AAR: Aspirations in the Clouds

Discussion of finished games.

AAR: Aspirations in the Clouds

Postby joe92 » 16 Nov 2018, 15:46

It's very unusual that I'd consider a 5-way draw worthy of an AAR, but this classicist game was a roller coaster ride of a game and deserves a write up.

Image beadsman (5way DRAW)
Image kimpossible (5way DRAW)
Image Malachite (5way DRAW)
Image UFO Fever
Image IvarGizteb
Image joe92 (5way DRAW)
Image Iggy (5way DRAW)

For myself as Turkey this game really was something else. At one point I was down to 2 centres, and it was not until the spring of 1910 that I managed to have more than 4 units on the board. I was for most of the game in a state of frustrating mediocrity.

Final Board - Spring 1911
Image

This was the final position. After lots of successful plans, failed plans, stabs and turmoil, I finished with 6 centres and an Italian fleet in the Black Sea. The end result was unexpected. France had declared her intention to attempt a solo run and England and Russia were threatening to kingmake her. In a test of brinkmanship they put out a draw request for the 5 remaining powers. I had no intention of accepting that draw request. But, no negotiation would happen with Russia until I had at least shown my willingness by accepting that draw. Why not, I thought. France will of course let it time out... I sent France a message explaining how her idea at a solo run was ill thought out, and that she could step back into her position in the FIT alliance should she move her units away. I think I laid on the threat of elimination and anit-solo alliance too heavy, for after reading my message France accepted the draw! Drat, now I was someone who had finished a game in a 5-way draw. It was an underwhelming finish, but the rest of the game was brilliant. For that, let's rewind...

1901 - The First Year
Like the rest of this game, the opening year had a bit of quirkiness to it. Before the game started I declared that I would need a pause request to attend a wedding. It so happened that by the time the game filled up on Aug 21st that the request was a mere week away. As a group we decided to pause the opening spring right to the end of that pause, meaning that spring 1901 lasted right up until Aug 30th. Nine long days of deliberations.

My early comms were mainly with Russia, Austria and Italy. With France and England we established information sharing agreements and promises to help each other in the far future, should we make it that far. The usual stuff. I didn't hear from Germany. In fact, I had to send him a follow up message asking for a response. I didn't generate a great impression of him. It got worse by the fall.

Russia and I opened on good terms. We spoke of the mighty juggernaut, how we could start one without others knowing and how Austria was trying to pit us against each other.

Italy and I opened on fairly good terms. We had a bit of back and forth regarding Greece, but aside from that it seemed like things would be great between us.

For Austria I was a little more sceptical. He suggested I could move to Armenia in the spring as his very first message to me which immediately raised my suspicions. It was pretty evident he was trying to play me against Russia, and after confirming that with Russia, I set out to eliminate him.

The initial plan therefore was to strike at Austria with Russia as an ally and hopefully Italy too - though if Russia was my ally it wouldn't really matter. But then Russia disappeared. I checked in after the wedding and still nothing. In fact, after a great first 2 days of comms I didn't hear from Russia between Aug 22 and Sep 03, the last day of the fall. In an established alliance I wouldn't care. This wasn't an established alliance and I was worried. Iggy had told us all he would be on holiday between the 5th and 10th of September but this was before then. There will have undoubtedly been a reason for this silence but it was not explained. Combined with that silence Russia opened in a fairly Austria-friendly way and that just about sealed my determination at that point to attack him.

The spring:
Image

Although Russia moved in such an Austria-friendly way I was not going to let the prospect of a juggernaut die so soon. I spoke with Russia. I told him he had moved in an Austria-friendly way and what could he do to reassure me he was actually committed to a juggernaut. In his response he asked if he could move to the Black Sea so he could build an army in Sevastopol but assured me he would use that army to support the fleet into Rumania. As said, that came through on Sep 03 with the deadline set to adjudicate less than 12 hours away. That was a lot of trust I was being asked to make from a person who hadn't spoken to me in 12 days. I didn't have it in me.

The initial plan went out the window and I started thinking of alternatives.

In the fall I started talking with Austria and Italy in earnest. I still had my reservations about Austria for playing both sides and Italy was still pushing for Greece but in the end an opportunity appeared. Austria committed with me to attacking Russia and offered to support Bulgaria to Rumania to bounce out Russia. I messaged Italy and suggested that I could support him into Greece because of this, but that it was a risky play and to think about it. He said no. I don't blame him. He risked getting no builds if it went wrong. So I went ahead with the move to Rumania.

Elsewhere on the board it was fairly evident an E/F alliance was starting. Nobody was speaking well of Germany. Germany's spring negotiations had seen just about everyone call him greedy and to be concerned about where he was moving to. It became apparent to myself and the rest of the eastern powers that an E/F was forming, and this became a huge negotiating point for us, in the spring and in the fall. "You need to do xyz, so we can ally and you'll be able to defend yourself from E/F." Even after France moved to the English Channel it was still fairly obvious.

In fact, a side note on this: in an act of frustration towards Germany's refusal to answer me, in my follow up message to him in the spring I raised the point that he was facing an E/F alliance and could do well to change people's opinions of him and find an ally. I wasn't too concerned about Germany's welfare as he wasn't talking to me, but I didn't want E/F to storm over him too quickly. A day or so later France sent me an angry message asking why Germany was saying that everyone, including Turkey, was talking about an E/F alliance. Germany had outright named me as a source of information. He completely obliterated my relationship with France - something which took a long time to repair. After that I couldn't have cared less what happened to Germany. He would be the first to be eliminated.

The board after the first winter:
Image

1902 - The First Betrayal
I committed in my build to destroying Russia. France committed to being allied with England. I didn't know it yet, but also to Italy.

The spring was fairly uneventful:
Image

The fall was when the clever betrayal happened. I had committed completely to taking down Russia. In my mind he would be the second to be eliminated after Germany. I tried hard to convince England to take St. Petersburg but he refused (thankfully). Austria after taking 2 builds in the opening year now seemed to be talking in terms with me of starting a proper alliance. He suggested that I should take Rumania and Sevastopol. Then, the clever bugger, he suggested something even better. That I should convoy my army into Sevastopol so that in the spring I can move both of them northwards.

It blinded me. I was focused at this point on getting 2 builds. Only problem, I preferred Italy. Italy spoke more of the long term and came across as better ally material. It also helped that he was weaker and a bit further away. So I consulted with him about what to do, explaining that I could get two centres but asking if he was OK with it... and completely forgetting to address an issue he raised about not building any more fleets. His response was positive. He said I should go for it as taking Greece wasn't a definite, and once again raised the point about not building anymore fleets. I once again didn't respond on that fleet issue. I think in all honesty there was a tiny part of me, like 20%, that was considering allying with Austria and I didn't want to commit to a false promise, no matter how slim. In hindsight, it makes the stab seem so obvious, but at the time I didn't see it coming and in my mind I was 80% allied with Italy so I was surprised and miffed when it happened.

The fall:
Image

The stab came down hard. I had been masterfully played. Blinded by the idea of gaining 2 builds I moved as suggested. I convoyed over to Sevastopol and moved to Rumania. But instead Austria took Bulgaria from me and Italy moved into a late Lepanto. The only saving grace in this was that Austria had stabbed Russia at the same time, again. Russia was to take Rumania while losing Sevatopol so he could rebuild an army in Moscow and take Sevastopol right back off me. In a foolish attempt to kill two birds with one stone, Austria bounced Russia out of Rumania thus leaving him net neutral for another year (well he actually got a build as the fleet was destroyed, but you know). And leaving me with a path to reconciliation...

1903 - Reconciling with Russia
If there's any skill I've developed from this game, it's forgetting the past and trying to adapt to whatever the situation currently looks like. I immediately sent Russia a message of apology and offered to immediately move out of Sevastopol. I had no intention of keeping it and facing 3 enemies. The only other problem to face was where would Italy try convoy to? If I could get that right I would be able to stall long enough that the attack against me would end up hurting him more than it would gain him. I had disbanded my Bulgarian army and rebuild it in Smyrna. It became a 50/50 chance. I held in Smyrna thinking he would try bluff his way there unsupported. I guessed right!

Spring:
Image

After demonstrating to Russia my honesty in this, we soon became firm allies. In fact, even by this fall we started planning new ideas. For this phase, we had 4 units surrounding Rumania. It could be possibly to support Russia in there while I get to hold Sevastopol for another year to offset the loss. If it failed he'd just bounce back to Sevastopol and get a build anyway. He agreed that was a good idea and we tried it. But we weren't so lucky. I guessed wrong in the convoy in the south with Italy moving into Syria while mine and Russia's attempt to take Rumania failed, and Germany slipped into Warsaw to stick around as a pest.

The board by winter:
Image

1904 - A Double Whammy of Hope
France and I were on terrible terms since Germany had named me as a source of information. She wouldn't share anything with me that was useful and only seemed to ask for information on the east. I was extremely frustrated with our situation and in the end sent her a message explaining that. Between the fall of 03 and the spring of 04 we were able to put our differences aside and start anew. France told me I was coming across as hostile, and I explained why I was like that. We put the issue to rest and from that point on we remained on positive terms for the rest of the game.

Crucially though she told me immediately after repairing our relationship that Austria had requested help in a stab against Italy. This was 3 out of 3 allies who Austria was prepared to stab. I was very excited. There was hope for me yet. Italy might be in Syria but his entire homeland is undefended and Germany's last rogue army is sitting right over Venice. France asked my thoughts on this and I obviously encouraged it. Even if Austria was able to get a build out of it, if he lost Italy as an ally I would be able to survive. Instead of going through with attacking Italy, France told him about what was coming. His tone changed completely. He offered to retreat out of Syria in an attempt to cover his homeland, and actually did it. I was going to survive!

Spring:
Image

But the fall, why, that was even better. Austria had attempted to support himself into Constantinople in the spring rather than supporting Italy to Smyrna. He had also moved to Venice but that could have ostensibly been to protect it from Germany. It was the Constantinople move which I think saw Italy come back to my side. If Italy had moved against me he would have been left looking a bit foolish when Austria didn't help him. So we concocted a plan to destroy Austria's fleet and possibly see Italy take Greece off of him as well; support my fleet to the Aegean while moving Italy's other two fleets to Gre/ION. Austria's fleet would be disbanded and he'd be left with 5 armies on the board. No matter what happened after that, I was very happy knowing that there would only be 1 naval power to oppose me in the Med.

What made this fall so great though was what happened in the west. I had barely been paying attention to that side of the board, just focused on my own survival. But in a surprising twist to the game, the most solid alliance on the board just disintegrated.

Image

1905 - Sweep
I reached out to Austria at this point again. The board just couldn't pick a direction to go in and I really wanted him to become an ally so I could get the upper hand against Italy. I had Russia as a very solid ally to my north and while Italy and I had worked together in the previous year, things were still very taut between us. Austria offered to support me into Greece, which was a certain no as far as I was concerned. Not until he gave back Bulgaria and proved that he wasn't just going to screw me again. I said as much to him, and to my surprise he agreed and we set out a plan whereby in the fall I would have an army back in Bulgaria.

Spring:
Image

Well damn, after moving all his units against France, England immediately withdrew them all. What a bummer. The E/F alliance was still on. After seeing the retreat and it crush our collective hopes that the E/F was finished, Russia started a 4-way thread between the rest of us: AIRT. The plan was to stop the E/F alliance before they grew too strong. We were all committed in this. I raised a concern about being trapped at 4 centres and asked for an agreement that in the future once we had made gains against England and France that the others cede centres back to me to retain parity. Italy immediately took this as an offence and started a 3-way thread excluding me. That got quashed by Russia responding in the 4-way thread and Austria responding with an immediate yes, no problem, that's only fair. There was tension between Italy and I, but it seemed like we were all on board with stopping E/F from dominating the board.

Then I received a message from England. In this message he admitted that France had talked him around, but then said something that took me completely by surprise. He wasn't in an E/F alliance. He was in an E/F/I alliance, a "Sweep". And that this had been the case since turn 1. Well I was stunned, I was angry. Italy had occasionally offered theories for something relating to England or France in comms. It suddenly made everything he'd said take on a hugely new dark angle. He'd been playing a long con. A very long Machiavellian play against us all. No wonder he was objecting to my fair request of parity I told myself! I waited though. England had no reason to lie, but I had no idea how to use this information yet. I just spoke with Austria and ensured that he covered Albania so Italy couldn't walk through now that France was also in Tyrolia.

The fall went smoothly. I got Bulgaria as promised and the rest of the board seemed to stagnate:
Image

The other half to come soon....
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Re: AAR: Aspirations in the Clouds

Postby kimpossible » 16 Nov 2018, 15:54

I'll contribute to this too, but wow this is fascinating to read from the perspective of knowing I'm not trying to filter out misinformation anymore. :D
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Re: AAR: Aspirations in the Clouds

Postby Charleroi » 16 Nov 2018, 18:04

Marking to follow.
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Re: AAR: Aspirations in the Clouds

Postby hedge trimmer » 16 Nov 2018, 20:14

I guess I'll respond later on. I wrote quite a lot already, but then the forums decided to log me out automatically and I lost it all.

Half the people playing seemed to already think I'm too Machiavellian though, so I'm not sure if I can convince them otherwise anymore. Then again Turkey seemed to warm up to me once we had our in-game mini-AAR, so it's possible I'm really not that bad. Please remember that I had a cuddly game long carebear alliance with France before getting brutally stabbed! :D

...I have to respond to this while I still have the link to the picture:

joe92 wrote:Italy and I opened on fairly good terms. We had a bit of back and forth regarding Greece, but aside from that it seemed like things would be great between us.

Like we talked in our private in-game review, we had a bit of a miscommunication here. I asked if there was any way I could get Greece, and Joe declined (but he was willing to consider it). My trusty guide (below) failed me completely: I can't find "To do so would be idiocy on my part" anywhere... I think I was supposed to interpret it as "He's not far from agreement"! :lol:

I was sure I had ruined our relationship right then and there.

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Re: AAR: Aspirations in the Clouds

Postby Fatmo » 16 Nov 2018, 22:31

This looks interesting. Marking so I can see the discussion.
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Re: AAR: Aspirations in the Clouds

Postby IvarGizteb » 16 Nov 2018, 23:22

Marking here to follow. Will do some writing about this in the weekend. Overall summary is it's the worst game I've played in a long time, lol.
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Re: AAR: Aspirations in the Clouds

Postby IvarGizteb » 16 Nov 2018, 23:23

IvarGizteb wrote:Marking here to follow. Will do some writing about this in the weekend. Overall summary is it's the worst game I've played in a long time, lol.


I should clarify- worst as in I played really bad. But it was a very enjoyable game with some very strong players.
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Re: AAR: Aspirations in the Clouds

Postby Iggy » 16 Nov 2018, 23:25

tag... will put in a bunch of thoughts either later tonight or over the weekend.

As noted in the PP after the game, this is one of my favorite games I've played that I was not ever close to being a super power. Have a lot of thoughts about it and will map them out from year to year when I get a little time for those that might be interested...
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Re: AAR: Aspirations in the Clouds

Postby UFO Fever » 17 Nov 2018, 01:54

I was eliminated far too long ago in real life time to remember enough specifics to give an accurate AAR.

In briefest possible terms: I wanted to do the Swiss Star, something I had never tried before. It entails Germany starting out with 3 builds and then doing a lot of supporting. I was looking bigger picture that my growth would be slowed later, my allies were worried that I'd be immediately strong. Props to Kim for stabbing me in a way I didn't see coming when I should have. And props to Beadsman for proactively taking away Russia as a possible ally of mine.

The year I lost all but one of my centers I pushed France to stab England with my help as a way for myself to stay alive, but I feel like it would have given her a tremendous advantage at the time, and she easily could have discarded me later. I can't remember exactly what that plan was right now, but I get why she didn't do it but I still think she should have done it. Obvious caveat, I was the first one out and she had top position in the draw, so what do I know?

As for the whole me outing Turkey as a source of info. It was more like this. I thought France and I had a really good relationship to get rid of England. Both Russia and Austria had said something along the lines of "watch out for an E/F alliance." I kind of blew that off like wow France is doing a great job of faking friendship with England. Then Turkey sent me his follow up message (honestly I had just forgot to reply to his first message) and he told me that the rest of the board thought o was being too greedy and E/F were out to get me. Then I went back to France saying wait a minute, even the guy that was away for a week is saying you and England are allying against me, what gives? So it wasn't like I wanted to throw Turkey under the bus, I was just genuinely shocked. But then after thinking about it, what do I care if France and Turkey aren't on the best terms?

Clearly I liked France's response enough to keep trusting her, but that was also because I *really* wanted to try out the Swiss Star. Had I looked at it more objectively instead of what I wanted to hear this game would have been completely different.
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Re: AAR: Aspirations in the Clouds

Postby hedge trimmer » 17 Nov 2018, 12:59

UFO Fever/Germany:

I see you don't even mention me, which I suppose is a good thing since our relations were pretty bad throughout the game.

I didn't have a problem with the Swiss Star AKA F/I/G, but there was NO groundwork built to make sure the alliance would succeed. I know not everyone loves writing or reading novels when playing Diplomacy, but I feel like you can ask more if you write more, and here you were asking for a lot while writing only a little.

After the very brief exchanges we had in the Swiss Star thread, I sent you this:

=======From ITALY Spring 1901 Orders =======
Hi Germany,

Since we have more time, we might as well talk a bit without France hearing.

Do you really think I should be attacking Austria right off the bat? The stars don't seem to be aligned for that to succeed, so I'm still thinking of opening more neutrally. Besides, I haven't heard too much from Russia so I might be just helping the possible R/T if I do that. It's hard to convince someone if they're not even writing back (talking about Russia here, I know Turkey is busy).

Sadly I can't say I'm feeling too confident about the Swiss Star either since the communications have been kind of lukewarm so far, although France's latest message seems kind of promising. Still, I'm kind of paranoid that France will head towards my way once the fighting in the west ceases.

Italy


Attacking Austria as Italy is risky and it was clear that I would have no distraction from Russia. While I was talking about myself in the latter part, what I was really asking was "Is there any reason WE should trust France?". Okay, maybe that was a little bit too subtle.

=======From GERMANY Spring 1901 Orders =======
You don't HAVE to attack Austria right away, but it helps if you can successfully. What's important that if you don't attack in 1901, you attack in 1902 with my support after I build armies to send south.

After England is eliminated, France is supposed to join me in taking on Russia in the north, and then sweep down through St Pete.

I think you're over worrying on attacking Austria and just helping out Russia/Turkey. If you get the centers then that means R/T aren't getting them. You're preventing them from growing. Plus you and I would fight those two together.


Lots of ifs and not a lot of answers to my actual questions, so I decided to be more direct:

=======From ITALY Spring 1901 Orders =======
Well, 1902 is more doable at least. Austria and Russia seem to have DMZ'd Galicia which will allow Austria to defend against my attacks this year, at the cost of losing Greece to Turkey. If R/T are allied, they could then easily swoop to conquer Austria while I'm getting nothing out of my troubles. I've played a lot as Austria so I know it's not hard to make sure that Italy won't get much out of attacking you.

I want to be subtle about this, but I think the overall mood I get here that most of your neighbors aren't too happy with letting you have three builds in 1901. It's hard for me to tell what'll happen though, but part of the problem here is that I (and probably France too) can't really tell if you're being sincere about the Swiss Star or if you're just using it as an excuse to gain 3 builds. Either way, I think there might be some bumps in the road if your plan is to attack Austria next year.

Personally I think it's a good idea to give Sweden to Russia unless you're allied with England, as Russia and England allying could be a problem for you no matter what happens elsewhere.

Thoughts? I think a strong Germany is great news for Italy, so I want you to succeed here, but you might be overly ambitious and I want to be honest about it.


Okay, sorry, I guess I wasn't all that direct after all :lol: . "No one likes you and the Swiss Star is not happening, so please, PLEASE let Russia have Sweden so you're not immediately crushed when E/F attacks you and we can fight back" would've been a little bit more direct.

=======From GERMANY Spring 1901 Orders =======
So you mean France? Because I've told literally no one else about my plans for the Swiss Star. Unless YOU told them about me proposing it, which would really fucking suck because what makes the Swiss Star work is that nobody ever sees it coming.

If you're concerned about me getting 3 builds, well that's just how Germany opens. Just be sure that you're in position to attack Austria by 1902.


"Just shut up and do what you're told". It's interesting that you successfully read between the lines that I was warning you about France, but you still started accusing me. This was the moment I started to think how I could profit from your inevitable doom, or at least avoid sinking with you.

=======From ITALY Spring 1901 Orders =======
No, I haven't spoken to anyone about the Swiss Star besides France, and I think it would be stupid to reveal anything that concrete. I am trying to figure out who to trust and who I can work with and I assume everyone else is doing that too, but I don't reveal things like just for fun. I assumed England knew that you wanted Belgium because you told him.

I guess I did it again: I was only trying to help you as I don't want to see E/F form because of Belgium, but I guess I ended up making a huge blunder if I only managed to make you mistrust me.


Instead of getting angry that you accused me of being an idiot or a traitor, I actually mentioned E/F forming as a last ditch attempt to help you.

=======From GERMANY Spring 1901 Orders =======
I never told England that I was going anywhere near Belgium.


...and? ...AND? I guess you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.

---

That was the last message we exchanged in 1901. After that our exchanges were sparse and mostly confusing, with you spilling all my plans to France.

Finally in 1904 I offered to let you have Venice if you wanted to stay in the game, but you ignored me. I was seriously considering it, as a vassal like that can be incredibly useful. However, you hadn't been very trustworthy so far so it would've been very risky too, but honestly you would've only needed a few friendly words to convince me. It worked out for Turkey at least.
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