Carnage (Vermont) AAR: A Series of Unfortunate Moves

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Carnage (Vermont) AAR: A Series of Unfortunate Moves

Postby nanooktheeskimo » 13 Nov 2017, 10:38

This year Carnage, held in Killington Vermont, was the home of the North American Diplomacy Championship. Some 40+ people showed up to play (I think there were around 50 people that played at least one round, but the biggest round was 49 on 7 boards if memory serves). It was also the test site for a new country selection process, where players essentially drafted the country they wanted to play. This was a really interesting wrinkle, and one that I think added a good element to the tournament.

I played very poorly for most of this tournament. First game I didn't play terribly, just had some bad luck, then got screwed by something out of my control. Frustrating but it happens. Second game I ignored my instincts three times, and if I had followed them the game would've gone considerably better for me. And the third game, I played better but again ended up in a difficult position due to circumstances that were sort of in my control but sort of not. My finishes were, in order: elimination (second eliminated, game finished in a five way draw); 3 center France, 4th in a 5 way draw; 5 center Germany, 5th in a 5 way draw. I think that equates to a score of 8508, but I'm not 100% positive of that (for reference of how mediocre/bad this score is, the top two or three scores were both above 20,000). It was a mediocre tournament for me, that could have gone a lot better, but I still had a ton of fun. Dave Maletsky, the TD, and the entire Carnage staff make it a hugely fun and enjoyable place to play, and the entire weekend was a blast.


So, let's get a little more detailed!


This tournament was farther away from me than the others (TN to Vermont is a long drive), and on top of that, this one my girlfriend decided to join me for the trip and make a mini-vacation out of it. We got there Thursday evening after a long two days of driving (didn't drive straight up, that's another story for another time!), right around the time people were organizing to head to dinner. Normally I'd be interested, but instead I felt the need to pass the hell out and promptly did so. Friday we went down into Rutland for lunch and saw Thor (I highly recommend it), then headed back. I went over to the hotel the broader convention was being held at and picked up my registration badge around 5, and made my way over to the building the diplomacy was being held in for the 6pm board call. I milled around a bit and said hello to people, then learned how to play Strat-O-Matic baseball from Doc Binder, a really great guy. His Cardinals beat my Red Sox 4-1, the bastard. After that it was board call.

So, the board assignments worked a little differently at Carnage. Instead of the normal randomization, with the goal of people playing one each of the East (R/T), West (E/F), and Center (A/I/G) powers, countries were decided through a draft process. For the first round the order was randomized, with the order determined by inverse rankings in rounds 2 and 3 (i.e., lowest tournament score picks first). After countries were picked, the board assignments were randomized. I picked towards the middle in the first round, and chose Italy--I like playing Italy, you can usually afford to play a little patiently as Italy, my best game in a tournament so far was from playing Italy, and I like playing Italy. Several of the stronger players made a run at Austria--that didn't worry me though, because I figure I'm going to have to play with them anyways, I'd rather have them next to me where maybe I can get them to work with me. Certainly as Italy I'd rather have a strong player in Austria than in France, all other things being equal. Turkey ended up being the least popular choice, I believe--Turkey isn't nearly as successful in FtF as it is here, it seems.

So, the game starts. I'm in Italy, Randy L-H is in Austria (awesome, I like Randy and we got along fairly well as I-G the one time we played in Philly). John something (I forget his last name) is in Turkey, I've never met him before. Brad Blistein (quite likely I butchered his last name) is in France, we'd never played Dip but had played Avalon in Philly. Christian Pedone, the TD of the Philly tournament and an all-around good guy is in Russia. Matt Langer, who I'd never met, is in England. And Robert Rousse is in Germany (I'd played with him in both Philly and DC). So I felt reasonably good about my chances, provided I could get at least one of Randy/Christian to work with me. That's pretty much normal for Italy, got to have one or both of Austria/Russia happy with you or you're probably not gonna have a great game.

The game mostly started well for me--I got along very well with Randy, and arranged with him and Christian (independently of each other) to take out Turkey early. I strongly considered working with Turkey to push up into Austria hard and fast since the gains would have come mostly for me, what with R/T annoyed at each other and fighting, but that didn't happen for a couple reasons--one, it took a ton of energy to get him to talk, and that's frustrating for me in an ally. And two, he lied about his W01 build, which pretty much put an end to any hope of working with him. If in F01 he had told me "ya know what, I'm not super comfortable with your moves combined with me building A Con, can we do something else instead?" then we probably could've worked something out. As it is, he chose to lie to me instead, then acted confused why I was annoyed by the lie. So I stuck with the take down Turkey plan instead of something a bit more exciting.

1902 or 1903 is when the game started to go sideways for me, I forget which. In the Spring, I moved the army I'd been holding in Venice into Tyrolia to poke at Germany. In the Fall Brad/France came to me, and said he was moving to GOL as a "defensive measure." I spent a good 3 minutes explaining in detail why Tyrolia is the same amount of threatening to him as Venice, and that if he broke our DMZ in GOL then I would immediately turn around and fight him, ignoring Austria and Turkey (it's also worth mentioning that Brad spent most of the game leading up to this trying to push me into working with Turkey against Austria, which I had zero interest in doing after Turkey proved too difficult to work with). This was done basically last minute. Orders were read and....Spain to GOL. Great. So now instead of finishing off Turkey and squashing Austria with Russia, I have to deal with this. He tells me he forgot to change the order after we talked...which yeah, sure, whatever. Maybe it's true, but the rest of his moves suggested it wasn't, so I don't really care. I move back, Tyr to Ven and ION to TYS, he forces Pied. It devolves into an extended guessing game--I lose two guess in a row, which pretty much screws me, and I have to invite Austria into the Ionian. At that point I know my game is pretty much fucked, and my only hope is to make myself useful to Austria. To that end, I make sure to keep antagonizing Brad (honestly not that hard to do, since he kept taking jabs at me. Apparently doing better in the game wasn't enough for him), to make sure he keeps pressing the attack and giving Randy incentive to keep me and my fleets alive to hold a line. In Fall 1906 it falls apart--Brad pulls back, Randy takes Naples and Christian takes Smyrna, knocking me out of the game. My consolation is that I screwed up any chance Brad had of soloing, and cost him the board top by helping Randy. Given the way my game could've gone, I'm pretty OK with this result. If you can't play well, at least play vindictively.

The most frustrating part about this game, is that the apparent reason for France shifting his focus from killing England to attacking me, is that a Western Triple arose in response to Russia's actions. So basically, I got screwed by another player doing too well. Possibly I could have prevented this by making it clearer to Brad that I wanted to squish Austria after taking down Turkey, but it's also possible this was mostly out of my hands. Only one person can really say for sure.

So that was my poor first game. I don't think I played all that poorly, I just lost a couple gambles and couldn't quite pull it around. Biggest upside, I got some measure of revenge on the person that screwed me, and I could go to bed relatively early ahead of Saturday's 9am board call.

Saturday morning comes early! Got breakfast from a middling bakery a mile down the road that had pretty bad coffee, then made my way to the clubhouse for board call. I picked very early due to my terrible round one score, and chose France. I figured it would let me play a little more relaxed, which is nice when I'm tired. Boards were announced, and mine was composed of David Miller in Germany (one of my favorite people to play with), Randy in Turkey, Doug Moore (current world champion and the eventual tournament winner) in Austria, Doc Binder in Italy (another of my favorite people to play with), Darius in England (a stranger to me, and I'm misspelling his name), and Bryan Pravel in Russia (I think it's a y, might be an i, also a stranger to me).

Started out well enough--me and Dave Miller got on great and agreed to go kill England. Pravel in Russia seemed on board with it. Doc in Italy agreed to leave me alone. Alright, we're good to go! I open to Channel, Spain, and Gascony, ready to roll...

Not quite...Doc opens to Pied, Ven, and ION. Fantastic. So he'll definitely have F Tun, and I have to worry about Mars. The very first thing I say to Dave (the first person I talked to that turn), is that Doc is going to support Spa to Mars, figuring I'd self bounce there. I talk to england, who is not happy, and Doc, who assures me he isn't going to try and snipe Mars. I come this close to leaving Mars open, I even had it written down to take Spa and Port...and last minute I can't quite go through with it and write Spa to Port, Gasc to Mars, and Channel to North Sea. Doc takes Tun with his fleet, Ven takes Trieste, and Piedmont...supports Spa to Mars. Fuck. Should've trusted that instinct, I was sure of it, and I should've listened to that.

Doc obviously builds F Rom and F Nap, while I'm stuck building F Bre. If I'd listened to my gut, I could've had two builds, put down F Bre and F Mars, and Doc turns towards Italy because he'd just get stalemated from that position and he knows it. So that's the first mistake. Then in the Fall, from a MAO/A Spa/Channel/Mars setup, I very nearly move Spain to Mars and Mars to Gasc, expecting Pied to bounce Spa in Mars. I don't, in case he allows that to happen and walks WMED to Spa (also remembering that Spa was unowned, meaning he could let me walk to Mars and I wouldn't get a build). It would've worked if I'd done it, and I would've been able to put a fleet in Marseilles. Damn it. Mistake number two that would've changed the game, because with F Mars build I can lock up Doc in the Med.

Then in F03, I lose Mars and Spain to Doc, but I take Tunis. Not a problem...except that Germany also dots me for Paris. Which moved Dave to 11 centers with 4 (!!) builds, as he dotted Russia and took two from England the same turn. I pull my southern fleets, reconcile with Doc, and start working against Dave. Partly because it's the objectively right play, but also because it was stupid to dot both me and Russia in the same turn and I was annoyed that Dave dotted me, when if he hadn't I would've kept pushing against Doc. I think if he doesn't dot me there, and I don't turn around, then Dave has a very good chance to solo since he was across the line already. Or, if Dave had pushed hard from 11 instead of kind of playing defensively, which is what he did, then he might've been able to solo. At any rate, my game from there was basically playing a balancing act between Doc and Dave, and spending a long-ass time convincing England of moves that should've been pretty obvious. I ended up on 3 centers, Bre/Par and I think Belgium. I switched back from Doc to working with Dave again at the end to stalemate the game, but in hindsight there was room to grow against Germany for me and push Doc past me to the formerly English isle (it was German at that point). I probably could've ended the game in a sort of weirdly positioned 6 or 7 center France, but I was worried that if I didn't switch then it would lead to a Doc solo. It's possible, but I do sort of regret screwing Doc at the end instead of continuing to work with him and make things happen. So that was a 4th place finish with three centers, which could've been a lot better if I'd trusted my instincts in either of the first two falls.


That game ended around 4ish, which meant it was time to go get dinner (and ice cream, because who doesn't love ice cream. In November. In Vermont. In mid-30s weather. I'm not weird, you're weird!). Then back to the clubhouse for the last game of the tournament, which had a 7pm board call. I select Germany as my country. I end up on the last board called again. My board was: Dan Pollack, unknown to me, in Russia. Andrew Kacher in Turkey, I'd played with him in Philly. Then the fun ones: Steve Cooley, who was leading the tournament through the first two rounds, in Italy. Andy Bartalone, a really good and always dangerous player in Austria. Christian Pedone, a very solid and clever player in England. And Chris Martin, former world champ and guy I'd screwed both of the first two times I played him, in France. Oh boy.

Weirdly though, I actually felt pretty good about this board. I played that down quite a bit and sort of played the "I'm so overwhelmed and I just want to stay alive on this board" card, but I was weirdly feeling confident. Maybe that was just the tiredness and lack of giving a fuck at that point in the tournament (with my first two results, the only shot I had to get on the top board was to solo, and yeah, haha, very funny). At any rate, I went with a pretty laid back approach. Talked to Pedone, he wanted to kill Chris. Ok, good start. Talked to Chris, told him I wanted to do it right this time and not get jumpy in an alliance with him. Worked it out so that both Chris and Pedone would be moving to Belgium. I think Chris might've been willing to give me Belgium, but I knew that I wouldn't be able to get Pedone on board with that. I open to Den, Ruhr, and Holland. Italy opens to Tyrolia! Without tellign me! I pretend to be annoyed about this, but I'm actually really, really happy about it. Now I have the absolute perfect excuse not to support Pedone to Belgium! So I work it out with Chris to bounce Pedone in Belgium, tell Pedone that I can't support him cause I have to cover Munich (which was true--I was pretty sure that Italy wasn't going to Munich, but there was a slight chance that I was looking at an Italy/France attack on me, and since I wasn't getting Belgium anyways nothing to lose for me to cover Mun). So this is pretty much perfect for me--Chris and Pedone bounce in Belgium, I bounce Russia out of Sweden (which I told him I was going to do ahead of time, and did so at Bartelone's request, though I left that information out).

So the first year is fantastic! I've got both Chris and Pedone wanting to work with, Italy moved Tyr to Bohemia (which is a mostly useless space that still borders Mun, but I find it less threatening than Tyrolia for some reason). This is pretty good!

Then I dick over Pedone, by putting Chris in North Sea and Belgium, except...what I expect to happen around Russia doesn't. Austria and Turkey don't attack Russia, which I was kind of counting on. Italy is completely open to an Austrian stab in the Fall, he can walk right into Ven if he wants to. Buffalo (Bartalone) is playing Austria, so of course he wants to. Pedone is, justifiably, pissed at me for lying to him. I dig my hole deeper by lying to him again in the Fall, which in hindsight I definitely should not have done, I should've been more upfront with him.

So we get to Fall 1903, and I have an opening where I can set up to stab Chris in S04 (it's possible this was 02 and 03, not 03 and 04, I forget now), and take Belgium with Paris following soon after...except I can't make the move, because freaking Russia moves to Silesia that turn. I'm confused by this, since I helped him get both Norway and Sweden and thought we were on the same page. So I can't stab Chris, which was the right move to make and was the move I was setting up for, because I can't ignore Silesia. Fantastic. So now I've gone from 01 with both neighbors wanting to work with me, to stuck at 5 centers with no clear path to more, because Russia made a bad stab. I talk to Russia for about 8 minutes, explaining to him how he can take Budapest and Vienna that turn if he wants to, instead of moving towards me where he has a coinflip between Berlin and Munich. Of course he doesn't listen, and takes the coin flip over the sure two centers. He moves so incredibly cautiously that I could've blocked the move (and almost did, but I thought there was no chance he wouldn't tap Mun with Sil--I was mistaken, and again we return to the theme that I should've trusted my instincts).

So that brings us into a fun setup with Buffalo in Tyr, Russia in Sil/Pru/Boh, me in Mun/Ber/Kiel, and Chris in Burgundy. I got Edi that year, so I said "OK, I can eat the loss of Munich, I'll retreat it to Ruhr and won't have to take anything off the board since I replaced it with Edi." I protect Berlin. They move two to Berlin and two to Munich. I win the coinflip! Spring turn, I say OK, let's do the same thing. I'm playing down one since I have nowhere to build, so I don't mind losing Mun and pulling it back to Ruhr. I also avoid having to begrudgingly allow Chris to move to Ruhr that way, which I want to avoid as long as possible. They put two on Berlin again, I win the coinflip again! In the Fall, I notice Buffalo get kind of annoyed and pull Russia aside, so I figure "Ok, they've seen it now, I'll protect Munich because fuck them, I've been trying to sacrifice it for two turns now." I'm right, they put three on Munich, I win the coinflip again. Now we're at the point where I have to begrudgingly say yeah, fine Chris, take Ruhr cause it has to happen, I've put it off as long as I can.

I absolutely hate this position--I'm stuck between Chris, who isn't going to stab me without being able to solo from it since I'm holding the line (and he isn't across the line in the south himself, so I'm in OK position there), and Russia, who is butting his head against me repeatedly. The game is stalled--neither side can advance. But, we keep playing because the draw keeps getting voted down.

Finally, sometime around 1am (when really, the game should've been done by 11, 11:30 or so), there's an opening. Me and Chris have been trying some stuff once we got the Scandinavia situation under control (Russia played too passively up there to hold on to it), and at one point I was able to put an army in Livonia (that was fun). I'm pretty much walking a tightrope--I can't do anything against Chris, but he can't really stab me with the line the way it was, since it would just allow Russia and Austria to come pouring through. Basically, a stab could get him to 15, maybe 16, but not to 18, and it might not even get him that if Russia and Austria take advantage. So I'm in the precarious position of having to rely on the line holding, but the draw keeps getting voted down for no apparent reason (normally I'd think it was Chris, but like I said, he already had the board top and there was no way for him to solo without Austria or Russia deciding they wanted him to, so there wasn't really much incentive for him to turn it down). So, eventually there's a turn where we're playing out the Fall phase before another draw vote, and Chris suggests at the table via subtle note that we take a shot at Galicia (we were in Bohemia and Silesia). At this point, I know that if the line breaks and the game doesn't end, I'm fucked because Chris will gobble up my centers and try to solo. On the other hand, if the line doesn't break, the game might never end. So I say screw it, sure, let's give it a shot. And it works! It never should have worked, Gal should have been supported, but it did work. We call for the draw vote, and it goes through mercifully.

That last draw vote was nail biting. I needed Turkey/Russia/Austria to all realize that if the game continued, Chris was probably going to solo. But I couldn't say that, because then Chris votes it down. So basically I needed Chris not thinking I'd throw him the solo, and I needed everyone else thinking I would. And I couldn't say anything. I knew that Buffalo would see it, and thankfully Turkey and Russia did too and the draw went through.

This was an alternating frustrating and really fun game. Frustrating, because I could have had a much better game if Russia had made the right move of taking two centers from Austria and letting me stab France, and because it went on a lot longer than it really should have. It was fun, because playing with Chris is always fun, and he's a lot of fun as an ally, and there was some interesting stuff that happened.


After the last game mercifully ended, I played a couple rounds of Avalon with a few other players that had hung around (there were actually two more games still going on at that point). The last game wrapped up right as we finished playing Avalon, and I went to bed at long last.


This was an exceptionally fun tournament. I did not play very well, but I had a blast. I cannot recommend traveling to Vermont at the start of winter to play diplomacy in basically the middle of nowhere enough. It's a fantastic event and very well run, and I'll be returning every year I get the chance to.


That's the last tournament of the year. I made it out to 4 this year, and loved it. I'll be going to as many as I can manage next year, and I strongly encourage anyone considering trying FtF to give it a shot if you can. It's a very welcoming community, and as long as you're not an asshole (at least, not all the time ;) ), you'll fit right in.

Looking forward to 2018, I'll be trying to go 5 or so tournaments I think. There's a smaller one in Marlborough MA in February that I'm going to try and make it up to (who doesn't love going to Massachusetts in February? :lol: ), and I'll definitely be making it out to Dixie in May.

I think in 2018 in North America there are tournaments in Vancouver, San Jose, North Carolina, Indiana, DC (World Championships!), Philadelphia, Boston (one outside Boston in February, and one in Boston in September), two in Chicago, and one in Vermont. That's all the ones I know about at least, so if you're thinking of trying FtF and you're in North America, there's probably somewhere for you to give it a shot!
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Re: Carnage (Vermont) AAR: A Series of Unfortunate Moves

Postby Fatmo » 13 Nov 2017, 14:09

I love these tournament AARs you write up.

I might try to make San Jose as my first tournament. Nothing else is anywhere near me. Maybe SF if something there is at a better time of year or something.

Who placed third at carnage? I just finished a six month game here with whoever that was.
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Re: Carnage (Vermont) AAR: A Series of Unfortunate Moves

Postby nanooktheeskimo » 13 Nov 2017, 15:28

Fatmo wrote:I love these tournament AARs you write up.

I might try to make San Jose as my first tournament. Nothing else is anywhere near me. Maybe SF if something there is at a better time of year or something.

Who placed third at carnage? I just finished a six month game here with whoever that was.

San Jose is the SF tournament. It's March 31/April 1 this year, I believe.

I don't recall who placed third, but the results will be posted somewhere, at some point, or so I'm told.
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Re: Carnage (Vermont) AAR: A Series of Unfortunate Moves

Postby Fatmo » 13 Nov 2017, 16:04

I thought there was a smaller tournament in SF or Berkley at some point during the year?

You think you'll go to San Jose, or that too far from you like everything else is too far from me?

Though it's not impossible that I could try to time a trip to visit Boston to make one of the tournaments in MA or New England. I love Boston and Vermont, but never make it out that way anymore.
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Re: Carnage (Vermont) AAR: A Series of Unfortunate Moves

Postby nanooktheeskimo » 13 Nov 2017, 17:32

Fatmo wrote:I thought there was a smaller tournament in SF or Berkley at some point during the year?

You think you'll go to San Jose, or that too far from you like everything else is too far from me?

Though it's not impossible that I could try to time a trip to visit Boston to make one of the tournaments in MA or New England. I love Boston and Vermont, but never make it out that way anymore.

Maybe there is and I don't know about it? WHS might know, I think he's plugged into that crowd much more than I am.

I would love to get out to Whipping, the one in San Jose, but I doubt I'll be able to. It's an unfortunate combination of moderately expensive and a bad time of year for me, so it's doubtful. I'm hopeful to make it out in 2019 though.

You should definitely come out to Vermont or Boston if you can! I cannot recommend Vermont enough, and while I haven't been to Boston I've played with several of the Boston players and the guy that runs it, and I'm sure that it's a great tournament.
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Re: Carnage (Vermont) AAR: A Series of Unfortunate Moves

Postby Big Gun » 14 Nov 2017, 19:05

Always enjoy reading these tournament reports from you Nanook. That last game was riveting reading.

Hope to see you in DC in October next year.
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Re: Carnage (Vermont) AAR: A Series of Unfortunate Moves

Postby nanooktheeskimo » 14 Nov 2017, 19:17

Big Gun wrote:Always enjoy reading these tournament reports from you Nanook. That last game was riveting reading.

Hope to see you in DC in October next year.

I'm not even beginning to do that last game justice. It was a really frustrating and fun game at the same time.

I'll be there! Already looking forward to it :D
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Re: Carnage (Vermont) AAR: A Series of Unfortunate Moves

Postby WHSeward » 14 Nov 2017, 21:41

There are 2 multi-day FtF events in the Bay Area.

Whipping is the big one. 3 days. Lots of travellers. It has moved around; been in Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose. After hosting WDC, the event went dormant for several years. (It took that long to recover.) Last year it re-started in San Jose and I think the plan is to keep it there for a bit. Lots of places to eat and drink near the Hotel De Anza which makes it a good spot.

Con Con (The Con in Concord) is a smaller one. 2 days. Mostly locals. Edi Birsan is on the City Board in Concord, so he sets us up in a really nice outdoor venue. I always go at least one day, I play a little or not at all, but definitely drink beers and eat a burger.
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Re: Carnage (Vermont) AAR: A Series of Unfortunate Moves

Postby DQ » 15 Nov 2017, 21:17

Big Gun wrote:Always enjoy reading these tournament reports from you Nanook. That last game was riveting reading.

Hope to see you in DC in October next year.


The game itself had about 90 minutes of "absolutely NOT riveting" action - in which F/G basically stiff-armed A/T/R, and I started taking things from R.

Then, it had some explosive, VERY riveting play, when we broke through the lines.

My honest thought process in voting for all the draws (I voted one down earlier in the game in a spring turn when I was sitting on a dot because COME ON) was "I can only win this thing if I get a solo, I won last year, let someone else have a shot." I sat out the Saturday AM round to help make numbers despite being in 4th place in the tournament at the time.

Only a little later did I really look at the idea that I'd have had a good shot at the solo, because Turkey had been voting down the draw the whole time, hoping to get bigger. (No, Andrew Katcher, you aren't going to advance in the med with your Fleets in Tunis/Tys/Rome versus my fleets in NAF/WMed/GOL. Sorry.)

It was fun working with you Nanook, and I too look forward to a great 2018! 8 NADF-sanctioned Face-to-Face tournaments planned for the year so far!
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Re: Carnage (Vermont) AAR: A Series of Unfortunate Moves

Postby WHSeward » 15 Nov 2017, 22:25

Hey DQ, when are Carnage results going to posted? Where will they be posted?
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