Thursday, 12 January 2017 21:34

Blame it on the rain

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Nick Rohn, the Alpha Weasel beta and veteran of the club's second game back in November 2005, finally strolled into the Red Lion at about 7:15 last night, the heavy rain having doubled the duration of his commute from Parts Unknown. And still, the evening's second board didn't start.

Nick brushed the water off his jacket and sat down to join our wait for Kelsey Trotta. Jake and Ian's older sister had gone to the wrong Red Lion and was still en route.

Jake, meanwhile, anxiously vacillated between our table, where he feverishly worked his phone for status updates from his sister, and the Lion's back room to watch Game No. 325, which had started on time at 6:30. He was in the back room when a woman walked in at around 7:45, did the about face at the bar, and approached our table cautiously.

"Are you Kelsey?" I asked.

"No," she retorted. "I'm the Easter Bunny."

Nine of us were there by 6:30, so Game No. 325 started on time. The players, including online players but first-time Weasels Tim Schwartz (playdiplomacy.com) and Tyrone Ferguson (webdiplomacy.net), played to a seven-way draw. The game ended by time limit after the Fall 1907 turn in the following center counts:

Austria (Tim Schwartz): 6; 17.143 points.
England (Tyrone Ferguson): 2; 1.905 points.
France (Bryan Pravel): 8; 30.476 points.
Germany (Paul Digiulio): 7; 23.333 points.
Italy (Brian Shelden): 2; 1.905 points.
Russia (Matt Sundstrom): 2; 1.905 points.
Turkey (Brandon Fogel): 7; 0.000 points.

Note that Brandon had to leave the game in 1905 or so to deal with an emergency. Per club rules, neither he nor replacement Chris Kelly scored the position; its square, however, was still factored in the sum. Consequently, the scores for this game total less than 100 points.

As for ill-fated Game No. 326, we eventually did get started but not with Kelsey as our seventh. She and Jake had crossed signals. She watched for a bit before heading to another engagement.

With Matt Sundstrom graciously playing on both boards and despite the late start, we managed to get through 1906 by the time limit. The final center counts were:

Austria (Jim O'Kelley): 4; 5.333 points.
England (Matt Sundstrom): 3; 3.000 points.
France (Ali Adib): 12; 48.000 points.
Germany (Nick Rohn): 1; 0.333 points.
Italy (Jake "The Goat Lover" Langenfeld): 3; 3.000 points.
Russia (Jake Trotta): 11; 40.333 points.
Turkey (Chris Kelly): 0; 0.000 points.

The supply center charts are here. Players, let's hear your endgame statements.

Read 579 times Last modified on Thursday, 23 February 2017 12:10

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+2 # Brian Shelden 2017-01-14 17:06
That was a fun game, and welcome to Tim Schwartz!
It wasn't a super successful game, given that I was squeezed between a Western Triple and an A/T, with no allies...but that's probably on me. :-)
+2 # Jake Trotta 2017-01-15 20:29
“I may come to regret that decision, we’ll see.” -Chris Kelly, WDC Round One

Chris Kelly is a delightful guy-anyone who has shared a board with him would tell you that. But Chris and I have been rivals since our first game, where he was R to my T and eliminated me. I can’t tell you the exact moment when it became a rivalry-perhaps it was when I, as France in 1901, attempted to support Austria into Venice. Austria (John Gramilla) ended up misordering, and while it slowed Chris down, he still ended up ahead of me on that board.

See, Chris has a very different way of playing Diplomacy than I do. He doesn’t metagame, not out of hatred, but of an apathy to the math. He plays to maximize his result on the board he’s on-and his result can me any number of things to him. Chris makes many decisions baffle me and conventional wisdom, and somehow turn into solid board tops. He’s tactically anomalous, he’s remarkably consistent, and he’s damn hard to beat.

On the first board at WDC, Chris was Russia to my Turkey. I opened to Arm, and he responded by using his first (and only) build on a second southern fleet. No matter how hard I tried to flip Austria against a more or less defenseless Russia, he wouldn’t flip. Chris did not come to regret that decision that day, although Austria mentioned he may have made the wrong choice in postgame. It was an accomplishment that I even survived.

Chris Kelly is a very strong player, consistently gets good results, and I have often been frustrated, confused, and even jealous of the things he’s managed to pull off on a board. I’ve tried to work with him dozens of times. But, in his own words, “at this point I just think we can’t work together until we do by accident at some point.”

There will come a day where Chris Kelly and I ally. But that is not this day.

This day was the day that I took a page of Chris Kelly’s book-using my first build as a second southern fleet.

1901-1902: ACCEPTING MY FATE AS A SOUTHERN POWER

So I came into this game thinking “okay, I’m probably going to get jumped because I’ve been doing pretty well lately-that will be good practice and a good opportunity to get better.” When I heard Jim was Austria and Chris was Turkey, I felt even more confident in that read. Russia is already paramount to a death in this club (upcoming Wise Old Weasel spoilers), so having two of the best players in my theatre was going to be a real fun challenge. Jake L, or “smart Jake,” as Jim dubbed him, was Italy and my best shot as an ally.

Chris opened to Armenia on me, after saying he wouldn’t, because that’s what rivals do. He even repeated his famous line “I may come to regret that decision-we’ll see.” This time he did.

I ended up convincing Jim to let me take Rum with the fleet in exchange for building a second southern fleet (more on this shortly). Germany, who in S01 said he had a very strict “never bounce” policy, went ahead and bounced in fall. He’s an interesting one, but more on that later. When he straight up told me he would move to Sweden in the fall, I decided to hold and convinced England (Matt) to move into Denmark. Might as well try to get an ally out of getting bounced, so long as you know it’s going to happen.

Well, after supporting Matt into Sweden in spring 02, he went ahead and took STP from me. Meanwhile, Ali positioned himself around Liverpool while Italy swiped Munich. At the end of 02, the West was a France that could very easily go boom, a 6-center England that was spread out, and a hamstrung Germany. In the east, I had forced black sea and supported Jim into Bulgaria. We had a turtled 3-center Turkey, a 6-center Austria, and a 5-center Italy… but AI didn’t really have the warm fuzzies for each other.

THE SUNDSTROM OPENING: OFTEN A BIDDING WAR FOR AUSTRIA

In both the WDC game and this game, the Sundstrom opening quickly turned into a bidding war for Austria. Chris’s strategy (it appeared) was to try to foster an AIT. Italy, however, was interested in keeping Jim in check, thanks to some gentle nudging. This made Jim nervous-he couldn’t trust that Italy wasn’t going to chomp him in the back as soon as he pushed east.

Because of that Italian mistrust, Jim saw me as his best alliance option. Working with Jim in 01 and 02 was what kept me alive. If Jim had taken Rum from me, or sent a unit to Galicia, I would’ve been dead by 04.

Fortunately, I was in good enough position in 03 to see a stab opportunity, pushing myself from 4 to 6. That got me back in the game. Now, I probably could have kept working with Jim and done just fine. But I liked my odds of outpacing a less experienced player better-plus Italy could provide needed fleets to slow France.

THE WINTERGREEN: LIKE BUMPING INTO AN OLD FRIEND
I love IR (I know, I know, you’re already tired of me talking about how much I love IG- I guess Italy is my favorite power to ally with.) The east (assuming Russia gets out of the gate) can only in 4 ways:

1) Everyone jumps on Russia. This isn’t very fun, but Italy can come to Russian aid by swiping Trieste or working a delayed Lepanto with Austria.
2) Everyone jumps on Austria. This is very fun, and allows Russia to decide whether they want IR or RT.
3) Everyone jumps on Turkey. This is also very fun, and allows Russia to decide whether they want IR, AR, or AIR.
4) A big, ugly mess because no one can decide who is supposed to die first and the west crosses the line while no eastern power has more than like 6. This usually happens because IR can’t get their shit together.

The problem with IR is that it really isn’t an alliance until 1903. You know that feeling when you’re walking down the street and you see an old friend, but not like a super good friend? You catch up a bit, exchange pleasantries, make tentative lunch plans, but you leave the conversation wondering if you’ll actually end up getting lunch together or if you’ll never see each other again? That’s what IR is like. Sure, you make all the right noises, but you don’t know until 03 or 04 whether you’re actually going to have lunch.

Anyways, Smart Jake was an exceptional I to my R. We had very open communication and were honest with each other from the start. We split up Turkey together, then coordinated stabbing Jim to keep him contained. Even better, when I happened to walk into one of his dots, he wanted to keep working together! What a great guy.

THE FINAL YEAR: GERMANY MAKES IT WEIRD
It was exactly 10:40 when we started the last year. I know this because Ali was taking a long ass time on his build. I had just moved ahead 9-8 and would have been happy with the board top right then and there. Jim and I were watching the clock, looking at his phone. If Ali had taken just a few more seconds, I could have pulled the “whoops, it’s 10:41, guess I topped!” card. I’m not sure if I would have, but I never got the opportunity.

My position was 3 home, all of Turkey, Bul, Rum and Serb. I knew I could get Greece. I could probably talk Matt into giving me STP (which I’ll list in a separate comment). I hoped to take one off Jim. In the spring, I got bounced, and a unit in Ukraine was wasted. Had I sent it to Galicia, I would have made it to 12 and split the top. Alas.

What I did not anticipate was Germany tossing four of his dots all at once to his ally. His explanation- “I have an older brother that’s bigger than me, and he just said to me, ‘Nick I’m so much stronger than you, I could beat you up.’ Well, I told him that he couldn’t do that, because I’d consent and enjoy it, that way he couldn’t beat me up!” [note: he did not say beat you up, but this is a family show folks. I’ll let you figure out what he actually said]
What a weird dude.

PLAYER FEEDBACK/ OVERALL REFLECTIONS

Me (Russia): Very pleased with my performance this game. Battled back from the ropes and played well enough to top the board. A lot of things had to break the right way for me to have that chance, but I executed when it was there. Would have topped if not for Nick’s… curious?... fraternal motivations.
Austria (Jim): I thought you played very well-tough position to be in with Italy nipping at your heels. Very interested to hear your owns thoughts on this one.
England (Matt): Always a pleasure. Could have been a MONSTER board for you had Ali not swung north when he did. Thanks for STP… and the pitch advice.
France (Ali): Played very well, did well enough to win. Must have done something right in that F-G alliance. I admired your patience in waiting til the last year to turn on G.
Germany (Nick): Had a blast sharing this board with you. Though confusing, you were immensely entertaining.
Italy (Jake L): Thanks for a great alliance! Had a blast on this board-if we had more time, that could have been a killer IR. But at 10pm in a bar game, shark’s gotta eat.
Turkey (Chris): Always a pleasure, and let me tell you- you’re absolutely right, building that second southern fleet is a lot of fun! I’d love to hear your thoughts on 01 and 02 in the east. Particularly how you handled early negotiation with Italy. Was it an IT or AIT?
+1 # Jake Trotta 2017-01-15 20:34
And here is a list of different pitches I made to Matt, desperately trying to convince him to give me STP:

1) Would you rather I top or Ali top?

2) I'll remember this in a future game-you know that I metagame!

3) Come on, it'll be fun!

4) You know, I've always thought of you as a mentor. So really, my success is your success!

5) Hey, if you really want someone else to have the target on their back...

6) Did you see that Tom Hanks boat movie? No, not Castaway, the other one. All I want to do is top this board so I can post that Somalian pirate meme "Look at me. I am the Brandon now."

Most of these got a laugh, but nearly backfired. I'll leave it up to Matt to explain why he did give me STP.
+1 # Jim O'Kelley 2017-01-16 18:32
In hindsight, the pivotal move of Game No. 326 was Italy's decision to poach Munich from Germany in Fall 1902. More than any other choice, that's the one that paved the way for a final result favoring France and Russia.

Ali Adib in France launched an attack on England in 1902. I believe he took London via convoy while also sailing to the Irish Sea in the Fall. England and Germany, meanwhile, bridged troubled waters, swapping Denmark (to Germany) and Sweden (to England) while also putting England in Sweden.

In the East, Jake Trotta had converted his only 1901 build into a second southern fleet and was trying to turn the Turkish flank. His fleet gambit was in the balance, and then he lost St. Pete and would have to pull.

But Italy took Munich, and that changed everything. Germany dropped to four. Instead of contesting Belgium or marching on Warsaw, he would spend the next two years reorganizing his pieces to recapture Munich.

In a hole with no offered or available hand to pull him out, Matt Sundstrom in England sloooooooooowly lost his fight with France. Russia turned Turkey's flank and won the lion's share of the yellow dots. The game ended with France and Russia splitting 23 of the 34 dots.

Italy is the hardest country to play. To win, you need to balance both spheres, only allowing one or both to tip when it benefits you. After Smart Jake took Munich, both East and West thudded out of balance. The beneficiaries were Russia and France, not Italy.

And that is why we now call Smart Jake the Goat Lover. Well, that and also because of a funny joke he told me at a time when I absolutely needed to hear one.
+2 # Jim O'Kelley 2017-01-16 21:04
For my part, Game No. 326 was one where I felt very much like my course was channeled rather than plotted.

Italy made it clear to both me and Chris Kelly in Turkey that he didn't want to play in the West. As Austria, I'm willing to work with Turkey against Russia if Italy plays West, but if Italy wants to play in the East, then my options are limited.

Knowing that Smart Jake would have to attack one of us, Chris and I engaged in a battle for his allegiance. I mostly won. I say mostly because Smart Jake never made the optimal moves for an A/I vs. T.

He set up for the Lepanto in Spring 1901, but in the Fall, he took Tunis with the fleet while his two armies stayed home in Apulia and Venice. (At his request, we had bounced in Trieste in the Fall.)

So, already, we had lost tempo on the Turkish attack. In Fall 1902, I convinced Jake to push his fleets into Turkish waters, but as I took Bulgaria (with help from Russia), he sailed to the Aegean rather than the Eastern Med. No possibility of a flanking convoy to Syria now.

In Spring 1903, he finally positioned himself to take something from Turkey by moving Ionian to the Eastern Med.

Meanwhile, he kept trying to move his armies into play. In Spring 1902, he asked if he could move to Tyrolia. I said I didn't mind but that I didn't want him to move to Venice as well, putting two units on Trieste. We agreed to bounce in Venice for the next two turns.

With his build from Munich, he threw down a new army in Venice. I spent a few more turns preventing him from positioning his armies for potential use against me.

In Fall 1903, I offered to move Bulgaria to Constantinople to help both Italy and Russia take dots from Turkey. I also decided to move Greece to the Ionian. If successful, that move certainly would yield an Italian dot, but I hadn't yet decided to turn on Smart Jake. Rather, my plan was to force a fleet build.

It didn't matter, though. Smart Jake, sensing danger, bailed on the Turkish attack to cover the Ionian instead. Treacherous Jake, meanwhile, took Bulgaria--which was vulnerable only because I had offered magnanimously to move it to Con to help the Jakes take dots--with Turkish support while also taking Ankara from Turkey.

It was a good stab by Jake--I couldn't do anything about it.

As Jake mentioned in his summary, my armies could have destroyed his game in 1902 and 1903. Remember, his fifth unit was a second southern fleet, and he had to pull a unit in 1902. He was weak in the middle, and I built two armies in 1901 and another in 1902.

I never saw attacking him as a viable option, though. Not with two and then three Italian armies trying to maneuver behind me and a viable Turk eagerly courting my neighbors.

Italy threw in with Russia after the Fall 1903 stab, to his detriment. Frustrated, I eventually turned to Ali.

He and Smart Jake frequently play other games together. More than anyone else on the board, Ali seemed to be able to influence Smart Jake's moves. But when I asked him to talk some sense into Smart Jake (In Spring 1905, he dislodged me from Greece, forcing me to retreat to the Ionian from where I could walk into his Tunis, and preventing him from being able to defend Smyrna against Russia.), Ali said, "You keep backstabbing him."

It was that kind of night for me.
+2 # Tim Schwartz 2017-01-17 21:02
Fellow Diplomats,
I entered the Red Lion for the first time with a quiet confidence, though apprehension lurked in the back of my mind. Would this crowd pounce on the new-comer? Would they be sticklers for using the proper three(3) letter abbreviations. Will old alliances beat down my door and send me home early? These however did not prove the be my downfall. In the fall of 1901 I heard the beep-beep-beep of the timer and what would be my largest obstacle through the night sank in. I was not going to be able to accomplish my diplomatic goals on a 10 minute timer.

I had to approach the game and fall 1901 like a warrior with enemies on all sides I took no tactic off the table, heckling the crowd, tickling the edges of the carefully crafted silence rules and using vague approaches as I hurriedly crafted my strategy. In the Fall of 1901 it looked like I would secure my two(2) depots and open as a strong Austria with five(5) depots but then the orders were read. “The F in Trieste moves to Greece”, a miswritten order, the fools mistake and that’s the type of game it would be for the rest of the evening.

Though I am not disappointed with my finish I am disappointed with miscues, tactical errors and eager trustworthiness that prevented me from truly spreading my wings in this game. Often up against the clock and the feeling of being surrounded by “pros” my nervs and guess work consistently got the best of me as I slowly divulged from the tactical game I am used to playing.

Overall it was a fun game. Thank you to everybody that supported me and those that did not. I

To my fellow players:
Italy – Your guidance and patience were much appreciated though we were never able to put together a successful tactic
Turkey – Thank you for putting some faith in me. I think we can be fierce allies and opponents as the games continue. I hope all of your loved ones are healthy.
Russia – I’m like a fine lady. I need time to be talked to and caressed before I get into bed with somebody. I hope that next time we play we find the time to work together early.
England – Tyrone – Your unrealized potential shone through the game.
France – A true weasel consistently proved himself unreliable to allies and foes. I have seen your inner soul and it is dark. I intend to pierce it with a spear of fire the next time we meet.
Germany – What a comeback
Austria – Your tactics and mannerisms are unconventional but I like it.
# Brandon Fogel 2017-01-30 23:37
Tim, it was really great playing with you. I was sorry we weren't able to see how our knives-in-each-others'-throats story would have ended. Definitely looking forward to more trying again.

I have a feeling the Weasels might look back on this game as a moment when the next wave started to show itself. Between the impactful introductions of Tim and Tyrone, and Paul's wicked comeback for his first good result, the so-called New Guard better watch its back.
# Jake Trotta 2017-01-20 14:32
Jim, your comment regarding the Munich poach is spot on. Italy might be the most fascinating country on the board because of it's ability to muck up both theatres at pretty much any old time. It may seem like a slow player in the early game, but Italy's decision have massive impacts on board dynamics.

Tim-seems like you had a great time. I can relate to fleet misorders in 01- I once ordered Naples-Ion-Naples.
+1 # Chris Kelly 2017-01-30 00:50
Prior to this game, I actually had been thinking a bit about how Turkey could open aggressively against Russia without letting Austria grow too powerful. I didn't arrive at a definitive solution, but suspected it would involve Italy helping to contain Austria (even though personally, as Italy, I'm generally very reluctant to follow this path).

Finding myself as Turkey with strong players in both Austria & Russia, I decided to bite the bullet and test my halfway-thought-through strategy... and got the results I probably should have expected. Not only did Italy decline to attack Austria in 1901, he left me exposed by letting me believe he would attack Greece with my support.

Specifically, by eschewing the attack on Greece, Italy ensured that Austria would get its desired 2 builds while also being alerted to my unfriendly intentions. And because my support for the nonexistent attack meant Bulgaria could not hit Rumania, Russia was able to not only take the center but leave Sevastopol open for a build.

In short, I aligned myself as an enemy of both Austria and Russia without hindering either's growth. Doing so against Jake T., who vividly remembered my building a 2nd Russian fleet against his Turkey in a previous game, sealed my fate even further. After the strategically disastrous first year, there was little left for me to do but reap the bitter fruit of my failed scheming.
+1 # Chris Kelly 2017-01-30 01:07
In retrospect, I would have been wiser to ally with Russia, and test Italy's ability to hold the line with Austria. But as I told Jake T. during the initial negotiations, I was reluctant to do this because he had pursued such a tactically aggressive (& very creative) RT strategy in the previous game we both played.

I wasn't feeling trusting enough to repeat those tactics -- which involve letting RUS sail into Constantinople in exchange for Rumania in Fall 1901 -- in part because having been loyal to his ally the 1st time (and being stymied through no fault of his own), I felt Jake would be too tempted to stab Turkey the next time. And yet, now that I knew of an aggressive & exciting way to pursue the RT strategy, what fun would there be in following a tamer, more half-hearted approach?

Fun or not, though, it would have been the pragmatic thing to do.

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