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.