“It looks like six inches out there,” I’d tell my delightful wife. It was actually much less.
At one point, clearly enjoying my discomfort, she told the first of many lies to come: “Hey, you just got two emails from people canceling.”
Despite my worst fears, the snowfall yielded only two negative consequences:
I had to wake up extra early to shovel the walk.
One of the players ran into heavy traffic and was about 30 minutes late.
So, at about 11:30 a.m. instead of 11 on Jan. 21—after a brief discussion of unwanted convoys (not allowed) and ambiguous orders (apparently too brief, as you will see) and the ceremonial drawing of the blocks—we began play with the following line-up:
Austria: Eric Brown
England: Greg Duenow
France: Christian Kline
Germany: Tom Comstock
Italy: Scott Yahne
Russia: Bryan Westhoff
Turkey: Jim O’Kelley
Eric and Bryan had played in Game 1. Scott was a veteran of both prior games. The others were new to the group. Greg and Tom had played before but were inexperienced; Christian is a shark in PBEM circles such as DipWorld (http://www.worldmasters.net/dipworld/) but had never played face to face.
Christian’s presence in France, surrounded by the two rookies and Scott, who still considers himself a beginner, caused an A/T to emerge in the East. Eric and I wanted Scott’s Italy to go West to check France’s growth, and the best way to facilitate that was to cooperate against Bryan’s Russia.
I arranged the usual bounce in the Black Sea, but also moved to Armenia, which I tried to sell as additional cover for an R/T. Austria and Russia, meanwhile, ignored Galicia, moving to Trieste and Ukraine, respectively. Italy did not move to Piedmont, as I had hoped, and instead held in Venice while his other units positioned themselves for the convoy to Tunis. Argh.
The most significant moves of the first turn were Russia’s opening to St. Petersburg and England’s opening to the Channel.
In the Fall, I begged Italy to take Tunis with the fleet, which he did. I also tried unsuccessfully to convince Austria to support me into Rumania…only to have Russia approach me and suggest that I cut his support for Ukr-Rum for additional cover, since he expected to gain both Sweden and Norway in the North!
Turns out he was right. Germany opted to hold in Denmark rather than bounce the Russians, and England conceded Norway, choosing instead to support English Channel into Belgium.
In addition to cutting Russian support for Ukr-Rum and bouncing that move, I also snuck into the Black Sea. So now, I was pretty well committed against Russia, who was growing like wildfire in the North. Austria was saying he agreed with my grand plans, but really had done nothing on the board to show his hand. Italy’s fleet was in Tunis, but I needed to keep him focused on France, so I decided to walk further out on the limb and build A Constantinople.
1902 was a very good year. I picked up Rumania in the Spring, while Austria forced his way into Galicia. In the fall, his A Galicia attempted to support me into Ukraine so that he could take Rumania behind me, as I took Sevastopol. Russia thwarted our attack on Ukraine, however, leaving me with two builds. Darn the luck.
Meanwhile, Italy ordered Tunis to the Western Med, sent F Naples to the Tyrrhenian Sea, and swung his armies in Apulia and Venice to Venice and Piedmont, respectively. He was committed against France.
From my perspective – and probably from anyone’s perspective -- it was difficult to get a handle on what was going on in the West. They all just appeared to be bumping into each other.
I think my two builds were the only adjustments, since Russia’s F Sevastopol was annihilated. Austria and I had been bouncing in Bulgaria, but I was a little nervous about his fleet in Greece, and I knew that eventually, my Northern drive would stall, and I’d have to attack him or Italy, so I built F Smyrna. I waived my second build, which is something I can’t recall ever doing.
The A/T continued rolling in 1903. We captured Ukraine in the Spring (me) and Warsaw in the Fall (Austria). By all rights, Bryan’s Russia should have been in big trouble, but he offset the loss of Warsaw by capturing Berlin, and with two fleets in the Baltic region, he actually had decent offensive prospects against Germany while maintaining a solid defensive position against the A/T.
In addition to Berlin, Tom’s Germany lost Denmark to England, but he mitigated that loss by taking Marseilles from France, with Italian support. I think he also took Belgium from England, and somehow France managed to hang onto a vacant Holland, I think because Germany captured it in the Spring, annihilating France’s army there, and then marching on to Belgium. As I said earlier, it was all very confused over there.
[Disclaimer: I’m confident in my recollection of events in the East. In the West, not so much. Typically after a game, I can recall the major actions, and all I need to do is look at the supply center chart to pinpoint when they occurred. But in this game, allies flipped and supply centers changed hands so often in the West that the supply center chart is of little value. Hopefully someone else who was closer to the action will correct any errors I might make.]
I believe 1903 also saw the first of the ambiguous orders. Russia had a fleet in the Baltic Sea, but he ordered F Bat to Berlin. Bryan was actually reading the orders and pointed out his error, so although his French ally tried to make a case for Bat being short for Baltic, we disallowed the move, a decision that Russia did not protest.
Since we’re on the subject, I should add here, although I don’t remember when exactly they occurred, that Germany probably averaged one miswritten order per game year. They were all honest mistakes. And sometimes when he wrote his orders correctly, he still did things like cut an ally’s support for one of HIS moves.
As Tom offered, “It’s hard to reason with someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing.” His antics, along with Greg’s, whose British fleets behaved more like cruise liners, provided a great deal of levity to the game.
In 1904 and 1905, the game turned into a slog for the A/T. We needed to put a unit in Prussia to roll up Moscow, but the Russian fleet in Berlin thwarted us. Despite the six or seven A/T armies arrayed against him, Russia actually gained a center in 1904, stealing Denmark from England, although he had no place to build.
I essentially wrote the same orders for four straight turns, which drove me crazy, so each turn, I’d scan the board for brilliant stab opportunities and would approach Austria and Italy to gauge their interest in stabbing the other.
Meanwhile, I kept begging England and/or Germany to target Russia’s virtually undefended Scandinavian breadbasket. As long as they left those centers alone, Russia’s defensive position against the A/T was solid. It got to the point where when I requested an audience with England, he replied, “Let me guess, you want me to attack Russia?”
Things weren’t as static for the rest of the board. In 1904, France was bumped out of the Mid Atlantic by England, who had Italian support, but he retreated to the North Atlantic, and sacked Liverpool in the Fall. By the end of the two-year period, England was down to two; France was hanging on at four; Germany had resurged to five from three; Russia was back at five after his short-lived gain; and Italy had six, with units all over Iberia.
In Spring 1906, I finally decided to shake things up. Italy had just agreed to move his fleet in the Tyrrhenian to the Gulf of Lyon and also planned to order Army Marseilles to Burgundy. Austria knew the A/I/T was at the end of the line, so when I approached him about stabbing Italy, he agreed to put two armies on Venice, allow me to move my fleet in the Aegean to the Ionian, and follow up my Fall move to Naples by moving his fleet in Greece to the Ionian. All that happened without a hitch, so although Italy gained another dot in Iberia, he was stuck on six and in horrible defensive position.
I believe it was in 1906 that we had the second ambiguous order. Germany had a fleet in the North Sea but ordered F Nor to Norw. We disallowed that one because of the ambiguous destination.
Also in 1906, Germany finally invaded the Russian breadbasket, so we saw a crack in Russia’s defenses. Also significant was the Tsar’s departure following the Winter adjustments. He had to attend a dinner party, so after much discussion on potential draw proposals and the best way to handle the abandoned position, we asked Russia to submit perpetual orders.
In 1907, my stab of Italy was going to work out much better for Austria than me. He stood to gain Tunis and Venice, while I had nothing coming on that front.
To keep me happy, Austria agreed in Fall 1907 to write the necessary moves to put me in Moscow. He also asked me for a bounce in Serbia, but I suggested that we continue the bounce in Rumania instead. Serbia was his center; Rumania, mine. He agreed, and that convinced me to stab him, as I could take two of his centers. Since he had two centers coming from Italy, it was now or never.
So, instead of accepting his help into Moscow, I moved Ukraine to Galicia, ordered Sevastopol to bounce in Rumania, moved Bulgaria to Serbia and Aegean to Greece, and supported myself to the Ionian. It was a pretty good tactical stab, but probably a poor strategic one, as it didn’t change the outcome much. But I guess I could argue that the two stabs solidified my spot in a draw, since a more passive approach might have led to an eventual A/I attack on me.
Anyway, I managed to grab Tunis and Budapest from Austria in 1908, but Italy retook Naples, and he, Austria and France had fleets in the Tyrrhenian, Western Med and Mid Atlantic, respectively. I felt I was stopped there. Meanwhile, to keep even, Austria cannibalized Germany, stealing two dots there and knocking the Kaiser back to five.
In a fitting end to Western hostilities, England botched the same order he had written successfully for at least the two prior turns, writing F Lon instead of F Nth-Lon. As a result, France finally got into London, eliminating the Brits.
At that point, the Mediterranean was plugged and Italy had a build coming. Russia had perpetual orders that would thwart me without outside help, and despite losing four centers to me in three turns, Austria STILL had seven units. So, I proposed a four-way draw, excluding Germany. Although Tom had five units, they were scattered, and I felt his position wasn’t defensible.
Tom agreed to the four-way, so at 8:15 p.m., the game ended in an A/F/I/T draw. The final center counts were:
It was a fun game and a funny game, and hopefully, we’ll see everyone again in March.
Click here to see the supply center chart.