A Wes Rises in the East

rising in the east music video poster with angel and a hairband with electric guitars

Red Wednesdays continued with another hard-fought battle over video chat and Backstabbr.  Weasel rookie Wes Ketchum continued has rapid ascent up the league standings, taking over the top spot for the first time with a strong 11-center board top in just 5 years of play.   Another rookie, Chris Brown, learned the hard way about Early Leader Syndrome, getting to 7 units in 1902 before being gifted some wisdom by Prime Weasel Bryan Pravel.  The final year debuted with Bryan and Wes tied atop the board at 8, but Wes managed to get the jump on his game-long ally, club vet Christian Kline, picking up 3 centers in the final year. This is Wes’s second board-top in 5 games this season.

Check out all the moves and the latest standings.  And don’t miss Chris Kelly’s live account in the comments below.

Game #405, played on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, at Online in Interwebs, ended in a seven-way draw in 1905. This game is part of WCW League 15 (2020).
Austria(Wes Ketchum)11 centers50.429 points
England(Bryan Pravel)9 centers13.429 points
France(Ali Adib)5 centers9.429 points
Germany(Chris Brown)3 centers7.429 points
Italy(Christian Kline)3 centers7.429 points
Russia(Adam Baker)2 centers6.429 points
Turkey(Dan Perlman)1 centers5.429 points
1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17

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This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Chris Kelly

    Moving comments here from the other thread…

    1901 instant analysis – France fends off the English southern opening by bouncing him in the Channel, then takes the Channel in the fall while still getting Belgium & Spain; combined with Germany bouncing England in the North Sea & building a second fleet, it looks like a G/F alliance with Russia willing to stand by and watch. In the south, Russia has let Austria into Galicia while butting heads with Turkey; that may be less ominous for Russia if Austria/Italy interrupt the R/T conflict with a Lepanto on Turkey. (Alternatively, Italy could try to go west before France gets too strong, leaving Austria to play Turkey & Russia against each other.)

    1902 – It’s Germany who decides to pre-empt France’s potential rise, slipping into Ruhr & Burgundy as France moves his units north against England. France’s counterattack in the fall is disastrous, as he not only surrenders Belgium but “forces” German A Burgundy to retreat to Paris (it could have chosen Marseilles, which is now threatened by Italy). Austria generously supports Russia into Rumania *and* lets Italy into Greece while taking Bulgaria for himself… the “Central Triple” is looking good at the moment.

  2. Chris Kelly

    1903 – Russia tries to jump on Germany the way the latter did to France, but trap is already being sprung; Russia loses Sweden to Germany & Rumania to Austria. (Oddly, Russia disbands F Sweden rather than retreating to Baltic for a possible counterattack on Berlin.)

    Italy has the luxury of moving both east and west, taking Smyrna while putting two units on Marseilles – although he winds up supporting France’s A Spa->Mar as France slides F MAO->Wes, where it can walk into Tunis. (With the build of F Naples, a counterattack to save Tunis is possible.)

    Under the radar, England slips into the Channel in the spring, then takes advantage of apparent German overconfidence to take Belgium *and* Sweden unopposed in the fall. On the ropes at the end of 1901, he’s now in a four-way tie for the board top with 6 units! (Let’s see if anyone jumps on *him* now…)

  3. Chris Kelly

    1904 – Intentionally or not, Germany seems to be rolling over for England, attacking France fruitlessly in the spring as A Belgium walks into Holland, then counterattacking Belgium fruitlessly as A London is convoyed to Denmark. (At least Germany takes St. Petersburg from a stretched-thin Russia, but England will probably have it in a year.)

    Austria ties England in the lead with 8 units by taking Sevastopol & Constantinople – the latter with support from Italy, who settles for gaining position while staying even at 6 supply centers. Germany (5 units) and France (4) are struggling to hang on, while Russia (2) and Turkey (1) are essentially done.

  4. Chris Kelly

    1905 – England pulls back from St. Petersburg, preferring to focus on Kiel/Berlin & protecting Holland/Belgium (he takes Kiel in the fall). Germany retreating his armies to fight England (again, fruitlessly) lets France walk back into Paris – and may have surprised Italy, which gets nowhere with attacks on Marseilles that might have succeeded with German help. Meanwhile, Austria seems to stab Italy in the spring with moves to Venice & Tyrolia, but is allowed to walk into Rome & Greece uncontested in the fall. Austria’s gains could have been even larger, but with 3 armies against 2 in Warsaw/Moscow, he fails to take either (kudos to Russia for a defensive gamble that paid off, but if A Ukraine had been the mover in either attack, Austria would have captured both centers).

    Summary – The new scoring system hasn’t affected Christian Kline yet; if he can’t win himself, he’ll still look for a way to influence who does win, and he made sure Wes (as Austria) came out on top here. But if the “Return of the King” game (where Ali won as France) showed the importance of tempo, this game demonstrated the value of patience. Austria supported Russia & Italy early on to make sure Turkey fell, then took advantage when they were distracted by other fronts. And England benefited from being written off early, as Germany & France fell into conflict before finishing their business against him.

  5. Bryan Pravel

    Game 405 was crazy. It started out crazy when Ali Adib, Chris Brown, and myself all ended up drawing the exact same powers as the last time we played together. It remained crazy when the western powers couldn’t establish any sort of alliance structure. It finished crazy when a player with a chance to top the board decided to punish his neighbor rather than attacking his ally for the win. I left this game equally parts entertained and frustrated.

    I’ve played a lot of Diplomacy games but I encountered something I’ve never seen before I doubt I will ever see again. In game 402 Ali Adib was France, Chris Brown was Germany, and I was England. We set up a Western Triple that ended up just a delayed E/F (also known as a Western Triple :P) and despite my best efforts, Ali Adib ended up topping the board. I felt like I lied and manipulated Chris and felt bad about it. In this game, Ali Adib drew France, Chris Brown drew Germany, and I drew England. I knew that this time things were going to be different. I had an opportunity to be a reliable ally for Chris and was *not* going to let Ali top the board again.

    Adam Baker was Russia. At the onset of the game my goal was to negotiate peace with Russia to allow him to face the very dangerous Wes Ketchum in Austria. I wanted Adam tied up in the south to allow me the freedom to attack Ali right away. To accomplish this, I spoke with Dan Perlman in Turkey and encouraged the A/T vs. R. Christian Kline was the Italian wildcard. I knew he wouldn’t want to attack France right away, but I also knew he wouldn’t want Ali to win, so I pitched a 3 way attack on France. Italy declined but said he’d move west earlier if I was in the English Channel in F1901.

    I decided to go for it. I put in orders to go to the Channel and Wales. Why not make the big move? As expected, there was a bounce in the Channel and Chris in Germany could bounce France in Belgium. This meant that Ali would have to make a choice to either let me in the Channel so he could build a fleet in Brest or that Brest would be covered and France would only have one build. I hated the loss of tempo from the bounce, but it did seem like Germany and I were in great position to work together. I decided it was worth exchanging tempo for German trust. England is an edge power. It pays to be patient. In my opinion, it was a good exchange for both of us.

    F1901 was interesting. Chris and I worked out a solid plan, even discussing builds and follow-on orders. I felt like he was onboard with the E/G. I was getting a weird vibe when I talked with Russia though. He didn’t say anything, but he also wasn’t actively engaged like I felt like he should be. I couldn’t tell if something was going on, but it just didn’t sit right with me. I decided it might be better to lose even more tempo and send London to North Sea. Sometimes when I am worried I may be paranoid, I like to check in with players I respect and trust. Christian Kline was not my immediate neighbor and had a mutual interest in seeing France not growing too quickly. I respect his tactics and felt in this instance I could trust him. Christian agreed that covering the North Sea was the right play. If I was being overly conservative, I could build a fleet in Liverpool and still be okay. If covering North *was* needed, I’d be very glad that I went there.

    I was very glad that I went there. In F1901 Chris moved to North Sea as part of a Sealion attack on England. I was furious. I’m not sure why exactly, but recently I’ve started to get extremely frustrated when someone makes what I consider to be poor tactical choice against me. In the heat of the moment I’m sure that my analysis is biased, but in this particular instance I was particularly upset because I didn’t see the upside. I went out of my way to trade position (tempo), and economy (supply centers) in exchange for German trust. A one build France would be extremely weak and Germany and I would be able to slowly, methodically, and safely work together to take the French centers with Germany having maintaining a lead in center count until the mid-game at least. At the time it looked like there was an A/T vs. R. and I figured Italy would gobble up French scraps to help speed France’s demise. Instead, Chris in Germany decided to throw his hat in with an out of position Frenchman and a Russian who had better things to do with his units than help Germany take centers. I just didn’t see the Sealion as the right play for Germany here.

    I vented to other players and waited to talk to Germany until I had calmed down. When we talked I explained that I felt betrayed but was willing to work with Germany again if he made a strong show of faith that he wanted to work with me. I was going to play defense until I saw a sign from him. While not quite as strong as Turkey, England with an army on the island is extremely difficult to break through and France usually has the advantage. England doesn’t need to get centers early. I was very willing to sit back and play defense until someone made a move and I think Chris believed me. We eventually came to an agreement to continue to work against Ali in France. I think we ended negotiations this year with a hot mike on the zoom call where Chris says something like “It will be like this was the plan all along.” I felt less angry.

    I felt even less angry in 1902 when Chris made an extremely strong show of faith and sent everything he had south against France. The only way things could have been better for me was if Russia had not moved Moscow to St Petersburg. Russian negotiations in this game were frustrating for me. I made it clear from the outset that I did not want to fight Russia early. I encouraged southern aggression against Russia from his neighbors to try and pull his units south, but I also did not pile on and dot Russia for StP because I wanted him to know he was safe enough to stay south. Frankly, my original hope was that when Germany had all of his Armies south against France, Russia and I could team up against Germany in the mid-game. I wanted Russia strong enough to tackle whoever was stronger in Austria or Turkey in the mid-game. For some reason Adam and I could never get on the same page. We were never particularly hostile, we just never fell into a rhythm working together. I’d love to hear from Adam why this was. I feel like this failure was a low point in this game for me. If I had been able to better ensure Russia felt safe and he keeps his armies south, I don’t think Wes tops this board as easily.

    If F1902 Ali playing France made a disastrous set of orders, which weirdly may have helped me more than Germany even though Germany got all the dots because it spooked the board a bit (particularly Russia). Chris got to 7 centers in 1902 and fortunately for me built two armies instead of an army and a fleet. This meant two things. First, his next dots after France would be through the center of the board, not Scandinavia. Second, I still had a fleet advantage which meant if I could get a build or two, I thought I might still have a shot at playing for a board top.

    1903 was a big year for me. In the spring, Chris and I discussed long term plans. The goal was to get me StP and Norway and use those builds to move into the Mid Atlantic to take Iberian centers. Chris would get Sweden, maybe Brest, and push towards Warsaw. Unfortunately (for me), the East looked like had Turkey under control so I was expecting Italian units in Iberia soon. I made a crazy pitch to Chris. Let me borrow Sweden now so I could build a fleet and get a jump on Iberia to slow down Italy. I explained that he had a 3 center advantage, had already spooked the board, and didn’t need to go up 4 on me. I argued it would be better to partner up. I partially meant this. I knew I needed a build. I knew that if Germany got even one more build I’d have a rough time breaking in. I also didn’t think he’d follow-through with the plan but I put the order in just in case. Ali Adib pointed out that because Germany had to protect Munich and Berlin, I’d have a shot at forcing Belgium so I went ahead and gambled all of the trust I had gained in this game for some much needed growth. I convoyed to Belgium and Sweden and hoped for the best. If it didn’t work, I’d apologize and be no worse off. I could build a fleet in Liverpool and be exactly where we agreed. If it *did* work though, I’d go up two, and Germany would have a disband. I’d have a real shot at a board top and wouldn’t have to worry about Ali outpacing me this time.

    To my surprise, Chris kept his word. I went up two and Chris went down one, so I decided to put the petal to the metal and go for the win. I knew it was going to be a race between myself, Italy, and Austria. I felt I had an advantage in that I wasn’t adjacent to another board leader. I liked my chances.

    What I didn’t account for was something that I should have seen coming. I knew that Ali and Christian wouldn’t want each other to win, but I didn’t account for how strong that personality conflict would be. For reasons I still do not entirely understand despite almost 30 minutes of Ali and Christian shouting at each other on our Zoom post-game discussions, Christian appears to have decided he had better odds of convincing Ali to give him centers instead of attacking fellow board leader Wes in Austria. Not only that, but once it became apparent that Ali would not gift dots to Christian, he became so upset at Ali that he starting throwing dots to Wes to help “teach Ali a lesson.” I have a few issues with this. First, no universe exists in which Ali Adib will be willing to gift Christian Kline centers if Ali is not more angry at someone else. Christian has played with Ali enough to know this. Second, it was a short game. We were already running up against time in 1904. There were simply not enough turns to force any French centers besides MAR. Third, I genuinely believe that Christian had a legitimate shot at the board top if he attacked Wes. In Spring 1904 Italy should have been the one to get Con from Turkey, not Austria. If he combines this with a move of ION – ADR, Austria would be hurting. Italy would go to 8 for sure, with a very solid shot at 9 or 10. He would ensure Austria would not be able to beat him for the board top. The question becomes can I get to 10? I won’t say I played things perfectly, but I felt like getting to 10 centers was an extremely long shot.

    In the end Christian’s dot throwing doesn’t really matter. Wes played a great game and earned this win. His bold move of RUM – SEV in 1904 combined with just generally being a nice guy and being able to not upset Christian (Christian can be extremely loyal if you don’t upset him) won him the game. He played the most well rounded game of anyone on the board and ultimately, it was his superiority at managing player relationships that gave him the win in this game. Even without Italy throwing dots at the end I would have had an extremely difficult time keeping pace with him.

    Player Feedback:

    Austria: Congrats on another well played game Wes. Your position on the top of the league standings is well deserved. Enjoy the target on your back!

    France: Ali, I cannot believe we ended up as neighbors yet again. If you don’t screw up that disastrous set of orders in F1902, this is a very different game.

    Germany: Chris, I feel like I owe you a drink or something. This is two games in a row where I’ve taken advantage of your position as Germany. You’ve got a good head for tactics. I think once you have a few more games under your belt and can start to see the bigger strategic picture on the board, you’re going to develop into a dangerous player. My suggestion for you from this specific game would be to not switch directions as much. If you had stuck with attacking France initially or me after F1901, I think you would have been better off. Your moves in this game were strong tactically, but strategically they lacked direction which caused you to become over extended and a loss in momentum for you.

    Italy: Christian, I have no complaints with your gameplay and many complaints about your decision to throw dots to Wes. I feel like we need a side conversation where you try and convince me that there is a universe in which Ali Adib will voluntarily let you into his centers. Probably over a Thistly Cross.

    Russia: Adam, I wish we had been able to get on the same page. I never felt like you trusted me and I can’t figure out why. I feel like this is a learning opportunity for me.

    Turkey: Dan, in this game there wasn’t much I could do to help. I don’t see anything particularly wrong with your tactics in this game. It just seems like Wes and Christian clicked diplomatically and there’s not much you can do when two players are on the same page. One of these days the two of us will be neighbors on a board and I feel like we’ll be able to work well together. I think our playstyles compliment each other.

    1. Ali Adib

      Bryan, great summary. However, I disagree with one thing. I think you’re overestimating how much I don’t want Christian to win. I have actually in the past thrown dots to him and am open to doing it in the future if it makes sense. There IS actually a universe in which I’d throw to Christian, this one.

      In this very game though, I didn’t do that because it would affect my score and everyone else’s score in a bad way. Plus he should have stopped the boardtopper Wes instead of throwing to him. So why would I reward making a hole in the survivors boat with giving my gold to him?! In this game it made absolutely no sense and I’m still shocked that he even had the audacity to ask that. It another game, maybe!

  6. Christian L. Kline

    I’m going to use this as an opportunity to put forth an analysis of Tribute I’ve been mulling for a while, below. But first, for Bryan: I wasn’t upset with Ali during the game. He lied well and defended well. But to no purpose: the entire possible score change for him if he lost ALL but one SC to me was 4 points, total. From 9.4 to 5.4 – IF he threw me everything he could. Giving me just ONE dot could would bring his score down 1 point, and would have been a gamechanger for me. Doesn’t mean he had to do it, and it’s fine with me that he didn’t. But that’s the time to make a metagame deal, and instead Ali fell in love with playing a tactical game on a very small anthill for one or two points. That’s not smart play. He had bargaining chips, and he didn’t use them, and that’s foolish. For my part, I only threw to Wes once my position had been compromised by MY OWN poor play – but it was fatally compromised, so I pursued a different goal at that point, nothing to do with Ali.

    Ali and I have a disagreement about incentives under the new scoring system. Again, Ali, I liked how you defended and had no problem with you refusing to throw dots – that’s your privilege. But my argument is that you made a mistake. The explanation is one word: “arbitrage.” Because we play multiple games against the same players in our club/league, an arbitrage situation exists. The dots belonging to a player who cannot board top are much less valuable to the player possessing them than they are to another player who can board top.

    Remember, we are discussing POINT SCORES, not dots. Your argument is that by allowing a very high score the player who throws dots hurts himself in the league standings. Less than you think, btw – if somebody other than you is going to top, then having someone else get a board-topping score is a sunk cost.

    But even putting that aside, this is a mistaken analysis, because it only takes into account one iteration. Metagaming (and the league/club) assumes multiple iterations, and over the long run ignoring this opportunity is sub-optimal. In this situation, what you sacrifice in one game by throwing a minimal number of points will be FAR outweighed by what you gain if the favor is returned in another game. The “board topping bonus” under the new Tribute scoring system is so large that it means that the ONE go-ahead dot which gives the board top is VERY valuable – it’s worth approximately 20 points, while every dot for non-board-toppers is worth around 1 point (slight variation as players are eliminated). That’s a HUGE differential.

    That is no criticism of the system, btw. There is no perfect system, and IMHO this is the best Diplomacy scoring system anyone has ever designed, considering all the costs and benefits, I think it’s an excellent system which fixed a large problem under sum-of-squares, the near-zero incentive to participate once down to one or two or three dots, and the lack of a disincentive for lazy shared board tops. It was too “carebear.” Now, under Tribute, the score from such a small dot count is more significant, and the advantage of topping is MUCH larger. All of this incentives board-topping and disincentivizes shared board tops and also disincentivizes giving up. But paradoxically, it incentivizes throwing JUST enough dots to grant a board top, if a tacit or implicit deal is struck that a favor is owed (or even if you just think maybe the favor will be remembered).

    Now, some claim metagaming is unethical. That’s silly – club/league play involves multiple meetings. To avoid metagaming, you’d have to pretend (and act like) you know nothing about the players you are meeting again and again. That’s not just false, it’s impossible – you cannot forget what you know as you decide who to trust and who to stab. We COULD forbid the explicit trading of favors from one game to another – except that would be completely unenforceable, and so as a club/league we decided long ago that which cannot be forbidden must be allowed. I’ve been around the game for a while, and EVERYONE metagames, whether they realize it or not. Sometimes aggressively and explicitly; more often unconsciously. To the purists, one can only say that this is the price for having a club. If you want to play the game in its pristine form, you can – but only with strangers, and only one time.

    So: consider my situation in Game 405 towards the end of the game. A player on the other side of the board is running up his score, as my ally and I run up ours. The other 4 players are in bad situations and have no realistic shot at a board top; we 3 each do. I play to get my ally and I to the top as the game approaches deadline; we can negotiate if we get there. Some bad play on my part and a bit of bad luck has my ally pull ahead of me by 2. The other player is also ahead of me by the same amount. I can move to defend against my ally and fight him, but even if it goes well I cannot hope to pull ahead of him by fighting him; all this will do is ensure that the other player board tops. So I take some extra risks to pick up dots elsewhere and hope to tie it up again but fail to do so, and this makes me weak enough that my erstwhile ally has a shot at stabbing me, and he does.

    NOW, I choose to help my ally board top, in the hope that the favor will be remembered. This is the moment of arbitrage. Fighting for the difference between 2nd or 3rd place versus even 5th or 6th place makes little sense under Tribute – the delta is only a half dozen points at most, usually less. There is ONE way it doesn’t make sense for me to throw – if a fourth player (with no shot at topping) throws me enough dots to put me back in contention. That describes the situation between Ali and me in the last game year. But he claims that doing this runs contrary to his own interests. And yet that misunderstands his incentives and disincentives, if one considers multiple games.

    It considers secondary effects (the fact that a really large score will negatively affect everyone else’s standings, including the dot thrower’s). But it ignores tertiary effects (that if the favor is returned, the addition will more than compensate for the loss). This of course takes place at the expense of ALL other players not party to the arbitrage. Which is precisely the point. And it also ignores that SOMEONE was gonna get a big score from this game, and it wasn’t gonna be Ali – so his complaint fails for want of uniqueness.

    Now, will the favor be returned? Yes, eventually, by this player or another. Because in game theory terms, it’s a “Prisoner’s Dilemma” – those who defect will eventually pay a price, and you’ll start to see fewer defections. And the board topping bonus is so large you don’t need many payoffs to compensate for the minimal loss incurred in other games. The expectation has value – not one-for-one value, the payoff won’t occur every time, nor every other time, perhaps – but with a 20 -1 differential, if it pays off just once every dozen times or so, then in terms of game theory (and in terms of club/league standing), the arbitrageur should come out ahead.

    One other wrinkle under Tribute: the dots gained beyond the go-ahead dot are more valuable to the board topper than they are to other players as well, but only about 6-7 points to their 1 point. It’s the go-ahead dot that is SO much more valuable, 20 points for the new board topper versus the 1 point it’s worth to its possessor, creating a powerful arbitrage.

  7. Ali Adib

    Congrats to Wes in Austria for playing a patient and thought-out game and managing his allies well. This was an interesting game worth writing about. Bryan Pravel said all about the crazy country draw, which I refer you to check out if you haven’t yet. Consequently, both Bryan and I are running to get Chris B in Germany on board to work with either of us against one another. Rest assured, while Chris B has two eager allies begging to team up he decides to 1) stab BOTH of them by Spring 02 (I need some extra expressive emojis here) and 2) put himself completely out of position and exposed for all sorts of Northern and Eastern attacks, whilst he is only fighting for years to keep Paris.

    In fall 02, I made some of the most stupid moves I have probably ever made. There is no justification for those moves, period. However, I can tell you what happened in my brain then. I was under time pressure and felt embarrassed about not having the moves in on time. Very last minute, England who now may be working with me tells me he’s not going to do what I was hoping I can get him to do easily. The deadline arrives, I feel under pressure and I submit the most ridiculous moves. The rest is history. That winter I said “I guess this is game for me” but it wasn’t quite yet.

    Later in the game, Italy (Christian Kline) made some moves coming to Pie and Tys to have a say in what happens in the Southwest. I think those were good moves for him if not the best. We arrange a bounce in Mar while I am fending off out-of-position Germany. Time comes, Germany is slowed and here’s the opportunity for Italy to take a piece of France. I finally figure it out with Eng (good negotiations and important persuasions there). He leaves me alone in MAO, I move MAO to West Med in case Italy moves West, and they sure do.

    In fall 03 I take West Med while Italy ends up in Pie and Lyon. Italy and I get on a phone call. In old Christian’s style he announces to me “ALI, I DO NOT LIKE THAT FLEET IN WEST MED, I HELPED YOU BOUNCE MAR, MOVE THE FLEET AWAY” or something to that effect. I told him “LISTEN! I am moving to Tunis, bring your two units and kick me out of there. That keeps me out of your hair and vice versa”. He accepts, but I know his aggressive style of play and knowledge of the best positions. I account for that and risk exposing Spain while not even supporting Mar or taking Tunis. In spring 04 I simply tap Lyon and cut its support, that’s my whole defense for two exposed dots in Spain and Mar. I shall say as embarrassed as I am about the earlier Belgium move in fall 02, I am just as proud about these moves.

    From here on I defend really well against Christian in Italy and convince Chris B in Germany to stop hurting me for nothing. Chris B listens to reason and does as agreed leading to better results for both of us from here on.

    Spring 05 is when things went mad. I call Christian (Italy) thinking he knows Wes (Austria) has amazing position and is going to stab him and win and asked him to get off of me so I can survive with 4 or max 5 dots. This is when a) Wes could have ended up at 13 if he did his final moves right, b) I cannot get anything whatsoever from Italy, and c) Christian cannot guarantee getting any dots from me and there’s a guess game which he eventually got wrong.

    I ask Christian to go and only slow down the obvious boardtopper and to my astonishment he says “if you throw your dots to me (three of them) he won’t boardtop, I will. Throw them to me.” I could not believe what I was hearing. As far as the Tribute scoring system it made absolutely no sense. In no other way it made sense either. He even ended up saying “I’ll owe you a favour”, well he already owes me a big one for his Bar Brawl championship a couple years ago and what did that get me so far? I told him “Christian, for the sake of the argument let’s say Ali is an idiot and he won’t throw his dots to you. Given that’s the reality we’re facing please go and slow down Austria”. Yet he pushed and pushed and pushed and failed to listen. I was of course not nice in return and told him that his bullying won’t work on me, may be it does on others.

    Christian is a very good player. Extremely good with tactics and understanding the map, and really good in persuading weak souls by means of filibustering, aggressive asks and sometimes intimidation. He has played with me enough and is smart enough to gather that negotiating using a merely pushy approach and no meaningful game incentives has historically never worked on me. This was another example.

    The final outcome of the game: I get to 5 dots and Christian goes down to 3 dots from 6, while Wes screws up a few orders and gets to 11 dots eventually. Wes goes to a high 50-point boardtop win instead of a shared 26 point boardtop with Pravel. Good for Wes, and bad for everyone else including me and Christian.

  8. Ali Adib

    Re Christian’s argument about the scoring system and why what he did was right:

    What Christian doesn’t seem to realise is that scoring in a league is “relative” not “absolute”. That is, my score only matters in relation to other people’s scores. Hypothetically, let’s say in scenario A my score is 10 and my opponent is at 30 and in scenario B my score is still 10 but my opponent goes up to 50. Christian’s argument is because I am at 10 either way scenario A has no advantage over scenario B. That is only true if you’re being judged in the court of some sort of god for only and only your own actions during your lifetime. Whereas this is a LEAGUE where your RANK is only decided based on how you do IN COMPARISON to others. As crazy as it sounds that I have elaborate this here, that’s what Christian doesn’t seem to acknowledge in this case. In this game, Wes ended with a very high 50-point boardtop win, whereas a smaller score for him and a slightly higher one for everyone else was absolutely possible if Christian cooperated with the survivors.

    If everyone in every game makes a king this big the sunk cost argument makes no sense either. Having multiple players with a slightly higher score helps one more than giving a very high advantage to only one person every game. If we played only a few games each season may be Christian would be right but we play enough in a league that keeping everyone else down and more balanced makes more sense. There can be exceptions depending on circumstances but this was not one.

    Christian made another argument about Wes owing a favour to him in the future. I can get on board with that way more than the argument based on the scores. Needless to say, Christian actually owes me “a favour” from a much more significant game (Bar Brawl I think) that he won a couple years ago. See how he returned the favour now. Favours are not enforceable, although I believe they can work with the right people.

  9. wesketchum

    Thanks everyone for a fun game! I definitely feel lucky/unlucky because I screwed up enough orders on the last turn to risk not getting the board top, but overall happy with how I played and of course the final outcome.

    Going into the game, I wanted to focus on playing a little more patiently, and especially in the early game be less worried about center count and build relationships. Drawing Austria wasn’t good for the center count anxieties, but it definitely was good on forcing the relationship game.

    S01 — Need to work out partners in the east. First call is to Christian in Italy, and we hit it off reasonably well. I’m a bit intimidated because I know he’s an experienced player, but figure if I give him nothing to worry about, then we can probably get along, and I just need to watch out for the stab. He suggests a Lepanto immediately, and I say I’m on board. I make it clear I understand if Venice holds but I don’t want to see it in Tyrolia. I get some calls in with the west before talking to Dan in Turkey, who seems cautious, fears a Lepanto, and is considering an RT, but I feel he actually would prefer an AT. I tell him it’s important for me to get Greece in the fall to feel safe, but then I’d certainly be open to supporting him to Rumania and he should obviously build a fleet to keep Italy out of EAS just in case. Then … I am never able to get Adam in Russia on the line, which is baffling to me. I move to GAL as a defensive move, which I’m very glad I did because he moved there too.

    F01 — Adam and I finally talk, and I express how I’m not happy about the lack of communication in the spring, and that a nervous bounce is a waste. He asks if we want to bounce again, and I say I’d rather be able to do something else with the army, and I’d love to see Warsaw sit there, to which he kinda of agrees. With Italy, Venice held which is good, and the other moves setup the Lepanto, so I decide to trust that he won’t walk to Trieste. Dan asks for support to Rumania, which I say I can do next year, but I’m not willing to trust yet and feel I need to try ensure I get two builds this year. That’s mostly true, but also I would rather not see a strong Turkey that may give Christian other ideas for attack. Dan tells me he thinks Adam is supporting himself to GAL, so he’ll try for Rumania anyway, which sounds great to me…I decide to go for GAL since I trust Christian and Dan way more than Adam.

    End of 01, I’m feeling pretty good: I got two builds, Russia and Austria are going at it, no stab from Christian (though he did hold it in VEN again…), and not only am I in Galicia, but I’d actually be able to hold it, which gives me more leverage with Russia.

    1902 — Christian and I agree the goal for the year is for him to be in EAS and to pop the Turkish army. I need to decide now who I want in Rumania … and, given my position, I feel like I can fight Russia back when I need to, while if I help Turkey things with Christian may go south. I’m already a little worried about Italy and Turkey working together, but alarm bells start going off when Christian says he thinks he won’t get into EAS and wants support to AEG. (Which is my punishment for kind of encouraging the fleet build from Turkey…). I tell Dan I’ll support him to RUM, but decide to support Adam in. I try to encourage with the fleet, but he decides he wants the army and I decide it’s better not to make a point of it to temporarily patch things up. In the fall, my alarm bells are now in high alert, as Christian has still not moved Venice away, and now he is threatening Greece if he gets Turkish support. And then, of course, Christian asks for Greece!

    “Going into the game, I wanted to focus on playing a little more patiently, and especially in the early game be less worried about center count and build relationships”

    I decide to say yes. If I resist, and he goes for it, then things are really over between us: better to hope by removing that potential conflict other ones will disappear. I think(?) Christian offers support to BUL (though he didn’t give it?) but I also ask and get support from Adam in Rumania (so, that good deed paid off), letting me stay at 5. My end of the year’s AI goals is met with the army in Bulgaria popped (and yes, Dan did support Christian to Greece…), and Christian is set up for the convoy. I risk GAL and self-bounce in TRI, just in case, though Christian finally moves VEN to PIE.

    1903 — The AI now clicks, and will last to almost the end of the game (though, I’m sure we’re both every watchful). Christian is grateful for Greece, built fleet Naples and says he’s moving it west to get the scraps of France, and we talk carving up Turkey (him in SMY and ANK, me in CON). Adam is spooked by Germany’s size and army Berlin build, and says he’s moving on Germany. My recollection: he clearly is saying it like he’s trying to pitch the idea to me/wants me to go too, and I say it’s of course a great idea, Germany is huge, Berlin is coming for him, he should do it — but I’m never asked to move against Germany, and I never offer it. Germany doesn’t feel like a threat for board top to me yet, and I have no great reason to pick a fight because I can’t really benefit from it. I decide to go through with what my plan was all along: take back Rumania now, and try to stay in GAL, which I’m able to do in the fall as Adam attempts to pick off Berlin rather than kick me out of GAL. I convince Christian that a convoy to Turkey is a faster way to break Dan, and he agrees, which makes me feel safer in the Balkans and leaves Greece a clear stab target for me in the future.

    1904 — How to break Russia … I decide an attempt at SEV and risking BUL is the best route. The latter because I can likely conveniently retreat to Greece and force Christian to help me retake it. The former because if it works, I’m likely guaranteed it or MOS in the fall, and it means I break Russia fast, while if it doesn’t, there’s not much lost because I can hold in GAL. I have Serbia backfill RUM to make sure Russia is only there if I am in SEV. And … it works! I’m ecstatic. In the fall, Christian and I discuss who should get into CON, and I leave the decision to him, hoping we stick to the original plan. I think he doesn’t realize the time is running down (and prefers that I not be able to so easily stab and take Greece?), and so he supports me in, giving me two builds in the fall. I make sure to arrange a line of bounces so I will be forced to build in TRI, and leave me ready to stab if needed.

    It’s clear through 04 that it’s a race to the top for Bryan in England, Christian, and myself, as Germany continues to collapse. I’m not paying close attention, but I’m happy to see Ali continue to intuit/guess right against Christian in the west, which he does through the rest of the game.

    1905 — It’s the last year, and I decide to of course go all out for the top. I’m worried Dan will move to Black and give me heartache, so I cut a deal to guarantee he survives if he stays put. He does in the spring, and despite offers of support from Christian in the fall, I honor that deal. Meanwhile I position to take Moscow or Warsaw (which I then bone-headedly fail to do), Greece, and push into Italian home centers. In the fall, Christian says he’s throwing me dots (which … only really nets me both VEN and ROM, rather than just one), and I make clear to Chris in Germany that if he wants to make sure England doesn’t top, he should cover Berlin.

    I’m … not going to dive into the lively debate. I’ll just say I’m very happy with how I played until the very last turn, but that of course I benefited from Christian’s mistake/choice to not stab me earlier (though … not clear he would have gained a lot?)/help me in fall of 04 (the bigger difference). I’d like to think that’s in part because we got along well during the game and I tried very hard to not seem like a major board-top threat to him, but that’s no doubt somewhat biased. Regardless, I had a great time playing and hope to play with you all again soon (though, maybe enough of the Bryan/Ali/Chris in E/F/G thing).

  10. Christian L. Kline

    Forgot to say congrats to Wes – well played! And btw, I’m not saying Wes owes me anything. I’m saying that if Wes and I play in another game and we find ourselves in a similar situation with roles reversed and he gets to decide if the board top will be me or someone else – well, he knows I’m a guy who knows how to do a favor and repay a favor. If that influences his decision, wonderful; if not, was worth a try,

    As for Ali, you did indeed outguess me several turns and well done. But you’re missing the forest for the trees. You got a 9.4. If you wanted to suppress the top score, then the right play would have been giving Italy a dot in F04 to build A Ven. That brings you down to 8.4. For the price of a point you make it a 3 way struggle for board top rather than one clear frontrunner who could easily have gotten up to 13 dots and an extra 14 points or so on top of the 20 point bonus for topping. Even if you don’t understand or believe the arbitrage meta-game argument, according to your own self-described incentives you made the wrong choice.

    1. Ali Adib

      This makes more sense, to give you one dot to go stop Austria. However, that was never your ask in the game. When I brought it up you said you’re absolutely sure Austria won’t attack you and there’s no need for anything in Venice. Instead you wanted me to throw all dots which still is baffling. If you had asked in the game what you wrote here I’d be open to figuring out how to do it. That’s basically what I mean in the above by offering real game incentives.

  11. Christian Brown

    Alright. So here is the deal. There are games where objectively, there is only one wrong choice, and a number of mediocre choices. I am thinking that everyone is coming down to the end of everything.

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