MidCon - A review - and AARs

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MidCon - A review - and AARs

Postby Big Gun » 05 Nov 2018, 21:02

MidCon – A review and AARs

I first attended MidCon in 1982 in Birmingham, as a 17-year old youngster. In those days Diplomacy was a well-loved hobby in the UK, with a large postal-playing scene and at that convention I remember there were about 10 boards.

Diplomacy in the UK has declined since then and other board games are now much more “in”. So last year on my return to MidCon after a 35-year break, I was saddened to realise that there was very little interest for the game, although we did find enough for two full games.

This year – the 3 PlayDip veterans of MidCon 2017 namely dib, Strategus and I spent not a little effort in drumming up more interest here on PlayDip, through Forum postings and banter in the chatbox. We were happy that 4 additional PlayDippers made the effort to come to Derby for stabbing, beer, curry and laughter this past weekend. We had a blast.

The players were:

Strategus (Burton-on-Trent)
dib (Manchester)
Pootleflump (Scotland)
Jack007 (Switzerland)
Phlegmatic (Macclesfield)
Caladrius (Sussex)
Big Gun (Telford)

In addition 2 non PlayDippers joined us, Andy H from Jersey and Andrew H from London. Hats off to everyone who journeyed from far away for this event.

We’d planned to start the first round on Saturday at 11am sharp. I picked up Strategus on the way over and we were well on time, but 5 miles outside of Derby on the A38 my car hit something sharp and a tyre blew out at 70 miles an hour. We pulled off the dual carriageway into a country lane to inspect the damage. The tyre was wrecked so I had to call out the RAC for help. Phlegmatic drove over to pick up Strategus, so they wouldn’t have to wait too long to start playing Diplomacy and I waited for the recovery service and spent an hour at a garage in Burton-on-Trent having a new tyre fitted. Not a great start to the weekend for me. When I finally arrived at the games convention, it was around 1.30pm. The first game of Diplomacy was well under way, so I became a spectator.

The randomly made board assignments for the Saturday game were:

Austria - Pootleflump
Italy - Strategus
France – Andy H
England – Phlegmatic
Germany – Jack007
Russia – Andrew H
Turkey – Caladrius

with dib graciously agreeing not to play, but supervise the adjudications. The game was played in relaxed rounds of 15 – 20 minute negotiations followed by a few minutes for adjudication, retreats and builds, so that a typical game year was about 45 minutes. In tournament play, the drop-dead 15 minutes deadlines with no additional time for adjudication make for a far more stressful game, but here we were all in it for the fun and tried not to stress if a player’s orders were a minute or two late. It made for happy gaming.

Although I didn’t play in this game, I watched most of it with interest, only disappearing later on between adjudications to join dib for a one-on-one game of Heptarchy, which failed miserably due to the imbalanced random allocation of 3 countries each.

In the Diplomacy game there was a strong EGI alliance, which took out France quickly and asserted itself as the dominant force on the board. Austria was initially allied with Turkey and Italy and opened strongly, gaining 3 SCs in 01. Austria ceded Trieste to Italy, not an unusual move to help Italy to his 5th dot, but Austria then made the error of stabbing Turkey for one dot (Bulgaria) in order to maintain her 6, but before dealing with Russia. In the meantime Russia was soon eliminated by EG with a little help from Turkey and IG turned on Austria. It was looking like a clear positioning towards a 3-way draw, until England on 8 made a deftly executed stab against Germany for 2 and threw the board into fresh tumult. Italy and Germany rallied against England, putting him back in his place on 9, as Turkey crept into Russia and the Balkans, and Austria was reduced to 3.

The game seemed to drag a little towards the end, the players were tired and started drinking beer and so a draw was called in Fall 1908 at around 6.45pm after more than 6 hours of game-play. If memory serves me correctly the final result was:

Austria – Pootleflump – 3 SCs
Italy – Strategus – 9 SCs
France – Andy H (eliminated in 1904)
England – Phlegmatic – 9 SCs
Germany – Jack007 – 7 SCs
Russia – Andrew H (eliminated in 1906)
Turkey – Caladrius – 6 SCs

I know all of the survivors enjoyed playing this game immensely. You could really see the glint in their eyes! For some it was their first ever F2F experience. It was a respectfully played game and I’m sure it holds some vividly memorable moments for the players involved. Well done!

After the game we walked over to “The Brunswick” pub where we started drinking beer in earnest, whilst a couple switched to G&Ts. Most of the talk was about the day’s game and how it unfolded.

It was well after 9pm before we dragged ourselves out and went to eat curry. I caused a big fuss in the chosen Indian restaurant after I saw the fancy menu with mega overpriced food and drinks and refused to eat there. (After my trip to WDC in Washington, I’m poor and will remain so for a while…) So Strategus showed me great solidarity and left with me to find a much cheaper curry house whilst the larger part of our group stayed in the posh place, regrettably splitting up our party for a couple of hours.

Nevertheless, we re-united sometime after midnight in the hotel bar, to continue drinking together until 5am in the morning!

Thanks to dib for organising the beer kitty and twisting the hotel night manager’s arm to keep the bar open all night! And thanks to Pootlflump for sporting a bottle of 10 year old Single Islay Malt Whisky from the remote distillery of Ardbeg – a perfectly delicious dram and a fine gesture, which everyone enjoyed copiously! During this late night drinking session conversations went through a plethora of Diplomacy-related topics including playing styles, motivation, soloing or drawing, opening strategy and general playdiplomacy.com banter. It was great fun and obviously lubricated well enough to cause some strong arguments but also some great hilarity.

I crept into bed just after 5am, not forgetting to post the day’s game results on the PlayDip chatbox for the fans out there waiting for our news. When my alarm rang at 8.15am, I have to admit I had no clue on earth who or where I was. I felt like Jason Bourne waking up in complete oblivion.

A long, cold shower helped bring me to my senses and I headed down to breakfast at 9am. The PlayDip gang started trundling in and everyone looked pretty wrecked after the night’s revelries.

The majority voted Sunday morning’s game to be played on the Versailles map – my own homemade masterpiece of this fantastic variant, which we’d played on twice before at last year’s MidCon.

After a short explanation of the few additional rules and quirks of this variant, we dived straight in, eager to try to get in a good game before our predetermined finish deadline of 4pm.

Major and minor country assignments were made randomly and turned out like this:

Britain +Rumania – Strategus
France + Greece – Jack007
Germany + Sweden – Phlegmatic
Italy + Yugoslavia – Pootleflump
Poland + Egypt – dib
Russia + Czechoslovakia – Big Gun
Turkey + Spain – Andrew H.

Most players were rather disgruntled with their pairing, except Italy and Germany who had the luck to have won a closely neighboring minor.

I found a quick rapport in my opening negotiations with Turkey and offered him the Black Sea, in order to enable his guaranteed capture of Bulgaria in 01. Sweden agreed to let me into Finland and I thought I’d also take a shot at Bucharest by moving into Moldavia and Galicia, hopefully bagging two builds.

Unfortunately, my initial tactics backfired. Sweden bounced me in Finland and Poland got really mad at me for walking into Galicia unannounced, and even after I moved out again in Fall taking Bucharest with the army, he was still not to be calmed. So I built an army in Kiev, expecting war with Poland, which is what he stated quite openly in front of the board was his intention. It didn’t help that Germany/Sweden were allied with Poland, so I knew I was about to face a tough battle.

In other parts of the board, the alliances seemed to settle into an EF with support from Italy, who chose to go north rather than East – quite an unusual strategy indeed, considering her minor was Yugoslavia. Italy opened extremely strongly, gaining 3 SCs (Austria, Prague, Tunis) and Yugo took Hungary so a combined total of 8 SCs in the first game year 1931. This increased to 11 in 1932 and 12 in 1933 and she quickly became the dominant force of the game.

Good relations with Turkey continued and with help from every friendly Italy I managed to bag another build from Krakow in 1932, giving me enough forces to hit Poland hard. In the meantime Germany/Sweden was struggling against EF, so my life became a lot easier and I managed to grow to 8 in 1933 and 10 in 1934.

Most of the minors were destroyed early on. Only Yugoslavia managed to hold out until the end. Poland was soon defeated in 1934 and Germany was reduced to just one unit for the last 3 game years.

Towards the end of the game I agreed to give Finland to Britain, who placed an army there, opposite my army in Leningrad. It seemed the best way to create a natural stalemate block for both of us with just one unit each in the North so we could concentrate on moving forces away and fighting elsewhere.

As the clock ticked down towards 4pm, we agreed that Fall 1935 would be the last season. In the Spring of that year I stabbed Turkey for Bulgaria and walked into Ankara in the Fall, in order to maximize my result. Ordinarily I would never have stabbed Turkey at this early stage of the game. We were in a solid position to juggernaut westwards together and with Italy and France fighting and Britain blocked in the North, we could have easily swept westwards and picked up lots of dots from Italy. I was always a couple of centers ahead of Turkey and he was a rather impressionable player, so I feel if the game had played on for 3 or 4 years, I might have had excellent chances at a solo.

Final center count was:

Britain – Strategus – 9 SCs
France – Jack007 – 6 SCs
Germany – Phlegmatic – 1 SC
Italy (+ Yugoslavia) – Pootleflump – 10 SCs
Poland – dib (eliminated in 1934)
Russia – Big Gun – 11 SCs
Turkey – Andrew H. – 6 SCs

Although I ended the game as board leader, my “win” was only due to the opportunistic final stab against Turkey and therefore not really one where I feel any sense of true victory. Those who’ve played with me here in online Versailles games know that I really like to solo, a lot more than conceding a draw. Britain and Italy played equally well in this game and deserve their fair share of the glory.

Andrew H. was a great ally – the perfect combination of loyalty and trust. In our very first negotiation we both agreed we wanted a good, “clean” game and that’s exactly how we played it. I’ve seen players do this at WDC and sweep the board, I’m sure if we had played out the game we would have done the same. It’s a very gratifying way to play Diplomacy.

It was an amicable game for most of the time and those who were new to Versailles got used to its quirks really very quickly.

My return journey home was uneventful, rainy and miserable and I fell asleep on the couch in front of the TV at 9pm on Sunday night. Mrs Big Gun was not particularly amused, so today there are fresh flowers in our house.

I hope more PlayDippers will come out to MidCon or other gaming events here in the UK in the future. Everyone agreed it was a fantastic weekend and we need to play more F2F Diplomacy. The personal interaction and tempo make the game far more exhilarating when played F2F and there is the additional bonus of spending time with like-minded people who share this hobby and easily become friends!

Recounting anecdotes and reliving games we’ve played before, full of exaggerations, innuendos and embellishments makes the social aspect just as important as playing the game itself!

Thanks for reading and I hope this review will encourage others here to get more involved in the F2F Diplomacy scene! It’s great fun and truly rewarding!

Cheers,

Big Gun
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Re: MidCon - A review - and AARs

Postby Don Juan of Austria » 05 Nov 2018, 21:09

That Versailles game though.... wow! :)
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Re: MidCon - A review - and AARs

Postby Strategus » 05 Nov 2018, 21:24

That's a great review, BG, and very comprehensive. Not much to add. Except we all agreed to try for two boards next year, and to try to get one more player each to commit. I think we start early in that campaign. Anyone interested, sign up now! I am optimistic that there is a growing trend to play face to face, and predict that we will do it, with room to spare.

All the best,

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Re: MidCon - A review - and AARs

Postby Phlegmatic » 05 Nov 2018, 21:40

Strategus wrote:That's a great review, BG, and very comprehensive. Not much to add. Except we all agreed to try for two boards next year, and to try to get one more player each to commit. I think we start early in that campaign. Anyone interested, sign up now! I am optimistic that there is a growing trend to play face to face, and predict that we will do it, with room to spare.


I second that - if we can keep the momentum going and make it as easy as possible for people to play F2F with some regularity, I’m sure we can grow this. Put me down for MidCon next year, and highly likely for ManorCon too :)
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Re: MidCon - A review - and AARs

Postby Aurelin » 06 Nov 2018, 04:28

This was really well-written and I appreciate you writing all this out! I enjoyed reading that, and I’m actually a little surprised at how good that AAR was. I wish more people wrote these for FtF games.
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Re: MidCon - A review - and AARs

Postby nanooktheeskimo » 06 Nov 2018, 16:04

Very well written!

Sounds like it was a lot of fun. Glad to see things happening in the UK, hopefully you can get something started up there again :)
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Re: MidCon - A review - and AARs

Postby Jack007 » 06 Nov 2018, 17:03

Yes, great AAR, Big Gun. Not much to add actually. :)

I was asked to post some pictures. Not all are shot by myself.

Here we have the classic game's setup (Saturday). Everything still in nice order. The expectations were high.

before.jpg
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Later, during the battle:

after.jpg
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.
Last edited by Jack007 on 07 Nov 2018, 14:31, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: MidCon - A review - and AARs

Postby Jack007 » 06 Nov 2018, 17:18

Saturday evening. Big Gun showing his self made variant game boards. Great artwork, not so easy to make, but Big Gun mastered it.

We had the choice between Heptarchy...

heptarchy.jpg
heptarchy.jpg (158.23 KiB) Viewed 803 times


...and Versailles

versailles.jpg
versailles.jpg (174.02 KiB) Viewed 803 times


The preferences were clear, and the King explained us how to play his kingdom.
:)
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Re: MidCon - A review - and AARs

Postby Jack007 » 06 Nov 2018, 17:33

Sunday morning. The culprits ready to strike:

ready.jpg
ready.jpg (180.34 KiB) Viewed 802 times


Final position (6-way draw):

final.jpg
final.jpg (212.67 KiB) Viewed 802 times


.
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Re: MidCon - A review - and AARs

Postby Jack007 » 06 Nov 2018, 18:38

Now, looking over the edge of the Diplomacy board, here some general impressions on MidCon. It is a great event for many boardgamers of every couleur. There were 6 other rooms like this full of ongoing boardgames. Crazy.

midcon.jpg
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Additionally, they played in the hotel lobby, too. The buffet provided good food and ales. There was a sales stand with hundreds of new games. Also a buy-sell market for used games. I bought an old Diplomacy game for only 2 £, but in bad shape. And a game called Sons of Anarchy - Man of Mayhem. I bought it just because of the Picture on the box, I love it :D

sons-of-anarchy.jpg
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On Friday, I had time to look around, as there were only 4 dip-players on-site, included Jeremy Tullet, the chairman of the event. I could hook up with 4 great games, which I didn't know before:
Rise of Tribes (4 players) ++ very strategic and a bit luck
Lost Cities (2 players) ++ simple but very strategic card game
Century (2-5 players) ++ good strategy game
Railroad ink (bis 12 Spieler) + combinatory scribble game

players-wanted.jpg
players-wanted.jpg (99.11 KiB) Viewed 798 times


These guys had an illuminated box, which they switched on when in need of more players.

(End of the photo spread)
.
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