AAR: Hell Bent For Leather 8 (France Solo: Versailles)

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AAR: Hell Bent For Leather 8 (France Solo: Versailles)

Postby Charleroi » 14 Mar 2019, 16:58

This was a pretty good time of a game with a lot of back and forth action. I'll be writing up the AAR for a while (likely in stages) and am eager to get everyone's pitch in.

Josey Wales set up the game and I got a blast invite from Big Gun -- congrats on putting together a great group. This was an unusually enjoyable game (and only partially because it went well for me).

Great Britain & Spain -- Big Gun
France & Yugoslavia -- Charleroi (SOLO WIN)
Italy & Sweden -- The Tibetan Blackbird
Germany & Egypt -- KEVINkevKEVIN (replacement for Machor in Spring 1943)
Poland & Greece -- MarcusFurius
Turkey & Czechoslovakia -- Josey Wales
USSR & Rumania -- The SHIV

Final Board:
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From my perspective, the game divided into roughly three phases. Phase I was the Napoleonic Alliance of France, Germany, and Italy, or perhaps the Vichy Triple if we're going with the WWII analogy? Phase II started when that central broke and first Germany and then Italy made surges toward a solo victory. Phase III began when Germany was materially reduced and the map coalesced into a Stop Italy Alliance which I used as a screen while positioning myself for the final sprint.
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Re: AAR: Hell Bent For Leather 8 (France Solo: Versailles)

Postby Charleroi » 14 Mar 2019, 17:38

Early chit chat started off quite friendly with most of those around the board. I've never been particularly successful at Versailles, so my goal was a decent showing. France was a good draw (mercy on the poor folks who draw Poland) and Yugoslavia was an interesting minor but not a godsend (as say, France Spain, or Germany Czech can be).

In Spring 1931 Italy proposed a threeway alliance of France, Germany, and Italy. These powers agreed to work together. That alliance defined my experience of the game from 1931 until its collapse in 1937 (more on that later).

Relations with my other neighbors (namely Spain and Britain) were complicated by a *huge* mistake that I made somewhere around 1932. In the typical early-Versailles scramble, one of everyone's top goals is to identify all the major-minor pairings. Sometimes that seems like more trouble than its worth. Other times, the failure to do so can lead to some catastrophic blunders. My experience was the latter. Really, this is credit to Big Gun. Through his messaging from both Spain and Britain, he led me to believe that Spain was controlled by the USSR (Spain was cagey but kept saying his major was in the East) and that Britain controlled Rumania. I was thoroughly bamboozled. And goodness knows why I didn't try to confirm this with USSR. Perhaps Britain had told USSR of the ruse and he would have played along.

But, as a result of my confusion and the Vichy Alliance (also apt because my early play was about as effective as the Vichy government's military efforts) I decided that Britain had to be my number one target and that my rump forces should play defense and, if necessary, eliminate Spain. Of course I made the mistakes of telling Spain that I was headed North and then believing him when he said he was moving into the Med. He certainly pushed me to attack Germany more than Britain but he made no outright protestations. Needless to say, I was surprised with the look of the Board in 1932. That spring, Spain (despite his plans to "move to the Med" was instead in MAO. I had moved into Gascony and Marseilles (to contain Spain if necessary) and had occupied the channel and IRI. This let me snag Ireland but it also let Spain give a malicious support (I do so appreciate the malicious support order when it is well used, even if I'm the victim) that prevented me from building the fleet I wanted in Brest and also took the heat off of Spain.

Fall 1932
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I assume Spain was hoping that once I was forced to build armies I could be persuaded to attack Germany. Trouble was, Britain was making rip roaring progress (with Russian help) and I didn't want to take down Germany just to get annihilated by Britain.

At this point I should note, and I'm not sure whether Britain ever bought this, that Italy had also proposed a France, Britain, Italy, threeway alliance. I insisted on knowing who Spain was before committing fully (good instinct but poor execution on my part) and, to the extent I ever agreed to that alliance, it was very much secondary to my commitment to Germany over Britain. In fact, I lied to Britain and violated a channel DMZ in 1931. I hate to start with a lie but I really wanted to get Britain out early in this game. It caused a bit of a catch-22 for me. Britain (followed by Italy) was the best communicator of the game. But he and I were just constantly at loggerheads. I was certainly the early attacker (I suppose we mutually attacked if you count Spain's conduct). But we kept up a constant stream of dialogue (sometimes more frustrated than others) and could never quite get ourselves to work together fully. In 1933-35 I decided to get Spain before Britain and turned south.

Spring 1933
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By this point (Spring 1933) I had the Iberian to myself but Spain the player was still a huge annoyance. Germany was getting ahead of both Italy and I as far as the Vichy Alliance went. I kept thinking I would be clear once Spain was gone but that was always a turn or two away. Meanwhile Britain was fighting well in Scandinavia but started to have hard time once Poland was wrecked and Russia stopped being as friendly. Britain and I had ostensibly patched things up and I convinced him not to build in Liverpool so that I could concentrate on Spain. He was trying to talk me into Germany (who was woefully exposed at the time) but I couldn't start a war on that front while Spain was still making such a hassle of himself. At this point, Britain's comms success was working against his strategic interests. I was willing to consider war against Germany but not while Spain was needling me. If Britain had confessed "hey, I'm Spain, I'll move out of MAO so that you send your armies into Germany", I would have done it. Germany was wide open. But Big Gun probably didn't want that because, without the threat of Spain, I stood to make massive gains in the Alps before he was able to snatch German centers for himself.
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Re: AAR: Hell Bent For Leather 8 (France Solo: Versailles)

Postby Charleroi » 14 Mar 2019, 17:59

In 1934-35 Britain and I kept trying to form up together. Britain agreed that I could eliminate Spain (without revealing that it was him) and I agreed to cede Ireland once I was able to take Holland. Instead, Britain took Holland and remained in the Channel. It seemed that neither of us trusted the other enough to genuinely reset, but the messages kept flowing regardless. So I decided to keep working with Germany. Meanwhile in the East, I was using Yugo mainly as a means of helping Italy to advance. I also vacillating between helping Rumania (when I wanted to help Britain) and needling Rumania. My goal was for Italy to be growing but also have to keep fleets in the East.

In hindsight, Britain's 1934 messaging is just devious. He kept writing about how he wanted to work with me but had to stay in the Channel because of the threat of the Spanish fleet and that he would exchange Holland but couldn't because he didn't know when Russia would use the Spanish fleet against him. Real Versailles masterclass here. Although it's not often you'll have someone gullible enough to still be confused by a major-minor pairing at this point. That's on me.

All through this period there was a running group thread with Germany and Italy (and I assume Italy and Germany were jointly picking apart Poland and the Balkans in a different thread). There was less to be said there as we were all on the same page, but it kept working smoothly.

The board at the end of 1934.
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Re: AAR: Hell Bent For Leather 8 (France Solo: Versailles)

Postby Charleroi » 14 Mar 2019, 19:44

In 1935 and 1936 I gave up trying to patch things up with Britain and buckled down to working with Germany against him. Meanwhile Italy was a faithful ally in the Med. I think I was fortunate here to have a Balkan minor because it gave Italy an incentive to work with me - I had something to offer him.

1936 was a big year for Germany and it would ultimately cost him. He snagged Oslo, Finland and Lithuania. We were still on good terms - he convoyed me into Edi from Hol (where I had moved previously to create the illusion of an attack and, more importantly, to give him every incentive to follow through on the convoy - if he didn't, I got his center). Italy made tactical progress by snatching Galicia and putting Russia on the ropes but Germany was the clear leader. I'm not sure what he had in mind but by moving to NAO he really set my antennae tingling. I decided to reach back out to Britain and see if he would work against Germany with me. Around this time Britain had threatened to continue attacking me while ceding territory to Germany. I think he was trying to drive me into hitting Germany, but I wouldn't do that until I was safe from Britain and he wouldn't turn on Germany until I had. So no dice. At least not until Britain was almost crippled.

Regardless, it was no longer tenable for Italy and me to keep working with Germany as we had been. This was the end of Phase I.

Fall 1936
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Re: AAR: Hell Bent For Leather 8 (France Solo: Versailles)

Postby Charleroi » 14 Mar 2019, 20:12

In Spring 1937, Britain seemed to turn away from giving everything to Germany (even though his choice of destroys in the Winter of 36-37 were very pro-German). This was not a moment too soon as (as Italy and I predicted) this was the fateful year for Germany. He and Italy mutually stabbed one another in the fall of 1937. Italy also gave off the appearance of stabbing me (by taking Beograd) but this had been agreed in advance between Italy and I. More importantly, Germany had taken Edi and had bounced me out of London. Unfortunately Britain went back to dedicating all of his forces against me in the fall of 1937. So Germany was left unopposed in Lvp (despite being surrounded by three British forces). Britain retook MAO from me rather than force Germany out of Lvp. Not smart.

Fall 1937
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In 1938 I managed to capture NTH and retake MAO. This gave me secure borders and let me try to organize an attack on Germany. Britain helped by finally concentrating on Germany and recapturing Lvp. In the fall I was able to take London and Denmark. Meanwhile Italy was struggling against Egypt (slow but sure progress) and the center of the board had turned into a terrible Italo/German stalemate.

Fall 1938
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The slow progress continued and in 1939 I was able to take Munich Holland and Hamburg while losing Denmark. Britain regained Edinburgh and Italy took Syria. Germany had failed to get someone on the board to help him during his surge - he wasn't strong enough to get to victory on his own and had peaked at around 15 centers. I think he expected to be able to get me to attack Italy by casting his attack as a mutual betrayal between he and Italy. I may have gone along in the abstract had he stabbed only Italy and not me, but Italy preempted that by communicating and getting me to agree to the Beograd turn over.

By 1940 Italy and I could tell that Germany had been knocked back. We were obviously planning for the next step of the game by arming up in Pie/GOL/Mars. I lost Switzerland to Italy and nabbed Berlin. Britain continued to be an on and off pest. I couldn't get him eliminated (he made a lot of heroically good tactical guesses and I made some very poor tactical choices).

In 1941 Italy and I were openly at war. Germany was reduced to a rump and we were all trying to get him over to our side. I think largely because I hadn't eliminated Britain, I was able to circle up an anti-Italian alliance and cast Italy as the new solo threat. Certainly I didn't look able to contain him with only fleets in Mars and Madrid.

Fall 1941
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There was mostly minor maneuvers for the next couple years as Italy was slowly reduced. Germany and the USSR continued to tussle over their respective boundaries while I grew gradually, chipping away at Britain and moving into Germany. By 1944 I thought a solo was a real possibility. Machor left the game around 1941 (I believe on NMRs) and his poor replacement as Germany just got butchered. I kept sending him "let's stop Italy" messages and all the while I was trying to get him out of position. I realized I didn't need any Italian centers to solo. I just needed to hold the line and dominate in the North.

Spring 1944
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Fall 1944
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From here on out it was largely tactics. It would have been much harder for me if Russia had built fleets in 42-44 but he must have never thought it necessary. Once I got lucky and guessed right on capturing Danzig I knew I could get the solo with Scan and Lenin. I got lucky in fall 1945 with a bounce in Prague that let me build there. That allowed me to sashay into Poland and get the victory with Warsaw and Lithuania.

Fall 1945
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Fall 1946
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Re: AAR: Hell Bent For Leather 8 (France Solo: Versailles)

Postby Big Gun » 15 Mar 2019, 12:23

Excellently written AAR. You describe the comms and conflicts we had really well and without bias.

Right off the bat you went to the Channel, breaking our DMZ. You'd agreed to it once and then even confirmed it in a second message. I didn't take that kindly. It was hard for me to believe anything you said after that, especially as your comms felt all the more insincere when compared with your continual anti-British orders. So I was forced to look elsewhere for an ally.

Unfortunately every attempt I made to work with Germany was thwarted by his obvious indifference and disinterest. Russia was a solid ally in Scan at first but also lost interest as his position became trickier in the south. So I hobbled through 15 game years without an ally and all I could do was make France's life as difficult as possible. That was also fun, especially playing on your belief that Spain belonged to Russia.

In hindsight I agree that I might have won France over by revealing Spain to be my minor, but I had serious trust issues with France. You kept attacking me more or less relentlessly. I was hoping after you got rid of Spain, you might still work with me, but alas no.

A well-deserved solo, achieved by careful planning, a deep breath and sheer patience. Well played!
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Re: AAR: Hell Bent For Leather 8 (France Solo: Versailles)

Postby SimonMH » 15 Mar 2019, 13:16

A classic French win; amazing how similar the map looks in Versailles and 'Standard' Dip for this. Well played!

I will take issue with your deprecation of Poland though: when I draw Poland in Versailles I say YES (but then I say the same as Austria in Standard). So many plays... Perhaps I'm just odd.
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Re: AAR: Hell Bent For Leather 8 (France Solo: Versailles)

Postby Big Gun » 15 Mar 2019, 14:01

I agree. I’ve enjoyed 9 solos and numerous draws playing Poland. It has phenomenal potential if played right.
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Re: AAR: Hell Bent For Leather 8 (France Solo: Versailles)

Postby Charleroi » 15 Mar 2019, 15:46

In hindsight I agree that I might have won France over by revealing Spain to be my minor, but I had serious trust issues with France. You kept attacking me more or less relentlessly. I was hoping after you got rid of Spain, you might still work with me, but alas no.


You make a very interesting point actually. I think if I had been more effective in exterminating Spain early or if you have been less effective in keeping the floating Spanish fleet alive with Ireland, we may have been able to patch things up more easily. You're also right about the Channel DMZ - I hate being outright dishonest for just the reason you lay out. It makes it very hard to rebuild trust. I think around the time this game started I had just reread an article on Dip Archive about honesty in diplomacy. The author was stressing the importance of avoiding unnecessary falsehoods but then threw in a "except in 1901 because everyone expects you to friendly in 1901 even if they don't ally with you". I think that is actually bad advice and, to the extent possible, one should be honest in the first turn as well.
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Re: AAR: Hell Bent For Leather 8 (France Solo: Versailles)

Postby Charleroi » 15 Mar 2019, 16:03

I agree. I’ve enjoyed 9 solos and numerous draws playing Poland. It has phenomenal potential if played right.


I believe one of those was against me as USSR. I forgot to build an army in Moscow and instead built two fleets in winter 1931. Big mistake.
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