First off, let me say thank you to the Woodrings for hosting 60+ people in their home this weekend. I’m not sure how they managed to do it, and I’m definitely not sure how they managed to feed us, because we were all shoving food down our faces for the better part of the weekend. Don cooked up some burgers and hot dogs on Friday night and there was just about every kind of salad you can imagine…presumably made by his wife and Lori Wheeler and some others. Saturday night was barbecue grilled chicken and some fantastic ribs that basically fell off the bone.
Graham hosted a great tournament and is clearly very proud of the baby he’s built from the ground up. And he definitely should be…this was definitely my favorite tournament experience thus far and little of it having to do with the result. The venue is great, the views across the bay are unreal and we even managed to stave off the rain and have some good weather for the entire weekend.
I pulled up early Friday afternoon and walked into a house full of people already. Several arrived on Thursday and more came in on Friday morning. Chris Martin and a few others were wrapping up a game of Puerto Rico. Maletsky was enthralled in a series of chess matches with Hudson Dafoe and another group was finishing up a game of Endeavor. After a few introductions and some catching up, I dove into a game of Endeavor with Chris Martin, Joe Siesto, Buffalo, and a guy named Cyrille who’d flown in from France, apparently not for the first time, to attend Husky. Cyrille had played the game once and the rest of us were newbies. Robert Rousse came over to explain the rules to us as he apparently had plenty of experience with it. It was pretty hilarious sitting back and watching the next few minutes unfold as Chris, myself and Buffalo tried to concentrate on Robert’s explanations, comprehend the rules and also keep up with the tidbits of information the Frenchman would throw in at completely random times. You could tell Robert was trying to methodically and logically explain the game to us and Cyrille would jump in every few seconds with another thought or "helpful" suggestion. I was watching Robert as he slowly became more and more agitated during the process but managed to stay patient to the end. Cyrille was clearly trying to be helpful and had only the best of intentions in mind during the process, but was clearly oblivious to Robert’s growing frustrations. We managed to get through it all though and had a fun 90 minute game. Endeavor is a great game and plays up to five people if anyone is interested in buying it. It plays similarly to Puerto Rico from what Chris was saying, but also has its own nuances.
Alright, onto the diplomacy. Friday night’s round started up somewhere around 7 pm. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t on time, because Graham informed me that it’s tradition to start the rounds late at HuskyCon. You could tell, by looking around that this was going to be a large tournament. The kitchen was filled to the top with people as were the living room and dining room.
Joe Wheeler broke out his tournament software that he’s been working on for a while. Prior to that, he gave me a little tour of just how it works and how it’s different from the software most of the other tournaments are using. He has most, if not all, of the functionality of that software, including:
- Participant list with a checkbox to indicate attendance at each round
- Automatic board draws from the present attendees
- Spheres on the board and placing players in different spheres based on where they’ve already played.
For those unfamiliar, in tournament play, since there are three to four rounds typically, Tournament Directors try to place players in different regions or spheres on the board for each round to give them a good rounded experience for the entire weekend. They break down the board into three spheres:
- Western Sphere: England and France
- Central Sphere: Austria, Germany and Italy
- Eastern Sphere: Russia and Turkey
So Joe’s software did all of the above, but added a few additional things to the puzzle.
1. Rather than an outright placement into different regions on the board, he weights the spheres to highly influence and increase the probability that you end up in different spheres. However, it’s more similar to the NBA draft lottery as to where you end up. Just because you had the worst record in the NBA, doesn’t mean you get the first pick. Similarly, just because you played England, doesn’t mean you won’t play France in a different round.
2. Family influence – this is an interesting addition as it works to influence that players who are family members or play in the same cities such as the PTKSers are less likely to end up on the same board and if they do, are less likely to end up as neighbors.
He had a few other things in there that we didn’t really get to, but overall it was a cool piece of software. He’s also working to have the software set up to upload results automatically via the web to the brand new NADF website that is currently coming online. We also talked about a way to have it either spit out the formatted spreadsheet for Laurent’s website or figure out how to automatically update his website with the software.
Anyway, after all was said and done and the boards for Round 1 were called out, i found myself on board 5.
- Austria – Hudson Dafoe
- England – Tony Little
- France – Peter Yeargin
- Germany – Joe Cochrane
- Italy – Brian Ecton
- Russia – Chris Martin
- Turkey – Robert Rousse
Negotiations seemed to go well in the first year as England agreed to a DMZ in the channel and Brian was fine with the Piedmont, GoL, WMed line DMZ. Tony and I seemed to have a very good working relationship and because of that, I decided to roll into Burgundy in Spring, despite an agreed empty buffer zone there with Germany. Germany ended up in Ruhr, Holland and Kiel. Fall negotiations rolled around and when I sought out Germany to explain/lie about why I was in Burgundy, his words were, and I quote, "you’re in Burgundy. We have nothing to discuss.". Uh oh. Well, no problem. England is on my side, Ecton is in Tyrolia and Venice. Things are going just fine. I agreed to let the English grab Belgium and encouraged him to convoy the army in so we could roll into Germany in 1902.
Fall orders are read.
Italy: F Nap, F Rom
Uh oh. No problem. I’d prefer army, fleet. But ok.
England: F Lon, F Liv
Ah, crap. Ecton!! England tried to tell me don’t worry. That fleet build is going north. Seriously?? Thinking to myself, "You think I buy that?". Saying, ok, no problem. We can keep rolling along. We’ve got a good relationship. It’s a bit strained, but no problem. Needless to say, between England, Italy and a pissed off German, I was in trouble. I managed to hold out until 1908 or so, all the while trying to get England to turn around and to convince Hudson to stab Brian.
Chris and Robert couldn’t break through in the East and Brian kept grabbing centers off of me. England never really grew much and I’m not really sure how he ended up. I do know Brian and Hudson ended up well though and Brian topped.
Round 2 on Saturday morning came a little too quickly, but who needs sleep. Here was the draw:
- Austria: Chris Correo
- England: Joe Wheeler
- France: Brent Waddington
- Germany: Conrad Woodring
- Italy: Dave Maletsky
- Russia: Gary Stern
- Turkey: Peter Yeargin
Not a ton to say on this board. Dave and I agreed early on to work together with him building fleets and me concentrating on armies. This turned out to work very well for both of us as we were able to take out Austria and then I turned on Russia in the mid-game to pick up centers. Dave was sitting at 9, myself at 8 and Conrad was 6 or 7 when the first draw vote was called. I voted it down and I believe Conrad did as well. I still had a couple of fairly easy centers to grab in Russia that could put me up to board top.
Dave and I agreed to a line of armies along the Balkans and I grabbed my two centers. However, Dave wasn’t interested in a second place, and Conrad was looking to finish at least second. I decided to crash into Dave to grab what I could while Joe had staged a remarkable comeback to get up to eight. At one point he’d been down to 3 with France and Germany knocking on his door. However, he was able to hold out and as the North sorted itself out and people turned to slow down Dave and I, Joe was able to take advantage and reap the rewards.
I’d managed to grab a couple more dots off Dave and get up to 14. My position was precarious however and I knew I would lose at least 1, maybe 2 in the next game year. Joe was up to 8 or 9 and so was Dave. Dave wasn’t particularly interested in ending the game with me topping, considering I turned on him at the end. However, Joe was happy with the draw and Dave agreed to call it.
After Saturday’s round, I felt I had a very slim shot at winning the tournament. I knew it was going to take a solo and I knew it was going to have to be a quick one. Sloth called out the boards and I was on Board 1 downstairs in the basement on the big board.
- Austria: Jason (don’t know his last name)
- England: Steve from New York
- France: Robert Rousse
- Germany: Randy Lawrence Hurt
- Italy: Peter Yeargin
- Russia: Jonathan Hill
- Turkey: Don Woodring
We were a few minutes late starting the round, and on top of that, Don was still graciously cranking out omelets for everyone upstairs, which delayed us a few minutes more. We started around 10:45 or so, I believe.
First person I talk to is Jason. Seems like a really nice guy, we agree to the usual Venice Trieste friendliness and I indicate that my first goal is to kill Turkey if possible. I don’t need any fleets in the Ionian that aren’t green. Jason said he was definitely amenable to the idea. I asked him if he was bouncing in Galicia and he said probably not if he can help it. I asked about a possible 2 or 3 on 1 vs. Turkey with Jonathan helping out. He seemed to like the idea but hadn’t talked to Jonathan yet.
Next up, Robert in France. Goes something like this:
Me: "so are you thinking England or Germany here."
Robert: "I can’t work with Randy. Never have been able to. I’m going to kill him as quickly as possible."
Me: " Well, interesting. I’m not going near you. Let’s stay out of each other’s way and mind our own business".
Alright, let’s see what England has to say. Steve was a super nice guy and i don’t think he’d played many games, though i didn’t ask him specifically. He said it looked like France was on his side, but Germany also was being friendly.
Randy: "Robert and I don’t work well together. I also really want to kill Jonathan."
Pete: "Seriously, what’s with all the personality conflicts on this board? Does anyone like anyone down here?"
Randy: "I have no idea, but there is definitely some history."
Pete: "Well, I have no visions for Tyrolia, so let’s just stay friendly and keep in touch as the game progresses."
Randy: "Good for me."
I headed for Don.
"Hey Don, what’s your plan? I would love to stay out of each other’s hair if possible." (Lying through my teeth here.)
Don countered, "Well, I have no ill will towards you. I’m up for whatever."
"Are you and Russia bouncing in Black?", I asked.
"I don’t know, he doesn’t want to bounce."
"Ok, well, let’s stick together here. You build armies. I’ll build fleets. We can make this work."
The funny thing was I’d just had this exact same game last night with the roles reversed. I was Turkey and Maletsky was Italy. However, we’d worked it out and actually followed this prescription. It’s probably a necessary one for any IT relationship to have any chance at success.
Unfortunately for my relationship with Don, my thoughts were different. I knew I had to be fast and also aggressive to meet the timed deadline of somewhere between 3 and 5 pm. I didn’t know if this was going to take me attacking Austria right off, or working with him to help me out against Turkey prior to turning on him.
Let’s see what Jonathan is thinking. I wasn’t able to get a ton out of him as I don’t think he really had any particular plans to begin the game. I could tell he and Randy weren’t going to get along though. He said he and Austria were leaving Galicia open and he also told me that he and Don were leaving Black empty.
Orders were read:
- Austria: Vie-Bud, Bud-Ser, Tri-Alb
- England: Liv-Edi, Edi-Nwg, Lon-Nth
- France: Bre-Eng, Par-Gas, Mar-Spa
- Germany: Kie-Den, Ber-Kie, Mun-Sil
- Italy: Ven H, Rom-Apu, Nap-Ion
- Russia: War-Gal, Mos-Ukr, Sev H, Stp(sc)-GoB
- Turkey: Con-Bul, Smy-Bul, Ank-Bla
Wow…apparently nobody did anything they told me, except possibly for England. I’m not even sure why at this point, because none of it affected me. I’m guessing people were just using me as a source of misinformation at this point and clearly, I didn’t really need to know anyway. Robert’s move to the Channel threw me as I was almost certain he was heading for Randy, based on our first conversation. Jonathan was in Galicia to the Austrian’s chagrin and Germany had rolled right on over to Silesia. If you’d told me someone would violate an agreement and be in Black Sea after Spring ’01, I’d have bet the house it was going to be Jonathan and not Don. Clearly I should stick to betting on cards and not in Diplomacy.
The general result of the mess that was order reading in Spring 1901 was basically…well…a mess. It was actually kind of hilarious how many personality conflicts had already materialized on the board and how much animosity there was and we were just getting started. This is perfect, I thought to myself. Just sit back and let the Jonathan Hill magic work itself out.
Sure enough, chaos slowly began to ensue.
Austria and Russia were at odds over Galicia. Jonathan was ready to send everything at Don because of his Black Sea transgression. France and Germany had their sights set northward. And I was left with wondering what my next move should be. I knew if I wanted to go fast, that second build would be invaluable. I also had to make sure that if took it from Austria, he wouldn’t turn everything towards me in retaliation. Jonathan being in Galicia helped, but the German had somewhat spoiled my plan by walking into Silesia.
I decided to take Tunis with the army to give myself maximum velocity in the East. I could easily build army Venice to support Trieste in the Winter. I also encouraged England to move to Belgium. Robert indicated to me that he was going to test out London, but my gut told me he’d probably just take the likely sure build in Belgium, assuming Steve would cover London with North as that was his only option. I guessed, turns out wrong, that Steve might be able to bounce him in Belgium and keep him to two builds. I figured, worst case scenario, even if Robert walked into London, England still gets a build. England did get Belgium, Robert did walk into London for his three builds, and fleet Marseilles popped up on my horizon. Man, I suck.
Luckily, Robert had no intentions to head my direction and his fleet sailed to Spain the following Spring. I grabbed my two builds, including fleet Naples, and set my sights eastward. I convoyed Tunis to Albania and supported Trieste to hold. Jason only sent two units at it, so I was able to hold it. In the Fall, Jason offered to support me into Serbia, but I knew, based on my discussions with Jonathan and Don, that it wasn’t going to work. And I wasn’t in position to move on Don just yet. I needed another season or two. I decided to grab Greece with Don’s support and also supported myself in, just in case.
Spring ’03 is where the real fun began though. Don and I had a pretty solid working relationship at this point, but I knew it was about to end. I just didn’t really know how just yet. Don presented me with the solution. Seemingly innocently, Don said, I’m going to take Aegean to Greece just to keep you honest. I said, no problem. I don’t have any issues with that. After I looked at the board though, I saw an opportunity. Hitting Serbia with support with my Army in Greece, I could let Don into Greece while moving Ion-Aeg and Tys-Ion. His second fleet was trapped in the Black Sea and I could walk into Smyrna in the Fall. Now I just had to get the Austrian and Russian units to cooperate in such a fashion to let it happen. I was able to get enough information from both Jason and Jonathan to give me reasonable confidence it would succeed.
Don and I swapped Greece and Serbia, while I moved into Aegean. I grabbed Smyrna in the Fall for my 7th center and was able to slowly break Don down over the next two years and grow to 9 and then 10. Meanwhile, the rest of the board was still in general chaos. Robert was making steady, albeit slow, progress on England. Randy and Jonathan were going back and forth trading verbal jabs and nobody was paying a ton of attention to me. Once I hit 10, I did garner some attention, but I think at that point, the moods across the board were so soured that a banding together to slow me down was going to be a tall order indeed.
The next critical moment happened in the following year. In the Spring, I made my first aggressive move towards France, moving into Piedmont and Tyrrhenian Sea. Robert had an army in Burgundy and his closest fleet was in Irish Sea. I tried to sell it as a defensive move, but I don’t think Robert was buying what I was selling.
"You know I’m just going to bounce you and build a fleet, right?", Robert quipped.
"Yeah, I know. I can’t decide if I want to force you to build the fleet or let your army walk in there," I said.
"Well, it’s really up to you at this point."
I thought about it for a minute or two. Marseilles was across the stalemate line. I either needed that, or I needed St. Pete. There were no less than five Russian and English units surrounding St. Pete. That was going to be a tough nut to crack. I decided to give it a shot and ordered Pie-Mar. Worst case, I figured I have F GoL and A Pie with more fleets coming soon. France gets a build and pops down a fleet, but it could be worse. I think Robert outguessed himself here though as, instead of ordering Bur-Mar, he ordered Bur-Gas. He took a gamble that I wasn’t going to pull the trigger JUST yet. I however had decided I had to pull it now. My time was running short and I needed Marseilles.
Once I had Marseilles, the rest of it was fairly methodical. Randy and Robert tried to rally Jonathan to stop me. If they’d been successful, he probably might have at least slowed me down enough. However, Jonathan and Randy were so frustrated with each other, Jonathan convoyed Livonia to Finland as a last small stab. I walked into Moscow and Warsaw in the Fall to finish off the win. Jonathan could have bounced me in Moscow, but at that point, with me sitting on 15, it was a forced solo. However, unbeknownst to us, Graham had earlier decided to call the final round at 3:45pm. I walked into Moscow at about 3:30. I’m not sure if we have a chance to finish the game and if not, I don’t solo if Jonathan had decided to bounce me.
I walked the score sheet up to Graham at 3:41pm. He looked at me and said, "you had four minutes before the game ended." Talk about cutting it close.
Most people had to head out on Sunday afternoon after the awards ceremony, but for those of us who stuck around that night, it was another fun evening of relaxing, hanging out and surprisingly, breaking out into melodious (almost) singing. Jim O’Kelley’s talents were sorely, sorely missed as Graham broke out the guitar and he, Dave Maletsky and myself led the group in some raucous renditions of greats like American Pie, Cecilia, Brown Eyed Girl and many, many more. American Pie definitely had to be the best one and had the entire group of 20+ people belting out "So bye, bye Ms. American Pie, drove my chevy to the levy but the levy was dry…" over and over. I was actually shocked how many people knew so many of the lyrics. By about verse #9 and 7 minutes into the song though, the will to live was seeping out of the room. It was a valiant effort though by all.
What a weekend. I had a great time each and every night and I really enjoyed having Saturday and Sunday nights to get to know everyone more and relax. I will definitely be back next year, if Don let’s me in the door.