More about the C-Diplo scoring system

When I post a new blog post I tend to Tweet it. When I Tweeted my critique of the C-Diplo tournament scoring system, I got some interesting feedback from @asso_diplo.

The AFJD

@asso_diplo is the … I’m going to say ‘official’ … Twitter account of an organisation I hadn’t heard about before: Asso Francophone des Joueurs de Diplo (the Association of Francophone Diplomacy Players).

First, it says something about me that I wasn’t aware of this organisation. I suppose it’s the same with any wide community: within that community we stick with the people with whom we’re more comfortable. For me, linguistically, that’s Anglophones. I can mutter my way through the odd French phase, but that’s it.

Secondly, I need to find out more about AFJD. If you’re interested in doing the same, here are some links:

If you’re a French-speaker, take a look. If you’re not – take a look. I might even develop my French…

Anyway, back to those Tweets.

What is C-Diplo in reality?

In response to my Tweet advertising the C-Diplo post, we had this short Tweet exchange:

  • AFJD: “In most French tournaments with C-Diplo, 73 points for solo.”
  • Diplomaticon: “Yes, I thought that was the case. I know there are a number of different variations on C-Diplo. I wanted to use the original one, though. Especially as the C stands for 100.”
  • AFJD: “Several significations for “C”: the first, before 100, is that the letter “C” and the words “c’est” have the same pronunciation. ‘C-Diplo’ for ‘c’est Diplo’: that to say ‘it’s Diplomacy’. Moreover, the point of participation came later [than] the birth of C-Diplo with only 93pts, not 100.”
  • Diplomaticon: “interesting stuff, thanks.”

There are indeed variations on C-Diplo. Here are some links to look at:

Diplomaticcorps starts by explaining how C-Diplo was designed. It was designed to be 100-points-based. I don’t really know enough about Bruno-André Giraudon’s design to know whether the ‘C’ stands for ‘C’est’ or ‘100’ or not but, well, Anglophone bias aside, the idea that it stands for 100 seems to make a lot of sense, whereas: “It’s Diplomacy” makes less sense.

There seems little doubt, given the Diplomaticcorps and WDD info, that C-Diplo was designed with 100 points as the base for the scoring system. However, I am aware that it has been modified.

Diplomaticcorps tells us that C-Diplo awards 73 points for a solo: 38 pts for first place, 34 pts for dominating the board (winning the game) and 1 pts for playing. This fits what AFJD tells us about how most French tournaments adapt C-Diplo.

Diplomaticcorps explains that this balances solos more effectively against draws. In other words, a soloist simply scores the total points scored rather than a flat 100. Well, maybe this does balance scoring more effectively but, given that C-Diplo scoring is pretty much designed for games that don’t feature a solo, because the games are often too short to result in a solo, personally I think a solo should probably be rewarded more rather than less.

WDD calls what I discussed as the C-Diplo system the ‘C-Diplo 100’ system. However, if you go to the main page on WDD for “Scoring Systems” there are no less than seven versions of C-Diplo, including the C-Diplo 73 system described already (which was also designed by Bruno-André Giraudon).

The fact that Giraudon designed both C-Diplo 100 and C-Diplo 73 suggests that the original design was probably 100 pts for a solo, then adapted to 73 pts.

WDW focuses on the C-Diplo 73 system, giving info on the C-Diplo 100 system as an alternative. This, with what I’ve looked at above, suggests that C-Diplo 73 is, indeed, the way C-Diplo is used in reality. Which is fair enough.

AFJD tells us that the point awarded for participation came after the C-Diplo system was designed, which could mean that the C-Diplo 100 system was actually the C-Diplo 93 system! Again, I don’t know just how accurate this is; to me, it feels questionable but that doesn’t prove anything. If accurate, though, then “C’est Diplo” would be more accurate than the ‘C’ meaning 100.

Other C-Diplo adaptations

1. World Masters Email Tournament: This tournament adapted C-Diplo by awarding different points for the positions of the players, starting with the Top of the Board scoring 32 pts, then halving the number of points awarded down to 6th place, with 7th place scoring 0. Unfortunately, the link to the WMET doesn’t work on the WDD.

2. C-Diplo 73 DAANZ system: DAANZ (the Diplomacy Association of Australia and New Zealand) adapted C-Diplo 73 for the final tournament rankings, using a long list of tie-breakers. This really isn’t a C-Diplo 73 adaptation but a way of ranking final positions.

3. C-Diplo 80: This system awards points by scoring 25pts (not 38pts) for Topping the Board and awards no participation points. A solo is worth 80pts.

4. C-Diplo Argir: A solo scores 93 pts, with other players scoring 1 pts rather than 0 pts. If there is no solo, the Board Topper scores 37 pts.

5. C-Diplo Namur: A solo scores 85 pts with nothing awarded to anyone else. The 85 pts comes from 38 pts for topping the board, 1 point for playing, and 46 pts for owning 34 SCs, which is in based on 29 pts on the Namur scale for holding 17 SCs plus 17 additional points for the remaining SCs. In a draw, the top three places are awarded the standard 38, 14 and 7 pts respectively. However, rather than scoring points per SC, the Namur scale is used so that, 1 SC = 5 pts, 2 SCs = 9 pts, 3 = 12 pts, 4 = 14 pts, 5 = 16 pts, 6 = 18 pts, then each additional SC scores an additional point. The WDD explanation doesn’t mention any points for participation; the WDW explanation includes this addition. However, I think that the participation point has simply been missed from the WDD explanation, as part of the 85 pts for a solo includes the point.

6. C-Diplo Namur (18 SCs): Oh, wow. An adaptation of an adaptation. Here, the Namur scale is adapted from 4 SCs. Until that point, the Namur scale is as described above; however, after 4 SCs a player scores 1 additional point per SC, so that 17 SCs scores 27 pts. A solo, then, scores 83 pts: 38 pts + 1 pts + (27 pts for 17 SCs + 17 pts for the other SCs).

Yeh. At least EIGHT different versions of the C-Diplo system in all!

For me, this suggests that C-Diplo isn’t, perhaps, the most satisfying scoring system. However, the fact that C-Diplo 73 is the most utilised (it seems) then that is, perhaps, what we should accept as the standard C-Diplo system.

Still …

OK, so let’s take C-Diplo 73 as the true standard system. Does that alter an assessment of C-Diplo as a scoring system? Frankly, no.

My criticisms of the system remain, regardless of the actual version used:

  • A point for playing, not universal in all C-Diplo modifications but common to the majority, is – to me – silly. If it is true that it wasn’t part of Giraudon’s initial design, it would mean that it was introduced solely to raise the game score in a drawn game to 100 to match the points awarded for a solo. Let’s face it, if all you have to do to score at least something is start the game, that’s an incredibly low standard.
  • I will always argue that awarding points based on the number of SCs at the end of a game that ends in a draw has little to do with the design of Diplomacy. A draw is a draw, regardless of the number of SCs held – that’s Calhamer’s design. That might not be very useful, on its own, as a way of differentiating scores in a tournament (over a small number of games) but it isn’t impossible to introduce ways of utilising variations on a Draw-Based Scoring system.
  • As C-Diplo awards additional points ultimately based on SC count, in the form of positional points, this is both an exaggeration of SC count and another perversion of Calhamer’s design. In a drawn game, it doesn’t matter whether you have more SCs than anyone else: you drew the game. The concept of places at the end of a drawn game is nonsense, in the same way that finishing in second place to a solo is nonsense.

Toby Harris, WDC winner in 2015, first came into contact with C-Diplo at the European Diplomacy Convention in 1997. He didn’t win. However, in the next EDC C-Diplo was used again and Toby became European Champion. The 1998 EDC was held in the UK (at MasterCon) and it was the first exposure of C-Diplo to the UK Hobby.

Toby plays (or played?) a lot of tournaments. He’s a good Tournament player. He knows what he’s talking about when it comes to tournament play and scoring systems.

In his article “C-Diplo – Saint or Sinner?” he points out the pros and cons of C-Diplo 100. The cons are practical ones. He says that it matches Calhamer’s ideas about how Diplomacy should be played because the tendency in a game scored using C-Diplo is that, when a leader or leading alliance emerges, the other players gang-up on them and pull them back. A new leader will emerge only to be pulled back, and so on.

Wait – where’s the leader again?

Yes, I can see how play would develop in this way under C-Diplo, and that is – indeed – one of Calhamer’s designs: play to win and play to stop someone else winning.

He also points out that C-Diplo wasn’t liked by a lot of players at EDC 1998. It was a very different system to those used widely in the Anglophone hobby. He compares it favourably to Sum of Squares, for instance, where the points scored by players with a narrow SC difference between them is exaggerated. With C-Diplo, while positional points exaggerate small SC differences at the end of the game, the difference is smaller.

The other major pro for C-Diplo, in Toby’s eyes, is the impact he says it has on the Hobby as a whole. He points out that the French Hobby is (was?) the strongest FTF community in Europe. He suggests that this is because of the way conventions are organised and the fact that C-Diplo encourages new DipPups (novices) because they can feel that they’ve done well in a game while not actually “winning” it. In fairness, as he implies, this might also be because the French hobby ends games significantly earlier than in many other places; this, in itself, is why C-Diplo was designed the way it was. Shorter games maintain longer attention spans and greater interest.

And, of course, C-Diplo is a simple scoring system. To do well, you have to finish on more SCs than other players and place higher on the board. As Toby says: “Table-toppers get the points, amen.”

For me, as far as it goes, Toby is probably correct. What this means, though, is that C-Diplo is possibly the best tournament scoring system in wide use. That doesn’t mean, though, that it is a good system when in the context of Calhamer’s design, for the reasons I’ve argued above.

It is true that playing to the C-Diplo system means that Grand Alliance play (stop-the-leader play) should be part of the game. However, what Toby doesn’t seem to consider is whether board-topping and positional play is part of Calhamer’s design, and it isn’t.

For me, what type of play is involved in a game under any system is of lesser importance than the way the system awards points at the outcome of the game. After all, in tournament play, the aim is to maximise the points taken from the game, however you play it!

DBS systems are often criticised as producing boring games. Because, if you can’t win, you simply play for the draw, it means alliances can be built to last the game, there’s no jockeying for SCs to grab the extra points, it’s not important to pull the leader back. All this is true, as far as it goes. Under a DBS system there is a point in pulling back the leader if they’re close to winning, of course. And I’d argue that, as a leader can quickly become a winner if not drawn back, this aspect of the game is also an element of a DBS game featuring good players.

In conclusion

I find the details of C-Diplo interesting. You may not, in which case why the hell have you read this far?

When it comes to how ‘good’ a scoring system is, though, it doesn’t matter what C-Diplo variation you use, it’s focus is on managing SCs and topping the board, both of which are alien to Calhamer’s design for Diplomacy.

For all the positive points Harris brings out about C-Diplo, the final paragraph gives the biggest weakness to the system:

“Am I missing something here or should the ideal system (which most accurately simulates the game’s inventor’s ideals) not encourage a style where everyone jumps on the leader? One simple method is to reward the eventual board leader with all the gold, and the others with a few crumbs. Hence a final reason I consider C-Diplo to be “as good as any”, but it doesn’t mean I’ll not enjoy playing any system.”

Harris, T. “C-Diplo – Saint or Sinner?” First published in The Freaky Fungus Online #26. Accessed from http://www.diplomacy-archive.com/resources/ftf/c-diplo.htm on 29 Jan 2022.

Yes, the ideal system should simulate Calhamer’s design. But he then goes back to the tournament players’ ideal: Topping the Board. If you can show me where Calhamer’s design includes Topping the Board, I’ll accept it. I don’t think you can.

Published by Mal Arky

I'm a Diplomacy nut... if you haven't guessed. I write about the game Diplomacy, mainly as played online on websites, such as Playdiplomacy, webDiplomacy and Backstabbr. I write books on Diplomacy, too. First one to be published soon!

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