Saturday, 17 June 2017 13:40

Honor among Weasels

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If we've learned anything from 343 games of Windy City Weasels Diplomacy, it's that there is no honor among Weasels and that no good deed goes unpunished. Yet time and time again, those lessons must be relearned the hard way. Wednesday night at the Red Lion, it was the player who hosted the very first Weasels tilt nearly 12 years ago who flunked out of the club's School of Hard Knocks.

We managed seven years in Game No. 343, played at the Red Lion on Flag Day. The game ended by time limit in the following center counts.

Austria (Jim O'Kelley): 3;  3.814 points.
England (Chris Kelly): 9; 34.322 points.
France (Grant Smith): 1; 0.424 points.
Germany (Christian Kline): 4;  6.780 points.
Italy (Sean Clarke): 8; 27.119 points.
Russia (Bryan Pravel): 1; 0.424 points.
Turkey (Brandon Fogel): 8; 27.119 points.

Old Clockwork Kelly turned in another steady performance. He may be a tortoise in a hare's world, but he now has 3.16 tops on the year, good for fourth on the topping chart. Sean Clarke, meanwhile, posted his best performance with the club, tying for second with eight centers.

Grant Smith, the don of the Milwaukee Mafia who's living in the city for a few months, was playing his first game with the Weasels since December 2014. It wasn't his finest effort. It's not often that you see a France who never builds.

Notably, he wasn't the only player who didn't build. Bryan Pravel also was shut out as Russia.

So, it's a bit surprising that all seven players were still on the board when it ended after the Fall 1907 turn, but that can happen in a tight game, and this one came down to the final year.

For club founder Jim O'Kelley, it's back to the drawing board. His strong position blew up when he moved against Christian Kline to try to balance the board. Clarke and Brandon Fogel in Turkey thanked him for his sacrifice by taking four of his dots over the next two years.

The aging vet has two months to salvage his disappointing season and avoid missing the Royale for the first time ever. Game No. 343's Christ figure, perhaps he can find solace in one-upping Jesus: He managed to save the other players from their sins without dying.

The supply center chart is here. Players, how about your thoughts?

 

Read 401 times Last modified on Thursday, 03 August 2017 15:17

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# Jake Trotta 2017-06-18 01:23
# Jake Trotta 2017-06-19 16:55
^summary of Jim's Wednesday night.
+2 # Chris Kelly 2017-06-18 02:07
Even though I wound up on top, I think my choices & actions had less to do with the results of the game than just about anyone else's.

My original plan was to work with France vs. Germany, but when both Grant (FRA) & Bryan (RUS) failed to build in 1901, I had little choice but to coordinate with Christian (GER) to take advantage of their vulnerability. And when Christian stabbed me the next year, hoping he could grab all the spoils for himself, I had no choice but to work with Bryan & anyone else who could help to keep Germany from what looked like a potential solo win.

Jim (AUS) growing substantially in 1903, and then using those builds to attack Germany, was the only thing that could have stopped Christian; my efforts had little to do with it. But thanks to the sudden distraction of a southern front -- and some unsolicited help from Sean (ITA) in taking Brest -- instead of desperately (and perhaps unsuccessfully) trying to hold back Mr. Kline, I was able to capture 4 of his centers over two years.

And I was basically the sole beneficiary of Christian's decline not due to my own strategy or tactics, but because ITA and TUR (Brandon) chose to undermine AUS from behind, forcing Jim to pull back before he could claim any German supply centers. So I feel like I more or less walked into a board top, courtesy of the gradual, combined decisions of the other six players.
+1 # Jim O'Kelley 2017-06-18 08:49
Quote:
forcing Jim to pull back before he could claim any German supply centers.
I was able to capture Munich that year, but doing so cost me Trieste. I believe I pulled the unit in Munich to focus on defending against Turkey and, to a lesser extent, Italy, which allowed Christian to stroll back in in 1905.

While debriefing after the game, I explained the thinking for my rebalancing move against Christian. Predictably, he argued that my decision was poor.

I just gestured to my three units and said, "Clearly."
+2 # Brandon Fogel 2017-06-19 08:30
Game #343 marked the first time I’ve been called a “motherfucker” during a game of Diplomacy. That was courtesy of our very own Grand Weasel Prime, Jim O’Kelley, who treated me to a litany of NSFW verbal presents during our only conversation of the last three game years. Jim said I had blown our one shot to work together, and now he’d never be able to work with me again. He painted himself as a Christ-figure who had nobly sacrificed himself for the good of the board and was rewarded only with knives in the back.

Things looked a little different from my corner. While I did betray Jim in 1904, he had left me little choice by reneging on a deal (or two) in 1903.

I wondered after the game whether I had made a mistake, whether I would have gained more by sticking with Jim. I ended on 8 in a tie for second, a respectable but not huge score. After reviewing the boards, I don’t think I made a mistake. I’m open to other suggestions (which I’m sure to get from at least one Grand Weasel Prime), but I now think I didn’t have any alternative. I was going nowhere if I didn’t stab.

The crucial year was 1903, which began like this:


Russia had opened north, allowing me to take Rumania in exchange for two fleet builds, and then he’d supported me in Rum against several Austrian attacks. At this point Germany had jumped to 8, having gotten Sweden, both low countries, and Paris. France had opened catastrophically, misordering Par-Mar, and then had guessed wrong in F02, leaving him with only two units. The English and Russian units were not positioned well to hold Germany back. If Jim and I couldn’t stop fighting, Christian seemed to have a very easy path to a big board top.

In the negotiation period, Bryan pitched a RAT to both Jim and me separately. Then Jim and I stepped outside. “If we can’t work together here,” I said, “we’ll never be able to.” I meant it. A RAT made a lot of sense. Jim and Bryan could push Christian back and expand through Germany, while I could expand through Italy. Russia would be the weak partner, but his existence would help keep the balance of power between Jim and me, at least for a few years. It wasn’t a great deal for Bryan, but he was desperate.

Jim agreed and we hatched a plan. We would exchange Rumania and Greece, he would disband his fleet, and I would not put an army in Greece. Bryan agreed to let me have Sevastopol and to disband his fleet. Everyone’s security concerns would thus be met and we would be free to move in different directions.

Jim had other plans. Instead of letting me dislodge his fleet so that he could take it off the board, he supported it to Bulgaria. This was the first of his actions in 03 that changed the whole tenor of our nascent alliance for me. It was not a fatal betrayal; as he pointed out in our subsequent negotiations, I could retake Bulgaria from Greece and he could still disband the fleet, addressing my security concerns. Of course, then he would both get Rumania *and* keep Greece, which wasn’t our original deal. Even worse, my positioning for moving on Italy would be terrible.

The second of Jim’s problematic moves in 03 was to swipe Warsaw in the fall. Bryan had moved Livonia-Prussia rather than cover Warsaw, even though Jim was sitting in Galicia. Bryan was probably too trusting here, but he was all-in on the RAT. While this didn’t technically kill the RAT, since Bryan was still motivated to attack Germany in 04, it ended Bryan’s chances of being a viable counterweight to Jim. (This also had a long-term domino effect, in that once England got the upper hand on Germany, Russia was not able to provide a counterweight to him, either.)

In short, Jim’s position in S04 was extremely strong:



Without a fleet in Greece, I could not retake ION. I couldn’t even guarantee that my fleet in Smyrna could get out of the gate. And I had to waste three units protecting Bulgaria. Where was my next dot going to come from, and when? Jim planned to send 3 armies west toward Germany and had a good chance of getting Munich. His duplicity in 03 had shifted an AT so far in his favor that I was very much open to other options.

So when, in F04, Italy offered to put me in Greece while he took a swipe at Trieste, I jumped. We both got in.

Jim took this as an extraordinary betrayal on my part. In his telling, he had selflessly disbanded his fleet and moved on Christian in order to keep balance on the board, thus exposing himself in the rear, where I treacherously stabbed him. He left out the part where he had reneged on our deal the previous year and seriously compromised my position.

Also, Italy’s stab was actually the unkinder cut. Without that, Jim has nothing to worry about, from anyone. Instead of f-bombs, however, Italy got dots.

I suppose I could have asked for Greece in 04, although at that point I didn’t think I could trust Jim to follow through. Or Jim in 03 could have asked to be given Bulgaria (with an army) if he’d felt he needed the extra build. The taking of Warsaw still would have been a problem for me, but at least I’d have been able to move on Italy.

The rest of the game was a tactical back and forth where Jim successfully kept me from capitalizing too much on the stab. Sean (Italy) was the big beneficiary, and he made some savvy moves to get to 8 by the end and keep me contained.

Will Jim and I ever have a successful alliance? Only time will tell. But once the smoke from the f-bombs recedes, it should be clear this one isn’t solely on me.

Addendum: At some point, we’ll figure out that Chris Kelly knows how to play England. This was his second consecutive board top from the island. Well done, sir.
# Jake Trotta 2017-06-20 09:25
Quoting Brandon Fogel:

The second of Jim’s problematic moves in 03 was to swipe Warsaw in the fall. Bryan had moved Livonia-Prussia rather than cover Warsaw, even though Jim was sitting in Galicia. Bryan was probably too trusting here, but he was all-in on the RAT. While this didn’t technically kill the RAT, since Bryan was still motivated to attack Germany in 04, it ended Bryan’s chances of being a viable counterweight to Jim. (This also had a long-term domino effect, in that once England got the upper hand on Germany, Russia was not able to provide a counterweight to him, either.)


(Analysis of a board I didn't play incoming)

This right here tells the story of the board- and that is was a brilliantly played bar game, everything we dream of with sum of squares. Bar games are a lot like cycling- small groups tightly packed together, but each individual waiting for the right opportunity to break away from the peloton.

The key to getting the breakaway right is ensuring the peloton can't catch you by ensuring:
A) that you can put enough distance that the group can't close the gap
OR
B) That you move at a time where your tempo can continue to build

Christian, as a four fleet Germany by 03, and Jim, as indicated by his simultaneous baby swipes at RT in 03, both made the choice to sprint away from the pack. Both, had the board not reacted, had the makings of a massive score.

But Sean & the peloton reacted in time, catching both powers and bringing them each down 3 centers in two years. In true cycling tradition, failed breakways lead to results towards the back of the group.

A quick note on Chris Kelly- he is nothing short of brilliant at winning from the peloton (to the point where I'm trying to figure out what his secret sauce is, as evidenced by my last AAR).

There's a reason he is the most accomplished bar game player in the club- and only 2 time Brawl Star. While Old Clockwork Chris humbly notes here that the group put him in a position to succeed, it takes great skill to take advantage of that position and win consistently. Great model for young/ future Weasels out there looking to evolve their games.
# Jim O'Kelley 2017-06-21 00:01
Quote:
Christian, as a four fleet Germany by 03, and Jim, as indicated by his simultaneous baby swipes at RT in 03, both made the choice to sprint away from the pack.
No, I disagree. Instead of sprinting away from the pack by pressing my 1903 advantage, I chose to pull Christian back.

I would have tried to outrace him if I thought I could beat him, but I assessed his head start as insurmountable.
# Jim O'Kelley 2017-06-21 08:56
Quote:
I would have tried to outrace him if I thought I could beat him, but I assessed his head start as insurmountable.
I should add that even if I had pressed my 1903 advantage against Brandon, I was never going to have the pieces I needed to storm the beaches of Turkey.

Italy and Russia weren't going to help me against Turkey. The best I could have hoped for was containing Brandon while holding all four Balkan dots.

Given that reality, trying to outrace Christian seemed fruitless.
# Jake Trotta 2017-06-21 10:32
Quoting Jim O'Kelley:

No, I disagree. Instead of sprinting away from the pack by pressing my 1903 advantage, I chose to pull Christian back.

I would have tried to outrace him if I thought I could beat him, but I assessed his head start as insurmountable.


More than fair. So was the plan to hang onto those four, stop Christian, and hope it was enough?
+1 # Jim O'Kelley 2017-06-21 22:27
Quote:
So was the plan to hang onto those four, stop Christian, and hope it was enough?
Well, I didn't have those four, so my plan as 1903 dawned was to:

a) Figure out a way to disengage in the East. (I was at five centers at this point.)
b) Push north to slow down Christian and initiate a board-wide scrum over the stalemate line.
c) And hope that in a tighter game, eight or nine would be enough and that I could find a path there.

Not sure if you looked at the SC chart, but Christian was at eight after 1902. France was in shambles. His 1901 was disastrous and it went downhill from there. Russia was weak. England was spread out.

I had the best shot at slowing down Christian, but my hands were tied by the two Turkish armies that had been parked on the Bul-Rum land bridge since 1901. That was the situation that Brandon and I were trying to resolve during our Spring 1903 negotiations, first through the Russian intermediary and then in direct talks.

Anyway, to your initial observation, I didn't see an opportunity to sprint into the lead, but I did believe I could prevent Christian from breaking away, and I hoped that would give me a better shot at topping the board.

I did, but it didn't.
# Jim O'Kelley 2017-06-20 23:48
Quote:
I wondered after the game whether I had made a mistake
Yes, you shared that feeling with me in our brief chat after the game. I said then and still believe now that there was nothing wrong with your stab. The timing and tactics were good, and strategically, it gave you a good shot at the board-top.

Quote:
He left out the part where he had reneged on our deal the previous year and seriously compromised my position.
I unilaterally changed the terms of our agreement--a risk I hoped to get away with but clearly didn't--because I felt like I needed to weaken your hand before I moved away from you. Do I make the same decision in an online game where I have more time to study the board? Probably not. But on the quick clock of a bar game, forcing you to play defensively while moving the fight to one of your dots seemed like the right play.

That Spring 1903 turn went brilliantly for me. I probably should have tried to press the advantage in the Fall. But, I wanted to work with you (my alliance options were really limited in this one. Pravel won't work with Royale contenders in a productive alliance unless they're already in the field, and Sean had no appetite for a war with Turkey...even after I had put you in the Ionian.) and my read of the West was that Christian was about to explode. It doesn't help me to have a good game on my side of the board if another player is having a great game on the other side.

Quote:
Without a fleet in Greece, I could not retake ION.
This is probably the only point I disagree with. I had a fleet in Greece and if we're working together, then of course I'd put you in the Ionian. I know there are safety concerns there, but my point is that we had naval superiority in the Med.

Quote:
Also, Italy’s stab was actually the unkinder cut. Without that, Jim has nothing to worry about, from anyone. Instead of f-bombs, however, Italy got dots.
Well, first he got a guilt trip. "Can you explain to me why you wanted someone other than me to top the board?" "What did I do to deserve that?" That sort of thing.

It failed to move him, so I invited him to walk into Vienna and suggested that he not hinder my ability to slow you down.

Italy's stab was more devastating, but how could I be upset about it? I was, after all, trying to stab him in alliance with you.

Quote:
Jim successfully kept me from capitalizing too much on the stab.
Bouncing you out of Galicia in the penultimate turn was the guess of the game. If I get that one wrong, you have a shared board-top at least.

Quote:
Will Jim and I ever have a successful alliance?
From my standpoint, much of our trouble has come from frequently playing powers that make strange bedfellows. Germany-Russia, Italy-Turkey. It's possible to make any combination work, of course, but some are more difficult than others.

The true test will come when you're Austria to my Italy. In the meantime, though, yes, it's going to be a while before I'm willing to take a leap of faith with you, which of course, will make it even more difficult to find occasions to work together.

Quote:
But once the smoke from the f-bombs recedes
I am sorry for losing my temper, especially at a bar game. No excuse for that, and it's probably a sign that I need to step back for a while. I'm out of town for the July Red Wednesday. We'll see about August.
+1 # Chris Kelly 2017-06-19 20:03
Quote:
Game #343 marked the first time I’ve been called a “motherfucker” during a game of Diplomacy.
This is shocking... you've been a dominant member of this group for a couple of years now. What the hell took us so long?!? I almost feel like we've been derelict in our duty.
Quote:
Jim had other plans. Instead of letting me dislodge his fleet so that he could take it off the board, he supported it to Bulgaria.... It was not a fatal betrayal; as he pointed out in our subsequent negotiations, I could retake Bulgaria from Greece and he could still disband the fleet, addressing my security concerns. Of course, then he would both get Rumania *and* keep Greece, which wasn’t our original deal.
Jim is something of an artist when it comes to these mini-stabs that undermine but (he hopes) do not destroy an alliance. He referred to a similar move against me in the last game we played as "an absolution-is-easier-than-permission play." I guess he found out that sometimes the other player doesn't feel like providing the absolution.

That said, his move against Germany saved the game in my opinion, so even if the new units he used were ill-gotten (like a bank robber donating the loot to charity), he'll be St. Jim the Martyr to me from now on.
# Jake Trotta 2017-06-20 08:39
Quoting Chris Kelly:

he'll be St. Jim the Martyr to me from now on.


Chris Kelly has been on a religious theme this week, after (rather brilliantly) comparing me to Satan in the Weekly Weasel thread.

Although I suppose I'd do a bit of existential thinking if a club rival had called me "clockwork" and predicted my exact game result. Which I heard made an impact on actual behavior on the board?
# Chris Kelly 2017-06-20 11:21
For the record, Jim brought religion into this post when he compared himself to Jesus Christ. (I demoted him slightly.)

As far as I know, the only impact your prediction made in the game was causing me to gnash my teeth in the final year or so, when I realized you were on track to be right. I tried very hard to pick up an extra center or two so that wouldn't happen, but I failed.
# Brandon Fogel 2017-06-20 13:51
Excellent points, Chris. I finally got my Motherfucker Badge.

Jim "Maestro of the Mini-stab" O'Kelley. Love it.
# Jim O'Kelley 2017-06-20 23:51
Quote:
I guess he found out that sometimes the other player doesn't feel like providing the absolution.
Oh, I'm always aware of that risk.
# Jim O'Kelley 2017-06-21 07:27
Quote:
he'll be St. Jim the Martyr to me from now on.
Patron Saint of Game Summaries and Article Titles.

Quote:
He referred to a similar move against me in the last game
Similar but not identical. In Game No. 342, I figured I could get away with poaching Holland because I expected you to pick up two other dots. This one was about changing the terms of the deal and setting up a Turkish position against which I could more easily disengage.
+1 # Brandon Fogel 2017-06-21 17:15
Jim wrote:

Quote:
I unilaterally changed the terms of our agreement...
Has there ever been a better euphemism for stabbing?
# Chris Kelly 2017-06-21 19:44
Quoting Brandon Fogel:
Jim wrote:

Quote:
I unilaterally changed the terms of our agreement...


Has there ever been a better euphemism for stabbing?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsW9MlYu31g

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