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Scoring in Diplomacy Tournaments

by Fred Townsend

The Diplomacy tournament you drove all night to get to is just beginning. In the noisy hall, players are getting their game assignments, crowding in around the tables and anxiously waiting to begin play.

One of the players at your table puts seven armies from the seven Great Powers in the top of a Diplomacy box, raises it above your head and shakes the box top vigorously. You reach up over the edge of the box and pick one of the wooden blocks blindly, clenching it in your fist. You bring hand your hand to eye level and slowly peel back your fingers. The block is green! Italy! You're doomed.

And if its red, you probably don't feel so good either. Why? Because the game of Diplomacy is unbalanced. Years of play have demonstrated that Italy, on average, does less well then the other powers. There are rare geniuses like Kathy from New York, who can work miracles with those little green blocks. But there is no doubt that, other things being equal, Italy is the hardest power to win or draw with.

In tournament play, the rankings are usually France and England at the top with Turkey close behind, Germany and Russia in the middle, Austria next, and last and certainly least is Italy. Interestingly enough, the ranks shift in postal play. Depending on the rating system, France, England and Russia are usually on top, Germany and Turkey are in the middle, Austria is close, and Italy is nowhere.

Russia's greater success at postal play is because it is easier to maintain two alliances (which is essential for Russia) in postal play than it is in tournaments. And equally significant is that postal games are played to conclusion while most tournaments are time limited and provide for adjudication. Thus Russia cannot duplicate its record as the Power that wins the most at postal play because it cannot force the tournament game to conclusion. England and France usually don't win as much as Russia in postal play, but they do better sharing in draws and avoiding elimination.

Despite this glaring imbalance, every Tournament has rated an Italian win the same as an English win. And considering that most tournaments usually consist of three games, a player drawing green, red and white is at a grave disadvantage to a player who draws dark blue, light blue and yellow. A two game Tournament is even worse as the chances of unequal country assignments are even greater. A new tournament scoring system is needed.

A second issue arising from tournaments is whether points are only given for wins and draws or should center count play a part. One common system gives fractional scores for center count only as a tie breaker, while another common one gives everyone their center count and then awards 60 points to the winner or divides 60 points among those who draw.

Furthermore, where tournament games are limited by time, they frequently are not DIAS, but if the players can't agree, the rules provide for an adjudicated draw such as an alliance with more than 20 centers or a large alliance across the stalemate line or proof that a particular alliance could not be stopped. This always assumes that the dominant alliance will stick together all the way to a draw, but as experience shows a lot can happen on the road to victory.

Therefore, center count should play some part as a reward to players who are cut out of the draw by the time limit and thus lose any chance of breaking the dominant alliance. But the maximum center count score should be limited to 18 to discourage a player with a lock on a win delaying the end of the game while he roots around for more centers or, by collusion with one of the other players, grabs five or six centers on the last move, both of which I have seen happen.

Now most scoring systems give the same total points for a win as a draw - for example, 60 points for a win, 30 points each for a two way draw, 20 points each for a three way draw and so forth. But the objective of Diplomacy is to win, and only secondarily to draw. Therefore the greatest bonus points should be given for winning and the total points should gradually scale down from there as the number in a draw increases. A scoring system should reward winning and shortening the draw.

So enough explanation already. Here's the recommended system. Every player receives his center count (but not more than 18) plus bonus points for a win or draw as follows:

Win = 100 points

2 Way draw = 48 points each, for a total of 96 points.

3 Way draw = 31 points each, for a total of 93 points.

4 Way draw = 22 points each, for a total of 88 points.

5 Way draw = 17 points each, for a total of 85 points.

6 Way draw = 13 points each, for a total of 78 points.

7 Way draw = 7 points for players who can't eliminate anybody.

Finally, these scores are adjusted for country played as follows:

Italy = + 2 points

Austria = + 1

Russia = O

Germany = 0

Turkey = -1

England = - 2

France = - 2

Now many people probably won't think that this is a sufficient bonus for being green, but the 4 point swing from Italy to France and England should be significant in system where the average score will be around 17 points per player.

Here are some examples:

          Center    Bonus     Country   Total
          Points    Points    Adjust.
19 c. win by T  18  + 100     - 1  = 117
10 c. 2-way I   10  + 48 + 2  = 56
7 c. E surv.    7   + 0  - 2  = 5
F elimination   0   + 0  - 2  = -2

So there you have it, and may the best power (and not just the best country) win.