by Pete Swanson
1973 to November 1974 saw a phenomenon in Postal Diplomacy which even now causes
grown men to visibly weaken at the knees. Not since the fake Moeshoeshoe or the
emergence of Richard Sharp has such a wave of hysteria swept through the hobby.
The Europeans were ecstatic as they basked in the glory of this new craze and
the Americans grew frantic as they desperately tried to find out what the hell
was going on. This is the story of the Rise and Fall of Intimate Diplomacy, the
Scourge of Diplomacy variants.
all actually started before that fateful day in 1973. The idea for a game of
Diplomacy for only two people has plagued all players since they first bought
the game and Adrien Baird was no exception. While dusting his collection of
antique trouser legs, he formulated the idea of a bidding system which could be
used to gain control of the five mercenary countries left over once the two
players had picked their own home countries. This was all well and good for
Adrien; he was quite content to have a few games with some friends, and he kept
this potential monster under lock and key - until...
day, Steve Doubleday invited Adrien over to watch him eat. During a lull in the
chewing, Adrien explained his idea for a two-player game to Steve, who was
sufficiently impressed to push his plate to one side for long enough to have a
game. When Adrien left, Steve resumed eating, but in the back of his brain he
was developing a game. Finally, he decided he could not keep this under his hat
fork any longer and wrote an article about the game, including the rules, which
was printed in the NGC organ Dolchstoss number XIV, which came out on the eight
of November 1973.
under ordinary conditions, as with most innovations of this nature, it would
have been received with little enthusiasm from the player community. However, it
was at this stage that Steve Wyatt, the true culprit, arrived on the scene.
Wyatt has at least two black marks to his name, and when the day of judgement
arrives, he'll be the first to suffer at the hands of the Great Diplomatist down
below. the first unforgivable sin was to publicise Adrien Baird's unfortunate
fetish, a cruel mock of an afflicted person. the second was to actually offer
free games of postal Intimate Diplomacy.
a rash step was not undertaken without great preparation and thought by Steve.
he had played a game against Richard Scott, organised through Richard's zine
Fifth Column, which until then had been the only other form of publicity for the
new game. Finally, a few of Steve's fellow players in Dippy games received the
first issue of a photocopied mini-zine from Steve, entitled Orion. Steve
intended to run about three or four informal games, and the first issue of Orion
carried three gamestarts. The second issue started four more, the third had
another six. You see, Diplomacy players had found the perfect, cheap outlet for
their personal revenge. Challenges to play Intimate Diplomacy flashed back and
fourth in the post, and once the games started, some of the best insulting press
ever swamped Orion, the battle not being confined to the board. The new zine was
elevated to dizzy heights in the hierarchy of zines. Steve, who was on to a good
thing, instituted the usual zine features: subscription rates, house rules,
editorial, letter column etc. Orion became one of the most interesting zines
around; many people submitted articles investigating the game, suggesting rule
revisions, and even totally new games based on the original version. After much
discussion, some rules were revised, although these mostly concerned the
problems of postal play. Everything was rosy. Steve Wyatt's meteoric rise to
fame had to have some adverse consequences - not even Gerald Ford had had such a
smooth ride. Anyway, Steve dropped out...
was about November 1974 that Orion No.14 came out, carrying 24 games, and
Steve's regretful decision to restrict publication of Orion. We never saw
another issue. Of course, we still saw Intimate Diplomacy. The NGC started its
own zine for that purpose, Betelgeuse, but with game fees and deposits, very few
games got going and its editor, Greg Hawes, soon abandoned the project to run
the mainstream Diplomacy zine Turn of the Screw. There were occasional
challenges run in other zines as well, but after the ease and simplicity of
Orion, well, the game fell into the inevitable chasm filled with other
"boring variants". Orion's orphans lay abandoned.
across the Atlantic, during that same summer when Intimate was at its height, it
won the Calhammer Award for the Best Variant, and Orion won the variant zine
award. Amidst the horror and confusion when the Americans heard how the
"upstart" Europeans had won their awards, certain questions were of
course asked. One of them was "What the hell is Intimate Diplomacy?"
By the time the Americans had figured what the damn thing was Orion was on its
last legs, and we had pushed Intimate Diplomacy to the back of our minds. to
this day, America is still not sure it even existed; could it be another von
So, what are the rules of this game, the one that put Baird off his trouser legs, put Doubleday off his food and sent Wyatt to Australia (where he still resides to this day)...
from the 1975 IDA Diplomacy Handbook)