Overvaluing minors

Strategy discussions for the Versailles variant.

Overvaluing minors

Postby eaterofworlds » 11 Feb 2021, 07:46

Curious what other Versailles players think about this.

After a fair number of Versailles games I tend to treat my minor as a pawn, in the strict sense of chess where pawns are important and have a certain strength when supported, but they can also be sacrificed when the time is right. Although minors can be decisive with certain pairings, my experience is that only a few pairings are naturally strong (France/Spain, Germany/Czech, maybe Italy/Yugo) while most others need some help to achieve synergy. For most games, the minor power is across the map playing a small but important role tipping the scales one way or another. Unless it's Greece or Sweden and just bounces around a couple seasons before being obliterated...

In standard games, I tend to be fairly quick to share my minor with other players in hopes of establishing early trust and finding synergies. In that regard, the minor is more powerful as a diplomatic tool than as a tactical one. It can even be a good choice to lose your minor's home center to another power if the tradeoff is extra pressure against your chief rival.

When I first began playing Versailles I overvalued my minor power. I had visions of growing it into a 3-center "major minor" and allowed that thinking to cloud my judgment about what was taking place on the board. I see many other players make the same mistake. Certainly, try to make good use of the minor at the tactical level. Where possible, growing to 2 centers can be good. But it can also create long-term contradictions - forming a Balkan alliance to contain Turkey, when as Britain you should be hoping Turkey can break out of the corner somewhat, etc.

Keeping the minor control secret risks losing out on opportunities. In a recent game (185413) when Poland, Italy, and Germany discovered they controlled the three Balkan minors, the result was a decisive 3-way, with Greece conquering all of Turkey. Losing out on chances like that for a couple turns of cloak-and-dagger feels like a waste.
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