Weasel Pyle XV returned to 3 initial boards for the first time since 2012 and Board 1 was loaded with veteran Weasels from the original installation in bucolic Wayne as well as up-and-coming rookies from the last few seasons. The draw in the West included rookie Wes Ketchum, who started the day in 2nd place with eyes on Weasel of the Year, in France, original Weasel Kevin O’Kelly in Germany, and late fill-in Ed Sullivan from a chilly Houston (50 degrees, balmy for Chicago) in England. The East opened with original Weasel and 2018 Bar Room Brawl champion Christian Kline in Austria, Carlos Trevino in Italy, reigning Rookie of the Year Cori Neslund, and rookie Weasel Chris Brown in Turkey. It was a treacherous board from the start with multiple players seeking to gain entry to the Weasel Royale and again one looking for the league championship.
Play began fairly standard with England choosing NWG, NTH, and Edi, France forcing his way to Burgundy with the Maginot Opening, Germany choosing DEN and Ruh, Italy holding in VEN, Austria and Russia bouncing in GAL and Turkey choosing the Sundstrom opening to Armenia. However, that normalcy in the East ended quickly. Italy walked into Trieste (and convoyed to TUN), Turkey walked into RUM as Russia protected BLA and SEV from the attacking Turk. The West displayed a love fest with both France and Germany offering support of the English convoy to BEL (which this author didn’t realize until now) and Germany allowing the Russian into SWE. The English and French built fleets on the Channel, which seemed agreed upon but tension rose a bit, while in the East an A STP and a F CON, its second on the BLA, shaped the direction of play for those powers.
The tides turned against England in Fall 1902 as the original northern attack from West to East turned into a Sea Lion as Germany chose to (temporarily) maintain its opening alliance with the Russians due to the aforementioned pressure from the south. France agreed and took the lead in the northern assault by stealing BEL in Fall 1902 with Russia gaining NWY while switching SEV and RUM with Turkey. Italy and Austria switched Trieste for Vienna for what would be the first of about 10 times and Germany didn’t gain centers but enjoyed a diplomatic edge with its neighbors.
The next few seasons saw England retreat everything back to the Isle. Combined with a little F/G friction over a French army build while Germany was stalled between friendly neighbors, the English defense held up well but couldn’t hold out as the numbers against him continued to grow. Russia, having found a little bit of freedom as her southern I/R attack against A/T was progressing even though Austria had better inside position against Italy 1 on 1, was able to stretch out a bit in the north (however doing so would eventually lead to her doom). The I/R advance stalled after a bounce in BOH in Fall 1904 with the still-allied Germans to slow their pace down. Germany didn’t build again until 1905 and was frustrated as both friendly-France and friendly-Russia continued to build while putting down units that further boxed in the German.
As Fall 1904 shifted play for the northern portion of the board, with ripple effects for I/R, A/T was also shaken. Austria had finally managed to secure its home centers and created an opening for a build, but Turkey swooped in with a convoy from Armenia to grab BUL stealing the build for himself. Turkey had grown to 5 by 1902, but then fell back to his original 3 and saw his own opportunity for growth. With Austria still battling Italy and keeping an eye on the west, his focus was split which allowed Turkey to grab BUL in 1904, GRE in 1906, and RUM in 1907 and killed any hopes for Austria to remain independent for the rest of the game. Turkey also picked up SEV from Russia after Cori was forced to disband her southern Fleet following the Fall 1906 German double-cross.
Leading to the end of the game, the F/G solidified in Fall 1906 after a German stab of France in Spring 1906. Even though Russia explained she was further extending herself in the north, leaving a huge opening, but with her continued successful defense in the south and the conservative northern tactics that had frustrated the German to stagnation for 4 years, Germany’s decision was to attack France in Spring 1906. The successful (guaranteed) stab of BEL while also grabbing the open LON brought France to a more level discussion about the finish of the game. Germany had aspirations of making the Weasel Royale and he knew only a solo would have gotten him there and he knew that France was chasing a board top for a chance to win Weasel of the Year. Using this in Fall 1906, agreed for a second German build to fight against Russia while France would get the next one in the north to shift fully south. The redirection went off without a hitch and the stab and reverse shifted both powers to growth in 1906 thru 1909. That turn also eliminated England who through no fault of his own didn’t stand much of a chance with his 3 neighbors against him or unwilling to help even though Ed continually offered ideas.
The board was still left with play. Russia still had a northern fleet and Turkey continued to ride up the backside of his allies. France (and Germany and Turkey) had eyes for a much larger score. There was no coordinated effort from the East to move to a defensive position in the middle of the board to even remotely coordinate a stalemate line, but the momentum for continuing the game began to fade. There was at least 1 draw vote that failed, and another that might have been vetoed, but as Wes kept his board top through 1909 and the remaining players saw their position as only to fade, a draw including the 6 survivors was accepted in Spring 1910. Discussion of a 2nd chance board (which ended up happening) may have motivated a few players to vote YES for an earlier draw.
Check out all the moves here.
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Apologies in advance for the length of this …
This one was definitely a fun and tense game, and I feel very lucky to have ended up topping the board, as I think Kevin O’K. played as well/better, and Chris Brown also made a very strong push at the end. Was a game of a West that managed to settle and an East that never quite did, but with a strong Cori in Russia that was able to give us problems.
Going into the game:
I was definitely looking for a strong showing in the Pyle and the chance to be Weasel of the Year, but was honestly very happy about how I’d done this season in my first taste of (virtual) face-to-face Diplomacy, and first return to Diplomacy at all in almost a decade. I’d not been very happy with my performance in recent games though, and I decided I wanted (1) to play a bit more principled, and focus on making sure that my position always remained strong but flexible, and (2) really try to find an ally to work well with to take control of the board, and then be ready for my chance to take a board top as the game neared the end.
Drawing France? GREAT for that strategy, so was happy with that despite the target it may put on my back at the beginning. But, the board draw overall was a killer: Chris Brown in Turkey, Cori in Russia, Christian Kline in Austria, Carlos in Italy, Kevin O’Kelly in Germany, and Ed Sullivan in England. Yikes. Cori and Chris are able with big scores to get into the top 7, and Kevin with a really big one is definitely in position. Carlos and Christian are already in that Royale crowd, but playing to protect their spots/try to move up in seeding. And Ed is a great player and has been doing very well lately in tournaments, including a very good game in the top board at Carnage.
Ed (E) and I hit a good rapport, and we agree to look to working together, with Ed even offering the possibility to bounce Germany in Holland in the fall. We agree on the DMZ in the channel, and I’m feeling good about that. Meanwhile Kevin (G) and I have a good opening exchange, and Kevin says he won’t be moving to Burgundy, but lets me just take that into consideration rather than demanding the DMZ there. Carlos (I) and I agree to the normal non-interference, which I pitch to him as something I look forward to maintaining throughout the game, and then the usual set of pleasantries with Cori (R) and Christian (A) rounded out my negotiations. I don’t think I had the chance to talk to Chris (T) in the spring, but I think in the fall we spoke briefly and I emphasized how I hoped he made sure to defend himself well/not open himself up to attacks.
My opening moves then feel pretty standard. I’m supporting to BUR so I can be on Belgium in the fall, and move the fleet to MAO to signal working with Ed.
In the fall, Kevin is of course unhappy about Burgundy and I have that tinge of regret I often get when I do something somebody doesn’t like … but I’m trying to be principled and establish that defense, and BUR on it’s own is not an all-out German attack. It doesn’t hurt that it can setup that attack though — after discussing with Ed I’m supporting him to BEL. Meanwhile, the east seems like a mess, as Chris has gone hard after Cori while Carlos has taken Trieste without permission of Christian. The fall and builds only solidifies the AT vs. IR alliances
At the very end of the Fall 01 turn, Ed tries to message me to tell me that Kevin is likely leaving MUN open, and that I could sneak in … and as is usual I miss people’s discord messages while frantic in negotiation. But, I think it’s for the better: a three center France + two center England can scare the rest of the board. Ed instead gets double support to BEL from RUH and BUR, and I get my two builds. Ed and I arrange fleets in LON and BRE (I don’t want to scare Carlos, and maybe we throw the scent of an EF off), and I put the army in Paris.
Early on, the west starts little hints of triple, but it’s only my moves that go anywhere (Cori holds and keeps Ed from sneaking in, and Kevin self-bounces in a move that didn’t get orders in … oops!). I apologize profusely to Carlos that the fleets are being parked away from England, and reassure I’ve no eyes for the south.
And then, the fall.
Ed and I first agree to move on Germany, with North supporting BEL to HOL and me following into BEL behind. And then Kevin pitches a turn on Ed: he’s worked things out with Cori, so he’s hitting DEN and moving to HEL while Cori takes Norway, and if I’m on board I should take BEL and swing the fleets north. It’s impossible not to do, knowing the English move on HOL will definitely fail now, and it feels like there’s no realistic way for me to prop an EF up and have any growth opportunity. Even if I don’t keep Belgium, I have a good defensive position and Germany isn’t immediately growing. I throw in with Kevin and stab Ed (and make Carlos very happy for moving the fleets away — it’s always worth it to get a smile from Carlos).
Kevin and I make progress on Ed, with Kevin getting into North, me into Channel, and then me winning the guessing game for LVP in Fall of 03. The east is still a mess, as Christian and Chris are trading punches with Cori and Carlos, but Carlos nets a center in 03 to put him to 6. I go ahead and push my army in MAR to PIE, telling Kevin I’m prepping the Italian move, and telling Carlos it’s just going to happily move to TYR in the spring to setup on Kevin. At this point, my goal is much more the former than the latter, but it’s good to have options.
I make a diplomatic faux-pas with my build: Carlos was insistent if I moved to PIE I not build in MAR, and I’m hoping to keep him a little on side. I don’t need another fleet (I think I can drop down one from the north in the spring). And so, wanting to bolster my defensive position, I build an army in Paris. This makes Kevin incredibly unhappy in the spring of 04, and there’s a lot of back and forth about rebuilding trust. In retrospect, I certainly understand the anger, but I still think it was the right call: I was pushing armies east, and maybe convoying/moving into England, and I was not going to allow my defensive position at home to be too compromised beyond BEL. A stab for BEL was always going to be possible, but I wanted to be sure there would never be anything more, as I figured Kevin would be very unlikely to one-dot me.
We worked out the differences, and then the fall 04 moves were the next major changing point of the game (after the fall 02 stab on Ed). Kevin and I are badly guessing in England, but at this point Russia/Italy have gone to 7/6, while Austria/Turkey are down to 4/3. Kevin says he’s moving to BOH to bounce Cori out and slow her down. Meanwhile, I drop a fleet from MAO to WES and use my army still sitting in PIE to tap VEN. It breaks Italy’s position, who loses a dot and has no way to keep me out of TUN next year. Christian gets a fleet in GRE piffed and turned it into an army in BUD, while Chris gets a build and puts a fleet in SMY down. What had looked like an FG vs. IR fight coming ended up with the east still in shambles.
It’s funny because I was somehow not sure to tap VEN, but it made all the difference. If memory serves it was completely uncoordinated with Austria and a last second move/decision, but I couldn’t justify moving to TYR for position, and with the fleet moving down there was no illusion I was pro-Italy after this point, so thought I might as well just hit VEN and see what happens. Turns out, a lot!
In 05, Kevin and I are working great. I feel free enough to convoy an army to the island while taking TUN and being pushed back out of PIE by Carlos (which just allows the AT to push on him the other way, and soon enough he has a Turkish fleet in ION). I don’t pay close enough attention here though: Kevin supports Cori into BOH, and Cori starts to move fleets north. I’d been locked in a mindset that Russia was Kevin’s problem and I’d let him deal with it, and so I’m a bit surprised to see a Russian fleet in NAO in the fall of 05. Rather than allowing me to build and push on Italy, now I’m forced to build fleet Brest to cover MAO, and Kevin puts down an army … in Kiel … which he tells me is going to go after Cori but he didn’t want make that move so obvious …
So, it only partially surprises me to see a one-dot stab for Belgium in Spring06 from Kevin, but with him taking London as well, and Cori convoy into Clyde to set up a move on LVP. Luckily, Carlos backs away in the south to finally deal with the Turk that has invaded his space, and I’m left to go talk to Kevin in Fall of 06 about how this game goes from here.
Kevin is diplomatic about the stab, and says he thought it was his best move, and … I push back. I’d been expecting BEL could be lost for some time, so that worries me very little. I’m pretty certain that I will lose LVP to Russia, but I can force London and make sure Kevin’s only getting one dot this turn, and that no one is easily getting any other centers off me without a lot of pain (my focus on maintaining a defensible core position even as I expanded is paying off here). And, while Kevin cannot make immediate stabs of Cori, Cori is very overextended — German units can move unimpeded into the northeast and make big gains in a year to two years, and French units can stay where they are and not threaten what Kevin has, as I have room for growth in the south.
Kevin buys the logic, and moves back into North from London and sneaks into SIL. Making matters better, Cori doesn’t do the guaranteed move on LVP and so I manage to hang onto it. I stay even, Kevin goes up one and builds a fleet Berlin (YES!), and the FG is back in business.
With Germany’s armies away from the line, I can really push down into the south after we finish escorting Russia out of the northwest corner. It’s slow going for me (not helped by some bad guesses), but Kevin is a good ally and gives me a dot to get another fleet while he’s taking plenty from Cori. Christian’s Austrian position gets weaker and weaker as his ally in Turkey seems to have a propensity for happening into his centers (I’m sure some arranged … but probably not all?), and so it quickly becomes FGT at the top of the board. Chris really pushes the bounds in 08, as I think he was expected to move north to support Cori’s remaining units in Russia, but instead moves west to be in place to take the last of Austria (with, admittedly, a little suggestion from me on that front).
That sets the stage for the final year. Kevin proposes a draw despite being a center down from me, but the vote fails (I think in the spring) due to Chris vetoing it — understandable as he’s very close to the board top and can see it in sight. But that sets the rest of the east in a very volatile mood, and it’s easy to see that centers are about to be thrown. Kevin is likely to get many of those, while I am not in the best position for it.
In the spring I have armies in PIE and TUS, and fleets in TUN and TYS, and no enemy army in VEN. In the fall, I tell Chris that we can split Naples and Rome if we work together. But I cut his support from ION, so while I take Rome but he doesn’t get Naples, putting the centers at 10/9/8 for F/G/T. I’m hoping that this convinces Chris to take a draw, as the situation will not be getting better, and at worst I’m keeping him weak and can probably get a support from Carlos into ION in exchange for keeping Carlos alive (which I definitely would have done my best to do).
Luckily, a draw vote succeeds in spring of 1910, and we wrap up in time for the second chance game.
By far not a perfect game: there was a lack in efficiency to finish off Ed, I made some poor moves/guesses against Italy in the south, and most importantly I didn’t do enough to see that Cori would be moving west and making a play on my centers in Britain. But, overall, I did what I set out to do and it worked well. France naturally has a defendable position, but I did resist the urge to overextend or get complacent with my German ally, and while that made for some slightly rocky points, I stayed in position for a board top, and ended up being able to hold it.
Will be curious to hear what others thought!
Nice recap Wes. That adds a little more clarity to how I viewed the game. Your plan was excellent and worked as you wanted.
Even though I was stagnant for a few years, I enjoyed the game. The diplomacy was very good across the board. Ed was unfortunately on the short end in our sphere and Christian was a ping-pong ball in the east, but he held on through the end.
Looking forward to another game with this group in 2021.