INSTEAD OF A WINTER ADJUCATION I'M POSTING THE EOG REPORTS (WITHOUT IMAGES!)
now it's time for the our game's closing chapter, the end-of-game reports. You might want to review the game by flipping through the adjucation slideshow on DC283's game page (now fully updated).
Perhaps some of you will be interested in following up on others' comments. If so, please respond to all and especially make sure you include the message board mail adress (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the header.
Supply Centre Chart
BRITAIN (Draw): Dirk Knemeyer
This was an uneven game thanks to some of the lags in playing time based on players leaving and not being able to get prompt replacements. More than anything, for me, this defined the game. I'm glad I played because I do enjoy Charles' variants and was glad to test this, but ultimately the playing of it didn't turn out to be very much fun. A shame.
At the beginning of the game I forged a strong, direct relationship with France and a strong, less direct relationship with Poland and Turkey. I am a reliable ally in Diplomacy, so pretty early on I was already sweating, wondering how to architect a result that was not a bloated 4-way draw without stabbing.
Early on France and I worked well together. I liked my end of our strategic split of SC's - his getting much of Africa, my getting Iberia and the Lowlands - and felt well-positioned for a good result. When Germany built a fleet in Kie over my strenuous objections in Winter 1926 he became my target and I spent much of the next three years working myself and with others to bring about his demise. My premise was that, because he was a threat, I could simply use his spheres of influence as a path to growth without upsetting my alliances.
There were two major events that dictated my evolving strategy: first was the full-on assault of Russia by Germany, Poland and Turkey. I managed to cooperate with Mikael for a time without upsetting my allies and then toward the end game exchanged a guarantee of survival for getting to use his units as an extension of my own. This allowed me to keep Poland from growing too large too quickly, while having a greater reach to batter Germany with.
The other major event was France allowing himself to get stabbed by Turkey. This destabilized his African holdings and thus threatened to have a trickle-down effect that would result in his trying to get some of my territory in Iberia and the Lowlands. It quickly became clear that I would need to stab him in order to prevent his mistakes from diluting my position. However, the original player quit and I quickly liked working with Darryl, his replacement. This led me to try and cooperate with Darryl while staying loyal to Poland and Turkey *and* keeping Russia alive. It wasn't easy. My hope was the board situation would create a clear and justifiable path-to-action that would not constitute a stab.
The event that nearly turned the final result of the game on it's head was Poland blatantly lying to Turkey and I in 1929. Comparing notes and realizing this, Turkey and I prepared to pound him in the fall. However, some press from Poland to Turkey in the summer changed Harvey's mind and we simply worked with him to shatter the opposition and drive toward a triple, the vote for which was, as we now know, successful.
This variant turned out very differently from how I expected. I thought Turkey was easily the weakest power going in, but watching the game play out a little I felt the position was a lot stronger than it looked. Poland was the power I most wanted and the strength of that position when well-played came across in our result. Yet I felt the same way about Russia (my second choice) and he was functionally the first player out despite having a top player holding the reigns. Needless to say my assessment on relative strengths may be misguided.
This variant is similar to Standard with a few key differences:
1. The addition of neutral armies that can be influenced by DP's. This is a favourite mechanism of Charles in his variants and adds a lot more diplomatic intrigue. The only downside with it is that all of the neutrals are typically conquered in the first few years, making it an early game only mechanism
2. The replacement of Austria with Poland. This is the biggest difference because it moves that power's center of gravity from southwest by Italy and the Balkans up toward Russia in particular, as well as closer to Germany. I suspect this will almost always force an early Poland-Russia conflict that will define the game for both. It also takes some pressure off of Italy and shifts it onto Germany, but unfortunately that does not make things any easier for Italy because...
3. Britain, France and Italy each have African holdings, which collectively stretch across the Med. This is why I incorrectly thought Turkey was a poor position since both France and Britain are in it's back yard; as it turned out, the remote nature of the BF positions makes the eastern Med untenable against a competent Turkey player, even less against a talented player like Harvey. In turn this funnels all of those fleets right at Italy. While Italy starts with African holdings the Med the area is just too busy and contested, not giving him much room to play. These shifts in power and influence are not necessarily a good or bad thing, but I suspect that, compared to Standard, Germany, Italy and Russia are worse off while the other four are all better off. Further testing of this variant might challenge these assumptions which are obviously coloured by the result!
As I mentioned at the outset I did not ultimately enjoy this game because of the long delays. Regardless I do enjoy the variant and like much of what Charles does as a GM so will be happy to play it again in the future. Thank you, Charles, for creating and running the game; thanks to Harvey and Wladimir for both being enjoyable to blather on with over the months of the game; and thanks to all of the other players for this game.
FRANCE (Replacement/Survival): Darryl Good
Not much to tell from my point of view. When I joined the game, it was obvious that Germany, Turkey and Poland were running away with the game. I contacted England, Italy, Germany and Turkey to see what sort of arrangements I could workout with them. England and Italy were very cordial and very interested in working with me. Germany and Turkey made it very clear they felt they could do better without me.
I felt very hampered by the fact that this game was not on a standard map. I did not know what provinces were what and communicating became a juggling act of flipping between the map with the abbreviations on it, the map with the units on it, and what I was typing on the computer screen (not something I could do quickly and covertly at work). It would have worked out better for me if the map with the current unit locations also had the province/sea zone abbreviations.
I can not comment on the interaction of the Neutral Countries and units as most of them were gone by the time I joined the game. However, I would like to try my hand at it sometime in the future.
Congratulations to Britain, Poland and Turkey for your Draw victory. In my opinion, this game had some more life too it. However, I voted for the draw because, once Britain started attacking France, I could not see a better outcome for me than to survive with 5 supply centers.
Best of luck to you all in the future!
GERMANY (Elimination): Matt Kremer
My game got off to a good start when I made peace and DMZ with Poland and everyone seemed content to let me grab the neutrals that were around me. The problem was that I never got any further than that due to a misunderstanding with England; he was angered that I left my second fleet in Hamburg when I thought I was doing him a favor by doing so. He turned France against me and denied me Holland, which slowed my growth significantly. I was able to work against France with Italy for a bit but after that long break everyone turned against me and I got swallowed. I saw it coming from Poland when he wouldn't move on Turkey (who was clearly his biggest challenger for a solo should it ever have come to that), but I couldn't get the powers on my west to back off. I think the Italian replacements (I was on good terms with the first two whereas the third was a big part of my demise) and that long break really screwed up the flow of this game; I'd like a chance to play again without those issues.
ITALY (Replacement/Survival): Greg Bim-Merle
GM Note: Perhaps we shall yet hear from Greg. :)
POLAND (Draw): Wladimir Mysonski
Upon first seeing the map, I thought Poland would be a fun challenge to play. I was lucky enough to draw it since others seem to have also caught on to this idea.
From the beginning, it was clear that the USSR could only realistically grow through Poland so my first goal was to eliminate it. I offered Turkey Stalingrad in exchange for support into Moscow and essentially wrapping up that corner. Mikael sadly bore the brunt of my ambition and he has a legitimate gripe against me if he wishes to express it. One of us had to attack the other. I was quite proud of pushing for a Balkan peace accord wherein Germany, Poland, Italy, and Turkey peacefully divide the volatile Balkans amongst ourselves devoting little resources to that area. The powers seemed to play nice to me except for a few disagreements regarding Turkey and Italy.
My existing relationship with Britain and Turkey left me no choice but to march west on my German friend. Matt and I enjoyed a great DMZ and I am grateful for having it since it enabled me to go east full-throttle. My move on Germany though was surprisingly met with Italian presence. (This is a good time to thank Gregory and Darryl for taking over their troubled respective powers. They took them over in hard times and performed about as well as they could hope to given the circumstances. Thanks to you both.)
At this point, I had 9 SC's and hopes of drawing with Turkey on a stampede westward. I enjoyed good relations with Britain but eyed him warily after he insisted on a Soviet survival and did not move against the wide-open France. Harvey proposed a 3-way draw with Britain which I initially frowned upon. In my eyes, Turkey and Poland were the strongest powers combined and could easily roll west for a hard-fought draw. Knowing what I know now, I am grateful we ended when we did. Thanks to you all!
Thoughts on variant:
1. I really enjoy the DP element but it does leave the game too early. Perhaps some powers require a triple to take it over making it harder to take them down so quickly. This has historical support in that Sweden is definitely more difficult to take over than Latvia and Spain would need more resources than Morocco. Just a thought.
2. The powers are fairly even but I do think the USSR and Poland are destined to fight which saddens me. I really do not see how they can cooperate.
Thanks for GMing Charles and adding interesting and fun press commentary. It was a lot of fun!
SOVIET UNION (Survival): Mikael Johansson
GM Note: Perhaps we shall yet hear from Mikael. :)
TURKEY (Draw): Harvey Morris
From almost the very start my dilemma was Draw versus Solo, and it continued until the very end.
I quickly formed two very separate alliances - one with Poland, one with Britain - and at the end brought them together for the agreed three-way draw.
At the start I was very fortunate that Poland went after USSR, needing minimal help from me. This allowed me to push France out of the Middle East, with a great deal of behind the scenes help from Britain.
I was lucky to suddenly and quickly have no powers to my east or south, and (secret?) allies to the north and west.
Although Poland kept asking if I was still going to honor our alliance, my dedication to it, and to him, was never in doubt. There were moments, however, as we moved toward the most recent turns, when I began to fear the Poland was getting ready to try for the solo.
My coordination with Britain worked wonderfully. Together we were able to whittle away at French strength, while hopefully disguising the cooperation with one another.
When the new Italy came on board, I found myself quite angry at his failure to live up to his commitments. Iâ€™m not sure what the outcome would have been had he followed through on his announced plans for attacking France, but once he reneged (which was almost instantly) I decided that, no matter what, I was going to work for his elimination.
Draw versus Solo - It is never my style to stab allies. Although I got outside encouragement to attack Britain, from those who perhaps were unaware of all the help he was giving me, I just could not see myself doing that. In addition, especially when I began to think (rightly or wrongly) that Poland was positioning for the solo, I saw Britain as my insurance policy. And, at the very end it became clear that, whatever Polandâ€™s earlier intentions, Wladimir was willing to help me against Italy, and was happy to take part in a draw.
I must admit that even at the end I was still considering going for the solo. However my misunderstanding about fleet movement from Egy to ATO lost me time. When Dirk proposed the three-way I hesitated to agree, thought about it overnight, and finally decided the time had come to accept a draw. I just did not have the energy (given both other game involvement and some non-game time commitments) to try to grab the solo. Nor did I believe I could succeed.
Thanks to all for a fun game. Thanks to those who kibitzed from the sidelines and gave me great suggestions and even better criticism. And special thanks to Charles for creating it, starting it, managing it and getting it moving again after it bogged down.
GM: Charles FĂ©aux de la Croix
Having kept track of all player correspondence forwarded to me, I assembled two charts indicating the number of mails each player sent others, in total 941 individual mails (though these numbers may be somewhat skewed by no all players being as mindful of CCing me).
Though especially Darryl valiantly made a considerable effort upon joining as a replacement for a rather beleaguered France, already the 1928 stats are indicative of the clear dominance by the three first-tier powers (Turkey, Britain and Poland). At that stage the initially most talkative Stalin had arguably been reduced to vassal status and Matt's diplomatically isolated Germany has being ganged up upon. I suppose that also the delay in January might have had an effect.
Naturally, the first year or two of a diplomacy game almost invariably sport by far the biggest mail volume. 108 mails in the fourth year (given all but three powers being at that point also-rans) is probably within the bounds of what one would generally expect.
As for the evolution of the board, my sense is that the game's playtesting value was somewhat marred by our initial Duce playing a poor game, to the point of NBRing in the very first year. That really put Italy behind the curve. When Jack once again failed to meet the deadline in the next year, a reliable player had to be found in Greg. Yet Italy's relative decline to that date as well as the Soviets, generally potent challengers to Turkey's Near-East ambitions, being reduced to Scandinavian exile, really game the Kemalist republic a massive head-start.
An additional factor in Turkey's rise was that Britain was content to transfer her own domains in the Near-East to Turkey. Dirk wrote of Suez being a remote British outpost. I disagree. The map may be quite deceptive on that count. While located in the other corner of the map (viewed from London), Suez (and Egypt proper) is but three moves away from the closest British HSC. Moreover, by movine Edinburgh->NAO->ATO->Suez, Britain need not step on any toes as it has to to get at the equally three moves apart Iberian SCs.
With already F Suez in the region, F Gibraltar closeby and Edinburgh not that far off, I think the Near East makes for a perfectly viable area for British expansion. Particularly Italy has a vested interest that Britain and the Soviet Union claim their stake in the Near-East as otherwise Turkey can indeed grow fat on what any Turk will consider his backyard. This marked lack of opposition to Turkey's Near East ambitions allowed Harvey's deftly-handled Turkey to cruise to what by the end was unquestionably the best position of all.
While on the subject of Britain's rise, Dirk managed to strike an extraordinarily favourable deal with France early on. London got both Belgium and Spain! The first PrĂ©sident got "pulled over the table", as we Germans say. That placed France at a permanent positional disadvantage vis-Ă -vis Britain. Kudos to Dirk for that.
As for the Soviet Union, Wladimir needs to be congratulated for engineering a masterful campaign against Poland's arch-rival. In that, almost the same fate befell Mikael's Soviet Union as the one he simultaneously suffered in my other game I've been GMing (1648, Mikael's Russia being eliminated quickly by the surrounding powers). Yet Mikael, rather than folding, carved out for himself a new realm in Scandinavia and had some fun assisting Britain thereafter.
Not every game can be a memorable one and I'm afraid this one doesn't fall into that category. 1926_091119 was the story of the three most consistently well-played powers ganging up bit by bit on the rest. The strong against the weak. And I trust it's fair to say that especially Dirk's and Harvey's innate conservative style of play prevented the diplomatic realignment of the two foremost powers rallying others around them as they seek to best their most dangerous rival.
Ultimately, if the very strongest powers never attempt to achieve a result better than a draw, then a game will never witness the exciting rollercoaster-ride one hopes for. Any game that does not feature at least one solo push feels fundamentally incomplete to me.
Yet while both Dirk's and Harvey's inclinations played their part, a more systemic issue also directed the game to this outcome. Never entirely sure what the optimal victory threshold might be, I believe I made a solo somewhat too tough for my own liking. So in future, 15 rather than 18 SCs will suffice. That alone ought to encourage even the most conservative players to stab more and tempt them to "reach for the stars". So, this playtest certainly has helped me home in on what I want 1926 to ultimately be.
I'd like to thank you all for seeing it through, especially Greg and Darryl for taking over not entirely rosy positions. I again apologise for the lengthy delay in finding Nathan's replacement. Lesson learnt. Good luck in all your future games!
Variant Design "Q&A"
Okay, not done yet. :p In this section I mean to touch on various EOG comments relating to the variant:
[Wladimir] I really enjoy the DP element but it does leave the game too early.
The minor powers aren't meant to last forever. They're what gives the early game a special flavour, though the odd minor power might yet survive far longer if the players act accordingly. For instance, in the present Ambition&Empire game I'm playing in, the Bavaria minor power still remains in existence (having been located on the faultlines of great power conflict for all this time) despite us being in our 12th year. That might also well happen in 1926.
[Wladimir] Perhaps some powers require a triple to take it over making it harder to take them down so quickly. This has historical support in that Sweden is definitely more difficult to take over than Latvia and Spain would need more resources than Morocco. Just a thought.
Not a direction I'd care to take. I like the minor powers as they are. :)
[Wladimir] The powers are fairly even but I do think the USSR and Poland are destined to fight which saddens me. I really do not see how they can cooperate.
Oh, I do think they can cooperate. That'd entail probably a fair number of arranged bounces and such. But to be sure, they're arch-rivals. I don't have any issue with that. It's part of this historical scenario and what gives Poland and the USSR positions their special flavour.
[Dirk] Britain, France and Italy each have African holdings, which collectively stretch across the Med. This is why I incorrectly thought Turkey was a poor position since both France and Britain are in it's back yard; as it turned out, the remote nature of the BF positions makes the eastern Med untenable against a competent Turkey player, even less against a talented player like Harvey.
As I already wrote further above, I don't view Suez in the least as being a remote British outpost. Though certainly France's A Beirut is far off from Metropolitan France and unlikely to ever make contact with other French units. Consider it more of a diplomatic/tactical pawn France can use for leverage. Very different from Britain's Near-East presence which is easily reinforcable.
How might France leverage that Lebanese pawn? Now, take Italy for instance. Turkey's a very dangerous long-term threat to Italy (much as in Standard). France might promise to help Italy vs. Turkey with A Beirut for concessions/good behaviour elsewhere. Similarly, A Beirut might keep Britain's F Suez tied down instead of it messing with France's South-Western backyard. Indeed, together with the recently independent Egyptians, they might descend on Suez and hurt Britain. Then reinforced by French fleets through ATO, France might indeed build up a sustainable and reinforcable Near-East presence. Just shows you that France has Italy a lot to offer in an alliance vs. Turkey.
[Dirk] In turn this funnels all of those fleets right at Italy. While Italy starts with African holdings the Med the area is just too busy and contested, not giving him much room to play.
If Turkey gets to walk over the Near-East as Harvey did in this game, the Duce is plainly not doing his job properly! He's gotta keep that Mid-East pot stirred and troubled. And I don't see why the USSR or Britain should simply roll over either... Not even France...
Dirk, much as I disagreed with your pre-game assessment that Turkey's too weak, so do I disagree with your "Turkey's too strong" view of things. :)
[Dirk] I suspect that, compared to Standard, Germany, Italy and Russia are worse off while the other four are all better off.
The Soviet Union is definitely worse off than Standard's Russia. Which I welcome considering what a powerhouse Standard's Russia is.
Germany? Not other 1926-power has as good access to minor powers. Also, diplomatically/tactically I'd say Germany initially is less vulnerable than most.
Italy? Infinitely better position than in Standard!!! No weak-sister syndrome, no Austria, four units, more neutrals, an array of allies vs Turkey which aren't available in Standard... Much faster growth possible...
As for the others, well, I think France (the second powerhouse in Standard) is worse off. Which I welcome.
Britain... Somewhat better off. But might also not even get Norway during the first year and get frozen out of builds...
Poland... Not present in Standard. Wouldn't consider it Austria-moved-North. Very different type of power than Austria. In any case, a very decent position. Together with France, Poland interests me personally the most.