We’re six months into our 14th season, and for those of us who have been here since the beginning, it can be difficult to recall which wave of players the current surge represents. We’ve had many over the years.
Last Wednesday at the Red Lion in the Lincoln Square, the club played its 382nd game, a contest pitting players from three distinct waves: Don Glass and Ted McClelland, vets who joined the club in our fourth season; Brandon Fogel and David Spanos, the vanguard of the New Guard, who joined in Season 10, along with Bryan Pravel, who started playing with us the next year; and two members of the current wave, Brian MacWilliams, playing in his second club game–and second game ever–and Braden Lenz, who joined us in Season 13.
For most of the evening, it was the newcomers’ night. MacWilliams was holding his own in the East, and Lenz led everyone as Germany–no easy feat considering that one of his Western neighbors was three-time defending Weasel of the Year Brandon Fogel.
Pravel and Spanos likened the contest between Lenz and Fogel to an AI experiment in the Starcraft arena. There, a program called Alpha Go found early success by using unorthodox strategies to throw the human players off their games. Eventually, though, the veteran human players adapted, and they sent Alpha Go packing.
“In this game,” Pravel says, “Braden was Alpha Go, and Bandon was the vet.”
Lenz shared or held the lead outright from 1902 through 1906. But when the game ended by time limit after the Fall 1907 turn, the final center counts were:
Austria (Brian MacWilliams): 4; 5.926 points.
England (Brandon Fogel): 12; 53.333 points.
France (Don Glass): 1; 0.370 points.
Germany (Braden Lenz): 8; 23.704 points.
Italy (Bryan Pravel): 3; 3.333 points.
Russia (David Spanos): 0; 0.000 points.
Turkey (Ted McClelland): 6; 13.333 points.
The supply center chart is here. The current league standings are here. And the Bar Room Brawl standings are here.
Players, how about some post-game chatter?
And for those of you who haven’t yet heard, we will not be holding a tournament at CODCon this year. Weasel Moot will be April 27-28. Check the website for details.
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Some quick reflections, since I don’t have time to do a deeper dive:
I thought Braden played an excellent game, at least until the last year. He successfully navigated a number of difficult decisions in the early and midgame, set himself up for the board top, and then turned on his ally (me) at just the right time. His main mistake was, when he turned, to not do it with full force. Had he done so, I think he tops the board 12-8 or 11-9.
Some of the difficult decisions he made well: 1) He avoided getting embroiled in the west early, enabling a Western Triple to develop organically. 2) He moved armies east in 02-03 without leaving his home provinces too vulnerable, picking up War and Swe by the end of 03. 3) He turned on France at just the right time, gaining position before France could reap the rewards of a hard move south. 4) He deployed his armies effectively in the east in 04-06. 5) He kept the EG strong but balanced in his favor, going up 9-6 in 1904 and 10-8 in 1905 (and keeping two fleets).
So where did he go wrong? The pivotal turn was F06. He was supposed to support my fleet into Spa while picking up a dot or two in the east. He decided—correctly—not to keep the deal with me. What he didn’t realize was that I had also calculated that the EG was no longer in my best interest and had a plan to steal a dot in the north. He had fleets in Swe and Kie bouncing in Den. I provided the unwanted support, NTH S Swe-Den, and slipped my supposedly Stp-bound A Nwy into Swe. What he should have done was simply move Kie-Den (and Swe-Nwy) and put himself in position to protect his dots and maybe threaten Nwy in 07.
As it happens, he didn’t properly protect Den and a tactical error in the east limited him to a pickup of one dot. Had F06 gone his way, he would have been leading at 12-8 with two builds (and none for me). I don’t think I get more than one dot off of him in 07, if any. Instead I caught an edge and reversed the result. But this game was definitely balanced on the head of a pin at the time.
The other thing I’d like to point out: Russia opened north and never got a build. Correlation may not imply causation, but it does suggest it.
[quote]He moved armies east in 02-03 without leaving his home provinces too vulnerable, picking up War and Swe by the end of 03.[/quote]
Pushing east early can lead to quick builds, but often, there’s a steep opportunity cost to defending those gains against a rising eastern power. In this game, though, it doesn’t appear that an eastern power rose.
[quote]Russia opened north and never got a build.[/quote]
Opening north is a luxury–you need to feel good about the south. It sounds like David put the cart–his desire to help contain you–before the horse–securing the south through diplomacy.
Fun thing about playing on the first Wednesday: We shared the bar with a language cafe, a group of folks trying to learn new languages through conversation.
I think that’s right. David wasn’t willing to give Turkey the Black Sea, and he wasn’t sure of getting Sweden. This meant he was unlikely to get a build in 01 and didn’t have an ally.
One of the great things about Diplomacy is that it’s very hard to do anything on your own. You always need help.
(Exception: Italy and Austria can destroy each other’s games without assistance.)
[quote]One of the great things about Diplomacy is that it’s very hard to do anything on your own. You always need help.[/quote]
The paradox at the center of the game: Everyone’s trying to win, and they can’t do it without help.