compiled by Chris Dziedzic

Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in an on-line tournament of the 1900 variant. While on-line tournaments of standard Diplomacy occur throughout the hobby with some frequency, variant tournaments are more unique, because they appeal to a smaller niche of players. I thought about how useful it would be for others who want to organize and run smaller scale on-line tournaments to have a starting point for information. I contacted a few folks with a short questionnaire.

Among those who provided insight were Michael Boutot, who has run tournaments of both the Ancient Mediterranean and Sail Ho variants; David Cohen, who ran a tournament of his own creation, Maharajah's Diplomacy; and Chris McInerney, who is still running a 1900 tournament. What follows is a compilation of the responses from those three.

As some general introduction for our readers, what generated your interest in organizing and running an on-line tournament?
MB: The notion of doing something small and self-contained is always attractive. I liked both variants and their size fit the goal I was looking for. Sail Ho is a four-player variant; while Ancient Mediterranean is a five-player variant. Sail Ho works well in gunboat games, so it was even better for my scenario.
DC: It was to help to publicize my variant, Maharajah's Diplomacy, which I was quite proud of.
CM: I had mentioned the idea of a tournament off-handedly to the creator of the 1900 variant, Baron Powell, and he put me in touch with a few like-minded people. Generally, I thought it would be a good way to get more people playing the variant.

Tell me a little bit about the tournament.
MB: I had run a five game Ancient Mediterranean tournament in 2003 for twenty-five players. I was busier in 2004, so I could only run a four game tournament for twenty players. Each tournament had two rounds. Each game had a seven-year cut off so it took about four to five months for each game. There were four games in the first round and one game in the second round.

I also had a Sail Ho gunboat tournament in 2003. Sixteen players were perfect for a four game first round. Again, I used a seven-year maximum in the first round. These games only lasted two months due to being gunboat. The four winners advanced to the final.

DC: There were two rounds. The top players from each first round game advanced; those plus one runner up formed the final board. The winner of the final table won the tournament.
CM: Seven tables (forty nine players total); two full rounds and a championship table; each round lasted about six months (one season per week).

How did you advertise for the tournament?
MB: I had a core group of people due to running dozens of Yahoo games on the Dip1600 Yahoogroup. The then current heads of the Dipworld and the Diplomaticcorp player communities also entered in. The Cat23 player community probably filled four or five slots in each tournament.
DC: I advertised in a variety of Diplomacy 'zines and websites, plus numerous dip-related Yahoogroups.
CM: Several of us worked on advertising, others more than I. I focused on spreading the word to games I was running and playing in.

How easy or difficult was it to recruit the players? Did you have extra players available as replacements?
MB: Again, due to the large core from the Dip1600 Yahoogroup, it was not hard at all to recruit players. It probably took a week. The firm goals of sixteen players for the Sail Ho tournament and twenty to twenty-five for the Ancient Mediterranean tournaments helped. I didn't have to scramble for players. The one or two extras from recruiting filled in as replacements when needed.
DC: It took time. A lot of people do not play variants. In fact, I converted from a simple seven board top and advance format to the six board toppers advance plus one runner up, in order not to have things drag on.
CM: I recall some difficulty in filling the final seats, but we ended up with forty-nine plus a few to spare. We did end up needing those spare, and then some, however.

For how long were you advertising before the start of the tournament?
MB: I had mentioned it to people in my ongoing games a month before but hard recruiting only took a week.
DC: A few months.
CM: I don't entirely recall — but certainly a couple of months.

How many were involved as Tournament Directors (TDs) and Game Masters (GMs)? What were their responsibilities?
MB: In something this small, I ran the whole show as a one-man band. Many people tell me I am better off that way — perhaps they are right. I got to be TD / GM / pain-in-the neck all in one.
DC: I was the TD. Similar to the World Masters (the organization and running of which I have long been involved in) I had a half dozen member committee to assist in making ruling for any problems, and had six GMs, one for each game. Tournament data can be found here. As TD, my responsibilities included answering GM and player questions, making sure the games ran timely and smoothly, and also checking all the adjudications.
CM: I served as the TD, and — as we used the DPJudge for the games — I served as GM for all tables, as well. I had some assistance, especially with regard to tabulating the scores, from two other organizers.

How many rounds were there to the tournament? Was there an automatic cut off to the games in each round to ensure they all ended around the same time? How much time was there between rounds?
MB: In each of my tournaments, all the first round games were set at a seven-year time limit. In Sail Ho that is quite enough time. It can be a little tight in Ancient Mediterranean. I have done eight-year time limits in other Ancient Mediterranean games I have run. Being the GM in all of the games, coordinating game ending times was not an issue. There were two rounds in each tournament with only a week in between.
DC: There were two rounds. Yes, in the first round each game lasted ten years maximum, and the deadlines were coordinated, so that the games that did not end early lasted about six months. I believe the final board second round started about three weeks or so after the first ended.
CM: There were two full rounds. Each game in those first two rounds was called a draw if it hadn't ended after the Autumn 1909 season. Between the two regular rounds, there was about a month or a month-and-a-half downtime.

How did you assign players to their tables?
Random assignment.
CM: There was no seeding. In the first round, players were assigned randomly. In the second round, players were assigned such that they did not face any of the same opponents, and did not play the same power.

What kind of scoring system did you use?
MB: The scoring system was straight supply centers with a game average if two players were tied. Sail Ho just needed four winners, one from each first round table to play a final round. Ancient Mediterranean needed one wild card player, who placed second in one of the first round tables to fill out the final game, so more thought went into that.
DC: Mostly it was just top and advance, with the sole second place advancer determined by dot count. Numerous tiebreakers were available, but as one of the games ended 18-18-1 (there are 37 dots in the variant) both of those players advanced, so the tiebreakers really weren't important.
CM: The scoring method we used gave players 'influence points' — based roughly on number of centers held — and 'outcome points' — none for those who were eliminated or survived, a share of the pool for draws, and the whole thing for a solo. The top seven point scorers over the first two rounds made it to the championship table; a solo there means the championship, otherwise the total point-getter will be declared the winner.

Where was the tournament hosted?
MB: I am not a fan of judges. It is too easy for me to do a dozen games or more using Realpolitik. The various Yahoo communities are deep enough and the groups are flexible enough to handle all sizes of Diplomacy events. Both tourneys were associated with the Dipworld and Cat23 communities, yet they did not control them. Flexibility above all.
DC: Graue Substanz, and also each game was played in another forum (Cat23 [2], Dipworld, Diplomaticcorp and Redscape [2]), and I also set up a special Maharajah's Diplomacy Yahoogroup. Like I said, the idea was to publicize the variant.
CM: The DPJudge; the main strength was anonymity — tables were created such that players would have no knowledge of one another's identity until the tournament ended, to prevent 'meta-gaming'. The major weaknesses were two: first, I find that DPJudge games tend to lack the intensity of PBEM games (the anonymity, I think, makes it easier for players to 'check out'); second, occasional DPJudge blackouts and hiccups are aggravating.

Did you have any drops or resignations from the tournament? How did you replace those players?
MB: My tournaments were small enough that there were only two drops, as I recall. As I mentioned earlier, I had a large core group of players who had been in my games so getting a replacement was no problem, especially for the Sail Ho gunboat tournament
DC: A few — not too many. I had a small pool of potential replacements, and I advertised as well.
CM: There were only a few drops during the game; there were a good bit more between the two rounds (almost entirely from those who had not fared well in the first round). They were more frequent in the first round, but not so much even then. The first choice for replacements came from those players on a 'wait list'; the second came from players already playing in other games, but who had signaled willingness to play in two games (only the higher of their two scores counted).

Were there unanticipated issues that cropped up during the course of the tournament?
MB: Not really.
DC: I like to think it ran pretty smoothly. There really weren't any major problems.
CM: I can't say there were any unanticipated problems, really — it would've been better for us to have had more backups before beginning, but that wasn't unexpected.

How much of a time commitment was it to serve as a TD or GM in the tournament?
MB: The Sail Ho gunboat tournament took about five to ten minutes a game every other day or so. So it did not take much time at all. The Ancient Mediterranean tournament had weekly deadlines, so it required five to ten minutes a week for each game.
DC: I'd say on average less than an hour a day.
CM: There was definitely an ebb and flow — heavy mostly between rounds, when it came to assigning spots, filling replacements, and tabulating scoring. If I had to do it over, I would have definitely tried to delegate better during those periods.

What kind of feedback did you get about the variant you chose?
MB: I had dealt with Ancient Mediterranean designer Don Hessong in the past in playtests of his variant, but was no longer in contact with him at the time of the tournament. I was not a fan of some of the last adjustments he made. The players liked Ancient Mediterranean. I had no contact ever with the designer of Sail Ho. Players with a tactical focus like Sail Ho, especially for gunboat games.
DC: Generally positive.
CM: The designer of 1900, Baron Powell, observed all the games, but was not involved beyond that.

What kind of feedback did you get about the tournament?
MB: I received no complaints, so people must have been happy. ;)
DC: I think the appreciation for all the GMs and the other folks involved, and the good organization of the Tourney, was widely expressed by the players.
CM: None so far.

What kind of final advice would you share with someone who was thinking of organizing and running a similar on-line variant tournament?
MB: The key is not to get overwhelmed or go into too much detail. It's the kind of thing anyone can do if they just push forward. It really does not take that much time if it is well organized.
DC: Make sure the variant is a good one. And expect signups to take a long time if the variant isn't a well-known one.
CM: If I were to do it over it again, I would rather be picky about who we accepted into the tournament, even if it meant a significantly smaller pool of players. The biggest headache was players dropping, either during a round, or between, and having a smaller pool of players would, to my mind, be an acceptable trade-off for avoiding those problems.

This discussion raises a question for the Pouch readership: who will be the next person to make an impact on the hobby and to organize an on-line tournament for their favorite variant? Be sure to let the Pouch know!

Chris Dziedzic

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