New openings for the Modern Variant

Player Comments about Modern

  • General Comments About Modern
  • The Number of Players in Modern
  • The Number of SCs in Modern
  • Comments about Naval and Land Balance in Modern
  • Compliments about the Modern Variant
  • Back to the main article

  • General Comments About Modern

    There have been over 50 Modern games started on the different judges since the variant appeared in late 1994/early 1995. That is quite a lot, considering that a typical game lasts over a year. During that time, I have been collecting comments that players have sent to me about the modern variant. Some have been in response to the articles I've written; some were sent as comments to the Modern home page; others still were sent by players in games that I mastered. Whatever the method, I thought you might be interested in some of the spontaneous messages I have received.

    "The two most immediate and obvious differences between the modern variant and the original game are:

    1. There are 10 players instead of 7.
    2. There are a great deal more supply centers."
    - Robert Shepard

    The Number of Players in Modern

    First, I received a lot of comments about the size of the variant. Sure, Youngstown also has 10 powers, but the configuration of powers is very different. In Youngstown, the standard map has been extended eastwards, while in Modern, the standard map has been packed with 3 extra powers. The proximity of powers is therefore greater, and there is more of a crowded feel to the variant, but with twice the SCs.

    For example, France has all its standard neighbours PLUS Spain. Russia has been split into three powers - Poland, Ukraine and Russia. Austria-Hungary is now a battlefield and not a great power, but Turkey is still kept busy with Egypt, while it faces both Russia and the Ukraine to its north ...

    "10 POWERS! Damn, this is beyond my ability to compute; I feel I am stretching my brain beyond my grasp."

    - Tom Potocki

    "The dynamics of ten players!"

    - Cait Glasson

    "With 10 players, you have 9 other random variables to deal with instead of 6, a 50% increase. This makes diplomacy easier and more difficult at the same time. On the one hand, having more players makes it more difficult to talk to everyone. Developing a good diplomatic relationship takes some effort, which in turn takes time. You always feel the need not to exclude anyone, and yet there is a limit to how much meaningful discussion Egypt and Britain can have at the beginning of the game. Also on the bad side is the fact that with more neighbors, you have more people who may attack you. It is more difficult to keep a consistent story (assuming you are not being 100% honest in all your diplomatic negotiations), and also more difficult to please everyone. The only saving grace to all of this is that all the other players suffer it equally.

    On the good side, having more players allows for well developed alliances to be formed more easily. Not having every player right in your immediate battle allows for a period of discussion with far neighbors where information and comments can be exchanged, such that when it does come time to coordinate movements and (hate to do it) actually rely on somebody else, you have already established a good diplomatic relation with them, you feel you know them a bit, and it becomes easier to trust them.

    Another good thing about having more players is when you really piss somebody off (either by stab, making an error, or just shooting your mouth off), there are more players to turn to for possible alliance against that player. I can remember several alliances where I didn't stab an ally simply because I hated everyone else on the board."

    - Robert Shepard

    The Number of SCs in Modern

    As Robert mentioned, another big difference between the Modern variant and the standard game, is the number of supply centers. There are almost twice as many centers in Modern as in the standard variant. Even though the variant still takes place in Europe, this isn't as bad as it sounds as there is a corresponding increase in non-supply center spaces.

    Actually the ratio of non-supply centers to supply centers in Modern (77/64) is greater than in standard (33/34). This gives more territory to defend per SC, and increases the vulnerability of powers, while reducing the chances of stalemate lines. The sheer number of units also provides many more possibilities, making it more difficult to predict what will happen.

    Alexander K. Woo disagrees with me:
    "Well, I'll say it again as I see another endgame. Modern has too many SCs on the board and therefore it is far too easy to form stalemate lines. I think the main reason that draws are more rare in Modern is that players know the stalemate lines less well. Wait until a bunch of people compile stalemate databases for DipPouch and players get more and more familiar with it. Then, I think Modern will turn out more drawish than Standard, though not nearly as bad as Youngstown."

    But others agree:
    "I've found one of the really appealing aspects of the variant is that there are so many options, and so much more room for making trouble."

    - Matt McLeod

    "Another great strategy article! The more I play Modern, the more I like it. It is sort of an Advanced Diplomacy in that the strategic considerations are much deeper and much more varied than in the Standard game."

    - Jeff Serandos

    "Having more centers also seems to change the game quite a bit, in that tactical decisions become both more and less important. They are more important because with more units comes more decisions. You have greater flexibility in concentrating your units, or spreading them out more. Obviously it is best to concentrate all your forces on one other player, but with so many neighbors, it is hard to ever feel secure enough to do so. On the other side, with more units, a single bad unit move is less damaging. Forgetting to move a unit or making an unwise decision will have less of an impact when there are 64 units on the board as opposed to 34."

    - Robert Shepard

    Comments about Naval and Land Balance in Modern

    Alexander K. Woo also sent me an interesting comment about the balance of the use of armies and navies in Modern:
    1. "16 out of 64 SCs are landlocked. This is a higher proportion than the 5/34 in standard. In addition, there are 5 landlocked neutrals, as opposed to 1. This makes, especially in the opening grab for neutrals, armies much more important.
    2. Naval power is more diffuse. There are 4 potential naval powers in standard. There are 5 or 6 in Modern. This means that 1 or 2 of the potential naval powers, if it gets lucky, can virtually sit out the naval war and concentrate on land."

    While it may be true that more SCs are landlocked in modern, there are also more SCs which are either on islands (Ireland), or can be easily be blocked against a land-only force. If one tries to take Spain, the Middle-East, Italy or Egypt from the north with only armies, then one can easily be stopped by but two units. The same goes for taking Scandinavia from the south. Even capturing or holding such areas as the Balkans and Germany or Poland is made much easier with the use of fleets.

    I also believe that access to both seas - the Atlantic and the Mediterranean - is much more important in Modern than in standard. This access gives a much greater chance of winning once one has over 20 or so supply centers. This gives Russia, France, Spain and to a lesser extent, Britain, a good advantage in the end game - an advantage which has been balanced however by a more problematic starting position.

    Compliments about the Modern Variant

    Being modest, I saved this part for last ... A series of compliments about Modern! Keep them coming!

    "Modern, I'll admit, I've fallen for."

    - Cait Glasson

    "When I saw the variant I fell in love with it."

    - Rich Goranson

    "Modern is a good Dip Variant."

    - Ian Erbacher

    "It really is a great variant. Well done laddy."

    - Dean Gordon

    "I've finally taken the time to read all the articles in the Pouch about Modern. Very interesting reading, indeed!"

    - Klas Forsberg

    "I know I've only played a few moves so far, but I have to tell you this is far and away the best map I've ever played on. Absolutely ruthless! Are all Modern games this cutthroat? Thanks again for creating such a fascinating map."

    - Jeff Serandos

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    Vincent Mous-Harboesgaard
    ([email protected])

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