Face Off Challenge Tournament Format AAR

2-player tournament using a modified version of the published 2-player rules. TD: rick.leeds. WINNER: thewysecat

Face Off Challenge Tournament Format AAR

Postby thewysecat » 29 May 2012, 00:41

So, it is finally over.

This is the place people will complain that EFR's advantages over AGT mean that there needs to be a change in the tournament format. For the record, you are all wrong. ;)

I will post more when I get the chance.

I will PM all the participants to give them a chance to contribute.
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Re: Face Off Challenge Tournament Format AAR

Postby sinnybee » 29 May 2012, 07:19

I am anxious to hear your argument... I do think that perhaps some players are better at EFR...

Anyway, well done on your victory, thewysecat. You continue to confirm that you are certainly one of the very best Diplomacy players, the elite of the elite.
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Re: Face Off Challenge Tournament Format AAR

Postby Maucat » 29 May 2012, 09:37

As I said a lot of time ago the scenario is unbalanced toward E/F/R for these reasons:
- the exposed position of Germany makes his defense and survive a "mission impossible"
- without Germany it's impossible for A/T have fleets in the Baltic
- without fleets in the Baltic it's impossible defend StP and also the stalemate line in Germany is very difficult to reach
- in the Med it's quite impossible for A/T a breakout in the Atlantic or break the stalemate line of E/F

If E/F/R player doesn't play weak moves the game will be always in E/F/R's hands...

We can try to let Austria the possibility to attack Italy in 1914, we can try to let Italy, belgium and Holland neutrals for all 1914... I don't know if these variants can work...

My idea for tournament games is:
two games between the players, at the end sum the SCs of the two games the player with the big sum is the winner, if there is a draw the player with the big A/G/T's SCs is the winner, if the draw persist the players can replay the games...

BR to all... :mrgreen:
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Re: Face Off Challenge Tournament Format AAR

Postby Prufrock » 30 May 2012, 10:08

Maucat wrote:As I said a lot of time ago the scenario is unbalanced toward E/F/R for these reasons:
- the exposed position of Germany makes his defense and survive a "mission impossible"
- without Germany it's impossible for A/T have fleets in the Baltic
- without fleets in the Baltic it's impossible defend StP and also the stalemate line in Germany is very difficult to reach
- in the Med it's quite impossible for A/T a breakout in the Atlantic or break the stalemate line of E/F

I agree wholeheartedly. This 2-player variant is essentially a war over Munich. StP and Tun are effectively guaranteed to go to EFR, Germany should be mostly eliminated by 1902, and AGT has a lot of goals that are necessary to secure, and they need to be secured before EFR can stop them. Specifically, AGT isn't safe in the north until there are armies in
Mun, Ber, Tyr, Boh, Sil, Pru, War, Liv, and Mos. This can be dynamic (they need to be secured before EFR can take advantage of not holding this position), but those 9 armies are hard to position before EFR gets going.

In addition, Italy must fall. This will most often happen, but it's not guaranteed, especially if EFR sends fleets south immediately while keeping AGT busy in the north.

Maucat wrote: If E/F/R player doesn't play weak moves the game will be always in E/F/R's hands...


I haven't done a careful analysis of the game I lost as EFR, but I think games F5 and F6 are both ones where AGT could well have won, and though EFR made "mistakes" in each of them, I don't recall any truly obvious blunders. (Note: there may well be some very obvious terrible glaring mistakes I overlooked during the games -- feel free to look them over and criticize my play! I know I will before the AARs :).)

I think EFR's advantage, though, is that AGT is walking something of a tightrope, and one false step can spell the end. AGT requires very strong, consistent play, a careful analysis and understanding of your opponent's play, and several daring moves to go your way. The downside to EFR guessing wrong (or anticipating incorrectly, if you don't like the word "guess") is relatively minor -- there are follow-up chances where you can try again to out-guess AGT regarding the attack on Munich and/or Berlin. Typically, however, one misread for AGT and the game will go to EFR. I'll likely comment more on this in my game AARs. Since so many things have to go right in succession for AGT to win, I think this favors EFR against two strong players who understand what territories are important.

For the record, I'm not in the "EFR should 100% win" camp, but definitely support "EFR should win a lot more games than AGT, even if the person on the AGT side plays better than EFR."

Maucat wrote:My idea for tournament games is:
two games between the players, at the end sum the SCs of the two games the player with the big sum is the winner, if there is a draw the player with the big A/G/T's SCs is the winner, if the draw persist the players can replay the games...


That sounds like a reasonable format -- I expect a lot of games will end 18-16, but it won't be quite so lopsided.
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Re: Face Off Challenge Tournament Format AAR

Postby Prufrock » 30 May 2012, 10:14

Also, I'm not sure what thread to put this in, so:

[hijack]I do want to say publicly that I will also be posting my AAR for each game of the tournament, just as thewysecat has already done (thanks Wyse!). The first is up now, and the rest will follow in the coming days. Other analysis and comments on any of the games are always appreciated.[/hijack]
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Re: Face Off Challenge Tournament Format AAR

Postby thewysecat » 01 Jun 2012, 02:46

Prufrock wrote:
Maucat wrote:My idea for tournament games is:
two games between the players, at the end sum the SCs of the two games the player with the big sum is the winner, if there is a draw the player with the big A/G/T's SCs is the winner, if the draw persist the players can replay the games...


That sounds like a reasonable format -- I expect a lot of games will end 18-16, but it won't be quite so lopsided.

Well, let me begin my arguments about the tournament format here.

Let’s see if I can fully capture my opposition for such an idea as presented here.

If you wish to ruin the game-play experience in every single game and at the macro-level render the entire tournament meaningless then by all means adopt this suggestion. Hmm…that probably covers it.

Let me break it down.

What this potentially tells every single AGT player to do is to play for securing 16 SCs. I am going to be bold and say that if I set out as AGT to get and secure 16 SCs I defy anyone to stop me. I lose as AGT more spectacularly sometimes because I am trying to win and get 18 SCs. That is the nature of risk/reward in this game.

So what this tournament format is potentially incentivising and rewarding is less-imaginative, less-evolved play with AGT. It is disincentivising creative, gutsy play designed through calculated risk to win, and substituting it with a process by which players try not to win - they instead try to lose, but just not by too much. The sentiment of that is utterly abhorrent to me, and should be to anyone with a soul who considers themselves a player of games.

This relates to a wider philosophical point that stretches to all formats of diplomacy - and I have debated it elsewhere in this forum. SC count is not a reliable measure of how well someone has played. I have seen many a 3-way draw where I have little regard for some or all of those sharing in that draw since I am of the view that they never actually tried to win (despite their sincere protestations to the contrary) whereas one or more players lying outside the draw and eliminated have my full respect for honouring the game as designed by trying to win and playing accordingly. I shall say no more on this here – go read my content elsewhere around the forum.

Anyway, to return to this proposed format, what we have now likely created are games more consistently ending in 18 v 16 wins for EFR as AGT’s strategy is re-oriented to a 16 SC target. Games played in this paradigm in my view will be sterile pointless things with less adventure and inate possibility. Further, play two of them in the format suggested and you have a 34 v 34 tie. Now what do you do to decide who has won? How has this solved the alleged problem?

Let’s theorise that players lie along a spectrum from noob/incompetent via competent and good, through very good to elite. It is my contention that a good player should be able to secure 16 SCs as AGT if they make no effort to risk trying anything more imaginative in an effort to get more. What this does on the meta-level of the tournament is remove any discriminator between players holding a rating of good and upwards. Ergo the tournament is rendered meaningless since the whole point of a tournament is that it is norm-based assessment. It is meant to differentiate between skills levels not flatten them out such that a good player gets the same result as an elite one!

Contrary to popular opinion, therefore, I contend that it is the challenge of trying to win with AGT that gave this tournament its life at all. Take away the imperative of needing to find a way to win with AGT in order to win the tournament and you kill this tournament dead as a meaningful endeavour. The need to play AGT and win is ultimately what allowed for meaningful differentiation between players and their respective skills levels.

Ergo I urge the retention of the current format substantially or wholly.

Let me set this out really simply lest there be any doubt about my position.

If someone could not win a single game as AGT then they were not good enough to win this tournament. Period. Other players were better than them. People did not lose because they were unlucky in the draw. When they lost as AGT, the AGT pieces were not to blame. Their mishandling of them was. Are AGT pieces less forgiving of mishandling than the EFR pieces? Yes, but that doesn't change the fact that many folks weren't yet up to the task of harnessing their full potential. Collectively we should be honest about that and resolve to work on getting better. That's the productive thing to do. Alternatively, we can ego-protect by pretending that it is impossible to win as AGT unless EFR makes a huge incompetent mistake and so we have to start inventing ways to compensate. Perhaps this helps everyone feel better about AGT losses, but it doesn't raise standards of play because it is the opposite of taking ownership for one's own play.

Most of us starting this tournament had minimal insight into many of the nuances of the format. My early games contain all sorts of what I now consider basic errors as I mis-triaged competing priorities. But the tournament quickly sorted out who were learning fastest, and who had the drive and imagination to not just search for ways to get better but make good choices about what might be better. I began this tournament thinking EFR was stronger, but in the mid-stages felt far happier with AGT. Sinnybee’s postings and play, for example, were an object lesson to anyone paying attention. She quickly demonstrated the qualities as a player that meant she was challenging herself - and through her posts and play the whole community - to take a more open-minded approach to AGT's chances of winning. Few listened as far as I can tell.

Let’s be honest here, the AGT losses in the early stages of this tournament were not characterised by excellent EFR play defeating excellent AGT play. They were characterised by players in the good/competent range playing both powers with approximately the same skill-level and thus numbers of inaccuracies in their play and thus finding out that relatively speaking EFR was more forgiving. That is not the same as one side being given no or even minimal chance to win. And I don't really care if someone came 13th in this tournament when they might have come 9th or that the tournament was not able to be that granular in its player rankings in the mid-skills range. My first game was a win or bust game as AGT. Had I lost I was out. I may have left feeling that perhaps I wasn't the worst player in the tournament to be making such an early exit, but so what? I would have had my chance and missed it. My bad.

From my perspective, few rose to the challenge of taking their AGT play to a different level. Instead collectively, the comforting collective wisdom of the (near) impossibilty of winning with AGT was promulgated and seemed to suppress the notion of people challenging themselves.

Those that swam counter to this soporific found ways to win as AGT.

Why did EFR wins get more common at the quarter-final stage? In some cases, the better players drew EFR but also the discriminator of the AGT win became harder to achieve as the EFR play you were facing genuinely got better through the natural selection of tournament play. The structure changed to reflect this issue at the semi-final stage - you needed an AGT win to progress. Want to change at the last 8 stage or even earlier? Fine by me. But SC counts and other nonsense will kill this format if adopted in my view.

Did the 4 best players make the semi-finals? No. For a start Sinnybee dropped out. Of those that stayed I would personally without hesitation swap Presser84 for Bwlvych who had a good run with EFR but wasn't top 4 in my view. That's it. However, this 'failure' was the product of a tournament structure that had no rankings (and how could it?). Run Wimbledon without rankings and Nadal v Federer may happen in the 2nd round. It is not a product of people who ought to have been in the finals being unlucky and drawing AGT. The best players in my view got to the latter stages. I am not an objective source of course, but I can do no more than I have already offered. I will happily play anyone in a series of games and take AGT in every one. I don't claim I will win all or even one. I do claim that if I lose it is my fault and in particular due to my opponent's good play. To suggest otherwise is a failure to take ownership of my own play and in relation to my opponent - simply graceless.

I have no idea if i will be listened to since ultimately a tournament will only run if enough people want to play it and thus the format must be one that customers want to buy.

For me the whole thing was simply an excellent opportunity to really immerse myself in the stalemate lines, the dynamics of the board and explore some of my own tactical philosophy especially as it applies to the concept of tempo. I would recommend it to anyone serious about playing Diplomacy. Playing to SC counts won't do it for you nearly as well.

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Re: Face Off Challenge Tournament Format AAR

Postby Prufrock » 01 Jun 2012, 06:46

thewysecat wrote:
Prufrock wrote:
Maucat wrote:My idea for tournament games is:
two games between the players, at the end sum the SCs of the two games the player with the big sum is the winner, if there is a draw the player with the big A/G/T's SCs is the winner, if the draw persist the players can replay the games...


That sounds like a reasonable format -- I expect a lot of games will end 18-16, but it won't be quite so lopsided.

Well, let me begin my arguments about the tournament format here.

Let’s see if I can fully capture my opposition for such an idea as presented here.

If you wish to ruin the game-play experience in every single game and at the macro-level render the entire tournament meaningless then by all means adopt this suggestion. Hmm…that probably covers it.

Let me break it down.

What this potentially tells every single AGT player to do is to play for securing 16 SCs. I am going to be bold and say that if I set out as AGT to get and secure 16 SCs I defy anyone to stop me. I lose as AGT more spectacularly sometimes because I am trying to win and get 18 SCs. That is the nature of risk/reward in this game.


That's a very fair point, one that I didn't really consider with my earlier post -- on a game-by-game basis, this allows AGT to play a "try to lose the least" strategy as a safe play and will stifle AGT's "play to win" drive -- which is something one doesn't want to do reward in a tournament. I agree you want the structure of a tournament to reward strong play, so that those who play the best in the tournament rise to the top, rather than provide an incentive to play safely for a draw.

thewysecat wrote:This relates to a wider philosophical point that stretches to all formats of diplomacy - and I have debated it elsewhere in this forum. SC count is not a reliable measure of how well someone has played.


I'm on your side of this debate as well. A lesson I learned well when I was a poker player was that the person who goes home with the money is not necessarily the person who played the best, nor the person who will end up with the most won in the long haul. For what it's worth, I also play every game of Diplomacy with an eye to solo (and a willingness to be contented with a draw when soloing isn't feasible).

thewysecat wrote:Contrary to popular opinion, therefore, I contend that it is the challenge of trying to win with AGT that gave this tournament its life at all. Take away the imperative of needing to find a way to win with AGT in order to win the tournament and you kill this tournament dead as a meaningful endeavour. The need to play AGT and win is ultimately what allowed for meaningful differentiation between players and their respective skills levels.


Here is the first place where I slightly disagree (as well as agree to a large extent). In a generic tournament where there are two sides, the challenge of winning is, nearly by definition, what gives live to a tournament. In a game where players are put on uneven footing, but play both sides simultaneously, as long as the game is well-balanced enough to give the worse side a reasonable shot at winning, this changes nothing (both sides are still "even" in the sense that each unit of play consists of both sides). I would contend, however, that the goal of the tournament structure is to provide a well-balanced game that adequately rewards stronger play, and that hits a sweet spot such that the number of games played is enough to give the strongest players a chance to rise to the top, while not becoming unnecessarily grueling.

To piggy back off of thewysecat's tennis example, there's a reason tennis tournaments are played in sets rather than just points or games. Each game between two skilled players, even an "elite" vs. a "very good," the server has the advantage. If Federer had to play Nadal in just one game for the championship, I'd expect far more often than not the winner would be whomever served, with the relative strengths being sorted out by a long succession of games. However, an entire tennis match can take place in the course of a few hours – Diplomacy just takes too long for too large an asymmetry between the relative strengths of each side to be acceptable.

I gather that the goal of this structure AAR is to generate ideas for ways to tweak the tournament structure so that each round is both well-balanced (i.e., such that each side has at most a slight advantage over the other, as in chess or go) and likely to yield a winner at the end of the round. If this variant is as balanced as thewysecat contends, then no change is required. If, on the other hand, the balance is skewed too far to one side, where even an elite player vs. a merely good player will likely still not succeed without several attempts, then it's worth considering whether there are ways to even the sides – but not, as thewysecat argues, if that evening process evens it up by blunting the skill component.

thewysecat wrote:If someone could not win a single game as AGT then they were not good enough to win this tournament. Period.

I don't know if you're being intentionally inflammatory here to make a point, but: were the game always played with two game simultaneously played until one achieved a victory, then I'd agree 100%. But the first two rounds weren't played that way, and one can't know that this is true unless one has good proof that AGT is truly equal to EFR.

thewysecat wrote:When they lost as AGT, the AGT pieces were not to blame. Their mishandling of them was. Are AGT pieces less forgiving of mishandling than the EFR pieces? Yes, but that doesn't change the fact that many folks weren't yet up to the task of harnessing their full potential. Collectively we should be honest about that and resolve to work on getting better. That's the productive thing to do. Alternatively, we can ego-protect by pretending that it is impossible to win as AGT unless EFR makes a huge incompetent mistake and so we have to start inventing ways to compensate. Perhaps this helps everyone feel better about AGT losses, but it doesn't raise standards of play because it is the opposite of taking ownership for one's own play.


I do agree with the rest of this paragraph – as a player in the tournament who wants to win, you must give it your toughest effort, analyze what when wrong if you lose, and continue striving to play a stronger game, regardless of the side. As a TD, though, one also ought also to consider how to set conditions that are conducive to a fair fight.

thewysecat wrote:Most of us starting this tournament had minimal insight into many of the nuances of the format. My early games contain all sorts of what I now consider basic errors as I mis-triaged competing priorities.


As did mine – even to the finals, really : (.

thewysecat wrote:I began this tournament thinking EFR was stronger, but in the mid-stages felt far happier with AGT. Sinnybee’s postings and play, for example, were an object lesson to anyone paying attention. She quickly demonstrated the qualities as a player that meant she was challenging herself - and through her posts and play the whole community - to take a more open-minded approach to AGT's chances of winning. Few listened as far as I can tell.


With all due respect, any game in which AGT ends up pressing into Burgundy or pressing fleets into W. Med and maintaining them means EFR did make a big mistake somewhere. Many (if not all) of the early victories for AGT were of this nature, which led, I think, to both positions ("AGT is equally strong" and "AGT can't win without a mistake"). My contention that neither is entirely correct, but it is true that we are better served by striving to improve and find better ways than to complain about the imbalance and give up.

thewysecat wrote:Let’s be honest here, the AGT losses in the early stages of this tournament were not characterised by excellent EFR play defeating excellent AGT play.


Nor were AGT wins characterized by excellent AGT play beating excellent EFR play by any stretch.

thewysecat wrote:I will happily play anyone in a series of games and take AGT in every one.


I will happily take you up on this, even though I know we've just played a series and you may be bored with me : ). I say this as a person with a healthy respect for your game, and with a respect for the chances of AGT – I would be happy to push this variant as far as it can go, and to push myself / improve my game by facing off against an excellent player like yourself as I do so.

thewysecat wrote:For me the whole thing was simply an excellent opportunity to really immerse myself in the stalemate lines, the dynamics of the board and explore some of my own tactical philosophy especially as it applies to the concept of tempo.


That is especially important in this variant, as is the practice of analyzing what you expect your opponent will do and playing accordingly.
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Re: Face Off Challenge Tournament Format AAR

Postby sinnybee » 03 Jun 2012, 07:49

thewysecat wrote:If you wish to ruin the game-play experience in every single game and at the macro-level render the entire tournament meaningless then by all means adopt this suggestion. Hmm…that probably covers it.

:lol:

Bold comments from Wyse and laughing aside, I agree with most of what Wyse is saying.
I do think that SC count can have its place though. For example it could be used from the first one or more rounds of play to seed players into brackets for later in a tournament.

Wyse, I'm certainly all for "creative, gutsy play designed through calculated risk to win".

In Diplomacy, I don't like placing limitations on myself. If someone says there's a stalemate line here or a stalemate line there, I tell myself "BS, I can try ____ or ____". Persistence and other tactics can cross oneself past barriers.
As G/A/T I perhaps tried to think outside the box. I tried some risky moves. Possibly my greatest regret for orders in the tournament was not taking Sevastopol in Fall 1901 when I could have in one of my games... so, regretting not being risky enough.

I do think that it's fun to play G/A/T...

Anyway, Wyse, I think your arguments and logic support my opinion:

:arrow: Ever since before this tournament started, I wanted players to play both sides an equal amount of times.
Because GAT and FER are not equal.
I'm still of this opinion.
Shouldn't a tournament attempt to make things fair? To provide each player with as close as possible to an equal chance of advancing/winning?

If both sides were equally played by each player then there would be no need for you to suggest swapping Presser for Bwlvych.

Ideally, I'd go with an earlier suggestion of a choas type of tournament, possibly with 3 randomly selected countries per player. This would increase the chance to learn about what certain country alliances can accomplish. Unfortunately, this is not possible with the convenience of the 2-player variant that super_dipsy so graciously provided us with.
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Re: Face Off Challenge Tournament Format AAR

Postby rick.leeds » 04 Jun 2012, 21:01

I want to thank everyone for their input so far and just wanted to point out that I would still value input.

I have been thinking of developing this type of tournament further and pulling it within the PlayDip Championships. That would mean a Divisional or League structure. It could be either hierarchical - with promotion and relegation - in the international way of Leagues, or a Divisional structure where divisions are non-hierarchical, similar to the US-style. Either way, it would be possible to have players play each other twice, once as E/F/R, once as A/G/T (sort of once at "home", once "away"). However, progression would be based on number of wins, not number of SCs, so playing to simply do the best you can and finish second as A/G/T would not be a factor.

Of course, another way of running it could be a very simple knock-out format where the structure is as the latter stages of the tournament: to progress, you need an A/G/T win alongside an E/F/R win.
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