…and Don’s Birthday Bash
What a night for the Weasels on what turned out to be Matt Kade’s final game with the club (at least for now). Kade was a playdiplomacy.com
recruit who played with us for the first time at last year’s CODCon Open
. He went on to play in 14 of our league games and even hosted Game No. 233
, our first ever in Hyde Park, for which he recruited a couple of players, one of whom looks like he’s going to be active.
Kade recently accepted a job in San Francisco and will be moving out there in two weeks. We’re definitely sorry to see him go, but our loss is the Bay Area Diplomacy Association’s gain. So, while off the board, last night was a time for celebrating Kade and bidding him fond farewells, on the board, we showed him no mercy, which is, after all, the Weasel Way.
But before we recap that game, let’s talk about Don’s birthday board.
On Monday of this week, with nine players signed up for the event, we decided to push hard for two boards. Ben DiPaola, always a good-natured if sometimes reluctant participant, offered to be the 14th, never thinking for a moment that we could find four more players on such short notice. Shame on him for doubting Prime Weasel Nate Cockerill’s passion for Diplomacy and our club.
Flash back to last week’s Song of Roland
game. Two female thespians were sitting in a booth at the Red Lion, quietly rehearsing their lines when they were interrupted by a loud, animated argument between visiting dignitary Roland Cooke and one of the other players in Game No. 234. According to Annie Passanisi, the debate raged thusly:
Cooke: You must vacate immediately!
Unidentified Player: I can do no such thing!
"It looked like fun," Passanisi said. "We were intrigued, so we asked someone what they were doing. We wanted to give it a try."
Cockerill got their contact info, and he followed up on Tuesday. Passanisi and her friend Shannon Trompeter became our 11th and 12th players.
For the final two, Cockerill recruited a couple of guys who happened to be hanging out at the Lion on Tuesday night. One had played Diplomacy three times in high school. The other liked role-playing games and thought Diplomacy sounded pretty cool.
The Prime’s handiwork got us to 14 players: Eight regulars, four who had never played the game, one who hadn’t played in more than 40 years, and one who was only playing for the second time. So, we decided to put the six new and newish players on one board, along with Don Glass, who was celebrating his birthday. We Weasels can be awfully generous with other people’s supply centers.
A quick aside:
Recall the November Ladies Night game
, where we fielded a board with three females on it for the first time in club history. We turned that trick for a second time last night in Game No. 235. And it’s also worth noting that we’ve had six different women play with us in the past four months. That’s one short of the number we need to pull off the mythical Board of the Valkyries.
Also, the women last night bought so completely into the idea of playing in an all-female game that they pledged to recruit enough of their friends to field two such boards. Suck on that, Hobby.
This game progressed at a leisurely pace as Don took time to explain the adjudications and various nuances to the other players. Despite playing till 11:30, they managed just five game years. It ended by time limit after the Fall 1905 turn in the following center counts:
Austria (Annie Passanisi): 0; 0.000 points.
England (Tom Kosinski): 8; 23.022 points.
France (Bree Oliver): 5; 8.993 points.
Germany (Karl Hench): 6; 12.950 points.
Italy (Shannon Trompeter): 3; 3.237 points.
Russia (Enrique Carmona): 0; 0.000 points.
Turkey (Don Glass): 12; 51.799 points.
Game No. 236 was a tighter affair featuring some of the club’s heavyweights. We played through Fall 1906, wrapping up at about 10:50. The final center counts were:
Austria (Nate Cockerill): 1; 0.357 points.
England (Matt Kade): 0; 0.000 points.
France (Jim O’Kelley): 12; 51.429 points.
Germany (David St. John): 5; 8.929 points.
Italy (Ben DiPaola): 5; 8.929 points.
Russia (Keith Ammann): 2; 1.429 points.
Turkey (Matt Sundstrom): 9; 28.929 points.
Kade played hard in his final game and with his typical good cheer. In the end, he said, "I’m kind of happy to leave the Weasels the same way I came in: with zero points."
Later, while we were all rehashing the game, he reflected on his performance.
"I made a couple of big mistakes," he said. Then he turned to me. "One of them was trusting you."
We’re going to miss the energy and enthusiasm that Matt brought to our games. But with luck, one or more of these new players we’ve seen the past couple of months will rise up and take his place. And if they happen to be women, so much the better.
The supply center charts are here
. Please share your thoughts on the games in the comments section below. And let’s get two more boards on the 19th
. One bar game is a good time; two make a party.
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At one point during the night, Nate and I glanced over at the novice board and saw Bree Oliver, playing in her second game, with her notepad on her head, a Weasel’s signal that her builds are in. He and I then shared a knowing look: Bree is hooked.
Prior to starting the game, we picked countries using preference lists, trying to pair each player with his top most choice. So, when I was awarded Italy, the peace loving nation of spaghetti and meatballs, I rejoiced with the Italian citizenship. We were together again and planned to set sail in 1901 to explore the Ionian.
As my situation was later described as being stuck between a rock and a hard place (surrounded by skilled players) my peace loving citizens were growing anxious as history has taught us that eventually we would be subserviant to yellow, red, or blue pieces of wood.
I think one of the beauties of Italy is the need to play a patient game and look for opportunities. But, in so many ways I had the wrong time horizon for this bar game. Although I think patience is good for this country, maybe a bar game isn’t the best place to practice it if you have the intention of being board top. To that point, while I did start the game with an aggressive move and ended up taking Trieste in the Fall of 1901, the remainder of my game ended up being a balancing act, helping Austria to serve as an ally against Turkey, working with France to help me against a feared Turkish armada. It was a fun game of decisions, although my Turkish friend may rightful disagree since the upshot was his forces being bottled for much of the game (However, I thought his armies would eventually run over everyone in the East).
Turkey did provide me with an interesting proposal. He was in Tyrrh Sea and wanted support into the West Med, while his other fleets were in Alb and Agean (I think…). While the thought of one Turkish fleet playing havoc in the Med with the French sounded fun, the fear of additional Turkish forces punching their way west was something that prompted me to work with France to stop the advance and protect the motherland.
Very sorry to see Matt K go. He was so easy to beat. Where will the big scores come from?
No, I am really sorry. Solid, regular players are great to have. Best of luck to Matt. Glad to know you and come back soon.
As for the game(s)…I was very pleased to see the new player board. I volunteered to explain the rules and tried as best I could. Some of the finer points were cut short (like Kie-Den is legal) as I was slated to play on the other board and being badgered to start. Went with Turkey on the preference list and got it. That makes the first two moves easy and allowed me a little more teaching time. Con-Bul (which should never be a question) and Ank-Bla (which could be a question). Smyrna is the only variable. Russia and I didn’t talk much save bounce in Black. So Smy-Arm became the third order. Black bounced as expected. Austria opened Bud-Rum instead of Bud-Ser while Italy opened Ven-Tyr and Rom-Ven. Not Sundstrom System but I’m very much liking this. The Rumanian unit is out of play for Austria to use it on defense so Nate agrees to support Arm-Sev and follows through. Italy supports Sil-Mun (War-Sil was the open in Spring ’01) to keep Russia at four. Austria gets Serbia and Greece but loses Trieste. East is A=5, I=5, R=4 and T=5. Not as good as possible but good.
Italy builds F Nap and A Ven. Austria is stymied as three of the Archduke’s units are tied up. Spring 1902 gives me a good shot of getting Rum and I take it. Got to six in 1902 and reached the first main Turkish goal. Russia rebuilt the destroyed F Sev as an army somewhere. I never got further north on a permanent basis. EG weakness helped, but Keith defended really well. I slogged against the AIR in some fashion for the rest of the game. Italy was more worried about the Turkish units crawling behind him than anything else. I don’t blame him, but the west became the more important theater over the remaining years. And how are you not worried about Jim in France?
This game is a good lesson in paying attention to the entire board. I did pay attention but became impotent to do much in the west. Neutering Russia didn’t help, but that’s a tradeoff. In 1901, Jim’s France opened strongly against England with German help. Bre-ECH rings a bell. I assume Jim was “granted” Belgium in Fall ’01 for skipping the second build in Iberia. So he of course got to six in 1902. I remember saying something like this to Germany at some point soon after that…
“Make sure you get your fair share of the deal with Jim.”
Kaiser “Oh yeah, I’m on that.”
Well, Matt Kade’s England was apparently not “on that” wavelength. EF soon emerged as France had England by his round ones. Germany was knocked back, England was pushed forward and France was sitting pretty. There was not much that could be done about Jim after that. EG tried to reconcile but fratricide, liquor or something kicked in. Jim stabs Matt K. for 3 a couple of years later. Nice goodbye.
Turkey did get a forward fleet to Tys early and would/could have pushed it west to annoy Jim before he exploded. Ben’s Italy entertained the idea of helping that cause. But there was no help to be had. Sniff. I was serious about leaving Italy alone-there was no point in attacking Italy while France was getting big in a bar game.
Jim played a great game. I’m impressed. Thanks to all who came out.
The aftergame was MUCH better and longer than usual. Numbers helped. Worth coming out next week or sometime soon just in case.
By the way, if I say “go west” I mean west. Ben?!
[quote]As my situation was later described as being stuck between a rock and a hard place [/quote]
This is as good a place as any to start my recap.
Generally, I like the Sum of Squares scoring system. I think it encourages a style of play that supports club-building. However, there are occasions (frequent, I suppose) when I don’t feel a player’s score accurately reflects his performance in the game. Exhibit A: Ben’s 9 points here.
I agree with the hobby consensus that Italy is the most difficult power to play. My reasons are twofold and related.
1) Whereas every other power has a shot at gaining two neutral supply centers, either uncontested or through diplomacy (admittedly tougher for Turkey than the rest, but her corner position offsets the disadvantage), Italy’s second build almost always must be taken from another player.
2) And because Italy sits outside the two heartlands, East and West, her intervention in one theater to claim that second build almost always benefits other players on the board more than it benefits her. There are plenty of circumstances where you can afford to give those other players the advantage because you believe it will be only temporary, but when you’re surrounded by strong players, as Ben was here, this second point is a significant disadvantage for Italy.
Take the start of the game. What does Ben do? If he plays a traditional Lepanto to root out Matt in the corner, well, that opening develops slowly for Italy and strings her out. Advantage Cockerill in Austria. If he jumps Austria, hello there, Matt. Advantage Turkey. And if he works with Austria against an R/T, that buys time for the West to sort itself out, and there I am in France.
Ben opted for reducing Austria quickly and then working with him to slow the Turks. By the midgame, he was caught between the French and Turkish superpowers. On one turn, he had to decide between pushing Turkey’s naval vanguard through his lines toward me or working with me to keep it bottled up.
Ben and I were talking about the situation, and he said something like: “If I work with you, you top the board, and if I work with Matt, he tops.”
That’s when I said: “Are you familiar with the Odyssey? I don’t remember the name from the story (“Scylla and Charybdis,” thank you , Google), but you’re caught between a rock and a hard place. Anything you do is going to help someone else more than it helps you.”
Fortunately for me, he chose to work with me, and I went on to top the board.
Playing Italy, surrounded by Matt, Nate and me, a lot of players would have sat on four until the hammer dropped. Ben was a player in this game. He got up to six centers for a a time and played a delicate balancing act rather well. He deserved more than the 9 points he got.
[quote] This game is a good lesson in paying attention to the entire board. [/quote]
This is the other point I’d like to write about. I’ll take what Matt said one step farther. I love the challenge of playing on a board when there are great players in the other theater. You should always work to influence the other side of the board. Of course you have to focus most of your time and energy on your own theater, lest you wind up as the odd man out, but your work there can be for naught if you don’t devote some effort to the other side.
I’ve had plenty of games like Matt’s here – most recently in the second round at WAC, which also used the Sum of Squares system this year – where I emerged as the dominant power in my sphere only to settle for 25 to 30 points because someone else got huge on the other side. (In that particular game at WAC, I spent a ton of negotiating time trying to slow down eventual tournament champion Dan Lester in England, but sometimes the other guy’s diplomacy is better than yours.)
But back to the challenge of squaring off against a great player from the other side of the board. My initial handling of the East didn’t go as planned, partly because I misread the alliance structure, but again fortune was on my side. My mistake ultimately worked in my favor.
After initial talks with them, I expected Austria and Italy to cooperate against Turkey, which put me in the unusual position of figuring that helping Matt actually aligned with my interests. I decided to try to work with Russia (Keith Ammann) in a three-on-one against either England or Germany and then with Keith against the other. I’d dominate the West while A/I slowly ground down Matt, who, among other strengths, is an excellent tactician.
Germany was the initial target. I planned to support myself to Burgundy, something I discussed with Germany to give myself more negotiating flexibility if needed, and had offered both Italy and Russia support into Munich if they moved to Tyrolia and Silesia, respectively. I hoped one would follow through.
For his part, Germany wanted to hold in Munich as part of an Anschluss strategy. For those unfamiliar, that’s when Germany backs up Austria with threats of intervention against Italy and a bounce in Sweden against Russia if either attacks the Arch-Duke. Holding in Munich also had the benefit of forcing my hand in the West. The burden of deciding whether to bounce the Brits in Belgium would be mine and mine alone. Negotiating flexibility for Germany, and thus not a bad opening strategy for him.
David preferred to hold in Munich via a bounce in Burgundy, but I told him that I wanted to support myself to Burgundy so that I could cover Marseilles and still take Spain if Italy moved to Piedmont. That was a credible enough reason for him to accept the supported move to Burgundy, but he still lobbied for Paris to Picardy, a bounce with Marseilles in Burgundy, and Brest to the Channel.
Matt Kade in England wanted to roll with an E/F, but it was Russia’s preference for moving to Silesia rather than St. Petersburg that tipped the scales in the E/F’s favor more than anything else. However, near the end of the negotiation phase, Keith approached me and said that he hadn’t gotten warm fuzzies from England and therefore didn’t want to commit to a campaign with us against Germany.
“Okay,” I said, “how about moving to St. Petersburg?”
“I don’t want to do that either,” he said.
At that point, neither Italy nor Russia had committed to the anti-German attack, so of my two options, I liked the specificity of Germany’s plan the best. I changed my moves to the attack proposed by David.
And then, Ben informed me that he was opening to Tyrolia and Keith came back to me and said the German attack was his best offer so he’d be moving to Silesia.
What to do? I stuck with the British attack, a somewhat schizophrenic opening for me given the effort I had put into stirring up trouble for the Germans.
As it turns out, I hadn’t been specific enough with Keith. I was talking about “intervention” in the West. To me, that meant he’d split his armies, sending one west while the other stayed in the east. Keith went balls out toward the west, moving Warsaw to Silesia and Moscow to Warsaw.
Boom! Turkey exploded, which wasn’t what I had wanted, but as I said above, it worked out in my favor, because Ben in Italy was much more concerned about managing Turkish growth than intervening to stop mine. From that point on, my attention to the other side of the board mostly involved frequent chats with Ben backed up by builds and moves that weren’t going to make him nervous.
Because Russia looked to be in big trouble after his opening, I lobbied hard for Italy to support him into Munich. He did, while also walking into Trieste.
Despite Ben’s opening to Tyrolia and Venice with his armies, I viewed his grab of Trieste as a gift from Austria. Nate wound up with Rumania along with Serbia and Greece, so he was building twice anyway. Therefore, I opted to throw down two fleets instead of a fleet in Brest and an army in Paris. That seemed like the proper response to two likely fleet builds from Italy.
Ben ended up building a fleet and an army, however, so I pushed F Marseilles to Spain and on to Portugal for my sixth center. I much would have preferred to build an army for that sixth unit, but by Fall 1902, if memory serves, the Turks were in the Ionian. So I built another fleet in Marseilles. So much for building in a manner that wouldn’t alarm the Italians.) Or maybe that build was a response to Italian fleet movements. I can’t recall for sure.
In 1904, I built another fleet in Marseilles. That one for sure was a response to the Turks in the Tyrrhenian, and for the final two years of the game, I had two fleets on guard duty in the Mediterranean.
Briefly on the West. I got to the Channel in Spring 1901 and supported Picardy to Belgium for my second build. But given Germany’s rough start, I was only as committed to the anti-British campaign as his inability to build. The moment he gained a fifth center, I was prepared to flip sides. That never happened, though, and by 1903, I had taken Liverpool and England was working as my Janissary.
Even while siding with me, Kade was still trying to flip Germany. In 1904, he succeeded, but he stuck with me just as I moved against Germany. I took Munich that year.
That Fall turn was the first of two where David was “too clever by half,” as founding Weasel Eric Brown likes to say. To cut a potential support against Munich, he ordered Holland to Ruhr.
On my own, I could guarantee neither of my attacks on Munich. Holland S Munich to Ruhr would have thwarted Burgundy S Ruhr to Munich, and Holland to Ruhr cuts the support for the other approach. However, Kade had offered to order North Sea to Holland to cut Holland’s support, which would guarantee the former attack. So that’s the attack I went with.
Result: Ruhr moves to Munich, Holland moves to Ruhr, and Kade slips into Holland. That was a devastating turn for Kade. He ended up even despite picking up two Scandinavian dots.
Fall 1905 was even a funnier example of a player outthinking himself. David took Munich back in the Spring and had an uncuttable support for it. I couldn’t retake it, so I went to David and said:
“I can’t take Munich. I know that. You know that. So I’m not going to attack Munich. Don’t tell me that you’re not going to support Munich, but assume that I’m not going to attack and think about another move that you can make that will make it easier for us to work together in 1906.”
Germany was certain that I was trying to trick him into a bad set of moves, so he ordered Munich to Kiel with support to defend against an imagined attack.
When his orders were read, he looked at me and said, “You didn’t think I’d see that? Do you think I’m a greenhorn.”
I laughed and said, “Listen to my moves.”
I took Edinburgh and Holland from England, whose attack on Kiel was unsupported. David walked out of my dot, and I went plus two instead of plus one.
I picked up two more centers in 1906 to finish with 12. It was a fun game against tough competition. Kudos to all. I look forward to the next one.
One final comment: For our preference lists, we listed our top five choices. France was fourth on my list. Rare to see that power go so low on a preference list, but Matt wanted to play Turkey; Nate, Austria; and Ben, Italy. The rest of us were split between England (first choice of Keith and Kade) and Germany (me and David).
It was great to have a chance to play one more bar game before leaving Chicago. I do wish I would have played a better game. Ever since Nate’s solo as England, and David St. John’s interesting comments regarding the strength of an E/F, particularly in a short timed game, I’ve been wanting play that alliance as England. When I proposed this to Jim before the first moves, he seemed interested. I thought I could work with Jim because we’ve worked reasonably well before, but I did forget that he’s never interested in working with me until after he’s knocked me down a few notches. This is exactly what happened. It’s certainly interesting to me to read that in 1901, Jim was getting mixed signals from Keith. Does he send any other kind? I thought I had been very clear with Russia that I was happy to put a fleet in Norway, and would also help him into Sweden in 1902. In the fall of 1901, I knew that David was going to bounce Keith out of Sweden. I told Keith as much, and suggested he instead move to Baltic. I tried to slip into Denmark, but of course Keith chose to bounce the German out of Sweden instead of having me and Denmark and him in the Baltic Sea. The second build would have helped to counteract the three French builds and the fleet in the English channel. From here, Jim stuck it to me, all while being a rather genial fellow, besides the fact that he didn’t say much to me that was true. Well played, Jim. From here, I played a generally poor game wherein I worked with Jim in exchange for a year’s reprieve from death, resulting in an O’Kelley board top. My best chance to really change some of the dynamic in the west is when I could have supported David’s German fleet sitting in NTH into the English Channel. This would have disrupted a French convoy and generally made life for difficult for Jim. I ultimately chose not to because David planned to also backfill NTH after he moved out into ENG, and wouldn’t back down. Ironically even if I had supported David; it wouldn’t have mattered since he misordered his fleet. A fun game and nice to have a few drinks afterwards. I’ll miss everyone.
Good to see so many of the players chiming in with endgame statements. Don Glass, are you going to tell us about your game?
[quote]At that point, neither Italy nor Russia had committed to the anti-German attack, so of my two options, I liked the specificity of Germany’s plan the best.[/quote]
I’d like to clarify this statement in the interest of accuracy. It wasn’t just the specificity of Germany’s plan that I found attractive. It was also the novelty. In all the times I’ve played France over the years, I bet I’ve tried that opening — Bre-Eng, Par-Pic, Mar-Bur — no more than one other time. Mar S Par-Bur, on the other hand, I’ve played more often than I care to admit.
The great irony of 1901 is that a month or two ago, I was drunkenly advocating for Lon-ENG being a good English opening, and not one weasel agreed with me. If I had done this, as I did briefly consider before deciding that throwing my lot in with O’Kelley was a brilliant idea, Jim would have been bounced out of the channel, and I still could have taken Norway with an unopposed convoy in the fall. The fall would have forced Jim to let me into the channel in the fall or give up a build in Brest. Maybe next time….
The French opening Jim chose at my suggestion would turn out very odd indeed without the bounce back to Mars. I hope I have affected the meta-game enough that, in the future, the E/F players will take the risk seriously that the other player might be lying to them about leaving the channel empty. I agree with Matt that Lon-Eng is a strong start for England… if the fleet gets in. But if both players trust each other to leave the channel open and work together early, it’s an even better start, especially in a bar game.
I am pretty happy with my performance. I figure Matt and I just plain got outplayed by Jim. France took the far more aggressive position against England, which is diplomatically exactly where I wanted to be. Despite my best efforts to avert an attack from the English navy, Matt still ended up invading the Heligoland Bight in 1902, leaving his Western flank wide open and forcing my second build F Kie when I could have easily been persuaded to summon land forces against France (fleet heavy already) or the collapsing Russia.
By the end of 1903, it was clear that England was going down, but that France was going to get the better share of this situation. Trying to reconcile with England was fruitless. Jim just did a better job diplomatically with England.
My favorite exchange of the night was when Jim pointed out that my plan to turn on him was easily overheard, since I was within earshot of the table. “Well, yeah”, I explained, “but I was lying.” “But you went through with the attack you said you would do.” Jim pointed out. “Yeah, but I didn’t *know* I was going to go through with it when I negotiated it!” The moral of the story is, just don’t negotiate where you can be overheard, and don’t mis-order your stabs.