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A Good Time Had By All (AAR) (Mentor Game)

PostPosted: 13 Aug 2017, 07:31
by darksaberx

Austria: stellarWind (4Way Draw) 6 SC
Turkey: goozmaster (4Way Draw) 9 SC
England: Greenflame (4way Draw) 7 SC
France: darksaberx (4way Draw) 12 SC
Russia: leofernandez (eliminated 1906)
Italy: wifidelity (eliminated 1907)
Germany: Meanpete (eliminated 1906)

First of all, congratulations to everyone for a game well played (especially the last minute three way coalition that brought me to a halt!). This was one of the first games I had played, and the experience was overwhelmingly positive. We had almost no NMRs and no one surrendered (pretty amazing in a mentor game!).


This was my first time every playing as France, but I had done a lot of reading, so I knew where I was going to begin my negotiations. My first order of business was to contact England, requesting a DMZ in the English channel, as this seems to be the greatest threat area in early game. It is possible for a power to occupy EC without starting a war, but this early on, such a thing seemed extremely dangerous to both of us. Next, I contacted Germany, in order to figure out the dynamics in the West. I had already determined that a Western Triple would be unwieldy, unnecessary, and unlikely given Russia/Turkey relations (more on that later), therefore I would have to choose a long term ally in either Germany or England. At this point, I didn't try to force an alliance with either, as no one has proven themselves trustworthy yet, but I mentioned that I was open to allying in messages to each. Fortunately for me, England responded enthusiastically to my proposal about DMZing the Channel and expressed that he was also open to a future alliance. Germany also responded to me affirmatively, but seemed more non-committal, short-winded, and vague which did not endear me to him initially. Tactically, I had been favoring a F-G alliance, but after these, replies I found myself more inclined towards England.

I also reached out to Russia, as Russia can play a large part in determining how England will play. In addition, I wanted to make sure that a juggernaut was unlikely to form. Russia was extremely friendly, but seemed to be kind of on his own alliance-wise. He mentioned that him and Turkey hadn't hit it off very well, and he was unsure of Austria's position. Intrigued, I reached out to Turkey, and heard a similar story, albeit different enough to convince me that they weren't colluding. I did my best to stoke this flame, feeding Turkey's suspicions of Russia. Turkey couldn't understand why Russia seemed to be giving him the cold shoulder, and I convinced him that it was likely that Russia had another ally, so he deemed Turkey unnecessary. I "deduced" that this ally would likely be Austria, and convinced Turkey that he needed to win Austria over and open defensively. Meanwhile, I told Russia that rough negotiations with Turkey probably meant that he would open defensively, and therefore Russia would be forced to open South. I was unsure of Austria's position, but I really didn't care who won, as long as a massive fight took place in the East, while I handled the West.

I suggested a DMZ in Piedmont and the waters below, and Italy agreed, but only sent me a one line message. This worried me as a neighbor due to the stabby nature of Italy as a country, and the red flag of almost no communication tends to be.

Opening moves went without issue. England and I moved away from the Channel, Russia and Austria/Turkey prepped for a full scale war, and Italy respected the DMZ.


My game was off to a swell start, as I was set for three builds in 1901. England and I had really hit it off, and coordinated moves meticulously. I remained "friendly" with Germany in the mean time. England and I agreed that he would go North, and I would go South, and then we would do a pincer attack on Germany. Therefore, I would get Belgium and Germany would get Holland amidst a "negotiation" with England and Germany, where England would seem to concede reluctantly.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Russia coalition I have helped prod is getting ridiculous. Russia gets 0 builds and actually loses Sevastopol while Germany bounces him out of Sweden, and Turkey and Austria move in for the kill.

While I am getting my 3 builds, I am quietly preparing for an attack on Germany, and also position myself to move against Italy. Italy had remained mute, a worrying sign, especially given his failure to gain any builds. I had decided that Italy must go to secure my Southern advance.


I construct the beginnings of my assault forces: armies in Paris and Brest for use against Germany, and a fleet in Marseilles for Italy. Looking back, I'm kind of surprised they didn't recognize this as a red flag.



I move my armies into position on the German border. England finally gains traction in the North (he messed up an earlier convoy, slowing his progress, ultimately a very bad thing for me in terms of parity or lack thereof). In my preparation for my assault on Italy, I had reached out to Austria, and we had both agreed that a non-communicative Italy was a dangerous neighbor indeed, and needed to be killed quickly. We agreed on an even split of SC's with myself getting Tunis and Naples, and Austria gaining Venice and Rome. Therefore, we move attack forces into position in coordination. Russia continues to have a very bad time and be attacked by all of his neighbors. I am still talking to both Turkey and Russia to ensure that the conflict keeps going.


Russia is basically eliminated by everyone around him. I think that he could have survived this if he had employed a bit more diplomacy and gotten at least one of his neighbors to turn on the other, but I think everyone was surprised at the scale of the attack. A/T is still surprisingly solid (or so I believe), and Germany decides to move towards Russia.

I take Tunis and strike Italy a joint blow with Austria taking Venice. I roll into Ruhr as England stabs Germany for Denmark. According to England, Germany had tried convincing England to stab me, which ended all of my doubts about whether to attack Germany. Germany was no longer merely in my way, but a real threat that needed to be dealt with.


England gets three builds, finally.

Germany recognizes that he is facing a joint attack, and tries to enlist me to help him attack England. If not for three factors, I would have taken him up on the offer:

A: England just got three builds, and he will be freaking difficult to attack without allowing him to dig in.
B: Germany and I do not have complementary forces in terms of fleets/armies and positioning.
C: Germany has already proved that he cannot be trusted very well, as I saw when he tried to convince England to stab me. Ironically, the stabbing intent wasn't what worried me. Rather, I was more worried that he had approached England, but never had approached me in a similar way, leading me to believe that he strongly preferred to work with England. This meant that any alliance with him would probably be merely a very temporary alliance at best, and a trap at worst.

I convince Germany that I am fully on board with his plan to move against England, while keeping England in the loop to prevent any suspicion. This was rather tricky, as I had to make my plans realistic enough to be believable, but not give away any of my actual intentions. In order to do this, I constructed a plan that would be how I really would attack England with Germany's cooperation. I put the same amount of work -if not more- that I would a plan I really intended to follow through with. I even managed to convince Germany that building an army in Paris was part of my plan to attack England.

In the course of negotiating Germany, I had asked what he could possibly offer me, expecting him to offer me a SC or support. Instead, he gave me something infinitely more valuable: Turkey. Turkey and Germany had been working together, and Germany said that he would convince Turkey to let me in on the alliance. Naturally, I demanded proof from Turkey himself. Once Turkey had broached the subject and confirmed that he was allied with Germany, I set about convincing Turkey that an E/F/T alliance was a much better choice. Turkey decided to side with me over Germany, but continued to message Germany with me to keep him off the scent.



I stab Germany (again), and get Holland. England guesses wrong with his attacks. Austria and Turkey give Italy "the boot" out of the Balkans (the puns are real). I didn't tell Turkey any of my plans in the Mediterranean for several turns (by principle, I tend to operate on need to know basis), leading to some bounces while Austria continues moving through Italy. Austria is now becoming pushy because he has a foothold in Italy, and insists that we renegotiate dividing Italy's SC's. Turkey seems unable to get rid of Russia.


I continue to coordinate my moves carefully with England. I make even more progress against Germany, seizing the first of his home SC's. England still fails to make progress in the North, while I push on through the South. In retrospect, this lack of parity should have been a massive red flag, but hindsight is 20-20 I guess. To be clear, England and I had decided to split the German supply centers:

England: Sweden, Denmark, Berlin, Warsaw
France: Holland, Kiel, Munich

I was only taking the supply centers we had agreed on, and I thought that England getting the better deal would be enough to appease him.

I convince Turkey that Austria should die, so we begin to move against him. However, we have a miscommunication about Naples and we accidentally bounce.


I build an army for the Southern theater. The Brest fleet build was merely a precaution for both myself and England. We were entering the stage of the game where both of our forces would be overextended, and stabbing would be easy. The fleet in Brest would remain there, preventing England from easily stabbing me through the Channel, but preventing me from building any more fleets in the North. I communicated as much to England, and he agreed, however much he ground his teeth.



I finally move into Naples after clearing up confusion with Turkey and establishing borders in the Mediterranean (He gets Ionian sea, but cannot go beyond. I can move through Italy as I please, so long as I do not move against the Ionian.)

Austria is surprised by this show of strength, and realizes why his earlier threats were not very effective at cowing me. I claim Munich, England kicks Germany out of Sweden (finally), but loses St. Petersburg to a particularly nasty surprise support from Turkey. Turkey and Austria continue fighting in the Balkans with almost complete gridlock.


Arguably a subtle yet crucial season.

I take Rome, and hold Munich while Turkey and Austria continue fighting to little net effect. I had reached an agreement with Italy to take him on as a Janissary.
Germany keeps St. Petersburg.

England tries to stab me, but for some reason goes for the most ineffectual stab possible. Interested to hear the reasoning behind that.


I confront England about his treachery, as I am still confused why he stabbed when he did. He responds that I am currently a huge solo threat, and that he will do everything in his power to stop me. Darn. I try to convince him otherwise, but he doesn't want to hear it.

I realize that England has 4 fleets in the North to my 1, meaning that I'll have to hold out until I can get fleet in the area to fight back. I build defensively, and begin planning my next moves.



I plan out all of the possible ways England could attack me, and all of my possible responses. I realize that it isn't possible for me to cover all of my SC's and the Channel, so I intentionally leave Belgium open, knowing that I can either gain the Channel and kick England out of Belgium in Fall, or bounce him out of the channel, and keep Belgium. England takes the bait. I continue trying to reason with England, but he refuses to negotiate at all. He does let slip that he is working with "other countries", which is very bad news for me. I convince Turkey to take Warsaw to weaken Germany.


It appears that England, Russia, and Germany are all coordinating against myself and Turkey. I continue to hold my positions, and kick England out of Belgium as I keep the Channel and get fleets into position. I flub my moves against Germany.


I manage to get a fleet build in Brest, but England is still ahead in the North by 2 fleets and has had plenty of time to dig in to one hell of a defensive position. I begin to realize that I am in for a LONG and bloody war.



Turkey and Austria continue fighting.

Italy moves toward Marseilles, causing me to panic. I frantically message Italy, asking why he is suddenly stabbing me (tl;dr, I was an idiot and didn't notice Austria's moves). He replied that he was simply acting out of survival, as Austria would otherwise destroy him. I offer to make him a full ally, give him Rome, and support him to Venice. He agrees, much to my relief.

In the North, the situation continues to look grim. I have surrounded England, but he has a powerful defense. I will have to get extremely lucky in guessing his moves to break through in any meaningful way, and it is unlikely I can hold any land gains in England. England becomes impatient with Germany and stabs him, taking St. Petersburg.


I finally take Berlin and Irish Sea, but I cannot effectively defend an entire coast and attack England.

My campaign in the North has left me dangerously low on troops in the South. I am desperate to continue to make headway, so I devise a F/I/T assault on Austria. They both go for it excitedly. Unfortunately, Turkey moves to Apulia, which he claimed to be a last minute move to gain Austria's trust. He then builds fleets, and moves away from Austria, leading me to believe that he is about to stab me. I have to trust him still, and hope he is not stabbing me, as I really can't do anything about a determined stab in the South any time soon.


Turkey stabs me. England anticipates my exact plan to take Liverpool and inputs the only set of moves capable of stopping it. Austria takes Venice.
At this point the solo dream is long dead. I try reasoning with England, nope. Austria won't agree to anything, and Turkey is just going to stab me some more. I even try to create draw proposals excluding Austria to see if I can get Austria eliminated for a 3way draw. Nope.


I agree to a 4 way draw. A bit of a disappointing finish, as I really would have liked to see someone try for the solo, but whatever.

Player Thoughts:

England: We worked really well together, really enjoyed communicating with you and working out strategy. Kind of bummed you chose to gridlock me instead of actually stabbing for your own solo once I was overextended. You seem to be really good at diplomacy, considering you managed to put together an effective anti-solo coalition so quickly, but I think learning a bit more about tactics would be very beneficial for you.

Turkey: Good ally, sharp player. Put lots of thought and strategy into messages and moves, and planned his stab well. Good job. Again though, tactics are a part of the game, and you had several opportunities to kill Russia that you missed because of tactical missteps.

Austria: Didn't really interact that much as allies. Seemed sharp and polite from what I did see. Be careful with threats, though. Threats make dangerous and permanent enemies, whether you carry through or not. Good job holding against the Turkish assault though!

Italy: We got off on the wrong foot, and I'm rather sorry that we did. I think we could've been good allies if we had had more communication at the beginning. It sounds like real life was really what kept your from sending me long messages, but unfortunately I didn't understand that, and attacked you immediately. However, you did stay reasonable, you didn't surrender, and you convinced me to keep you, first as a janissary, then as an ally. Hopefully you don't get Italy next time.

Russia: Seemed nice and was extremely friendly. Just so you know, my advice was genuine, but I do feel a bit bad about rallying so much of an anti-Russia coalition. Unfortunately, you didn't manage to stop the assault diplomatically, and you failed to make real allies, so you got torn apart. Kudos for staying alive so long though! Thought Turkey would never get you.

Germany: Sorry for stabbing you so much. I'm honestly sad that we didn't start off the game as allies, because we clearly have complimentary personalities and play styles. I really respect your pragmatism and levelheadedness though. It takes a lot to be able to make genuine plans with the person who just stabbed you.

Lastly, I would like to say thank you to Zaynation for carefully providing guidance and answering my questions, no matter how basic.

I would love to hear the other players thoughts, as well as Zaynation's, so please tell me what y'all thought about the game!

Re: A Good Time Had By All (AAR) (Mentor Game)

PostPosted: 13 Aug 2017, 18:17
by Zaynation
A good recap all around. I've seen a lot of power in early France/England alliances recently. Combined with the early campaigns against Russia, then Germany, it was a successful strategy. Hard to say what would have helped you get a better result, but once everyone banded together against you it was pretty hard to come back. I would guess that if you all decided to keep it going longer, France personally would have lost some ground but Austria may have been eliminated.

Final lessons: Early game is critical to avoid getting crushed, but there's never really a time in this game when you can relax, not if you want to dictate the terms of the game. The hardest part, frequently, is determining when you need to abandon an alliance, and your ability in convincing others to join you. Usually these fall in the range that they did here, where one power was dominant but not so strong that they could reasonably go for the solo, or even squeeze out a fourth player from the draw. That's one reason why so many games end this way.

Go out and play! If you do poorly, ask the other players in the game for honest feedback. Just remember that I've been playing Diplomacy for almost a decade now and I still have a lot of trouble.

Re: A Good Time Had By All (AAR) (Mentor Game)

PostPosted: 14 Aug 2017, 02:41
by goozmaster
Hey darksaberx,

Nice AAR. Good to see the game through a different set of eyes. I was impressed with your play throughout the game, and it has definitely influenced how I've played France in subsequent games, as well as how I view France from across the board now.

This was my first game, and I really enjoyed it. I look forward to improving, and continuing to play with other committed people. I was very impressed with the level of play and the commitment, especially now that I have started into other games and begun to experience people NMRing and surrendering. This game was great with the overall high level of player involvement.

I'll refrain from giving a fine-tooth comb response, and instead stick to my overall broad stroke impressions of my interactions with other players and the game went as a result.

Russia - I genuinely wanted to partner with Russia out of the gate. My first message went to Russia, but was unanswered for quite a long time - long enough for me to have multiple comms with other nearby players. The longer things went without a response, the more I felt I needed to make other plans. (Note: as a new player this is one of the places I feel like I have a ways to go - developing a feel for when someone is deliberately not responding versus when they just are away from the game.) When I did hear back, the message was pretty short and very narrowly focused on bouncing in the Black Sea. By this point I had already developed a sense of possibility for partnering with Austria. This Black Sea bounce seemed like an opportunity to cement that Austrian alliance, by offering that Austria could take Rumania with confidence and to build our alliance from there.

Austria - When Russia didn't reply, I turned to Austria instead. Things started out well and we had a good partnership during the first year. Things got chillier in 1902 when he was no longer willing to share moves. Everything I read indicated that Turkey-Austria is a very challenging alliance to maintain. We had some of those challenges, such as how to demilitarize our border in the Balkans - a problem we never solved and which came back to bite us. I stabbed him in 1903, taking Rumania, as he burned through Italy. I had my doubts about whether or not this was a good idea. I felt like he was going to get strong enough far from his home centers, that he would have nowhere else practical to go, but come after me. I temporarily weakened him with the loss of Rumania, but it was only temporary. This at least clarified our relationship, from non-cooperative frenemies to overt hostility. As a result, we deadlocked over our border up until the point when France got so strong that the remaining survivors pretty much had to band together. Excellent tactician, and someone I would much rather have on my team than lined up against me. To his credit, he put my stab in the past when it came time to band together against France, and we had a good relationship at the end of the game.

Germany - An excellent ally, and one with whom I felt very much in sync with regard to communication style, frequency, move sharing and tactical collaboration. He is a keen tactical player, and he managed to hold up well under a strong press from France. Once England joined in, it became too much, and he fell quickly. Gracious, sharp, and fun to play with - really enjoyed our alliance.

Italy - We got off on a bad foot when, in 1901 he decided to go for Greece instead of Tunis. He showed determination by subsequently gaining a foothold in Albania and Serbia. This intrusion helped Austria and I temporarily put aside our burgeoning differences and work to expel Italy. We had nearly no communication during the game, especially once Austria began devouring Italy's home provinces. Italy played a difficult country well, especially being caught in the vice between an immediately dominant France and a crafty and tenacious Austria.

England - A good example of why I was really glad to play in a newbie game for my first time. England had a couple learning moments with how to put in convoy orders etc. These were mistakes I could easily have made, and you could tell that he learned from them and won't make them again. He eagerly joined into the four way anti-Russia alliance I put together at the beginning of the game, and was generally a good ally, until he stabbed Germany. That didn't harm me directly, but I was sorry to see Germany go down. England enthusiastically joined into the anti-France coalition at the end of the game. He got outfoxed a bit during final skirmishes, and probably would have fallen to France if we hadn't agreed to the four way draw.

France - Super-strong out of the gate, an excellent communicator, and a sharp tactician. Formidable, but reasonable. We were able to come to a mutually beneficial detante in the Mediterranean. My own weakness and determination not to overextend myself made it possible to agree to non-aggression there. By not going for a quick, likely temporary, gain with Tunis, I was able to gain his trust. This worked to my advantage later, when he offered for us to partner together against Austria. At that point, he was the clear leader and not someone who I particularly wanted to help get stronger. By then, he had moved nearly all his units away from the south and towards the fight against Germany. He had enough fleets to hold me out of the western med, but our hypothetical 'anti-Austria alliance' gave me the chance to break his blockade and steam towards all his undefended provinces. Glad he agreed to a draw, as he probably would have taken England down after another couple years. This wouldn't have gotten him to 18 centers, but close enough that he probably would have been able to push me back out of Hispania and the Mediterranean. Playing against him made me a better player.

One other aspect that was pretty fun. After Russia didn't reply at the beginning of the game, I was able to stitch together a four way alliance with myself, Austria, England and Germany. It was a lot of work to cobble together and it fell apart fairly quickly. But it was devastatingly effective at cutting Russia off at the knees almost immediately. Russia held on tenaciously, but could really only play a spoiler role by then. Definitely a thorn in my side for most of the game.

Re: A Good Time Had By All (AAR) (Mentor Game)

PostPosted: 14 Aug 2017, 02:42
by goozmaster
Thanks also to Zaynation for acting as mentor in this game. I appreciated your quick responses to questions, as well as your general and thought-provoking commentary about different phases of the game.

Re: A Good Time Had By All (AAR) (Mentor Game)

PostPosted: 14 Aug 2017, 03:56
by darksaberx
Goozmaster, thank you for the kind words! I would love to play with you again! I'll remember to stab you earlier

Just realized that I never clarified why I agreed to the 4 way draw when I did. The blockade up North was basically a guessing game between England and myself. Given enough time, (probably a turn or two) I am fairly confident I could have gained Liverpool and the rest of England would fallen fairly quickly. However, this required a lot of my forces, meaning that all of Iberia would be left open. Even if I held on long enough to kill England, I would lose serious ground if not home SC's, and most of my units would be out of position to fight A/T. Still surprised at how quickly and neatly you were able to create that stop the leader alliance right after being at war for years, but hey, desperate times create strange bedfellows.

I'm curious as to why you didn't try for a full on Witches alliance (E/T), as it sounds like y'all had a running alliance that I never heard about. Together, y'all probably could have crushed most everyone.



Re: A Good Time Had By All (AAR) (Mentor Game)

PostPosted: 15 Aug 2017, 06:05
by goozmaster
Regarding the four way draw, that makes sense. As for the rapid alliance, I think it helped that Zaynation had just posted the note "A common event when one player becomes far stronger than all others is a stop-the-leader alliance. Its success depends on the trust of the other countries, which is usually in short supply because those countries, almost by definition, have been fighting each other for some time. Can you take something off your neighbor while still working together? How much wiggle room will you give them?"
Having the 'Deus ex machina voice' tell you to consider coming together is an significant stimulus.

One more question: late in the game you messaged me that you would agree to a 3-way draw with me and one other power, but not with anyone else. The particulars of who you seemed willing to include was surprising to me. Care to elaborate on that comment?

Re: A Good Time Had By All (AAR) (Mentor Game)

PostPosted: 15 Aug 2017, 15:28
by darksaberx
Ah yes... my last ditch attempt.

At this point I could see that a draw was inevitable without a breakdown of the alliance. Therefore, I tried to get Austria excluded from the draw. He wouldn't agree to a draw he wasn't included in, therefore you would have to eliminate him. You would have to maintain a border to keep me enclosed while keeping parity with England throughout the invasion of Austria. My reckoning was that in the chaos there would be a decent chance that you or England would stab the other, letting me mop up.

Why did I chose Austria to exclude? Nothing personal. He was merely the weakest, and the nation who could be attacked by both of you with an almost certain chance that he could actually be killed. Those draw proposals that excluded Austria weren't a mistake. I wanted y'all to see him physically denying the draw, confirming that he was an impediment. Needless to say the strategy didn't work.

Re: A Good Time Had By All (AAR) (Mentor Game)

PostPosted: 15 Aug 2017, 18:36
by goozmaster
Interesting strategy - I hadn't thought of that. Still learnin'. From the way you made it sound, I thought you had some grudge against Austria, and that it was personal rather than strategic.

As for E/T, by the time Austria and I had resolved our difference and fully committed to work together it was just prior to Fall 1906. By that point you had England at least partially surrounded, and within a year you had landed your first unit on the island. England seemed like he would be under massive pressure at home, which doesn't make for a great long-distance ally against someone who is in your backyard.

As for our alliance history, England was part of the 4-way anti-Russia caucus, but that fell apart pretty quickly. In part because England stabbed Germany. At that point I was working best with Germany, so that didn't really endear England to me.

So, combination of French strength, English weakness, doubts about trust, and the much more relevant relationship with Austria. Plus I think we were all pretty happy with how this newbie game had gone, and were willing to wrap it up with a draw. I personally had already started a new game after I felt comfortable in this mentor game, and it had concluded before our game had. Looking to the future?