We fielded two boards Wednesday night at the Red Lion, our third two-board session in four tries so far this season. There were no pear trees, but we did pick up a new Weasel in Jake Trotta’s Second City classmate Nicole Campbell and welcome back old friend Roland Cooke, who was in town on business. On a scale of one to five, I’d definitely give the evening five golden rings.
Game No. 320
Played in the Lion’s back room, Game No. 320 ended by time limit after the Fall 1906 turn in the following center counts:
Austria (Paul DiGiulio): 0; 0.000 points.
England (Roland Cooke): 10; 31.646 points.
France (Don Glass): 1; 0.316 points.
Germany (Jim O’Kelley): 6; 11.392 points.
Italy (Bryan Pravel): 1; 0.316 points.
Russia (Brandon Fogel): 3; 2.848 points.
Turkey (Nicole Campbell): 13; 53.481 points.
A regular on the traveling tournament scene since 2010, Cooke is a British national who lives in Houston. DiGiulio was playing in his second game ever, and Campbell, her first.
Game No. 321
Meanwhile in the boss’ booth, Game No. 321 also managed six years by the time limit. The final center counts in that one were:
Austria (Brian Shelden): 9; 32.400 points.
England (Karl Horcher): 4; 6.400 points.
France (Matt Sundstrom): 8; 25.600 points.
Germany (David Spanos): 0; 0.000 points.
Italy (Chris Kelly): 5; 10.000 points.
Russia (Jake Trotta): 8; 25.600 points.
Turkey (Christian Kline): 0; 0.000 points.
Horcher was playing in his second game ever. He and DiGiulio both were recruited by Spanos for his October house game.
The supply center charts are here. Let’s get some endgame statements.
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Great game, was a lot of fun, and had a very wild finish. Quality play nearly all around: 9-8-8 is how a bar game should be ending. We did the Secret Santa selection order, which I’m a big fan of. I picked fifth, which means I’d have some options. I chose Russia because it’s the country that I’m worst at, and with Spanos in Germany, Spanos’s friend in England, and Christian in Turkey, it was sure to be a challenge. On the plus side, Chris Kelly was Italy, so we might finally be able to work together. We’ve played on probably about 10 boards together and it’s never quite happened.
I’m going to forgo a full recap and discuss a few key points.
[b]Germany-secure your east with Diplomacy until you’ve got Western tempo.[/b]
First is Germany’s decision to bounce me from Sweden. Now, I opened north. I did not tell him I was going to do that. I also told him that my game was in the south. Those may seem to conflict, but I was in Con at the end of 01. I moved north to convince Christian into an unorthodox RT open. Germany got hung up on me “lying” by not directly telling him my exact moves. That caused some friction in the relationship.
Now, a Russian opening north is nearly always a good thing for Germany. It can’t hurt you right away, and can really only mess with England. I even told Germany that I’ll do anything you want with that unit-he decided to have me move back to Moscow in exchange for Sweden. I also offered the 02 Sweden-Norway swap. I got bounced anyways. More friction in that relationship-I could not see any kind of long term partnership with Germany.
I had a choice to make in 03. I work with Italy to stab cut Austria out, or I could triple up and hit Germany. Austria had more long term growth, but Germany was starting to get tempo and could be a midgame threat. I ended up coordinating with the English to swap Den for Sweden while working the triple to take both Munich and Berlin.
That decision likely does not happen if I’ve got a better relationship with Germany.
[b]Don’t play newbies like a shark
Most newish players don’t start out as, as our Prime Weasel would say, dot-grabbing hoes. It takes a while to go full weasel, particularly full Bar Room Brawl Weasel. Swiping a dot has a much higher cost. In fact, new players are more likely to just give you a dot if you ask, particularly at the end of games.
I had two strategic mistakes in this game. The first was taking Denmark from England without asking. That revealed my true nature as a dot-grabbing hoe too soon and with too little payoff. As a result, I lost the opportunity for an alliance and gave France an easier path to growth north. Worse, at the end of the game, England decided to help France instead of me, a major factor in me losing the board top.
[b]Tough to go boom without a buddy
[/b]To be fair, the east was a tremendously tricky diplomatic situation. Between Kline, Shelden, and Kelly, there wasn’t someone I felt great trust with. I tried to establish it with Chris (Italy), but he flipped on me several times. While he mentioned that that may have been the wrong choice, I have a good deal of responsibility in that.
Russia is a blast because you can go boom real fast. However, you usually need a buddy to go boom. I didn’t do enough to secure a solid ally in the east. We had some great opportunities to get rolling, either as a triple or a 2 on 1, but didn’t get our shit together and lost too much tempo. If I had done more to convince one of Austria or Italy that my growth was in their interest, I could have expanded faster than Matt. Instead, I stalled out, and only exceeded 8 centers for one season.
Chris did kick me out of Berlin right after I took it, killing my tempo, out of fear of me running away with things. This is common in bar games and very much understandable. I responded with frustration- that was counterproductive. I wasn’t going to be able to scare him into sticking with me, so anger was not the answer. Needed to give him more to regain that strong IR.
Austria(Brian): I don’t know what drunk Austria magic you have that allows you to jump from out of nowhere to topping the board at the end of a bar game, but it’s happened the past two times you’ve been A to my R. Kudos.
England (Karl): Had a real fun time negotiating with you. As mentioned above, I regret goofing our alliance. Definitely looking forward to more games together.
France (Matt): Played a good game, survived the early punch, and made it interesting in the last year. Curious (but not questioning) your longer term strategy with your move to norweigian.
Germany (David): Always tough to be between a newbie and Matt. Handled yourself pretty okay, just needed to secure a border with negotiation.
Italy (Chris): We worked together! Sort of. But mostly! Also, loved your F01 moves-totally changed the game to your benefit.
Russia (Me): I’d give myself a B. I was rusty on tactics that cost me the board top in the last season. Two strategic mistakes above cost me a bigger game.
Turkey (Christian): In hindsight, not accepting your janissary offer was a mistake. I was 100% rock solid on the jug… until Chris moved to Aegean. It was hard to see how it would play out positive in 02. Fun opening though.
Jake kind of buried the lead here: [b]Turkey did [i]not[/i] open to Armenia, or even to the Black Sea.[/b] Instead, in a bold R/T opening, Turkey took Rumania in exchange for letting the Russian fleet into Constantinople in Fall ’01. As Jake notes, this was met by an unorthodox move by Italy, which entered the Aegean that same turn. (Brian, as Austria, actually suggested this in the spring, offering Trieste in exchange for eschewing Tunis.)
While the Aegean move apparently succeeded in spiking the nascent R/T alliance, relying on Brian’s advice on how to follow up an unfamiliar opening left me somewhat adrift strategically — especially as Austria & Russia developed a de facto alliance. I knew a triple would not end well for me, but Brian refused to join me in attacking Russia, and allying with Jake would have helped him far more than me. The end result was the late-game vacillation Jake mentions, with me supporting him into Berlin then supporting his eviction the next turn.
My middling result in Game No. 320 might have been cemented when my diplomacy failed me in Spring 1902.
Opening negotiations were promising. Sure, France (Don Glass, often the yin to my yang in these games) resolved to force his way into Burgundy, but I had a Brit (actual Brit Roland Cooke) who was keen on an alliance and willing to prove it by opening to the Channel and an Italian (Bryan Pravel) who was eager to attack France through Munich, an opening that I rather like as either Italy or Germany.
Sure enough, 1901 went according to plan. Italy took Munich (with unnecessary French support from Burgundy), England successfully convoyed to Brest, and I gobbled up the Low Countries and Denmark while bouncing the Russians in Sweden. That last bit led to a low-grade conflict with Russia, but I felt the bounce would help keep England on side in 1902. Not that Roland insisted on it—I concluded that the alliance structure in the West was more likely to remain static (to my benefit) without the introduction of a Northern Russian unit in 1902. Also, Russia (Brandon Fogel) was the clear heavyweight in the East. Counting this game, his two Eastern neighbors had a combined three games of experience. Balancing the East somewhat seemed like a good idea.
Anyway, next steps seemed clear to me. Russia built A Warsaw, so St. Petersburg looked vulnerable. The plan I pitched to Roland called for him to take a potshot at St. Petersburg while I put two units on Sweden (Denmark S Kiel to Baltic). I thought we had agreed to that, but instead, Roland took a shot at Sweden, which succeeded. And because he couldn’t follow the move, St. Pete was no longer threatened.
Meanwhile, Warsaw had marched into Silesia. So now, the only way I get a build out of Scandinavia is to take one away from my British ally, and I can’t do that without risking Munich, which I had just retaken per agreement with Bryan. (My new army moved to Munich, Holland moved to Ruhr, and Belgium supported Italy’s move from Munich to Burgundy.)
Naturally, I played for the build and ally in hand rather than the possibilities in the bush. With only one build that turn instead of two, I was unable to move decisively against either Russia or France. Consequently, the E/G rumbled forward with E in the driver’s seat.
After the game, Roland cited his decision to try for Sweden instead of St. Pete as a mistake. I’m not sure I agree with him.
The move didn’t cost him an ally and was key to his ascension as Lord of the West. But it is possible that he could have held onto the board-top had we each gotten a Scandinavian build that turn instead of just him. With two builds in 1902 instead of just the one, I could have launched an effective assault against Russia. If we had moved more quickly against Brandon, then it’s possible that he would not have been able to tip the game to Turkey (Nicole Campbell) in the final year.
Still, I like Roland’s decision that Spring. I should have done two things differently.
First, I should have spent more time talking about the split of the spoils—he was much better positioned to grow in France than I was–and the benefits of me building two armies instead of one.
Second, instead of supporting myself to Baltic, I should have ordered Denmark to Sweden and Kiel to Baltic. Roland knew what I was doing. I think his decision to move to Sweden himself was at least partly motivated by a desire to keep the Russians out.
Anyway, despite the lack of opportunity and movement on my part, it was still a fun game. I look forward to the next one.
The Fall 1904 is also worth talking about. Specifically, my decision to help France (Don Glass) recapture Marseilles. I offer the following not as a critique but as an attempt to illustrate for our newer players and readers how strategic considerations inform tactical choices.
So, Fall 1904. Don’s last unit was in Gascony, which isn’t a dot. I was in Burgundy. The British and Italians were pretty much everywhere else. It’s near the end of the negotiating phase and we’re standing at the table when Don says:
“Jim, do you want Marseilles?”
The words were like an answer to a prayer. I had failed to grow in 1903, and poor generaling again had left me without prospects, but here was Don, riding to my rescue.
Keep in mind that this was a bar game. Drinks were involved, and time was short. As I glanced at the board, pragmatism crushed my giddiness. My units currently were deployed ineffectively on two fronts. I couldn’t follow the move to Marseilles, so holding it would be difficult, and a unit standing alone there wasn’t going to help me launch future attacks.
So, I quickly ruled out accepting Don’s support into Marseilles. Next question: Should I offer to support him in?
My alliance with England and Italy had accomplished one of its objectives: the defeat of France. My preference would have been to demilitarize France and Iberia as we shifted our focus to the East, but that was probably far-fetched. England and Italy were sharing the board lead at seven centers and seemed destined to fight for control of Iberia.
I didn’t want Don to die. I was short-handed, so a French army beholden to me had value, if only as a buffer, but do I support him into Marseilles against Italy or Paris against England? As I recall, the two attacks were equally likely to succeed, and I hadn’t yet picked a side in the brewing E/I conflict.
Ruling out the Parisian attack was easy. My position was too weak to throw down against England, at least not without first having discussed a truce with Russia. There was not time for that now.
Again, time was short. I didn’t study the position in the East. Instead, I considered the players. Austria (Paul DiGiulio) and Turkey (Nicole Campbell) were playing in their second and first games ever, respectively. Italy (Bryan Pravel), meanwhile, was taught the game by his parents and has been playing for most of his life. Russia was facing an E/G onslaught and therefore couldn’t do much to stop the green tide. Unchecked, I reasoned, Italy would run away with the game.
Finally, I considered the space itself. Marseilles would give either England or Italy the upper hand in the fight against the other. But if Don occupied the center with his lone unit, he likely would remain in the game as a buffer between them, as neither side would want the other to take the dot. That would slow them both down.
My mind was made up.
In real time, the exchange went something like this:
Don: Jim, do you want Marseilles?
[A second passes.]
[Two seconds pass.]
Me: But I’ll support you in.
There you go. The decision did establish Don as a buffer, which helped me hold my six centers. But Bryan also lost Trieste to the Russians to fall to five centers. The balance of power in the East shifted to Turkey, and she truly had no one to check her growth.