I liked playing Diplomacy back in university, where I had almost no problem gathering seven people with a whole day (including the nights) to spend.

Nowadays however, I'd consider myself lucky to find maybe four like-minded people who have the better part of an evening to play board games, and my beloved Diplomacy set is gathering dust.

So, especially considering all the variants out there, I'm looking for ways to play and complete a satisfying round of Diplomacy in an evening's time (maybe 3h?) and with four to five players.

4 Answers 4


As I see it there are two independent questions being asked here. One is how to play a short game and the other is how to deal with having fewer than seven players. I'll discuss them separately.

First what to do when time is scarce. There are two ways I know of to deal with this. One is to play an abridged version, the other is to ensure play proceeds at a decent pace. Apart from Tom's "joint victory" suggestion already mentioned, the other workable option I know of is to agree beforehand to play a fixed number of game years. Then when these game years are completed, whoever has the most centres on the board is declared the winner. (This is quite similar to some practices on the European diplomacy tournament circuit).

Different groups of diplomacy players play the game at vastly different speeds, and this can obviously have a big influence on how much a game can progress in a limited amount of time. Experienced players can get through one game year every 30 minutes, including adjudication and build phases. Most groups of players should be able to proceed at one game year every forty minutes or so. The best way I know of to achieve this is to have everyone agree to have their orders in the box as soon as the time for diplomacy runs out each turn (no "order writing time"). You might also like to try using DipTimer (free windows download) to run your games with.

Second, what to do when you have fewer than seven players. I suspect that the main reason that there are options for fewer than seven players in the rulebook is so that they can advertise as "for 2 to 7 players" instead as "for 7 players". The rulebook versions for 6 or fewer players play poorly. Better is to find and play a map variant designed for the number of players you have. These are variants where the rules are the same, but the map is different (you'll have to print one out). There are lots of variants that have been created and many are terrible. So the best bet is to find one that has been played often. Eg Ancient Mediterranean is a 5 player variant (map downloadable at http://www.variantbank.org/results/rules/a/ancient_med.htm) that has a good reputation.

Of course the best way to solve the fewer than 7 problem is to ensure you have 7 players in the first place! There are many other people in similar situations to you, and there are groups of players over the world who play face-to-face diplomacy and are always looking for new players. If you find such a group geographically near to you, you hopefully don't have to resort to the contortions of the previous paragraph. Your favourite search engine is good for finding such people, as is the website http://diplom.org/Face/hobby_info/

  • Thanks for your answer! I might have mixed several questions into one here, but that's really only to convey the right sentiment, which is this: I'd like to know about Diplomacy variants that allow regular folks with nine-to-five jobs and actual lives to enjoy the game :-)
    – Jan
    Jun 20, 2011 at 10:10
  • 1
    @Jan, From my own experience, most "regular folks with nine-to-five jobs and actual lives" that enjoy playing diplomacy don't try to shoehorn the experience into a short evening (though some do). More commonly, one will block off a chunk of time on a weekend for a game, or will block off an entire weekend to attend a convention and play multiple games to get a diplomacy fix. Depending on the person, this could happen as infrequently as once a year. Of course, there is also online play. Jun 21, 2011 at 1:39

You probably need an odd number of players, say five, to make the game flow with a majority vs. a minority dynamic.

Second, you need to choose two countries to eliminate. Italy is the obvious first choice, least fun to play. Germany is the recommended second choice by the game designers. But that has the disadvantage of separating the board into England-France, and Russia-Turkey-Austria. In a game I once played, we eliminated Turkey, instead, as not really being part of Europe. It had the advantages of keeping the countries connected, and of making Austria fun to play with two fewer enemies. The game itself goes faster with two fewer people.

You put single armies in each city of these eliminated countries, and let human players defend these "city states" by supporting them.

The other rule is that a "minority-majority" wins. That is two people (a minority of five) can declare themselves co-winners if they control 18 (a majority) of the 34 supply centers. Not needing a single winner shortens the game. Alternatively, anyone that survives the whole three hours is a "winner."

In this game, Austria and Russia won. They carved up Turkey and the Balkans, then headed west, while England, France and Germany fought among themselves. Not hard for them to get 18. And the game lasted just over three hours.

  • Thanks for your answer! If I remember the manual correctly, your only deviation from the original game (apart from having fewer players, but eliminating different countries than the ones suggested by the authors) would be the possibility of a minority-majority win. That change alone will bring down the game to 3 hours? That would be awesome!
    – Jan
    Jun 16, 2011 at 7:47
  • @jan: You can use the "minority-majority" win rule in the seven player game also. In one game I saw, a person was a co-winner with only two supply centers, because two players with a total of 16 voted him "in." That's why I said you need an odd number.
    – Tom Au
    Jun 16, 2011 at 14:21
  • but with seven players, I would assume you'll still be well over 3h playing time, right?
    – Jan
    Jun 16, 2011 at 14:42
  • @jan: It usually takes longer with seven. But this particular game was actually short. One of the two "big" players had to leave, so he (and the other) found the first person available to make 18.
    – Tom Au
    Jun 16, 2011 at 14:45

May I introduce you to Quo Vadis by Reiner Knizia? You play a family that tries to reach the senate in the ancient Rome. The only way to go up from a politic chamber to another, up to the senate, it's to negotiate with others. You must have the votes of at least half the chamber to go up. This game is made for 5 players and really works like Diplomacy. I would suggest you to try it with your friends and you will see that the game is very much like Diplomacy concerning the negotiations. About the time it takes, you can play it 2-3 times in 3 hours.

Enjoy playing!


Use cards for variable end time


Take some playing cards and pull out the four aces. Add any 6 other cards and shuffle. Put the deck of 10 cards face down near the board.

Add 2 other cards to the top of the deck - or more for a longer time limit.

Each turn (spring is a turn, fall is a turn) flip over a card. After 4 aces come up, the game is ended.

This makes the game not have the artificial play style that happens with an anticipated end point, but still sets a time limit with some variability that creates tension after the 3rd ace is up.

Less players (or more players)

sourced from here: https://www.reddit.com/r/diplomacy/comments/119hxln/comment/j9ms6yi/ and written mostly by lambdaaurigae, though I trimmed it down a bit.

2 Players: If you want to practice your tactics, the best option is probably France vs. Austria: classic map, one player takes France, the other takes Austria. Remove the other 5 players' units from the map.

3 Players: 3P variant is 1066: https://www.vdiplomacy.com/variants.php?variantID=94

Note that this is not super well-balanced: it's generally agreed that Norway>England>France

4 Players: Thttps://www.vdiplomacy.com/variants.php?variantID=7 South America map. It's a variant of a 5 player South America map.

5 Players: South America map https://www.vdiplomacy.com/variants.php?variantID=6 . The most popular 5P map is probably Ancient Mediterranean: https://www.vdiplomacy.com/variants.php?variantID=9 but I don't prefer it: I think there's too many centers, making it feel a little bloated compared to classic. (Also, it's not well balanced - the central powers of Greece and Egypt struggle)

6 Players: Try using the classic map, with no Italy. Keep Italy's units on the board, acting as if they are ordered to hold each turn. If they are forced to retreat, they disband, rebuilding if the center is not occupied during the winter.

8 Players: There's this map? https://www.vdiplomacy.com/variants.php?variantID=24 Never played it, and it looks kinda finicky.

9 Players: Maybe this map? https://www.vdiplomacy.com/variants.php?variantID=113 Never played it either, but it looks ok.

10 Players: I haven't played on it, but War in the Americas https://www.playdiplomacy.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=630&t=59568 is a 10P map I've seen used, and it seems functional.

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    I don't think that variable round time is a good idea as it is better to always know exactly how long you have. Nothing wrong with setting a short time limit for all orders to be placed.
    – Joe W
    Feb 23, 2023 at 18:28
  • I could easily see modifying it so you remove an ace and add another card on top, thus making it less variable (the game will definitely be at least this many turns, but have the same upper bound). The variability makes it so that hard end date doesn't make people can't plot their moves with an expected endpoint. A person's life expectancy is 76 years, but if you were told you were going to die on your 76th birthday, you'd start acting funny leading up to it. The variability keeps us all acting like we have all the time in the world, which is the goal with this unpredictable ending.
    – RobKohr
    Feb 24, 2023 at 23:03
  • It is still an issue of being variable and likely to have a large artificial influence on the game.
    – Joe W
    Feb 24, 2023 at 23:49

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