Europe 1615 - Payola Variant

From DipWiki




by Matthew Medeiros

[Play-testers needed! Most recent update 4-7-13. Any comments or questions please write to, thank you.]


Early in the 17th century, Europe was embroiled in a political and religious war that historians have called the Thirty Years War, a war that culminated in a large number of casualties from battle, famine, and plague. It has been described as a clash between the Protestant factions of Germany and the Austrian and German Catholics, yet from another perspective it has been viewed as the continuation of an age-old struggle of dominance between the kings of France, the princes of Germany, and the Habsburgs of Austria.

The Europe 1615 Diplomacy variant allows players to take the reigns of one of the great powers of the time most closely involved with the Thirty Years War which commenced in 1618: Austria, France, Spain, England, and Denmark/Sweden. For the purposes of this game, Denmark and Sweden are treated as in a permanent alliance and controlled by one player. The game begins in 1615, one year following the Treaty of Xanten. The interaction of these great powers with each other and with the minor German and Italian states, vassal states of the Ottoman Empire, and other minor states will define the course of the game. The variant adapts rules from Payola, and a distant game of diplomacy called Origins of World War 1 (and 2). Game is played on two levels: military and political. At the beginning of each year, players deploy influence factors (INFs) and initiate diplomatic attacks to secure religious and political control over the minor states. This can impact the military and economic affairs of the game, and victory points are assessed on both levels giving several possible paths to victory for each player.

As military operations of the time were characterized by the use of mercenary soldiers, the adaptation of Payola rules seemed suitable. Players will submit bribes to govern their own units, but restrictions are applied when bribes are submitted for foreign units. To round out the mechanics of this variant, the use of variable-valued supply centers is also incorporated to establish a degree of economic and strategic importance for the various regions on the board, use of ports to limit the activities of the fleets, and rules to take into account the situation of the Protestant-versus-Catholic conflict from the religious and political influence on the minor states. Victory is measure by the gain and loss of victory points (VPs) through various facets of the game (military and political objectives). Game runs for a time limit of 6 game years, and each game year is defined by a politics phase, 3 movement/retreat phases, and a build phase.

Standard 5th Edition rules of Diplomacy apply with modifications as described below.


Each game year is divided in to the following 6 phases:

1- Political and Religious Influence Phase

2- Taxation/Revenue Phase and Submission of Acceptance/Reference Lists

3- Spring Movement and Retreat Phase

4- Summer Movement and Retreat Phase

5- Fall Movement and Retreat Phase

6- Winter Ownership/Build/Adjustment Phase


At the start of the game, year 1615, each power receives a number of influence factors (INF) to use for influencing the minor states. For subsequent years, the powers receive the INFs based on the table below, where 3 points are deducted for each supply center lost or 3 points are added for each supply center gained beyond home centers.

Table of INF Allocation per Year


Each player then establishes influence over the minor states by distributing some or all the INFs. Any unused INFs are placed in the power’s home box for later use. A power can place any amount. Additionally, a power may place INFs in another power’s home box (purpose is explained below). Points accumulate each year and change with the results of the “diplomatic attacks” (as discussed below). Points placed in the home box may be re-deployed in following years. However, those points already deployed cannot be moved. A listing of the minor states that may be influenced is given in the table below. The Barbary States (FEZ, ALG, TUN) are not part of this list and cannot be influenced.

Table of Pliant Minor States

Minor v2.jpg

The GM then publishes the distribution of INFs. Once the players have had a chance to review and negotiate over the publication, players may choose to perform a “diplomatic attack”. Diplomatic attacks commence in the second year (1616) of gameplay. No diplomatic attacks are performed in the first year. Each player may choose to conduct a diplomatic attack only once per phase against INFs of another power in one minor state. The player chooses a state where he/she has invested INFs, and then directs an attack against any other player’s INFs also present in that state (one attack against another power, if the player chooses). Additionally, if 5 or more INFs of one power have been placed in another’s home box, the power has earned diplomatic immunity. With diplomatic immunity, a power is protected from diplomatic attacks from the power where INFs have been placed. To negate the effect of diplomatic immunity, the affected power must eliminate or reduce the number of INFs of the opposing power to less than 5 with diplomatic attacks. The decisions of the players are then communicated to the GM. Each player submits an order to perform a diplomatic attack, which indicates the name of minor state and the target of the attack. The national order of attacks is as follows: Spain, France, England, Denmark/Sweden, and Austria. GM consults the Diplomatic Attack Table shown below, to determine outcome of the attacks. Additionally, the French player must submit an alternative order if the first ordered attack is unable to be performed due to lost INFs from a Spanish attack. The English player must submit 2 alternative orders for the same reason. Denmark must submit 3 alternative orders, and Austria must submit 4. Since Spain goes first in the national order of the diplomatic attacks, there is no need for Spain to submit alternate orders.

Diplomatic Attack Table


Diplomatic attacks are determined by a random throw of 3 six-sided dice. If players are uncomfortable with accepting the GM’s account of “unseen” dice rolls, players and GM may utilize stock market prices for a given day as a means of generating random numbers. Note: In the case where the ratio of INFs of the attacker to the defender is equal to or greater than 5-to-1, then no roll is performed, and defending INFs are removed.

Optional approach to diplomatic attacks: Since diplomatic attacks introduce a random element to the game, they may be handled by resolving all attacks with an exchange. This should be decided at the start of the game and agreed upon by all players.

How The Minor States Are Marked After The Diplomatic Attack Phase

At the end of the diplomatic attack phase the following is considered:

Political status of the minor state is INDEPENDENT (FREE STATE) if there are 4 or less total INFs present. (A minor state that is marked as INDEPENDENT is considered to be isolated from European politics.)

Political status of the minor state is NEUTRAL if no single major power holds 2/3 or more of the total INFs present in the minor state. (As a NEUTRAL minor state, it recognizes the current political situation of Europe, has engaged in diplomatic discussions, and has adopted a neutral position based on the composition of the government.)

Political status of the minor state is ALIGNED if a single major power holds 2/3 or more of the total INFs present in the minor state, and has invested minimally 5 INFs, and only if the major power can garner VPs for having the 2/3 majority (VP bonus is indicated in the Political and Religious Objectives Table and VP Awards). (Minor states marked as ALIGNED are essentially in allegiance with the major power holding the most influence as specified above.)

How The Minor States Are Marked With Regard To Religious Influence

The combined INFs remaining for England and Sweden/Denmark represent the political influence of the Protestant factions in the province. The combined INFs of Austria, France and Spain represent the political influence of the Catholic factions in the province. Control of a province by either the Protestants or Catholics is determined by the following:

Religious status of the minor state is UNAFFECTED if there are less than 10 INFs present. (A minor state marked as UNAFFECTED has no religious preference or influence.)

Religious status of the minor state is DUALITY if no single religious faction holds 2/3 or more of the total INFs present in the minor state. (DUALITY would suggest that the government and populace are composed of both Protestant and Catholic members. The minor state is not swayed in any particular direction.)

Religious status of the minor state is CONTROLLED if a single religious faction holds 2/3 or more of the total INFs present in the minor state, and a minimum of 10 INFs are present for that faction. (CONTROLLED refers to nearly exclusive dominance of one religion in the government and populace.)

Benefits of the Political and Religious Status of the Minor States

If the political status is ALIGNED, the major power that holds the 2/3-or-more majority of INFs in the state is afforded the benefit of collecting 1/3 of the supply points provided by the minor state, only if the major power can garner VPs for having the 2/3 majority (VP bonus is indicated in the Political and Religious Objectives Table and VP Awards). The minor state may, at this point, be viewed as a tributary state or a protectorate. Additionally, the major power earns the right to submit a 0-value bribe during the movement phase.

Penalties Concerning Political Status of Minor States

If the political status is INDEPENDENT, any major power may attack and occupy the state without penalty.

If the political status is NEUTRAL, any major power that attacks and occupies the state will suffer a penalty of -5 VPs.

If the political status is ALIGNED, the major power (to which the minor state is aligned to) that attacks and occupies the state will suffer a penalty of -15 VPs.

Penalties Concerning Religious Status of Minor States

If the religious status is UNAFFECTED, any major power may attack and occupy the state without penalty.

If the religious status is DUALITY, any major power that attacks and occupies the state will suffer a penalty of -3 VPs.

If the religious status is CONTROLLED, any major power with the same religion that attacks and occupies the state will suffer a penalty of -9 VPs.

Note: Penalties are cumulative. Also, the meaning of “attack and occupy” is that the major power SUCCESSFULLY attacks and dislodges the minor state’s unit, only then are the penalties incurred. Therefore, the penalties described above do not apply to SWI, LOR, and POS as these states do not have supply centers or units; however, they will still be marked on religious and political status for the purpose of assessing bonus VPs in the endgame.

Consequences Of When A Major Power Attacks And Occupies A Minor State

If a major power attacks and occupies a minor state, and this is the first occurrence of occupation by a major power with change in ownership at the build phase, no other major power may place INFs in that state during the coming political and religious influence phase. The minor state is now considered the DOMINION of the occupying power. Diplomatic attacks are still allowed by all powers, but the owning power is exclusively allowed to place INFs in the state. Any other power that has a major stake of INFs in the minor state loses the benefit of collecting supply points from the state during the taxation/revenue phase. However, the power may still garner bonus VPs from the political and religious status at the end of the game if those conditions are maintained.

If an opposing religion has control of the minor state, the major power that now owns the minor state will be unable to build on the site until the religious status is changed to DUALITY. If the minor state is ALIGNED with another power, the supply center output is reduced to 1/3 its normal production of supply points until the status can be changed to NEUTRAL. For the given situations above the minor state is considered to be in REVOLT. (Revolting states will be marked on the map.) These penalties do not apply with SWI, LOR, and POS, as these states do not possess supply centers.

If a major power holds political control over a minor state (minor state is ALIGNED) and an opposing power attacks and occupies the minor state before a build phase, the minor state is then marked as CONTESTED. The major power, which holds political control (or any other major power), may recapture the minor state without penalty irrespective of religious or political status. This may be thought of as a campaign of liberation from a foreign power and hence penalties are not applied. CONTESTED states will be marked on the map. However, once the minor state is retaken, penalties concerning religious status (no builds) and political status (reduce supply points) take effect, if applicable. Should the minor state be left unoccupied during a build phase, a new unit is built. This is contingent on the fact that the minor state is not the DOMINION of a major power. Once a unit is in place, rules regarding assessed penalties due to the religious and political status of the minor state become effective immediately.

How Victory Points Are Acquired Based On The Status Of The Minor States

Victory points are awarded at the end of the game depending the political and religious situation of the minor states as shown in the Political and Religious Objectives Table and VP Awards.

Political and Religious Objectives Table and VP Awards

Objectives v2.jpg

Example: If at the end of the game Saxony is Catholic controlled and aligned to Austria, then Austria can garner 7 VPs for the religious status and 7 VPs for the political alignment. If no INFs of another major power are present, Austria can obtain another 5 VPs for exclusive influential control. Note: Although Posen (POS), Lorraine (LOR), and Switzerland (SWI) do not have supply centers, political and religious control are important for Austria, Spain, Denmark/Sweden, and France.

A Brief Discussion Of Ideas Presented

The religious and political situations that are established by the placing of INFs in the minor states allow players to consider whether a military approach is suitable or necessary or needs to be timed. As an example, Austria has an invested interest in the Rhineland-Palatinate (RHI) both politically and religiously as shown in the objectives table. If by the end of the game RHI is under catholic control, and Austria has INFs present in RHI, then Austria can garner an additional 5 VPs. If RHI is aligned with Austria then Austria would also garner another 7 VPs for a total of 12 VPs. (If the INFs present in the RHI is exclusively from Austria, then an additional 5 VPs can be added.) This is a considerable bonus to Austria should this criteria be met. However, attempts by the protestant powers (England and Denmark/Sweden), for example, to curtail this situation during the game could fail for whatever reasons. The protestant powers may seek a compromise with France, and, although France benefits from a catholic controlled RHI (+5 VPs), France may consider diplomatic attacks against Austrian influence in the RHI. Essentially, France would be helping the protestant cause by reducing the catholic influence and thus stemming Austria’s potential gains from a catholic controlled RHI and a possible end-game victory. If Austria sees no means of maintaining a catholic influence or political influence in RHI then a military approach should be considered. However, allowing the Protestants to take control in RHI before launching an attack, Austria would not be penalized since the opposing religious faction would control RHI (Austria would be avoiding the -15 penalty for attacking a catholic-controlled state). If successful in occupying and owning RHI, Austria may then consider employing all resources (INFs) to achieve catholic control of RHI and to satisfy the political/religious objectives (in addition to the gain of a supply center worth 9 VPs). So, the interplay of the political situation and military operations can establish a great deal of tension between players as negotiations and agreements are made to level the playing field.


Reference lists are submitted before the start of the taxation/revenue phase. A discussion of the Payola variant can be found at The reference list for the minor states is based on the following order: Austria, Denmark/Sweden, England, France, and Spain. For Portugal and the Barbary States, the order is Spain, France, Austria, England, and Denmark/Sweden. For Ireland, the order is England, France, Spain, Denmark/Sweden, and Austria.


Each supply center on the board is represented by a symbol indicating a value (3, 9, or 15). This value is the supply points provided by the center. Basically, each supply point is equivalent to 1 point of currency to determine funds acquired during the tax/revenue phase; it sets the size of the treasury and activities throughout the year. At the start of the first year each power begins with the following funds:

Funds Available at the Start of the First Year

Funds v2.jpg

Note: Initial funds may be modified by the results of the political and religious influence phase.


Players submit their offer sheet as describe at Players may submit bribes and orders as they see fit for their own units; however, submitting bribes and orders to foreign units is limited to only the HOLD, SUPPORT, or CONVOY orders. Players may not submit MOVE/ATTACK orders for foreign units, as these will be ignored. Additionally, a bribe must contain some payment for those submitted to foreign units otherwise the order is ignored. Exception to this rule: Austria may submit a 0-value bribe to any unit in a province within the Holy Roman Empire (HRE). A power may earn the right to submit a 0-value bribe and order to a unit, if the state is ALIGNED with the power.

Provinces within the HRE: Spanish Netherlands (SPA), Liège (LIE), Franche Comté (FRA), Milan (MIL), Holstein (HOL), and all minor states (grey provinces) with exception to Ireland (IRE), Portugal (POR), Venice (VEN), Danzig (DAN), Prussia (PRU), Bosnia (BOS), Transylvania (TRA), and the Barbary States (FEZ, ALG, and TUN).

Only Catholic powers can submit orders to the units in the Papal States.

Fleets can only move into or support a move into a coastal province that has a port (anchor). Fleets are allowed to convoy armies to any coastal province whether or not a port is present. Certain orders on fleets are deemed illegal based on the location of the port. These are given below:









(These orders are also not legal in reverse.)

Additionally, certain army movements are allowed without the use of a convoy, and given below:

(1) movement and support between GRA and FEZ.

(2) movement and support between SIC and NAP.

Units of minor states that are dislodged are immediately disbanded.


The player occupying a foreign supply center prior to the build phase may waive the change in ownership of the center. This may be arranged by the player (and communicated to the GM) to avoid depriving a center from an ally. Once the decision is made no reversal is allowed until the next build phase.

Each supply center available during the build phase provides the resources to field 1 army or 1 fleet (as in standard diplomacy) regardless of the value of the supply center. Players may build new units on any owned and unoccupied center with restrictions explained in section 3. Owned ports may be used as a build site for fleets whether or not it is a supply center.

If a supply center of a minor state is unoccupied and has yet to change ownership, a new unit is built.

Starting Number of Units

At the start of the game, each power begins with 5 units (regardless of the number of supply centers). If no supply centers have been lost or gained by the build phase of 1615 then the following powers have the entitled number of builds:

England = 1

Austria = 1

France = 3

Spain = 2

This situation reflects the military buildup from a small peacetime strength.

Starting position of units:

France: A(PAR), A(TOU), A(POI), F(NOR), F(BRI)

Spain: F(GAL), A(MAD), A(CAT), A(MIL), A(SPA)

Austria: A(BOH), A(MOR), A(HUN), A(CRO), A(VIE)

England: A(SCO), A(WAL), A(LNC), F(LON), F(GLO)

Denmark/Sweden: F(NWY), F(SWE), F(SCA), A(COP), A(HOL)


Victory is measured by the accumulation of Victory Points (VPs) at completion of the game. Bonuses are received based on the religious/political situations and military operations. Penalties can be assessed based on certain operations as well. These changes are listed below:

Bonuses that affect all powers: (1) gain of a supply center beyond home centers= +1 per supply point gained; (2) loss of a home supply center= -1 per supply point lost.

Penalties associated with Catholic powers: Catholic power attacks/dislodges unit in a Papal state= -19.

Bonuses for protestant powers: (1) Protestant power that occupies and owns the Marches (Papal state) = +11; (2) Protestant power that occupies and owns Rome (Papal state) = +15.

Additional bonuses can be garnered at the end of the game for completed objectives. These objectives are listed in the Political and Religious Objectives Table and VP Awards.


At the opening of 1621, the player with most VPs wins the game. If there is a tie between any two players, then the game will resume for another year, and VPs reassessed at the opening of 1622. This will continue until a break in the tie.

Alliances and Victory

Two players, before the start of 1618, may form an alliance. This is a permanent agreement and is communicated to the GM and announced to the other players. Alliances do not change the rules of the game, but affects victory condition. Note: INFs cannot be transferred between allies. It is possible for two alliances to form in the game. At the end of the game, an alliance wins if the combined VPs of the two allies exceed the total VPs of the other three players (or the other alliance and the fifth player). Alliances are bound to this rule to the end, so it is possible that a single unaligned player can (1) win the game with a minimum amount of VPs by bringing about a balance of power between two alliances; or (2) exceeding the other two unaligned players in total VPs given the only alliance cannot meet the condition above.


Setup for less than 5 players:

2-player game: The version can be played as a Thirty Years War simulation. One player controls Spain and Austria, while the other player controls France, England, and Denmark.

3-player game: One player controls Spain, another controls Austria, another plays England and Denmark. France is neutral and French territory cannot be entered. Before build/adjustment in 1617 each player rolls dice. France joins player with highest roll in 1618.

4-player game: One player controls Spain, another controls Austria, another plays France, and one for Denmark and England.


Wikipedia entry:'_War.


History, concepts, and rules adapted from:

Standard Diplomacy by Allan Calhamer

1648 by Charles Feaux de le Croix

Ambition and Empire by B. M. Powell and Jeff Kase

Classic Payola by Manus Hand and John Woolley

Formal Diplomacy by E. Sabatine and Edi Birsan

Origins of World War 1 by Jim Dunnigan

Origins of World War 2 by Jim Dunnigan and Thomas Shaw

The Thirty Years War by C.V. Wedgwood

Map v3.jpg

Example image of how the religious/politics phase changes the statuses of the minor states and relationship of those states with the major powers. The new map below was generated after the first political and religious influence phase where each player distributed INFs to the independent minor states. As a result: Ireland, Mecklenburg, Brandenburg, and Westphalia are all aligned with England and all Protestant controlled. Svebia (Swabia), Saxony, and Prussia are all aligned with Denmark/Sweden, but only Svebia is Protestant controlled. The United Netherlands is aligned with Spain; and Venice, Lower Saxony, Bosnia, and Transylvania are aligned with Austria. Additionally, Transylvania is Catholic controlled. The neutral states are the Rhineland (dual religious status), Lorraine, and Savoy (both Lorraine and Savoy are Catholic controlled). Remaining minors states are marked as independents. Now the players must decide how to maneuver units and negotiate agreements in this newly drawn map.

Marked v2.jpg

Provinces v5.jpg