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Pax Britannica Improved

with Robert Sacks

In the eight years since the original publication of Pax Britannica, we've developed a number of changes that, we think, improve the game's play. We've also developed tournament and play-by-mail rules, and would like to share them with you.

Major Changes


The original intent of the codominion rules was to reflect the possibility of partitioning an area, or establishing true co-rulership, as happened in the Anglo-French protectorate of the New Hebrides. These circumstances are rare, but the rules encourage the plague-like (and ahistorical) spread of codominions as a peaceful way of resolving disputes over areas. The following change imposes an economic cost to codominions, and helps to reduce the frequency with which they are established, without dramatically changing the nature of the game.

Change: When calculating income for control markers from an area where a codominion has been established, reduce the effective economic value by 1 for every control marker after the first. Example: Hawaii's economic value is 5 pounds; currently, it is a codominion among the United States, Great Britain, and Japan, each of whom has established a Protectorate. Its effective economic value is 3 pounds (5 minus two surplus control markers), and each power will receive 12 pounds in income, less 10 pounds maintenance, each turn. Note: Only income for control markers is reduced; if France, say, had an Interest in Hawaii, it would still receive an income of 5 pounds, not 3 pounds.

Note: When using this rule, Guiana's base economic value is changed to 4 pounds (see Maps, below).

Chinese Resentment

During the period of the game, only one major Chinese war occurred; in a typical game, two or more will occur. The current rules (combined with a tendency for players to be rather more aggressive than their historical counterparts) breed Chinese Rebellions with ahistorical frequency. These rules are intended to reduce their frequency and number.

Change: The Chinese Resentment Index may now exceed 100. Write "+100" on the back of one of the Chinese Resentment markers; use this marker on the 10s track of the Index. When the Index exceeds 99, flip the marker over to its "+100" side, and move it back to the beginning of the track; the Index is now 100 plus the number represented by the markers on the track.

Change: During the Chinese Resentment Phase, determine the current value of the Chinese Resentment Index; drop the final digit. Then, roll three dice (not two). If the die-roll is less than or equal to the number determined by dropping the final digit of the Index, a Chinese Rebellion occurs. Example: The Chinese Resentment Index is 129; dropping the last digit yields 12. If you roll 12 or less on three dice, a Chinese Rebellion occurs.

Victory Points

In the designer's opinion, Russia's victory point divisor of 3 is excessively harsh; given Russia's limited opportunity to gain colonial possessions, a divisor of 3 makes it virtually impossible for Russia to win. Conversely, though Italy has few resources, its merchant fleets give it access to a good many colonial areas, making its divisor of 2 insufficient.

Change: The victory point divisors for both Russia and Italy are changed to 2 1/2.

Minor Changes and Clarifications


Embarrassingly, the designer's memory of his high school Latin was faulty. "Casus" is fifth declension; its proper plural is not "Casi" but "Casus". Moreover, in the plural, "Belli" does not become "Bellorum"; that would be causes of wars, and one merely wishes to talk about causes of war -- multiple causes, single war. Hence, the proper plural of "Casus Belli" is not "Casi Bellorum," but "Casus Belli."

The Maps

Correction: The Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn have been mislabeled. Cape Horn is just below South America; the Cape of Good Hope is just below Africa. (This has no effect on play.)

Change: Fiji and New Zealand are adjacent to the South Pacific as well as Oceania. Discussion: The New Zealand Pressure for Dominion random event (3-3) was highly annoying to Britain, since New Zealand was useless -- anything you could do with New Zealand you could do with Australia, which was worth more and was closer to the rest of the world through the Indian Ocean. At the same time, New Zealand was relatively immune to attack since few powers would place a merchant fleet in Oceania. With this change, New Zealand gains a role as a base for British activity in Hawaii and Latin America, and must be defended. Also, Fiji was historically an area of American interest, something the game does not currently simulate well, since the U.S. is unlikely to place a merchant fleet in Oceania.

Change: Guiana should have an economic value of 4 pounds, not 2 pounds. (See Codominions, above.)

Optional: After the first War in the Balkans (Random Event 1-1), there exists an overland route between Greece and Serbia. After the second War in the Balkans, there exists an overland route between Bulgaria and Greece replacing the route between Anatolia and Serbia; in addition, there exists a connection between Bulgaria and the Mediterranean Sea. (These rules reflect border changes resulting from the First and Second Balkan Wars.)


Correction: Spain should also begin with merchant fleets in the South Atlantic and North Pacific; use spare counters. The fleet in the South Atlantic permits colonial activity in Ashantee (which the Minor Powers Activity Table calls for, but which the old distribution of merchant fleets did not permit). The fleet in the North Pacific is to penalize poor American play in a Spanish-American War: Spain can conquer American-controlled areas such as Hawaii and Alaska.

Correction: When Japan is a minor power, set it up with a second merchant fleet in the South China Sea. This is to permit colonial activity in the Philippines, as called for by the Minor Powers Activity Table.

Change: The Russian 10 strength naval unit begins in the Baltic Sea box, not the Black Sea box; the 1 strength naval unit that formerly began in the Baltic Sea box is set up in the Black Sea. This more properly reflects the actual strengths of the Russian Baltic and Black Sea fleets. By the treaties ending the Crimean War, the strength of Russia's Black Sea fleet was strictly limited; a Russian 10-strength fleet there would have been a casus belli for Britain, France, the Ottoman Empire, and almost any European Great Power who wanted one.

Change: The British fleet in Canada is set up on the North Atlantic coast.

Random Events

Clarification: If both German Navy League Agitation (event 2-4) and German Colonial Office Income (2-5) occur in the same turn, Colonial Office income is quadrupled.

Clarification: When any of the forced expenditure events occur (Conservative Victory in Britain [1-2], American Yellow Press Journalism [2-2], French Anti-German Agitation [2-3], German Navy League Agitation [2-4], Pan-Slav Agitation in Russia [2-6], Italian Irredentist Agitation [3-1], and Japanese War Party Gains Prestige [4-1]), and the affected power has insufficient income to pay for these expenditures, he must first maintain all appropriate units, then maintain status markers and, if any money remains after this, must spend as much of the remaining funds as possible building units.

Clarification: If the Serbia Defies Austria-Hungary event is rolled (1-4), Austria Hungary may purchase a Control marker, place it in Serbia, then move in army units and engage in colonial combat there. (Previously, the rules made it unclear whether Austria-Hungary must pay for the Control marker or not; they must, if they wish to invade Serbia.) Similarly, when War in South America (2-1) or Boer Oppression of Uitlanders (3-6) is rolled, America (in the first case) or Britain (in the second) must pay for any Control marker they place.

Clarification: If both Upheaval in Russia (1-5) and Pan-Slav Agitation (2-6) occur on the same turn, the Russian player is required to purchase military units even though he has no Colonial Office income for the turn.

Optional: If an area adjacent to an Ottoman Empire area or possession, with an overland link to Anatolia, goes into unrest, and no power suppresses it, the area immediately becomes an Ottoman Empire possession. Use a spare counter to represent possession and a 5-strength army unit. (Do not use the 5-strength units provided with the game, because they are needed for Chinese rebellions.) If this expansion gives a power a casus belli against the Ottomans, and a Congress of Europe is called, the Ottomans will yield the area in question, but no others, if required by the Congress to do so. If the expansion gives a power a casus belli, and war results, the area may be conquered during the resulting war. During any subsequent war with the Ottomans, any Ottoman possessions are treated as Ottoman Empire areas. If an acquired area later goes into unrest again, the Ottomans will move in two additional 5-strength army units and attempt to suppress it; if multiple areas are in unrest, the two 5-strength units move to the area with the highest economic value (the armies already occupying other areas will try to suppress unrest by themselves). Once the Ottomans suppress unrest in a possession, it becomes an Ottoman Empire area.

Minor Powers

Clarification: If a minor power loses Influence or control over an area because of unrest, Great Powers may, on subsequent turns, place status markers there and attempt to obtain control (assuming other rules permit them to do so).

Clarification: If a minor power places a Control marker in an area, Great Powers may not place Control or Influence markers in the area on the same turn.

Clarification: If two or more minor powers are active in the same area, they will establish a codominion, if possible.

Clarification: If a minor power begins a war with naval units in areas outside its home country (e.g., Spain starts with fleets in Cuba and the Philippines), and the minor power wins the war, the minor power's strongest remaining naval unit is returned to its home country. Then, naval units should be returned to the areas outside the home country where naval units began, one per area. Any remaining naval units are returned to the home country. If the minor power does not have enough remaining naval units to place them in all areas where its naval units began, it places units in the highest economic-value areas first.

Clarification: The only way a minor power can gain new units is when it places a control marker in an area and has no surplus units to garrison it; in this case, a unit is taken from the counter storage tray, if one is available.

The Congress of Europe

Clarification: Status markers removed or downgraded in an area in conflict during a Congress of Europe do increase European Tensions.

Clarification: During a Congress of Europe, a power may be granted a codominion in an area under dispute at no cost in pounds, as long as at least one power at the Congress already has a control marker in the area. All powers with control markers in an area must agree if a codominion is to be granted to another power; powers with Influence in the area are not required to consent, but if they do not consent, they retain casus belli.

Clarification: If a Congress of Europe votes on a treaty, and one or more members abstain, the treaty passes if a majority of those voting vote in favor.

Clarification: The Congress may pass a treaty that contains clauses affecting powers that are not party to a dispute. However, these clauses are not binding, and no casus belli occurs if the affected power refuses to sign the treaty. If he does sign the treaty, however, the clauses come into play. Example: A Congress is called over a dispute between England, Germany, and Belgium over the Kongo; it is held in France, and all the European powers attend. Russia proposes a treaty establishing an Anglo-German codominion in the Kongo, reducing Belgium to an Interest, and also requiring Japan to permit a Russian codominion in Korea (where no dispute currently exists). The European powers unanimously pass the Treaty, and all sign it; Japan refuses to sign the treaty. The status of Korea is not changed, and no power has a casus belli against Japan.

Chinese Resentment

Clarification: If a power with a control marker in a Chinese Empire area or Vassal State grants a codominion to another power, this causes no immediate increase in the Chinese Resentment Index. If more than one power places a status marker in a Chinese Empire or Vassal State area during a Movement/Status Change Phase, this does cause the Resentment Index to increase for each marker placed. During the Chinese Resentment Phase, the Chinese Resentment Index increases for each control marker in a Chinese Empire area. Example: Britain controls Hong Kong, and grants Japan a codominion there; there is no immediate increase to Chinese Resentment. During the Chinese Resentment Phase, the Index increases by 6 points because two control markers are in Hong Kong, one British and one Japanese.

Clarification: During a Chinese Rebellion, it is possible for Chinese forces to have cleared mainland China of foreign devils, but be unable to reach enemy troops in Formosa, because they cannot move through the North or South China Seas. In this case, the enemies of the Chinese may declare an end to the Rebellion during any War End Determination Phase. All status markers in Formosa remain unchanged; all other status markers in Chinese Empire or Vassal State areas are removed. All Chinese armies are removed from the map, and the Chinese Resentment Index is reset to zero.

Clarification: A Chinese Rebellion in which four or more European Powers participate is not considered a Great War.

War with the Ottomans

Clarification: If the Ottomans have no Great Power ally and wage war against four or more European powers, no Great War is deemed to occur. However, if at least one Great Power has declared its support for the Ottomans, and four or more European powers are involved in the war, the Great War breaks out.


Clarification: A Great War occurs when four or more European powers are involved in a single war. It is possible for four or more European powers to be at war during a single game-turn, and for no Great War to break out, if two or more separate but simultaneous wars occur.

Clarification: A single Declaration of War may name more than one opposing power; the European Tensions Index only increases by 5 points regardless of the number of powers named.

Clarification: When a half-exchange is rolled and both powers have the same strength, the attacker is treated as the smaller force.

Clarification: If a war ends because one side has no units outside its home country, the other side conquers all areas its forces are capable of reaching.

Clarification: At the end of a war, the power(s) in control of a conquered area may place any status markers they wish in the area, at no cost in pounds. Any conflicting markers, including those that belong to neutrals, are reduced or removed. This does not cause any change to the European Tensions Index. Example: Kongo contains a Belgian Protectorate marker and a French Interest; German defeat Belgium in a war and conquers Kongo. The German player chooses to place a German Possession marker there; the French Interest must be removed.

Clarification: If, at the end of a war, no power has conquered an area, conflicting status markers exist, it is unclear what power controls the area, and there has been no resolution by treaty, all control markers in the area are reduced to Influences. No increase in European Tensions results.

Change: During the Supply Determination Phase, you must check supply for areas as well as units. All Home Countries, States, and Dominions are automatically in supply. Other areas draw supply just as if they were units, that is, must trace Lines of Supply to a Home Country, State, or Dominion, or one of an ally. If an area cannot trace supply, and army units of the opposing alliance are capable of reaching it given enough time, it immediately surrenders to the opposing alliance, that is, is conquered by them.

Clarification: It is possible for a war to develop in such a way that the remaining forces of one side cannot reach those of the other. In this case, either side may simply announce that the war has ended. The first side captures all areas its forces are capable of reaching, while the second side retains any the first side could not reach. Example: Spain gained a Protectorate in Tunis before the Spanish-American War broke out. The U.S. has no Merchant Fleet in the Mediterranean, and no coaling rights there; Algiers and Taureg are French, and Tripoli Ottoman, both of which are neutrals; so the U.S. cannot attack Tunis. All Spanish units, except for a 1-strength army in Tunis, have been eliminated or withdrawn to Spain. Spain announces an end to the war. The U.S. captures Porto Rico, Cuba, the Philippines, and Rio de Oro, but Spain retains possession of Tunis.

Victory Points

Clarification: Any money left over after purchasing victory points is lost; all treasuries begin every turn empty.

Belgium as an Eighth Player

If you have an eighth person who's really desperate to play, let him play Belgium. It's a very limited position, but might be kind of fun, if only as a trouble-maker. (Under Leopold, Belgium was aggressive about establishing a colonial empire; the other minor powers -- the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal -- had built their empires during the 17th and 18th centuries, and did not really attempt to expand them during the Victorian era. Consequently, they make less sense as player-countries than Belgium.)

Belgium is limited by the countermix of Belgian units and markers (except for Merchant Fleets, see below).

Belgium is not considered a European Great Power for the purposes of triggering the Great War. It may only attend Congresses of Europe when it is a party to a dispute (or the site of a Congress), but does receive a full vote when it attends. Congresses may be sited in Belgium.

Belgium's victory point divisor is 1.

During the Administrative Phase, Belgium rolls on Italy's row of the Colonial Office income table, but receives only half the sum indicated by the table, rounding fractions up. It is considered always to roll a '6' until it establishes its first control marker.

When a Random Event of "4-2" is rolled (Unrest on Table A), in addition to rolling for Unrest on Table A, treat it also as the following event: King Leopold Demands Colonial Expansion: When rolling for Belgian Colonial Office income this turn, do not halve the result (as you normally do). In addition, the Belgian player must purchase and place a Possession or Protectorate marker in at least one area this turn, if possible.

Belgium gains additional Merchant Fleets in 1896 and 1916; spare counters must be used to represent these fleets.

General Orders for Abandoned Powers

The following rules were developed for use in postal games of Pax Britannica, but may prove useful face-to-face as well. In postal games, players frequently drop out, and it is not always possible to find replacements; the same thing can happen over the board. In Diplomacy, it's easy enough to handle this; the abandoned country just goes into civil disorder. But there's no equivalent in Pax Britannica; you have to continue handling the power's income, maintenance, and so on. These rules are used to determine how an abandoned position acts while the remaining players continue the game.

The players will jointly calculate the power's income and maintenance costs each turn. The power will only buy units, move them, buy and place status markers, declare war, and take other actions in accordance with the rules below.

Implement the rules in the order stated; that is, if following Rule 7 would conflict in some way with following Rule 1, Rule 1 governs.

  1. The power will not take any action that would cause the Great War; this includes declaring war, if this would make the power the fourth European Power in the war.
  2. The power will abide by existing (unbroken) treaties.
  3. The power will sign any treaties adopted by Congress, if it is a Congress member.
  4. If the power has a casus belli against a minor power that possesses an area with an economic value of 5 pounds or more, and the power has a communications link and/or coaling rights that allow his forces to reach that area, the power will purchase fleets and armies to obtain a 3:2 ratio over the minor power's fleets and armies, then declare war. In any other case where the power has an unresolved dispute, it will not declare war, but will instead downgrade its status marker. If other powers go to war and the unplayed power remains neutral, it will not declare war, offer a casus belli, or grant coaling rights to either side.
  5. When the power gains a new merchant fleet, place it in the sea zone that offers access to the highest economic-value area that the power cannot currently reach. If two or more sea zones are tied for highest economic value, but one offers access to a larger number of such areas, place it in that one. If tied on this basis, place in the sea zone that offers access to the largest number of next highest economic value areas, on so on. If there is a complete tie -- two sea zones offer access to precisely the same number of areas at precisely the same economic values -- place the fleet in the sea zone that is topologically farther away from the home country. If still tied, roll dice.
  6. If funds are available, Russia will replenish its Western Garrison, and Britain will replenish the Indian Army if permitted. Indian Army units are placed to garrison ungarrisoned areas, to suppress unrest, or adjacent to any area where Britain has a casus belli, or adjacent to China, in that order of priority. When a random event requires an expenditure or the loss of victory points, the expenditure will be made if funds are available, but only to the extent required. (E.g., when Italian Irredentist Agitation occurs, Italy will build a 10-strength army unit, but no additional units.)
  7. If the power controls any ungarrisoned areas, and/or areas are in unrest where the power has control or Influence markers, seek to garrison or suppress unrest, starting with the highest economic value area. Note: This might mean failing to garrison, and thereby losing control of, a low-economic value area in order to attempt to suppress unrest in a high-economic value area.
    • When a power attempts to suppress unrest in an area, it moves units from its home country to obtain a 3:2 advantage over the indigenous combat strength. If insufficient units exist at home, it will purchase units to obtain this ratio, if funds permit. No excess units will be purchased. When a power seeks to suppress unrest in an Influenced area, it will purchase and place a Protectorate marker in the area, if funds permit; if insufficient funds are available, the power will not attempt to suppress unrest there.
    • When a power garrisons ungarrisoned areas, it moves the smallest available units from its home country. If funds and countermix permit, 1-strength units are purchased to avoid moving 3- or 10-strength units from home.
    • If a power has insufficient units and funds to cover all ungarrisoned areas and areas in unrest, it covers them in this order:
      • High economic value areas before low economic value areas.
      • Among areas tied for economic value, garrison ungarrisoned areas first, suppress unrest in controlled areas second, suppress unrest in Influenced areas third.
      • If still tied, garrison starting with the area with the highest combat strength; suppress unrest starting with the area with the lowest combat strength.
      • If still tied, roll dice.
      Note: It is pointless to garrison an area if this means you will lose other areas necessary to provide a line of communication to your garrisoned area. Lower economic value areas may be garrisoned first, if this is necessary to provide communication links to higher economic value areas. Cooperate to suppress unrest in codominions.
  8. Excess garrisons are returned to the home country, or may be used to garrison ungarrisoned areas or suppress unrest, pursuant to rule 7. Exception: Excess garrisons in Chinese Empire areas remain where they are (against the danger of a Chinese Rebellion), as do excess garrisons in Ottoman Empire areas if any Ottoman area is uncontrolled and in unrest.
  9. When the power goes to war, another player is appointed to control its forces, as per the rules for minor powers. However, in order to prevent the players from unduly destroying the unplayed power's position, the controlling player or alliance must abide by these rules:
    • Units out of supply will move toward supply.
    • Combat will be initiated only when there is at least a 3:2 advantage.
    • Controlled areas will not be stripped of their garrisons, although surplus units may be moved.
  10. In a Chinese rebellion, all military units at sea or moving toward China on land (and, on the first turn, all units in excess of the smallest unit in each garrison) will move toward China and land in the nearest Chinese area (other than Formosa). If two or more areas are equally near, they will land in the area where the power has the higher status; if tied on that score, in the one with the higher economic value; if tied again, in the one with the lower combat strength.
  11. In a war with the Ottomans or an unallied minor power, the same rules apply as with a Chinese Rebellion, except that if there are naval units on both sides, the power will also move in naval units, and the target before other factors are considered shall be the largest force where at least a 3:2 advantage can be obtained.
Play-by-mail rules.
Conquistador errata.

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Copyright © 1993 by Greg Costikyan and Robert Sacks. You may make any number of copies of this material for your own use and the use of other Pax Britannica players as long as this copyright notice remains affixed, but you may not incorporate this work in any for-sale product nor use it in any commercial capacity without the express permission of the copyright owners.