Map of Europe

According to David Parlett (Oxford History of Board Games, 1999), the game of Diplomacy was developed by Allan B. Calhamer who was studying European history and political geography at Harvard in the 1950s. Calhamer's finalized his game in 1958, but like many others, the game was rejected by the major game companies, consequently Calhamer published 500 copies at his own expense in 1959. In 1960 he licensed it to Games Research Incorporated, Boston, Massachusetts, and in the 1970s, editions were published by the Avalon Hill Game Company in Baltimore, Maryland and Philmar Ltd. in London, England. The Museum Collection includes both a Games Research edition and a Philmar edition.

The map of Europe in 1900 before World War I is the basis for the game of Diplomacy. The graphic above is a contemporary map of Europe from Rand McNally's World Atlas, pictured here so that you can compare the Diplomacy game board with  an atlas map.

Diplomacy 1961 The Games Research game board map (49.4cm x 66.9cm) is divided into a grid of about 80 cells; however, these cells are not equally sized as on a chess board, but rather are intended to represent the regions of seven major European powers in 1900. The map also includes some of the smaller countries, and the adjacent bodies of water.

The game is intended for 7 players, each player representing one of the major European powers. Each player's intent is to dominate Europe by defeating the other powers - either by diplomacy or war. Each player has a small black and white planning map (upper left of the graphic - on the box), and a supply of two types of wooden game pieces - armies (square) and navies (oblong) - each designated by a different color. The players are: Austria-Hungry, France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Russia, Turkey.

Diplomacy 1976

While the Philmar 1976 version (graphic on the left) looks somewhat different from the Games Research version, the game is still the same, and played in the same manner.

How The Game Is Played

Each player starts with three armies or navies (depending upon their geography - Russia has four). Additional armies and navies are acquired by occupying an unoccupied supply base (designated cells on the map), during play of the game. Play is divided into a number of moves represent 6 month periods of time, starting in spring 1900, autumn 1900, spring 1901, autumn 1901, etc. At the start of each period, using the planning map, each player writes down "orders" for his forces, i.e. - "an army moves to...", "a navy moves to..." - and when each player has written the orders these are read aloud and the configuration of pieces on the board is changed.

Before writing orders, a player can confer privately with another player to prevent conflict. For example, Italy may ask France not to put a navy off the coast of Spain because that is their intent, and in exchange Italy will not put an army in Switzerland. If France agrees, this may or may not happen when orders are read aloud. If such diplomatic agreements are honored, all is well - if not, conflict arises because two or more powers are then occupying the same cell on the map. There are a set rules used to determine resolution of conflicts.

As might be surmised, because of the number of conferences which might occur during play of the game - the time of play might be lengthy. Also because of the need for private conferences, a number of secure areas are required. Thus, some players schedule play of this game over a few days making use of all the rooms in a house! Some players make the game into a "couple's" event, with one of the couple as the accredited diplomat, and the other as a "spy" - playing this game in a party atmosphere over a weekend! The game is also played via post and on the internet.

There are many Internet sites devoted to the game of Diplomacy, including player groups, clubs, and much more.

Last update March 23, 2010