At the 11th hour* of the 11th day of the 11th month, seven Weasels gathered at club founder Jim O’Kelley’s home in Little Italy to relitigate the rivalries that sparked a war that failed to end all wars. This latest effort, the club’s 379th attempt to make sense of that tragic and futile conflict, started badly for Austria and England.
In the East, the Austrian (Jorge Zhang) stuffed an Italian (Pete McNamara) bid for Trieste, but the Turks (David Spanos) bounced him out of Serbia while the Russians (Christian Kline) marched into Galicia in the Fall. The Austrian position collapsed in 1902, as he lost centers to each of his tormentors, with Turkey picking up Serbia to boot. In fact, had in not been for a timely German (Jim O’Kelley) tap on Tyrolia that prevented Italy from capturing Vienna, Jorge would have been knocked out of the game.
Perhaps because Italy only captured one center while he got two, the Turks plopped down to fleets. That didn’t bode well for the rest of the board, because the Russians were rolling. Christian, a veteran of the club’s third game back in January 2006, had plied on a successful Sea Lion by seizing Norway in 1902. He was at eight centers and looking for more.
Meanwhile, the Germans had landed marines in Edinburgh in Spring 1902 and marched them to Liverpool in the the Fall. England (Brian Shelden) was down to two centers after 1902. The Germans were on the island, and the French (Mick Johnson) were maneuvering around the back door.
Despite not building in 1903, Christian tightened his grip on the game. He sundered the Western alliance by supporting the French into the North Sea. France also tried to pin the German army in Holland by tapping it, but the move succeeded when Germany ordered Holland to Ruhr. Consequently, Belgium was left open for Germany’s retreat from the North Sea. Jim took that retreat, and he and Mick clashed in the Fall with neither one gaining an advantage.
Christian, though, benefited. The Germans had moved to Baltic and Silesia in the Spring, but both units pulled back in the Fall to respond to French aggression. Christian followed the Silesian retreat, but his bid to pick up Denmark faltered when Mick misordered support. Mistakes happen … especially when the player writing support recognizes the growing threat posed by the player receiving support.
Brian continued to hang around and by the end of the year, was working closely with the Germans.
Fighting in the Mediterranean proved decisive in 1903, which contributed to the board’s impression that Christian was running away with the game. The Turks started the year with six units, four of which were fleets. That advantage did not help David hold his Balkan dots or win the fight with Italy. Pete’s green forces routed the Turks, turning a 6-5 Turkish edge into a 7-4 Italian advantage. Turkey’s brief ascent was over.
The stalemate with Germany, along with high confidence that Russia would be forcing his way into Skagerrak from Norway, convinced Mick to pitch a bold armistice. He offered to disengage with Germany by convoying his French army in Holland to Norway. Germany agreed to the plan, and by year’s end, that French army was sitting in St. Petersburg. But, Germany took Holland back, keeping the French even, and the surging Italians were now threatening Marseilles and Spain.
Pete’s Italy took the lead in 1904. He conspired with Austria — Jorge was playing a pesky game with his one unit — to take centers from Russia and Turkey, with each gaining one. For Jorge, it was his first build since 1901.
Pete — who played his first game of Diplomacy at Weasel Moot II back in 2008 and was actually taught how to play at that event by Diplomacy’s Yoda, the great Edi Birsan — was now up 8 to 7 over Jim in Germany. Christian and Mick were tied at 6.
The lead would change hands yet again in 1905.
For Jorge Zhang, 1905 dawned with the promise of playing with two pieces. After hanging on with one piece for four long turns, he felt like he was on a roll.
For Brian Shelden, 1905 dawned with the promise of a restored England. For several turns, he had been working with Germany to thwart French ambition, but in Fall 1904, he subtly (if not for the “Mo ha ha ha” written next to the order) changed the terms of E/G cooperation. He had denied the longstanding bounce that had kept Edinburgh British and instead moved Yorkshire to Liverpool, which the Germans had held since Fall 1902. On paper, the result was an E/G swap of centers, but the moves better positioned England to liberate the island.
For Mick Johnson, 1905 dawned with the same old promise of spinning wheels. He was on the verge of swamping Scandinavia and finally growing for the first time since 1902, but now, the Italians were in Piedmont and the Gulf of Lyons, threatening Marseilles and Spain. Mick had only two units available for defense, so his game hung on a guess: Burgundy S Marseilles or Burgundy to Marseilles, Marseilles to Spain. And he had no choice but to pull one of his northern fleets back to the Mid Atlantic, so even if he guessed correctly this turn, he’d only have three units left in the North. One of those was in St. Pete.
For Jim O’Kelley, 1905 dawned with the promise of a gut-wrenching choice. Tap Burgundy to guarantee a successful Italian attack on Marseilles, or knock Russia out of contention by striking toward Warsaw and Sweden.
For Pete McNamara, 1905 dawned with the promise of greatness. His principal rival for Eastern supremacy was on his heels and distracted by French invaders. The Western push was off to a promising start. At worst, he had a guess against France. But if he could secure German assistance, Marseilles was guaranteed. Plus, he was playing with the lead.
For Christian Kline, 1905 dawned with the promise of doom. With sharp tactics and ruthless diplomacy, he had raced to the early lead. But now, Norway was defenseless, St. Petersburg was lost, Moscow was threatened, the East was a mess, and his neighbors smelled blood.
For David Spanos, 1905 dawned with the promise of opportunity. The Balkan landscape was shifting, and he was playing offense.
Jim decided to kick the Russians while they were down. He told Italy that he would cheer for a successful guess but would not help make it so. Then he sent units toward Sweden and Warsaw.
As it turns out, Pete did guess successfully. But you still have to write the orders correctly. While Mick covered Spain and Marseilles, Piedmont attacked Marseilles as Gulf of Lyons supported … Albania to Greece.
Ironically, Pete spent a good minute after the deadline checking and rechecking his orders. The mistake cost him Marseilles and position. He also lost out in the exchange of dots in the Balkans.
David picked up one there. Jorge, meanwhile, did not have long to savor playing with two units. His army in Serbia was popped in the Spring. But Jorge is part Zombie. In the Fall, he got support back into Serbia and gamely built another army.
As for Mick, he staved off the Italians and took Norway, but Russia recaptured St. Pete in the Fall. It was another frustrating year for the French. And now the Germans were in Burgundy (plus the North Sea, which they had recaptured in the Spring).
Jim also captured Sweden and Warsaw, but Brian’s doughty dark blue pieces denied him a big year. Brian retook Edinburgh to restore British hegemony. Germany now had the lead, but it was 8-7 instead of 9-7.
The game was played with a known hard ending of 3:30, so 1906 would be the final year. It played out more like a denouement than an exciting conclusion. Once again, one of the Austrian units was obliterated in the Spring, but Jorge had grown accustomed to playing with one piece. On the final turn, three players helped him into a center, ensuring that he would survive with one.
Pete took his other dot to grow to 8, but Jim pulled away. In the Spring, he supported the French into Edinburgh. In the Fall, he took Norway from the French and London from the British.
Game No. 379 ended by time limit after the Fall 1906 turn in the following center counts:
Austria (Jorge Zhang): 1; 0.427 points.
England (Brian Shelden): 1; 0.427 points.
France (Mick Johnson): 6; 15.385 points.
Germany (Jim O’Kelley): 10; 42.735 points.
Italy (Pete McNamara): 8; 27.350 points.
Russia (Christian Kline): 4; 6.838 points.
Turkey (David Spanos): 4; 6.838 points.
* Actually, the game started a little after 10, but only because we moved up the start to accommodate Pete, who had to leave by no later than 3:30.