Wednesday, 17 May 2017 23:21

The English Patience

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Q: How many Trottas does it take to coordinate schedules?

A: Apparently more than three.

Game No. 342, played last night at Seven on the swanky New East Side, started more than 70 minutes late, due largely to miscommunication among the Brothers Trotta. As it turned out, the game got Jake, who had planned to drop by a game in progress after an evening meeting with clients, instead of Ian and their dad, Ray, although Ray did stop by even later to kibitz and watch basketball. (And he seems interested in returning to the table soon. Perhaps at Weasel Moot, June 23-25 at Diversey River Bowl...)

For those of us who arrived promptly, the confusion offered an unexpected and welcome opportunity to discuss the latest news out of Washington, which amazingly seemed to change with each new arrival. ("Did you hear about Comey's notes?")

Perhaps inspired by the leisurely start to the game, Chris Kelly guided England with an abundance of caution. His approach netted him a board-top--stopping Russia's two-game streak and Jake's personal three-gamer in the process--but arguably cost him a larger result. The game ended by draw vote during the Spring 1906 turn in the following center counts:

Austria (Brian Shelden): 0; 0.000 points.
England (Chris Kelly): 9; 33.471 points.
France (Jim O'Kelley): 8; 26.446 points.
Germany (Jake Trotta): 0; 0.000 points.
Italy (Mick Johnson): 6; 14.876 points.
Russia (Brandon Fogel): 6; 14.876 points.
Turkey (Gus Spelman): 5; 10.331 points.

The supply center chart is here. Players, how about some endgame statements?

Read 539 times Last modified on Sunday, 23 July 2017 10:10

Comments   

+1 # Jim O'Kelley 2017-05-17 23:40
I think I do a pretty good job of coming up with titles for these articles. Chris Kelly may be even better. He gets the credit again for this one.
# Brandon Fogel 2017-05-25 12:44
Excellent title.
+1 # Chris Kelly 2017-05-18 14:46
In the initial negotiations, more than one player expressed a desire to crush Jake quickly -- but then again, I'd heard the same thing in the previous two games we played in together, and Jake topped both of those boards. As they say, talk is cheap.

This time, players did something about it. The first key blow was France (Jim) convincing Italy (Mick) to move to Tyrolia in Spring '01, then supporting him into Munich in the fall. The noose then tightened as France moved to Ruhr in Spring '02, and I sailed a fleet to the Helgoland Bight while supporting the Russian fleet in Sweden.

Jake tried to turn me against Russia (Brandon) before the next turn, pointing accurately to what looked like a strong RT alliance & imploring me not to support the Swedish fleet again. I agreed, then asked what I should do with my other nearby units (Belgium, North Sea, H. Bight). Jake said, "Do whatever you want."

Well, I'd already arranged with Jim for him to support me in an attack on both Holland and Kiel, so I proceeded with that plan, capturing both centers. Classily, I reminded Jake after the move that he'd basically given me permission; fortunately, no violence resulted.

By hurting Germany & Russia in the same move, I essentially sealed Jake's fate while ensuring that I wouldn't have to share the spoils with Brandon. Now all I had to worry about was my dot-hungry French ally, Jim "the Jackal" O'Kelley, whose primary growth strategy -- after gaining Munich in a clever tactical move by slipping an extra army around the south of Switzerland -- was to scavenge from behind centers that I had taken (Belgium with my permission, Holland without).

After the game (and during it), Brandon chided me for being too cautious in not stabbing France when he felt I had the opportunity. But as I told him, I don't like to leave business unfinished, and Jake in particular was too dangerous to leave even a small opportunity to come back. And as long as I was able to build a unit at home each year to protect against a French stab, I felt comfortable with my position. (Ironically, even when Jim dotted me for Holland, popping my army there let me rebuild a protective F Liv -- and moving his fleet from Belgium left me safer as well, since it no longer threatened the Channel.)
+1 # Chris Kelly 2017-05-18 15:30
Moreover, because France had never gone far in attacking Italy, his southern fleets were almost always close enough to defend the Mid-Atlantic and Spain.

Ultimately, after I built 2 units in 1905 (and France built a fleet in Brest, joining one already in MAO), Jim proposed a draw in the apparent belief that he couldn't gain much by attacking me, and could lose centers if Italy chose to open a second front against him. My calculation was much the same, so I accepted the draw.
+1 # Jake Trotta 2017-05-18 17:26
Quoting Chris Kelly:
I agreed, then asked what I should do with my other nearby units (Belgium, North Sea, H. Bight). Jake said, "Do whatever you want."



Holland was a lost cause. I was under the impression that my dear friend in Italy was going to be supporting Kiel here (and going to use his Munich unit to help me.) That didn't happen, which I should have seen after seeing Munich support France into Ruhr the year before. No reason for me to be upset with Chris on his moving what was obvious for his position; if anything, a Skag move to North cuts support and allows me to hang on at 3.

I also tried to talk Jim into a stab that season, but he decided to follow through on the support anyways. In fairness, I only offered him Belgium, which Chris was also offering. That logic tells me that me dying was worth the cost of handing Chris dots, which was an interesting choice given the fleet in Belgium.
+1 # Chris Kelly 2017-05-18 19:53
Very interesting to hear the creative ways you tried to squirm out of a three-neighbor attack in what must have been a very busy negotiating session before Fall 1902. Obviously hard to offer Jim anything other than Belgium, since the other nearby centers were yours!

Which, as you suggests, validates Jim's decision to stick with me. The northern fleet certainly kept his options open, and if I'd ever had a year without a build, perhaps that would have come into play. But as it was he only helped me into centers twice (IIRC), and took two dots of mine for himself, so it seems like he got a fair deal.
+1 # Jim O'Kelley 2017-05-20 10:12
Quote:
so it seems like he got a fair deal.
I'd say it was a fair and pretty typical E/F alliance. The equitable split of the six relevant dots is Kiel, Berlin and Denmark to the Brits, and Belgium, Holland and Munich to the French. That split gives England broad access to the Russian heartland for the next stage of the game (a stage that's unlikely to come in a bar game, but still ...).

Inasmuch as England is likely to be first on the scene in the Low Countries, it makes sense, then, that she would turn those dots over as she pushes further into Germany. The trick, at least to keeping the alliance intact, is to ensure that England is still growing as she cedes those dots, which is what we were trying to do.

That said, I believe we were both open to other options if something better had come along. Because the alliance was effective, nothing did.

Really the only hiccup was when I took Holland before you were ready to cede it. For me, that was an absolution-is-easier-than-permission play, my bet being that you'd gain elsewhere anyway. I was wrong, and since I popped your unit in Holland, you paid me back with a hostile build (F Liverpool). Fortunately, with my two builds (one from an annihilation of my own), I threw down two armies, which made it a little easier to defend my Holland decision and avoid an alliance-ending conflict.

It was a good alliance and also exciting as our trust levels never quite matched the efficiency of our moves.
# Chris Kelly 2017-06-11 15:37
I completely agree. Although you took Holland earlier than I wanted you to, you eventually made good by helping me to take Berlin. Nice job walking the tightrope of occasionally "cheating" on our alliance (building F Brest & keeping it in the north, then taking Holland) without destroying it.
+2 # Jake Trotta 2017-05-18 17:32
First, apologies for the delayed start. I’m not sure how many Trottas it takes to coordinate schedules, but it only takes one to mess it up, and that one was me. Thanks for all the patience from the players, English and otherwise.

My game

Those who read my recaps know that not only is Germany my favorite country, but Germany-Italy is my favorite alliance. Truly, I refer to them as brothers on the board. Mick Johnson and I had grand visions in 1901 of building a great alliance spanning the lands of Europe… or at least I did. But in 342, I was Remus to his Romulus. He did not find his brother useful, taking Munich in 1901, supporting the English and French into Ruhr and German dots, then poaching Berlin to build his empire.

His rationale: “I know everyone is going to be gunning for your anyways, so I figured they’d give me Munich.” Raised by wolves indeed, Romulus.

I tried saying “I’m not moving to Burgundy” and didn’t… and Jim forced Burgundy. I tried using fears of an RT to my advantage to salvage dots, but got Chris Kelly’d. I tried janissarying to salvage a couple dots… but got Chris Kelly’d. I tried offering to coach the newer players for Chris Kelly’s advantage… but got Chris Kelly’d.


Four interesting things…

1) This was a game that had many moments that looked explosive, but no one ever went boom. Brandon looked to be in tremendous position heading into F02 with a strong RT. To my memory, he was in Galicia, Rumania, Sweden, had an army in STP, and Turkey had just cleared out. Austria was crumbling, Germany was starting to. This may have spooked the board- I took Sweden as part of my “trust Chris Kelly” strategy while Italy moved to Silesia. As he moved to black, he actually dropped a unit, costing him tempo and an alliance. Honestly, he played a great game to land on 6. Solid work, BTOAB.

2) France had an opportunity to take tremendous position on England, but an S02 misorder slowed him down. That forced him into going south instead, which is a much slower/ tougher slog. A strong EF probably rolls the board, but Jim and Chris were never able to fully align. Combined with an unfortunate simultaneous retreat into Tyrolia ruining Jim’s opportunity to make headway in the Italian homeland, France never took off.

3) Chris also had an opportunity to get the jump on France, as the Frenchman had fully committed south. But Chris played it safe, only moving once it was necessary to prevent a French assault. While this did likely cost him the opportunity to grab a 12ish center top, this decision may give some insight into the Chris Kelly diplomacy calculus. While early game Chris Kelly does fun things that make him always say the standard disclaimer “I may end up regretting this, I guess we’ll see,” midgame Chris Kelly appears to be more focused on victory, at the expense of margin. Stabs elevate stakes. Choosing to stab Jim harder may have provided a chance at a larger victory, but gives him less resources to ensure Russia (or whoever) doesn’t gain speed. This strategy is interesting- don't grow your chances of victory, reduce the chances of others. In short- Chris prioritized control over dots, and that choice allowed him to prevent other threats from arising, allowing him to coast to the top.

4) Conventional wisdom is that Italy taking Munich is dumb, unless it’s a delayed French assault, and that a 5-center Italian shouldn’t be in Silesia. In the words of Lee Corso, not so fast my friend! The more I think about it, the more I think that it might be an interesting strategy. It is true that Italy cannot hold German dots forever. BUT if there is a strong AI, the move to Silesia gets leverage over an RT (and makes Austria think you love him), allowing a potential simultaneous Lepanto and moves towards Warsaw. Then, once Italy has picked up a dot or two in Greece or Turkey, the position can be used as a springboard, with Galicia and Bohemia are just one tempo away. The pros are that Italy can be in position to win the east rapidly (and relatively safely)… The con is that Italy almost guarantees a strong EF. Seems like a high risk, fun reward sort of strategy that could be fun to try sometime.
# Chris Kelly 2017-06-11 17:12
You and Brandon have proven expertise when it comes to large board-tops, so I take your opinions seriously when you say I passed one up. But looking over my moves, I'm not convinced the opportunity was really there. I suppose I could have built F London (instead of an army) at the end of 1902 & tried for Brest, but Jim could easily have suspected that & had F Belgium bounce me in the Channel. (At the end of 1903, as Jim notes, he built two home armies, and he also had a southern fleet free to keep me out of MAO.)

Regarding my overall playing style, I think it might be more accurate to say that the start of any Dip game requires a choice of who to ally with or attack, and one can never be 100% certain (or at least I can't!) that one's initial choice of who to trust/stab is going to work out. That said, once I've made an alliance, I do prefer not to throw it overboard lightly. Perhaps stabbing Jim while you were still viable (and after annoying Brandon by not supporting him when you attacked Sweden) would have been a bold stroke that ensured me a large board-top... but my hunch is it might just as easily left me surrounded and outnumbered by three neighboring powers I'd provoked into becoming enemies.
+1 # Brandon Fogel 2017-05-25 12:43
My game:

Some games you have it, some you don’t. This game, I didn’t have it. Contrary to Jake’s point #1 above, I wasn’t ever on the verge of exploding. Yes, I got two builds in 01 and was in Galicia, but that’s just a decent start, not a dominant one. England or Turkey (even Italy) getting two builds is a much bigger deal, but those don’t set off similar alarm bells. Maybe that’s one of the reasons Russia tends to struggle in our club (the recent Renaissance notwithstanding).

In any case, stirring up a scare about me also fit into Jake’s (Germany) larger campaign to brand me permanently as the “biggest threat on the board”, and I should have anticipated that. Jake succeeded wildly here, convincing Italy (Mick) to send an army into Silesia in F02 (yes, F02), and England (Chris) that I was too dangerous to ally with. That worked out well for Chris, thanks largely to Jake being more interested in hampering me than defending himself. For Russia, no ally in the north means Stp won’t last long.

In the south, my main error was to take my eye off my ally, Turkey (Gus). In the mid-game, I sent two armies toward the former German centers to interfere with the EF, leaving Sev lightly defended. I underestimated Gus, and he pounced, sending armies to Arm and Rum (which I had gifted him in 02) and a fleet to BLA. While some tactical missteps hampered his assault, the stab showed some quality ruthlessness. If things break right for him, he’s challenging for the board top.

Overall I didn’t read people well here and failed to adequately utilize my units. I think I was fairly lucky to end on 6.

Player feedback:

Austria (Brian): Don’t think there’s much you could have done differently here. Gus was a willing ally for me and Mick wasn’t fully on board with you. Austria won’t last long in that scenario.

England (Chris): Savvy game, as usual. I do think you passed up the chance at a big board top, but a win is a win. Nice job.

France (Jim): Your smooth style was in full effect here. Didn’t scare anyone, grew steadily. You played it fairly safe, too, but I don’t think you ever had a clear opportunity to stab Chris.

Germany (Jake): Your effort to brand me as the BTOAB is paying dividends. The stats don’t lie, however: you’re the biggest shark in the tank right now.

Italy (Mick): Your development continues to impress. This was a growing pains game for you, where you learned the perils of spreading yourself too thin. And yet you still finished on 6 and were relevant the whole game.

Russia (Me): Don’t spread yourself too thin. There’s peril there.

Turkey (Gus): The more I think about your play here, the more I like it. You read me extremely well and pounced at the right time. A couple tactical missteps kept you from taking advantage of the move, but the instinct was great.
+1 # Jim O'Kelley 2017-05-27 17:29
What impressed me the most about your game here, Brandon, was how well you played the whole board. Specifically, I'm thinking of the unit you diverted toward Germany early on to blunt my attack. "Now I have Munich, now I don't."

Also, I agree about Gus' play. Tactically, he wasn't up to the task of converting his stab to a big result, but tactics will come with experience. The fact that he went for it at the right time tells me that he's taken the next step in his development.

Turning whelps into Weasels is what we do, Folks.
# Jim O'Kelley 2017-05-27 17:46
Quote:
I don’t think you ever had a clear opportunity to stab Chris.
Yup, can't disagree. One of those games for me where the right thing to do--kill Jake--didn't align with my long-term interests--topping the board. Still, stopping a streak like his demands sacrifice, so let's all make a little time this weekend to remember mine.
# Chris Kelly 2017-06-11 15:46
Arguably, you played a more cautious game than I did. Must have been excruciating for you. :D
# Chris Kelly 2017-06-11 15:44
Very good point about Russia with two builds in 1901 (and not clearly at war with Turkey) setting off alarm bells for many players, myself included -- even though the Russian may only consider it a modestly successful opening year. An E/F alliance doesn't provoke nearly as much board-wide paranoia.

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