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What do you think: Mar S Par-Bur?

The Potomac Tea & Knife Society’s mailing list is lighting up with emails about the nature of Mar S Par-Bur. The context there was a Gunboat game, which may make a difference, but the debate spilled beyond that. We thought it might be fun to give you a chance to argue about it.

So, consider these questions, and then feel free to comment below.

  1. As France, why might you support yourself to Burgundy?
  2. Would you tell Germany?
  3. Does that make a difference?
  4. As Germany, how do you construe the move? Is it defensive, aggressive, an act of war?
  5. Does it make a difference whether France tells you he’s doing it?

Okay, talk amongst yourselves using the Comment feature below.

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This Post Has 25 Comments

  1. Peter Yeargin

    I’ll kick it off with my response to the thread.

    I must say this has been a hilarious discussion to follow. Having spent the past couple of weeks playing in Europe, I can chime in on the fact that they definitely do goto Burgundy more often (and with support) than we do in American Diplomacy. I was talking to Maletsky about this not long ago and he said he almost always covers Burgundy, primarily because of how bad of a position as France you find yourself in when a German army does sneak into Burgundy, especially with a corresponding English fleet in the channel.

    I personally think it’s a tough call as I typically prefer to leave Burgundy open myself. As you’ve seen in this thread, you can seriously antagonize Germany by doing this, even if you do tell them you’re doing it. One of my games in the European championships, I was Germany and my French neighbor “notified” me that he was going to Burgundy with support. I immediately went Kiel to Holland, Berlin to Munich and Munich to Ruhr and assured the English player he had my full support against France in whatever fashion he wanted. I’m normally pretty open and 50/50 when it comes to choosing an ally between France and England when playing Germany, but the move to Burgundy definitely put me highly in favor of supporting England.

    Gunboat dynamics are obviously different in general from normal F2F, but when the name of the game in Diplomacy is to have your opponents focused on fighting countries that are NOT you, it seems like a bad idea to openly antagonize one of your two primary neighbors by going at Burgundy. The Europeans love the ManorCon system where games end in 1908, and maybe it can be argued that a French move to Burgundy in such a system is suggested. In the open ended American style that is typical though here in North America, I still tend to lean the other direction unless your own diplomacy tells you that you probably have an issue with France and/or England. Only at that point do I tend to lean towards covering Burgundy. But diplomacy should be the reason for that decision IMHO, and not some fear of covering or protecting yourself.

  2. Christopher Michael Davis

    While I am not any where near the level of player that Master Yeargin is, I will take his bait and argue against him.

    If France says it is coming, it can be acceptable. A bounce in BUR in Spring does not allow Paris to advance. What’s more, it saves Germany from wasting a move on a planned bounce. This can be a defensive move, and I would promise German support into Belgium. I would also point out that a pointless stab on Munich is not going to help France unless France has an alliance with others, in which case Germany is in trouble anyway.

    I can imagine in our club though where you all are paranoid that it would be seen as a blatant anti-Germany opening. In the card game Magic the Gathering, tournament players talk about the metagame. In this context, it is not about what outcome you want others to have to manipulate the standings. In this context it means what style of play is popular. Like rock-paper-scissor, style A dominates style B which dominates style C which dominates style A. If you know that more people are playing A, B, or C, you know what strategy will be most effective. Diplomacy is more a game about people than it is about strategy, and knowing how someone will react to a given move alters the value of the move.

    The follow-on question is if you are France and Germany has left Munich open after A MAR S A PAR-BUR, what do you do next?

    We should make this into a poll…

  3. Christian MacDonald

    If it’s truly defensive, and you’re worried about the German slipping into BUR in Spring ’01, why not pre-plan the bounce from MAR, allowing PAR to advance to PIC.
    As the German player, I just don’t see a supported assault on BUR as anything but a problem for me, and if informed ahead of time, I’d be throwing the diplomatic sink at Italy to either bounce in TYR or negotiate it staying open.

  4. Jim O'Kelley

    [quote]If it’s truly defensive, and you’re worried about the German slipping into BUR in Spring ’01, why not pre-plan the bounce from MAR[/quote]
    Because if the damn Italians slip into Piedmont, you have a guessing game over Mar/Spa.

    Playing France, I don’t think Mar S Par-Bur is inherently aggressive. If I’ve arranged a bounce in Bur and then support myself in, then yes, that’s aggressive. Otherwise, I’m playing Mar S Par-Bur as a defensive move that allows me to cover Mar from Bur while still picking up Spain.

    Mar S Par-Bur, Bre-Mid is the only set of moves that guarantees a build for France in the face of hostile moves by all three of your neighbors. Now, if you think you may face hostile moves from all three of your neighbors, then it’s possible that you did something wrong in the negotiation phase. Or maybe it’s just not your day. Either way, this set of moves gets you a build and a chance to restart negotiations with your neighbors.

  5. Jim O'Kelley

    [quote]Mar S Par-Bur, Bre-Mid is the only set of moves that guarantees a build for France in the face of hostile moves by all three of your neighbors.[/quote]
    Moving Bre-Eng also guarantees a build.

  6. Peter Yeargin

    [quote]Because if the damn Italians slip into Piedmont, you have a guessing game over Mar/Spa.

    Playing France, I don’t think Mar S Par-Bur is inherently aggressive. If I’ve arranged a bounce in Bur and then support myself in, then yes, that’s aggressive. Otherwise, I’m playing Mar S Par-Bur as a defensive move that allows me to cover Mar from Bur while still picking up Spain.

    Mar S Par-Bur, Bre-Mid is the only set of moves that guarantees a build for France in the face of hostile moves by all three of your neighbors. Now, if you think you may face hostile moves from all three of your neighbors, then it’s possible that you did something wrong in the negotiation phase. Or maybe it’s just not your day. Either way, this set of moves gets you a build and a chance to restart negotiations with your neighbors.[/quote]

    I’d have to agree with all of what Jim said above. If the Italians do slip into Piedmont and/or you have an English fleet in the channel to go along with a German army in Bur, it’s definitely not your day.

    Don’t mistake what I said above as a statement against supporting a move into Burgundy. If I’m faced with the feeling, even slightly, that a German army may come into Burgundy, you can bet I’ll be heading there myself with support. However, that’s because I sense an aggressive Germany in my midst and want to cover myself as defensively as possible.

    But again, it’s really all about Diplomacy and perceptions of your neighbors and how they feel about you and whether they feel they can trust you. As everyone knows, the first two years of a Diplomacy game is when the initial alliances are borne out and also where the trust factor and the comfortability of working with your neighbors first comes into play. If I am France and want to establish trust with Germany, there is no chance I move to Burgundy. Me personally as a German player, I will at the least be very nervous to see a French army in Burgundy, with or WITHOUT support. I may understand they were being defensive and wanted to insure I wasn’t coming that direction.

    That’s all fair and good, but that move establishes no friendship or trust in me as a German player. Even a Fall move of Bur-Bel doesn’t really do much for me other than allow me to breathe a sigh of relief that he didn’t head for Munich, whether I covered it or not.

    In contrast, a French army in Picardy causes me to not only feel a sense of trust for the French player, but also allows, and MOST importantly, typically inclines me to focus my attentions elsewhere. That elsewhere may still be a coordinated attack on France with English support, but it also may very likely be an attack on England to get the Brits removed from my backside so I can really focus my attentions in a different direction.

    Diplomacy is a very long game with a lot of changes in the tides and momentum throughout, assuming a well played game by a majority on the board. Therefore, you have a lot of time to make changes in strategy, etc. But to me, the name of the game is still to grow large and do it with as little attention as possible, while fostering as much ill will as you possibly can on the opposite side of the board.

    You want a cluster on the other side of the board and you want an ally on your side of the board. I think that’s the best way I can describe my own perceptions of the game. Jim is much better at this than I am. I see him create complete clusters out of harmony on the other side of the board with just a little finagling here and a nudge there. I’m still working on that part of the game. Jim is clearly the master at it from my own experiences and honestly, it’s one of the things that drives me the most crazy about being on a board with him. It’s because I know without a doubt, no matter how well things appear to be going, he is over on the other side of the board, or mine, creating havoc. Obviously, I respect those abilities a lot, but it still doesn’t stop me from hating it!

  7. Jim O'Kelley

    I’ll add that if I’m playing Germany, and the French player’s opening line of negotiation is “I’m supporting myself to Burgundy,” as with Peter’s European example from above, well, that’s aggressive. Even if I’m France, and that’s my opening line, I’d say I was playing aggressively.

    Now, if France approaches me later in the negotiation phase and tells me that he thinks he may be in for it, that he’s hearing lots of rumors about anti-French activity, and that he feels he must defend himself with the supported attack, I’ll try to persuade him of my honest intentions, but if I fail, I’m not too concerned. I understand that a German army in Burgundy is much worse for France than a French army there is for Germany.

    If France is committed to that move, then Peter’s and Christian’s suggested responses are both good options. Still another is to lobby Italy hard for Ven-Pie. If France wants to be in Burgundy in case he needs to cover Mar, then I want him covering Mar in the Fall. I’d rather be in Ruh than Mun in the Fall, and if Bur has to cover Mar, Ruh has a say in Belgium or can even move to Bur. If I’m in Mun, my options pretty much are to hold or move to Bur.

  8. Jim O'Kelley

    [quote]Even a Fall move of Bur-Bel doesn’t really do much for me other than allow me to breathe a sigh of relief that he didn’t head for Munich[/quote]
    What about a Fall move of Bur S Ruh-Bel, as Chris suggested?

  9. Peter Yeargin

    [quote]What about a Fall move of Bur S Ruh-Bel, as Chris suggested?[/quote]

    It’s very, very tough for me to trust that move with a French army in Burgundy. I’d say 30% of the time, I’ll trust it and that’s only if I get a very good feeling from the French during negotiations.

    Otherwise, I either cover Munich or do something more interesting like offer support for the English. This may back fire for me and put one more army on the continent to attack my home centers, but sometimes that’s a better chance to take for me as it will at least foster good will with England.

  10. Jim O'Kelley

    [quote]Mar S Par-Bur, Bre-Mid is the only set of moves that guarantees a build for France in the face of hostile moves by all three of your neighbors.[/quote]
    The Australian Peter McNamara, who’s identical to our version but upside down, pointed out that there are numerous ways to guarantee a build for France that don’t require Mar S Par-Bur. Sorry. If your goal is to ensure a build, cover Burgundy.

    I’ll modify my statement as follows:

    In the face of hostile moves by all three of your neighbors, Mar S Par-Bur, Bre-Mid guarantees a build for France, gives you a reasonable shot at two builds, and puts you in the conversation about Belgium.

  11. Christian MacDonald

    [quote]In the face of hostile moves by all three of your neighbours, Mar S Par-Bur, Bre-Mid guarantees a build for France, gives you a reasonable shot at two builds, and puts you in the conversation about Belgium[/quote]

    True Dat. However, it could be argued that it seriously deteriorates your prospects of a solid working relationship with Germany (I believe the flurry of posts and expression of competing opinions on both sides bears this out). You may argue that you could diplomatically assuage the German by pointing out the purely defensive (albeit somewhat paranoid) nature of the opening, but if you’re relying on diplomacy to paper over the move, aren’t you better off focusing your “diplomacy” a priori to ensure your not facing the doomsday scenario of a three front war to begin with?

    In that regard, it’s my opinion that the supported move to Bur is much stronger in a gunboat game, without the ability ahead of time to determine the course of your neighbours through negotiation. Thus my belief that, in a standard F2F or email game, the opening is tactically sound, but unnecessarily diplomatically risky.

  12. Jim O'Kelley

    [quote]aren’t you better off focusing your “diplomacy” a priori to ensure your not facing the doomsday scenario of a three front war to begin with?[/quote]
    Absolutely. But one of the things that makes Diplomacy such a great game is that we can’t be sure of what the other players are doing until the moves are read. Certainly, a primary objective of Spring 1901 negotiations should be to ensure that your neighbors aren’t going to jump you. I’m saying that sometimes you have to trust your gut, and if your gut, and perhaps players on the other side of the board, tells you that you failed, then Mar S Par-Bur is an appropriate response.

    The risk is that if your gut was wrong, it may be difficult to patch things up with Germany. That’s something you have to weigh when you’re writing your orders. If you’ve talked with Germany in advance about the move, you’ll have a better idea of how easy it will be to back pedal.

    Burgundy is one of the flash points in the west. If it weren’t, and if there were only one correct answer to the question of French defense, then Diplomacy would be a much less interesting game.

  13. Greg Duenow

    I like PAR s MAR – BUR. It’s less aggressive, and gets you in position for the Seal Ion.

  14. Jim O'Kelley

    [quote]I like PAR s MAR – BUR.[/quote]
    In Toledo, they call that the Duenow Opening.

  15. Greg Duenow

    In Jim’s pants it’s called spaghetti and meetballz.

    šŸ˜”

  16. Christian MacDonald

    I’m curious. Has anybody (F2F, PBM, PBEM, or otherwise) played in a game that saw England move to the channel, Germany to BUR, and Italy to PIE – resulting in no French builds in the fall. Not saying that it doesn’t or can’t happen, but my sense is that it is very rare indeed (net of the usual “let’s gang up on Jim” type metagaming, of course šŸ˜‰

  17. Jim O'Kelley

    Off the top of my head, Game No. 2. Read about it here [url]http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/86645/central-power-showdown-game-no-2-report[/url]. Also, game No. 9 — [url]http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/123624/thom-goes-the-weasel-a-game-no-9-report[/url] — although France got a build in that one by ignoring the threats to Mar and Par.

  18. Jim O'Kelley

    We have 179 games in our database, counting tournament, premiere and exhibition games in addition to the 108 club games. France finished with three or fewer centers in 1901 only twice.

  19. Peter Yeargin

    [quote]I’m curious. Has anybody (F2F, PBM, PBEM, or otherwise) played in a game that saw England move to the channel, Germany to BUR, and Italy to PIE – resulting in no French builds in the fall. Not saying that it doesn’t or can’t happen, but my sense is that it is very rare indeed (net of the usual “let’s gang up on Jim” type metagaming, of course ;)[/quote]
    That happened to Dave Maletsky in Paris at EuroDipCon a couple of weeks ago. I believe he had three Frenchmen surrounding him. He actually supported himself to Burgundy, so he only had an English fleet in the channel and an Italian in Piedmont.

    However, he didn’t build because he chose to use Burgundy to bounce the English in Belgium rather than cover Marseilles. He was hoping to send a message to the German to build fleets and he would have Dave’s support. Unfortunately, the German was not assuaged and continued the attack and Dave’s unit line read 3, 3, 2, 2, 0.

    According to Dave, he played it brilliantly and as well as you possible could in that situation. The Italian apparently blew a fantastic position in the mid-game and finished in second place on the board.

  20. Jim O'Kelley

    [quote]Has anybody (F2F, PBM, PBEM, or otherwise) played in a game that saw England move to the channel, Germany to BUR, and Italy to PIE [/quote]
    I can also add that in every single Weasel and tournament game I’ve played as one of France’s neighbors, without exception and purely coincidentally, the three-power blitz of France has at least been [i]talked about[/i] in Spring 1901.

  21. Peter Yeargin

    [quote]Off the top of my head, Game No. 2. Read about it here boardgamegeek.com/…/…. Also, game No. 9 — boardgamegeek.com/…/… — although France got a build in that one by ignoring the threats to Mar and Par.[/quote]

    I love reading those old articles. That Game No. 2 article and Andy’s follow-up were a great read.

  22. Jim O'Kelley

    [quote]I love reading those old articles.[/quote]
    Speaking of, when I dropped off Kevin this morning, I looked through some old Diplomacy files, trying to find a couple of missing publications, and I got sucked into an endgame statement from a postal game that ended in, I think, 1999.

    Anyway, the missing publications are the newer (circa 1993) edition of the [i]Gamer’s Guide to Diplomacy[/i] and the photocopied (with permission) version of Richard Sharp’s [i]The Game of Diplomacy[/i]. I couldn’t find either, and I’m thinking I let a Weasel borrow them. I just can’t remember who. Whoever you are, if you’re out there, let me know. šŸ™‚

  23. Christian MacDonald

    I believe the Maletsky example would fall under the metagaming condition. I love that Dave considered the 1905 French elimination brilliant. I’m sure tactically it was.

  24. Greg Duenow

    I was in Maletsky’s position at Codcon between Bartlein, McClellend and Bert Schoose, and only holding off until ’04 because Bert felt bad for hosing me in the previous round. Bartlein and McClelland had solidified, and with an AI that toasted out Turkey and kept Russia at bay, there was little to keep EG occupied elsewhere. my only play was to give all my dots to Bert.

    France is hard to kill, but it can be done, and is easier done when played by a dumb ass like myself, or a bastard like Maletsky.

    I tried getting a similiar attack against Sundstrom at Guthrie’s, but he’s a gentleman and is very adept in keeping his diplomatic banter going strong, no matter the challenge. it failed horribly and he also topped the board.

  25. Mike Morrison

    Paris – Picardy, Marseilles – Piedmont wins against any move to Burgandy. If you’re worried about a German unit in Burgandy, just put the fleet in Gascony.

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