I threw a solo. Before I get into the how, I’ll let Batfleck tell you why.
I thought my game was over after power selection. Jay Heumann was Turkey. We had shared a board at worlds that I had gone from 9-6-1, mostly out of frustration at Jay and his ally. In Russia was Brandon Fogel, fresh off the “I wasn’t even trying to board top” start to the season. Then in Italy was Buffalo, who I had mercilessly stabbed with the builds the night before. I drew Austria. Shit.
I started with an AT that was pretty effective. Jay moved to Armenia and ended up giving me Sevastapol. His intended long-term arrangement was Turkish control of Greece, Naples, Tunis, and Rome, while I owned Moscow, Warsaw, Rum and Sev. By the way, if you’re Austrian, TAKE THAT DEAL. Jay was committed to that plan from S01, much to my delight and Brandon’s frustration.
Russia agreed to janissary for me to muck up the west. Once Italy moved west, I moved into Ion and swiped Venice. Turkey and I had collaborated so where there was a Turkish fleet in Naples. Italy was down to an army on the boot and three units covering Mar and Iberia.
Now normally, AT’s aren’t a long-term proposition. But this was the rare AT when I was on top. Jay and I were committed to splitting a huge board top and no one was going to stop us. But then I misordered a convoy to get Turkey’s last army away, creating some mistrust. Brandon convinced me that I had an opportunity to stab Turkey. Spoilers: I did, he saw it, it didn’t work. Trying to take Jay one-on-one tactically is an absolute grind.
And thus began five consecutive years of me leading the board at 7 centers, while never advancing. Which is like waiting 3 hours in line for a really terrible roller coaster.
I had the opportunity to kill Russia and take his centers; I didn’t. Germany proved to be, in a polite way, not fit to keep the board at bay, but France was on the ropes and England kept failing to take down Germany. There’s no way England shouldn’t have been exploding in the west.
Italy recovered to six units, and working with Turkey they retook Venice. I was soon to lose Munich, which I had weirdly held for a very long time. My defenses were crumbling, I was concerned about my janissary surpassing me, and the writing was on the wall. The roller coaster ride was over, but I was in a much worse place than where I started.
I started thinking of the broader game. I did have a best England from the night before. It was weak, only 30 points. But my goal was to take home a trophy. I asked a board of about 15 players playing a different game, “Hey, did anyone have a good England score?” They all said no, and I was satisfied. New game objective: prevent England from scoring 30.
A draw vote was proposed. I vetoed–England’s score was too high. England and Russia had made a last second deal, it looked like Russia had a chance to get back in the game…then England stabbed.
It was Brandon who initially pitched throwing the solo. That fit my agenda of keeping England below 30 points. I knew that my tournament was over, I wasn’t going to come back in this game, so a solo wouldn’t hurt me any more than being eliminated. I agreed.
Italy was on board. After 2 years, people started figuring out what was up.
England pulled me aside and asked why I was doing it, and I explained my draw conditions. I explained that he’d need to give Russia dots to get his score below 30. He wouldn’t budge, and the draw kept getting vetoed.
Eventually everyone realized we were throwing the solo, and I was open about it. I got blamed more than Brandon, and England was not happy. He was quite frustrated with the scoring system, and said to me “I just want you to know that you are the reason I am never playing a face-to-face diplomacy tournament again.”
Growing up, I’ve heard similar things from my little brother over the game of Risk. It is much more concerning (and much more satisfying) coming from a man 30 years my elder.
And in a scene much reminiscent of those board-flipping Risk games, he stormed away from the table, refusing to come back, yelling at me and us about the scoring system.
Now the tournament director had to convince him to come back, which took about an hour. Otherwise we’d have had a replacement player whose score still counted for…reasons beyond my understanding. Not a fan of rewarding storming off the board, especially when it means I have to keep playing for longer after 7 hours already.
Eventually England came back, yelling about scoring systems and integrity and god knows what. He’s a draw based fan, I guess. He ordered all holds, and Italy soloed. My final order was not so much to influence the game, but to comment on some hobby attitudes:
SILESIA S THE SUM OF SQUARES.
My job was done. I had gone full shark-throwing 8 hours into an effort to protect a weak lead and praying that no one would top it tomorrow. I sat at the bar, exhausted, defeated, righteous.
Siobhan was next to me, we hugged. I asked how she did, and she said she board topped.
“Great job. Who did you play, by chance?”
“Oh, I was England. Scored in the low thirties.”
God dammit, Jake.