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Assigning Powers in Diplomacy



One of the first tasks a GM faces is that of assigning powers to players, this file aims to provide some guidance.

There are various methods which may be used, these include:

  • Randomly - Fair to all, but people may resent having no input.
  • First come, first served - may appear fair, but penalises people depending upon timezone.
  • Power preferences - The most popular method at the time of writing.
  • Voting - An untested method at the time of writing.

I'll now discuss some of the less obvious methods.

Power Preferences

Once you have a list of players, each player submits an order of preference list. Brackets may be used to indicate an equal preference, though this makes things harder to process fairly. You may want to disallow brackets.


Roll a dice. If it's 1 then player 3 gets it. If it is two, three or four player 1 does NOT get it (and we now have a two way choice). If it is five or six we reroll.

i) Player 3 is lucky this time:

We are left with
2. RG
6. R
7. GR

j) We now continue the process. Germany can be assigned straight away. We have a two way choice for Russia (toss a coin). The rest of the countries are assigned at random.

Player 1
Player 4
Player 3
Player 7
Player 2
Player 6
Player 5

As you can see, if you want to make life easy for yourself, don't allow brackets! However, if you're methodical (and explain that there'll be a weighting beforehand) then it's not a big problem. The above system is based upon a Judge FAQ, but it is adapted to attempt to allow equal preferences whilst reducing any advantage in having three first choices!

There are problems with this method, as Jogn Fouhy pointed out in his email of 13th August 1998:

Consider player prefs:

1. A
2. FR
3. EI
4. GT

Player 1. gets Austria. Then come die rolls:

Player 2 gets lucky. On a 50% chance, he comes up with France.

Similarly, player 3 and 4 also get lucky.

The list becomes:
1. A (1)
2. F (1)
3. E (1)
4. G (1)
5. T (5)
6. R (5)
7. I (5)

The number in brackets is what I will call the 'preference number' - the lower it is, the better.

The total preference number is 19

There is an alternative: The GM might 'fudge':
1. A (1)
2. R (2)
3. I (2)
4. T (2)
5. F (1)
6. E (1)
7. G (1)
Total: 10

In each, 4 people get their first choice, but in the second, no one gets worse than their second. OTOH, with the GM picking the powers, this may be seen as a breach of GM impartiality.

In my view, this is only valid if the GM states in advance that 'preference number will be minimised'.

If this method is to be used, how does one deal with short lists? I.e. what 'preference number' is given to an unlisted power? Here are the options:

  • Preference number is set to zero.
  • Preference number is set to one.
  • Preference number is set to be equal to the next unused number (i.e. for a preference list of AR, then EFGIT would have preference 3).
  • Preference number is set to be the same as the number of powers (seven in the standard game).
  • Preference number for unlisted powers is set by the player, with a maximum value of the number of players (seven) allowed.
  • A complete list of powers must be submitted.

If brackets are to be used The GM must also decide whether a list of A(EF)GIRT would result in equal preferences for France and England of two, three or two and a half. My instinct is the latter.

A(EFG)IRT would, if I were running the scheme, result in E, F, and G being assigned a preference of three each.


This is a more complex method than the straightforward, no brackets, random, power preferences, and is designed to allow a degree of urgency to be directed into the power preference requests! This method asks 'Just how much do you want a particular power?'

It has the disadvantage of involving more work for the GM and the player.

Each player gets X votes, and each player must spend at least one vote on each power. As a first approximation let us set X = 7 + 6 + 5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 28 (this number can be changed).

i.e. enough to give an ordered preference list.

A player may *really* want Italy... and so would submit:

List Meaning
1 AE(GI)R Austria most wanted, then England, Germany/Italy equal preference, if not Russia, if not then this player doesn't care.
2 FRG France, then Russia, then Germany
3 (EFG)TI(AR) England/Russia/France equal pref. Then Turkey, then Italy, if not then the remaining two have equal preference
4 E England - if not this player doesn't care
5 This player has no preference.
Austria 1
England 1
France 1
Germany 1
Italy 22
Russia 1
Turkey 1