The art of four-way

In the past 3 1/2 years, less than 10 percent of our league games have ended in four-way draws. That’s probably due to a combination of our Sum of Squares scoring system and short games. However, today at Josh Heffernan’s home in Logan Square, we had two short games that both ended in four-way draws. Special guests Chris Martin, the former world champ and three-time Alpha Weasel who was in town from D.C., and Ted McClelland, the longtime Weasel who moved to Boston a year and a half ago, factored in both.



Game No. 295
Game No. 295 started and ended first, by draw vote during the Spring 1907 turn. The final center counts were:
Austria (Josh Heffernan): 8; 21.918 points.
England (Chris Kelly): 10; 34.247 points.
France (Chris Martin): 8; 21.918 points.
Germany (David Spanos): 0; 0.000 points.
Italy (Brian Shelden): 0; 0.000 points.
Russia (Jake Trotta): 0; 0.000 points.
Turkey (Kevin O’Kelly): 8; 21.918 points.
Game No. 296
Game No. 296 started an hour later than the first game to accommodate Ted and me. It also ended by draw vote during the Spring 1907 turn. The final center counts were:
Austria (Carlos Trevino): 0; 0.000 points.
England (Ted McClelland): 9; 27.181 points.
France (Bryan Pravel): 10; 33.557 points.
Germany (Kevin O’Kelley): 0; 0.000 points.
Italy (Brandon Fogel): 0; 0.000 points.
Russia (Michael Whitty): 9; 27.181 points.
Turkey (Jim O’Kelley): 6; 12.081 points.

The supply center charts for the two games are here. Okay, let’s see your endgame statements.

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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 21 Comments

  1. Jim O'Kelley

    Our 300th game is quickly approaching. We played our 200th back in December 2012 at the Red Lion. At about 1:15 a.m., long after the game had ended, Nate Cockerill, Matt Sundstrom, Mike Morrison and I bet on the month and year of our 300th. Here are our guesses:

    * Mike Morrison: Dec. 2014
    * Matt Sundstrom: July 2015
    * Nate Cockerill: Jan. 2016
    * Jim O’Kelley: June 2016

    You can read about the 200th game and verify our guesses here: [url][/url].

  2. Jim O'Kelley

    Thanks to Bryan Pravel for the great pix!

  3. Bryan Pravel

    In listening to a few interviews on the Diplomacycast podcast, I have heard at least two interviewees say that players who just want to survive never win, so I had a new set of goals for this game when compared with my last games. 1. Be patient but don’t stop growing. 2. Don’t make yourself the biggest threat. 3. Don’t mis-order. 4. Play the players, not the powers.

    I played in Game #296 on “Board #2” and was fortunate to have a good mix of players that I knew and players that I had not met before. “Board #1” was full of top caliber players who regularly top boards at Weasels events (and happened to include a World Champion in the visiting Chris Martin), but “Board #2” had its share of Weasel veterans on it too. I drew France. In my last game as France (Weasels Game #292) I tried a new French opening, botched the orders, and ended up eliminated in 1906. I figured I could only go up from there!

    The highlights of the opening negotiations were that Kevin “Relation to Jim OKelley” (Germany) and I agreed to a bounce in Burgundy, and Ted (England) pitched a DMZ in the English Channel which I also agreed to. Mike (Russia) and Jim (Turkey) both hinted at a possible R/T; I love the idea of an R/T when I am playing France and encouraged them to do it. Brandon (Italy) and I agreed to a DMZ in Piedmont, Carlos (Austria) came looking for a sympathetic ear because he was worried I/R/T were going gang up on him. I like Carlos, but I don’t love the Western Triple and had no interest in getting involved in the east that early so there wasn’t much I could do. Jim (Turkey) took me aside and said he hadn’t played with Ted (England) in a while so things might have changed, but he felt Ted liked alliance play. Coming from a draw based scoring system, I am most comfortable with alliance players, so I mentioned to Ted (England) that I liked this style of play, we agreed to open in a way that would allow me to support him into Belgium, but also allow me to keep my word with Kevin (Germany) just in case Ted (England) did something unexpected. Goal #4 (Play the players, not the powers) was underway.

    In fall 1901 everyone kept their word with me so the E/F was on! I told my only major lie of the game (sorry Kevin!) and violated a DMZ agreement with Germany by supporting myself to BUR instead of bouncing France out of BEL. England picked up Belgium and Norway for 2 builds. I only picked up Portugal, but I had great position, and was well on my way to accomplishing Goals #1 and #2, be patient but don’t stop growing and don’t make yourself the biggest threat. Ted (England) and I made two agreements in F1901 that I thought were key to us being able to make the E/F alliance work. First, we agreed we would not build fleets in BRE and LON. Second, we agreed that if England built too many fleets it could jeopardize the relationship and Ted tried to build armies when possible. Secretly, keeping goal #2 in mind (don’t make yourself the biggest threat), I also made it a goal that as long as we had similar growth rates, I never wanted to grow bigger than England unless I was making a stab or it was the end-game. Keeping goal #4 in mind (play the players not the powers), I wanted England to be viewed as a threat to Russia and didn’t want the other players to be afraid of an explosive France.

    The rest of the early stages of the game were pretty methodical. Ted (England) and I tried to ensure we both were able to maintain steady growth and it was one of those games that it just worked out well for us. Helped by an explosive Russia who started with 3(!) builds in 1901, the rest of the board seemd a little distracted and allowed Ted (England) and I to gain some momentum. The only “big” move that I made at this stage of the game was moving my fleet in MAO into WES in F1902. Ted was such a trustworthy guy I made the decision to risk leaving MAO exposed. This proved to be a great move for our alliance because I was able to move into the Mediterranean ahead of schedule and thanks to Mike’s explosive growth, Italy and/or Turkey couldn’t really react quickly enough to deal with it effectively without jeopardizing their own games. It also helped the E/F avoid wasting builds and tempo on defense. The other thing I thought was pretty important was that Ted (England) and I made sure that Germany didn’t collapse too quickly. Carlos’ (Austria) fear about the I/R/T vs. A proved true. Austria was crushed rapidly, and Mike (Russia) was in position to get the Lion’s share so I didn’t want both Austria and Germany to collapse all at once. Russia was so dangerous a threat that I almost asked Ted (England) to hold off on Germany and take Scandinavia first, but then realized that as long as Russia wasn’t *too* powerful, a strong Russia wasn’t really that bad for me. I reminded myself of Goal #2, don’t make yourself the biggest threat. I was also secretly watching for England to make a mistake that would open the door for Russia and I to work together more directly.

    Everything was going pretty much perfectly for me until the F1904 orders were read. I had a fantastic ally in Ted (England), we were communicating well, making steady (and relatively even) growth, the east was disorganized, I had managed to break into the Ionian(!), and *should* have gotten Munich. In a Diplomacycast interview, Christian Pedone talks about his least favorite types of Diplomacy players, one of which he describes as “unraveling sweater guy.” This is the player who when stressed starts to mis-order or makes bad decisions and causes the alliance to unravel like a sweater with a loose thread. I think for my next game “don’t be unraveling sweater guy” should be one of my new goals because in my excitement of doing so well I forgot goal #3 (don’t mis-order) and ordered “A RUH S A BUR – RUH” instead of supporting myself into Munich. This was a huge mis-order for a couple of reasons. First, I would have gotten 3 builds. Ted (England) and I had discussed me waiving the 3rd build if that happened, but I had also discussed with Mike (Russia) the possibility of working together with him against England. I don’t think I would have done it because at the time, I felt Mike (Russia) was in better position to take advantage but it might have put some stress on the E/F relationship. I certainly would have considered the stab at this point.

    Another outcome of that mis-order is that now it was in Russia’s best interest to start supporting German SCs to stop the E/F because I was no longer in position to work directly with him. Basically, this mis-order meant I was no longer in the driver’s seat in central Europe and couldn’t make an effective stab through the German SCs and would have to do it using my fleets, and the quick gains through Germany were gone. Finally, in my experience whoever controls Munich tends to control the central portion of the Stalemate line, and I was already in Ionian, so if the game continued long enough to make a play for a solo, I would have been in position to at least try for it.

    The second thing that happened around this time is that Brandon (Italy) took me aside and basically said that he couldn’t defend his position and would rather I get his dots than Jim (Turkey). Thanks to some recent discussions about meta-gaming, treating the league as a tournament, and keeping goal #4 (play the players, not the powers) in mind, I realized that for Brandon, the league score was more important than this game score (in this game at least). I was in position for the best result I have ever had with the Weasels, but for Brandon this game wasn’t going to help his league score and Jim getting a good score *would* be bad for Brandon, so it was a win-win. My original plan when I made it into Ionian was to support Turkey against Russia so that Russia would need my help against England, hopefully creating a 3 way draw between Russia, Turkey, and France. Brandon’s proposal to help me get the Italian dots completely changed that. Now I’d be able to maintain steady growth for a few more turns so a 3 way between E/R/F seemed plausible. Everything was working out great. There was no reason to stab.

    The final two years of the game weren’t particularly exciting, but I was nervous anyway. I had a chance at a great result and might even have a shot at topping the board. I already knew I was fighting to not be “unraveling sweater guy” so when I mis-ordered for a second time, I took the time to try some of Josh’s excellent rye whiskey and that helped. 🙂 Jim (Turkey) proposed a draw which I vetoed because I knew I could get a better score, but in speaking with Ted (England) and Mike (Russia) I knew they were ready to end this game. Because I didn’t have Munich or a fleet in the Atlantic, I didn’t think I’d be able to easily work directly with Mike against England, so I didn’t think there was enough time to create the sort of game were I’d be able to progress much further. This meant that I knew 1906 would be our last year of play. I was one SC behind England, so I knew that I needed two builds for the board top. In the final year (S1906) I moved Belgium to Holland so that we would either bounce or he would have to force me out of Holland. Either way, we’d stay even on the dot-count in that region of the board. This was just a defensive play to ensure I had a shot at the board top and not just a good score. I also made a play for Munich, just in the off chance that it was not supported or something funny happened. Brandon (Italy) had moved to Tyrolia and promised to support me into Munich in the fall should I want it, so I wanted to make sure I’d have a shot at taking it. I knew that I’d be able to take Rome on my own, so all I needed was one more SC for the board win, so the question was whether it would be Munich, Venice, or if I should try for both.

    In the end, I decided that England had been a FANTASTIC ally, and that I’d rather reward his strong alliance play than take one extra (relatively meaningless at this point) SC, so I didn’t make the play for Munich, supported myself into Venice (which could have been blocked resulting in a 3 way tie for the board top), took Rome, and got to 10 SCs. I built F BRE (the first and only time I violated that rule!) and A MAR as defensive builds, just in case someone vetoed the draw. After the builds, the draw was called for, the votes were read, and… DRAMA! Someone vetoed the draw and everyone was looking at me. I was *not* happy. I was ready for the game to end. I had sown enough seeds of discord in 1906 that the odds of a successful E/F alliance surviving much longer weren’t great (at least not as well as it had been). I was already on top of the board. I already had the Italian SCs so the rest of my SCs would have been difficult to get without a stab. I wasn’t in great position to stab and it was more likely I’d get stabbed myself. Had I intended on playing I would have played 1906 very differently. After talking to the other players, they all seemed upset at the outcome as well so after some discussion we suggested a 2nd vote. Perhaps someone accidentally submitted the wrong card or changed their mind? We re-voted. My heart was racing and my hands were sweating. I drank more whiskey. Brandon read the results. The draw passed and the game ended. I not only managed to have my best result, I managed to end up on top of the board. In the second game in a row, Brandon played King Maker, which really highlights the idea that the league is really just an extended tournament.

    I heard a few people mention after the game that it wasn’t the most exciting game. I can’t disagree. There weren’t any major stabs, it turned into a 2 vs 2 alliance game, feeling very similar to the draw based games that I’m familiar with from the online world, and what the Sum of Squares system is supposed to help discourage. For me personally though, it was a very exciting game, made especially so by the fact that I had to fight from becoming “unraveling sweater guy.” Each time the orders went in the box I was as worried about my own orders as anyone else’s. That will be the next “giant” for me to slay.

    Lessons Learned:

    1. I was happy to see an alliance style game work in a Sum of Squares game. I don’t think that’s the right approach for every game, and I suspect some alliances are better suited towards this style than others, but it was comforting to me to know it’s a “tool in the toolbox.”

    2. I think “Be patient, but don’t stop growing” may be on my list of goals for a few games. Regardless of whether or not I choose alliance play or more short term deals, this seems to be good approach to the Sum of Squares scoring system. I suspect there are probably situations in which explosive growth might work out OK, but for my play style (and skill level to be honest), I think this is a good balance for me to strive towards.

    3. “Don’t be unraveling sweater guy” will also be on my list for the next few games. The nice thing is that I feel I’m getting better at this the more face-to-face experience I get. The early game phase has slowed down a lot for me, now I’m only fighting this tendency when I’m considering a stab or making a big move. Being aware of this will help me combat it in the future. Any future ally of mine has the right to remind me of this rule at any time. 😀

    4. Talk about your next steps and builds with your ally. More than in any other game since I’ve been here (possibly to poor Ted’s frustration as I kept calling him back in to continue negotiations), I tried to ask about what our next step was and what are builds were going to be. I tried to be at least 2 turns ahead. One advantage of the alliance was that I didn’t have to plan 2 turns ahead for everyone on the board, so it helped me see the big picture a little more clearly, and also helped prevent stabs because if one player didn’t do something according to the plan, that was a warning sign.

    Player Feedback:

    Carlos (Austria): You are always so friendly and I always like working with a fellow Austinite. I regret not being able to come to your aid more quickly, but alas, Diplomacy is a self-centered game and it didn’t seem to be in my best interest at the time. Hopefully we’ll be in a better situation in the future.

    Ted (England): I think the highest praise that I can give you is that I’ve never played a more successful E/F (Face-to-Face or online). We both worked hard at keeping this alliance going, I think we had similar play styles, and had I not known we were ending the game, I would have behaved much differently in 1906 and I think we would have been able to keep this thing going until one of us stabbed the other for the solo at the end of the game. Thanks for making this a boring game for the rest of the board!

    Kevin (Germany): Lying makes me uncomfortable, even in Diplomacy. I especially hate lying in 1901. This was a case where I felt I could have chosen to work with either you or England, and I picked the way that felt easier and more natural for me. You were a great sport. I hope to share another board sometime where we can end up working together. I started playing Dipomacy at 8 years old and the hobby has become one of my few lifelong passions that I have stuck with. I hope you are able to find the same joy with this game that I have.

    Brandon (Italy): What can I say except thanks. Even if you hadn’t shared your dots with me and helped me get the board top, I would have enjoyed playing with you. You are classy and ask really good questions that make me think. I know I’ve told Jake that I don’t like trading favors between games and I do mean that, I try to keep things within the board or tournament scoring system, but I will remember this.

    Mike (Russia): I was impressed that you managed to hold on after getting 3 builds. I’ve seen (and once been!) 3 build Russias just implode when the rest of the board gangs up on them. If I had managed to take Munich, who knows what could have happened. I love the idea of working with another Austinite. I do have a question for you: was there a point in this game in which you felt that we could have made an effective Stab of England that would not have thrown the game to you? Said differently, do you think there was anything we could have done against England where we could have had a similar growth rate?

    Jim (Turkey): I love the way you play this game. It’s so smooth, laid back, and easy. Even when you are attacking someone, somehow you make them feel good about it. Except with Brandon. Watching the two of you interact is worth the price of admission alone. 😀 Had Brandon not given me the Italian SCs to keep you from getting them, I would have been willing to help you grow if you had been willing to work against Russia. Let’s say that hypothetically the game had not ended so early and England had moved against me. Do you think we would have had a shot of working together against Russia or would my Italian centers have been the better target for you?

    Thanks to Josh for hosting and everyone for the great game!

  4. Michael Whitty

    “My heart was racing and my hands were sweating. I drank more whiskey.”
    Chris, to answer your question, if you’d been willing and able to make a move on England earlier, I would have at least taken advantage. Once you were board leader I was ready to cut England some slack to defend against you, and in fact promised to pull out of Finland. Events, dear boy, events.

  5. Jim O'Kelley

    [quote] I started playing Diplomacy at 8 years old and the hobby has become one of my few lifelong passions that I have stuck with. I hope you are able to find the same joy with this game that I have. [/quote]

    Thanks for the kind words about Kevin. I hope for the same thing. Alas, as any parent reading this will tell you, we can’t choose our kids’ interests for them.

    Kevin is most passionate about video games. He’ll often watch YouTube videos of people playing video games so he can improve his own game. He is not nearly as committed to improving his Diplomacy game.

    He’s been playing with us for almost three years now and has played in 21 games, according to the WDD. But I can’t get him to read or listen to anything that will help him better understand how the game works. Consequently, when he sits down at the table, his game pretty much depends on whether he’s sitting next to someone who enjoys mentoring inexperienced players.

    Sadly for Kevin, after early success thanks to accommodating neighbors, he’s mired in a pretty long losing streak. Most of the players who sit down next to him see a kid and think, “I can have a pretty good game by attacking him” instead of “I can have a pretty good game by working with him.”

    Most kids are going to have a tough time keeping up with adults when it comes to negotiations. If he had a better understanding for how the game works as a system, he’d at least have a stronger filter for the information he gathers and could make better tactical choices.

    For now, though, I think it’s enough for Kev to just be able to spend the day hanging out with his Dad and his Dad’s friends. Maybe someday the game will click for him, or maybe he’ll lose interest.

    For my part, watching him get crushed used to ruin my Diplomacy experience and would affect my game. I still don’t like to see him get beat up, but I handle it better now. I’m not sure I’m ready to stab him, though.

  6. Jim O'Kelley

    [quote]Do you think we would have had a shot of working together against Russia or would my Italian centers have been the better target for you? [/quote]

    I think Mike’s centers in Austria and the Balkans would have been easier targets for me than your Italian holdings, but I wouldn’t necessarily have seen it as me working with you against him. More like each of us fighting separately against erstwhile allies.

    With the 10-minute negotiation phases we were using and our agreement not to start a year after 6 p.m., I think we could have played three more game years, easy. In order to make a play for a board-top or a strong second, I needed at least one other player on the board who wanted to continue the game, and clearly no one else wanted to play on. (Yes, that’s an admission that I’m the one who voted to continue playing. Once it was clear to me that I was the only one who wanted to play on, I changed my vote.)

    I needed England to keep pushing against Mike to have any chance of substantially improving my position in the south. His handsome and symmetrical line of armies was pretty weak in the middle, and he knew it. If play had continued, I was going to again bring up the possibility of popping his fleet in Rumania.

    I first mentioned that in the Fall, pointing out that we obviously couldn’t pop it during a Fall turn. But Mike needed another army in the middle, and converting that fleet was one way to do it. If Mike agreed to that plan, I then could have decided whether to stab. But even if I pulled back and allowed him to rebuild, my future stab prospects would have improved dramatically.

    And even if he didn’t agree, that fleet was a likely pull when he eventually lost St. Pete. With no fleet available to guard against a move or retreat to the Black Sea, patience seemed to be my best play.

  7. Jim O'Kelley

    Depending on who’s playing it, Turkey can be a lightning rod. I know I often attract lightning when I play it. On top of that, I had a couple of players in Austria and Italy who work well together. So when Game No. 296 opened, I had a strong desire to get my fleet out.

    I knew Mike to be a solid ally, so I pitched an opening that I hadn’t tried before: Con to Bul, of course; Ank to Con; and an arranged bounce in Armenia with my A Smy and his F Sev.

    If you want to clear your fleet, then this seems like a good way to do it. You certainly don’t want Russia moving to the Black Sea, and a direct move to Rumania is no good either because a) it could potentially participate in a Fall attack on Bulgaria, and b) it’s of no use in future attacks against Austria.

    My dilemma in the Fall was what to do with A Smyrna. Obviously the strongest offensive option is to move it to Con as Con moves to the Aegean, but Brandon is a sharp player. I worried that he would encourage Austria to guarantee Greece and use Budapest for defense against the Russian army in Galicia, and lobby for Trieste as his build while he used F Ionian to stuff my fleet. If they had done that, then Ankara would have been the only spot open for a second fleet build.

    I considered moving Smyrna to Ankara instead, but ultimately decided on offense. The feared Italian moves didn’t happen, my moves worked, and I built the fleet in Smyrna.

    The trade-off for security against the Lepanto was flexibility. Although that new fleet didn’t see water until Spring 1903, Italy was concerned enough about my two uncorked fleets that he chose to work with Austria to stymie me even as he secured his foothold against him. Meanwhile, I had no prospects against Russia.

    Fortunately, Mike was an excellent ally. Rather than exploiting my weakness, he helped me pick up a couple of dots in 1904.

    So, I guess I’ll circle back to one of Bryan’s points, and that’s when you choose your opening, you better be playing the players. My opening worked because Mike is a good ally who wanted to work with me.

  8. Bryan Pravel

    [quote]I needed at least one other player on the board who wanted to continue the game[/quote]

    Well I will take that as a lesson learned. I distinctly remember having a conversation in S1906 with Ted where I asked if I thought you were serious about the draw. I felt like you were just suggesting the draw to shake things up but I let myself be convinced to end the game when I saw I had a shot at the board top. I honestly did not want to end in S1906 (F1906 was a different story) and as you suspected there were decent odds England or I might have stabbed once you locked up your home SCs and Russia fell back to the MOS/WAR/GAL line. Next time I will follow through and ask. I do feel like we left a lot of game on the table. I would have kept playing in S1906 if we had talked about it.

  9. Jim O'Kelley

    You had just snatched the board-top from Ted and Mike, who had been sharing it, but after the first vote failed, it was pretty clear that neither one cared about reclaiming the top. For my patience to pay off, I needed cover, and I didn’t think I had it.

    Oh, one more thing: That turn when I forgot to support Mike in Trieste, that was an honest mistake. Two things that I think prove that: 1) I had offered the support, Mike didn’t ask for it; and 2) I immediately sacrificed the Ionian to put him back in Trieste.

  10. Jim O'Kelley

    [quote]I felt like you were just suggesting the draw to shake things up[/quote]
    You were correct. Also, in light of how the game ended, proposing that first draw was a mistake. I’m not certain the subject of a draw would have come up in Spring 1907 if I hadn’t proposed that first one that you vetoed outright in Spring 1906. Ah, well.

  11. Brandon Fogel

    [quote]I worried that he would encourage Austria to guarantee Greece and use Budapest for defense against the Russian army in Galicia, and lobby for Trieste as his build while he used F Ionian to stuff my fleet. If they had done that, then Ankara would have been the only spot open for a second fleet build. [/quote]

    I’m embarrassed to say this, but that was the plan and I simply failed to go through with it. I talked Carlos into it in S01, but he preferred I not take Tri until the fall. When Russia got into Gal and an RT was so obvious, we both got flustered. Carlos asked me not to take Tri in the fall, but I did it anyway. And then I didn’t go to AEG. I honestly have no idea why I didn’t go to AEG. It’s clear in retrospect that I couldn’t both take Tri and not move to AEG — it was one or the other, if I really wanted a viable AI. I think I was concentrating more on making the stab look genuine, which is silly. The truth is that it didn’t come up in my negotiation with Carlos in F01; if it had, or if I had seen the board more clearly, I would have done it. It’s also clear in retrospect that not taking Tri in the spring was pointless (and encouraged the Jim to stick with the RT).

  12. Brandon Fogel

    Thanks Bryan. This was a game for alliance play, and I thought you managed yours the best. That factored into my decision to donate to your cause. I won’t pretend the league standings didn’t cross my mind as well, but they only made the outcome a little easier to swallow. After Fall 1903, when it became clear that Jim wasn’t going to work with me under any circumstances, I had two options: 1) wait for you, Jim, and Mike (Russia) to decide how to carve up my centers, or 2) exact a little revenge on Jim and hopefully Mike (from whom I’d gotten little but lies the whole game). Not really a hard decision. It’s unfortunate that I had to get eliminated in order to keep Jim the junior partner in his alliance and also prevent Mike from getting a share of the board top, but it’s a better outcome than the alternative.

    Some players think getting eliminated is measurably worse than limping ineffectually to the finish with 1 or 2 centers. I don’t.

    I don’t enjoy suicide play, and I think revenge is a poor basis for decision-making in Diplomacy. But I also think suicide play is an appropriate response to alliance play.

  13. Jim O'Kelley

    [quote]After Fall 1903, when it became clear that Jim wasn’t going to work with me under any circumstances[/quote]

    I don’t agree with this assessment. I decided to take the Ionian in Fall 1903 because a) I knew it would work, b) I wanted to do something I knew would work after two straight turns of trying to work with you to no avail — first, you and the Austrian annihilated my army in Greece after we had discussed and I thought agreed that I would get Serbia, then you supported the Austrians in Greece, thwarting my attack — and c) by taking the Ionian, I knew I could finally take and hold Greece in 1904.

  14. Chris Kelly

    Game #295 was a rags-to-riches affair from the English perspective. I began 1902 expecting early elimination, but ended up not just topping the board but forsaking an easy path toward several more supply centers by accepting a draw.

    Jake, as Russia, was able to negotiate a possible triple alliance with Austria (Josh) & Turkey (Kevin), and took advantage of their non-aggression to launch a maximum assault on Scandinavia — not just taking Sweden, but moving an army to Finland and building a fleet on the north coast of St. Petersburg. Germany allowing the move to Sweden implied the possibility of a GER-RUS alliance to knock me out of the game. This thought inspired an early trip to our host’s liquor cabinet (to which I had presciently contributed a bottle of scotch).

    But my position on the board soon did more than the whisky to improve my mood, thanks to a series of fortunate developments. FRA/ENG/GER had opened as a tentative Western triple alliance, but with each power privately floating 2-on-1 attacks on the others… typical Diplomacy play, in other words. But as I gauged the tactical likelihood of my army in Norway being dislodged into the chilly coastal waters, France (Chris Martin) offered to support a rescue convoy through the North Sea to Belgium, which would save the unit while hopefully encouraging German dissatisfaction over Russia taking both Norway & Sweden.

    This did happen, and in fact Germany was not as tied to Russia as I feared — demonstrating this by attacking Sweden in the fall, which combined with a successful counterattack of mine on Norway to knock the czar out of both centers. Even worse for Jake, his fleeting northern success had caused Turkey & Austria to rethink their non-aggression, so his lightly defended southern flank was under attack as well.

    This led to a third lucky break for my suddenly stablized, 5-center England in 1903: seeing his own prospects collapse, Jake decided his one remaining mission in the game would be punishing Germany (David), whose perceived betrayal he judged to be worse than that of Austria or Turkey (to say nothing of my own morally pure, unquestionably justified response to his initial onslaught). This further cemented my alliance with France as we gratefully accepted Russia’s help in taking David’s remaining centers, with me taking the bulk of the spoils.

    By the end of 1904 I held 8 supply centers and was the best-positioned country, having no substantial enemies as France (which briefly, and understandably, had a fleet in the Channel sniffing around for scraps in case England collapsed) was fully tied down against Austria/Turkey in the Mediterranean — so much so that having initially sought to attack Italy (Brian), he wound up propping up their last 2 units for several turns.

    In the final two years, I consolidated England’s dominance of northern Europe while Italy was eliminated amid growing tensions between Austria and Turkey. Still, though, my path to a solo victory seemed unlikely, as I couldn’t expect the latter two to remain at odds while I took all 8 of France’s centers (against French resistance). Particularly considering my situation at the end of 1901, accepting a draw with a 10-center board top was a great result.

  15. Jake Trotta

    Initial sidebar-there’s apparently an upvote and downvote feature for these comments. Who knew?

    295 was a great time except for the result, which was largely due to my own poor choices in 02.

    ’01 set up an alliance between Russia, Austria, and Turkey, although it was not my idea. Turkey (Kevin O’Kelly the elder) was the initiator, and Josh “the host always dies even though low-key I did well in this game then won the post-dip poker game” was terrified of being the host that dies and was super on board. I asked him to confirm “so you’re good for a RAT?”

    “It’s not a RAT, I prefer ART” Josh responded.

    Turns out I needed to be much more ARTful (sorry, had to) to make the alliance work. I’m the other side of my friend Chris Kelly’s story… the classic riches-to-rags. I had even told the board as soon as I drew Russia “I always do this thing as Russia where I get too big the first two years then get eaten alive in 03.” Spoilers: that totally happened again.

    The crucial year for me was spring of 02. I had a fleet in Sev and an army in Rum, having successfully bounced the Turk out of the Black (more RAT than ART more there.) I had a fleet in STP NC, an army in Finland, and a fleet in Sweden. I had secured a third (!) early alliance with Germany, planning a takeover of Norway where he backfilled into Sweden.

    I invited the Germany into Skag to ensure the plan, though unwittingly setting myself up for the stab. Using Sweden, I support him in. Because Chris had NWY, NWG Sea, and North Sea, I felt I needed a forth unit, so I tried to move to Barents and STP from Moscow (bonehead decision #1). I realized that I had nothing to do with Finland, so I said “well I might as well hit Norway, maybe I’ll cut a support.” I didn’t really consider the possibly (or consequences) of that attack succeeding. Bonehead decision #2.

    Then the surprise convoy out happens, my army lands in Norway, I get bounced in the Barents, and all the sudden I’ve got this very awkward snag where there’s no safe way for me to hold Nwy while giving David Sweden that year. I told David that (bonehead decision #3) while also planning to pop my fleet in Arm (bonehead decision #4).

    So here I was, fall of 02, sitting on 7 centers. The fatted calf, if you will. I had made 4 bonehead decisions in about a 15 minute timeframe. I couldn’t defend Rum, was probably going to lose Sweden, and needed to protect Nwy. I decided to go to Barents instead (because bonehead decisions come best in fives), so I lost NWY, Sweden, and Rum all at once.

    I then went with a MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) plan against Germany, which he eventually reciprocated after being hit by an EF. That eventually resulted in us dying in the final year of the game.

    TLDR told myself I wouldn’t get too big and die quickly, did that anyways. I don’t have any great parting advice or takeaways other than don’t do any of the above.

  16. Brandon Fogel

    From Jim (#13): [quote]first, you and the Austrian annihilated my army in Greece after we had discussed and I thought agreed that I would get Serbia, then you supported the Austrians in Greece, thwarting my attack[/quote]

    Hmm, my recollection of our F02 negotiations is that you asked for me to let you have Serbia and Greece and I responded by laughing. I’m pretty sure I didn’t agree to let you have two builds in one year without getting any myself.

    As for Greece in 1903, I agreed to let you retake it by the end of the year and didn’t go back on that. I worried that if you took it in the spring, you could then use A Bul to attack Serbia in coordination with Russia in the fall. I didn’t communicate that worry clearly enough; perhaps if I had you would have trusted me more in the fall. I think my communication was especially poor in general this game, so I’ll take the blame for that one.

    I don’t blame you for sticking with Russia, btw. A stab on Russia and an IT would have made for a more interesting game but would have carried a lot of risk for you. Assuming Russia didn’t talk me into a Wintergreen, England probably would have been the biggest beneficiary, and if he’d gotten greedy we probably could have convinced France to turn, at which point you and I probably co-exist uneasily for a few turns while arranging our knives. And that’s best-case scenario. On the other hand, it would have been chaotic, and you’re the one I’d bet on to find opportunities in the chaos.

    It occurs to me that by calling my strategy “suicide play”, I may have suggested that I gave up on the game, and I don’t think I did. I kept looking for an opportunity to turn things around, but it never came. For example, I offered Russia support into Serbia, which he declined. Had he gone for it, I would have tried to defend myself against France. But if chopping off a limb at a time is the only way to keep the dogs at bay, even temporarily, you’d better start chopping.

  17. Jim O'Kelley

    [quote]when it became clear that Jim wasn’t going to work with me under any circumstances

    my recollection of our F02 negotiations [/quote]

    Still not sure why it was so clear that I wasn’t going to work with you. We recall Fall 1902 negotiations differently; nevertheless, I tried for two straight turns to work with you, and both turns, you chose to work with Austria instead.

    [quote]exact a little revenge on Jim [/quote]

    You say revenge, I say spite. When you decide to toss the board-top to Jake instead of me, that’s revenge. This was spite.

    Not saying spite is a less valid motive than revenge, just that they’re not the same thing.

  18. Brandon Fogel

    [quote]You say revenge, I say spite. When you decide to toss the board-top to Jake instead of me, that’s revenge. This was spite. Not saying spite is a less valid motive than revenge, just that they’re not the same thing.[/quote]

    Great distinction. Revenge is when you harm someone because that person did something to you. Spite is when you harm someone because you just don’t like the person.

    This was definitely revenge. Knocking me out of ION and preventing me from getting a crucial build in F03 was extremely damaging; defense against France was subsequently impossible. That it was a stab (from my perspective) made it more painful. That you passed up a build to do it convinced me that you saw little strategic value in working with me. I figured you were committed to the RT and had decided you’d rather have me out of the way in order to deal directly with France, even if it gave him a significant positional advantage. I didn’t take it personally. IT is the hardest alliance on the board.

    “Under any circumstances” was too loosely phrased. I meant that I didn’t see any reason developing within the current game, not that I thought you had it in for me. I really didn’t take it personally, and I’m sorry you feel like I targeted you out of spite after that.

    Keep in mind that revenge was only part of my reason for dot-gifting to Bryan, and not even the strongest (at first, anyway). I thought it gave me the best chance of sticking around the longest. As it happened, you and Mike outwitted me tactically in 04 and I didn’t hold on to Trieste. That would have bought me another year. But unless RT was crackable, it wouldn’t have mattered.

    Spite is as pointless a motive as there is in Dip. At least revenge has its uses in the meta-game. Spite is useless.

  19. Jim O'Kelley

    [quote]This was definitely revenge.[/quote]

    If you had allowed me to keep Greece and take Serbia in Fall 1902 and I had responded by throwing my two new units at you, then it would be a lot easier to accept revenge as your motive.

    From my perspective, these are the events leading up to my Fall 1903 decision to take the Ionian.

    In Spring 1902, I got into Greece. In the Fall, we talked about Serbia in the context of me flipping on Russia. You wanted Serbia. I said I should get it and Rumania and that the Austrian home centers should be yours. I may not have explicitly said this, but I thought it was clear that I wanted Serbia so I’d have two units adjacent to a Russian center. Pivoting to Russia would have been much more difficult with you in my grill.

    We have different recollections of how that Fall 1902 conversation ended. Regardless, I’m fairly certain that you’ll agree that you gave me no indication that you’d respond to my request for Serbia by bouncing my move there and using two other pieces to put Austria in Greece, annihilating my army there.

    I’m not going to say that I absolutely would have used my two new units against Russia, but I will say that I was absolutely considering it. But now, instead of two new units, or even one, all I had was a rebuild.

    Two builds, and I can go F Con, A Smy, move Con to Bla, Smy to Arm, and hit Rum with Bul and Ser. One build from Greece, well, maybe I could have justified F Con (Smyrna was occupied with the fleet I built in 1901) and then stabbed without the move to Arm. Maybe.

    With just the rebuild, I had to go with A Con. You wanted me to stab Russia, but you wouldn’t give me the resources I needed to do it.

    That same turn, France moved into the Western Med.

    In Spring 1903, we discussed Greece. You were willing to let me take it, but you were concerned with how I’d do it. I agreed to take it with F Aeg, so you said I could have it.

    As we were parting, you added, “But it’s the fall turn that matters.”

    Maybe to you. I don’t like wasting moves.

    Your comment convinced me to order Smyrna to Eastern Med instead of Smyrna to Aegean, but I attacked Greece anyway (from the Aegean as you requested) and I was going to be annoyed if you supported the Austrians to hold. You supported the Austrians to hold.

    Meanwhile, the French convoyed to North Africa and moved their new fleet to the Gulf of Lyon.

    That brought us to Fall 1903. You told me you wouldn’t prevent me from taking Greece. Austria asked me to put him out of his misery. Still, there was an Italian army in Serbia with nothing pressing to do.

    I’m coming off two straight seasons of failed moves because of you, so now I have to either trust that [i]this time[/i] you really will let me grow or take matters into my own hands to ensure that I [i]will[/i] grow in 1904.

    I chose the latter.

    My choice ensured that France would take Tunis that turn, it’s true, but his advantage in tempo was your doing, not mine.

  20. Ted McClelland

    Bryan and I did have a great alliance until we eliminated Germany and Italy. At that point, Bryan commented, “This feels like the mid-game”…and attacked two of my centers, Holland and Munich. The attacks were unsuccessful, but he then built a fleet in Brest, violating our agreement. I responded by moving a fleet to the NAO, and preparing to attack MAO and EC. I think Bryan saw that I was his next source of dots, since he couldn’t go any further in the Med. I arranged a truce with Mike in Russia, who agreed to vacate Finland so I could have room to fight Bryan. It was a good deal for Mike, because I was in a position to take Berlin, and eventually St. P., but I would have had to trust Bryan to give me space to attack Russia, which I could no longer do. Fighting France alone was also unappealing, so I lobbied for the draw vote.

    Overall, it was a pretty angst-free, drama-free game for me, as others have noted, and I was pretty satisfied with my nine-center result.

  21. Ted McClelland


    I negotiated with Kevin before S 01 and he said, “I can’t go against France.” (Even though I hadn’t asked him to go against France.) That told me he wasn’t going to play aggressively, and wouldn’t make a good ally.

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