Thom Goes the Weasel: A Game No. 9 Report
We had 14 players and two boards at Eric Brown's home in Wayne on August 12 for an event that we called Weasel Moot. I played on the second board, in the Brown dining room. The line-up was as follows:
Austria: Matt Sundstrom
England: Thom Comstock
France: Nick Rohn
Germany: Jim O'Kelley
Italy: Paul Pignotti
Russia: Kevin O'Kelly
Turkey: Girish Patel
That's right; for the fifth time in seven Windy City Weasels games, I would be playing Germany. Sigh.
The Eastern players and Italy were new to the group; I was sharing the Western neighborhood with Nick Rohn, who had earned three-way draws in his two previous games, and Thom Comstock. Thom played his first game ever with us in January and since then had attended each meeting, finally tasting success with a three-way draw in his last outing.
Right out of the box, Nick took me and Thom aside and pitched a Western Triple, with him opening to the Channel while Thom moved his army to Wales to be convoyed by the French fleet to Belgium in the Fall. France's armies would pick up Iberia, which meant Burgundy would be open.
Thom seemed a bit skeptical, but said he'd mull the offer over. I said it was up to them to work out the specifics regarding Belgium, as I would be doing standard stuff and was eyeing Holland and Denmark.
As soon as Nick left, Thom admitted that he didn't like the plan, so I suggested that he agree to it, but then bounce the French in the Channel and position his army for a convoy to Norway.
Thom said, "You mean you want me to lie to him?"
I said, "Yes, lie to him. Is that a problem?"
"No," he said. "I just wanted to be clear."
So, Thom lied to Nick, and then bounced him in the Channel. Meanwhile, I snuck into Burgundy, also lying to Nick. And with encouragement from me and England, Italy opened to Piedmont, also lying to Nick.
France was in trouble, but Nick is a solid player. If I hadn't promised to support the Italians into Marseilles, he might have cracked the alliance arrayed against him.
Demonstrating nerves of steel, Nick ignored the threats to Marseilles and Paris in favor of picking up Spain and Portugal. He correctly guessed that I would choose the certain center in Belgium over the guess in Paris, but Italy took Marseilles, thwarting the gambit. (Fortunately Italy didn't need my promised support…)
Elsewhere, the East was the usual mess, and the Russians were unhappy about my 11th-hour decision to deny them Sweden.
So, I had three builds (two armies and a fleet), Austria and Italy had two each, and everyone else had one.
The E/G alliance held in the West, and with help, often begrudging, from Italy, we slowly ground down the French. Nick didn't lose anything in 1902, but he dropped two in 1903 and then held out with one dot until 1907, with elimination finally coming in 1908. Considering the poor start, it wasn't a bad showing for Nick.
In the East, meanwhile, Russia was slowly falling under an E/G assault. By 1905, he was down to two centers, while Turkey had only one. My Germany was the board leader at that point with nine centers, while Austria, England and Italy all had seven apiece.
In Fall 1906, Russia, who had been trying to convince me to turn on England, offered me support into England's Moscow and pointed out that it would probably be my last chance to stab him, since England had a build coming. That one center alone wouldn't have convinced me to stab my game-long ally, but I also had two units on St. Petersburg and a decent chance of walking into Brest.
Every man has his price, and three centers is mine. So, as England took Marseilles from Italy, I took Brest, Moscow and St. Petersburg from England. That put me at 12, but I only had room to build two units. Austria, meanwhile, grew to nine, but like me, had to play one short. England and Italy both fell to five, Russia was hanging on with two, France had one, and Turkey fell.
In 1907, while Austria began forging a stalemate line, I scrambled to knock out England. I was able to seize Norway while Italy retook Marseilles, but England cleverly chose to retreat two units off the board, which he then rebuilt as fleets in London and Edinburgh. Along with his army in Liverpool, he was now down to his original starting position but in much better shape defensively than he might have been.
I had fleets in Belgium, the North Sea and Norway, with two builds coming, but my own line in the middle was awfully thin, and Austrian armies were massing along the neutral zone. So, I built two armies and decided to trust to luck against England.
Unfortunately, luck was on England's side this day. For three straight turns, England outguessed me, preventing me from gaining any advantage against him. Meanwhile, Austria had solidified his line, and my own line had a hole in it. I only had one uncuttable support for either Munich or Silesia. I had been trying to conceal that shortcoming with cuttable supports, and fortunately, Austria and Italy were not thinking offensively against me, but sooner or later, they'd see the hole.
By Fall 1909, I hadn't gained any ground against England. My line had a hole in it, glaring to my eye. Italy was chomping at the bit to send fleets past Gibraltar to help me against England. If this had been the final round of a tournament, I might have risked my four-way draw for a shot at a three-way, but it wasn't. I worried that after dispatching the Brits, the Italian fleets in the North would turn on me, allowing Austria to smash through the middle. I envisioned an Austrian solo; a four-way looked a lot better.
And besides, England had played a good game. He had embraced our group's moniker and was pulling out all the stops to weasel into a draw. At one point, he even proposed an A/G/I draw, which failed, I think because he vetoed it. But I couldn't prove that, and it was at least plausible that Austria had vetoed it, further feeding my fear of an Austrian solo.
Add to his stingy defense and diplomatic ploys the fact that he had the necessary units to help me forge a real stalemate line, and my choice was made. I shifted a couple of my units to create an actual stalemate line against the Austrians, and England and I began moving our fleets to secure the seas.
For the next few turns, the Austrians and Italians launched a furious diplomatic assault against me. In Spring 1911, I actually shifted my fleets to give me a chance at nabbing a British dot, but England had sensed the danger and again countered. So, in Fall 1911, I announced that I wanted the four-way, and after one last attempt by Austria to change my mind – he offered to pull units off the line – the draw passed. I had 13 centers; Austria, 11; Italy, seven; and England, his original three.
While it wasn't the result I envisioned when I ripped off three British centers in 1906, I was happy with the outcome. Thom's play deserved to be rewarded. In the finest tradition of the Windy City Weasels, he never quit. Instead, he dug in and with clever tactics and cunning diplomacy, weaseled his way into the outcome. Well done, Thom. You've come a long way.
Here's the supply center chart.