Monday, 17 October 2016 21:07

#WhoDoWeBlame?

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The other six players in Sunday's Weasel Royale club championship game were so close to plahing without Matt Sundstom. He was on the outside looking in at the Weasel Pyle, the traditional final day of league play, after a subpar season by his standards. But he posted a large board top that day, aided somewhat by Christian Kline, and qualified for the Royale with the sixth seed.

 

Ironically, at the Royale two months later, he snatched the Bull Weasel title from Christian. Matt played a masterful Turkey--his best country, which fell to him with the seventh pick after he dropped down for the favorable tie-breaker. (Of course, in an open-ended game like the Royale, the tie-breaker may not come into play unless there's a 17-17 stalemate.)

Matt played patiently. Instead of forcing the action, he gave the other players a chance to make poor strategic decisions. The other players obliged him, and each time the board opened for him, he pounced. Matt was declared the Bull Weasel during the Spring 1914 turn. The final center counts were:

Austria (Bryan Pravel): 0; 0.000 points.
England (Christian Kline): 8; 17.112 points.
France (Brandon Fogel): 9; 21.658 points.
Germany (Jake Trotta): 0; 0.000 points.
Italy (Jim O'Kelley): 0; 0.000 points.
Russia (Brian Shelden): 2; 1.070 points.
Turkey (Matt Sundstrom): 15; 60.160 points.

The supply center chart is here.

So, congratulations to Matt on earning his second Bull Weasel title (and second in three years). Now, #WhoDoWeBlame? Let us know below.

Read 487 times Last modified on Thursday, 17 November 2016 09:49

Comments   

# Jim O'Kelley 2016-10-17 21:25
Matt earned both titles with Turkey, which leads the Royale with three titles overall. Austria and Russia have two titles apiece. The other two are split between France and Germany. England and Italy have been shout out in nine tries so far. Curiously, the East has dominated the championship game.
+1 # Bryan Pravel 2016-10-18 16:16
I blame Brian Shelden for vilolating a DMZ in Gal as Russia in S1901 and enticing Jim's Italian forces to attack their most loyal Austrian friend Bryan Pravel. I blame Jim for attacking his most loyal Austrian friend Bryan Pravel. I blame Christian and Brandon for not being willing to set aside their differences and stop the inevitable Turkish growth once Matt stabbed Shelden. I blame Jake for no particular reason but I am sure he had something to do with this somehow. Mostly though, I blame myself for letting Matt pick Turkey in the first place.

IMHO Matt has proven his reputation as one of the better Turkish players in all of Diplomacy and put on a show. My hope going into this game was that the Bull Weasel would be won, not thrown (unless it was thrown to me), and Matt definitely did that.

Congrats Matt for the masterful performance as Turkey!
# Jim O'Kelley 2016-10-18 16:46
My ex-wife's Uncle Dick used to say on New Year's, "I didn't write any resolutions for myself, but I've got some for you guys."

It's always tempting to play Uncle Dick after a game, but it's much more productive to focus on your own flaws, because you can actually do something about them. So, when I get a chance, I'll write about my mistakes.

Until then and for the record, the only #blameless player is Bryan Pravel. Sometimes you're just the hydrant.
# Bryan Pravel 2016-10-18 17:38
And just in case it isn't clear, all of the above is intended as good natured ribbing. I think the bigger story is Matt's game, not the mistakes that were made by the rest of us. :)
# Jim O'Kelley 2016-10-18 18:31
Quote:
And just in case it isn't clear
It was clear, and I gave you a like. :-)

Just in case I was unclear, my comments about Uncle Dick weren't motivated by your post. And I meant my last comment that you are #blameless.

Matt was masterful on Sunday. I don't want to detract from his performance. However, generally, when you're playing Diplomacy against competent foes--and Matt was--you can't just bulldoze your way to victory. Usually, the player who wins the game or tops the board is the one who best takes advantage of and/or most benefits from the other players' mistakes. That's just the nature of the game.
# Jake Trotta 2016-10-19 14:27
I can take some blame for screwing up the west. I played aggressively right from 01, with my goal (as Germany, bordered by two of the biggest sharks in the club) to get in an alliance around 03 where I would be the senior partner. I didn't want to play Brandon or Christian from behind.

Christian opened to channel and took Brest with my encouragement. I got up to 7 in s02, having stabbed England to get him away from Russia, but not getting any additional builds out of it. I planned this move to flip Brandon (France) onto my side of the alliance structure, but his units weren't really in position to help me. Add in the fact that Christian got a rebuild, and my decision to build 2 fleets at the end of 02 was pretty shaky.

England stalled me out, I'd spooked the entire board, and I felt obligated to give France Belgium to maintain that alliance. Then, when it looked like I was going to lose ground, I flipped back on France (terrible choice) while England simultaneously stabbed me for two. I died not so long after.

The main impact of all this was I prevented France and England from working together early, but due to poor strategic play, it was at my own expense. I don't believe France and England worked together effectively for the rest of the game. This may have bought Turkey the time he needed to find his openings. I wouldn't really know as I was enjoying a celebratory cigar for a 7th place finish before the game was halfway through.

I made a ton of mistakes in this game in all three phases of the game, but here's the key takeaway: don't play top boards with no time limits like a bar game.

Top boards are beauty pageant marathons. People are going to want to stop the leader. The lead is probably going to change hands a few times. And in most of these games, the minor powers will decide who wins. Aggressive play early shut me out of a lot of those options.
# Brandon Fogel 2016-10-25 08:26
For as many twists and turns as this game had, it feels relatively straightforward in my recollection. I felt like I was fighting for my life most of the time, despite spending much of the game in second place. I even finished in second, although I don’t think I ever really had a viable path to the championship. I did, however, play a role in Matt’s championship move, which I’ll describe in some detail. It showed exceptional strategic vision on his part, and it made Matt a deserving champion.

My S01 was a total disaster. I had decided I wanted to open defensively, and I chose France for that reason. I settled on the Maginot opening (Bre-MAO, Par-Bur with Mar S), and I told all of my neighbors exactly what I was doing. In retrospect, I did not handle these negotiations well, particularly with Jake. I came in with a siege mentality, and I think that actually encouraged an onslaught. I thought that telling everyone I was supporting myself to Bur would be enough to discourage the 3-on-1 pile-on, but it didn’t work. Italy opened to Pie, England opened to ENG, and Germany still opened to Bur, even knowing he wouldn’t get in. I got lucky in the fall, when Jim decided not to go for Mar, and I picked up Bel and two builds, losing Ber. This convinced Jake that he’d be better off switching sides, and the EG was done. The next few years saw Jake switching strategic directions several more times, which allowed me to stay in the game but also kept me scrambling to protect home centers through 1905.

In the course of all this, Christian and I formed a shaky EF, where he always had the upper hand. Not only was he always a dot ahead, but he had taken the Channel in S01 and refused to vacate year after year, even as Germany fell and a late-developing RT loomed on the other side of the board. Because Bel was mine, the Channel was particularly important to me; it bordered two of my dots and allowed Christian to put three units on Bel (with NTH and Hol). As long as he controlled it, I would never be able to safely move units to the south. Christian saw things differently.

In S07, I managed to surprise him and take the Channel. I made clear that I wanted it for defensive purposes, and that with fleets in IRI, Lon, and NTH, he was well protected. Either Christian didn’t trust me or he never had any intention of a true partnership with me. He insisted that he should be in the Channel and rejected my other requests — to vacate NTH and to send his new army to the east and go for War and Mos, rather than park it in Den. If Christian wonders why I didn’t trust him very much, these are the things I would point to. I always felt like he was viewing me as his next target. I’m sure he feels I did things that made it hard for him to trust me.

1908 and 1909 were the pivotal years in the mid-game, when Matt effectively won the championship and the rest of us lost it. RT had finally gotten their act together had taken all of the Austrian and Balkan centers, plus Venice, leaving Austria and Italy with 3 dots between them. I agreed in S08 to vacate ENG and send Ruh and Mun south to help stave off Turkey. I still didn’t trust Christian, but MAO wasn’t under threat and I figured this limited move was worth a shot. Christian proved as unreliable as I had suspected, supporting Brian (the Russian) into Mun and retaking ENG. I don’t think Christian realized it, but his game was over at that point. He needed my dots to win, and I was never going to let him get them. He’d been begging me for several game years to move units away; the instant I did, he pounced.

(Note: After some discussion with a world-class player, I realize now that I played it too safe in S08. If my misgivings about Christian were that strong, I should have tried to leverage my positional advantage rather than appease him. I could have taken a swing at IRI, which would have ensured continuing conflict but also would have put him on his heels. Maybe I can swipe Hol as he scrambles to defend the home island, or maybe I just keep him from pressuring me for a bit longer. Either way, I think my championship chances increase, even as my defensive line potentially opens up. And that's the point -- I was thinking defensively at a point in the game where offense was the most likely route to the win.)

My game, however, was not over, at least not for another year. The key was Brian. Despite his dotting me in 08, I thought we had a chance at a wonderful partnership. We had two neighbors in common, England and Turkey, and we could both fight each of them simultaneously. Or we could keep fighting each other over Mun while Turkey grew. In F09, there was a set of moves that would give both of us a build and take two off of England. Brian had a chance at another one off of England plus one off of Matt, if he pulled off the stab effectively. Instead, Brian chose to walk out of Christian’s dot, believing Christian would gift him Stp. Christian did not gift him Stp.

F09 also saw a pivotal shift in the south, and this is the moment where Matt effectively won the game. Matt had 5 fleets in the Med, to my 2 and Italy’s 1. I had lost ENG, and I knew I’d need another fleet to hold MAO. I suggested a deal to Matt: allow me to support Italy’s Nap-ION, dislodging Matt’s fleet, which he would disband and rebuild as an army to use against Russia. I would then be able to take Italy’s dot from TYS, which would give me a much-needed build. Jim, ready to focus on serious cigar smoking on the patio, agreed.

Note what Matt was agreeing to: giving up ION while reducing his naval power and allowing me to increase mine. I think lesser players would have balked at this, or demanded a build to go along with it. Matt would stay at 7, while I would go up to 9. Perhaps he read correctly that I would never trust Christian enough to send fleets east, or that Christian would soon stab Brian, too. I’m curious to hear him describe his thought process at that moment.

I suppose if Brian had sided with me against Christian, this might have ended up as my game-winning move. I would have gone to 10 and been able to build another army, which I could have used either to take another dot off Christian or to help contain Matt in the south. Brian would also have had a shot, and the situation could have been gotten pretty volatile. I suspect Matt still wins, but it would have been an exciting finish.

In any case, through the combination of Matt taking the deal, Brian siding with Christian, and Christian stabbing Brian, Matt gained a commanding position. In 1910, I secured MAO with another fleet, Brian and I fought Christian over Kie and Hol, and Matt took the lead by gobbling up Russian dots. A draw vote failed in S11, but the result was obvious. I took Matt outside during negotiations and congratulated him.

Christian continued to vote down draws through 1913. Apparently, he really wanted Matt to solo, which would have won Matt the same number of league championships that night as a board top.

In summary, this was a peculiar game for me. I think I did a great job playing defense from F01 through F06, but the fact that I needed to play defense indicates a failure of diplomacy during those years. I wish Christian and I could have found a better working arrangement, I wish I’d found the killer argument to get Brian on my side in 1908 or 1909, and I wish that I hadn't played it so safe in S08. One might quibble that the deal I made with Matt in F09 was a poor one for me since it helped Matt toward victory, thus diminishing my own chances, but with Brian working against me, I was probably just playing kingmaker at that point. Maybe I did still have a championship path and a better, more experienced player would have been able to find it. Not sure.

What I do know is that Matt played an extremely savvy game and deserved his second Bull Weasel title. Congrats to Matt.
# Jake Trotta 2016-10-26 15:25
Quoting Brandon Fogel:
Instead, Brian chose to walk out of Christian’s dot, believing Christian would gift him Stp. Christian did not gift him Stp.


Lolled at this.
+1 # Matt Sundstrom 2016-10-28 10:49
Been busy and just now getting to this. Thanks to all for the congrats and compliments. I did think I played a good game. Was hoping it was good enough to win and it eventually broke my way.

I really enjoy the power selection process for these title games. I was the sixth seed. Not a lot to hope for there. You are almost sure to be in the east and not get to pick your neighbors. At that point, 7th is better in my book for the tie-breaker. I was pleasantly surprised when Turkey fell to me. I couldn't be blamed or targeted for picking a country I generally play well.

O'Kelley in Italy was my biggest concern at the outset. IT is difficult long-term and I did not think he'd want to help me much. So I did not open to Armenia immediately. Brian (Russia) and I agreed to the idea of an RT but we pushed it slowly. It did not really take hold until 1903-4. Russia had taken a failed shot at Bul at some point before that and allowed me into Bla in the process. RT made sense to both of us at that point. Big break in the early game was Italy's attack on Austria. That stopped any 3 v 1 I would have to worry about. Bryan made a killer disorder in fall '02 (I think) which basically ended his game. But he was willing to fight with Jim with his remaining units. RT liked and leveraged this.

The west was a tenuous EF with England holding the upper hand. Russia had to deal with this and a mercurial German, helping solidify RT. After 1905 or 1906, Christian's England proposed a draw asserting that EF were committed to that outcome. I rejected it out loud. RT looked better than EF long-term and I did not believe EF would stay committed if either one saw an opportunity. Brandon detailed how that played out. I was pretty encouraged at this point.

Brandon is also correct about the key turn where my fleet was dislodged from Ion and retreated OTB. I could have gained in Italy without the deal but that left my backdoor open and would have been slower. I also wanted to encourage EF fighting. So I liked Brandon's proposal. It did require I hit Russia. I'd rather have continued the RT as it was working well. But I felt like I should take the opportunity in the Royale. I could take Trieste from Russia for one. Destroying Ion with the Italian fleet ensured my safety and another build (I could also move such that Ion would survive if anything besides Italy attacking happened as well). I was able to build two armies behind the lines without really exposing myself. That was probably more than Brian expected from a stab and made it much more effective. Good guessing in the following fall put me up another two and in the driver's seat.

The EF fight continued and I think England kept attacking Russia. FR were happy to let me grow slowly behind them. England wanted to help me solo. Very nice position. I very likely could have soloed. But that's not the ultimate goal in this particular game. I was happy with the Bull Weasel title and that only required the board top.

A good game. Thanks to the players and especially Dan for hosting.

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