Friday, 13 May 2016 21:26

Homer nods

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I fear your humble scribe is ill equipped to tell the tale of Wednesday night's Diplomacy game at the Red Lion. Game No. 300 was worthy of Homer.

Perhaps, after more than 10 1/2 years and 300 games of Dip, we're finally starting to get it, because once again, we played a time-limited game in which three players had a chance to top on the final turn, and two others had long shots. It truly was a game for the ages.

 

It ended by time limit after the Fall 1906 turn in the following center counts:

 

Austria (Ian Trotta): 0; 0.000 points.
England (David Spanos): 2; 1.905 points.
France (Matt Sundstrom): 6; 17.143 points.
Germany (Jim O'Kelley): 7; 23.333 points.
Italy (Bryan Pravel): 6; 17.143 points.
Russia (Brandon Fogel): 7; 23.333 points.
Turkey (Jake Trotta): 6; 17.143 points.

Fogel and O'Kelley shared the top, but their composite scores for the season didn't budge. In terms of net score, the only winners were Sundstrom and Pravel, at roughly 15 and 13 points, respectively.

Check out the supply center chart here, and hopefully the players will share their thoughts soon.

Read 529 times Last modified on Monday, 13 June 2016 16:03
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+2 # Bryan Pravel 2016-05-13 21:53
Edi Birsan said "[Allan Calhamer was someone you could] "give your monthly mortgage payment in cash and he'll walk down to the bank and put it in... but you can never be sure he'd support you to Belgium." I felt this way about the group of players that showed up for Windy City Weasels Game #300. I expected quality competition for such an anniversary and was not disappointed. The quality of competition and sportsmanship was fantastic. The game was one of the most enjoyable games of Diplomacy I have every played.

I enjoyed this game very much and was indulgent and wrote a lot. For the tl;dr check out the end of the post.

Pre-Game


I was thrilled when I drew Italy. Italy is my favorite country to play for a few reasons. First, no one really expects the Italian player to do well, so I never feel much pressure to board top. Second (and more importantly), Italy is quite possibly "the most central" of the central powers. It's a gross over simplification, but if one views the "East" and "West" sides of the boards as "triangles", E/F/G and A/R/T can maintain a rough balance of power within their respective theaters. Italy is the odd man out and has the potential to tip the scales in one direction or another. Tactically, Italy is not a very strong power. Strategically it has the potential to be a powerhouse. Italy is often the kingmaker, "swing vote", or "police." If one power gets of out of line and grows too quickly, Italy has the ability to restore the balance of power. This means that for an Italian player to be successful, he must be able to read the strategic situation on the board, successfully use diplomacy to manipulate the situation to his favor, and be strong enough tactically to take advantage when opportunities arise. Said differently, to succeed as Italy one must be a very well rounded player who is successful in all aspects of the game. I love this challenge, I love being involved in both theaters, and I feel I'm stronger strategically than tactically or diplomatically, so this makes Italy a very fun power for me to play.

My initial excitement was dampened slightly when I looked around the board and saw Turkey was being played by Jake Trotta. I love Jake's play style but somehow he always manages to get the upper hand when we work together. I think it's because Jake figured out (before I did) that I'm a sucker for creative (but not rash) orders and he's willing to both suggest and execute them. I've seen Jake have explosive growth as Turkey. I know he knows how to play the east and is very dangerous. I rarely see Italians and Turks both have good games on the same board. Immediately I knew he needed to be my number one target if possible.

If Turkey was to be my target, this meant I needed Russia as an ally. The "Wintergreen" Italian/Russian alliance (called the Wintergreen because the colors of the powers are Green and White like the Wintergreen candies) is my favorite alliance in the game. Every solo I have ever had as Italy has been part of this alliance. You can play it as an early alliance, or you can slow play it and surprise the survivor of Austria/Turkey with the I/R in the mid-game. There was just one problem. Russia was being played by Brandon Fogel. Brandon has some of the strongest "psychological" skills in the club and could teach a clinic on patient play. He reads people very well, asks very insightful questions, and also happened to be in first place in the league's standings. Great. I felt like in this situation choosing between working with Russia or Turkey was like choosing if I'd rather eat a school cafeteria lunch or Sushi from the gas station. Both would do the job but who knows what side effects there might be! I have huge respect for both players, but I was definitely playing with fire if I ended up working with either of them.

On to Austria then. In my experience Austria and Italy can have a very strong alliance if they are willing to trust each other from the outset of the game. The problem is that you have to trust immediately and don't have time to earn trust through your actions. As Austria, I almost always want a strong alliance with Italy because in my experience early conflict between A/I very rarely favors the Austrian. This is a lesson learned through experience though. Many players are (understandably) quite nervous about neighboring home centers and are not willing to take risks in the early game. Austria was being played by Ian Trotta. I had never met Ian before. I knew through reputation that I didn't need to worry too much about Ian tactically, but I had no idea how he would view the A/I relationship. We didn't even have a history from previous games to draw from. Ian was a huge wildcard. I briefly considered that this might be a "better the devil you know" situation and then reminded myself the "devils I knew" were in first and third place in the league standings, and it became clear that I needed to try for an early game alliance with Austria. Could I turn brother against brother? If the Trottas are anything like my family, I liked my chances...

To get an Austrian alliance against Turkey meant I needed a non-aggression pact with France. I had not had the chance to play with Matt Sundstrom either, but we did have a chance to talk a bit when we both sat out during the previous game so I knew he was an experienced player. Most experienced players I have played with prefer early game peace between France and Italy, and I knew that Jim O'Kelley playing Germany and David Spanos playing England would probably seem like a bigger threat to Matt than me, so I was pretty confident that I wouldn't be facing any conflicts from Matt in the early game.

1901

My assessment of the players complete, it was time to start the game. I looked for Ian (Austria) and to my dismay, Jake (Turkey) got to him first. Next I looked for Matt (France) to try and solidify an early game non-aggression pact. He was busy with the western powers. Fortunately, that left me with Brandon (Russia) who mentioned he was a fan of the Wintergreen I/R. He also agreed that Jake was the biggest threat on the board for us and encouraged me to try and convince Austria to join me against Turkey. My only hesitation was that Brandon wanted an early game I/R, which usually means a joint attack on Austria. I prefer the "slow play" version of the alliance where we ally with Austria, bottle Turkey up, and then both make a decision about whether or not we ally with Austria or each other once Turkey is contained. I didn't push the issue though, I figured I'd have time to discuss in more detail the following turn.

I managed to catch Matt (France) in passing. The extent of our conversation was basically "do you want the usual DMZs in GOL, WES, and PIE, yes... yes... excellent... good luck." And that was the extent of it. One minute of negotiation was the start of one of the stronger alliances in this game.

Next I managed to grab Ian (Austria). Even before I sat down at the table to talk through things I could tell I had my work cut out for me. Ian seemed nervous. I threw out a couple of suggestions, determined Ian wanted to play conservatively, so I decided that a Lepanto was probably the safest option. Ian suggested an arranged bounce with Venice and Trieste which I didn't love (I prefer the Lepanto variant that sends Vienna to Tyrolia), but I also wanted Ian to be comfortable. I figured taking the passive, supportive approach was the right way to go. I had to help Ian feel comfortable that I wasn't planning on an early game attack and that Turkey was my target. This was a diplomatic challenge more than a tactical or strategic at this point of the game.

Negotiations with Jim (Germany) and David (England) were brief. Jim and I agreed to the DMZ in Tyrolia and David said he wasn't interested in moving against France which was fine with me because I wasn't planning on that anyway.

I think Jake (Turkey) and I spoke but I cannot for the life of me recall the details. I think we might have talked about my relationship with Ian, if I was going west, and probably talked about Brandon (Russia) being in first place. I definitely would have brought that up to Jake because I know it matters to him. I wanted Turkey and Russia fighting from the outset. I probably don't remember much about this conversation because I had already made up my mind that Jake was my target and either Austria or Russia was going to be my partner in the east. I was going to use my influence as the "odd man out" to squeeze Turkey off the board.

I finished up the S1901 negotiations without as much clarity in the west as I would have liked, but I was confident that my borders were safe on that front for a few years at least. In the east, I expected Austria to open very conservatively, Russia to open neutrally, and had no idea what Turkey was going to do. Note for the future, take a page from Brandon. Talk less, listen more, ask better questions.

The S1901 moves had a whole lot of chalk. David (England) was in the English Channel (which I loved) and Austria bounced with Russia in Galicia and with me in Venice. In retrospect, I should have asked if Austria and Russia's bounce was arranged or not. I didn't take it as a meaningful bounce. I assumed that Ian (Austria) had just decided to hedgehog and didn't trust anyone. For the most part everyone else opened pretty conservatively.

I managed to get Ian's (Austria) attention first in the F1901 negotiations. His first question was who I thought should get Rumania, and I said that if he and I were working together, Turkey was the target so it made more sense for Russia to take Rumania. After I said this, he explained that he was really worried about Russia so I made a pitch for him to let me convoy into Greece so I could use my army to help him against either Russia or Turkey. Ian said he would consider this after talking to the other players. We agreed that I would just continue the standard Lepanto opening and convoy into Tunis unless I heard otherwise.

The rest of the negotiations for this year are a bit hazy. I know Jake suggested I go west and I basically said I thought that was a dumb idea and that unless he wanted to support me into Greece I was probably going to play conservatively and keep my options open, with the possible follow on of the classic Lepanto into Turkey next year. I think I missed a warning sign when Jake wasn't fazed at all and walked away with a grin on his face. At this stage of the game I thought Brandon (Russia) and I were going to be working closely together and in retrospect I am guessing Jake knew that he had Brandon on his side. Or maybe he didn't and managed to convince him later. Either way, I think I missed something here.

Brandon (Russia) and I talked and I explained that I was trying to talk Ian (Austria) into giving me Greece and asked if he'd help pitch the idea. I don't think I discussed Turkey very much, I assumed that he still felt like Brandon was the biggest threat on the board and we were running short on time. I left to go talk with Ian and make the pitch for Greece again right as the timer was going off. Worse, Jake (Turkey) had his brother's ear and was getting the last pitch to Austria. Another missed opportunity and another lesson learned. Don't let Jake take all the time from someone you need to talk to. :D

Knowing we never had a chance to discuss Greece, I resigned myself to the convoy into Tunis and figured I'd better bounce with Austria in Trieste again just to be safe. The orders were read and there was a lot more "chalk". Everyone made their standard follow on moves. Everyone that is, except for Austria who supported Turkey into Greece. Well crap. I’m facing a two build Turkey in F1901 and my entire opening strategy was built around bottling Turkey up. I had my work cut out for me. All this time I thought Austria's bounces were just because he was acting conservative. Now I could see that I had a hostile neighbor. Perhaps I should break my rule of always building F NAP as my first Italian build and build A ROM in case Austria moved his armies my direction? At least my ally Brandon (Russia) was getting two builds and could help maintain the balance of power the problem is that he was in position to get the lion's share of the Balkans. About this time I started thinking fondly of build phase negotiations in online games. I wanted to scream at Turkey about how strong a position Russia was in and remind him that Brandon was beating him in the league standings. Maybe he would see it on his own?

Nope. Turkey built fleet CON and fleet SMY. I was glad I built F NAP. It’s a good thing this was a bar game. It was time for a drink.

1902

1902 was about defense. Emotions were high for me at this moment, so I wasn't thinking clearly and don't recall exactly what happened next. Lesson for the future, take a few seconds to calm down and focus in this sort of situation. My tendency was to rush and speak with Austria as quickly as possible but I probably would have been better off clearing my head first. I remember that I spoke briefly with Ian (Austria) but if I recall correctly he was still pretty confident in his alliance with his brother Jake (Turkey) and very worried about Russia. Naturally Brandon (Russia) was next on my list to speak with. I think he said something to the effect that he wanted to support Turkey into Serbia so he would be overextended and then I could move into Greece. He also suggested that I might bounce Turkey in EAS. We didn't talk details (see earlier comment about emotions) so I'm guessing the plan would have been to bounce EAS and convoy into GRE in the fall. I was worried that if Jake supported himself into the Aegean it would be 2v2 (even if Brandon cut support in BUL) so I couldn't force Greece. I was still considering the risk until I spoke to Matt (France). Matt saw the danger of Turkey sweeping through the Mediterranean so I trusted that it was in his best interest to speak honestly with me. He encouraged me to play it safe and make sure I convoyed the army back to Apulia and said the gambit with EAS was too risky. He pointed out that the worst thing that could happen is to leave the army stranded in Tunis. By this time, I had calmed down a bit and was thinking more clearly and agreed with Matt's assessment. It was better to play it safe. The conservative option played to Italy's strengths. A 4 build Italy in 1902 can still "police" the other powers, and I would also be setting myself up to join in the attack on Austria if propping him up looked like the wrong option.

So play conservative I did. I was still in this game. I still had a Russian ally who was in a very powerful position that agreed with me that Jake was the biggest threat on the board. Except that Russia supported Turkey into Serbia *and* Turkey vacated the black sea. Did Jake think Brandon was his ally? Was I looking at a Juggernaut? The west was pretty chaotic and I didn't hear any noise from the other players about this. Was I the only one seeing this? I could sort of buy the "let's trick Jake into overextending" argument as a cover for wanting to finish Austria quickly and make sure Russia got the lion's share of the Austrian SCs, but for that to happen the same turn that Jake cleared the Black Sea really had me starting to doubt the I/R. Was I being paranoid? Fortunately for me, Austria felt betrayed and was willing to work with me. I was doubting the health of the Wintergreen alliance, but at least I wasn't alone. Now my decision was whether I should prop Austria up, or join in the inevitable collapse.

1903


In S1903 I moved up through the center of the board to give me options. My gut feeling was that it would be better for me to get Austrian centers while I could, but the timing had to be right. That "right" timing was the following turn in F1903. I realized that Jake (Turkey) could get a fleet into Greece this turn and be able to force ION unless I had 3 units to support ION myself. I only had two, I needed a build. Fortunately, Ian (Austria) was in ADR and was willing to support my fleet in ION so Jake was not able to force ION. This critical because in W1903 I was able to build a fleet in NAP and halt Turkey's advance. I am particularly grateful that Ian took vengeance on his brother by supporting my unit and stopping his advance. As a member of a family who plays Diplomacy myself, I know how sweet a feeling that can be. It also reminded me how important recognizing the goals of the player for each turn can be during the diplomatic phases of the game.
I had more good news that turn. Brandon (Russia) moved into BLA. There was still an R/T, but that fleet sure made it a lot easier to sow seeds of doubt in Jake's mind. It also set things up so that the Wintergreen might be able to happen after all. We wouldn’t have to fight to take BLA which can take a while. After this turn I felt confident. I was in the driver's seat strategically. Turkey could not easily advance in my direction, and Russia could not advance against Turkey very easily without my help. Balance of power was restored. Now it was time to find a way to shake things up...

1904


S1904 negotiations were all about figuring out a way to break up the R/T in such a way that Russia needed my help and would not get the board top out of the arrangement. I wanted to help Russia, just not too much and wanted to make sure I got something out of it in the process. In order for this to happen, I knew I needed Germany's help so it was time to spend some time in the west. Jim (Germany) and I seemed to be thinking similarly. I think Jim wanted me to head West against Matt but we never got into specifics. Either way, we both wanted to see Russia move against Turkey. Jim even pitched the idea of an G/I/R triple which would never work in a normal game of Diplomacy but in the short time frame of a bar game it would work great. I loved the idea. I would have the delayed Wintergreen I wanted, Russia and I could grow in the south, Turkey would be controlled, and if either Germany or Russia got too big, I could carry out my duty as the Italian and work with the other to ensure there was a balance of power.

There was just one problem. I didn't get the idea that Brandon was on the same page as Jim and I. In fact, I had such a bad feeling about things, I took VIE in S1904 just because I had a feeling I wouldn't be able hold onto TRI. It might have been a self-fulfilling prophecy but it was the right move. Jake weaseled his way into another center (I believe with Russian support). All was not lost though. Brandon was still in BLA. Jake would have to defend himself.

My number one goal in F1904 was to sow more seeds of doubt with Jake (Turkey). I talked with him about it until I felt like he was purposefully keeping me at the table so I wouldn't talk with anyone else, and in the process jokingly mentioned that I was considering moving to Munich. At first, this wasn't that serious a thought but it grew like a cancer. At this point in the game I trusted Matt (France) more than anyone else (well, I trusted Matt's self-interest the most at least) and casually mentioned the idea to him. He mentioned that I might be able to use it as a bargaining chip and I realized this might be the breakthrough with Brandon (Russia) that I needed. The past few turns I didn't feel like I was getting through to Brandon. I wanted to work with him and we were saying the right things to each other, I just wasn't feeling like it was very genuine. Maybe it was because I felt like I was giving all the suggestions I didn't feel like there was engagement? I'm not sure what it was to be honest. I know that I didn't feel like an equal partner at the table. With this suggestion though I had something to negotiate with. I offered to take Munich and an agreement to work together against Turkey in exchange for Russia moving to Armenia. For the first time, I saw engagement from Brandon. I could tell he was going to do it. There was no doubt in my mind this was the right decision. I still wanted to work with Jim, but to do so I had to break up the R/T first. I made the decision to "borrow" Munich and put in the order. If it worked, I was going to go from 4 builds to 6. I was not just going to be in the game, for the first time I was going to be a major a player!

The F1904 results could very well be my favorite turn of Diplomacy on any board ever. It was chaos in the most glorious way. Everyone seemed to turn on everyone else in the same turn. Brandon (Russia) stabbed Jake (Turkey) in Armenia as we had agreed. I managed to slip into Munich. Matt (France) took Liverpool from David (England). David (England) ended up in Norway, Jim (Germany) ended up in Saint Petersburg. Not wanting to be left out of the party, Jake slipped into Venice. Initially I figure I had only gained one build, but realized that Turkey had never held Trieste in the fall so it was still Italian. I was getting two builds after all. It was a turn of biblical proportions. Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!

1905


By S1905 I realized that we were heading into the bar game equivalent of the late game phase. The more I play bar games, the more I am starting to think the same "early", "mid", and "late" game structure exists as the standard game of Diplomacy, you just have different tactical positions because of the shorter time limit (and frequently more players participating as well). I knew we just had a couple of turns left, so keeping my Italian duties as "peacekeeper" in mind, I scoped out the counts of the other players. Matt (France) and Brandon (Russia) were clearly the players with the best shot at a board top. I knew that I had to keep either of them from gaining the upper hand in any sort of joint arrangements that we made.
Brandon was going to easily be able to pick up either CON or SMY from Turkey, and had a realistic shot at both with my help. He wasn't going to be able to take back STP, so I figured he'd end the game at 7 or 8 unless something funky happened. Matt (France) was the bigger concern. He was in position to take the whole of England and had a very realistic shot at Munich, so I figured he had an easy 8 or 9, and depending on how England and Germany worked things, could end up with more. Jim (Germany) was around 7 SCs as well, but he wasn't going to be able to advance on Russia without exposing himself to France (and possibly England), and David (England) wasn't going to be able to hold onto his home SCs so I didn’t like E/G’s odds at taking SCs from France. Turkey was contained at 5 with momentum in the wrong direction. All I had to do was take him out of my home SC and then I'd be looking at second place and an outside shot at first.
I think I made my first major mistake of the game on this turn. I became so fixated on everyone else's supply count, I didn't really pay attention to how I was going to get my own. I had been playing a very strategic game to this point, but I think I let emotions get in the way and starting playing a less disciplined game. Knowing that I was likely only going to get Greece out of an alliance against Turkey with Russia, I listened to the devil whispering in my ear (aka Jake Trotta) and let him talk me into doing something creative. We have already established that I am a sucker for creative pitches when they aren't stupid, and this was not a stupid suggestion. Jake would trade popping one of his fleets for support out of VEN into MAR. This would do a few things. First, it would get me the security I needed to use my fleets against France. Until that happened, I basically was playing with 2-3 units since half my forces were tied up defending ION. Second, it would let me make a decision as to when I took back VEN and if I needed it, I could take it in 1905 and would not lose a unit when I could not hold MAR. Finally, (and most importantly), it would force both Brandon and Matt to use some of their units to defend their flanks so they would be less likely to grow. I liked this last part so much I went ahead and told Brandon about the plan in the hopes that he would pull some of his forces back for defense this turn to prepare for the new army.

The plan worked. Brandon (Russia) pulled back his forces, Jake (Turkey) took MAR, we popped the Turkish fleet as agreed upon, and Matt (France) had to adjust his forces to adjust for enemy units in Iberia. Not only that, but Jake, David (England), and I hatched a plan to split the Iberia centers, one a piece, so Matt actually would be going down 3 centers. Even if he managed to take some of Germany's or England’s centers, he was no longer a threat for the board top. In fact, at this point I was worried we had done *too* much damage to Matt and Jim (Germany) might slip in and surprise everyone with the board top. There was nothing I could really do about that, so I spoke with Brandon about it. I explained what I was trying to do, how I was trying to balance everyone out so no one topped the board and I was able to maximize my own opportunity for growth and asked if he had any ideas on how to keep Jim from sneaking in with the win. He didn't take it very well for some reason. :D It was about this time that I realized the flaw in my plan. I was overextended. I couldn't keep VIE. It was easier for Brandon to take VIE than move against Jake, and now Brandon was (understandably) upset at me. I played spoiler beautifully, but was going to basically gain nothing out of the arrangement.

1906


In S1906 I was flustered. I had seen the error in my plan, and could find no way out of it. I started to get stressed. I know from experience when I get stressed I mis-order. I quadruple checked my orders. I had to make sure I did this right. I had played a clean game so far so I was as nervous about mis-ordering as I was about the results. Each time one of my orders was read, my heart skipped a beat. Fortunately, I made it. I was finally going to get through a game with the Weasels without a major mis-order. I lost Vienna, but I had slayed my dragon. Now, where to put that retreat to cause the most damage? GAL was wide open! I figured Brandon didn't consider the retreat. I always forget the retreats. I made a mental note to remember retreats in the future and wrote A VEN - GAL. Yup, I mis-ordered the retreat. Not only that, but in my flustered state worrying about mis-orders, I failed to realize that Brandon had attacked from GAL so it would have failed either way. An Italian army came off the board. The saga of the unraveling sweater continues. On the plus side, for "insurance" I moved to the Aegean. I had no intention of attacking Jake (another mistake I think), but I wanted protection in case he tried something clever and wanted to be able to offer support for his units to keep Brandon from the board top. Looking back, I had another missed opportunity here. I could have used my army in ROM to protect my home centers from Jake’s fleets. Jake *had* to use his fleets on defense, they really weren’t a threat to me at this point of the game. If I had moved them west I had a very real shot at taking SPA and MAR myself.

F1906 was the last turn of the game. Looking back, I think I made several mistakes this turn. I was flustered from the mis-order and once again, didn't take the time to calm down. I almost took support from Matt (France) into MAR but decided the risk was greater than the reward. I already had an SC, I'd keep my word and support David (England) into POR and take support from Jake. Picking up SPA helped cover the loss of VIE (ugh, while typing this I just wrote VEN and had to erase it) so I was still at 6. It’s a good thing that I did. Matt didn’t give the support he promised.

I was in position to take GRE from Jake to get to 7, but instead ordered AEG to support BUL to keep Brandon from the board top. Or at least I thought I was going to support him. I actually ordered AEG to support BUD. I was flustered. The saga continues. It ended up being a good thing that I didn't take GRE. Doing so would have cut support and given BUL to Brandon, giving him the board top. The better move for me would have been to move to SMY. Jake needed to use CON to support BUL and cover CON, so that would have been a very low risk, high reward choice. Jake also pointed out that I didn't ask for support into Serbia. If I had not mis-ordered and retreated VIE - BOH, I could have potentially taken VIE back and/or taken Jake's support and gotten into SER. Combined with SMY I could have had a real shot at topping this board, I was just so stressed that I couldn't see it.

The best part though was that I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen when the orders were turned in. I knew I wasn't going to win, either Jim or Brandon could win, and Matt had a shot if we didn't execute correctly. It was probably a mistake, but I spent way more mental energy trying to prevent someone else from winning than trying to get the victory myself.

Summary


Despite the mis-orders, I feel this is the best game I've had with the Weasels. The score doesn't reflect this outcome, and it definitely could have been higher (I could have easily gotten 7 and had an outside shot at 8) but after the rough start with Austria, facing a Turk with 2 builds in 1901 who had 3 fleets in the Med in 1902, and never feeling like I had a stable alliance at any point in the game (this last point admittedly influenced by my own actions), I was pretty pleased to score 6. I managed to avoid the mis-orders for the majority of the game, and felt confident much more often than not. The face to face game is slowing down for me, letting me focus on the players more than the tactics or even the strategy. Most importantly though, I had a great time. This was a very fun game with great people who happen to be great competitors. The bar for bargames has been raised.

Player Feedback:

Ian (Austria): Sorry to see you go so early. Personally I’m not a fan of early conflict between Austria and Italy when I play Austria (it isn’t as bad when you are Italy) because Turkey and Russia usually get the better end of the deal like they did in this game. I’m glad you got your revenge on your brother at the end. Thanks for that support, you kept me in the game!

David (England): We didn’t interact a ton this game, but I continue to be impressed with your ability to just find ways to survive. Great job fighting to stay in the game, I love seeing that. Thanks for keeping the game more interesting!

Matt (France): Great playing with you. You gave me great advice twice in this game and it significantly influenced the outcome (for the better IMHO). We didn’t talk a ton so I’m not sure people realized that you had such an influence on how things shaped up. I want you to get recognition for that. In particular, I don’t think I would have made the pitch to exchange the stab on Jim in Munich for Brandon stabbing Jake in Armenia without talking it over with you.

Jim (Germany): I don’t know what the deal is, but I just can’t seem to keep my word with you. I love the way you play. You always come across so calm and I just want to tell you stuff. I find myself volunteering way more information than you ever tell me. if I could emulate anyone in the club’s play style it would be yours. Maybe that’s the problem? One day you and I are going to end up surprising everyone and have a successful alliance. In this game, I really did want the I/G/R to work, I just couldn’t figure out how to break up the R/T without the stab. That and I really wanted a second dot.

Brandon (Russia): In the past we’ve usually “clicked”. I don’t know what the deal was this game. From the outset I genuinely wanted the I/R (well, the delayed version at least). It felt like our rhythm was off or something. When you were ready to work with me, I had trust issues and when I was ready to work with you, you were working with Jake. Maybe I was the needy partner in the relationship and needed some time and attention to talk through some details? Regardless, I didn’t ever plan on giving you the board top while you were in first place in the league so maybe the real issue was that unstated secondary goal created an undercurrent of mistrust we couldn’t work past. Maybe I subconsciously didn’t want you to succeed and you picked up on that.

Jake (Turkey): Jake, your ability to manipulate me is impressive and embarrassing at the same time. This is the second game where I felt like you completely read me like a book and told me exactly what I needed to hear to do something that helped you more than it helped me. What makes it worse is that you make it fun. You are like the anti-Jim. One day we’re going to surprise everyone and I’m not going to listen to anything you say and won’t be tricked into trying some new clever/brilliant/fun new tactic. Oh, and next time I’ll remember to ask for support into Serbia. I love playing on the same board with you.

TL;DR

What a fun game!
# Jake Trotta 2016-05-14 00:40
Well Bryan, thanks for compliments. I wish my play in this game reflected them. Although I'm very happy to considered the anti-Jim.

Really excellent write up. I'll add my EOG once I finish it, but I can tell you two things right off the bat.

1) I never, never, never try to stall for time or steal time away from others. I got the last word with Ian to make sure I got Greece, but I grabbed him with 30 seconds on the clock.

2) I actually really don't think I got the better of you at the end of the game. If we don't work out the creative tactics to get us both centers, two things happen. First, I slow you down in the boot because that army now has nothing better to do. Second, I now don't have that build at home, which means I can't prevent Brandon from growing further. He gets to 9 pretty easy if I have to disband, and that's the game right there. Further, if the game goes on another two years, you can always just push me out of Marseilles. It wasn't the right pitch because it was fun, it was the right pitch because it maintained the balance of power on the board.
+1 # Bryan Pravel 2016-05-14 08:47
Regarding the stall tactics. If you aren't already using it you should be. You have the gift of gab (in the right way) and are creative enough to keep throwing ideas out there until something sticks. You kill two birds with one stone!
+2 # Brandon Fogel 2016-05-16 11:38
My EOG (far less insightful than Bryan's): #300 was a twisted game full of excitement and missed opportunities for all. In a game ending 7-7-6-6-6-2, it’s not surprising that more than one player was left lamenting a move or build (or two or three) that prevented them from getting over the top.

The centerpiece of the night was F04, a turn that ended with Russia in Ankara, Turkey in Venice, Italy in Munich, France in Liverpool, and Germany in St. Petersburg. For good measure, England had a fleet in Norway and an army in Finland, and no units in Great Britain.

There’s a lot to say about my game, most of it uninteresting. A collection of errors of varying size kept me from ever getting past 7 and, ultimately, from topping the board alone. My big strategic move was, as Russia, to stab my ally, Turkey (Jake), in the fateful F04 turn. We had been solid allies up until that point, the one blip being my taking of BLA in S03 (a mostly defensive response to a Turkish army build in Smy, but an advantage that I was reluctant to give up). In F04, after two tactical errors elsewhere had me in danger of losing two units, I pulled the trigger and took Ank and Ser from Jake. The move was as desperate as it was strategic. I didn’t want to take units off the board, and I thought I had more to gain by allying with Italy (Bryan) than sticking with Turkey.

The big question for me is whether the stab was worth it. I didn’t expand rapidly after that, and in fact struggled to stay at 7. I can look at subsequent tactical errors I made (which were significant), or at subsequent diplomatic failures (Jim in Germany, who had been begging me to stab most of the game despite constantly sending units in my direction, continued to thwart me in the north; Italy, despite encouraging the stab, immediately allied with Turkey against me; David in England, who still had an army in Scandinavia, continued to work with Jim, even after being stabbed yet again by him).

Ultimately, I think I have to look at where I would have been had I not stabbed — down to 5 units, Germany and England coming at me from the north, Turkey at 7 and with a build. I would have been reliant on Jake’s good graces for at least a year, and he and Germany could easily have a struck a deal to eliminate me. Germany and England probably fight, but England was rapidly fading at that point. Italy would work with me, but the array of units would have favored Turkey at that point.

Seems to me like the risk/reward analysis favors the stab here, and that I probably underperformed relative to the expectation value. I’m willing to be convinced otherwise, tho, Jake.
# Jake Trotta 2016-05-16 12:20
There was a postgame discussion on the value of posting EOGs. Jim, myself, Bryan and Brandon are all of the thought that it’s good for hobby on the whole and for us as players, while Matt views it as a competitive disadvantage. It’s a rising tides lifts all boats versus “well, the game theory says…” argument. During that discussion, Matt called me a “spout” because I drop like 8 paragraphs on these things.

So before we begin, a moment of silence to honor of all the game recaps Matt Sundstrom was too scared to write. #spouton

I drew Turkey. My brother was Austria, and Weasel-class mates Brandon and Bryan were I and R respectively. I’ve played on a few boards with Ian, but never in the same theater. 01 negotiations Italy offered for me to be the armies, but I expected Lepanto. Brandon wanted an RT, and Ian wanted to be allies. I tried to pitch Ian on a strong RAT opening, but he wasn’t having it. I ended up keeping my options open with both A&R. End of 1, I was in Greece and Bul, with 2 builds and out of the box. I later learned that people were telling Ian that I was too dangerous to be kept alive-I’m flattered, but it ended up not being the case.

02 I had the choice between working with Ian or Brandon. AI had some conflict, so I decided to go for the RT, and tricked Ian into leaving Serbia and Bud open. He went down to two centers and was dead at the end of 03. At the same time, I evacuated the black to try to put 3 fleets on the Med. Ian kept his fleet, supported Bryan to hold while Bryan was picking up a build, thus putting me in a second box. The next two years I spent trying to pick up Ion and Trieste and failing, while Brandon moved into Black.

My two big regrets from this game are evacuating black and telling Bryan that what was best for me was for Brandon to move out of Black, thus giving him only one way forward: to work with Brandon. Poor negotiation there. Bryan flipped Brandon, they stabbed me, and then we had some creative finagling in Iberia to keep center counts around the same.

My big takeaway from this game is a couple teachable moments on Turkey. I don’t think I’ve ever had a good start as Turkey like this before. While I’ve done ok on the comeback trail, I failed to see that the RT is dependent on Russia’s northern growth, while T has only one avenue of expansion. I also was likely too aggressive in the early game, leading me to get boxed up again. I think my tactics this game were good, but strategically and diplomatically I played poorly.

Player Feedback

Austria: If you’re Austria and you aren’t getting 2 01 builds, you’re usually in trouble. Also supporting me into Greece-probably a bad idea. You’ve got to make at least one friend and get two builds. Usually it is Italy, sometimes also R or T.
England: It’s always entertaining watching you work in the opposite theater. Big fan. Holding Belgium was a stroke of mastery.

France: Good to have you back. I look forward to reading your EOG.

Germany: One of these days you’ll move to Silesia, but until that happens you still lack courage.

Italy: You did very well with a tough hand to play. Up to 04 I don’t think you made a mistake. Definitely could have had the board top with a better 05, 06.

Russia: Very well-played game. You took the Black at the right time. The north was a disaster, but I think that’s just the personalities you’re dealing with there. Seems you get the better of me 2 games out of every 3.

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