The club celebrated the hobby’s most sacred day yesterday with a game of Diplomacy at Diversey River Bowl (2211 W Diversey Parkway), future home of Weasel Moot XI (June 23-25!). Fittingly for the Ides of March, there was lots of stabbing, plenty of blood, and a democratic solution for the final result. Game No. 335 (335!?!) ended by time limit after the Fall 1907 (No Adib. No Kline.) turn in the following center counts:
Austria (Jim O’Kelley): 7; 16.781 points.
England (Matt Sundstrom): 0; 0.000 points.
France (Chris Kelly): 9; 27.740 points.
Germany (Brandon Fogel): 9; 27.740 points.
Italy (Brian Shelden): 9; 27.740 points.
Russia (Chad Carson): 0; 0.000 points.
Turkey (Gus Spelman): 0; 0.000 points.
Check out the supply center chart here. Players, how about some endgame statements.
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Just a couple of quick comments from me.
First, this was a fun game with some great play throughout but especially in a final year in which four of us had at least a long shot at the board-top. Obviously the three who shared the top managed the final two turns better than I did. Chris did well to maintain his nine centers, Brandon used almost all his pieces to set up options to get to nine, and Brian did what he needed to do to match them both there. Well done, guys.
Second, it was a tough board for newcomers Chad Carson and especially Gus Spelman, who unlike Chad is new to the game not just the club. They both played really well, and for any–including them–who would point to the final counts as contradictory evidence, I’d point out that our club’s most decorated player also posted a goose egg in this one.
Bottom line: Chad and Gus never gave up. They played hard, especially diplomatically, until the very end.
There are a few other points I’d like to make, but I had been planning to make them in my now long overdue response to the Wise Weasel on Austria. I think I’ll save them for that for posterity’s sake.
Addendum: Here’s that long overdue post! [url]http://windycityweasels.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1096:the-wise-old-weasel-austria&Itemid=241[/url]
After 1901 on Wednesday night at Diversey River Bowl, I had visions of grandeur, and I don’t think they were delusional. But starting in Spring 1902, I committed three blunders—one tactical, one diplomatic, and one strategic—that turned a potential board-top into a modest fourth.
[u][b]Dot your I’s
That Spring 1902. Damn, I wish I had it back, and not to reconsider my decision not to stroll into inviting Venice. I shared my thoughts on attacking Italy in the Wise Old Weasel thread on Austria ([url]http://windycityweasels.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1096:the-wise-old-weasel-austria&Itemid=241[/url]).
No, I wish I had that turn back because that’s when I made a doozy of a tactical error. The kind of mistake that’s typically reserved for attacks on the Baltic Sea.
1901 could not have gone better. I picked up Serbia and Greece and was still in Vienna after two straight bounces in Galicia. I built armies in Budapest and Trieste. Italy (Brian Shelden) had convoyed to Tunis. His second army was in Bohemia en route to points east. He built F Naples.
Turkey’s armies were in Armenia and Rumania. Bulgaria was vacant! His fleet was still in Ankara due to a misorder, which meant that the Russians were in the Black Sea. Russia had an army in the Ukraine and built A Sevastopol. Turkey built F Constantinople.
From the Austrian perspective, it was a beautiful landscape. Now, here’s what I knew heading into the order-writing phase.
Turkey (Gus Spelman): He wanted to take the Black Sea by force and pull Rumania back to Bulgaria.
Russia (Chad Carson): He blamed me for Turkey’s Sundstrom Opening and wasn’t forthcoming during our brief talk. I assumed he would move to Galicia again and that he’d target Rumania.
Italy: He preferred moving his fleet in the Ionian to the Aegean instead of the Eastern Med and acknowledged that prior to our conversation, he had planned to convoy his army to Albania. He was unnerved by my build in Trieste and wanted to pull back his army in Bohemia. By the end of our long talk, he was convinced that I would not walk into Venice. Unfortunately, we ran out of time before we could lock down our orders.
“We’re fine,” I said. “Let’s just write our orders.”
“But some of them require coordination,” he retorted. “Let’s not do those.”
Okay, so four of my moves were easy: Vienna to Galicia, Budapest S Vienna to Galicia, Serbia to Bulgaria, Greece S Serbia to Bulgaria. But what to do with A Trieste? Move it to Serbia was the obvious answer. That would give me my best shot at taking both Bulgaria and Rumania, but there was some advantage to slow-playing it a little bit. And then there was Brian’s comment about the convoy to Albania. I didn’t want [i]that[/i].
So, I opted for the slow, cautious play and sent Trieste to Albania. Then I walked off to get a beer. (The Red Lion has servers; Diversey River Bowl does not.)
Imagine my surprise when, upon returning to the table, I spied a Turkish army in Serbia. How was that possible, right? I dislodged him, right? He can’t retreat to the attacker’s space, right?
Wrong, you dummy. You were attacking a vacant Bulgaria and won the space because Turkey’s move there from Rumania was unsupported. His army in Rumania, meanwhile, was dislodged by the Russian attack from the Black Sea. He retreated to vacant Serbia, the only other option being a retreat off the board.
That one tactical error torpedoed my tempo. Instead of closing the year with seven centers, or six if I had ceded one to Italy, I finished with four. I got Serbia back and destroyed the army there, thanks to Italy’s eager assistance, but it cost me Bulgaria and Trieste (and Rumania).
[b][u]Be Generous, Not Stupid[/u]
I knew the risk when Brian offered to cover Trieste with his army in Tyrolia, and I was okay with it. Unfortunately, Gus chose to order Serbia to Greece, cutting a support for Bulgaria, instead of to Trieste, which would have saved that center for me. Brian kept Trieste and my annihilated army in Bulgaria stayed off the board.
My mistake here was not permitting Brian to take and keep Trieste. And in fairness, were it not for a couple of misorders by Brian that delayed follow-up moves to the Ionian, we likely would have engineered a swap of Trieste for Greece much earlier. (The swap finally occurred in 1906.)
My mistake was allwoing him to spend so much time sitting in Trieste, which on one occasion caused me to cover one of my other home dots, which eventually led to me not having an open space for a build when I finally took Rumania.
This was a diplomatic failure. For conceding Trieste, I could have and should have demanded that his army vacate the premises.
There are two spheres in Diplomacy. In bar games, especially, with fast clocks and flowing drinks, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the one opposite yours. That happened to me in 1903.
In 1902, just as my fortunes were turning in the east, Matt Sundstrom in England boldly reached for control of the West. He ended the year with seven centers and the lead.
Now, I’m wired with some old code, written in Basic, that kicks in whenever Matt starts to pull away on my board.
80 If Matt is doing well then goto 250
250 Make Matt do less well
In Spring 1903, Russia had moved armies to Livonia and Moscow to attempt a recapture of St. Petersburg, but to retake it, he’d have to ignore the threat to Warsaw posed by my army in Galicia. Matt wanted me to take Warsaw. Chad was certain I’d take Warsaw. I tried to assure him that taking Warsaw would help Matt and that I didn’t want help Matt. Chad gambled on my assurance, retook St. Pete, and was relieved to see that I was true to my word.
I didn’t take Warsaw because I wanted to balance the West. What I failed to recognize is that Matt’s machinations in 1902 had galvanized an F/G response. Matt’s undoing was already in motion, and I missed it.
Instead of forcing the Russians to defend Warsaw, I allowed them to take St. Pete, which hastened Matt’s downfall and tipped the scales–in the West and for the game–in France’s (Chris Kelly) favor. If not for some great play by Brandon Fogel (Germany) and Brian, Chris likely would have run away with this game.
This was a strategic mistake and completed my Triple Crown of shitty Diplomacy play.
My half-serious takeaway after the game was that playing terribly in 1901 is a key to success (well, as long as your initial bad play isn’t fatal). Chris Martin won the last game I played as Russia despite misordering F StP in Spring ’01 (& eventually losing StP), and I coasted into a shared board top here after vacillating, paranoid early play that nearly caused England/Germany to ally against me in mutual frustration.
Really, though, my ineptitude letting me fly below the radar wasn’t as important as Matt Sundstrom’s success as England drawing too much unwanted attention. Jim is right that England’s growth to 7 centers in 1902 jolted me out of my strategic lethargy & into an alliance with Germany, even though Matt had pulled his units away from me. He did that because having taken Nwy/Swe/StP, he had a clear path to 11 centers by dropping the hammer on Denmark & northern Germany (a path I’ve taken more than once myself).
I could have moved south to challenge Italy, looking the other way as England mauled Germany, but the balance-of-power classicist in me demanded that I ally with Brandon to keep Matt from an easy board top. In combination with the Russian counterattack Jim mentioned, England went from dominant to besieged from all sides, enabling me to eventually capture all of Britain.
The one aspect of my opening strategy that did succeed was establishing a nonaggression agreement with Italy that turned into an immense DMZ stretching from Spain/Marseilles to the Tyrrhenian Sea and Tunis. That gave each of us the freedom (and time) to take out England & Turkey, respectively, before eventually facing off in the Mediterranean as the game ended.
#335 was a fun, brisk game that featured a big early momentum swing in the west and a rookie bloodbath in the east. The midgame proved surprisingly stable, as none of the four contenders found any stab opportunities attractive enough to bite into. In the end, the result fit the quality of play. The three board-toppers each played well enough to win but none appreciably better than the other two.
My game was defined by a fairly high-risk strategic play in F02. Things were not going my way in the west, and I needed a big shift in the dynamic. Chris (France) was playing conservatively, unwilling to commit to an alliance with either Matt (England) or me. Matt had also been noncommittal, but he had scored Bel in 01 and all of his units were in the north, positioned to threaten me and not France. I worried that Chris would decide Matt had more to offer him than I did and choose EF.
So I adopted what could best be called the “Scary Sundstrom” strategy. I would try to make Matt as big as possible so that Chris would decide the EF would be a bad deal for him. Matt would have such an advantage that it would be more Ef than EF. I also had concerns about the east that Scary Sundstrom might address as well, which I’ll say more about below.
The gamble worked. I supported Matt into Swe, and he ended 02 at 7 while Chris and I were still at 5. As he notes in his AAR, Chris saw the EF would be grossly imbalanced and chose FG.
Matt had a choice to make in S03, and he might perhaps wish he’d made a different choice. He and I were still nominally allied. I had, after all, just supported him into Swe. He could have tried to make an EG work, kept his good positioning in Scandinavia, and then pulled the stab later on. Instead, he stabbed right away, gambling that Chris would choose him. Matt got Den in 03 but lost Stp and Bel as well as defensive position around his home centers. I’d be interested to hear his logic about that decision. In any case, Matt pulled a piece in 03 and had French units all around his home centers. He lost ground each year after that, managing to hang on until the end of 06.
The FG was mostly solid from there. We were even able to leave Bur/Mun free for a few turns. Chris stayed ahead of me most of that time, although he was never in position to steal Hol or force NTH, at least not until the late stages, when holding off a surging Italy was more pressing. We talked about him giving me Bel a few times to even things out, and in retrospect I probably should have demanded it in F05. It was a complicated tactical turn and I miscounted his dots. I thought he would end the turn at 7 and I at 6, so demanding Bel would have been rude. But it turned out he went to 8, so 7-7 would have been reasonable. Still he was a good ally, and I think the partnership worked out well for both of us.
My hopes for the effect of the Scary Sundstrom strategy in the east were two-fold. By F02 Jim (Austria) was making rapid progress against Chad (Russia), and I was worried that I’d have Austrian armies on my doorstep before long. Jim has a keen sense of balance of power on the board, and I hoped he’d back off a little to give Russia a chance to fight back against Matt. As Jim notes in his AAR, that’s what happened. Jim relaxed enough that Chad was able to retake Stp and eventually get Nwy. Jim wonders whether this was the right decision for him, and I’m honestly not sure. If I’m unable to hold Matt back, then I might janissary for him, and who knows what happens then. I would have done the same thing in Jim’s situation.
My other hope was that Brian (Italy) would want to switch from an AI to an IR. This would also take pressure off of Russia, but more importantly create a potential foil for France, if the FG went sour. But Brian resolutely refused to abandon Jim, in 03 or at any other point during the game (except for a supposedly accidental dot-taking in S07). We discussed after the game whether Brian had passed up a chance at a big board top by not stabbing Jim, and while I lean on the yes side, I recognize it isn’t clear cut. A killer stab opportunity didn’t arise naturally, so he would have had to engineer it.
A quick note on the rookies. Chad is a recent newcomer to the club who knows the game from having played years ago. Once he adjusts to the timing rules and our culture of play, I expect him to be a formidable player. In this game, a couple of tactical errors sealed his fate, but his even-keeled approach kept him relevant to the end. I didn’t have much interaction with Gus, who is newer to the game overall, but it seems to me his temperament will suit him well once he gets a handle on the strategic aspects. In this game, he learned the pitfalls of opening to Arm without a solid ally in A or I.
The game ended by time limit, but I’m not sure anything would have changed had we kept playing. Italy and France were quickly reaching a stalemate in the Med, and Austria and I had a lot of armies in the east. I don’t think any of us could have stabbed without our ally throwing the game to someone else.
[quote name=”Brandon Fogel”]We talked about him giving me Bel a few times to even things out, and in retrospect I probably should have demanded it in F05. It was a complicated tactical turn and I miscounted his dots. I thought he would end the turn at 7 and I at 6, so demanding Bel would have been rude. But it turned out he went to 8, so 7-7 would have been reasonable.[/quote]
I think your counting was fine; the 8th center was the result of a fortunate tactical guess that enabled me to retake London. (Great post, by the way!)