A User's Guide to
Payola Diplomacy

Part I: Bribery Basics

by "Tarzan"


This is the first article in a series discussing the Payola Diplomacy variant. The current article provides a high-level overview of the very basic mechanics of the game from the player's perspective. Future articles will discuss more complex tools at the player's disposal, some player tactics, strategy, and some coming changes to the game itself.

Payola is a Diplomacy variant (designed by the immortal Manus Hand) where each turn the orders for every unit are "auctioned off" to the highest "bidder" or "team" of bidders (bidders may combine themselves to form a team either deliberately or accidentally!). Players may bid on any and all units, and are limited only by their creativity and their funds (calculated based on Supply Center ownership).

The auction consists of a "closed" bidding system, where all bids are submitted anonymously and "opened" simultaneously. No player ever knows which units other players have bid on or how much money they offered. All bids are processed by the auctioneer who informs the players of the results. This auction format allows a player to influence the orders issued by any unit (including units owned by other players!).

Since each player is unaware of what bids (or how much AgP) other players are offering, he can never be certain as to which of his bids will be accepted. This actually makes Payola an exciting and dynamic game where stalemate lines are never assured!

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).

Some Payola "Lingo"

Before we discuss the mechanics of the game, some of the terminology used in this article is presented in the glossary below:

A bribe (or bid) is said to be accepted if it "wins" the auction. The monetary amounts of similar bids from different players are added together by the auctioneer. Each unit automatically accepts the bribe(s) paying the largest sum of money. The accepted bribe(s) determine what order that unit actually issues.

A "prioritized" list for each player that is used to "break ties" in the event that the auction results in a "tie" between 2 (or more) different orders for the same unit.

Each turn, the order issued by each unit is auctioned off to the highest bidder. Players submit "closed" bids (also called bribes) to the auctioneer for any and all units. The auctioneer processes these bids and informs the players of the results (that is, he only reveals the order which each unit performs). The identity of the bidders and the individual bids they made are not revealed until the conclusion of the game.

One of the duties of the GM. There is no "gavel banging" since the auction is conducted in a "closed" format, where bids are submitted anonymously and secretely without knowledge of other players bids.

A monetary (AgP) "donation" which is surrendered if the specified unit "agrees" to issue the designated order.

Game Master (also serves as the auctioneer and the "Swiss Banker").

Each movement phase every player submits an offer list to the auctioneer. This list contains any number of bribes for any number of units (including the units of other players!).

The unit of currency used in a Payola Game (abbreviated AgP).

The treasury in which each player safely stores his AgP. The Swiss Bank Account of each player is maintained by the Swiss Banker.

One of the duties of the GM, involving the maintainance of each player's Swiss Bank Account. The Banker makes the necessary credits and debits from the players' accounts.

An Army or Fleet.

The "Simple" Bribe

What exactly is a bribe (or bid)?

Think of a bribe as a binding contract. You offer a unit a certain amount of AgP along with a specific order you want that unit to issue. If the unit "agrees" to accept your bribe (and issue the order which you designated), then your Swiss bank account is debited accordingly. A player's account is not charged for bribes which are not accepted.

What happens if other players also bid on one of the same units on which I bid?

Similar bids made by different players are combined together during the auction. Although a unit "considers" all bribes, the bribe (or combination of bribes) which pays the most AgP will automatically be accepted.

What happens to the AgP that is "paid" to the bribed unit?

The monetary value of all bribes which are accepted is automatically deducted from the Swiss bank account(s) of the "bidder(s)." This money is (theoretically) paid to the unit accepting the bribe and is never "seen" again by any of the players.

How and when are bids processed?

Bids are processed by the auctioneer after all players have submitted their offer lists. Players must submit an offer list in every movement phase of the game. Retreat and adjustment phases are handled normally (that is, there is no auction during these phases).

Does the auctioneer "reveal" my bids to other players?

No, the auctioneer does not "reveal" any bids (or their bid amounts) to the players until the conclusion of the game. Each player is only informed as to which of his or her own bids were accepted. Additionally, the "owner" of each unit is told how much total AgP his unit received in bribes during the auction .

How do you "write" a bribe? What is the format used?

There are essentially two components to a "simple" bribe: a monetary amount (in whole pieces of silver) and a specific order that you wish the unit to issue. For example, let's say you would like the army in Paris to HOLD, and you are willing to "surrender" 7 AgP if it "agrees" to issue this order. This bribe would be written as:

7 : A Paris HOLD

Notice that the ":" (colon) character separates the monetary amount from the specific order. This ":" (colon) character indicates the simple "type" of bribe (other bribe "types" will be described in future articles in this series).

Can a player issue more than one bid for the same unit?

Yes! For example, let's say that the "bidder" is willing to spend seven AgP if Paris HOLDs, but is willing to spend ten AgP if Paris SUPPORTS a move from Munich to Burgundy. This would be represented as follows:

 7 : A Paris HOLD
10 : A Paris SUPPORT A Munich -> Burgundy

Notice that by issuing multiple bribes for the same unit with different monetary amounts the player attaches a "value" to the bribes he offers. In this particular case, the player indicates that the SUPPORT order is of greater "value" to him than the HOLD order (ten AgP vs. seven AgP).

What happens when more than one player attempts to bribe the same unit?

All bribes are considered and processed simultaneously. Each unit will automatically "choose" to issue the order which pays it the most money. For example, consider the following scenario:

 2 : A Paris HOLD
10 : A Paris -> Burgundy
5 : A Paris HOLD 4 : A Paris HOLD

These auction results can be summarized as follows:

A Paris HOLD 2 AgP 5 AgP 4 AgP 11 AgP
A Paris -> Burgundy 10 AgP 0 AgP 0 AgP 10 AgP

The Paris Army will accept the bribe(s) for the order which will pay it the most AgP. If Paris orders a move to Burgundy then it will "receive" 10 AgP (all from France). However, if Paris HOLDs, then it will "receive" 11 AgP (2 AgP from France, 5 AgP from Germany, and 4 AgP from Italy)! Since a unit always issues the order which maximizes its profit, Paris would therefore "choose" to HOLD.

The Swiss bank accounts of these players will be adjusted by the Banker accordingly (France will be charged 2 AgP, Germany 5 AgP and Italy 4 AgP). Notice that France's bribe of 10 AgP for Paris to move to Burgundy is not accepted. Therefore, France's bank account is not charged for this bribe (and is only charged 2 AgP for the HOLD order).

Is a player limited in how many or what combinations of bids he can make?

No! Any number or combination of bids can be submitted. The player is only limited by his imagination and creativity.

Can a player submit bids which offer more AgP than he actually has in his Swiss bank account?

Yes, a player can submit bids totalling as much AgP as he wants! However, a player cannot spend more AgP than he has in his bank account. After the auctioneer has calculated the auction results, if the total AgP offered by any player's accepted bids exceeds the amount in that player's Swiss bank account, the auctioneer will automatically reduce each and every bid offered by that player by one AgP and then recalculate the auction results. This process is repeated until no player spends more AgP than he has in his bank account.

"Breaking Ties" and the Acceptance List

What if the auction results in a "tie" when determining what order a given unit will issue?

When a "tie" occurs, it is resolved using the acceptance list of the unit's owner. Consider the following scenario:

Russia 5 : A Rumania -> Bulgaria
Turkey 7 : RUSSIAN A Rumania -> Budapest
Austria 7 : RUSSIAN A Rumania HOLD

These auction results can be summarized as follows:

A Rumania -> Bulgaria 5 AgP 0 AgP 0 AgP 5 AgP
A Rumania -> Budapest 0 AgP 7 AgP 0 AgP 7 AgP
A Rumania HOLD 0 AgP 0 AgP 7 AgP 7 AgP

In this case, a "tie" has occurred concerning which order the Rumania Army will issue (it would receive 7 AgP for a move to Budapest and 7 AgP to HOLD). In order to "break the tie" the auctioneer must refer to the acceptance list of the player who owns the Rumania Army (in this case Russia).

Each player submits an acceptance list to the auctioneer which may be modified at any time during the course of the game. An acceptance list is only "consulted" when deciding "ties." In all other (that is, non-"tie") cases, the acceptance list is not used and is ignored.

How do you indicate your acceptance list to the auctioneer? What is the format used?

An acceptance list merely consists of the word "ACCEPT" followed by a list of the players in the game in priority order. Each player in the list is abbreviated using the first letter of the power he or she is playing. The order of powers in the list is from highest to lowest priority. For example, let's look at the following acceptance list submitted by Turkey:


In this case, Turkey has set the following priorities in his acceptance list (from highest to lowest): Italy, Turkey, France, Russia, England, Germany, and Austria.

In the event that the auction results in a "tie" when determining the order issued by any Turkish unit, Turkey's acceptance list will be "consulted" to determine which order takes priority. An order for which a bribe was received from Italy takes precedence over one which was received from Turkey, which has precedence over an bribe received from France, and so on.

Notice that it is possible for a player to make his own bribes to his own units have lower priority than bribes to his own units made by other players. As seen in this example, Turkey has indicated that (in the event of "ties" concerning his own units) Italy's bribes take precedence over even his own (Turkish) bribes!

How is the acceptance list used to resolve "ties" that occur during the auction?

Consider the following scenario:

Italy 6 : RUSSIAN A Rumania -> Bulgaria
5 : RUSSIAN A Rumania -> Budapest
Russia 2 : A Rumania -> Budapest
Austria 7 : RUSSIAN A Rumania HOLD

RUSSIA'S Acceptance List: RAIFTEG

These auction results can be summarized as follows:

A Rumania -> Bulgaria 6 AgP 0 AgP 0 AgP 6 AgP
A Rumania -> Budapest 5 AgP 2 AgP 0 AgP 7 AgP
A Rumania HOLD 0 AgP 0 AgP 7 AgP 7 AgP

Since the auction produces a "tie" between two different orders for the Rumania Army (7 AgP for a move to Budapest and 7 AgP for a HOLD), the acceptance list that was submitted by the owner of the Rumania Army (in this case Russia) must be "consulted" to "break the tie."

Checking Russia's acceptance list reveals that (in cases of "ties") Russia's (own) bribes have priority over Austrian bribes (the "R" appears before the "A" in Russia's acceptance list). Therefore, Rumania will accept the Russian bribe and order a move to Budapest.

Note that it is the unit owner's acceptance list which is "consulted" to decide "ties," and not the "bidder's."

What if the same player has submitted two (or more) bids to the same unit, both of which are involved in a tie?

Under these circumstances the earliest bid in that player's offer list is used to "break the "tie" between these orders. For example:

England 5 : FRENCH F Brest HOLD
France 5 : F Brest -> Picardy
3 : F Brest -> English Channel
2 : F Brest HOLD
Germany 4 : FRENCH F Brest -> English Channel
1 : FRENCH F Brest -> Picardy

FRANCE'S Acceptance List: AFIETRG

These auction results can be summarized as follows:

F Brest HOLD 5 AgP 2 AgP 0 AgP 7 AgP
F Brest -> Picardy 0 AgP 5 AgP 1 AgP 6 AgP
F Brest -> English Channel 0 AgP 3 AgP 4 AgP 7 AgP

In this case, the auction produces a "tie" for the Brest Fleet (7 AgP for a HOLD and seven AgP for a move to English Channel). The acceptance list submitted by France (the owner of Fleet Brest) is "consulted" and reveals that Austrian bribes have the highest priority. Since Austria did not offer any bids for the Brest Fleet, we move to the next entry on France's acceptance list.

Re-checking France's acceptance list we see that French bribes have the second highest priority. However, France has offered two different bids for the Brest Fleet, both which result in paying it seven AgP (two AgP to HOLD vs. three AgP to move to the English Channel). To "break the tie" the bribe which occurs earliest in the French offer list is accepted (in this case, the move to English Channel).

Notice that once a "tie" has occurred, only the bids which produce the "tie" are considered. Additionally, all bids "participating" in the "tie" are considered equally, irrespective of their monetary amounts. Only the sequence in which those bids were submitted is used to resolve the "tie."

Looking Ahead...

Is this all I need to know?

To get started? Yes! But be warned, Payola is highly addictive!

So what's next?

The next article in this series will discuss more complex bidding strategies and begin to explore some of the various tactics that a player can use when bidding. Additionally, we'll discuss other forms of bribery that are available, making the bidder's job easier. Later on down the road, the next generation of bribe syntax will be introduced. This new syntax will allow for the expression of all types of bribes and will even permit some new bribes which are currently inexpressible!

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