"Scottish Opening Strategy in Heptarchy"

British Isles based variant starting in 651. Created by Geoff Bache. Brought to site by sroca. {Final Map Visible in Game 8}
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"Scottish Opening Strategy in Heptarchy"

Postby luckythirteen » 31 Oct 2013, 00:48

"Scottish Opening Strategy in Heptarchy" or "Exploring The Impact Of F GLA"

In my most recent game of Heptarchy (DVFG Heptarchy #9), I drew Northumbria. We were testing a modified setup from the original variant in which Northumbria started with 3 armies in DUR, YOR, and LAN and Scotland started with a fleet in ABE and armies in GLA and EDI. There were a few other changes to the variant's original setup, but I do not feel they had a major impact on this discussion. In this game I felt there was something "off" between the relationship between Scotland and Northumbria and wanted to explore that a little more.

Based on map position, it appears to me that Scotland's most natural options for expansion are to grow into either Ireland or Northumbria. Triple alliances open up Wales or Mercia as possible places to grow into, but to me these feel less efficient and would probably lead to conflict in the triple down the road.

At face value, this seems pretty balanced. Having two places to grow into seems fair and allows for a lot of diplomatic possibilities. The problem is that from my perspective playing Northumrbia, it appeared *much* easier for Scotland to grow into Northumbria. It appears *so* much easier for Scotland to grow into Northumbria that I cannot really see a reason why Scotland would ever want to grow anywhere else unless he was *forced* to move into Ireland because of the Diplomatic situation on the board (i.e.; no one else will ally with him so he has no other choice). Wales, Merica, or Ireland (or any combination of the three) can ally with Scotland and help the Scot gain SCs in Northumbria. On the flip side, none of Scotland's neighbors have fleets that can easily help against Ireland. While it is true that both Northumbria or Wales (or arguably Cornubia) could build fleets in 652 to help Scotland into Ireland, Ireland can also use his 652 build(s) for fleets that make it very difficult for any two parties to break through the Irish mainland. It almost seems like it would take an effort from at least 3 different countries to seriously threaten Ireland, and in that case there just aren't that many SCs to go around. Also, once Scotland commits to fleets he has to go somewhere next, and it seems to me the neighbor who helped Scotland into Ireland will now appear a pretty attractive mid-game target for Scotland and a cross-board ally.

First, I was hoping to explore other strategies for Scotland with the current setup. Is there a realistic option that others see (that I'm obviously missing) that could help Scotland grow somewhere else besides Northumbria? This is the foundation my complaint is built on, so if that's faulty, modifying the setup is not necessary.

Second, *if* I am correct that Scotland should try to attack Northumbria 100% of the time, is there a way to fix this? My first thought was that if Scotland started with a fleet in GLA instead of an army, he would still be able to take STR and support himself into DUM, but would also have the option of bouncing in NCH (ala the English Channel in classic Dip), making a risky play for HEB/HBS, or even some more creative options like convoying Irish armies into Northumbria or Wales. In short, I just feel the fleet is a lot more flexible than the army.

The major risk that I see here is that the reverse situation might happen where a Northumbria/Scottish attack on Ireland becomes the obvious choice. I don't think this would be as bad though because Northumbria can easily be attacked by Wales or Mercia, so Northumbria would be easier to control diplomatically.

I'd love to get the thoughts of others on this, particularly those that have been in this situation in past games and seen different board setups. Also, all of this being said, I think the current setup is very playable, I just enjoyed it so much I'd like to see if there was a way to make it even better. :geek:
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

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Re: "Scottish Opening Strategy in Heptarchy"

Postby presser84 » 31 Oct 2013, 01:30

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Re: "Scottish Opening Strategy in Heptarchy"

Postby luckythirteen » 31 Oct 2013, 23:09

Analysis of Scottish openings from the 9 completed Heptarchy games so far:

GAME 1
    Spring 651 Orders

    • A EDI - SUP
    • F GLA - NCH
    • F ABE - NWG

    Primary Opponent(s):Ireland

    Outcome for Scotland: Loss

    Summary: This games features very early conflict between Ireland and Scotland. Both players bounce in NCH and both go try for HEB. In the AAR the Irish player suggests that the starting fleet in GLA means there is little incentive for Scotland to open anywhere besides NCH so he can try and force HEB. He also suggests that every other nation benefits from a deadlock between Scotland and Ireland.
GAME 2
    Spring 651 Orders

    • A EDI - SUP
    • F GLA - NCH
    • F ABE - NWG

    Primary Opponent(s):Ireland

    Outcome for Scotland: Draw

    Summary: In Game two, Scotland uses the same orders as seen in game 1. This time we see the power of a successful Scottish move to NCH. There are no AARs for this game so I do not see any opinions from other players. From what I can see, it appears Scotland and Northumbria have a non-aggression agreement and Scotland almost single handedly dismantles Ireland. Northumbria does join in the attack on Ireland, but it does not happen until very late in the game.
GAME 3
    Spring 651 Orders

    • A EDI - SUP
    • F GLA - STR
    • F ABE - NWG

    Primary Opponent(s): Northumbria

    Outcome for Scotland: DNF

    Summary: This game never finished so we don't know the outcome. Without an AAR or map, it was a little difficult for me to follow the results of this game, but on the last completed turn both Ireland and Scotland seemed to be active players. From how I'm reading the board, I believe that Ireland and Scotland were allied against Northumbria. This is the only game in which a Scottish player with a starting fleet in GLA did not choose to open to NCH. It is also the only game where Scotland started with a fleet in GLA and Northumbria was the obvious primary opponent.
GAME 4
    Spring 651 Orders

    • A EDI - SUP
    • A GLA - STR
    • F ABE - FOF

    Primary Opponent(s): Northumbria

    Outcome for Scotland: Loss

    Summary: First game with the modified setup of an army in GLA. Ireland and Scotland appear to have a non-aggression agreement of sorts. Scotland seemed to do pretty well in this game until he started NMR'ing. These NMRs significatnly impacted the outcome for Scotland in this game. He was doing well until that point.
GAME 5
    Spring 651 Orders

    • A EDI - SUP
    • A GLA - STR
    • F ABE - FOF

    Primary Opponent(s): Northumbria

    Outcome for Scotland: Draw

    Summary: There is some great commentary on the Scottish position for this game in the AAR for this game. Scotland opened neutrally and then decided to attack Northumbria. On the same turn Scotland attacked Northumbria, he was stabbed by Ireland forcing him to change tactics. He was able to fall back to a defensive position and survived as a member of the draw.
GAME 6
    Spring 651 Orders

    • A EDI - SUP
    • A GLA - STR
    • F ABE - NWG

    Primary Opponent(s): Ireland and Northumbria

    Outcome for Scotland: Loss

    Summary: This was a very interesting scenario for me. In this game, Scotland supports attacks on *both* of his neighbors with some success. This is a Diplomatic scenario I had not considered previously and shows one the strengths of the Heptarchy variant. It is important to note that the setup for Northumbria was significantly different than previous games. In this game, Northumbria had a fleet on the east coast. It is possible that this setup played into the strategy that was used. Regardless, I believe this game does demonstrate that with good Diplomacy, Scotland has options even if he is forced to fight against both of his neighbors.
GAME 7
    Spring 651 Orders

    • A EDI - SUP
    • F GLA - NCH
    • F ABE - NWG

    Primary Opponent(s): Ireland

    Outcome for Scotland: Loss

    Summary: In this game, Scotland is given the fleet in GLA again. Scotland made an all out assault on Ireland, leaving his home centers vulnerable to a stab from Northumbria. Things went very badly for the Scottish player but I am of the opinion this is an atypical result. One thing we've consistently seen in other games is that Scotland has a nice ability to turtle when necessary. In this game, I believe that if Scotland had played a bit more defensively, he may have had opportunities to work with a cross board partner and been OK. In the AAR, the Northumbrian player commented that he felt Scotland and Northumbria were doomed to conflict, even *with* Scotland starting with a fleet in GLA. He shared an almost identical sentemant to my own feelings when I played Northumbria except that I assumed the fleet might make things better.
GAME 8
    Spring 651 Orders

    • A EDI - SUP
    • A GLA - STR
    • F ABE - NWG

    Primary Opponent(s): Ireland and Northumbria

    Outcome for Scotland: Loss

    Summary: In this game, Scotland starts with an army in GLA. There are not a lot of details on this game. It appears Scotland suffered a joint attack from Northumbria and Ireland in this game and unlike game 6, was unable to find a Diplomatic solution to help him out. He was eliminated very early.
GAME 9
    Spring 651 Orders

    • A EDI - SUP
    • A GLA - STR
    • F ABE - NWG

    Primary Opponent(s): Ireland and Northumbria

    Outcome for Scotland: Loss

    Summary: This is the game I played. In short, there was a slow joint Ireland and Northumbrian attack on Scotland that bottled Scotland up, but did not eliminate him until near the end of the game. There is a chance that through diplomacy Scotland might have had an opportunity to ally with a neighbor against Northumbria in the mid-game but (fortunately for me!) this did not happen. In this game I was under the impression that there was no good way for Northumbria and Scotland to ally and that conflict between the two countries was inevitable. Ireland commented that he felt very secure in his position and Scotland felt the fleet in GLA would have given him more diplomatic options.

Analisys of the Openings:

A Edinburgh

A EDI - SUP
    This was ordered in 100% of the completed games on this site. It gives you a shot at DUM and you can still defend EDI if Northumbria moves to NMB. I assume this will be the standard opening for EDI.
A EDI - NMB
    This is a very aggressive move that will almost ensure Scotland and Northumbria are fighting from turn one. This opening has never been used in any of the completed games. I would only ever use this if I had support from one of Northumbria's neighbors as part of a coordinated joint attack, or if I somehow knew that Northumbria was going to do an all-out assault on Scotland as a defensive move.

F Aberdeen

F ABE - NWG
    This opening was used in 2/3 of the completed games on this site. Most of the time this was used as an anti-Irish opening (usually to try and keep Ireland out of HEB) but it's greatest strength is that it provides a lot of flexibility so it can be used neutrally. When combined with F GLA - NCH, this opening has almost always been anti-Irish. When combined with F/A - STR it has been used against Northumbria as well. It has also been suggested that Scotland could use a move to NWG in a play for FLA or to move behind Ireland's lines into NAO, but this has not happened on this site.

F ABE - FFT
    This is usually a defensive opening, often used to ensure an army in SUP is able to move to DUM in F 651. This opening usually means that Scotland does not trust Northumbria. In 100% of the games on this site, there has been early conflict between Northumbria and Scotland when this opening is used.

F Glasgow

F GLA - NCH
    This seems to be the default opening for the completed games on this site (used 75% of the time) and based on the results so far, definitely suggests anti-Irish intent. In all three completed games where Scotland has moved to NCH, Ireland has been his primary target. I don't think this has to be the case though. I view this as similar to ENG in classic Diplomacy and think Ireland and Scotland could have an arranged bounce and still end up working together. It's even better for Scotland than the situation with classic Diplomacy because Scotland can bounce Ireland in the Spring and still take STR in the fall to get a build.
F GLA - STR
    This was used in 25% of the completed games on this site (one game ;)) and in that game it was used as an anti-Northumbrian opening. The opening certainly suggests there is some trust with Ireland because it allows Ireland to control NCH if he wants it, but in my opinion it's a pretty neutral opening that allows Scotland to delay a decision on who he allies with until the Winter 651 builds. Unless Northumbria makes a very strong effort to force DUM, this opening almost guaruntees two builds for Scotland, one of which could be an additional fleet in GLA to be used against Ireland.

A Glascow

A GLA - STR
    This was ordered in 100% of the completed games on this site. It seems the obvious choice and I would assume it would be a standard opening. It has the same plusses and negatives of F GLA - STR, except that it seems more neutral because there really aren't any other good options.
A GLA - SUP
    This has never been ordered in any of the completed games, but I guess it could be used in conjunction with A EDI - NMB to make a *very* aggressive move against Northumbria (perhaps in conjunction with Mercia or Wales).


Closing Thoughts:

Clearly there are simply not enough samples to do a proper analysis of Scotland's openings in Heptarchy. However, I've noticed a few trends.

  1. It appears to be in the best interest of every other player in the game to see Scotland and Ireland attacking each other in the early game. The corollary is that Northumbria benefits most from this scenario and no power wants to see Northumbria grow too powerful. As a result, the situation tends to balance itself out through Diplomacy.
  2. Scotland's best long term option seems to be attacking Northumbria. However, like a weaker version of Turkey in classic Diplomacy, Scotland seems to be able to play a pretty defensive game. If it is not diplomatically feasible for Scotland to attack Northumbria, he can often fall back to a defensive position and find a mid-game alliance that keeps him in the game (often with Wales or Mercia).
  3. While it is obvious that Ireland suffers when Scotland starts with the fleet in GLA, he at least has some strong Diplomatic options that Scotland does not have simply because Northumbria has more neighbors than Ireland.
  4. In games where Scotland begins with an army in GLA, the following orders were used in *every* game:

    A EDI - SUP
    A GLA - STR

    Unless I had strong diplomatic reasons to do otherwise, I would agree that this is the optimal opening for Scotland when starting with an army in GLA. This means that the only real decision that Scotland has to make about their opening orders is where to move the fleet in ABE. That is just not a very interesting choice.

Based on the above (primarily the last point more than for any other reason), I am still of the opinion the fleet in GLA is the right unit for Scotland. This is the original design of the variant and I see no strong positives from the change to the army.

Edit for spelling.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

--Aristotle
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