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Diplomaticcorp Discussion Forum:  dc319

(1936 Playtest)

Subject:< DC319: F EOG >
Topic:< dc319 >
Category:< Active Games >
Posted:Sep 11, 2010 at 6:23 pm
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1. First of all, let me congratulate Charles for creating a great variant. The map reconfigurations, the DP's, the Spanish factions, it's all great fun. Being great doesn't mean it can't be improved and I made many (certainly too many Wink) suggestions to Charles during the game. More on that later.
Personally, it was a very frustrating experience. I wasn't able to create one single equal-terms alliance relationship - that's kind of a record for me. Probably, much of it was due to my own mistakes. But I'm convinced some of it was also due to France's weak early position in the game, namely vis-a-vis Italy/Nationalist Spain (which in this case was particularly painful since Italy was played by Dirk, one of the best diplomacy players I've met in years). Being France, most of the suggestions I made to Charles were regarding possible corrections to this imbalance. Here's what I wrote to him even before the first turn:
As said before, I think France has vulnerabilities that at least Britain and Italy don't have. Italy has almost free access to the Magreb with Tri-Tun/SAl and Nap-Tys. I can only defend Alg through help of Britain or DP's to Mor, none of them very certain. Britain can put 2 fleets in the first turn bordering Bre - and that's something!
France has no fleets to be an effective counter-menace to Italy and, what's worse, Italy doesn't have any other "natural" enemy to which France can appeal on the first years - both the German and Turkish units are too far.
So, since this is a test, a few ideas to balance F and I a bit more, might be to put a fleet in Mar instead of an army, to change Tys in order not to border Alg or to transform Egy and Suez into only one territory under british rule.
It could also make sense to have Lor border with Bel. Besides of being more accurate, it would allow France to have a 2-units access to Bel without moving into british-protected-area Eng. And would make a German attack more difficult - remember that historically they had to move through Belgium. Finally, and these are just ideas for your consideration, the prohibition of supports between Franco's and Republican units would make Bre-Swa, Mar-Cat to take Mad more appealing to France."

Just to finish this chapter on suggestions to improve the variant, I also ventured the possibility of Nationalist Spain being proxied by Germany instead of Italy.
It should also be noticed that the whole DP's system gets irrelevant once most neutrals were conquered. One possibility to continue using the DP's system would be to create some kind of insurrection simulation on conquered territories. For example, a 5 DP's plus in a conquered neutral without any occupation unit would recreate the original unit, therefore costing an sc to the occupying great power that was unable to use its diplomacy to counter patriot insurrections. A bit like Churchill's support to Tito in Yugoslavia.
Finally, I'm a bit skeptic regarding the low victory threshold. I can't help notice that with the 15 sc threshold, Germany would have won WWII. But even in gaming terms, I believe that it was the low threshold that made everybody lose some interest in the final phase of the game. 2-ways and 3-ways are not possible. Trying solos is too risky, since it forces negative coalitions where members are themselves too close of the solo.  That's why everybody accepted the 4-way draw as soon as it was proposed. A bigger threshold, that allows at least 3-way DIAS with tactical stalemate lines might make the medium and end-phases of the game more interesting.
Anyway, these are just ideas for Charles, in the spirit of a test game. They don't contradict the main point: it's a great variant. Congrats, Charles.
2. Regarding my early strategy, the simplest way is to go back to what I wrote to the GM, at his request, before the first turn. Shortly, the idea was to avoid being attacked by Italy and Germany and forming an alliance with Britain. As you can see, I foresaw from the start the probability of a BI alliance against me. Charles asked me why, if I foresaw the BI, didn't I opened offensively against them. Simple: If I had done that than the BI would be certain after Sp1936, even if I was wrong in the first place. So I just hoped I was wrong. I wasn't and I was finished. I did what anybody does when faced with a invincible enemy alliance - I maneuvered in such a way that one party of the alliance, in this case Italy, would gain more that the other part. In result, Britain changed sides and I believed a comeback was possible. But shortly afterwards Britain stabbed me again - quite incredible, I must say. It was partly my fault: The plan I had devised gave Britain and me 2 sc's each for certain that year. It was devised in such a way that each of us would gain 1 sc each turn. But then Germany came with some idea of passing through Lor (saying he wanted to conquer Swi) and I needed therefore to maintain an army near Par to avoid a possible German stab. In order to do that, I couldn't conquer my sc (Bel) on Spring. I therefore proposed a change of plans to Britain, whereby he would get his 2 sc's on Spring and I would get my 2 sc's on Fall. He got his 2 sc's and then stabbed me... It's curious. It was a simple suggestion, who knows why, from Germany regarding the possibility of moving to Lor (which we withdrew in the final moment, after Britain and I already had changed our plans), that allowed Italy to lure Britain back to his side and, in the end, destroyed France.
Anyway, here's my answer to Charles, before the opening turn, on what my strategy and expectation were:
"Now on your questions:
Biggest early prize and offensive priority: Iberia, with its 4 sc's - makes a lot of defensive sense too, since a 3-units Italian (the nightmare scenario) or Russian controlled Iberia would be a definitive danger for France's southern flank - only Britain could come to rescue in such a scenario.
Biggest defensive headache: Italy, with its almost free access to Alg and Mor and its Iberian position. The fact that France has no fleets in the Med makes the defense of Alg/Mar very difficult.
Best possible ally: Britain - cooperation between the two can go a long way and bring a lot of gains. The problem is that an IB alliance would be terminal for France. The fact that both of them accepted my suggestions without alterations and that both of them say they're too busy to negotiate these weekend is a bit worrying. Can only hope for the best.
Other considerations: French/German friction is low. An early German attack is not very likely. Nonetheless, Jimmy's lack of preference for a southeastern historically accurate opening is also a bit worrying. The facts that I can't build in Bei and Alg and that these are armies (with low projection force and difficult to move around) transforms both the Magreb and the Middle East more into bargaining chips than in real growth assets.
So, as you saw, my diplomatic moves were the following:
1. Try to have a plan with Russia for Iberia should Italy be hostile. The fact that Italy said he was not interested in Iberia made this plan less interesting, but I might to have still to come back to it should his moves not fit his words.
2. Try to get a peaceful arrangement with Italy. Using the Magreb as a bargaining chip, I give it to him (he could conquer it by force anyway) in exchange of peace (having him moving east) and a French stake in Iberia. Lets see if it worked...
3. Convincing Britain to form an effective offensive alliance. Using Syria as a bargaining chip, I help him to control the Middle East in exchange of peace and him recognizing my stakes over Iberia, Magreb and Western Med. DMZ's from Eng to Gib would make the defensive part of the alliance pretty stable, while giving him a good Britain-Middle East route (that he can use better than me because he has fleets and I have armies). That would mean a 7/7 sc powerbase for each of us with clear growth routes afterwards (Germany for both of us, Scandinavia for him and Italy/Magreb for me). The gains are good and balanced and I hope he truly accepted the idea. The only cloud is that a BI offensive alliance is equally appealing for him.
4. Having a DMZ-agreement with Germany.
Tomorrow I'll know how it has worked."
It didn't...
3.  The end-game: I was a dormant Italian puppet and decided to become a more active PG puppet. Why? I wrote a long message to Wesaq on that and it's easier to reproduce it here - see below. Anyway, the main result of my decision seems to have been that PGT convinced Italy to accept the 4-way draw. You'll notice from the 4th paragraph that I was aware of the logical fault on the whole reasoning why to accept the PG proposal: Italy, or even Britain, would be better partners for PGT to get the 4-way draw then I could ever be. So the only hope was that their relationship was so bad that they actually weren't choices. Obviously, that was not the case. Even so, it was a slight possibility worth exploring.
On being played by PG on this, I can't say it was a pleasant experience. They made me waste much more time than reasonable. And, most importantly, it was not worth it. They would have convinced Italy on the 4-way draw sooner or later. There was no need to play me.
Here's the letter, just out of curiosity:
We haven't spoken lately. I was a sort of dormant player in the last turns. You remember how I was butchered by BI in the game start. I hope my former silence will compensate the time I'm now taking from you with this very long message Wink
I kind of woke up due to a quite interesting proposal by Kyle and Jimmy. They pointed out that, with a very low 15sc threshold for the solo and 50 sc's on the whole, this variant can't end up in a 2 or a 3 way DIAS, since 3*15<50. Regarding solos, it was made clear by your attempt a few years ago that this game has good and alert players, which means that any attempt will always result in a negative coalition that will defeat it.
Therefore, the only other possibility is a 4-way DIAS: 13,13,13,11 or 13,13,12,12. It seems Dirk tried to point out that the 3-way DIAS is also possible, due to the tweak that spanish-held sc's only count 1/2 for I and S. This could only happen with a 14, 14, 14.5 (15 spanish sc's + 7 italian sc's) formula or something similar. The reason I don't believe this could work is not so much the fact that Dirk, with 22 units, would be a formidable force that could easily conquer another sc and solo. Maybe one could find stalemate lines in this variant for such a formula and avoid that risk. The point is that, even if the stalemate line can be and is formed, it would never engage all of Dirk's forces. This means he would only need to exchange a spanish sc for an italian sc on his side of the stalemate line to solo. He would obviously do it. That's why the only alternative to a solo is a 4-way DIAS.
Due to Italy's refusal and Britain's allegiance to Italy, Kyle and Jimmy chose me to be the 4th partner in a TPGF DIAS. I know it sounds crazy, since it implies I have to grow from my current 2 sc's to 11 or 12 sc's. It was exactly because it is crazy, or, if you prefer, bold and difficult, that I accepted the plan and woke up of my dormant status.
One might say that the biggest difficulty in the plan is not for me to grow from 2 to 11 sc's. It might be the idea that, while I'm doing this with your help, none of you 3 goes for the solo. But this is, I do believe, the best part of the plan. I assume the 3 of you are playing for the solo. I always assume that any diplomacy good and rational player wants to go for the solo and only accepts a draw if he has no chance to get the solo. But the fact is that, if we design and implement a plan for a 4-way, at least 3 (TPG) of the 4 will very close to the solo, with 12, 13 sc's. Since we're talking about 3 very good players, I believe we can also assume that the mistake of allowing someone to automatically solo by stabbing will never happen. On the other hand, a stab would create an imbalance in the 4-way alliance that would inevitably result in a solo by one of the two other 12/13 sc's players reacting defensively against the stabber. Putting it shortly, if any of you 3 stabs, he knows he'll lose and will be giving the solo to one of the other two.
We probably can't build strong stalemate lines along all the borders between the 4 of us. This means that the DIAS will not be justified by a stalemate, as often happens in standard, but by the realization by the 4 of us that we can't be the first stabber, because the first stabber is the only one who is sure he will not be the winner. A diplomatic, strategic draw, instead of a tactical draw. Interesting stuff.
It is on the basis of this tension - the fact that each of you three knows he can't be the first stabber - that I actually believe this plan can work. At the very least, it will be a very interesting social and gaming experiment.
It was in order to reinforce one of the premises of the whole idea, the one that assumes that the TPGF alliance will never do the mistake of tactically allowing an automatic solo for the first stabber, that the suggestion of establishing a 12sc limit for PGT until F gets to 9, 10 sc's emerged. A limit I believe you agreed with.
So this is the general idea Kyle and Jimmy presented to me, the one I accepted and one I hope you're interested in, since it takes 4 to tango in this particular case.
If that's the case, allow me to point out the tactical circumstances of another of the premises - the one that says that I can grow from 2 to 11/12 sc's. This is already quite difficult as things stand. It would be impossible if B and I are allowed to have builds in the next few turns. This turn, B and I can only grow in 2 places: Cro, if you don't support Germany with Ser S Cro, and Sue, if you don't order Ara S Sue, Sue h (and move Ira-Pal in order to be able to simultaneously cut Egy with Sue and defend Sue - Ara S Pal-Sue - next year). These are the only two vulnerable spots on the whole board, if a BI v. TPGF is in place.
If BI get these 2 builds, or even just 1 of them, I'm dead. That is, you see, why it so important for the whole plan that you protect Cro and Sue this year."
5. Quite long, Charles, but I hope it can be helpful. Thanks for having me in this test. I'm looking forward to playing 1936 again. With better results.
I hope I'll find some of the great co-players in this game in future challenges. Am I a revengeful person? We'll see.
Best regards,

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DC319: F EOG (jlqueiros) Sep 11, 06:23 pm

Diplomacy games may contain lying, stabbing, or deliberately deceiving communications that may not be suitable for and may pose a hazard to young children, gullible adults, and small farm animals.

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