AAR 128444. Prolonged Spring

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AAR 128444. Prolonged Spring

Postby Eleusinian » 21 Jan 2018, 02:57

Final result was a 4-way tie between Austria (me), Italy, England, and France:


This game was an interesting one for me. On the one hand, I achieved my goals after doing not well in my last few games. On the other hand, I found most of the game a mix of boring and frustrating. To be blunt, I think this may have been the game that convinced me that online Diplomacy is just not a thing I'm ever going to enjoy (unless it's a friends game with just people I know irl, maybe). I'm just leading with that because I think it colors a lot of my other thoughts, so I figured I'd get it out in the open.

So with that, my report. In the following, I will use "he" as a generic pronoun. My apologies if any of the players are female; ordinarily I would use "they" to get around the gender, but its ambiguity with actual plurals could lead to confusion.

The game started with me drawing Austria, a country I was not particularly excited about. My last game (or the one before?) had been a thrashing as Germany, and they're similar enough that I was really just hoping to not get embarrassed. Italy approached me with a Lepanto, and we had a good rapport, so I figured go big or go home: I would work with Italy, and my trust would either catapult me into success or get take me out quickly and painlessly.

I was greatly helped by two neighbors who somewhat underplayed. First was Germany, who after a single "hello" went totally gunboat -- not just to me, but to everyone (as far as I know). His troops weren't heading towards me, and that front was also helped because England and France either didn't initially work together, or else did but tried hard to hide it (I'm not sure, and would be interested about that from either of them). Either way, it meant I didn't have E/F troops rushing into Germany initially, and could basically ignore that front.

The other helpful factor out of the gate was that Turkey seemed hell-bent against working with Russia. England was also pressuring a bit on Russia's north, meaning that Russia had few options but to work with me, and not much bargaining strength. Italy and I fairly quickly took down Turkey in such a way as to corner Russia, and from there I was able to take Russia down. Frankly, I don't think Russia had much of a chance in this game; it's games like this that I bring up when I say that there is a big element of luck in Diplomacy, though it's all in the player/country selection.

So, Italy and I dismantled Russia and Turkey without much fanfare. This essentially set us up as a sort of Juggernaut, with all of the trimmings. In particular, the "Russian" player (ie, me) had the advantage. Italy reminded me of this very, very often.

Right around then, Germany started really collapsing (and eventually surrendered), with France moving in. I decided to move on Germany and try to get a foothold there before France did, while Italy moved his fleets west to try and beat the MAO stalemate line. I worked together with France a bit, but we never fully trusted each other. For the record, France, I was probably telling you the truth about 80% of the time -- not all the time, but I think you thought I was lying more than I was! The big problem was that France kept on asking for a lot, and not giving me much in return. At one point, as France and I were discussing terms in Germany, France said that I could get Munich with Russia's help in exchange for my helping Russia in Con. In other words, he was trying to get out of helping me into Munich by dictating my terms with a third player. As it happens, that was around when I was planning a stab against that third player, so this was really a no-go for me.

When Germany NMR'ed, the board stood with me and Italy as tightly allied, France and England tightly allied, and Russia on his way out but having been a good sport about it. Neither England nor France looked ready to stab the other, and I certainly wasn't going to stab Italy, and Italy wasn't in a position to stab me. The game looked like it was headed towards a boring 4-way draw, so I offered a 5-way draw to try and get on with my life. This wasn't a trick play; I voted to accept it, but it was rejected. So I did the next-best thing and took Russia out. Russia, you were actually a great player to work with, and in another geography I think you and I could have been good allies.

I tried to get Italy and France talking so that France would stab England, and somehow -- I'm honestly not sure how -- it worked. Now we had a game again, and for the first time in weeks (months?) things got kind of interesting. Italy was still sour about me having more SCs (this would become a theme), but with France's stab, England started throwing me SCs as he retreated home. Italy was very grumpy about my getting that advantage. I was optimistic about it, but always kept in the back of my mind that England might be trying to lure me into breaking for a solo to unify the other players against me and let England participate in a draw. Spoiler alert: that's exactly what happened.

Spring '09 was the first time I even considered that I might eventually go for a solo, but I was still committed to my alliance with Italy. I was only at 10 SCs, and still far from a solo, so I spent a lot of mental energy trying to talk myself out of even planning for it.

But in Fall '09, as Italy and I were disengaging our troops from Turkey, I forgot to move Rum away. We hadn't discussed my moving it, and I didn't have anything better to do with it, and the rest of my moves for that turn were basically "hold my position," so I ordered it to hold without much thought:


The resulting diplomatic hassle with Italy was the beginning of the end. He saw it as preparations for a stab (which honestly had not been my intention) and essentially demanded that we move troops to our shared borders with a sort of "good fences make good neighbors" philosophy. I didn't want to -- I was trying to make a break for Scandinavia, which would come up again later -- but had no choice.

That got me thinking. If we were going to go for a 2-way tie (as we had been discussing all game), then at one point, at least one of us was going to have to put complete trust in the other, for at least a turn (and maybe more). But just my ordering Rum H, in a turn where I was clearly just ordering holds and supports for the most part, had caused Italy not to trust me. And again he was grumbling about the SC count. That's the turn in which it was clear to me that the trust necessary for a 2-way draw wasn't there; we were almost definitely headed for a multi-party draw, or for a solo.

Additionally, I proposed a few times that we swap SCs, with me taking Turkey as Italy took down France. My intentions there were pure, though Italy didn't seem to believe them. Without Turkey, I would have to take Scandinavia and be able to hold it comfortably in order to get to 17 SCs. This without a single fleet -- my only one was in Bul (EC). I didn't think that was a good deal for me (especially given the lack of trust Italy had demonstrated in Rum), so I wanted Italy to take Scandinavia while I took Turkey for my last three. For me, this was a last-ditch effort to go for a 2-way draw in a way I could feel relatively comfortable with. Italy refused to consider it or even acknowledge that my being in water-surrounded Scandinavia was a precarious position.

So after a bit of maneuvering units around (including in ways that helped Italy significantly, in order to avoid further suspicions as much as possible), I stabbed in Spring '11 and took Greece. Italy did not take it well, and from then on didn't believe a word I said. I wrong a lengthy message explaining why I stabbed, and suggested to him that we could still salvage the situation by using my stab as the catalyst for the swap I'd wanted. This was 90% sincere; I still kept the possibility of a solo open in my head, but it really would not have taken much for Italy to convince me to commit fully to a 2-way draw with me taking Turkey. Italy told me to do what felt right, and otherwise did not much up much of a fight. (Offeringbme Turkey at this point would have probably put us back on the path to a 2-way.)

Meanwhile, I was chatting quite nicely with both France and England -- especially England, who was handing me French-occupied Germany on a silver platter, supposedly in a grunge march against France for his stab. Here is where my opinion about England really changed. Earlier in the game, I thought him a bit stuffy and to sly to talk to, but I think it's mostly because I kept trying to talk to him while we didn't have much to really say. :-) Now that we did, the conversations went very nicely -- short and to the point, without being rude. He promised me helping in getting a solo, and while I was hopeful about that, I kept in my mind that he may be trying trick me into over-extending, and then force the draw. Interestingly, Italy and I never discussed it; I'm a bit curious whether Italy knew/suspected that tactic on England's part.

In Fall '11, that trick came into fruition. Unfortunately for England, I saw it coming and made moves in Germany to counter it; unfortunately for me, I was too lazy to double check the map and didn't realize that Norway had two English fleets next to it. Norway held; Finland didn't move to Swe (as England was encouraging me to do)... but rather than supporting Norway, it also held. Norway got dislodged -- whoops!

So the situation in Spring '12 was that to get the solo, I would have to take all of Turkey (probably doable, but not a sure thing) plus keep Hol (impossible, if people wanted to stop me). My solo was gone. I think if I'd only ordered Fin S Nor Hold in Fall '11, I might have won the game. Oh well.

In Spring '12, England moved further against me, and in so doing ceded control of Nth and Nwg to Italy. Now the tables were turned: Italy had a clear path to the solo. All he would have to do would be to take Par (uncontested), pick up Lon and Edi (easy with complete control of the seas), work with England to kick me out of Hol (to prevent my solo and buy him all the time he wanted) and then slowly chip away at Scandinavia and/or the Ber/Hol coast. Even if I took all of Turkey away from him, he'd have the solo.

I don't know why England did that, and I really don't know why Italy didn't take advantage of it. When I sent Italy a "congrats on your impending solo" message, he (quite rudely) told me to stop taking me for a fool, why am I still lying to him, etc etc etc. I spelled out exactly how he could go for the solo, to which he curtly replied "listen to yourself." I'm still not sure whether, or why, my analysis was wrong; I certainly wasn't trying to be tricky, and frankly didn't like the rudeness with which my former ally was treating me. I had hoped that even in the face of a stab, Italy could be civil with me. After all, he'd managed to get France to stab England! In any case, our relationship turned quite sour at that point.

But I didn't see a path to a solo, and I guess Italy didn't see one either, so we agreed to a draw. Essentially same one I'd asked for back in '08, sans Russia.

I think I played Austria fairly well in this game, and managed to leverage a bit of luck in the early years into a pretty successful position. Looking back, I think the only thing I'd do differently would be that damned support-to-hold in Spring '12. There were interesting weeks, but for the most part I just wanted the game to be over with. And now it is... so I'll call that a victory, I guess! :)
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Re: AAR 128444. Prolonged Spring

Postby FloridaMan » 21 Jan 2018, 07:47

Looking at the map, I don't quite see an easy path to solo for Italy. In fact, I think Turkey would become Austrian if the game went on a bit longer. I don't really see Austria as having a decent path to solo either, though.

I find it interesting that the players who had the most control over the outcome (Austria, Italy, and England) didn't (apparently) try to get rid of France as a dead weight member of the alliance, though I can see people being worried that his sudden disappearance would be a destabilizing factor in the game.

Interesting AAR. I'd be interested to see what the other survivors have to say.
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Re: AAR 128444. Prolonged Spring

Postby Eleusinian » 21 Jan 2018, 08:17

FloridaMan wrote:I find it interesting that the players who had the most control over the outcome (Austria, Italy, and England) didn't (apparently) try to get rid of France as a dead weight member of the alliance, though I can see people being worried that his sudden disappearance would be a destabilizing factor in the game.

This game has 7/7/7 deadlines, so we'd been playing it since late March 2017. Speaking for myself, the time it would take to whittle an unsatisfying 4-way down to a sightly-less-unsatisfying 3-way just wasn't worth it.
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Re: AAR 128444. Prolonged Spring

Postby justy » 21 Jan 2018, 12:38

Thank you for starting the AAR, Eleusinian!

I played England. This was my first 7/7/7 day deadline game. I wanted to try one, because during last year or so, I've found shorter deadline games to be too hectic for me. After this experience, I think I'll stick to playing 2/1/1 or 2/2/2 day deadline games and play only when I think I'll have time for them. This was just too slow to keep myself focused and interested in game.

Now, into proper AAR. I want to discuss three things, that I saw crucial during this game: my relationship with France, the point when Italy and Austria were somewhat of equal strength than France and I, and final years when Austria made a solo attempt.

My relationship with France was difficult. I think one factor was that neither of us are native English speakers, which probably led to some misunderstanding in itself. In addition, we never really seemed to be able to trust each other. For example, France told me spring 1901 that he'd work with me if I'd let him into Channel, because he wanted absolute trust. Later, he often wanted me to share with him complete list of my orders, and make orders he suggested. To me, this wasn't alliance but vassal position.

One thing that also made it impossible for me to trust France, was Germany. Germany had sent me single message spring 1901, and I just couldn't believe he was gunboating after that (the first message was coherent and well-written, not something you'd expect from gunboater. So when Germany build second fleet after 1901, even though France was in Munich, I was sure that France and Germany were working together.

By 1903 I was willing to believe that France probably wasn't working with Germany. And agreed to work with him. We made plan to share Germany, but I refused to attack Russia at that point (we had quite good relationship, even though I had moved an army to Norway. I guess Germany's game confused Russia as well). And in fall 1903, I was able to get Russia to support me into Sweden. That move saved me, because same fall France made his first stab against me. Luckily I gained two builds, and was able to protect myself from France.

From 1904 to spring 1907 we worked together. We still didn't really trust each other, but after failed French stab we were able to agree that if we'd fight it out, it would allow Italy and Austria to grow feely. So we decided to push against Austria with our armies, while I also went against Russia in north. And France also pushed towards Mediterranean. Around 1906 it started to look like we were equally strong with Austria and Italy, and that neither could really break through. So only way forward was getting one of our enemies to stab.

I tried to talk Austria and Italy into stabbing one another. It didn't really go anywhere, just as Italy's attempt to get me to stab France wasn't something I would consider. My reasoning behind this was that were I to attack France, I couldn't block Italy from getting his ships to Atlantic. And I didn't think I'd be able to fight both France and Italy effectively, while also keeping Austria at bay. So I started to think that this game was probably going to end 5-way (Russia was still around), as there didn't seem to be that much incentive for anyone to stab.

But then in fall 1908, France stabbed me second time. To this day, I don't know why. Perhaps it was just to move game forward, hoping for smaller draw. But I doubt France could think that he'd gain solo after that stab, because Austria and Italy were so well positioned around him. It would be interesting to hear from France or Italy what was said to make this stab happen.

After that, it was all downhill for me. Italy was at Atlantic, and I couldn't really fight him, France and Austria at the same time. So I decided to do my best to create a boogeyman out of Austria. I conceded my territories for him, telling Italy that I'd help Austria solo rather than see Italy solo. Italy tried to sell 3-way for me, suggesting that we'd kill France off together. I didn't buy, because I thought that France would be needed to stop Italy and Austria. But after French stab, I don't think I send him more than one or two messages. For the first time in this game, I felt that I was free of France, that I could move towards my new goal (surviving to draw) without him for a while.

Then Austria finally made a move against Italy, after which I told France and Italy that I'd be happy to stop Austria with them. I'm not sure wether Italy had given up his own solo ambitions at this point (or perhaps he was palying for 2-way draw), but I refused to make moves too fast, not wanting to Austria start to collapse. Austria seems to now think that Italy would have soloed after getting North Sea, but I wasn't really willing to move much further than that unless it seemed necessary.

Then I had my final conflict with France. He wanted me to support him to hold in Picardy, fearing that Italy might attack Picardy. I saw this as reasonable, and inteded to agree with him. For some reason, I accidentaly said that I'd support Holland (Austrian centre) to hold instead of Picardy. France replied to this by supporting Holland to Belgium (luckily Italy supported Belgium). Perhaps after this Italy felt that Austria could break through any minute and wanted the draw to happen.

And that's it. After all, I'm somewhat happy with this draw. Had I succeeded in getting Austria or Italy to stab another, I might have been able to solo. Had Germany been communicating, I perhaps could have avoided all the conflicts with France.

I'd also like to say special thanks to Austria and Russia, whom I enjoyed communicating and playing with. Good luck with your future games.
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