Thursday, 10 May 2018 13:26

Those who can, teach

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Game No. 367, played last night at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square, started late thanks to Bandon Fogel's extended teaching session with an interested beginner. The real lesson soon followed as the two-time defending Weasel of the Year and reigning Bull Weasel gave the other players a master course in taking what the board offers. The lesson ended by time limit after the Fall 1906 turn in the following center counts:

Austria (Brian Shelden): 9; 30.916 points.
England (Ali Adib): 0; 0.000 points.
France (Bryan Pravel): 7; 18.702 points.
Germany (Chris Kelly): 4; 6.107 points.
Italy (Jake Langenfeld): 0; 0.000 points.
Russia (Brandon Fogel): 10; 38.168 points.
Turkey (Jim O'Kelley): 4; 6.107 points.

The supply center chart and opening moves are here. The updated Bar Room Brawl standings are here. And the current league standings are here.

Fogel snatched the board-top from Brian Shelden by overcoming a two-dot deficit in the final year. The top was Fogel's third of the season and vaulted him back into his familiar spot atop the league standings.

He's also in first in the Bar Room Brawl. His pupil, meanwhile, opted to shadow him rather than play herself. Although she had to leave after 1904 or so, she seemed to enjoy watching a master at his craft and expressed an eagerness to play herself...which she then backed up by signing up for next month's Red Wednesday. 

As for his other students, they collectively failed this exam. Fortunately, they shouldn't have to wait long for a do-over.

Okay, let's hear from the players!

Read 454 times Last modified on Sunday, 15 July 2018 16:01

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+1 # Jim O'Kelley 2018-05-10 14:07
Two notables for me.

First, Kevin and I having just introduced Patrick (5) to the great movie Zulu last weekend, I was both surprised and stoked to see Brandon use a sort-of Zulu Bull Attack against me.

In Spring 1902, he withdrew from Sevastopol, allowing me in, which pulled me out of a good defensive position into a forward position that I couldn't defend and leaving me unable to counter-punch against Bulgaria without risking Smyrna. (Austria took Bulgaria and Italy moved to the Eastern Med in Spring 1902.)

On a spring turn later in the game, while I was focused on forcing him out of Armenia, he tried the trick again, this time vacating Sevastopol and hoping to take the Black Sea from Rumania as my cutting move landed in Sevastopol. I recognized the danger this time, however, and did not rush the bull's head.

Second, at one point during the evening, I was explaining one of my choices while standing over the board, when Ali said, "I've learned something about you, Jim. It's never your fault."

He may be on to something there. I have to work on that.
+2 # Brandon Fogel 2018-05-11 18:32
WCW 367 was a relaxed and well-played bar game without any major twists. The West was a mess pretty much from start to finish, while Austria demolished Italy but wasn’t able to break into Turkey or maintain control of more than two Balkan dots. As Russia, I managed to top the board while only holding on to one pickup in the east, Rumania.

As our historical club statistics attest, Russia is a country that can fare very poorly very quickly. Like Austria, it has four neighbors, and, also like Austria, missteps in the early years can make for a short evening. Most Russians opt for defensive play in 1901; arranged bounces in Galicia and the Black Sea and strategic opportunities through diplomacy.

A more aggressive approach is to agree to a DMZ in one or the other province and then open there anyway. Getting into Galicia or the Black Sea in S01 gives Russia a major tactical advantage over their neighbor.

Now Russia might honor a DMZ in one or the other in genuine hopes of an alliance with that neighbor. Only a fool, however, would honor DMZ agreements in *both* Galicia and the Black Sea in S01.

In this game, I was that fool.

Both Austria (Brian Shelden) and Turkey (Jim O’Kelley) pitched DMZs to me, under the condition that my fleet open to Rumania. I agreed to both and decided to honor them. There were three possible outcomes: 1) Both also honor the DMZ, in which case I have two excellent alliance options, 2) Only one honors the DMZ, in which case I know who my ally is, or 3) Neither honors the DMZ, in which case I would be certain to get Sweden and Italy (Jake Langenfeld) would almost certainly have moved against Austria in F01. I figured all of those were pretty good outcomes, so I went for it. If Germany (Chris Kelly) or Italy had been more erratic players, this would have been a miserable choice.

Austria honored his DMZ; Turkey didn’t. For good measure, Turkey also opened to Armenia. (Of the 12 turns in this game, I think Armenia was unoccupied at the end of only 1 of them. To be fair, the unit was white for a couple of those.)

My strategic choice was clear. Brian and I formed a solid AR that lasted until 1905. Jim kept at least one gun pointed at me most of the game, even after the AR broke up and Brian had the advantage. Jim never got above 4 units.

Brian pulled off an exquisite feat this game: he turned on Italy in 1902 and got away with it. Italy had convoyed to Tunis in F01, leaving Venice vulnerable. He didn’t convoy back or move F Nap-Apu in S02. Austria took Venice in 02, dropped a fleet, and was off to the races. By game’s end, he controlled all of Italy plus Tunis.

I was able to keep pace with Austria because the west broke in my favor. Germany faced a solid EF and was thus happy to help me make inroads against England (Ali Adib). I picked up Norway in 02 and eventually ended up with Edinburgh and London. Germany turned against me in S05 after I swiped Denmark in F04, but France (Bryan Pravel) pounced on him immediately and he had to turn back.

Ultimately, I was dependent on France to win the board top alone. Austria and I were headed for a 9-9 tie, which from Jim’s perspective was the least awful outcome, so he was unwilling to tip the balance. But Bryan and I could help each other to the last of the English home centers. I don’t know how aware he was of the board top situation, but fortunately for me, he came through.

Another year (or two) would have made for fascinating gameplay, so it’s unfortunate that time ran out. I strongly suspect Brian gets the board top if we do continue. Despite Jim’s high praise, I don’t think my play here stands out all that much. I picked the right ally, played good defense when needed, and got some good fortune at the right time.
+1 # Jim O'Kelley 2018-05-11 19:41
Good write-up, as usual. A couple of minor quibbles from my perspective.

Quote:
Both Austria (Brian Shelden) and Turkey (Jim O’Kelley) pitched DMZs to me, under the condition that my fleet open to Rumania.
I don't recall picthing a DMZ. My approach was standard for me, as I recall. Something like, "How do you want to handle the Black Sea?" I recall you suggesting it first, us both laughing at the absurdity of the idea but quickly warming to it, mostly out of twisted curiosity.

Also, I recall questioning the utility of a fleet in Rumania, so I definitely didn't intend to come off as requiring it as a condition of the agreement.

Quote:
Jim kept at least one gun pointed at me most of the game, even after the AR broke up and Brian had the advantage. Jim never got above 4 units.
My game was almost entirely a tactical one, as all three neighbors drew on me in the opening. I feel like I had to play my ass off to end the game at 4 units.

(I'll acknowledge that my assessment of the A/R opening might have been wrong, but when I saw Sev-Rum coupled with the DMZ in Galicia, I smelled an attack on Bulgaria. I responded accordingly and hoped for a reset in Spring 1902.)

Fortunately for me, Turkey can get away with a tactics-first game. It generally takes either Italy turning the flank or Russia getting in through the back door to finish off Turkey. You can usually defend against one but not both. It was a stroke of good fortune for me, then, that Austria eliminated the threat of the Italian attack. To stay solvent, all I had to do was guard my back door.

So, I was able to keep my head above water through solid defensive play, but unfortunately, I couldn't sync up with either you or Austria for more than a turn. When I took a chance on one of you, I was mostly wrong.

I can't blame either of you for not working with me here. The A/R was productive, so there was never much incentive for you to mix things up.

Quote:
Despite Jim’s high praise, I don’t think my play here stands out all that much.
And I say to all of us who fancy ourselves to be students of the game, understanding how and why you topped this board will make us better players. :-)
# Brandon Fogel 2018-05-12 09:46
Oh right, I think I was the first to suggest a DMZ in BLA. But I then asked, "What would you like to see me do with the fleet then?" You responded, "Put it in Rumania?" I hesitated and then agreed. It's not the most straightforward way to get an RT going, but then again the straightforward ways don't work on a board with experienced players. We could have blown the fleet up in Rumania or moved it into Bul and then into the Med. However, after lying about the Black Sea *and* Armenia in S01, you had a significant credibility deficit that needed to be rectified.

I do think you had more options than you realized, especially in F01. We agreed for you to convoy Arm-Rum. I moved Rum-Bul and used Ukr to support Seva rather than cover Rum. Brian had offered to support Rum-Bul, but I wasn't sure he would come through. I figured either my fleet gets blown up or it moves one step closer to the Med, either being acceptable for an RT. Or you don't keep your word (again), and it becomes even clearer who I can rely on. When you didn't clear out of Arm, that was really the moment I became fully committed to the AR.

I can handle a certain amount of funny business from an ally, especially if there is clear defensive purpose, but three big deceptions in 1901 that allowed you to maintain tactical advantage over me, that was too much.

I do think you played a fine tactical game after that, and I agree with your strategic assessment. I wasn't going to turn on Brian in a way that would potentiate an AT, and Brian wasn't able to turn on me until Italy was toast (when he did).
# Jim O'Kelley 2018-05-12 10:53
Quote:
do think you had more options than you realized, especially in F01. We agreed for you to convoy Arm-Rum. I moved Rum-Bul and used Ukr to support Seva rather than cover Rum. Brian had offered to support Rum-Bul, but I wasn't sure he would come through.
You're probably right. and we did agree on the convoy, but I was fixated on the possibility of losing Bulgaria.

Regardless of what came first, my instinct or your alliance, the reality is that despite my offer to support him into Rumania, Shelden chose to support you into Bulgaria, and he did that when no one would have faulted him for simply taking the safe play of supporting himself to Greece.

That sequence increased my confidence level in my A/R assessment. But as I wrote, I was hoping that defensive play could get me a reset in 1902. That reset came in the form of a deal with Shelden in which we'd both hit you with two pieces, in Rumania and Sevastopol. (You rightfully weren't receptive to a deal with me at that point.)

I followed through on my agreement with Shelden, but he attacked Bulgaria while you drew me offsides with your Zulu Bull Attack(TM) and Jake sailed to the Eastern Med. From that point on, for better or worse, I was in survival mode, which meant a turn-to-turn tactical game.
# Jim O'Kelley 2018-05-11 19:58
One more thing.

Quote:
Ultimately, I was dependent on France to win the board top alone. Austria and I were headed for a 9-9 tie, which from Jim’s perspective was the least awful outcome, so he was unwilling to tip the balance.
Not quite right. From my perspective, at four centers, I was headed toward my third best result of the season. (It's been a tough year.) I was unwilling to help Brian at the end because helping him would have meant exposing one or two of my centers to attack by him. Wasn't worth the risk. I fought too hard for my four centers.
# Jim O'Kelley 2018-05-11 23:19
Quote:
Brian pulled off an exquisite feat this game: he turned on Italy in 1902 and got away with it.
Similar to a baseball trade, it takes time to evaluate a campaign. Certainly, Austria was able to overwhelm Italy and grow fat on his centers, so in the short term, the attack benefited him.

But as you noted, Brian only controlled two of the Balkan centers at game's end. That's because he committed most of his resources to the Italian front. Granted, that campaign yielded four centers ultimately, but it cost him gains elsewhere, probably.

Further, he lost the board-top in the final year because you gained two centers while he lost one.

Why did he lose one? Because I took Bulgaria from him.

Why was I able to take Bulgaria from him? Because he crippled Italy, which kept me viable.

(Also worth pointing out that there's more than one way to crack a nut. If he helps me hold Rumania in 1906 instead of trying to bully me into ceding it to him, he beats you 10-9. But that has nothing to do with the Italian campaign, which I'm commenting about...because I can't sleep, and examining the ripple effects of our decisions can be informative.)
# Brandon Fogel 2018-05-12 09:55
I think delaying the attack on you benefitted him, actually, by keeping my southern forces tied up. Had the game been untimed, he's in quite a good position.

Your last point, that Brian's greed was a little too straightforward at the end, seems more incisive. I think he had some hopes of ending up with Rum *and* Bul.
# Jim O'Kelley 2018-05-12 10:55
As you know, I hate the Austrian attack on Italy and will continually look for opportunities to argue against it.

For anyone interested, I just posted my endgame statement for R1B2 at CODCon.

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