Alex Churchill

Cantabrigia is a slightly frivolous Diplomacy variant (designed by me).


The place:
Cambridge City Centre, UK.
The map:
Click here to pop it up
The time:
2000 AD, Start of Lent Term.
The story:
Cambridge students, disdaining to visit the Millennium Dome to celebrate the Year 2000, instead organised one university-wide party. The alcohol consumption reached excessive levels and a few JCR Presidents said some things they shouldn't have... The result was no ordinary bar-room brawl, but outright declarations of war between several colleges. Those situated geographically close to each other decided to put aside their centuries-old differences (even Trinity and St John's) and unite under common banners with the goal of extermination of their mutual enemies. Many colleges (those with relatively sober Union Presidents) elected to remain neutral in the conflicts, but the warring students plan to invade the town centre shops and neutral colleges alike in search of plunder.

The battle plans are drawn. The initial training programmes are complete. The bazookas and war cycles are ready. And six leaders have risen, each controlling several colleges' resources, to command the military actions of the bloodlusting student bands... Rumours of even greater alliances are rife. Scared first-years are hearing tales that several of the leaders have been seen sending diplomatic envoys to each other in bids for short-term cooperation to the extinction of others. And the gates of the warring colleges are about to open...

Let battle commence!!


Number of Powers: Six, named after colleges: Emma, King's, Pembroke, Robinson, Sidney, Trinity.
Number of Supply Centres: 32 (18 home, 14 neutral) - 17 centres to win.
Setting: Cambridge City Centre (Cambridge, Cambs, UK)
Emphasis on colleges of the University of Cambridge.
All locations are abbreviated using the first three letters, unless otherwise noted on the map.
Variant Rules: Insignificant (one sea supply centre, two map-circling provinces, terminology modification)
Designer: Alex Churchill - Maths student at Cambridge University.
Design status: Version 1.04 under email playtest

Variant Rules

Cantabrigia is basically a map variant, but there are a couple of special provinces and a couple of terminology changes to make it more fun. (Very similar to Octarine in that respect, but only with real appeal to Cambridge students rather than hard-core Discworld fans.)


You could theoretically play Cantabrigia as just a map variant, and treat the map as just an archipelago of islands with thin straits or canals between them. However, it'll become obvious on looking at the map that the sea provinces correspond to roads in Cambridge city centre.

The basic premise is that the two types of Diplomacy unit, Armies and Fleets, have been replaced by Students and Bikes, respectively. They behave identically to in regular Dip. The main roads (those that aren't pedestrianised) are treated as sea squares, and built-up areas or pedestrian regions are land provinces.

The justification for this is that a gang of heavily-armed students can't cross a busy main road by themselves - it's far too dangerous. But if a band of bicycles are in that region of the road, they can escort or "convoy" the students from one side to the other...

The names of the turns have also been modified, to fit into Cambridge jargon, as follows: The Spring, Autumn (we Brits despise the term "Fall") and Winter phases are now known as Lent, Easter and Michaelmas, and the game begins in Lent '00 Movement.

To those who object to starting in a Lent term rather than a Michaelmas, may I point out that having Michaelmas Term as a Build phase fits rather nicely with the influx of new students that time each year, or in the case of disbands, the graduation (or more likely sending down) of old veterans. And it also means the number of the year stays the same for the five phases, which makes things more manageable.

The abbreviations for Students and Bikes are (surprisingly enough) S and B: thus the orders from King's for Lent '00 might be:

S King's-Clare; B Queens'-Silver St; S Catz'-King's
...or using the map abbreviations:
S Kin-Cla; B Que-SIL; S Cat-Kin
If you wish the "convoy" order may be written "e" (for "escort") rather than "c", but we usually don't bother.

Summary of Cantabrigia Terminology

Old name
New name
Boring party
where everyone
gets drunk because
they don't want to
recognise anyone

Special Provinces

This is just a neutral sea supply centre. (The justification being, Girton College is so far out of the city centre (much further than the map indicates) that you can't reach it on foot, only by bike...) Should the occasion arise, it may be convoyed through.

The Ring Road provinces (RRA, RRC):
These are one province each, which -- due to map constraints -- appear in two positions, the top-left and bottom-right corners. As indicated on the map, bikes may move into them from (and out of them to) provinces at both extremes of the board. They are street provinces (you certainly need to cycle round the city, you can't walk it...) They may be convoyed through. The Ring Road Anticlockwise (RRA) borders Ring Road Clockwise, East Road, Anglia, Fitzwilliam, Churchill, Grange Road North and Wolfson Court. The Ring Road Clockwise (RRC) borders Ring Road Anticlockwise, Girton, Fitzwilliam, Kelsey Kerridge, St Andrew's St, and Downing.

Coasted Provinces:
Three provinces have two "gates" (otherwise known as coasts in regular Dip). These are the University Library - UL(wg) and UL(eg); the Sidgwick Site - SSi(wg) and SSi(eg); and Christ's College - Chr(ng) and Chr(sg). Version 1.032 saw the re-emergence of two uncoasted provinces (those bordering two bodies of water but treated as uncoasted, like Sweden or Denmark in standard Dip): Parker's Piece (PPc) and Kelsey Kerridge (Kel) are assumed to have cycle paths running through them (indicated by faint blue tracks on the map).

The River Cam:
After much discussion it was decided to treat the Cam as bypassable (leave it off the map). Dividing it into sea squares or coastal would put too much emphasis on Bikes rather than Students (it's a very coastal variant as it is), and making them land provinces or impassable would only further the isolation of Robinson Power (already the only one really unable to reach the city centre).

Starting Positions

Emma King's Pembroke Robinson Sidney Trinity
Initial Units B Emma S King's B Pembroke B Robinson S Sidney S Trinity
S Grafton Centre B Queens' S Corpus S Selwyn B Magdalene B NorthBacks
B Anglia S Catz B Peterhouse B Newnham S Christ's S John's
  S Jesus  


The idea for Cantabrigia was raised when a few members of Cambridge University Diplomacy Society (universally known as DipSoc) suggested that we could do with a six-player variant, and it would be fun to set it in Cambridge. I rose to the challenge...

A few issues were raised trying to design a fairly balanced Dip variant with a map based on a town centre. In particular, the topic of what to do for sea provinces took a bit of thinking about. I thought it would be boring to make it a land-only variant, but just using the River Cam as the only sea regions would equally not work. Finally the idea was suggested at DipSoc that roads could be sea and built-up regions land. This was deemed sufficiently silly to go along with - it also suggested nicely the renaming of Fleets as Bikes and Armies as Students.

Version 1.01 appeared, and after the first face-to-face game was deemed practically unplayable: very unbalanced, and far too many neutral centres and neutral regions so the powers took ages to reach each other. This was because I'd wanted to include all my favourite places in Cambridge City Centre as separate regions on the map (rueful grin).

Radically overhauled, 1.02 appeared, and the map hasn't changed much since. Roads between Newnham and Darwin, Peterhouse and Pembroke, and Parker's Piece and Kelsey Kerridge vanished: despite being amongst the busiest roads in Cambridge, I regretfully realised playability had to triumph over realism.

The Great Power originally named after Jesus College was renamed Sidney after several of the evangelical Christians in the society (myself included) started feeling that a Dip Power called Jesus ought to win every game by default... (grin) But the number of starting centres owned by Sidney Power varied a bit between v1.02 and 1.04. It was too weak with just three units, but too strong with three bikes and one student. In the end the starting unit in Jesus College was changed to another student, somewhat reminiscent of Army Liverpool in Standard Dip (i.e. having to be convoyed to be used for anything other than defense).

The only major issue remaining is the advantage Bikes (Fleets) have over Students (Armies). I'm well aware that Cantabrigia 1.04 is a very coastal variant - there are only nine provinces completely inland! It's possible that in a future update some roads will be removed or inland provinces added to attempt to redress this imbalance. Probably not until after my exams, though....

The current adjacencies are more or less:

   _- | | -_    
- R_--K |  _E -
There are some nice symmetrical positions (notably Trinity vs. Kings over Caius or the 4-way fight over the Market) and fun bits to play, and generally, I think the variant is actually relatively balanced. Well... more so than v1.01 was, anyway (grin).

Any thoughts still welcome! Is it possible for Sidney and Trinity to be at peace? Is Pembroke too weak? I'm more than open to any comments, suggestions, exploding sheep, or anything else you want to send me about the variant.

Alex Churchill
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