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Introduction to Variants

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Occasionally, one might become bored with the standard Diplomacy game. Let us look at the board. Some countries can win more easily purely because of their geographical position, like France and Russia, while others, like Italy and Austria, have geographically inferior positions. Some might think that the gameplay is too slow (a standard game of Diplomacy takes hours) or too monotonous, and would like to make it faster-paced or more interesting. Others may think that Diplomacy does not need to only portray Europe during World War I. It could show any other time. To solve these problems, a multitude of variants of the game have been created.

Commercial Variants

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There are some commercially available variants to the game Diplomacy. One of these is called Colonial Diplomacy, and the powers contesting Asia are Ottoman Turkey, Russia (mainly through Siberia), China (and Mongolia), Japan, the Dutch (East Asia), France (Indo-China) and Britain (India, with one home center in the Middle East and Hong Kong). Rules are the same as Diplomacy, except the Trans-Siberian Railroad can be used by Russia (and only Russia) for quick transport of units across the board, and the Chinese are not allowed to use Hong Kong as a center (but all other powers can).

Another variant sold commercially is based on the world around the time of Machiavelli and is set in Italy. The Great Powers are the city states (Venice, Genoa) and others, such as Ottoman Turkey.

How to create a variant

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1. Board: Where is the game taking place? Is it in Europe, but in a different time period (e.g. the early 1600s or 1700s) or is it on a different continent entirely, like South America (South American Supremacy)? Sometimes, a game might even take place in a single country (Heptarchy). It could be an expansion of the original game (1900), or it could recreate a war (Hundred). It could even take place on the entire world (World, Zeus, Mercator, World War IV).

2. Division of board: Is your board based on real-world geography, or is it entirely made-up? Do you want it to be geometrically congruent, or is that too boring for you? Are there any canal provinces? (Like Constantinople in the standard board)? Will it take too many moves to go across the board, or will it create too many stalemate lines? (If you answered yes to the last question, you need to edit your board). Are there enough blank supply centers for everyone to take at least one guaranteed space in the first year, or are you ignoring blank supply centers completely?

3. Rules: Your variant would undoubtedly start with "All usual rules of Diplomacy apply, except for the changes below..." What do you want to do with the rules? Do you want certain units to be more powerful than others? Do you want new types of units, like airplanes? When does the game begin? When does it end? How many supply centers are needed for a victory, or is the win condition world domination? Is any home supply center a capital? If someone captures that capital, what happens? Is there voting players off the board? Are you sure that your new rules will not contradict each other?

4. Powers: Which countries or forces are the Great Powers on the board? Where are they placed? Are some too geographically advantaged over others? What are its home supply centers? Which units are placed at which home supply centers? Does each Great Power have its own geographical or numeral supremacy?

The DVWorkshop

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This is the Yahoogroups community list dedicated to Diplomacy Variant Design. DVWorkshop-subscribe@yahoogroups.com Inside you will find many seasoned Diplomacy veteran GMs, players, and most importantly, variant designers, that can help guide you to make your variant a success. Lessons learned from the Workshop:

1. The Map: The importance of an aesthetically pleasing map to look at cannot be overstated. Completely unbalanced and lopsided variants often maintain a significant following just because they have eye candy design on their map.

2. The Setting: While the DVWorkshop accepts ideas of any historical time and place (or none at all, in true deviant variants) designers will often find that variants that preserve most of the original Diplomacy structure tend to retain the largest fan following. I.E. - 7 players, give or take - standard seasons and game years - etc.

3. Balance: Perhaps the most important of all principles - if each player in a variant does not have at least a fair chance of victory, it is unlikely the variant will be widely played.

4. Adjudication Support: Variants that are supported by adjudication tools such as Jim Van Verth's Realpolitik [1] are favored by many players that like to learn the strategy of a variant in depth, and maintain running maps during their games.

Variant Library

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  • Diplomaticcorp has compiled over 35 Realpolitik variants in the Variant Library. The above famous variants and many more have been created for Realpolitik and are available for download or play.
  • Since 2008 the German Diplomacy Community Ludomaniac established the German language variant bank and wiki Ludopedia with Realpolitik and RealWorld variant files.

Famous Variants

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These are considered by variantbank.org, the menagerie for variants.

Aberration [2]
Abstraction [3]
Ancient Mediterranean [4]