Alternate reality

If we established anything at yesterday’s Weasel Royale club championship game, it’s that there are only three acceptable reasons for missing the event: Cancer, Rugby and Acts of God. All three played a part in shaping the lineup for this year’s Royale, as did some pretty lame excuses.

The field featured only four of the top seven, along with three alternates, including one who was an alternate for an alternate. We tapped Brad Harrington (the seventh alternate!) to play at around 10:45 a.m. when second alternate Mike Morrison discovered that a tree had fallen on his car during Friday’s storm. Host and War Weasel Dan Burgess calmly diverted fourth alternate Don Glass to the west side of the city to retrieve Harrington. They arrived at Dan’s at 12:06, and the selection ceremony started as soon as they took off their jackets.

The ceremony didn’t live up to the 66-minute build-up. In reverse seed order, we established the selection order, and the seeds all held. I think that’s the first time in Royale history that we stayed in seed order.

So, while the ceremony was rather uneventful, the game was anything but. It was as fun, interesting and dramatic as a championship game should be, particularly through the first four years. But even then, it was starting to look like the result was inevitable. The Eastern dynamic was playing right into the Turk’s hands, and the Turk was Matt Sundstrom.

The players finally conceded during the Fall 1911 turn. The final center counts were: (selection order in parenthesis)

Austria: Ben DiPaola (6): 1 center.
England: Tony Prokes (3): 0 centers.
France: Jim O’Kelley (1): 11 centers.
Germany: Matt Kade (4): 0 centers.
Italy: Don Glass (5): 0 centers.
Russia: Brad Harrington (7): 8 centers.
Turkey: Matt Sundstrom (2): 14 centers.

All hail the new Bull Weasel!

You can check out the supply center chart here. Hopefully the players will check in with their thoughts. There’s a lot to talk about in this one. In the meantime, thank you, Dan, for hosting the Royale. It was a great time, as usual. Thanks, also, to Matt Kade for flying in for the event, and to the alternates, particularly Brad Harrington, for stepping in so that the show could go on

And finally, the careful reader must be wondering about the cancer comment above. We learned last Monday that our Prime Weasel, Nate Cockerill, has been diagnosed with cancer. He’s home in Ohio now, surrounded by a supportive family and friends who aren’t eyeing his centers.

"I will get over this," he told me via text.

I have no doubt. The Myth Chaser can do anything.


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. Dan Burgess

    I had a great time hosting my fellow Weasels, and I know they all did also. I was happy to provide homemade chili, salsa, egg rolls, and even a flour tortilla pizza while keeping updated maps and accurate timers going in each of the conference rooms.

    It was also fun to pour craft beer for everyone and enjoy a fire on the deck and the vibrant post-game analysis. Let’s hope we don’t have so many dropouts next year!

  2. Jim O'Kelley

    I’m the only person to have played in every single Royale, and that’s pretty cool. Winning another one would be even cooler. I failed again in that endeavor, the fourth straight year I’ve fallen short, so once again I find myself reflecting on the game and trying to figure out where I went wrong. I’ve identified seven mistakes — or at least things I could have done better.

    Let me start by saying that I won’t dwell on my choice of allies in the West. I could have made an alliance work with either Tony Prokes (England) or Matt Kade (Germany). (I played France.) Both are good, reasonable players who are fun to play against. I went with Matt because I felt that entering the midgame, I’d have a clearer path to victory with my ally in front of me rather than behind me.

    Enough on that. Here are my mistakes.
    1) Take Advantage of the Advantage:[/b] Games of Diplomacy are won and lost based on how you play the power you’re given, not which power you’re given. I don’t want to overstate the importance of power selection. Nevertheless, we select countries the way that we do at the Royale to convey advantages to the players who put up the better composite scores over the course of the long season.

    Aside from 2010, when I won the Royale, and last year, when I picked last, I don’t feel like I’ve ever taken advantage of that advantage.

    This year, with all due respect to the other players, I felt like Matt Sundstrom — one of our club’s most decorated players — was the biggest obstacle to my ambitions. I had the higher seed (by less than 1.5 points), so I got to dictate selection. I considered three options.

    a) Choosing first and taking France, generally considered the strongest power in top-board games.
    b) Choosing first and taking Turkey.
    c) Choosing second and choosing the best country in the sphere opposite Matt.

    I went with option a, fairly confident that Matt would claim Turkey and that England would fall to Tony. That’s what happened.

    The better choice would have been option c. For starters, if my goal was to avoid Matt, then this option was the only sure way of doing so. Furthermore, if we’re playing in different spheres, then by choosing second, I at least give myself the tie-breaker advantage. We’ve yet to see the tie-breaker come into play, which is reverse selection order, but this game feasibly could have ended in a 17-17 stalemate-line draw. If it had, Matt would have won because I selected first.

    One more comment here. Choosing to play in the sphere opposite the player you consider to be your biggest rival may not be the best approach. It limits your options for dealing with him.

    [b]2) The Throwaway Move:[/b] Kade more or less wrote my orders for the first two turns. I got off to a fast start, gaining Belgium and London to go along with Spain, and my success (with his moves) made him a little skittish. Over the next couple of years, we each took turns guarding against phantom stabs.

    In Spring 1905, I went a little too far. Kade had pushed me hard to begin throwing units against Italy. I agreed, but as I started writing my orders, I worried about the mischief Tony could cause with his last piece and decided to make one last push to finish him off before heading into the Mediterranean. I also supported myself back into Burgundy, as Kade had a couple of units on the border.

    Finally, with my fleet in London, I wrote a throwaway move, ordering it to the North Sea.

    That move ended up cutting Kade’s support against Russian-held Norway, just as Brad Harrington was reshuffling his pieces. The attack failed, and Kade no longer had a certain build from Scandinavia.

    We had both been making defensive moves against the other, so I’m pretty sure we could have talked our way around all the other moves, but cutting his support was the straw that broke our alliance and pushed us to war. (In fairness, I assumed that Kade would be attacking Sweden with support, not Norway, but still, I had no reason for cutting North Sea that I can recall.)

    I ended up winning the war due to a lucky guess and Russian intervention, but winning that war set up a more difficult endgame for me.

    [b]3) Ignoring My Instincts:[/b] The throwaway move wasn’t my only mistake of Spring 1905. I also let Don Glass (Italy) talk me out of moving to the Western Med so that I could help him hold or retake Tunis as necessary. Turkey was in the Ionian, and Don couldn’t cover Tunis. But Don had fleets in the Adriatic, Naples and Rome. He convinced me that he could force the Ionian and then retake Tunis in the Fall.

    So, I ordered my fleet in the Mid Atlantic to support Brest to the English Channel. Much to my chagrin, Turkey bounced the Italian move to the Tyrrhenian and retreated to Tunis.

    Don fell to two from five that year, and Sundstrom’s Eastern dominance was assured.
    4) Greed Is Good…in Moderation:[/b] By Fall 1906, Russia had three northern fleets, one of which was in the North Atlantic. Russia was at eight centers, but he was weak in the south. As noted above, resistance to Turkey had all but collapsed in the East by this point. I wanted to change that, so I approached Brad and offered to support that nettlesome fleet in the North Atlantic into Liverpool (England’s last dot) and sweetened the package with the offer of support into Berlin.

    Brad jumped at the deal. He knew he needed to shore up his southern flank, and I was giving him two builds for that purpose.

    The thing is, the British army had just walked into Edinburgh, which was my dot. And I really wanted to use my fleet in the North Sea to cut the German fleet in the Bight so I could force Kiel, which meant I would need my fleets in Clyde and Norwegian to retake Edinburgh.

    So, I looked at the board and convinced myself that there was a reasonable chance that at least one of the Russian moves would succeed unsupported.

    I supported my moves instead of Brad’s. Predictably the Brits covered Liverpool and the Germans covered Berlin. I built one. Russia remained weak in the south.

    [b]5) Check and Triple Check:[/b] This one was an actual misorder. For two years, the French and Turkish armadas raged at each other in the Mediterranean. I was gradually gaining position on him. In Spring 1911, I forced my way into the Gulf of Lyon, but I botched the follow-up move. Instead of to the Western Med, from whence my attack on Lyon came, I ordered my fleet in the Mid Atlantic to occupied Spain.

    At the same time, the Turks ordered a reserve fleet to Greece instead of the Ionian. Had I gotten my orders right, I would have captured Tunis in the Fall.
    6) Brad’s Builds:[/b] I should have spent more time developing my relationship with Brad. Those two builds of his on the North Coast of St. Pete were significant impediments to my ambitions. They diverted both of us from where I wanted us focused: on Sundstrom. I don’t think I talked with him about either build. Inexcusable.

    [b]7) More than One Path to Victory:[/b] And finally, in the endgame, I had two possible paths to victory. I pursued one of them to the exclusion of the other.

    The endgame began when Matt finally dropped the hammer on Brad in Spring 1909. Brad lost two centers that year, and I convinced him to remove his two fleets in my backfield. I felt like Matt was weak in the middle and that Tunis could be captured, so I decided to focus on breaking Matt’s lines in one of those two areas, figuring I could stab for the solo once we had beaten back Matt’s solo bid.

    Brad had five centers behind our lines, and within a couple of turns, he was only adjacent to two of them. But I was so focused on pushing back Matt that I didn’t leave sufficient units behind to set up a stab.

    I should have focused on the middle, while being more economical with my units on the Mediterranean flank. In Spring 1911, Matt pointed out the danger to Brad, and Brad pulled three units back, even giving up on a certain attack on Moscow.

    Brad’s shift along with the mistake in the Med that would cost me Tunis convinced me to throw in the towel. The draw finally passed in Fall 1911. Matt Sundstrom was the deserving Bull Weasel, and I was a deserving second.

  3. Jim O'Kelley

    The map above indicates that Russia was playing two short. I think his fleet in Armenia was popped in Spring 1911. What about the other piece? Anyone remember?

  4. Jim O'Kelley

    Just checked Dan’s RealPolitik file. Brad’s army in Tuscany also was annihilated during the Spring 1911 turn. Spring 1911 was a tough season for the Russians.

  5. Matt Sundstrom

    That fleet had nowhere to go. And I was hoping Russia was on my side…

    Hope to write more. Thank you Jim and Dan.

  6. Matt Sundstrom

    Work and life finally slowed down to the point where I have a chunk of time to write up my thoughts. OK, I’m sure I could have made time. But it is convenient now.

    I enjoy the power selection process. In the first year of the Royale, where you placed dictated when you picked, i.e., first place picked first. Not surprisingly, 5th pick was Germany, 6th was Italy and 7th was Austria (or something like that). Those three players immediately formed a strong central alliance to spite the better placed players. It stood for the remainder of the game until the first four were dead. I much prefer the new system of using league standings to pick when you select your power. Adds a lot of intrigue to the process. My pre-game strategy was to pick no worse than 2nd. I fully expected first place Jim to choose to pick after me. I was surprised when he didn’t. That may have been the most important moment in the game. I had expected to pick first and would choose England in that spot. When Jim opted to go first and chose France, I knew I did not want to be in his theater. We’d just beat each other up. So I reluctantly chose Turkey. I say reluctantly because I was worried that would put a target on my back. But it was the best option given Jim’s choice.

    I ended up being pleased with the eastern theater as I had neighbors I thought I could work with. Brad was in Russia, Ben was in Austria and Don was in Italy. I had resolved to open Smy-Arm if I was in Turkey. I tend not to do as well when I skip that move. That includes last year’s Royale. Brad was less than pleased. But he wasn’t getting a lot of pressure anywhere else. He had opened Mos-StP and could handle the north. Italy seemed to have opened against Austria so Ben wasn’t interested in pressing east. The intended hostility of Don’s moves were debated for much of the post-game. I can only be grateful as they made the east a mess of constant conflict. Unlike most games when I open Smy-Arm, I ended up making peace with Brad and convoying Arm-Rum in spring 1902. RT remained solid for most of the game from there. I was able to play for position going west. Russia focused on the north and did well for himself there. But he was never able to build a defending army back home. I stabbed Russia in 1909 to go from 11 to 14. That was 3 clear of Jim. We had already started proposing draws so I felt like this gap would get the game called. It didn’t. So Russia threw everything at me and had French help. I was able to hold out for a year but would have been ground down had the game continued. Some time in 1911, I told Brad he was basically picking the winner. There were five Russian dots behind the lines that France could have taken. Jim’s position wasn’t great. But if Brad continued against me, it wouldn’t have mattered. I would go down one or two units and Jim would go up by at least that with a stab. Thankfully, Brad saw the vulnerability and shifted to defend against Jim. That got the draw passed.

    I’m really pleased. Call it dorky but I find it is pretty cool to have all four club titles. Thanks to everyone for making the game happen. Let’s make it easier next year and have the undercard. Thanks to Dan for hosting. It is always well. The post-game fire was outstanding. Next year, we should record it. Some of the banter was priceless.

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