Art of the Knife XII (Mentor Game) AAR

Discussion of finished games.

Art of the Knife XII (Mentor Game) AAR

Postby Radical Pumpkin » 08 Jun 2017, 05:43

The Art of the Knife XII has ended in a 3-way EGI draw, with a near solo by England in the final years. Congratulations to the draw participants!

ENGLAND: Rhun (3way DRAW)
FRANCE: gababagonist
ITALY: Finlandizer (3way DRAW)
GERMANY: Corbin Kash (3way DRAW)
AUSTRIA: IvanW
TURKEY: bcoli (surrendered Fall 1907); kwc
RUSSIA: Apostol

I encourage all of the players to post their take on the game in this thread--AARs are an excellent learning tool, since they give you a window into how your actions looked from the outside. I'll post some of my own thoughts here in the next few days, with the amount of detail depending on the level of interest from the players.
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Re: Art of the Knife XII (Mentor Game) AAR

Postby Radical Pumpkin » 11 Jun 2017, 06:50

Given the lack of activity, I'm going to be brief with my comments, simply posting some thoughts about the game each player played (excepting surrendered powers and veteran replacements). I'll focus on the strategic angle, since without reading through all the messages, it's the part of the game where I think my comments can be most useful. Obviously without knowing the details of the negotiations and the relationships, I may be missing key information; read this as a competent outside observer's take on the game.

England (Rhun): You obviously played a good game to get to 17 centers. However, there were a few places where I think you could have increased your solo chances significantly. Early on in 1904-1905, you lost some tempo by moving fleets back northward and focusing on finishing off France rather than rushing into the Med. Given that Turkey was exploding at that point, I thought you had a golden opportunity to get into the Med in order to help defend Italy. Of course, the fleets that were sent to help Italy might some day be used to get you over the stalemate line (e.g., grabbing Tunis)! That type of play is often key to soloing.

Then there was the timing of your big stab against Germany. You stabbed in 1908, I believe, right after Germany had picked up 3 builds. You would have been better served to do it a year earlier, since you probably could have prevented Germany from building that season at all. Then his units would have been out of position for defense, and you would have made quicker progress in taking his homeland. At the same time, you would have distracted Germany from helping Italy against Turkey, extending Turkey's life and keeping pressure on Italy from the east in the end game.

Finally, you let your forward armies (the ones across the stalemate line) get trapped in Anatolia, where they couldn't do anything except wait to be picked off by Germany and Italy. When going for a solo, units across the stalemate line are extremely valuable, but their purpose is to help other units get across too. It was more important to keep your eastern armies where they could move freely than to take Turkish centers. Indeed, at the end of the game where Turkey was helping you to win, I think you should have passed on taking his centers: the Turkish fleets were more useful to you than English armies stuck in Turkish home centers!

None of that is meant to take away from the game you played. Converting a strong showing into a solo is hard; I hope next time you get over the line.

FRANCE (gababagonist): You did well tactically, defending longer than England and Germany expected you could, I'm sure. However, you didn't manage to change the diplomatic structure, and without that, eventual elimination was guaranteed. If pulling England and Germany apart wasn't possible, another angle would have been to try to organize an Austria-Italy-Russia (AIR) alliance against Turkey in the East. That would have had to happen early, just because Turkey's growth was so explosive. But it might have allowed the large Eastern alliance to put some pressure on England and Germany, since usually an AIR doesn't need or can't make use of all its resources against Turkey.

GERMANY (Corbin Kash): In the end, you defended against the solo threat well and got a well-deserved draw. I thought you were overly accommodating of your English ally at times, although the English stab wasn't one of those times! The be specific, you ended up holding some real estate that was hard for you to defend if England wanted to stab: Marseille without Paris was one example, and Belgium-Holland-Denmark (but not Sweden!) was another. The second set of centers was hard to hold because your naval presence was so limited, just your starting fleet until 1908. I always think Germany needs two fleets in an alliance with England; the second fleet doesn't do a ton offensively and it doesn't establish naval equality, but it can be enough to slow down a stab by England until Germany repositions its armies.

I also thought you would have been well-served to work with Italy earlier in the game. In 1904, Turkey was exploding, and you moved an army from Galicia to take Warsaw; I thought that keeping the army forward (tempo!) and using it to help Italy would have had a bigger long-term payoff. Warsaw was a center you would be able to get easily in the future. In the meantime, strengthening Italy would weaken Turkey, the main rival to your England-Germany alliance at that point--and if England should ever become hostile, a strong Italy would help you there too. For the same reasons, I thought your 1905 attack against Italy was a mistake. Germany-Italy is one of the most underrated partnerships in this game, in my view!

ITALY (Finlandizer): You also defended well at the end against the solo attempt, and congratulations on the draw. You managed a weak position well in the mid and end game. However, the fundamental reason you were in a weak position, in my view, was your continued attack against Austria in the early game. By the end of 1901, Turkey was a clear threat with its two fleet builds in Constantinople and Smyrna. From my outsider perspective, that was the time to reorganize the diplomatic structure and try to arrange an Austria-Italy-Russia alliance against Turkey. As a side bonus, that alliance also could have put some pressure on England and Germany, keeping the West in flux while the East resolved itself. (Getting a fleet or two past the stalemate line in order to help defend France is an excellent play to set up an Italian solo attempt later!)

By the time Austria and Russia were near dead, you didn't have a lot of cards to play. Turkey almost had to come for you next, and an England-Germany-Turkey 3-way draw would have been far more natural than the England-Germany-Italy draw we saw. (I suspect Turkey's NMRs and surrender helped!) Still, you managed your weak hand well in the end game.

AUSTRIA (IvanW): Well, playing Austria is hard, and playing Austria as a beginner is doubly hard. Your big mistake was leaving yourself open to Italy in the opening, obviously, but sometimes it pays off to trust Italy. Once Italy had attacked you, your only hope was to play Italy and Turkey off against one another, since they were almost bound to come to blows in the near future. I'm not sure to what extent you tried to do that, but you needed one of them as an ally in order to recover.

RUSSIA (Apostol): Fundamentally, you left yourself too open in Spring 1901 (Sevastopol-Rumania, Moscow-Livonia, Warsaw Holds) and you never recovered. Diplomacy is a brutal game like that; one turn of ill-placed trust can sink you, especially if you're just learning how to play and have fewer tools to recover. The England-Germany alliance in the West was unfortunate for you too, since it often means a minor campaign against Russia in the north to go along with the major action against France. Perhaps they could have been convinced to lay off of you in order to slow down Turkey, their main rival across the board. Finally, I'm not sure whether an Austria-Italy-Russia alliance was feasible, but you too would have done better if it could have been arranged!
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Re: Art of the Knife XII (Mentor Game) AAR

Postby IvanW » 24 May 2018, 19:27

Thank you for the comments. I appreciate all the information you provided
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