A Review of Deluxe Diplomacy
By David Hood
From Diplomacy World #69
Perhaps the most important news on the novice front in years is the just-released new version of Diplomacy here in the United States, called Deluxe Diplomacy. We cannot attract more novices to the game if the game is not available for purchase, so the impact of producing and selling a new
Dip game cannot be overemphasized.
The initial reviews from certain members of our hobby have been largely negative of the new product. Let's examine the new game in detail, concentrating on those aspects that are different from the version of Diplomacy sold by Avalon Hill for the last ten years or so.
The Pieces: One of the changes that is most welcomed by most hobbyists is the move back to wooden pieces, in lieu of the plastic stars and anchors used previously. The wooden pieces harken back to earlier versions of the game, with which many hobbyists first learned the game. My own view about the pieces is well known (l believe I'm the only person publically preferring the plastic ones) but I'm willing to bow to the hobby majority here and count this as a plus.
One change about the pieces I am not enthusiastic about is the inclusion of stickers to affix to the pieces. These take the form of little flags of each country, and come in two sizes to fit both the shorter armies and longer fleets. This is not a bad idea in principle, but at least my set has stickers that don't stick. Well, not very well, anyway. My guess is that established hobbyists will throw these things away while perhaps some new players will fall in love with them.
The Map: The changes to the map are subtle, but important. One problem with the old map was all the topographic features and upside-down province names made the thing hard to read and, really, unattractive. These problems have been totally solved in the new version, which has almost a completely uniform color and all the names are right-side-up. The province borders themselves have also been redrawn, and done much more precisely. I'm not positive, but I think some of the smaller provinces in England and Italy have been enlarged, or at least that is the illusion.
Of course, Avalon Hill had to mess up an otherwise favorable change by misspelling a province name, badly. Burgundy has become "Burgandy" on the new board! Rex Martin has acknowledged this mistake, and promises a new board once the current production run is sold. Some copy editor or some such person at AH should be executed.
The Rulebook: This is possibly the biggest change from the old Dip set. While there have been a few minor changes in the rules themselves, they hardly warrant mention. The big change is that large parts of the old Gamer's Guide by Rod Walker have been incorporated into the rulebook itself. This gives first-time hobbyists some needed strategic/tactical guidance about how to play the game, and partially justifies the price increase (more about this later). I believe this is a great idea. In addition, the rulebook itself has been designed much more attractively from a production standpoint.
The inclusion of the Rod Walker material also opened up the possibility of a new Gamer's Guide, which is indeed in the works. Cal White, Gary Behnen and I are responsible for hobby input on this thing, so it is likely to include much about the Diplomacy hobby that was not in the old one. This is another very positive development. Along the same vein, a revamped flyer has been placed on the back page of the rulebook, with the names of five contacts in the Diplomacy hobby for interested buyers of the game to write (Cal, Gary, me, Don Del Grande and John Caruso). The flyer was handsomely produced by Cal, and should prove to be a major benefit to the hobby.
The Extras: The new set has greatly improved conference maps, and a lot of them. The box is longer, and much more striking in appearance. There is a counter tray included with a plastic lid, which should be of some benefit as well. Is the set worth the $55 price tag? Well. ..probably not. But, contrary to some opinions I have seen, the new set is worth something very close to that. There are a great many additional features over the old set, as well as improvements in the preexisting product. If it doesn't sell at that price I am sure Avalon Hill can be talked into lowering it.