(Diplomacy Intended to Probably Leave an
Outright Winner in Nineteen-Nine)
by Norman Nathan
Very few games of FtF produce a single outright winner even after eight or nine hours' play. Some games end in a joint win but more frequently there is a three or four way draw. So often one hears "If we could only play another game year or two then..." The same complaint is often heard when it is agreed that the game will end at a fixed time.
FtF Diplomacy would be far more satisfactory where it reasonably certain that after about five hours' play there would be an outright winner or that one person would be in a sufficiently strong position to claim a clear win.
It is in 1904-5 that the game begins to stagnate. Stalemate or near-stalemate positions arise and long, dull battles ensue. When these are finally broken all the weaker countries (if they have any sense) abandon their squabbles and combine to weaken the leader - and there is a multiple draw. Therefore a change should be made which applies sometime between 1903 and 1906 to avoid these problems. This change should make the strong countries stronger and the weak country weaker. It should discourage long, dull, semi-static battles. It should encourage diplomacy and risk-taking. Finally it should bear a resemblance to reality.
In real wars a country initially gets stronger as it mobilises its resources to the utmost, and then gets weaker as its resources get exhausted. The same principle can be applied in Diplomacy. In winter 1904 the number of units on the board for each country should be adjusted to be ONE LESS than the number of supply centres that that country controls. And every other year thereafter a similar adjustment is made, but increasing by one. Thus in 1906 the number of units becomes TWO less and in 1908 it becomes THREE less, and so on. The victory criteria remains the control of 18 supply centres.
This change should produce the desired effect. Those countries still in the game with only one or two units will be rapidly eliminated. Static battles cannot be maintained since there will be less units available to man them. The strong countries lose a smaller proportion of their strength than the weak ones and hence become relatively stronger. With a decreasing number of units on the board there is scope for movement and more need for Diplomacy. Progressive weakening of all countries makes stabbing and risk-taking more attractive and more necessary.
reprinted from Fifth Column No.19 (November 1974)