A Tale of Two Robs

Our return to in-person play continued on a late November evening at the Green Post, with a brand new Weasel, Robert Griffin, playing his first ever Diplomacy game, and Ethan Stocking-Anderson playing in-person for the first time, having joined us for some virtual games previously.  The board was rounded out by relative newcomers, Frank Herman and Tony Riedel, old hands Bryan Pravel and Brandon Fogel, and new oldcomer, Rob Chase, becoming a regular after a roughly 15 years hiatus.

Game 449 was a balance of power bonanza that ended up being all about the Robs.  After some confusion in the West in 1901, German Rob managed to convince French Rob to join against England, while in the East, an AT alliance got the jump on Russia and Italy.  The Turk stabbed the Austrian for 2 in 1903 but wasn’t able to grow beyond that.  Meanwhile Germany jumped out to 8 centers in 1904, before French Rob stabbed German Rob to even the count at 7-7.  The game ended by draw vote in Spring 1906 so that the postgame could get started right away.

The tied top takes Rob Chase up to 2nd place in the standings, on just 2 games.  Rob has now topped or tied for the top in all 3 games he’s played since coming out of retirement for a game at Weasel Moot XVI.

Check out all the moves here.

Hopefully the players will tell us about the game from their perspective in the comments below.

Game #449, played on Wednesday, November 29, 2023, at Green Post in Chicago, ended in a seven-way draw in 1905. This game is part of WCW League 18 (2023).
Austria(Bryan Pravel)5 centers47.000 points
England(Frank Herman)2 centers35.000 points
France(Bobby Griffin)7 centers58.750 points
Germany(Rob Chase)7 centers58.750 points
Italy(Tony Riedel)3 centers39.000 points
Russia(Brandon Fogel)5 centers47.000 points
Turkey(Ethan Stocking-Anderson)5 centers47.000 points
1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Tony Riedel

    Overall Strategic Thoughts on the Game
    My strategy of being a noob and having everyone else tell me what to do as France and being dragged to 2nd place didn’t work as well as Italy. If I was breaking down the main points that led me to stagnate they would be
    Not knowing the general approach and openings for Italy, so instead of picking a way to go with Austria, who I felt like I had a good first impressions and year 1 with. I just bided my time, which may have been fine if I had any real reason to do it or understanding the greater picture of the board. Austria was open to letting me into Trieste year 1 to get a build, but I was too afraid to be too powerful. In all reality I should have intuited that France was probably not, in his first game ever, going to bum rush me and cause me problems, giving some more time.
    Not recognizing the impact and importance of what England was doing in relation to France and Germany. Germany was the real ringmaster. There was a lot of conversation from both Germany and Turkey about going against Austria, which I did eventually do but this felt like Germany convincing me to do something that would benefit France more then something that made sense for me. Considering I know the game isn’t getting past 06-07, there were a ton of opportunities I could have taken against France that would have increased my momentum, especially in the first build phase. I also think that being in better contact with England would have helped me with this. There was some tunnel vision in the South.
    As funny as it sounds, I don’t think i have played a single game to win yet, which means that a lot of my decisions are not being made on the correct first principle of “does this decision increase my chances to score higher” Part of the problem in that is not even knowing what moves actually do that, which will come from experience, but also the mindset. This game was one where I let either previous games, not wanting to make moves on other people, or even morals get in the way of doing what the best thing for me is.
    Not working with England (Frank) because of our last 2 games
    While reputation is a real thing, one of the main points I was making before was understanding what was going on with the Western Triple, which not talking to England because of previous considerations prevented me from doing. (Part this and part just trying to figure out what the heck was going on).
    Not moving against Bryan, not because it was a good or bad play, but because of our previous game.
    I moved into Munich in Spring 1903 against Bryan (I was France he was Germany) which was a stab, and the only reason we didn’t fit was because England had pissed him off more. But this bled into this game subconsciously because what kind of person would I be if I worked with and then stabbed Bryan again? Could I risk reputational disgrace? This was all in my own head though, even Bryan said at the end of the game that he respects a great move against him. This goes to what I will go on to talk about now, which are the things that I learned about myself from this game.
    Taking it easy on France because it was his first game
    Why not just use France to win? Did I deserve to be taken lightly just when it was my first game? (Shoutout to French Army in Vienna)

    What I learned from Diplomacy about myself.

    One of the most incredible things about the game of Diplomacy is the experience of seeing your own personality, both strengths and weaknesses, laid bare in front of you. Diplomacy really gives one the opportunity for me to have an experience where I get to really learn about who I am. As someone who loves reflecting and relating things, I could not imagine a more perfectly designed game. As I was doing some research on Alliances after talking to Brandon after the game (he had mentioned that a good ally is someone who gives you something, not just someone who doesn’t stab you) and I found one of his videos from the vWDC Masterclass talking exactly about this. I went into a lot of the specifics in terms of the game examples of this in the last section, but one of the biggest realizations I had from this was I wasn’t just developing simple alliances in the game, I was also doing this in my life. I am a simple alliance player in life. What I realized through this game of Diplomacy is that I am so polarized towards only considering the concerns and feelings of other people that I am avoiding doing things that are the best for me. Who would have thought just a board game would lead me to these personal realizations. This was a profound realization and actually made me reconsider and act on changing an few things in my own life that were long past due to be changed.

    There is one more aspect here that has been a tough pill to swallow for myself, and its that I am not exactly sure I know how to get good at anything. After playing just 3 in person games and a few online gunboat rounds, I now have a burning desire to learn the game of Diplomacy.. But as I reflect and try and figure out what to do, I suddenly realized that I may not have any experience in what it really takes to get good at something. I grew up smart, coasted through school, and was never really challenged. But now facing the challenge of learning this game, maybe the first thing that I purely just want to get good at for my own sake, feels overwhelming. The crazy thing is that this feeling is the exact feeling I have trying to become an entrepreneur and build my own opportunities outside of a job (which I am also struggling with). But what that overwhelm provides is an opportunity to prove to myself that, yes, I can learn and get better and become a better person just through a board game.

  2. KalelChase

    First, Kudos to Tony for the breakdown above. It covers both the story of the game and the internal battles I fully relate to.

    This game I wore my Care Bear T-shirt.

    My old bones are creaking like the Tinman of Oz as I shake off years of rust. The good news is the map is burned into my brain and the tactics have come back to me fairly quickly (on-line gunboat is your friend), but the name of the game is Diplomacy and despite the results, my game was very sub-standard in this area. In reflection I was a too aggressive in my insistence that Bobby (France) and Tony (Italy) come up with a plan I could help them execute. I was also too reluctant to work with Brandon (Russia) and to a lesser extend Bryan (Austria). Most of my game was about interacting with Frank (England), and it was this that made it a good fun game.

    As an optimist I’m a bit gullible and started out with a good vibe from all my neighbors. Of course, I was going to be cautious and defensive in regard to the veterans. Ultimately 1901 was pleasant as E/F and I talked about a triple. We smiled at each other with a nervous laugh and Frank said, “That doesn’t always work out for Germany.” I made note of this. The biggest conflict for me that year was keeping Brandon out of Sweden, which again was me being overly cautious and trying to ‘slow him down’. At the last minute I tried to talk to Frank about me getting Belgium and him getting Denmark. This would give him a clear path to the ‘enemy’ Brandon. However, we didn’t get a chance to switch, and I had an English army in Belgium in the Fall. This and a couple of comments from Frank informed all my moves in 1902.

    I spent much of 1901 German-splaining to Bobby that he really needed to pick an enemy and go after them (excluding myself from the list). Going into 1902 I realized I wasn’t following my own advice. I built a fleet with the idea I could go after either England or Russia depending on negotiations. In my next conversation with Frank, he informed me that he was scared of what I might do. He had me flanked with the opportunity to work with Brandon against me and he was scared of me. I had to pick a bad guy and I chose Frank.
    For the rest of the game in our interactions Frank showed he was astute at reading me, especially when I wouldn’t commit to plans, and it made me realize how utterly unnatural I am at this portion of the game. He called me out on several things I mention below.

    Spring 1902 I initiated the switch of Belgium and Denmark, but without telling Frank and without giving up Denmark in the spring. I could have been convinced to give up Denmark in the fall, but Frank (rightfully so) didn’t accept my apology. He had successfully moved on Russia, successfully taking Stp (nc)!

    I talked with Bobby to see if he had a plan yet and he grilled me about the breakdown of the triple. Another failure of mine is to play coy and dance around and make jokes before getting to the good stuff. I did all of these with Bobby but followed up with real rationales that he listened to. He agreed that he actually had the most to gain if we teamed up on Frank. And in the Fall, he moved into the Irish. I would have preferred EC unless there was another fleet in MAO, but it was enough. Unfortunately, Frank got into Stp (nc) and had a re-build from the Belgium POP, so he was able to put an army back on the island. Both Frank and I realized that we would need Brandon to at least not harass us, we both supported him into Swe.

    My discussions with Frank were strained at the least. I started by discussing what he intended to do about the Fleet in Irish and with no hesitation he called me out as highlighting the wrong threat. We talked about what could possibly repair our relationship and let us work together and I proposed an idea I was not 100% on and he told me I was not looking him in the eye. I tried again and failed again. He outright told me I was lying to him. Frank might as well have had a desk lamp on a table asking where I was in the Spring of ’02 when the murder of Belgium took place, and I had no alibi.

    1903 was just a reorganization for both Bobby and me. I had to get my fleets in position. Bobby did a great job bouncing around to keep me from seeing him as an easy stab, and also moved into the EC. Bobby did discuss with me his instinct to do something with his armies like the one in Picardy. I genuinely think it is very important to keep your ally from seeing you as an easy stab and suggested that his army was providing a great service. I was still all in with him at this point.

    With Frank in Stp (nc) Brandon was willing to work with me but we didn’t coordinate well, he had other things to focus on in the East. Fall ’03 I took the North Sea and Bobby got an army on the island. This set us up to get him London next year. I also trusted Bobby enough to move my Munich army down to Tyrolia again to help either him or Tony with whatever plan they came up with in the Med. To this point they were just ‘threatening’ each other. I think Tony would have been more comfortable executing a plan if Bobby hadn’t been playing around in the Med/Mar.

    The big item in Fall of 1903 was the Austria/Turkey alliance broke down. Not sure exactly which whisper into Ethan’s ear was the one to make it happen, but I’m sure everyone but Bryan was whispering. Bryan and I had been talking, but with the A/T I was more interested in helping Tony than him. When we talked this time, he was pissed in a Diplomacy way, and opened our conversation by saying he wanted me to top the board. I obviously didn’t argue with him but couldn’t see exactly what we could do for each other immediately.
    Spring 1904 picked up the tempo. Frank had to pull back from Stp (nc)., exposing him to some Brandon revenge. Bobby successfully acquired London. At this point I was under the misunderstanding that Bobby and I were going to be tight through the end… Spoiler, he surprised me later. The other item was with my fleet in North hitting York I didn’t really have anything to do with Fleets Hel and Den. I hate ordering hold if I have something else to do so I shifted the fleets up to Ska and Den. I had no specific plan but wanted them to do something and I felt like that position was more flexible. Turns out I was right.

    Fall 1904 I had all my orders written up. Bobby and I were going to convoy Belgium to Yorkshire. If we were going to take advantage of A/T breaking down, we had to eliminate England quickly. This was where it was clear my face-to-face experience was failing me… I had forgotten this game had a deadline. I was looking too far ahead and not at what was right in front of me.

    At the last minute I took a look at Brandon’s position. If he and Bryan worked together, they were going to teach Ethan a lesson and quickly. Brandon was going to get Stp and Sev back, and if he kept Nwy and Swe he would build three (with only two open dots). If Russia had that power combined with Frank’s spite I was going to be in big trouble. So, I took Scandinavia from him. I generally hate early leader syndrome (for me), but this was now Sp 1905, right? No one would think this was something to change your plans over, right?

    The negotiations for Spring of ‘05 included Bobby, Frank and Brandon at a table pointing to a map for over half the time and me committing chronocide by dancing around the dining room. Frank and Brandon were coordinating in the north and Bobby finally moved into Burgundy. When we talked, he insisted that he thought that I knew it was coming. I put out my lower lip and held back tears and told him “I had not.” I may have clutched at my heart. Regardless he was in position to take Belgium, and the only thing I could do about it was to take Burgundy and still loose Belgium. I chose not to because that would solidify us not working together at all through the end of the game. It had the added benefit of making us even which I leveraged in our conversation to highlight how equal of an alliance this was.

    I proposed to him a plan of getting 9 each. Two more England would bring him to 8 and I thought I still had a shot at Stp, and we’d get him Mar. We had lost momentum on Frank, and I was now correctly thinking about the game ending at the end of the year. I wasn’t even at 50% that we could do it, but the results, as long as Bobby didn’t keep coming at me were either a board top for me (if we couldn’t take England) or a shared board top. Bobby correctly assessed our chances were slim. My lack of confidence was squarely around how effectively Frank had held us off. A diplomatic win for him with France, and Russia had taken all the wind out of the sails of invasion. If this had been an un-timed game, I guarantee Frank would have ended with more centers than I would have.

    In Fall of ’05 Bobby did indeed take Belgium, and I managed to re-position a bit in the East, but not at full effectiveness. Brandon’s one army in Warsaw was enough to slow me down with a bounce, and he pulled Ukraine back to Mos so he could support War or Stp as he needed to (I had two fleets on Stp.)

    The only way I got more centers before the end was if Bryan came through on his earlier promise of giving me the board top. He did not. In fact, he suggested building a wall of armies to keep Brandon at bay. He later told me this offer was genuine, but tactically it didn’t make sense. Consciously or subconsciously, I imagined that his suggestion was more about forcing me to draw by sitting on Berlin and Munich. At this point I was highly motivated for the draw anyway. Which is what happened.

    TLDR: I desperately, and genuinely, wanted to work with the new blood, and got frustrated when they didn’t commit to a plan early on. Frank and I threw down, and to my shame I was the villain in this story. Despite my center count I feel like diplomatically Frank had the upper hand on me through most of the game. I had a center edge in ’02 and some level of surprise, and that was about it.

    I have to get over my bad habits of, “it’s a solo or you’re a loser”. Sharing the board top was quite a bit more satisfying than I thought it would be and I look forward to sharing a board top with you at the next game.

    -Kalel Chase

  3. cipherguy23

    Hey all, Frank here!

    This was my third bargame with the Weasels, the first one being back in May, and it was my third time in a row being England! You may, therefore, think that I should have it down to a science at this point. This being Diplomacy, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’d probably categorize this as one of my worst games, and here’s why:

    Oftentimes playing England I tend to be antagonistic toward Russia and France while championing good relations with Germany. This game, however, saw an entirely new player (Bobby) leading France, while the seasoned Brandon Fogel played as Russia. As a result, I knew from the start I wanted to focus on the Eastern menace. In this, I had some luck. I had floated the idea of attacking Russia with Both Austria (Bryan) and Turkey (Ethan) and so when the two of them were talking in the Spring of 1902 I saw my chance. I approached and decided to start off by expressing my wish for them to become allies, calmly discussing current events on the other side of the board before slipping in my suggestion for them to attack Russia. It turned out they didn’t need any persuading and had already elected to invade Russian Romania, which was all the signal I needed that I could move on Saint Petersburg and reposition my troops to the North. Saint Peterburg fell, and I had an army in Norway and a fleet in the Norwegian Sea. I was poised to wipe out Russia the following year, but was forced to fall back and reassess the situation due to a developing crisis of my own making in the West.

    Since, as England, I try to stay on good terms with Germany, and since France was being controlled by a newcomer,I came into the game with a desire to form a Western Triple. Luckily, both were willing and seemingly drawn to the prospect, and the Tsar’s nightmare was realized. We evenly divvied up Western Europe, so that each of us would build two units after the first year, but this was where the problems started. My attempts at persuading the two to turn east towards Russia and/or Italy didn’t bear any fruits, and when the two surrounded Belgium I knew exactly what they were planning. My own diplomatic failures became apparent here, as I constantly made the two aware of my suspicion towards them and was thoroughly incompetent at repairing strained relations. Even when Germany offered to trade Belgium for Denmark I changed the topic, instead insisting that they leave Belgium alone for the moment and turn East, though I did agree to the proposal. When the two invaded Belgium in the spring of 1902, I didn’t consider it the end of the alliance but wanted Germany’s assurance that I would get Denmark as previously agreed. It’s worth mentioning that Germany was being chaired by Rob Chase, an experienced player who I had witnessed steamroll the board during the previous bargame, which only added to my desire to ally with him. I had also witnessed, and even been the victim of his deft negotiation skills and empty promises. So when he couldn’t look me in the eye and tell me he was going to give me Denmark, I knew he was lying. I tried to turn France against him, but could see that he had been convinced by the potential gains at my expense and I understood it was largely fait accompli. Bobby moved into the Irish Sea in the fall of 1902, which confirmed all of my suspicions. That winter I built an army in Liverpool to prepare for the inevitable invasion and began to consider bringing back my units from the Russian front. Bobby moved into the English Channel in the spring of 1903, and I could see the writing on the wall.

    To prevent being completely wiped off of the board, I employed a dual strategy. 1: Return Saint Petersburg and give Norway to Brandon, ingratiating him to me, putting him back on the map to threaten Rob, and evacuating my troops in the process. 2: Constantly badger Bobby to turn on Rob and prevent German hegemony. The first was executed fairly seamlessly, as Brandon was able to put a fleet in Norway to assist in the defense of the North Sea and further threaten Germany. Unfortunately, this was too little too late, as some botched movements and false predictions saw Germany gain the North Sea and France convoy an army into Wales. I once again pleaded with Bobby to reconsider, but was unsuccessful. London fell in the Spring of 1904, but it wasn’t game over yet. Germany had moved their fleets into Scandinavia to kick out Russia, and my generosity towards Brandon convinced him to help me defend the North sea after Germany had moved out. France also saw that there was no easy way to conquer the rest of Britain, and repositioned before attacking Germany in the Fall of 1905, with the winter being our final season of the game.

    I’ve thought a lot about this game since we’ve played, and on the way home afterward I wrote down two lessons I learned while playing. 1: Be specific when presenting plans. Oftentimes I’d approach people with general ideas of what to do, yet without specifics in actual troop movements. Not only did this cause misunderstandings among allies, but it also influenced whether or not people were willing to take my side in the first place. I think I would’ve been a lot more convincing to Bobby if I proposed actual movements instead of basically just saying “Attack Germany”. 2: Even when someone looks like they’re going to attack you, you have to appear friendly. When Rob appeared threatening to me, I should’ve just tried to compromise with him and work out the exchange of Denmark and Belgium. Instead, I made impractical demands and was clearly hostile, which likely just confirmed to him that he should attack me. Overall I had a total blast, and the fact that I was able to influence the board even after being diminished is one of the many reasons I love Diplomacy.

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