AAR: How to fall into ruin as Italy in 3 simple steps

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AAR: How to fall into ruin as Italy in 3 simple steps

Postby Hjyalmar » 15 Nov 2019, 12:48

Myrsky Vesilasissa #137955
Italy’s after-action-report 7.5.2018

A group of seven newish players (from Finland) decided to tackle our first PlayDip game with 5-day deadlines (2 days for retreats, 1 for builds*). Almost everyone had a few FtF experiences, but all were new to online play. Game started on 5th December 2017 and has just come to an end six months later (7.5.2018, I decided to upload this only now).

This is my account of how, as Italy, I misjudged my neighbours and was obliterated due to a few devastating diplomatic mistakes. I invite you to laugh at this rookie war, and maybe point out how Italy could’ve crawled out of the pit it dug for itself. Focus will be on diplomacy, not specific tactics.

At the start of game I started a journal, so in writing this report, I could go back and see what I actually intented to do - not how I now wish to remember it going down.

First mistake

I started off with the idea that after Tunis, my fifth target would be Greece or even Smyrna (if Turkey failed to launch a fleet in time). France and myself made a deal not to bring ships to the sea between us. During first negotiations (which lasted double so 10 days) a non-aggression pact with Austria was formed regarding Trieste/Venice, and later Germany joined as we started to hear whispers of an E-F and R-T already forming.

Because of the E-F I wanted to slow France’s growth right out of the gate. I ran out of time to write France another letter, so at the last minute I moved my army from Venice to Piedmonte: this was against what I had told France I would do, however, my intention was not to attack and I made this clear after Spring 1901, telling France I got scared and only wished to slow their immediate growth to a six-center power. France didn’t like it.

Then in Fall 1901, I stole a trick from a tactics article, and supported France’s own army from Spain to Marseilles, where it tried to bounce with another of her armies, but unwillingly now succeeded. France didn’t gain a new unit from Spain, and couldn’t build in Marseilles. I figured my mission was accomplished, and since it was only a minor non-offensive breach of contract, France would be willing to move on, keep the sea clear of boats, and at worst maybe keep bouncing at our border to tie both countries’ armies there for a while. And keep talking.

Wrong.

France went into radio silence for years. And started spreading a picture of Italy as a traitorous, non-trustworthy ally who lies faster than he talks.

Second mistake

I decided to help Austria hold off the R-T by cutting Turkey’s support on an attack on Austria, which would’ve led to Turkey conquering Greece next (which I hoped would be my next center). I had told Turkey I’m ok with him attacking Austria, but that I want Greece. No contract between us existed at this point (Turkey’s offer had been for Italy to retreat to the west without guarantees Turkey would stop co-operating with Russia). The cut of support still made Turkey feel I’m untrustworthy and he joined the rumor bandwagon, damning Italy to hell.

Soon England, France’s ally, and very likely having heard from Turkey too, wrote a long, public letter informing all other powers of how nothing Italy says can be trusted. FUN TIMES. At this point it was a full-time job to control the rumors, especially in talks with Austria, Germany and Turkey (Russia was mostly non-responsive).

I had not really attacked anyone yet (with intention of conquering), and the only thing I had done against my word was move my own army from Venice to my own unoccupied Piedmonte. The big mistake was thinking they’d react as I liked to think I would’ve: “Ok, I don’t love what you did but no big harm done, let’s talk.” Instead, I got radio silence from France and a deeply unhappy Turkey, still not willing to talk about Greece.

Somehow, though sincere and non-hostile in my motivations, I’d created blood-thirsty enemies with whom I didn’t even share any border with. Good job.

Third mistake

France had made some misorders, and was not well positioned. I wasn’t gaining any ground with Austria against Turkey, since Russia was breathing down Austria’s neck and Turkey was building only fleets to the Mediterranean. So I decided to go west instead in hopes of improving relations with Turkey: France was no longer talking to me anyway. I even let France know beforehand I’m canceling our contract at the seas and going for Spain (which was unoccupied and neutral at the time) - this was more to justify my war on Marseilles when France inevitably would deny me Spain. A year later, my Italy is in great position to gain both Marseilles and then Spain, while Germany takes Paris and Brest, eliminating France soon after.

And here comes the twist that started Italy down a road from which there was no return: Germany, having made some misorders before, misorders an army in Burgundy back to Munich - and not to Gascony where it was headed. The entire war effort goes to ruin, Germany is slowly destroyed and Italy, now alone, driven out of France.

I couldn’t foresee such a dramatic misorder. Despite a desperate lack of potential allies, Italy’s trust was misplaced given Germany’s recent rate of success.

The end game

Where did that leave Italy? Without a northern ally (Germany), next to a crumbling Austria unable to fight off Russia and Turkey since my war effort in the west didn’t create us new troops for the effort in the east - and between two growing enemies, neither of whom had any warm feelings left towards Italy, despite many honest, long conversations about how I didn’t mean any aggression but only wanted to slow down their growth (because Italy wasn’t going to gain a fifth center anytime soon).

The rest of the game Austria and myself tried to talk one of the four surrounding powers to leave their alliance, which was determined to destroy the center powers. I gave my Italy permission to make real the earlier rumors and live up my untrue reputation by using tons of disinformation (it felt unique to online game to be able to stop and carefully think what lies to share to whom): did not help much at this point. I made a few epic tactical moves and managed to destroy some enemy fleets while retreating, and eventually, after finding out France had told Turkey all they want is to drink blood from Italian soldiers’ helmets in Rome, and after every desperate attempt to become a one-fleet sidekick to either power (I even used the leak about France’s helmet statement to make France think Turkey was accepting my help to stab France, which apparently caused at least a brief, tense exchange of letters), I eventually sunk into the Mediterranean in Fall 1908, and managed to only unite both of my worst enemies into a successful F-T alliance against their northern neighbours, which eventually led to Turkey stealing 18 centers and a deserved win.

Conclusion

The biggest difference to FtF was definitely the opportunity to take hours and days to ponder over tactical decisions (especially at this early stage of a Diplomacy hobby, it was super educational). I wish I’d been able to shift the alliances more, but it seemed very much like trying to get an ocean liner to do a u-turn by swimming and pushing against it in a raging ocean. I find it far easier to be observant and persuasive in FtF, and look forward to more of that (not sure when I’ll feel like playing online again).

A fun game to the bitter end, thanks to all players and thanks for reading!

* P.S. One thing we were hoping to find in the PlayDip settings but couldn’t: ability to make deadlines fall on exact times on exact weekdays, and change for spring and fall. As in: for spring, 5 days negotiations, 2 days retreats. For fall, 5 days negotiations, 1 day retreat, 1 day build. Deadlines on exact weekdays would’ve been way easier to predict and remember over a game that can last half a year or more.
Hjyalmar
 
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Re: AAR: How to fall into ruin as Italy in 3 simple steps

Postby Phlegmatic » 15 Nov 2019, 13:02

A great AAR Hjyalmar, thanks!

You already know where and how it all went wrong, so I doubt any feedback is needed from me. This should be compulsory reading for all new players as it contains many excellent lessons. I'm sure we've all had games where we could have written something very similar :D

Oh, and please don't give up on the online game, it's great fun!

Phlegmatic
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