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Subject: Dunnigan Does Diplomacy - The Origins of WWII rss

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steve mizuno
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Dunnigan does Diplomacy - Origins of WWII

This was another Dunnigan design that somehow found its way into my game collection. I think this game hit my house sometime in 1973. I had read some of the hype in the old GENERAL magazine, which I then subscribed to... Most games released by AH got at least one cover story in the month of release, and often there was a feature article about the game. This, I think, is what motivated me to get a copy of this.

Physical components:

The game box is pretty interesting, with unflattering photos of the heads of the five states represented in the game. I think Mussolini's pic is particularly ugly.

The game board is fairly... bland. There's nothing about this board to write home about. Its a basic map of Europe and Russia, along with an inset for the United States. In my recollection, the game begins in 1933. The game runs for six total turns, in a specific country-based turn order, starting with the US, and ending with Germany. The five represented countries are the US, France, Italy, Russia, Britain, and Germany. The victory conditions are based on points, assessed at the end of the game.



The game counters are also fairly vanilla, although I did like them. Each country's flag is depicted on the counters, with either a PF value of 1,3 or 5, as well as some UNDERSTANDING and CONTROL counters. The mechanism for the use of these other counters is fairly simple.



This game basically does not play well without all five players. Play balance is somewhat... sticky for the weaker countries - US and France, in particular.

Although I got the game early in 1973, I don't think I began playing the darn thing until 1974 or 1975, when I managed to create a wargaming club at my high school. We spent every lunch hour playing in open classrooms, and were able to keep the boards/playing pieces stored in a cupboard. (This was also the site of my one and only 3rd Reich decisive victory as Germany, which is another interesting story I will save for later.)

Anyway, we got 5 guys together for game of Origins, which was well-suited for lunch time play, as it was of fairly short duration. We drew lots for countries, and as I recall, I ended up with the US. If you've ever played this game before, the US is the weakest country on the board, and is highly unlikely to have even a whisper of a chance of winning this game.

Game sequence:

Every country places their political counters on the board, one country at a time. The US starts, and generally, the goal is to try to deny the CONTROL areas of highest value to the Germans. (Control counters apply only to a specific area, and can only be placed at the end of each turn, if two conditions are met - there must be a minimum of 5 Political factors for the country trying to place the control marker, and there can be no other political factors in the area. Only countries which can get Victory Points, by the VP chart, are allowed to place CONTROL markers in an area. (For example, in the historical game, Germany is the only country which can get a CONTROL marker in the Rheinland. The only other countries who get victory points for the Rheinland are France, which gets 3 points for an Understanding, and the United States, which gets 2 points for No CONTROL marker placed in the Rheinland. Once a CONTROL marker has been placed in an area, no further conflict will occur in that area - it is in effect CONTROLLed by that player.)

PF's or Political Factors, are the foot soldiers of the game. After initial placement of PF counters each turn, no country can move these around, unless they are moving them from THEIR OWN HOME COUNTRY ONLY into another area. Combat is resolved by straight attacks, on a very familiar looking CRT. One relatively interesting rule applies to UNDERSTANDINGs. Just like with CONTROL counters, you cannot place an UNDERSTANDING in another area unless the victory conditions of the scenario you're playing allow you to do so. There is one special rule about UNDERSTANDINGs that makes them very valuable, and that is if you have an UNDERSTANDING in another major power, that major power cannot attack any of your PFs anywhere else on the board. An UNDERSTANDING is a major thorn in the side of a country that relies on the placement of CONTROL counters for victory points, as even one factor in an area they require for victory points will create a situation in which they cannot eliminate these counters, and therefore, cannot place a CONTROL counter in that area.



Germany, moving last, has a huge advantage, as they can look at the board, decide how best to maximize their point total, and place PFs. On the first turn, this probably means that they will be placing at least one CONTROL counter into a relatively high Victory Point area. Due to the way the game functions, once a CONTROL counter is in place, the points can never come of the board.

Other reviewers and players of this game have asked the question... "Where's the diplomacy?" Well, I'll say that when my gaming group played this, there were definitely significant amounts of jawboning, whether that was organizing a "stop Germany" alliance, or if it was a convoluted attack plan to get around the limitations that Understandings place on attack of enemy PFs. This game is only balanced through the play of the 4 other players in the game. If they do not act in a unified manner, Germany will most certainly triumph, and may well win even if everyone is organized against them. However, with a little bit of cooperation, and some luck, it is definitely possible for the other four countries to be competitive in the game. (However, the US is still at a significant disadvantage in this game, not just because of the conflict with Germany, but also because of the weakness of the US political force pool.

Is this game any fun? Is it fair? Is it worth playing? I believe that some of the alternate scenarios presented are more entertaining, since they tend to level the playing field a little, making it more possible for all the players to have a chance at winning. The need for players to cooperate to address the built-in game imbalance also makes for an entertaining experience, more like a cooperative game, than your standard five-player game.

There are also two variants to this game available, one, Pacific Origins, and a WWI version of the game that plays out on the same basic map.

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John Bandettini
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I used to play this game quite a lot back in the 70's, but I have not played it much since. I seem to remember it was quite a challenge for Germany to win as although they were the strongest country, everyone did gang up on them. It is a pretty unattractive game and I have not played it in years.

Seeing you review made me realise that it's surely a distant ancestor of Twilight Struggle. A very early political wargame.
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Paul Denhup
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soltan gris wrote:


The game board is fairly... bland. There's nothing about this board to write home about.



Yes but if you look close enough at it you can see the level of detail as it is a fine example of a map from that time period.

Good to see some interest still in this "classic oldie."
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oystein eker
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Hope you got the historical booklet with it. Great reference to victory points.

One of the best dip games.
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steve mizuno
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eker wrote:
Hope you got the historical booklet with it. Great reference to victory points.

One of the best dip games.


Sure, original owner of game. However entertaining this one might be, I think its going to lose to SPIES!
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Ian Anderson
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JohnBandettini wrote:
Seeing you review made me realise that it's surely a distant ancestor of Twilight Struggle. A very early political wargame.


Snap. I thought the same when I was half way through reading this review.
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Rick Sciacca
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Just some thoughts from what my gaming group has done in the past, I may have even posted these somewhere before:
1) Secretly write all PFs placement and submit to a 'reader', making placement simultaneous.
2) Somewhere I the rules/player guide, it says that WWII breaks out if the dictatorships go over 14 points, have that be part of the end game VCs. I.e., if Germany/USSR/Italy go over 14, they automatically lose the game. So they have to use a different approach, maximizing their 14 points and playing containment on the other powers to keep them from out scoring Germany. It adds an interesting dynamic to the game, and simulates nicely the premise that Hitler really wasn't wanting to get into a general European war in 1939.

Using these two together really helps offset Germany's huge advantage. Feel free to let me know what you guys think.
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