AARs

A game in which players accumulate points to alter past orders. Designed and GM'ed by Marsman57. Ended in a 3 way draw shared by EpicDim (Egypt), Aeschines (Greece), and Nanooktheeskimo (Rome)

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AARs

Postby marsman57 » 28 Sep 2016, 03:48

Thank you five so much for trying my variant. I had been trying to get it off the ground for some time, and it was glad to get a play in. I know I was not always the most prompt GM and I ask your forgiveness on that. Real life got a bit crazy for me and the adjudications were more time consuming than even I anticipated, sometimes taking up to 90 minutes from beginning to end.

I had hoped the final three would have played a little bit further as I think there was a shot at Rome victory. It really depended on how well Egypt and Greece could coordinate after what appeared to be some mutual stabbing (but maybe it was negotiated!?!). Either way, I understand why you all took the draw and I can't blame you.

What did everyone think of the game? I thought it went pretty well, but if I ran it again, I'd probably consider the following rule tweaks:
1. The provisional retreats were mostly unused and created extra overhead. I would probably ditch it for simplicity. I think the provisional builds were useful though in conserving TT points. Also, some players got hit with unexpected disbands due to civil disorder that could have been prevented with them. That prevention is a good thing I think. As a result, I'd probably retain provisional builds.
2. I would probably ditch the bonus TT points for players with 1-2 SCs. I thought it would be useful in helping them stage a comeback, but in reality I think it just makes them more of a liability and likely that others will want to eliminate them more swiftly.
3. The limit on present orders being the number of units controlled in the present is a bit constraining when you make a major TT change that will give you many more units than you had before. I think that a better limit would be the maximum of the units when the phase orders were entered or the number of units when the phase processed. That is a bit complicated to keep up with though so maybe there is a more elegant way to do it.

Again, thanks for playing everyone. I hope to see you in other games soon.
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Re: AARs

Postby I Love Italy » 28 Sep 2016, 06:27

Thank you to Marsman for running this! I had a really great time (hehe), and I thought it was a really inventive ruleset.

As for the game itself, I started out the game with (what I thought were) strong alliances with Nanook and Ferdy. I was hoping Nanook and I would do a type of western juggernaut, with Ferdy distracting the other two of you. But, that wasn't to be, as I left myself too open to a potential stab, which Nanook executed beautifully (kudos to you man).

From there I was just trying to stay in it long enough for Greece (hopefully) to attack Rome, and take some of the pressure off of me. Didn't work that way, but I had fun at least trying.

Once again, thanks to Marsman for taking on the Herculean task of running this, and thanks to my fellow players for making it a very entertaining round!
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Re: AARs

Postby nanooktheeskimo » 28 Sep 2016, 07:26

I'll add more to this later, but it's late now and I'm very tired. Some bullet points though...

Firstly and most importantly, a huge thank you to marsman for running this! And for pressing me to join, I'll admit I was a little on the fence at first because of how intense it looked and not being sure I had the time, but you won me over and I'm lucky you did, because this was one of my two or three favorite games that I've been a part of on the forum. I can imagine how intensive orders phases must have been to adjudicate (especially as far back as some of the time travel stuff went), so I'd say you did a pretty great job keeping the game going. I have no complaints at least :)

I took the draw for a few reasons. In a vacuum, I would have liked to keep playing and see if I could push out a solo. However, there was some mitigating stuff that led to my decision to accept the draw. Part of it was Greece's advantage in TT points, which would make it damn near impossible to get more than a center from him, and I'd be constantly guessing and trying to out-think him as far as TT orders go. That necessitates that I look to make my gains against Egypt...who has equal TT points, and nearly equal man power. I would mayyyyyybe be able to get one center from him within two years without getting lucky, and I'd be at something of a disadvantage in that sphere since I wouldn't be able to use any TT points and have any hope of matching Greece.

So, I wasn't going to be able to overwhelm them militarily. That leaves diplomatic means. I've been in touch off and on with Egypt throughout the game, but we never really established a close partnership, and I think it's fair to characterize our relationship as mostly being one of mutual enemies/concerns rather than one of mutual interests, if that's a distinction that makes sense. So while I needed his help against Carthage and he needed me distracting Carthage, I didn't want him to gain anything from Carthage going down (or as little as possible at least), and from the moves it seems clear he didn't want me eliminating Carthage too quickly either. So yeah, friendly and cordial, but not especially close, not to the point where it would be easy to talk him into attacking Greece full scale together. At least that's the way I felt about it, perhaps I was misreading the situation however!

Greece I had been close with throughout the game, from almost the start in fact, right up until I tried to stab him in Spring of 7AD. Even then, we were able to mend fences (which I made a genuine effort to do and then followed through on, because Egypt's moves in Spring 7AD didn't quite smell right to me, and he didn't respond to my message after that, which I understand was probably innocuous and just because he was busy, but in that situation I generally operate on assume the worst, and adjust accordingly). However, after the Fall, I think we both saw the writing was on the wall, and that writing said that it would be very hard for us to avoid conflict moving forward, since a two way draw isn't really a realistic end in this sort of game, and we both knew it. That would make it very hard for us to continue working in tandem the way we had, since we'd both be looking over our shoulder, waiting and expecting the other to make a move, and maybe even making moves proactively to counter what we think the other might do. Not a healthy basis for a relationship, in other words!

Another contributing factor was that I would be away for two weeks in the thick of this. Considering the work I'd have to put in to keep Greece and Egypt from teaming up against me, a very real possibility, and the fact that for two weeks I'd be out of touch while they could talk freely, it seemed more than likely I'd be the odd man out.

I'd also like to tip my hat to Egypt for a masterfully played game. He always did just enough to make himself indispensable, but never drew so much attention to himself to make himself a target (at least from my perspective). By the end game, he was perfectly situated as the third power with two larger powers about to go after each other--an enviable position to be in, in many ways. Had we played it out, I would put his odds of soloing even with mine, and his odds of survival maybe even higher, considering he was a more natural ally for both me and Greece (the only reason I wouldn't put his solo odds above Greece's, is Greece's advantage in TT points. However, I would have focused more of my attention on defending from Greece than from Egypt, so maybe I'm underestimating his chances some).

All in all, a really, really fun game for me! Very exciting, and I loved playing it on the AMED map too, one of my favorite variant maps. As far as suggestions for the mechanics go, I think the idea of ditching provisional retreats is a good one, but provisional builds/disbands I liked a lot. I agree that giving powers under a certain threshold more TT points is maybe not the best thing--I would be in favor of even gains across the board, or perhaps even the inverse, where over a certain threshold (say, 14-15 SCs), you get one TT point per year rather than two. I did like the rule about how many orders you can enter in a given phase, and I think it adds an element of strategy that is good, rather than detrimental. Without thinking it through too much, I would say that the alternatives are way more complicated, and end up running counter-intuitive to the rest of the design. BUT, that's just my opinion, and like I said, I haven't really thought through the alternatives much at all.

A great game, and a really fun one for me. Thank you to marsman for GMing, thank you to everyone for playing, and congratulations to my fellow draw members :)
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Re: AARs

Postby EpicDim » 29 Sep 2016, 03:30

Thank you marsman57. I know all too well how complicated variants cause more work for the GM.

I really enjoyed the variant. I agree that the retreats were nearly impossible to guess so removing those makes sense. I actually thought the double TT points for small players was great and really did keep them in the game. I think you need to limit the number of orders, maybe something simple like X+2 would solve the issue. In general I dislike 5 player variants because of this phenomena where 2 tend to get squished and leave 3 behind. There is little chance to turn that around by getting someone to switch sides.

Egypt:
I started with an agreement with both Carthage and Persia. Obviously one of them had to be false, and I decided to trust Carthage and go against Persia. Obviously that was a mistake, Carthage decided that even with Rome at his doorstep he should spend his TT points and turn on me instead. I was able to go back and stop an early move which totally derailed 2 years of moves from Carthage which gave Rome enough room to really do some damage to Carthage.

Then the fight for time started with Fall 2AD. Once 50/50 decision by me and Persia. We spent TT points year after year to keep changing Fall 2AD. And the changes had huge impacts to everyone. By the time the dust settled in 2AD, I came out on top and was very relieved when Persia spent some TT points against Greece and didn't have enough left for 2AD.

I had no TT points left, and I was feeling pretty vulnerable to the Rome/Greece pair which both had a ton of TT points left. Because of that I started the 3-way draw discussion to put the idea into their heads. It was then that Carthage surprised everyone and made a great TT move and stopped Rome in his tracks. Rome had to spend a bunch of TT points to counter and left him as bad off as I was with points.

Once I saw both Persia and Carthage had been eliminated (for now) I decided to attempt the 3-way. With the Greece TT point spread, he was in the best position for the solo and I couldn't take the risk. If any one of the two had gone against the draw, the other two of us would have ganged up on them, so the peer pressure ended up finishing up the draw.

ferdy0, after Carthage stabbed me you kept pressuring me to join you and in hindsight I probably should have. I just didn't trust that you wouldn't take it out on me later. I also felt that I could hold off Carthage while Rome gutted them and I was so far out of position that I had to keep going.
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Re: AARs

Postby Aeschines » 29 Sep 2016, 04:43

Marsman, thank you so much for GMing! I had a great time with the variant. It's a great idea with a ton of potential to create a great game.

My Game:
In the early game, I simply sought to find a pair of friends between Egypt, Rome, and Persia. Neither Persia or Egypt were particularly chatty from the get go, but Rome about talked my ear off (thank you Nanook! :D ). With Rome promising a 2-way draw along with the moon, in exchange for a favorable split of our neutrals, I decided that I would look eastward. Persia was open to anything but didn't seem to have a specific plan, while Egypt specifically approached me about attacking Persia. Since I didn't see a long-term advantage in taking out Egypt with Persia, given our relative locations, I decided to go for the squish.

Persia was willing to let me take both of our neutrals, so long as I did it with only one army. That gave me an opening to both grab both neutrals (with two armies) and then convert one into a fleet to grab the Black Sea and Che with time travel points. From there, the rest of my tactical game was spent slowly grinding down Persia while keep up enough of a defensive posture relative to Egypt to avoid a stab.

I was exceedingly pleased with Egypt and Persia got locked into a war over 2AD. The drain it cost them in both their TT points and their attention meant that I generally was relatively unopposed as I pushed east and south. Once that time war began, I decided that conserving my TT points would give me a big bargaining chip for later in the game. So I began a policy of always dealing with the present. Egypt had been in contact about me turning on Rome and I had been considering using some TT points to sneak a large force onto Rome's European border. But, with the goal of avoiding the costly TT war that had hurt Egypt so badly (and was hurting Rome & Carthage) I demurred. The relative ease with which a single unit can counter an entire onslaught meant it was easier to defend with TT than attack (but more on that later).

Because my alliance with Rome seemed solid and Egypt was weakened after the Persian Wars, I decided to focus my present-attacks on Egypt. However, my lack of fleets and the asian bottleneck meant gains were hard to come by, so I resolved to just wait until Rome could flank Egypt in earnest, before doing anything drastic.

My present-first policy then came back to bite me in the butt. Persia past-retreated his unit, stealing one of my past SCs, and suddenly put me in a world of hurt. My inattention to provisional builds/destroys left me in a very awkward position when I lost one of my lynchpin fleets in the fight against Egypt/Persia. I had the TT to go back in time and fix the issue, but I didn't want to use my points if I could avoid it. So, for a while I tried to deal with it the old-fashioned way. It was then that I started to fear a Roman stab. My weakened position left me with fewer present SCs than either Rome or Egypt and I began to see fins circling.

I reached out to Rome and he assured me that all was well. I reminded him that my TT surplus would make any attack futile and I was satisfied with his answer. Then he moved on me anyway. I was pissed. I rattled off an ill-thought out message to Egypt promising to throw the game in his favor out of spite. Then, after a little bit more time to analyze the board (and the past boards) realized that was not really necessary. I spent a reasonable amount of my TTs to undo the Roman stab and the Persian retreat and suddenly put me in an aggressive position relative to Egypt. Then, just before the deadline Rome got back to me and seemed quite contrite. I changed my orders so save some TT, with the hope that Rome was serious and was rewarded when he followed through.

At this juncture the draw was proposed and I gladly accepted it. While it was sad to end with only 2 players eliminated, I couldn't conceive of a way to end the game with less.

Ruminations on the Variant and the Draw

This leads into my largest complaint about this game, which was the combination of the map and the variant.

Time Travel points are generally much more useful on the defensive. A TT attack that costs 6 points can usually be effectively rebuffed by spending only 1-3. Then, for the attacker to avoid the defensive move, it gets more expensive, etc. In large part this is because any effective attack needs 2 units, while a defense can be mounted by only 1 (especially if you know where the attackers are going!).

The defensive nature of TT exacerbated the already-existing problem with Ancient Med, which is that it is very hard to shave the draw below three because of the potential for kingmaking. In normal, 7 person, diplomacy by the time a 3-person draw is possible, there is often a significant imbalance of power between the 3. This makes it relatively easier for one of them to push for the 2-way or solo. Here, we were of about equal strength so any two could quash the third, who could in turn threaten to kingmake unless one of the others defected.

My draw decision essentially boiled down to this: if I didn't accept the draw I should attack someone. But that someone's only reasonable response would be to either threaten to kingmake me or my ally (50% of losing, plus the chance that my ally would simply defect at the threat). And if I was being kingmade against, I couldn't do anything to stop it because the kingmaker could simply move their units out of the way in the past. It created a recipe where my ally could suddenly go from 15 SCs to the solo entirely via time travel. Compounded with my poor offensive position relative to Egypt, the player I was most inclined to attack (given my history with Rome) I decided it was rational to throw in the towel.

In the future, I think you should seek to run this (very fun!) variant on larger maps of at least 7 players. Otherwise, I would fear a repeat of this result. I also didn't think it was inconvenient to have to submit no more orders in a past phase than I had before the orders. But that may be because I tried to hoard my TT, so feel free to disregard my opinion here.

All in all, fun game, fun people! Thanks everyone!
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Re: AARs

Postby marsman57 » 30 Sep 2016, 15:05

Thank you guys for the extensive feedback. I would like to run it again sometime with 7 players definitely. That had been my hope for the initial run. It just seemed at the time like we were never going to hit that number, and I felt like it would be best to get a play through in for three reasons. First, it gave us a bit of a chance to exercise the rules and maybe streamline a few things for Game 2. Secondly, I knew it would be a little less crazy with TT orders with less players, and I knew there would be adjudication challenges that I would need to figure out how to handle*. Finally, I now have (hopefully) 5 advocates to say how awesome the variant is which will definitely help recruitment.

Life has me on the ropes pretty hard right now though, and I just joined Escalation so it will probably be a while before I want to get another go started. I'll make sure to ping all of you when I do though. Also, if any of you are wild enough to want to run it, please save me a spot in the game. I'll join no matter how busy other stuff is. :)

* - For example, as you all know, I used jDip for adjudications. I was smart enough to save a copy of each phase when I started the game, but I initially overwrote the phase copy every time I made adjustments. This bit me when we got into the Fall 2AD war. The changes would put us precisely in a state we had before, but I would have to readjudicate like two years to get a correct Spring 4AD jDip map to apply Fall 4AD changes to. Later I started saving each changed map as a separate jDip file so if changes put us back into an old state, I could just use the old adjudications again.
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Re: AARs

Postby marsman57 » 04 Oct 2016, 19:26

One late thing to add as I just thought of it. I was a bit surprised that there did not appear to be any times when two players coordinated a change to a past phase to synergize with each other. Maybe that was another symptom of the low player count where there is less likely to remain a very close game long alliance.
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Re: AARs

Postby EpicDim » 04 Oct 2016, 20:16

marsman57 wrote:One late thing to add as I just thought of it. I was a bit surprised that there did not appear to be any times when two players coordinated a change to a past phase to synergize with each other. Maybe that was another symptom of the low player count where there is less likely to remain a very close game long alliance.


There was little coordination in the current phase. I think the map had a lot to do with it. We could each work in our own fronts and didn't need to support each other, it was more about non-aggression and common enemy discussions.
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Re: AARs

Postby nanooktheeskimo » 06 Oct 2016, 02:10

marsman57 wrote:One late thing to add as I just thought of it. I was a bit surprised that there did not appear to be any times when two players coordinated a change to a past phase to synergize with each other. Maybe that was another symptom of the low player count where there is less likely to remain a very close game long alliance.

For me, it was mostly a matter of not wanting to tip my hand--Greece was my closest ally, but there wasn't much opportunity for us to coordinate TT moves, and I wasn't quite confident enough in my relationship with Egypt to talk explicitly about TT orders. I think that a 7 player game would go some ways towards coordination of TT orders if only because there will be more opportunities to do so, but I suspect that a certain amount of a cards close to the vest approach is inherent to the variant.

I would love to play this again if/when you (or anyone else for that matter!) runs it. It was a blast, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone that likes a somewhat more complicated but rewardingly dynamic variant.
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Re: AARs

Postby Don Juan of Austria » 06 Oct 2016, 08:25

From my perspective, it was very interesting to watch. :) And now EpicDim has started recruiting (@Nanook!) I've joined there. Hopefully, I'll be reporting in the next AARs.
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