S – Variant Descriptions

SACRED RHINOCEROS II (Michael Liesnard).

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

Spotted by yours truly in the darker recesses of the UK Variant Bank, but not ever played in Britain. The idea is that each player has an allied African tribe. These each have one `tribal symbol’ unit (a `Sacred Rhinoceros’) in Africa which supplies an additional native Army for use in Europe. (Africa is totally separate from the ordinary board.) If a tribal symbol is dislodged and disbanded by the other tribes’ symbols, then `the Sacred Rhinoceros has lost his Horn’ and the associated army in Europe is destroyed. A nice `minimal change’ variant with scope for unusual play.

SATRAP (Bob Harris & Steve Dunn) ai01/08

(1) GORDON McDONALD in Ac-Mong 38 (May 1991)

A game set in Ancient Persia. The eight players represent the Great King of Persia and the Satraps of Arachosia, Armenia, Egypt, Lydia, Media, Sogdiana and Syria. What was a Satrap? A holder of provincial governorship.

The map goes as far West as Thrace, the Aegean, eastern Med and northern Egypt; as far south as Saudi Arabia, as far east as the Indus and north to the Black Sea and the Caspian. The map isn’t of good quality, but this can be easily rectified.

The game begins in 404BC and if the Great King manages to keep his army on the board until 397BC he wins. A Satrap wins if he has 15 pieces on the board at any time without relying on loans from the Great King. All players start with armies, the Great King having one army with the addition of a start garrison at Susa. Susa counts as four supply centres, one of which supplies the Great King’s army.

However, the Great King can only have one army on the board at any one time and so can use the three additional centres to supply loyal Satraps. If Susa is captured by a Satrap he can use it as a triple supply centre.

There is also a more complex version which allows for three loyal Satraps and four disloyal ones. The loyal Satraps have certain restrictions imposed on them and require the permission of the King to carry out some activities. Only the GM and the players concerned know if they play the part of a loyal Satrap.

Victory for Satraps is similar to those mentioned previously, although the Great King wins if no more than 8 centers are in the hands of the disloyal Satraps. There are also optional rules for both games where Greek Mercenaries can be used. The Satraps of Armenia, Egypt, Lydia and Syria may use them and these are represented by double armies which require two supply centres to maintain.

SCACCHOMACY (Dave Kadlecek).

(1) Robert Sacks, circa 1975.

Seven players on a chess board with chess pieces and chess moves, but with two types of players: Color (Black and White) and Men (Rook, Knight, Bishop, Queen, King). The two types have different victory conditions and different powers. The colors control the pawns and can only loan supply centers to the other players. However the colors can give order for the pieces of the Men players; in conflict the fewer such orders given, the more likely the Color’s orders have effect. The differing roles of the two types of players, the loaning of supply centers and the conflict of orders create an instant and important reason for having Diplomacy which merely having seven players wouldn’t guarantee. It might just be playable.

SCHEISSKOPF (James Fenamore Whyte).

Rules originally published in Janus 20

(1) Robert Sacks in Lord of Hosts 10, July 1976.


SCHEISSKOPF II (Donald Wileman).

Rules originally published in Der Fliegende Hollander Volume I: 6

(1) Robert Sacks in Lord of Hosts 12, February 1977.

Yet another unplayable hoax.

SCOTICE SCRIPTI II & III (Peter Combe) ??/08

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

On first looking at the historical background printed with these two variants I was slightly impressed. The designer seems to have done more than the average homework.

The game begins in 1015AD after Brian Boru has defeated the Danes of Dublin at Clontarf, in 1014, giving his life in the process. The eight powers are; Ulster under Maolrunuaidh of the Ui Nial, King of the Ulaidh with his capital at Emain, near Armagh; Leinster under Maoilsheachlainn II, son of Brian Boru, who had been elected Ard-Righ (High King) with his capital at Dind Rig (near Carlow-on-the-Barrow); Connact under Teige III of the White Steed, of the Ui Conor, with the capital at Roscommon; Munster, which at this time was actually divided between Teige, King of Thomod and Munster and Donal, King of Desmond; Kymru (or North Wales) under the nominal rule of Prince Conan II, although actually undergoing a Civil War; Scotland under King Malcolm II (capital Scone); England (capital Winchester) under King Ethelred II (the Unready) and Orkney, the Norse Earldom of the North, under Thorinn and also King of Man and the Isles.

With the map taking in all of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England west of the Pennines and north of Somerset there are effectively four powers on each part of the board and so, not surprisingly, the Irish Kingdoms of Meath and the remaining North Kingdoms at Waterford, Limerick, Wexford and elsewhere have been excluded.

In Scotice Scripti III more of the powers start with fleets, some of the supply centers have been changed, a few provinces have been added and the victory criterion is now 18 centers controlled in an Autumn season for any power other than the 17 for Irish powers or Kymru and 22 for the others as was the case in SS II. Some of the frills such as anchorages and fleet capture have also been removed. Both games use the Army/Fleet rules. A variant with a difference?

SCRAMBLE FOR AFRICA (David Watts) dc01/08

(1) STEVE AGAR in ??? circa September 1980

This game covers the partition of Africa between the European powers in the 1880’s, the players being England, France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Boer Republic & Germany. Optional army/fleet placement is used, while the SCs are sufficiently mixed up to provide a good opportunity for stabbing (re Game of Clans). The eight players do not start the game on a par with each other – England and France have four units each, while Belgium and the Boers have only two – however this imbalance is catered for in the SC distribution. This game is a new version of David’s 1975 variant, which excluded the Boers.

SEEING IS BELIEVING By Eric Brosius (rd21/07)

(1) FRED C. DAVIS Jnr in Bushwacker 207 (April 1989)

The heart of the rules are these: 1. When reporting the results of a move, the GM never reports the orders submitted, but only the resulting position. Players may disclose their orders to one another, but need not tell the truth.

2. After a Spring or Fall move, the GM lists all dislodged units, but does not list their legal retreat areas… If the retreat chosen is not legal, the dislodged unit is annihilated…

This variant gives players more latitude in negotiation. If a move fails, you may be able to deny making it. If my stab fails, you may not know, and I can try again later. See also Stab and Stab I


(1) Andrew Poole in Outposts 6, October 1981

First published in French in Vortigern 68, it was translated and published in Ode 21. After every two normal turns of a regular game (starting off with the standard map) + winter adjustments, there is an additional seismic events turn, in which provinces can be ordered to separate, connect or release, thus changing the board. Given time then Vienna can become an island in the Atlantic and England could gain a land frontier with Turkey. `Probably a very good fun variant with lots of scope.’

SHIFT LEFT (Josh Smith, 1992)

(1) JOSH SMITH (31/1/93) An amusing variant using the regular map with an altered initial setup: each country’s units are shifted one power to the left or right, starting with the same allocation of units as that of the player being replaced. That is, Austria starts with F(Lon), F(Edi) and A(Lpl), England starts with A(Ven), A(Rom) and F(Nap), Italy starts with A(War), A(Mos), F(StP,nc), F(Sev), and so on. At the start of the game, you own the centers your units start in, but you can only build in your `traditional’ centers. For example, Austria owns Lpl/Edi/Lon but can only build in Tri/Vie/Bud–which Austria does not yet control! Hence you, can’t build until you recapture at least one of your `proper’ supply centres. SHIFT RIGHT is the same game with shifts in the opposite direction.

SHIFT RIGHT (Josh Smith, 1992)

(1) MARK NELSON (26/1/93) See SHIFT LEFT for a basic description of the game. The starting positions for Shift-Right Diplomacy are as follows, where A -> B means “A’s units start in country B”:

Germany -> Turkey Turkey -> Germany Italy -> England England -> Austria Austria -> France France -> Russia Russia -> Italy

(Shift-Left Diplomacy shifts everyone in the opposite direction (Germany and Turkey still just trade); just reverse the arrows to see who starts where (or interpret A -> B as “B’s units start in country A”).)

SIBERIAN-IBERIAN (Paul Girsdansky).

Rules originally published in Magna Avis 1 & 2.

(1) Robert Sacks in Lord of Hosts 8, December 1975.

An Iberian player is added, the Caspian becomes navigable and Switzerland semi-passable, but fortified. Poor.

SLIGHTLY DEMIURGIC DIPLOMACY I (Nick Kinzett). (1) Pete Sullivan in C’Est Magnifique 55, July 1988.

A.k.a Revenge of the Master Rulechanger. Quite simply, a game in which the players can vote to change the rules. Each turn, each player proposes a rule change. These are then voted upon, and any that are passed by a majority vote become Rules of the Game until further altered or rescinded. A great deal of scope for mixing up rules from other variants, or just getting plain silly. Nick has yet to respond to my suggestion that we should do the voting by proper multi-member Single Transferable Vote…

SLIMAK’S RULE (L. Kevin S. Slimak).

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

Major rule: While a province with two coasts may have only one unit in it, each coast is a separate space for naval combat. Case a) Coastal Crawl allowed. Case b) (not specified) Coastal crawl might work if one of the units is an army. Case c) “Slimak’s Rule” A fleet adjacent to a double-coasted province may only support naval combat (or units) on the coast adjacent to it. Not recommended and highly pointless.

SPQR (Senatus Populusque Romanus), AD 120. (Michael Homeier).

Rules originally published in The Master Machiavellian.

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

Six Roman Prefects fighting for the Imperium, without any outside interference. Four moves a year, one double coasted province, three island centers reachable from land, one island center not reachable from land and three 4-point junctions which are undefined. Three of the prefects have their Trireme Fleets placed strategically, three do not. Middling.

STAB (Andy Evans)

(1) STEVE AGAR & JON LOVIBOND in ??? (circa 1979)

As far as rules go this is a straight forward variant. The only difference from the standard game is that only conflicts are published in the game report. It is a kind of hidden movement Diplomacy. In order to make the game more fluid players are allowed to pick the components of their forces within limits (e.g. England can start with three fleets) and their initial units may start in any home province (sc or not). Although it may sound as though a game of this would be completely blind, it’s surprising how much you can find out by noting the various conflicts across the board. See also Seeing Is Believing and Stab I


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

By far the most popular of the stab series. In this variant only contested moves are reported. Some supported orders are listed depending on the circumstances, and all retreats; builds and disbands are done secretly, you don’t know how many centers your opponents have!!! Hence you know who the opposition is, but not how strong they are or where they are. See also Seeing is Believing and Stab.

STAB-HAPPY (Diller and Rosenburg).

Rules originally published in The Pocket Armenian 13.

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

Switzerland and Caspian passable. Moscow connects to Syria and Barents Sea. The Aegean disappears to a canal inside Constantinople and Smyrna which connect by land to Greece. The Ionian connects to Syria. Warsaw absorbs Ukraine, St. Petersburg, Livonia and Finland. Baltic Sea absorbs Prussia, Belgium Ruhr, Vienna Galicia, Greece Albania, Tunis North Africa, Western Mediterranean Tyrrhenian, Rome Tuscany, Brest Gascony, Paris Picardy, Mid Atlantic Irish, Wales Yorkshire and North Sea Heligoland Bight and Skagerrak. Perhaps it’s even worth the space I’m spending describing it. Probably not.

THE STAR KINGS (Lew Pulsipher) sg02/02-12

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

This game is played on a hex map containing 83 planetary systems. Fleets may move to adjacent planetary systems and they may also move up to three hexes in a straight line (as in Between Galaxies I). Every four centres owned also allows a player to build a base which has a defensive value of one. Fleets may also be transmitted between bases. After adjustments all fleets must be able to trace a valid supply line back to their home centre or face elimination.

STRIP-DIP (Fred C. Davis Jnr).

Rules originally published in Bushwacker Volume V: VI. (1) Robert Sacks in Lord of Hosts 10, July 1976.


SUICIDAL DIP By Michael Hopcroft (rs42/07)

(1) FRED C. DAVIS Jnr in Bushwacker 207 (April 1989)

This is somewhat like `Giveaway Checkers’. You try to lose your SCs. The first player to be eliminated is the winner. Dislodged units must retreat on the board if there is an available space, and players must build new units if the Regular rules require a Build. Voted draws to concessions are not permitted. This is certainly something different.

(2) MARK NELSON (1/9/92)

This is one of the most pointless variants around. Given seven players who can read, the game never finishes! A good strategy is to order ‘All units hold’ each season. Then no-one increased their supply-center and no-one is eliminated!

(3) Harold Reynolds (1/12/92)

ATTENTION, MARK: If one adds a rule stating no unit may hold, what then?

(4) Mark Nelson (26/1/93) The game is still pointless. You order your units our of your supply centres and then you order them back in! If you don’t attack anyone then you can’t eliminate anyone!

THE SUNDERED WORLDS (Steve Doubleday).

Rules originally published in Darien Settlement 3.

(1) Robert Sacks in Lord of Hosts 9, March 1976.

A purely abstract variant: four players, each with one home center connected to a fifth space. Each player may elect to order a unit to alter space instead of moving by creating/destroying a non-supply center space, changing supply center status of a space, or altering consecutively, until only one player’s home center exists. Interesting.

THE SUN’S NEIGHBOURHOOD (Fred C. Davis Jnr) sg15/07

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

As one would expect from a Fred Davis variant a lot of research has gone into this design. In his preface Fred complains that other space variants are two-dimensional and thus do not recapture the flavour of space. This variant is three-dimensional, comprising of five hex maps placed on top of each other. The actual rules (maps aside) are quite simple, fleets moving either by normal space drive (one hex) or by hyperspace (up to four spaces), but a fleet which is forced to retreat loses some of its movement capacity and all of its combat capacity until repaired. Repairs can be carried out at either home supply centers or bases (which are scattered around the board and can be captured like centres). The idea of a three-dimensional game may discourage the faint-hearted.

SUVOROV DIPLOMACY II (John Norris and Fred C. Davis Jnr)

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

This is a variant designed for the attacking player, Suvorov being a famous Russian general of the 18th century, who was a strong advocate of the offensive. The game has an amended map with only two minor rule changes from the regular game and so should be attractive to both variant buffs and enthusiastic dip players alike.

The new provinces and sea area have been added in such a way as to break up many of the traditional bottlenecks. Switzerland is now passable, and Italy has been given the “Milan” redesign to increase its options. The effect of these changes generally is to reduce dramatically the number of stalemate lines on the board. The increased number of spaces makes it much harder to find units to block all possible ways into defensive positions; a mobile counter-attacking defence is preferred to the regular dip’s trench warfare. More fluid tactically, more flexible strategically.

Archangel is added as a build centre, but not a supply centre. There are a number of `Moses crossings’ enabling armies to cross straits without using fleets. Austria has Zara instead of Trieste, and starts with F(ZAR). Italy has Milian instead of Venice, and starts with A(Mil). Russia starts with F(StP), since that province now has a single coast. Turkey has Sinope instead of Ankara, and starts with F(SIN). Corsica and Sardinia are half supply centres and if one holds both of them they count as one. ION touches EMS with a fleet jump between the Aegean and the Southern Med.

SWORD & SORCERY (Scott Rich).

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

An extraordinarily complicated extension to Dying Earth, or perhaps an adaptation of the sword and sorcery madness to Diplomacy (or perhaps the other way round?), this has to be read to be believed. Principle changes from Dying Earth; a King, Civil Disorder when a power has no King until a hero is converted, building heros and wizards in lieu of units, a large list of spells with each wizard starting with only one, duels and a number of options to counteract each of the foregoing. Caveat emptor. I certainly don’t.