Here are my responses to some feedback I got about my 1648 Diplomacy variant. See earlier posts for basic information.

> I personally love the DP points system idea, and think it improves on the
> trademark negotiating element of Diplomacy that makes the game so much fun
> to begin with.

Thanks for your detailed comments. I'll adress these further below.

Note though that the previous map I posted has been replaced by v2.3. Christiania and Lapland now are adjacent (as always intented, but lost sight of) and a number of changes were made around Turkey.


TWEAKED DIPLOMATIC POINTS MECHANISM:

No power may allocate more than two DPs to a particular minor power.

This way DP investments will be more spread out and cooperation over DPs becomes yet more important. It also helps England and powers win only 2 SCs in that they can at least influence one neutral to the same degree as bigger powers.

INITIAL ENGLISH VULNERABILITY

> - I would be concerned about the viability of the English position with only
> two starting units, facing two Danish and one French. I think a third unit,
> an army perhaps, is in order.

I originally had three English SCs and did not have Bristol abutt Scotland and the English Channel.

Why only two initial units? The British Isles were still wracked by civil war. England still has unfinished work to do in its Celtic backyard.

The other two changes heighten Anglo-French tension. I like how the Scots could help the French take Bristol since that'd present the historical "Auld Alliance" of France and Scotland proving a true threat to England proper. Also, this allows F Bristol to snag Scotland right off the bat.

> As it is, I would be terrified to do anything
> but try and bounce F Chr and F Bre, which would result in coming up empty
> against the neutral army in Scotland.

F Bri-Eng plus F Lon-Nth is the "English Hedgehog" opening. I think it might be the most frequent English opening, yet there are IMO perfectly viable alternatives. For instance, I think there are quite strong incentives for France and England to DMZ ENG. After all, France may not want to drive England into the Spanish camp...

What is more, there are at least three "English Hedgehog" variations depending on what England does with its 2 DPs. It could try to influence the Dutch fleet to support one of her fleets into ENG or NTH. This choice can see England being in a very different position for the fall.

And of course, England might want to spend those two DPs in a quite different manner. For instance, I could see England asking Spain whether she wants to combine DPs for F UPr S A Fla-RWe. If Spain is willing to spend a DP on this, that order could be backed by 3 DPs, which means UPr probably can't be used by the Danes or French to gain control of either NTH or ENG. I could think of also other sensible uses of England's DPs...

Anyway, I'm starting off with a mere 2-SC England which faces some risk of invasion. Yet if and when England manages to secure its Celtic backyard (Ireland and Scotland also serving as English build sites), it may achieve a pretty formidable corner position.

If Cromwell can ensure France and Denmark are sufficiently distracted by other threats, then he'll be able to put the entire British Isles under his thumb.

DENMARK & SWEDEN

> - The Swedes and Danes look like a *very* powerful alliance. Aside from a
> conflict over Mecklenburg, it seems they have little reason not to divide
> the ample German region dots, then part ways, one heading south east, and
> the other heading south west, and exploit their secure edge position on the
> north end of the map. Perhaps a need to seed a little more tension between
> their home SCs?

As said, Lapland and Christiania now are adjacent. Thus, an Anglo-Swedish first year campaign could lead to the loss of Christiania and the friction level between the Scandinavian powers is thus somewhat heightened.

But there's also the Baltic question. BAL is adjacent to Denmark's Copenhagen and two Swedish SCs (and Mec, Bra, Pru and Cou - all possible sites for Scandinavian expansion). In other words, BAL is Sweden's soft underbelly. The presence of one Scandinavian power there is inherently uncomfortable for the other. And with F Cou, there's a chance one side could gain the upper hand and can move his fleet there in Spring 1648. Denmark might even be able to take Stockholm on account of this.

BAL thus will always be a thorny issue complicating a Danish-Swedish alliance. Of course, this is counterbalanced by a Danish-Swedish alliance being pretty powerful. I'm pretty happy with the dynamics here.

I should also note that expansion in Germany by both sides also creates friction there as that inevitably brings both powers' units into greater proximity. A fight over which power will be the "protector of German Protestantism" might ensue...

> Maybe redraw Lappland a bit, and put a neutral up there?

Not historically viable, imo. Nor necessary with the Lap-Chr adjacency.

> Seems like D and W have too comfortable a buffer provided by Sca and Boh -
> especially with the heavy Danish incentive to go west and hit the weaker
> English. But...

Again, Chr-Lap changes this somewhat. But the greater issues are BAL and Germany.

> - Austria looks very powerful too, with no Italian presence to check them,
> and a weak Ottoman contingent in the Balkans. So maybe they could contain
> Scandinavian expansion into the German region.

There might indeed be something of a re-run of the Thirty Years War. With Denmark and/or Sweden fighting the Emperor over Germany. And as was historically the case, Spain and France might also come into the mix...

> - I like how the other powers on the edge of the map (Russia and Ottomans,
> Spain and England) have their secure position offset by having fewer early
> growth opportunities and some unusual defensive requirements.

ENGLAND: England's first line of defence are the surrounding seas. Devon prevents F Bri and F Lon supporting each other, which captures the historical dynamic that should a continental power get ashore, England's in deep trouble if not sufficiently prepared (i.e. it has an army that can more effectively defend both English SCs).

OTTOMAN EMPIRE: I think any Sultan might feel anxious about Belgrade falling to a concerted Austrian attack (possibly assisted by the Walachians). Hungary is Austria's "soft underbelly" and the Emperor wouldn't want A Bel appear at the gates of Vienna (and Trieste, for that matter, by making it into Hungary). So there is a good deal of friction going on there...

And there's a fair amount of friction with Russia over Armenia. Should A Voronezh open to Armenia, those wily Persians could make joint cause with the Tsar...

Yet the Ottomans have the advantage of the Black Sea being, at least initially, an Ottoman lake. So that really helps Turkey against a major attack by Russia.

As for Spain, the Ionian Sea is adjacent to both Naples and Constantinople. That makes this sea area quite contentious and F Tunis might play a deciding role here...

Note though that I might adopt the Ambition & Empire rule that the Papal States will not support a move against a Catholic power. That way, the Ottomans couldn't take Naples with the help of the Pope.

Yet all in all, I do agree that the Ottomans have quite good defensive advantages. Belgrade may be the biggest initial problem, which makes the A Damascus-Constantinople move quite attractive so as to buttress the defence of Belgrade in case of an attack.

RUSSIA: Russian Hedgehog-style openings go a long way to securing Mother Russia, though naturally at the expense of Russian expansion.

Moscow itself cannot be conquered during the first year unless the Russians pay no heed to a Polish host to the capital's West. Novgorod doesn't enjoy quite the same security, though if A Moscow remains in a position to support the defence of Novgorod, it should not fall during the first year.

Yet since many goodies lie to Russia's south, A Moscow might end up shifting south and leave A Novgorod to its own devices. The classic defence vs. expansion trade-off.

The most uncertainty relates to Voronezh. Two minor powers touch that space, which of course is a mixed blessing in terms of one's defence.

SPAIN: Flanders is not a Spanish build site and hence more of a pawn useful in negotiations than a true power centre in its own right. So, yes, Spain is essentially a South-Western corner power.

I think Spain's growth opportunities are quite good, but other countries will be wary of such expansion and perhaps go more out of their way to prevent it than in the case of other powers.

For instance, I think there's a fair chance Turkish and/or French DPs will be used to stymie Spanish expansion into North Africa.

> All in all however (these thoughts aside) this variant looks very playable
> and at least fairly balanced,

I've been considering space density. It's in the range of 2.0-2.5 spaces per unit, which is the ideal ratio for a Diplomacy variant. Of course, density is very high in Central Europe, but I think that's beneficial to the simulation factor. So I'm satisfied on that count.

As for power balance, I think it's within the range I'm comfortable with. There's no "Italy" on this map, I think. As said, I'm more optimistic about England's fortunes than you are.

Why? Perhaps mostly because I think the diplomatic balance favours England somewhat. In the Atlantic triangle, I think England can exploit Franco-Spanish friction to its diplomatic advantage.

As for Denmark, it ought to be noted that while F Chr-NTH is an attractive opening, but getting into that sea zone is quite a different matter. There are after all other demands on Danish DPs in Germany and the Baltic. So I think England has good chances should it attempt to sway F United Provinces.

> and the DP points system introduces a new
> element of instability to traditional Diplomacy strategy that may prove my
> concerns to be irrelevant.

I LOVE the DP mechanism. All my three big variants, "Locarno: Europe 1926", "The Road to War: Europe 1936" and this newer one feature this mechanism. I think it's great fun and also helps model periods in European history in which there were many minor powers (by 1914, Europe was largely carved up by major powers, so the mechanism wouldn't lend itself so well to that setting).

> If I have room in my game load when the playtest
> is launched, I would be interested in playing (if it is run on Diplomatic Corp). Looks like a lot of fun to me.

I've already got some playtesters lined up and shall seek to fill the list in the near future. I've already completed the chore of creating a Realpolitik module for 1648 (which helps GMing and gives players the chance to toy around with potential moves).

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Comment by Charles Féaux de la Croix on June 17, 2009 at 6:16am
I've been considering F Christiania's options and wondered whether it might be a good idea to have the Norwegian Sea stretch further east so it touches Novgorod! Alternatively, one might simply merge the Arctic Ocean with the Norwegian Sea, though I like a little more space around the edges and hence find the first option better.

Historically, I think this is justifiable. Maritime powers attempted a seaborne attack on Archangel (i.e. Novgorod (nc)) on several occasions throughout history.

But is this a good idea in play balance terms? It sure would create more of a genuine Northern triangle by edging Denmark-Norway and Russia closer together. A Danish opening to NRG might then either be in concert with a Swedish landbourne invasion or actually a mission to assist the Russians against such a Swedish onslaught. Or it could keep everyone guessing and see Denmark-Norway head for Scotland (after all, parts of Scotland had belonged to it for centuries).

So, what do you think? Good or bad idea?

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