Heptarchy 16 Game End and AARs

7-player variant set in the British & Irish Isles during the Dark Ages. GM'd by Wobbly.

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Re: Heptarchy 16 Game End and AARs

Postby Aeschines » 08 Jul 2019, 00:24

Well, I'm really late to the party! But I did want to share my AAR. Congratulations to everyone for this hard-fought game. I had an absolute blast playing with all of you. I came close to that solo, and while I'm frustrated to come up short, I had an absolutely great time. My only goals were to form the True Kingdom of England, but unfortunately, I was stymied by a bunch of Bretons, Celts, and Scots.

My Master Plan
From pretty early on in the game, I realized as the central power of Mercia, momentum was going to be everything. As a result, I worked all game to try to always have my next fight picked out and to be working to push events in such a way that I would be able to quickly win that fight once I got to it. I essentially came up with a 3-phase plan. 1) Dominate my region. 2) Kill my landward neighbors. 3) Go for the solo!

1) Dominating My Region
Because Mercia is fairly landlocked, two of my SCs were army-only, I didn't think it made sense to try to compete in the seas. I needed a naval presence to hold my borders secure, but I knew from the beginning it wasn't going to be much more than that. With that in mind, I reached out to my neighbors about moving forward. Cornubia (AKFD) was eager to launch an attack on Anglia (Woolgie) and after running the numbers, that seemed like a good direction to open. I would encourage Cornubia to build fleets (which couldn't really threaten me) and try to grab the lionshare of the inland/eastern SCs.

Another important factor of my decision to side with Cornubia (AKFD) over Anglia (Woolgie) was that I had stabbed Woolgie in a previous play-by-forum game and was concerned he wouldn't be willing to be a consistent ally as a result. I've worked with AKFD a number of times and though I seem to always wind up betraying him, until that happens he has proven to be reliably eager. With that personnel decision made, it came down to a tactical analysis. With the element of surprise and some good tactical thinking, Cornubia and I were able to pick apart Anglia in very little time.

One half of dominating my region involved me growing (and grow I sure did!). But the other part was to ensure that my neighbors were all too distracted to be concerned about my growth. I didn't want to pick up 3-4 builds and then face Northumbria and Wales in a land-based war. So...

1.5) The Inner Triple
At the same time that I was partnering with Cornubia, I also broached alliance talks with Wales (iamnobody) and Northumbria (patatevolante4). I pushed a narrative of a triple alliance where we could each put our backs up against the wall. I pointed out the dangers of Ireland (to Wales) and Scotland (to Northumbria) and Anglia (to me, leaving out my alliance with Cornubia). My hope was that they would jump at the chance to secure their landborders, so they could focus on their naval growth north and west.

To my delight, both Wales and Northumbria were amenable and we began a close partnership. As my primary contribution, I tried to weigh in on their movesets, so we did a fair amount of move-discussions before each turn. This, as it would turn out, was not to their benefit - but I did my best to think through the tactical situation to give them the best possible advice...

...And then pass those moves along to the Outer Triple.

1.75) The Outer Triple
To prevent either of Northumbria or Wales from growing too powerful (and making it hard for me to stab them), I spent much of the game passing tidbits/critical details about their moves to Scotland (StarkAdder) and Ireland (Don Juan of Austria). My goal was to present to Scotland and Ireland the expectation that the three of us would form a true triple and that I could be relied on to stab Wales/Northumbria, to make room for my "true" allies to grow.

To some extent, this wasn't all BS. I had no intentions of ever fighting Ireland or Scotland, if I could avoid it. Without fleets, their SCs were either too far away or too hard to defend. As a result, I was as genuine as I could be with both of them. I'm not sure to what extent my discussions/push for a triple with them lead to their being willing to bury the hatchet later (for the did do a fair amount of border fighting it seemed). But I may never know.

2) Kill My Landward Neighbors
After Anglia was spitted and roasted, I encouraged Cornubia to build to attack Ireland, which he obligingly did. I was undecided for a bit about whether to turn on Cornubia, Wales, or Northumbria, or some combination of the three. However, Cornubia (AKFD) continued to be willing to focus on fleets and left a substantial portion of our border undefended. I decided that the stab of Cornubia could wait, since he didn't have a way to defend that border anyway. I think this may have been an error, but I'm genuinely not sure. As it turned out, the stab of Cornubia never quite landed (thanks to some clever tactics by the replacement Cornubia - NanooktheEskimo) and if I'd moved earlier, maybe I would be a true king.

But, at the time I decided to move on Northumbria and Wales simultaneously. My stabs of them went off pretty beautifully, and I continued to grow at 2+ SCs a year. Unfortunately, I had made two mis-calculations. Firstly, the final Welsh SCs proved exceedingly difficult to capture without fleet assistance off the west coast (and ultimately, I would never capture them). And secondly, my growth triggered Ireland to flip on me. I think there was at least one turn where Ireland was propping up Wales, even while Scotland and I worked to split Northumbria.

With my growth stalling after the stab of the Inner Triple, I needed to pick up SCs to reinforce that border. While the lightning strike was effective for destablizing Wales and Northumbria, if they weren't being annihilated by the Outer Triple on the other side, I would eventually start to get pushed back. So, I made the decision to essentially come out and...

3) Go for the Solo!
Going for the solo consisted of me stabbing Cornubia to give me another year of 3+ SC growth. This was another flash point for my game. Because I had been playing nice with Cornubia for so long, my units were actually not in a great position to capture that many Cornubian SCs. While he had no defensive line against me and I was able to pick up a ~3 SCs, I also had no defensive line against Cornubia's units. I could tell this was going to get messy (though I was still confident of my success) and so I reached out to Cornubia and offered to give him a place in my post-game roleplay as the Warden of the South (of United England). He accepted but then made a different destroy than requested and then dropped out. At the same time, the remains of Northumbria (now payed by UFO Fever) offered to become my vassal state and help me to solo. I agreed and, to compensate him, promised to include him in the draw should I fail.

The seeds of my failure were sown that next phase though. NanooktheEskimo took over for AKFD as Cornubia. That next turn he was able to spin a set of tactical moves that, while not actually preventing me from conquering more Cornubian SCs, forced me to devote units south to establish a line to prevent him from simply walking into my home zone. WIthout a 3+ growth that year and with the need to divert northern units south, I realized that I would not be able to hold the line against the anti-solo alliance that had formed between Wales, Ireland, and Scotland.

Hoping for a stroke of luck, I played out one more turn and went with a pretty risky set of tactics. I landed some of those moves, but not enough, and I was forced to accede to the draw (or risk my pretty map getting messed up and still winding up in a draw).

Takeaways
While I failed to form a Kingdom of England, my hope is that future leaders like Alfred of Wessex will build on my failure. I did get pretty darn big though!

In the end, I think it came down to my decision to stab Wales/Northumbria before stabbing Cornubia and the clutch moves brought to the game by NanooktheEskimo to stop me. I felt very devious for my inner/outer triple alliance strategy, but I'd be curious to hear if I was more transparent about that then I thought (i.e. did Wales or Northumbria suspect I was double dealing etc). And I want to offer a particular commendation to Don Juan of Austria who's decision to start helping his former enemy Wales at no gain to himself was 1000% right and stopped me in my tracks.

Good game all!
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Re: Heptarchy 16 Game End and AARs

Postby Don Juan of Austria » 10 Jul 2019, 16:40

Beautiful AAR! I always enjoy reading your AARs Aeschines! :D

And secondly, my growth triggered Ireland to flip on me.

And I want to offer a particular commendation to Don Juan of Austria who's decision to start helping his former enemy Wales at no gain to himself was 1000% right and stopped me in my tracks.


This wasn't particularly fun for me...as I didn't feel very justified in stabbing you. You hadn't done anything against me; much rather you'd aided me! But the board demanded it, so that was that.
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Re: Heptarchy 16 Game End and AARs

Postby Aeschines » 10 Jul 2019, 16:54

Don Juan of Austria wrote:Beautiful AAR! I always enjoy reading your AARs Aeschines! :D

And secondly, my growth triggered Ireland to flip on me.

And I want to offer a particular commendation to Don Juan of Austria who's decision to start helping his former enemy Wales at no gain to himself was 1000% right and stopped me in my tracks.


This wasn't particularly fun for me...as I didn't feel very justified in stabbing you. You hadn't done anything against me; much rather you'd aided me! But the board demanded it, so that was that.


It was a masterclass play!
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