How to make the best use
of that extra unit type

by Millis Miller

One of the many changes that Diplomacy variant designers sometimes make when they try to add to the game are new types of units that have some special power. These powers are often counter-balanced by a weakness that does not exist for the standard Army and Fleet units. Some of these special units are created for specific variants, whereas others are just created on their own for any variant to use.

In general, these units tend to see only a brief outing as people try out a variant for the first time, and are never seen by the general game-playing fraternity. Some new unit types that I am aware of are:

Of these, only one has been adopted by the online judges njudge and DPJudge; namely, the Wing unit.

What is it?

The Wing unit can be built at any centre that supports builds, and moves one space at a time, over either land or water. To offset this big mobility advantage, it is not able to capture supply centres, but instead blockades them. This means that when a wing moves into an opponent's supply centre space, the supply centre's owner still retains ownership; but if the centre is occupied by an opponent's wing unit in a Fall turn, the owner cannot include that centre in their supply centre count for the year, and thus may have to disband a unit appropriately. Once the wing leaves or is removed from the supply centre during a subsequent adjustment phase, the blockade is lifted, and the centre again will count toward the owner's total.

A wing cannot convoy an army the way a fleet does (unless the rarely used 'AirLift' rule is in place), nor can it be convoyed by a fleet like an army can. In all other respects, it works as do the standard army and fleet units (attacking, giving and receiving support and requiring maintenance by a centre).

Why use it?

At first sight, the wing unit would seem rather useless, since it cannot gain a supply centre; why bother building any?

Well, obviously a wing's extra mobility can be of benefit. In the Modern variant for which it was first created, wing units quickly allow Powers such as Britain and France to affect provinces in Europe and the British Isles that would otherwise require more complex combined fleet and army movements. For France especially, it can be argued that wings serve to bolster France's position in the game, which is traditionally seen as very weak if France only has armies and fleets (see this article for a description of France in Modern).

The blockading power, while not as potent as an outright capture, can still have the effect of forcing an enemy to disband a much-needed unit, and break their otherwise strong defensive line. Because of its extra mobility, if it penetrates behind a defensive line a wing is a lot more difficult to remove as a back-rank marauder than a rogue army or fleet; and although it cannot take a centre, again it can blockade, or cut an important support.

Another role, perhaps not often appreciated, is that its construction can be seen as a less threatening act to a potential ally, but still as a strong defence. By building a wing near to another power, you do not threaten that neighbour with an all-out attack, as you cannot take centres but only blockade at worst; and a Power may be more willing to let a wing pass though (or over) its territory to help secure a stalemate line than a fleet or an army. And, in defence (should someone be unwise enough to attack you), a wing is superior to the traditional army and fleet, with full mobility.

Winging it

So, now that you've read this article, maybe you can consider setting up or playing in a variant that uses this versatile unit. Although the wing unit was originally created for the Modern variant, it is equally applicable to any variant, though it tends to be most effective in variants where the map has lots of sea spaces between land spaces, making use of the wing's versatility. An attack force with one or more wings in it will be more flexible in attacking the target, and a defensive force will have more options, being able to move freely between land and water and avoiding coastal issues. Rather than having to waive a build to avoid offending a potential ally, you'll now be able to build the wing to look less offensive, but still deter attacks.

And, most important of all: on the on-line maps for njudge and DPJudge, the icon does look really neat!

Millis Miller

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