Diplomacy® Quick Tutorial

This page should show anybody who reads it, about 90% of what you would need to know to understand and follow a game of Diplomacy. In addition to a summary of the rules and a few moves from a sample game below, I have added some commentary about some of the mechanics of how Play-By-E-Mail (PBEM) works, and how the GameMaster (in this case, me) reports the moves and their results.

First is a map, since the names and abbreviations of the spaces (provinces) on the board are essential to writing and understanding the orders given by the players, and the adjudication of those orders by the GM. The following map come from The Diplomatic Pouch, a very good starting place for anybody interested in learning more about the game, as well as the culture that has grown up around it both on the internet, and via Face-to-Face and Play-by-Mail forms of the hobby.

The Map

Map with province names/abbreviations

On the above map, the following is the full name of the provinces abbreviated above. Sea Spaces: Skagarrak, Helgoland Bight, Gulf of Bothnia, Adriatic Sea. England: Clyde, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Yorkshire, Wales, London. France: Brest, Picardy, Paris, Burgundy, Gascony, Marseilles. Germany: Berlin. Austria-Hungary: Tyrolia, Vienna. Italy: Piedmont, Venice, Tuscany, Rome, Apulia, Naples. Turkey: Constantinople. Neutral Countries: Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Portugal, Albania. (Sorry for being obvious on some of those. *g*) All islands except England are out of play, and no units may enter or occupy them.

The abbreviations that I use that differ from this map are as follows: Liverpool=Liv, Mid Atlantic=Mid, Western Med.=Wes, Eastern Med=Eas, Tyrolia=Tyr, Tyrrhenian Sea=TyS. However, any unambiguous abbreviation submitted to the GM in the list of orders will be perfectly acceptable.

The Rules

[[The following is from the Diplomacy Quick-Start Basic Rules sheet that came with the Avalon Hill version. It doesn't cover every nuance, but does cover about 90% of what's necessary to start playing.]]

DIPLOMACY is basically a relatively simple game in principle, but complex in execution. Each piece has the power of 1 and can move only one space each move. There is no element of chance. The play of the game combines careful planning as in Chess, with skill in negotiating deals and persuading other players to go with your plan.

DIPLOMACY may be played by any number from 4 to 7 players. The game is best with 7 players but can be played well with less [[not according to most people that have played it, less than 7 is usually considered a distant second best *g*]]. Although the ultimate objective of the game is for one power to gain control of the majority of the board, the game can be played well by deciding in advance exactly how many moves will be played in the game.

The moves in the game are classed as two moves a year beginnning in the year 1901 with Spring and Fall moves. A game involving 8 to 10 moves, or 4 to 5 years, makes a very good game and will take as much as 3 hours for beginners. Knowing when the game will end, each player can then plan to have a maximum number of pieces on the board at that time. The winner is the player with the most pieces on the board.

The rulebook appears ominous because of its length. Most of the book is taken up with careful explanation of the rules. It is necessary for reference but need not be read and absorbed thoroughly before starting the game.

You start the game by putting the pieces (Armies and Navies) on the board as outlined in the beginning of the rulebook [[see first diagram below]], and then begin your negotiations before you make your first moves. Armies may move to any space on land and may be convoyed by the Navy across the sea. A Navy may move to any space in the sea, as well as to any space on land that is adjacent to water.

The number of pieces that a player has on the board is determined by the number of "supply centers" which he controls. The supply centers are marked by black dots on the board. Control of the supply centers is determined by which piece last occupied the supply center in the Fall move of the game. The moves of the game are figured as 2 moves each year beginning in the year 1901. There is a Spring move and a Fall move.

Occupancy of a supply center in the Spring of the year does not mean that you have control of the supply center. You must be the last force to occupy the supply center in the Fall of any year.

During the first year, it is important to plan to occupy as many of the supply centers in neutral countries as possible. It is important to make alliances with players so that you both do not go for the same supply center and waste your energies. If, in planning your moves, there are questions as to where a piece can and cannot move, or how, then consult the rulebook.

After negotiations, each player privately writes down on paper the moves for all of his Armies and Navies. These "orders" are then read off. A unique feature of Diplomacy is that every piece of every player moves simultaneously. Therefore all orders must be read out before it is clear where each piece will end the move. Only one piece can be in one space on the board at one time. If two pieces are ordered into the same space, neither one moves unless it has "support" from another piece. Thus, a move can be wasted. Negotiations before each move help avoid wasting a move in this manner.

An Army or Navy may support the move of another Army or Navy of that country or any other country in making a move, provided it is adjacent to the space into which the move is being made. Support can also be given on a defensive basis to protect a piece from being dislodged from the space it occupies.

If one piece has the support of another in making the move and the opposing piece does not, then it moves into the empty space -- or it may force an unsupported piece to retreat out of a space. To "support" a move, the supporting piece must itself be able to move into the space under attack. Opposing pieces with equal support do not move. An advantage in force of just one wins.

Adjustments in strength are made after the Fall moves have been completed. Each player writes down his desires. If he has increased the number of supply centers under his control, he writes whether he wants an Army or a Navy and if so, where. The piece must be placed in a supply center in his home country. If he has lost strength, he decides which Army or Navy is to be removed.

Alliances and deals with other players are a major part of the game. It is almost impossible to succeed in play without discussing possiblities with other players and making the best deal that you can. Once having made a verbal deal with a player, it is not necessary that you do as to agreed to verbally. When you come to write your orders, you may wish to do other than you told one or more players. The problem, of course, is that immediately, your credibility in negotiations with those players is lost. The decision as to when to "double cross" one or more of your opponents is one of the most difficult decisions to make in playing the game.

Moves in a Sample Game
with comments on the Interpretation of Rules

[[Additional comments by me marked thusly - JB]]

Starting Positions: Fall 1900
Starting Positions (short upright block=Army, long horizontal block=Fleet)

Position after Spring 1901 Moves
Position after Spring 1901 Moves

England: A liv-YOR / F lon-NTH / F edi-NWG
Germany: A ber-Kie / A mun-RUH / F kie-DEN
Russia: A mos-UKR / A (WAR-gal) / F stp(s)-BOT / F (SEV-bla)
Turkey: A con-BUL / A smy-CON / F (ANK-bla)
Austria-Hungary: A vie-TRI / A (BUD-gal) / F tri-ALB
Italy: A ven-PIE / A rom-VEN / F nap-ION
France: A par-BUR / A mar-SPA / F bre-PIC

Retreats: none

All these moves succeed, except that the two pieces ordered to the Black Sea and the two ordered to Galicia do not move. As the moves are read, it is a good idea to move each block so that an end or corner projects into the space to which it has been ordered. As soon as the proper result is clear, the piece should be pushed into its new position or back to its old one.

[[In my reports via e-mail, and on the web page, I'll use a standardized 3-letter abbreviation for each province to identify it. Provinces listed in ALL CAPS will be the final position of that particular piece. Simple movement will be indicated by a hyphen/dash, Holds, Supports, and Convoys will be indicated by the appropriate letter, followed by the specifics of that order. If the order fails, I'll surround, the order portion of the move with parenthesis. If the piece was dislodged (thus rendering whatever order it was trying to accomplish a failure as well), I'll surround the entire order like this: (A par S gal-bur), and none of the provinces listed will be in CAPS, since the piece will be forced to retreat. If it's annihilated (no place to retreat), it will be so noted in the Retreats: listing.]]

Position after Fall 1901 Moves
Position after Fall 1901 Moves

England: A yor-NWY / F NTH C yor-nwy / F nwg-BAR
Germany: A kie-HOL / A (RUH-bel) / F DEN H
Russia: A UKR S sev-rum / A war-GAL / F bot-SWE / F sev-RUM
Turkey: A (BUL-ser) / A (CON-bul) / F ank-BLA
Austria-Hungary: A TRI H / A (BUD-ser) / F alb-GRE
Italy: A VEN H / A (PIE-mar) / F ion-TUN
France: A (BUR-mar) / A spa-POR / F (PIC-bel)

Retreats: none

All of these moves succeed, except that the two pieces ordered to Belgium, Marseilles, and Serbia do not move, and the move Con-Bul does not succeed.

Supply Centers after 1901

England: lon, edi, liv, NWY: +1
Germany: kie, ber, mun, DEN, HOL: +2
Russia: stp, war, mos, sev, SWE, RUM: +2
Turkey: con, ank, smy, BUL: +1
Austria-Hungary: vie, bud, tri, GRE: +1
Italy: ven, rom, nap, TUN: +1
France: bre, par, mar, POR: +1

[[When supply centers change hands, the country to gain the SC will have it listed in ALL CAPS, and the country that lost it will have it listed like (this). Also note that the dots in the diagram signifying SCs will change color to signify a change of possession. I will always make sure that these can be clearly seen on the diagrams. After the list, I will indicate the number of pieces that may be added/must be removed in the upcoming Build/Removal phase (usually just refered to as "Build" phase for simplicity). This number will incorporate other factors like annihilations and units not built for other reasons earlier in the game, and not just Supply Center adjustments.]]

Position after Fall 1901 Builds
Position after 1901 Builds/Removals

Builds/Removals After 1901

England: F EDI
Germany: F KIE, A MUN
Russia: A STP, A SEV
Turkey: A SMY
Austria-Hungary: A VIE
Italy: F NAP
France: F MAR

France builds one for Portugal, but none for Spain, which her army passed through in the Spring.

[[Again, when a country adds a unit, it will be indicated in ALL CAPS, and when A unit is taken away, it will be shown like this: (A bur). If a country does not or cannot use all available builds, I will add a note after the list that it is playing "1 unit short" and so on.]]

Position after Spring 1902 Moves
Position after Spring 1902 Moves

England: A (NWY-stp) / F (NTH-nwy) / F BAR S nwy-stp / F (EDI-nth)
Germany: A hol-BEL / A RUH S hol-bel / A (MUN-bur) / F DEN H / F kie-HOL
Russia: A UKR S rum / A (GAL-bud) / A (STP-nwy) / A SEV S rum / F SWE S stp-nwy / F RUM H
Turkey: A (BUL-rum) / A (CON-bul) / A smy-ARM / F BLA S bul-rum
Austria-Hungary: A (TRI-bud) / A (VIE-bud) / A bud-SER / F GRE H
Italy: A VEN H / A (PIE-mar) / F tun-WES / F nap-TYS
France: A BUR (S pic-bel) / A por-SPA / F (PIC-bel) / F MAR H

Retreats: none

Only the following moves take place: Hol-Bel, Kie-Hol, Smy-Arm, Bud-Ser, Tun-Wes, Nap-Tys, Por-Spa.

Note that Norway and St. Petersburg are adjacent by land at the extreme north. Here two armies clashed, each with one support. Since they have equal strength behind them and each is trying to occupy the position of the other, the result is a stand-off. Note also that Sweden and Norway are adjacent along a coast line at the south, thus the fleet in Sweden can support an attack on Norway. The supporting move A BUR S pic-bel was "cut" by the attack of the German piece in Munich. The Austrio-Hungarian fleet could not have supported the action in Serbia, because the fleet cannot move to an inland province, therefore cannot support in such a province.

Position after Fall 1902 Moves
Position after Fall 1902 Moves

England: A nwy-STP / F BAR S nwy-stp / F nth-NWY / F edi-NTH
Germany: A ruh-BUR / A MUN S ruh-bur / A BEL S ruh-bur / F (DEN-swe) / F HOL S bel
Russia: (A stp-nwy) / F SWE (S stp-nwy) / (F rum S sev) / A SEV (S rum) / A GAL (S rum) / A UKR S sev
Turkey: A bul-RUM / A con-BUL / A (ARM-sev) / F BLA S bul-rum
Austria-Hungary: A (VIE-gal) / A tri-BUD / A SER S TA bul-rum / F GRE H
Italy: A (VEN-pie) / A (PIE-mar) / F wes-MID / F tys-LYO
France: (A bur-bel) / F PIC S bur-bel / A SPA S mar / F MAR (S spa)

[[Although it's not strictly necessary, for clarity, when a unit Supports or Convoys a unit of another country, I'll tag the order to show what it is. For example, in the above case with the Austrian Army in Serbia supporting a Turkish Army move from Bulgaria to Rumania. Orders submitted to me won't be ruled invalid if this isn't done, since just by noting the provinces, the order is completely unambiguous.]]

Retreats: Russia: A STP (fin, mos, lvn, OTB); F RUM (OTB); France: A BUR (par, gas, OTB)

The following moves take place: Nwy-StP, Nth-Nwy, Edi-Nth, Ruh-Bur, Bul-Rum, Con-Bul, Tri-Bud, Wes-Mid, TyS-Lyo, Russian F Rum, is annihilated.

[[When a unit is forced to retreat, I will flag this two ways. On the board, I will put a black circle (white on German pieces) inside the piece in that space that is forced to retreat. In the retreat list, I will list all retreating pieces, and after each piece, a list of possible locations it may retreat to. "OTB" means "Off The Board," which is an option the player always has if desired (there are a variety of strategic and tactical reasons to do so that are likely to come up). However, if there are NO valid spaces that a piece may retreat to, it is "annihilated" and immediately removed from the board. Although I don't show it in the above diagram, instead of just showing the annihilated piece as gone, I will mark it with the circle as forced to retreat, just so it's clear what has happened to that piece. Again I will also list it with the Retreats, it just doesn't have any option but OTB.]]

Position after Fall 1902 Retreats
Position after Fall 1902 Retreats

Retreats after Fall 1902

Russia: F rum-OTB / A stp-MOS
France: A bur-GAS

[[I'll keep the format similar to how moves are shown, so that by combining the retreats with the move orders, it would be possible to create the board position relatively easily by glancing at the ALL-CAPS locations of pieces.]]

Supply Centers after 1901

England: lon, edi, liv, nwy, STP: +1
Germany: kie, ber, mun, den, hol, BEL: +1
Russia: (stp), war, mos, sev, swe, (rum): -1
Turkey: con, ank, smy, bul, RUM: +1
Austria-Hungary: vie, bud, tri, gre, SER: +1
Italy: ven, rom, nap, tun: Even
France: bre, par, mar, por, SPA: +1

[[Once all of the Neutral Supply Centers have been controlled by a Great Power, the game becomes strictly "zero-sum," and every gain of a SC by one country will be balanced by the loss of a SC by another country. There can, however, be less than the full complement of 34 units on the board when countries play temporarily "short" for a variety of reasons. Again note that I've taken into consideration the Russian fleet annihilation in the above adjustment number.]]

Position after Fall 1902 Builds
Position after 1902 Builds/Removals

Builds/Removals After 1902

England: F LON
Germany: F KIE
Russia: (A gal)
Turkey: F SMY
Austria-Hungary: A TRI
Italy: No change
France: A PAR

[[Again, ALL CAPS to show where the units are added, and (this) to show removals.]]

[[And, that's it. Have fun, whether playing or watching. :-) ]]

Jim Bailey