Definitive Vain Rats (rg09)
by Mark Nelson
History of Vain Rats.
Vain Rats, Mercator and Downfall are three of the more popular UK Variant designs. The original rules of Vain Rats date back to 1976 and since then they have been revised many times. Indeed Vain Rats has been "re-invented" at least four-times since 1976.
Richard Sharp (the original designer) has a strict view of which variants he likes. Either they are essentially Press Saga games (such as Third Age) or they contain minor modifications to the game which produce an altogether different game. Thus players will already have a grasp of the strategies of the individual powers, then they can concentrate on how the variant influences the tactics.
This is a compilation of Vain Rats rules and history.
1.1. The 1971 Diplomacy rule-book will be used except where amended below.
1.2. Each player has one/two powers for the whole of the game/year (see below). These powers override the normal diplomacy rules and some powers override each other (see later).
1.3. Each player has one hyperspace joker. This may be used at any point during the game. It allows a player to connect two provinces together for the following season only. The playing of a hyperspace joker is announced the turn before it takes effect, the name of the power playing a hyperspace joker is withheld.
1.41. The game starts in Winter 1900 when countries are allocated, players should send a country preference list when joining the waiting list (this speeds the start-up of the game.) Players should then submit a preference list for the powers (depending on which option in (2) is used.) Players with defensive or garrison units may place them, on the board before Spring 1901 or at any other time. Players may, if they wish, lay their hyperspace joker immediately. These orders may be conditional on the power received.
1.42. As 1.41 but Winter 1900 rules are used - players being able to place their standard units anywhere in their home country in Winter 1900. The number of units allocated must be the same as in regular diplomacy but the number of A's or F's doesn't.
1.5. Retreats: Because of the nature of the game, unexpected dislodgements may occur. Retreats should be given for every unit!!
1.6. The GM should strive to keep a player's power(s) secret for the duration of the game. If questioned about an adjudication he should either say 'yes' or 'no', but never give an explanation.
1.7. The GM should tell the players which optional rules and powers can be used before the start of the game.
2. Power Possibilities.
2.1. Each player has one power for the whole game.
2.21. Each player receives one power each game year. These are allocated randomly except that players may not receive a power they have already had.
2.22 As 2.21 except at the start of the game players submit a preference list for their powers. Again they may not have the same power twice.
2.3. Each player receives two powers for the entire game. One power should be a 'major' power and one 'minor'.
2.41. As 2.21 except that a 'major' and 'minor' power are involved.
2.42. As 2.22. except that a 'major' and 'minor' power are involved.
These have been divided into Major, Minor and Others. After the name of the power the first use of the power in a Vain Rat variant is given and the designer, where this differs from the variant designer.
In different designs the same power may be known by different names, this is especially true in the re-invented versions. Where the nature of a power (but not the name) is the same I have listed the name given by the earlier designer.
NOTE: If an "original unit" is destroyed through use of a special power then it may be rebuilt. However if it is destroyed for any other reason (i.e. by disbanding it), it may not be rebuilt.
3. Major Powers.
(VR = Vain Rats, CosII = Cosmic II Dip, DD = Dune Diplomacy II, NQSSDD = Not Quite So Serious Dune Diplomacy, DefVR = Definitive Vain Rats.)
3.1. Amphibian (VR1/3) All units owned by this player exist equally well on land or sea. Once revealed such units are designated "U" and not "F" or "A".
3.2. Evil Eye (VR2, Doug Wakefield.) This player may order one unit from two different countries each season. His orders are always accepted. (Note: if he is spied on by the Grey Wizard, the original orders are used.)
3.21. (VR 1/3) As above but the same country can not be affected in consecutive seasons unless there are four or fewer players left in the game. Units involved in a hyperspace link are not be affected.
3.22. (VRXI) As 3.21. except that only one unit a season may be ordered. A unit of the same country may not be ordered for two consecutive seasons and the power may not be used in 1901.
3.23. Negator (CosII) When you submit orders you may include orders for two units (must be different countries that are not allowed to occur. If these orders are indeed submitted, they become hold orders instead.
3.31. Extra Petrol (VRX1) Each season one unit of this player may make a double move (e.g. F(Nap)-ION-Gre ), either or both parts of the move may be supported, if only the second part of the move fails then the unit will remain at the intermediate stage.
3.32. Petrol Rationing (VR2, Andy Tringham) A country's units may move more than one space at a time provided that the total number of spaces transversed is not greater than the country's S.C. count. Supporting and convoying use petrol, but standing doesn't. All moves are considered to take place during the main movement season, and any stage of a multi-move may be supported; but if one fails, all subsequent orders are void.
3.33. (VR???) As 33.2. except that units of another player may be moved, if the owning player consents.
3.4. Filth (CosII) Once you own a supply centre, no other player may gain credit for it until it has been fumigated (although you lose it in the normal way.) Any invading unit must hold until the winter of the following year when he also gains control of the centre. Also, whenever a filth unit is dislodged, the attacking unit must sit dormant the following season in order to recover from the stench left behind.
3.51. Germ Warfare (VR2, John Keight) The original armies (plus the first one built in the case of England) of this power are lepers. At any time, instead of moving, they may release germs e.g. A(Ser) GW. In this example units attacking Ser or standing adjacent to it are destroyed; units moving to an adjacent province are 'sick' and cannot be ordered the following season (applies to units failing to move away); units moving away successfully are immune. Units at sea are immune.
Note: (Mark Nelson) This power effects units of all powers except the other germ warfare units. Because this power is so powerful, it is normally given to the Turkish player!
3.52. (V1/3) As 3.51. but effects units in sea provinces.
3.53. (VRX) As 3.51. but the player designates one of his original armies to be a leper.
3.6. Grey Wizard (VR2, Doug Wakefield) This player may ask for all the orders from any one country before the deadline, and then submit his own. 'Orders' include provisional retreats. This option starts in Spring 1902.
3.7. Hawkonnnen (DuII) This player is allowed to choose one unit from one power as a traitor - this unit may be specified at any time. Thereafter this player may order that unit as if it were his own for two seasons before control passes back to the original owner. The hawkonnen then chooses a different country and a different unit.
3.81. Illusionist (VR1/3) This player may, at the start of each move, (except the first), exchange two spaces, which must be similar (i.e. land with land, sea with sea, s.c. with s.c., coastal province with coastal province.) Units ordered to one of these are fooled into appearing in the other. Neither space may be adjacent to any of the Illusionist's own units, or at the end of a hyperspace link. retreats and builds are not affected.
3.82. (VRX) As 3.81 but units moving out of or standing in the affected province are not affected.
3.9. Insect (CosII) You have no power of your own, but you can adapt well. If you are able to take control of somebody's home supply centre, you gain and hold their power as long as you retain their home centre (they also retain their own power). The more home supply centres you take, the more powerful you become.
3.10. Key Rule (VR1) Any unit of the KR country attacking any other unit which is trying unsuccessfully to move succeeds, irrespective of support strengths involved. The KR player may not waive this rule for the benefit of an ally. Notation: When a move succeeds because of this rule, it will be followed by a (K).
3.11. King (VRXI) Each season one unit may be designated King. This piece has double strength for that season (i.e. its move/stand/support has an extra support added.)
3.12. King Key (VR2, Doug Wakefield) See 3.10, Key rule.
3.13. Liberal (CosII) Yours is a race of bureaucratic thieves. As a result, you recoup your losses by stealing the hard earned profits of others. Whenever you lose a centre, you may impose a tax on anyone on the board with a net positive centre count that year and force them to lend yaps credit for the original centre you lost. You may only tax a player who didn't take or support the attack on the centre you lost. If you have no need to tax anyone, you may forbid a specific build in a specific centre for one winter turn.
3.14. Multiplicity (VR1) Full standard multiplicity rules.
3.16. Petrol Rationing (VR2, Andy Trigham) See 3.3, Extra Petrol.
3.171 Pirate (VR XI) This allows the player to take control of another player's fleet to convoy his/her army to where (s)he desires. The order countermands the original order as well as any evil eye order. The convoy must be one that could normally be made.
3.172 (VR XI) The same player may not be affected in consecutive seasons. However the convoy does not have to be one that could normally be made.
3.18. Terrorist (CosII) In Spring 1901, you submit three provinces which you mine. The bombs can only be placed in non-supply centres. As the game progresses, you may not mine any occupied area or any territory where a bomb has exploded within the last two years. During a winter turn you may replace any bombs that have exploded the previous game year in any legal territory.
3.191 Thief (VR X) Each season the thief may steal a unit belonging to another player. The stolen unit is removed from play. All 'special' units (units with a power associated with them) are immune. Units of the same country may not be affected in two seasons in a row.
3.192 The Doctor (VR ??) As above but any unit may be timewarped. However, the piece returns to the board several provinces from where it started, i.e. one province for a one year stay in the time-warp, two provinces for two years, etc. The Doctor may time-warp units of other players but these units may leave the time-warp on their own accord.
Mark Nelson: If the Doctor time-warps a unit he can specify how many years it remains in time-warp, however, the player who has been timewarped may reappear after a year if he so wishes.
3.20 Zombie (CosII) Yours is the army of the dead. As a result, you do not need supply centres to maintain your units. You need SC's to build new units. Once built, your units can only be removed through physical destruction.
4. Minor Powers.
4.1. Amoeba (CosII) The person playing this power can transfer strength from one unit to another, creating one extra powerful unit and one totally powerless unit. Whenever power is transferred from one unit to another, the transferring unit must hold; if attacked it is destroyed since it has no power left to retreat or defend itself. If the unit receiving the power is destroyed, any units donating power to the unit are also removed from the board.
4.2. Atreides (NQSSDD, Dytham and Hickman) When this player obtains seven supply centres, he gains the power of Kwisatz Haderach. This power makes all Atreides units immune to the special abilities of the power(s) with the most supply centres. If they subsequently fall below seven centres, they do not lose this ability.
4.3 Bene-Gesserit (NQSSDD, Dytham and Hickman) Units of this power may choose to co-exist with other units. Such units can not be used to support or hold supply centres. This player must designate such units when orders are sent in.
4.5 Chameleon (VRXI) See 4.24, Stab.
4.61. Crooks Tourist (VR2, Doug Wakefield) From Autumn 1901 onwards, this player may build in any of the original neutral SC's at the rate of one per season. He can accumulate 'credits'. The building does not confer ownership of that province - it must be occupied in the normal way.
4.62 (VRXI) A unit may be built from Winter 1901 onwards in any unoccupied neutral SC (i.e. not a home SC). However this does not mean that the player owns the province. (s)he must claim it normally in the Autumn.
4.71 Defensive Armies (VR1) Two extra armies may be built at any time (usually Winter 1900) within the player's home borders. These act as normal armies except that they cannot move or supportoutside their home territory. They do not require a SC to sustain them, and are removed when the players last home centre is lost. Abbreviation D.
4.72 (VRII) They can only be built in a Winter season, and may never be rebuilt. In addition a player having this power also has the choice of either the Mercator A/F power or the Multiplicity power as an extra power.
4.73 United Nations (VR??) As 4.72 but can change armies in coastal provinces into fleets and vice versa. Does not fail even if unit is dislodged. However does not get the Mercator/multiplicity option.
As 4.72 except the player gets the Mercator A/F power.
4.8 Earthquake (DefVR) At the end of every Spring turn and at the end of every third Autumn turn this player may affect one province as follows:
i) Make any impassable province passable.
ii) Turn any sea province into a land province, any inland fleets so created are destroyed.
iii) Turn any land province into a sea province, armies die.
Use of this power may create double-coasted provinces. The player using this power should specify any necessary changes (i.e. a fleet may have to go onto a specific coast) If the player doesn't, the GM randomly decides.
4.9 Foreign Build The country playing this rule may build in any centre owned.
4.101 Garrison (VR1) The country may give up one its builds to garrison any one centre, in a home SC, with a stationary unit worth two armies. The unit may not move. It will, however, automatically support a unit of the building player trying to enter the centre (or stand there) unless the player specifically orders it not to. Other conventional units may be built 'on top' of the garrison. If a unit of another country enters the garrisoned centre, the garrison is destroyed unless both players have asked for this rule to be waived. Abbreviation 2G = double strength garrison.
Once during the game a garrison may be built in another players supply centre. This is a double strength unit that may not support or move.
4.11. Guild (DuII) The guild can gain free access over one sea space for one of its units each turn. The guild may defer the use of this ability and accumulate convoy spaces, i.e. a fleet isn't required to convoy an army from Bre-Lon.
4.12. Harkonnen (NQSSDD, Dytham & Hickman) This player has the power of speed attacks. They use A/F rules and one unit may move before adjudications, but not after.
4.13 Hopper (VR 1/3) Original units (Not F(Stp)sc for Russia) may hop over any adjacent space containing units into vacant spaces for the type of unit concerned, i.e. armies may not hop over sea spaces. Hoppers may be rebuilt if destroyed, but the player may never have more than three (an exception to the general rule about rebuilding).
4.14 Hyperspace (VR2) This player, may link for one season, any two provinces on the board. The link must be designated in advance, as all players may use it. Thus the Winter 1900 placements specify the link for Spring 1901, etc.
4.15 IRA (??) The IRA player may bomb one army each turn. The GM rolls 2 six-sided dice: A value of 6-8 explodes the bomb at the end of the turn destroying anything in the province. 4-5 and 9-10 explodes it at the end of the turn in a randomly determined adjacent province. If 3,11 it doesn't blow up and 2,12 destroys a random unit of the owner.
4.16 Leonides (VR1/3) Original units (Not F(Stp)sc for Russia) if ordered to hold, will annihilate any unit attempting to move to that space.
4.171 Macron (VRX) The original armies of this power are double strength (cf King). In the case of England the first army built will also be a Macron.
4.172 (DefVR) A player may choose not to reveal that an army is double strength, i.e. when ordering as a double army write 2A(Liv)-Yor, when ordering as a single army write A(Liv)-Yor. In all cases the adjudication will appear as A(Liv)-Yor.
4.173 Warmonger (CosII)As 4.171 but units are 1.5 times the strength of normal units and an enemy unit which is dislodged may not retreat.
4.18 Mercator A/F Convoy (VR1) This player has three time phases: pre-season, in which an army in a coastal province may board an offshore fleet; normal season in which (a) an A/F may move as an ordinary fleet in sea provinces or (b) the army may land, supported by the fleet and/or any other unit; and post- season, in which an army may disembark if unopposed. All these precede retreats. An A/F may not exist in a land province and in an attempted retreat to a land province the fleet disbands whilst the army retreats. For the crossing of a single province the fast-ferry (standard convoy) may be used, but convoys of more than one province are not allowed. Mixed nationality A/F's are not allowed. Abbreviations B=boards, L=lands, D=disembarks, FF=fast ferry.
4.19 Napoleon (VR??) Has an extra unit which takes up no space and may either support (counting as a normal unit) or move (single or double-length, counting at half strength), but is destroyed if dislodged. May also use conscripts to raise units before capturing SC for them. A tally is kept of conscripts and if this tally exceeds the total number of SC held in any Winter turn, the country goes into civil disorder.
Mark Nelson. Conscript armies are announced the turn before they appear on the board.
4.20 Nazgul (VR2, from "Mordor vs the rest of the world") This player may build a Nazgul instead of a conventional unit in Winter 1900 or Winter 1901. The Nazgul has unlimited movement for one turn only. It moves with the strength of a double army, even when moving a province at a time. When illegally ordered it acts as a single army. After making its multiple move it must return to its home base to tank up before making another multiple move.
4.211 Neutral Builder (VRX) Units may be built in any non-SC province in another country. Each country may only be used twice for this purpose.
As 4.211, each country can only be used once in the game.
4.221 Radiation (VR2, Andy Norman) One of this player's original armies may be nominated as a bomb carrier. This army may at some stage be ordered to'abandon bomb', which destroys any unit entering the space the bomb carrier has just left - if the carrier fails to move it is destroyed itself. The bomb is exploded after retreats but before builds. The bombed centre is impassable for one season after its explosion. Once the original bomb has been exploded, the player may build a new bomb-carrier after the following Autumn.
Original fleets may be used instead. In addition bombs are only set off when a unit enters that province.
4.223 Bene-Tleilaxu (NQSSDD) When one of the original units (Not F(Stp)sc for Russia) leaves a province it may leave a trap in it which destroys the first unit to enter it. When the trap is set the GM should be told how many moves the trap remains active. Only one trap can be on the board at any one time. Traps work after the season's adjudications but before builds.
4.231 Spring Raid (VR1) A unit of this country entering a foreign-owned SC in Spring controls it until such time as it is reoccupied in an Autumn season. A list of neutrals is printed after each AUTUMN.
4.232 Super Spring Raid (VR2, Doug Wakefield & Andy Norman) In addition to 4.231, this player captures centres and builds in Spring, whilst affected players disband after Spring.
4.233 Guerrilla Warfare (VR??) As 4.232, but affected players don't disband until Autumn. In addition this power may build a Guerrilla unit which destroys an attacking unit failing to dislodge it. A destroyed guerrilla unit may be rebuilt.
4.241 Stab (VR1/3) The original units of this country (Not F(Stp)sc for Russia) may at any time become invisible. Their movements will only be reported if they are involved in a conflict. If disbanded, stab units may be rebuilt, but there may only be three of them (another exception to the general rule)
4.242 Chameleon (VRXI) Chameleon units are invisible from the start of the game but may not be rebuilt if the original is lost.
4.25 Starfleet (VR??) The starship may perform two actions per season: may move and either fire phasers or use transporters. The starship is located in orbit above a particular province and may shift position to any other province in a single move. Units may be beamed up or down from the province the starship is located above at the start of the season. Phasers may be fired into this province or an adjacent one, acting as a single unsupported attack. A phaser attack cannot occupy a province and cannot be supported.
4.26 Transmat (DefVR, from the variant Transmat) The original units leave mass transmitter relays and receiver units in every province they have visited. Any army in one of these provinces may move to any other as per hyperspace.
4.27 Woodrow Wilson (VR??) May order an embargo on any one country each year, in which case that country counts one supply less for that year. Each turn may also specify one order that one other player may not order (if tried, the unit stands).
5.1 Bully (CosII) You get to pick on anyone you beat up. If a person is forced to retreat because of an attack or support by you, you decide where he will retreat (you may not disband the unit). Also, if you take or support an enemy unit into a centre and a person must disband because of it, you decide which unit he must remove.
5.2 Guild (NQSSDD, Dytham & Hickman) The guild can name any fleet on the board each turn, the fleet cannot be used to convoy armies that turn. This power may not be used before Spring 1902 and may not be used twice on the same power in three consecutive seasons.
5.3 Ornithopter (NQSSDD, Dytham & Hickman) An army starting its move in any capital city may, before normal movement, make a move through two provinces not controlled by enemy units (only one of which may be be a sea space). The army then makes its normal move. It may not finish its move in a sea space. This power may only be used from Spring 1902.
5.4 Submarine (VR??) This player has two additional 'submarine' units. These are 'hidden' units which move beneath the surface of the sea and are only reported when involved in conflicts. They cannot occupy SC's but may move under friendly units on the surface. A submarine may move, hold and support.
5.5 Zeppelin (VR??) This player has two additional 'zeppelin' air units.These may make two moves in one turn, counting half-value for each, or a single normal move counting full value. Zeppelins move in airspace and so may not control supply centres. A zeppelin may move, stand and support.
Vain Rats, Mark by Mark, by Mark.
Vain Rats I. (ARDA # ?) These rules were re-printed in Dolchstross 50, February 1977. Each player has one power, powers included were: Defensive Armies, Foreign Raid Garrisoning, Key Rule, Mercator Convoy, Multiplicity & Spring Raid.
Vain Rats II. (ARDA # ?) This first appeared in Dolchstoss 59, December 1977. Added new powers and revised some of the powers in Vain Rats 1. Each player has one power which included Crook's Tourist, Defensive Armies (plus choice of Mercator convoy or Multplicity), Evil Eye, Germ Warfare, Grey Wizard, Hyperspace, King Key (Key Rule, 3.10), Nazgul, Petrol rationing (Extra Petrol,3.31 ), radiation and Super Spring Raid (Spring raid, 4.232).
Vain Rats (1) ARDA rm47/07 (Really Vain Rats III) Designed by Richard Sharp. A collection of powers from Vain Rats 2 and some new ones. This was not printed in Dolchstoss. Credit was given to Sharp as the original designer. Players have one power for the duration of the game. Powers available are: Amphibian, Defensive Armies (4.73), Evil Eye (3.21), Germ Warfare (3.51), Hopper, Illusionist, King Key, Leonides, Pirate, Petrol Rationing & Stab.
Vain Rats ?? (ARDA # ?) Designed by Pete Calcraft and printed in The Daily Mole 18, January 1986. Players had one power each from: The Doctor (3.192), Evil Eye, Guerrilla Warfare (Spring raid, 4.233), Grey Wizard, Napoleon, Nazgul, Petrol Rationing (3.32), Radiation (4.221), Starfleet, Submarine, Woodrow Wilson, United Nations (Defensive armies, 4.73) and Zeppelin.
Vain Rats X. (ARDA # ?) Designed by Keith Loveys and printed in Howay The Lads. Players were given two players. Powers available were Amphibian, Crooks tourist, Defensive Armies, Evil Eye (3.21), Extra Petrol, Garrison (4.102), Germ Warfare (3.53), Illusionist (3.82), King, Macron, Napoleon, Neutral Builder, Spring Raid and Thief.
Vain Rats XI. (ARDA # ?) By Richard Downes and dated July 1984. A version which gives a player a major and minor power. Major powers used were: Amphibian, Evil Eye (3.22), Extra Petrol, King, Napoleon, Pirate, Thief. Minor powers used were: Chameleon (stab, 4.242), Crooks Tourist (4.62), Defensive Armies, Garrison (4.102), Macron, Neutral builder (4.212), and Spring Raid (4.232).
Cosmic Diplomacy II. (ARDA rm42/07) Designed by Russ Rusnak in 1983. This is "re-invention" of Vain Rats. Players have one power each and interestingly a number of standard Vain Rats powers were duplicated.
Dune Diplomacy II (ARDA rm54/07) By John Hickman and Calvin Dytham. A variant invented 'in-house' at Leeds University without any prior knowledge of Vain Rats. Using the regular game each nation receives one power which resembles a nation in the Dune series. Effectively it is a Vain Rats variant in which each country's power is common knowledge.
Not Quite So Serious Dune Diplomacy. (ARDA # ) By Calvin Dytham, John Hickman and Mark Nelson. The basis of this variant was printed in Move Out 2, October 1987. It contained more rules and powers for Dune Diplomacy. Some of the rules recreated the world of Dune, whilst the powers were specified for each country (as in Dune). Thus it is a Vain rats variant in which the players already know what powers the other players have. Calvin's view was that this would reduce the luck element in the game. I modified a few of the powers and changed it into a more standard Vain Rats game.
The Vain rat game I prefer is the two power game. Players receive a major and a minor power. Preference lists for both should be sent in at the same time. Where more than one version of a power exists, only one form should be used and the players should be informed as to which version is being used.
GM's and players should be aware that the above definitions do not cover all possibilities. The GM has the final word on any problems and the players must be able to trust the GM.
I wouldn't use the Winter 1900 rules
Comments on Major Powers:
3.21 or 3.23 should be used. However the power should not be used in 1901. 3.31 should be used. 3.53 should be used but units in sea provinces are immune.3.81 is used. For support purposes you have to be adjacent to the other province. 3.12a should be used. 3.171 or 3.172 either version. If 3.172 is used the Pirate can order misorders for other players. I personally feel that because the standard Pirate rule is rather weak 3.172 should be used. 3.191 or 3.192 Either version can be used. I prefer 3.191 However the power shouldn't be used in 1901. 3.20 I love this power! In the case when a power loses a SC one year but regains it the following year I would argue that the Zombie doesn't build. He can only build when the number of SC's is greater than the number of units.
Comments on Minor Powers:
4.61 should be played.
4.72 should be used.
4.8 A sunken SC ceases to be a SC until it is resurrected. I suggest that this power can not be used in 1901.
4.101 should be used.
4.11 In Autumn 1901 if France has F(MAO) and A(Bre) he could ordr F(MAO) CA(Bre)-IRI (use Guild power)-Lpl. Alternatively he could order A(Bre) (use guild power)- Lon. In the adjudication the report should be A(Bre)-Lpl or A(Bre)-Lon. How the unit got there shouldn't be revealed.
4.172 should be used.
4.19 Conscripts can be raised after any season (i.e. after Spring 1901) in any supply centre Napoleon owns. 4.21 should be used but the same country can't be effected inconsecutive seasons.
4.223 should be used.
4.231 should be used and adapted so that this player captures SC's in the Spring season. However the other players don't disband until Winter.
4.241 should be used.
Copyright (c) 1988, 1989 by Mark Nelson. This variant may not be reprinted or distributed in any way without the written consent of the designer.