ModEx: AAR's

14-player variant set on a modern canvas of Europe extended to include North Africa and the Middle East. Designed and GM'ed by joe92. Threeway draw between Iran (Antigonos), Poland (Big Gun), West Africa (asudevil).

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Re: ModEx: AAR's

Postby Nanook » 13 Feb 2018, 11:37

I would suggest playing France before declaring it not unplayable. I thought the same thing, but it's considerably more difficult to do when you're actually playing it. You basically have to convince 3 of your neighbors to be your ally--not just friendly, but an active ally. It's doable, I don't think the position is entirely unplayable, but it has a much higher degree of difficulty than anything in regular dip or even 1900, generally regarded as the most balanced variant around.

I'm still not convinced it's an auto-loss, but you really have to get some luck with the draw of who is playing your neighbors, and then you have to spend a ton of time convincing them to take the harder path (not eating you). Again, not completely unplayable, but it is a much higher degree of difficulty compared to other nations, to the point that I wouldn't call the game balanced because of it.


I am all for limited tinkering, but yeah, France is really in a difficult position. There's not a lot of incentive for Germany to work with them, and while Britain and Spain *should* be their friend, it's tough for Britain to resist the short term temptation of attacking them, as it's the easier path short term.
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Re: ModEx: AAR's

Postby joe92 » 13 Feb 2018, 11:41

Thank you Big Gun for your thorough AAR and map thoughts. I intend to write up my thoughts on the game and map at a later date after a bit more time has been allowed for others to comment.
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Re: ModEx: AAR's

Postby Don Juan of Austria » 13 Feb 2018, 13:31

Otherwise the rivers were only used by an Italian rogue fleet, which enjoyed far too much power. On entering the Upper Danube that fleet had the power to attack any one of 6 of my Polish occupied supply centres and there was nothing any of my armies surrounding it could have done to dislodge the fleet or push it away. My Baltic Sea fleets were much too far away to get down into the Danube in any realistic time, so the only possible way to get rid of the fleet was to eliminate Italy altogether, which thankfully at that stage of the game proved possible. But if Italy had still been in a stronger position with more supply centres, my position would have become very frustrating


Precisely why you shouldn't have stabbed me. ;) It could have been more effective if Germany had responded at that time...
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Re: ModEx: AAR's

Postby Don Juan of Austria » 05 Mar 2018, 21:32

So yeah, I joined up for ModEx in September, and when I joined up, I intended to write an AAR when I was through....and more recently I was reminded that I hadn't written one up yet.

It has been awhile, so just to remind you, I was the insignificant green patch on the board that messed up my alliances pretty well.

My Initial thoughts were to push North and stake a claim to Austria and Switzerland...and go to war with either France for Germany. I was leaning towards France simply because he's more accessible to Italian fleets than Germany was... and Germany and I started our comms off well. I didn't really feel like I was looking for a fight, more of waiting for a fight...and hoping to choose a side. To my south, I liked Algeria, and got on pretty well with him...and wanted to keep him alive as long as possible because frankly, I was worried having West Africa just south of him captained by the renowned Asu. ;)

France, however, proposed a lovely plan for him taking Switzerland with a fleet, and then soon after we'd attack Germany with Britain. I was cautiously on board, but Britain wasn't at all. After year one, I had picked up three centers in Austria, Croatia, and Crete, and had sorta bottle necked myself from going father north with many armies; so instead, I built fleets to go after Spain with Algeria and Britain.
I hadn't really written to either Ukraine or Poland much though, and I soon payed the price when they attacked, taking Austria. It wasn't too bad, as I was able to get Austria back the next year (2017), and then also ended it with Marseilles.... My 8 center high water mark.

The next year Germany changed sides and things went south fairly quickly for me. France was all but dead, Algeria and Turkey were crumbling, and I slowly lost centers from there. I tried getting Germany to change sides. Then I tried being a pest with my fleet, and I believe I was for quite awhile. When Poland stabbed me again, I tried coordinating my pesky fleet with Germany's armies, but never got a response...

Oh, and somewhere in there, Egypt took Naples and Crete.

Overall, I enjoyed it. I think Italy has just about the most starting options, and has a good excuse to write to most everyone on the board which I quite enjoyed. It would be interesting to see someone like Antigonos play Italy on this map. So much influence... ;)

Thanks for GMing it again, and so well Joe!
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Re: ModEx: AAR's

Postby joe92 » 10 Apr 2018, 14:06

This game was overdue to be archived and my addition to the AAR even more overdue. Thankfully it has coalesced at a time when I can actually add my contributions. I'm sorry it's so late but here we go.

The Game
Compared to the first run of ModEx this game went swimmingly. There were a couple of NMR's but none that affected the game severely, and there were no replacements needed! Thank you everyone for that! It really made running the game a pleasure. And it made judging the balance much better too.

For how the game went there were a few memorable points but I won't touch upon them. What concerns me is the map itself.

The Map
I feel version 2 of ModEx is a vast improvement upon version 1, however there are still improvements to be made. Antigonos is right that constantly changing the map removes the possibility to test it out properly, however, some changes will be necessary to address some issues of balance. Some preliminary ideas on what is on my mind.

  1. Russia starts too weak
    In the redraw I will be altering Russia's starting supply centres / position. The centre in Murmansk will move to Karelia. Rostov-on-Don will remain as so but the fleet will start in Volga. This will give Russia the opportunity to take and hold Kazakhstan. Lapland may also be removed as a territory.

  2. Iran starts too strong
    This will already be largely affected by the movement of Russia's starting position giving Russia the opportunity to take Kazakhstan. There will also likely be a bounce in the Caspian Sea which will see the Iranian opening moves to Caspian Sea and Tehran to Rasht changed. Additionally the moving of the Russian fleet to Volga will embolden Turkey to possibly open with the bounce in Iraq. But further to this I may remove Mashhad as a territory completely. The supply centre would move to Isfahan. Isfahan would lose the border to Iraq and instead Ilam will border Busheur. Zahedan would border Tehran and Isfahan. UAE or Oman would be added as a neutral supply centre. The overall aim with these changes is to curtail somewhat the power Iran starts with and to give it more reason to attack the African continent.

  3. West African hegemony
    West Africa enjoys too much power. I've toyed over some ideas in my head about what to do and there are two that stand out to me.
    - Option 1: Remove a starting supply centre. Remove Benin as a supply centre and Togo as a territory. Make Nigeria a Production supply centre for West Africa.
    - Option 2: Remove West Africa. Add Guinea and Nigeria as powers. This would change the map into a 15 player map and drastically change the dynamic of Africa as a continent. I would need to look into this with a bit more detailed thought but first thoughts is that both would be 3-power starters with a Production supply centre nearby.

  4. France is still a little imbalanced
    Nanook built the wrong units in the first winter in my opinion. However, I do believe that France is still the most undesirable power to start with. No matter which way you skin it France is the only central power to be completely surrounded by other powers. While every game is going to have 1 power that is the worst one to start with (unless you're playing Pure Diplomacy) it shouldn't be the case that one of them is as disadvantaged compared to it's neighbours as France is and my aim is to lessen that disparity. After the first run I suggested France as another power to start with 5 centres and I'm seriously wondering whether that is the solution. It could possibly start with only 4 units but have that 5th centre ready for the start of the second year. However, that might paint too big a target on France's back. Having France start with an army in Marseilles may also change the balance of the starting game. If France makes it past the starting game I believe it is actually one of the better powers to control so it's a case of ensuring it has a reasonable ability to get there.

  5. River Rules
    After watching Don Juan have far too much control over the fate of Germany with a single fleet I've come to the opinion that the rules need to be tweaked. The tweak will be pretty simple. Both Fleets and Armies may move into rivers. The rest of the rules will apply as normal regarding convoys and porting fleets into neighbouring provinces. However, by allowing Armies to enter the rivers (on speedboats let's say) it brings better balance to the river system and stops a single fleet tying up quite so many armies in an inland position. In this game Germany would have had the opportunity to get an army into the rivers to counter Italy or dislodged the fleet as it started attacking them.

  6. Cape movement rules
    Movement around the cape hasn't happened in either game. It's possible to open up South Atlantic Ocean to the movement rules and think about 1/2 strength movement one way like in the 1900 map. I appreciate that South Africa has been suggested as a power in both the developmental stage of the game and again now by Big Gun. The problem with adding South Africa as a power to the game is that Africa becomes considerably enlarged and thus further disjointed from Europe. The game already suffers from having distinct arenas of conflict. That will always be a problem on larger maps, but I don't wish to add to it if I can avoid it.

Thank you everyone for participating in this game! Thank you very much for your feedback on the map. I really appreciate it and always welcome any additional comments.
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Re: ModEx: AAR's

Postby Nanook » 10 Apr 2018, 16:13

Seems like if you can put armies on the river...what's the point of having the rivers to begin with?

To me that's like saying "someone really tied up a bunch of Austria's units by being in ADR, or a bunch of Turkey's by being in BLA, so let's make armies able to go there...no...some spaces tie up more units than others and are thus more valuable. If Germany recognized the value of the rivers (actually, if EVERYONE playing recognized it), then it becomes much less of an issue. Italy not recognizing the value of TYS doesn't make the game unbalanced, it just means they don't recognize the value of an important space.

I'd say right now that's the rivers. An important space that isn't always recognized as such.



I don't think I built the wrong units, fwiw. I think the units I built worked to go after Germany--my problem was that Britain stabbed me, and had no short term reason not to. He had a long term reason not to, which played out, but in the short term there really wasn't much reason for him not to stab.

So maybe choice of alliance is a fair critique, but within the context of an E/F alliance where F is banking on E seeing the big picture and on being able to push into Germany as quickly as possible, I think my builds were fine.
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Re: ModEx: AAR's

Postby Antigonos » 10 Apr 2018, 18:45

I will try to respond to joe's last post in the next few days but I have to disagree on several counts especially rivers and Iran of which I have some direct experience and have to say that playing it is not so easy as some seem to think. Without begin more specific for now I will simply say that I have a real issue with what seems to be the tendency to try to "fix" presumed problems after each game instead of allowing new combinations of players to explore the map, rules and alliances to extract the most from their given situation.

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Re: ModEx: AAR's

Postby NoPunIn10Did » 10 Apr 2018, 21:24

Joe,

Have you done any tempi-based calculations to compute a “sphere of influence” measure for each power based on their starting units?

I’ve started using a spreadsheet to do so with any variant I work on. It’s not a perfect predictor of performance, but there tends to be correlation between average results for a power and their relative hypothetical share of SCs after the first two years of play.

Again, not perfect, but a particularly useful tool when balancing a variant that you’re unlikely to have a statistically significant set of results for.
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Re: ModEx: AAR's

Postby Don Juan of Austria » 10 Apr 2018, 22:01

River Rules
After watching Don Juan have far too much control over the fate of Germany with a single fleet I've come to the opinion that the rules need to be tweaked. The tweak will be pretty simple. Both Fleets and Armies may move into rivers. The rest of the rules will apply as normal regarding convoys and porting fleets into neighbouring provinces. However, by allowing Armies to enter the rivers (on speedboats let's say) it brings better balance to the river system and stops a single fleet tying up quite so many armies in an inland position. In this game Germany would have had the opportunity to get an army into the rivers to counter Italy or dislodged the fleet as it started attacking them.


Ahhh! I'd rather dispose of the rivers then let armies in.
Letting Germany or Poland into the rivers last game with their armies looks nice on paper, because it's a defensive move, but if hate to see the next game with armies blitzing up and down rivers. :shock:
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Re: ModEx: AAR's

Postby joe92 » 10 Apr 2018, 22:34

First up. Please let me clear up that I have mentioned that these are the things I am thinking of. Not that I am absolutely going to do them (apart from the moving of Russian supply centres - that I see as important). My wording was not clear and your reactions have been pretty eye opening! If you have objections to my thoughts on the map I'm not infallible and certainly haven't decided on anything yet (again, apart from Russia, I think that's a glaring mistake). I know my wording on the previous comment sounds absolute, but it's not.

@nanook. Please take into account that I am only talking from a GM's perspective when I say I think you built the wrong unit. I have little idea of the diplomacy that was actually happening at that stage in the game.

I think you have misappropriated the point of the rivers. They were primarily added to increase the movement and usefulness of fleets. The rule change I have suggested to allow fleets and armies to use the rivers does not take away from the value of the rivers. They still create fast movement channels for fleets to get through Europe. They are still vitally important zones of the map, and if you get a fleet onto the river you still have a very strong position against your enemy. It would though stop the situation where a lone fleet can cause a lot of damage to the home centres of another power and that power having little to no capability of stopping it. It is not really similar the value of TYS like you say as nn army in Naples cannot walk across TYS to Tunisia but an army in Switzerland can walk across the Rhine into Lyon.

That said, I'm not 100% convinced that it needs to change. As stated, I know the wording reads as absolute but it's not. I completely agree with you when you argue that everyone needs to be playing with the value of the rivers in mind. And in the case of Don Juan, if gnaah had pulled back his forces and entered into better negotiations with Italy, the fleet may have not been used against him. They may have been able to form an alliance against Poland and as a guess I'd say that's partly why Italy sent the fleet there in the first place, to try get that alliance. There are many factors at play. If I can reason that the current rules don't give an unfair advantage then I don't want to change them.

Furthermore, I need to make sure allowing armies into the rivers doesn't give them an unfair advantage. As Don Juan has rightly pointed out, it would allow the armies to travel hella fast across the continent. Some more considered thought needs to go into this. I fear I may have rushed with my proposed tweak. I look forwards to any other comments on this particular issue.

@Antigonos. As said, I agree that things shouldn't be rushed to be fixed if the problems are not apparent. However, this map is only on it's second iteration so is in the fairly unique position where changes can be made without ruining all the prior work made by players to understand a given map. I wish to get to the point where I can leave the map in a fixed version for a long time as soon as I can so that different combinations of players can explore the map in new alliances and really get to understand it.

I really look forwards to your thoughts on the map. Particularly with reference to Iran. It is not lost on me that one of the best players in PbF has controlled Iran on both games, and on both games it's done well. My thoughts on the strength of Iran don't come from only that but I am indeed looking forwards to your input. The change of the Russian starting setup may be enough to balance things out and make the other changes unnecessary. I will need to analyse the map in further detail to figure out exactly what to do.

@NoPun. I saw you use the term tempi-based calculations before with the new Hundred map and have to admit I didn't know really what you were meaning. However, I'm glad to discover that I am indeed using it, or something similar. Probably not exactly in the way you mean, but yes, the vast majority of what I consider the balance of powers is based on the power's hypothetical share of SC's after the first 2 years of game play. I tend to theorise multiple routes. A hypothetical best, a hypothetical worst, and a hypothetical "likely expansion route" (that's pure guesswork). From that I do my best to determine the fairest solution. I don't currently collate my calculations into a spreadsheet but that is just me being a bit sloppy and tight with time.
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