PDL D1 G1 MAR AAR

After game reports for PlaDip Diplomacy League games

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PDL D1 G1 MAR AAR

Postby Oxmeister » 29 Apr 2021, 19:24

192004. PDL D1 Mar G1 FIX

ENGLAND GeoViBase
FRANCE Oxmeister (3way DRAW)
ITALY StarkAdder (3way DRAW)
GERMANY machor
AUSTRIA Badger1991 (3way DRAW)
TURKEY Latanst1
RUSSIA Charleroi

This was an interesting game from my perspective, but one in which my play quality was patchy, and thus I had to work to get into the draw after stagnating in the midgame. It was full of very strong players, with determined performances from my western neighbours.

Early Game

I was given France, something I was initially happy about, but tempered by the knowledge it would be my first-time playing France, which is probably not ideal in PDL.
I was drawn to trying an ‘EF’ alliance, but aware of the meta of FG alliances being more common in PLD. I reached out to my neighbours and found both to be friendly, but England was more on the same page as me, and I decided I’d go EF. Meanwhile, with Italy, I wanted to build strong relations in the event I wouldn’t be playing a med game – I had recently watched the DBNI invitational (with our very own Czar99 in) where the France and Italy players had left each other alone all game to their mutual benefit and saw it as a good model to follow should circumstances allow.

After neutral openings, Germany spoke to us both and proposed a WT – I was surprised by this, but maybe Germany sensed he might be the odd one out? England was keen and I didn’t want to be inflexible, so we went with it, and EF became EFG by fall 01 – my first mistake.

During the build phase, the WT was already being strongly discussed by the fellow players, and I had my own worries about it too – I wouldn’t be likely to get another build until 03, and that would come at the expense of a country I was friendly with – Italy. I was under pressure from Italy to not build a fleet, and bought myself more time to get out of the WT by using the eastern pressure to justify an army build in Mar instead of the fleet. Back to EF.

Spring 02 saw me, England and Russia (now on board and very anti Germany after the Sweden bounce) pounce on Germany, with my armies moving into position, Russia going to Prussia/Boh. Germany was in dire straits, this was the map after the Russian retreat to Boh:

Image

I had my doubts though, England was more likely to get Holland than I was Munich, and I had an uneasy sense about the English player, arising mainly from his earlier suggestion of me bouncing Germany in Bur which conveniently netted him Belgium.

The Stab of England

Germany got in touch shortly after the Spring stab and proposed to me a very attractive deal, instead of attacking the next turn, I take Belgium with his help and move my fleets up and backdoor England. It was a very attractive offer to eliminate a big threat, and I spent the next mulling it over. While doing so, Germany deployed his cleverest and perhaps cruellest trick of all, as he suggested he was 99% sure that England was a ‘solo only’ player named Machor (note that Germany himself, was in fact, Machor). Ultimately based on a combination of factors, I could not resist the opportunity to immediately take a strong position and subdue a threat, and I went with Germany’s suggestion. It’s hard to know how the game would have played out had I decided otherwise, but I regard this as a misstep. EF was now FG for my 4th alliance in as many seasons.

Midgame

Just like Germany, England didn’t give up and was in fact probably the most determined opponent I have come across making multiple suggestions every turn to flip me back onside. This time I decided to stick with Germany though. My main problem in the midgame was England outguessing me twice (having first pre-empted my stab) and stalling any progress on new centers until 1905. Germany was beset with his own problems of a seemingly vengeful Russian, whose own decisions were having a widespread impact across the board. AI were getting very strong, while Russia was stabbing Turkey at the same time as being attacked by Austria (hopefully Badger & Charleroi will be able to explain what was happening here). The net result of all this was that the FG alliance was not gaining while AI was getting stronger.

I started aligning myself more with AI, in an effort to either secure a 4 way (including Germany) or a 3 way, and we started to build multilateral relations. After I finally broke England down and seized control of Liverpool in spring 05, England also got in touch offering to be a janissary – an interesting offer, which I wanted to make use of, but was sceptical that I could achieve a solo given the strength of AI.

The Pivot

With England nearly defeated and now moving helpfully (to me) and AI gaining from the destructive and thoroughly counterproductive RT war, I decided that my first priority had to be making myself the only viable option for AI. The positions were very good for a stab of Germany, and after Germany rarely discussed a move which would make him vulnerable (Hol->Ruhr), I took Holland while Italy took Munich, and in the same year as I took Liverpool from England for 2 builds.

Wrapping Up

An agreement was made with AI for a potential 11-11-12 split of supply centers, with Denmark being whoever got there first. Having reached 8 centers I did not expect to be eliminated by AI, but nevertheless made sure to take care carefully balancing strengthening my position with not antagonising AI. However, there was no appetite from either of these players to stab the other, and it was clear that a better result than a 3way was not going to be possible, so it was a matter of supply centers now.

I gained London and Denmark (thanks to an English convoy) in 06 to get to 10 centers. Austria wanted to play another year for his 10th center, which we agreed. I made an agreement that England would keep his last 3 centers due to honourable and helpful play. The last year played out as a formality in which Germany was sadly eliminated to leave the final map:

Image

Reflections

Once again successful diplomacy at important points was my ace in this game, compensating for some strategic and tactical missteps.

Some of the players on the board were first class – StarkAdder (Italy) was a great game-long ally and clever diplomat who was a pleasure to work with, and Badger1991(Austria) put in a very assured performance and made for a good cross board ally in the late game. The English player, GeoViBase, is perhaps the most interesting opponent I’ve come across who made every effort to survive and, in most games, would have managed it – it was a shame we never got to see what we could have done as true allies, but hopefully that will be for another game. Credit must also be given to Machor (Germany), whose was also very resilient and whose persuasion in Fall 02 almost saved his game.

The biggest shame is that I was never able to forge the sort of useful partnership with Russia that I’d expected I’d be able to do as France. For different reasons, we rarely got in the same page, and when we briefly managed to do in Spring 02, I changed my mind. It was also a shame that the interesting Turkish player was never able to make an impact because, rather like in my last PDL game, he was stabbed by everybody.

It was fitting that my allies ended up being Badger1991 and StarkAdder – We must be so alike that I’ve been mistaken for both these players – apparently with near certainty – by other players.
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Re: PDL D1 G1 MAR AAR

Postby Badger1991 » 29 Apr 2021, 21:14

PDL D1 Mar G1 AAR (Austria)

ENGLAND GeoViBase
FRANCE Oxmeister (3way DRAW)
ITALY StarkAdder (3way DRAW)
GERMANY machor
AUSTRIA Badger1991 (3way DRAW)
TURKEY Latanst1
RUSSIA Charleroi

Thanks Oxmeister for your insightful AAR. I enjoyed playing this game and agree that the level of competition proved fierce. From Austria’s perspective, I spent the first turn simply trying to survive but with the bounce in Galicia I felt that I was in a good position to get past the critical first year. From there, I was able to emphasize to Italy the risk of France which was confirmed by the move by France to the South Coast of Spain. That brought Italy and I together after year one and confirmed for me that my first target should be Turkey since it would be hard for Italy, Austria and Turkey to all work together. Germany talked about a Central Triple but he never really acted as if he really wanted to implement it. That was fine for me, just so long as German forces did not come down against me!

Although not surprised, I was disappointed by Russia’s move into Galicia. Ironically, I had the best rapport with Russia throughout the game, but we always seemed to find ourselves on opposite sides. For me, I think that move into Galicia coupled with the build in Warsaw created a skepticism that I could not overcome. This led to my move into Galicia. I did not think it would have been successful absent the move of Warsaw but was pleasantly surprised. His retreat to Bohemia was a stroke of tactical genius but ensured that we would never really be able to cooperate moving forward.

I also supported Italy into Aegean. I was a bit concerned that Italy would try for Albania/Greece so I thought the best way to offset that was with offering Italy support for a separate build. I think the French build of an army in Marseille also gave Italy comfort that France would not be coming after him. Personally, I felt that Italy was overly confident of French intentions throughout most of the game but not being privy to their communications, it was hard for me to accurately judge. In the end, Italy’s judgements proved correct.

At this point Italy and I tried to get an Italian fleet into Bulgaria but Turkey’s defense was too strong. I just assumed that Russia and Turkey were working together so we opted to repeat the same moves the following turn risking that Bulgaria would not try for Serbia with Rumanian support. Fortunately, that move worked which destroyed the Turkish unit. From there I used my Galician army to capture Rumania and Italy agreed to move to Tyrolia and Eastern Med. Coupled with the Russian move to Armenia, we had divided Turkey and Russia which made our efforts against Turkey a bit more manageable.

This next year was the real decision point for me. Italy failed to build and I could have easily moved armies into Venice and then Rome. Coupled with the vulnerability of Bulgaria and the dispersal of the Italian fleets far to the east, it would have put Italy at a distinct disadvantage. What convinced me not to, however, were two datapoints. First, doing that would give both Russia and Turkey the opening they needed to bounce back and use my stab as a galvanizing force to unite against me. Second, Italy in his messages seemed so confident that I would not violate our agreement it made it harder for me to shift my thinking and consider the stab. I had mentally committed myself to the alliance and his messages seemed to reinforce that sentiment. That led me to continue working with him which I never wavered for the rest of the game.

From there, I relied on efforts to continue dividing Turkey and Russia as the best method to marginalize both of them. By this point Italy was pushing towards a three way finish with France while I was more inclined to work with Germany. What convinced me, however, was the tactical logic that uniting against Germany would allow all three of us to work together while uniting against France would be difficult for me. There were times that I thought France would try and strive for the solo, especially with England’s help but Italy seemed confident that France would stand by his agreement (even though he made several moves in the Med that were not agreed upon in advance) which he did. Italy did have a latent concern about France and I working together but that never came up once in my bilateral discussions with France.

The last real challenge was trying to capture the remaining Russia centers. At one point Russia had three units against Warsaw and I really thought Warsaw would be lost but Russia for two turns opted to go a different direction. For that reason, I promised Russia that I would fight for him to survive to the end and negotiated with Italy and France to make that happen.

Overall, the critical aspect for me was the alliance with Italy. We worked well together and were able to come to terms on some challenging tactical problems. I also appreciated the generosity both Italy and France showed in ending the game equitably. I agree with Oxmeister that all three of our approaches were similar which made negotiations straightforward. Badger1991
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Re: PDL D1 G1 MAR AAR

Postby Charleroi » 30 Apr 2021, 17:26

Hi folks,

This will be a relatively short AAR from my perspective as things wound down pretty quickly. This game was pretty frustrating for me, in part because I think this game highlights the defects in trying to run a League system for Diplomacy. It may be that league play in general, or perhaps the specific scoring system selected for this league, incentivizes very timid play. By the end of 1903, this game was over. The three largest powers made a pact to drive to a three way draw and none of them saw an advantage in trying for a solo. And this isn't intended to be a typical "solo is the only just outcome" post. My point is not that a game *must* end in a solo. Rather, it's that diplomacy is boring when no one is trying to solo. This game is an egregious example - Austria and France both had real opportunities to set themselves up for a run for a solo and neither even tried. This isn't to say they would have made it if they had tried, but something about the dynamics of the league or scoring system left Oxmeister and Badger thinking they were better off not trying at all. Did they really think that, if the solo was stopped, they would be excluded entirely from the draw? Did they just think that a three-way result was all they needed from the match and they were willing to wrap it up and move on to the next set in the league? I'm not sure - but I think this game is an indictment of the way the league is set up.

Now for the actual action:

This game had an odd beginning for me. I had a great series of exchanges with England and thought we had a good understanding. I wasn't committed to helping England do anything in the North, but he agreed not to both my control of Sweden and I agreed not to make surprise builds in St Pete. That's really all I wanted - peace and quiet. In the south, things were more complicated. My actual goals ended up being pretty irrelevant because someone (either Germany or Austria, I think?) convinced the board that there was an RT alliance in play and everyone needed to stop it. What I actually wanted was more nuanced. I very much enjoyed my early messages with Austria. Italy was a bit less forthcoming, but seemed friendly. My goal, to the extent you can have a goal early on, was to get Turkey into Bulgaria but not get any further than that; encourage Austria to fight Turkey (and vice versa) and then squeeze Austria between me and Italy. None of that worked out.

What actually happened was determined by two factors - one my own mistake, one outside my control. The first was that I stupidly took Rumania with a fleet. I wanted to send a non-threatening message to Austria (which this did) but Austria was so spooked by the Warsaw build that the Rumanian fleet ended up being a waste. It would have been better for me to just commit to attacking Austria and go for Rumania with an army. The second factor was Germany. He bounced me out of Sweden. Now he tried to defend that by saying that he was perfectly friendly to me but that "I never promised you Sweden." That's both true and irrelevant. If Germany bounces Russia out of Sweden, it is an anti-Russian move regardless of what Germany says beforehand. That then led to a whole lot of sort of pointless stepping around in BAL/Pru/Swe that wasted effort for both me and Germany. We just never got back on good terms after that.

So I had been planning to have two builds and go for War and Sev. Now I had one build and had to choose. I was on relatively good terms with Turkey but Germany had just shown he was hostile. So I decided that leaving Warsaw empty was too much of a defensive risk and I built in Warsaw. This had the effect of scaring Austria (which was a real shame).

So in 1902 I tried to defend against Germany (he did make an all out move east, so that was good on my part) but unfortunately Austria attacked me. This was the first real potential turning point for me. I retreated to Bohemia from Galicia (love the forward retreat). Then I sent Austria a pretty lengthy message inviting him to attack Germany. I was sincere about this - I thought that Austria England and I could divide Germany between us pretty quickly and set ourselves up in a very strong spot. But Austria wasn't biting. His messages sent the clear signal that he was happy with his German/Italian friends and he just stuck with it. So instead Germany and I hammered on each other pointlessly for a while.

The second turning point was in Winter 1903 when Italy NMRd the build turn. We've all been there. You miss the short build turn and man do you suddenly feel naked. This is how naked Italy was:

Image

So that's an invitation. I sent Austria another (pretty long) message trying to persuade him that this was his chance to attack Italy. The window was WIDE open and he could do it without opening things up for Turkey. Austria could seize Bulgaria and Venice (or Rome) in the first year. After that, Italy would essentially be out of the game, Austria could have built fleets in two successive years (which would give him a chance in the Med, particularly if I was friendly and tied down turkish naval forces in BLA). At this point Germany and I were deeply hostile to one another and France was busy hitting England hard. I think Austria could have really taken control of the game here. He didn't. Instead he stuck with Italy, teamed up with France for a three-way draw agreement and then the game ground on to the final result. Honestly from here to the end it was a pretty boring match. That's what you get when there's so little ambition in the game.

Would Austria solo if he jumped on Italy? Maybe, hard to say - it was still very early. But getting to a solo has to start early - it has to start with positioning yourself relative to other players (Wysecat's AAR's are *phenomenal* on this), and weakening the neighbors without eliminating them. There was just no desire for that here. So instead we got a three year grind into a three way draw.
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Re: PDL D1 G1 MAR AAR

Postby Oxmeister » 30 Apr 2021, 22:15

Interesting thoughts, Charleroi.

In summary, I agree to an extent about the scoring system influencing play , and about my play being "timid" (I prefer conservative, since my play was bold in the early stages when I wanted to become strong, but I was careful in how I "cashed in" that position in the mid and late game, making sure not to rule myself out of the draw).

However, I don't think a solo was likely in this game (at least for me), and bearing in mind the above point on the system, worth pursuing in mind of the points a draw would achieve.

First to the game. Probably my best chance to solo was after stabbing Germany. I certainly was tempted and England was also encouraging me and offering to help, but here is Spring orders :

Image

I welcome feedback from players and spectators alike about how a solo would have possible, but having been playing in the game, I rated it as low . I would have required a way of taking Tunis, taking Mun/Ber, and taking StP while keeping England on side (at a time he'd be courted by AI). All possible but all with significant doubts, and the combination of the 3 coming off looked a long shot.

In summary, I couldn't see it happening without AI breaking up, and that looked exceedingly unlikely. By this point in the game I'd actually worked out that Austria was Badger, and I didn't fancy my chances of beating to him to a solo by going for a 2way, and doubted he'd even give it a go because I'd already got England clearly helping me by this point.

You ask if I thought I would be excluded from the draw should a solo run fail? yes, I did worry that I would - England was sill viable, Germany could be revived and was closer to Austria than me, and AI were close enough to each other to try and 2way.

Again, this was my assessment, I am still a fairly new player, I haven't played France before (much less soloed as France), so more experienced players may see a better way. I do take also take the point about starting early as a good one.

Now, back to the scoring system. I'm absolutely playing to the system, and I make no apologies for this - I want to win this thing if I can, and I'm simply trying to find a way to do that. I believe securing a draw and putting myself in a strong position after 2 rounds is a solid way to go about pursuing that. I don't see this as a lack of 'ambition' as you put it - just a different sort of ambition. I assure you that I'm absolutely trying to win this league, and If I know I need a solo in R4 I'll be going all out for it.

I also disagree on the point about it being boring to play this way - I just think it's different. When you enter a tournament, you are playing more than just a number of individual games, and it's reasonable to have different objectives (a point well made by DoCPaz elsewhere). Some might see securing a draw as boring, and it's perhaps similar to those who think who pragmatic football managers like Mourinho trying to get draws in hard games is boring, but I don't , I see the differing player objectives as an extra layer of interest. Perhaps I'm biased here though since I was included in the draw in this game.

All said, I respect your points which are well made, and agree in some ways but disagree in others.
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Re: PDL D1 G1 MAR AAR

Postby Badger1991 » 01 May 2021, 15:42

I tend to agree with Charleroi's assessments about my conservative play during that critical turn. It is not my usual style as Oxmeister knows from others thinking he was me in other games! For the sake of discussion, my decision to stay with Italy during that critical turn was influenced by my poor showing in the first round and my desire for a better score in this round. I thought sticking with Italy would improve my chances. Therefore, Charleroi is correct that my strategy was driven, in part, by the scoring system of the tournament. I am not sure I totally agree that is a negative point of the tournament but I do agree that it did influence my thinking.
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Re: PDL D1 G1 MAR AAR

Postby Pete the Great » 02 May 2021, 02:20

That is an interesting point Badger makes about round 1 influencing round 2. I am in division 2 and played for a draw in round 2 for a similar but different reason. In my case I had a very good score in round 1 (2 way) and wanted to keep the momentum going by another good score in round 2 (3 way). It is coincidentally interesting that my round 2 draw partners had poorer scores in round 1, and were quite happy to end in a 3 way to improve their standing.

In my opinion, if you want to increase risk taking, then you either need to reduce the number of tournament rounds, or only count the best round or two for determining the final board. So for example in my instance if only the best 2 rounds count, with a 2 and 3 way, I will only improve my standing by scoring a 2 way or higher. This incentivizes more agrressive play in later rounds, particularly if several players have strung together a series of strong finishes early. It might also cause more aggression in early rounds knowing you might not get another shot as good as current circumstances.
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Re: PDL D1 G1 MAR AAR

Postby Charleroi » 03 May 2021, 19:16

Thank you Babger and Ox (and Peter) for your thoughtful replies. The suggestion about only scoring the top two rounds is an interesting one - there are certainly situations where a player will play conservatively to stay in a draw. That would be less necessary if you had at least one "throw away" round.

In summary, I agree to an extent about the scoring system influencing play , and about my play being "timid" (I prefer conservative, since my play was bold in the early stages when I wanted to become strong, but I was careful in how I "cashed in" that position in the mid and late game, making sure not to rule myself out of the draw).


I'm curious about this from Ox though - when Italy NMRed and you had the opportunity to cripple him, did you really foresee a scenario where you would not be included in the draw? It was early still, to be sure. And it was early enough that I don't think it was a "stab for the solo" situation. But I have a hard time seeing how you had to stick with Italy in order to get a share in the draw. If anything, the stab would have significantly increased your leverage over the board and increased the likelihood that you could influence the final outcome.

When I say that the scoring system makes the game "boring" I don't mean that there is actually nothing to do. It's just that it encourages folks to find an ally in 1901 and stick with them through to the end. Italy and Austria did that in this game (France appeared more agnostic, although friendly to Italy, and didn't seem to join the other two until two or three years in). And I find that "allies to the end" style very boring. It's boring to be inside that alliance - you're never really looking at the whole board and considering opportunities. And it's boring to be outside that alliance - every turn you try to persuade folks to make a different decision or look at the situation afresh and it's all wasted. It takes the diplomacy out of the game and makes it just about tactics. That's not to say I think everyone should be stab happy (a pointless stab undermines your credibility and that's more important than any single center). Rather it's that I enjoy the game most when people look at the situation each year and make an honest decision about what is best to advance their chances in the game. Often that means continuing to support the guy who helped you last time. Sometimes it means joining up with the gal you'd been attacking and turning things around. Most of all, it means keeping an open mind and being willing to partner with a former enemy if you think its in your best interests and you trust them to do what's in their best interests (everyone, including me, struggles with this sometimes).

When players start the game looking for a draw, you don't get that style of play. And you don't get into the situations that can lead to a solo. So, Ox, I don't think you were ever a turn or two away from a solo victory. But at several points (Italy's NMR, the option to attack Germany that you pinpointed) you had the opportunity to move the game in a direction that *could* have led to a solo victory. But you opted not to take those - it seems you got from the game the outcome you went into it wanting, but it just doesn't lead to a particularly satisfying match.
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