from Diplomacy World #109, Spring 2010, Page 32
The ‘Bourse’ is not really a Diplomacy variant but a separate game to be played alongside a Diplomacy game. The rules are believed to have been created by Don Miller around 40 years ago and it used to carry the Miller Number suffix ‘cr’. It’s a clever little game and a lot of fun – it also demonstrates how wealth can be created from virtually nothing (as many bankers and financiers seem to know). The following set of rules is taken from a flyer I sent out with MAD POLICY #44 in 1975. Rules to Diplomacy Bourse
- Each player starts with 1000 units of each currency of the nations in the Diplomacy game: Crowns, Pounds, Francs, Marks, Lira, Roubles, Piastres. All are equal in value at the start of the game.
- The deadline for Bourse orders is the same as for the Diplomacy game. The orders are in two parts; SELLING and BUYING. You must always buy as much as you sell every turn. This is most important – see below.
- At the start of the Diplomacy game one unit of each currency is worth one US Dollar. However, each time 100 units of a currency are sold its value in relation to the Dollar drops by one Cent. Each time 100 units of a currency are bought its value in relation to the Dollar increases by one Cent. So if in the first season the total of all players’ orders results in 500 more Marks being sold than bought then the Mark would have a value of only 95 Cents the following season. If the total of all players’ orders results in 1000 more Lira being bought than sold then the Lira would be worth $1.10 the following season.
- If only a net 999 units of a currency are bought or sold then the Dollar value only changes by 9 Cents – all fractions are lost.
- Each player must buy as much as they sell IN RELATION TO DOLLARS. For example on the second turn, using the values quoted at rule 3 above, a player could sell 100 Lira (worth $110) and then buy 115 Marks (costing $109.25 – again fractions are LOST). If a player makes an error the GM will simply buy as many units of currency as can be afforded.
- A player may never sell more than 500 units of any one currency in a single turn. You may however buy as much as you can afford.
- Each season the GM will list all transactions by each player, holdings in each currency and old value and new value of each currency.
- If a country is eliminated from the Diplomacy game its currency loses all value and any holdings of that currency are worthless. If a country is not eliminated however its currency can never drop below a value of 1 Cent. The value of a currency has no upper limit.
- Anyone may join the Bourse at any time and will receive 1000 units of each currency still available.
- At the end of the Diplomacy game each Bourse players ‘credits’ will be calculated by multiplying the number of supply centres held by each country by the number of blocks of 100 units of that country’s currency held (fractions will be carried). The winner of the Bourse is the player with the greatest ‘credits’.
- Players in the Bourse will usually play under a pseudonym, which allows the players in the Diplomacy game to also take part without giving away any clues as to their future strategy.
So much for the rules, what about the strategy? Well of course you need to follow the progress of the Diplomacy game very closely. As the fortunes of the seven countries wax and wane you need to be sure to sell a currency of a country that appears to be in decline and buy a currency of a country that is making progress. At the end of the game you want to be out of any country that has been eliminated and to have the most currency units possible of the eventual winner or, in a draw, the countries with the most supply centres. That much is obvious.
But the game can actually be a lot more subtle than that, which is part of its fascination. There is an old quote from dealings in stocks and shares; “Buy at the bottom, sell at the top”. The same is true in the Bourse. If you can see a situation where a country is getting hammered, very low on supply centres and everyone is selling its currency every turn, but you think there is a decent chance that it will eventually survive, it can be worth buying into it. For example if Italy is down to just two supply centres and the Lira has dropped to 40 Cents it will cost you just $400 to buy 1000 Lira and, if Italy survives, gain 20 credits. If at the same time Germany is the leader on 10 supply centres and the Mark has risen to $3.00 then to get the same 20 credits you would have to spend $600 to buy 200 Marks. In a similar way if you see a situation developing where one of the leading countries looks like it’s about to get stabbed and go into decline sell the currency and buy into its smaller (and cheaper) enemies. You actually need to do the maths on every turn, but it can be very rewarding.
The thing to remember is that the Bourse winner is the person with the most ‘credits’ at the end of the game and they are calculated by multiplying supply centres by blocks of currency. Low numbers of supply centres with a low currency value can often bring in more ‘credits’ than the opposite for the same outlay in Dollars.
Later versions of the Bourse rules allow you to buy less than you sell and keep a cash surplus, except on the first turn. And also, with the advent of spreadsheet programs, the bourse I run in Eternal Sunshine uses more decimal points, to 1/100th of a cent. A cash surplus is a good thing to have...until the game ends, at which point is it utterly worthless!