Tuesday, 26 September 2017 20:37

Brandon the Builder Featured

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For its 10th installment, the Weasel Royale club championship moved to John Gramila's home in the city from Dan Burgess' home in Downers Grove, its longtime venue. The change shortened the commute for the seven participants, perhaps, but the game was still the long, dramatic, angst-filled but fun slog that we've all come to expect from the club's most competitive tradition.

After 12 hard-fought years, top seed Brandon Fogel, the two-time Weasel of the Year, claimed the coveted Bull Weasel title, becoming only the second top seed to win the Royale. The final center counts were:

Austria (Mick Johnson, 5th seed): 1; 0.370 points.
England (Jim O'Kelley, 3rd seed): 7; 18.148 points.
France (Jake Trotta, 2nd seed): 7; 18.148 points.
Germany (Brian Shelden, 4th seed): 7; 18.148 points.
Italy (Christian Kline, 7th seed): 1; 0.370 points.
Russia (Brandon Fogel, 1st seed): 11; 44.815 points.
Turkey (Matt Sundstrom, 6th seed): 0; 0.000 points.

The supply center chart is here.

The board pics are here.

Let's hear from the players!

Read 778 times Last modified on Wednesday, 27 September 2017 07:49

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# Jim O'Kelley 2017-09-26 20:50
Two things.

First, I wasn't sure whether to categorize the game under tournament reports (what I think I've done historically) or 2017 games (which maybe seems more fitting). Suggestions, web team?

Second, believe it or not, the Royale was originally conceived by me and Dan not as our club's championship but as a showcase game. Of course, it can be both, but only if the players share their endgame statements here. Mine is coming later in the week.
+1 # Bryan Pravel 2017-09-27 16:16
Congrats to Brandon Fogel for his dominant 2017 season and Royale win!

As the final game of the 2017 season, I believe you have correctly categorized this as a 2017 game.
+1 # Jake Trotta 2017-09-27 18:37
WHAT HAPPENED TACTICALLY IN 3 PARAGRAPHS
Early Game: EIG jump France, make no progress. Italy turns east as AIR rocks through Turkey. Turkey dies pretty damn quickly through no fault of his own.
Mid game: France recovers, keeps trying for FE, never happens. That and fear of Russia cause west to lose all tempo. German acquires all of Scandinavia. Austria stabs Italy, but gets stabbed by Russia just as that second fleet drops down, leaving no remaining southern fleet powers. Russia slowly working through Austria as France swoops to fill southern void. EG move on France.
End Game: France takes Austrian dots in Italy to maintain defense back home, collapsing the Austrian. Rogue Austrian flips to Russia, Italian janissary flips to Grand Alliance. England inherits German dots in order to help hold line. France loses Port, Bre and briefly Par. France threatens to throw game, EG decides they don’t need him in grand alliance and keep attacking, Russia wins.

TL;DR: Dominant AR breaks for R, west can’t get their shit together. Big R top.

WHO WERE THE CONTENDERS?
Really, just Russia. In the east, Turkey had no shot and Italy lost when he allowed Austria to walk into Venice. Austria made slow work of Italy, and Russia pounced at the perfect moment. Some poor Austrian guesses ensured R would win the East.
The West never resolved. The alliance structure (eventually an EG) took too long to form and was largely unproductive once it did. Germany was the only western nation to hit 8 centers, and that only lasted a season.
AR held the lead through 1905. Because he had a stronger position in a resolved theatre, Russia held or shared the lead from 1906 on.

WHY DIDN’T THE LEADER GET STOPPED
1) Poor Austrian guesses
2) West’s failure to resolve means there was no contender coming out of the west
3) West’s failure to triple up meant he had no southern opposition
4) Western relationships were too fragmented in the endgame to form a grand alliance (or agree that a grand alliance was necessary)
5) Possibly some janissary luck, though in my opinion it wouldn’t have made a difference

SO… WHY DID THE WEST LOSE?

In the early game, the West failed to resolve because they couldn’t settle on an alliance structure. EIG made no progress against France. France wanted EF, England wanted EG, by the time EG formed they were not in position to make progress on France because Russia became a threat.
In the mid game, France played good enough D back home (while resupply by picking up Austrian centers in Italy). That gave Russia an easier path south and made progress for EG tougher to come by.
In the end game, negotiations really broke down. Initially, EG and F disagreed on a need for a triple alliance to stop the leader. By the time it was obvious a triple needed to happen, France and England couldn’t agree on/ stick to a deal. Jim lying made him difficult to work with, me losing my temper made me difficult to work with.

OVERALL REFLECTIONS
Self-Management: A in the early game, D in the late game
Negotiation: C+
Strategy: C-
Tactics: A-
In more seasons than not during this game, I ordered support for Jim that he didn’t take. I don’t mind getting stabbed or lied to, unless it’s pointless. I have never been lied to more on a diplomacy board, and I lost my cool. I apologized to Jim for losing my cool during the game-wasn’t productive for anybody.
Strategically and in terms of negotiation, I regret not sticking with FG, and doing a poor job of managing AR in the midgame. Allowing that stab gives me a chance to explode, which I don’t need to win on this board. If they stick it out, we’re likely headed for a 3-way draw.
That’s the stuff within my control. I do question a lot of the choices made by EG in this game- particularly involving their style/content of negotiation and strategic view of the board. While that was tremendously frustrating on the board, it does give me a lot of insight into how to play with Jim and Brian down the road.
Definitely a great learning experience- lot of lessons from this game. Brandon was the deserving champion from the start.

PLAYER FEEDBACK
Austria (Mick Johnson): Played an excellent game. Will be back on this board next year and a real contender, especially as tactics keep improving.
England (Jim O’Kelley): Jim’s a great guy and a hell of a player. I definitely learned a lot about him in this game. We’ll certainly disagree about many of the choices he made in this game, particularly since he ended up with just Portugal and German dots outside home.
France (Jake): See above. Tactics were very good-I know better than to convoy Gascony. Strategically came back from getting jumped early and could have had a chance to win with better negotiation or tactics.
Germany (Brian Shelden): Would have been very comfortable with Brian winning. Played a very good game. My only real critique would be moving on Paris instead of negotiating a better solve. But ultimately, should have picked him as an ally. His loss is a result of E/F conflict.
Italy (Christian Kline): We… worked well together? Which was weird?
Russia (Brandon Fogel): Coolest head on the board. Played a great game, deserving Bull Weasel. Could make an argument he moved on Austria too soon- I really don’t think so. Odds of winning go from 25%ish to 40%ish when he makes the move up to 9.
Turkey (Matt Sundstrom): Not much you could do in this one buddy.
# Jim O'Kelley 2017-09-28 00:28
For me, the 2017 Weasel Royale Club Championship game played out in four stages:

1) The Blitz.
2) The Betrayal.
3) The Threat.
4) The Imbalance.

Stage 1: The Blitz
Negotiations in Spring 1901 went pretty well. France (Jake Trotta) was friendly, seemed to want an alliance, and wanted to DMZ the Channel.

Russia (Brandon Fogel) had no interest in opening North. Completely understandable given that the Turk was the Sundstrom of the Sundstrom Opening fame. (For you new readers, our club refers to Turkey's hostile Russian opening -- Con-Bul, Ank-Bla, Smy-Arm -- as the Sundstrom Opening because, well, Matt.

As for Germany (Brian Shelden) and Italy (Christian Kline), neither was overly enthusiastic about blitzing France, but both were willing to jump if we all jumped. So we did.

As France opened to the Mid, Gascony and Spain, Italy moved to Piedmont, Germany stole into Burgundy, and I sailed into the Channel.

That turn was the height of E/G/I cooperation, unfortunately. We all kind of just freelanced in the Fall, which worked out all right -- Christian allowed Jake to walk back to Marseilles, I moved to the Mid Atlantic as Jake's fleet took Portugal, and Brian and Jake bounced in Paris.

I wish I had spent some time trying to coordinate with the other two. Perhaps Brian and Christian were never going to agree on a supported attack on Marseilles, but I at least should have had that conversation with them. Instead, when Christian invited me and Brian into the pantry to chat, all I could muster was, "Well, this is subtle."

In fact, we were lucky that our moves worked as well as they did. The proper response to Christian's decision on Marseilles is the Channel to Brest. Jake could have built twice despite the blitz had he guessed right on Marseilles. But, as I said, we weren't coordinating.

So, it was a deceptively good start. France was on his heels, but Jake was facing the kind of alliance that Napoleon had in mind when he said, "I'd rather fight allies than have them."

Stage 2: The Betrayal
The alliance fell apart in 1902. Having gotten as much as he figured to get from his western opening, Christian ditched east for a blitz of Turkey.

Brian, meanwhile, stabbed me three different ways.

First, in the Spring, he supported himself to the Baltic instead of moving to Sweden and the Baltic simultaneously. This ensured that Russia could take Norway in the Fall with a supported attack by his fleet while ceding Sweden to Germany. (I had convoyed to Belgium in 1901, leaving Norway neutral.)

Second, as I moved to Picardy with his support, Brian followed into Belgium. That hadn't been part of the plan. He said he'd leave. I felt like I was too invested in the French attack not to give him a chance to prove himself.

And third, instead of helping me take Brest in the Fall, he supported Jake's move there to bounce me out. While keeping Belgium.

Despite being blitzed by all three neighbors, Jake was now at five. He built F Brest. Brian built a third fleet. And I was down to three units.

Jake picked up Belgium in 1903 and built a third fleet for himself, which set up the next stage.

Stage 3: The Threat
When Spring 1904 dawned, my three neighbors had a combined seven fleets in or near the theater. (The farthest away was the new French fleet in Marseilles.)

I spent the next chunk of the game trying to deal with the threats posed by those seven fleets.

Russia had little interest in further undermining my position. He eventually parked his fleet in Barents. Although nonaggression was a sound strategic choice for him, it still earned him some goodwill from me.

Germany recognized the rising Russian threat, so he eventually committed all three of his fleets to the sacking of St. Petersburg, which took a while. All three fleets were out of my hair.

France, though, continued to build up. I don't blame him for that at all. In fact, my presence first in the Mid Atlantic and then in the English Channel required a fleet response from him.

Still, we couldn't make much diplomatic progress with our cannons staring at each other.

Here's where I think Jake's account above is inaccurate, or at least misleading. My approach to dealing with the French naval threat was to redirect those fleets to the Mediterranean as part of a Western Triple.

But at this stage of the game, Jake kept insisting that the only way forward was through Germany.

"We can contest Brandon by taking German centers," he'd say.

I kept disagreeing. Brian was on the front lines against the rising Russian empire, and I thought we needed to keep him there.

Stage 4: The Imbalance
That brings us to the endgame, where Austria (Mick Johnson) and Italy were cannibalizing each other while Brandon pushed for control of the game.

Now, finally, the West was ready to move in concert against the Russian threat. The problem was that Brian and I were stymied on the Russian front while Jake was sailing into a Mediterranean theater that resembled a dystopian wasteland.

Do I think the Western Triple could have toppled Brandon as the board leader? Yes, I do. He didn't have enough fleets to defend himself against Jake.

But, here's the thing about stop-the-leader coalitions: They can stop someone from winning the game, but typically for most members of the coalition, all that means is that someone else is going to win the game.

Now, I get that I can't win without first ensuring that Brandon doesn't win, but there are only two conditions under which I will wittingly contribute to promoting one winner over another:

1) The current leader got fat on my dots, and I want to make him pay.

2) Esprit de corps is at play, and I want one of my allies to win the game. (That's exactly why Austria was aiding Brandon at the end of the game.)

Neither was a factor here. As I said above, Brandon earned some goodwill by staying out of western affairs after taking Norway. I wanted to win the game, but if I couldn't, then I could live with Brandon winning.

Brian and I had been working together against Brandon for a while, so it's possible that if his chances were better, I would have jumped on that train, but Jake and I never got anything going. I was unwilling to commit myself to stopping Brandon just to help Jake win.

For me, playing on did not make sense unless we could restore some equilibrium to the game. That's what I was trying to do at the end.

I do not believe that I could have rallied to win the game had I done nothing while Jake surmounted the Russian lead.

I knew that Jake could decisively tip the game to Brandon to protest a stab rather than fight in the Mediterranean to offset losses closer to home. That was a risk I was willing to take. The other--that my role in the Grand Alliance would serve only to elevate one winner not named me over another not named me--was a risk I was not willing to take.

If my approach at the end is difficult for the reader to understand, then I'll kindly offer this as context: www.world-diplomacy-database.com/php/results/tournament_board.php?id_tournament=1301&id_round=1&id_board=1.

We all forge our attitudes and approaches in different crucibles.
# Jake Trotta 2017-09-28 09:36
Quoting Jim O'Kelley:

Here's where I think Jake's account above is inaccurate, or at least misleading. My approach to dealing with the French naval threat was to redirect those fleets to the Mediterranean as part of a Western Triple.

But at this stage of the game, Jake kept insisting that the only way forward was through Germany.

"We can contest Brandon by taking German centers," he'd say.

I kept disagreeing. Brian was on the front lines against the rising Russian empire, and I thought we needed to keep him there.


Not sure if having a different perspective is necessarily misleading. Jim's logic checks out given his strategic view of the board, but I can see several missed opportunities there.

EARLY NEGOTIATION BREAKDOWNS AND UNUSED SUPPORTS PREVENTED AN EARLY TRIPLE


I wanted the triple as well, especially with the south about to fall apart. I did think hitting Germany was the better option for a time and can explain if there's interest.

The problem really boils down to negotiation. Every negotiation session in the midgame went something like this: I pitch we hit Germany, Jim says let's triple, I say I can't have you in the channel. We can't come to an agreement because Jim doesn't want to leave the channel/ army brest doesn't make him comfortable enough, so Jim agrees to my support into German dots. Jim does not take said support, repeat next season.

I'd rather have a potential ally stick to their ground and say "I won't hit Germany" than lie and accept support they won't take repeatedly.

THERE MAY HAVE BEEN AN ALTERNATIVE WAY TO TRIPLE THAN HANDING THE GAME TO A NEW WINNER

At a certain point, we had missed our window to take German dots to hold off Brandon. I stopped pitching hitting Germany in the late midgame, but did pitch the triple harder.

Quoting Jim O'Kelley:


For me, playing on did not make sense unless we could restore some equilibrium to the game. That's what I was trying to do at the end.


There were some missed opportunities here. Yes, my odds of winning go up if the Grand Alliance forms and I'm the only one benefiting. This is a math problem- how can we balance the odds for all three players?

The only solution Jim went after was to take me down to ensure my odds didn't go up.

An alternative would be to come to an arrangement between the three of us that increases all of our odds about equally, such as a German army in Brest.

EG didn't pitch solutions towards that end until the last 3 seasons of the game... when E had lied in order to get MAO.

The role of suggesting tactics fell to me, which was not ideal given that I had been repeatedly lied to by the people who were asking me to make a deal with them. I was pissed, it is difficult to want to work with someone who is pissed.

TLDR: My role in the failure to triple was primarily losing my cool and making myself an undesirable partner. Jim's strategic choices fell short in that they prevented early EF or EFG collaboration, then did not search for alternative triple solutions in the endgame.
# Jim O'Kelley 2017-09-28 09:58
Quote:
misleading
I chose misleading because your analysis skipped over the chunk of the game where I was pitching the Triple and went straight to the part where you were pitching it.

By that time, as I've written, the Triple would have served only to help you win the game. And again, as I've written, without sufficient reason, I was unwilling to help crown a different king.
# Jake Trotta 2017-09-28 10:13
Quoting Jim O'Kelley:
Quote:
misleading

I chose misleading because your analysis skipped over the chunk of the game where I was pitching the Triple and went straight to the part where you were pitching it.

By that time, as I've written, the Triple would have served only to help you win the game. And again, as I've written, without sufficient reason, I was unwilling to help crown a different king.
Understood, in my first draft of the AAR I went into greater detail about our difficulty agreeing on safe boundaries to establish a triple.

I address this in my updated comment below (hit submit by accident and had to edit).
# Jim O'Kelley 2017-09-28 10:31
Quote:
I'd rather have a potential ally stick to their ground and say "I won't hit Germany" than lie and accept support they won't take repeatedly.
You've thrown these comments around quite a bit. This just isn't my recollection of events.
# Jake Trotta 2017-09-28 11:40
Quoting Jim O'Kelley:


You've thrown these comments around quite a bit. This just isn't my recollection of events.


Then we have a fundamental disagreement on what happened during our negotiations.

For each season I was in Belgium, I ordered the same move- supporting either North or York into Holland. Even as you took Belgium with German support, I ordered Bel S North-Holl.

I triple checked with you each season to ensure you wanted support, and got a yes each time.

Later, I only left MAO because you had agreed not to follow up. I only agreed to leave Naples if you backed away from Iberia.

None of those things happened.
+1 # Chris Martin 2017-09-28 13:45
Quoting Jake Trotta:

For each season I was in Belgium, I ordered the same move- supporting either North or York into Holland. Even as you took Belgium with German support, I ordered Bel S North-Holl.

I triple checked with you each season to ensure you wanted support, and got a yes each time.

Later, I only left MAO because you had agreed not to follow up. I only agreed to leave Naples if you backed away from Iberia.

None of those things happened.


This lines up with my general experience of negotiating with Jim - if he's not lying to you, he's lying to someone else, and he's probably lying to you. :P

Martin's Third Law of Diplomacy - if a player can profit by lying to you, he is probably lying to you.
# Jake Trotta 2017-09-28 10:01
Quoting Jim O'Kelley:

If my approach at the end is difficult for the reader to understand, then I'll kindly offer this as context: www.world-diplomacy-database.com/php/results/tournament_board.php?id_tournament=1301&id_round=1&id_board=1.

We all forge our attitudes and approaches in different crucibles.


Not exactly sure where you're going with this context. Also, I'd trust such a big LOTR fan to know that swords can be reforged in different times of need.
# Jim O'Kelley 2017-09-28 10:30
Look at the supply center chart. I won't put anybody else through that unless I can justify the reason.
+1 # Brandon Fogel 2017-09-28 09:02
After a few days reflection, this game seems more complex than it did immediately afterward. It was not simply a case of a strong early alliance producing a win for whichever ally stabbed first. After that alliance broke down in 1906, three different countries had reasonable paths to victory, plus another two had low but non-negligible odds, until the game broke decisively over 1910-11.

In the end, this game was won and lost through diplomacy. The people with the king-making power wanted me to win more than the other guys.

Self-evaluation overview
The Birsan schema divides the gaming activity of Diplomacy into three broad categories: tactics, strategy, and diplomacy. Our very own Jake Trotta helpfully adds a fourth: self-management. I give myself the following grades on these scores:

Tactics: B
Strategy: A
Diplomacy: A+
Self-Management: B+

My tactics were mostly solid, although there were two lapses at important moments. As often happens with tactical mistakes, however, these opened strategic and diplomatic opportunities that I exploited to turn the game decisively in my favor. But these mistakes were unintentional and therefore genuine.

My board-reading and strategic calculations were strong. Really nothing to quibble with. I wanted to be in the East, it transpired exactly as I’d hoped, and I didn’t screw up by getting sucked into the west.

As I’ll describe in more detail below, I think my diploming this game was very good. I formed a solid early game alliance that lasted almost through 1906, and then I had three different powers help me win, including my former ally.

The Logistical Danger Zone
This game taught me an important lesson about the midgame. In the early game, you have few units and can dedicate most of your time to diploming; if you make it to the late game with a lead, you have fewer strategic choices and can dedicate most of your time to working out tactics. However, if you make it to the midgame with 7-10 units, the tactics quickly become complex and there is still a lot of diploming to do. Even worse, the phases start getting shorter. Let’s call this the “Logistical Danger Zone” (LDZ). It’s important to be aware of the LDZ and to manage your time accordingly. I didn’t in S07, and that led to one of my tactical lapses. Hence the B+ on self-management.

The early game
With the defending champion, Matt Sundstrom, playing his favorite country in Turkey, I thought an early AIR would be an easy sell. I was right. Long time Sundstrom-nemesis Christian Kline in Italy and newcomer Mick Johnson in Austria were more than happy to take him out directly. For his part, Matt told me he would open to Arm, keep me out of BLA, and wait for a good offer. He kept his word, built F Con, and forced BLA in S02. Hard to imagine a sensible Russia finding anything useful in that.

Without question, the jewel of the night for me was my working relationship with Mick. We established a rapport immediately in our S01 negotiations, successfully DMZ-ed Galicia in S01, and were off to the races. He helped me into Rum, I helped him into Bul, he let me have Bul, I helped him into Con, and we respected each other’s needs for defensive security. Even better, we eventually both stabbed each other in the same turn, F06.

Matt lasted to the end of 1904 and did a good job of keeping me from getting anything tangible out of his demise. Thanks to his helping an Italian fleet into Con with his dying breath, I didn’t even get BLA until F05. However, the slow pace worked to my advantage. Austria had moved on Italy in 1903, and my lack of growth kept him from cutting a deal with Italy and reversing course.

Mick received a lot of criticism (mostly from Christian) after the game for moving on Italy so early, but I think it was unquestionably the right move. Some tactical errors slowed him down (the worst being a failure to open Tri for a fleet build in 1903), but the move opened a clear victory path for him. He had all the Italian home centers by the end of 06. How many Austrias can say that? If he plays better defense, the midgame goes very differently.

In the north, dithering between England and Germany kept them from advancing on me (or anywhere else). I took Nwy in 02 and lost it in 03, but I held on to Stp until the end of 1907. By that point I was all-in on the southern strategy and only needed to play defense in the north.

1906: The stab
As 1906 dawned, Mick and I both stood at 7, while Italy was down to 5 and out of position. In other words, it was decision time for the AR. Do we head across the stalemate line in tandem, or do we try to get the jump on each other?

Austria was vulnerable; his armies were bunched up to the west and his southern units were separated. I could be certain to pick up 2 if I stabbed, and my positioning would be better than his. Italy would be a willing and useful ally, with little hope of winning. Plus, Austria was poised to pick up Naples and perhaps a German dot. If I didn’t stab then, I’d be forced to wait for a Grand Alliance to form against Mick. (Even worse, Christian might start helping him against me, just as punishment for being timid.)

On the other hand, if I did stab, I knew I would become a target for the whole board. The game would be a race to secure the Austrian dots before the West could get their act together. Fortunately, the West was still a mess in 1906, with EFG at 456, respectively, and Belgium still changing hands almost every year. Germany had 3 fleets and 3 armies, which allowed him to threaten Stp but not respond quickly on land.

I liked my odds.

For his part, Mick’s eyes got big as well. In S06 he moved to Silesia, an odd and potentially provocative move. Fortunately I could cover War from Mos. But in F06 he moved to Galicia, an obvious prelude to an attack on me. Had I not stabbed, he would have been building 2 (likely F Tri and A Bud) with armies in Galicia, Serbia, and a fleet in Con.

After the stab: Into the LDZ
1907 was my worst year. The F06 stab succeeded, netting me two new armies, but I suddenly had a lot of work to do and not enough time to do it. I had to keep Christian on side, make sure EG were worried that an overreaction would hand the game to Jake in France, and keep a dialogue open with Mick, knowing the odds were good that he would eventually get to play kingmaker. Plus, I needed to work out my tactics, and the negotiating time had dropped to 10 minutes. This is precisely the LDZ I describe above. I wasn’t ready for it, and I got burned.

Thankfully, and in the end most importantly, I accomplished each of those negotiating tasks. What I didn’t do was work out my tactics, and in a hurry to get something written, I ended up with, as Christian would put it, “suboptimal” moves. I should have ended 1907 with armies in Gal and Bud. Instead, there were red armies in both and I was back down to 7. (For those interested, I should have written War S Bud-Gal rather than Bud S War-Gal, and Bul S Seva-Rum rather than Bul S Gre-Serb in S07.)

I also made my one significant negotiating mistake of the game in 1907. In F07, I told Christian I was going to take Smy. He was gaining Serb but had no home centers and couldn’t build. There was no need for me to ask permission in this case. He bounced me and played short, while I had to take another piece off the board.

The BTOAB rises again
My bad 1907 had one big virtue: I no longer looked like a runaway threat to win. In fact, Shelden was now tied with me for the board top at 7. Perhaps this led EG to think that they didn’t need the Grand Alliance after all. They took Belgium from France in 08 and launched a full-scale invasion in 09, even transferring a dot to England for a fleet build for that express purpose. I can only imagine they thought they could get away with it. The net effect was to hasten Austria’s collapse, as France took dots on the Italian peninsula in order to prop himself up.

I prioritized securing the Austrian dots over slowing Germany down. I figured I could eventually get help against the German if he made progress. By S10, this plan was succeeding. I had advanced methodically, gaining dots and position in the south. By F10, Mick was certain to drop to just 1 or 2 units and would surely disappear the following year. Yet he was in position to help EG break down my northern defenses before going out (thanks to my second tactical lapse, allowing A Lvn to get popped in S10). I pulled him aside for what turned out to be the pivotal moment in the endgame.

We had spoken a few times since the stab, each conversation cordial but unproductive. This time I laid everything on the table. At the beginning of the game, we’d both said we’d be happy to see the other one win; I gently reminded him of that and reiterated how well we’d worked together (5+ game years). What had the Grand Alliance members done for him, other than eat his dots from behind and fail to offer him any of mine? His choice at that point was either to help me win or help England or Germany win.

Mick plays cool. He's only been playing for about a year, but he doesn't get rattled or overwhelmed. His strategic sensibilities are advanced for his level of experience; when he improves tactically, he’ll be lethal. He did try to stab me in 1906, after all; next time he’ll know better how to do it.

And that is why I think he respected rather than resented my stab. He fought me as hard as he could, but when it was clear he wouldn't recover, he didn't want to play merely to punish me. Revenge is enjoyable for many of us; it wasn't for Mick, at least not in this case.

He came back to me a few minutes later and, without any uncertainty, said he was on board. He swiped Munich and, critically, cut support in Silesia for an attack on Warsaw. I later walked through Vienna and made sure he survived to the draw.

The game was effectively over at that point, despite a creative effort by France and Italy to generate another southern fleet (Italy getting a build in 1911 was truly a shining moment; to get it he had to stab me and play 2 short, with only two units, for a year). I popped the German army in Prussia and the north was finally secured. Jake, tired of getting dotted in the west by EG, declared that he would help me win. I think I still win without his help there, although it’s a fair question. The Grand Alliance needed armies in the south to stop me, not fleets, and those just weren’t available, at least not without years of coordination. But I don’t think EFG were ever on the same page for even a single turn.

The BTOAB rests
The main moral I draw from this game is this: know your strengths, play to them, and be patient. That’s what I did here, and it worked out all right.
# Jim O'Kelley 2017-09-28 09:53
Quote:
My bad 1907 had one big virtue: I no longer looked like a runaway threat to win. In fact, Shelden was now tied with me for the board top at 7. Perhaps this led EG to think that they didn’t need the Grand Alliance after all.
Good recap. Regarding the quoted passage above, Brian and I, to my recollection, never had a conversation about cutting Jake out of anything. Instead, we moved against Jake because we believed that if we didn't, he rather than you would run away with the game.

I won't speak for Brian, but for my part, I could have lived with Jake winning the game. What I was unwilling to do, for the reasons stated in my recap, was facilitate his victory through inaction or appeasement.

The West failed to stop you because we didn't send units into the Mediterranean theater at a point when we could have worked with a viable Austria or Italy (or both!) to oppose you. By the time the French moved into the Mediterranean, A and I were in shambles.
# Brian Shelden 2017-09-28 21:02
Going after Jake, for me, was more about speed than hostility. Especially when he was so far away from Russia.

I was hoping (with low probability, I knew) that Jim & I could grow faster than Brandon via French dots.


That and I did need to give him some where to go. He spent years writing orders -- that would have worked -- supporting Jim into things.

Thankfully Jim didn't accept.
+1 # Chris Martin 2017-09-28 13:53
Quoting Brandon Fogel:

The game was effectively over at that point, despite a creative effort by France and Italy to generate another southern fleet (Italy getting a build in 1911 was truly a shining moment; to get it he had to stab me and play 2 short, with only two units, for a year).


I hope that play gets some kind of special attention, because that's just dead sexy.
+1 # Brandon Fogel 2017-09-29 10:27
I'll get Jake to comment on it. Here's what happened from my perspective.

Christian had been a (mostly) loyal janissary from S07 through S10, where he had two fleets with dots in Smy and Gre. In F10, Jake allowed him to retake Nap, and he swiped Bul from me. It was a bold play for Jake, since EG were all over his home centers. Another army back home would have helped considerably.

I had a sense that Christian was going to turn, but I only had one home center open with two builds on the way (I was confident by then that Mick was re-allying with me). I figured out quickly that I could take Smy the next year as long as I stayed in AEG, so I decided to give Christian a chance to remain loyal.

In 1911, Jake walked through Nap while Christian only lost Smy. At the time, Jake sold that to me as a mistake, but later they both revealed that it was deliberate, part of a deal to flip Christian. Clever of Jake, as he got me to walk out of Ven in F11, in order to help him against EF. May have been naive on my part, but again I only had one home center open for builds.

In any case, Jake flipped genuinely to my side in 1912, while Christian went for Rom.
# Jake Trotta 2017-09-29 10:53
Quoting Chris Martin:


I hope that play gets some kind of special attention, because that's just dead sexy.


"Just Dead Sexy" was the name of my high school band.

At this point, I had made the threat to EG that they either back off or I'm throwing the game. BUT if there was a chance that they could see me as a valuable ally and back off, I wanted to take it.

I asked Christian if a home center would get him to come onto the Grand Alliance, he said yes, so I flipped him Naples.

If EG continued to screw me, Brandon and I could kill Christian anyways. If EG backed off, now I've got a front line fleet that I can cut off from behind anytime.

In fact, my move from Naples-Ion was a case of playing both sides. I didn't know what Christian's unit in Ion was doing. If I "accidentally" cut a support, then Brandon picks up more dots, I go up to 8, and the game possibly ends with me in second place. If I make it to Ion, then I show the West that I'm willing to play ball.
+1 # Brian Shelden 2017-09-28 20:49
The 2017 Royale was a fun, interesting game, that's for
sure. Here's how it went down from my perspective.

I am no expert at the Paris Power Selection strategy.
After asking a lot of folks for advice, I decided my
strategy would be to put the two players I didn't
understand: Christian and Mick. Absolutely a failing on my
part, not theirs...but I have no ability to predict what
they are going to do. I therefore wanted them in a
different theatre than me.

I was surprised that I ended up with the 2nd pick. With
Jake picking France first, Germany seemed right. I can
work with Jake (if he decides to pick me.) I prefer an
FG to an EF. Also, if one of the chaotic players joined my
theatre, the damage can be trapped in England.

I'm not a believer in opening to Burgundy unless:
* it's gonna succeed
* Ven - Pie is coming
* Lon - Eng is coming
* Lon - Eng is gonna succeed

Those are long odds. So I almost never open to Burgundy.
However, I'm an aggressive player. So anyone who comes to
me with a plan is going win me over vs someone who just
wanted to wait and see. Jake pitched wait and see. So
when Christian (I) and Jim (E) came and said they were both
for jumping Jake...four bullet points met...I reluctantly
signed on.

The 3 of us pushed back Jake a bit. But, as Jake does and
does well, he make the right pitch at the right time. He'd
put me into Belgium while I was taking Sweden, and Russia
was taking Norway from England. We arranged a bounce in
Brest so he could build a fleet there.

Of course, the plan was to follow that up with a Naval
assault against England with Jake's new fleet Brest.

This was a good pitch because I'd be the dominant player in
the West. I'd be a big Germany (7 or 8) vs a 3 center
Enland and 5 center France. That's even before England
started to fall. I'd be in the driver's seat for the
midgame.

Two things went wrong here:
1 I gave up an Italian retreat to Munich, and
2 Jake was full of shit. Instead of taking his build and
going against Jim, me moved F Brest - Picardy and took
Belgium away from me.

Note #2 for later.

A few years went by, with Jake trying to drive a wedge
between Jim & I. We had to work together in the north,
because Brandon (R) had made big gains by killing Matt (T),
and then stabbing his ally Mick (A). So in order for
either Jim or I to win, we had to push Brandon back.

At the same time, we couldn't let Jake grow without bound
either. And he had lightly defended Tunis and the boot in
front of him. I beleive Christian's (I) fleet was no
nearer than the Aegean? Or maybe Symrna? And Italy was
held by Austrian armies...easy to take by sea by France.

So on the one hand, Brandon needed to be stopped. On the
other, Jake could theoretically put pressure on Brandon in
the south *in like 4 years.* *After he'd grown to the tune
of 4 dots.* Which, of course, would put *him* in position
to win.

There's a famous quote in the PTKS:
When you have your boot on someone's neck, don't
let it off. Especially if that neck is Andy
Marshall's.
--Andy Marshall

Jim & I were pretty wishy washy about whether we needed
Jake. I would back off, but Jim wouldn't. We would tell
Jake we were backing off, and then not. I'm sure it was
frustrating.

What we really needed was to have not taken our boot off
Jake's neck in 1902.

Jake was pretty mad at how we strung him along. I
completely understand that. However, his threat to throw
the game to Brandon was not that threatening. If we did
nothing, Brandon wins. If we piss Jake off, Brandon wins.
Same difference.

That, and the closest dot Jake had to Brandon was Tunis
(who didn't even own Greece yet)...so he wasn't exactly the
point of the spear.

So it wasn't the best threat. What's the downside? I
figured, we might as well play on and see if we can beat
back Brandon in the north and by going *through* Jake. It
was a low probability play, but that was all we had.

The final straw for my game was when Mick (A) was down to 2
centers. I was either tied with Brandon or within 1,
maybe? I thought Mick was on the "stop Brandon" side.
So I didn't cover Munich (again). That killed my game to
the tune of needing English A Kiel to kick Mick out. Boo.

I haven't talked much about Brandon. From my perspective,
the drama was in the West; and makes for a better story.
Brandon was gentlemanly as always. He arranged a 3 on 1 vs
Matt (T), and stabbed Mick (A) effectively, as Mick turned
to attack Christian (I). The Italian boot never being a
good place to be with a big Russia at your back.

We had some issues around StP when IMHO he should have
conceeded it...being unholdable from the South...I could
only take it with a fleet anyway...and once StP falls I'm
clearly turning on England with them. Would have freed up
6 units between us. But hey, I lost that argument, and
you can't argue with the result.

A well deserving champion.

I had a great time in this game. I thought I had a shot,
but it was my own mistakes that blew it. I also enjoyed
never having to think "oh yeah, I need to set up for a
stupid timed-game stab now."

I especially enjoyed the company, and the host! What a
great venue for a game! Thanks John!
# Brian Shelden 2017-09-28 21:03
For reference, I wrote that on Sunday night before I read any commentary above.
# Brandon Fogel 2017-09-29 10:08
Quote:
We had some issues around StP when IMHO he should have
conceeded it...being unholdable from the South...I could
only take it with a fleet anyway...and once StP falls I'm
clearly turning on England with them. Would have freed up
6 units between us.
A similar result would have been achieved had you simply not come after Stp. I think it took you 4 game years to get it. I had nothing else to do with those units during that time than defend Stp, so it wasn't a problem for me. But you definitely lost tempo because of it.

As your insightful recap makes clear, tho, there was a serious love triangle happening in the West. You wanted Jake as an ally, Jake wanted Jim, and Jim wanted you. If you couldn't get Jake onside, then there wasn't much point in going after Jim. In retrospect, your A Pic getting popped in S03 was a big moment; you might have disbanded a fleet and kept four armies had you had a choice (or just covered Mun).

You were a thorn in my side this game, but it was fun playing with you as always. Sorry for just walking out on you that one negotiation. "Let's find a way to work together ... Give me Stp." Too good.
# Brian Shelden 2017-10-01 12:25
Oh no apology necessary. And I mentioned I lost the argument, right? Repeatedly as it turns out. :-)

I was thinking if you conceded the inevitable StP...instead of of waiting for Jim to free up the 4th unit to get there -- you could use your 3 northern armies against Mick, while I used my 3 Scandinavian fleets against Jim.

Good for both of us.

Shrug.

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