Diplomacy for Dukes & Popes: AARs

Variant-player game allowing for players to create (and destroy) their own nations in 1000 CE. GM'd by Aeschines (on Discord).

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Diplomacy for Dukes & Popes: AARs

Postby Aeschines » 14 Aug 2019, 05:09

Hello everyone! Thank all of you for playing Diplomacy for Dukes & Popes. This has been an absolute gem of a game to GM.

I want to create a space for each of you to post an AAR and generally have a post-game discussion. I will likely pull things/posts from the Discord (https://discord.gg/djyaDBa) as people put them up.

ANIMATED MAPS: DIPLOMACY FOR DUKES & POPES

I am especially curious to get all of the players (and observers, if there were any!) to share their thoughts on the rules. There are a few tweaks I am considering for the next run of this game (recruitment for which, shall start shortly!).
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Re: Diplomacy for Dukes & Popes: AARs

Postby Don Juan of Austria » 14 Aug 2019, 11:29

Thanks a ton for GMing this wonderful game Aeschines!! It was great. Looking forward to the next one too.

Also can't wait to read some of the AARs! I'm planning on writing one too, it just might be a little late to the party.
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Re: Diplomacy for Dukes & Popes: AARs

Postby Matthias_013 » 14 Aug 2019, 17:46

Yes, thank you for GMing a great game. And thank you to everyone who participated, the game was a lot of fun.

I will see what I can do about an AAR.

For your request for feedback on the rules, I would note the following: I thought that the game as it is was very fun and very playable - I don't think you would need to make any changes to the rules at all - there were no major problems. You could tweak a thing or two to see if you could make the gameplay even more fun, but this would not need to be done out of necessity. With that said, I have two suggestions which involve the beginning of the game and the end of the game. I think the initial province selection could be revised in an effort to make things more balanced - some players had a tough position to work with. And also I think the game should end immediately after the Fall of the final phase, without a last coronation phase. This would allow the final map to better reflect the realities of the game; rather than allow players to simply declare their independence without any possible repercussions. I was actually surprised that more players didn't do this.

Thanks again,
Matthias
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Re: Diplomacy for Dukes & Popes: AARs

Postby Aeschines » 14 Aug 2019, 20:15

Matthias_013 wrote:Yes, thank you for GMing a great game. And thank you to everyone who participated, the game was a lot of fun.

I will see what I can do about an AAR.

For your request for feedback on the rules, I would note the following: I thought that the game as it is was very fun and very playable - I don't think you would need to make any changes to the rules at all - there were no major problems. You could tweak a thing or two to see if you could make the gameplay even more fun, but this would not need to be done out of necessity. With that said, I have two suggestions which involve the beginning of the game and the end of the game. I think the initial province selection could be revised in an effort to make things more balanced - some players had a tough position to work with. And also I think the game should end immediately after the Fall of the final phase, without a last coronation phase. This would allow the final map to better reflect the realities of the game; rather than allow players to simply declare their independence without any possible repercussions. I was actually surprised that more players didn't do this.

Thanks again,
Matthias


You must have instilled enough loyalty in them all! :-P

But you're right, I think both of those changes are important.
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Re: Diplomacy for Dukes & Popes: AARs

Postby Matthias_013 » 15 Aug 2019, 06:01

AAR – Diplomacy for Dukes and Popes – Part 1: The Early Years (1000–1002)

Jerusalem

I finished the game as the Emperor of the Mediterranean Empire (dubbed the “Empire of Jerusalem” by Aeschines). At the height of its power the empire spanned 49 SCs and contained 7 members in addition to myself. Even at the end of the game, I retained 5 vassals (thanks guys :D ). I was fortunate enough to be the top scorer in the 7-way draw and I directly controlled 18 SCs at the end of the game.

Here is my attempt to recount what transpired from my perspective (this is not meant to be comprehensive, simply what was going on in the court of Jerusalem). I have tried to keep things concise.

1000 Map

Image

I put Jerusalem as my top choice for starting SC, because I thought it was cool. It also seemed like a good spot to build either armies or fleets. I didn’t put too much thought into things beyond that. I made sure my six other choices for SCs were close to Jerusalem so that I could use my units together.

I was assigned Jerusalem and Damascus (my 2nd choice).

After seeing the other starting SCs I decided to build 2 armies, since worst case scenario – I can take Bag and remain at 2 SCs.

I am most worried about Chania because I think that after they take Cai, they will become a threat to my entire coastland.

I determine that my top priority in the early game is going to be amassing SCs rather than trying to obtain titles/score points since this will translate into real power to influence the game.

1001 Maps

Spring 1001

Image

Fall 1001

Image

Winter 1001

Image

1001

I have good negotiations with Lisbon; I feel like I am negotiating from a position of strength because I can probably take him out in Bag this turn. However, I’d rather have an ally so I try to see if I could come up with something that would work for both of us. I float the idea of making him Caliph since he could really use another unit in Spain. He tells me that Toledo is also offering to make him Caliph. We begin three way talks which will last for much of the game. In the end, Lisbon agrees to swear allegiance to Toledo, and let me have Bag and Mos in exchange for us making him Caliph. I like the deal for me quite a bit, since it gives me the extra SCs as well as making my ally the Caliph. I think this will work well considering that Lisbon will need my continued support to remain Caliph, so I think it is likely he will honor the deals that he made.

I also reach out to Chania and Hamburg in an effort to establish good relations with them.

Things go as planned in the Spring; I support Lisbon from Bag to Mos. In the fall, I move into Bag and back to Jerusalem, lest Chania decide to go for the aggressive attack. It turns out that he chooses to retreat back to Cha to protect his Island from the possible incursion of Athens or Cagliari – this is great for me. I went from liking my position at the beginning of the game to really liking it at this point – I am pretty sure that I am going to be a force to be reckoned with past the early game.

In the winter, I help Lisbon get elected Caliph and I build an army in Dam. By design he builds in Crd since there are no open spots for him to build a unit in the east. As expected Lisbon swears fealty to Toledo.

I offer to swear fealty to Cha in order to keep him from attacking me. Chania is confused and thinks that I want him to swear to me. The order is muffed.

I am quite surprised by the growth of Hamburg, in my opinion he was in one of the weakest positions to start the game, but not only was he able to secure the office of Patriach (I thought Mar would have been the logical/safest choice since he wouldn’t have gained an SC since he started in Con), he was able to steal an SC from Masovia, and take Att with the help of Athens. He is at 5 SCs to my 3 at this point and he already has a vassal in Ros. I begin to get worried about Hamburg.

I am also surprised that Dublin NMRed – the player who started as Dublin looked to be in excellent position.

A Northern Empire forms under the name the Imperium Borealis, with Cologne and Hamburg seemingly at the helm – I am not too worried about them at this point. I think large states like that have a tendency to fall apart on their own.

1002 Maps

Spring 1002

Image

Fall 1002

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Winter 1002

Image

1002

As promised, Lisbon gives me Mos, and I give him Ant. I also move from Jer into Arb and then into Per to try to get into better position against Hamburg’s forces.

I agreed to make Sin a DMZ with Chania (an agreement that he promptly violated). Luckily Algiers moves into Bar. Chania apologizes and offers to swear allegiance to me. I agree.

The Coronation phase of 1002 is one of my favorite turns of the game. Hamburg find himself at 7 SCs and if he is reelected Patriarch he will be at 8 SCs. I talk to Cagliari, Chania, and Athens (all separately) it becomes clear that there is a sentiment among Cag and Cha that they would be happy to vote for another Patriarch but they don’t want to be the only one who votes against Hamburg. After a conversation with Athens, while Cag was literally on the other line, I was able to convince him that his previous ally in Hamburg had given him nothing and that he would be better off teaming up with me. He agrees and decides to vote for himself as Patriarch with my guarantee that I could get Chan and Cag to vote with him. The talks go down to the wire, but everyone agrees and Athens is elected Patriarch. This gives Hamburg someone to worry about on his western border.

Meanwhile I vote for Lisbon to be Caliph again. I also swear fealty to Tol to become part of the same nation as Lisbon to keep him comfortable that I won’t stab him.

The Imperium claims a whole swath of territory on my Northern border (and all across the board) – again, I am not too worried about crossing that line since there is little that the Imperium (outside of Hamburg) can do to attack me.

With Chania now as my vassal I feel comfortable to build an army in Bag in an effort to push north.

To be continued…
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Re: Diplomacy for Dukes & Popes: AARs

Postby diophantus22 » 15 Aug 2019, 07:04

Pre-Game SC Selection
I chose Cagliari and Palermo as my 2 starting SCs because of the flexibility it allowed in where I could expand to in the Mediterranean. The main drawbacks in this selection were I would have difficulty making headway into Europe on land and if anyone were to spawn adjacent to my seas, I would have difficulty, and maybe prevented altogether, from expanding. Nevertheless, I still decided to go ahead with selecting Cagliari and Palermo since I believed that Africa would be relatively clear and that the majority would choose to spawn in Northern, Central, or Eastern Europe. Imagine my surprise when it turns out the majority would spawn in the Mediterranean and that 5 players bordered my adjacent seas!

Early Game (1001-1004) – The Nation Building Era
With the revelation of SC selections, my strategy was simple: expand through Italy (I viewed pretty much all of Italy as rightfully Cagliarian) while forging friendly relations with my neighbors and hopefully forming the beginnings of a nation with at least one of them. I was particularly keen on forging a strong bond with Algiers because of both his proximity and the possibilities of becoming a strong united power. Fortunately, my outreach found receptive ears in my neighbors and I was able to establish a foothold in Italy. That would be followed up with the formation of a duchy with Algiers. Fez and Chania were also interested in joining the duchy, but I opted for Chania because I thought that he could act as a gatekeeper in the East Med. That proved a mistake since his intention was to actually join Jerusalem.
Following that, Cologne sent shockwaves by publicly announcing that Dublin, Masovia, Cologne, Hamburg, Chenia, and Roskilde were forming a nation called the Imperium Borealis. That led to discussions among Lisbon, Fez, Toledo, Algiers, Marseilles, Paris, and me to unite to combat the threat immediately. Those discussions led nowhere and collapsed completely with Paris and Toledo fighting. I wouldn’t have actually actively participate in that conflict though since I needed Cologne to not build in Rome because that would have severely curtailed my growth. I also didn’t view them as an immediate threat since I didn’t border any of them and had buffers in Athens and Paris. I thought if they were still around by the time I claimed Italy, I should be able to put up a stubborn resistance at the very least. Once an agreement was struck on Rome, I avoided conflict (the exception was the attack on Chania, but I communicated with Toledo and Jerusalem that Algiers’s attack was not a sign of hostilities to come) and expanded peacefully until much of Italy was mine. Only then did I join the rest of the Mediterranean in forming the Mediterranean Empire to fight the North.
The religious realm during this time period was particularly interesting to me. I wanted the Patriarchy, but failed to get the support needed despite being the largest voter and being in a largely defensible location and had to begrudgingly vote for Hamburg in the name of peace. From there, I viewed Hamburg as my biggest rival and wanted to take him down, especially since he refused to commit to crowning me king. However, I couldn’t act on that militarily since Hamburg was the most powerful player at the time. Also complicating things was that Hamburg didn’t trust me. That left only the religious route. I wanted to elect a new Patriarch, but needed the support of Chania and Athens since Hamburg’s explosive growth made him the largest voter. While I believed I could sway Chania, I was uncertain about Athens since he had remained steadfastly loyal to Hamburg without seeing any growth. Fortunately, Jerusalem was also interested in seeing a new Patriarch and acted as a middle man (I didn’t want anything to get back to Hamburg before the end of the phase if it feel apart) to facilitate electing Athens as the new Patriarch. Even though Athens agreed to be the new Patriarch, I was still fearful that Athens would return it to Hamburg in the future if Hamburg threatened him and I would lose my buffer with Hamburg, so to possibly deter that from happening, I guaranteed his independence. Ironically, that would be the reason for me voting Hamburg the Patriarchy after Athens spent a year as Patriarch since Hamburg threatened to attack Athens in a raving message and all of my units were in Italy at the time. That vote though led Hamburg to contact me about joining the Imperium. While I wasn’t particularly interested since I knew Jerusalem wasn’t actually a member of the Imperium, I wanted to drag out negotiations with Hamburg as long as possible to reposition for a move against him. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out as planned since there were 2 extensions granted! Since that didn’t work, I switched to gathering intelligence on the workings of the Imperium instead and preparing for a thrust up central Europe.

Mid-Game (1005-1007) – The North vs. the South
So from here on, the plan was to eliminate Hamburg. I didn’t really play a big role militarily in this since I was determined to gather as much information from Hamburg as possible to feed to the Mediterranean Empire. While that was happening, Dublin and Roskilde stabbed Cologne and Hamburg and were moving south rapidly. Funnily enough, before that, Hamburg and Cologne tried to make it seem like there was strife in the Imperium between those 2, but absolutely no one fell for it because what was being said was so outlandish. Anyway, with Cologne and Hamburg disintegrating, I had designs for Cologne’s remaining SCs. I hoped to have him commit everything to try and stem the flow and would move on him once that happened. That didn’t happen because of what was about to happen.
Once Hamburg was all but eliminated, an agreed upon reorganization of the Mediterranean Empire was attempted to keep Algiers happy by allowing expansion into Lisbon’s territory. Unfortunately, that failed since Fez didn’t cut Lisbon off and resulted in a splintered empire. Consequently, the plan evolved to also include the partition of Fez’s SCs. We had no intentions of fighting Toledo though since we viewed him as essential to a possible stalemate line. With the splintering of the Empire, my plans for Cologne would never be realized since I needed him to be neutral or join us because if he was hostile, I would be unable to hold onto Italy. Consequently, I reached out to him about him joining and admitted to plotting against him, agreeing to some slightly inconvenient moves to established trust. Meanwhile, the plan to attack Fez fell apart when Algiers went rogue and disregarded previously agreed upon moves. Initially, I considered as just an SC grab attempt. It was only after Algiers went rogue a second time and went radio silent that I realized he was planning on defecting. I hoped that he was just going on an SC grab, but had to prepare for the worst. Since Algerian fleets surrounded me, I desperately needed Fez and Toledo to link back up. Fortunately, that happened and I survived the worst!
In the religious realm, nothing really happened much aside from ensuring that Athens kept the Patriarchy.

End Game (1008-1010) – The Kingdom of Roskilde vs. the Mediterranean Empire 2.0
With Algiers defecting, that threat needed to be dealt with while a line had to be held against Dublin and Roskilde. Fortunately, a line was able to be formed that not only held back the North’s armies, but actually pushed them back a little before it was essentially stalemated. Meanwhile, Algiers had to be eliminated and everything done afterwards was to do that. With Aeschines declaring game end after 1010, a list of goals was established. They were
1) eliminate Algiers
2) Secure a draw slot for Athens and Toledo
3) bring Fez and Paris back to their home provinces
4) restore the Caliphship to Lisbon (ok?)
Personally, I had didn’t think it was realistic to restore Paris his home province. I was willing to provide a supporting role for all of those and not push for any SCs since I was basically guaranteed a draw slot and no one was in position to solo. And we did accomplish almost all of those goals! I was a bit miffed though that I ended the game as a duke instead of king.....

Other Stuff
My burning question though is, why did Algiers defect at that specific moment? His SCs were spread throughout the Med, making it difficult to defend all of them. If it was an SC grab, the net gain would’ve only been +1 since while I would’ve lost Cag and Pal, I could defend my Italian SCs and take Cha, hardly worth it in my opinion. Also, you were in a draw slot and there were discussions about including you in a draw I believe. Why throw it away?
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