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Art of the Knife XI (Mentor Game) AAR

PostPosted: 07 Dec 2016, 20:35
by Radical Pumpkin
The Art of the Knife XI has ended in a 3-way draw between Germany, Italy & Turkey.

ENGLAND: 9agair (surrendered Spring 1903); xavier77
FRANCE: BishopOfBagel
ITALY: tzion (3way DRAW)
GERMANY: Tajec (surrendered Fall 1905); Frenchie07001 (3way DRAW)
TURKEY: inigo_montoya (surrendered Spring 1905); Foibleson (3way DRAW)
RUSSIA: Montero

As I said in PM, I thought an Italian solo was achievable at the end, since the Turkish centers were destined to become green eventually and Germany didn't have the position to get to 18 before that. However, there were some tactical battles to be fought along the way, so it's hard to say what the eventual result would have been.

I'll have some thoughts to share in the near future. In the meantime, I'd encourage all the participants to give their take on the game. AARs are a great way to learn, since they give a window into what was going on in the other players' heads without the incentives to mislead that are always present while a game is ongoing.

Re: Art of the Knife XI (Mentor Game) AAR

PostPosted: 07 Dec 2016, 20:47
by Foibleson
I enjoy playing these Mentor games because new players always have a fresh take on things, plus they tend to be nicer than the more experienced players.

Re: Art of the Knife XI (Mentor Game) AAR

PostPosted: 07 Dec 2016, 23:01
by tzion
So at the beginning of the game I was looking around online to figure out what Italy should be doing during the game. I was finding that the key to victory for Italy seems to be working with everyone else and keeping them busy with each other. So I decided to play that role to the T.

At the very beginning of the game I talked to England and France and found out about their deal to leave the Channel empty. England expressed that he was considering taking it though. So I told this to France and really pushed the idea that in order to protect himself he needed control of the Channel. I told Germany about my conversation and he said that France had bought the story and was worried about England. That kept France busy during the next part of the game. I also got an agreement with France that Piedmont and the water below would be a DMZ.

I was worried at the beginning of the game about a Turkey - Russia alliance and so I was talking this up with both Austria and Germany in order to keep them busy fighting them. As Russia got larger I really started pushing Germany to start fighting Russia. This would be pretty regular conversation between the two of us until later in the game.

In the East I was working with Austria on and off and trying to get him to attack Turkey and Russia. While at the same time working with Turkey to attack Austria and Russia as well. This succeeded for a long time.

The biggest threat to me throughout the game was Austria. The original player seemed to be a more experienced player who was willing to throw around the idea that he was more experienced. I was constantly trying to sell him on the idea that I wasn't trying to attack him. This appears to have worked because at some very key moments for me he didn't attack when my forces were very weak. There was a couple of turns where he could have taken control of the Med very easily and then I would have been in a big mess.

Through out the early part of the game I was constantly trying to convince everyone that the current largest player was the biggest threat. I had to sell Germany, Austria, and Turkey on Russia being a huge danger at the beginning of the game. Eventually, I was trying to get Russia, and France to attack Germany. All of this was done in order to slow down the larger player while keeping everyone focused else where.

In the later stages of the game I focused on keeping Germany, Turkey, and Russia fighting each other while I fought both Austria and France. I was in favor of Germany knocking England out of the game while I was fighting France but I am glad he didn't. I started talking to England more around this time and when he reached the Spanish coast I had sold him on the idea of helping me deal with Germany who was getting very large at this point. I offered him Portugal in aid for Spain but he decided to let me take it instead. Germany at this point was not protecting his coastline very well so I suggested that England start taking centers from Germany. This forced Germany into a running fight to keep England from taking his supply centers which kept his focus off of me. I found out from Germany that England was very mad at Germany for treating him as a vassal so that worked out well for me.

In the end I felt like Germany was in a better spot to take more supply centers from me in the center of the board while I was getting prepped to swing in from the left but that was going to take to long. At the same time I was not certain that I was going to succeed at holding the center long enough to take Turkey. I realized a little to late on the last turn that if I did my defense a bit different I would have been able to keep one of the center spots that I had lost.

Anyway I don't have any more time currently to explain my thinking so I will pick this up later this evening.

Re: Art of the Knife XI (Mentor Game) AAR

PostPosted: 08 Dec 2016, 02:57
by Former President Barack H
France here. I'm writing this mostly based on memory, so I might be remembering a few of the details wrong. Here's an account of the story of France most of you may find much longer than necessary:

Beginning the game, I read up on French opening strategy, and gathered that alliances with england tend to work out better for england than france, so I agreed to stay out of the channel without really intending to keep my promise. Germany agreed to help me attack him, and Italy and I recognized it was in both of our best interests at the time to work out a DMZ.

Though the attack on england began rather pleasantly, my paranoia grew as Germany did, and I began to encourage Russia and italy to attack him; this was probably my biggest mistake, because a) no one had given me so much as a hint that they wanted germany gone, b) they both seemed to have had good relations with him, and c) I noticed Italy had a habit of spreading information/rumors, d) England still wasn't eliminated yet, and e) germany had been a completely trustworthy ally up until that point. I debated in my head whether or not to attack italy or Germany, and eventually paranoia won out, and I stabbed Germany, much to my later regret.

At that point, I began to think germany and italy were going to run away with the game, and I tried to bring everyone together against them. That didn't really work out so well, as the new England didn't really like me (with good reason) and russia and turkey were too mistrustful of each other. Russia did eventually attack germany, though I don't think I can credit myself on that one, and it was too little too late.

I felt bad for having stabbed germany, so I decided to focus my efforts on defending against Italy while letting germany take paris. I hoped that might make Italy wary of germany, but they worked together very well, and with england on their side I stood no chance. I mostly stopped paying attention to the game after 1905.

Montero, I found your messages to be very well written and entertaining to read, even when you weren't doing what I wanted you to do.

It was a bit disappointing, because I believe I could have done much better. All the same, congrats to the survivors for a game well played. :)

Re: Art of the Knife XI (Mentor Game) AAR

PostPosted: 09 Dec 2016, 08:57
by Radical Pumpkin
I'm going to try sharing my thoughts in a slightly different format, addressing the main strategic turning points I see from each player's point of view (and focusing only on the original mentees who stuck with the game). My comments are mostly on the critical side, but this was really a pretty strong group. It was clear that you were engaging seriously with the game and that you were thinking about the strategic implications of your choices. If, in my view, you sometimes misjudged those strategic implications... well, that's something very hard to get right without the experience of many games under your belt. Keep in mind also that I haven't really read any of the private press, so I could well be missing some key bits of insight, and I won't be commenting on the (essential!) diplomatic side of the game.

tzion (Italy)

I thought tzion had a pretty decent first few years. If there was a mistake there, it was in letting Turkey grow a bit too strong; once Turkey grows past 4-5 centers, it's quite hard to shrink it back down, and the Turkish fleet builds at the end of 1902 nixed any hope of long-term peace with Italy. To tzion's credit, I think, he made up with Austria immediately after those builds... but then launched a campaign against France! That was biting off a bit too much, in my view. In general, you want to concentrate your forces on one opponent at a time if possible. Attacking France made life easier for Germany, but it meant that Turkey could continue to prosper, and those Med fleets to Italy's east needed to be dealt with. Throughout the game, in fact, I thought tzion's life was made more difficult by letting Turkey linger as an intermittent enemy. Even at the end of the game, Italy's western naval presence was weak, because Turkey was still a factor on the eastern front.

There were a couple of strategic plays that could have helped to address this issue. The first was to form an alliance with Russia--or if not an alliance, at least some level of cooperation against Turkey--which would have had the side benefit of slowing German growth by strengthening the Russian position. A risk for Italy in the IR alliance is that Russia can often grow more quickly, but here tzion had enough of a head start not to worry. I understand now, of course, that the IR alliance was off the table due to a fundamentally damaged relationship. Secondly, tzion might have worked out some kind of cease-fire with France. Again, strengthening France would have had the side benefit of slowing Germany, and tzion might have been able to keep some units to the west with France in a kind of vassal status. (Protecting a weak France while getting past the main stalemate lines early is perhaps my favorite Italian play.)

It looks to me like tzion realized that staying ahead of Germany was an issue, and there were a few little stabs along the way to help accomplish that. That tzion managed to keep an apparently decent relationship with Germany after those stabs is a credit to his diplomatic abilities. In the end, those abilities were enough to get a strong shot at a solo. I think either a little more strategic flexibility in the mid game or a little more tactical confidence in the end game would have been enough for 18.

Montero (Russia)

Montero had a rough start with two hostile neighbors in Austria & Turkey, but he recovered nicely and was in a fine position by 1903-1904. The fundamental mistake, I think, was taking on too many conflicts in 1905: a hot war with Turkey, an attempt to protect Austria from the Italian invasion, and a brand new incursion into Germany. There was a rationale to all three fights, but by trying to battle on three fronts at once, Montero lost all of them. The ideal solution, from my point of view, would have been an alliance with Italy--give up on defending Austria, gain help against Turkey, and pull Italy back eastward so that Germany will be left facing England & France alone. Again, I understand now that personality conflicts explain why this didn't happen. However, a Turkish alliance would have been an acceptable substitute, effectively turning the game into "everyone against the Germany-Italy alliance" and positioning Russia as a dominant power in the "everyone" alliance. There was a Russia-Turkey alliance for a little while around 1909, but it seemed to fall apart quickly; I'm not sure what the story behind that might be.

At any rate, I think the invasion of Germany was a sound idea and could have succeeded, but the moves on the board needed to be supported by a diplomatic realignment off the board.

BishopOfBagel (France)

The critical French error was the 1903 stab against Germany. There were some sound strategic reasons for the stab: Germany had outpaced French growth, and it was reasonable to worry that France wouldn't be allowed to quietly catch up while Germany twiddled her toes. In addition, one might be forgiven for supposing that the Turkish fleet builds at the end of 1902 would put any Italian invasion plans to rest! However, the stab had little potential to take significant territory from Germany in the short term, and no allies were recruited to fight Germany on another front. A better strategy, in my opinion, would have been to push Germany to engage on another front, then look for opportunities to stab that would take territory and leave her disbanding while fighting multiple enemies.

If Bishop's read was that Germany was too chummy with both Russia & Italy to fight either of them, then that's a tough spot. My response probably would have been to try to raise Russian paranoia about the long term future should Germany be allowed to balloon, then to try to orchestrate a Russia-Turkey alliance that would put pressure on Germany & Italy from the east. The fact that Montero invaded Germany in 1905 suggests he might have been receptive to the right pitch earlier!

KrisB (Austria)

Unfortunately, I think KrisB's big mistakes occurred in 1901, and Austria just isn't very forgiving of early mistakes. Ending 1901 with zero builds is a difficult hole to get out from. To his credit, KrisB clearly kept up the diplomatic game, and the support for Turkey into Rumania in Spring 1902 was exactly the right kind of idea. Unfortunately, by allaying Juggernaut fears, it may have also encouraged tzion to stab in the Fall. After that, the only hope was to become some other power's vassal, and that never full worked out.

Those are my main thoughts, but as always, I welcome any questions!

Re: Art of the Knife XI (Mentor Game) AAR

PostPosted: 09 Dec 2016, 14:52
by Frenchie07001
As Germany from mid to end game, I will post some thoughts tonight. I enjoy reading these.

Re: Art of the Knife XI (Mentor Game) AAR

PostPosted: 09 Dec 2016, 20:44
by tzion
One thing I should explain is my treatment of Austria. Austria and I were trying to work together up until I stabbed him in 1902. The stab was really designed to prevent him from getting another army. This was a success and it basically meant he stalled out. I wanted him to help fight Turkey but he didn't seem to be interested at all in doing my suggestions. So I eventually did a very public threat against him by sending him a long message that said that if he didn't do what I was asking him I was going to finish him off that year. Whether or not this was even possible I'm not sure. I included everyone but Turkey in the message. France was not at all happy about me doing this and so he eventually added Turkey to the conversation. At this point, I decided that France was a good target instead. Near the end of the turn I changed my orders starting the move West. I got very lucky at this time that Turkey wasn't playing very well or at all. If he had been I probably would not have bee able to do the war I did. I watched as Germany left England alive on the board and knew that a vasal wasn't a good idea because they only had to gain a couple of supply centers and then they would be back in. I realized that leaving France alive would cause problems down the road and would tie up troops to keep him contained. So instead I decided to wipe him and Austria out so they couldn't bite me later on. My aversion to having vasals was shown to be a good thing in this game since I was able to sell England on attacking Germany instead of me. I offered him supply centers so he could fight and he took them. It worked out great.

Re: Art of the Knife XI (Mentor Game) AAR

PostPosted: 10 Dec 2016, 08:44
by Radical Pumpkin
tzion wrote:I watched as Germany left England alive on the board and knew that a vasal wasn't a good idea because they only had to gain a couple of supply centers and then they would be back in. I realized that leaving France alive would cause problems down the road and would tie up troops to keep him contained. So instead I decided to wipe him and Austria out so they couldn't bite me later on. My aversion to having vasals was shown to be a good thing in this game since I was able to sell England on attacking Germany instead of me. I offered him supply centers so he could fight and he took them. It worked out great.

I should clarify what I have in mind when I refer to "vassals" or "Janissaries." If you continue to have a bad relationship with another power, and one of their principle goals is to get revenge on you, they're not your vassal in my book. If someone irredeemably has it out for you, then eliminate them, by all means. However, it's sometimes possible to throw another player a lifeline and use them against a third party, especially if that third party was already an enemy of theirs. They might still hope to find an opportunity to stab and get back into the game, but that's not dominating their mindset. E.g., I could imagine BishopOfBagel (France) working with you while fighting Germany, effectively keeping Germany in stasis while you mopped up Turkey. Maybe it couldn't have worked out that way in this game--it depends on the players a lot, not just the positions on the board--but that kind of thing definitely does work out fairly often.