The song of people dying

"I don’t listen when they tell me what’s going to happen if I keep attacking them. That’s just the song of people dying."
–Ben DiPaola

That quote has nothing to do with Game No. 154, which was played at my home in Little Italy yesterday. Ben uttered it while we were smoking cigars on the patio following a long, grueling game, in reference to a game at Weasel Moot. But I like it so much that I’m using it here.

Actually, we didn’t have a whole lot of dying in Game No. 154. It was a pretty well balanced game that saw the fortunes of several powers rise and fall and sometimes rise again. As late as 1906, I was topping the board with only seven centers. We didn’t see our first elimination till 1912.

That was Peter Lokken, who got off to a bad start while conducting the ritual for power selection. After the six other players had plucked their blocks from the box, Peter reached in for his and realized the box was empty. It was Sunday morning, and we weren’t thinking all that clearly. Our initial reaction was to have Peter play the country left over, which turned out to be England. But we quickly realized how stupid that was. No one else had a chance to draw the dark blue block. So we started over.


The game itself got off to a late start, thanks to John Gramila. The rest of us were ready to go by about 10:20. He showed up an hour later. Our new Chief of Public Information quickly proved that he’s the right man for that job, however, by nearly persuading us all that the website had announced an 11 a.m. start. In fairness to John, while the game article and Meetup page had the correct start time of 10 a.m., the calendar entry, which he referenced, said 11. Even so, he was still 20 minutes late.

For his sins, we promised to stick him in Austria. It took two draws, but that’s where he landed.

We played for about nine hours. The game finally ended in Spring 1914 in the following center count:

Austria (John Gramila): 11; 36.012 points.
England (Jim O’Kelley): 13; 50.298 points.
France (Peter Lokken): 0; 0.000 points.
Germany (John Ritz): 6; 10.714 points.
Italy (Ben DiPaola): 3; 2.679 points
Russia (Don Glass): 0; 0.000 points.
Turkey (Ulysses Peterson): 1; 0.298 points.

You can check out the supply center chart here. It really was a fun, balanced game with a good group of guys.

Next up: Don’t miss out on the bar games later this month. We’ll be at Guthrie’s on Oct. 20 and Emmett’s in Downers Grove on the 27th.

Join the discussion!

Find out more about an upcoming event or article, talk smack before a game, brag about your board top, or most likely, ask what on earth your fellow Weasels were thinking!

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. John G

    I spent half of my game negotiations trying (and failing) to convince people that Jim was the person voting down draws from 09-11.

    I played Austria, and suspected I was in trouble when Don (Russia) and Ulysses (Turkey) spent the first 8 minutes of negotiation together pointing at a map. My fears were confirmed when there was no move to the Black Sea and the Turkish fleet sailed into Con.

    An S01 move to Tyrolia by Ben (Italy) left me nervous but, I needed an ally so I had nothing better to do than smile, nod, and beg for a fleet to start hitting Turkey.

    I got lucky in the fall, with the Turkish fleet mis-ordering Con to Bulgaria by not specifying a coast, so I walked from Serbia to Bulgaria and grew to 4. That Turkey only grew 1 in Greece wasn’t a huge deal, but only having Ankara open for builds was vital for my survival, because F Ankara had nowhere to go but Black Sea, which made a Turkish stab of Russia possible (I think that fleet nabbed Rumania in F03). Coupled with the Russian fleet sitting in Rumania it was possible for my Austria to grow into Greece to 5 despite a dedicated R/T bearing down on my position.

    In the West, Italy had accepted French support into Munich, which had lasting impact on the Western powers. John Ritz (Germany) only grew one to four on 01, and was forced to build an army to kick the Italian out, but Peter (France) and Jim (England) smelled blood in the water in Germany was down to 3 by 03. The Italian army survived in German territory until 05, and Germany never got the chance to build a second fleet and elected to pull their first fleet.

    As England turned their attention to Russia in the Scandinavian centers and Russia had to turn their attention elsewhere, I was able to make headway in the south, growing to 7 in 1905, then losing 2 as I lost Greece to the Turk and mis-ordered into an open Warsaw. I also bounced Italy out of Trieste, and had to pull an army that made it into Armenia, giving Turkey and Russia a second lease on life.

    The next year (07) I gained my centers back, and started rolling against Russia and Turkey after forgiving and forgetting with Italy.

    I stabbed Italy back in 1908, but I didn’t have enough fleets to really continue my progress, and the entire board had turned against me. To my eyes, Jim was the threat on the board, as he was looking at an empty 5 centers, a Germany pushing into Russian territory and a France harried by England and a locked up northern border. But Jim out-diplomed me and convinced the board that I was voting down the draw. I still had gains to make in Turkey but I couldn’t go any further North or West and under G/E pressure I lose Warsaw and Moscow while Jim kept growing.

    This was a hugely fun game, with lots of alliance shifting, and an interesting looking board. I was frustrated with my diplomacy in the last 4-5 years of the game, but was pretty happy with my early play.

  2. Christian MacDonald

    Love the quote!! If that’s true, then Dave Maletsky has a fine singing voice indeed.

  3. Jim O'Kelley

    I love a long game of Diplomacy (almost as much as I love a long endgame statement). Last season, I missed out on all the marathons. The four house games I played averaged a measly six and a half years. That’s barely long enough for lunch. So, you can imagine my delight at finally landing in a proper two-meal Diplomacy game.

    Of course, it’s a bit misleading to say that I “landed” in it. I actually forced the length of this one by secretly voting down three or four draw proposals. I feel a little guilty about holding the other players hostage for the last four game-years, especially John Ritz, who had to drive back to Madison.

    I’d feel even worse if I hadn’t topped the board. But, yah, when John Gramila followed the first failed draw vote by extending his lead from 10-7 to 12-7, I felt pretty darn bad.

    But I get ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning, which for us, came 90 minutes late thanks to Gramila, our new Chief of Public Information. Let’s hope the quality of same improves under his iron fist. So, at 11:30 a.m. instead of 10 on October 2, at my place in Little Italy, we lined up like this:

    [b]Austria:[/b] John Gramila. (Call it karma.)
    [b]England:[/b] Jim O’Kelley.
    [b]France:[/b] Peter Lokken.
    [b]Germany:[/b] John Ritz.
    [b]Italy:[/b] Ben DiPaola.
    [b]Russia:[/b] Don Glass.
    [b]Turkey:[/b] Ulysses Peterson.

    Spring 1901 set the stage for a fascinating game. Germany, Italy and I played it straight up, but we were the only ones. (Let the record note that Italy’s Lepanto opening included Venice-Tyrolia, which is by the book.) France ordered his armies to Picardy and Burgundy and his fleet to the Mid Atlantic. Russia and Turkey demilitarized the Black Sea, and Austria bounced Russia in Galicia, took Serbia, and ordered his fleet to the Adriatic.

    I had trouble getting any traction in the West. Despite his stated preference for Belgian neutrality, France devoted two units to its capture. Germany wasn’t alarmed by the French opening.

    “Traditionally,” he said, “they speak French and German in Belgium.”

    Germany was more concerned about the Italians in Tyrolia. And despite all his talk about E/G cooperation in Scandinavia, he said he wasn’t sure whether he’d bounce the Russians in Sweden.

    Meanwhile, France’s diplomacy was as aggressive as his opening.

    “I need Belgium because I’m not going to get Portugal,” he said. “I’m supporting myself in, so don’t bother moving there.”

    I wasn’t getting warm fuzzies from either neighbor, and Russia was confident enough about Sweden that he wasn’t interested in moving to Baltic, which potentially would have freed Denmark for me.

    I thought about convoying Yorkshire to Holland. If Germany chose to cover Munich, my convoy would keep him out of Holland. However, if the Italian attack didn’t materialize and Germany supported himself to Holland instead of covering Munich, he’d have every reason to build a fleet in Kiel.

    Instead of provoking the German, I elected to convoy to Belgium. France told me he was supporting himself in, so my move would conceal my intentions without annoying anyone.

    Except that France’s Belgian stance had been bluster. Burgundy supported the Italians into Munich instead of himself into Belgium. In the West, we each secured only one build. Belgium and Portugal remained neutral.

    In the East, a Turkish misorder cost him Bulgaria in addition to Greece. Instead, the Austrians slipped into Bulgaria from Serbia while also moving to the Ionian as Italy took Tunis with his fleet. The Blue Water Lepanto. Nice.

    I hoped that France would remember our conversation about Belgium. I built F Edinburgh to signal my peaceful intent. He built F Brest. Fortunately, Germany needed an army to roust the Italians out of Munich. He put it in Berlin.

    Russia got his two builds, one of which was a fleet on the South Coast of St. Petersburg. That was a concern for me, but not one I’d have to worry about immediately. But we were all slightly concerned about the brazen R/T alliance. They were making no effort to conceal it, and the far-flung Austrians were in trouble.

    Germany and I talked at length about Sweden, but we could agree only on an arranged bounce in Skagerrak. That was unfortunate, given the Russian fleet in St. Pete that was about to shore up Sweden.

    So, I eyed Belgium as my next build and talked at length with France about pushing his fleets south. I also talked with both Germany and Italy about pushing the Italians into Burgundy, along with Venice to Piedmont.

    I was confident enough in my diplomacy that I ordered the North Sea to the Channel, Edinburgh to the North Sea, and Yorkshire to Wales. France bounced my move to the Channel. After the adjudication, I approached him.

    “Why did you move your fleets against me?” I asked.

    “Because I had to defend myself,” he said. “Why did you move to the Channel?”

    “Because I thought it would work,” I said.

    Perhaps the key order of Spring 1902 was F St. Pete Hold. That left Sweden vulnerable. This time, Germany and I finally reached a deal. He would take Belgium and would support me into Sweden. He had retaken Munich, so he’d be up two, and I’d be up one. Good deal, right? Wrong.

    Germany held in Denmark, denying me the support I needed to take Sweden. Once again, none of my fleets moved. 1902 was a wasted year.

    On the bright side, the silver-tongued Frenchman talked the Italians into marching right back into Munich. I believe they got there with Russian support.

    So my goals in 1903 ranged from the modest (move more than one of my pieces) to the vengeful (make Germany pay for his sins) to the greedy (build). In France, I found a willing partner.

    In the Spring, I supported him into German-occupied Belgium while taking St. Pete for myself. In the Fall, France supported me into Holland.

    Finally, progress. France and I were topping the board with six centers; a rejuvenated Austria, Italy and Turkey all had five; poor Russia, the previous board-topper, was down to four; and the recalcitrant Germans were at three.

    In 1904, France reverted to hard-line diplomacy. First, he insisted on moving his fleet in Belgium to the English Channel so that he could put an army in Belgium in order to gain leverage on the Ruhr. I pitched the alternative of supporting my convoy to Holland as Holland moved to the Helgoland Bight. From Holland, I could support the French attack on Ruhr. France refused my offer because, second, he wanted me to stay out of the German campaign.

    “You can have Scandinavia,” he said, “and I’ll let you keep Holland, but Germany is mine.”

    Okay then, Scandinavia it is. Nothing was adjacent to St. Pete. So, I pulled St. Pete back to Norway, moved North Sea to Skagerrak, and moved Edinburgh to the North Sea with support from Holland. My army in Yorkshire held, while the new one in London moved to Wales. I still hadn’t gotten my first one off the island, and now he had company.

    Russia’s fleets were in Denmark and Baltic, so I approached him and said, “I can take either Denmark or Sweden for sure. Why not attack Kiel with your fleets and let me take both?”

    “I’m getting pounded in the south,” he said. “I need those centers.”

    “You’re going to lose them both, if not this year than next,” I countered. “You’re fighting Germany. Why not take a center from him instead of defending against me?”

    “And what will you do after Scandinavia?” he asked.

    “I promise I’ll be done,” I said. And I meant it.

    Don was in a tight spot. He agreed to my request. I forget whether his attack on Kiel worked, but I took both Denmark (via a convoy) and Sweden to grow to eight. France was stuck on six.

    I also ordered Wales to London to cover it against the French fleet. Rather than pull back to the Mid Atlantic or Brest, he was insisting on staying put to support himself in Belgium.

    “I want to play it safe,” he said.

    Safe for who, I thought to myself.

    I needed a fleet to babysit him and London was occupied, so I built F Liverpool along with A Edinburgh.

    France requested a meeting right out of the gate. When we reached our conference room, he looked at me without saying anything. I looked back. A good 10 seconds passed.

    Finally, he said, “I’m waiting for you to explain yourself.”

    “I’ve agreed to all your demands,” I said. “I needed a fleet to babysit yours, and London is occupied because of you.”

    “What are you going to do with it?” he asked.

    “I was planning to move it to Wales and leave it there.”

    “Wales?” he said. “Wales makes me nervous. How about the Irish Sea? That also borders the Channel, but it doesn’t seem so close.”

    “But it also borders the Mid Atlantic,” I pointed out.

    He paused. “You’re right. Fine. Move it to Wales.”

    I did. France, meanwhile, broke his promise of the prior year by taking Holland.

    Fortunately for me, Germany approached me in the Fall, eager to mend fences. He had three units, all armies, so he was better suited to help me than France.

    “I’ll support you into Holland,” he said, before I could ask the question. And this time, he wrote the support.

    I was back in Holland, but France and I were now at war.

    Because there were no German or Russian fleets to worry about, I was able to hold Scandinavia with three units while devoting four to the defense of the homeland. I convoyed Norway to Edinburgh to put a second army on the island. France had fleets in the Channel and, I think, Clyde, but as long as I could keep him from building, I could cover everything.

    The schizophrenic Germans saw the same thing, so they supported the French into Holland in the Spring.

    Again, fortune was on my side. Italy had moved against France’s lightly defended southern centers, and in the Fall, he took Marseilles to prevent France from building.

    Through 1906, I was still topping the board, but I now had only seven centers. France and Italy had six apiece. The resurgent Austrians, meanwhile, had a setback in 1906, losing two to go from seven to five. Turkey was stuck on four, and Germany and Russia were bringing up the rear with three apiece.

    In 1907, I continued to parry the French attacks, and the Germans flipped sides once again. This time, he took Holland from France as I took Belgium. By the end of 1908, France was down to four centers, and I could start thinking offensively. Austria, though, was flexing his muscles in the South. He had caught me at eight centers.

    In 1909, the Germans flipped yet again. This time, he supported the French into Belgium in the Spring, annihilating my fleet there, and setting up the center for capture by himself in the Fall.

    I summoned France, my mortal enemy, to a meeting on the patio.

    “Look,” I said, showing him my book. “I’ve written two support orders for Belgium to hold. Let’s get rid of this guy.”

    Although France accepted my support and held the center, we couldn’t get rid of Germany. Austria had jumped to 10 centers, and we needed Germany’s four armies to prevent him from overrunning the middle of the board.

    The Austrian proposed a game-ending draw in Spring 1910. I had been topping the board for most of the day, and while I wasn’t sure I could retake the lead, I didn’t want to give up without at least trying to narrow the gap between us. So, I secretly vetoed it by playing a black card.

    Now, normally, there’s always someone around to conduct a draw vote for us–either an eliminated player, or a spouse or an observer. For this vote, all the players were still on the board, my lovely wife was out, and our observer (Jeremiah Peterson) had left. That meant there was no way to announce the result without revealing the actual vote count.

    I played my black card face down in the North Atlantic. We shuffled the seven cards, flipped them over, and six of them were red. Red stops the game, black keeps it going.

    “John is going for the solo,” someone said.

    The Austrian vehemently, and pretty convincingly, protested the charge and instead pointed the finger at me.

    “Jim has everything to gain and nothing to lose,” he said. “Look at all those open centers near him.”

    In the back rooms, I made the case for the Austrian veto. The fact that I wasn’t moving most of my pieces supported my argument. France and Italy weren’t happy when I took the Mid Atlantic, but that action followed an attempt by Italy to move there. And Germany balked when I moved to the Baltic and convoyed to Denmark. But the fleet promptly convoyed his army in Kiel to Prussia. Each turn, he’d ask me to vacate Denmark, and each turn, I’d remind him of all his past transgressions, and that would end the discussion.

    The truth is, just as I had kept my promise to Russia (I was still helping him hold Moscow), I had no interest in attacking Germany. I needed his armies to stop Austria. But I did think I could take some of the French dots without compromising our ability to hold the stalemate line.

    So, that was my long-term plan, but in the short term, my decision to prolong the game didn’t look so hot. In 1910, Austria gained two more centers to take a 12-7 lead.

    Opportunity knocked in Spring 1911 after I had secretly voted down another draw. Germany and Austria had been sparring in the no-man’s land. A good guess by Austria put two of his units on Munich. We had seen the danger and had urged France to move his army in Belgium to either Ruhr or Burgundy. Instead, France held, so now Munich was vulnerable.

    I first went to France.

    “We’re going to lose Munich now because you held in Belgium,” I said.

    “I know,” France said.

    “You have to move it now so we can retake it next year.”

    He agreed. Then I went to Italy. His key 1906 attack on France had been repulsed, but a subsequent attack had put him in control of Iberia.

    “I still think Austria is voting against the draws,” I said, “but it could also be France.”

    “Why would France vote it down?” he asked.

    “Well,” I said. “He could be messing with us. Or he could be drunk.” (It had been a long day; the beer was almost gone.) “Either way, he isn’t making the moves we need him to make, so let’s take his centers.”

    “Okay,” he said. “What do you want me to do?”

    “Take Tunis,” I said.

    “I already own Tunis.”

    “Then take Marseilles.”

    “I own that, too.”

    As I said, the beer was almost gone. “Oh,” I said. “Well, I’m going to take his centers then.”

    “Okay, thanks for telling me your plans…”

    I’m not sure whether Italy shared them with France, but France ordered Belgium to Burgundy in the Fall…as I convoyed Denmark to Belgium and supported myself into Brest.

    In addition, Austria opted not to take Munich. “I was hoping Germany would build a fleet [with his build from Warsaw],” Austria would later explain. He didn’t.

    So now, Austria’s lead was 11-9.

    My lovely wife had come home, and as I went to get her for the third draw vote, I explained the situation.

    “I’m voting down the draws,” I said. “If you want me to wrap this up, I’ll vote for it.”

    “Keep playing,” she said. “I don’t mind.” Isn’t she lovely?

    So, I voted down another one.

    Austria and I were among the first to chat.

    “You’re really not voting this down?” he asked.

    “It’s not me,” I swore. “It’s getting late, and I still want to smoke cigars on the patio. What about you?”

    “I swear it’s not me.”

    “Why not?” I asked. “You’ve got a really good position.”

    “I don’t think I can get any bigger,” he said. “It must be France.”

    “He might not even know he’s doing it,” I said. “He’s had a lot to drink.”

    “Go eliminate him then.”

    “Okay,” I said. “I will. And then I have a hunch this draw will pass.”

    I convoyed my new armies to Picardy and Belgium. In the Fall, I supported myself to Paris, which was France’s last center. As a throwaway move, I also ordered Burgundy to Marseilles, which actually worked because Italy forgot to order a move for an adjacent unit.

    Meanwhile, Russia and Turkey each had one remaining unit, and they outguessed Austria in the Fall to keep him from taking the last Turkish dot. I had caught Austria at 11.

    In Spring 1913, I proposed a draw.

    “Veto,” said Austria. He wanted the board top, and he had a couple of easy dots in Turkey.

    Perhaps the funniest moment of the game followed when France asked Italy for a chat.

    “Peter,” several of us said, “you’re not in the game anymore.”

    So I spent 1913 fighting my way into Iberia. Italy’s mistake paved the way, and I took both dots. Austria managed to take Russia’s last center, but with his dying breath, Russia again helped Turkey keep [i]his[/i] last center, and Germany took Moscow, keeping Austria even.

    I was now up 13-11.

    In Spring 1914, Austria said he’d vote for the draw. I proposed another one, and this time, it passed.

    John Ritz hit the road. He had a long drive ahead of him. Don Glass also left, his next workday quickly approaching. The rest of us retired to the patio for cigars and a nightcap, not quite ready to close the book on a marathon game.

  4. Christian MacDonald

    Excellent recap Jim. I really enjoyed reading it. Sounds like a great game!

  5. Peter Lokken

    Wow, Jim you have a steel trap for a memory.

  6. Jim O'Kelley

    [quote]Wow, Jim you have a steel trap for a memory.[/quote]
    The problem is, it’s usually closed.

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