Few games are as legendary, durable, or cultish as Diplomacy. First published by Allan Calhamer in 1959, it went to Games Research, Inc. in 1961, and then to the late, lamented Avalon Hill Game Company in 1976. It is now in Hasbro’s clutches. Diplomacy features simple rules, a miniscule luck factor, and unlimited opportunity for player interaction. The game’s main drawback was, and is, its need for seven players for optimum play. Fortunately, Diplomacy’s mechanics are ideal for play by mail situations and the game prospered quickly in this setting after 1963. Soon, the postal Diplomacy establishment featured a registry of all PBM games (the Boardman Number system, named for the founder of postal Diplomacy), a mechanism for 'orphaned' games (those without gamemasters), player and GM ratings lists, organizations, hobby service awards, novice guides, strategy books, charity drives, and national and international versions of the DIPCON championship tournament. Diplomacy addicts soon began designing their own variants of the game, resulting in hundreds of these covering most historical periods and many science fiction and fantasy topics, all organized into archives and a cataloging system (the Miller Number Index). Naturally, zine-oriented Dipsters soon got into the act, and even more registries, awards, and polls followed. Microsoft should be so well organized.
Most Diplomacy zines began as a way of reporting game results, usually from several PBM games. Once everyone had sent in their turns, the editor recorded the results, typed them up, and sent them to all interested parties (the players and those who monitor PBM games for whatever reasons). The time lag between issues gave players ample opportunity to negotiate privately by telephone or mail, thus enabling the game to reach its fullest potential. To spice up their magazines, publishers encouraged the players to add press releases, the lengthier the better. Besides filling space, these missives offered a variety of threats, bluffs, pleas, and whining, all of which made for interesting reading. More ambitious editors soon added articles on other subjects, ranging from humor and music, to politics and science fiction, to boardgames and miniatures. Unlike wargaming, which had the General and Strategy & Tactics to unify the hobby, Diplomacy depended on the diversity created by numerous small publications, with Diplomacy World serving as an ad hoc flagship and primary news organ.
Like others in the zine community, Diplomacy addicts have shifted much of their enterprise to the Internet. PBEM is quite common, and numerous programs (the Judges) exist for the quick turn adjudication. In the last few years, Web publishing has also exploded. Much like their paper versions, Diplomacy webzines usually offer a combination of game reports and press releases, variants, strategy articles, Diplomacy community news, and whatever else the editor feels like throwing in.
The Diplomatic Pouch is the place to start. It includes massive game openings and opponents wanted lists, current and back issues, player and zine registries, and resources. The DP includes over 125 variants either onsite or via links. Like other simple games, Diplomacy brings out the game designer in its adherents, and this is a good way to sample some of their work. The Pouch is web only and has a site search engine.
Diplomacy World has an online version, but it seems content to focus its efforts more on the paper edition, with the site being mostly reprints from this. Box Frenzy also prints strategy articles and variant rules.
Several e-zines follow the traditional path of emphasizing game results. Spring Offensive added articles, variant rules, and a guide to British Diplomacy zines. It has been recently converted to The Diplomacy Archive and has dropped the zine format. The Abyssinian Prince includes music articles and a subzine. Diplodocus, The Modern Patriot, and The Old Republic all moderate standard and variant Diplomacy.
Crossing the Rubicon includes The Flat Earth Society, a subzine with eclectic content. It is now defunct, but back issues can be found at its site. Sirius operates out of Sweden, while Hydrazine adjudicates from the Netherlands. Absolute! Online and The Gentle Art of Making Enemies also have nonDiplomacy gaming material. The latter has some issues available in Adobe PDF format.
Diplomacy players should also visit the Electronic Zine Archives. This has back issues from several zines and could help complete your collection. The rec.games.diplomacy Usenet group is quite lively with generally sane discussion. Finally, consider joining The Diplomacy Ring, a collection of eighty-two Internet zines and pages.
Peter L. de Rosa
Note: This is a revised version of an essay which appeared in Strategist 29 (November 1998):1, 10. The Strategist is the newletter of the Strategy Gaming Society.
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