by Edi Birsan

There will be plenty of others that will comment on their games and the games of others, but that is not my focus here. What I wanted to go over is things that I saw that we all could learn from.


Dan Mathias kept a little notebook on the TD Desk, and in it he wrote all the decisions he was called upon to make during the course of the tournament. The assistant TD's, mostly me, were introduced to this and asked to write any calls made into the book — the idea being that this would establish a precedent record so that we would not rule on the same issue differently.

What was ruled on in the book at the last time I looked was:

  1. A unit listing does not count as an order to hold.
    A Paris
    A Burgundy…
    A Paris to Picardy

In the house rules when there are two different ORDERS for a unit, then the unit holds. However, the ruling here was that a unit list is not an ORDER. In some places where there is an intense competitive spirit, people have ruled that the simple listing of Army Paris implies that it is holding and therefore there were two different orders. This caused no other problems in the tournament, but its mention in the TD notebook would have prevented me from making a different ruling, which is what I would have normally done for an experienced player.

Dan advised that he liked to put rulings on a large white board in the room so people could all see what was going on as the event progressed. While people may not like the ruling, it is more important to most players that the rulings within the same tournament be consistent than that they follow a particular interpretation of the rules.


All through the event there was at least one teaching table set up and ready to go in order to teach the game to passers-by. This is an excellent idea whenever there is a bigger game convention going on. What was needed was a big sign that read: "Learn Diplomacy HERE!" This is also a good reason to have non-playing TD's/Assistants.


There was a lot of use of separate boards spread around the playing area where people would talk and point to the table maps rather than hand held conference maps. In one game played outside of the tournament, the players actually set up a mirror board as the rival coalitions wanted to look at the tactical positions.


I have gone back and forth on the issue of central vs. local table clocks, and at Columbus we used local table clocks. This is a much more expensive approach since it requires a separate clock for each table. You have to remember to get DIFFERENT timer styles, since when you have the same timer they all sound the same when the alarm goes off. Central clocks also force the turns to go faster, since people putter about when it comes to retreats and votes and things. The biggest problem with a central clock or movement on a clock is that people who have to retreat can take a tremendous amount of time that holds up a game if the clock is running. I had one situation where there was a concession vote in which one player was taking a lot of time (more than 3 minutes) trying to figure out which way to vote. I got impatient with the fellow, since it was obvious to me that the other player was sitting on 18 centers, and I had to push him to get his vote in. Clearly he could have stood there for 10 minutes to analyze the board and come to the wrong conclusion. I was probably impatient here and should have just said that he had 2 minutes to vote and if he did not get a card in then the vote was a no.


Secret voting once again became a contentious issue reinforcing my own minority (very small minority, by the way!) view that all votes should be in the open by a show of hands. A new-to-tournaments player did not understand the idea that showing your ally how you were voting was against the rules and acceptable behavior for the event. This caused a lot of ill will in one game, since it seemed obvious to everyone but the TD that this was going on. The use of a card system stopped this problem, and made voting quick.

The Card System of Voting: take a regular card deck, and give everyone a black card (club or spade) and a red card (diamond or heart). A black card represents a vote to continue playing: a red card represents a vote to stop the game. Each player then places the card representing their vote face down on one corner of the map, and places the other face down in the discard pile. The TD then scoops up the cards and announces the results. If all cards are red, the game ends.

The other aspect of voting that went a little haywire was the method of calling for a vote and vetoing. What came about was the following:

  1. Any player could call for a vote.
  2. Any player could veto the vote call.
  3. However, once the TD was physically brought over to the table, then a veto would no longer be allowed, and the vote had to be taken.

In most other events that had voting situations, the votes can be vetoed at any time. However, that was not the case in Columbus and I would not suggest that this method be copied.

The voting on or off the clock was also an issue. Normally in a game that starts at 6PM with the next round at 9AM the following morning the issue of votes on or off the clock would not matter. That clearly was the intent. However, once again the ugliness of time management (time abuse to me) was seen where votes were called that just used up the clock. Voting while the clock is going on, or voting with your orders (as was done in Calgary) is probably better combined with the fast voting method of the Card System.


There has to be a starting point for everything. There should be an ending point as well. However, the problems occur when there is a game that is still going on when a new round is supposed to get going. This represents a problem for all TD's, and the solutions around the world have had various degrees of grace and acceptability. This is also complicated by the classic problem of having fewer than a multiple of 7 players available. All of the solutions come down to a matter of precision in execution of the details.

Here are the classic issues:

  1. Will players be allowed to play in more than one game if they are in one game from the prior round and one fromthe current round? If the answer is yes, then it allows a minority of players to hold others as hostage and puts them at a disadvantage in the next round — as well as affecting the other players in the new round, who would be on a board with someone forced to play two boards.

  2. Will you rule that you may not play in two boards at once from different rounds? This forces the players on the overlapping game either to end the game before the round starts, or to miss the next round. Again it allows players to hold others hostage by refusing to end the game, which can be quite frustrating to major powers when the person involved is a 2 center power.

  3. What exactly is the cut off for the next round, and do the players understand that? Is there a registration period for the next round that is closed at a specific time? Or is it closed when a specific multiple of 7 is reached (i.e. a set number of tables is filled)? Is signing up for the round the automatic end of the prior round, or does it continue until the actual boards are called? Note that typically it could take upwards of 20 minutes to allocate playing positions if this is done manually, as was the case in Columbus. Then what happens if players sign up for the next round and their game is not finished in the prior round? Do their countries go into Civil Disorder, get new players, or what?

The problem I saw was that the issue was vague in people's minds (and the house rules were silent) on the issue of precision. What happened was that the priority was to have a multiple of 7 after a specific time, when several but not all of the players in a game overlapping the time period was in progress. To avoid this problem, what is needed in high intensity tournament settings is the following:

  1. Drop Dead registration by a set deadline time.
  2. Ignore the multiple of 7 problem, and take the hits using the pool of players as registered.

Personally I prefer the less intense tournament settings on these sort of issues, but again I am in a minority here. The biggest problem with delaying the round start is that people will drag out a game to the discomfort of a lot of people. On the whole this whole problem goes away if you have an absolute drop-dead deadline of a rounds end, which is also something that I prefer. I see nothing really wrong with saying that a game that starts at 6PM must be over by 9AM the next morning. Or that a game starting at 9AM has to be over by 6PM that night.

Edi Birsan

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