Anarchy Rules OK!

By Peter Swanson 

A letter from Richard Kitt: 

"Might I suggest that rather than let a country go into anarchy you should start a standby list. This means that a game would keep flowing, and prevent certain countries receiving an unfair advantage when another country drops out (e.g. easy pickings). This system is put to good use by Roy Taylor in Jigsaw where he has about eight players on the list for regular Diplomacy and 2 for variants, thus covering for any emergency." 

Thanks for the letter, Richard. Actually, this system, or ones similar to it, are used in nearly all European zines, and from what I've seen, most North American zines too. Notable exceptions are 1901 and all that and, of course, Rats, which simply place countries into civil disorder or anarchy after two successive NMRs. 

Basically, I believe that when I start a game of Diplomacy, I am in competition with six other players, not six other abstract countries of the Diplomacy board. It is their, and my, job to win the game by the use of stratergy, tactics, diplomacy and the sending in of moves, among other things, not the least of which is the cultivation of friendships. The best postal players win games by successfully employing all these skills. If a player fails in one of these skills, for example, sending in orders, then he is likely to lose the game. 

So, when seven people line up for a Dippy game, and one or more drop out, then the others "last the course", and consequently do better. Some of them may even have the orgasmic pleasure of walking into undefended centres and annihilating standing units. So what if the drop out was a tactical genius? That alone does not make a postal Dip player. Certainly the game does not stagnate due to a drop out, though it can in extreme cases become a slugging fest as two or three players race to knock out the remaining anarchist pieces. 

I don't agree that drop outs give "unfair advantages" to players by virtue of easy pickings to others. Of course dome players receive an advantage, but as fair an advantage as a player receives when his neighbour is attacked and overcome, and he can 'pick easy' of the remnants. Diplomacy is a game of human nature and you make similar misjudgements when you ally with a future drop out as when you ally with a player who stabs you. 

What I think is unfair is a complete stranger coming into a game and taking over a Power and thus destroying all the alliance structures, which have no doubt been painstakingly set up. A player who has strived for over a year and is just about to push for the last half dozen centres needed for victory, yet is stabbed by some supply centre-happy new kid who has simultaneously stabbed the other two players (and who really couldn't give a tuppeny bugger about the game anyway), is going to feel a trifle pissed off. 

The final reason is simply because it says in the rules: "If a player leaves the game, or fails to submit orders in a given Spring or Fall season, it is assumed that civil government in his country has collapsed. His units hold in position, but do not support each other..." I may add that it also says that "It is probably more allow a player who has not previously had a country to replace a player who has left the game." It is less likely for the NMR to happen in a FtF game for which the rules were devised, where the reliable six can withhold the reluctant seventh's beer until he coughs up his orders; and some rules have to be changed for postal play. But rules are rules... 

Don't get me wrong; 'I'd find it far more pleasurable and satisfying to beat six active players than six duds, but I should beat the duds - I should not lose to six standbys when I set out to play the originals. 

Finally, I must admit that I have become slightly fed up with some standbys in a few of my games recently (notably DK 74/7 in Greatest Hits) and also I do have the urge to offer something different to most, assuming of course that it is better or as good. I am not breaking with tradition (heaven forbid), by the way. This is the original method of play. So, no standbys in Rats games, though there will be exceptions in variant games, since I expect these to be under a type of play test,

Reprinted from Rates live on no evil staR No.3 (June 1976)


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