The game of Civ Dip is a popular variant that is played blind on a map that needs to be explored. By “blind”, I mean that players are not allowed to see the full map; they can only see those provinces that their units and cities (SC) can see. Sometimes this is referred to as “fog of war.” Normally each player starts with a single home SC, and must explore to find more and build a nation. Players eventually come into contact with other nations at which point, communications can begin between those players in contact.
I have run many of this type of game. My games, as a variant, are normally run double blind, by double blind, I mean that each player plays under an assumed leader name of his nation, all communication comes through me, I forward emails and protect everyone’s true identity. I do this for two reasons. The first is because then I get to read all of the press, which makes things a lot more fun for me. The second is that for players that see the same old people often in dip games, they must play without prior knowledge or grudges against other players. Sometimes I play them single blind with normal emails allowed once contact is made. The game that I am starting right now will NOT be run double blind. I will hand out emails and players can talk directly.
Map design is normally done by the GM. I personally always make my own brand new maps for these games. Some GMs may take a pre-made map from another variant, but I think this is both lazy and an inferior way to play. In general, normal diplomacy maps are not well suited for civ dip, for one, it might be possible for a player to guess the map he is on, if he has played it before. And secondly, the natural areas of exploration may or may not give a fair start in a civ dip variant. By making my own maps, I can design more interesting, unique maps, with a roughly equal start for everyone. I use MS Paint, and draw my maps in a way that makes it easy for me to click and fill to blacken areas out to issue private maps for adjudication.
For those of you making maps, make sure that when you name provinces, use a small pixel to open up all the letters, so that one mouse click can make an entire province vanish. This will save you massive amounts of time in making the individual maps.
The most critical aspect of a new map to consider is the
average distance between starting home centers.
In theory, home SC could start right next to each other, like
The next aspect of design that I consider is “natural zones of expansion”. I visualize the areas near each player that are closer to him than any other player, usually within 1 or 2 places, and I consider all of those SC “easy grabs”. I try to give each player roughly the same number of “easy grabs”. Next I look at SC that are “contested”, that is in nomads lands between players where it is not clear which player will get there first. I also try to provide roughly equal chances and number of “contested” SC. Sometimes, I will make special map features like secret islands with extra SC, or other special features like tunnels, or places of power with special rewards. These sorts of things reward players that EXPLORE, because they are usually in the most out of the way places.
Also, my maps are always made with Mobius
wraps, a large oval or circle that wraps in
Another design feature that I always include is that in your first year, whatever unit you build and whatever direction you move it, you will find a second SC for a build. Although on a crowded map, it might be possible for some one to bounce you there. To design a map otherwise where most get a second build and some do not is incredibly unfair to those without a build; it virtually cripples them for the entire game.
Now, this is not a perfect science, no map is equally fair to everyone.
Here is a basic checklist of strategy
2) Avoid all conflicts until you are “hemmed in”
3) Communicate in an open and friendly manner with everyone you meet
4) Trade maps with everyone you can
5) Once hemmed in, join with allies that you have established and team up on weaker players.
How best to explore?
If you start adjacent to a SC, a conservative move is to move onto it, in this way, if you bounce on your second move, at least you are on a SC. More aggressive, but riskier, is to move adjacent to that SC in order to gain more map info. Bouncing on your second move is unlikely, another player must have his home SC three or four places away and you both must move directly towards each other and then bounce on turn 2. This can happen, however it is unlikely, but if it does you are starting at a major disadvantage. On more crowded maps, it is better to move directly to a new SC, if you can, because it is riskier to go for open space, in case you get bounced in the fall.
If you do not already see a SC, then do map analysis on the black areas. Often you can guess at how many provinces a province may border by how many changes of directions its borders take. This is not perfect, but take a look at it. Also the greater the length of the perimeter of a province is also an indicator that the province has more adjacent provinces. You want to move to a province with a large perimeter length of black area and with an irregular shape. This will maximize your chances of finding new provinces, and hence more SC.
Make sure that you ALWAYS explore 1 space in EVERY direction from your start. If you fail to do this, you will likely give away your “easy grabs” to someone else. Everything within 2 provinces of your start the GM intends for you to get, don’t give these away. I have seen players go off 3 or 4 places in one direction and never look 1 place in the other. They are giving away free SC by doing this; their “easy grabs” will be grabbed by someone else, while they will have certain conflict with their distant unit.
The principal of analyzing the black areas can be used repeatedly as you explore, try to go to places that have lots of changes in direction of their perimeter as well as long perimeters. Also you can sometimes project coastlines or islands based on the way a province border curves, or the shapes, changes of directions, etc.
Another aspect you can use for exploring is that armies should go to INLAND province, not coastal provinces. Fleets should go out to sea, not along coasts, unless you have a very good reason to hug the coast. The reason for these two rules is that SC are always on land, so an inland army move should give you more access to more provinces and hence more SC. If you move an army along a coast, you cut your chances significantly. Now the same applies for fleets. Usually, on most dip maps, seas are much larger than land provinces, so a fleet out in an open ocean can often have access to many provinces and hence SC. On my maps, there are always many islands as well. Sometimes, black map analysis can show possible islands. A sea zone that looks like it has islands is a great place to move to in order to find a SC.
Especially do not move along a coast if moving to sea you will be able to see what you would have been able to see along the land anyway, and more. Let me explain. Suppose you build a fleet, and you are choosing to move to one of two places. Place A is a coast; I’ll call it “Coast A”. The coastline you can see is one inch long, and it borders place B, which I will call “Ocean B”. The other place you can move to is Ocean B itself, a water province that borders Coast A. The line that touches Coast A is two inches long, but only 1 inch of it actually touches Coast A, the rest you don’t know what it touches. Got it? My point here is that is you move to Coast A, along the coast, you will see the province that lies beyond in on that coast. Anything you see inland, you can’t get to anyways, so doesn’t help you. But if you move out to sea to Ocean B, you will certainly see the same province along that coast that you would have seen from Coast A, but you will also see a lot more from that water in all directions.
To me, the above is obvious, but I have seen many players goof it up badly!
Also if you have already been someplace and know there are no new SC to be had there, then don’t move there again! Later once exploring is done, you may need to for other reasons, but while exploring, it’s pointless and stupid. And yes, I have seen this done too!
What to build is critical for exploring as well. Don’t build a unit in a place unless it can move to a new SC within two moves. Just pretend there are SC in the black, make sure your new builds can get to new black places. Eventually, you can no longer do this, but I see this error made repeatedly, a build that has no chance to find a new SC.
It is helpful to take you map and label provinces with a
number that indicates the distance from your home. All the places next to your start, I label
“1”, then the next ring out “2”, etc.
Make sure you explore in
Another critical point in exploring is that you MUST explore
Of course, on FALL turns, all your moves should be for the money, the SC, not for position. Spring is for positioning. It is NOT smart to give up ANY early builds in the name of “exploration”, because the more early units you have the more you can explore.
First contacts with other players
Make polite and peaceful contact with new players. Starting a war blind against the first guy you meet is incredibly stupid, don’t do it. Yes I have seen it done; I have even seen it work occasionally too. Any SC that you have to fight for is a free grab someplace else that you are giving up! You waste resources by fighting at all during the exploration phase. Do not fight until you are totally explored and hemmed in on all sides!
Try to win with words any contested SC that you come across, do not fight for them and win them with diplomacy if you can. Remember, the other player can’t see what you can see. You can project what you think he can see, think about this in your negotiations. Try to negotiate your way into these early contested SC. Any extra builds you gain early make for faster exploration, and more free grabs for you, which makes you larger and stronger for when the conflicts begin in earnest.
Do not fight with your first neighbors.
Next, trade maps, with anyone and everyone you can. It is worth it to give away your map to anyone to get another map. Use MS Paint and piece the maps together. This will show you which SC are already claimed by your neighbor, and which areas are still “black”. The amount of movement this saves is incredibly valuable, and will lead you to more free grabs early in the game. It also starts the beginning of a working relationship with your nearest neighbors. In my variants, GM maps are never given, players give maps directly, and players can easily edit them, so you can give partial maps, remove sensitive things, and even forge maps if you want to.
The players that guard their map info as “secret” are only hurting themselves!
Imagine that you could give your map to everyone else in the game, and in exchange they gave you theirs. Pretend that no one else shared maps. Every other player in the game would have two maps, theirs and yours. But you would see the full entire map! Imagine how that could guide your paths of exploration! This is a hypothetical example, but it follows that the more maps you can get a hold of, the better you will explore, the more free grabs you will get and the stronger will you start. Once a player is a known enemy, then you can stop giving him your map of course.
An important part of this early cooperation is learning which allies are easy to work with, which ones share with you, which ones write back more often, which ones are willing to discuss and come to fair agreements on things, which ones are trustworthy, etc. As this process builds, you should start to form a large team. Most games of this sort have far more players than normal diplomacy, maybe 15, 20 or more!
The players that win join large block alliances and these large groups pounce on lone players, don’t be the loner that gets pounced on, be part of the big team that is doing the pouncing! The goal is to have your block dominate the entire map, and then form a smaller team within that team to pounce again, until you are the last player and grab 51% of the map. This can take a long time; some of these maps contain more than a hundred SC!!
Okay, that’s it, good luck!