VANCOUVER IN DIPLOMACY
by Charles Roburn
As you may have heard, this year the city of Vancouver is hosting the 17th World Diplomacy Convention this summer, from August 9th through to the 12th.
While that's great, I'm sure a few Diplomacy players find it disconcerting. After all, past WDCs have taken place in parts of the world that they're already familiar with. You know — like Paris. Last year, everybody knew where Berlin was: and next year you can be sure that Diplomacy players will have no trouble finding Vienna.
But Vancouver? Where's that? Is it even a supply center???
Such confusion is entirely natural. So I thought it would be a good idea to explore the role of Vancouver in Diplomacy further, in hopes that participants in the upcoming tournament will feel more at ease when they arrive.
Today Vancouver is Canada's third-largest city, with a population of almost 600,000 within the city itself, and well over two million (2,116,581) in the general area ("the Lower Mainland") — just under half the population of the Province of British Columbia as a whole. It's Canada's largest port, and main gateway onto the Pacific. It is sometimes called "Hollywood North" because of the tremendous amount of filming that goes on there (X-Files, X-Men…). In 2010, it will host the Twenty-First Winter Olympic Games. Clearly, it's an important city! Though not, please note, the provincial capital — that's Victoria, as Mike Hall will be happy to explain. [While you're at it, ask him to explain why Vancouver is on the mainland, while Victoria is on Vancouver Island! ]
But from the perspective of a Diplomacy player, however, none of this current influence and importance matters so much. What about the past?
A hundred-odd years ago, the city was less impressive. According to the Canadian census of 1901 (the most important year from our point of view, of course), the population of Vancouver was merely 26,133 people. Hardly comparable to that of supply centers like London or Paris in the same year! Even if you include the entire recorded population of the rest of British Columbia at the time (since an SC actually represents an entire province), the total still only comes to 178,657.
Of course, like most of Canada, British Columbia has always enjoyed vast natural resources; so that can be factored in. The area certainly had enough scope for profit that the North West Company and Hudson's Bay Company (to say nothing of other sources of competition) competed hotly for commercial advantage there and throughout Western Canada, to the point that they actually conducted their own war. In 1858, the area even had its own Gold Rush. So overall, there are solid economic grounds for considering Vancouver a supply center in spite of its minute population.
When it comes to European politics, Vancouver and its environs enjoy the potential to be a hotbed of political intrigue. From about the mid-17th century and onward, the area was a juncture point for three enormous European empires: Russia, Great Britain, and Spain (later replaced as a regional power by the United States). Japan and China are a little far away to count (the Pacific is an awfully big ocean!); but even so, there was more than enough potential for conflict. Even today, in some of Victoria's parks, there are still old (sealed) cannons placed there to help defend Victoria Harbour in case the Russians sailed down to invade from Alaska (!!!).
Of course, the main source of conflict in the area was between Britain and the United States. The British Empire claimed the Pacific Northwest all the way down to Oregon, while in the late 1840's some hawks in the US adopted a slogan of "54-40, or fight!" — meaning that if Britain didn't yield the coast all the way up to the Alaska Panhandle, the US should take the territory by force. So it's appropriate that the WDC 2007 planning committee includes people from Oregon and Washington as well as Vancouver and Vancouver Island. Happily for all of us, the dispute was eventually resolved peacefully, though tensions remained for some time afterwards (thankfully, the poor pig was the only casualty). Later, when the United States bought Alaska from the Russian Empire, there was another dispute over the exact boundaries of the Alaska Panhandle; but that too was settled by arbitration. Historically the decision went against Canada: but as you will see below, some variants [correct this grave injustice] | [overturn this wise decision].
So with all this background in mind, how does Vancouver fit into our favorite game?
Here at the Pouch, the territory of Western Canada is indeed represented in a few of the variants that the DPjudge supports. And naturally enough, as British Columbia's largest city, Vancouver does figure as the dot representing the supply center — when there is indeed a supply center to figure as.
There is no Vancouver in standard Diplomacy. :-(
Vincent Mous' Empire variant is set in an alternate reality where both the United States and Canada have collapsed, breaking down into smaller sub-nations. Canada now consists of lots of empty space (go figure), and two player nations: Quebec, and British Columbia.
In this variant, British Columbia extends beyond the province's actual real-world borders to encompass the province of Alberta (supply center Calgary) and Alaska (supply center Anchorage) as well. The third home supply center is, of course — Vancouver! BC's other territories include the Yukon, and Northern BC (which counts as a separate space). The province's forces are colored white — perhaps in homage to Alaska's Russian connection.
Victoria, the actual capital city of BC, is not represented. Sorry, Mike.
Michael David Roberts' Imperial variant is frightening in its scale. The massive map, representing the entire globe in the year 1861, includes no fewer than one hundred and seventy-two supply centers. With that many important provinces to choose from, does Vancouver make the cut?
Yes. Yes, it does. In fact, in addition to the supply centers found in Empire (Anchorage, Vancouver, Alberta/Calgary, Washington/Seattle, Oregon/Portland), the Imperial map includes two extras: one in the Yukon (Whitehorse?) — and yes, Mike, Victoria.
However, the topography is a little different. There's an extra buffer province between (still Russian-held) Anchorage and the rest of Alaska. The proximity of foreign units means that the British Army Vancouver may clash with its southern United States neighbor relatively quickly. And the Rocky Mountains are an impassable space, meaning that Army Vancouver can no longer move directly to Alberta/Calgary. Still, the city is there; and it counts as a home supply center for Britain.
That exhausts the list of variants where you may see Vancouver on the DPjudge. But that's only a fraction of the variants out there in the wider world. There are many others to be found on the Pouch. Those whose maps include Western Canada often do have a supply center in Vancouver — either in a separate Vancouver space, or as the location of the supply center dot in a larger British Columbia space.
Since it encompasses all of North America, the Colonial America variant naturally includes the territory of BC. Unfortunately, the map does not include names for the supply centers, and it isn't clear which (if any of them) represents Vancouver itself. If the city (or equivalent) is there, I assume it's either the southernmost Russian supply center (?!?), or else the neutral SC just below that one.
Now, this variant by Eric Pederson reminds me a lot of Supremacy. Huge superpowers — including a couple that don't yet exist (united South American and African powers) — armed with nuclear weapons, struggling for the world's resources and occasionally blighting entire vast areas with their Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Unhappily, Vancouver doesn't seem to rate a center of its own. Instead, all Western Canada is lumped together in a single non-SC space labeled "WCA" (presumably, "Western Canada"). This annoys me. I mean, come on: even Greenland is a supply center!
At last! In Wayne Hoheisel's (or, according to the Variant Bank, Don Miller's) Indianomancy, British Columbia is split into several spaces, each named for one the indigenous peoples who lived in them before the arrival of Europeans. The map for this older (as of 1966!) variant includes the lower Fraser Valley ("Okinagan"), along with eastern BC ("Kutenai"), the northern coast ("Kwakiutl"), and Vancouver Island ("Nootka").
Unfortunately, of all these spaces, only Nootka is a supply center.
The Multinational variant does include the southern part of BC as a non-SC space on its map. However, the space isn't called BC, or Vancouver, or even Victoria. Instead, it's labeled "Clm", for Columbia.
This variant is set in the 1930's. Although its size may make it seem intimidating (it takes 74 SCs to win, putting it on a similar scale to Imperial), for the most part it seems to be much the same — a few special rules apply to handle island chains and other land/sea areas. The map includes a single non-SC space (BCO) to represent British-held BC.
Another variant set in North America before its modern borders were determined, War in North America takes place in 1860. The active powers include the USA; the Confederacy; Mexico; Canada (which actually did not confederate until 1867, but this is sped up a few years for game balance); an independent Texas; and a third confederation comprised of the Comanche, Apache, and Sioux nations. There are also three inert empires with units on the board: Russia, Spain, and Britain each have units that hold in place.
On the variant map, Vancouver appears as a neutral supply center. It borders on Russian Alaska, "Oregon" (really Seattle/Washington), a large Yukon, and "Crow" (Alberta). The nearest active power is the Great Plains Confederation, whose army in Spokane can reach Vancouver in just two moves.
The War in the Americas variant by Macario Reyes is set in the mid-19th century, and encompasses both American continents. The map extends from Pole to Pole, and includes ten different Great Powers — including Great Britain.
Sadly, Vancouver doesn't appear as a supply center. Instead of BC, the west coast of Canada is called "NCa" (presumably for "New Caledonia", the original name of Britain's mainland colony before it was merged with Vancouver Island in 1866 to form modern BC). There are, however, neutral supply centers to the north in Alaska (in the panhandle), and to the south in "Oregon". Hmph.
And once again, Greenland is an SC even though "New Caledonia" is not. It just doesn't seem fair.
There are two variants by this name in the Pouch archives. The first, by David Caldwell, is a massive 31-power affair with plenty of extra rules, set more-or-less in the modern world in the year 2000. There are a few differences (for example, an independent Quebec is one of the powers). However, Vancouver is a supply center on the map!!! There's even a second space within BC.
The second variant of this name was created by David Norman. It has a mere seventeen powers. And not only is Vancouver on the map (in the "BCo" space): but in this alternative reality, Western Canada is a separate country. Clearly Vancouver has come into its own!
Finally, we come to the only variant listed under "Z": the Zeus IV variant. This is actually only one in an entire family of variants (Zeus IV, V, V-F) with the same basic setting. All of them are global variants representing World War Two, with seven powers competing for domination of a strangely distorted world map.
They all have one thing in common, though: Vancouver isn't a supply center in any of them. There isn't even a separate BC. There's only one big lump called "Canada", with an SC dot in the general area of Ottawa.
The variants listed above are merely a fraction of the total number available; there are still many more at the Variant Bank, if you're interested in looking into them.
However, it's pretty clear that on any map that includes the Pacific coast of Canada, Vancouver stands a good chance of appearing as a supply center. It does depend on the scale of the map and the period in question; but then, that's just as true of other major cities in some variants. Vienna isn't a supply center in Zeus IV, because the map is just too big; Paris doesn't appear in the Ancient Mediterranean variant, because it wasn't yet a large city at the time. If we accept that these two cities still count, surely we can make the same allowances for Vancouver!
If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author, and clicking on the envelope above does not work for you, feel free to use the "Dear DP..." mail interface.