An Interview With Andrew England

by Mark Nelson

Reprinted from Maniac's Paradise #67 (September 1994) and #68 (October 1994).

This interview was recorded in July 1990 when Andrew England and John Cain visited the UK, after having first attended World DipCon II in North Carolina. This interview was recorded when John and Andrew were staying at my parents' house in Derby. In particular, it was recorded after John had gone to bed...

At the time of the interview, Andrew was a major figure in the Australian Hobby, having made significant contributions to the growth and development of Australian Dipdom. In addition, Andrew had been an active member of the international hobby and at one period his zine Beowulf had been an international focal point. If you want to know the details...

How did you discover Diplomacy?
In 1976 I was eleven and in Primary School. I discovered that the school library contained a few games as well as books. I had always been interested in history and I remember going into the library and seeing the board; it freaked me out. I started to play, and for Christmas 1976 I got my own copy of the game from Santa Claus.

How long did your initial enthusiasm for the game last?
I wanted to play but I had no-one to play with. I used to muck around with my brother A.D. or on my own, but from finishing Primary School in 1977 until year eleven of High School I didn't have any fellow players.

In 1981, in year eleven of High School, I noticed that the High School library contained a few games, one of which was Diplomacy. I managed to get a group of people together and we played at lunchtimes. This continued into year twelve, which was my final year of school. When I went to Adelaide University, I joined the University Wargames Club and Diplomacy was a popular game there. It was played every Friday at our meetings. Linked with the club was a fanzine called Austral View, run by Richard Williams. Austral View wasn't a club magazine, it was a proper postal Diplomacy zine. It was through Austral View that I learned of the existence of the Australian postal hobby.

Austral View was started in 1980 and is recognized as being the start of the Second Career of the Australian Hobby. There was an Australian postal Hobby in the early to mid 1970's, but that died out in about 1976 or 1977 -- we're not quite sure when. Austral View is the start of the current line of the Australian Hobby.

Although Richard wasn't a student, he used to go to the meeting of the Wargames Club and he interested a few students in postal Diplomacy. In fact, in 1982 and 1983 Richard had some overseas trades, including a few from England.

Didn't you run Austral View at some stage?
I became editor in 1984. By this time I had already launched my first fanzine, The Saga Continues in August 1983. It was really a club magazine, but it also ran some postal Diplomacy. SAGA was the acronym for the Adelaide University Wargaming Club: The Simulation and Gaming Association (SAGA).

Was there anyone else at Adelade in his tperiod who later entered the Hobby?
There were about 10-15. For instance, this was when I first met Michael Gibson; although Michael didn't start playing postal Diplomacy until the start of 1984. We met during Fresher's Week when I was running the SAGA stall. Michael wasn't a fresher -- he was in his third year -- but he hadn't joined previously. Michael then brought his hobby into the hobby. I think that Michael and myself are the only ones who have remained active.

How long did The Saga Continues last?
It folded, due to lack of interest, in 1985. I'd stopped editing it in 1984 when I became Club President. Its first postal game started in August 1983, and since I was playing it, was game mastered by someone else.

I began editing Austral View in September 1984 and ran it for three or four issues. It was running postal Diplomacy and other games such as Cartels and Cut-Throats and Galaxy, both computer games; but it was mostly postal Diplomacy. I handed it over to Aiden Baxter, who ran it for two issues before he got sick of it. He handed it over to the Gibson brothers who ran it for a year. Then it merged with Rumplestiltskin, which was a magazine from New South Wales, to become The Envoy.

After I passed on the editorship of Austral View, I continued playing in a few games. It was in this period, after I'd passed on the editorship, that I became interested in ratings. I spent most of 1985 developing rating systems. I also ran a big games convention in Adelaide in 1985 in which we had the First South Australian Diplomacy Championship, although D&D attracted most of the attendees, with Diplomacy being relegated to a side-line.

Why did you decide to launch another postal zine?
In 1985 and 1986 I was just playing games and being a loud-mouth, although I was helping the Gibsons run Austral View and then The Envoy. The Envoy was split into two cliques. It had people from Adelaide University and from Sydney, which was where the people who ran Rumplestiltskin came from (which was one-half of The Envoy merger). The other clique were the people who played in The Go Between. There was quite a lot of hostility between the two, and they were quite separate and distinct. It was quite rare to find people playing in both magazines.

How big was the Australian Hobby at this stage?
About 100-150.

The Envoy was a big zine running 20 to 25 games with about 60 to 70 subscribers. The idea that Michael Gibson and I had was to have only a few magazines but to make them really big. We were thinking of running postal Diplomacy like a PBM business. In the end we decided that it didn't work, because it was too much work and too much hassle for one or two people to produce one big magazine.

We decided that there should be lots of small magazines and I volunteered to start one; it would have been about November 1986 when we first started to talk about this. I didn't do anything about it and then in an issue of The Envoy, about March 1987, Michael Gibson wrote something about how these small magazines were supposed to be starting up, making me feel guilty because he mentioned my name. I started Beowulf in May 1987.

I wrote to many people asking them if they wanted to start a game, and when I'd filled my first game I brought out my first issue.

How did you want to run Beowulf? The first few issues were very humorous and easy-going, but it developed into a more serious publication.
When I started Beowulf I wanted to keep it small so I could maintain a fast turnaround with four-weekly deadlines. In the early days of the Adelaide University scene we had very quick games. The Envoy was so big that the turnaround could be as long as six weeks, which was too slow.

At first I was only going to run two or three games but the zine became more and more popular. Issue one had a circulation of 12 or 13 but by issue four it was 40. Finally I decided to limit myself to ten games, which is quite a lot -- I don't know why I ever decided to make it so big.

Beowulf changed the Hobby. Prior to it the Hobby had existed in two groups, but at the time I launched Beowulf, The Go Between was starting to wane, becoming slower and slower and slower. I managed to rope in a number of The Go Between subscribers as well as people from The Envoy and linked them together. This was the first time that these people had played together. In doing this I managed to create a new, unified, hobby: it was in this period that the Australian Hobby really took off.

Within a couple of issues you went from having no overseas trades to being the zines that everyone wanted to talk with. How did this happen?
Luke Clutterbuck used to live in England, had gone to University there and had played in a British fanzine. He kept a few contacts when he moved back to Australia. Luke mentioned in The Envoy that Simon Billenness was interested in running an international Cline nine-man game. I wrote to Simon and enclosed a copy of the third issue of Beowulf. I didn't hear anything for a month until I received a letter and parcel from Conrad von Metzke, whose name I'd seen in Diplomacy World. He asked for a trade and said that he'd heard about Beowulf from Simon. Conrad had traded with the first Australian zine Carmella in 1973 and had thought that the Australian Hobby had died out -- he didn't know that we had started up again. Conrad was enthusiastic about Beowulf, this was the time when Costaguana had won the Runestone Poll twice (in 1986 and 1987). This would have been about July 1987.

The day after I heard from Conrad I finally heard from Simon, who sent me a copy of Excitement City Unlimited, and I started to trade with him. Both of them wrote reviews of Beowulf in their fanzines and I received several offers to trade, including one from you; I guess you saw the review in Excitement City Unlimited?

That's right.
The number of overseas trades I had mushroomed from there. About the same time, in July 1987, Michael Gibson and I played in a face-to-face tournament in Sydney. On the way back, we stopped in Melbourne, because the train had stopped there, and spent half a day with John Cain. We were still trying to get the idea of a multitude of small fanzines going and we tried to talk John into starting his own. About a month later the first issue of Victoriana appeared.

How long had John been in the hobby?
Not for very long. I can tell you how he entered the hobby.

John was a roleplayer and he was into D&D and games like that. He came to the Adelaide University Convention in 1985, which was the year I ran The South Australian Diplomacy Open. On the first day we were short of a few people on one board so I walked up to the registration desk and yelled to see if anyone wanted to play. John and a few friends of his happened to be at the desk and as their D&D game wasn't due to start for a while they agreed to play.

John actually won that first game, mainly because he ganged up with me against his mates. As a result of winning that game he received a subscription to Austral View and that's how he entered the hobby, in October 1985.

In issues 7 through 15 of Beowulf, there was a very heavy emphasis on Diplomacy. Was that because the Australian Hobby was still relatively new and people hadn't already read such articles?
The Go Between and Austral View ran games besides Diplomacy so I decided to make Beowulf Diplomacy only. It was quite a new hobby, so strategy and tactics articles were a new thing. People weren't bored with them like they are now.

By August 1988, I was trading with about 25 overseas zines. I was studying in my final year of Law, I had a full-time job, I was gigging with a band every week, I had a girlfriend, and Beowulf was much bigger than I had ever intended it to be. At that time, I had 75 subscribers and had the largest circulation of any Australian zine. It was too much for me and something had to go; it was Beowulf.

I didn't fold, but I did cut the zine down in size quite substantially so that I could do the games and magazine in one go. I fobbed off all the international people, I fobbed off all but two of the ten games I was running to other magazines and I started to produce a four to six page zine from issue 18. This lasted for about six months, in which period the zine appeared every three and a half weeks. The only international contact I kept was with Cal White, and I subbed to Northern Flame. There were others I would have liked to see but I didn't have the time and was burnt out.

I finished University at the end of 1988, after six years of study, and in February 1989 I started working in Canberra. Canberra is much smaller than Adelaide, it has a population of about 300,000 compared to Adelaide's one million. There wasn't much to do in Canberra except play postal Diplomacy. The band had split up when I moved to Canberra.

It was only a two-man band...
OK, the other half stayed in Adelaide!

So there was no study and no band. There was still a girl friend and there was still postal Diplomacy... Although I had a demanding job, I still had some spare time, and I decided to scale up Beowulf, although I resolved not to make it as big as it had been in it's prime. I restricted the number of subscribers to 50 and I wasn't going to have more than five games, which I have stuck to. The first issue was number 27 and I'm now up to 41.

he zine had a completely different atmosphere than before its pseudo-fold...
That's partly because the Australian Hobby had changed in the period since I started the zine. During the first 15 issues, the Australian Hobby was on a crest of a wave as more and more magazines appeared and more Diplomacy tournaments started. But 1987 was really the year when the hobby took off at home, and when it also entered the international scene.

In September 1987, there was The Go Between, just about to die, Beowulf and The Envoy, which was becoming ever slower. Then John Cain started Victoriana, Paul Ward started a zine in Western Australia, and then more and more zines started through 1987 and 1988. Then we started to have folds; until that time the Australian Hobby had never really experienced folds.

When Beowulf scaled down, there was a Hobby Outcry, even though it was quite clean as I returned all outstanding money. Then we had the extremely messy fold of Paul Ward's Diplomatic Immunity which disappeared from the face of the earth, as did the subscription money. Most recently, at the start of 1990, we had the fold of The Envoy, which was still a very big zine running some 15 games. That slipped into a time machine and slipped off somewhere including all the subscription money. That ran to a large sum, at least $500 (Australian). The Journal Of Australian Diplomacy also folded. So there's been a few folds, including some other small magazines that never really got going...

How would you describe the Australian Hobby in July 1990?
It's starting to settle down after its growth phase of 1987 and 1988. New zines are springing up and old ones are folding; we're becoming more like the other national hobbies in that regard. The big thing in the last six months has been the New Zealand Hobby. Up until 1989 John Dods, as far as we knew, was the only person in New Zealand in the Hobby. He started up his own zine and then we discovered that there was a group of Diplomacy players at Auckland University who had also started a magazine. The New Zealand Hobby has undergone a growth phase like the Australian one did a few years earlier. There's about 50 people in the New Zealand Hobby, which is a large number for such a small country.

If someone wants to read an Australian zine what would you recommend?

Apart from Beowulf?
Obviously. The most internationally oriented magazine is Beowulf, that's what they say in The Zine Register. There is also Victoriana, although in the last six months or so it has slumped a bit. It's a good magazine to play games in, particularly international games and it's also good for hobby news although sometimes it is a little staid. [laughter] Beowulf, in my opinion, is reasonable for Australian Hobby news but as you said last night some people may find it a bit cliquey. There's also Tragedy and Hope which comes out every five to six weeks and is, as you know, a crazy magazine. I don't know how to describe it...

The only zine near to its spirit is Kathy's Korner.
Basically it's a piece of paper stuck to other pieces of paper and photocopied. It's reached issue twenty but it's becoming a little stale as it's repeating the same old thing. It's slow and messy, but okay.

If you want to read some really good articles and have a good laugh every six weeks read Beautiful Losers, which is run by Harry Kolotas. He's a Greek cypriot who lived in Scotland before moving to Australia. He's a very funny writer although he's a quiet person in the flesh.

A little like you, Andrew?
No, he's nothing like me! [laughter] He's very quiet, actually he's the complete opposite to John Cain. That is, he's not big-headed and he's not a loud mouth [laughter]. His writing is very funny and very good and the zine is excellent, although it is not internationally oriented. I don't think he accepts international trades, although he does accept overseas subscriptions. It's worth getting.

There are only two other zines of interest. Prisoners of War is run by a University student and is messy and cliquey, although it can be of interest at times. The other one is The Mars Archaeological Society which is run by some school kids. There are others but I won't bother talking about them.

How important are international contacts to you? How important are they to the Australian Hobby as a whole?
They're important for one reason, as I've discovered on this trip; for flogging free accommodation! That's not entirely true, I'm not one to impose on people -- I hate it, but it's been good to meet people I've written to over the years. When you travel overseas you can be a tourist and see the sites, but unless you meet the natives you don't get the right experience. It's been really good to meet and make friends in different countries. And it's been wonderful, Mark, to come to Derbyshire [laughter] and to meet you. It was great going to World DipCon.

Internationalism is important because you make friends overseas, that's the first thing.

It's also good because you get to tap into the experience of the overseas hobby. We didn't have things like the Boardman Number Custodian or the Miller Number Custodian prior to international contact. Also you get to play in international games, but the main thing is just meeting and getting to know people in other countries.

I'm only playing one game in Australian zines nowadays but I'm playing in four to six overseas. Overseas games are better because your reputation doesn't precede you. The other players don't gang up against you because you run a zine or because you've won games before.

Most of the rest of the Australian Hobbyists are happy to remain stuck on their Pacific island. John Cain and myself are the only people heavily into international contacts. There are a few others such as Michael Gibson and Greg Long and in New Zealand there are John Dods and Brendan Whyte.

How do new players enter the Australian Hobby?
We don't have flyers in the box set, although we tried to get them. We've written to the Australian company that prints Diplomacy three times over a period of years, and each time they said no. They said that they had a licensing contract which forbid them from doing it, so we wrote to Avalon Hill (who owns the game). They said that they had no problems with box flyers and they even wrote to the Australian manufacturers to tell them so, but it had no effect.

I think that they are too lazy, they just can't be bothered. We offered to print the flyers and take them to their factory and everything. They just aren't interested.

The main source of people in the early days was from commercial PBM games. Nowadays, it's difficult to say where people come from; some have played in FTF conventions, some come through word of mouth, and in 1989 there was a large games fair in Melbourne, which had Chess, Backgammon, and all sorts of things, which was supported by the state and had 30,000 visitors. We had a Diplomacy table there and took down the names of about 100 people interested in playing Diplomacy. This formed the basis of the Victorian Diplomacy Club which now has about 50 members, some of which don't bother going to tournaments. That's been a fairly big source of new recruits.

Have you tried contacting people at University clubs?
I don't think so. I did something like that a few years ago but now that I have my 50 subscribers I'm not so bothered about sending samples out and recruiting new people. That's supposed to be the job of the Diplomacy Association of Australian (DAA).

People were talking about the DAA when I started reading Australian zines. In an article that was recently published in Victoriana, I pointed out that after several years all that's been done is to give the organization a name... What should it be doing? Is there any point in having it?
Michael Gibson and myself had the idea for the DAA in 1986, at the same time as we decided that there should be more magazines. We had the name and a dream of what it should be, but nothing really happened until the start of 1989 when there was a meeting at CanCon, where we launched the organization and people joined. I became the first co-ordinator.

The role of the DAA is not to regulate, but to publicize, because if people see an advertisement, or their government see something, which is written by the DAA rather than Joe Bloggs they're going to take more notice of it, because it will have a great air of dignity and a more professional air. Basically it's a figurehead for publicity purposes, that's about it.

What publicity has it organized?
There's currently a gap between the publicity which it's supposed to organize and the publicity that it has organized. That's because the current office holders are lazy. It has the potential to go a great deal: gaining government sponsorship and funds to advertise in newspapers.

Do you have any intention to take over at the helm, to ensure that the DAA achieves something?
The current leader of the DAA was elected at CanCon in January 1990, and has a two year term. He's said that he will do something, and hopefully he will, although I haven't seen much done yet. It would be good if it could raise funds through membership fees and auctions.

Why would Joe Bloggs want to pay to become a member?
So that he could contribute to the advertising funds, which in the long run would give him more opponents.

In my experience the only people interested in such an organization would be the people that are very active in the hobby. Normal players won't be interested in an organization that doesn't offer them anything.
That's true, but if it functions in the manner in which it is supposed to they should get something out of it in the long run. Apparently members should receive a newsletter every so often.

In my view, if it functions properly it's the best way to promote the Diplomacy hobby.

You've designed a number of variants. Are you a big variants fan?
Yes. I'm interested in historical Diplomacy variants. It was through my interest in history that I became interested in Diplomacy. I studied history at school and at University. The Diplomacy game system is very good because it's nice and simple, there's no dice, and we all know that it's absolutely brilliant. I like to see different historical periods recreated within the game system.

Which of your designs are your favorite?
I think the best by far is the Medieval series. The latest version is Medieval V, although I've only designed three of them. Medieval I appeared in 1987, Medieval II was designed after I'd run two games of Medieval I, then there was a postal game of Medieval II and someone produced Medieval III which I didn't like very much...

That was published in Victoriana, and the designer wrote that the map would appear next issue...
And it never did! It was a perverted thing, a betrayal of the basic ideas and historical background of my original design. I like to have things close to history. I produced version IV, which I am currently running, which is quite a good game. Brendan Whyte in New Zealand produced Medieval V.

Why do you think it's your best?
Because it works very well, especially Mark IV. It's very well balanced, and it's an interesting situation. There's been five postal games, to my knowledge, making it the second or third most popular Australian variant.

Is it difficult to GM?
It is -- during the Winter builds -- because there are only two supply centers in the game. The other provinces carry production points and these can be captured in any season, so the GM needs to keep track of them. In addition, the builds can be quite complicated. Apart from that it's the same as normal Diplomacy...

What kind of variants do you dislike?
I dislike variants which have long rules, and which add too much to the basic game, because the game system works so well as it is. If you bring in too many rules it turns Diplomacy into a wargame, which is part of the reason why I dislike Downfall. The other reason is that I've never read The Lord of the Rings; I'm not into fantasy.

How do you feel about copyright of variants?
In the Diplomacy hobby, as it stands now, it's a load of crap. If it ever came to the point were someone was making money from their designs then, yes, people should obey copyright. But I haven't seen that happening.

If you reprint a variant, it's polite to ask the designer first, and I think you should always cite the author's name and the source that you're reprinting from. I don't think that you should have to send the designer a copy of the reprint, although it would be polite to do so -- just as it would be polite to write to them and ask them. Since there is nobody in the Diplomacy hobby making money through Diplomacy, I don't see that people should worry about copyright.

I always try to ask an author before I reprint their design. If I knew their address, I would also send them a copy of the issue in which I reprinted their design. If I didn't have their address I might make a small effort to find it but I wouldn't spend hours. It would be impolite to distribute a variant when you've been asked not to, but I wouldn't go so far as to say it was dishonest.

Are Diplomacy variants copyrightable?
Yes. I can't see why anyone would want to do that unless they were feuding since there's no money in it.

How should zines be run?
An editor's first priority should be to the games that they are running, ensuring that they run smoothly and at a reasonable pace. They should always stick to their deadlines, get their magazine out on time, and the turnaround should be as quick as possible. Since I started Beowulf, I've had an issue every 3.9 weeks. It doesn't matter if there's nothing else apart from games, provided that it goes out on time.

What about content?
It's good to have content. I spend most of the time in my job reading about serious stuff, so in my hobby I just want to have fun. I prefer magazines which are light-hearted or which talk about the game, and not ones which get into economic discussion! There are letter columns which cover politics and economics, but quite often the contributors don't know what they are talking about. They talk complete garbage, and think they're being very intellectual, whereas half the time it is garbage.

What do you think about zines where games are run outside of the zine and not send to trades?
Zines like your own are okay, provided that the games are run on time, which is the most important thing for any zine. It doesn't matter if there are is no content if the games go out to the players on a regular basis.

What about trading with such zines? You've complained that I don't produce issues quick enough!
That was a sleazy megadip ploy to get you to send me Variants & Uncles and The Yorkshire Gallent, two magazines for the price of one! Although I trade on an all-for-all basis, it doesn't bother me if the other zine is producing every six weeks if I'm producing every four. If there is a larger gap and one comes out every three months, and mine comes out every month, then the gap becomes a bit suspect, because you get people like Mark Nelson who produce a magazine every six months just to ensure that they have something to trade!

Surely I'm not that frequent these days?

How are Australian Diplomacy tournaments run?
Significantly different to American ones. At World DipCon II, I was disappointed with the unprofessional way in which they ran the Diplomacy tournament. In Australia it's much stricter and rigid, because the competition aspect of it is emphasized more.

We have tournaments running over three days, with one game each day which runs between set times, normally 9 to 5 or 6. All the games in a particular round run to the same deadlines, and these are strictly enforced. The scoring system is not one which encourages a particular kind of play, it's a scoring system which rewards the person who gets closest to a win. I found in America people played the system, because the system was awful and terrible and perverse and pathetic and not at all a good show, chaps!

Australian tournaments are usually run in conjunction with bigger conventions. For example, the Melbourne and Canberra tournaments are run with conventions which have over 600 attendees. The Adelaide tournament used to be run that way, but now it's run separately as a Diplomacy-only tournament, which is also true for Sydney. So if you come to CanCon or Conquest, which are in Canberra and Melbourne, there's a lot of other things going on.

Do FTF and postal play differ?
AE I don't think so. You use the same general style; you play to win. The strategies and tactics are the same. All these people who say that postal Diplomacy and tournament Diplomacy are different and therefore should have different rating systems...I don't understand that. A game of Diplomacy is a game of Diplomacy, and what you are rating is the supply center chart which is the objective criterion of competition.

But postal games are run to completion whereas FTF games have a fixed time limit...
There's that aspect, but more than 50% of face-to-face games are run to completion, so I don't think that there's that much difference.

You are well known for your work on rating systems. What should rating systems be doing and how should they be doing it?
The major thing that a rating system should be doing is to measure a particular player's impact on a game. To show how much power or influence a particular player had on a particular game, as well as the result of the game. So it's not just WIN, DRAW, or LOSS; it's WIN, DRAW or LOSS plus the influence which a player had on a game. Which is why, in my opinion, part of the final rating should depend on what happened during the course of the game.

Why should that matter? Surely it's the result which matters and not the way you got there?
That's your philosophy, but I've just explained my philosophy.

Why do you believe that?
I believe that it's a more comprehensive picture of what the game was. To me, a player who has lasted until 1910 and had at one stage 15 supply centers has had more influence on the game than a player who lasted until 1910 but has held only one center since 1902. Even though they lasted the same number of game years, the first player influenced the way in which the game moved more than the player who has been on one center, and that should be reflected in their rating.

Should there be different rating systems for FTF and postal play?
No. The same system can cover both adequately if it's a good system. In the face-to-face case, what should be done is that a game which runs out of time should be treated as a draw for all remaining players on the board. All draws in Australian tournaments are "Draws Include All Survivors." It doesn't affect your ratings to have it any other way, because it's based on your supply center chart.

You've already mentioned your dislike of the World DipCon II rating system...
It was appalling...

Do you have any other comments on the convention?
The Diplomacy aspect of it was very disappointing, because it was very unprofessional. For example, all the games ran to their own time limits, and the players in each game agreed their own deadlines. Then players wouldn't have their orders written in time and they'd drag it on and on and on. So there were no strict deadlines, and players could manipulate their deadlines. I didn't like that, it was just too casual and it wasn't fair. In a tournament, all the games should run to the same time scales, so that the players are competing under the same conditions.

The best part of World DipCon was the final day when we played football and sport and was when I actually had some fun. The rest of the time was basically just Diplomacy. We played a version of Canadian football, which is like American football. We also had some kicks in Australian Rules Football terms and marked and tackled each other, or as your brother once described Australian Rules Football, "Got the ball and got rid of it before someone bonked us on the head" [laughter]. Usually I go to a convention to play Diplomacy. I played two games at World DipCon and they were the most boring two games I have ever played.

How would you sum up the convention?
From the Diplomacy side it was disappointing, it wasn't worthy of the World Diplomacy Championship title. The social side was quite good but it wasn't superduper.

How will it compare to World DipCon III?
World DipCon III will be quite a bit different in both the Diplomacy and social perspective. Everything at World DipCon II was held in the same building, and you didn't get to leave that building for all three days, whereas at Australian conventions the Diplomacy and other games are run during the day and after that's over people leave and go off to people's homes, or hotel rooms, or out on the town. World DipCon III will be held in a big city and there will be lots of things to do besides gaming. It will be different.

People will get to play Diplomacy properly at World DipCon III. All the people from overseas that I spoke to, which was almost all of them, agreed that the way in which the Americans played and scored the game was quite strange. Not really right.

Do you have any views on the World DipCon concept?
I've just drafted a proposed World DipCon Charter which is based on the ideas of Robert Sacks, John Cain, Pete Sullivan, Iain Bowen, Fred C. Davis, Jr., myself, and people like that.

When will that be published?
Whoever wants to publish it can. It says that World DipCon should be rotated every two years, that there should be three regions at the moment; the first region is Europe, the second is North America and the third is Australiasia and the Pacific. World DipCon should rotate to each of those regions in turn: In 1988 it was in Europe, in 1990 it was in North America, in 1992 it will be in Australasia and in 1994 it will back to Europe and so on.

It's up to the regions to choose a site. The Charter just tells you which region will host the Con. It's up to different cities' groups from that region to bid for it, and it's up to the hobby politicians from that region to decide who should host it.

In 1988 it was held in Britain, so maybe in 1994 it would be fair if it was held in France or Germany.

What criterion should be used to decide the site? At the moment there's very little contact between the English-speaking hobbies and continental Europe; is that grounds for holding a World DipCon in Europe or against it?
I don't think it's either. It was held in the UK last time, next time it should be another country's turn. There were four or five Europeans at World DipCon II. They made the effort to go to North America, and I don't see why we can't make the effort to attend a European World DipCon. That's the way to create a truly international hobby.

Should WDC be organized as an add-on to an existing convention, or should it be organized specifically as an international event?
It should be tacked onto an existing convention to guarantee a good local turnout, but it should be planned as a special event as it is the World Championship. A lot of extra work should go into it, so that the overseas attendees feel that the trip has been worthwhile.

In this last section, I'll give you the name of a prominent hobby member and you tell me whatever you want about them. John Cain?
My answer is going to be influenced by the fact that I've spent the last four and a half weeks travelling with him. He's a smart-arse, a know it all, a loud mouth, a reckless driver, a hopeless navigator...basically a loud-mouth Australian. Not a typical Australian, just an atypical Australian who thinks he knows everything. That's about it. Very pedantic as well.

What about hobby-wise?
The same except that he has done a lot of good work for the Australian Hobby. I look forward to John reading this in five, or six, years when it gets into print. [Author's note: It took only four years!]

Mike Gibson?
He is a very nice person, although he has a very short temper and gets worked up over things. His only dark side is when he gets together with his brother and tries to defend him; he'll try to defend his brother even when he knows he is wrong. Basically he is a good bloke who's done a great deal of work for the hobby.

Greg Long?
He's a bush lawyer who also does a lot of good work, although he comes up with a large number of stupid ideas, especially for rating systems. Another good bloke! He's only ever attended one convention.

Neil and Marion Ashworth?
They're hippies who've also done a lot of work for the hobby. They've been active since 1986. They did a good job editing The Envoy.

John Dods?
I've never met John. He entered the hobby through commercial PBM computer games. He's a very funny person, a bit warped and a bit rude; as you'll know if you've ever read his jokes or his press, it's all in good fun. He's a cub scout leader and a lay minister in the Anglican Church -- I think he's a closet Nazi.

His zine is good, it's like The Mouth of Sauron in that it's slow, that the games go out to the players only, and that when it appears it's nice and big. Unfortunately it's full of Downfall. What a bastard. He named a Downfall game after my magazine. It's disgraceful, I'll never live down the shame.

Luke Clutterbuck? He's not active these days is he?
No. He just organizes the New South Wales Championship. He went to University in Britain, which is where he came across Diplomacy. He started Rumpelstiltskin when he returned to Australia, unaware that there was an Australian Diplomacy Hobby.

How many females are active in the Australian hobby?
There are about ten who have been active, mostly in the face-to-face scene. Only four of them were married to existing hobby members.

George Smirnov?
George is a wally when it comes to rating systems. He does a great deal of work, especially hack work for the Victorian Diplomacy Club; he's probably the person who has ensured that it has kept going. He gets worked up about some things, particularly ratings. Overall he's a good bloke.

Have you ever had any contact with Larry Dunning?
Not much. He sent me a stack of variants when I was running the variant bank, and I used to receive his magazine a few years ago. He's active in Science Fiction Fandom, although he ran a Diplomacy magazine in the 1970's.
Who are the best players in the Australian Hobby?
There's a distinction between tournament and postal players. The best postal player is Bob Howard, who is in a class of his own. He knows about tactics and strategy, and he writes a lot of letters. His only downpoint is that he's a bit too treacherous. He's the best by a long way. Bob has never been to a face-to-face tournament, because he lives in Perth, which is thousands of kilometers from anything.

Behind him, you have several people who have won a few games but who aren't all that great. People like Bill Brown, Neil Ashworth, Luke Clutterbuck and George Smirnov. George has done well in postal games because he writes a lot -- you get a letter from him almost every day. He just writes and writes and writes. He has no idea about strategy and tactics -- he's a dunce in those areas. He does well because he is a prolific writer. He did well in a couple of tournaments a few years ago, but not recently.

A few of the best tournament players don't play postally. Iain Choate (?) is a very good player, as is Harry Koltas who is probably the best tournament player at the moment. I've never played Harry postally, but he's probably the best overall player in the Australian Hobby, if you combine postal and tournament play.

You've won two tournaments yourself...
I won the Australian Championship in 1988 and the Victorian Championship in 1989. The Australian Championship started life as the CanCon tournament in Canberra, and was recognized as being the Australian Championship. In 1989 some people wanted the Australian Champion to be determined from scores in all tournaments. That idea was rejected, and the CanCon winner is recognized as being the Australian Champion.

However, we have a trophy for an overall Tournament Champion each year, which is based upon scores from all tournaments.

Do you have any comments on playing Diplomacy?
My favorite power has varied over time. At first it was Austria, because it is right in the middle, with access to lots of centers and players. It can be risky, but if you survive the early years it is very good. Then my favorite was England, because it was safe. Then I got bored with that, and currently my favorite is Germany, because you have the opportunity to influence the game more than any other power. You can influence the players on both sides of the board, and in all corners if you play right.

How do you play it?
I try to influence the entire board. In the early stages you can influence the western sphere, Russia and what happens in the east. You can influence what Austria and Turkey order, and push Turkey towards a steamroller or into attacking Russia.

I always enter a game intending to open with the standard moves. As Germany I'd like to order F(Kie)-Den, A(Mun)-Ruh and A(Ber)-Kie, but the moves that I end up using will depend upon what the players are telling me.

When England was my favorite, my favorite alliance was England-Germany. Now that Germany is my favorite, I prefer the French-German alliance, with the aim of eliminating England. France and Germany should always ally to eliminate England, because England can be such a pain in the bum.

There's no secret to playing well. Hit them low and hit them often.

What's the ideal Diplomacy player?
The ideal Diplomacy player is one who acts in his own self-interest in a sensible way. He'll stab when it's in his best interest to do so; he knows what the good strategies and tactics are, and will use a particular strategy when it's in his interest to do so. In a way they're predictable because you know when they know it's in their best interest to ally with you.

He'll play to win. If he can't win he'll go for a draw, and if he can't draw he'll go for a strong survival.

And what will happen if you have seven of these players in one game?
The game will never finish, it'll go on forever. There will be endless power shifts and it should end in a 7-way draw. There'll be no eliminations because people will realize that, for example, a three-way I/R/T alliance against Austria is stupid for one of those powers. One of them will need Austria in the future. This is in a perfect game where none of the players know each other or are friends.

What are you views on the British, American, and Canadian Hobbies?
The British Hobby, from an international point of view, is very disappointing because it is very insular, very inward-looking and very cliquey. Doug Rowling has done some good work, but it's mainly been Mark Nelson, with some help from James, who's done the work to foster international contacts between the British Hobby and the rest of the world. If it wasn't for you it would be appalling!

The Canadian Hobby is the best outside of Australia in that it's nice and friendly and it has the best magazines by a long way: Northern Flame, Clandestine Activities, and Excelsior are very good. They're lots of fun and they're not full of the pseudo-intellectual garbage and right-wing wacky ideas that are to be found in most of the American zines.

The political ideas expressed in benzene and Carolina Command & Commentary are quite loony and unreal. They show you how different American culture is, because people actually think the way that they do.

If you were speaking to a young Australian novice, which overseas zines would you recommend?
Northern Flame is number one because it's regular, has an international game and possible openings for more, it's a good read and it's not full of pseudo-intellectual crap. Generally it's good fun, regular, and good to play in.

[laughter] I'd have to recommend your own zine [more laughter]. The Mouth of Sauron is more a periodical rather than a monthly magazine. Every now and then it turns up with some articles to read, and the main interest is reading the zine rather than contributing in the letter column. In that sense it's akin to Diplomacy World. That's probably because most of your fannish writing appears in other zines. It's impossible not to pick up a zine which doesn't have something in it from Mark Nelson [laughter].

These are the only zines which are really international in outlook.

Although it's shocking that Cal doesn't retype press...
Absolutely shocking. There are other good fun magazines like Clandestine Activities and Excelsior, which isn't quite regular enough for someone to get as their only international magazine. Apart from your own I can't think of any British Zines except maybe for Prisoners of War, which I haven't seen.

Do you have any last comments before I allow you to trundle off to your cold floor?
I would just like to say that Mark Nelson should never grow a beard without a moustache, and preferably that he should never grow a beard. [laughter]

Thank you.

Mark Nelson

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