Through the Looking Glass

The Newsgroup in March, 1995

Mark Nelson

This article summarizes postings to the usenet group It is based on the posting which remain on my usenet feed at the time of writing, roughly speaking the last three weeks in March. I have excluded some non-Diplomacy postings.

I have classified the 178 postings in this period into the following groups. You may easily look at the summary of each topic by clicking on the subject below:

Artificial Intelligence

The postings on using AI for a computer Diplomacy player were sparked of by a cross-posting from another group. The original poster was not aware of the work that has been done in this field by Daniel Loeb at Bordeaux University. If you're interested in this topic you should look at Daniel's WWW page:
Alternatively, you should get the next issue of The Mouth Of Sauron which is expected to appear before the end of the century (maybe).


There were no "Diplomacy articles" this month. The articles were an automated weekly posting of the FAQ (which comes in two parts) and the Judge Opening List, now maintained by Brad Stuart.


The clueless newbie questions were, as ever, clueless and once again "do people play diplomacy by email?" appeared. Names have been removed to protect the guilty, but one of those responsible used an aol account.

Dedication Points

Although there was only one post on revising the dedication point system, this is the next "hot topic."


The three fanzine postings included Jim Burgess' usual plug for the latest issue of The Abyssinian Prince (well known as the only fanzine where the editor regularly reprints r.g.d. discussion to liven the zine up, sad but all too true) and two posts on a new zine set to explode onto the hobby scene in March 1995: The Diplomatic Pouch.

EP Houserules

There was no pattern to the houserule postings: grey press, the difference between gunboat in postal and email games and a post asking if it was acceptable for a player in a bad position to resign/disband all their units. The difference between postal/email gunboat games is almost a FAQ. In both arenas the identities of the players are unknown, except to the GM. Press may or may not be allowed. In postal games press is always non-partial whereas in email games press may either be partial or non-partial depending upon the settings of the game.

Judge Finance

The main topic this month has been the financing of a `stand-alone' Judge. This idea has been floated before and although the current thread started in private email just before Christmas it has only recently made its way onto RGD.

David Kovar's original suggestion was to finance a stand-alone Judge which did not piggyback its internet access from either a commercial or university account. The main advantages in having such a machine would be to provide:

Kovar continued, "I would definitely not approve of charging fees for all of the Judges. Given that most of them are running on University machines, you couldn't charge money for running games there without serious ramifications."

Pitt Crandlemire was quick to enlarge upon David's original ideas and suggested that a fee structure be introduced as a de facto standard for Judges, including machines which piggyback their feeds. In two posts, Pitt wrote, "I'm sure that twenty dollars is a picayune amount for just about everybody. I'm certain there are some exceptions to this but I think that they'll be few and far between. I find it hard to believe that anyone can't afford twenty dollars a year." Pitt's ideas generated more feedback than David's original suggestion.

Michael A. Bachelor and Rob Paar pointed out that the introduction of fees would increase record keeping and several postees (notable Marc Potter) suggested that charging fees would result in legal complications which would might be too much of a problem to be practical: would it be legal to collect money, and would a nonprofit corporation have to be setup? Marc Potter commented, "I don't like penalizing those players who can't (or won't) afford to send money" and Tim from Penn State University pointed out that twenty dollars is a considerable amount of money in some countries. I make the observation that using the internet would become considerable less friendly if there was a fee for every utility.

Most posters preferred to raise money through voluntary, rather than compulsory, means. Tyler Maschino, in a posting dated 10th March, wrote:

If money is needed I would strongly urge raising the necessary funds through donations. If a fee is required I fear the reaction would not be positive... Let's not spoil the favour of internet Dip by requiring fees. I think most of the players that use the Judges would be willing to donate some money on their accord if they knew exactly where the money was going.

Fintan Costello noted that "[the] initial money for the purchase of the machine would be easy enough to raise, however the monthly comm bill would be more difficult to raise consistently. Charging fees for games would be too much of a hassle to be practicable."

Pitt commented that "JK's richly deserve compensation for their efforts. We cannot continue to count on them (them being the current JK's or some hypothetical replacements) being willing to continue to do this to the extent or degree that we've become accustomed."

Larry Richardson responded, "The reason I am a JK, and the reason why I work on the Judge code is because I really enjoy doing it. I seriously don't want any money." Several posters pointed out that the amount of money raised would not be enough to compensate Judge Keepers for the amount of time they invest running their Judge, even if the legal issues could be overcome.

Rob Paar suggested that Avalon Hill be approached with the idea that they might be willing to subsidise a Judge. The idea that AH should be encouraged to play a more active role in the internet hobby was not popular; Avalon Hill have already shut down email diplomacy over one network because it was not run the way they wanted it run.

After the smoke had cleared David agreed to accept donations towards funding a stand-alone machine. In Europe donations can be sent to:

     Michael Zwahlen, Marinsburggstr.33,
     9016 St. Gallen, SWITZERLAND
Michael entered the internet hobby recently, but is already a major poster to r.g.d. and is actively involved in several discussions: supernova or future BNF?

Finally, Adrian Appleyard suggested that "LOTS of players would pay for a reliable judge. I'm sure a PBeM Dip fee would be paid for by heaps of players." This raises the issue of whether Adrian can be portrayed as the ideal example of a responsible postal diplomacy publisher and leads neatly onto our next topic.

Judge Questions

There were 16 question on the `up/down' nature of Judges: and a general post by Andy Schwarz. Andy wondered if there was an "easy" way to let players know that a Judge had gone down or come back up (propagation through usenet is too slow for r.g.d. to be used for this purpose). This was discussed elsewhere.

There were three questions on the number of users on EFF. David Kovar's response, dated 12th March, ran as follows: "There are currently 1170 unique email addresses in USEF's dip.master file, which is the file that describes all of the active or recently completed games on the Judge. There are over 3500 registered players on the Judge. I'd guess that 300 of those are duplicate, bogus, or otherwise invalid."

A survey of EFF users in 1994 is reproduced for The Diplomatic Pouch, available by clicking here. There were five miscellaneous questions on the Judge, four on the use of fake press and one on the syntax for the proxy order.


The twenty miscellaneous questions covered a wide area, mostly with one posting to each topic: there were 5 posts looking for FTF players, 3 on WWW dip resources (lookout for the Leeds University Dip Page, real soon now!) and two on updating the FAQ.


There were 27 postings loosely collected together under the openings label (is it time for the creation of There were ten posting on newbie games, where to find them and who wanted them, 13 postings advertising new games, two on all-Australian games, one for a roleplay game in which diplomacy should be in the style of the period and one for a human-moderated game. I must mention that Bill McNair and Michael Zwahlen provided full details on their openings. Too many GMs post "opening in new diplomacy game on EFF: game name new" without providing the full listing of flag settings, which many players need to see before they can commit to a new game. This criticism also applies to standby positions.

Michael Zwahlan is setting up an e-mail tournament and in one of his postings he commented on the rating system that he intends to use: "I know that honoring a survivor with 1 point means that it is worth more to survive than a 4-way draw (0.75 pts). A 4-way draw is unnecessary in my opinion as there is still space for negotiations till they get a 3:1 situation and another one is killed. If none of the players wants to take that risk they will have to take less points. This means: I don't want to reward cowards."

I was surprised that none of the rating boffins took the bait...


There were sixteen postings on the Diplomacy rules (does anyone want to create the newsgroup Most of these seemed to be on whether a unit that is dislodged can protect itself by cutting one of the support of the attacking unit. Jamie Dreier should be given a gold medal and Jonathan Haas a silver for taking time to answer these questions. Jamie tends to answer by providing examples, whereas Jonathan quotes the relevant portions of the rulebook. This led Gordon Riley to ponder if rules can be legally quoted to answer questions or if they should be merely referenced.

Stalemate Lines

Two postings on Stalemate lines. The simple answer is use anonymous ftp and download Mark Nelson's "STALEMATES: AtoY" package from

Standby Positions

The five standby positions were all variant games: Aberration (2), Youngstown (2) and Gunboat.


Tactical Puzzles were big this month, with 16 postings. Unfortunately, most of the puzzles were badly worded; either the puzzle was plain wrong, or the composer forgot to include vital information, such as the current season. The remaining puzzles often used unwanted convoys or obscure interpretations of the rules governing convoying armies and support that they cut (or don't).

Jamie Dreier deserves an honourable mention for Debunker of the Month, whilst Ethan Spring gets the award for Best Composition of the Month, quoted below from his post of 14th March:

     "This is a little tougher than the other one.  You are Italy. It is
     Spring 1901.  All units (of all countries) start in their normal positions.
     You know the following about other countries' orders: zilch.  Task:
     find a set of orders (for all appropriate phases) that will result in
     an Italian Victory by 1911."


Variant postings split into three groups: four postings on obtaining non-postscript format maps, two on Colonial Diplomacy, and one on two-player variants.

Comments on Colonia again concentrated on its excessive price and playability. Jurrien de long wrote: "I saw it at a convention some time ago but it is very expensive ($75 and up in the Netherlands). Is it much better than the original dip?"

Edward Kenworth responded as follows: "I don't rate it much. It's even less balanced than the original Diplomacy was -- to the point that France is unplayable. I like the increased number of supply centres but feel that they could have made a much better job of it. And at GBP45 it's severely over-priced."


Who contributed to the discussion? Eight-nine individuals posted to, of which 36 made two or more posts during the period under consideration:
 2 Posts: Michael Adams, Michael A. Bachelor, Josh2 Bos, Eric Coffey,
          Fintan Costello, Rory Flynn, Arne Grimstrup, Richard Irving,
          Jurrien de Jong, Jerry McGoveran, Albert Macias, Doug Moore,
          Rob Paar, Gordon Riley, Bill Shatzer, Alexander K. Woo.
 3 Posts: Jonathan Haas, Dan Kindsvater, Keven A. Roust, 
          Andy Schwarz, Joy E. Wiens, Tim (Penn State University).
 4 Posts: Stephen Grant, Manus Hand, Mark Nelson, Bruce Regittko,
          Ethan Sprang, Pitt Crandlemire.
 5 Posts: Jorge manuel Agra, David Kovar, Marc Potter, Brad Stuart.
 6 Posts: Bill McNair,  Sean Starkey.
 9 Posts: Michael Zwahlen.
10 Posts: Jamie Dreier.
So for the second time in succession Jamie Drier is Top o'the Pile.

Finally. Gone But Not Forgotten! Eric Klien recently posted to!

Compiled by:

Mark Nelson
University of Leeds, UK

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