... mais ce n'est pas la guerre. (Mashall Pierre Bosquet)
July 1988 (O.K., Fred?)
HELLO, good evening and welcome to the fifty-fith issue
of that wholly remarkable zeen, C'est Magnifique, once a
fully-fledged zeen of postal Diplomacy and suchlike, now reduced
to an occasional chat-based production appearing mostly at
conventions, as I am too cheap to waste money on postage.
This zeen comes to you from Peter Sullivan. Home address is 36, Bushey Hall Road, Bushey, WATFORD, Herts., WD2 2ED ; term time (from October) it's St. Chad's College, 18 North Bailey, DURHAM, DH1 3RH. This issue costs you nothing ; if you are sufficiently overwhelmed by this generosity you are welcome to track me down in the bar and buy me a drink.
Computerbore information : As in the old days, this issue is produced on an Amstrad 8256 using Locoscript 1 (yes, I know I ought to upgrade) and The Word spellcheck program(me). Printing by SID, my Roneo 870 stencil duplicator.
To the players in "HARFLEUR" : You should find the Fall 1916 adjudication of Britain's longest extant Rather Silly Diplomacy game somewhere inside. Also note the new edition of the Houserules which will apply to this game from now on. I shall expect the usual screams of protest at 'changes' which have been in the houserules unnoticed already.
To the old CMag readership : Since we last parted at issue 50, the Rather Silly game has continued on its way, accounting for CMags 51 to 54 (none more than two pages long). This is however the first 'public' issue since I abandoned you to Andy Mansfield's Will It Lead to Trouble? for the delights of passing a degree, student politics and actually developing a social life. For all of Bowen's scoffing, the last six months have convinced me that University is not the place to run a full-scale zeen - there's so much else out there to enjoy.
To anyone else reading this : Congratulations! You have just stumbled on the first ever convention freebie issue of a zeen not designed to attract new subscribers. As such, you can enjoy reading this without the guilt of knowing that you're not going to like it enough to want to pay for more of the same. For the uninitiated, CMag was a normal Diplomacy zeen which I ran at three-weekly frequency before I decided there were better things to do at University. This is the first in a distinctly irregular series of convention special issues. Next issue will either be Midcon '88 or Baycon '89.
Well, I hope you all enjoy World Dip Con. I certainly intend to, although with five days of gaming and hobby politicking ghod knows what condition I'll be in by the end. At least with it being five days, I won't be tempted to miss a whole night's sleep. (Believe me kiddies, it just ain't worth it.) Of the many things going on over the weekend, don't forget the Diplomacy Variant Tournament being run by Andrew Poole, which I shall probably get roped into helping to run. But I should steer well clear of the face-to-face game of Chaos if I were you...
In the January 1982 issue of Bushwacker, Fred C. Davis
Jr. published a list of his "top ten" Diplomacy
variants. This list was later picked up by Andrew Poole, who
published the rules for all ten of Fred's choices (with the
exception of Mercator) as the UKVB Variant Package II. (Available
from Andrew Poole in person at World Dip Con or by post.) Well
worth getting hold of a copy if you've any interest in variants.
Inevitably however, Fred's choices don't all gel with me; I suspect every variant fan's choices would be different. Not that that's going to stop me inflicting my top ten on you all. My own tastes tend towards variants with one simple key concept, or to "silly" variants. So, in no particular order (apart from alphabetical):
ABSTRACTION II (Fred C. Davis Jr.) : Quite possibly the best-designed variant of all time. The basic scenario is the same - World War One Europe, seven Great Powers. But the redesigned map and the Davis Army/Fleet rules (which allow fleets to carry armies "piggy-back" for several turns if required) mean that you have a much more 'open' game, and a better balanced one than with Regular Diplomacy. The Winter Frozen Regions rule is a right bind when you forget about it (as I did), and as for the exchange of provinces rule, has anyone ever used this in an actual game?
ATLANTICA III (Fred C. Davis Jr.) : Map centred on the Atlantic Ocean, which means that Army/Fleet rules are a must. Notable for its assumption that the South won the Civil War, with both the United States and the Confederate States as Great Powers. But what makes this game for me are the rules for 'discovering' Atlantis (an additional neutral supply centre) in one of six possible locations in the middle of the Atlantic. A game I'd like to see tried again in the British postal hobby.
CHAOS II (Michael Feron) : All of us have our dark secrets.
Yes, I was the man who introduced Martin Lewis to Chaos II. I was
temporarily in charge of the Variant Bank between rescuing it
from Geoff Kemp and handing it on to Steve Doubleday. Martin
asked if I knew of any interesting variants, and I told him about
this one, reasoning that if any zeen could get 34 players for a
game, Vienna could. The rest, as they say, is history.
For the uninitiated, this game starts each player off with one supply centre (and hence one unit) on the regular board. There is also provision for nominating home supply centres and (grit your teeth, Kinzett) joint wins. If you're interested, I believe that there is going to be a repeat of last year's face-to-face game at World Dip Con - ask Martin Lewis or at the registration desk for details (and may the Lord have mercy on your soul...)
DELUGE (Tim Sharrock) : Once again, a simple enough concept - Europe gradually floods every year until only Switzerland remains above ground by 1908. The winner is the only player with a unit left at the end. It features the inevitable Army/Fleet rules, as well as allowing units to convert from Armies to Fleets under certain conditions. As the board gets increasingly flooded, this can be very useful! A very paranoid game at the end, as often a player will have to decide who to throw the game to. I believe that Andrew Poole has produced a series of maps showing the state of the board at the end of each year, which is a very useful player (and g.m.!) aid.
DOWNFALL X (Richard Egan/Martin Lewis) : In the beginning,
there was Hartley Patterson, who designed a Tolkein variant
called "Downfall of the Lord of the Rings and the Return of
the King." There were a couple of other versions, but it was
not until the Viennamob hit the hobby that Downfall re-designing
became the 'in' thing for all hip and dudey variant fans.
This tenth version is probably one of the best, if only because it has the potential for solving the inbuilt imbalance ion any Tolkein scenario. It uses different "victory points" for each power, which can be fine-tuned in the light of further games. It also features somewhat less of the atmospheric but fiddly "chrome" which afflicted "Definitive" Downfall and Downfall IX.
RATHER SILLY DIPLOMACY II½ (Jeremy Maiden / Dave Thorby /
Peter Sullivan) : Hod, do I really want my name associated with
the likes of Maiden and Thorby? It is the considered opinion of
such hobby luminaries ad Richard Walkerdine and Conrad von Metzke
that this variant is unplayable (or, to be more accurate, un-g.m.able).
This despite the fact that Brian Creese has run a game to
conclusion, and mine and several others' games are well on their
The trick is, when you find a rule that makes things awkward to g.m., you use g.m. fiat to remove it and replace with an even sillier (but easier to run) rule. It also helps if you have players who don't really understand what's going on (or, in extreme cases, have never even seen the rules) as this means they're very unlikely to protest about g.m.ing errors.
SACRED RHINOCEROS II (Michael Liesnard) : Spotted by yours truly in the darker recesses of the U.K. Variant Bank but not (as far as I know - Martin?) ever played in Britain. The idea is that each player has an allied African tribe. These each have one "tribal symbol" unit (a "Sacred Rhinoceros") in Africa which supplies an additional native Army for use in Europe. (Africa is totally separate from the ordinary board.) If a tribal symbol is dislodged and disbanded by the other tribes' symbols, then "the Sacred Rhinoceros has lost his horn" and the associated army in Europe is destroyed. A nice "minimal change" variant with scope for unusual press.
SLIGHTLY DEMIURGIC DIPLOMACY (Nick Kinzett) : a.k.a. Revenge of the Master Rulechanger. Quite simply, a game in which the players can vote to change the rules. Each turn, each player proposes a rule change. These are then voted upon, and any that are passed by a majority vote become Rules of the Game until further altered or rescinded. A great deal of scope for mixing up rules from other variants, or just getting plain silly. Nick has yet to respond to my suggestion that we should do the voting by proper multi-member Single Transferable Vote - maybe we should try a game played like that if and when "HARFLEUR" finishes.
VAIN RATS (Richard Sharp / Steve Doubleday) : So called because it's a mixture of variants. Each player has one (or, in most versions, two) special power chosen form a list at the start. These vary from version to version, but normally include things like Petrol Rationing (allows multiple moves), Evil Eye (may re-order another player's unit), Leper (can give "leprosy" to units it meets, killing them), Double Armies and so on. Usually won by the player who chooses the best special powers at the start and makes best use of them.
WOOLWORTH II-D (Glen Overby / Fred C. Davis Jr.) : Ten Great Powers (Regular plus Spain, Scandinavia and the Balkans) but only five players. Each player controls one "public" power and one "private" power. Only the g.m. and the player concerned knows who controls each "private" power, which gives lots of scope for double-dealing, as well as the problem of how closely to co-ordinate your two powers (too much and you'll give the game away!). An increasingly popular variant over the past few years. The name arises because when the Woolworth stores were originally founded in the U.S.A., all their goods were sold at either 5¢ or 10¢ (not "$5 or $10," Andrew Poole - a bit expensive for the 19th century, surely !)
Finally, I should just remind you that copies of the rules for the above variants are all available from your friendly local Variant Bank. The U.K.V.B. Custodian is Richard Jackson, and he should be able to supply copies for the usual fee. He also publishes White Paper, a list of all the known game openings for variants in the hobby, together with various other tit-bits, available for a mere S.S.A.E.
|Fall 1916 (85BM vj15)||
Rather Silly Diplomacy II½
RULE QUERIES from last season :
And your HYPERSPACE LINK for today is : Nap-Sev.
RETREATS : ITALY A(Nap) disbands, no retreat ordered.
MASTERMIND'S F%(MAO) disbands, no retreat ordered.
SPACE MONSTORES' A(Lon) disbands, no retreat possible.
BORG : Borg(Tyr)-Ven.
LLAMA EXPLOSIONS : ITALY LL(TYS) explodes.
SEA MONSTORES : F(IRI)-Lpl, F(BAR)-StP, F(Edi) stands.
SPACE MONSTORES: A(Lon)* stands.
MASTERMIND'S QUESTION : Ayrton Senna was the winner of
12 races in the 1983 British F3 championship. Correct answers
from ITALY and FRANCE (+1/2 s.c. each). In the meantime, AUSTRIA
finally sorts out the disputed question about the American
Football players by proving that they are both Aries (+1 s.c.).
Next Question : In which Phillip K. Dick novel is "Sea-Tac Airport" mentioned?
RULE QUERIES : Note that ITALY's units must attack the homosexual fleet in Apulia, so his orders have been re-written by the g.m. as per the rules. If anyone's interested, I drew lots to decide which unit atttacked, and which one supported.
1916 Winter Adjustments :
|A :||Bud, Rum, Ser, War, StP, Ank, Vie, Con, Smy, Ber, Bul, Sev, Tri, Gre, Mos, Kie, -1 soul, + 1& 11/12 m.m.||=13||+A(Vie), A%(Bud)|
|E :||-1 soul, +11/12 m.m.||=-1||no change|
|F :||Par, Mar, Bre, Spa, Bel, Hol, Lon, Por, Den, Nwy, Mun. -1 soul +3/4 m.m.||=10||+A(Par)|
|I :||Rom, Nap. +1/2 m.m.||= 1||+A(Rom)|
|D :||((3 v.p.))||= 0||-|
|M :||Tun, Lpl, +Nap||= 3||-|
|S :||Swe, +StP +Kie||= 3||-|
HYPERSPACE LINK voting : Rom-Mos(3) wins from Bud-Bur(2), Por-Ice(1).
Geneva : The game-end proposals were both defeated. The Draw Including All Survivors has been re-proposed. The deadline for votes, Spring 1917 orders and retreats is FRIDAY, 12th AUGUST, 1988, to Peter Sullivan. Telephone orders before 9 p.m.
Answer to Riddle 15 : Lead, Tin, Cobalt.
Soothsayer - Riddler : Lead, Cobalt and Nickel. Easy. Now supply their electronic configurations.
Riddle 16 : If Postman Pat were to lose his job, what would he be called?
Riddler - Geneva : Yes, I know it's pathetic, but old Martin's been finding them a little tricky lately.
Soothsayer - Jester : 4 seasons and counting!...
Harfleur Press Awards : - The only totally unbiased Awards in the Postal Gaming Hobby today.
Soothsayer - England : Yes, but life after death is in the heavens - and that seems to be where you are at the moment.
Meanwhile, waiting on Platform 3 : Martin the Lewd was
worried. He had been standing at this bookstall at Torquay
Railway station now for several months, waiting to meet a contact
at Baycon. Martin the Lewd was to supply his contact from the
Committee for Monitoring Ad-libbing Gamesmasters with all the 'dirt'
he had collected to finish off the Grand Sultan Sulliman once and
He sighed, and turned again to the array of books on the shelves. During his long wait, he had read almost all of them, pretending to be "browsing." He'd started off on the Science Fiction and Fantasy, but as time went on, he had become more and more desperate for any fresh reading matter to take his mind off the long wait. He had read books that normally he would not have dreamed of reading. At first it had just been the odd Arthur Haley. Then on to Catherine Cookson. By now - oh the shame of it - he was even through all the Mills and Boon. But he had to keep on reading something, to keep his mind occupied.
But, throughout his long ordeal, he had at least remained true to his principles, and had not touched a Jeffrey Archer book. Now, however, he was through all the other books on the shelves. There was, as they say, no alternative. Looking furtively around, he whipped Shall We Tell the President? off the shelves and turned to the first page.
To his surprise, a small slip of paper fell out of the book. He stooped down, picked it up and read it. "Martin - I am unable to get to Baycon due to increased security at the C.M.A.G. Please make sure you are at World Dip Con on 15th July so we can discuss this case there. Signed, Pierre Bosquet."
Martin the Lewd looked at his calendar. It was already mid-June - would he be able to make it to Birmingham in time?
Atop a tall tower in Durham : The Grand Sultan Sulliman gazed lovingly on his palantir, which he had purchased from the Rane Fortis et Dure Third Age game. "I knew this was worth the extortionate price that Lucifer chappie charged me," said the Grand Sultan to a minion standing by with a notice saying "I am a plot device" hanging around his neck. "It means I can keep track of every move of my arch-enemy Martin the Lewd. Little does he know that Pierre Bosquet and his Committee for Monitoring Ad-libbing Gamesmasters is merely a front set up by myself. Once I have destroyed the evidence he has gathered on me, no-one will be able to gainsay me from controlling the whole Diplomacy hobby." He felt a demonic laugh coming on, but, conscious of how close to a Walkerdine stereotype he had already become, he suppressed it.
Proverbs 31:34 : Although 18 could be of course the number of which thou will strive for if thou art the Jester, as the year 18 in the 20th Century is important. (Ha!)
Soothsayer - Geneva : I bet you're glad I've gone onto this side, aren't you?
One of Pete Birks' more pervasive influences on the hobby has
been the idea of a "Ramblings," "Sweepies" or
"Gossip" column, in which hobby news, reviews of films,
books and records, and recent incidents from the editor's life
are slung together in an apparently unconnected way to make some
kind of coherent piece.
Birks is of course the master of this technique, although Pete Doubleday can be pretty good at it too. It seems to be spreading ; William Whyte, as a younger version of Pete Birks, is a natural and makes good use of it when he produces an issue at all. Iain Bowen has been known to indulge as well. Even a recent Gallimaufry mixes in letters, reviews and chat all together.
One virtue of this technique is that it makes Spacefillers much easier to get away with, as they are hidden in an article-length piece. Do your ramblings finish 6 lines short of the page? No problem, just expand the section by putting in another paragraph about what the cat is up to, and you'll finish right on the page boundary.
Alternatively, you can lift items out of the "Ramblings" section and use them for spacefillers. Any editor who cares about page boundaries will, at some time or another, have been in a position where the zeen is all ready for printing, except for a couple of annoying empty page-bottoms. You then spend ages trying to think of something to fill them with. With a Ramblings section, all you do is lift a short item from there.
Finally, if you hit the editor's standard nightmare - an odd number of pages - you can take a short item out of the Ramblings section and expand it quickly into a fully-fledged article. The problem with one-page filler articles is not writing them (any editor worth his salt should be able to hack out a page on any subject under the sun, even if the quality is dubious), but finding a subject to write about.
Thus, the rambles section in most zeens is designed as an editorial aid, and any benefit to the reader is just a by-product. But then, as Piggot's Law proves, zeens are only published for the benefit of their editors anyway.
As I write this, I've just seen the first episode of the latest T.V. drama, A Very British Coup (the Wednesday repeat, having missed the first showing on Sunday). I shall forbear reviewing it here, as all the newspapers have already done so, and the series will be over by the time you read this. But one detail which impressed me was that, in a story set in the future, they had remembered to change the car registrations - all the obviously shiny new vehicles (e.g. Ministry limos) had 'J' registrations.
"Well, I always said he ((John Piggott)) was a wanker,
and that proves it!" - Mark Boyle, Froggy #20, page
"Barry Kelly's right on his outburst on those clowns who use bad language. What are they trying to prove? Do they think it's really "tough" or something of that ilk?" - Mark Boyle, Froggy #20, page 11.
Any further comment from me seems superfluous.
Of course, this zeen is by no means the only one to be making
a special World Dip Con appearance. As well as the vast number of
ordinary editors who will be producing an issue conveniently just
before the convention to save on postage, I am aware of plans for
Mission from God Joshua (Iain Bowen) : This will be available from assorted members of the Brum mafia for the usual price (I think it's 35p by hand). I believe that MfG is much under-rated as a listings zeen - at least it appears regularly and contains the relevant information (name, price, editor's address, etc.) on virtually all the zeens in the Hobby. Compare this to the last days of Twenty Years On. Some people may not like its reviewing style, but they should at least recognise that MfG provides the basic goods. Those, such as myself, who like the style have no problems with the zeen, of course.
The Numbers Game 6 (Nick Kinzett) : One of Mick Bullock's most lasting legacies to the Diplomacy hobby has been that he was one of the first to get interested in Diplomacy statistics. Thus, we nowadays have a large number of people who look upon stats as a fascinating source of interesting and relevant information. Nick Kinzett is one of those, and produces this, the Regular Diplomacy statszeen, still catching up on past backlog at the moment.
Take a Look 5 (Martin Lewis) : The Diplomacy variants statszeen, with the advantage of appealing not just to variant fans, not just to stats fans, but to fans of the boy Lewis of all ages. The World Dip Con issue may well feature the first draft of a set of player ratings for Diplomacy variants, if Martin & myself can sort out whose system we're going to use. An interesting read even to those who wouldn't recognise a Miller number if it bit them on the leg, S'only 30p. Take a look.
Note that this is likely to be that last independent issue of TaL, as there are plans to produce a joint Variant Bank/Variant Stats zeen, with general articles & chat on variants and Richard Egan as head honcho. Full details will no doubt be hacked out over a few(?) pints at World Dip Con. This should be a good move, as it's a return to the idea that Andrew Poole and I were planning (even to the extent of coming up with a title - Alternatives) before we faced up to the fact that neither of us really had the time to do it properly.
Ethil the Frog 102 (John Piggott) : Nothing definite on this one, but I wouldn't be surprised to see this one make an appearance, if only because it must be coming around to the time to launch the 1988 British Diplomacy Zeen Poll. I happen to think that Piggott is wasted running a poll, but if that's what makes him happy, I suppose we shouldn't interfere. (Yes, Piggott's Second Law of Fanzeens, I know.) But then, there are signs that the man who "invented" chat in zeens is no longer the force he was - I mean, you never got him talking to his typewriter in the old days, did you? If this zeen does make a World Dip Con appearance, snap one up. 50p I believe.
The much-awaited(?) Birks Cricket Match on 3rd July was rained
off, which is what you might expect if you schedule it for the
same day as the Wimbledon finals. I thus missed my chance to
heckle from the boundary, but instead managed to get involved in
two of the German games available from Brian Walker which are
currently circulating amongst the London mafia - Six Day Cycling
and Formel 1.
Both are simple racing games over one lap, with several rounds being used to decide an overall winner. Both feature a simple play mechanism involving playing "movement" cards from a hand drawn at the beginning, but have plenty of scope for cleve use of tactics.
The Cycling game uses the idea of "slipstreams," whereby if you finish on the smae square as another player, you get to move on by as much again (or twice if there are two players already there, and so on). The idea is thus to "bounce" off other players, and not get either too far ahead or behind.
The different denominations of cards in Formel Eins move not only your car, but other cars as well. Thus, the idea is to play cards which help you when you can take advantedge of them, and cards which help the others when they can't use them (e.g. becuase they are blocked).
If you get a chance to play either of these games at World Dip Con, I would recommend that you try them out. Simple but with hidden depths, and short enough to play in an afternoon - as far as I am concerned the ideal recipe for a good game (sorry, Civilization fanatics).
The next major convention on the list is Midcon 88, and the National Diplomacy Championship, at the usual venue of the Royal Angus Hotel, St. Chad's Queensway, Birmingham. Dates this year are somewhat earlier than usual - Friday 28th to Sunday 30th October. The registration fee of £6 (£5 if before the end of this month) should be sent to Brian Williams. If you want to stay at the Royal Angus, the bed & breakfast rates this year will be £24 per person per night in a single room, or £19.50 in a double. I fully expect to be attending this (studiously refusing to play Diplomacy as usual), but don't let that put you off.
The London Hobbymeet (for the uninititated, a group of London hobby people who get together in a pub for chat and drinks) has been a little bit quiet of late, but looks all set for a summer revival. It meets every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month, at the Red Lion, Kingly Street. (Kingly Street runs parallel between the top of Regents' Street and Carnaby Street). Nearest tube is Oxford Circus. Look it up in the A to Z and just turn up, or 'phone me beforehand and I'll keep an eye out for you. We tend to congregate at the back seating area on the ground floor.
PLAYLIST for this issue : The Beatles, Abbey Road & Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band ; The Who, Tommy ; Paul McCartney, All the Best ; The John Lennon Collection ; Paul Simon, Graceland ; Fascinating Aïda, Sweet F.A. No, my musical taste hasn't improved over the last six months, has it?
This has been the special World Dip Con freebie issue of that wholly remarkable zeen, C'est Magnifique, the fifty-fifth issue thereof.
A splendid time is guaranteed for all.
First published July 1988. Re-typed in HTML December 2000.