Sunday, 01 January 2017 12:13

Trotta Arrabiata

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Jake Trotta has been spicy hot lately. In last Wednesday's bonus game at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square, the resurgent Trotta bagged his third board-top (counting the Brawl Championship) in four tries, and this one was another whopper.

Game No. 323 ended by time limit after the Fall 1907 turn in the following center counts:

Austria (Nicole Campbell): 0; 0.000 points.
England (Matt Sundstrom): 7; 13.388 points.
France (Pete McNamara): 6; 9.836 points.
Germany (Ian Trotta): 0; 0.000 points.
Italy (Jake Trotta): 16; 69.945 points.
Russia (John Gramila): 5; 6.831 points.
Turkey (Don Glass): 0; 0.000 points.

The supply center chart is here. Players, what were you thinking?

Read 2101 times Last modified on Sunday, 29 January 2017 16:26

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+3 # Jake Trotta 2017-01-01 19:29
“Diplomacy Adolescence”


You never forget your first time. You can’t watch a teen movie without hearing the phrase. It doesn’t matter if you feel like you’ve earned it or if it’s all that particularly satisfying, you just want to be part of that club. There’s a certain sense of anxiety and anticipation that comes with that. It’s pretty exhilarating just to get close.

Obviously, I’m talking about solos. I did not solo for the first time during this game, but I had a shot at it in the last year.

Did I earn that shot? No. One of the amazing things about life, sports, and diplomacy is you rarely get close to what you deserve, good or bad. Football has a stat for this-win expectancy based on a game’s statistical profile. Michigan had an 83% win expectancy against Ohio State, and the football gods abandoned them an inch short.

I “earned” a board top and probably a 12ish center result in this game. But it was the diplomacy gods and the wonderful, mystifying, bearded Magic 8 ball of a man in John Gramila that gave me a shot heading in that final season.
But on the final read, that very same Magic 8 ball came up “better luck next time.” Guess I’ll have to wait.

Still, absolutely thrilled to have had such a fun time (and score).


How it happened: Early game

I love the White Elephant selection order because it allows me to play my worse countries and introduces some meta elements before the game starts. In my last game, I chose Russia because I suck at Russia. This game, I wanted Italy. When it was available on the fourth slot I selected in, I jumped for it. The board just happened to break very advantageously for that. I had a second time player (and very good friend) in Austria, my northern German brother was my actual brother (so we’d have to work together this time-all previous attempts have failed quite laughably), and Ol’ 8 ball was parked in Russia.

Immediately after that read I had a plan. I wanted the AIR, everyone just happened to agree with me in 01. I opened for the Key lepanto while AR simultaneously tried to swipe Bul from Don. I did follow up Rome-Venice to sell the faux-Austrian attack. This meant I had a chance at 3 in 01 if I wanted it, which scared the hell out of France. I’d learned my lesson about new players, stuck to my one, took the Aegean, and gained both French and Austrian trust out of it. The Bul gambit failed, but Trieste wasn’t a bad consolation prize. Venice went to Apulia, setting up for a potential Tunis convoy.

AI: A quick Jungle Book sidebar


I wanted to have a strong AI and see Nicole do well. Playing an AI as a newbie is very much like the relationship between Kaa (I) and Mogli (A) in Jungle Book. You can become enchanted and distracted with the alliance. It’s easy to feel like it’s a love fest, you relax, and you fail to feel the snake constrict around you. “Trust in me,” they hiss, and you do. You’ve never been this deep in the jungle to do anything else.

I remember a game I played with Dan Burgess about a year ago where I was A to his I. I kept pushing further east, but he moved to Trieste and convoyed to Alb all at once. When I asked him why, he played dumb and said “yeah, that was stupid, I shouldn’t have done that.” I was dumb for not seeing the stab for 3 that happened that year. I was Mogli that day.

I truly had no intention of stabbing Nicole. I didn’t plan on doing deals that put her units all on the front lines while simultaneously leaving all the risks to her. She had 4 centers for 3 consecutive years because Don guess well.

Meanwhile, she left Trieste alone, let me have Serbia when she moved to Bul, and was happy to exchange Greece for Rumania.

But I saw the constriction I’d weaved around her- a fleet in Con, armies in Bul and Serb, Fleet in the Ionian – I did what any Weasel would do.

The Midgame-Med tactics are fun!

Because Nicole so generously gave me Serbia, and since I had left Tunis open, and since I convinced Nicole that if she let me have Trieste one more year, I could build two fleets and hit France, and because of a lucky guess on Con, I built 3 at the end of 02. Pete had just moved into Irish and the Med was wide open. Fleets Rome and Naples, Army Venice, then on to Tys, GOL, and Piedmont. Italy in the midgame by F03. Let me tell you-it’s a blast.

The wonderful AI alliance allowed me to pick up Greece with a convoy in 03. The North was a mess, particularly around Scandinavia, allowing me to recruit my brother’s support at a few key moments. I had a tactical advantage on Pete for one season, elected to take Mar with a fleet instead of risking a supported army moved over, and was unable to hold. It looked as if I would stall out. I thought my solo shot (after three builds, how can you not think about it?) was gone.
But just at that moment, EF began breaking down G and R. When R realized my threat, he and England came to an agreement to let him fight me (or so it appeared, if Matt and John could clarify what happened that would be spectacular). England did not follow through, and all the sudden R became my super best friend. We fed each other Austrian dots while I polished off the Turkish dots.

Russia was pissed off enough to help me out, and offered (temporary) support towards a solo. I was in business.

The End Game: if I had one more minute…

I sat at 13: home, tunis, turkey, 3 balkans, 2 austrian, munich. Munich was indefensible but could be recovered. Rum, Sev, and Bud were all very likely to succeed, with Sev needing help from my brother (which I figured I could count on). That’s 16.

I needed Mar or Spain and one other. John offered me Kiel- I took it, figuring I could retake Munich in the fall if I got lucky. If he let me keep it, that’s one.

I maneuvered my fleets, lining up in
West Med, NAF, and GOL, with an army in Piedmont. I could force a French guess for Spain and Marseilles if I could hit Burgundy. There’s a 50% chance at two.

My fall relevant position: Arm, Sev, Bul (EC), Bud, Tyr, Boh, Kiel, Pie, NAF, West, GOL.

I needed Ian’s help to cut Burgundy and Moscow. This wasn't hard to achieve- I did what any older brother would do. Promise to get him drunk. Sev was guaranteed, Spain or Mar was possible depending on what France did with Gascony. With his Munich unit hitting Burg, TYR could force Bohemia in.

I needed John’s help to hold Kiel and make sure he didn’t defend himself well in Rum/Sev (I had a guess for Rum or defending Vie or Bud).

In our negotiation, he didn’t believe me when I said I had a path to 18. I didn’t want to divulge that I knew Sev was a guarantee-he thought it was safe. He also said that the west had offered him Kiel.

The single scariest thing John Gramila can say is “they offered me a dot.”

At this point, I threw out the kitchen sink. I offered him dots; he knew I couldn’t give him shit. I said fuck the west amirite, he wasn’t pissed off enough to do that. I explained that I’d remember my friends, but he knew that and it didn’t feel like it was the right thing to do. I probably made about 6 different pitches in 90 seconds.
He asked me “have you ever soloed before?” He was intrigued when I said no.

“Well, I guess I could write two sets of orders, and have you choose which one.” True madman. An absolute Joker. Leave it in the hands of the diplomacy Gods.

“No, don’t do that,” Pete quickly moaned. The buzzer sounded.
John kept his initial orders. I guessed right on Marseilles. I retook Munich, got Sev and forced Rum, but left Vienna open for John and he took it. John took Kiel back from me.

It was shortly after 11. I had 16 dots.

I don’t know what would have happened if there had been another minute on the negotiating clock.

I don’t know what set of orders the diplomacy gods would have chosen, had I convinced John to write another.

I don’t know if I had told John my exact path to 18, if he’d have given it to me. He didn’t believe I had one. When I told him about it after, he said it would have made it more likely. But again, we’re dealing with a Magic 8 ball here.

I don’t know what it feels like to solo.

But as I’m learning more and more about the strategic movements of the game, I’ve got to tell you- I’m having an absolute blast in my Diplomacy adolescence.
+1 # Bryan Pravel 2017-01-02 13:59
Great writeup Jake. Some gems in there. Pretty sure this is the first time I have seen someone reference the Jungle Book in a strategy article. Love it.

Congrats on the great score, I know Italy is not your favorite power.
# Chris Kelly 2017-01-02 17:56
A club process-related question... I see that this game has apparently (and impressively!) vaulted Jake to the lead in the main club standings, while the Bar Room Brawl standings haven't been updated since November 9th. Not that I've ever had a great handle on this, but has there been a change in which games are counted where?
# Brandon Fogel 2017-01-03 08:10
It's probably just an oversight due to the site being down for a month. I believe any timed game at the bar counts in the Bar Room Brawl standings, not just Red Wednesdays.
# Jake Trotta 2017-01-03 10:06
Brandon's right, also bar league standings don't get updated quite as frequently since there are less games.
# Chris Kelly 2017-01-03 11:15
So, do bar games count in *both* the Bar Room Brawl standings *and* the main standings?
# Jake Trotta 2017-01-03 11:18
Yes, they do count for both.
# Jim O'Kelley 2017-01-04 16:16
What those guys said. I'll add that I maintain both sets of standings. The process for the Brawl Standings is a bit more manual and therefore usually falls toward the bottom of my club to-do list. I'll try to update the standings this week.
+1 # Jim O'Kelley 2017-01-04 16:26
Okay, fine. If you're going to be impatient about it, I'll just update it now. ... Updated.
+1 # Matt Sundstrom 2017-01-09 20:39
This game was a slog for me. France let me (England) have Belgium in fall '01. I built A Lon and F Edi in return. France built F Bre and something else. He immediately proceeded north and forced me to turtle. That messed up the west and indirectly the north. Took a while to work out. Italy gained a free hand for much of the game with that mess and the AI in place. We toyed with EFG for a couple turns to slow Italy but everyone was skittish. My part of that was going over the top basically to have something to do. Gramila (Russia) said he would fight me in the north unless he got STP back. I didn't take it too seriously as he had made a lot of proposals/threats this game. I couldn't tell which were serious. But the northern fight was the one he followed through on until the end when stopping the solo may have been more appealing (and I believe he indeed got a dot).

Being England in this situation, I probably needed to back off of everyone to allow EFR to fight Italy. By back off, I could have had to be as extreme as parking in Clyde and Wales. Really tough spot in a bar game. But it may be a case where that was the better option just to keep the top score from being so high. Jake played his hand very well and deserves the score. Can he have the target on his back now?
# Jake Trotta 2017-01-11 15:05
Quoting Matt Sundstrom:
Can he have the target on his back now?


That's okay, you can keep it.

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