A User's Guide to
Payola Diplomacy

Part II: Advanced Bribery

by "Tarzan"


This is the second article in a series discussing the Payola Diplomacy variant. The first article, Bribery Basics, provided a high-level overview of the basic mechanics of the game from the player's perspective. This article will discuss some of the more complex tools at the player's disposal as well as some strategy and tactics. A future article will discuss more advanced strategies as well as some coming changes to the game itself.

The current article assumes that the reader is familiar with the Diplomacy rules as well as the basic Payola rules as described in this series' first article, Bribery Basics. The reader should clearly understand the "Simple" Bribe as well as how the Acceptance List is utilized.

The complete annotated Payola rules can be found in the Winter 1995 Adjustment issue of The Pouch.

The single focal point for all Payola games is the Website Payola Place (part of The Pouch's Web- and Email-based DPjudge).

How many different Bids should I make for the same unit?

This is a simple question with some subtle intricacies. While each situation will vary, a good rule of thumb is to "make a bid for each and every order that you are willing to accept should it succeed." You might think that this strategy is wastefull, but keep in mind that each unit can only issue one order. Therefore, even if you make 10 different bids for the same unit, you can rest assured that at most only one of them can succeed! Furthermore, remember that 0 AgP bids cost you nothing! These, seemingly insignificant, bids can come into play in the event of ties (see below).

Putting your bids in Preference Order

When considering a certain army or fleet, a Payola player will often know exactly what he wants that unit to do. His only decision is how much he's willing to pay for this prospect. Consider your opening orders playing as France in a standard Diplomacy game. Say you decide that you want the order Fleet Brest -> Mid-Atlantic Ocean to succeed and that you would be willing to pay 7 AgP for this outcome. This can be easily represented as a "simple" bribe as follows:


7 : F Bre-Mid

Unfortunately, life (and Diplomacy) is not always this easy. Consider the "German Army in Burgundy" dilemma for France in the opening scenario. There are many different approaches to this problem. However, for our purposes, let's assume that the least desirable order is A Mun-Bur (the last bid below). Here's one way of handling the bidding:


5 : A Mun-Sil
5 : A Mun-Ber
5 : A Mun-Boh
5 : A Mun-Tyr
5 : A Mun S A Ber-Sil
5 : A Mun HOLD
5 : A Mun S A Ber
5 : A Mun S F Kie
5 : A Mun S A Par-Bur
5 : A Mun S A Ber-Kie
5 : A Mun-Ruh
5 : A Mun-Bur

Notice that only one of these bids can succeed (that is, A Mun can only select one order). Therefore, for a price of 5 AgP A Mun will "choose" one of these orders (depending on how other players have bid). Furthermore, note the order in which these bids are listed (from highest to lowest priority). France has chosen to list bids for A Mun heading eastward first amongst the various bids for this unit. In the event of a tie the order in which the bids are listed becomes important. For this reason it is important to always place your bids for the same unit in order of preference, regardless of the AgP amount.

Don't confuse bids' Monetary (AgP) Amounts with a Unit's Order Preference

In the above example, France (correctly) listed his bids in priority order (from most to least desirable). However, from a monetary perspective these bids all paid the same amount of AgP. In essence France was saying, "these bids are all Monetarily equivalent to me." Usually, this is not the case. A Payola player may find more than one order "acceptable", but may have a definite preference for how much he'd be willing to spend for this order. Modifying France's bids could produce the following list of bids:


5 : A Mun-Sil
6 : A Mun-Ber
7 : A Mun-Boh
5 : A Mun-Tyr
4 : A Mun HOLD
4 : A Mun S A Par-Bur
2 : A Mun-Ruh

Here, France is stating that he is willing to spend more AgP for certain orders for A Mun than for others. This is indicated by the bribe amounts. However, he still lists the bids in order of preference! Notice that it is possible to have a higher preference bid offering less AgP than a lower preference bid. Let's continue evaluating this scenario looking at Germany's bids:



5 : A Mun-Ruh
2 : A Mun HOLD
7 : A Mun-Bur

The bidding results can be summarized as follows:

A Mun -> Sil 5 AgP   5 AgP
A Mun -> Ber 6 AgP   6 AgP
A Mun -> Boh 7 AgP   7 AgP
A Mun -> Tyr 5 AgP   5 AgP
A Mun HOLD 4 AgP 2 AgP 6 AgP
A Mun S A Par -> Bur 4 AgP   4 AgP
A Mun -> Ruh 2 AgP 5 AgP 7 AgP
A Mun -> Bur   7 AgP 7 AgP

In this case a tie occurs (7 AgP for both A Mun-Ruh and A Mun-Bur). In order to resolve this tie Germany's Acceptance List is consulted. Since Germany is first on his own Acceptance List we consult his own bids for A Mun. Of the two tying bids, A Mun-Ruh appears first. Therefore, this is the order that succeeds! The fact that Germany bid more for A Mun-Bur than for A Mun-Ruh is immaterial. The preference order (represented by the order of the bids submitted for A Mun) was the deciding factor. Had Germany placed his bid for A Mun-Bur before his bid for A Mun-Ruh, then A Mun-Bur would have succeeded!

Don't underestimate the power of 0 AgP bids

Zero AgP bids can become important in the event of a tie. For example, consider the scenario of a French Army in Burgundy. Let's assume that the following bids were made for this unit:

France Italy Germany
3 : A Bur -> Bel 4 : A Bur -> Mun 2 : A Bur -> Mar
3 : A Bur HOLD   3 : A Bur -> Par
    1 : A Bur HOLD
FRANCE'S Acceptance List: FIATERG

The bidding results can be summarized as follows:

A Bur HOLD 3 AgP   1 AgP 4 AgP
A Bur -> Bel 3 AgP     3 AgP
A Bur -> Mun   4 AgP   4 AgP
A Bur -> Mar     2 AgP 2 AgP
A Bur -> Par     3 AgP 3 AgP

In this scenario a 2-way tie has occurred between A Bur HOLD and A Bur-Mun. Therefore, as with all ties, we consult the appropriate Acceptance List. Since, France is first on his own Acceptance List, we first look at the French bids. We find A Bur HOLD. However, A Bur-Mun does not appear on France's bid list! The result is that the A Bur HOLD bid succeeds!! Had France added the following bid the outcome would have been different:

0 : A Bur-Mun

By adding this (seemingly insignificant) 0 AgP bid to France's list of bids, A Bur-Mun would succeed!! (note: this bid would have to appear before the A Bur HOLD bid on France's bid list) France's mistake was that he did not include the A Bur-Mun order on his bid list!

This example again emphasizes the important principle of issuing a bid for "each and every order that you are willing to accept should it succeed." Furthermore, this example demonstrates the power of the 0 AgP bid.

The 0 AgP bid principle can also be applied to foreign units, but is somewhat more limitted (since 0 AgP bids by a foreign power for his own units will "override" your 0 AgP bids for his units). However, when a foreign power makes the mistake of not adhering to the "each and every acceptable order ..." principle your 0 AgP bids for his units can have a profound effect on the orders his units issue!

Where to put your "Eggs" or "To Hedge or not to Hedge..."

One of the questions that comes up when playing Payola is, "Should I only bid for the one order I want the unit to choose, or should I bid for all acceptable orders for that unit?" Consider your opening orders playing as Austria in a standard Diplomacy game. Let's look at the options for Army Budapest:


Army Budapest HOLD
Army Budapest -> Vienna
Army Budapest -> Trieste
Army Budapest -> Galicia
Army Budapest -> Rumania
Army Budapest -> Serbia
Army Budapest SUPPORT Army Vienna
Army Budapest SUPPORT Fleet Trieste
Army Budapest SUPPORT Army Vienna -> Trieste
Army Budapest SUPPORT Army Vienna -> Galicia
Army Budapest SUPPORT ITALIAN Army Venice -> Trieste
Army Budapest SUPPORT RUSSIAN Army Warwas -> Galicia
Army Budapest SUPPORT RUSSIAN Fleet Sevastopol -> Rumania

Of all these possible orders, let's assume that Austria eliminates the undesirable orders and ranks the remaining orders in the following priority (from highest to lowest):

Army Budapest -> Serbia
Army Budapest -> Rumania
Army Budapest SUPPORT Army Vienna -> Trieste
Army Budapest SUPPORT Army Vienna -> Galicia

Now that Austria has narrowed down the choices, all that remains is to draft the appropriate bids. The real decision is what monetary value to assign to each bid. There are many different possibilities, but let's consider three special cases:

"All or Nothing""Hedged""Balanced"
5 : A Bud-Ser 5 : A Bud-Ser 5 : A Bud-Ser
0 : A Bud-Rum 5 : A Bud-Rum 3 : A Bud-Rum
0 : A Bud S A Vie-Tri 5 : A Bud S A Vie-Tri 1 : A Bud S A Vie-Tri
0 : A Bud S A Vie-Gal 5 : A Bud S A Vie-Gal 1 : A Bud S A Vie-Gal

The first case is an "all or nothing" approach. Either A Bud-Ser succeeds (and 5 AgP is paid) or it fails. This strategy has the advantage of not spending money on less desirable orders. However, the drawback is that if Austria is outbid, then he effectively has little (or no) influence on what this unit will do.

By the way, if you're wondering "are those zero bids necessary", the answer is yes! They could come into play in the event of a tie (depending on the bids of other players). Remember, if you do not list an order as a bid, then it may never have a chance to be considered!

The second case is a "hedged" approach. Here Austria will spend 5 AgP for any of the listed orders. With this strategy Austria is using a more defensive strategy. Should his first choice (A Bud-Ser) be outbid, he still has 3 backup bids. The advantage here is that even if Austria's first choice is rejected, he still can affect what this unit will do through his other bids. The disadvantage is that this strategy is wasteful. The same monetary amount is spent even if a less desirable order is chosen.

The third case is a "balanced" approach. Austria is still making a strong commitment to his first choice (A Bud-Ser), but is "hedging" his bid by offering some backup bids. These backup bids, however, are for less AgP and are, therefore, less effective.

From this discussion you may be tempted to always use the "balanced" strategy; however, this is a mistake! Often a player has to choose between conserving AgP and defensive bidding. Each scenario must be carefully evaluated on an individual basis. At different times each of the 3 strategies are appropriate.


  1. For each unit, issue bids for each and every order that you are willing to accept should it succeed. Use 0 AgP bids if necessary.

  2. Don't confuse bids' Monetary (AgP) Amounts with a Unit's Order Preference.

  3. Regardless of AgP amounts, always place your bids for the same unit in order of preference.

  4. Don't underestimate the power of 0 AgP bids.

  5. Consider whether the current situation for a particular unit warrants an "all or nothing", "hedged" or "balanced" bidding strategy.

What can I look forward to in future articles in this series?

In the next article in this series we will explore some more complex bidding strategies and tactics. Additionally, a discussion about possible future modifications to Payola bribes will be presented.

Payola References

A User's Guide to Payola Diplomacy, Part I: Bribery Basics
An introduction to the Payola rules. Everything you need to know to get started.

A Payola Glossary
A dictionary of many of the terms used in the Payola variant.

The Payola Variant Rules
The current complete rules to the Payola variant.

Original Rules to Payola Classic
The rules to the original Payola variant (now referred to as "Payola Classic").

Comments, thoughts, history and discussion on the hows and whys of the Payola variant's creation.

Thoughts on Play
A discussion on some of the basic strategies and dilemmas that present themselves in a Payola game.

Put Up or Shut Up by the Big Dipper
An introduction and discussion of the Payola variant.

Unfinished Variants
A presentation of some other Payola variants that are not yet finalized.

A Diplomacy Variants Index
An alphabetical index of all known Diplomacy variants.

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