Middle Earth VIII AARs

8-player scenario based on The Lord of the Rings, desgined by Lew Pulsipher and introduced by Presser84. GM Presser84. Winner: thewysecat (Gondor)

Middle Earth VIII AARs

Postby presser84 » 16 Sep 2012, 01:24

The game has concluded with a concession by all remaining players to a sole victor to the men of Gondor. Bow before them, the new rulers of Middle Earth.

Thank you everyone for playing. Feel free to post your thoughts about this game, the variant in general and my GMing here.

I'll also give you all an early heads up that I plan to introduce a Westeros variant soon for those of you also into Game of Thrones.
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Re: Middle Earth VIII AARs

Postby thewysecat » 16 Sep 2012, 03:32

Alright...

3012
I take over a 7 SC Gondor. Nice corner position. At war with Rhun, but surely is going to win it. Looks like it has potential. I will take it on. Dagolad is immediately available for capture and I do, but I also risk the loss of Lithlad for the tempo gain of moving to Haradwaith. It works. +1 to 8 SCs

Overall there is an Angmar-Rhovanion alliance plus puppet Arnor closing around a Rohan on the defensive. It's a no-brainer to make alliance with Rohan and plan to act as his white knight. Arnor clearly has no long-term future given the disposition of its forces, but we will see...

3013
Take West Rhun (+1 to 9 SCs) and also occupy East Mordor from Haradwaith as planned - tempo high. Angmar eliminates Rhun by also taking East Rhun. Hmm...that's mine. Angmar is clearly my big rival long-term - another corner power. I hit Lefnui to stop Arnor converting his fleet and work with Rohan to keep Anfalas safe. I build a fleet. That is a long-term vision to win the seas. Rohan is surrounded and increasingly is going to be dependent on me

3014
Another slight gamble - Angmar decides to protect East Rhun, but I ignore it and take the vital area of Wilderness. Generally march north to try and help out Rohan

3015
Use Wilderness to take East Rhun (+1 to 10 SCs) from Angmar this phase. Navy sets sail. Now reached Brown Lands and Emnet. Rohan is officially dependent on my goodwill

3016
Rohan able to take The Shire and so he agrees to concede Anfalas to me (+1 to 11 SCs) so that I can defend and push past it. I am writing his orders by this point and he is able to take the key area of Mirkwood. That will be vital next year.

Angmar makes a big mistake in my view in stabbing Arnor for one lousy SC this year. From that point on arnor is my vassal and most especially that lovely fleet in Grey Havens...

3017
Rhovanin guesses all wrong this year. Wilderness 'side steps' and takes North Rhun from Angmar (+1 to 12 SCs) meaning Rohan takes River Running from Mirkwood. I convoy to Enedwaith as part of my long-term plan to flank Angmar in the west. Rohan is also up to 10 SCs now...Hmm...

3018
I agree an SC swap with Rohan - he gets Anfalas back for Dul Guldor. Rohan's units in the east are isolated (how did that happen?) and if we are to make further progress I will have to take over that theatre :). Dul Goldur is in my hypothetical 19, but I don't want to take it via stab. that would be very premature. Anfalas will be easy to re-take if I go down that path later. Arnor's fleet helps me take Lune. Nice. Rohan has to lose The Shire and disbands A Anfalas :)

3019
Now the long-slog. Rohan proposes a 2-way draw. I accept of course. I will rely on GhostEcho to reject it. I am confident he will and if he doesn't. C'est la vie. I manoevre to set up the capture of Northern Sea

3020
Rohan would have taken Gladden from Mirkwood, but NMRs! I take Mirkwood and disband him! River Running is now totally isolated. I'm in Northern Sea and knocking at Angmar's door. Angmar does reject the 2-way. I reject the DIAS. You see I have a great plan to take Evendim which...

3021
...I cock up by misordering in writing a S when I meant C. Had this not happened I would have captured Forochel the next year. Shit :(. I take River Running though (+1 to 13 SCs). I remind Rohan of the peculiar Victory Conditions and sooth his nerves by proposing we waive builds from now on. I don't want to spook him before I am ready.

3022
Have to suck it up and get back to work. a new idea - Arnor converts Grey Havens to an army and is off to Downs meaning Forochel must fall except...

3023
Arnor NMRs! And I accidentally eliminate him in taking Grey Havens (+1 to 14 SCs). Rohan retakes Gladden finally. Patience, patience...

3024
Rohan takes Hoarwell - one step at a time. We will out-patience Angmar and Rhovanion who know they have lost and are getting restless....

3025
I take The Shire (+1 to 15 SCs) since it is the only 100% guaranteed for R-G to take it, but I promise Rohan a SC swap whereby he takes Grey Havens so Rohan moves to Harlindon. Of course this also takes him further and further from home...With the latest rejection of a 2-way draw by Angmar and his declaration of "over my dead body" Rhovanion is ready to be turned. He wants to end the game? Kill Angmar. He attacks Rivendell though he messes up the orders somewhat. Anyway, the last piece of the puzzle is in place - Rhovanion is now taking my order suggestions too...

I sneak in a F Lebennin build based on some 'miscommunication' with Rohan...

3026
Stab! Stab! I plan the orders so that I retain Grey Havens and take Iron Hills and eastern Waste from Rhovanion making that front very secure. I also eliminate Rohan's 2 saved builds. (+3 to 18 SCs). I can only build to 16 units. Discounting The Shire and Grey Havens which I will lose I have it worked out how I can have 19 SCs and units by 3028 at the latest

thanks to all and to our very efficient GM. Not sure what I make of the variant - having only one move phase is different, but there is very little natural 'tempo' in the map which makes it something of a slog once a few eliminations have removed the fluidity from the situation

wyse out
Last edited by thewysecat on 16 Sep 2012, 12:27, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Middle Earth VIII AARs

Postby Mouse » 16 Sep 2012, 04:36

So what can be said about Mordor? It has the same units on the board as most countries (the elves have more), but they are the only country that has split troops! If that wasn't bad enough, there is little to no hope of the third unit ever being able to aid the other two. It is almost like Mordor was supposed to have 4-units with the 4th unit being a satellite province, but it was overlooked.

I think that the game could be won as Mordor, but the diplomat would need to be extreme. I am not extreme. The truth is Mordor is a wounded animal that is begging to live. Both my neighbors saw there was no reason NOT to kill off this wounded animal thus my death was foretold as soon as the positions were drawn.

Hey, it was fun playing, but the short straw of Mordor is VERY short!

I would not play this variant again even as another country. I think it is not balanced.

I do not have much else to say, since as Mordor, I didn't live long enough to see much!
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Re: Middle Earth VIII AARs

Postby VGhost » 16 Sep 2012, 21:33

Whoo. Time to try to recreate this game - without actually rereading all the diplomacy. That would take too long.

I stepped in as a game-start sub for ninjaruler. My initial evaluation was that Angmar is a favored power to survive, being on the edge. What I didn't have was a good way to expand without killing people. My plan had three steps:

1) Eliminate Arnor in order to get control of two sides of the map/protect my back.
2) Eliminate the Elves in order to get maneuvering room.
3) Endgame?

Things went sort of sideways from the beginning. I established a working relationship with Elves (musashisamurai), talked to Arnor (jkid) some but not very convincingly (I thought I could smash him quickly and get one with life, so I didn't put much effort into it). The difficulty was Rhovanion (bluestreaksoccer), whose diplomacy was pretty much limited to killtheelveskilltheelveskilltheelves which I didn't want to do yet. I heard essentially nothing from Rohan (diplomat42) all game and gave up sending him things fairly quickly. I talked to Gondor (originally mr bump, then thewysecat) very sparingly. I envisioned him as an endgame question-mark, and was reluctant to say anything too early.)

I spent a while working with Elves, before tactical disagreements, failure, and general miscommunication led me to set up a stab with Arnor's help. Rhovanion was only too happy to join in. Meanwhile, Rhun and Gondor took Mordor apart, while Rohan moved North-ish. As far as I could tell, Gondor and Rohan were at least NAP'ed from the beginning of the game, though Gondor got much the better of the deal - and our starting Gondor denied this vigorously each time I asked him.

Anyway, Rhun and Rhovanion sort of worked together vs. Rohan and Gondor until Rhun lost; I scrambled some units East but never got any headway. I tried to pull together some sort of alliance, but bluestreaksoccer was not entirely helpful, and combined with some of my own errors... I basically wrote orders for Rhovanion for a couple years (letram13 was more proactive once he stepped in, we actually had some discussion), but I saw us on the back foot, and my instinct was to look for an offensive opportunity. We never quite got there, and then...

Well, things messed up in 3015. Due to some bad guesses, Rohan got behind our line; then in 3016 I took The Shire from Arnor, intending to bounce a Rohan attack that Arnor couldn't defend himself. I thought I had discussed this with jkid but then later I found I hadn't and this had shaken up the alliance badly - he ended up breaking up our offensive plans (I suspect he was in fact passing orders to Gondor, though he or thewysecat will have to confirm) and then messing up our quasi-line badly before NMRing out. The rest was just waiting for Gondor to strike.

That's my game summary. Checking maps, Elves lasted much longer than I remembered, and I had forgotten how far north Rohan had gotten before we kicked him out again. I really don't have too many comments about the game as a whole. It wasn't one of my better efforts: I repeatedly made diplomatic and tactical mistakes, and probably lasted till the end only on the strength of the starting position.

In fact, my biggest question is the map; I'm not sure where on the map a northern power/alliance would have to get to in order to press home an assault, but even with less than half the SCs on the map Gondor and Rohan were able to march North with minimal difficulty beyond patience. Perhaps we needed a different unit mix? Or possibly my tactical prowess is even less than I thought and I was missing crucial points.

I also want to know why Rohan was so reluctant to do anything against Gondor; he never had the best options, but there were opportunities any time up till the last few years.

Anyway, good game all.
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Re: Middle Earth VIII AARs

Postby thewysecat » 17 Sep 2012, 01:12

Jkid sent me your orders in Summer 3020 and then a really long strategic overview you wrote in 3021. I couldn't understand why you were even sending them to him since his unit was actively helping me by then. As I recall they had no impact on my orders which were already in. Tactically, as you observe, I don't remember there ever really being any major challenges (or chances to make a big breakthrough) - your orders were not hard to spot on the whole because of the map. Don't underestimate the value and relative rarity of patience in most people's Dip play though. It is enough to win many a game. This one included...

Why didn't Diplomat in Rohan change? idk for sure. My guess was you weren't offering anything worth taking because you couldn't. I wasn't exactly laying on the charm particularly. Even if he turned he was still the meat in the sandwich. I was never going to be eliminated or driven back much so likely he just leaked SCs to you and Rhovanion in the long-term and might have been squeeed out of any 3-way draw that resulted. Sticking with me was likely his best bet. After all I twice accepted the 2-way draw and Rhovanion was happy to accept too. Only your refusals prevented him from getting his 2-way...so if we could eliminate you (and eventually we could have done)....
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Re: Middle Earth VIII AARs

Postby presser84 » 17 Sep 2012, 01:42

So from Mouse's perspective the game was not balanced. I did say that Mordor would be a challenge before hand so that was a tough draw. What are everyone else's thoughts on the map balance? Is it worth playing again?
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Re: Middle Earth VIII AARs

Postby VGhost » 17 Sep 2012, 03:06

thewysecat wrote:Jkid sent me your orders in Summer 3020 and then a really long strategic overview you wrote in 3021. I couldn't understand why you were even sending them to him since his unit was actively helping me by then. As I recall they had no impact on my orders which were already in. Tactically, as you observe, I don't remember there ever really being any major challenges (or chances to make a big breakthrough) - your orders were not hard to spot on the whole because of the map. Don't underestimate the value and relative rarity of patience in most people's Dip play though. It is enough to win many a game. This one included...


Rhovanion was deadlocked. This was the main reason. There was a little give on my side, but as you observed (when I tried to bluff) we didn't actually have a stalemate line. So my options were a) persuade Arnor to help or b) go bust anyway, and I was gambling he would eventually realize he wouldn't survive and throw in with me - it might have stopped you (or not, because you had open access to Rohan's rear). Instead he actively went after me, thus massively screwing up my position as I tried to reset.

I didn't do a great job diplomatically the whole game, but it was incredibly frustrating as well: basically nobody changed their attitude/plan/goals after Elves got knocked out, except for my screw-up with Arnor and that was provoked. (As for patience, though, I was very close to making you earn the solo, but I'm fairly busy IRL and as we've both observed it was pretty much inevitable barring massive screwups.)

presser84 wrote:So from Mouse's perspective the game was not balanced. I did say that Mordor would be a challenge before hand so that was a tough draw. What are everyone else's thoughts on the map balance? Is it worth playing again?


I think Gondor and Angmar have huge positional advantages, with Rhun coming a close third. Rhovanion and Elves are playable due to position/size, but Mordor and Arnor are going to depend on the goodwill of their neighbors. And as I briefly mentioned, it seems much easier to move North than South. I think it's playable, but not great.
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Re: Middle Earth VIII AARs

Postby Mouse » 17 Sep 2012, 05:28

Contrary to popular belief, game balance is not paramount in variants. Game play is important also. Sometimes you have a game that has poor balance, but is NOT lopsided. These games would have lesser countries be able to influence the game overall. Sadly I fail to see Mordor fitting in this category.

As is often the case with variants, there are natural enemies which force X to attack Y while Y must attack Z. Sort of a circle-of-attacks. This variant definitely had the "circle effect" where there were natural enemies - forced enemies. In my area it was Rohan - Gondor - Mordor - Rhun - Rho Vanion, etc... all in a neat circle.

Luckily this variant did not suffer from the "odd" country "out". Variants that have the "odd" country "out" is not a good thing. Take for example classic diplomacy. There are no situations where there are three countries where it will inevitably become 2-1. Turkey in the corner is an example. There are still Russia, Italy, and Austria to ally with so it isn't the automatic "odd" person "out". In the variant Sengoku, it was VERY balanced, but it suffers from this situation of often being 2-1 from design. There isn't the fourth country to tip-the-scales.

The problem I saw with playing Mordor is it fit into that "circle effect" syndrome where it had to compete equally. If it was in a situation where it could influence the game (sort of a king-maker) then balance would not be an issue. Here the lack of balance is very important because Mordor becomes a weak spot which allowed neighboring countries to take advantage and thus heavily offset the game.

As earlier mentioned, Arnor might have been a weak point also...

So how would I balance the variant?

Well, I would make a space between Bree and the Elves which guaranteed that Arnor received it as a first year build. I would then leave Mordor alone BUT would make all three centers fortresses. What this would do is make Mordor sort of a "sleeping dragon". Pain to assault (but still very possible) while leaving it able to influence the game. Mordor would become a thorn to Gordor and Rhun, thus restricting their immediate rise to power without making Mordor a huge power source. In this manner it would more follow the books (all three spaces should have been fortresses based on the readings).

Anyway, those are my thoughts...
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Re: Middle Earth VIII AARs

Postby thewysecat » 17 Sep 2012, 15:06

Mouse makes many of the points I would make. 'Balance' is not necessary in any game design, but it needs 'good' players to recognise the imbalance and conteract it through their game play such that the game play experience is actually balanced. As someone who has played Turkey in Colonial I feel able to say this. Indeed I love playing imbalanced games generally, but only if everyone playing has a reasonably deep understanding of the inherent imbalances and thus lets it guide their play. Inevitably when playing a new variant the capacity and awareness needed to do this analysis without having played the variant before is itself varied amongst the players. Likewise, if play is less imaginative and simply foussed on whittling out powers asap then powers like Mordor have a problem. The value a 'weak' starting power can give you as an ally as opposed to just crushing it is often underestimated.

Of course, the onus is on Mordor to point all this out and to do so convincingly...it was ever thus...in particular Mordor likely needs a Rohan v Gondor conflict early to give it a better chance.
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Re: Middle Earth VIII AARs

Postby Mouse » 19 Sep 2012, 05:26

The problem with Mordor, as stands, is there is no reason NOT to eliminate it. It makes a very poor pawn and certainly is not a kingmaker. As the game stands in the circle form of X vs. Y vs. Z, Mordor's neighbors simply have it lucky. It would NOT be wise not to take out Mordor since it has so little to offer. Take for example Italy in classic diplomacy. The country has the lowest chance of winning, but has the ability to easily influence the game i.e. a kingmaker. Mordor is not in the catagory. They have very little to offer to any powers. The isolated unit dare not stray far from home so it is of little importance to the neighboring countries. The two units at home are really there for the taking since there is no reason to allow them to grow and take precious supply centers. That is why I suggest that all their home supply centers become fortresses. Mordor still would not have growth, but their ability to be knocked out of the game quickly would be dramatically reduced AND their political influence increased.
Last edited by Mouse on 19 Sep 2012, 06:16, edited 1 time in total.
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