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No Turkeys at This Pyle

Season 14 concluded with a Pyle held just before Thanksgiving, as we shift our season to coincide with the calendar year.  This was also the first Pyle to be held at our favorite watering hole, the Red Lion.  This year’s edition saw Clockwork Chris Kelly complete his late charge up the standings to claim his first Weasel of the Year.  Chris topped his last three boards to claim the title.  Cori Neslund won the Amanda Baumgartner Rookie of the Year award.

Here’s how the games went down:

Game No. 394: The Clock Finally Strikes Midnight

Chris Kelly entered the Pyle in 3rd place, needing a good score to take home the regular season title.  He got it, passing defending WotY Brandon Fogel in the process.  See Chris’s AAR on this game below.  The game ended in Spring 1906 in the following center counts:

Austria (Cori Neslund): 1, 0.385 points.
England (Pete McNamara): 3, 3.462 points.
France (Brandon Fogel): 8, 24.615 points.
Germany (Kevin O’Kelly): 1, 0.385 points.
Italy (Brian MacWilliams): 4, 6.154 points.
Russia (Chris Kelly): 12, 55.385 points.
Turkey (Mike Morrison): 5, 9.615 points.

Game No. 395: The Scorpion Crosses the River

Weasel rookie Bennett Kalsevic made her Pyle debut and scored an impressive center count opposite resident Weasel/Scorpion hybrid Christian Kline.  Kline secured a spot in the Royale with the big result.  The game ended by draw vote in Spring 1907 with the following center counts:

Austria (Bryan Pravel): 3, 3.147 points.
England (Bennett Kalcevic): 9, 28.322 points.
France (Mike Whitty): 4, 5.594 points.
Germany (Brandon Fogel): 6, 12.587 points.
Italy (Dan Perlman): 0, 0.000 points.
Russia (Brian Shelden): 0, 0.000 points.
Turkey (Christian Kline): 12, 50.350 points.

Game No. 396: Second Chances 

Enough players were ready for a second chance that we got a board going with bar timing, which ended by draw vote in 1905 with the following center counts:

Austria (Dan Perlman): 3, 4.167 points.
England (Mike Whitty): 6, 16.667 points.
France (Cori Neslund): 7, 22.685 points.
Germany (Mike Morrison): 5, 11.574 points.
Italy (Brian Shelden): 4, 7.407 points.
Russia (Pete McNamara): 0, 0.000 points.
Turkey (Kevin O’Kelly): 9, 37.500 points.

The annual awards ceremony followed. Chris Kelly took Top Weasel (2.83 board-tops). Cori Neslund won the Amanda Baumgartner Rookie of the Year Award.

Chris Kelly won his first Weasel of the Year.

The Best Country Awards went to:

Austria: Bryan Pravel
England: Ali Adib
France: Brandon Fogel
Germany: Jake Trotta
Italy: Mike Morrison
Russia: Chris Kelly
Turkey: Christian Kline

The Sneak election produced three new board members: Cori Neslund, Mike Morrison, and Dan Perlman join incumbents Bryan Pravel, Brandon Fogel, Kevin O’Kelly, and Christian Kline.

We concluded the festivities with the traditional striking of the Regimental Choir, after which a handful of us gave the Red Lion some more business and decided the future of the country.

Chris Kelly’s WotY-winning AAR

It’s safe to say that I benefited enormously from the extended 2019 season.  Two weeks before the originally scheduled Weasel Pyle in August, I had played in 4 league games, and had accumulated a grand total of 13 supply centers in those games.  Three months and 3 games later, I’d topped 2 boards, shared another board-top, and wound up in 1st place in the league standings. Which I guess goes to show that in Diplomacy as in life, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over (and in some cases not even then).

One irony of capping that sudden run of success with this game is that I’d played Russia less often than any other power (only 6 times in nine years as a Weasel), and never particularly well, ending with 4 centers or fewer in all of the most recent games. Another irony – or maybe it’s a lesson? – is that I put up a title-clinching score playing a style that felt completely opposite of my cautious, “Clockwork Chris” reputation. 

I generally pride myself on not engaging in “1-dot stabs” (i.e., attacks based not on a strategic choice of allies/enemies, but just the desire to grow in that particular game year), and even use that philosophy as a selling point in negotiations. My game here, though, was almost nothing but opportunistic, short-term swiping of supply centers – including two in the same turn in Fall 1902. Looking back, it’s amazing that I did so well despite demonstrating my perfidy so early. 

By the end, I’d set what I’m sure is a personal record (and perhaps a rare event in Diplomacy overall): at some point during the game, I “dotted” every single player on the board. Even leaving aside the usual conflicts over Norway/Sweden and Rumania, I took Ankara from Turkey, Budapest from Austria, Vienna from Italy, Denmark from Germany, Kiel from England, and finally Munich from France. Oh, and every one of these attacks was suggested and/or directly assisted by other players, which demonstrates the absence of any genuine alliances in this game.

The game itself, 1901-02: I was in uncharted territory from the start, and not just because of my relative inexperience as Russia.  Not harboring any great hopes of changing my place in the club standings or even topping the board, I decided in advance I wanted to open with 2 units to the north, simply because I’d never tried it before. Inspired in part by an unorthodox choice by Dan Perlman in a recent game (where he opened with 3 units going north!), I thought maybe being less obviously determined to take Rumania in 1901 would help persuade Germany (Kevin O.) to let me into Sweden. 

That part of the logic worked, especially combined with a promise to use the resulting build to put an anti-English fleet on the north coast of St. Petersburg. But in seeking peace agreements that would let me get away with only devoting 2 units to the south, both Turkey (Mike M.) and Austria (Cori) agreed to DMZ the Black Sea and Galicia, respectively. I opted to use the resulting tactical flexibility to move F Sev->Rum to encourage further A/R cooperation.

To my modest surprise, both Cori and Mike lived up to the DMZ agreements, *and* Kevin let me into Sweden. So I built the promised F St.P (nc) and launched my assault on Scandinavia… which I promptly botched tactically.  Kevin had let me into Sweden, but telegraphed his desire to take it himself in 1902 by moving a fleet to Skagerrak and an army into Denmark. Because I had 3 units in the north, I wasn’t worried about having to recapture Sweden – but failed to foresee that the English F Nwy would retreat into the Barents Sea, threatening my empty St. Petersburg. Meanwhile, Germany brought another army north to Denmark, giving him 3 units as well to defend Sweden. In combination with the 2 English fleets bordering Norway, I was outnumbered.

Thinking too hastily, I offered England (Pete M.) a deal where if his F Nth would cut support from one of the German units, F Nwy would take Sweden, letting F Barents walk in unopposed. Pete wisely recognized what I forgot to consider: if I left Norway without holding it in a fall turn, he wouldn’t have to reoccupy it – so F Barents opted instead to walk into St. Petersburg unopposed (d’oh!). (In retrospect, I should have made the same offer, but taken a chance on not getting Sweden back & moved F Nwy->St.P to keep England honest. If I’d done that, as it turned out I could’ve ended 1902 with all three centers.)

I rescued myself from my northern miscalculations by turning amoral in the south. Italy (Brian M.) had caught Cori off guard and stolen both Trieste and Vienna in 1901; Austria and Turkey had left their backs unguarded in order to fight off the threat he now posed (and fight each other). In spring 1902 I moved A War->Gal and F Rum->Black Sea intending to shore them up, but my self-inflicted northern crisis meant I needed supply centers to build reinforcements (and avoid removing units). So I took Cori’s suggestion that I slip my fleet into Ankara, while accepting Brian’s offer of Italian support in taking Budapest. The added two dots meant that despite losing St. Petersburg, I could build A Moscow to help recapture it.

 

1903->end: The dual stab in F02 turned the tide in my favor for the rest of the game. After opening south in S01 and then having to fend off an English move to the Channel, France (Brandon) had recovered his balance enough to threaten both England and Germany, so now both had to deal with opponents on two fronts in addition to their mutual mistrust. (My northern gambit likely helped Brandon in both regards, as my attack on Scandinavia forced them to send units north, and informing Pete that Kevin had signed off on my plans to build F St.P (nc) undermined his willingness to work with Germany thereafter.).

Unable to defend St. Petersburg, England retreated to Norway, and suggested/supported me in attacking Denmark for good measure. I took Norway on the next turn anyway, as Pete focused on partnering with France briefly to dismantle Germany.  Seeking revenge, Kevin’s last army in Berlin supported me in taking Kiel from Pete, and then Munich from Brandon (even as I supported the latter into Holland). Meanwhile, despite some inconsequential dot-swapping in the south, Turkey and I remained cordial enough that Mike cut an Italian support in Trieste, enabling me to capture Vienna.

With 12 centers going into Spring 1906, I proposed a draw, and everyone else accepted in order to create time for the second-chance game. It’s possible that I was at an unsustainable high-water mark – had all of the other powers immediately begun coordinating to stop me, I could have been pushed back. But given how much fighting had been going on between, they might have had trouble cooperating enough to make it work.

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