T – Variant Descriptions

TELSTAR (Gil Neiger).

Rules originally published in The Pouch Volume II: XXII.

(1) REVIEW: Robert Sacks in Lord of Hosts 4, March 1975.

This variant is identical to regular Diplomacy except that only the GM knows the orders; the players are only told the positions. Now while this is supposed to heighten the intrigue, it also makes GM errors undetectable. Fortunately, each turn each player can ask for complete information about a particular space and receive all moves (including retreats) from, to, or through that space. This variant is supposed to simulate myopic commanders using space-age technology; actually it simulates a lazy GM.

TENFOLD DIPLOMACY By Josh Smith (1992)

(1) MARK NELSON (26/1/93)

An expanded map variant adding China, India and Japan which is an `anti-Youngstown’ game. There are no Off Board Boxes, the European map is the same as in regular diplomacy, there are no island provinces and the map is completely planar. Seventeen supply centres are added. Probably slightly inferior to Youngstown in terms of playability because there are no Off Board Boxes. (This means that convoy routes will be longer, it will be slower to move fleets across the map etc.)

(2) JOSH SMITH (31/1/93)

This last criticism may actually be invalid. I wish I had a decent copy of that map to show you, since this would be a lot easier to explain if you could look at it. The board is a _lot_ “smaller”, in spaces, than the Youngstown map, though. Some statistics:

Number of players: D: 7 Y: 10 T: 10 Number of supply centers: D: 34 Y: 72 T: 51 Number of land spaces: D: 56 Y: 130 T: 92 Number of sea spaces: D: 19 Y: 50 T: 29 Total number of spaces: D: 75 Y: 180 T: 121

Centers per player: D: 4.9 Y: 7.2 T: 5.1 Spaces per player: D: 10.7 Y: 18.0 T: 12.1 Sea percentage of map: D: 25% Y: 28% T: 24%

In my experience, I’ve found that fleet mobility is significantly lowered on the Youngstown map, especially in Asia, and these numbers bear this out: the Youngstown map adds 4 water spaces in Europe, 17 in Asia, and 9 between Asia and Europe, while the Tenfold map adds no water spaces to Europe, puts 2 between Europe and Asia, and adds only 8 in Asia itself. Moving from Canton to Smyrna via boat takes 11 moves in Youngstown (by off-board or not); the same move takes 7 moves in Tenfold (as many as Smyrna to St. Pete, as it turns out). Convoying from Japan to England takes more fleets in Tenfold than in Youngstown, but the bottleneck of the Off Board Boxes make convoys to England nearly impossible in any event. I have yet to see a player force his way into another section of the map through the Off Board–it takes too long, is too slow to develop, and gives the defender plenty of time to prepare his lines.

Another big flaw of the Youngstown map is its set of trivial stalemate lines between Asia and Europe. Rick Desper and I have both commented on this in the past, and in our opinions, it makes Youngstown literally unwinnable for an Asian power except in the face of sheer idiocy on the part of Turkey or England. The problem seems to be centered in the fact that Asia contains many small spaces, which are time consuming to move through, but is bordered by several large spaces, which serve as a bottleneck to an invading force.

This makes it very difficult for an Asian power to invade a European one by surprise. India’s home centers are three moves away from the closest Turkish home center, and four from the second; in standard Diplomacy, every power but England and Turkey has at least one home center within two moves of every one of their neighbors, and every power has two centers within three moves of _all_ of their neighbors. Everyone is nearby in standard Diplomacy; in the Asian corner of Youngstown, the map is huge.

Tenfold’s map is much smaller, and not by accident: the map was modeled on a graph of the E/F/G triangle, casting Japan as England, China as Germany, and India as France. As a result, the three are in close proximity to each other, and like Austria/Germany and France/Italy, the border between China/Russia and India/Turkey can be quickly crossed. Playtesting is still essential, and I have no doubt that the map will change as a result of it– looking at it now, it seems that the border between East and Asia is still too wide. However, the intention is to drastically improve the mobility of both fleets and armies, a factor that Youngstown destroyed entirely in Asia.

I’m wondering if Tenfold should even be included in the variant list at this point, since it has never been played, not even once. It seems somewhat difficult to review it under such circumstances; its goals certainly sound good (make a 10-player game that has the same feel as the standard 7-player Diplomacy), but a review should discuss whether it achieves those goals, and this isn’t really clear in the absence of any testing.

THIEF By Toby Harris (Smodnoc 34, October 1991)

(1) MARK NELSON in The Mouth of Sauron Volume VII:

6 (February 1991).

This is a minor change variant using the regular board. It illustrates why a rule which works well in one game may not work well in another and why variant designers should give some thought to the implications of rule changes before publication of their brand new game.

The rule change comes from the VAIN RATS series of games. Each Spring season, except for Spring 1901, any power with at least one unit on the board may order any unit to be removed from the board; this removal occurs before adjudication. This rule works well amidst the anarchy of the typical Vain Rats game (when it is only used by one power and restrictions prevent repeated use of this power on a particular enemy), but I have doubts about the playability of a variant based on this idea.

This rule change increases the power of large alliances, and as a consequence it will be very hard to win a game–as soon as one player is in a position to mount a winning attack, the remaining players co-ordinate removals.

THIRD AGE II (Brian Libby, Duncan Morris & Richard Sharp) ??/06

(1) STEVE AGAR in V&U 2 (July 1980)

This was a step forward in Tolkien designs in that it attempted to cover the same ground as the book. The six powers are: Eriador, Rhovanion, Gondor, Rohan, Umbar and Mordor. Multiple units were introduced, all powers receive a 2A whilst Mordor receives a 3A, four 2A’s and four single armies! Neutral armies act as garrisons for some neutral SCs and The Ring was created.

The Ring is hidden randomly in one of the provinces (but away from Mordor), if worn it turns a player’s 2A into a 3A (and a 4A against Mordor); but if left on that player’s unit becomes a 3A permanently and he can only win by controlling all the SCs (in effect he becomes a second Mordor).

Mordor wins by capturing all the SCs or if his 3A wears the Ring, other powers win by either being the largest power on the board when Mordor’s 3A is destroyed or by taking the ring to Barad-dur and destroying it.

The fleet problem was overcome by giving Umbar two fleets, Eriador one fleet and allowing any power to build fleets in the City of the Corsairs. A simple form of A/F rules were introduced.

This has proved a popular postal variant, despite the superiority of Mordor, probably owing to the “realistic” effect that the game tries to create.

TRADER (Matt Diller).

Rules originally published in The Pocket Armenian 23.

(1) Robert Sacks in Lord of Hosts 8, March 1976.

A purposeless joke: five players; one island supply center each and one sea space.


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

I’ve always liked the idea behind this one, that various powers are not allowed to support or convoy each other unless a written treaty is drawn up between the powers concerned allowing such action. Such a treaty can include clauses concerning other aspects of the game, it can be kept secret or made public. Apart from this, the game is as regular.


TUNNEL (Jeremy Maiden).

Rules originally published in He’s Dead, Jim! Volume III: 17.

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

An economic variant, where money has to moved to the supported unit; money can also be used to build and maintain shafts and tunnels, through which money and armies can be moved, the latter at double speed. Shows prospects of being highly amusing.