Some days you’re the goat, and some days you’re the goat lover. Unless you’re Jake Langenfeld. In which case, you’re always the Goat Lover.
Jake earned that nickname last season (it only takes one…), but last night at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square, the moniker took on a whole new meaning. Jake drowned the bar in the plaintive bleats of his enemies while rolling to his second board-top with the club and first since Game No. 290 in January 2016.
Game No. 355 ended by time limit after the Fall 1907 turn in the following center counts:
Austria (Christian Kline): 0; 0.000 points.
England (Bryan Pravel): 9; 28.723 points.
France (Matt Sundstrom): 6; 12.766 points.
Germany (Brandon Fogel): 1; 0.355 points.
Italy (Isaac Cumberledge): 4; 5.674 points.
Russia (Don Glass): 2; 1.418 points.
Turkey (Jake Langenfeld): 12; 51.064 points.
The game was Jake’s 13th in four seasons with the Weasels. He’s swimming to the head of the class of the club’s next wave of sharks as the Weasels continue to turn nice guys into Diplomacy players.
The supply center chart is here. Players, your thoughts?
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This was probably my best face-to-face performance since I started gaming with the club back in the winter of 2015.
From my view in Ankara I could see three players who I hadn’t had much interaction with in the past: Don, the Russian, who was present in my first game ever; Ike, the Italian, who was brand new to face-to-face games himself; and Christian, the Austrian, whose aggressive style was something I had only experienced once previously. (I lost badly that game.)
I decided my starting strategy would be this: Open conservatively (forego Armenia, at least initially), get a feel for Italy’s directionality (East or West?), and keep an eye on Christian.
Upon reflection, I think three things gave me a high score:
[list][*]A paranoid Russia. I decided not to open to Armenia and to instead play conservatively by moving west. Don, acting on false intelligence, moved to Armenia to preempt a bounce there, but it failed. Through that misstep, I gained the Black Sea, covered myself in Ankara, and had an upper hand against Russia throughout the rest of the game. To keep Austria somewhat in check, I helped Don get into Rumania, but much of our good relationship faded away after my push into Armenia and then Sevastopol.[/list]
[list][*]A forthcoming Italy. Italy’s first line of communication to me started with “I plan to try a Lepanto” and it nearly ended there. It was quickly apparent to Ike that a Lepanto served no one well (especially himself), so he forfeit the attempt early on to fight Austria. (Although his EMS fleet would continue to taunt me for the remainder of the game.) What really hurt Italy (and helped me) was his convoy into Albania. This move focused Austria’s aggression westward for the remainder of the game which allowed me to capitalize on some ungarrisoned Balkan centers.[/list]
[list][*]An amicable Austria. I didn’t expect it at first, but Christian and I worked well together. He helped me get some Russian dots and did a good job with keeping Italy in check. I brandished my stabbing knife at the perfect time, walking into Serbia and Greece and securing the military capital needed to keep a defensive hold on my (widening) sphere of influence.[/list]
Three more decisions ensured me the board-top:
[list][*]The Moscow Exchange: Russia gifting me Moscow in exchange for shutting England out of St. Pete in the last year of the game.[/list]
[list][*]The Italian Irredentist: Italy holding onto Venice thanks to a support cut via my Albanian fleet aimed at the French Adriatic fleet.[/list]
[list][*]A Vacancy in Vienna: A Bohemia-bound Austria leaving Vienna open for a twelfth dot.[/list]
What would I have done differently? I might have opened harder against Italy. The issue here was that, smartly, a mid-game France began pumping fleets into the Western Mediterranean in a Truman Doctrine of sorts. Matt warned me after he dispatched this armada: “Don’t hit your head against a wall in a battle you can’t win.” This NATO-like (MATTO? I had to!) threat stymied my attempts at filling around the Italian peninsula, but that alliance also shut Matt out from those dots in the long run.
Overall, it was a great game, and I learned a lot from it. Very glad to have joined, and grateful to this club for having me.
Great write-up, Jake! Good to see a new contributor. More evidence that our player development efforts are working.
Congrats, smart Jake. Honestly sounds like you played a perfect Turkey, allowing people and the board to work for you then gobbling once it opens up.
Nice write-up, Goat Jake. You navigated the early game well and set yourself up perfectly to take advantage of late game chaos on the opposite side of the board.
Agreed. Jake did well. He kept me out of Italy but I was basically doing the same. Got into a dot-grab sprint at the end of the game but he was going to do well in that. Nice to see everyone and the guests.
Game 355 was my first game with the Weasels in the 2017/2018 season. I drew England, a country I have not done that well with in Weasels club play. I don’t feel like I quite have the tactics worked out around Scandinavia and (more problematically) the North Sea. I also struggle with the tactics to break into France. In short, I struggle with England. I have been watching a lot of other players (notably Chris Kelly) who play England well and have started to see more similarities with Turkey than other powers, so I decided to pretend I was playing Turkey this game and see how things went.
My immediate neighbors were Brandon Fogel (Germany) and Matt Sundstrom (France) who I am sure almost everyone would place in the top 5 players in our league, and the veteran Don Glass. This was not an easy board draw as far as neighbors go. Cross board I had Jake Langenfield in Turkey. Jake is one of the newer “New Guard” players that has been stepping up in both activity and quality of play. I have played a few games with Jake now and we can usually work well together. I was hoping to see a big game from him as I am a believer in the “Wicked Witches” theory that states that when Turkey has a good game, it’s usually good for England, and vice/versa. If Turkey wasn’t going to have a good game, I wanted him to die quickly and see Christian Kline’s Austria do well. In many ways, I actually prefer Austrian success to Turkish success when I play England because Austria has a more difficult time with fleets, but Christian is another of the league’s best players and he knocked me out of the 2017 Royale. I wasn’t sure I could beat him in a race, so I was lobbying for Turkish success in this game. As usualy, Italy was the wildcard. In addition to the fact that Italian play often dictates what happens on the rest of the board (particularly in the East), I had not played with Isaac before. I wasn’t sure what sort of player he would be so he was a wildcard on multiple levels.
When I play Turkey, I love being the one who can sit back and wait for things to happen, and then pouncing on my neighbors once they commit to a cross-board partner, or when I can get a cross-board partner to join with me in a joint attack. This only works if you can prevent yourself from becoming the early target. Going into Spring 1901 negotiations it became clear to me that Brandon (Germany) and Matt (France) were unlikely to work together. Jake (Turkey) indicated he was going to move hard against Don (Russia), so I decided I would let Germany and France fight each other and go focus on Scandinavian dots. I figured once I had StP, Sweden, and Norway wrapped up, I could use those dots to attack either France or Germany, depending on what made the most sense. I figured with Turkey and I both attacking Russia early, Russia would fall quickly and I’d most likely end up working with France next to crush Germany, with me having position and tempo over France.
I was wrong.
Jake (Turkey) surprised me repeatedly in this game. He out-played me diplomatically. I don’t think people realized how successful he was in manipulating my play. He worked with Russia when I wasn’t expecting it, and against Russia when I thought he would be working with him. The end result was instead of a rapid Russian decline, Jake got his easy dots off Russia and left me out of position, slogging my way through a bitter Russian who would rather see Jake get his dots than me get any of his. When I felt like giving up and switching directions, Jake offered me support and then didn’t follow through, massively slowing my game down.
By F1903 I was desperate. Neither Matt (France) or Brandon (Germany) really wanted to work with each other, but I was *so* out of position that it just didn’t make sense for them to not attack me if I didn’t ally with one of them. I felt like my time was up. I had to make a big play. My read was that Matt would rather work against Brandon than with him and therefore I felt he was the safer ally in this position. I could keep working with Brandon as basically a Janissary, but we had just changed our league scoring. Sticking with Brandon meant a low score. Every point matters now. I decided I had to make the play that would have the bigger upside.
I gambled big. I made a diplomatic read and broke the cardinal rule when playing England. I invited France to put a fleet into the North Sea while I could not protect London and Edinburgh. I basically went “all in” on a pair of twos. The upside was that it was such an unbelievably risky choice that I didn’t think Brandon would see it coming. Matt and I had a solid plan in place. He’d move his fleet out of the North Sea and into Helgoland, I would move my fleet into Skag, and we would be able to force our way through Brandon’s centers without help from anyone else. The easier play for Matt would be to just take my dots, but in doing so he’d have a moderately strong German played by someone he didn’t want to win. If he agreed to move out of the North Sea, he could also get dots from the person he wanted to beat. I felt like it was worth the risk.
Matt was true to his word. Despite solid German defense, Matt and I had the units necessary to break Brandon’s line and did so pretty efficietly.
In the East, Jake (Turkey) kept Don (Russia) in-line by giving him purpose, stopping me. He worked with Italy (Isaac) to stop Austria (Christian), pissed Christian off in the process (a worthy accomplishment in and of itself :P), and pretty much locked up the boardtop pretty early in the game. Locked it up that is, unless someone threw dots…
Towards the end of the game, Brandon (Germany) and Christian (Austria) took me aside and said they would give me dots if I stabbed Matt (France). Brandon was pissed at Matt for not taking the easy dots and stabbing me. Christan was mad at Jake (Turkey) for his alliance with Italy (I think… to be honest all that mattered to me was that he was mad at Jake :D). Christian was weak enough that he couldn’t punish Jake directly, but he *could* punish him by throwing dots to the only other person on the board who had a shot at a board top. Fortunately because of my alliance with Matt and Brandon’s refusal to work with Matt, that left me.
I did the math and saw 8-9 centers if I stayed allied with Matt. I saw 10 centers if flipped, with an outside shot at 11. If I could get to 11, I had a very real chance at topping this board. Even if I got to 10, I calculated I’d end up around 33 points, which was one of my top scores last year so it would be a great way to start the season. The cost of flipping was that Matt was an incredibly loyal ally who went out of his way to help me. He could have crushed me and chose not to. I like rewarding behaviors like this, it could set me up well for the future. I pretty much had 20 points in the bag so to speak, which isn’t a bad average. The cost of *not* flipping was points. By my count, it was going to be around a 10-15 point difference. In the new scoring system all points matter. I had an outside shot at the board top by flipping, and could potentially earn one of my top 3 scores. By staying loyal to Matt, I would give up on that.
The choice then was how many points was rewarding Matt’s loyalty worth? In the end I decided that the spirit of our new scoring was that every point matters. To me, a chance at 10-15 points and one of my top 3 scores was worth the risk. I flipped, stabbed Matt, and made the play for the board top. The final year was working out tactics. Matt is a very good tactician. I expected a bounce in English but he outsmarted me and let me into the Channel and was able to retreat to London. This kept me from pressuring the rest of his centers. Additionally, Don (Russia) was still mad at me for attacking him all game, so he defended his centers and continued to attack me. This kept me from getting dots and resulted in Jake (Turkey) getting more dots. Finally, Brandon forgot to support me in StP resulting in me losing a center that I thought was gaurunteed. I was expecting to end on 10 with an outside shot at 11, but ended up on 9, just one more dot than I think I would have gotten had I not stabbed Matt.
So was one extra dot worth it the loss of trust? Probably not. However, I do think that 10 would have been because it would likely be one of my top scores this season, and if I had managed to get 11, it absolutely would have been worth it. I think the more interesting element to this was how much the new scoring system changes played into my thought process. It’s going to be a really interesting delimma to take diplomatic risks when every point matters.
[*]Austria (Christian): I love playing on boards with you when I am not the one who has to attack you first. Thanks for the support at the end of the game.
[*]France (Matt): You probably won’t trust me any time soon, but you accomplished your mission this game. You proved that you can be a trustworthy ally. I will remember this.
[*]Germany (Brandon): I probably should have allied with you earlier in the game. I played a pretty poor strategic early game and it was only by taking advantage of Matt’s goodwill that I recovered. Even light support to give you direction would have been better than the non-support that I offered.
[*]Italy (Isaac): We didn’t get to interact much, but you knew what you were doing. I think you can be a dependable ally. I look forward to future games with you.
[*]Russia (Don): Your defense was far better than I anticipated. This is a far different game if you and I make a deal around StP and you focus on defending against Turkey. Shame on me for not giving you that chance.
[*]Turkey (Jake): The best compliment that I can give is that I felt like I was your puppet this game. I was trying to manipulate my cross-board ally and you beat me at my own game. Excellent, well deserved victory. I’m glad to see you get this score. [/list]
[quote]I think the more interesting element to this was how much the new scoring system changes played into my thought process.[/quote]
Great write-up, and sounds like the formula change is working!
[quote]Jake (Turkey) surprised me repeatedly in this game. He out-played me diplomatically. I don’t think people realized how successful he was in manipulating my play.[/quote]
…Although, enough time had elapsed in this one that as I started reading your post, I thought you were referring to Jake T. [i]Then[/i], I remembered that Jake L. had topped this board big, which caused me to question your description of Jake T.’s play. How could he have been so successful in a runaway result for Jake L.?
Only [i]then [/i]did I remember that Jake L. had played Turkey, meaning that [i]he [/i]was the Jake about whom you were writing.
For the sake of our readers–particularly the senile ones like me–let’s be sure to refer to Jake L. as either Smart Jake or the Goat Lover.