The Monster Mash

At Weasel Moot in 2019, attendee Jim Calabrese said of newcomer Cori Neslund, “We thought Cori was harmless. She’s a monster.”  She had taken the board by surprise and soloed as Turkey in her first-ever tournament game.

A harbinger of things to come?  Cori entered Sunday’s Weasel Royale as the 4th seed, qualifying in her first season with the club.  She hasn’t found similar success this season so far, currently sitting in 11th place after five games played.  And this was her first ever top board of any kind.  Did any of the other players in the Royale think Cori was harmless?  If so, they know the truth now.

Cori came in with a plan: select Italy, go west, and let the so-called “heavyweights” keep each other in check.  She executed her plan to near perfection; after a setback in 1902, she grew steadily throughout the rest of the game, securing the league championship in her first attempt.

This was the 12th Weasel Royale and the third in a row won by a player who joined the club in 2015 or later.  Cori is the second former Rookie of the Year to win the Royale (after Ali Adib in 2019), although she has the distinction of winning the league in her rookie season.

Hopefully the participants will post AARs for what was an entertaining championship game.

Live analysis of the game was broadcast on the Diplomacy Broadcast Network.  Check out the full broadcast or just the moves on Backstabbr.

Game Royale 12, played on Sunday, July 26, 2020, at Online in Interwebs, ended in a six-way draw in 1909. This game is part of Weasel Royale 1 ().
Austria(Mike Whitty)8 centers15.000 points
England(Bryan Pravel)3 centers10.000 points
France(Chris Kelly)1 centers8.000 points
Germany(Ali Adib)8 centers15.000 points
Italy(Cori Neslund)10 centers41.000 points
Russia(Brandon Fogel)4 centers11.000 points
Turkey(Christian Kline)0 centers0.000 points
1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Cori Neslund

    Country Selection:

    Prior to the Royale, I had decided that I wanted to play as either France or Italy, with the later being my preference. Given this, I spent time reading Dip theory and strategy guides focusing on those two countries.

    Before you ask, yes, I also performed a small amount of research on the other 5 options. I was confident though that with my seed position I could select Italy on the assumption that France would already be chosen, and anyone who had a chance to go ahead of me in the seed order would (a) not be someone others wanted to be right next to, and (b) that they would be someone I would want to eliminate ASAP.

    “Clockwork” Chris Kelly selected France immediately, and thus I made sure I didn’t smile on camera. 🙂

    There was some surprise by folks (on and off board) that I didn’t choose Turkey, but for obvious reasons, had I done so I think the board would have gone to a “get her first” mentality. I thought that Italy would be enough of a surprise to let me float under the radar for a bit. I’ll leave it to others to say if I did or not, but comments made to me after gives me the impression that I was at least somewhat right.


    In the first conversation with Bryan, he asked if I would go for Chris in a semi-joint effort with him. I agreed, though I don’t remember if I told Bryan that I had already planned to do so or not. In fact, my orders had been written prior to any conversation with anyone. What’s the saying? Choose the orders you want first, and then negotiate for them?

    As such, I’m pretty sure I somewhat lied to Chris right off the bat. I did say to him and everyone else that I was going for a “standard opening”, and it could be said that at least two of the moves were pretty standard!

    Props to Chris for pretty much immediately finding the situation funny and having an A+ attitude for the entire game. Even when he guessed wrong in F01 and I took Mar (which we played volleyball with for much of the rest of the game).


    This was my crappy year. After managing to get to a 5-dot Italy (a goal in itself), I made some tactical mistakes. In S02, I was expecting to bounce in Gas, and because that didn’t happen and I hadn’t moved my A in Ven to Pie, I lost Mar and had my A in Gas piffed.

    To be honest, I thought I was done. I do remember getting a little snippy with Mike during this time because it was looking like he might outpace me and I couldn’t convince him to give me Gre to make up for the 5th unit (spoiler alert, I took it later). Solid choice on his part, so I went to Chris and asked if we could make a deal for Spa. He was not interested (what a surprise)!


    But damn, did the tide turn fast! Chris and I talked pretty early in S03 and he proposed letting me into Spa for the purposes of getting to Por and kicking Bryan out. He made a good pitch to me that he and I would be better allies than myself and Bryan, but given his status as a player I was never going to stop until France was crippled or eliminated.

    In F03, I hadn’t decided if I’d actually move out of Spa and at the last minute I was trying to convince Chris to let me stay there and not go to Por. Within the last 10-15 seconds he told me to go to Por because he wasn’t writing any other orders. So instead of holding Spa with WES I decided to move into Por–after all, a French dot was a French dot–and if I wanted to take them all anyway, why not let Chris open the door for one of them?

    This move allowed for the French F in MAO to retreat to NAO, an action which caused a lot of fun and chaos in the subsequent years!


    After generously giving me Por, I immediately tried for a two dot stab but only picked up Mar. This is when Chris decided he was going to be a total chaos agent, and I really respected that he told me he wouldn’t throw any dots to anyone. If we wanted them, we’d have to come get them. Given that I sincerely dislike dot throwing (in my favor or otherwise) in higher stakes games, I appreciated that. If I won, I wanted to win on my merits, not with the shadow of suspicion that people just “let me win” (a feeling I’m familiar with).

    In ‘04 I continued with my controversial move of making the A in Ven sit there. Yes, I did it because I was constantly paranoid that Mike would get the jump on me before I got the jump on him.

    Total transparency though, it was more important for me mentally to feel like I was protecting myself from an Austrian stab then to accept the risk and use the unit. The only real threat I ever saw on the board (almost at all) was a mid-game Austrian stab, which I believed would cost me the win. A more experienced player would have been able to use that unit and not let the paranoia get to them that much. While I’m certainly competent, I don’t have enough games under my belt to be considered experienced (yet).

    1905 – 1906:

    This was when I started to feel like I had a lock on this game, that as Brandon said it was “mine to win or lose”. At his suggestion I set up and attacked Austria, something that didn’t look like it was going to work (and wouldn’t have) except Mike didn’t realize my A could retreat to Ser. Using that as leverage I was able to take Gre, and we were able to smooth over the stab because (a) I’d been saying I wanted Gre for years, and (b) Christian was somehow coming back (!!!). Brandon helped convince Mike that dealing with Christian was more important than punishing us for a “bad” stab.

    Also, I lost Mar again. I can just hear you guys screaming about that A in Ven…

    1907 – 1908:

    Brandon, Mike and I were now in a loose sort of alliance. I’ll leave it to Mike or Brandon to actually comment on if they trusted me or not, but I can say that my intention had been to immediately attack Austria again once Christian was off the board.

    In the west, Bryan and Ali had been unable to break the lock on MAO, particularly because Chris wasn’t being terribly helpful to anyone (though he clearly was having fun with his fleet). We were in a race to see who could get a 3rd fleet to the line first. With Ali’s help, Bryan took Bre and beat me to the punch.

    I tried repeatedly to get into Gas in order to shift my units, but my attempts were unsuccessful, which led to F MAO retreating to Naf. That was enough time to get my new fleet to the line, and so Bryan and I were once again in a fleet stalemate.


    In S09, Bryan came to me and asked if we could both switch sides, with him guaranteeing to stab Ali if we could both deescalate. During that discussion I agreed to retreat 1 of my fleets if Bryan didn’t assist Ali with putting an A in Gas. We both remember the conversation a bit differently, with me thinking that only MAO would support the move (which I could cut), and Bryan thinking that Bre’s move was not being discussed

    My F in Naf retreated to Tun, but Bre supported Par to Gas. “Perfidy!” I cried, and by F09 we were set to be in another stalemate.

    Except…Ali stabbed Bryan. As a result, he had to pull 3 units.


    With Bryan crippled, Christian eliminated, Chris down to a F in Edi, the stalemate line broken with an Austrian A in Mun; we decided to end the game in a draw. Had we continued, by F10 I would (a) be at war with Austria, and (b) with virtually no resistance, have my 3 closest fleets out of the Med.

    My plan would have been to discuss allying with Ali to see if he’d be willing to distract Austria in exchange for some of his northern dots and access to Russia. I think even if Ali had agreed, it would have been easier for me to get bigger than him faster considering his lack of fleets. I’m not sure if I could have solo’d, but I see at least 5 dots for me to pick up with little hassle.

    Ultimately, I think Brandon would have played kingmaker. Not necessarily with respect to a solo, but in regards to how big my ending size would have been before a draw was agreed upon (likely hours later).

    Final Thoughts:

    This game was definitely one of the most fun I’ve played. It feels good to know that I really pushed myself both in the country selection risk and with some of my overall strategies. This game was the first where I put into practice all the individual skills I’d been specifically working on in other games, and I’m hoping that this gives me the confidence to get out of my “teenage years” (as Brandon puts it). My current placement in the season is pretty lackluster, so we’ll see if this win helps or hurts! 🙂

    The Monster

    1. Ali Adib

      Cori- I did not know there was this much thought behind your country selection and strategy. Well played!

  2. Ali Adib

    I formatted this as a self Q&A:


    I walked in (virtually) with this mindset and narrative: “I won last season, they won’t let me win again and will use me as a target to build alliances and prosper themselves. I’ll just ask to play a decent conservative game and if the opportunity arises I’ll jump out of my Trojan Horse. Otherwise I prefer that either Bryan Pravel or Chris Kelly win”. Pravel for our personal relationship and friendly rivalry, and Kelly because he has played so well lately and deserves it and if I remember correctly this will be his first. I also didn’t want Brandon to win this time only. Because he has been very successful for as long as he has played. His subtle slyness can go unnoticed by those that like him personally (including myself) and they may fall for it in the game. He very much comes in to win even if he keeps a calm face and voice, although this time around we saw a slightly different side of him 🙂


    The short answer is because we had to draw.

    In the last couple years my thinking was that I almost have no chance of winning. Because Cori (Italy) had great position and seemed to be receiving tactical help from Brandon (Russia) who is mad at me (Germany) and Pravel (Britain) for taking Sweden away from him and not working with him. On the other hand, Mike Whitty the one player with direct access to Italian boardtopper dots had little-to-none interest in playing the game and is rarely engaging in negotiations. My ally, Bryan (Britain) historically will never fully trust me and the moment he feels threatened he may go for a defensive stab.

    I originally favoured Bryan as a potential victor, so I decided that I want Pravel to prosper and win BUT… there was a French fleet shoring in Edinburgh; Chris Kelly (France) was very clear to me that his only meaningful incentive at this point is to punish Bryan (Britain), understandably so. Brandon was frustrated and threw a combo of passive aggressive comments at me each time I reached out to speak, partially because I had not engaged with him much previously. Mike really badly wanted to end the game for personal and work reasons; the only time he meaningfully engaged in a conversation with me was about that.

    I asked myself: What if Austria who so badly wants a draw and doesn’t care who wins starts to throw to Italy to make Britain and I stop trying? What if Russia who is mad at Britain will help the same (which he did)? Even if neither of these things happen how are England and I (Germany) going to break the line? Russia is already getting into StP and Scandinavia is exposed. I personally can’t build anymore and can’t move either.

    Having these doubts, I proposed a draw that was immediately vetoed by Bryan (Britain). I asked why and he said “because I want to win” but without coming up with solid tactical and strategic ideas to pave the path. I was at loss too.

    Despite all my doubts, in the Spring of last year I still continued with the notion of helping Bryan win. We thought we must kill the French fleet and that will require the army in Brest going back home to cover bases and provide cross-island support. After the tactics are agreed between us, I’m now thinking again even if I start throwing to Bryan then who’s going to hold the line against Italy, Austria and Russia? Also how can we feasibly kill the anti-British fleet in Scotland when all our other units are tied up elsewhere. And what about Mike?!

    Bryan and I were set up to try a long long shot, and I decided to stab and push for a reasonable draw. With the stab there was also a very small chance that I could get two builds. That was an even longer shot at personal victory when the entire board would probably gang up on me. Afterall I am Germany with borders with literally everyone alive on the board. So when I stabbed I was mostly aiming for a draw not an opportunity to prosper.


    First, I wish Chris Kelly in France was not so immediately ambushed by Italy and England. That gave me the short end of the stick as far as getting his dots. I’d also liked to maintain the potential of him as a strong ally. They went after him hard and I had no say in that, other than being Bryan’s good buddy and side kick to gain his trust to maintain a viable ally.

    Second, I wish Bryan saw a little further and didn’t stab me so early with so little gain for himself. After his stab we fought and lied to each other for two straight years in an official stand-off. I’d guess Brandon might have had a behind-the-scenes role in that; to get the two of his foes fight a bit sounds like the right choice. Later Bryan tried another stab by not letting Chris Kelly get StP and build in Brest, which could have given us a good line against at that point prosperous Cori. It would have not only slowed her down but brought weak France on our side. That opportunity was unfortunately also missed. I didn’t try hard enough to convince Bryan either because I think I felt he may be overwhelmed and stressed in the moment. In hindsight, I should have. Bryan later allowed France StP but the timing was wrong and Chris was no longer on board with our alliance, enough was enough for him, again understandably so.

    Third, I really wish Mike would engage in negotiations and cared about the game more. That would have changed the outcome of the game and made it more fun. I don’t think there was much he was incentivised by that we could use in negotiations, other than ending the game. I appreciate that he had very good reasons to want that. This is only another “wish”.


    Well, to start I shall say as an ESL person I didn’t know bull means male cow. I thought cow is a genderless word and cows with horns are called bull! At least that’s how it is in my first language. Now I know what’s up. Well done and congrats on becoming the “Bull Weasel” Cori, for whatever it’s worth. Shall we just change it to Whipper Weasel, Overdog Weasel, Golden Weasel, Weasel the Vanquisher? You all know better, I’m only thinking outloud. All words in a language are biased and deficient but this victory is sweet.

    You read the board well and played the players nicely. You might have made a few questionable tactical moves here and there but your strategy was very effective and admirable. The tactics can be learned by playing more and more but the people and strategy skills are those that don’t come easy. In my opinion you did great in the harder departments and deserved to beat us all. I for one underestimated your danger, although I knew you’re not “harmless”.


    With all that, I present to you what I called rubbish one or two decades ago but now it looks cute and vintage:

  3. Michael Whitty

    Interesting AARs from Cori and Ali.

    I had been added to the Royale as a substitute in the last couple of days beforehand, and usually don’t get to play in top tables like this. I’ve played with the other players before with the exception of Ali, although I think I’ve only played once with Cori (or maybe she was at the other table when we played the Moot at the Red Lion….?).

    I didn’t communicate much with Chris and Bryan in the West, some with Ali in Germany. Most of my communication was with Cori (I), Brandon (R), and Christian (T). Cori, Brandon, and I did not agree on everything but did agree on the need to contain and eventually eliminate Christian. The ability to outflank Turkey and crack that tough nut makes the A/I/R alliance one of my two favorite triples (G/A/F being the other).

    I’m fortunate that I survived and made a few good moves (and some bad ones), but not enough to really break out. If I’d really been playing for a win and not a draw, I might have tried to grab the remaining Russian dots, but that would have been all the excuse Italy needed to attack me.

    I don’t have much to add other than to apologize for outside events unexpectedly spoiling my game, not being able to compartmentalize those, and thus not trying to engage better. I had to get to work as soon as the game ended and was up until midnight. Next time I’ll take more steps to prevent that sort of thing. Takeaway lesson: always be sure your schedule is really clear, and get a game-day pass from your spouse – even if she’s out of town and you’re not expecting her to bother you!

  4. Chris Kelly

    Most of the important things have already been said above – the main factor in Cori’s win is that she had a strong strategic read on the board (the combination of the players & the countries they were in), and that strategic vision was accurate enough to guide her even if specific turns or tactical decisions went astray.

    Also, Mike Whitty deserves a shout-out for his strong game in a vulnerable, last-choice country, keeping his balance by playing the two most-feared Weasels on the board (Brandon & Christian) off of each other while also dealing with a smart, but also mercurial & sometimes dot-hungry Cori sniping at him from behind.

    On that note, it’s worth pointing out how disciplined Cori, Mike, Ali, & Bryan were in ensuring that *none* of the top 3 seeds ever really had a chance to win the game, because none of us ever had a real long-term ally. Ali did a great job of keeping an eye on the balance of power to stay in the mix, even if he (like Mike) never had a true opportunity to slip out of his Trojan Horse and top the board.

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