Sunday, 31 March 2019 12:25

Culture Wars

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War broke out at the Chicago Cultural Center yesterday as we introduced three new players to Windy City Weasels Diplomacy. Game No. 386 ended by time limit after the Fall 1907 turn in the following center counts:

Austria (Brian MacWilliams): 2; 1.205 points.
England (Steve Merritt): 6; 10.843 points.
France (Pete Wesoloski): 1; 0.301 points.
Germany (Jake Trotta): 13; 50.904 points.
Italy (Mike Morrison): 0; 0.000 points.
Russia (Dan Perlman): 1; 0.301 points.
Turkey (Cori Neslund): 11; 36.446 points.

The board pics are here.

The supply center chart is here. The updated league standings, here

Merritt is a friend of Jake Trotta's; Wesoloski was recruited by Brandon Fogel, who was on hand to teach and help run the game. Neslund found us on Meetup and had previously shown up on a Red Wednesday to audit the club.

Okay, players, what happened? Please share your thoughts below.

Read 2422 times Last modified on Wednesday, 05 June 2019 22:39

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+1 # Jake Trotta 2019-04-01 11:43
Before I get to the AAR, I want to share something I've been thinking through lately.

Rethinking the peloton: Asking for permission vs begging for forgiveness


I’ve spoken before in this space about the notion of diplomacy as a cycling peloton. In this analogy, there are three approaches to winning a cycling race.

1) You can try to break away on your own. Everyone will target you once you make your move, so you’ve got to time it flawlessly. This is how I played early in my career, leading to burnout and the first “Welcome Back Trotta” game.

This approach is blunt – I’m going to get to the top faster than you. It’s heavily tactical, but you have to get the strategic timing right because you won’t have the diplomatic capital to push yourself forward.

2) You use alliances to get yourself near the top at the end, then try to win on your own at the final sprint. Get near the finish line, then abandon everything that got you there and beg for forgiveness later. This is where I feel most comfortable as a competitive purist, but lead to targeting and burnout. This is how I played heading up until the second “Welcome Back Trotta” game.

This approach is what you see at most bar games. It values negotiation most until the bitter end. That bitterness can linger into future games, making the strategy less effective if used all the time.


3) You use alliances to get yourself near the top at the end, then your teammates/ allies propel you to victory. You ask for permission to win the race, and they willingly give it to you. This is how I’m learning to play now.

This is obviously the best approach if you can get it, but people aren’t going to give you the W on every board. In fact, this approach requires reciprocity to maintain – you have to be willing to give other people the W. Relationships beyond just that board matter the most in this approach.

Overall, there are still appropriate times for each approach and all have drawbacks. If I’m playing Turkey on this board with an identical setup, I start a breakaway in 1903 with a solo in mind. Any bar game that has Christian Kline as a major player late becomes a “beg for forgiveness” game. Most title boards I’ve been on end with a winner that took the third approach.

After my break from playing, I’ve been reevaluating the negotiations portion of the game. The biggest piece of that reevaluation is deciding which of the three approaches to take on a given board. Before, I played much more “it is better to beg for forgiveness” and, as a result, many of my negotiations turned unforgiving. In the past two games, I’ve chosen the “asking for permission” approach. I’m going to want to play more if people want to play with me more, so this approach seems the best solve for that need.
# Jake Trotta 2019-04-01 11:57
First, thanks to Brandon for hosting and coaching (as well as Bryan). It was an awesome location and a very fun game. Seems like a lot of the newer players will be coming back.

This was my 50th league game with the Weasels, so scoring 50 in this game was a bit serendipitous. It was also a very fun game where Germany leads wire to wire despite Munich getting attacked every season from 02 to the end of the game. As I mentioned to Brandon, I came into the game looking for a split top with one of the rookies, but if there was too big of an opportunity to pass up, I’d take it. England and I remained allied the whole game, and he decided to give me the dots I needed to top. More on that later.

The board set up was fairly interesting. Apparently for 3 new players, they choose between England, France, and Turkey according to league rules. This was also my first time playing with Dan, who is in his first season, and second time playing with Brian. The two vets were myself and Mike Morrison. Mike and I occupied Germany and Italy, so the board had a spine of experienced Weasels surrounded by younger pups. I had never played with two new players in the west and was a bit anxious that I was going to get jumped. That… did not end up being the case.


Early Game – Mike Morrison, Chaotic Neutral

The east was a mess from the drop. In 1901 and 02, every eastern power I talked to didn’t really know what everyone else wanted to do. This made Russia negotiations pretty easy – I’ll give you Sweden, you play in the South and let’s not bug each other.

A happy surprise, both rookies in the west were open to working with me and loved the idea of a triple that turns into a 2 v 1. Both seemed to want to ally with me and willing to cede Belgium for that.

The key moment for my game was 1901 negotiations with Italy. I asked if he was going to Tyrolia, and he was thinking about it. I said “well I’d rather we DMZ there or bounce.” He then pitched a Koninberg (sp?) freakout where he’d open to Piedmont and Venice, I’d open to Tyrolia, and then I’d retreat into the open Austrian dot. Knowing that I was going to get 3 if I stayed in the west, I did not move to Tyrolia.

The move to Piedmont may have spooked France. He built a fleet in Marseilles, and the triple was on. Mike proceed to spend the rest of his game putting armies around Munich. He eventually abandoned his home dots to France, swung at Munich on several occasions, but never took the dot.

Mike’s actions helped form an RT, but Russia was losing dots in the north. With a weak Austria and Russia fighting on two fronts, Turkey began a slow breakout.


The Key Year of the Game - 1904


Heading into 1904, England had taken STP and just swiped Brest and MAO. France had pulled back, but by covering Marseilles and Paris, was not able to build from his Italian gains. He was playing with 5 on 7 dots. Due to Italy’s withdrawal, he was going to get dots there, but needed to shore up back home. With a weakened Russia and France pulling back from Italy, Turkey looked ready to go boom. E-T was poised to break away from the Peloton, and I had to keep pace.

Because I had been defending Munich in 1903, England had stabbed France alone… so France believed that he and I were still allied. In the spring, I offered to move into Burgundy and Picardy to help shore up his defenses. He agreed.

In fall 04, England had units in MAO, ECH and Bre. France had units in Paris and Gas... Mar was open. I was in Burg and Pic. I made a deal with France to support Paris-Brest. Meanwhile, I knew I had English support into Paris from Picardy.

I walked into Marseilles and took Paris with English support. Paris-Brest actually ended up succeeding as ECH held instead of supported. England went down to 5, and pulled his last unit in the northeast (STP). Back in the east, Turkey hesitated on stabbing Russia and ended up staying level. Dots at the end of that year – Germany 9, Turkey 7, France 7 with no home centers, and England 5.


Deciding not to stab

Entering 05, I had one job – maintaining the English alliance. I spent the majority of negotiation time with him and essentially said “you write my orders for me this round. Whatever you need.” I also offered him Belgium and support back into Brest. That did enough to solidify us for the game. The late game was E-G-T gobbling up dots from smaller powers… a Russian retreat into Ankara was the only thing slowing Turkey down. If this game continued, a solo or forced 3 way draw was likely.

I thought about stabbing – England was out of position, but it would’ve taken a year. France was pesky and hung around due to some unfortunate behind the line retreats, which slowed our tempo and made stabbing riskier. I decided against it for a few reasons. First, England and I had a great alliance and I wanted him to enjoy the game. Second, if I had stabbed, it very likely would have unified the board against me. In a game with a set deadline, that likely means Turkey would finish ahead. Third, the deadline meant that I wouldn’t have enough time to get into the English homeland and beyond. Without enough time to try to force a win, I decided to prioritize the alliance and try to win diplomatically in the last year.


Final Year – Alliance play pays off

Heading into 07, I was at 11. Turkey should have been at 10, but accidentally walked out of a Russian Ankara in the fall of 06. Turkey had one guaranteed pickup and two more likely pickups, so 13 was my target.

England and I were helping each other into Iberia and Marseilles. I broke down our three options for how we could play the final year – we could play every man for himself, we could continue working as a team to maximize both our gains, or we could pick a horse to back for the board top. I asked for his permission to take two of his dots and get the W.

In the spring he was uncertain, but he agreed in the fall. I walked into Norway (which couldn’t have been stopped) and Brest (which very easily could have) with his permission. Meanwhile, I supported Russia (who had been busy taking his turn attacking Munich) into Rumania. This kept Turkey down to 11.

If Steve had told me “no you can’t take my shit,” I was going to honor that. It would have been a one dot stab in the final year, and I didn’t think that was worth tarnishing his playing experience or breaking what was a very good alliance.


Player Feedback

Austria (Brian): In a game defined by circumstances, you played the best possible game given an RT and Chaotic Neutral Mike Morrison. The fact that you hung on at 2 for 5 years despite those circumstances is really impressive. Looking forward to seeing you in a better spot and working together on future boards.

England (Steve): Thanks for trying the game out, glad you had fun. You picked things up real quick. Once your tactics catch up to your strategic mind, you’ll be off to the races.

France (Pete): Great having you on the board and hanging out! Had England not jumped on you, you were really gonna fly in this game. Looking forward to seeing you on another board.

Germany (Self): Only nitpick would be doing a better job covering off on retreats. Tempo lost due to French retreats slowed down a strong 3 way tie.

Italy (Mike): Always a blast playing with you. Would love to do the freakout on a different board with a more veteran player.

Russia (Dan): Another victim of circumstances on this board. The early triple with two new players stunted your growth enough for Turkey to outpace you. Had a lot of fun working together and excited to play again.

Turkey (Cori): You played an awesome, awesome game – just dominated the east. Early game patience really paid off. Eager to see you at the next bar game.
# Cori Neslund 2019-04-01 17:54
Thank you Jake for the recap! It occurred to me after we’d already thrown out the pages that I should have kept mine (and my notes) to review.

Big thanks to Brandon and Bryan for setting up the game and coaching. I really appreciated the opportunity to play with other newbies. Also, thanks to all the players--I enjoyed hanging out with all of you and I’m looking forward to playing with you again.

My comments aren’t nearly as involved as Jake’s, but I wanted to share a few things I thought about while playing:

  • My main goal was to not be the first person out. Given that I was Turkey, I thought it would be best to hoard units early and assume someone would be coming for me later. Both Russia and Austria agreed to let me take Bulgaria so my plans for 1901 were pretty much set.
  • Since Russia seemed like the easiest ally, I pulled Dan aside first and said as long as he didn’t stab me I wouldn’t stab him. At least through the first couple of years this appeared to work out. Not sure when it switched--might have been when I accidentally took Black when it should have been a bounce.
  • I lost my confidence after Russia retreated to Ankara. It stopped me from pressing harder into Austria because I had to secure my own territory first. Thinking that Russia now had plans to come down from up north I also pulled my army out of Budapest since I thought I couldn’t defend it. Lastly, I left Ankara before it was mine again and didn’t recover the dot I needed. So instead of using my size to wipe out Austria, Italy, and then start stealing French or Russian territory (which had become the plan), I moved into a completely defensive position. Totally sounds cocky now but I thought I was going to win until the Russian Retreat (that’s what I’m calling it now lol).
  • Regardless of the less than exciting endgame on my part--I really liked playing. Getting the opportunity to think through strategy on my own (rather than shadowing) was a great experience.

Lastly, I’m hoping to get through a few Backstabbr games prior to playing in person again. After the Russian Retreat mistake I’m hoping that a few rounds online will give me a better foundation of the rules. Thanks again to everyone who helped out and participated--it was a thoroughly enjoyable Saturday.

If any of the other newbies had thoughts on the game--I would love to hear them!

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