G – Variant Descriptions

THE GAME OF THE CLANS II By Wayne Hoheisel and Stephen Agar

(1) GORDON McDONALD in AC-MONG 39 (June 1991)

There is some confusion as to how many versions of the game there are. This variant uses a map of Scotland and northern England with eight powers: England, Campbell, Frazer, Gordon, Graham, Keith, McDonald? (rather than MacDonald) and McLeod? (rather than MacLeod). In the game the clan territory is fairly intermixed and it seems that clans having their centres closer together have a slight advantage over the others.

Other factors include the army/fleet rule for England with the Clans making do with `boat-bunches’. This interesting variant starts in Spring 1491, before Flodden and when Scotland was still a power, perhaps explaining why the Royal House of Stewart has six centres? 69 centres on the map with a win achieved by having 36 or 35 units on the board after a winner season, making it look like a long game. England is eliminated once it loses all its original home centres. As to historical accuracy I’m not sure, I wouldn’t have thought that the clans Frazer, Keith and MacLeod would have compared with the others in strength and power. Maybe I’m wrong!

GAIN (Mike Benyon) ??/07 Don’t Shoot Me! 8 (September 1982)

(1) MARK NELSON (6-6-92)

A simple rule-change variant using the regular board. At the start of the game each player is randomly allocated a power and starts with $x cash where x is four if you have Russia and 3 for everyone else. At the end of each year you gain $1 for each sc gained and lose $1 for each sc lost. You are then allocated another power. $18 to win the game and you are eliminated if your credit goes down to zero.


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

A slightly silly rule change variant by Jeremy Maiden and refined by Keith Black, this variant allows players to alter the physical characteristics of the regular board as the game progresses. Turn Moscow into a huge lake, raise the English Channel above sea level and invade England etc. etc.


Rules originally published in Runestone 72.

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

A game for between four and eight players, vaguely reminiscent of Excalibur. Two players, the Norse and the Danes, begin with three off-board centers which disappear at the rate of one per year and may build either off-board or in any on-board center they own. Fleets may change to armies whenever they are in a coastal province. The Temes (Thames) is navigable one province in, so that there are two provinces which border by water but not by land. In the four and five player versions, the Northern and Southern Angles stand in CD, supporting each other. There is the Great Army which wanders around the board randomly; it starts as a Triple Army but loses one factor of strength every time it is dislodged, spends a Winter in a non-center province or the same center as the previous Winter; it only temporarily controls a center and the previous owner of the center (to whom it reverts) may bribe it to winter in some other player’s center the following year by foregoing an additional center. I heartily endorse someone play(test)ing this game.

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

A historical variant set in England in 865AD, it has eight powers: Norse, Danes, Picts, Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia and Wessex. As in Excalibur (qv), the Norse and Danes invade from the edge of the map. An interesting idea is “The Great Army”, this is a 3A which is not controlled by anyone; it moves around England raising any supply centres that get in the way. 7, 6, 5, and 4 player versions are included in the rules.


(1) REVIEW: Iain Murray in Ac Mong 31, June 1990.

I believe that in this game the centre powers (Mercia and East English) have no real chance and the same may prove to be true of Northumbria. The Great Army only adds to this problem. Even Wessex may go under if attacked by a Danish-Norse alliance; the same could be true of the Picts, to a lesser extent. There also appears to be too much of a bottleneck around Hadrian’s Wall, leading to problems for Pictish expansion. To give themselves any chances the four English powers would have to sew up a very tight alliance, dividing up the spare mainland supply centres, and building fleets early on, so driving the Norse and Danes from the sea, causing them to be `dissuaded’, and then fight it out amongst themselves and the Picts, who I think, would profit heavily from the seas being free of Vikings. Even if this were to be done, the Mercians and East English would find that opportunities for expansion were far fewer for them than for the Northumbrians and West Saxons. All in all, the map (especially the distribution of supply centres) needs a serious re-think in the light of a couple of playtest games.

(2) COMMENT: Gordon McDonald in Ac Mong 31, June 1990.

The bottleneck problem with the area around Hadrian’s Wall applied to 1066 I and most likely to Excalibur as well. The problem is the shape of the British Isles. However, direct passage across places such as the Solway Firth and the Bristol Channel is something that could be looked at in the future. After all this idea is quite common in Diplomacy and Diplomacy variants, indeed Hadrian’s Wall didn’t end at the edge of the Solway Firth, but continued to on to Bowness, some way along it with a number of towers along the Cumberland coast which suggests passage across the Firth was quite common. Although there is probable a need for more provinces in this area as well. As regards Mercia; an extra unit like Russia has in regular Dip? Indeed, there are many options.

GIGATON BOMB (Leonard Miyata).

(1) Robert Sacks in Lord of Hosts 1, November 1974.

Each power starts with as many bombs as home supply centers, and each bomb may be used to destroy units, centers and provinces and disrupt bodies of water. There is little sense in a game where you can erect impassable dead-zones across the board or set fire to the map-board or your opponents (perhaps it was designed as a social comment?).

THE GREAT YEARS (Kedge Neuman) ??/06 Chimaera ??? (1976)

(1) STEVE AGAR in ??? circa September 1990

A Lord of The Rings variant for six players (Mordor, Gondor, Rohan, Elves, Dwarves and Men & Hobbits). There are also personalities which can inspire their units to greater things — while Aragorn and Gandalf move by player vote and can inspire anyone. Unlike other LoTR variants which have a hidden ring piece all players know the location of the ring — in the Shire. The fleet problem that dogs the essentially land-locked map of Middle Earth is overcome in this variant by the use of boat-bunches (as in Game of the Clans). A postal game was run in Richard Bartle’s SAUCE of the NILE.



This is exactly like regular Diplomacy, except that the identity of the players is known only to the GM. Thus there is no negotiation. For this reason, a Gunboat game can offer a break from the letter-in-letter-out grind of correspondence and can also give a chance to sharpen your tactical ability without confusing you with a lot of lies from the other players. Generally, Gunboat games still carry press so it is often possible to figure out who’s in the game if you’re familiar with the press-styles of various people. But if you keep your mouth shut, who’s to know? This is probably the most common type of variant offered.

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

This has several different versions, but in all versions the players are anonymous. Some versions allow diplomacy via the press, but even then there can be differences! For example, in one versions there is `black press’, where anyone can write press for any country! Try working out who is saying what in that version!! This variant has been very popular in recent years because the players have to do no work except mailing orders to the GM.


(1) Fred C. Davis Jnr in DIPLOMACY WORLD 66 (Spring 1992)

This variant is based on a characteristic of an old board game called “Gusher”, in which players bid for the right to drill for oil on certain properties. Highest bidder got to buy the property. He would then set up a device called a “drill” on a hole on the property (the hole was already on the board, of course), and plunge a built-in plunger down. There were jigsaw-type pieces of wood inside the gameboard, which were scattered about by shaking the board before the game began. If the plunger hit one of these pieces, he had a dry hole. If the plunger went all the way to the bottom, he had a gusher. Each producing well paid, I think, $50,000 each turn. The more producing wells you had, the more money you could afford to pay for future pieces of property. Eventually, the big guys drove the little guys into bankruptcy.

Instead of a drill, Gusher Diplomacy uses either a deck of cards or a special number system to determine the value of each supply center. Instead of an “all or nothing” system, I’ve devised a way of allowing a center to be worth from 0 to 3 supply sources. These have names from Zero Centers (Z) to Triple Centers (T). Whenever a player occupies any supply center other than a Great Power capital, he will never know how much it is going to be worth until the GM performs certain card draws or calculations. This will add an element of chance to a Diplomacy game which, if nothing else, ought to make things quite interesting. No two games will be the game.