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Allan B. Calhamer Takes a Look at the Avalon Hill Diplomacy Program

(from Diplomacy World #38)


I have received the new Diplomacy program from Avalon Hill and ex­amined it on a TRS-80, courtesy of the local Radio Shack.


Another player and I spent two hours alone with the machine and program in a quiet room.


Among the advantages the program appears to have are:


  1. It adjudicates the entire move in moments.


  1. The adjudications are cor­rect, so far as I can determine.  Thus a new group, unfamiliar with the rules, can start right out with the correct adjudications, instead of unwittingly playing a variant game. It will not be necessary to go back to the rulebook to adjudicate fine points that come up only occa­sionally.


  1. Arguments over adjudications should be eliminated.


  1. If you don't have seven peo­ple, the computer will play as many countries as you wish, though not necessarily strongly.  Of course, one person can play more than one country as well.


  1. Questions and instructions appear onscreen to direct the players as they go along, minimizing the amount of learning necessary to work with the program.


  1. The program rejects impossi­ble, ambiguous, and poorly written orders. The player can alter his or­ders after keying them in, until he signals that he is finished entering orders. The rulebook has been rewritten to incorporate a user's manual.  It is not much longer than the ordinary rulebook. A few small errors were detected in the rulebook-manual, and have been reported to AH.


The program prints a map on­screen. The map is too big for the screen; pushing buttons moves it from side to side and up and down. Play­ers might worry about strategic grasp of the whole board during play; but if you have a set already, you prob­ably would use that set as a visual aid to follow the game. You would have to decide what to do, however, when the position on the board differed from that in the computer.


Each player inputs his orders by sitting down at the computer.  There is no way he can summon up the orders previously inputted, at this point!  No peeking, either, says the rule­book-manual.  One can see why; but a major tactic of over-the-board play is thus eliminated.


Miscellaneous information, such as the number of centers each coun­try has, is served up onscreen.


Something might have to be done about the possibility of players ac­cessing the Alter subroutine, which can alter the board position!


The program is also ready on Ap­ple, and they are working on it for other machines.  It seems to me to be an excellent program, user-friendly, and a herculean job by Avalon Hill.


((I assume everyone knows that Allan is the inventor of Diplomacy…I’m told that Computer Diplomacy is scheduled for summer release but may not be quite available yet.  I’m also informed that AH expects to include, as part of the Computer Diplomacy package, a Gamer’s Guide to Computer Diplomacy.  You may find a familiar name listed as the author.  –Ed.))