For just the ninth time in 28 games this season, we gathered around a Diplomacy board without Prime Weasel Nate Cockerill. And it was only a last-minute schedule change at work that knocked Nate out of the game. His short-notice replacement was trusty standby Ben DiPaola.
Ted McClelland was the last to arrive at Josh Heffernan’s sprawling apartment on the boulevard in Logan Square, having bicycled all the way there from Rogers Park. So we plucked blocks and started playing at about 12:30, just half an hour after the scheduled start.
The standard start time for our Saturday games is 11 a.m., but a couple of us appreciated the later start for Game No. 248. For my part, it meant I could spend a leisurely morning with Meghan and Patrick before cashing in on my Father’s Day gift and abandoning them for a long day of Diplomacy.
And partly because we were playing without a reliable timer and partly because Josh is cultured, civilized, and fond of cocktails and conversation, it was a long day of Diplomacy. On this day, we took our time.
In the West, the action revolved around a Sea Lion against poor Mike Morrison, who drew the dark blue block. Russian Peter Lokken was eager to play in the North, my French fleet slipped into the Channel, and those two factors sealed Mike’s fate. Ben DiPaola accepted my support into the North Sea in Fall 1901, and in 1902, he was wintering in London. Mike was gone in 1904.
The East opened with an apparent A/I/R vs. T, but as Ted McClelland tried to work his fleets into the Aegean and Ionian in Spring 1902, Josh in Austria queued up Venice, which he took in the Fall. Early on, the A/R appeared to be moving faster than the F/G in the West.
Back in the West, Lokken opened 1903 with three Northern fleets, one of which he had just built on the South Coast of St. Petersburg at the same time that Ben had built a fleet in Berlin. Back in Buffalo, those two had been childhood friends. Lokken used to babysit for Ben. He introduced Ben to the Weasels. But on this day, as we sipped cocktails beneath the slowly turning arms of a ceiling fan, the two of them were mortal enemies.
Ben convoyed to Livonia while also moving to Silesia. At the same time, I got units into Tyrolia and Bohemia. Warsaw and Vienna fell to us, and now it looked like our alliance was poised to roll the board.
And then Lokken and Josh demonstrated why the game is called Diplomacy, not Tactics II. They didn’t just back off the Turk, Chris Kelly–the Turk, who had lost Bulgaria in 1902. They welcomed him into their alliance. That allowed Lokken to pull two southern armies back to defend against the German invasion. The East stopped our drive cold and eventually destroyed or pushed back all of our units that had crossed the stalemate line.
The game settled into an East-West battle for control of the stalemate line. The diplomacy circled around Ted in Italy, as the East tried to coax him into the fold while I kept propping him up.
The draw proposals started in Spring 1907. In the spirit of the World Cup, I proposed one with four of us sharing the board top at seven centers. It was vetoed, as were the next couple. Eventually we got to the secret ballot, but since we didn’t have an extra person on hand to conduct the vote, we all got to see the cards. One person kept voting down each draw.
I slowly crept up to nine centers, taking one from Ben at his request when we realized that he would otherwise have to play short, and outguessing Lokken for one in Scandinavia. Still the game went on. In Spring 1910, another vote failed. At this point, Lokken had four Northern fleets, so I could only spare one for the Mediterranean defense. In the Spring, Josh and Chris were able to shuffle units and work an Austrian fleet into Naples. They were poised to take Rome in the Fall–Ted and I could no longer defend it–and undoubtedly, they would do it by sliding a fleet up, giving them three against our two.
It looked grim for the men of the West, but in the Fall, the draw voted passed. The cocktails, Lokken said, were starting to catch up to him. He was starting to make mistakes and didn’t want me to increase my lead, so he voted for the draw. The center counts rolled back to Fall 1909, which were:
England (Mike Morrison): 0; 0.000 points.
France (Jim O’Kelley): 9; 36.161 points.
Germany (Ben DiPaola): 4; 7.143 points.
Italy (Ted McClelland): 2; 1.786 points.
Russia (Peter Lokken): 7; 21.875 points.
Turkey (Chris Kelly): 5; 11.161 points.
The supply center chart is here. Perhaps the other players will chime in now.
We hope to see all of you at Weasel Moot, which will be July 26-27 at the Hampton Inn and Suites at 33 W Illinois downtown. In the meantime, watch the website. We’ll probably schedule a bar game before then. Either way, we expect to play our 250th game at the Weasel Pyle on August 9. That’s a big deal.