Diplomacy Games podcast: Episode 6 shownotes – Modern & Sopwith

Inside John Mills HimselfVenue: Pub crawl – Brew then John Mills Himself, Brisbane

Drinks of choice:

  • Kaner – Irish Black Lager by Black Hops Brewery from the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
  • Amby – Girraween Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from the Granite Belt, Queensland, Australia

In this episode the guys kick off a pub crawl and dive deep into the variants Modern Diplomacy and Sopwith, while also talking other Diplomacy stuff.


    • Kaner talks about a recent Fog of War game he’s finished (Blind War + Less Draw) that he’s animated – and won!  Kaner rambles off a few players’ names much to Amby’s amusement.  (0 mins 57 seconds)

  • Kaner acknowledges he had a bit of a hollow victory with many disbands much to his advantage. He discusses while under the “fog of war” he got many surprises along the way as he explored the map (3 mins 0 seconds)

Modern Diplomacy 2 variant

  • This is one of the few variants on both webDiplomacy and vDiplomacy (5 mins 40 seconds)
  • Kaner takes Amby off on a tangent by asking whether he’s going to the face-to-face PoppyCon tournament in Melbourne, Australia in December (6 mins 40 seconds)
  • The guys outline the gameboard and context of this variant set in 1994 created by Vincent Mous and adapted for webDiplomacy and vDiplomacy by Carey Jensen and Oli. This game has ten players and you need 33 supply centres to win. It allows building new units in any open supply centre  (8 mins 10 seconds)
  • Kaner starts talking about a Modern game he’s playing at the moment as Egypt and is getting totally destroyed in (9 mins 35 seconds)
  • Then we get onto a Modern game recently played by Amby over at webDiplomacy where he was part of a draw – see “Real Debate for All 2” (10 mins 30 seconds)
  • This was a public press only game which complicated communication with its subtlety. Kaner says he finds public press as a bit of a nightmare.  Amby talks a little about how with a 10 player game in public press it was a fair number of messages to read, but was manageable (11 mins)
  • He outlines his strategy for making a strong alliance with Germany. Which wasn’t very smart with Germany frequently NMRing (lingo for new players = No Moves Received). Compounding this Amby decided to not stab Germany despite the reoccurring NMRs.  (13 mins 30 seconds)
  • As a result France and England took over a lot of Germany. Amby ended up then becoming buddies with France, who was getting carved up by England (15 mins 55 seconds)
  • England was being played by Dagabs0 who is one of the best players over at webDiplomacy, ranked 14th from a total of over 13,000 players. Not surprisingly he was on top of his game. However Turkey was the superior player on the board for this game, forming a “tighter than a monkey’s arse” alliance with Ukraine, even though later on Turkey was eating Ukraine’s SC’s up (16 mins 45 seconds)
  • Amby, playing as Poland, describes how he got into a fight early on with Russia after forming an alliance with Germany. Russia got smashed quickly by Poland, Ukraine and Turkey. Amby says – after some entertaining pronunciation attempts – how he offered Murmansk to England (18 mins)
  • Kaner asks about what Egypt was up to at the time as he was “doing a Kaner” dying. Amby explains how while Egypt was doing well at the start, however the Turkey-Ukraine alliance gave Turkey the opportunity to move south, wiping out Egypt.
  • Italy had a really bad start with France attacking him from the game’s opening, while England similarly attacked Spain and took him out quickly (19 mins)
  • Amby explains how it probably wasn’t the best move to stab England by taking Murmansk and sending a bullshit excuse to him. But despite this Dagabs0 came back with a beautifully constructed diplomatic response (20 mins 30 seconds)
  • As a result Amby was at war with Ukraine and now England and at this time Germany started NMRing. Not looking good for Amby, so he tried making peace with Ukraine by ceasing military operations against him. But of course that didn’t happen with Ukraine continuing to fight. (21 mins 15 seconds)
  • Meanwhile with everyone fighting each other Turkey was “gobbling” up the board. This caused Amby, England and France to push Ukraine hard to break ranks with Turkey (22 mins 40 seconds)
  • The guys get into their second – or maybe third – pronunciation fight for the evening while talking about the Russian language’s use of the Cyrillic alphabet before Kaner shows his ignorance of Italian thanks to Dean Martin’s classic song about a moray eel (25 mins)
  • Back to the game, England who had been a long term adversary of Amby’s and France, made peace so the three of them could contain Turkey and his Ukrainian vassal state. This quickly made an impact and Turkey put in for the draw, finishing up the game  (26 mins 15 seconds)
  • Amby goes on to explain how the different scoring systems between vDiplomacy and webDiplomacy impact their rankings. At vDiplomacy rankings are impacted based on how you played vis-a-vis other higher ranked players eg a player ranked 100th who manages to get a player ranked 10th to draw, is going to get a greater rankings boost while the player who is 10th may slip in their rank  (27 mins 30 seconds)
  • But at webDip it doesn’t work that way with the Sum of Squares scoring system where depending on the number of supply centres you finish with and the number of supply centres in a game are squared and some magical math equation comes into play to determine your score and ranking (28 mins)
  • The guys debate how at vDip a draw works on points in a Winner Take All versus Points Per Supply Centre (PPSC) game. Amby mentions how WTA is now the default at webDiplomacy, however he prefers PPSC as it allows for greater negotiation opportunities. Mind you throughout the whole conversation – and probably due to the drinking – the guys continually refer to PPSC as PPCS. Idiots (29 mins 15 seconds)
  • This spurs on a discussion about the value of rankings. Kaner doesn’t see their purpose, while Amby disagrees and laments on the good old days when he was once top of the vDip rankings (31 mins)
  • Wrapping up their discussion on Modern, Amby mentions how he received an End of Game statement from Dagabs0, giving his perspective on their game:  (32 mins 30 seconds)

“As I’ve played more Diplomacy over the years (including dabbling in the original board game 20 years ago when I was in high school ), I’ve come to enjoy gunboat games the most out of any set of rules. I’m not sure if I share others opinions that it’s the “purest” form of the game, although I certainly understand that point of view. For me, it’s the idea that there are more possible diverse outcomes in a gunboat game than in a normal messaging game.

When I discovered the webDip site 3 years ago, I began playing mostly normal classic games, but I discovered that most of my games resulted in similar outcomes, with either France or Germany almost always becoming the early behemoth, and the other players having to chase him down and force him into a draw. Those 2 nations seem to have been too powerfully unbalanced in their designs; just as Egypt and Rome were too weakly unbalanced in their Ancient designs; and similarly to many nations being unbalanced both ways in the World & America variants. So although I still very much enjoy the ancient variant due to the benefit of the ultra aggressive gameplay strategy (which is my preferred style), those factors led me to the Modern variant becoming my favorite.

In my opinion, the benefits of the Modern variant are that it has harnessed the happy median between certain aspects of the different variants – namely game size. 10 players (compared to the 5/7 or 17) allows for a fair amount of aggressive early gameplay, but also usually punishes players who refuse to choose any early allies. The factor of being able to build anywhere also adds a unique & fun aspect to Modern games.

In the recently completed game ‘Real debate for all 2’, I was Britain (a much more enjoyable nation than the Classic English counterpart). This contest was a Public Messaging Only game. I’ve found that the gameplay using these unique messaging rules equates much more to a gunboat game than a normal messaging game, especially among more experienced players – simply because most allied agreements & moves that can be safely conveyed publicly can also (eventually) be conveyed in a gunboat.

This specific game was enjoyable all the way through except for the fact that the (many) German players only had the decency to enter orders half the time. Indeed, there were 2 different CDs and over a dozen NMRs in that nation alone. Among the early alliances, the immediate French/German partnership was the main one that jumped out to me (due to the personal regional significance). As Britain, I did not feel the need to seek out any early allies, so I chose to remain a lone wolf. I was slowly conquering Spain and had a foothold in Scandinavia as well (hat tip to you for having crippled Russia). It was a nice gesture for you to originally offer me Murmansk, and I quickly accepted, since I felt it was high time to have an ally. I was very much enjoying my battle against a strong French/German wall, and that extra build was just what I felt I needed to gain an advantage against them. As the game progressed, I felt comfortable in leaving Murmansk unoccupied & moving 2 full spaces away from it.

Then, just as I was about to finally break through into Germany, I was dismayed to see you retake Murmansk without alerting me. Since I was already sailing through Scandinavia en route to Germany, I decided to turn a portion of my naval strength east to mount an attack against Poland in the Baltics. We quickly formed a stalemate on that front; but by that stage in the game, there were only 4 1/2 legitimate players left: Turkey (along with his protectorate nation – Ukraine), France, and the 2 of us. Turkey was quickly passing 20 SCs, and even as I was finally breaking into France, I realized that my previous chance of beating Turkey to the solo was impossible. France pointed out that the only thing I would accomplish by continuing to wipe him out would be to give Turkey (who had taken all of Italy, and was attacking France from the southeast) an easier solo. He was in desperate straits, but also quite right, so I immediately ceased my hostility against him and you, and the 3 of us made peace to turn our combined efforts against Turkey/Ukraine. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I’ve always personally had the habit of trying to master a certain strategy game/puzzle (and often even one specific aspect of said game) before moving onto the next game or activity. So I think that’s the only reason that I haven’t gotten around to exploring the vDip variants yet; but I certainly plan to in the near future.”

Floor tiles entering John Mills HimselfSopwith

Kaner and Amby kick off their pub crawl by moving from Brew to John Mills Himself. JMH pride themselves on their locavore menu with all drinks produced within 250 kilometers, except for their Tasmanian whiskeys (40 mins 25 seconds)

After a discussion on drinks Kaner moves the conversation onto the Sopwith variant:

  • Sopwith is a game of six players with each of the players taking on the persona of a World War 1 fighter pilot. The game is played on a hexagonal board. Grey cells represent clouds that randomly move. You can fly into them, but as you lose 1 of your 16 health points each time you fly into a cloud it’s generally not recommended unless you’re about to get shot. You also start the game with a full amount of ammunition (43 mins)
  • Each turn takes place over three moves (instead of the usual 2 in Diplomacy). You begin at your airport with the taking in your first turn you.  When flying your orders can move ahead, turn left (turning your plane to point a direction), slip left (banks you left but you don’t change the direction you’re facing), turn right, slip right and an Immelman turn which can only be made by aces… more on this later. If you want to make sense of this there’s a good graphic explaining it here (44 mins)
  • You PM the Game Master your three moves, as does everyone else. The GM then hand adjudicates the game and updates a  visual of this in photo editing software which is then shared with players. It is not currently a game that you can play online although four games have been facilitated on vDiplomacy’s Wiki (although the Wiki is not up at the moment) (45 mins 20 seconds)
  • Kaner goes on to discuss one of the more recent games which he GMed. The players included  Guros, bozo, Sandgoose, DoubleCaps, Blockstone and raro (apologies if we got any names wrong!) To allow for messaging between players a standard Diplomacy game was created so players could communicate with each other in the usual Diplomacy style (47 mins 10 seconds)

  • Being fighter pilots you can fire to attack other player’s planes. You can fire straight, fire left and fire right. Depending on the distance between players the amount of damage varies – the closer you are the greater the damage eg if immediately adjacent one hex you do 3 damage, two hexes its only 2 damage and if three hexes away it is only 1 damage. (47 mins 45 seconds)
  • Kaner also encouraged players to send in short sentences which Kaner would edit into the layer image. This allows for classic fighter pilot commentary when you’re being followed by a fighter (48 mins 30 seconds)
  • During the game Kaner encouraged the players to take on the persona of famous fighter pilots (51 mins 30 seconds)
  • Players can land back on their landing strip to regain health points, but can be shot in the ground. Once you’ve run out of points you literally blow up in an explosion (much to Amby’s amusement after a few drinks) and you’re out of the game (52 mins)
  • If a player approaches the edge of the board they need to turn. If you don’t you fly off the board and die. If you NMR you just move forward three steps (53 mins 20 seconds)
  • In each turn you can fire three times. This can be once in each of the three moves or could even be three times in just one of your three moves that turn (54 mins)
  • Kaner describes how when he was kicking around the idea of Sopwith at vDiplomacy that Oli was open to the idea of coding it up to run on php. But then he got busy and it didn’t happen (55 mins 15 seconds)
  • Kaner discusses how he thinks it’d be a great game to have run next year for people interested (57 mins)
  • Amby feels now that Kaner’s explained it and shown it (see Youtube video below) it now makes sense to him and not just crazy shit (57 mins 30 seconds)
  • Finally Kaner comes back to Aces – after each game you get a certain number of points. If a few of these games were played by a single player who gets high points they could become an Ace, allowing them to perform the Immelman turn, flipping around to go the opposite way  (58 mins 20 seconds)
  • Kaner first found Sopwith back in the old Diplomacy 2000 days where it was run alongside email Diplomacy games (58 mins 50 seconds)
  • If players are interested in a game they should PM Kaner on webDiplomacy or vDiplomacy (handle for both is kaner406) (59 mins 40 seconds)

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If you have any suggestions on what you’d like to see covered in an upcoming podcast, or something you’d like to see regularly covered, please contact us or leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks to Dan Philip for his rockin’ intro to the Diplomacy Games podcast.

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