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(Balkans 1860 Playtest!)

Post:16667 >
Subject:< Balkans 1860 Revisions - Stage 1 (Long Version) >
Topic:< dc288 >
Category:< Active Games >
Posted:Jun 04, 2010 at 3:52 pm
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Okay, had a chance to read Allen and Mike's remarks, and wanted to
take a second to discuss some of their revision ideas - lots of good
material here to work with, and I had a few thoughts of my own on some
of these same topics that I wanted to run by you all.

Note - This email is huge. For those not interested in reading the
whole thing, I have extracted the specific proposed changes paragraph
and sent in a separate email.

***Mike*** - Allen, I guess this opening for me revolved largely
around our trio w Italy. We had a great team, we had Serbia on the
ropes, and I had a killer stab of Bulgaria waiting to be taken.

---Ben--- ...Now this is interesting. I hadn't considered an IAR
triple to really be a viable option for Austria-Hungary (or, to a
lesser extent, Romania) over the long term. In this plan,
Austria-Hungary and Romania will likely face stiff resistance in a
pure southerly drive, and a Serb/Bulgarian alliance is very likely (I
thought) to spawn in response. Meanwhile, Italy capitalizes on having
a free hand to gobble up her internal open SCs (2-3 virtually
guaranteed) and focus undistracted on Greece. So Italy strikes me as
the big winner here, whereas Austria-Hungary is just waiting to get
stabbed by Italy and Romania in the mid-game phase. Greece is the
wild card though - if they open up an (ill-advised) second front
against Serbia or Bulgaria in this scenario, then Austrian or Romanian
growth could be significant.

In fact - I had expected that the single greatest impulse *for* an
Austrian-Serb alliance would be the Austrian fear of getting pinched
by I/R. After all, Italy can only go so far as a pure naval power -
then either an invasion of Austria or Greece seems necessary.

So maybe I was wrong on multiple assumptions. If IAR really was the
natural impulse for all three of you (Allen, Mike, Adam) then I should
not be surprised that the A/S alliance didn't last. More on how to
fix that farther down...

***Mike*** - From there it was pretty straight forward. It was Ross'
and my goal to try the unthinkable in this game and become naval
superpowers. Unheard of given our corner land powers...

---Ben--- More faulty assumptions on my part here it seems. 8 of the
9 territories on the Black Sea area coastline are SCs. Moreover, both
Romania and the Ottomans have 2 of their 3 home SCs on the coast in a
variant that does *not* allow chaos builds. So I expected that region
to be a naval hotspot.
It blew my mind to see Gregory pass on opening F Istanbul to the Black
Sea, given the diplomatic leverage with R and B that position allows,
the option for Sevastopol, and of course, the security of two of their
three home SCs. However, I suppose I really have made it too
difficult for the Ottomans to at least guarantee one SC - usually
Salonika. Army Ankara and F Izmir don't seal the deal as they should
be able to. Perhaps I overcompensated in strengthening the Bulgarian
position, which was disastrous in the first playtest. Thoughts on how
to improve this? My knee-jerk reaction is actually to change Ankara
to a fleet, but that just seems too strange to have the Ottomans start
with all three units as fleets. I suppose Istanbul could be the army
- and that has other advantages for the Ottomans as well. So I will
probably switch those two starting units, but even more is probably

***Mike*** - but I think we pulled it off pretty well by finally
breaking into the Aegean in this last couple turns. We set this goal
really early on, upon seeing our initial placements, and it was
refreshing to find a player excited to try less conventional
strategies - something often lacking in Dip games. We each trusted
each other right by our centers, and
this built a lot of trust.

---Ben--- Indeed - a B/R alliance that features heavy naval builds
strikes me as unusual. Mike and Ross have both also suggested it was
an unorthodox strategy. I will proceed with the assumption that most
B/R alliances will have a heavy focus on building armies and driving
west, with a token Romanian contribution to a primarily Bulgarian
naval fight against Greece and/or the Ottomans. Accordingly, I
haven't identified a need for revisions based on this particular
dynamic, though it was a very impressive alliance to watch in action,
especially as Mike deftly weaved his armies through the Serb/Bulgarian
border. There was an extraordinary amount of trust in that alliance.

***Mike*** - This map certainly has its choke points around the
Aegean, (separating BS from GI, with Turkey on the fulcrum) but this
dynamic surely exists in standard too, with, say, MAO dividing TI from
EG with F on the fulcrum. So altho it seemed hard to break out, I
don't know that it needs fixing so
much, for it's just as hard for a TI duo in standard to break out into
the northern half of the map against an EG team.

---Ben--- I see T/I as the one truly unorthodox alliance pair between
neighbours on the Standard map. Meaning that pursuing such an
alliance usually requires that the players bypass the best
opportunities for their own growth to pursue other goals, i.e. setting
up long convoys or other shenanigans just for fun. For those
international relations scholars in the crowd - they do not behave as
rational actors in the realist sense Smile.

But I digress - in Balkans1860, open water is not intended to be where
the majority of naval action takes place. There really isn't an
analogy on this map to critical sea zones in standard like North Sea
or MAO. (Maybe Gulf of Taranto, but that's about it, and even that's
a stretch). The naval action largely consists of coastal fights,
which must often be accompanied by support from inland armies to
advance. True, the Aegean region can bog down, but I think that is
more so due to the Greek tendency to heavily emphasize naval growth
than the actual borders. This is where Nigel got into trouble I think
- 1-2 too many fleets in his build mix (or at least sent the wrong
way), and when they reached northern Italy, their usefulness ran out.
That's questionable though, because it did take a lot to crack Italian

Anyway, this *is* very different from Standard, where blue water
fights - especially around MAO - can very much determine the outcome
of the game. I don't expect too many games of Balkans1860 to follow
that path. Much more likely in this variant that fleets will be an
auxiliary force for advancing along the coastlines and breaking
support lines on land. The path to a solo victory lies in the heart
of the Balkans. I would be genuinely surprised to see someone solo in
this map without driving into the heart, all the coastal SCs

***Mike*** - Overall a very nice map. I think Dark Ages would have to
hold your "best creation" title, tho this comes in a close second.
Plenty of naval action, and the play around Greece and the Aegean is
great. I would definitely play it again. Good game all, and thanks
for GM'ing it Ben!

---Ben--- Thank you kindly for the praise, I'm sincerely glad you
enjoyed it, and do hope to see you take a seat by the Balkans1860 map
again. Good thoughts here, let's now talk about what Allen had to

***Allen*** - Game over. First, thanks to B for doing another great
job as GM. Calm, cool, and collected is our B, large and in charge.
Seriously, he runs a fantastic game, generally on time, always
communicative, and very professional. Thanks bro.

---Ben---'re quite welcome! It was truly my pleasure to run
it, had a great set of players for this one.

***Allen*** - The variant. This is my second time through. When B.
put out the notice for the second game and I volunteered, I told him
I'd take whatever noone else wanted. I was stunned to get
Austria-Hungary. Rumania and AH are to me the strongest 2 positions
in the first year.

---Ben--- ...that's what I thought! But it has been made clear to me
that the A/S dynamic needs work...

***Allen*** - They can negotiate a quick settlement between them and
both are grateful to do it (Kol is obviously Rumanian and sets up a
nice DMZ). Playing both sides of this, it's a no-brainer. AH then
negotiates a quick peace with Italy and both sit at stare at each
other (Ven and Tri).

---Ben--- ...gotta disagree here. Austria is heavily favored in that
uneasy balance by the ability to build in Trieste, whereas Italy (by
design, to increase tension) does *not* have the ability to build on
the Adriatic coast. Plus, the quick move of F Tri - GoV threatens
Venezia, Ancona, and convoys along the Italian coast with Serbia. In
fact, I consider this dynamic to be the primary check against Italy's
otherwise rampant growth prospects. As Italy, I would not agree to
anything less than a complete DMZ of the region, to include Austria's
pledge not to build in Trieste without prior Italian approval.

***Allen*** - Year 1 is over and both have solidified their flanks and
looking downhill (south). AND, to add things up, both powers have
southern neighbors that need to come to them with some settlement or
get pinched between them.

---Ben--- True. And here lies the biggest challenge I hope to
overcome in the next round of revisions. For this map to be balanced,
I *must* make an A/S alliance at least roughly as appealing to Austria
as a southerly drive through Serbia is. The latter option seems
virtually guaranteed on the current map. I like some of Allen's
suggestions, so we can go down the list of his ideas and my own

***Allen*** - This is an advantage in negotiations. In this case,
Rumania is in a more solid position, Ottoman(enemies on 2 sides) is
safer than Greece(enemies on 3 sides), so Rumania can work with either
Bulgaria or Ottoman, whichever seems better.

---Ben--- ...glad to hear this. I personally think the BRO triangle
is mostly balanced, though I am considering some improvement to the
Ottoman position (while trying to give them equal incentive to attack
Bulgaria or Greece...aaaargh)

***Allen*** - So some suggestions...increase the tension between AH
and Rumania. Maybe take out the SC in Kol and add 2, one in Tis and
one in Tem. I still like Sev as a home center for Rumania, I think
that was suggested last time. Rumania starts with F Sev, A Ias, A
Con. Agm is a little too far-reaching, what if it doesn't touch Nov?
I like the tension between Italy and AH as it is, I think a strong
Italy and AH could either negotiate a solid alliance or be at each
other's throats. That seemed to play well. AH has a natural
inclination to move south, it's too hard for Serbia and AH to come to
a reasonable accord. Serbia naturally distrusts AH, if you play this
game long enough you realize that in general, those downhill on the
map distrust those uphill. For some reason, AH and Serbia seem to
have more tension between them than R-B.
---Ben--- Allen makes some valid points about the A/S relationship and
the uphill/downhill map dynamic in general...thoughts on the changes
proposed so far below. First, the ones I *don't* want to do.
x - Rumania gains Sev as a home SC. While this would help, I can't
swallow the historical inaccuracy of it. I already go too far
negating the influence of Russia and France in this scenario, I cannot
give the primary Russian port on the Black Sea to Rumania outright.
x - Add SC Temesvar. I feel that this would increase Austria/Serbia
tension, not decrease it.
Then, the ideas that I am considering (a mix of Allen's and my own)...
1 - Move either SC Agram or SC Sarajevo. This would likely be done in
conjunction with Allen's idea to add SCs in between Austria and
Romania. Downside - removing Agram makes F Ven a no-brainer opening
for F Trieste. Removing Sarajevo gives Serbia an undesirable
incentive to send A Kragujevac after Bulgaria, or send more than just
F Cetinje against Greece - also undesirable. So for this to work, we
need to give A Kragujevac a good option against Rumania. Which leads
to the next idea...
2 - Add SC Craiova. With a bit of negotiations with Bulgaria to
secure uncontested passage through Nis, Serbia could reasonably
guarantee Craiova. However, I'm still trading the only guaranteed dot
for Serbia (Sarajevo) for a definite maybe in Craiova.
3 - Change F Trieste to A Trieste. Contrary to my intentions, that
Fleet in Trieste seems to be a constant point of tension with the
Serbs. If it were only a build option rather than a starting unit,
this could improve Austrian/Serbian relations...?
4 - Split Beograd? Increasing the buffer between Austria and Serbia
would help perhaps...though the main Austria/Serbia flash point seems
to be along the Adriatic coast. (alternate idea - disconnect Temesvar
from Beograd somehow with a border redraw?)
...and moving into the twilight zone of major revisions (which may
nonetheless be necessary)...
! - Leave Kolosvar as it is and make it an Austrian Home SC. To
understand the idea here, take the map and rotate it 90 degrees
clockwise. Now try to picture Austria in Balkans1860 like Russia in
Standard. I'm not proposing to give Austria a Black Sea port
(completely ahistorical) but this could give Austria a good option to
move against the Serbs, or with them against Romania. Here I would
need to add Allen's idea of SC Tiraspol to balance out Romanian
options. I would also pull another SC off the map to retain balance
(perhaps Bitola, and redraw that to be a single territory with
!! - Add another Ottoman SC in Sevastopol? Strange and irrelevant as
this may sound - if Serbia had a stronger partner in the SE corner,
one that also had options to engage Romania directly (rather than just
Bulgaria) - then perhaps Austria/Serbia could join the Ottomans and/or
Bulgarians in a dogpile heading east. Sevastopol could not be made
Rumanian with any semblance of historical accuracy. It *could*
however be made Turkish, if I were willing to make this a "what if?"
or to use the academic term, counterfactual scenario.
Here we assume a different settlement after the Crimean War -
historically, the Ottomans did not much real receive territorial
compensation following Russia's defeat in the Crimean war. In this
case, I would suggest that the British, French, and Ottomans could
have achieved their objective of removing the Russian naval presence
from the Black Sea by restoring the old Ottoman claim to the Crimea
(it had only been lost in 1783) and allowing their retention of
territory gained in the Caucasus.
What the hell...I've already really made it a counterfactual scenario
by removing Russia from the Crimea and cutting French influence out of
Italian unification. Most Diplomacy variants also permit some degree
of historical inaccuracy, Standard included...lest anyone believes
Italy or Turkey was truly a major player in WW1? Smile
Anyway, if I give the Ottomans Sevastopol or the Austrians Kolosvar -
Allen's idea of adding SC Tiraspol would be needed, as Romania would
then have *no* reasonably guaranteed opening SC. The Ottomans would
also have F Istanbul changed to A Istanbul if they gained F
Sevastopol. And we would have to very closely examine the new
Romanian situation to ensure they aren't forced into conflict with
Austria or the Ottomans - I think not, and could work with either one
still, but I don't want to see them always ignore the Bulgarians.
Ultimately though, I keep coming back to what I said above...the path
to a solo victory lies in the heart of the Balkans. Austria has to
have a working long-term plan to get to 19 SCs without hitting Serbia
until their solo bid in the endgame. It's *possible* to do so by
joining Serbia to hit Italy and then Romania on the current map - but
I think that's even more unlikely than the B/R naval alliance we saw
here. Serbia would have to tolerate a *large* Austrian navy pushing
down the Adriatic. So what I *really* need is a southeast option for
Austria, one that bypasses Serbia altogether to hit Romania and
Bulgaria, *while* A/S presumably contain Italy or aid Greece in
attacking them. Because Italy simply cannot be ignored - and it is
very difficult to divide between Austria and Serbia as well.
Please let me know your thoughts on all this. Nothing is decided at all yet.
Diplomacy in Texas!
Realpolitik files available here for the Sengoku, Balkans1860, South
American Supremacy, and DarkAges Diplomacy Variants

There are 8 Messages in this Thread:

Balkans 1860 Revisions - Stage 1 (Long Version) (Kenshi777) Jun 04, 03:52 pm

Balkans 1860 Revisions - Stage 1 (Long Version) (FuzzyLogic) Jun 07, 10:25 am

Balkans 1860 Revisions - Stage 1 (Long Version) (Kenshi777) Jun 07, 03:37 pm

Balkans 1860 Revisions - Stage 1 (Long Version) (FuzzyLogic) Jun 08, 08:28 am

Balkans 1860 Revisions - Stage 1 (Long Version) (Kenshi777) Jun 08, 05:23 pm

Balkans 1860 Revisions - Stage 1 (Long Version) (FuzzyLogic) Jun 08, 06:48 pm

Balkans 1860 Revisions - Stage 1 (Long Version) (Kenshi777) Jun 09, 11:14 am

Balkans 1860 Revisions - Stage 1 (Long Version) (Kenshi777) Jun 09, 02:38 pm

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