Face-to-Face Dip + Versailles - Midcon 18/19 November

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Re: Face-to-Face Dip + Versailles - Midcon 18/19 November

Postby Captainmeme » 18 Nov 2017, 20:00

That Versailles game was awesome!
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Re: Face-to-Face Dip + Versailles - Midcon 18/19 November

Postby NoPunIn10Did » 18 Nov 2017, 21:12

Big Gun wrote:Good question! With a GM! I think if every player uses the same kind of cards for writing their orders (DQ was giving out these at WDC this year) and write orders for major and minor units separately, then the identities of minors can be held secret for a while. Otherwise I guess the rest of the game functions in the same way as standard dip.

The variant didn’t always leave the pairings secret, FYI. It actually had a default set of major/minor pairs. I like the variant more with random secret pairs personally, but you would have been fine letting it be public knowledge.

If running this face-to-face, I might do it with 14 people rather than seven. Each person is secretly teamed with another, and they have to moderate how much discussion they have before being “outed.”
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Re: Face-to-Face Dip + Versailles - Midcon 18/19 November

Postby Captainmeme » 19 Nov 2017, 02:45

So, my experience playing Versailles FtF...

First off, massive thanks to Big Gun for making the board, bringing it along, and GMing the game. It was an absolute blast, and I hope you get to play it tomorrow instead of GMing (if we're doing Versailles again).

I think everyone who played was completely new to Versailles, so everyone faced the same challenge of getting their head around a board they'd never seen before. I drew Poland/Spain, which I was somewhat disappointed by - I had hoped to get two powers which were close together.

Full list of draws:
CaptainMeme - Poland/Spain
GPD - Italy/Czechoslovakia
dib - France/Yugoslavia
Dave - Germany/Egypt
Matt - England/Sweden
Andrew - Turkey/Rumania
Greg - Russia/Greece

First Year

Initially I decided to play it extremely safe (as feels natural on a map you don't really know), and agreed to a huge number of DMZs - specifically on my borders with Russia and Germany. Clearly, the free build in Lit was something to go for, but that left me thinking about what else to do since my other units were trapped between two walls of demilitarized zones which I really didn't want to break.

I spoke some more with Germany, and we both came to the conclusion that Italy/Czech was an incredibly powerful combination here and would have a considerable force on Munich come fall. As such, I agreed to move into Slovakia, with the intention of aiding him along the way (the plan was for Germany to put me in Czech's HSC and take that power out of the game, hopefully also cutting any potential support against Germany in the process).

It didn't quite go as smoothly as planned. France immediately also moved two units adjacent to Munich, taking Switzerland, and moved his Yugoslavian unit north to join in the fray also. I realised that the attack on Czech was not going to work without French assistance, because Italy had moved units into position to support hold it, so I approached him about an alliance between him, Germany, and I against Italy. I was met with "uh, maybe, let me think over it" which was very clearly a no. After this I was told (I forget who by) that France was attempting to rally people against me, which may have been because of my aggressive suggestion or because I controlled Spain, which he was also very on-edge about. We'd agreed to a DMZ'd MAO for 01 and that I'd build F Spa, but it felt like he still thought those Spanish units would be coming for him.

I knew that a Russia/Turkey alliance was forming, but I wasn't too concerned about it yet, because I've played with Greg before and he tends to be extremely passive until the runup to the endgame. He'll keep all his agreements until about 3 years before the end, then he'll break them all at once and rush everyone. He'd already held half his units in the Spring to comply with our DMZs and I expected him to do the same again in the fall. He'd mentioned that he was hitting Yugoslavia's HSC with Turkish support, which was guaranteed to go - so, since France wouldn't work with me and that was his minor, I instead approached Italy, asking him for support into the center Yugo had moved to (I think Austria?) and telling him that this would eliminate Yugoslavia from the game entirely. He was not happy about this suggestion, and told me that he, Germany, and France were all planning to work together... Which left me in a difficult position. I'd moved to Slovakia hoping to gain *something* in the chaos, but there was no chaos, just a huge alliance with no intention of breaking to the west and a strong alliance which I knew I could trust not to attack me to the east. There was nowhere for me to go.

So, I decided to go nowhere, and just took Lithuania. It's possibly the most passive I've been in any Diplomacy game ever in the first year.

Choosing a Direction

There's one power I haven't mentioned yet - England/Sweden. Matt is one of my best friends irl, and had agreed to come along to the game on just this day. However, he's no Diplomacy master - in fact, he'd only played one game several years previously, and although he had topped the board in that game, it was not against particularly good opposition. I ran him through the rules and a lot of strategy on train journey to Derby, but most of the strategy I talked to him about was about the Classic board and was completely useless on Versailles. I also told him that at all costs he should keep his confidence and not let anyone know how new to this he was - in my experience, new players get absolutely no sympathy in competitive Diplomacy games and are often seen as the easy targets.

I was facing a bit of a dilemma going into the game, because I knew I'd rather work with him than against him, but I also knew that I shouldn't let the fact that I knew him influence my decisions in the game. I was kinda glad at the draw, because although we were relatively close on the board, I would not have to choose whether to ally him or work against him immediately. Instead, we talked a bit and I gave him some advice on how to handle his negotiations - we didn't really negotiate any agreements between the two of us.

Russia forced me to choose a side with his build of Fleet Leningrad, South Coast. That telegraphed to the entire board that Russia was going for England/Sweden, and Russia straight up told me that was the case and asked me to assist by moving to the Baltic. I agreed - I definitely wanted to keep Russia on my side, because I suspected that the F/G/I would be moving on me very soon and I didn't want to have to fight on two fronts. However, I also decided to tell England what I was doing to give him a chance to respond - this was partially because I didn't want to see my friend knocked out immediately, and partially because I wouldn't be making any of the gains up there, so slowing Russia down was something that was in my interest. England seemed unsure of what to do with this information, but I left him with that and went to talk to Germany.

Germany informed me he was also moving against England, and if G was doing so, then so was France. When I talked to England he told me that he viewed Germany as a friend who would help him against Russia, and I really wanted to tell him that wasn't the case, but I ended up keeping my mouth shut. I figured he had the units to defend reasonably effectively by himself.

Instead, I tried to convince Germany to make a move somewhere else with me, against Italy, or to make a move against France with England onside. He outright refused to attack Italy or France, but pointed out that I could move my units very effectively against Russia from their current position, and that he'd be happy to keep the DMZs if I was holding Russia back. Faced with the choice of that or waiting to die by squeezing between I/G and R/T, I accepted, and moved everything against Russia.

How's Spain holding up?

Before we move on, I need to talk about Spain. Spain's situation could be summed up as 'Not Good'. Not good at all.

Italy had outright told me he was sending one fleet west to assist France in knocking Spain out. France had gone to MAO in F01, and built F Mar, showing he had no intention of keeping Spain in the game. In response to the DMZ break, I'd built A Madrid, which was a huge threat to French centers since he'd built double fleets. I intended to move it against him, but with FGI all allied and England about to be attacked by F,G, and R, I basically had no support to back it up. Conversations with Italy all ended up with 'abandon Spain, it's a minor, you don't need it' which I really didn't want to do.

We'll get back to what ended up happening over there later on. For now, back to Poland.

Marching on Moscow is always a bad idea

I moved everything against Russia, and then realised just how difficult that area is to crack with the few units I had available. I stacked up 3 units on his border - Latvia, Pripyat, and Galicia - but he easily had the forces to hold all his centers there. If I wanted to take anything, I needed a build and to advance into key non-SCs inside the Russian borders - specifically, Byelorusia. Taking Bye was easy - Russia wasn't expecting the move there - but the build wasn't. It had to come from my unit sitting in Slovakia, since all the others were pinned on the Russian line, and the only place Slovakia could advance to was Hungary - which needed Italian assistance.

Italy was more than happy to see my move against Russia and, although he didn't change his mind on destroying Spain, he was happy to give the support in response, and move his units to allow further progression in that area. I took Hungary in the Autumn phase and got the build I needed, which I used to put down a new army to move against the Russian.

Meanwhile, England got decimated due to his trust in Germany. He left the North Sea open, allowing Germany free passage to Edinburgh, while G took Stockholm from him at the same time. Thankfully for him, Russia's unit in Finland had headed back to Leningrad to defend, so Sweden stayed on the board with one SC. That was a huge blessing to me - Finland was a unit I needed to break the Russian line, and it was now in the hands of someone who was friendly towards me.

Unfortunately, Russia was in the Baltic Sea, and would take one of my coastal centers (Dan or Lit) for free if I didn't use my newly built army to defend them. That army was vital on the Russian line if I ever wanted to break through, so I made the decision to leave the SCs undefended and let him take one, knowing that one fleet on Poland's coast would do very little damage, whereas if I broke into the Russian homeland, I could steamroll him. In the next fall, all my units were lined up and ready to take out Russia - with England's support, I'd be guaranteed one Russian center, and the rest would fall relatively quickly from there.

Fall adjudication rolls around, and I listen to the orders being read out. England always wrote his Swedish order separately, so it was always the last one to be read, which lead to quite a while of me nervously waiting for Big Gun to read the order that was important to me. I was fairly certain he'd give the support, but there was always that doubt...

Big Gun never read the Swedish order. He put down the paper after the English units and moved straight on to the next person's ordersheet. Somewhat confused, I asked what F Fin had been ordered to do, and Big Gun picked up the English ordersheet and, after some searching, found the order:

Fleet Norway Support Latvia-Leningrad.

Of course, there was no Fleet Norway. There was no Norway in this game, full stop. The fleet was in Finland, so the order was ruled invalid, and I watched in devastation as I lost Danzig to the rogue Russian fleet and gained no Russian center to replace it. That meant a disband, and I couldn't afford to disband anything. My unit in the south was pushing against Turkey/Greece/Rumania with Italian support, was pinning down the Rumanian unit (which was important), and was moving from center to center, maintaining itself. If I disbanded any of my other units, I'd be put on the defensive on the Russian front - which would leave me either as Germany's permanent buffer or, if G/R made amends, I'd be squeezed and split just as Poland was in WWII.

I had to disband, though, so I took off F Lat and became Germany's buffer. I informed him that as long as he kept his DMZs, I'd keep the wall up against the Russian and just sit there. A weak Russia in the north meant a happy Germany, was my argument, and he agreed and left me alone. And so begins the sad story of the Polish Wall.

Before we get into that, though, let's see how Spain is fairing!

Answer: Surprisingly Well

The Spanish units had decided to suicide on France, by sending the army into Gascony and threatening all three of France's HSCs. This let Italy take Madrid unopposed, but I figured this would happen anyway (a French army had moved back to Marseilles and looked to be advancing into Spanish lands, which would make Madrid impossible to defend with two units), so I threw everything I could north, relying on myself taking a French SC and holding Portugal to maintain my units.

I'd been giving England advice on how best to handle his situation (mainly telling him to try to become a German vassal, because he was in such a terrible position that Germany was going to walk over him otherwise) and in return, he agreed to help me keep my unit alive. And so Brest became Spanish as Madrid became Italian, and the Spanish units both survived!

From here, Italy agreed not to take Portugal - partially because I was helping him in the Balkans and he didn't want to lose that support, and partially because I was in MAO and he assumed I'd defend it anyway - which suited me just fine. I started talking to England about potential ways we could continue to work against France - mainly by forcing his fleet in Ireland. In my mind, Ireland was such a safe center that if Spain made it there, I'd survive to the end of the game. We made arrangements to take it, which would take two years, but would be guaranteed to work provided we kept one fleet each on the board.

Back to Poland

The Polish wall held for another year, and didn't look to be going anywhere. However, Germany broke the DMZ, with the apparent intention of attacking Danzig. I let that one go, because the main reason for that portion of the DMZ was so that he couldn't sneak into Danzig, and that was no longer mine, so didn't really matter. It didn't stop there, though - instead of taking Danzig, he then moved into Weilo, a center which bordered two of my (open) HSCs.

Thankfully for me, Germany had not been the most honest player on the board. He had offered to work with Russia twice, telling him he would help Russia kill the Swedish unit in Finland by issuing Stockholm S Leningrad-Finland, and had failed to go through with the deal both times. Russia was frustrated, and came to both me and England asking for a ceasefire and for us all to start working against the German.

He sounded annoyed enough that I believed he was being honest, and it turned out he was - he supported Finland to hold, saving the nation of Sweden from a supported German attack, and as the Polish armies moved back into their HSCs Russia kept the area behind them empty of all armies aside from what was needed to hold the line against the German. I decided to push the advance, and with Italy getting some army builds a year later, was able to take Munich with Italian support. I made a tactical blunder in my homeland which cost us an SC, but aside from that, the line held true - and it did until one year before the agreed end date. I'll come back to this.

The single Balkan army & the Spanish suicide

During this time, that army which began the game by moving down to Slovakia had been working with the Italian and constantly pushing forward. It somehow ended up in Bulgaria, at which point Turkey decided that Italy was more of a threat than I was and offered to let it survive there, an offer I was more than happy to accept. It lived out its days there, up until one year before the end of the game - which I'll come back to in a moment.

Meanwhile in Spain, the plan to take Ireland was in full force. England supported me to NAO with Irish Sea in a Fall phase, leaving us with two uncuttable units on Irelandl. Unfortunately, this also left Portugal undefended, and Italy decided he'd take it - there wasn't much I could do about that. At the same time, my army in Brest had been cornered by French units and was about to die. If Spain was going to survive, there were two ways it could do so:

- Get English support into Ireland
- Support England to Ireland, then walk into Liverpool

England really wanted a build, so was unlikely to give me that support. I decided to go with the second option - but after the Spring invasion of the Irish, there was a problem. Germany had convoyed an army into Edinburgh, and it was almost certainly also going to Liverpool.

I pulled aside the German and had a conversation with him, in which he agreed to leave Liverpool open for me to take. This would weaken England, which was exactly what he wanted, so I believed he was telling the truth.

Now I faced a moral dilemma. The England/Sweden player, my newbie friend, had been playing on the defensive the entire game. If I did what I wanted to, and took Liverpool, then I'd essentially be forcing him to roll back to just Ireland and Finland, from which he'd be able to do absolutely nothing before the game ended. I wanted to give him the chance to get back in the fight for his homeland, and to do that, he needed an army build in Liverpool.

So I left Liverpool open, and killed myself. NAO held, and Brest was forced by the French. I still had my Polish units, and this at least gave my friend something to think about and do for the next hour and a half before the game ended, rather than just sitting back and issuing holds for the rest of the game. I don't think Germany was too happy about it, but he managed to outmaneuver the Englishman later anyway (convoying to London) so the move left him down 1 center from what he would be on otherwise. I think it was a reasonable decision to make to keep the game fun.

And so Spain died. Back to Poland.

The Final Year

I had 4 centers going into the final year of the game, which was more than France or England. However, I was the only power in considerable danger of elimination because of how spread out those centers were. I was essentially playing two 1 center powers in Munich and Bulgaria, and one 2 center power owning Lithuania and Warsaw - none of them could help any of the others. Additionally, the German was in Danzig and Baltic with the Russian in Weilo and Krakow & with a new build in Kiev, and Greg always stabs in the final year. Italy wanted Munich, and was willing to force it with the three units he had on it. The only center that I thought was safe was Bulgaria - I was using it to support hold Bucharest, and I knew Russia/Italy had made an agreement to force it, so Turkey needed that support hold. He wasn't going to cut it and kill his own unit.

Except... He did. Turkey fell asleep for part of the Spring phase, and I can only assume he was somewhat confused when he woke up, because he tried to support himself into Bulgaria from Constantinople with Bucharest. In doing so, he cut my support hold, and Bucharest fell to the R/I attack.

Meanwhile, I countered Russia's stab on me by bouncing him in Pripyat, but he still managed to dislodge me from Warsaw. Thankfully, the German had not made any attempt to advance on me, so I had an open retreat in Sol, which would allow me to hold Lithuania no matter what and guarantee my survival.

Munich was dislodged by the Italian, but Germany left an open retreat in Berlin, which meant all four of my units survived the Spring phase, with three of them standing on SCs.

So then came the Fall. There was nothing I could do about Bulgaria except pray that both Turkey/Russia and Italy decided to go for it and bounce each other out. Berlin was a certain disband. I decided to ask Germany for support back into Warsaw, and to my surprise he immediately said 'sure' and wrote down the support, guaranteeing that I'd take back that center.

When the moves went through, everything went perfectly. R/T had decided to support the Russian fleet out of Bucharest and into Bulgaria, and Italy also attacked Bulgaria with support, bouncing both out. Sol retook Warsaw while my other army held Lithuania, and Italy issued a support hold for Berlin, which, combined with some joke moves from Germany, successfully held my unit there. I ended the game on 4, which was the best I could have hoped for (given that I'd suicided Spain).

Thanks for the game, everyone, and congrats to GPD on the win! Apologies for the weird order of this AAR, but it's late and I couldn't really get my head around what structure I should use for it. I'm looking forward to another great game tomorrow!
Last edited by Captainmeme on 19 Nov 2017, 02:59, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Face-to-Face Dip + Versailles - Midcon 18/19 November

Postby Captainmeme » 19 Nov 2017, 02:58

Here is a really terrible shot of the final boardstate (and Big Gun's awesome homemade board!):


I know the others have better photos than this, so those should be up at some point :)
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Re: Face-to-Face Dip + Versailles - Midcon 18/19 November

Postby DQ » 19 Nov 2017, 18:11

Great report!
Stab you soon!
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Re: Face-to-Face Dip + Versailles - Midcon 18/19 November

Postby Big Gun » 20 Nov 2017, 10:26

Great write-up on the first game Captainmeme. It was a pleasure to see some players from the Oxford WDC again and meet new friends. I enjoyed GM-ing the variant and of course enjoyed playing it all the more on the 2nd day. Two full boards of Versailles live. The non-secrecy situation of the major/minor pairings didn't seem to matter at all.

Great to bring Diplomacy back to MidCon, where it apparently hasn't been played for many years. I would say there were enough other potential players popping their heads through the door to look at our game, that we could probably shoot for 2 boards next year.

Thanks everyone who came to play. It was really cool.
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