Sunday, 23 July 2017 10:11

Walk off?

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Reigning Weasel of the Year Brandon Fogel knocked a batting-practice fastball out of the park earlier this month on Red Wednesday at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square to snatch the league lead from rival Jake Trotta. Fogel drew a Germany bordered by inexperienced players, and he teed off on them, posting the largest non-solo score in the club's Sum of Squares era, a whopping 82.571. With only two scheduled dates remaining--August 9 at the Red Lion and the Weasel Pyle on September 2--this ballgame appears to be over.

Played July 12, Game No. 345 ended by time limit after the Fall 1906 turn in the following center counts:

Austria (Ali Adib): 5; 7.143 points.
England (Nicole Campbell): 3; 2.571 points.
France (Kevin Zhou): 1; 0.286 points.
Germany (Brandon Fogel: 17; 82.571 points.
Italy (Mick Johnson): 3; 2.571 points.
Russia (Gus Spelman): 1; 0.286 points.
Turkey (Ted McClelland): 4; 4.571 points.

The supply center chart is here. Players, what happened?

Read 943 times Last modified on Monday, 21 August 2017 16:10
More in this category: « A pack of rats Always a Weasel »

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# Brandon Fogel 2017-08-01 09:39
On batting practice
First things first: this game was not the softball that Jim made it out to be (even Jake, in my defense in the recent Weekly Weasel, http://windycityweasels.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1143, described it as “herding kittens”). This board included the 3rd and 4th place players in the league standings (Mick and Ali), as well as an experienced player who had just won Best Turkey at Weasel Moot (Ted). Gus is an up-and-comer, and while Nicole was only playing in her 5th game, one of those was a 53-point board top.

In short, this was not the easy game the score might suggest. The draw looks favorable to me in retrospect, but that wasn’t obvious at the time. In fact, when Brian Shelden was replaced in France by a late newcomer, Kevin Zhou, I thought my chances of a good game had dropped, for reasons I’ll explain below.

Broadly, I got the big result for two reasons: 1) I found a good ally in the West who didn’t mind allowing me to be the senior partner, and 2) the players in the East were either too slow in response or unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices. Granted, the window for response was small, but I get some credit for that. In general, I read the board well and managed relationships particularly effectively. Almost everyone wanted to be my ally most of the game.

The West
Brian was replaced by Kevin, who arrived halfway through the first negotiation period. We gave him a tutorial and restarted negotiations. At the time, I thought this change would work against me; I thought Nicole in England would have been more interested in attacking Shelden than a brand new player. I was partly right.

Neither Kevin nor Nicole were interested in attacking each other out of the gate, so we agreed on a Western Triple, which held firm for the first two years. By the end of 1902, however, Russia was down to two units, and that forced a decision on Nicole. Her expansion options within the alliance were limited, and she was going to have to attack either me or France. Kevin was poised to take Tunis in 1903, so there wasn’t similar pressure on him.

The club has an unwritten rule against attacking first time players without provocation before 1903. I generally don’t do it at all. But something in the west was going to break, so I was open. My plan was to see if Kevin or Nicole were willing to make the first move against the other. If neither were, then I would stick with the Western Triple. Kevin wanted to stay the course, but Nicole wanted to unsheathe the dagger hidden in her boot. She built F Lvp and I moved into Picardy in S03.

The East
1901 saw an AT that was initially to Turkey’s benefit. The big loser was Russia, who got hit by all four neighbors. Gus dropped to 2 by the end of 02 and never recovered, although he (very impressively) managed to avoid elimination. Italy didn’t stab Austria in 01, but in 02 was given Trieste while Austria took both Rumania and Bulgaria from the Turks. It’s possible Mick and Ali were planning an AI from the beginning and the 01 AT was just a ruse to ensure there was no Juggernaut. Not sure.

This particular arrangement of discord in the East couldn’t have been better for me. Russia’s collapse provided room to grow, while hostilities between evenly matched Turkey and Austria meant they wouldn’t benefit as much as I would. The AI meant that Italy would be able to resist France, so he wouldn’t grow as fast as I would.

What makes this interesting is that both Ali and Ted sniffed out the Western Triple in 1901. I can’t speak to the particular reasons for their fighting in 1902, but I think they needed to avoid that at all costs. I think they needed to form a legitimate triple alliance (either RAT or AIT) immediately and not muck around until the Western Triple began to fray.

The Zen of Diplomacy
In 1905 and 1906, my score rose from good to astounding because my ally, Nicole, genuinely didn’t mind my taking her dots. It won’t surprise the reader to learn that the other players didn’t quite understand this. But Nicole had a certain set of goals for the game, which didn’t include maximizing her score. She wanted to survive, have a good alliance, and improve tactically. Those fit perfectly with my goals, which did include maximizing my score.

Diplomacy players often like to argue about what each other’s goals *should* be. I tend to think that the main (but not only) reason for playing a game is to win, and so winning should be the primary goal. But I recognize that this logic is not strictly valid, that you can’t get a “should” from an “is” (see Hume’s famous “is-ought problem”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Is–ought_problem).

The game of Diplomacy’s greatest virtue is that it contains a rich set of attractive goals. The skilled player determines his or her opponents’ goals and uses that knowledge to advantage; telling one's opponents what they should think is counterproductive. Rather than complain about how things ought to be, it's best to accept them as they are. Go with the flow rather than fight it. The Zen of Diplomacy.
# Jake Trotta 2017-08-01 16:56
Quoting Brandon Fogel:
On batting practice
First things first: this game was not the softball that Jim made it out to be (even Jake, in my defense in the recent Weekly Weasel, described it as “herding kittens”).

...


In 1905 and 1906, my score rose from good to astounding because my ally, Nicole, genuinely didn’t mind my taking her dots.


Meow, that worked out as purrfectly as pawsible!



Jokes aside, herding kittens is freaking hard, and BTOABrandon's "Zen of Diplomacy" is 100% accurate. People play the game for different reasons. The winner isn't often the fiercest competitor, but those that move the best within the competition.
# Chris Martin 2017-08-09 15:58
Eventually someone is going to figure out that this Brandon guy is pretty good ....

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