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Zeus AAR

PostPosted: 24 Aug 2012, 04:27
by asudevil
Congrats to Morg. The end post is here. viewtopic.php?f=435&t=31400

In 7 short years, Morg turned the USSR into the Red Menace and took over the world for a rare forum game solo.

Let me know what you guys thought about the game and balance. Its on the list of things to add to the main site.

Also, look forward to hearing what you guys thought about this game specifically.

Thank you all for dealing with my less than timely posts the last couple of seasons as I started my new job.

It was a pleasure to have you.

Re: Zeus AAR

PostPosted: 24 Aug 2012, 12:17
by Morg
Thanks, it's been a lot of fun and I'd like to start by thanking the competitors and the GM for making this game as enjoyable as possible.

First off from my comments, I don't think this game is balanced ideally. Looking at at the board before I even joined the game, I knew I wanted to play the USSR. It was the only power which had the ability to double in size by only taking neutral territories (this can be ensured by supporting oneself the way I did), its home SCs are well protected, and here's the kicker the USSR can reach 13 total (9 neutral) SCs in year 1. Compare that to China: 8 (6), France: 9 (5), Germany: 9 (6), Great Britain: 12 (6), Japan: 6 (4), & USA: 6 (5). That's more than twice as many as Japan or USA, and even more than Great Britain. Great Britain is further constrained because if the unit starting in Canada were to take anything it would have to come from either a US or a Japanese home SC. This final factor gives the USSR a huge advantage as it has more possibilities than even Great Britain (who starts at 5 SCs and is more spread out) and the vast majority of them can be taken without attacking anyone's home SCs giving it far more freedom of movement and strategy than any other power on the board. That said if this game is ever run again, I would gladly play any country.

So starting the game I knew I wanted to take the 4 SCs and double in size in year 1, this would give me the resources to continue to grow and blunt any initial threats that come. My next goal was to control the Arctic Ocean and then work my way out from there.

But in order to do so I needed cooperation from both Japan and China. If I could focus on Europe, I could reach my goal. But if I had to worry about my Asian backside, then it could ruin my hopes. So I sent out a message to both of them clearly stating that I wanted to focus on Europe & the Arctic, and asking for a DMZ in the Sea of Okhotsk with Japan and a DMZ in Amursk, Sinkiang, Siberia and Kazakhstan with China. I got positive replies from both of them. Ideally I would like for them to get in a fight so that I would never have to worry about Asia as they would keep each other occupied. But if they decided to expand outwards from each other that would work too. I talked to Great Britain and Germany, but it wasn't anything serious. Mouse let me know right away that he was planning on running Great Britain as two separate countries, useful information, but it didn't help me too much yet. Germany surprisingly offered to let me have Poland, an offer I quickly took (I had planned to take it by force, but if he's offering it, so much the better). USA was useless to me so far, other than as a foil to distract Japan/Britain. USA became a beautiful foil indeed by his misteps regarding the whole California build crisis. From my stand point it was clear he could build there, but it was an interesting controversy which caused USA to hesitate and build an army in New York rather than build in California. This of course set off alarm bells ringing in Great Britain's ears, and because I wanted to take over the Arctic, I encouraged Britain to believe that USA was gunning for Canada with everything he had (PS. @USA- a better choice would've been to build an army in California. Japan has no reason to worry, because you can't reach Japan with an army; Britain can focus on Europe, with less worry about USA; and you can still get your build out of Midway using that army). France was the odd man out, I tried to convince him to ally up with me in taking out Germany, and even offered to allow him to determine whether I bounced Germany in Yugoslavia or bounced Great Britain in Greece. He was very polite, but refused to make my choice for me. Which was quite fortunate for me, because I ended up allying with Germany almost by accident. In Spring of '41, I missed my order and instead of writing "Moscow->Poland", I wrote "Moscow->Warsaw" freezing my unit in Moscow for a season. Had I not made this mistake, I would've marched straight into Berlin without hesitation. Had I marched into Berlin or bounced in Yugoslavia, I wouldn't've been able to use Germany as an ally in '42.

Now by '42 it began to become clear that Britain and France were allied. Britain's target was me and France's target was Germany. Meanwhile China stopped communicating with me and moved into Kazakhstan and Amursk, contrary to our DMZ agreement. It was clear that I wouldn't be able to focus on Europe this year and that I would have to face threats to my home SCs from Asia and the Middle East. I knew I couldn't really take too many more SCs that year without arousing some really unwelcome attention so I took Rumania and focused on gaining position to take the Arctic. But what to do about France, who at this point if he got through Germany would wreck everything for me. Since I hadn't yet attacked Germany, I could just as easily ally with him and give him advice to wall off Europe and coincedentally my flank in the West, stopping France well out of the danger zone. But what really troubled me was China, I couldn't predict his moves and he wasn't responding to me in general. He wasn't talking to Japan either so we made plans to take out China the following year. After talking to Britain, I also mananged to persuade him that in fighting me in the North and in the South, he wasn't very convincing when he talked about operating as two separate countries. I told him that I would be willing to ally up with the Middle East if it lessened its pressure on my southern border and that I would help him against China. Britain had already seen the writing on the wall in the Atlantic and was willing to go along with the scheme.

In 1943 the three of us began to put the pressure on China, and by '44 China's fate was officially sealed. As was the fate of Atlantic Britain.

Also in '44 France finally overcame the Iron Curtain that was my German ally and he began to gain ground. His efforts to do so were obvious the whole board could see them coming a year early. So as he neared this point I reopened talks with France, I really didn't expect much to come out of it, but no harm in fishing for a better deal. I told him what I saw Germany as, an Iron Curtain keeping me safe from him and Britain, and I offered to throw Germany under the bus if he gave me a compelling offer. SidneyKidney was delighted (or seemed so) to be potentially allying with me, but his offers came up being that I would help him take over all of Europe for free. This didn't work for me and the talks came to nothing (I even faux pas'ed and replied to his concerns about the comparative size advantage I had by saying that I was well aware of the "current unequal footing our countries enjoy," France objected to my use of the word "enjoy" and negotiations were quickly and unamicably ended).

Seeing Europe as the final goldmine for victory SCs, I wanted to keep France and Germany fighting for as long as possible. So while abstaining from helping in '44, I finally directly supported Germany in '45, while I began working my way around Europe's edges getting Fleets to surround it and an Army ready to convoy into Spain. With China fallen, Mid-East and Japan had already expressed interest in fighting each other, which suited me just fine. Once again I could freely focus on Europe. By '46 the noose was set for Europe, I had the unexpected fortune of finding a new France who was agreeable to suggestions. Even though I clearly lied to him in Spring of '46, I turned to him in Fall and told him, "So yeah.... I can see why you wouldn't trust me at this point, on the otherhand, you couldn't buy a favor from Germany if you tried now. So, unless you've got something better to try out, what do you have to lose from ordering Paris S North Sea->Low Countries? I can make sure that you at least outlast Germany in return for the favor." His response was, "Lol, you've got some nerve! But I suppose I might as well... may as well help take down Germany, who didn't even reply to my plea for help! I'll support you... in the meanwhile, I'd appreciate it if you didn't try to take Spain/Algiers, but what can I do, eh?" Personally, this was one of my favorite responses during the whole game. It knocked Germany down a peg and I'd bought a favor for free.

By '47 I was really ready to take Europe by storm, noticing that Japan was mopping up North America and had only so many spaces through which he could send units against Mid-East, I began to worry about his ability to uncork the bottle before I could fully ferment the wine. Europe was surrounded and ripe for the taking, but Asia was weak and Japan was in the Atlantic and within a year or two could probably come to the rescue of the beleaguered Europeans. I had to act fast before Japan could fortify his part of Asia and interfere in the Atlantic. I saw Peking was undefensible, and so was Turkey, I just needed 4 more from Europe to make it to 21 and end it before Japan had a chance to make things really difficult, and if I didn't pull it off, at least I would have the troop build up to help back me up. So I hoped for Berlin, Denmark, Yugoslavia & Marseilles. I stalled Germany's suspicions by telling him I was letting him take the Low Countries back, I didn't expect much from it but it was some communication that he could hear, whether or not he chose to believe it. By Fall Berlin was guaranteed. I expected Germany to fight me, but so long as he focused on the Low Countries, I might be able slip into Denmark. So long as he and France were still fighting I could count on taking Yugoslavia. And if Germany was both focused on the Low Countries and still fighting France I might work my way into Marseilles after all. My biggest worries were, Germany and France putting aside thier differences, Japan interfering in the Atlantic and what would happen in '48 if it failed. Could I finish off Germany and France before Mid-East and Japan rescued them? I sent a few messages to Japan and Mid-East, telling Japan I would support his attacks on Mid-East and telling Mid-East I would attack Japan.

In the end, it worked out just fine and I didn't have to worry about '48.

3 Tips for Winning (this will probably come back to hurt, but what the hey).

Communicate! I had at least three players tell me that I was the most communicative competitor they had and another person imply it (Most of these people weren't even my allies at the time). Let people know your intentions as much as it is safe to do so, and sometimes it's ok to float a crazy scheme down the river their way. You never know when they might pick it up. I had zero reason to believe that Mid-East would ease off the pressure, that France1 would offer me a better deal, or that France2 would support me into the Low Countries, but I still suggested the ideas. 2 outta 3 ain't half-bad. Furthermore, the main reason China was eliminated was because neither Japan nor I knew what he was doing, because he simply stopped talking.

Rapid Expansion followed by Slow-Down. This principle keep me growing fast, but without arousing too much attention. Britain kept warning me that if I took 4 SCs in year 1, an ALA would appear, but by slowing down and giving people (particularly Japan) a chance to catch up I allowed attention to flow to other people again. Meanwhile even though I wasn't picking up many SCs while slowing down that doesn't mean I'm not busy, I can battle for position for the next rapid advance. There were a few years when I even told Japan I was only after one or none SCs that year.

Don't Eliminate opponents unless you have to. I was helped out a lot because instead of eliminating Great Britain in both the Atlantic and the Middle East, I kept him around in the Middle East and let him fight China and later Japan. Furthermore it took a lot of work to go around Germany to reach Western Europe. It would've been faster and easier to go right through him, but ... If I went through Germany instead of around him, I would have had to fight France inside Germany's home territory and I wouldn't've been able to count on France and Germany fighting to allow me to take Marseilles and Yugoslavia. Two fighting adversaries caught in a noose is much better than one opponent caught in noose. There was no getting around the elimination of China, keeping him alive would've been a huge liability, but I didn't do much more than take Chungking, other players did the actual eliminating.

Oh, and luck always helps.

Re: Zeus AAR

PostPosted: 24 Aug 2012, 15:30
by Shibabalo
As I joined quite late in the game, I don't have all that much to say about balance.

But, here are my two cents on what happened:

When I joined, I sent messages to both Germany and USSR. The one to Germany was along the lines of: "if I fall, USSR is just going to get you next, so it's in both of our best interests to fight him together" (which turned out to be true). My message to USSR was along the lines of: "if you and Germany kill me, Germany gets most of the gains, but if you and I kill Germany, you get just as many gains as I do." (Which turned out to be not as true.) Germany didn't respond, not until two or three years later, but that's a different story. USSR responded, said he didn't want to commit immediately, but that he wouldn't take any of my scs and that he would eventually attack Germany (lies! lies everywhere!)

So... Germany and USSR pretty much just kept kicking my ass, (although I did support USSR into the German Low Countries) as a desperate attempt to start a flame-war between them) and all I could do was try to hinder their progress. Then, Germany sent me a message asking an alliance against USSR. This was along the time I had asked for messages about something unrelated to Forum Games, and it got lost for a while, until I found it right before a turn was ending. I support a German unit into the Low Countries, as actions speak louder than words, eh? But after that, I was essentially down to just Venice and Rome, (and armies in both!) so I really couldn't help against the USSR...

...anddd he won. Congrats, Morg.

Re: Zeus AAR

PostPosted: 31 Aug 2012, 04:17
by Pedros
I'd like to see some more comments about game balance. Zeus was a contender last time for main site, and Morg's analysis suggests it may not be ready for that. And for those who know Zeus 4 as well, are there differences over balance? (Because last game it looked as though USA was the dominant nation on the map)

Re: Zeus AAR

PostPosted: 31 Aug 2012, 05:25
by Mouse
I enjoyed the game of Zeus5 even as Britain. Even so, it was playing a country which was vastly unpopular with good reason. It was my last choice as it was other people’s last choice. I did receive a series of condolences upon drawing the country. This should probably never happen in a diplomacy variant where there is a country that is sort of a “dud”. Not saying it cannot be won as Britain, but it would be pretty tough.

From USSR’s initial builds, there was no way I could have taken Norway. I was almost forced to attack US. Frankly, the reason why I did attack US was he had no conception of the “writing on the wall” and kept telling me that the USSR fleets were to attack Japan! He claimed to have been there to help “if” the USSR fleets obviously were attacking me, but by that time, it would be too late. He wanted me to concentrate the British forces against the French!

Concerning the USSR vs. the Japanese, there was practically no leverage for those fleets against the Japanese. So I was either allied with an US that had been horribly deceived or was going to soon stab Britain (thus I struck first).

Overall as Britain, I am glad not to have been eliminated.

I allied myself with China, France, and Japan with the sole purpose to try and take down USSR who was obviously allied with Germany. This effort happened immediately after the first builds of USSR before a unit had even moved. China was pretty non-aggressive with everyone and died with a whimper (Britain gave China India with the promise that they would attack USSR). Japan did grow, but failed to attack the US as promptly as I had hoped. Japan did attack the US, but did not have a great deal of momentum and lacked follow-through. I was hoping for a quick down-and-out punch on the US then Japan to engage USSR. This failed to happen though no doubt Japan was still very successful! France was more concerned with what Britain could give to him in immediate gains so he sort of failed to see the writing on the wall. It was really only Britain that was front line vs. USSR so when Britain fell, so did France.

Britain survived because he allied his Middle Eastern forces with USSR (once the West fell). This was done primarily after being a bit disgruntled with allies and having gained a degree of respect for USSR.

OK, as Morg has clearly written, USSR had a decided advantage. For the USSR to fall, it would have required a close couple neighbors to lay siege upon the motherland. Germany would have been mandatory to attack USSR just to equal out the board’s power, but that would not really be in Germany’s best interests.

I do like the variant, but it is far from balanced in my opinion. I would play it again, but would shy away from either being Britain or even USSR!

There was one little glitch that happened that failed to have an actual game impact, but in other games could have been horrible - Spain does have two coasts in this variant. After pointing it out to Ausdevil, we both thought it was best to "let it ride" since it was a bit late to do anything.

As a side note, I communicated extreme amounts. I wrote books to USSR, US, and France. Kept it short and sweet to Japan and China - thought we were on the same page. We allied and had a direction. Japan against the US and China against USSR. Germany... well, there was no response and I knew his position.

Re: Zeus AAR

PostPosted: 31 Aug 2012, 15:52
by Mouse
There is perhaps one way to semi-balance the game. That would be to have set units at game start. If USSR started with an army in Magadan and a fleet on Leningrad (sc) then it would have been a totally different game. If that would have happened then Britain would have probably kept the alliance with US, would have chosen whether to attack USSR, France, Germany, or even the Japaneses!

It reminded me almost of the game of Milan I just joined. I failed to notice the game was a Winter 1900 variant. Unfortunately I also drew Britain. I am not happy being in the game even though the first turn has yet to start! Not that fun when USSR can simply take Norway on the first move then setup for Sweden! ::sigh::

Re: Zeus AAR

PostPosted: 31 Aug 2012, 16:54
by Mouse
Morg mentions that Britain was to play the West and East as two separate countries. That is partially true, but not really what was meant by the statement. The deal is that Britain wasn't going to "Take from Paul to give to Peter" i.e. was going to maintain each area's strengths. When fighting against the USSR, both the West and the East were engaged until it was apparent that the West had fallen. At that point Britain had to let go of previous biases and do what was best for survival. I also wanted to outlive my supposed "allies" of US, France, and China ::sigh::