AARs

Standard map, units are loyal to the cities they are created in and to whomever controls that cities and therefore units can switch ownership midway through the game. GM'ed by Morg. Solo victory by Ghostecho's Russia

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AARs

Postby Morg » 23 Mar 2016, 06:59

As both France and Turkey have conceded via PM to a Russian solo.

I think it's time for AARs.

This game proved quite different from the others and I apologize for my inability to get a serious Italy in this game.

Congratulations to Ghostecho and his solo victory.

The rest of the space is for you to comment on the variant, the players, the styles of play, and favorite moments or even a play by play.

Thank you
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Re: AARs

Postby UpQuark » 23 Mar 2016, 15:32

First, the variant:

I find the Othello rules are overpowered and lead to binary results more often than not, weighted heavily against any defender. I think the solo in the Crowded version fits with the comment from the first version, and what I think also - the limitation of the home SCs unduly limits options. The Crowded version makes all SCs eligible for builds (by someone) and increases the importance of the ancillary SCs. I would suggest Build Anywhere rules be adopted and trialed.

I agree with Pedros about the interesting aspect of strategy which the variant offers, but this is offset by the collapse doctrine - lose 1, lose it all. So of 18 turns in this game, only 4 mattered - the collapse of the other majors (Austria, Italy, Britain, Germany). The rest were maneuvering, or recovery from indigestion.


The Game (France's perspective):

France is an easy country to play, and I quickly sorted an F/G and kept peace with Italy while working the northern front. Germany headed directly east, facing down Russia but participating in the destruction of Austria.

I am not sure when the R/T was formed, whether from the beginning or with the fall of Austria, as Turkey proceeded to take over Italy (who was ineffective and ended in CD I think), and who only was arrayed defensively against France. I managed to get into Med only barely in time to grab a stalemate line and stop Turkey's advance further.

Russia approached me about a stab of Germany, to take him out, but this was never going to happen as the stalemate line was the only thing holding Russia back. In the end, Germany did not sufficiently consider the variant Othello implications until it was too late and I could not support his position sufficiently, and Germany collapsed in another blitzkrieg by the Russian (who had previously taken out Austria the same way - demonstrating he had learned the implications of binary collapse in his previous game). Strategic arrangement of units by source SC is a critical component to set up a solid defense, and this is very tricky - and not possible once under threat. My own defensive positions were very specifically planned out with this in mind, as were my strategic withdrawal and disband choices.

Germany's collapse put me at a significant disadvantage, facing an R/T who were beyond the stalemate in the north. My only option was to threaten Turkey to induce a stab - I refused to give any ground in the Med, while strategically withdrawing in the north as I was forced back out of Scandinavia. It felt for a few years Russia was reluctant to commit to trying very hard to push me back, perhaps waiting for Turkey to make a breakthrough, hoping to carry his partner into a draw. I am sure I made many mistakes in this game and had an easy starting position, and I also did not fully grok the Othello rule implications until I saw how Russia used them so effectively.

Turkey refused to make any move at all against the Russian, even building useless additional fleets to remove any doubt that he was a patsy to the inevitable Russian solo at that point. Russia communicated with me about this situation, and claimed he had a pact with Turkey and they had agreed to a 2 way draw. I refused to allow this result, and told Russia I had tried to convince Turkey that a Russian win was inevitable unless Turkey stabbed and that Turkey would not make any further gains in the Med, and that I would not acquiesce to an R/T draw. I had tried for a few game years to turn the Turk against Russia, and received one word responses of agreement. Hardly inspiring. I wished Russia luck in pushing me back without taking enough SCs to win while I hold Turkey back from any further gains - he would have had to orchestrate swaps with the Turk in his backfield (and potentially lose down the road to a stab) in order to maintain a draw possibility. At that point, Russia must have realized he had no choice but to take the solo.

A well deserved solo, as Russia controlled the eastern game and took out 2 other players in brilliant Othello action, and actually allowed the removal of Italy by his partner. I could have tried harder to join Russia and get him to stab Turkey sooner, but felt he would not really choose that option due to positioning, so had to proceed - hoping I could save the German and maintain control of the stalemate lines, leaving F/G vs R/T and a chance for diplomatic betrayal to be negotiated somewhere... but doubtful even of that. Again, the binary impact of a national SC loss makes subtle outcomes impossible... Russia would have solo'd sooner had he stabbed Turkey instead of allowing him to take out Italy, so it seemed the correct result.

I was surprised at the first game results, as this is a soloist's game...
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Re: AARs

Postby VGhost » 23 Mar 2016, 20:18

Thanks everybody for the game - especially Morg, the faithful GM. I'm a huge fan of this variant. This is also my first forum solo, although I should say it was largely an exercise in taking what was given. Last time around I made similar comments about the solo EpicDim took being a bit lucky, so it's only fair to admit the same in my own case!

Opening

I believe I was the only carry-over from any previous running of the variant. Anyway I bid no preference and drew Russia. I came in intending to solo this game: I'd done well in the Crowded variant and thought based on what I saw of the cast list that this was a good shot in a variant I like and feel that I understand well. (Watch me go down in 1901 next time!)

I don't like playing Russia normally, but the Othello paradox rule suggested that the Jug could get an extra pick-up: instead of the normal Sevastopol-Ankara swap, with both units destroyed that frees up an extra useful build. It also looks pretty cool. (There's no way for other powers - except Italy & Austria - to pull the same trick (though technically Russia and Germany could), and even if they could the Black Sea fleets are a liability to a Turkey-Russia alliance in a way no other pair of units on the board is.) Turkey was on board and in initial communication we established we'd ally and aim for the two-way draw - or possibly a race to 18.

Correspondence with the other powers was conventional. If Turkey had stabbed the first year, I kept a discussion going with Austria, including not blocking Gal. (Austria actually proposed an assault on Germany! - which if I hadn't had an understanding with Turkey I would have jumped on: it could have given me an early push towards the stalemate line.)

A couple critical things to the final result happened in the first year: Turkey came through, and Austria NMRed his build. (I'm inclined to argue that first year build NMRs ought to be cause for game pause, if not player replacement, even though it favored me in this case.)

In Spring 1902 all the neighboring powers understandably jumped on Austria except me. I stayed out in the Spring - then stabbed in the Fall for two of Austria's centers. Oddly, neither England nor Germany made any effort this year to stall me again in Sweden, and England lost Norway as a result.

Midgame

At this point, the game pattern was pretty much set. Germany and Italy were our next targets: with the alliance solid, we took our time, including some center swaps, unit rotation to protect center gains, etc. Germany stayed more or less intact through 1905, but lost Denmark, which proved critical in 1906. I kept up a perfunctory dialogue with France throughout the game, largely to keep tabs on his thought process (or, worst case, to have something to build on if Turkey stabbed), but never said anything of consequence.

1906 I was particularly proud of: I threw everything at Germany to induce the mistakes and swaps, even though this gave up Norway and Denmark to France. This worked out, but it could have been bad: fortunately for me, France never made any serious effort to contain my Northern fleets, take Barents, push on St. Petersburg, or similar. He decided to try to hold Turkey and, as he said in his AAR, induce me to jump for the solo prematurely.

I was surprised during this part of the game that - after his conquest of England - France hadn't turned on Germany himself, but from his AAR it's clear that Germany was his original ally, and I can hardly fault the decision to stick by Germany in the face of an aggressive alliance on the other side of the board.

Endgame

1907 through Spring 1908 was spent on my end reconquering Scandinavia. The center split agreed on at this point (I think from earlier and we'd never really revised it) was that we'd just keep what we had, and as Turkey pushed through France I would eventually take the English centers to get to 17. Obviously this favored me: I was fully intending to wait till France was all-but gone and grab Belgium as well for 18. I ended up not having to wait that long - France dropped one fleet too many which let me blitz in 1909.

In Fall 1907 I'd made my first trial of Turkish reaction. I moved Vienna to Budapest - which was perfectly justifiable if he had challenged me on it, since the army in Munich was Budapest-built, but this move potentially threatened Serbia - without telling Turkey first. When I got no reaction I was pretty sure I'd be able to grab the solo sooner rather than waiting till the very end.

In Fall 1908 I shifted some more units to a "ready" position, all while carefully keeping the deals with Turkey (Burgundy didn't support Marseilles because France kept - wisely - tapping my wall; and I stayed out of North Sea and Norwegian). Winter 1908 I built a unit in Sevastopol - not a fleet, which would have been obvious, but an army I was prepared to justify either on basis of building a defensive line now (and I would have suggested Turkey move some units back, and put off my attack) for the final draw, or mere whimsy (it was endgame and I had no Sevastopol-built units left). I also forestalled a challenge by suggesting - at this point I'd never throughout the game lied to Turkey, and omitted very few moves - that he take Budapest and Vienna in 1909 to get closer to a defensible 17-17 split.

Turkey accepted this - which didn't really surprise me, as even if he had figured out what was up he would naturally just agree - but then didn't even try to make the moves in the Spring, and in fact moved his Aegean sentinel to Greece, which handed me the game a year "early": I think after 1908 builds, I could have won in 1910 regardless of any defense. Turkey had suggested a few years before that we could just take the 3-way draw, so I'm not sure he was particularly interested in the game at this point, but it was still incredibly sloppy.

Comments on Play

As indicated above, France made the wrong call for how to deal with our alliance. Against a different player or a different alliance, it might have worked, though. In this case, if he'd thrown everything he could at me, and vacated the Med back to the MAO-Spa-Mar line (or possibly even let Turkey push through that), either I would have been forced to make my move a lot sooner, or Turkey would have tried it, or he might have been able to manage a situation so unstable the 3-way was the only option. As it was, because he locked down the weaker power instead of the stronger one, I was able to make my move pretty much as I chose.

I think this would be true even with more careful play from Turkey - but his set up was the real reason I was able to run the final attack so effectively. By I think 1906 Turkey had at least - probably more - 1 unnecessary fleet and 1 unnecessary army on his front line, besides his Aegean fleet. True, the fleet especially would have taken some work to extract, but a more defensive posture - perhaps F Con, A Gre, F Aeg - would have severely limited the damage that could have been inflicted.

(A sort of loony final gamble - which I was dreading, especially after the Sevastopol build, since I meant to try for the solo - would have been for France to propose a Turkey-Russia two-way draw. Turkey would have accepted immediately, and my attack would have been outed - or I'd have to settle for the draw. Of course, France loses either way.)

Comments on the Variant

I like this variant a lot. I'm sure it's got something to do with the fact that I've done fairly well in both games I've played, but as objective reasons I enjoy the intricacies of the unit-center dynamic, and I like the faster pace. I'll agree with UpQuark that it has a "weakness", if you want to call it that, that it favors the aggressor more than the standard game: advantages accrue more quickly. This seems more to be a personal preference than something that can be really called a flaw or a feature, though.

If there's one comment I absolutely disagree with, it's his implication that mere "maneuvering" doesn't matter.

Regardless, I don't think build-anywhere is a "solution". Part of me is tempted by it, because it makes every center potentially another critical point in the flips (as in the Crowded version). I suppose there would be some strategy in choosing build centers that are "safe" but still close enough to reinforce quickly; but I suspect any defensive gains made there would be offset by introducing new potential loyalty chains. Might be interesting to try a game with it, though.

I also don't think the variant is necessarily solo-favoring. Certainly poor play (as in this game from Italy, Austria, and Turkey at the end) is punished much more quickly, and neighbors of a bad player can take advantage more quickly, while powers further off have trouble. As I noted in my AAR, the game dynamic was pretty much locked in by the conquest of Austria after his NMR. But of the three games played, one was a draw, one ought to have been a draw (see the AAR for game 2), and this one, even with the early misplays, would have been much much tighter with more vigilant play by Turkey. Personally I see bigger consequences for bad play as a good thing.

Players

France (UpQuark) - solid play throughout, just ended up on the wrong end of this one. Would play any time.
Turkey (locksmithvic) - incredible ally - perhaps a bit too trusting! Could work on his initiative.
Italy (various) - mostly inconsequential. Starting Italy (KazanPlease) was a pretty good communicator.
Austria (JonS) - whoops!
Germany (Mouse) - got let down by English and Italian play, I feel like. Pleasure as always.
England (dangerboy) - to, fittingly, quote Top Gear, "ambitious but rubbish". Talked a decent game, but didn't really play up to it and got shanked by France, anyway.

Thanks once again to everybody for the game; I look forward to meeting again, across this board or another, in the future!
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