by Manus Hand

The game of Diplomacy was invented by Allan B. Calhamer in the late 1950's. He held the copyright on the game and distributed it through Games Research, Inc. Avalon Hill later obtained the copy and distribution rights from Mr Calhamer and undertook the manufacture and sale of the game. Hasbro, Inc. acquired Avalon Hill in 1999. Hasbro has published the official rules on the Internet. Click here to read them. This means that anyone wishing to read the official rules can indeed do so with Hasbro's blessing without purchasing a copy of The Game. (This was not the case for many years, necessitating my writing this in the first place, but since you've read this far, why not read my 20 rule recap of them here first?)

Rules 1-5: Overview and Setup

1. Players

Diplomacy is played by seven players.

  1. Each player takes the role of one of the "Great Powers" of pre-World-War-I Europe, and each uses game-pieces of a particular color:
    • Austria-Hungary (red),
    • England (dark blue or purple),
    • France (light blue),
    • Germany (black),
    • Italy (green),
    • Russia (white),
    • Turkey (yellow).
  2. Each player will need to be equipped with a pad of paper and a pen or pencil.

2. Pieces

There are two types of game pieces (called "units"): Armies and Fleets.

  1. An Army (abbreviated A) cannot be positioned on water spaces on the board.
  2. A Fleet (abbreviated F) cannot be positioned on inland spaces (having no coastline).
  3. Neither type of unit has any advantage over the other.
  4. As in chess and checkers, there can never be more than one unit in any location.

3. Board

The game is played on a gameboard that is a map roughly depicting the political and regional divisions of pre-World War I Europe.

  1. There are 75 spaces on the board. Some are water (e.g., "Baltic Sea"), some are coastal land (e.g., "Prussia"), and some are landlocked (e.g., "Warsaw").
  2. The names of the spaces are often (but need not be) abbreviated by players when writing orders. Each space has a standard three letter abbreviation (as seen on the depiction of the board shown below) but any unambiguous name or abbreviation for a space may be used by a player.
  3. Of these 75 spaces, 34 are "supply centers". On the game map, a dot is shown in each of these supply center (SC) spaces. Each supply center allows its owner to maintain one unit. So a player who owns eight supply centers may have eight units on the board.
  4. The map board is shown below with the initial positioning of the players' units and ownership of their supply centers (colored dots in various spaces). These positions are also listed in rule 5:

  5. Switzerland is an impassable landlocked space (that is, no army may attempt to move to that space).
  6. The islands shown on the board without names (including Ireland, Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia, Crete, Cyprus, Iceland [if depicted], and the smaller islands) are also impassable.
  7. Some quirks about fleet movements on the map are worth pointing out:
    1. There are three spaces (Bulgaria, St Petersburg, and Spain) that each have two separate coasts called (for example) "Bulgaria (east coast)" and "Bulgaria (south coast)". A fleet occupying one of these spaces must be positioned on one of the two coasts, and may only move to locations adjacent to that particular coast.
    2. There are four spaces (Kiel, Denmark, Sweden, and Constantinople) that allow a fleet to arrive and depart from either of what may appear on the map to be two separate coasts.

4. Turns

The game turns are numbered using calendar years.

  1. The first turn is called the game-year 1901. (The second turn is 1902, etc., etc.)
  2. Within each turn, there are the following phases (don't worry; you'll see that this isn't as bad as it sounds):
    1. Spring Movement, followed (only if needed) by Spring Retreats,
    2. Fall Movement, followed (only if needed) by Fall Retreats
    3. Winter Adjustment (only if needed).

5. Initial Setup and "Home" Supply Centers

Each of the players begins the game owning a certain set of supply centers (all players start with three, except Russia, who starts with four) and with certain units located on these centers.

  1. Each player's starting position (as seen in rule 3d) is:
    1. Austria: Army Budapest, Army Vienna, Fleet Trieste.
    2. England: Army Liverpool, Fleet Edinburgh, Fleet London.
    3. France: Army Marseilles, Army Paris, Fleet Brest.
    4. Germany: Army Berlin, Army Munich, Fleet Kiel.
    5. Italy: Army Rome, Army Venice, Fleet Naples.
    6. Russia: Army Moscow, Army Warsaw, Fleet Sevastopol, Fleet St Petersburg (south coast).
    7. Turkey: Army Constantinople, Army Smyrna, Fleet Ankara.
  2. The supply centers on which each player begins the game with a unit are that player's "home" supply centers.
  3. A player's own home supply centers are the only locations where he may "build" a new unit during a Winter Adjustment phase (if it is found that he owns more supply centers than the number of units he has on the board).

Rules 6-15: The Movement Phase

6. Negotiations and Order-Writing

Before each Movement phase, players discuss plans with one another for a period of time, and then submit their orders, concealing them from the other players.

  1. Each player writes exactly one order for each and every one of his units, and submits them all together.
  2. What a player promises to any other player during his discussions, and what he actually submits in his orders may be two very different things.
  3. The different orders that a unit can be given are:
    1. Unit X HOLDS — The unit attempts to maintain its present location. (If a player fails to issue an order to any of his units, that unit will HOLD by default.)
      • Example: Army London HOLD
    2. Unit X MOVES to Y — The unit attempts to move to the location Y (an adjacent space, or — for an Army being convoyed to another coastal (not-necessarily adjacent) location by Fleet(s) in water — in this case, the MOVE order must list each fleet involved in the convoy, in its order in the path from the army's origin to its planned destination).
      • Example 1: Army London -> Yorkshire
      • Example 2: Army London -> North Sea -> Norwegian Sea -> Norway
    3. Fleet X CONVOYS Unit Y to Z — The fleet attempts to transport an army (located at Y) across the body of water where the fleet is currently located to the army's final destination, Z). Multiple fleets may CONVOY the same army, allowing it to move through multiple bodies of water on one turn (for example, from Naples, through the Ionian Sea, through the Adriatic Sea, to Venice). [All fleets involved must be properly ordered to perform the same convoy, of course.]
      • Example 1: Fleet North Sea CONVOY Army London -> Norway
      • Example 2: Fleet Norwegian Sea CONVOY Army London -> Norway
    4. Unit X SUPPORTS Unit Y — The unit attempts to strengthen the unit Y in its attempt to maintain its position while it performs a HOLD, SUPPORT, or CONVOY order. The unit being supported must occupy a location adjacent to the location of the supporting unit, and must be a location into which the supporting unit could legally move.
      • Example: Army London SUPPORT Army Yorkshire
    5. Unit X SUPPORTS Unit Y to Z — The unit attempts to strengthen the unit Y in its attempt to MOVE to location Z. As above, the location Z must be a location adjacent to the location of the supporting unit (X), and must be a location into which that supporting unit could legally move.
      • Example: Army London SUPPORT Fleet North Sea -> Yorkshire

7. Simultaneous Determination of Movement Phase Order Results

All players' orders are revealed and performed simultaneously.

The rules given below (specifically, rules 8 through 15) determine which units succeed in their attempt to perform the order they were given in a Movement phase, and which fail in that attempt.

8. Handling of Invalid Orders

An order may be declared "void", causing the unit that was issued the order to instead HOLD, for a number of reasons.

  1. If a player issues more than one order to the same unit, or if any written order is ambiguous or illegal, the order is declared "void" and the unit in question will HOLD.
  2. If a fleet is ordered to MOVE to one of the three locations having two coasts, and if the MOVE could be made to either of the coasts, but no specific coast is indicated in the order, the order is adjudged "void" and the fleet will HOLD. For example, Fleet Constantinople -> Bulgaria (with neither coast of Bulgaria specified) is an invalid order.
  3. If a CONVOY order specifies an army's MOVE order that is not issued to the army, the CONVOY order is adjudged "void" and the fleet that was issued the CONVOY order will HOLD. For example, Fleet English Channel CONVOY Army Wales -> Picardy becomes "void" if the army in Wales was not given the matching order to move to Picardy, but was instead given any other order, like Army Wales -> London or Army Wales HOLD, etc.
  4. If an army is ordered to use one or more CONVOYing fleets to effect the army's attempt to MOVE across one or more water spaces to reach a distant shore, but if any of the necessary fleets are not issued the matching CONVOY order, the army's order is declared "void" and army will will HOLD (but any SUPPORTs offered to strengthen the army in maintaining its current position are also "void", by virtue of the army's attempt to MOVE; see rule 8e, below).
  5. If a SUPPORT order is given intending to strengthen another unit's attempt to maintain its current position, and if that second unit is issued a MOVE order (regardless of the success or failure of that MOVE order), the SUPPORT order is declared "void" and the unit to which it was issued will HOLD. For example, Fleet English Channel SUPPORT Army Wales becomes invalid if the Army in Wales was given any order to (attempt to) MOVE.
  6. If a SUPPORT order is given intending to strengthen another unit's MOVE order, but that second unit is not issued the matching MOVE order (but see the distinction noted below), the order is declared "void" and the unit that was issued the SUPPORT order will HOLD. For example, Fleet English Channel SUPPORT Army Wales -> London becomes "void" if the army in Wales was not given the matching order to move to London, but was instead given any other order, like Army Wales -> Liverpool or Army Wales HOLD, etc.
  • NOTE THIS DISTINCTION: Support applies to a destination location, not to any specific coast of that location. That is, if a particular coast (of a dual-coast location) is specified in the target of a SUPPORT order, that specification should be ignored; the SUPPORT order should be considered to have been written without that specification. In other words, a fleet that is attempting to maintain its position in, or that is ordered to MOVE into, a specific coast of a dual-coast location may be supported in its action by any unit that could itself move to that location in any way (even if only to the location's other coast).

9. Determining Success of a MOVE Order

A MOVE order succeeds (moving the unit to a new location):

  1. ONLY IF the "strength" of the moving unit (counting the unit itself and the number of valid uncut SUPPORT orders that are given to it; see rule 13) is greater than the strength of both
    1. any other attempt to either MOVE to that location and
    2. any attempt by a unit occupying the location to retain its position (while performing a HOLD, SUPPORT, or CONVOY order).
  2. AND IF the location to which the MOVE is being made meets both of the following conditions:
    1. NO SELF-DISLODGEMENT: The location may not be occupied by a unit that is owned by the same player that owns the moving unit, and that fails to successfully vacate the space on the turn. (Further, any SUPPORT offered by a player in an attack on a space occupied by another of his own units does not count towards dislodging the attacked unit; this is discussed in slightly more detail in rule 13.)
    2. NO PLACE-SWAPPING: The location may not be occupied by a unit that is itself attempting — with a strength equal to or greater than the strength of the first unit — to MOVE into the location occupied by the first unit. That is, no place-swapping — unless one or both units involved are convoyed armies. Any attempt by two equally-supported units to each move into the other's location will result in the failure of both MOVE orders.

10. Disposition of a Unit that Failed in its Attempt to MOVE

All units that fail in their attempt to MOVE are said to have "bounced" – they remain in their original location and have no supports to maintain their position in that location (despite any SUPPORTs that they may have been offered by other units for their attempted move).

11. Determining Whether a Non-Moving Unit Retains its Position

A HOLDing, SUPPORTing, CONVOYing, or "bounced" unit succeeds in maintaining its position if no other unit successfully moves to that location (per rule 8, above). If such a unit fails to maintain its location, it is termed "DISLODGED" and must either be MOVEd (in Retreat) or DISBANDed (see rule 16).

12. Beleaguered Garrisons

Under conditions allowed by rule 8, a unit may maintain its location despite two or more attacks having been made on it by stronger units. For example, if two or more attempted MOVEs to a location are equally well supported, the unit in place is not dislodged (since no single unit succeeded in moving to the location; all movement into the location "bounces"). Such a unit (that withstands multiple attacks which individually may have succeeded) is known as a "beleaguered garrison".

13. Determining the Successful Delivery of SUPPORT

A SUPPORTing unit succeeds in delivering its SUPPORT (which adds one to the number of "valid supports" an order has) if the location of the SUPPORTing unit is not the destination of any MOVE order (failed or not) given to any foreign unit that is not occupying the location where the unit is attempting to deliver support. Support that is not delivered (for reason of the supporting unit having been attacked as described here) is called "cut".

  • NOTE THIS DISTINCTION: All valid, uncut SUPPORTs offered by a player for MOVEs that are being made by any player's unit into a location occupied by one of the player's own units are not counted when determining success of the supported MOVE. However, all such SUPPORTs are counted when determining if any other unit will "bounce" in its attempt to MOVE to that location.

  • NOTE THIS SECOND DISTINCTION: A player may order one of his own units to MOVE into a location that is occupied by one of his other units, with the second unit offering SUPPORT for some action. Such a MOVE does not cause the SUPPORT to be "cut".

14. Determining Success or Failure of a CONVOY

A CONVOY order succeeds in permitting the convoying army to follow rule 8 (to determine if its MOVE via convoy is successful) if the fleet is not DISLODGED. Any army that was to be CONVOYed by a dislodged fleet "bounces" (just as if it had failed to land on the opposite shore by reason of having insufficient SUPPORT to do so).

  • NOTE THIS DISTINCTION: Although a failed MOVE made (by a foreign unit) against a unit's location will successfully "cut" any SUPPORT that the unit was offering (see rule 13), such a MOVE is not sufficient to disrupt a CONVOY. Only a successful attack on a fleet (dislodging the fleet from its position) will "disrupt" a CONVOY (causing the army's MOVE to "bounce").

15. Support Cuts by Convoyed Armies

A convoyed Army does not cut support that is being offered for an attack against the location of any fleet convoying the army.

This extremely-rarely-needed rule resolves a situation that would otherwise result in a paradox. Don't bother thinking about it.

Rule 16: The Retreat Phase

16. The Retreat Phase (Disposition of Dislodged Units)

If and only if any unit is DISLODGED during a Movement phase, and if any such unit may be legally (see below) MOVEd to an vacant, adjacent location, there will be a Retreat phase (otherwise, the Retreat phase does not take place).

  1. In a Retreat phase, those units that were DISLODGED (and no other units) must be issued either a MOVE or a DISBAND order by their owners.
  2. If more than one player must issue orders in a Retreat phase, the orders must be written and revealed simultaneously (as with Movement phase orders).
  3. If ordered to MOVE during Retreat, a DISLODGED unit may only be ordered to MOVE to a vacant, adjacent location that is both:
    1. NOT the location from which the unit had been successfully attacked AND
    2. NOT vacant due to a "bounce" in that location during the Movement phase.
  4. Despite there being one or more locations into which a DISLODGED unit could MOVE during Retreat, its owner may choose instead to order the unit to DISBAND, removing it from the board.
  5. If a DISLODGED unit has no vacant adjacent space into which it may legally MOVE (per 16c, above) in retreat, it is termed DESTROYED, and is DISBANDed by default. Such units are often referred to as "popped" off the board. (Its owner need not issue the order; such destructions could be said to happen "before" the Retreat phase occurs.)
  6. If more than one unit is ordered to MOVE in retreat to the same location, all such units are considered DESTROYED, and are therefore DISBANDed.
  7. If a DISLODGED unit is issued an invalid order (according to rules 8a and 8b) during a Retreat phase, that unit shall be DISBANDed.
  • NOTE THIS DISTINCTION: An army that was DISLODGED may not be CONVOYed to effect its retreat. It must MOVE, if possible and desired, to a vacant, adjacent location, or be DISBANDed.

Rules 17-20: The Adjustment Phase and Ending the Game

17. Determination of Supply Center Ownership

At the conclusion of the Fall phase(s) of the game, supply centers may change hands.

  1. All supply centers that are occupied (at that time) by a player's unit become owned by that player.
  2. Any supply centers that are unoccupied (at that time) retain their current ownership.

  • NOTE THIS DISTINCTION: Supply center ownership is determined only at the conclusion of the Fall phase(s), and not at the end of the Spring phases. A supply center that is unowned by a player before the game-year begins, and that is then occupied by a unit belonging to that player after the Spring phase(s) of the turn but that is then vacated during the Fall phase, will not become owned by that player.

18. Solo Victory

If, after determination of supply center ownership, a player owns 18 (or more) supply centers, that player wins the game. Otherwise, the game proceeds to an Adjustment phase.

19. The Adjustment Phase

In the Adjustment phase, each player adjusts the number of units he has on the board to match (if possible) the number of supply centers he owns.

  1. Players who own more supply centers than units may (but need not) BUILD one or more new units (no more than would be needed to cause the number of units he owns to be equal to the number of supply centers he owns). He does this by specifying which type of unit is to be built and where the BUILD is to occur.
    1. Each BUILD may only occur on one of the player's own vacant home supply centers (and only if the center is owned by the player).
    2. Despite having vacant home supply center(s) in which BUILD(s) could be made, a player may choose to WAIVE one or more of his available builds.
    3. If the Russian player wishes to BUILD a fleet in St Petersburg, the coast on which it is to be positioned must be specified in the BUILD order. (If it is not, the BUILD is invalid and considered to have been WAIVEd.)
  2. Players who own more units than supply centers must REMOVE from the board exactly (and no more than) as many units as are needed to equalize the two numbers. (When a player loses ownership of all his supply centers, he must remove all his units and is eliminated from the game.)
  3. Just like Retreat phase orders, if more than one player is eligible to issue BUILD or REMOVE orders in an Adjustment phase, all orders are written in secret then revealed and performed simultaneously.
  4. If a player eligible to BUILD one or more units submits illegal, invalid, or unintelligible orders during the Adjustment phase, all such orders shall be considered to be WAIVEd builds.
  5. If a player who must issue one or more REMOVE orders fails do do so, or does so illegally, invalidly, or unintelligible, the unit(s) that are REMOVEd from the board must be determined by the other players in any agreed-upon manner, or randomly if no agreement on the choice(s) can be reached.

20. Ending a Game by Unanimous Agreement

At any time (that is, not necessarily after supply center count determination), all players owning one or more supply center may agree (unanimously, by voting secretly — for example, using army and fleet pieces all of the same color, as voting tokens, to signify YES and NO respectively, dropped in a hat) to either:

  1. concede a solo victory to any single such player, or
  2. end the game as a draw to be shared equally by all such players.

  • NOTE THIS DISTINCTION: A proposition to declare the game to be drawn between more than one player (but not all of the players owning one or more supply center) is not permitted; a vote on such a proposition is not allowed.

If at all possible, a person who is not participating in the vote should examine and announce the result of the vote. Before doing so, in the case of the vote's failure, this person should have the players secretly add their unused voting token to the hat, and should not reveal the number of YES or NO votes to the voters (revealing only that the vote had failed). Even when such a disinterested person is unavailable (meaning that all players must examine the contents of the hat after the vote, and thus will know the count of YES and NO votes collected), the players must not show any other player their unused voting token in the case of a failed vote, but must instead secretly deposit these tokens into the hat before play continues.