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Onward, Christian soldier!

Last night at the Red Lion, on a board stocked with guys who have joined the club in the past two years, cagey vet Christian Kline turned in a vintage performance, the kind where he goes from three to board-top in a cloud of dust.

Kline has been playing with the Weasels since our third game, way back in January 2006, so most of the vets have experienced whiplash from watching him accelerate to one of his monster board-tops. For the five guys who weren’t me, however, it was a new experience, as it had been nearly three years to the day since he burned rubber in a league game.

 

The game ended by time limit after the Fall 1906 turn in the following center counts:

Austria (David Spanos): 0; 0.000 points.
England (Jim O’Kelley): 0; 0.000 points.
France (Christian Kline): 15; 57.990 points.
Germany (Brandon Fogel): 1; 0.258 points.
Italy (Scott Soren/Courtney Stahl): 3; 0.000 points.
Russia (Bryan Pravel): 3; 2.320 points.
Turkey (Jake Trotta): 12; 37.113 points.

The supply center chart is here.

We were happy to get Scott Soren back to the table for the first time since May of last year. Unfortunately, he had to leave in 1905 to tend to the sort of family emergency that tends to happen when you live with teenagers. Fortunately, server Courtney Stahl was willing to sub in. (It pays to tip the wait staff.) Jake Trotta was the biggest beneficiary of Soren’s departure, as he picked up five centers over the last two years of the game to finish a strong second.

The board-top was Kline’s league-leading second of the year. The other one was much more modest. This one vaulted him into third place on the season. Trotta, meanwhile, netted a little under 12 points. Take a peek at how tight the league race just got.

How about some commentary from the players? And keep your eye on the website. We may open another Red Lion game for Tuesday night, which is the Ides of March (and also the date of the Illinois primaries, but, priorities). We’ll announce the April Red Lion game shortly. Be aware that the date will move to April 27 to accommodate CODCon and some other things.

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 11 Comments

  1. Jake Trotta

    ***Jump to bottom of the post for key takeaways (or TLDR, or Too Long, Didn’t Read for all you Gen Xers and Boomers that don’t know interweb language)***

    297 was probably the most tense game I’ve played with the weasels. Apologies in advance, my write up is a bit long, but I think it is interesting and learned a lot from this game. My prior best result as Turkey was 4 centers, which is nothing to write home or here about, so I went in thinking that I had very little to lose. My objectives were show up on time (nailed it!), don’t misorder (cut back my usual Guinness intake by 1, seemed to do the trick), play well (I have no idea, more on this later), and have a great time as always.

    Spring 01 was a bit… slow? I pulled Austria (David) aside first, trying to convince him to do an AT. He sounded cautiously open. AT is bashed pretty often in diplomacy cast and articles, but I’ve noticed it’s particularly strong in bar games because of its rapid growth potential. In such limited time, it’s rare that a good AT will actually run into a conflict of interest until the last year.

    My negotiation with Italy (Scott) went fairly well, with him proposing an immediate IT where I would be the armies. I liked this idea because I didn’t feel I had anything to lose. I was on board, but hesitant to commit to Arm right away. That ended up convincing Italy not to take Trieste in 01.

    Russia (Bryan) and I have played quite a few boards together and gotten along very well, even when fighting. We both are big fans of alliance play, but didn’t want the collective board freakout of an obvious RT, so we agreed to play conventional and may it look like we weren’t working together.

    I opened to Con, Black, and Arm on a last minute decision. This made Italy upset, as he would’ve poached Trieste had he known. Russia was surprisingly cool with it and agreed to give me Rum… and then bounced me there. Austria supported himself into Greece.

    Using my 1 build, I built an army in Con. Most of the board said this was a bad idea, and it probably was. Conventional wisdom would say fleet. But I figured if I built a fleet, I encouraged a lepanto, whereas if I built an army, I could convince Russia it wasn’t a big deal while maintaining good relations with Italy and Austria. I also wanted to signal Italy “hey you said you want me to be the armies, I’m good for it.”

    That ended up being my saving grace. Spring 02 Austria had promised me support into Rum, Italy had promised to leave me alone, and Russia said he’d let me have Rum. I was speaking with Germany and said “you know, this is strange, I feel like I’m getting along ok-ish with everyone.” Then with 30 seconds on the clock, I saw AIR all chatting together. This must be how turkeys feel on the third Wednesday in November.

    Bang. Greece into the Aegean, Ionian to EMS. David supported me into Rum… and also supported Russia in, causing a bounce. That right there was my opportunity to talk my way off the grindstone, I just had to make myself useful. Russia was about as frustrated with that as I was, so convincing him to turn on Austria was relatively easy. I then told Italy “look I don’t have a fleet, I’m not a threat, and I can support you into Greece and you can pick up Trieste right now. You’ll get one, and probably 2.”

    Italy did it and picked up both Greece and Trieste. Russia got into Rum. Austria was down to 3 centers. S03 I negotiated my way into Serbia, convincing both Russia and Italy that I’d be more helpful to them there. That succeeded. Italy also moved some of his fleets back, now in Aegean, Ion, and Adr. I had moved Arm back to Smy to gain Russian favor and cover myself from a potentially insurgent Eastern Med fleet. Fall 03 I knew that Italy had a hankering for Serbia and that I couldn’t defend it if he wanted it, so I just told him that and said “I’ll be more helpful to you in Bud. You’re going to get me eventually, but you want me in Bud to make sure you get the better part of the IR. For this year, you can just walk into Serb behind me.” He was probably expecting more of a fight to get Serbia, so when I offered him a pain free entry, he was thrilled. I made the “help you get the best of the alliance” pitch to Russia.

    I also had an interesting decision to make in Smyrna, frankly the key choice in the game for me. The Italian was in the Aegean, but was about to get my help. If he took one of Con or Smy, my game was pretty much done. The options were move back to Arm to give myself leverage for the next year, or play conservative and cover one of Smy or Con.

    I decided to move Smy-Arm, leaving me wide open. Italy backfilled from Aegean to Greece, I got two supports in Bud, and all the sudden I had great position as the “swing vote” in the IR alliance structure. At the same time, Russia flipped on his ally in the North, bringing down Germany. This meant the French had no rival near him, and he was turning towards Italy. This was the chaos I needed. I built a fleet for flexibility. Italy was upset, but I agreed to move it the Bul (EC) and he was fine with that, as France had moved to West Med and he had bigger problems. Over the next two years, I poached Sev and Rum from Russia and managed to hold onto Bul. That put me at 7, tied with Italy, with the Russian at 5 or 6, and France booming. Everybody was panicked about the stalemate line and Christian (France) said he was gunning for best France.

    Brandon kindly anointed me “the guy you throw dots to in order to make sure Christian doesn’t get a runaway board top.” Italy and Russia did in the final two years. That put me at 12, which would’ve tied Christian had he stayed level. He didn’t, and by some miracle I ended up with a strong second place finish in an absolute mess of a game.

    Player Feedback:
    I’ve had the pleasure of playing with Christian for both of his board tops this year, and many other games. What I admire about his play is his ability to stir up fear in other players. He doesn’t make you afraid of him, he makes you feel afraid of the board situation, the other guy, or the veteran members of the club’s own guard. In the final year of this game, he convinced Italy not to cover Venice and instead cover Trieste, in case I was after it. I showed Italy my orders, turned them in, and walked away, but fearmonger France won out and walked into Venice unopposed. That one center took him from a strong board top to best France (and result this season).

    David was Austria. Early game it was him or me, and I was very, very lucky that it wasn’t me. In the midgame, there were some opportunities to work together, but he just wasn’t strong enough to make a good long term ally. Maybe if he was at four centers instead of three.

    Bryan is always fun to play with. Great temperament, good negotiator, and I think if he doesn’t turn on Germany in the North, he is splitting the board with Christian at 12 or 13 centers. Looking forward to reading his EOG statement.

    Scott is a very strong player. Absolutely could not get a solid read on him, but went with him most of the way anyways. In hindsight, I would’ve made almost every decision exactly as he did.

    I hardly spoke with Jim or Brandon, they were pretty busy ruining each other’s games. Thanks for the chaos, totally saved me.

    ***TLDR/ KEY TAKEAWAYS***
    First, the pregame banter was excellent, and I’d strongly recommend showing up early, getting yourself that first beer, and goofing off with some good dudes.

    Here’s what I learned about playing from behind. First, act panicked, but don’t panic. (Or, panic but don’t lose your head.) By making myself a resource and accepting more challenging board circumstances (like Italy in Greece and Russia in Rum), I was able to convince others that they will kill me eventually, but had better short term prospects. Second, don’t just make yourself useful and propose ideas. Give everyone a role to play. You’re not just keeping me alive to get more dots, you’re keeping me alive so that you can hold France off in the South (Italy) or so we can finally do our double secret juggernaut we always planned, and you’ll board top (Russia). Third, be patient and look for chaos. I love alliance play, that’s my bread and butter and what I enjoy most. In this game, I lied more in this game than the rest of my games combined. I played the short term, and looked for ways to be opportunistic and shake things up. That’s how I rose from the ashes. I would say I felt bad about lying, but you do what you gotta do to survive man. This video pretty accurately describes me talking my way out of the mud: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFvujknrBuE.

  2. Jim O'Kelley

    I don’t have much to say about this one.

    In Spring 1901, I talked with Brandon (Germany) and Scott (Italy) about blitzing France (Christian). I felt like we were all interested in making the necessary moves, but Scott’s willingness to move to Piedmont clearly hinged on my commitment to the Channel. I told him that I needed to speak with Russia to feel out the possibility of a Northern opening by him.

    Russia was honest when I am asked him about Moscow to St. Pete. I forget exactly how he phrased it — either “There’s a 90 percent chance that I won’t go there” or “a 10 percent chance that I will.” I suppose it doesn’t matter. Either way, he was saying the same thing, and either way, it wasn’t what I needed to hear.

    I’ve been playing with Christian for a long time, and he’s a vengeful dude. For me, if there were even a tiny chance that Russia would open North, then it wasn’t worth pissing Christian off by violating our DMZ in the Channel on the first turn. Given more time, perhaps I could have confirmed the Galician bounce, in which case I would have been more likely to roll the dice on a blitz of France, but absent that intel, it just didn’t seem worth the risk to me.

    As I headed back to the board just before the deadline, I ran into Scott.

    “Yes or no?” he asked.

    “No,” I said.

    And just like that, the blitz of France was off.

    In the Fall, Christian and I negotiated intensely for Belgium. He wanted me to give him the third build; I wanted to work together to ensure that either Belgium or Munich fell to our forces.

    We ended up bouncing in Belgium…as Germany held in Denmark and ordered Ruhr to support Kiel to Holland.

    That winter, brand-new fleets popped up in Brest, Kiel and London. Given the Fall moves and those two foreign fleet builds, I felt pretty certain that I was the odd man out, so I approached Bryan (Russia) with a simple pitch. Germany was going to use that fleet Kiel against one of us, so we could either each hope it would be the other guy or work together against him. I offered to support him into Denmark and move Norway to Skag to cut off a retreat in that direction.

    Bryan wondered whether he’d be able to keep his gain, as a German fleet in Baltic would force him to choose between Denmark and Sweden. I pointed out that at least then the fall conflict would be over Germany’s center instead of his.

    Bryan said he’d let me know. He didn’t. North Sea was my only unordered piece, as that was the unit that was going to support Sweden to Denmark, so I moved it to Holland on the off chance that I could bounce a move there.

    Instead, Kiel moved to Denmark as Denmark moved to Skag with Russia’s support.

    In the Fall, I reckoned that Germany would either try to take North Sea, Which I could defend, or take Sweden, which Russia couldn’t. Instead, Germany took Norway with Russian support. At the same time, France swung his fleets to the North Atlantic and Mid Atlantic.

    At this point, I was beset by all three neighbors and had to pull a unit. I decided to pull my army in Yorkshire. Two factors informed that decision.

    First, I knew I couldn’t defend against all three neighbors, but I felt like I could more easily defend against G/R than F.

    Second, again I’ve been playing with Christian for years. He’s a really good janissary, and really good janissaries also know how to make use of their janissaries. I believed I could count on Christian not to gobble my centers as fast as he could but instead to take them slowly while allowing me to fight for him.

    And as long as I had pieces on the board, I could potentially turn my fortunes around. Alas, there would be no Scandinavian rump state in my future. Christian killed me slowly while I was useful and lopped my head off as soon as I wasn’t.

    But for six turns at least, I got to fight hard against two of my tormentors.

  3. Brandon Fogel

    Here are my board pics from the other night: https://goo.gl/photos/5Jq8mkMvUacdKSpk9

    Click on the info button to see the titles, which note the turn. The English and German units are difficult to tell apart without the flash, which is just as well for this game. I’ll use the flash in the future. And I’ll write up my EOG when I get a chance. Thanks for the insights, Jim and Jake.

  4. Bryan Pravel

    Really interesting stuff to digest here already. Jake the “give people a role” idea is strategy gold.

    Jim, the turn I did not answer I tried shaking my head from across the room to give you some sort of acknowledgement but I guess that wasn’t clear enough. Sorry about that! There were a few instances in this game where I did not communicate as clearly as I should have. This goes in the lessons learned column for sure.

    My write up is coming sometime this weekend.

  5. Jim O'Kelley

    [quote]I tried shaking my head from across the room to give you some sort of acknowledgement but I guess that wasn’t clear enough.[/quote]

    I’m 48. I can’t see across the room without my glasses.

  6. David Spanos

    I’m exactly half your age and have the same problem, Jim.

    My write up:

    A TALE OF TWO BOUNCES

    NARRATOR: It was the best of bounces; it was the worst of bounces.

    ROLL CREDITS

  7. Bryan Pravel

    Game #297 featured a good mix of players that I knew and players I had never played with before. I arrived early and had a (really good) burger and beer while getting to know Scott, a player who apparently has a ton of online experience, but didn’t seem to be a regular for the Weasels. Scott described a few situations he had online and my impression was that he had a pretty aggressive style of negotiations. I was also introduced to Christian who I could immediately tell would be a dangerous player. He had that “I can see through the Matrix” sort of confidence that I’ve noticed from several of the more experienced players in the club. More importantly, he seemed pretty cutthroat.

    I drew Russia and had mixed feelings. I don’t feel like I play Russia very well. It’s an all or nothing country for me. I tend to either grow quickly and have a great shot at a solo, or completely collapse. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve survived as part of a draw with Russia. Scott drew Italy, Jake drew Turkey, David drew Austria, Brandon drew Germany, Jim was England, and Christian was the one player I immediately knew I wanted to succeed in the early game as France.

    Scott (Italy) and I spoke immediately. I told him every Italian solo I have ever had has been part of an I/R alliance (hidden or otherwise). He seemed genuinely excited about this alliance. I love alliance play, I love the I/R, I knew Scott would be aggressive with Italy which was something I wanted as an I/R partner. The only catch was that Scott told me if he got so much as a hint of an R/T, he’d support Austria, force the eastern 2v2, and someone in the west would top this board. I was fine with that. The I/R was the alliance I wanted. Now I just had to figure out how to prevent Jake (Turkey) from allying with David (Austria) . I wanted 3v1 (either I/R vs. Austria or Turkey). I did not want to force the 2v2.

    The next player I spoke with was Jake (Turkey). I knew I wanted the I/R, and Scott had made it clear there could be no sign of the R/T or he’d join Austria. I also like the R/T though, and Jake and I have worked well (and against!) each other a few times now so I felt like I could make this work if Scott (Italy) decided he didn’t want to play ball. I also saw Jake (Turkey) talking with David (Austria) and it didn’t seem like he was excited by whatever it was they talked about, so I figured he might consider working with me. This meant I needed to create smoke. I started by suggesting we try to pop the Russian southern fleet immediately, knowing full well that Jake would realize how obvious that would be to the rest of the board and wouldn’t want to do this. I hoped this would indicate I was willing to work with him though. He said we should keep the R/T hidden, which is exactly what I wanted because it meant I could do self-centered stuff and still maintain a little diplomatic cover. We agreed to the bounce in BLA, and standard openings.

    David (Austria) was next. I knew I wanted the Italian as my ally. I knew that I wanted the Turk as my fallback. This meant that I needed to lure Italy into attacking Austria. The best way I could do that was by opening into Galicia. I didn’t want to lie to David this early though, so I figured the bounce would be just fine. I was playing the waiting game. I figured no one would be too upset with two bounces (although I knew David wouldn’t love the move to the Ukraine I had also planned).

    In the west, I agreed to a non-aggression pact with Brandon (Germany), and we even went as far as to agree that we would try to split Scandinavia in 1902, with me getting Sweden in F1901, and then picking up Norway with the fleet in 1902 and getting Germany Sweden. I *love* this arrangement as both Russia and Germany as it can really help avoid that early game stress. This also helped me feel more confident moving South.

    I knew if I was getting Norway, working with England would be out so I didn’t really invest a ton in negotiations with Jim (England). Jim said he wanted to avoid the cul-de-sac in StP (which we’ve talked about a few times now) which I loved to hear and supported, with the knowledge that I was still going to try for Norway if the board allowed for it.

    With Christian (France) I basically just said good luck, what’s good for you is good for me, let’s keep in touch.

    The rest of the early game basically consisted of me trying to simulate a fight with Jake (Turkey) without actually pushing him enough to actually want to ally with Austria, and to say anything that I possibly could to keep David (Austria) from allying with Turkey while I convinced Scott (Italy) to attack Austria. I believe there are a few types of “currency” in Diplomacy games. Supply Centers (dots), board position, tempo, and trust. I was *hemorrhaging* trust with David and Jake, but gaining trust with Scott (Italy). The I/R had great position, enough “dots”, and in my opinion, we were keeping pace with the tempo in the west. It all lead up to a 1902 series of orders that dropped Austria down to two SCs. I felt like the Eastern powers were marching to the beat of the I/R drum and didn’t even realize it. It was by far the most successful early game I/R I have ever run before. I was starting to feel like this could be one of my “good” Russian games. Now I just had to make sure I didn’t blow it.

    In F1903, I had a choice of supporting Jake (Turkey) into Budapest and dropping Austria down even further, or trying for it myself and hoping that Turkey and Austria wouldn’t work together. I made the decision to support Jake into Budapest because in doing this, it would get Italy into Serbia. I knew that once the I/R had control of Serbia, there was no possible way that Turkey would be able to hold onto Budapest, so my thinking was that I would delay my own growth for the good of the alliance, knowing that Budapest and Vienna would be mine the following year so I’d get back on pace. To prevent myself from getting too far behind the SC count tempo, I decided to go ahead and make a move on Brandon (Germany) the same turn. Rather than supporting him in Scandinavia as I had been doing, I took Jim’s (England’s) support into Norway. This gave me a build, and really hurt Brandon (Germany) a ton which I didn’t mind because I knew that over the next 2 years I was on pace for 3-4 more SCs, 2 from Budapest and Vienna, and unless something funny happened, I’d probably be able to at least get Berlin and Munich was a (distant) possibility. Germany would be crushed, France would have the upper hand and was already swinging around into the Mediterranean, so I knew that Italy’s growth would be slowing, I’d be able to work with France to finish up England, and I could see myself with control of Denmark, Kiel, and probably Edinburgh as the game ended, not to mention what I’d be able to get in the Turkish home SCs.

    Oh how short sighted I was. F1903 was an unmitigated disaster. I got everything I wanted, but I completely misread the board. For reasons I still don’t fully understand (perhaps the fact my growth potential was higher?), Scott (Italy) flipped and started working with Turkey. Instead of me having easy access to Budapest and Vienna, I now had an undistracted Turk who was able to just blitz up my flank and easily take Sevastopol. Also, I misread the board positon in the west and England was much less powerful than I had thought. This meant that once I stopped supporting Brandon (Germany) it created a power vacuum that France was able to fill more quickly than anyone else. Now French growth was no longer helping, Christian (France) was actually starting to take SCs that I had intended for myself, and was already in great position to run away with the game (in 1904!). In previous reports I mentioned having to fight the tendency to be “Unraveling Sweater Guy” and boy did the sweater unravel quickly!

    The end game for me was just a giant blur. I knew I had no chance of topping this board as soon as Italy flipped. Now I was fighting to stay alive. I also wanted to maximize my score, which I think I mistakenly felt could be accomplished by evening the score of everyone else, even if that meant giving my own SCs up to do so. In the final year (1906) I realized this was not correct, so my goal at that point became to try and keep the score of the other players as low as possible. This meant I threw dots to Jake (Brandon pointed out he was in the best position to compete with Christian and I agreed), and tried to keep as many as I could in the process.

    I ended up with a 3 SC survival in what I consider to be a very sloppy game on my part.

    Lessons learned:

    1. In this game, I saw the board the way I *wanted* to see the board, not the way that it was. I wanted the I/R to work so badly, and in my opinion it made *so* much sense for us to keep going for us both, I couldn’t see any way that it wouldn’t keep going. I missed a couple of tells on the board that should have tipped me off, in particular when Jake (Turkey) left Smyrna uncovered and Scott (Italy) didn’t take advantage. Jake would have never left Smyrna uncovered in that situation if he didn’t have some sort of agreement worked out.

    2. I got greedy. I should have never turned on Brandon (Germany) when I did. I was not in position to take advantage, so all I did was throw dots to Christian (France) who WAS in position. I have heard it said that in multi-front situations, its best to try and solve one side diplomatically and the other with force. I tried to use force on both fronts to gain tempo in the west but this was a HUGE mistake. I think I could have reacted to Turkey if I had not done this. I feel like Brandon needed me and would not have stabbed (for a while at least).

    3. Along these same lines, I still have to learn the Sum of Squares scoring system. I am getting better. I know you want to be “biger-er” than your opponents. The other side though is that I think you want your opponents to be somewhat evenly scored (smaller than you). So in this case, I probably would have been better served in F1903 by keeping David (Austria) around because he and Turkey were similar in size and Italy and I were bigger. I *definitely* should have kept Brandon around for this reason as well. Not only did my one dot stab only gain me one dot, it gave Christian two or three at least.

    Player Feedback:

    David (Austria): You were *very* dependable this game David and I took advantage of that. This is the second game now that I have played with you where I have observed you doing exactly what you agree to (with room for the “letter of the law but not the spirit of the law” situations of course). On the one hand I feel like this could be bad because I didn’t feel like I had to doubt what you were saying so it was easier for me to lie to you. However, the other side of this is that I believe I can trust what you tell me and will definitely keep this in mind in the future. A few games back I described your play style as opportunistic (not a bad thing). Now, I still believe that is true, but I would also add truthful as well, which is an interesting combination but accurate for the past few games at least I think. I think some countries are better with this style than others. I’m not sure Austria is one where you can remove doubt. Maybe if you don’t want to lie, just not answering would be better for Austrian players?

    Jim (England): Ultimately Jim it came down to the fact that I wanted Scandinavia and I wanted France to do well, and I decided this in S1901 once Brandon told me he was willing to do the Norway/Sweden swap in 1902. I probably should have paid more attention to what was going on in your theater. I thought you and France were working together until it was too late. I think you did the right thing (for you!) in getting me to stab Brandon, but unfortunately you weren’t in position to take advantage without my help and I unraveled.

    Christian (France): Wow, what a game. There were two things that impressed me. First, your speed was incredible. I was worried about not being able to stop you in 1904! Second, even when you had an entire theater of players trying to stop you, you didn’t slow down. I know that you were a direct contributor to me working with Jim to turn on Brandon and take Norway. My guess is that you saw the impact that would have far better than I did. Most impressive.

    Brandon (Germany): Misreading the situation with Italy stalled my game, stabbing you the same year destroyed it. That was a huge mistake, there was no reason for it, it was just a complete misread on my part. You were a gentleman about it and we found a way to end up working together, even though I created a situation that was not ideal for either of us. Thanks for keeping the communications lines open.

    Scott (Italy): We were working great together in the early phase of the game and I genuinely do believe we could have kept it going in the mid-game. I’d love to hear why you made the choice to flip to Turkey. I personally had planned for us to take this all the way to the last year. I love an aggressive Italy. I thought you played it very well (until you flipped of course :P).

    Courtney (Italy): We didn’t get to communicate a ton, but I just wanted to thank you so much for stepping in and helping us finish the game! There are few situations that are less fun in Diplomacy than when someone has to leave mid-game and you saved the day. I enjoyed the chat after the game as well.

    Jake (Turkey): Next to Christian’s Usain Bolt like speed, the most impressive thing to me about this game was your comeback. Scott and I had you in the box. You were done. And somehow, you managed to talk your way out of it and have a legitimate shot at tying for the board top. You just outplayed me, plain and simple. I feel like our negotiating styles are very compatible for some reason. It’s not like we work together all the time. In this game we were lying to each other and fighting each other more than helping, but I think our process of talking through things is similar.

    I feel like the biggest questions that I left this game with are around strategies for Sum of Squares scoring. I’d love to hear the opinions of others.

    1. My theory is that the best way to play Sum of Squares is a balance of power approach where you try to keep your opponents at similar SC count levels while you get as big as possible. Keeping all 7 players in the game may not be a bad thing in most cases as long as the other players are of similar size. Is this true?

    2. What do you do when there is another player who is in position to fill a power vacuum. Let’s say that England and Austria have been all but eliminated. Is it generally better to try and finish them off and grab their dots, or is it better to prop them up to try and keep everyone’s SC count similar, and then slowly take advantage over time? Are there situations where one is better than the other?

    3. For the league scoring, if you know you aren’t going to have a “top board” type of night, is it better to try and keep the scores of everyone else as low as possible, or is it better for your own score to just get as many points as you can?

  8. Jake Trotta

    Great write up Bryan. Here are my thoughts to your three questions, maybe one of the veterans can chime in.

    1) Depends on what position you’re in. If you’re playing to board top, then your job is to get big and keep everyone else small. Keep players alive unless you’re the one that takes their dots. If you’re playing to keep scores down, it is actually better the eliminate players with 1 or 2 centers to keep everyone level and keep the denominator down.

    2) Depends on the board. If you can get bigger, get bigger. If you can’t, keep it level.

    3) Many different approaches to this. I look at this based on past performance and league standings. The league only counts your top three scores, so first I make sure I know the score I need to beat to improve my overall standing. Second, I look at my history of playing that country. If I’m in a position to do well relative to either of those scores, then I will probably just try to max out my own score. If I’m not in a position to do well, I try to do what makes the most sense based on the board and who played well.

  9. Jim O'Kelley

    [quote]strategies for Sum of Squares scoring. I’d love to hear the opinions of others. [/quote]

    Setting aside tactical, strategic and/or alliance considerations, I’d say the general rules of thumb are:

    [list][*]Take dots when you can. Growing is always in your interest.
    [*]When supporting another player into a dot, you want to be helping smaller powers grow at the expense of larger powers, not vice versa.[/list]

    [quote]Keeping all 7 players in the game may not be a bad thing [/quote]

    I’d say that it’s almost always [i]a good thing[/i], regardless of their center counts, [i]unless[/i] keeping them in the game means you’re not taking their centers. I’d also argue that if your goal is to solo, then eliminating players for the sake of eliminating them is a poor way to go about doing it.

  10. Jim O'Kelley

    [quote]The league only counts your top three scores, so first I make sure I know the score I need to beat to improve my overall standing. … If I’m not in a position to do well[/quote]
    I’ll throw this out there for people who like to think about such things. By scoring only a player’s best three games, the system, unfortunately, does little to discourage meta-gaming.

    Over the years, we’ve occasionally discussed other ways to calculate composite scores that would minimize or mitigate meta-gaming. So far, I’ve yet to see a proposal that would accomplish that while also doing these three things:

    1) Keep it simple. I don’t doubt that Laurent Joly, the keeper of the World Diplomacy Database, could program a more sophisticated calculation into the routine that classifies our league standings, but we also track games and standings separately in an Access database. Belt and suspenders.

    The current system requires manual maintenance in Access. I’d love to improve upon that, but if calculating composite scores becomes more complex, we’d need someone to write some code in Access to handle that. That’s beyond my Access capabilities.

    2) No disincentive to play. Most of us who play a lot love the league standings and are at least partially motivated by them to play. That’s the idea. The more we want to play, the easier it becomes to fill boards when more casual players are looking for games. So we don’t want a system that potentially penalizes people for playing (badly), or encourages them not to play.

    3) Bogey is attainable. Similarly, for the standings to work as an incentive for more casual players, we can’t make competing too difficult for them.

    With a bogey at three games, an infrequent player who does well in one game may look for another opportunity to play so he or she can climb in the standings. Encouraging people to play more frequently is more important than implementing a system that discourages meta-gaming by more accurately tracking a player’s performance over the course of a year.

    If the bogey were five or 10 or 15 games, I think we’d end up with a pretty small group of people competing for the seven Royale bids. As it stands now, every year, it seems at least one player at the season-ending Weasel Pyle comes out of nowhere to claim a Royale bid. That’s pretty cool.

  11. Brandon Fogel

    Jake: “I hardly spoke with Jim or Brandon, they were pretty busy ruining each other’s games.”

    That pretty much sums up 297 for me. Also 294 and 296. Jim may not feel like it, but he’s gotten the better of the dung piles in this series. My center counts: 2-0-1. His: 8-6-0.

    Christian’s win was well-deserved; he (France) played me (Germany) and Jim (England) like a double neck guitar, and that was good enough for the win. That said, he had two rather significant pieces of good fortune. Jim decided early — after F02 — that his position was indefensible and he’d be better off trading his home centers for some extra time in the game. And Scott’s departure created opportunities in the south that either wouldn’t have been there or would have been slower in coming.

    My game turned on two strategic errors. First, I failed to work out an alliance with Jim in S02. With a wall of armies pointed at France, I had much better advancement prospects in that direction than against England. But Jim and I seem to like the taste of each other’s blood more than the sweet sounds of each other’s voice. An alliance wasn’t to be had.

    So I moved ahead with a prior agreement with Bryan (Russia) for him to get Norway and I Sweden. But there was a problem: he hadn’t been able to build in Stp in 1901, and so he wouldn’t be able to take Norway the following year. Cleverly, or so I thought, I shifted my fleets in Denmark and Kiel northward and took Norway myself. I got the build, but left my forces spread thin and open to a easy stab. That was my second major strategic error.

    Bryan described well his stab of me in F03. It was strategically counterproductive, but that required foresight to see at the time, the kind of foresight that we rookies are still developing.

    Once he lost Norway in F02, Jim decided not to try to defend his home territories, but instead become a French janissary. This instantly turned Christian into a well-positioned, 9-center behemoth with no enemies. Following Bryan’s stab of me in F03, I had to pull two pieces, and I foolishly pulled an army and a fleet, rather than two fleets. I thought I was keeping a balance between defensive and offensive capabilities, but what I really needed was to think only defensively at that point. Christian stabbed me in F03, and then the only question was just how many centers he’d top the board with.

    I’m still not sure how we finished 6 years with all of the “smoke” breaks.

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