The Exciting Game of Politics and Backstabbing in Blairite
One of the minor annoyances
of playing most of your Diplomacy over the board instead of by e-mail is
that you can't always be sure of getting the right number of players. In
particular, at Cambridge
University Diplomacy Society, we don't really have a good eight-player
variant. So, last holidays, I took it upon myself to design one.
The first problem I had was where to set my variant. After some thought,
I decided that the British Isles would be a good place
to set a variant. This, however, ran into the potential problem of the variant
just being a clone of Heptarchy
The way this problem got solved was by a little bit of good fortune. I had remembered one of Geoff Bache's problems in designing Heptarchy was that Northumbria and Scotland nearly always seemed to go to war. The obvious
solution to this was to move the power corresponding to "Northumbria" further
south, and the question then became what to call it. The word "Yorkshire"
crept into my mind, and with it crept an association... Yorkshire... thinks
it ought to be independent... set the game with "great powers" that currently
want independence from the UK (or, at least, parts of them do). This meant
that I could fairly easily get this list of powers:
This left me with two great powers to put in; one on the east coast and
one in central Britain. After some thought, I named the power on the east
coast Anglia, and made it consist of Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk
and Suffolk. There's no current basis for this power at the time of writing,
but who knows what may happen?
- Irish Republic:
The only genuine independent country in this lot at the moment, and so an
obvious candidate for going in.
- Scotland: Given the massive "yes"
vote in the devolution referendum, Scotland obviously had to become a great
power as well. However, for game balance purposes, the Western Isles, the
Orkneys and the Shetlands were not made part of Scotland, and are
instead all initially neutral.
- Wales: Another part of the UK which voted in favour of devolution, and so third obvious great power.
- Yorkshire: An obvious rewarding of the area which sparked the thought
off. However, I felt it needed the ability to build fleets on the west coast
of Britain as well as the east coast, and so I applied a little creative
licence... by adding in Lancashire (as well as Cleveland and Humberside).
My apologies to any Lancastrians reading this article.
Yet another area with a large number of people calling for independence.
Again, to make it a viable great power, I had to add in the counties of
Devon, Somerset and Dorset. (Hey, I'm from Somerset, okay? I can do that if
I want. Yes, I do live in Yeovil. Yes, that is why Yeovil is a supply centre.)
- London: A bit of a stretch, but I needed a power in that area,
and with all the fuss about the position of Mayor of London, and who's going
to go for it, it seemed like the obvious choice. The other counties that
fell under the spell of the Mayor
were Kent, Surrey, East Sussex, and West Sussex.
Which left me with a huge, unwieldy power
containing (at last count): Gloucestershire, Hereford and Worcester, Shropshire,
Staffordshire, West Midlands, Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire,
Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire. I could have called this power "The Midlands"
or some other such ordinary name, but instead decided to go for a name that
was really evocative of Blairite Britain. The power was therefore named
Variant Design Notes
It might help to look at the map (it's kinda large) while reading this section.
Or then again, it might not.
Those of you who like variant statistics
can sit back and be fascinated by the following facts:
And, for those of you who are still awake, a couple serious thoughts
on the design of the variant:
There are 100 provinces, comprising 46 supply centres, 27 other land spaces, and 27 sea
spaces, which is pretty much the same sort of ratio between the three as
in Standard Diplomacy.
There are 26 home supply centres and 20 neutrals;
this is more generous with neutrals than Standard, but less so than Modern.
Middle England is the only power containing more non-SC land spaces than
Wales is the only power whose three supply centres are
Cornwall and London are the only powers with "pudding"
openings where all your units can bounce in the same space in the first year.
London's opening A Lon-NDo, A Brg-NDo, F Dov-NDo can be known as the "Black
I tried to put neutral supply centres into blocks of neighbouring squares, as they are in Standard; this was a
recommendation I picked up from Stephen
Agar's article on variant design. Twelve of the neutrals did indeed end up in three neutral blocks: one block containing Alnwick, Newcastle and Workington,
one containing Chester, Derby, Liverpool and Manchester, and one containing
Bristol, Luton, Oxford, Reading and Southampton.
- However, the other eight supply
centres were dotted around all over the place. This was a partial consequence
of the need for guaranteed builds for some of the weaker powers, particularly
London (hence Dieppe) and Anglia (hence Lerwick - which also brings Anglia
closer to Scotland, giving those two powers more options). You might want
to note that three of these eight -- Lundy, Scilly, and Douglas -- are actually available
to more than one power in the first year, which might make for some interesting
diplomacy. Or then again, perhaps not.
Results of Playtests
There haven't yet been any playtests.
Just in case you want to contribute...
I will be more than happy to respond to any ideas you want to send me
regarding the design of this
variant. If your ideas are very lucky, they might get put up on the Devolution
Diplomacy page on my website.
If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author,
click on the letter above. If that does not work, feel free to use the
"Dear DP..." mail interface.