When You Do Not Have Exactly Seven Players:
Escalation Diplomacy

by Edi Birsan

Diplomacy is a time-proven classic seven player game with a fine play balance between all the countries. However, at times players can not assemble seven players. At other times, there may be are eight or more players. Escalation is the system that provides a solution and a unique game experience each time played.

The Rules

  1. Start with a map and no pieces on it.
  2. Each player takes a different color set of pieces; if more than one player must use the same color, have each player position his pieces differently on the board (facing north rather than east, etc.)
  3. Decide the order in which players will place units on the board during the 'Escalation Placement' phase of the game. (It is recommended is that the owner of the game places first and then players proceed in alphabetical order by name.)
  4. Decide on the number of pieces that each player will place during the Escalation phase. (Suggestions are given below.)
  5. The game then begins with the "Escalation" phase. One by one, each player places one of his own pieces on the map. This is the "Escalation" as players react to each other's prior single piece placement. The piece may be an Army or a Fleet and it may be on a Supply Center, a non Supply Center province, or a sea zone with the classical rules of only one piece per space.
  6. Players continue to place pieces until the agreed number of pieces are placed by each.
  7. Each player starts the game owning any Supply Center in which he initially positions a piece.
  8. Play the Spring 1901 and the Fall 1901 seasons simultaneously like a normal game.
  9. When the Winter 1901 adjustment phase arrives, each player chooses and writes down his 'home' supply centers (up to three -- selected from among any that he owns at this time) and he may build on each, if possible, starting in Winter 1901 and for the rest of the game. Players are not limited to declaring traditional home centers, nor do they have to be adjacent. For example, a player may declare that Brest, Portugal, and Naples are his three home centers if he owns those centers in the Winter of 1901.

Suggested Initial Piece-Count

The table below provides a suggested number of pieces to be placed by each player during the "Escalation" phase of the game:

Number of
Pieces to be Placed
by Each Player
7 or more3

As a Diplomacy teaching device for two players, you may wish to increase the number of starting pieces to 17 to give players a more intense Escalation Phase of the variant and to teach planning ahead.


Discussions can be limited to table-side only (all discussions open to all), none ("Gunboat") or traditional secret/private talks. Generally, it is recommended that for four or fewer players, there be no discussions other than at the table.

Edi Birsan
([email protected])

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