On March 11 of this year, Wes Ketchum played his first game with the Weasels, a solid 6-center England. This past Sunday, in the undercard to the Weasel Royale, Wes played his ninth, another England that this time resulted in a 13-center board top and another win in his budding rivalry with the Tricky Bunny, Carlos Treviño. In a postgame interview on the Diplomacy Broadcast Network, Carlos said of Wes, “He has a kind of offensive charm.”
Later, Carlos explained that Wes is like a shark whose fin never breaches the surface and who never leaves blood in the water. A candygram who knocks gently on your door before finding your head a new home. That is, a Land Shark who tells you he’s only a dolphin.
Carlos and Wes have now played four games together this season, and together they’ve topped three of them. In the Land Shark’s two wins, the Tricky Bunny finished one center behind; in the Tricky Bunny’s win, the Land Shark was nearly eliminated.
The Land Shark’s board-top was his third of the season and sent him back to the top of the league standings, a remarkable ascent for a vertebrate who just picked the game up this year.
Check out the full DBN broadcast or just the moves on Backstabbr.
|Austria||(Carlos Treviño)||12 centers||21.500 points|
|England||(Wes Ketchum)||13 centers||50.500 points|
|France||(Gabe Manalansan)||0 centers||0.000 points|
|Germany||(Brian MacWilliams)||0 centers||0.000 points|
|Italy||(Chris Brown)||1 centers||10.500 points|
|Russia||(Michael DeMichellie)||8 centers||17.500 points|
|Turkey||(Jon Shepler)||0 centers||0.000 points|
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Well, I’ll take the new nickname 🙂
Definitely this was a game where it fits: I managed to be the driver of the action in the west without appearing too big for a while, pit the powers in the east against each other at the critical time, and sneak up to the board top faster than expected. I don’t think I was every a real solo threat, though if I had moved more decisively/faster to the Med I could have gotten to 16 … but was very happy to end it where I did.
So glad to be playing in the west, and happy it’s England since I haven’t played that in ‘F2F’ since my very first game. I know immediately that I would ideally like an EF where I open to the channel: getting Belgium but otherwise agreeing to play slow and give up centers in the back as France pushes through.
Initial negotiations are great. Gabe in France, new to the weasels but not super new to F2F, wants to take down friend Brian in Germany. I pitch the idea at the end of the conversation that opening to the channel would put people off an EF, and Gabe was not robustly against. Talking to Brian he wants to take down friend France, and gives vague promises for Belgium if I move to the channel. I actually start to worry I’ll get two supports to Belgium in the fall and that things may get awkward. Michael in Russia seems immediately amenable to peace, and so I’m hopeful that a fleet in Norway will be respected. The only downside is Carlos is far away from me in Austria as I would have loved the chance to work together, but our distance plays out well and we startup and maintain a good relationship. Right at the end, I ask Gabe if it’s ok to go to the channel, and he seems uneasy but doesn’t say no…
In the fall, I’m the only one with a play on Belgium. Gabe made the interesting move to hold in Brest, detering any attack, which I respect. He wants to play things safe and not disturb Germany … I push him to move Paris to Burgundy to commit him to the EF, which I’m happy to see he follows through on in the fall. A one build France that is occupying Brest? Yes please. Brian is happy I’ve moved to the channel, and would prefer the fleet in Belgium but I don’t promise anything. Michael in Russia has opened south, so I’m guaranteed two builds. I tell Russia he’s definitely getting bounced in Sweden and suggest he move to Baltic to mess with Germany, and that I will be happy to help him secure what he needs in Scandinavia as best I can. _Everything_ goes as planned in the fall, and I even have Chris in Italy moving on France, which will only make France turtle up more and be keen to stay on my good side.
I agonize over builds a little, but I decide to do what I figure is least offensive: Fleet London and Army Liverpool. France may be a little skittish, but it’s not Fleet Liverpool, and I because I need to get into north sea in 02 anyway there’s no lost tempo to not having an immediate convoy.
Fleet Berlin, Army Moscow, Army Marseilles … everything is looking great in the spring. I make the stab on Germany: I tell him I’ll support to Burgundy, but instead Gabe and I hold the line with Channel, Belgium, and Burgundy. Meanwhile Norway moves to SKA, and I setup to convoy somewhere to Germany. I tell Russia I’ll do what I can to get him into Sweden in the fall, without making any promises.
At this time, Chris in Italy starts pushing on me with France a bit. Clearly he wants me on board with his attack, which I am clear that I will not support. Not, angry with him about it, but that I will be supporting Burgundy to hold, and so any hopes of Germany assistance or mine against France are off the table. It’s … not what he wants to hear, but his strategy never changes because of that (and despite my suggesting it should…)
In the fall, I agonize again but decide to convoy to DEN. I know it’s not the best place for an army, but that army doesn’t have a better place to go immediately other than Norway, which I expect may spook Russia. A fleet in SKA and fully splitting of Germany from Scandinavia seems the best move. If the army sits there banging on Kiel for a while, so be it. The position is defensible, and so I can be annoying without sacrificing too much. I basically trade DEN for Norway which goes to Brian, while Michael comes out ahead in the deal by getting Sweden. All fine by me, as Russia is proving to be an ally in the North.
It turned out ok, but my tactics were a bit off in 03. Michael and I arrange to kick Germany out of Norway in the spring, but I tell Michael to move an army to STP to cover it. I could have just offered support to retake it instead, which would have been better. Meanwhile, I neglect the fact that North can be but, so what I think is guaranteed to take Holland (by having Burgundy cut Ruhr) in fact leaves me kicked out of Belgium by Brian. Gabe, despite it being good position, is clearly uncomfortable in Ruhr as it’s far from his home, and so the fall just sees a French walk back to the normal line while I retake Belgium and cover Edi. Brian does the clever move and goes to Clyde in the fall, while Michael moves his army in STP to Finland…
…which I know can only be to clear a build in STP. And so, I know my 1904 is going to be quite fun. Luckily, with Norway back, I have a build, so fleet in Liverpool protects me from Brian and prepares a thrust of fleets into the north.
Meanwhile Turkey is gone, and there’s a very strong AR as Austria now turns on Italy. Meanwhile, Italy is in MAO: something he told me he would do, and something I advised him against for his own sake, but Chris seems dead set on taking French dots. Things are moving fast…
Michael built STP NC, and so I’m in full emergency management mode. I talk to Brian and try to convince him I’m ready to call it off. Because, at that moment, I totally am. I negotiate popping the fleet in Clyde so he can rebuild it on the line with Russia, and we try to start to figure out how to get his armies east in a comfortable way. Gabe is busy dealing with Christian, and at the end of the spring I get words with Michael to the effect of: ‘fine, take norway. I’m taking Sweden if you do. In the fall, we should talk about you supporting me out of it to Baltic while you walk out of Sweden.”
In the fall, we negotiate just that. I’m not 100% sure why Michael called off the attack on me, but probably a combination of not wanting to fight a coordinated EG and seeing that partner Carlos in Austria was just going to slice through an Italy that wanted to be a Spain…well, it did the trick. He wants Berlin and Munich, I say great, done, and we get along well. I can force Holland, and we can get me into the Baltic. Michael and I agree long term that I’ll keep Norway and he Sweden, which also suits me just fine. I ask Brian to support me to hold Sweden, which is just an extra mean final stab that after this turn his game is basically over.
In the all, Carlos and I also chat, and I tell Carlos now is the time to stab Russia. There was a lot of discussion against this on the livestream at the time, but looking back at the board again I think it was the right call for Carlos to do. To get anything in France/Iberia, he has two powers to contend with in France and Italy. He’s getting builds from Italy this year, while Micahel is not. And, if I’m pressuring Russia (which it looked at the time I would), Russia may not be getting anything in the way of builds moving forward. I believed it true, but I also knew breaking up the AR was essential, otherwise I would be stuck just trying to stop a gigantic Russian monster from swallowing up Germany and Scandinavia, and probably not stopping there. The initial stab was small, but the followup in 05 (which I also talked Carlos through) sealed it.
Winter finds me with a build, and I know my path forward: keep Russia on side and afloat against Austra while we mop up Germany, and then I move down the west.I don’t remember if it was this year or the next but Gabe promised to throw me his dots (rather than let Italy take them), and so I know I can challenge for a board top, even if AR look too ahead.
The ER alliance is beautiful, and we finish off Germany in 05. Things are going so right, that when we realize Carlos can support Munich to keep Russia from taking it, we figure out we can support Chris into Munich and so easily kick him out later (knowing that Chris may not want to stay there, as it wasn’t a French dot). Russia gets two builds to even them with Austria, and somehow the fact that I’m sitting on 8 with no enemies feels like it’s going ignored.
In 06, I don’t push to the med super fast just to keep my profile low, but confirm with Gabe that he will walk out of Paris in the fall and I get Brest and Paris uncontested. I gladly support Russia to Munich to fuel the war with Austria, and in W06 I’m sitting on 10 to Austria’s 12 and Russia’s 9.
Well, what gained me great position in 06 now is very obvious in 07. I think 07 starts with a proposed draw from Carlos. I’m clearly against, but I’m hesitant to publicly say so as I’m hoping to hide under the radar a bit. I’m protected by the fact that Chris so clearly wants to eliminate France, that I privately vote no on the draw and blame Chris for it not going through.
I think Carlos still doesn’t expect me to be a big problem until the fall, but Michael starts to see it and I know my Dolphin days are coming over soon. In the fall of 07 I make my stab on Russia, picking up Sweden. AR reads it and reconciles very fast to now stop me. I pick up Spain but fail to get Marseilles, and sit tied for top with Carlos at 12 in W07.
Carlos has to give a center to Russia to try to prop them up until they can form the line, and that gives me the lead. Taking Portugal and being able to take STP secures it in the spring of 1910, where we pass a draw with me on 13, one ahead of Carlos.
Jon (Turkey): sorry you went out so quick, and sorry we didn’t get to coordinate a lot. Certainly your early exit fueled the AR, so was sad to see you go go soon.
Brian (Germany): I’m sure we would work well in the future together, and I was definitely impressed with your tactics in defense. But, it just wasn’t happening for you this game (my fault), and sorry especially for the 1904 stab.
Gabe (France): was really great to work with you through the game, and I’m sorry that I spooked you so badly with the move to the channel. It worked out ok for me, but I do wonder if it wouldn’t have worked just as well if we had been able to get you moving more effectively against Germany and Italy.
Chris (Italy): congrats on surviving, but I do not understand your choice to abandon home and play just to survive on a dot. I feel like you so overextended yourself, and it could have backfired had I been more efficient in moving south.
Michael (Russia): really enjoyed playing with you and working things out together and working for so well for much of the game. I did not come into the game thinking northern alliance, but had been thinking about it some and now I’m even more convinced of how strong it can be. Well done on some nice defensive moves against Carlos, and sorry for the stab when it hit.
Carlos (Austria): what can I say? As always, such a pleasure to play with you and glad in the end it was a race between the two of us for the top. You definitely made some great moves with Michael in keeping me from getting anything beyond STP, and you made the right guesses to thwart my advances into the Med, but unfortunately it was barely too little barely too late. I still think you made a good call to stab Russia when you did.
This was a really fun game for me that illuminated some of my weaknesses as a player. I had a blast. 10/10, would be repeatedly stabbed again.
1901: I am extremely bad at playing Russia (as in, I have never before now finished a game as Russia with more centers than I started with), so I was not mentally prepared to listen to John’s pitch on a DMZ in the Black Sea in 1901 and hear that his offer was genuine. Carlos and I set the basic plan to move on Turkey with Italy and then cut him out of the spoils.
My fall negotiations with Turkey were appropriately hostile, but it left room for Carlos to crystallize the alliance structure in the east with supports for Italy and me into the Balkans. If I remember correctly, this is also when Carlos laid out the rough plan for an AR, where we would cut Italy out once we could finish Turkey. Since I knew I’d be bounced out of Sweden, I took the opportunity to dive into the Baltic. My goal was actually to use the fleet’s presence as a piece to negotiate entry into Sweden while putting pressure on the EG relationship.
1902: I negotiated with Brian to get Sweden in exchange for a retreat from Baltic Sea, which only sort of worked because Wes took advantage and launched an attack on Germany. Looking over the commentary, I think positioning an army in Livonia and holding Baltic might have given me more leverage. As it was, my northern armies just sort of noodled around for a year, which drove Doug crazy.
1903: Wes invited me to St Petersburg, which I’d beeen hoping for for a year. Once Wes committed to the south, I hoped to seize Norway and start threatening to break out in teh north. I declined to take Norway in the fall since I had heard that Gabe would be turning on Wes in the lowlands. With Gabe’s cooperation, I thought Wes would lose Belgium, which would make the Germany pirate fleet much more damaging. Instead, Wes was able to build F Lvp and contain the situation. Meanwhile, Carlos and I executed the stab on Italy.
My big mistake here was building F StP (nc) instead of south coast. I had hoped to repair my relationship with Brian, which was… unreasonably aspirational, given the previous stunts I’d pulled on him. As it was, my northern fleet build alienated my one ally in the north and gave Brian and Wes an opening to pull back together.
1904: This is the year things got away from me. Chris declined to defend his home centers, which utterly destroyed the parity in the AR alliance. Meanwhile, my attempt to capture Norway gave Wes the opening to slide into Sweden and position two fleets on the Norweigian Sea.
In the fall, I tried to convince Carlos to maintain parity with me by postponing taking Rumania, while I accepted Wes’s offer of an alliance against Germany. My assumption was that as long as Gabe and Chris were mired in their war in the south, I would have the undivided attention of the English fleets, which could hardly turn out well for me. At the fall resolution, Wes stuck with me, moving to the Baltic, while Carlos supported himself into Rumania.
1905-1906: My mistake here was not reading the board and adjusting my expectations. I continued to argue that we could share a board top, even though negotiating a second-place finish would have been more fruitful for both of us. Even so, F1905 was an emotional high point for me, as I successfully snuck into Rumania and positioned Chris in Munich to complete the ring of armies around Carlos and pin 4 potential Austrian units in his pocket.
1907-1909: My paranoia got the better of me, so I pulled F GoB back to cover St Petersburg, which opened offered Wes a guaranteed capture of Sweden. However, this is where the candor of Carlos and my relationship became a strength for us. Following the failed draw vote in F1907, we came up with a plan to defend Berlin and Munich in about a minute. We exchanged Constantinople to allow me to build and hold the north, but I undermined it by getting too greedy trying to open StP for a fleet build.
In the final years of the game, I agreed to hand Rum back to Carlos to try to get him to tie the board top, but refused to hand another center over. We agreed to draw at the end of the turn.
Final thoughts: I completely agree with Wes at being surprised at the effectiveness of the ER alliance. I had reflexively thought that England is Russia’s natural enemy in the north, since it’s so natural for England to pick up St Petersburg. I think there’s an argument to be made that ER vs F is a more natural and viable falling out from a fight against Germany than EF sticking together.
Overall, I had a great time in my first game with the Windy City Weasels! I loved playing with everyone (even when they were stabbing me), and I liked how Tribute encouraged coalitions against the board topper. I’d be happy to fill out any boards you need in the future!