...It Came from Outer Space!

by Dan Percival, with major rewrite help
from Dan Shoham, Eric Poolman, and Rick Desper


I have been involved in a couple of discussions about whether or not the Diplomacy board is naturally biased to certain powers and alliances. The Pure variant is an attempt to make a perfectly even game, but a wrong guess can mean a very short game for a particular player. Besides which, we don't get to play on our favorite game board....

"...It Came From Outer Space!" is an attempt to make a completely level, unbiased game that still brings to play all the subtlety and manuverings of the Standard board. Another advantage it offers is that it may be played by an unlimited and unspecified number of players greater than one.


The time is 6782 nanorotations of the galaxy since the first spacefaring creatures reached a tentative tentacle to grasp for the stars. The passage of time since then has been marked by peaceful colonization and expansion, punctuated by the occasional disputed claim. Effective cloaking devices have made warfare in space impossible, and the rare wars that have been fought have taken place on the surface of the various disputed planets. Barren planets -- the only kind ever found -- are plentiful and not usually worth fighting for; the process of making them habitable is so costly that the resources extracted barely recover the expenses. Additionally, the populations that such planets can support are negligible.

The various galactic empires, with their populations bulging, are in serious danger of decline and fall. All are sure that the first empire to discover and colonize a habitable planet will be well positioned to reverse its decline and soon dominate the galaxy....

On one small and otherwise nondescript planet, the population is celebrating the dawn of a new century. Certain inventors are just beginning to dream of atmospheric flight, and others have begun to experiment with electricity and radio. Little do they know that these experiments are being detected deep in space and are attracting attention. The chance to colonize a habitable planet is more than any race can afford to pass up, and it should be no wonder that races from all across the galaxy are converging on this planet called Earth with colonization plans and armies to enforce them. Some races plan to cooperate, while others are preparing for all-out war....


1. Scope
  • All rules, including victory conditions, are as in standard Diplomacy, except as follows.
  • Any number of players may play the game, each taking the role of the leader of a Galactic Empire.
  • The game starts with an empty standard game map. In addition, each Empire possesses one spacecraft in orbit, bearing three armies.

    2. Spacecraft
  • A spacecraft in orbit may contain up to three armies at any time.
  • Spacecraft may only contain armies of their own empire.
  • Armies occupying a spacecraft in orbit may either hold or beam down to any land province. No other order is allowed.
  • An army beaming down may be supported by other units. If other units are attempting to enter the province, the unit with the most uncut supports get through. In a tie, all units bounce. (Same as a normal Diplomacy movement.)
  • Armies on a land space may beam up to a spacecraft during the movement phase.
  • Fleets may not be beamed (battleships are just too heavy).

    3. Colonization
  • Natives of the land provinces may be introduced to the alien race culture, industry, and technology. This process is called colonization.
  • A unit may be ordered in the movement phase to colonize either the land province it is in or any land province to which it could legally move.
  • A colonization attempt succeeds if the province in question is occupied by the colonizing empire at the end of that turn.
  • A colonization attempt also succeeds if the province in question is vacant at the end of the turn and no other empire attempted colonization or movement into that province that turn.
  • Once a colonization effort succeeds, the province becomes a colony of the colonizing empire. It loses all colonial attachments it may have had in the past. This is the only way (other than elimination of the colonizing power) to destroy a colony.
  • The colonize order does not change the ownership of a supply center for counting up centers for growth.

    4. Jamming
  • Armies may not attempt to beam down into provinces that are colonized by other empires. Only an army owned by the same power to have colonized a province may attempt to beam down to such a province. This is known as "jamming."
  • Units that are not protected by being in a jamming colony may be attacked from outer space. Any support being offered by the unit being attacked will be cut per standard Diplomacy rules.

    5. Retreats
  • Armies may retreat only to orbiting spacecraft or to colonies of their empire.
  • Fleets may retreat only to sea zones or to colonies of their empire.

    6. Adjustments
  • Supply center ownership is determined after each Fall season in the usual way, and units are built or removed according to standard rules as modified here.
  • New units may only be built in unoccupied supply centers that are both owned and colonized by the building empire.
  • When an empire is eliminated, any colonies it owns revert to their original neutral status (that is, all empires may beam down into them, and no empire may retreat to them).
  • The colony status of a supply center province does not affect ownership, but it is important to realize that if an Empire has no colonized supply centers, it cannot build, regardless of how many supply centers it owns.

    7. Notes
  • One quirk of small (2-6 player) games is that growth tends to be exponential until room on the board starts to run out. Thus, it is very important to get a quick hold on supply centers and colonize them early on to give yourself a stable base to work from.
  • It is impossible to have more than three armies after the growth phase of the first year.
  • For purposes of writing orders, spacecraft in orbit are designated as Orbit or ORB.
  • The Colonize order (also known as "brainwash" or "assimilate") can be abbreviated as COL.
  • If you have any questions about this variant or adjudication, or if you have any suggestions to make for future versions, please feel free to contact the creator at [email protected].

    If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author, and clicking on the mail address above does not work for you, feel free to use the "Dear DP..." mail interface.