AAR: Mentors Game

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Re: AAR: Mentors Game

Postby Radical Pumpkin » 29 Oct 2015, 05:55

SPRING 1902

Image

I feel my position is better than it looks on the board this season—primarily because of my relationship with drno—but still my focus is on staving off disaster. That has three prongs.

First, while I feel comfortable that drno “wants” EF rather than EG, I am concerned that he’ll be tempted by the prospect of easy gains. I do lots of the standard relationship-building to ward against that scenario, but I also throw in one extra incentive: I offer my consent for his F Liverpool to head south into the Mediterranean under the aegis of the EF alliance. That’s a great deal for England, with potential to blow past all the major stalemate lines if things go well. It’s also risky for me, because it means his fleet has to pass through MAO (and he gets past stalemate lines!). Nevertheless, I make this offer for a number of reasons, and it’s representative of the kind of offer I might make in many games. Most importantly, I want EF to seem appealing, and this offer is a concession to acknowledge his superior bargaining position without, I hope, seeming like a concession. I want drno to feel like he has a happy, flexible partner, not a disgruntled, nervous partner, so the appearance of collegiality vs power brokerage matters. At the same time, I’m aware that if drno sticks with EF through Spring 1902, then the timing of his passage through MAO would work out poorly for a stab. Aaron would still be quite healthy, giving me an opportunity for us to band together against the nasty, greedy Englishman. (And if drno doesn’t stick with EF through Spring 1902, then any agreements we’ve made for what happens later are moot.) Finally, this is a board that will take notice of the strategic value of a Mediterranean fleet for England. In a game with lesser opponents, positional advantages like that get their value partly because other players erroneously undervalue them relative to raw center count; drno is less likely to get a “free pass” for any positional advantage he has in this game.

Second prong of my strategy for the turn: get a triple going in the East. A triple will be annoying to me if I come out of this turn in good shape, but I’m focused on saving my skin in the worst-case scenario where I’m facing EG. I don’t really care which triple forms in the East, although I believe I had a slight preference for ART; the point is that if there’s an EG, they need to be facing pressure from the East as soon as possible. As things turn out, I get my triple, although I don’t know whether any of my diplomacy was instrumental in making it happen.

Third, I make YL an offer: if he moves to North Africa and makes no other moves toward me, I’ll support him into MAO in the Fall. The nominal idea is that he benefits from slowing down the EG alliance while still advancing his units. Then he either seeks some minor gains in England while carrying on his main campaign out east, or he uses his advanced units to stab me. The latter possibility was the less appealing but also the more likely conclusion. However, I am willing to stall for time if I have to face an EG, and I have some confidence in my ability to wriggle out of sticky situations. If drno stays true and I have an EF alliance, then I’m willing to write off this commitment to YL as a lie. He’s already lied to me (Spring 1901 move to Piedmont), so I feel I have some justification. In that scenario, I also don’t mind him moving to North Africa, since it’s a waste of tempo for him and I’ll benefit from seeing him stagnate.

As things turned out, YL moved several units against me but still chose to park his fleet in North African rather than the Western Mediterranean. I don’t know his reasoning, but my read at the time was that he’d hoped to sell his package of moves as in the “spirit” of the deal I’d offered.

Once the orders process, my situation improves enormously. My focus will shift from minimizing the worst case scenario toward maximizing the best case.
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Re: AAR: Mentors Game

Postby thewysecat » 31 Oct 2015, 03:37

Fall 1906
FT is meant to execute and reveal itself this phase - RP is meant to support me into Tunis as I support him into Vienna and either I am left alone to figure out Rom/Nap or an unwanted support order from RP for the Italian fleet gets me into one of those centres either in the move or retreat phase. RP never gets back to me on the latter point.

The negotiations are fairly smooth as the big promises and undertakings have already been exchanged. RP (no more than) inquires about whether I will lend Venice or Tunis. I am more open to the former than the latter but decline both. There is no big push back on this score. Since at no point was RP asking for two SCs to fuel a potential move on drno I felt the math was the same with Vienna. In retrospect perhaps I should have explored more deeply whether anything was troubling RP and if so what, but the whole enterprise was premised on rapport and trust rather than 'math' anyway and so I figured it either held up on those terms or it did not. As I said to him at the time - I will trust his word until his word is no good. My word would simply be good. I was happy to let him value the worth of that. IMO he undervalued it and the next few phases demonstrated it. Anyway, YL was clearly in his pocket or no one's at that point so that was also a variable. I had been transparent in sharing that Italy was no longer messaging me. I was all-in and would let RP make his call. I was cool either way. I felt confident that I could put up enough of a fight that I'd have good odds of holding on for any draw as the diplomacy reoriented. Also I didn't care if I held out for a draw on 1 SC or 17.

RP stabbed. The essence seems to be fears of being left to face ER and a raw calculation that he can profit more by attacking me. What can one do other than try and prove him wrong in 07...

Again there were small clues which I won't go into, but as is my policy I stuck to my part of the bargain anyway. But I also figured Rom-Nap in a FI stab of me and ordered accordingly with TYS to Rom. I was going to let that stand, but at the last minute added support from Venice. It was a close call, but I'd finally negotiated some sort of mutual non-aggression with GoB (not that I'd been aggressive towards him) and so that just tipped the balance in my mind that Ven could be spared in Rom rather deployed in Trieste. In the end it did not matter as GoB moved to Vienna - likely for the want of anything else to do and because YL had been the major cause of his destruction - and thus cut support and saved Trieste from the FI attack as I took Rom for a build.

I took the stab in my stride and kept talking with RP. I am not sure if I can fully articulate an idea that has been shaping my play recently, but in essence it is that being stabbed is on balance more often advantageous than not as long as one plays in a way that manages and integrates that concept into one's game choices before and after the stab. Perhaps a dialogue for another forum.

Frankly the bigger disappointment this phase was the de facto end of 'possibility' in the North as drno diverted forces to eliminating Aaron out of Berlin while letting WHS take Den. IMO the taking of Berlin was completely unnecessary and only stretched and thus weakened his board position. More importantly it locked him out of Den and thus the other Scandinavian SCs. It also meant that WHS did not disband. Surely Russia's disband would be F Barents so again I am left puzzled as to how the retention of that unit helped England. A Northern disband and the prospect of another in 07 from Turkish action would give drno growth in the North. I also figured this would suit RP too since it put a western solo very much back on the map. That in turn left me hoping that western conflict would become more viable and so game complexity might be increased in a way that might put a Turkish solo back on the board. Instead this play stagnated the board even further. I worked so hard with drno but I never got anywhere. My greatest diplomatic failure amongst many as I have already stated.

Fall06.JPG
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thewysecat wrote:Fall 1906 - Sultan is philosophical about the stab


Hello everyone

I'll try and answer earlier this phase

ruffdove wrote: So I guess the million dollar question is what is your relationship with Italy and Austria.

Italy is France's vassal and has not messaged me since 25 Sept - i.e. over 2 weeks real time. I have no idea why. Silence can be legit as a device, but cannot see a reason here. Seems a bit off, but my assumptions are just that so...what can one do?

Austria messages occasionally (may be once a phase which actually is an increase on previous form) and we have agreed a Non-aggression arrangement which I hope he will keep. He did last phase and helped save Trieste though that was more luck than design

ruffdove wrote:Italy I guess is fairly easy to answer as you just relieved him of a home supply center and served up Tunis to France. But the two countries together hold some influence in the Balkans at the moment. Is Austria still Russia's vassal?

I can assure you I did not serve up Tunis to France though I don't doubt that he will take it when it suits him. France stabbed me last phase. He was meant to support me into Tunis as I supported him into Vienna. Once again I smelt 'offness' and my original order was just TYS to Rom on the grounds that since F was also meant to be considering F Lyo S F Rom to TYS to guarantee me Rom or Nap during the retreat phase but he gave no confirmation either way. Ergo I expected an IF to anticipate me then ordering TYS to Nap in a world when I was still expecting support into Tunis. So I ordered to Rom, but knowing that GoB was on board with me I took the (as it turns out unnecessary) risk of supporting myself to Rom.

Austria's relationship with Russia is unclear. Likely he has a similar deal with him as he has with me. Since he messages once per phase at most and then only a line or two it is hard to judge. The game has been frustrating that way. Communication has been poor from several players by any benchmark, but for a mentor's game it is certainly below expectations. I am not sure we are putting on much of a show and I doubt AAR will be any better. Several players seem focussed on other games.

ruffdove wrote: How is the relationship with France at this point? Has Tyrolia move was curious as you appear to have wanted him to go to Vienna.

See above, we had a deal to FT this game until deep. That deal was part of my double army build W05. Turns out he stabbed after only one phase. Disappointing to say the least. And basically unexplained. He is also now close to radio silent. Another disappointment. Rather than take Vienna he stabbed for Trieste. It failed, but I had to concede TYS as I needed to build to fill the hole in my line with Russia and give myself a 50:50 guess on Rum and Sev in S07. Wish me luck.

I could have built F Smy but that is purely defensive and gives up any chance of growth from R. It is committing to atrophy/decline and also no peace ever with France. So I'd rather make a build that leaves me more vulnerable in theory and practice but also with more possibility. As F advances in the Med hopefully I am drawing him onto the horns of the bull by making it easier/more likely that drno will stab. Either way, risk and reward.

ruffdove wrote: What are your tactical thoughts on the Balkans in general?

Pretty simple, with or without Austrian help of some kind I am in slow decline. Without it the pace of that decline picks up. More broadly, unless England attacks France soon my situation worsens quickly.

ruffdove wrote: What about Norwegian Sea to NAO and Norway to StP?

Apparently E and F are/were nervous of one another. To me the move is utterly useless if F was stabbing E in F06 because in that context drno is losing Den and not gaining Berlin and is therefore taking a disband. Further, F would me moving MAO to IRI and Spa into MAO. In S07 he then supports MAO into NAO and in F07 supports himself into Lvp. Ergo even if feared a F06 French stab it is futile. For my money this is typical of E's play - he has dithered since F03 and it has been the biggest harm to my game. I want England doing well as that hurts R and F. Instead he has been manipulated by them and he has atrophied while they make progress. This time he allows Den to fall while taking Berlin which was completely non-essential. How does he get Den back? Now R has no disband and he retains F Barents? How does that help England? I have no idea. Like I say, E's play since 03 is my greatest regret/diplomatic failure this game.

So of course it also speaks of ER deal/collaboration - A Norway retreats and F Barents stays put and Den is conceded. How and why E keeps making such deals with R when they are all to R's advantage idk, but there you go - well played WHS. E is basically the sidekick of FR at this point and he seems unwilling to actually do anything to break out of that role. They will get to him eventually unless he does something. In theory he is due to attack France in 07, but I'll believe it when I see it. The way he conceded Bel to F for no reason at all was one example of being in their pocket(s) IMO.

I continue to urge E to be bold and to finally make a move. We will see. I have been let down so often by so many in this game that one has to have some dark humour about one's prospects.

thewysecat wrote:Fall 06 - and later...

ruffdove wrote:Just a follow up. You mentioned a few players being silent and stated that can be a legit device in the game. When do you think it is advantageous to be silent, or what would the argument in favor of silence be? What are the circumstances where it makes sense? Can you ever make confident inferences from silence?

I guess I will cite myself:

viewtopic.php?f=16&t=48332#p813356

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Re: AAR: Mentors Game

Postby thewysecat » 31 Oct 2015, 15:57

Spring 07
We've said goodbye to Aaron as Russia abandons him to his fate to move east. RT relations are uncomplicated at this point. I keep reaching out to RP but he is clear that he believes that attacking me remains his best policy. Overall therefore not a lot of diplomacy to discuss this phase - note: this is not a good thing!

Basically I urge drno to do something! IMO he has now already reached peak-England. He has to attack somewhere and hope that his gains at least match his losses over the two move phases. In theory at least, he finally claims he will attack RP as he has negotiated with WHS. I don't believe the latter agreement can hold, but whatever...he has to go for it.

My focus is tactical. My mentee notes cover all the terrain I wish to discuss, but in summary I correctly predict FI orders and risk ION to save Rom. I also risk Ven-Apu. I 'll leave the committed reader to study that. I also take Sev while ignoring Rum since - amongst several reasons - attempts to get GoB to order Bud to Gal are rebuffed as he fears WHS will kill him in such a context.

WHS kills him.

In a delicious irony RP had turned GoB into supporting an attack on Trieste so WHS's attack on Austria saves Trieste as Turkish. That's one of the Birsan boys gone as the Bear eats its own cub.

drno takes Mun, but leaves Bel alone. NAO-MAO may or may not have been 'serious' in a set of somewhat ambiguous English orders. Again I get F York on some level , but hate it.

S07.JPG
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thewysecat wrote:Spring 07 - the concept of tax and trying to explain/figure out what is going on...


We are about 24 hours from F07 resolution. I just had ruffdove's comments from S07 so this is my response. This time I even include a YouTube video for your enjoyment. Hope you are all still watching at home...

ruffdove wrote: Hmm.

Honestly, I'm lost looking at England. It looks like he arranged with France to take over Munich

Perhaps.

England is presenting it to me (and I would guess Russia) as a mini-stab of F. He is claiming it is a prelude to a full stab for Bel too in the fall. What he claims to be telling France is that it is a 'tax' of 1 SC only and that he still wants to work with F.

By the way, 'taxation' may not be a concept you are familiar with, but in many contexts you can take or ask in advance for (I prefer this route) a SC from an ally and maintain the alliance. In many contexts you should not be shy to ask an ally to give you a SC. I tried to get R to give me Sev. It did not work, but same concept. In my case my argument was that I might well be able to take Sev anyway in a couple of game years but in that pathway we have RT war that means R has to risk evacuating the North and West whereas if R just gives Sev to me now we can move on together and R retains good tempo in North and West. If you look at the map now you may or may not conclude that I was right and that Russia should logically have just given me Sev. As I said at the time it is a tough trick to pull off because of the psychology of the situation but in principle it is sound and it has worked for me on many occasions. It is one of my favourite ways to grow - no lies, no stab, no breach, no war just a gentle leveraging of power to make a gain. Alternatively if you are weak and they are strong but they still need your alliance you can 'Oliver Twist' it - "please sir, can I have some more". If they have 8 to your 5...don't be shy to ask for them to give you a SC to balance the alliance more. This time the gentle implication is that you will find another ally - i.e. their enemy. Captain Picard will show you how it is done - do not underestimate the value or your "gratitude":



Anyway to return to the topic at hand - personally I think E taking Mun was arranged with France or at the least an EF plan has been hatched in the wake of the play. More on that below.

ruffdove wrote:...while France thought he was going to take Trieste, but it all fell apart when Austria's support was cut by the Russian death blow.

France certainly attacked Trieste to follow up his stab of me the phase before and turned Austria for one last stab of me too. I have no idea why GoB agreed to that. He has just sent me a message of apology for being so flaky this game. I cannot dress it up - he really was terrible to play with. Anyway, I was asking GoB for Bud to Gal to ensure I took Rum and thus keep him safe. He declined on the grounds that he thought WHS would kill him in such a context. I explained that he would be safe since Rum would fall. You can see the irony given the outcome. WHS just stabbed him again instead. Austria has been eliminated and the Turk never stabbed him the whole game. Not often you see that.

There is also the delicious outcome that my enemy Russia has saved Trieste through these actions from my enemy France by attacking my hidden enemy Austria. No doubt GoB's terrible communication and the fact that last phase GoB's random Bud-Vienna had saved Trieste led WHS to both lose patience and fear that GoB was now my vassal. WHS also perhaps thought that if Serbia attacked Rum then Bud could even retreat into Turkish Serbia so an attack on Austria could be an attack on me. I am glad to confound them all.

The more important point to note from all this is that it suggests strongly that Russia and France were not coordinating their moves in this theatre. That is a positive if it remains true.

ruffdove wrote: ...France expecting/wanting England in Munich is the only explanation for A(Bur)==HOLD. But why England left Berlin wide open I truly don't get - because he didn't think he could hold it anyway?

A Bur hold is clearly the result of EF negotiation over Bel. They felt confident enough in one another not to bounce. F was facilitating England using Holland for other duties - in this case in Kiel. Bur hold is however explainable without believing E was meant to be in Mun. Mun is attempting to follow up into Tyrol but Bur remaining behind as a 'guard' of the motherland makes generic sense since otherwise F is very exposed. Indeed, if there really was agreement on Mun being English then Bur to Mun actually makes more sense IMO since in that context F would know that a supported English attack would defeat Bur to Mun. Ergo Bur to Mun is the best order in that context since it looks good and provides deceptive cover for the agreement. The Bur hold order is therefore - counter-intuitively - the best evidence that France did not expect England to support himself into Mun.

As for England's choices, well: (I) He wants Mun; and (II) He feared a Russian attack on Kiel more than a Russian attack on Berlin. This is evidenced by Hol S Kiel to hold and also F North to York. This most curious of moves is (supposedly) meant to convey that England feared Barents to Norwegian meaning York could cover Edi in F07. In theory it also covers Lon in F07 against MAO to ENG.

On the other hand it could just be cover for setting up moves like NAO to Norwegian and North to Ska and Yor to North in F07. England was stalemated against Russia unless: (I) He was willing to be patient as Turkey took Russian SCs (he wasn't - instead he gave up Den); or (ii) He negotiated some ER arrangement. He clearly did (ii) over the last 2 phases. Ergo though he was notionally fearful of WHS he also felt confident enough to leave Berlin open.

ruffdove wrote: Russia appears to have positioned himself to take Belin, and did not move directly there, so it doesn't seem England arranged that with Russia.

Maybe. Convoying to Livonia would have been friendlier, but certainly the convoy is part of an ER negotiation in S07. An attack on Berlin is possible, but also Russia just needs more armies on the continent rather than Scandinavia because he has poured so many resources south against the Turk. The convoy just as easily covers a feared Ber-Pru move in S07. Or allows him to have some say in Sil. That EF have been so slow in pushing further east from the Mun-Ber line continues to be a puzzle. Though F's retreat to Boh is significant in that regard.

England is a game pivot right now. Presumably (best guess) he has negotiated an ER and Russia thinks the attack on Munich is real as was the NAO to MAO move. Certainly the latter would have been negotiated as they kept Norwegian DMZ and WHS moved Barents-Norway instead.

However, given the retreat to Boh we may see something like: A Mun to Sil S Boh as the E attack on F is revealed as a fake. Then moves like NAO to Norwegian and North to Ska and Yor to North come alive since E has used T to distract R from defending Scandinavia. Likewise with Italy on EF's side Tyrol and Vienna are free to take Action in Trieste and/or Venice again.

...Or E will carry on and attack F more. This phase will tell. My money is on EF and the S07 move on Mun being fake. If F agreed to NAO to MAO in advance then the disguise is really nicely worked. The rationale there would be that NAO to MAO only worked if France successfully took Rome - in which case he could live with the Englishman in MAO. Whereas if it failed he had a nice bounce that left the EF capable of moving to Norwegian Sea in the fall. Make sense?

ruffdove wrote: Also the Fleet to North Sea makes really no sense to me outside making support to North Sea un-cuttable. England I guess appears to be bracing for impact of the Russian attack

See above for my explanation of the English fleet moves and how they fit together

ruffdove wrote: France also seems odd. I can see moving to Rome to cut support, but the three ship pile-up behind that fleet makes no sense unless he and England really thought you were leaving Rome.

I think perhaps you are missing something in the S07 order history. F TYS to Rom was supported by F Naples. It only failed because I ordered F ION to Nap. In other words, I correctly anticipated French-Italian orders. Basically they could attack Rome or they could attack ION. By moving ION I risked losing that key square. Had they been right that I would prioritize the defence of ION then Rom would have fallen and so the long naval bounce chain you witnessed would not have occurred.

ruffdove wrote: Russia seems more intent on eliminating Austria this turn and settling with you later. Since this involved letting you march into Sev with an army, I'm guessing he had an urgent need to rid the world of Austria. Alternatively, your take of Sev agreed upon? Seems unlikely because you taking with the army and not the fleet would likely be a stab on your part and I don't see why you would stab Russia when you have trouble everywhere else. I do get that the RT "alliance" in this game isn't exactly a love story.

See above for why WHS may have been fooled into thinking GoB was my vassal (an impression I did nothing in my diplomacy with F or R to dispel by the way :)) and for why he thought it might actually prove to be an indirect attack on Serbia. Clearly he prioritized grabbing an SC to compensate for the loss or either Rum or Sev. I am surprised by his choice; it is true. Certainly there was no RT deal over Sev or anything else and therefore no stab. His move seems to be premised on a lack of confidence in his ability to guess right and defend Rum and Sev. This in turn might be premised on the fact that he believed GoB to be a vassal and so he was expecting Bud-Gal and therefore realized he could not defend Rum. That said, why he then did not defend Sev either...idk. In theory I could have captured both Rum and Sev though for the loss of at least one of Serbia or Trieste and possibly both. Viewed that way, it was a very anti-Turkish play. He'd rather see us both lose than just see me gain. As it was, I ordered A Serbia well too and against the odds held on to Trieste and Serbia.

ruffdove wrote: Italy is in self preservation mode at this point. Vienna is a good position for France to have a vassal. You seem on the verge of kicking him off the peninsula. France could really take Tunis without sacrificing position, but he'd be risking losing the loyalty of A(Vie).

Quite right. The value of A Vie (And F Nap) is what keeps F Tunis alive. But is Italy in survival mode? Perhaps. To truly do that he'd be negotiating with both sides for best advantage. FMPOV he is just in 'piss off Turkey but die eventually anyway' mode. But this is just an assumption since he does not respond to messaging. An approach that we have discussed already as potentially disrespectful to the game depending upon your point of view.

A Ven- Apu was a signature move last phase. I hope you all enjoyed it. Just walking out of an SC is always fun. I hope you can see that I was willing to risk the loss of ION for the chance to take Naples. There were other important principles of good tactical play underpinning the move. They are not the sort of thing I talk to other players about, but can you spot them? I am open to further attempts at analysis.

Anyway Ven-Apu was a calculated risk. What it has done is make Trieste a lot more vulnerable. I had basically given up on that SC for this year.

However do not lose sight of this - that I am having to try and 'tap-dance' tactically with inadequate resources is because I have lost diplomatically. This is not a good thing even if my tactics do work out!

However tactical success can restore your diplomatic credibility. My opponents expected me to lose Trieste last year. Instead I gained Rome. This spring they expected me to lose Trieste and/or Rome. Instead I gained Sevastopol. If I can keep things going for just another phase (another tall order) I might finally be able to persuade one of my neighbours to cut me some slack. One never knows.

ruffdove wrote: My takeaway from all this is that it is exceedingly hard to make complete sense of the moves you see without having more insight into the communications going on.

True enough on some level. But sometimes you are playing gunboat or near to it even in a non-gunboat game. I certainly do have extra data and that is vital - but make no mistake not nearly the data I write about here. On the whole the other powers are not telling me in detail either what they are doing or the reasons why. You always have to piece it together and keep reviewing if you put the pieces together correctly. It's a skill that like any other you have to practice and try and get better at with experience. For a start - sometimes they are lying you know!

ruffdove wrote: All in all, I would say Russia is shoring up his south and taking the offensive in the north, though his center is open to a thrust through Silesia.

I think he is shoring up his south by trying to have a peace-pact in the North. Whether one or both of ER stick to their deals is to be seen...there may or may not be peace in the North in F07. I think R's centre around Silesia is very vulnerable to Mun-Sil S Boh - see above for what might be going on

ruffdove wrote: EF seems to remain intact despite the flaming cannon in Munich, though both their moves seem kind of strange, wasteful.
I think EF is intact and I hope I have given some ways to explain the 'strangeness' of their moves

ruffdove wrote: Italy's being a loyal servant. Austria is dead. You are leading in SCs and have decent position to strengthen your hold on southern Italy at the perhaps temporary expense of Venice. RF cooperation would put you in serious trouble and perhaps that's your biggest concern?That's all I've got.

One attribute Italy does not possess is loyalty! ;) Austria is likely dead although in theory Bud could be vacated in certain tactical schemes. I won't send him my goodbye message until I am sure he is gone. I have a 50:50 guess on Naples - it's another scissors/paper/stone situation with different order sets working or not based on what IF order. What I do have is the guarantee that if I lose ION it is while taking Naples. Creating that situation was important. (tactical hint!)

Venice is highly vulnerable, but losing it likely means Trieste is saved this phase. Ergo I only needed 1 unit (A Trieste) to cover 2 SCs. (tactical hint!)

I am in serious trouble. Period. Situation normal...for the perpetually ally-less Sultan. The Turk has been resilient through 6.5 years of these challenges. I hope to keep it going. We will see.
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Re: AAR: Mentors Game

Postby thewysecat » 31 Oct 2015, 16:16

Fall 07
I was never more blind diplomatically than this final (as it turned out) move phase. Again, not a tribute to my leadership of the sickly light blue pieces or rather an accurate reflection of them.

I reconnect with WHS this phase and offered not to attack Rum. The offer was genuine, but unsurprisingly was rebuffed with a lot of unconvincing BS about threats from EF and how I have to give him SCs to stop them. However mission accomplished - WHS was clearly feeling just fine and so thinks he has ER or FR. Now to try and work out which it is and whether I think it is true? RP in my judgement is also very confident this phase that has his deal and so again is it EF or FR?

drno doesn't give me a clue what he is doing and I have no reason to expect that he would. I just have to wait and see what he can accomplish. I am hoping that he has managed to negotiate ER and EF and is about to lie to one of them, but turns out that he is trying to play EFR! *shakes head* Once more my advice falls on death English ears and drno is inevitably rewarded with stabs by RP and WHS. How late in the phase the FR came together AAR will show.

YL also gets his reward for abandoning the Turk to return to the Frenchman who sort to destroy him in the first place. He is eliminated by F with a little help from R.

Almost incredibly as the dust settles on all this FR had insufficient resources left to focus on me at all and so I add Rumania and Naples to the Sultanate. I still like my orders a lot in a world of full-on FR hostility but again I leave the full tactical analysis to the committed reader.

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thewysecat wrote:Fall07 - let's talk tactics


ruffdove wrote:Thanks Wysecat - I will get to this in the next day or two. Still noodling over the Venice==>Apulia move.

Hi ruffdove
{censored by Wyse - sorry.}

Basic contention: You NEVER (I really mean it) have enough tactical resources to cover everything.

So starting with that premise what basic principles of tactical play naturally flow from that fixed starting point? How/what sort of things give you a chance to make inadequate resources stretch?

Ven to Apu is an example. {censored by Wyse - sorry.}

Wyse

thewysecat wrote:Fall 07 - and more details on the tactics


GoRunGetToTheChopper wrote:Im still listening, just not frequently enough to ask any good questions. Im learning very much from you and ruffdove, keep at it!

Nice to hear from you GRGTTC

ruffdove wrote: Wyse,

Sorry for the delay - I've been focusing on two games, one in which I registered my first solo (as Italy, against all expectations). The other one I have a draw locked up and may be able to swing a solo - too early to tell. Following this all-mentor game has definitely sharpened my tactical instincts though.

Congrats on your solo.

I hope we have been on some help. Tactics is an interesting topic. Many players are a little contemptuous of tactics since - they say - the game is about diplomacy. So it is, and yet...

In some ways I share this attitude but only really in the context of folks obsessing about schema for openings as if they contain some alchemy for success. (Clue - they don't) However, I highly prize tactical skills in the fluid situations you are talking about below. Often I diplome through my tactics and my tactics are certainly informed by what I learn during my diplomacy as well as the obvious point that they must be congruent with my diplomatic objectives. If they are not then they'd better be a stab which is just a way of saying I have changed by diplomatic strategy (or again that is what a stab should mean). Anyway...

In the big picture, understanding stalemate lines is crucial - diplomacy in Diplomacy is in some ways the continuous act of distracting others from the significance of these tactical truths hard-wired into the game. Don't lose sight yourself.

On the micro-level there are underlying concepts and principles that truly underpin excellent tactical play. I have several core concepts that over time and experience I have come to value as completely essential to my game. They are so important to me that I simply won't discuss them explicitly with anyone. Not even mentees. But I have put clues in various places in these notes and elsewhere in the forum. And feel free to watch games closely for interesting moves and plays - what principles are underpinning them? Learn not the specific case but the generic case of why they were good moves.

ruffdove wrote:Okay, Venice to Apulia....{stuff}

Ergo, I shall comment little on the {stuff} to either endorse or challenge.

I will add some other clues.

A broad one - think about the politics of Franco-Italian relations. What are the respective goals of F and I and potential sources of disconnect - how might their tactical priorities be distorted by those realities?

Here is a specific/narrow one - look at Tunis-ION S TYS and Nap. Not necessarily likely but not implausible as an order set if FI were so tight that Italy would let F follow up into Tunis from NAf.

ruffdove wrote:So look for the assumptions your opponent will make and, informed by those assumptions, stretch your resources.

Maximise resources which are finite and never adequate to all you would wish to cover. Absolutely. But what lies behind maximisation...well I leave that to you all.

But also be very clear about what your own triage of priorities are and make orders coherent with them. In this setting I was ready to sacrifice ION for Naples if necessary. I am also clear that I should not lose a SC (Rom) without the compensation of Naples. You may or may not agree with my triage, but compare my orders to this triage.

Consider all the other plausible FI orders:

TYS-ION S Nap & Tun (ok for me. Why?)
Nap-ION S Tys & Tun (This is the only set my orders 'lose' to. Why did I feel ok to gamble it was likely not happening?)
Nap-Rom S Tys; Tun and Aeg bounce in ION (why is this set ok as far as I am concerned?)
TYS to Rom S Nap. (This is actually the orders they made and also the set that I predicted in my own mind was going to happen when I entered my orders. This is because I believed that they thought I would order AEG S ION to hold with Rom to Nap. Given that I thought they thought I would order this - why did I also conclude that they would think Tyl-Ven was pointless?)

This is poker. First level thinking is what cards you hold. Next is what cards you think they hold. Next is what cards you think they think you hold. Next it is what cards you think they think you think they hold. How confident are they in there thinking and in their own cards and what actions by you can get them off their hand if necessary. And so on. Play to the right level based on who is sat opposite you.

ruffdove wrote:The Spring moves for ION and Rom guaranteed a take of Naples in the event of a F/I take of either ION or Rome. Apulia coming into the mix for the Fall moves guaranteed taking Naples and holding Rome. He could have attacked Trieste or Venice and you could not defend both, but an attack of Trieste would allow you to retreat Venice, so you left it open. Complex, but I am starting to get a good feel for tactics watching this.

Not 100% guarantee - one order set by IF 'beat' me in the game of scissor/paper/stone. Not bad odds, but still. There is never a perfect order set. Just the best one. Just like in poker. If you get the wrong outcome - it may still have been the best play. Don't judge it only on the actual outcome.

Fall - again I shan't comment to either endorse or challenge the {stuff} from ruffdove. I will point out that I planned hypothetical fall scenarios when choosing my spring moves! Like chess you plan moves ahead.

I will also add that assume a hostile IF alliance again in the fall and factor in that over the course of the year I was willing to lose one of Ven and Trieste and the value of being in APU (and the lack of need to be in Venice for the fall phase) is clear I hope. Also remember that I also aimed to take at least one Russian SC to compensate. If I could end the year on parity I gave myself a chance diplomatically. Ever phase/year one holds on the more oxygen you give to your diplomacy to give it a chance to succeed. That I did even better than this is...nice.

Also never underestimate that as you succeed tactically your opponents lose confidence in their ability to beat you and so they look for 'easier' options with what they see as greater odds of success. We shall see, but was WHS attacking Bud an example? How about France taking out Italy after I defeated his order sets two phases in a row? After all, people only attack you if they are desperate (clue: don't make them desperate by cutting off all their options until it is too late to matter) or they think they can win - right? So how does the bully react when their supposed victim fights back so well? Better to stab Italy and defeat him via lies than actually trying to out-think Wyse who seems - disturbingly - to be thinking quite well. I moved them off their hands. Maybe.

If the attackers are an alliance then the problems for your opponents multiply. It is easy to keep things going if the alliance is flourishing. What about if it is not? If YL is hard to communicate with and you've failed over two iterations and he is being a bit of a pain to work with again...what might you decide to do?

Resilience, clear thinking, and boldness expressed on the board can do wonders for your 'prestige'. This is an old-fashioned diplomatic concept but one that throughout RL history leaders understood as vital. Same in this game. Tactics can supply prestige. This is why I value sophisticated thinking about how you move the pieces.

ruffdove wrote: Did you arrange with France the coup de grace of Italy?

Not at all. I was as isolated as ever. I thought it was ER v F or EF v R but at the last minute it became FR v E and ignore T. IMO this was in part driven by some desperation by WHS. He was getting nowhere with me diplomatically and feared the loss of Rum. He needed an English SC to avoid a disband. He therefore needed a French ally and had to offer Vienna to F. Something he knew I was likely doing too (I was) and he could not afford to be outbid. This gave F the chance to stab E and get the builds he'd need to fuel his continuation post-stab. Suddenly attacking the hardy Turk looked less attractive to RP than hitting drno. But it meant WHS had to divert resources away from protecting Rum which by extension he essentially gave up on. I made him fold his hand. Maybe.

ruffdove wrote: Did you see anything that allowed you to predict it?

See comments above for the merits of fighting hard and confounding your opponents. I was meant to lose in 06 remember but somehow grew. Then I was meant to lose in S07 and took Sev. Also remember that in W06 I rejected the more effective build defensively of F Smy in favour of the offensive potential of A Con. I discussed my reasons then. Think on that too.

Also the longer view is that if RP is to solo he needs Tunis to St.P. He does not need any other Turkish SCs so once he knew he could take Vienna with Russian help (and thus would not leave behind a hostile Italian in Vienna) he also knew he could take out Tunis.

Which is not to say I predicted it at all. I was still pretty shocked. I thought R and F would both have another go at breaking me while thinking they were allied to E...turns out the diplomacy was different. Still I'll leave you to evaluate my orders against hostile FI collaboration and also notice how they work if F is tempted by Tunis...

ruffdove wrote: Or did you breathe a nice sigh of very temporary relief when Trieste was not attacked? I say temporary because now France and Russia DO appear to be coordinating their moves in your theater. Aside from that development, an excellent turn for you.

It was worse than that. E's orders make plain that he thought there was an EFR! R's collaboration with F is perhaps a sign of his weakness in some way. I've turned him into a beast. Abandoning Germany, killing Austria and now Italy. He's a monster! Well he always was, but...

Anyway, I'd given up on trying to defend Trieste. If dislodged I planned to retreat to Ven if I could get away with it. That's moving forward as far as I am concerned. If I got Rum and Sev that's still a build!

ruffdove wrote: Going into 1908, you don't actually have too weak a tactical situation, you just need to guess right on what Russia will do. I would really like to get a sense of your thought process in that regard after all the orders are revealed next resolution. Sometimes I have a bit of a problem out-guessing an opponent.

Yoda says - There is no guess. There is only think or don't think. I am never guessing. I don't outguess anyone. If I move you all anywhere when contemplating this topic I hope it is to the idea that a 50:50 is not a 50:50. You should have an edge in any poker game you play. If you don't have an edge then find a different table.

I will think on what I will and will not share from 08. Right now it is not mainly about tactics but diplomacy again. The truth I told last time has to be restated. If I am trying to outthink folks tactically again it is because I have failed diplomatically. Again

ruffdove wrote: The board has also become quite simplified with the elimination of three players. In my experience, simplified boards favor a draw. What are you going to try to do diplomatically in this situation?

Stalemate lines dominate my thinking right now. I cannot solo. I cannot force Tunis. And even if I could get to St.P that is only 17 and I could not hold it from the south. Odds of my taking Mun or Ber? Barring mind-controlling WHS, I rate it as 0. Only RP can solo right now. And notably I cannot directly stop him. Only WHS can directly do that. F Barents S Nwy; F Ska S Den; F Baltic S Ber and then armies in Pru, Sil, Boh and so on can stop RP in the North even if he takes every English SC. The moment WHS disbands a fleet the French solo is on the board. All it takes is time. RP therefore has to be persuaded to give my Tunis and/or I have to persuade WHS to make a deal with me.

Note if I eventually take Bud and Vienna then if I position my units properly I hold an independent 14 SC/unit stalemate line. I cannot be eliminated. But that is not so relevant right now if getting there I take away WHS's northern stalemate.

ruffdove wrote: EF's moves suggest a continued alliance, but now F and R have shown some cooperation. On the whole vast continuum between good and bad, that seems bad. Thoughts?

I don't see the EF alliance. A Brest will convoy to Wales and Lvp will likely fall. RP will be trying to sell me on some whittling process whereby he moves this to a 2-way or 3-way but really he'll still be hoping solo. Ideally he will want to remain allied with R through all this and perpetuate RT war so that when the crisis becomes plain RT won't get their shit together or it will lead to a change in R's unit mix that destroys RTs ability to defend against F. I aim to persuade RP to give my Tunis (he won't) or R will move west - for example, I support him into Vienna (he likely won't).

Note one wicked scenario a daring Russia might use to combat a tactically superior Turk is to deliberately disband a fleet and then blackmail the Turk into giving a SC back to rebuild it...and then build an army anyway and just repeat the blackmail! WHS is not trying this and I hope he does not think of it. But I offer it to illustrate how imagination and awareness of stalemate lines can make a weaker power much stronger!

So in short, these endgames are tricky if people know what they are doing (which frequently people do not to be fair). SC count is less important right now than other variables.

And through all this I don't have my independent stalemate line and that fact is the fuel to RT conflict since I might not be able to negotiate peace or WHS might not trust that I am really negotiating for peace when I don't have a line. If I am fighting in 08 then I have good odds on one of Ukraine or Budapest. The best news so far is that WHS destroyed A Rum and rebuild A St.P instead. That suggests he might be thinking northern stalemate and might listen to me. That said, he is silent so far this phase and likely is chatting away with RP. As ever, we will see...but RT relations are poor. This is not a good thing for either right now

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Re: AAR: Mentors Game

Postby thewysecat » 31 Oct 2015, 16:31

Summary
If you have made it through all these walls of text - my thanks for reading. I hope mentees will find this useful into the future.

I found this game a tough environment to play in, but being hardworking, resilient and willful are dip101.

I shan't reiterate too much here - hopefully some of the major tenets of my thinking are clear enough. I advocate ABC poker for beginners and experts alike:

Always be thinking about what your 18 are and how you might get there. That ought to inform every game choice every phase.

This therefore includes the idea of paying close attention to tempo and stalemate lines.

Almost always tell the truth and stick to the deals you make. And keep that position in the game for as long as you can. I am regretful that I felt the need to tell even the one lie I did tell this game over 14 move phases. That's still too many too early in my ideal gameplay. Even then it was a build phase lie designed to try and leave a path to negotiation and accommodation.

Integrate the fact that you are going to be stabbed into the synthesis of your diplomatic and tactical play. I contend that if you 'Aikido' the stabs (both those that remain hypothetical and those that ultimately manifest on the board) that you will mostly come out ahead. I will try and convey something of what I mean by this by saying that a core part of Aikido is a concern for the wellbeing of the attacker. Ponder on that perhaps.

Give some thought to your tactical play in fluid situations - embrace the fact that you have to triage. Then be clear headed about your triage.

Once again, thanks for reading

thewysecat wrote:Farewell

ruffdove wrote: You've got a different outlook than a lot of players I've encountered.

A man must have a code

"I ain't never put my gun on no citizen."

Wyse out
"Of all the things I have known myself to be, I never recognized the fool."
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Re: AAR: Mentors Game

Postby Radical Pumpkin » 31 Oct 2015, 19:35

FALL 1902

Image

So, I got my triple in the East last turn, but now it's a pain. I already have an EF planning to take down Germany, and adding an AIR to the mix is just a crowd. While YL, GoB and WHS are all trying to sell me on the benefits of an Italian Munich, I'm not seeing it: I'm not getting a feeling that YL is interested in making me his main partner, so strengthening Italy just seems like setting myself up for problems down the road at best (or in 1903 at worst!). My goal, then, is to break the AIR. Funny how goals can be so fickle like that. ;)

Let me start by reviewing the state of diplomatic relations with the East.

I have extensive conversations with WHS this turn on how we can work together going forward. My read is that while he is interested in coordinating with me, he's holding an awful lot back. Similar to Aaron in 1901, I get the sense that he's thinking more about how to skew the board in Russia's favor than in how to work as partners. It's hard to pin down exactly why, especially now after so much time has passed, but I think it has much to do with a feeling that he's being secretive. I feel like a cog in his machinations, whereas I want to develop a situation where (for the most part) we have joint machinations. This in turn may be related to WHS's strong commitment to confidentiality, i.e., he won't reveal the contents of other peoples' messages. (I put a fair amount of value on confidentiality too, but WHS does seem to take it especially seriously.) WHS also seems to push plans that seem impractical to my eye. For example, he suggests that we develop a FIR alliance to take down England, with YL lending an extra fleet by passing through MAO. That seems like a contorted way of attacking England to me, since FGR would be much more natural. I conclude that what he really wants is a strong Italy, with YL and myself all entangled in each others' business. A rather nice board position for Russia, certainly, but maybe not so good for France. Especially given my history with YL. At any rate, by the end of the turn, the "official" plan with WHS is EFR. This strikes me as a weird idea, since English units getting stuck behind the front will be a problem once Germany is conquered, and it does make me wonder if perhaps the ER relationship is stronger than I'd thought. But the plan serves my immediate purposes, so I endorse it. My trust level in WHS is low, but I am trying to maintain the relationship because having a decent cross-board relationship is one of the most important factors for doing well in the mid-game.

I have more limited but still substantial conversations with Wyse. I feel like our relationship is developing, but it does still feel stilted to me. I'm doubtful that I'll ever feel like we're "partners" making joint plans. My read on Wyse is that he's a highly transactional player, a deal-maker rather than a relationship-builder. By that, I mean that his inclination is to offer specific quid in exchange for specific quo. That's not my preferred style. I prefer to work in the context of a general commitment to fairness, with the details to be sorted out as the board develops. Of course, that's only possible if you find yourself another player whose ideas of fairness and whose preferred negotiation style line up well with your own; the transactional approach is weaker, IMO, but has more general applicability. At any rate, I settle into thinking that Wyse is unlikely to ever be my "main" ally but that maybe we can still make use of each other. I offer some insights on the West to him, and in exchange I get some insight on the East: he believes that GoB and WHS, at least, are solid for this year. It sounds like if the AIR breaks, it won't be WHS stabbing GoB.

My conversations with YL and GoB don't seem to be going anywhere. We talk, but the conversation is superficial. I think they're both preoccupied by PDET games. I have hope that I might be able to exploit them in the future, since their engagement levels seem low, but I'm growing doubtful that they'll ever be viable as long-term partners.

After all that, the turn comes down to one primary decision. If the AIR will break on its own immediately, then I want to carry forward with EF vs G. Let drno and I pick up some momentum by finishing the West while the East stagnates. We can use the EFR plan with WHS as a short-term means to a long-term EF plan (or, you never know, maybe I'll decide FR is better than EF after all). However, if the AIR will stick together, then I'd rather stop it in its tracks. I want YL to feel like his only avenue for expansion is in the East, so I need to deny him Munich by supporting it in place. And I think the way to add the most tension within AIR in 1903 is to make it so that GoB is the only one building. That means WHS should lose Sweden to counter-balance his capture of Rumania. I.e., if AIR is sticking together, then I want a Western Triple to counter it.

At the end of the turn, I feel like this is basically my call, i.e., drno will go with whichever of EFR or EFG I endorse. While it's generally bad for France to weaken Russia, I endorse EFG for a few reasons:

  • Intel from Wyse indicates that the only plausible way for AIR to break this year is for YL to stab GoB. I.e., I don't expect war between A & R.
  • YL is telling me that he realizes his only route for expansion is in the East, but my read is that he isn't being straight with me. (This just goes to show that I can't read YL at all. That's to his advantage if we're enemies, but it also made it harder for us to ever work together.)
  • If YL does stab GoB this turn, I feel like my situation is still pretty good. IT vs AR is probably the best way for AIR to split up, since it means that Italy and Turkey are both involved in a land war (and so maybe less inclined to build fleets).
  • A side-effect of EFG is that drno will have "wronged" both Aaron and WHS. I hope that this will strengthen my hand within EF down the road. It's good to have strong relationships in this game, but it also helps when other players' relationships with each other are poor! My hope is to make my involvement in the EFG plan ambiguous to WHS, so he won't know for sure how instrumental I was. In that vein, I note that because he takes press confidentiality so seriously, others (e.g., drno) might be less likely to tell him about my involvement. In the end, I suspect this didn't work out and that WHS knew I was instrumental in EFG, but he'll have to confirm.
  • I'm not getting a good vibe from WHS, but I don't want to abandon the possibility of working with him long term. Maybe if he feels his hand is weaker, he'll be more upfront with me, and we can start building a more solid relationship. I don't expect this result, exactly, but I want to shake things up to see if something changes to salvage my early hopes of FR.

After seeing the orders, I wish I'd picked EFR over EFG. Still, my situation is good.

One final note: I encourage Aaron to build a fleet, vaguely dangling the carrot that it's a prerequisite for EFG ever breaking down into FG. The fleet build isn't great for EFG purposes, but it means that a) FG might be an option if I need it, and b) if EF vs G, we're less likely to get into a situation where drno is the one capturing all the centers while I stand around banging my head against the Ruh/Mun wall.
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Re: AAR: Mentors Game

Postby Radical Pumpkin » 01 Nov 2015, 20:28

SPRING 1903

Image

I’m going to try to be a little briefer going forward, both because I’ve already made some general comments about the diplomatic dynamics in going over earlier seasons and in the interest of getting this AAR done.

I said that after seeing the Fall 1902 orders, I wish I’d picked EFR over EFG. Now we see the logical result: EFR at the next opportunity. With the AIR broken, a weak Russia no longer serves my interest at all. For the most part, then, this turn is relatively simple. Along with drno, I sell Aaron on the fake continuation of the Western Triple, while I try to make both drno and WHS feel like they’re my primary ally within the EFR. The one scenario I particularly want to avoid is WHS deciding that he’s the third wheel in EFR and propping Aaron up rather than helping to take him down.

At the same time, I play a bit of a weird game with YL. I play up the possibility of FG in discussions with him before regretfully telling him late in the turn that FG won’t work out and he should defend himself as best he’s able. (I had in fact made some token attempts toward FG. They were only semi-serious, but it turned out Aaron wasn’t interested anyhow. So my story to YL was half-truth.) I then attack YL in a relatively non-committal way by moving to Tyrolia rather than to Venice or Tuscany. I do all that for a few reasons. First, I want to plant the idea that I kind of preferred FG to EF, so that the EF alliance seems looser than it actually is in the future. Second, I want to maintain the option of turning YL into an ally or a Janissary. I feel my relationship with YL has improved a little recently. I'm in the process of killing off the player I see as his strongest relationship (Aaron), and I've come to believe that his relationship with WHS is weaker than I'd once believed. I therefore see YL as diplomatically isolated. He may also be a little chagrined to have bungled his opening game so much, making my start more awkward without really gaining much for himself. (I'll add that we've played once before, and again he kind of screwed his own game and mine in the process. This might also make him disposed toward helping me out of some kind of guilt.) Working with YL isn’t my Plan A, but I’d like to have the option in my pocket if, say, drno gets out of control.

The orders mostly go as expected, but with one wrinkle. In 3-way EFR press, I proposed the exact set of moves that were executed but mistakenly wrote that they would result in the destruction of Germany’s A Sweden. In response, drno pointed out my error and suggested A StP-Nwy rather than A Fin-Nwy. To which WHS replied that he too had seen my error, and a bunch of discussion followed in which A StP-Nwy was (to me) obviously assumed. When the orders were processed, I was therefore surprised to see A Fin-Nwy.

I noticed that WHS never promised A StP-Fin. Still, this event helped to form my impression of WHS as a player who keeps to the letter of his agreements but not to the spirit. It’s possible to work with a player like that, but it’s not how I’m most comfortable. I continue to drift toward thinking that a strong Russia is useful strategically but that I’ll never be able to trust WHS enough to make him my primary ally....

FALL 1903

Image

This is the turn I have a couple strokes of good luck.

With YL, I spend the turn maintaining as good a relationship as possible while slowly edging toward him. My capture of Ven has an interesting backstory. I agree to move there at GoB's request, with the idea that either I'd take the center or, if YL bounced me out, GoB would be able to take Tri. Then I receive an interesting suggestion from YL that I take Ven with his permission as some part of a grand plan he was still in the process of working out. Well, that plan doesn't pan out, and he messages me very late in the turn to say forget it, he was moving A Tyr-Ven instead. Since I don’t especially want to commit to making YL an enemy, I decide not to change my order and to let the bounce happen. Plus, if YL is lying and this is some elaborate fake-out, I get Ven in a blameless way! I am delighted to see that I do in fact capture Ven.

I continue to have fruitful discussions with Wyse. It seems clear to me that he prefers working with YL to working with GoB. The main takeaway for me is that I want EFR to work out: that lets WHS focus on the south, preventing GoB from being run over, and I can slowly make inroads into the Med. I also note that YL is no longer as diplomatically isolated as I’d thought.

Conversations with drno & WHS are straightforward and center on tactical considerations for attacking Aaron.

Once the orders process, I have a few reactions:

  • Nice that I get 2 builds. I come out of the season in the best position on the board: I’m tied for first in center count, I have a tempo advantage, and I don’t have any neighbors that I need to be seriously worried about.
  • GoB in Austria misorders and fails to take Tri as a result. That's pretty bad--I'd prefer to see him healthy, because I think having an ART dynamic in the East will work to my benefit more than an IRT dynamic. Also, GoB is the least engaged player on the board, and I'd like to keep him around for that reason if I get into a position to make a solo bid.
  • WHS takes Sweden! I didn't see that coming at all. He follows it up quickly with a diplomatic overture to drno and myself, saying that this was a tit-for-tat response to drno's earlier support of Aaron there and that he was on board for EFR after this. Had I not taken Mun & Ven, I might have been more disappointed by WHS's action, because I would have been worried about EF stagnating against a Germany propped up by a powerful Russia. As matters stand, however, Germany can't be defended even with WHS's help. I'm therefore glad to see further friction in the ER relationship, and I like the fact that WHS will now be harder to overrun in either the south or the north. The bottom line is that I think this turn of events benefits me, but it also makes me less inclined to trust WHS.
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Re: AAR: Mentors Game

Postby Radical Pumpkin » 03 Nov 2015, 07:13

SPRING 1904

Image

In this season, I try to take a pause from personal expansion and to shape the diplomatic texture of the board in my favor. I fail utterly. There are three main prongs to my diplomacy, and none of them go well.


  1. I try to organize an EFR assault against Germany. I am a bit taken aback by WHS's response that he has committed not to attack Aaron, and this takes precedence over his commitment to an EFR alliance. To my mind, this is flaky and weaselly behavior in the extreme, and my interest in working with WHS continues to tank. But, but, but... a strong and friendly Russia is still beneficial to France, so I validate WHS's views privately and continue to invest in maintaining a relationship with him. (Were WHS playing any power but Russia, I think by this point there's a fair chance he would be my primary target. I tend to think the players around the board matter more than the positions on the board, but apparently I do think the positions are important too!) At this point, I feel EFR is a zombie alliance, alive in pretense only. I will be surprised later to see that it still has some legs.
  2. WHS and I also discuss making a concerted effort to help GoB. I bring the idea up initially, but WHS supports it in our correspondence. My part is to get drno to consent to A Mun moving south rather than supporting A Hol-Kie; I achieve that. WHS's role would be to move A War-Gal to help rescue Vienna in the Fall. We see a familiar story play out: WHS never commits to the move, but he comes across as keen on the general concept. I am therefore a bit taken aback when he later tells me that A War might be heading toward Germany instead (after also telling me that we should leave drno to finish off Aaron alone!) I am even more shocked when I see the moves! WHS's explanation for the moves is that they were a last-minute change of plans, but this smells fishy what with his reluctance to commit to A War-Gal in the days before. I don't believe WHS is being straight with me. Another strike against him.
  3. I have extensive discussions with Wyse about his plans, in which he all but explicitly tells me he wants IT, with him building 2 in order to jump-start his attack against WHS. My role in his plan is to stab drno, giving YL the breathing room to head eastward in force. I have four objections, only one of which I state. The stated objection is that YL won't have much incentive to work against WHS in this scenario: the Russia centers would be moderately difficult for him to get, and I would have just taken on a difficult fight against drno. The odds that YL comes after me instead seem fairly high. The first unstated objection is that I value my relationship with drno a lot; the second is that France doesn't really benefit from a weakened Russia; and the third is that while I can imagine YL as a Janissary, I'm having a harder time imagining him as an equal partner (because I don't trust him). I push for AT over IT, but I don't really expect to be persuasive. Wyse quite reasonably responds that it will be hard to work with an uncommunicative Austrian, who seems quite friendly with WHS to boot.

FALL 1904

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The centerpiece of this turn is WHS and Wyse both pitching me on a 3-way alliance with YL (and against the other). Neither one brings up FRT as a serious possibility. This strikes me as suspicious: RT makes a lot of sense on the board, the game history doesn't suggest that I'd be favorably disposed to working with YL, YL has a bad habit of not communicating until the end of each turn (making him an unattractive ally), YL himself isn't really saying he wants FIR or FIT, and--despite their protestations to the contrary--I believe WHS and Wyse have share some stylistic similarities that could help them work together. For all these reasons, and just a general gut read of their tone, my spidey sense is tingling; I suspect that WHS and Wyse are primarily interested in seeing me stab drno, with the FI(R/T) mostly as a pretense. I set out to convince the rest of the board of the RT threat.

(I do give some serious thought to stabbing drno, notwithstanding the above. The only reason is that EF vs RT tends to be a boring, drawish game, and I'd rather make things exciting. But in the end I can't justify it to myself.

My game plan is to to become the leader of an anti-RT coalition. The minimum viable alliance is EFI, but I'll take Aaron & GoB too if I can get them. If I can get EFI, I think I'll be in a good position: We have the numbers and position to probably win the tactical war, and I'm most likely to be the one who ends up directing our moves. In addition, I'll be in the back, best positioned to stab as warranted, and I think I have more of a relationship with drno and YL than they have with each other. And if things go poorly, I should be in the best position to squeak out a 3-way draw with the RT. (Right now, drno is more likely to end up as the long-term ally, but that could change if I started feeling like YL communicated more openly with me.) All in all, the anti-Juggernaut strategy seems like my best prospect of a solo or 2-way result, to the point that I'm not even really trying to discourage the formation of the RT!

I should comment on my moves, which go strongly against the "tempo" conventional wisdom. (I spend moves moving my pieces back toward home for no tactical purpose.) My rationale is diplomatic. For one thing, both WHS and Wyse were lobbying me hard to move my fleets west, ostensibly to allow space for YL to join a FIR/FIT alliance but mostly (I believe) because they thought I wouldn't both moving west without stabbing drno. Moving my fleets backward therefore nominally accords with what they asked me to do. The more important factor, however, is YL. If there's an RT and YL sides with it, then I lose the tactical war. My anti-RT strategy requires bringing YL on board. The primary purpose of my moves is therefore to extend him an olive branch and position Wyse as the one who's clambering all over him and threatening his home centers. This does not work out as I hope, of course!
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Re: AAR: Mentors Game

Postby Radical Pumpkin » 04 Nov 2015, 20:48

SPRING 1905

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Another busy diplomatic turn that fails to result in any meaningful progress on the board.

I said that at the end of Fall 1904, YL was central to my plans. I make a diplomatic push to bring YL on side, but I'm dismayed to find I get no response whatsoever. My plan is not going well. With 20 minutes remaining in the turn, I get a message from YL trying to open up a whole new discussion about the turn, largely ignoring the various proposals I'd already made. This is a clear indication that he's not interesting in working with me.

With WHS, I spend much of the turn discussing a simultaneous stab of drno and Wyse. For the most part, this is just keeping up appearances on my end; I don't trust WHS sufficiently to burn my bridges with drno. (I trust him to keep to the letter of his promises, but I expect him to be wishy-washy when the time comes to make promises and weaselly afterward in interpreting them.) Then, late in the turn, the EFR idea gets revived and, against all odds, everyone agrees. Given my failure to swing YL, I'm happy to be part of any arrangement that's bigger than EF. Key in the EFR coming together is WHS's explicit commitment to attack Wyse in the Fall. I'm inclined to think WHS takes this explicit commitment seriously, and more importantly, it convinces drno as well. I also note that if WHS is being insincere, it's drno who will suffer more than me, so the EFR plan is pretty solid for France.

The actual Russian moves raise my eyebrows a little. They’re vaguely anti-Turkish, but A Gal-Boh seems unnecessary and makes me worry about WHS’s intentions. The move makes it harder for WHS to attack Wyse in the Fall, for one thing. It also means that A Tri-Vie gets only one support, suggesting to me that WHS knew A Tyr wasn’t going to be supporting A Vie in place. Nevertheless, I know that WHS’s commitment was for the Fall movements, not for the Spring, so I remain hopeful. I’ll still take EFI vs RT if I can get it, but I now think EFR vs IT is a more likely outcome (albeit one with more limited opportunities for a French solo).

FALL 1905

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Well, I get neither EFR nor EFI. By the end of the season it’s what I’m predicting, but it’s still disappointing.

I ask YL what he’d like me to do. I recognize that he’s essential to any anti-RT coalition, and I’m willing to do what’s necessary to make him feel secure. To my surprise, he asks for A Ven-Rom, F Rom-Nap, A Tyr-Ven, with the idea that I help him destroy the Turkish A Apu in 1906. This smells like a lie to me; it’s too pro-French a plan to be legit. However, I follow through with what he suggests because I figure it’s better to demonstrate trustworthiness to YL and lose Ven than to damage a relationship for the sake of a center that I can’t hold for long against IRT anyhow. I am also able to use my justified fear of losing Ven to argue for taking Bel, so it’s not even a net center loss. So I’m not at all surprised to lose Ven, but I am surprised to see that it’s Wyse who takes it rather than YL. This seems like poor play by YL; he had the diplomatic leverage to take back Ven for sure. I start to think YL has disengaged from the game and has decided to stick on a course of Turkish puppetry out of inertia.

As for EFR, two events stress it this turn. First and more simply, WHS insists on taking Den immediately as part of the EFR alliance, and drno balks. This is probably a genuine misalignment of expectations, but I do wonder a little if WHS isn’t drumming up a pretense to make EFR fail on favorable diplomatic terms.

The second event begins at the end of the spring, when drno writes to Aaron at the last minute to apologize for the EFR that’s about to descend on his homeland. To my mind, this isn’t a big deal; under the EFR plan, Aaron has no defense and will soon die no matter what moves he makes now. For that matter, Wyse doesn’t have much defense either. EFR doesn’t need much secrecy, just a commitment from all parties. In fact, I tell drno that it’s fine by me to write Aaron when drno asks me! I see it as a harmless courtesy.

WHS apparently doesn’t feel the same way. He asks me for a live chat, nominally to discuss how to proceed with EFR, then ambushes me by asking if I’d be upset to learn that Aaron forwarded all his press over the past turn to WHS. (Note: WHS later confirms that Aaron didn’t in fact do this.) I have no idea what he’s going on about until he tells me that drno told Aaron about the EFR. I sigh internally, then do my best to commiserate with him. I want to just walk away from my relationship with WHS at this point, but a) I kind of need the EFR option, and b) it may still be important to work with Russia down the road. So I keep on investing in our relationship, tiring as it may be.

When I see the moves, my patience with WHS breaks. We'd agreed on a DMZ in Bohemia, and he moves there anyway. I hadn't expected WHS to violate that kind of explicit commitment, so my trust in him sinks to a new low. I also note that the window has closed on EF setting up any kind of western stalemate line. I wonder to myself if that was the whole point of the RT machinations over the past few turns. (That said, I don't regret failing to rush toward a line earlier. My preferred style is to rely on diplomacy rather than tactical lines when defending.) I begin to think that if the conflict is EF vs RT, RT has won the day, and my best play now is to go for a spot in a 3-way draw. That will mean stabbing drno. It saddens me to do that, but I feel it will probably be necessary.

The fact that I'm feeling resigned to RT success and rather annoyed at WHS leads me to make a mistake: I tell Wyse that if he stabs WHS, I'm willing to put him in a position where he's a solo threat, even dangling the carrot of access to MAO. This isn't my most natural play against a strong RT (positionally, it's better for me if Russia is the solo threat), but that's not why I call the offer a mistake. Working with Wyse rather than WHS can be justified on the board as maximizing my (modest) chances of a solo or a 2-way draw, albeit at the cost of a higher risk of loss, and I'm comfortable with the idea of playing to make someone else lose rather than playing exclusively to win myself. No, I call the offer a mistake because Wyse is quite eager to stab WHS, and I didn't need to offer so much! The fact that I've already sold my soul will make it harder to bargain with Wyse for a respectable deal down the road....
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Re: AAR: Mentors Game

Postby Radical Pumpkin » 06 Nov 2015, 07:36

SPRING 1906

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Another season where I mostly maintain a holding pattern on the board but there’s lots going on diplomatically.

I suddenly hear more from YL. I’m surprised to find that he’s focused on working against Wyse. Gven the history, I’d half written him off as a disengaged Turkish puppet, but now YL is urging me to move with full force against his former master. I’m not quite sure what to make of this. I have a terrible time trying to read YL, and for all I know this is all a bunch of smoke. So I tread cautiously, telling YL that if we want Wyse to stab WHS, we need to give him space. (I also happen to believe this argument!)

Relations with Wyse are warmer than they’ve been all game. My focus is on getting him to stab WHS and also, ideally, to be as nice to YL as possible. I want to keep YL around; if nothing else, he’s a buffer between Wyse and myself, and I have some hope that my EFI plan might be resurrected if things go well. (I continue to think it’s the route that gives me the best prospect of a solo, but it only works if EFI have the position to win vs RT on the board.) Wyse brings up the idea of a 2-way FT draw. I like this idea; it appeals to my desire for crafting interesting narrative arcs with my games, since it’s not something I would ever have expected in the early game. FT also seems quite achievable on the board. However, I’m not sure how serious Wyse is about the 2-way. He’s told me earlier that he doesn’t do 2-ways, and he brings it up more as a stray thought than as a plan. Still, tying myself to Wyse is much more appealing if it potentially results in a 2-way rather than in a Turkish solo or larger draw. The FT 2-way starts to edge into Plan A status for me, although I figure it will take some work to wrangle Wyse there.

The plan with drno is largely the same as the plan with Wyse: I’m giving Wyse space so that he’ll stab WHS. The only real difference is in what comes next. With Wyse, the idea is that I then stab drno; with drno, the plan is that I ram into the Med as soon as Wyse has committed himself to a two-front war. I suppose my internal plan is to delay the decision as long as possible, although I don’t think I’ll be able to delay for long. I know that making Wyse my primary partner will essentially foreclose any chance of a solo, and I’ll have an easier time negotiating with drno too. On the other side of the balance, FT will be a more interesting game finish than EF, and I’m not confident I can crack the Med with any speed, even if I have YL on my side and Wyse has just stabbed WHS. (YL seems flaky, and WHS & Wyse are very capable of putting their differences behind them to deal with a resurgent EF.) At this point, I’m thinking that I’ll work with Wyse, but I haven’t committed to that path internally.

I also have long talks with WHS, but they’re not very productive. He wants FIR. This, to me, is an atrocious plan: I don’t trust either WHS or YL much at this point, and I think I take the majority of the risk if I strike out at both drno and Wyse. Also, I don’t feel like I’m under any pressure to rush into a risky, bold play, although I understand why it would be advantageous for WHS. The bottom line is that I never seriously consider this plan. We settle on EFR instead. I don’t really expect EFR to work out, but I don’t really mind if it fails.

My orders are largely holding moves. My main goal is to edge into the Med without alarming anyone too much. I do make one slightly interesting move to Tyr; I’m partially motivated by occupying an influential space, but I’m also hoping to give YL options when he retreats. After some initial alarm, Wyse blesses the move, so it helps me shift FI units eastward without diplomatic damage.

It’s worth noting that by this point, I’ve had some kind of 2-way discussion with drno, WHS andWyse. I’m not particularly trying to play all sides, and none of those discussions have resulted in a mutual commitment to the 2-way. With WHS, I started out keen on the idea, because (non-carebear) FR 2-ways are the kind of difficult, interesting finishes that appeal to me. But now the fact they’re so difficult is a drawback, because I don’t think the required level of trust is there. I’ve just about written off the FR draw.

At this point, the FT 2-way seems the most likely to me. The fact that Wyse is almost certainly a superior tactician creates some risk, but I hope I can bargain for sufficient security to prevent a Turkish solo. Wyse and I approach the game in pretty different ways, I think. That’s both part of the appeal of FT for me and also a challenge to negotiating an FT draw with each other.

I am legitimately open to an EF 2-way if I end up picking drno over Wyse. That’s not a 2-way that’s supposed to be possible without a couple of carebears, but I think it’s feasible if I were to hand over Brest and Paris. (That would permit us to form a 17-17 stalemate line.) If I went that route, I’d still be looking out for good opportunities to snag a solo, and I’d still be wary of drno doing the same, but I can imagine 17-17 working out. The two of us share a pretty similar understanding of what’s reasonable to ask for in an alliance, which would help a lot in negotiating the steps to get to 17-17. I also feel like my tactical game is strong enough relative to drno’s that I could look out adequately for my interests. The supposed impossibility of an EF 2-way is also appealing to me, since I like to balk the conventional wisdom when I think I can get away with it. So if EF can get into a dominant position, I’m open to drawing with drno. Unfortunately, I’m not so confident he feels the same way!

FALL 1906

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This is the season I feel I need to pick between WHS & Wyse. I won’t be able to get away without a committal pro- or anti-Turkish move. Fortunately, I think I can maintain my relationship with drno for the time being. (If I’m to stab him, 1907 will be a more opportune time.) Because I’d like to bring drno on board with either EFR or EFT, I prevaricate in talks with WHS and Wyse. This is noticed, so I end up making concrete plans with each of them before knowing drno’s mind, aware that I’ll have to break one set of commitments immediately. This is really poor play: my prevarication undermines trust with both of them, and I still end up baldly lying to someone. If you’re going to end up lying to someone, best to make peace with that and get on with the lie ASAP.

Wyse continues to suggest a FT 2-way might be in the cards, but the negotiation process reveals that he’s not willing to put us on an equal footing. If I’m to stab drno in 1907, I’d like to build, especially since I can expect to lose Bel shortly after stabbing. Tunis looks like a good pickup for me, but Wyse refuses. He’s very focused on stalemate lines, and it’s true that Tun is a common 18th center for France. However, my feeling is that Wyse will have plenty of diplomatic recourse if I try to hold onto Tun once I’m anywhere near 18, i.e., if I’m on a course to solo, he’ll be able to rally drno and/or WHS into a stop-the-leader alliance. I think this is just a genuine difference in how we conceptualize the game, but it occurs to me that Wyse could be making up excuses to maintain the dominant position (and hence solo chances of his own). At any rate, Wyse and I settle on him supporting me into Vienna. This is less appealing to me, because I think there’s a good chance that A Vie will get support.

WHS proposes that YL and GoB support me into Trieste (which is to be compensation for drno taking Belgium, which is in turn to be compensation for WHS taking Den). This strikes me as a funny kind of offer, since YL and GoB aren’t talking to me at all. I’m put off by WHS making commitments on behalf of other players. If he can dictate Italian and Austrian orders, he’s accumulated an awful lot of power, surrounding himself in a ring of Jannissaries. That suggests he’s more dangerous than a naïve view of the board would suggest, and it gives him diplomatic scope to betray me at some key point while blaming it on a flaky flunky. And of course if WHS can’t come through with Italian and Austrian orders, that’s bad in its own way, because I won’t get Trieste!

On balance, I prefer working with Wyse to working with WHS. If I can maintain good relations with drno while drno strikes at WHS, I feel I have two potentially fruitful paths forward. I can stab drno, running for a FT 2-way; or, if Wyse leaves himself open, I can do EFI, with a chance of an EF 2-way or a French solo. In addition, I’ve been accumulating various little annoyances at WHS throughout the game, and all else equal, I’d rather go the route that makes him lose. And finally, I’ve made a firmer commitment to Wyse than to WHS, and I’d prefer to keep my word where possible.

I expect I’ll be able to get an EFT alliance. On the board, it’s the more advantageous alliance for drno, since it gives him expansion opportunities against a crumbling Russia while my own expansion path is limited. However, I know that WHS has been whispering to drno about the danger of a hidden FT alliance, I so I want to tread lightly. I feel that if I push hard for EFT, drno will anticipate that I may stab him in the near future. So I try to set things up so it’s clear that I prefer EFT, all the while portraying a lot of ambivalence and ultimately giving drno the choice. Unfortunately, when we get down to the wire, drno says he prefers EFR! Because I don’t think I can achieve anything close to an equal position within FT unless drno goes after WHS, and because I don’t feel Wyse will make a point of giving me a near-equal position, I resign myself to siding with WHS over Wyse.

Nevertheless, I’m pleased that I’m able to talk drno into taking Berlin over Belgium. It’s an extra center for me, for one thing, and it’s one less Janissary for WHS. A silver lining in the diplomatic evolution of the game.

Unfortunately, the moves don’t go particularly well. Not getting Trieste is a little bit of a disappointment, but I’m more upset to see YL lose Rome. The loss of Rome has big implications going forward: it means that YL has to focus entirely on defense rather than helping to dig Wyse out of his corner, which in turn makes a Mediterranean expansion path less feasible for me and my alliance with drno harder to maintain….
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