Octopus's Garden

Issue Eighty-Three

27th October 2013

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HELLO, good evening and welcome to Octopus's Garden, the subzeen with its very waiting list for a 7 x 7 Gunboat Diplomacy tournament. It is still, however notionally, a subzeen to Jim Burgess' The Abyssinian Prince, which is now a subzeen to Douglas Kent's Eternal Sunshine. Produced by Peter Sullivan peter@burdonvale.co.uk. It's also available on the web at: http://www.burdonvale.co.uk/octopus/.


With the Railway Rivals game now done and dusted, it's time to start thinking about what I want to do now that game is complete. For my sins, I'm thinking of running a 7 x 7 Gunboat game. In effect, seven games of Gunboat Diplomacy, with the same seven players, each playing all of the seven countries (A/E/F/G/I/R/T) across the seven boards. There was a bit of a vogue for 7 x 7 in the late 1980s and early 1990s in the North American Hobby. And, more recently, in these very pages, a younger (and more foolish?) Mr. Kent ran a tournament here, with the final results reported in ES 29. Of course, me being me, I'm thinking of a couple of twists on the normal 7 x 7 Tournament format.

Firstly, although the players would, as per standard Gunboat, be anonymous, you would know which player was playing each country. That is, you'd know that the player playing Turkey on Board One was Germany on Board Five, and so on, even though you wouldn't know who he, she (or it!) was. This, to me, makes it more of a proper tournament, in that you can make decisions on one board based on positions on the other boards, and the overall tournament situation. In the end, the "meta-game" of the tournament is what matters, not necessarily the results on any individual board.

When it comes to accumulating the results across the seven games in order to determine an overall winner, there are several approaches that could be taken. Rather than total supply centre count or total Calhamer Point count (1 point for a win, 1/n points for an n-way draw), I was proposing to use a variation on the old Manorcon Diplomacy Tournament system, which measures "nearness to a win." Outright winners, obviously, get 100%, and everyone else in that game scores a big, fat zero. For draws, each player in the draw takes a share of the 100% equal to the formula ¼c2 + c + 4, where c is their final supply centre count. So, for a 9-9-9-7 four-way draw, the maths works out as:

Centres "Shares" Percent
9 33.25 24.63%
9 33.25 24.63%
9 33.25 24.63%
7 23.25 17.22%
0 4 0.00%
0 4 0.00%
0 4 0.00%
34 135  

This system can be a bit counter-intuitive to people brought up on Calhamer Point Count, as it doesn't necessarily reward eliminating other players. Unless, that is, you directly benefit from it in terms of supply centre count. But actually, this is correct. In a 17-17 draw, both players will score 45.16%. In a seven-way 17-3-3-3-3-3-2 draw, the leader will score 63.65%, the best possible non-win score. By excellent "divide and rule," this player has got as close to a win as it's possible to get without actually doing so. And certainly deserves a higher score than the two guys in a 17-17, neither of whom can quite bring themselves to stab the other for the final centre needed for the win. What wusses!

In practice, of course, Gunboat games have a tendency to finish in outright wins much more than Standard games of Diplomacy. I suspect that this is mainly due to the fact that organising a "stop the leader" alliance, whilst not impossible, is obviously more difficult than in the Standard game, since there's no scope for behind-the-scenes co-ordination. Certainly this proved to be the case in the last 7 x 7 tournament to grace these pages (6 outright wins from 7 games, if I remember correctly). So I suspect that the minutiae of the scoring system may not matter all that much, at least in terms of determining the overall winner. Who will, almost certainly, be the player who scores the most outright wins. But, you know, that kinda sounds like an equitable result to me...

So, any interest? Press will be "Grey" (i.e. players' country names are reserved, but otherwise anything goes.) We'll do retreats "American-style" (i.e. preceding the next season), but I'll do a separate season for Winter Adjustments each year. Deadlines will be three-weekly. (Although, given this is Gunboat, if I have all the orders in earlier, then I'll adjudicate the games there and then.) I've come up with a draft set of House Rules at http://www.burdonvale.co.uk/octopus/gunboat.html but would welcome any comments on these from interested parties or other g.m.s with 7 x 7 experience. Oh, and I'll also need some stand-bys once we get going. But let's get the starting line-up sorted first:


7 x 7 Gunboat Diplomacy: (7 wanted)

That was Octopus's Garden #83, Startling Press production number 370.

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