How to Play Diplomacy

Diplomacy Game Variants

While plenty of groups of seven people have spent hours sitting around a game board playing Diplomacy, there are other ways to play the game. Because it can often be difficult to get seven people together to play, there are slightly different rules for playing the traditional version of Diplomacy with fewer players. For instance, if there are only six players available, Italy is eliminated. If there are even fewer people around, then each player has a combination of countries under his or her control.

Since the game was invented in the 1950s by Allan Calhamer -- a then-undergraduate student at Harvard University studying 19th century history -- people have long played the traditional version of Diplomacy via mail, with moves being submitted through the post. These days, not surprisingly, it has become more common to use technology and play using e-mail, text message or online.

Additionally, there is a World Diplomacy Convention held each year in a different location [source: Leroy]. Originally held in Birmingham, England, in 1988, the event brings players from all over the world together to play in a tournament. The winner of the event is considered the world champion of Diplomacy. There are also other games (not all of them produced by the same company) that share the basic rules of Diplomacy, but are set in other areas of the world. For instance, the game Machiavelli is set in Renaissance Italy, and the game Kamakura is set in Feudal Japan.

Although it has been 40 years since Strickler, the former diplomat, has played Diplomacy, his fond memory of the game is an indication of how addictive it can be. When he played during college, there was even a newspaper that reported on the game's negotiations, rumors, alliances and ultimate actions. "It's a great game," he says. "No wonder Kissinger loved it."

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  • Leroy, John. Public relations representative for Wizards of the Coast, makers or Diplomacy. Personal correspondence. Feb. 28, 2012.
  • McClelland, Edward. "All in the Game." Chicago Magazine. May, 2009. Feb. 29, 2012.
  • Official rules of Diplomacy. (Feb. 24, 25, 26, 2012).
  • Sacco, Bob. Player of Diplomacy. Personal correspondence. Feb. 22, 2012.
  • Strickler, Ted. Player of Diplomacy and former State Department official. Personal correspondence. Feb. 22, 2012.
  • Widdop, Julia. Player of Diplomacy. Personal correspondence. Feb. 22, 2012.