Diplomacy is a time-proven, classic seven-player game with fine balance between all the countries. Sometimes, however, seven people aren't available to play, or eight or more people show up for the game. "Escalation" is a system that provides a solution to that problem and a unique game experience each time it's played.
Diplomacy can also be a long game. To speed things toward a quicker conclusion, try Double Diplomacy.
To play Escalation, set out the board with no pieces on it.
Each player takes a different-colored set of pieces. If there are more than seven players, either use some other sort of tokens or have two players share a color -- one player aligns his pieces north-to-south, and the other aligns them east to west. Decide who goes in what order during the Escalation Placement phase of the game. An easy way to do this is to let the owner of the game place first, followed by others in alphabetical order by last name.
Decide on the number of pieces players will place during the Escalation. Recommended numbers of pieces are listed below.
2 players: 12
3 players: 8
4 players: 6
5 players: 5
6 players: 4
7 or more players: 3
Starting with the first player, each player gets a turn to place one piece on the map. This is the Escalation. Players who go first have more choices but those who place later have more information to react to. The first piece can be an Army or a Fleet, and it can be on any legal, unoccupied space, including a Supply Center.
Continue placing pieces one at a time until the agreed number of pieces is placed.
Each player owns any Supply Center containing one of his pieces at the start.
Play the Spring '01 and the Fall '01 seasons as in a normal game. As part of the Winter '01 resolution, however, each player writes down three supply centers under his control that he will consider his "home centers" (where he can build units) for the rest of the game. Players are not limited to declaring traditional home centers. Their centers don't even need to be adjacent. For example a player could declare Brest, London, and Naples as his three home centers if he owns them in the Winter of 1901.
Discussions can be limited to tableside only (all discussions open to all), none ("gunboat diplomacy"), or traditional, private talks. For four or fewer players, it's recommended that there be no discussions except at the table.
As a teaching device for two players, increase the number of starting pieces to 17. This makes the Escalation phase more intense and stresses the need to plan ahead.
Double Diplomacy: Dreadnoughts and Stormtroopers
The conflict that led up to and concluded in the First World War saw rapid developments in both economies and military technology. Entrenched stalemate lines and strategic deadlocks led to new styles of warfare designed to break open the fronts. In classic Diplomacy, there are also stalemate lines across the board in various areas and directions.
The purpose of Double Diplomacy (originally called Dreadnought Diplomacy) is to bring into the game elements that can break those lines. Further, it makes it possible for the strongest countries to leap ahead of their weaker neighbors at an ever greater pace as the game goes on, thus rewarding brute power and bringing the game to a quicker end.
The basic rules are as follows --
1. Starting in 1904 and on every even year thereafter, countries can build in their home centers Double Fleets (Dreadnoughts) and Double Armies (Stormtroopers). Building or maintaining a dreadnought or stormtrooper unit requires two supply centers each.
2. If a player has a standard Army unit in a home supply center during the Gaining and Losing Units phase of a Winter turn, then he can convert that unit to a Double Army (Stormtrooper). Likewise, a Fleet can be converted to a Double Fleet (Dreadnought).
3. A player can have as many Double Armies and Double Fleets as he can build and maintain with supply centers.
4. When a Double Army moves or supports, it counts as a force of two. It can be convoyed as a normal army, however (it doesn't require two fleets, or a double fleet, to convoy).
5. When a Double Fleet moves or supports action from or into a sea province, it counts as a force of two. When a Double Fleet positioned in a coastal province moves or supports action against another coastal province, then it counts only as a force of one, like a normal fleet.
6. If, at the end of a Fall turn, a player doesn't control enough supply centers to maintain all of his units, then Double Armies and Double Fleets can be reduced to normal Armies and Fleets, rather than disbanding units entirely, to bring the unit count into line with the available supply centers.
Edi Birsan is considered the first Diplomacy world champion for his win in 1971BC, the first championship invitational game. He has won numerous championship games since then in North America and worldwide and is universally considered one of the game's top players. More importantly, he has striven tirelessly for over three decades to promote Diplomacy play in all its forms, at all levels, all around the world.