At start of game
- Denmark and Sweden: You can move between these regions without crossing the sea.
- North Africa and Spain: You can’t move between these regions without crossing the sea.
- Spain, Bulgaria, St Petersburg: These regions have two coastlines. If you move a fleet here, indicate which coastline you are moving to.
- Constantinople, Kiel: These regions have only one coastline.
- Unlabelled islands (including Ireland): These are ignored.
- Switzerland: Units can’t enter this region at all.
Orders and resolutions each turn will be recorded here.
Diplomacy is a strategy game set in Europe before the First World War. Seven powers are vying for control of the continent: Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Turkey, Italy, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Each player takes control of one of these seven powers.
In theory, the game ends when one power has expanded so much that it controls 18 supply centres. This puts it in such a dominant position that everyone else is obliged to give up. In practice, it’s likely that powers will capitulate once they see which way the wind is blowing.
About these rules
These rules introduce you to how the game works, enough for you to get playing the game. Don’t worry too much about the details. Skim through them, get your head round the basics, and then get stuck in.
THe basic rules of Diplomacy are very simple by board game standards, but there is a wide range of possible situations that can arise out of them. The rules on this page don’t deal with every single situation like that, because that would be boring. If you find yourself wondering about some particularly intricate situation which isn’t covered here, you will want to read the comprehensive rules PDF (5MB), or email the referee.
The game goes slowly, one turn per week. Turns alternate between ‘spring’ and ‘autumn’.
Each turn works like this:
- In advance of the deadline, each player emails the referee with secret orders, instructing how they want to move each of their armies and fleets.
- After the deadline, the referee collects everyone’s orders together. He moves everyone’s armies and fleets as instructed, and publishes a new map on the Map tab so everyone can see what’s happened.
Apart from that one email telling the referee your orders, you don’t have to do anything else all week. But to play the game well, what you should be doing is diplomacy! That is, you should be contacting other players to propose deals, form alliances, ask for help, offer support, spread rumours, make threats… whatever you like.
There are no rules about diplomacy. You can do whatever you like. Regardless of what you agree/suggest/promise, the rules don’t force you to keep your word. You’re perfectly within your rights to promise one thing to France, something else to Italy, and something else again to Russia… and then do something completely different when it comes to actually writing your orders. So it’s up to you to decide who to trust, and how trustworthy to be. Only your actual orders are binding — and they’re secret until after they take effect.
One quick hint, though. It’s called Diplomacy for a reason. It is impossible to win this game without striking deals with other players. It’s also impossible to make omelettes without breaking eggs. Good luck!
About the map
The map is divided into regions. There are three types of region:
Land regions with supply centres: These are marked with a little star. They are of value to you. Each supply centre you capture gets you an extra unit, and you win the game by controlling 18 of them, so go get ’em.
Land regions without supply centres: These are of no intrinsic value, and do nothing except get in your way. (No rude remarks about Wales, please.)
Sea regions: These are also of no value in their own right. Only fleets can enter them.
Armies and fleets
Armies move across the land, one space per turn, from their current region into any adjacent region.
Fleets move the same way, but across the sea. Slightly counter-intuitively, they can also move into and through land regions, but only those that have coastlines. This is supposed to represent the fleet moving along the coast. (So, for instance, Britain starts the game with fleets in London and Edinburgh, and the London fleet could move to Yorkshire in the first turn if it liked. Imagine the ships sailing down the east coast of England.)
You’ll notice that there’s only one piece per region – this rule applies throughout the game. If you want to move into a region, you’ll need to find some way to dislodge of whoever’s already there first. That, basically, is the whole game of Diplomacy.
Convoying armies across seas
Armies can cross the sea by using fleets to convoy them. If you couldn’t do this, being Britain would be a bit boring.
To convoy an army, first move your fleet into an appropriate sea region so it forms a kind of ‘bridge’ for the army. Then, next turn, order the fleet to convoy the army, and hop the army all the way across to the other side of the sea (in one go).
If you have loads of fleets, you can set up a chain of fleets to convoy an army a really long way across several sea regions in one go — as long as it ends up on land at the other end.
When you move one of your units into a region with a supply centre, you occupy it.
If you occupy a region at the end of an autumn turn (so that’s every other turn), you get to see the region change satisfyingly to your colour. Once that has happened, the region stays yours even if you subsequently leave, until someone else occupies it.
Over time, the more regions you occupy, the more armies and fleets you’ll be able to build. After every autumn turn, the referee will count up the number of regions you occupy, and if you’ve gained any regions since last time you’ll be able to build new armies or fleets in your home supply centres, if you have space. Likewise, if you’ve lost some regions because someone else has marched in and taken them, then you’ll lose some units — you’ll get to choose which.
Remember that occupying worthless regions with no supply centres, like Wales, gains you nothing. Only regions with supply centres are worth conquering.
Only one piece can occupy a region at a time. So sometimes your orders will conflict with another player’s orders, resulting in a stand-off.
- You might try to move into a region that’s already occupied. When this happens, your move fails and your piece stays where it is.
- You might try to move into an empty region at the same time as someone else tries to move into that region. When this happens, both moves fail and both pieces stay where they are.
You can try and break a stand-off by forcing your way into a region even if it’s already occupied. To do this, you can order one (or more) of your pieces to support another piece’s move. This is the interesting bit!
For instance, if you wanted to move into Paris but you knew there was already an enemy army there, you might order your other army in Gascony to support the move. Because the total strength of your move then adds up to 2 (your army moving from Brest plus the support from Gascony), you’d outnumber the enemy army and your move would succeed. Instead of a stand-off, the enemy army would be dislodged and have to retreat somewhere — in this case, perhaps to Burgundy.
So you can break any deadlock simply by bringing another unit in to support your move. And fleets can support moves just as armies can. The only rule is that the move being supported must be to a region where the supporting piece could normally move if it wanted to — so fleets can’t support inland moves.
But, of course, your opponent can do the same. If the French player suspected you were about to attack Paris, he might order his army in Paris to hold, and order his other army (in Picardy) to support Paris. Then his total strength would add up to 2 as well – so even with your support, you’d still fail to move into Paris.
Of course, here’s what we have been building up to this whole time. Players can support each other’s moves. So you might try and convince Italy to support your attack on Paris – or France might try and convince Italy to help in Paris’s defence. Hey presto: diplomacy!
Here’s the final piece of the puzzle. If you order a piece to support a move, but the supporting piece comes under attack from an enemy trying to move into its region, its support is cut, even if the enemy move fails. (The supporting piece is too busy defending itself against attack to deliver the support it was ordered to deliver!)
So if you think the Paris army is likely to have support from Picardy, it might be worth seeing if you can find a different unit to try a move into Picardy. (You might not have a unit to hand, but someone else might…) Even if the move into Picardy fails, which it probably will, the support from Picardy will be cut so you’ll be able to take Paris after all — which was all you really wanted in the first place.
Summary of possible orders
Issue one order to each unit:
- Move (say where)
- Support (say what other move or hold you are supporting)
- Convoy (say what move across the sea you are convoying)
- Hold (i.e. do nothing)
You absolutely do not have to learn the stupid codes that old-school Diplomacy players use (A Sev S A Ukr Rum). Just write it in normal English.
Summary of support rules
- A piece moves (or holds) with the total strength of itself plus all the pieces that have been ordered to support it.
- If this adds up to more than the total strength of the opponent, the stand-off is broken and the opposing army is dislodged.
- But support can be cut if the piece offering the support is itself attacked by a piece trying to move into its region – even if that move fails.
1. The basics
Turns are a week long, with an orders deadline every Friday at 23:00 (UK time) / 0:00 (Brussels time).
Read the game rules to understand how to move your armies and fleets.
You may email, text or message each other whenever you like throughout the week to conduct diplomatic negotiations, issue threats or spread malicious rumours.
Your diplomacy is your own business. You can do as little or as much as you like and you don’t have to copy the referee in.
You can submit your orders to the referee by email at any time in the week up to the deadline.
If you submit one set of orders and then change your mind, you can submit a replacement set. When the deadline passes, the referee will take the most recent set of orders he’s received from each player.
All orders will be kept secret until the deadline has passed, and then published in full on the website.
If you miss the deadline and haven’t submitted any orders, all your armies and fleets will automatically receive Hold orders. Similarly, if you submit orders but forget to mention one of your armies and fleets, the pieces you’ve forgotten will receive Hold orders.
If your orders are ambiguous or it looks like you’ve made a mistake, the referee will try to contact you. This can happen easily in Diplomacy, so try to avoid running right up to the wire with your orders. (Also, don’t stay up till midnight playing Diplomacy.)
If there’s no time to contact you before the deadline, or if the referee can’t get in touch, he will try to interpret your orders as charitably as he can without compromising other players. If there’s no way to be sure what you meant, you will end up with Hold orders instead.
There are examples of orders in the visual summary.
4. The referee
The bureaucrats who work in Geneva will resolve all the orders and update the political map of Europe within 12 hours of each deadline, and the referee will send a note to all players let you know when it’s been done.
The referee will happily answer any questions, and will never pass on information about what you say unless you request it.
The referee can be a useful anonymising device. If you want to send a message anonymously to one or more players, e.g. to spread particularly malicious rumours, contact him and he’ll send out your message according to your instructions.
Messages that the referee writes will be strictly factual — he won’t get involved in any diplomacy.
If you notice that the referee has made a mistake, contact him and he’ll correct it as far as possible without compromising other players.
5. Real life
If you have to miss a week for some reason, tell the group in advance and we can come to an arrangement.
If a player drops out altogether, there are various ways to handle this, but in any case the game will continue.
If you’d like to pause the game for a short time, contact the group. If the other players are amenable, we can do this.