of the Year Poll.


Review: Mark Nelson, Beowulf 18 (September 1989).

A normal game of Diplomacy with a few extra rules similar to Vain Rats. Supply centres entered in a Spring turn become neutral, the Key Rule is used, there are three movement seasons before builds, variable strength units and a few other changes. Some nice ideas, but there are better variants around which use similar ideas.

ABSTRACTION II (Fred C. Davis Jnr)

(1) STEVE AGAR in Pigmy S1 (circa 1979)

This variant is a modified form of regular Diplomacy, the difference being that the various powers start off with one unit more than in regular Diplomacy — the number of provinces on the board is increased by about 30%. The expansion of the board includes the complete North African coastline. In this variant a new form of convoy is introduced, the A/F. A/F’s make for a faster and more fluid game — the dreaded stalemate lines of regular Dip can be avoided. The game is played in moves of one month, the first being July 1914.

(2) Pete Sullivan in C’Est Magnifique 55, July 1988.

Quite possibly the best-designed variant of all time. The basic scenario is the same — World War One Europe, seven Great Powers —- but the redesigned map and the Davis Army/Fleet rules (which allow fleets to carry armies `piggy-back’, for several turns if required) mean that you have a much more `open’ game, and a better balanced one than with Regular Diplomacy. The winter Frozen Regions rule is a right bind when you forget about it (as I did), and as for the exchange of provinces rule, has anyone ever used this in an actual game?

(3) JAMES NELSON in SPRINGY 45 (February 1991)

This is one of the best Diplomacy variants and is based on a slightly altered map. New provinces and new supply centres are added to make movement more fluid, remove stalemate lines and improve the positions of the weaker powers. The convoy rules are axed in favour of the revolutionary Army/Fleet rules which enable armies to ride piggy-back on fleets at sea.

This variant also produces a good, if not the best, two-player game based on the First World War. This idea is something I’m currently working on -six playtests have shown that there are some faults which I’m aiming to correct for an even better two-player game. However the current game is superior to that in the rule-book.

ACTIVE NEUTRALS (Robert Sacks) rb01/07

(1) MIGUEL LAMBOTTE in SOL 2 (October 1990)

At the beginning of the game every neutral centre is garrisoned by an army which is controlled by a major player.

AFRICA (Richard Egan)

(1) Mark Nelson in Beowulf 18, September 1989.

One of the best new variants in recent years. Basically a simple variant which recreates superpower politics on the African continent in the 1960’s. The five powers use their influence to control different States and it’s possible to change which States you play by investing Influence Points. A game where a devious nature is required and where tactical skill and diplomacy are also required.

ALIEN’S DIPLOMACY (Lewis Pulsipher)

(1) ANDREW ENGLAND in Affairs of State (1988)

The world of the 21st century is the topic of this variant. The European map is used but the game is based upon various alien powers which invade Earth via “transmatters” which are used to “jump” units around the board and to bring on new units. This should provide for some weird possibilities.


(1) ANDREW ENGLAND in Affairs of State (1988)

The rules are the same as regular diplomacy except that at the beginning the players are assigned three centres at random. What this means is that negotiations are hectic and of paramount importance; “the ultimate in messy negotiations” as players struggle to create a little knot from which to expand. Good fun. There are currently two games in progress in The Envoy.

ANARCHY V (Jeremy Tullett)

(1) Mark Nelson in Beowulf 18, September 1989.

A game played on the regular Dip map with between 2 and 34 players. Each player receives 34/n supply centres at the start of the game which are determined randomly such that none of his starting centres are within three moves of another one. For instance, a player might be given Con, StP and Lpl! Thus the starting units are mixed up, an attempt to encourage diplomacy between all players in the game.


(1) Robert Sacks in Lord of Hosts 5, June 1975.

Rules originally published in Impassable 3rd Anniversary issue. John Boyer has done a beautiful job of cutting up and flattening a sphere. A game for five or seven players, each player begins with a fleet in a fortified center; which has an intrinsic defence of one unit. One may build fleets in any center, but armies may only be built in fortified centers. There is also a name box between spaces 2,3,10,11,12 and 14 which I suppose is impassable, but I suggest that it should be omitted and boundaries extended to fill it in, by absorbing it into space 12. Good and solid.

(2) STEVE AGAR in V&U 4 (September 1980)

This is a small world variant (units can move off one side of the map and reappear on the other side) set in an invented geographical scenario, the only familiar aspect of which is that the name of ancient empires (Rome, Carthage, Athens etc) are used for home centres. It’s a small game as there are only 17 centers, 9 of which are required for victory. As it only takes five players it could prove to be okay for small FTF meetings.

ANCIENT EMPIRES III (John Lipscomb) ac/07

(1) GORDON McDONALD in AC-MONG 41 (December 1991)

Originally designed by John Lipscomb with map supplied by Fred C. Davis Jnr. The game starts in 300BC although it is stated that for historical accuracy the start date should be 246BC, the beginning of the First Punic War. One can see some similarities in the map with `The Conquerors’ (qv), although map quality isn’t as good. Some historical licence has been used in creating the seven powers that play a part in the game; Carthage, New Carthage, Rome, Macedonia, Ptolemy (Egypt), Antigonus and Seleucus (Persia).

There are differences in some of the basic moves such as a unit being dislodged if attacked when it is attempting to move and the ability of friendly forces to exchange provinces by moving through each other etc.

Optional rules are also available, bringing Barbarians into play in Gaul, Danubia and Scythia (running from Brittany to the Crimea) and/or a Winter 301BC season so that players can alter their initial unit deployment. Again, Rome is on a par with the rest.

APPOSITION (Paul Willey) sg08/05

(1) Mark Nelson in Beowulf 18, September 1989.

A neat five-player space variant. As the planets move around the sun their relative positions change and so the location of one’s home supply centres move relative to the other players’. The fifth player is an alien who enters the top of the board and tries to sweep all before him; it isn’t able to communicate with the other players except through the press.

(2) Steve Agar and James Nelson in Spring Offensive 19, January 1994.

This is not only a very simple variant but it is also a very elegant one as well. Four of the players represent each of the four life supporting planets in our solar system (Earth, Mars, Venus & Mercury) and the fifth player represents an invading alien force whose units have a strength of 1X ((2X? or 1.5X? MN)). The four planetary powers do not know the identity of the alien player and vice versa, effectively limiting the alien to press releases as a means of diploming. What makes this variant so beautiful is that the four planetary systems (which comprise of three home centers and two non-centres on the home planet, a neutral centre and six `space’ provinces) rotate around the solar system, effectively changing places with each other. This adds an extra dimension to the tactics of the game as an astute player will be able to slip units behind enemy lines.

ATLANTICA III (Fred Davis Jnr)

(1) Pete Sullivan in C’Est Magnifique 55, July 1988.

Map centered on the Atlantic Ocean, which means that Army/Fleet rules are a must. Noticeable for its assumptions that the South won the Civil War, with both the United States and the Confederate States as Great Powers. But what makes the game for me are the rules for `discovering’ Atlantis (an additional neutral supply centre) in one of the six possible locations in the middle of the Atlantic. A game I’d like to see tried again in the British postal hobby.

(2) Bill O’Neil in Moonlighting 9, June 1980.

This is primarily a map change variant. Allan Calhamer has said that Diplomacy itself was inspired by a thesis on the importance of `strategic zones’, which could best be dominated by *either* sea or land forces.

The game’s aim was that the `importance’ of the two zones should be roughly equal and that powers relying on only one zone would find it difficult to win. In Diplomacy there is a central land mass with sea areas around the edge. In Atlantica there is a `central’ ocean with land at the edges. Both games have problems with the `real-world’ maps they have to use.

Atlantica has Canada, USA and the Confederacy in the west, all of which are coastal; and England, France, Germany and Italy in the east. The problem here is that Germany and Italy are cut off from the Atlantic by England and France. The map tries to alleviate this by using wrap-around boxes joined to a few areas on each edge, (Suez, Siberia, Panama and Alaska). I feel these are too slow for opening moves. By the time you have gotten to the other side of the board, you will be left behind in the grab for neutrals.

This restricts east-west relations in Europe. If the western power refuses to let an eastern power out into the Atlantic then the eastern power *must* attack it, (each power gets a fresh `high seas fleet’ mortgaged to one of the neutrals, and through placement of this is restricted, it can help with a break-out). If the western power *does* allow a corridor, it becomes highly vulnerable to a stab from the east.

To balance the enhanced sea-zone, Abstraction (A/F) convoys are used instead of the normal `multiple fast ferry’. The chrome includes `frozen polar regions’ and `the lost centre of Atlantis’. All together a good and fun variant!

(3) STEVE AGAR in Spring Offensive 8 (January 1993)

A transatlantic variant with the various powers on each side of the Atlantic fighting each other for dominance. Atlantica III is a seven player variant with England, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, USA and Confederates, while Atlantic IV adds an eighth player — Mexico. Atlantica also uses Fred’s A/F rules to allow players to cross the oceans quickly.

(4) Nicholas Whyte on rec.games.diplomacy 13th January 1994.

Bill O’Neill has established some of the reasons why this is not as good a variant as it looks. I think he is actually wrong about Italy, which can break out with some difficulty through Africa, but he is right about Germany; the same problem affects Canada, which has no real route to the Atlantic except through the US. The US and Canada are horribly mixed up with each other anyway, loads of home centres bordering on each other, and the American side of the map is generally a mess. The worst of all is the horrendous interaction between the “Bay of Fundy” and “Gaspe” spaces, which imprison about five others, mostly supply centres, between them; the smaller sea spaces along the American sea-board, apart from the Bay of Fundy, are completely useless for almost any purpose, as are several of the new ones bordering Europe and Africa; and the Atlantis rule is just plain silly (not that that’s a great disadvantage!). It doesn’t suffer as badly from stalemate lines as Youngstown, but that is the main point in its favour.