185093 AAR & Thoughts by a New Player

Discussion of finished games.

185093 AAR & Thoughts by a New Player

Postby Nada » 14 Jan 2021, 15:51

185093. Are you ready to endure the inevitable?
(Or, Garlic Butter Snails)

Map variant: Standard
• Game type: anonymous_players
• Stats: rank
• Public: yes
• Variants: Classic
• Map: mapv2

It all ended in an orange sea.

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How did it get there? That rotten patch was quite limited at first, to the British Isles; healthy vibrant colours dotted the rest of Europe. Mauve, light red, turquoise, mustard, acrylic green, and that unqualified blue. I got stuck with the sickening orange hue, but this being my second diplomacy game (and the first to finish) I gave it my all nonetheless. Much like the other new players who’ve recently published AARs (thank you for the interesting reads), it also meant a slew of mistakes, excessive paranoia, and a faster and looser relation to the truth than I might have later on. Still, in combination with over-eager communication these traits proved useful. Including at least one of the mistakes! But let’s go in order.

1. Early years
After reaching out around the board for some chitchat and offers of non-hostile openings with my neighbours, the first moves around the board seemed beneficial, in particular Russia’s southern opening and the reciprocated trust with France over the channel. Naturally I decided to be greedy and ally myself to whoever would give me Belgium, promising help against the other in exchange and dealing with the potential crucible should both agree next. Germany liked the offer, but France didn’t, so that made me a friend of the Teuton and by Fall 1901 two bright patches had appeared in the mainland, Belgium and Norway. Ill omens of things to come.

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Every single neutral centre was after the first year already pledged to a nation, which seemed to make everyone eye the neighbours’ gains very early on. No neutral centres for the uncommitted. The South-East in particular seemed a free for all, and very soon Russia Italy and Turkey coordinated to promptly divide the Austrian lands. I wasn’t privy to much that was going on in that side of the board, but from afar it seemed that the goodwill only lasted as long as the Austrian was still standing. Italy and Turkey got to blows very quickly over the Mediterranean, while Russia seemed eager to stab both of them in 2 years' time to take advantage of their strife. If any of them want to clarify what was going between 1902 and 1904-5 I’m curious to hear it.

On the Western side, the first French player decided to call it quits pretty fast, in Spring 1902, bringing a new Président to the table. Very quickly he seemed of a different caliber, with quite an enjoyable press from the outset. From the London vantage point it meant that the double-dealing with Germany and France could continue unabated. Namely, I remained allied with Germany, but preparing grounds to improve my relations with France. The Chancellor requested help from Denmark into Sweden, a request I agreed to immediately as it was doomed to precipitate war with Russia, and in exchange of which I received Holland in good will. And in the meanwhile France and I reached an agreement that would durably transform our side of the board: in exchange for help against Germany sooner rather than later (but not immediately) and turning my fleets northwards, he agreed to cede Brest without fighting. In memorable wording from France, “the idea of surrendering Brest goes down about as well as a plate of turned escargot”; but “the Irish Sea and fleet sailing northward is enough garlic butter to help keep down even the foulest snail”. Future garlic abundance was promised, and the deal was sealed.

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2. Treason and Diplomacy 1903-1906

After Winter 1902 the board and alliances looked quite promising to me. Both France and Germany were happy with Albion, while to the rest of the board I seemed engaged in full combat against the both of them; Russia was quite annoyed at my support into Sweden, but was angrier against Germany who was anyway standing between the two of us. Naturally, that called for doubling down on deviousness, and stabbing Germany. I was on good terms, but better ones with France, and ramming against Russia without having dispatched France first seemed foolhardy – so I merely added to the backlash. With Holland and Belgium, moreover, Spring 1903 seemed the perfect moment to make a move. Fall 1903, incidentally, also turned out to be the season for Italian-Russian aggression against Turkey in the Southern corner. In short, everyone was fighting except France and me and Russia-Italy:

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The year that followed was, by all accounts, a dramatic one. Germany and Russia made up and turned their sights against me, with some initial success, particularly for the Tsar. However Moscow seemed quite overbearing in his press with me but also, curiously, towards France, apparently demanding full cooperation while offering quite little in return. That led us both, Paris and London, to coordinate closely in order to let France cooperate with Russia without too much losses on my side, while we would both make sure to finish off Germany in the inevitable back and forth across the Teutonic centres. Or at least that was the end result that I grasped on my side – I must admit at the time it felt like France could have gone either way, and I ordered paranoid defensive moves every time I could spare a unit to mitigate any potential French stab. In the Mediterranean, France got Tunis in exchange for halting his campaign against Italy, and while Turkey was in a bad posture they were able to hold out with solid tactical moves.

I had made a novice mistake as well, support-hold Norway while moving the unit, thinking that in case of a bounce it would revert to a ‘hold’ order and hence benefit from the support. That cost me Norway, and in the meanwhile Russia got all his home centres back and seemed in a very strong position. Except, that is, for that pesky Silesian unit, constant thorn for the Tsar, and Turkey’s muted resistance. Still, the danger for me lay in Germany’s decision to get revenge against me, allying with Russia to the bitter end, and in Italy’s happiness at playing second fiddle to a growing Russia.

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The loss of Norway however made my position appear much weaker than the Tsar’s, which proved beneficial in the end. After long messages to Italy from both France and myself we seemed to convince him to turn on Russia, while the weaker outlook and apparent Russian threat probably also delayed any inclinations from France to stab me, lest he gifted the game to the Tsar. Our 3 way attack, orange blue and green, coincided with an NMR from the Tsar, which meant the devastating loss of 5 (!) centres in the fall 1906 turn, and Turkey's revival from its death-bed:

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Moreover, the MAO fleet sneaked into the Mediterranean as a way to bring pressure to Italy, which proved redundant as he stabbed that turn but put me in a great position for the last two chapters of the game.

3. Uncouth Rome – 1906-1908

We were from then on in a three way alliance, but the Italian player rocked it heavily. He was arrogant to everyone, oblivious to the fragility of his gains, and managed to forge an alliance against himself by Turkey and Russia. Russia even proposed a draw between England, France, Turkey and Russia…
On our side he was not much more amenable: France had to intervene after Rome insulted me in our group conversation, maintaining the alliance with great diplomatic efforts by threatening to throw the game to one or the other should we try to switch alliances (Italy) or head for the solo (me). France and I set up to deal with Russia, while Italy turned to finish Turkey in exchange for my backing off from Western Med.

Spring 1908:

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With a conveyor-belt of armies overrunning the North and no conclusive result in the Balkans in sight it seemed I was primed for a stab. To Italy and France I painted the operation as preparation for a giant continental pincer to squeeze Turkey and Russia conclusively, and to my surprise they agreed to convoy Piédmont to Albania where the army would make the difference in the Balkan battle. The pincer was not even a lie originally, but Italy’s rudeness tipped the balance and decided me try for the solo. It was eyeing me quite a bit anyhow – my first game to finish could hardly end in a more satisfactory way and it seemed worth a shot.

Endgame: Stab and Kill (1908-1911)

Fall seems to be the killing season in this game (Fall 1908):
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I’m not sure the stab could have been any better. Gulf of Lyon to Marseilles would have been a gamble, sending Piédmont to pasture gave my armies numerical superiority all the way to Iberia; Warsaw for France ensured Russian centres remained open as well.
The rest of the game was an inexorable tide of orange. I am not sure the solo would have been possible if Italy hadn’t angered Russia and Turkey against himself, and they kept fighting til the bitter end. The Président though was true to his word and did what he could to stop me and get the others to come to their senses. It made every centre from him a hard tough grind, and it took me three full years to get the win, which finally arrived in Fall 1911:

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Afterword

Relations with other Players

(I say ‘he’ for everyone as I think the ratio of genders is quite lopsided in this game, correct me if you want and I’ll edit adequately)

I had a great time. Though ultimately I betrayed him, I thoroughly enjoyed all my press with France, and we continued in good terms after the stab as well. I learned quite a lot from his press manners, and though he was resented by some for not stabbing me when he had the chance I don’t think he ever had any straightforward opening. Allying with Russia or Italy seemed hazardous given their readiness to turn on earlier allies every two or three years, which also encouraged me to keep the alliance going for as long as possible, and there wasn’t really a point at which a stab from France would have brought enough gains to make up for the breakdown of the alliance. I think I gave centres and opportunities as often as I could – Belgium freely handed, long grind to paint Munich blue – to limit the disbalance between us both, and my paranoic defensive moves did not have to stop any stab but surely made conceiving of such moves all the more difficult and unappealing.

I quite liked my communications with Turkey as well, but besides amicable words and limited information trading there was very little we could do to/for one another - though in the end being on good terms definitely helped for the solo run. Relations with Austria were also cordial, though much shorter-lived – he drew the short end of the stick from the outset, and I don’t think there is a single chance for anyone if three neighbours gang up from the outset. Germany was also short-lived, in part by my hand. I liked the good outset on the game we had, but the arrival of a new French player provided too many opportunities to pass on, particularly with the Kaiser's decision to head East. Still I wonder if there was any particular reason he wanted to fight against Russia so fast?

Speaking of Russia, the relation with the Tsar was a bit more complicated, almost rough for most of the game. He felt throughout that I had betrayed my word by helping Germany into Sweden, as I had in the beginning agreed to give him help getting there if Germany were to bounce him off in the spring of the first year (which Germany didn’t); while I felt that wasn’t too much out of bounds once the first year had passed particularly as I was closely involved with the Teuton. Moreover, I did keep another, explicit, promise to not take StP for quite long, until several years into all-out war between us when it was clear it wasn't going to improve. These communication rubs aside, he was the greatest threat at some point, successfully getting Germany along and pressing quite strongly France and myself against one another in a manner that was somewhat overbearing but still impressive. It required a lot of efforts to manoeuvre adequately and it’s entirely thanks to France’s deft diplomacy and close communication that it didn’t prove entirely deadly. Those years of strife for the former German centres were the hardest of the game, both diplomatically and tactically, and it could well have turned out otherwise.

Finally, Italy blew the game for himself through sheer rudeness and handed me the solo on a silver plate, so thank you very much. If you think someone’s annoying, telling him to his face when he’s still undecided whether you or Turkey are likely to make into the draw is not the smartest move, and even less if everyone else is already annoyed. Oh well.

Some Lessons

Ooof, everything can go one way or another in a heartbeat! I didn’t know the game would take so much of my attention and thought, and I found myself nervously expecting the passing of the deadline more times than I care to admit. Even more than the deadline, I came to await answers to my messages with glee and dread: position is crucial, but without the right diplomacy even a good position can prove worthless or even be a hindrance. A taste for writing and communication, with or without a purpose, is definitely much more important than I thought and I’ve learned quite a bit from the other players. Though I’m puzzled that some would consistently play this with 4- or 5- words messages!

Another surprise: grabbing the last centres from someone is much harder than I thought. Austria’s swift demise, I understand now, is the exception; it seems much more likely, as was the case for Germany and especially Turkey, that small players survive for quite longer than anticipated and can become much more important than their number of centres lets on.

Finally, tempo seems very important, though near-impossible to control. You’re on the up when others are as well – good for you. New player arrives – everything’s up for grabs. Someone’s demise is foretold – hopefully you’ll benefit. Fleets moved in the wrong direction – they won’t be back before next year. And so forth.

Anyhow, looking forward to comments from the others who took part. I enjoyed it thoroughly and I hope it was a pleasant game for you all as well.
Nada
 
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Re: 185093 AAR & Thoughts by a New Player

Postby 0wl » 14 Jan 2021, 18:17

Very well played, I think you timed your stab perfectly.

Your decision to turn against Germany while they were vulnerable due to their moving East but only after ensuring France was no longer a threat was very wise and you never gave France an opening for a stab afterwards. The total chaos in the East was also very helpful.

I'm also very impressed that this was your first game. I think you have a talent for the game and will continue to do well in future games.

First time I've ever seen England finish with 21 centers, an orange Sea indeed.

Once again we'll played!
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Re: 185093 AAR & Thoughts by a New Player

Postby Oxmeister » 15 Jan 2021, 02:26

As already said by 0wl, a very impressive debut.

Agree that the stab was very good timing. Not taking Mar showed good discipline - hard to say whether it was the right call, he'd have disbanded faraway units whatever, but I like the thinking, I would have just gone for the center I think!

Look forward to meeting you on the battlefield
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Re: 185093 AAR & Thoughts by a New Player

Postby Nada » 17 Jan 2021, 15:02

Thank you both for your kind words and comments. I wonder how many 'types' of players there are who gather around diplomacy - it seems to me the game fits my usual style of board or computer play quite well but I'm sure there are many ways of playing it.

Regarding Marseilles,the choice wasn't clear cut. What decided it was that I thought going for the centre would have been a 50% gamble as the Spain army could either move or stand still, and taking it would have been shortlived with the fleets nearby and two armies around which would not have been disbanded in priority. Hence I preferred the guaranteed option of ensuring a delay in getting French and Italian armies back in the peninsula.
Nada
 
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Re: 185093 AAR & Thoughts by a New Player

Postby 0wl » 18 Jan 2021, 07:58

I think convoying the army to Piedmont was certainly better than going for Marseille.

A few reasons, going for Marseille might have failed, second, conveying the army to Piedmont means France effectively has one less unit, so it's between a chance of getting a unit or the certainty of the opponent losing a unit.

Third and perhaps biggest reason, you got 3 builds that turn anyway so even if you had taken Marseille you wouldn't have been able to get an extra build that turn and France would have another army in position to defend themselves.

I also think the idea of convincing your ally to convoy one of their units out to pasture is very interesting, I've never tried that before but it's something to consider in the future.
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Re: 185093 AAR & Thoughts by a New Player

Postby Nada » 24 Jan 2021, 12:00

Ah yes, that must have definitely played in the thinking at the time. Convoy was a fun addition, it neatly ties down lots of units, makes you appear engaged in the alliance, and then actually going through with it improves your position - what's not to like! Very situational though, I like convoys but if someone were to offer me an odd one I'd start being cautious.
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