A Compilation of Simple Diplomacy Variants

by Lewis Pulsipher 

Hundreds of simple rule changes have been used, either individually or grouped with several others in variants. The more common ones have been independently devised several times. The following list does not include all such variants, but does include all the common changes. In order to save space the most condensed presentation possible is used. 

These variants may be played with any board, but most have been devised with the standard 7-player board in mind. They may be used individually, as the only change in an otherwise standard game, or several may be combined. In some cases several numbered variations are listed under one heading. Unless otherwise stated, each of these is a separate rule that may be used without the others. Caution must be used when combining rules: employing too many at once, or using incompatible variations, can result in a dull or unplayable game. With experience players will learn to foresee the repercussions of possible combinations.  

These are descriptions in standard prose rather than formal rules, again to save space, and some may seem unclear. Usually this apparent problem will disappear upon later readings; If not, it is probably because either possible interpretation is valid, depending on how participants choose beforehand to play. In fact, several of the rules are nothing more than misinterpretations of the first published Diplomacy rulebook, now replaced by the clearer 1971 version. Inexperienced players may feel lost among the plethora of variations.



CHANGING OF THE GUARD. A fleet and an army of the same country may exchange positions as long as each move will other-wise succeed. Example: F Pie-Mar, A Mar-Pie.

EXCHANGE. As Changing of the Guard except that units of any type and nation may participate as long as both agree in writing.

COASTAL CRAWL. A fleet may move from a coast of a double-coasted province to another coastal space, while another fleet in that coastal space moves to the other coast of the double-coasted province. Example: F Spa(sc)-Por, F Por-Spa(nc).

CONVOYS. 1. A fleet in a coastal space (e.g. Bel) may convoy. 2. All units may convoy. Example: A Bre, F ENG and F Wal C A Par-Lpl. 3. An army is disbanded if its convoy is disrupted. 4. Any attack on a fleet, even if it is not dislodged, disrupts its convoy. 5. Alternate convoy routes may be ordered in case one route is disrupted. 6. A fleet convoying an army of another country may disband it. 7. Fleets may carry armies "piggy-back" by forming army/fleets (A/Fs). 8. An army may board a fleet in a sea space from a coastal space, the fleet may move, and the army may disembark it to a coastal space, all in one season.

SUBMARINES. These act as normal fleets except that a sub may move in a "subspace" under a normal sea space as well as on the surface, and it may not convoy.

STRATEGIC MOVEMENT/RAILROADS. A land unit may move any number of spaces within its home country (or, within its own territories) in one move-season provided it does not begin its move adjacent to an enemy unit and takes part in no conflict. (See REALISTIC).

CAVALRY/ARMOUR. Cavalry or armour move two spaces per move-season, the first adjudicated before other units move. Fleets may move in the same way when in sea (not coastal) spaces. Orders for both segments are written at the same time as orders for normal units.

INVISIBILITY. Each player may have one invisible unit. Only he (and the gamesmaster) knows where that unit is, though other players may deduce its presence from its effect on a conflict. A player may let one unit become visible in order to make another invisible.

MESSENGER. Orders originate from a single source, the commander or king, who may move as an army or fleet. The orders themselves move, either alone or carried by messenger units (one per supply centre owned), to destinations which may be either spaces or specific units. A unit may move only when it is in the same space as an order, following that order. That mechanics can be very complex, with several ways to accomplish the basic idea.



 FORTRESSES. At the cost of half a supply centre of support, a space may be fortified. This gives the space an intrinsic defence of one, cumulative with any unit(s) occupying the space. The fortifications are destroyed when the space is occupied by an enemy unit.

HOLDING AND SUPPORT. 1. If a unit is ordered to move, it gives up its gives to hold its space, and a single unsupported attack is enough to dislodge it if its move fails. 2. There is no support! (Do not use 2 without 1, or a dull stalemate will result.) 3. A unit may only support units of other countries, not its own. 4. A unit may support in place another unit that is ordered to move. If the move fails, then the unit is still supported in its original space. Example: A Gal-War, A Bud S A Gal H; then a two-unit strength attack on Gal fails. 5. A Unit may be ordered to give up its right to a space; then a single unsupported attack is sufficient to dislodge it, but its support (assuming it is ordered to support) is not cut even if it is dislodged. 6. A unit nay not support a unit which has been ordered to give support. Example: If A Vie S A Bul-Gal, A Tri cannot Support A Vie.

RETREATS. 1. A unit is never permitted to disband when a legal retreat is possible. 2. When a retreating unit disbands it may not be rebuilt the following Winter, leaving the country one unit short the next year (unless it has lost a centre). 3. A unit automatically disbands when dislodged, i.e., no retreats are allowed. 4. A unit may only hold, not move or give support, in the move-season following its retreat. 5. A unit may not retreat to a space adjacent to another player's unit. 6. A retreating unit may be convoyed. (This can make it desirable to be forced to retreat).

MULTIPLE UNITS. 1. Each country is allowed a double strength army or fleet, as though it was permanently accompanied by a Leader. The unit must be specified at the start of the game. 2. Units may combine to form units of double, triple, and so on, strength, and later break down into smaller units again. 3. More than one unit of a single player may occupy a space. 4. As 3, but there is a limit to the total number of units that may occupy any one space. There may be separate limits for armies and fleets.

AIR POWER. Each centre is worth four supply points. Armies and fleets require three points for support, air units four points. An air unit may fly up to four spaces altogether. It may support an attack on or defence in the space it is bombing. Any number may bomb a single space. An air unit may not capture a space. Paratroops may be added.

CUTTING OF THE CUTTING OF SUPPORT. A unit may not cut support (Rule X) If its Origin space is attacked. Example: Austria A Bud-Gal, A Vie S A Tyr-Tri; and Russia A Gal-Vie. Vie's Support is valid because Bud cuts the cut by Gal. Cutting may be carried even further.

NUCLEAR WEAPONS. Each centre is worth three supply points per year. Armies and fleets require two supply points per year for support. A nuclear weapon requires three supply points in the year it is built only. All units in a space struck by a nuclear weapon are destroyed and any centre therein is eliminated for a season, that is, if struck in Fall it is not counted in Winter. A unit may not retreat to a land space that was bombed in the same season. Nuclear weapons may not move and are captured if the space in which one is built is occupied by another player. Range is unlimited. Alternatively, weapons may move as armies or fleets but may only strike an adjacent space, determined after movement. (A "neutron bomb" would destroy units but not a supply centre).

GUERILLA ARMIES. A player may use one supply centre to support a guerrilla army, which is built in a minor country supply centre owned by another player and not more than three spaces from one of the building player's regular units. Any centre occupied by a guerrilla army after the season in which it is built becomes unowned (as Spring Raid below). A guerrilla army has no combat strength In itself it may be supported if it does not move. It may not capture any centre or move into the home territory of any player. No player may have more than one guerrilla army at a time.



CENTRE OWNERSHIP. 1. A player may loan a supply centre to another to supply a unit, but may rescind the loan at any time, forcing the former recipient to find new supplies the next Winter for the unit Supported by the loan. Centres may be given outright as well. Occupation of the centre by the recipient is not required. 2. The owner and the Occupier of a centre may agree that the former retains ownership. 3. Centres may be captured in any season, not just Fall. 4. When a player occupies another's centre in Spring but not in Fall, the centre is unowned and must be captured again in Fall as usual. (Known as "Spring Raid".)

DECOYS. A player may build in every open centre in his home country each Winter. He may have as many real units as supply centres. The remainder are fake units which are destroyed when attacked and may not affect conflict, though they may be ordered to support as a decoy. A gamesmaster is required.

DEVASTATION. A unit occupying a centre may choose to devastate it (probably just before leaving). It is not counted as a centre in the following Winter.

MORALE. 1. When a player's supply centre count in Winter decreases, he must remove two units for every centre of decrease. The next Winter he may build back to centre strength as usual. 2. The reverse of 1: for each centre of increase the player gains an extra unit for that year only.

DISBANDS. A player may disband a unit at any time, whether retreating or not.

ESCALATION. 1. Units need never be removed for lack of centres to supply them. 2. A player may build a unit in each of his home centres regardless of his supply centre holdings. (If used without counterbalancing rules, a stalemate will result.)

YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE. When a retreating unit is disbanded, voluntarily or not, it may never be rebuilt. The country will have one unit fewer than its supply centre count for the remainder of the came.

SUPPLY LINES. Each Winter each unit must trace a contiguous line of spaces to the centre supplying it (or, to an uncaptured space in its home country), which have been captured by that unit's country or which arc designated friendly by the owner. Capture takes place in any season for supply purposes. If the supply line cannot be traced, the unit is disbanded but still counts against that country's unit total for that Winter.

BUILDS. 1. Before Spring 1901 players build in their home centres, which are all vacant to begin with. (Known as "Winter 1900") 2. Units may be built in any centre a player owns, not just his home centres, subject to other normal restrictions. 3. A player may build in his home centre even If another player owns it, provided he is otherwise entitled to a build. 4. Units may be built in any home space, not just centre spaces.

SUPPLY VALUE. Each land space has its own supply point value, for example one per non-centre neutral space, two per non-centre home space, four per neutral centre space, six per home centre space. A supply point value is required to supply a unit, say six or seven per unit in this case. 


BORDER PROHIBITIONS. Units of a particular country, or coming from a particular direction, may not enter certain spaces until a specified date. Example: no unit may enter a player's some country in 1901.

FLEET PLACEMENT. Before the game begins each player must place a fleet in a sea space more than, say, three spaces from his home country, in addition to his customary starting units.

MOUNTAINS. A unit in a mountain space adds one to defence against attack, though not to support of units in other spaces whether in defence or attack.

FORESTS. Unusual units (cavalry, armour. double armies. etc.) may not enter forest spaces.

ARMED NEUTRALS. A neutral centre is occupied by an army in civil disorder. This army may be of limited effectiveness, disappearing after a set number of game-years Or after resisting a set number of unsuccessful attacks. Some neutral armies might defend only against attacks from certain countries or from specified directions.

BASIC DEFENCE. All centres have a permanent basic defence of one, which is added to any unit occupying the centre but operates in favour of the owning player even when no unit is present. This defence may alternatively be used only for home centres, or for provinces specified by the player at gamestart.

TWIN EARTHS. Two sets are used. Each player controls the same Great Power on both boards. Units may move between a space on one board and the same space on the other, for example between Mun V and Mun Z or Bur Z and Bur V. Builds and removals may be made on either board. so that a player might have five centres on each board but eight units on one and two on the other. Victory criterion is usually doubled to 36, but may instead be 23 centres for a shorter game.

HYPERSPACE. After each move-season, or better after each Winter, each player may form one "hyperspace" link between two spaces, and one separation of two adjacent/linked spaces. Units may move along the linkages but may not move between two spaces that arc separated. Linkages may be separated, and separations re-linked. Fleets may occupy land spaces at the end of a link with a sea space but armies may not occupy sea spaces. Example: after Spring 1901 England might link Edi and Hol and separate Hol and Ruh in preparation for taking Hol in Fall.

EFFECTS ON SINGLE SPACES. The space effected may be determined randomly or by orders from the players. Example: each player has a number of "votes" each move-season equal to his supply centre count the previous Winter. Players vote for a space, land or sea, along with their orders. Possible effects are: 1. A space changes from land to sea, or from sea to land. 2. A space becomes a "black hole", equivalent to Switzerland. A further variation is to use the space as a free transit area so that, for example, if Mos is a "hole" an army can move from StP-Sev in one season. 3. A supply centre becomes a non-centre space, Or vice versa. 4. A centre moves from one space to another (choose an adjacent space randomly)! 5. Any units In the chosen space are immobilised and may not move or support. 6. A neutral unit, requiring no supply, is placed in the space. 7. A space is split into two Separate Spaces. 8. A space suffers from plague. Any units therein are immobilised for a game-year. The plague spreads (moves) to an adjacent space randomly each year. Other possible plagues are those which destroy units or affect supply centres. 9. A space is occupied by an invisible ghost army or fleet. Any unit entering the space must retreat to its origin and move randomly (fleeing in terror) next move season. 10. Any unit in the space is placed somewhere else randomly. 


N-TIME LIMIT. The game ends when N players remain - decide the value of N at gamestart. The player with the largest number of units is the winner. This kind of "time limit'' is much more interesting than the usual "stop at 6 o'clock" sort.

"PRESIDENT WOODROW WILSON" VARIANT. All negotiations must be carried on aloud in the presence of all players, that is, no secret negotiations are permitted! Related odd versions are no negotiations allowed, or negotiations permitted only in writing (with a time limit to prevent interminable written ''conversations").

COLLAPSE OF GOVERNMENT. When all of a player's house centres are lost to others and none is recaptured the following move season, all of his units go into civil disorder.

ANONYMITY III. Players do not know which of the others is playing which country. Requires a gamesmaster.

BLITZKREIG or DISORGANISATION. Players must write orders for a move-season before adjudication of the previous move season's orders. Thus players must write Fall 1901 orders and adjustments before Spring 1901 is adjudicated. Orders may not be changed. Special rules for retreats may be necessary.

CHAOS. Each player writes orders for the other six countries as well as his own. Randomly determine which set of orders is used for a country. This takes a long time and works best with a gamesmaster so that players do not know who wrote the orders used.

KREIGSPIEL. Players know the location of their own units and of units in adjacent spaces, but not any others. Another version is that all players are informed of conflicts but not about unopposed moves Requires a gamesmaster and plenty of time.

TIME SHIFT. Rather than always play two move seasons before Winter adjustments, players play one to three move seasons according to a die roll If a gamesmaster is available he rolls secretly: 1, 2 one move season, 3, 4 = two move seasons, 5, 6 three seasons. If there is no gamesmaster, after the first season one player rolls a die, and a I or 2 indicates that adjustments follow immediately. Otherwise a second move season is played, and a die rolled again: a 1, 2, or 3 Indicates that adjustments follow immediately. Otherwise a third season is played and adjustments automatically follow. 


- Alphabetical Index of Variants - Variants by Subject - Variants by No. of Players - ARDA Classification
Variant Articles - Variant Descriptions - Variant Bank PolicyAdvice for Designers - Regular Diplomacy Rules