Sunday, 14 August 2016 11:30

The Old Guard advances

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In a season dominated by the club's New Guard--in terms of games played and boards topped--it was the vaunted Old Guard that crested the ridge on the final day of play yesterday at our 11th Weasel Pyle in Wayne. Carrying the colors were Eric Brown, Christian Kline and Matt Sundstrom, veterans of our first, third and ninth games, respectively.

Here's how the games went down on a beautiful summer day at Castle Brown, Eric's stately home in bucolic Wayne.

 

 

Game No. 308, In the Two-Story Library
This one ended by draw vote in Spring 1908 in the following center counts:
 
Austria (Brian Shelden): 6; 14.754 points.
England (Bryan Pravel): 8; 26.230 points.
France (John Ritz): 0; 0.000 points.
Germany (Jake Trotta): 8; 26.230 points.
Italy (Ted McClelland): 0; 0.000 points.
Russia (Brandon Fogel): 4; 6.557 points.
Turkey (Eric Brown); 8; 26.230 points.
 
Afterward, it was fun to watch Bryan Pravel commend Eric for his play. The new guys still haven't run into everyone yet, so there's often a sense of wonder when they encounter one of the longtime vets. We're not all as active as we'd like to be, that's for sure, but there are a lot of players in the club who can play.
 
Game No. 309, In the Dining Room
This one ended by draw vote in Spring 1907 in the following center counts:
 
Austria (David Spanos): 0; 0.000 points.
England (Barry Preece): 1; 0.313 points.
France (Christian Kline): 11; 37.813 points.
Germany (Tony Prokes):1; 0.313 points.
Italy (John Gramila): 2; 1.250 points.
Russia (Matt Sundstrom): 12; 45.000 points.
Turkey (Don Glass): 7; 15.313 points.

Kline was in fifth place going into the game. He was in second when it ended. Sundstrom, meanwhile, needed a result to crack the Royale field, something he's failed to do only once before. With this board top, he climed into sixth place.

The supply center charts are here. Players, tell us the real stories.

More Pyle coverage is coming, but I need to sign off now. Give me a few days.

Read 355 times Last modified on Saturday, 10 September 2016 15:21
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+3 # Matt Sundstrom 2016-08-17 11:53
A few quick words on 309. Key for Russia (in this club) is getting to fall 1902 with some viability. That became my immediate goal. I figured I did not have immediate allies in Austria and Turkey and bounces would be necessary. Planned for them in Bla and Gal. Followed through on Gal but moved Sev-Arm instead of Bla. That happily bounced Smy-Arm and made fall 01 much more comfortable. France's forced support into Bur prompted Germany to allow me Sweden so I ended up at 6 after 1901. Whew.

1902-1904 was opportunistically working with/against Austria or Turkey. I expected to work with Austria long-term. But he got out of position and made a stab appealing. I also worked with England to stab Germany at the same time. Not in the habit of hitting two decent-sized allies at the same time but it was appropriate here. Germany went down to three and Austria was boxed in.

Remainder of game working to slow down France while growing myself. I wish England had turned on him sooner as France took Lon and Lvp while the blue units fought in Scand and it was clear France could hurt England. But I ended up eventually growing to 12 including taking Munich from France. Christian went to 11 after that. I had the result I needed to make the top 7 and voted for the draw.

Thanks to Eric and my co-players. Always a pleasure to attend the Pyle.
+2 # Bryan Pravel 2016-08-18 10:22
Going into the Pyle I had only one goal. Make it to the Weasel Royale. I've never been on a top board and have always wanted this experience. I knew my scores were not great. I was in 6th place and there were a couple of players playing this weekend who could bump me off the board. In particular, I knew that Matt Sundstrom was hungry and would be fighting hard to make it. This meant I didn't need to beat the players in front of me, but I felt like I did need to increase my lowest score to protect my position.



When I started WCW#308 I wasn't sure if there was going to be one game or two, so I decided that if I was in position to get points, I would take them. Jake (Germany), Brandon (Russia), and Brian S. (Austria) were both ahead of me in the standings. The only way I could catch them was with a solo. Ted (Italy) and I have played a couple of times now and I knew he doesn't meta-game. He was there to enjoy this game. I had not played with John (France) or Eric (Turkey) before, but neither were in position to knock me off of the top board (outside of a solo result) so I wasn't too worried about their scores. This meant there were no players on the board I needed to beat. I could work with anyone. My competition was all on the other board and there was nothing I could do about it besides get a good score myself.



From the get-go I had offers to work with Germany (Jake), and Russia (Brandon). France (John) came out and told me his opening moves, and he said he was moving to MAO. As many of you know, I like opening to ENG when I draw England, so I started exploring if Jake or Ted (Italy) would be willing to pile on against France. France is a difficult country to tackle. Brandon wanted to try the "Top of the World" alliance (E/R) and I've always wanted to try this. My initial provisional orders were to order in such a way to make this happen. However, Ted seemed open to the idea of moving to PIE and joining an early attack against France so that was just too good an opportunity for me to pass up. I decided to open to ENG, but instead of moving to Wales so that I was 100% committed against France, I sent my army to YOR to leave other options open. Jake wasn't willing to move to BUR (he was opening standard), so I didn't want to put all my eggs in one basket (I made that mistake earlier in the year).



Brandon (Russia) and I chatted in the fall and discussed the option of continuing the top of the world alliance. I am pretty sure France (John) would have been in for sure. The problem was that I saw an R/T and Italy (Ted) was heading west. I knew that I would need help against Italy so that I could get the Iberian centers. If Austria (Brian) collapsed quickly, Italy would be able to get a few builds and I would in effect be helping Eric (Turkey) win the Italian centers. As a result, I felt the right move for me was to try and keep Russia from growing too quickly to reduce pressure on Austria. Jake (Germany) saw that I was in ENG and Ted was in PIE, so it was pretty easy to pitch the follow on "let's all get a piece of the French pie" moves. I took NWY and Germany supported me into BEL. I built two fleets (including one in LVP) and was committed against France. If Italy had not been moving west, my strategy here would have been very different.



As an aside, I prefer my second build to be an army when I play England. My fear was that France could swing around into IRI, but I think in this scenario, the army could have helped with defense and he would have been so badly out of position. I am starting to think building F LVP was a mistake. Either way, I was pretty pleased at the time.



From that point on, I was committed to the E/G. This alliance has a weird dynamic in that growth is not even. It goes in spurts. Germany will grow faster at first, but then hit a "dry patch" while they cross the “dead lands” in PRU/SIL/BOH. England will be behind until they start to pick up Iberian centers. Scandinavia is usually the "swing" area where dots can be traded as appropriate. This particular flavor of the E/G was even more unusual because in an effort to help out Austria, I took a flyer on STP in S1902 (and got in) and ended up with an army in MOS in F1902. This helped me "keep pace" somewhat with Germany from an SC standpoint, but I was horribly overextended and out of position. I think it was in 1903 Jake built a 3rd fleet. This was a huge warning sign to me. Germany does not need 3 fleets in the E/G. We had a long talk that season and Jake said he had never gone across the line with an ally but was willing to do so this game. I believed him. I agreed to turn my army in Russia over to him (basically it became German) and he agreed to send his fleet into the Baltic. Once I saw that he was truthful, I knew that our alliance was going to last. Jake could have crushed me that year had he wanted to.



What we failed to do though was accurately discuss tactics. After I took BRE I swung around into WES. I decided that at that stage taking SPA and getting a build was more important that position, so I asked for support from Jake in GAS. I got the support, it was just for the wrong unit. As a result, Jake went up 3 that turn and I had no builds. Jake could have stabbed me again from this position and he chose not to. That was fortunate for me, but I was never able to recover from this position. I lost my tempo and became stagnant. I am of the opinion that this was actually pretty bad for Jake. If I had gotten that build from SPA, I have a realistic shot of locking up the MED, and I think we might have ended up with the position to move armies through MAR and MUN. With me getting locked up at MAO, we just couldn't sustain our pace across the line.



Around this point in the game I started getting offers to stab. I never felt like I was in position to do so. I might be able to grab a dot, but nothing to really drive in the knife and get the points I needed. Besides, Jake had been loyal and passed on a couple of stabs and I didn't take that lightly. Jake was in the "dead zone" and would not be getting builds very easily at this stage of the game so I didn't feel an urgent need to stab now. I felt it would be better to keep trying for Iberian dots and wait to see what happened.



Towards the end of the game, a draw vote was suggested and Jake vetoed. I probably would have vetoed as well because I still needed Iberia. Jake kept growing by taking an Austrian dot and asked for another Draw. This time Brian S. (Austria) vetoed. I kept chipping away at Iberia and waiting for the board to shake up a little. I didn't see my position improving so I asked Brian and Eric what it would take for them to agree to a draw. They basically said they wanted to see me stab and Germany not on top of the board. I looked over the board, did some math, and realized that I might have a chance to improve my score if I made the stab. I agreed, but in reality decided I'd just set myself up for the option and decide next turn.



I have misordered at least once in every game. I have been my own worst enemy. It took me 15 games, but I am proud to say that game 308 was my first game without a single misorder. However, despite my best efforts, the "Saga of the Unraveling Sweater" continued. While trying to set up the stab, Austria, Turkey, and I discussed rotating my fleet around from SPA (NC) into MAO and MAO into SPA (SC). The goal was to set up a potential play on MAR the following turn. I thought that had enough self-interest by A/T to be believable so I made the shift as they suggested. We were clearly not on the same page because I made those orders, and Austria ended up in MAO. To compound the issue, I made an awful retreat and went to IRI instead of GAS. I was scrambling. I could see the threads of the sweater starting to fall apart and decided I wanted to end the game now. I made the stab, increased my league score (by a tiny 2 points I think), and we ended with a 3 way tie for board top at 8 SCs. Had I continued the game I think I had a shot at possibly one more dot, but I would have had a vengeful German and a Turk in position to take advantage better than I could. I felt agreeing to the draw was the right move.



Overall, I think game 308 is a decent reflection of where I feel I am as a player right now. I have improved from when I started. I am less stressed by the clock and while I still am making some horrible misorders (case in point, the previous bar game in which I failed to get a single build in 1901) they are becoming less frequent. I still struggle diplomatically when I feel I have multiple “good” options on the table, need some serious work with my tactics, and struggle with timing for stabs. That being said, this was my favorite stab I've made all year. I felt awful personally because I was throwing away the loyalty of a friend who went out of his way to help make me successful, but from a game standpoint I feel this was the right move. As a whole, I feel that I am a mid-level player who has made some improvements, but I still have a long way to go. Which is good because I love this game. :D



Another area of my game I am not as sure about is metagaming. I have huge respect for those players who say "if I have good results on the board, metagaming won't matter." The problem is that I don't think am not quite to the level where I feel I can do that. I believe that metagaming is part of the "league variant" or "tournament variant" of Diplomacy. It's an aspect of the game and is not a "bad" or "good" thing anymore than the timing or scoring system that is used. However, I think towards the end of the season I became quite focused on it and I'm not sure it really helped my game any. I think it will be healthy for me to have the season reset so I can focus on each board individually again.



I played 15 games with the Weasels this season and feel I improved in each of them. I hope to play even more games next season and can't wait to see what I have learned and how I have grown as a player at this time next year.
+2 # Jake Trotta 2016-08-19 13:14
Well, after my 6 week break after Worlds, I’m happy to be back and playing diplomacy again. I drew Germany, which, in my mind, is the most fun country to play. I came into this game as Germany with some interesting outside the board incentives. I was safe for the Royale, but I needed to score a 70 (so pretty much a solo) to catch Brandon for the Weasel of the Year award. I could pass Jim and Brian with a solid score, say a 35, but felt kinda “meh” about that. Much more interestingly, I played as Germany at worlds and had a tremendous ally that I stabbed because I wanted a bigger score and because I had never crossed the stalemate line with an ally before. That board at worlds made me see this as a weakness in my game. Because I couldn’t do much to make meaningful progress in the league standings, I used this game to expand my diplomacy toolbox. More on this later.


The North was three members of the new guard-Brandon, Bryan, and myself- and John, who I’d played with once. John announced that he was going to not move to Burgundy or Channel, so Bryan and I did the responsible thing as weasels and moved to Burgundy and Channel on him (Bryan noted that I did not go to Burgundy in his recap, that is incorrect as I had to support Ted into Marseilles.)


Speaking of which, I supported Ted (Italy) into Marseilles in Fall 01. Now, I’ve done this twice as Germany. I’ve been criticized both times, but I LOVE this move. In the short term, does this really help me? No-sure, he promised help into Paris, but he might not deliver when Iberia is so tasty and so nearby. I do it for the long term.


Germany needs a southern buddy. Austria is a southern buddy that can kill you eventually; Italy is not. Austria can’t help you slow down France or England, Italy can. Italy is also easier to wrestle Iberia away from than England. In my two weasel iterations of “hey Italy we’re going to be superfriends,” I’ve board topped or split the top both times. If you can get England to go after Russia (or accidentally strand himself in Moscow like Bryan did), you put yourself in great long term German shape.



After some awkward “Am I going to get murdered brutally by an RT?” in 02, I put myself in a position in 03& 04 where I got to, essentially, pick my ally between England and Italy. With my armies in France, I was kingmaker for who would take Iberian dots that both of them needed. In most scenarios, you go with Italy there. But despite losing track of the number of times Bryan left himself open for stabs, I thought back to my board at worlds, thought Bryan is a reliable enough guy, and decided to try to cross the stalemate line together.


We weren’t terribly successful, partially because I messed up a support into Iberia that made England lose cadence, but hey it was a wonderful learning experience. I tried to make a “let’s do something creative, shake-up-the-board” offer to Brandon that got botched, I overreacted, and I went from a 9 center board top to 11 to a draw at a 3 way split 8 center top.


Bryan was super loyal until this last year of the game, where he stabbed me. Credit to the other side of the board (particularly Mr. Shelden) for helping that along. I thought about vetoing and just going full attack dog (WHICH IS AMAZINGLY FUN AS GERMANY), but decided to just take the draw.
Last note-shout out to Eric Brown. Tremendous host and a tremendous time.
# Bryan Pravel 2016-08-19 18:31
Intersting perspective on Italy as an ally for Germany over Austria. I have always been a fan of the central triple (my second favorite alliance outside the I/R and the only Triple I really like) but have never really considered the I/G as a long term option. With how poorly Russia does in our club I might be willing to try this out.

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