In the first seven Weasel Royale club championship games, we had seven different winners. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that we opened the next set of seven by recycling them.
Jim O’Kelley was the first to inscribe his name a second time in the permanent plaque at Dan Burgess’ home in Downers Grove. Playing Russia, the country he won with in 2010 as well, O’Kelley seized control of yesterday’s game with three decisive stabs of his Eastern neighbors — Austria in Fall 1902, Turkey in Spring 1903, and Italy in Fall 1905.
After that, it was just a matter of hanging on–with help from a true janissary in the Turk, Black Jack Sundstrom, and from his inner Chris Martin (the three-time Alpha Weasel and former world champ, not the frontman for Coldplay)–against a furious counter-attack from the Grand Alliance.
The three-dot stab of Italy, along with gains elsewhere, vaulted O’Kelley to 14 from nine. The Grand Alliance pushed him back to 12, but he held fast there, waited for a crack in the alliance, and then climbed to 16 with active assistance from the Brit, Ali Adib.
The other players finally conceded the Bull Weasel title in Spring 1911. The final center counts were:
Austria (Brian Beck): 0; 0.000 points.
England (Ali Adib): 2; 1.015 points.
France (Matt Sundstrom): 11; 30.711 points.
Germany (Mike Morrison): 3; 2.284 points.
Italy (Don Glass): 2; 1.015 points.
Russia (Jim O’Kelley): 16; 64.975 points.
Turkey (Jack Sundstrom): 0; 0.000 points.
The supply center chart is here. Thoughts from the players?
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Well, I have some thoughts. I want to talk more about the three key stabs, but I’ll break it down into three separate comments, both for ease of reading and in the interest of time.
Here’s a look at the board during Fall 1902 negotiations:
As you can see, the East was kind of a mess. In the Spring, I had retaken Sevastopol, popping the Austrian army there. Brian couldn’t complain too much about that. Besides, I had also supported him into Serbia, sending the Turks scurrying to neutral Bulgaria.
I offered to support Brian into Bulgaria, but he wanted to be in Serbia and countered with support for me to Bulgaria.
He had started the game working with Turkey against me. We had bounced in Galicia at his request, but he surprised me by opening Budapest to Rumania as well.
Black Jack’s opening was no surprise. “It’s part of my genetic make-up,” he said of the Sundstrom Opening during our opening negotiation.
In the Fall, Jack supported Brian into Sevastopol as I took Rumania, but he also grabbed Serbia, angering Brian.
Meanwhile, Don Glass’ aggressive opening against Austria surprised all of us. In Spring 1901, Don was all about attacking Turkey; then he opened to Tyrolia and Venice. But two turns of banging on Trieste had yielded nothing.
Unless I intervened, Austria would build in Budapest, putting a fork in the Italian attack. So, Don was asking me to move to Budapest.
I wanted to continue working with Brian against Turkey, because the Turks were our mutual foe, but I didn’t want Don’s lack of progress to discourage him into suing for peace with Austria. Nor was I wild about the prospect of an Austrian build.
I was trying to figure out how to keep both of them happy when Jack asked if I wanted to talk.
We walked into one of the conference rooms, looked at the very map above on the monitor in the room — a nice touch at Dan’s games — and the answer came to me.
“Austria is supporting me into Bulgaria,” I said.
“Oh,” Jack said, with a hint of alarm.
“No, it’s fine,” I assured him. “Use Aegean to support Bulgaria, and then convoy Armenia to Rumania with support from Bulgaria. You’ll keep Bulgaria, take Rumania, and get a build, I said. And I’ll retreat to Budapest.”
Jack smiled broadly. “That sounds good,” he said.
“Great,” I said. “Let’s do it. And build Fleet Smyrna.”
And here’s a look at the situation after the moves:
I retreated to Budapest. Austria was stuck on three, Italy still hadn’t taken a center from him but that was certain to change in 1903, and best of all, the Turks were no longer in Armenia, which set the stage for the next stab.
Here’s what the board looked like during Spring 1903 negotiations:
As I looked at the board, I was trying to decide whether sliding to Armenia was a worthy gambit. I’d probably have to drop St. Pete down to Moscow, which would expose Sevastopol and St. Pete both to potential attack without a certain gain in return. So I was leaning against the move when Jack again asked to talk.
Let me say briefly that Jack is an impressive 15-year-old with a bright future in the game. I played with him in his very first game two years ago, and he’s made giant strides since then. He had an idea of what he wanted to accomplish each turn and could talk intelligently about the necessary tactics to get things done. He made the mistakes that kids will make when they’re negotiating with adults, but that will change in time, and once he learns how much to divulge, look out.
Anyway, he told me that he was going to attack Serbia from Rumania. He asked me not to hit Rumania. And then he said one thing too many.
“Just in case, I’m moving the Black Sea to Rumania.”
There was my play. Budapest supported Black Sea to Rumania (not necessary but I didn’t have anything better to do), Ukraine supported Warsaw to Galicia, St. Pete dropped down to Moscow, and Sevastopol slid into Armenia.
The board looked like this, prior to retreats:
In the Fall, I took Ankara and–with help from the Austrian army in Greece–Rumania to go to eight.
And finally, the third stab, which by far was the dirtiest of the three. Brian and Jack attacked me on turn one. They had theirs coming. But Don deserved better.
And the thing is, the stab developed by accident. Here’s what the board looked like during the Fall 1905 negotiations:
You’ll notice a couple of things. First, my army in Constantinople is sitting on red. I had popped Austria’s last unit in the Spring.
It was the same unit that back in Spring 1903 had been forced to retreat to Greece. From there, it helped me retake Rumania by cutting support from Bulgaria. Then in 1904, I supported it first to Bulgaria, popping the Turkish army there, and then to Constantinople, dislodging a Turkish fleet.
But as we met to talk about our Spring 1905 moves, Brian, who’s direct in his negotiations, acknowledged that he had talked with Don about possibly attacking me in Bulgaria with his support. I asked him to move to Smyrna with my support instead, but he wouldn’t commit. And when I circled back to Don to ask about Bulgaria, he just chuckled at my discomfort.
So, I attacked Constantinople with Turkey’s support–exchanging an Austrian janissary for a proper Turkish one–tapped Italy’s army in Serbia from Budapest, and supported that move from Bulgaria as a throwaway, fully expecting Austria to cut the support.
The second thing you’ll notice is that I’m in Serbia. Yah. Turns out Austria moved to Smyrna as I had asked, and Italy moved his fleet in Greece to the Aegean and held in Serbia.
His Serbian army retreated to Trieste.
My first conversation that Fall was with Don. I apologized sincerely and explained my thinking to him, just as I’ve explained it to you above.
I may not always lie convincingly, but I’m really good at telling the truth. Don believed me.
It didn’t hurt that taking Serbia from Budapest actually weakened my offensive potential against him. If it were a stab, it was a poor one. Nor did it hurt that I had helped him grow to eight from six in 1904. And of course, his two fleet builds meant that he was invested in the I/R.
So, after I apologized and promised to vacate Serbia, we had a good, frank discussion about our next moves.
We both had already committed three fleets against the West’s flanks, and we both recognized that we could possibly punch through the middle if we clasped hands and took the leap of faith by jointly demilitarizing the Balkans. (He had already started that process in the Spring by moving Venice to Piedmont instead of Tyrolia.)
So, I agreed to vacate Serbia and order Galicia to Silesia, and he agreed to order his two armies to Tyrolia and Bohemia.
Don leapt. … I didn’t.
Instead, I ordered Galicia to Vienna and had Serbia support Bulgaria to Greece. That move succeeded because my new Turkish janissary cut Italy’s support from the Aegean Sea.
Following the stab, the board looked like this:
I started the year with nine supply centers. I ended it with 14.
And then I hung on for dear life. In Spring 1911, after more than five years of hard pounding, the game finally ended, and for the second time and first since 2010, I was the Bull Weasel.
Congrats on the second win. I think your greatest skill is the ability to repeatedly convince people that you’ve just stabbed to now help you against the rest of the board. It’s sort of mind-boggling.
In Brian’s case I’m not sure whether he guessed my culpability in the failure of our Fall 1902 attack on Bulgaria, and I’m sure he would have preferred that I not retreat to Budapest, but two things worked in my favor:
First, the attack that failed was his plan. Had he attacked Bulgaria as I had suggested, things might have gone differently. At least I wouldn’t have been as eager to suggest to Turkey that he attack me in Rumania since inviting him to put three units on Sevastopol was not in my long-term interest.
Second, and more important, even after I retreated to Budapest, I was still the neighbor who had annoyed him the least.
When Jack took up the cause, it was because he was desperate for a friend.
His fleet was more useful to me than Austria’s army at that point. And as noted above, I doubted that army’s intentions. And it would take me two full turns to replace the Turkish fleet with one of my own. Working with Jack at that point made a lot of sense for me, and I believe I was the only option for him.
But yes, I was able to make good use of my former foes. I even mind-boggled myself.
Yes, that’s correct as to why I kept supporting Russia after the Fall ’02 stab. Jack did actually tell me about the planned retreat into Budapest stab, but for lack of any better options, I had hoped that wouldn’t happen–if that stab was happening, there was I/R/T cooperation in play, and I was doomed in any case.
Italy of course ruined most of my chances of survival with the Spring ’01 stab, and there was pretty much nothing Jim could have done to annoy me more than Jack’s greedy and foolish stab in Serbia in Fall ’01. After ’01, my only chance of survival was to hope Jim would cooperate; after ’02, I had no chance of survival, but I wasn’t going to let Jack profit from my demise if I could help it.
A high performance game. Power selection was once again a treat. I expected to drop myself to 3rd or 4th based on who was in the top 4. But Morrison used his second position to drop himself to 3rd behind Jim and Jack with me still to pick. I hadn’t counted on that scenario. So I opted to select first and took France. Jim promptly went east to Russia. Jack followed with Turkey, Mike with Germany, Ali with England (5th), Brian with Austria and Don with Italy.
I was hoping for FG but EG is what happened. Defended well enough to make that messy with some help from Italy. Jim cleaned up in the east. EFG finally united to stop Jim after he went up five with his stab of Italy. We got along well and were slowly pushing Jim back. Had we maintained the push, we would have changed the balance of power in the game. But it was going to take a while. Before the job was finished, England said he needed to leave in an hour. It was going to require more time than that but that did not seem to be possible. I over-reacted and joined Germany in grabbing the exposed English dots. Bad idea. Jim was still at 12 and had no resistance in the south. Once the north became a fight, he swept in behind. I should have taken a deep breath and figured out how England would be replaced. Nobody had a prayer unless we continued knocking Jim down. But it was very possible.
Jim went through several strategic ploys while he was having to retreat…civil disorder, draw vote that excluded him, etc. He was hoping for someone to crack. That thankfully did not work. But we needed to be a lot more patient. Had I played the long view, I liked my chances to rival Jim at the end. Darn.
Congrats Jim. It would have been a solo had he chosen to continue.