You’ll find our first reference to the classic war movie Platoon in the write-up for Game No. 124, played way back in January 2011. We’ve used it quite a bit since then because many of our bar games play out the same way: New player shows up, ends up in France or Turkey adjacent to a couple of regulars who–for personal or club-cultural reasons–try really hard to work with him or her. The dynamic casts the new player in the role of Charlie Sheen’s Chris Taylor as Sergeants Barnes and Elias battle for his soul.
Wednesday night at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square, the understudy for Charles Sheen was Gu Qiu, who found us on Meetup. He drew France. His closest neighbors? Two-thirds of the soloists at last month’s Weasel Moot, Cori Neslund in England and Jake Trotta in Germany. Readers will decide for themselves who was Elias and who, Barnes. Much like the movie, though, in the end, neither won the game.
Instead, it was Carlos Trevino in Turkey, playing his first league game in more than 2 1/2 years, riding an on-again-off-again alliance with Brandon Fogel’s Austria to the board-top. The game ended by time limit after the Fall 1905 turn in the following center counts:
Austria (Brandon Fogel): 5; 13.021 points.
England (Cori Neslund): 7; 25.521 points.
France (Gu Qiu): 5; 13.021 points.
Germany (Jake Trotta): 4; 8.333 points.
Italy (Brian MacWilliams): 3; 4.688 points.
Russia (Eber Condrell): 2; 2.083 points.
Turkey (Carlos Trevino): 8; 33.333 points.
The supply center chart is here. Follow the links to the updated league and Brawl standings.
Players, what happened?
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This was a very entertaining… and very bizarre… game. A new player in the same theatre as two soloists from the most recent tournament, first year weasels in IR, and good friends and long-time weasels in AT. Carlos, one of the most entertaining weasels, was playing his first board in two years. Brandon, Austria to my Germany, advocating for my demise in 1901.
The game actually developed fairly routinely, so I’ll give a brief summary and highlight a couple key moments below. The west did not have sufficient time to resolve, though if the game continues England rolls after working an EF successfully and stabbing at the right time. In the east, a very strong AT made quick gains, and Turkey made a solid stab to coast into the board top.
The duel for Gu that wasn’t
England and I were lined up to butt heads pretty much right away. There was discussion of a triple, but without the promise of Belgium, I didn’t love the idea of opening myself to two fronts. That may have been a mistake. Gu took an interesting stance – he revealed after the game that his plan was to always work with the power that was smaller. He did seem to pick up the game pretty quickly, took being stabbed by England very well, and performed well defensively to end in a decent position.
Bar game theory – the cost of a microstab
Bar games are wildly fun because they’re very fluid. People can come back from the dead to win, alliance structures can change nearly every season, and the last year is the closest thing Dip has to a true free for all. A common tactic in such fluid games is the microstab – you MOSTLY do what your ally wants, but change one or two little things so you come out a little bit better than your partner does. The microstab doesn’t necessarily have to hurt your ally directly or affect any of their dots, but it does benefit you more than what they expect. In bar games especially, a good microstab can be the difference between being a contender and being eliminated. In essence, the microstab balances helping yourself and deceiving/slowing down your ally while still maintaining their willingness to work with you. That’s a tremendously thin line to walk… and it doesn’t work in every game.
I set up a two part microstab that didn’t go off successfully, but may have prevented elimination. This west was RIPE for microstabs because no one really wanted to work with each other. My scenario in 1903 was having 4 dots, 3 enemies and 0 friends. England played a great game, getting Gu onside early and supporting him into Holland and Belgium. I saw this coming, and as Germany, tried to get Russia on my side early to counter – but the Russian was not interested, flipping to supporting England early. Without a change in the status quo, I was going to die.
I figured Gu wasn’t going to flip, and Russia had his own problems. So that left England. I proposed a deal that I would support her into Holland, a French dot. I said that I’m happy being the junior partner as long as I could keep Sweden, which Cori could easily take. I also committed to moving away from Sweden to the east. All true things- survival is better than death.
This spring agreement more or less went off well, with the exception that I covered Denmark instead of moving east (Cori could have easily taken it). That hedge puts some distrust in Cori’s mind. In my mind, I’d just put her into a center, but in her mind, I was only half-helping her. Our fall negotiation addressed this tension, but it was clear she wasn’t happy.
Despite that, we left with an arrangement that I would support her into Belgium and she’d cycle her fleets west in exchange for me cycling my fleets east. Note that Holland was still French, and Cori could not backfill into it. My plan was to backfill into Holland. The ideal coming out of this is that Cori grows from Belgium and I’d get Holland. This would make me a contender and put England between France and I – pretty ideal. Now I deliberately did not tell Cori that this was the plan, figuring I could explain it away afterwards. It is possible that if I pitched the Holl/Bel swap, she still goes for it. I don’t know if I played the fall turn correctly at all.
It didn’t work, as Cori recognized she did not yet own Holland. She stabbed for Sweden (which I didn’t cover, as I had hoped to use that as fodder for the ‘it wasn’t really a stab’ convo next season) and failed to leave Holland. In the long run, the microstab kept me in the game, but may have caused Cori to attack me for the rest of the game. The fact that the EG relationship never healed may have cost both of us the chance at a boardtop, along with some hilarious tactical errors on both our parts. Would love to hear Cori’s thoughts on this as well.
Brian, Carlos, and Brandon: Great to see you – sorry we didn’t get time to chat more.
Cori (England): A pleasure playing this board together. I respect your learning attitude to the game – especially outright telling me that you’ll learn more the most from taking me on head to head in this one. Timing stabs is an amazingly difficult skill to learn, but you have tremendous natural ability at it.
Gu (France): First, thanks for the ride – you’re a real hero. It was great playing with you, you definitely picked things up well and I think your strategy was clever. Looking forward to seeing you on another board.
Eber (Russia): Great to play with you for the first time, and thanks for coming out all the way from Wheaton. Looking forward to seeing you again soon.
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