by Michael Lee
In September 2006, the Stonehenge IV map was first used for Fog Of War II, Return of the Fog. The map was cleaned up to facilitate play and focus the center of the view on the bulk of the action: around the trio of the Angles, Welsh, and Saxons. Previously the map was unbalanced, and a lot of extra space around the northern waters made it so that about 75% of the action would occur on the lower 50% of the board. i.e. not very functional for game play.
The map was redrawn like this, and a variant created for Realpolitik:
All the rules for Diplomacy apply with the following amendments.
Victory Conditions: There are 50 supply centres, so a player must control 26 supply centres to win. Players may agree on any lesser number and play a shorter variant.
Powers and Initial Set Up: There are ten powers. Their initial set up is as follows:
- ANGLES: a(Mercia); a(Lincoln); f(Yorkshire)
- DANES: f(Odensland); f(North Jutland); a(South Jutland)
- FRISIANS: f(Frisian Isles); a(Friesland); a(Holland)
- IRISH: a(Galway); a(Dublin); f(Kerry)
- NORMANS: a(Loire); a(Picardie); f(Normandie)
- NORSE: f(Fjordane Fylke); a(Hordaland Fylke); f(Ostfold)
- PICTS: f(Grampian Highlands); a(Aberdeen); a(Lothians)
- SAXONS: f(Sussex); a(London); a(Kent)
- SCOTS: f(Skye); f(Inner Hebrides); a(Argyll)
- WELSH: f(North Wales); a(Damnonia): a(Devon)
In addition to these home supply centres, there are twenty supply centres that begin the game neutral. These spaces are:
- Isle of Lewis
- Orkney Islands
- Upper Saxony
Island Provinces: Island provinces may contain either an army or a fleet. Fleets occupying an island province may move to adjoining island provinces, land provinces, and sea spaces. They may support armies and fleets in adjoining provinces. They may convoy armies while occupying island provinces. Armies occupying island provinces may not move to adjoining provinces unless moved there by a convoying fleet unit. Armies occupying island provinces may not support units in adjoining spaces or provinces. Armies may not move directly from a mainland province to an island province, or vice versa. Armies occupying provinces that adjoin islands may not support units in the island province. Islands do not have coasts and may be entered by fleets from one adjoining province or space and left by any other adjoining province or space.
The following provinces are island provinces:
- Channel Islands
- Faeroe Islands
- Frisian Isles
- Inner Hebrides
- Isle of Lewis
- Isle of Man
- Orkney Islands
These rules can be illustrated by the following examples:
1.F(Orkney Islands) holds - OK
2.A(Orkney Islands) hold - OK
3.F(Caithness) to Orkney Islands - OK
A(Caithness) to Orkney Islands - Invalid
4.F(Orkney Islands) to Zetland - OK
A(Orkney Islands) to Zetland - Invalid
5.F(Orkney Islands) support A(Caithness) – OK
A(Orkney Islands) support A(Caithness) - Invalid
6.F(Caithness) support A(Orkney Islands) – OK
A(Caithness) support F(Orkney Islands) - Invalid
7.F(Orkney Islands) support F(Pentland) - Caithness – OK
A(Orkney Islands) support F(Pentland) – Caithness - Invalid
8.F(Caithness) support F(Pentland) - Orkney Islands – OK
A(Caithness) support F(Pentland) - Orkney Islands - Invalid
9.F(Orkney Islands) convoy A(Caithness) - Zetland - OK
10.F(Pentland) convoy A(Orkney Islands) - Zetland - OK
11.F(Pentland) -to Orkney Islands; NEXT TURN F(Orkney Islands) to North Sea - OK
Coasts: South Jutland and Upper Saxony have two coasts (east and west). These should be treated like Spain in Diplomacy.
Game Year: The game begins spring of 851.
Intended Effects Of The Revisions
There are still clearly some powers that have an advantageous position relative to other powers. In this version, I have tried to compensate for this some. Here is a quick summary of my thinking about the process of revising this variant.
In general every power is so weak and vulnerable that negotiation is where the game will be won or lost for all of them. Negotiation really ought to be the soul of the matter anyway.
They are still rather safe from early threats from continental powers so their early prospects are better than that of the Saxons or Welsh. They have access to Northumberland without having to worry about attack from the Scot fleet that used to start in the Lowlands and could threaten York from the sea. Couple this with access to several centres that weren't present before and the Angle position is much stronger than it was. This power was an underachiever in the maybe twenty face-to-face games I've played of the old version. It should be considerably stronger now.
They will still make life hell for either the Norse or the Frisians. There is no other growth pattern for the Danes. The addition of a few neutral centres will make the stakes higher in the early going and will make the Danish position more fluid. Danish players are still faced with a poverty of early options. They must either attack the Frisians with Norman help, or attack the Norse with Pictish help. Their other options boil down to forming impractical and short-lived coalitions.
The home centres have been repositioned to improve the defensive posture of this marginally tenable power. The new Frisian position resembles in most ways their neighbours the Danes. They must either eliminate the Danes with Norse help, or approach the Saxons, Welsh, or Irish about attacking the Normans. The lack of a strong possible ally against the Normans makes the Frisian position still quite difficult. The relative weakness of potential Frisian allies is compensated for by their numbers (3) and likely willingness (the Irish, Welsh, or Saxons should jump at the chance to eliminate the Normans).
Formerly known as the Celts, this position used to be rather powerful. The Irish, along with the Norse and Normans, enjoy a superb defensive position. The Irish are still weak offensively. In the revised version, there is no guaranteed build for the Irish. If the Scots open fleet Inner Hebrides - Donegal Bay it will take two units to move into Armagh and that will leave Galway open. The shortage of neutral supply centres in the vicinity of the Irish will require heavy fighting early on to break out of their defensive shell. Even at four units the Irish can be very dangerous for the Scots, Normans, and especially the Welsh.
This position hasn't fundamentally changed. The isolation of Norman home centres from the High Atlantic should give both the Irish and the Normans more options. Other than the Frisians, the Normans have no neighbours. Protracted offensives will require the Normans to send forces far from home and will leave the Norman home centres quite vulnerable. This is still an advantageous position provided that a coalition does not form to eliminate so threatening a power.
This position hasn't really changed. The only amendments are that the Danes will want to discuss who gets Sweden and this may increase the possibility of war with Denmark (a change meant to help the Frisians), and Zetland is now a guaranteed build instead of something gained at the pleasure of the Scots. Like the Frisians and the Danes, the Norse must choose between two enemies. Either they will attack the Picts or the Danes. There really aren't many other options. This power is quite comparable to the Normans, but with slightly more dangerous neighbours.
The Picts have switched positions with the Scots. This decision was based on a map of the region during Alfred's reign in England. On this map, eastern Scotland has the word "Pict" clearly written on it while the western side of Scotland has the word "Scots" on it. This map may be flawed, but having a soft spot for Pictish culture it serves as justification enough for me. The Pict position improves drastically if some sort of truce can be forged with two of the following: the Norse, the Scots, and the Angles. That requires some hard negotiating. At the very least some understanding has to be reached with the Scots. These two powers are less entangled with one another than they used to be, but they are still joined at the hip.
This used to be a hopeless position, now it’s just a poor position. One of the most important revisions was the introduction of a wealth of supply centres within reach of the Saxons. Wight is still the only guaranteed gain, but negotiations with the Angles and Welsh should yield one or two of the following: Suffolk, Middlesex, and Wiltshire. Redrawing the Straits of Dover should cut down on the early Saxon eliminations. No power has access to more neutral centres than the improved Saxons, but it will be a rare Saxon player who can keep from fighting a continental power and a British power simultaneously in the mid-game.
This position, formerly called the Picts, has many more options thanks to disentangling its centres from those of the Picts and placing two home centres on islands where they are safe from armies. Four neutral supply centres in the area give the Scots plenty of options. Argyll is either a very vulnerable home centre, or army Argyll is a potent offensive threat depending on how you look at it. The Scots still enjoy few options in the early going. They can either join the Welsh in fighting the Irish (always a slow task), or they can join the Norse in fighting the Picts (which results in a threatening Norse position to deal with later). At least the Scots have the inside track to Iceland!
Wales had a good track record in the old game, but it had to be strong play rather than any natural advantages. The Irish offer a deadly danger from the west. The Welsh home centres are spread out and hard to defend. The position is centrally located, a distinct disadvantage. The power's good track record made me resist making too many changes. Whereas the old Wales had few neutral supply centres to gobble up, the new board affords the Welsh a wealth of choices, but only Gloucester is automatic. To gain Anglsey the Welsh have to leave a home centre vulnerable to the Angles. There are six neutral centres within reach of the Welsh during 851. This increase of offensive prospects is compensated by improvements made in the Angles’ and Saxons’ prospects. Negotiations with the Angles and Saxons will be crucial. Wales must either appeal for unity among central powers, or side with one or the other and try for a quick two-on-one kill.