Broadcast message from Norway in vanier:
Game: VANIER, CAMA Judge.
Variant: Loeb9, Gunboat, NoPartial.
Outcome: Norway WIN in 1913.
Power: Norway 1906-1913.
For me, this game was about breaking the balance-of-three-powers-deadlock (B3PD).
When I joined, the game looked very much like it was destined to be a 3-way (NGT) draw. Spain, France, and Italy were still alive, but had only 8 units between them and were being systematically crushed by the three superpowers.
Being the smallest of the three superpowers, I would normally have been content with going through the motions and agreeing to the 3-way draw. Still, I was - right from the moment I joined - looking for a way to reduce that number.
The general concept was to finish off the minors, and to break the B3PD in a manner that would not leave me the victim of a potential suicide (more on that later). I had to present an image of someone who always hesitate and never decides. I therefore choose the alias "Hamlet". With his Danish origin (not quite Norway, but close enough), Hamlet was an innocent enough name. As is my rule, I choose a name with some role-play potential - so that anyone who feels like having a comic relief could pick on it. A dramatic alias also allows me to be vague when appropriate by hiding behind "role-playing" language.
The plan worked. It had some hitches, it had some bugs, - it was almost shelved at a crucial point -, but it worked. Not often do I set a full-game plan of action and then see it work so close to the original intent.
My first action after taking over was to assure Germany and Turkey that I would keep the alliance toward a 3-way draw that they had with the previous player. I also took steps to create as defensive a position as I can. I knew that once I stabbed, I might have to face both Turkey and Germany, and I wanted to be certain I can hold out. There was no rigorous stalemate line available to me, but as long as there were no German fleets, I could defend extremely well. There were no German fleets.
My efforts to secure that line got Turkey nervous when I entered SIB and NAF. Although not specifically DMZed, it was too close to his perimeter for comfort. Since Turkish non-oposition was vital for my plans, I backed off. France was perhaps guessing my intentions when he was relying on my stab of Germany, but did not guess my timing. I can't blame him, he had to assume my stab would come in time to be relevent for him - else it wouldn't matter (to him) anyhow. While normally I try to make my stab a tad premature - since I value surprise more than timeliness - this was an exception. This time I needed to have firm control over Iberia before I could attack Germany.
Germany, perhaps somewhat nervous about my strong position about him and the fact that he is sandwitched betweed me and Turkey, was interfering with my Iberian campign. He was also using less than the friendliest of tone toward me in his broadcasts. Still, his only venue was toward a 3-way draw that rests on a balance of power. He thus did not dare do anything that would truely enrage me - like build a fleet, attack my forces, or take an Iberian center. I was counting on that, and I wasn't disappointed.
Finally, the game was reduced to three powers only. The moment of truth arrived. Do I take the "free" 3-way, or do I gamble for a win. I thought long and hard how to break the B3PD. The B3PD rests on the understanding that if any of the three powers tries to win - as evidenced by an attack on another - then the other two MUST stop it by allying against him. Since a power shouldn't be able to win - even after a surprise attack - against the other two combined, no one will even try. Hence the stability. The B3PD can break if two of the powers agree to remove the third and establish a 2-way draw, but this is usually very difficult.
The third power will try to unbalance the situation to force one of the two powers to back off. Even if that fails, the power which has been doomed might choose to throw the game against the one he considers the most responsible for his demise. Not a promissing prospect if I intend to be that one. I would have to somehow try to shift the blame without appearing to be doing so. The approach was to start the attack and then to leave it to Turkey to (appear to) decide if it continues. There are some additional dangers with this approach. For instance, Turkey might win. I had to count on my ability to reverse course and establish a defensive line with a less than trusting Germany to stop it. All in all, it looked chancy at best. The decision was close, very close, but in the end I chickened out. I submitted the SET DRAW command.
It didn't pass. Germany - he says - forgot to submit his SET DRAW. Another turn executed. This turn was very decisive because of something else that didn't happen. Germany didn't do anything different. He didn't change his support orders at all. Not one iota. When I play defensively, unless I am on a stalemate line, I randomize my defensive moves (amongst plausible combinations, not totaly at random). This is just to prevent a potential attacker from thinking he can count on defeating my defenses with a preset attack. It is always a good idea to place uncertainty in the mind of a potential attacker. This one tiny factor was all that I needed to tip the balance in favor of an attack. I waited for the Fall and struck.
Next, I made my "shift the responsibility without appearing to" broadcast. I invited Turkey to join me, I invited him to lie about it, I promissed to stop my attack if he fails to join, I suggested that he waits for German forces to vacate his front and then attack unhindered. This should cover my bases. If Turkey joined Germany against me - my defensive position would protect me for a few turns while I convinced everyone that I changed my mind to pro-draw. If Turkey stays neutral - for awhile, or forever - I will make progress against Germany in the meantime. If Turkey attacks Germany, then he is the one who appears to have had a choice of draw or kill Germany, and choose to attack. He is the "one to blame".
It worked. Turkey announced neutrality, Germany vacated his border, and Turkey stabbed him. I can not speak for Germany and if indeed he blamed Turkey for his ultimate doom, but when he choose to unbalance the board it was at Turkey's expense. Germany disbanded 3 units on my front.
Fortunately for me, Germany went too far in unbalancing the board. He gave me a position from which I had excellent chances of an outright victory against a total GT alliance, and a guarenteed victory against anything else. Germany also blackmailed for unreasonable terms of Turkey. The only realistic demands he could have made was to re-instate the 3-way draw. In Turkey's shoes, I would have yielded to such a demand. I suspect Turkey would have as well. However, Germany demanded that Turkey join him in a quest to eliminate me and form a 2-way draw with him. At his weakened state, it is unthinkable that he and Turkey could execute such a plan, keep a balance, and fight my mighty forces - by then half the board. Turkey, perhaps realizing the situation suggested a 3-way draw. It no longer mattered. A total GT alliance failed to form and I won.
All in all, I was delighted to engage in an exercise of the validity of the B3PD concepts. Personally, I think that the concept has some faults in it - although this game didn't demonstrate them. If anything, this game demonstrated the opposite. Turkey, which was supposed - as far as the B3PD concept goes - to stop me didn't, and lost. The concept seems vindicated.
Comments to individual players: (Those comments will only cover the period I was in the game.)
You played well. You knew when to raise "concerns", and when to be peacefull. After I stabbed Germany, in your position, I would have waited a bit longer before joining the attack. Long enough to allow Germany to fully vacate your side of the board. Still, it is not a decision I can fault you for. When Germany unbalanced the board, it was too late in any event.
You too played well. You sabotaged my Iberian assualt long enough to keep me off-balance for awhile. Still, you never had the "guts" to build a fleet (or even two) to prevent what eventually happened. I would have been unhappy about such a build. I would have screamed and blustered. But in the end, I would have just accepted a three-way draw. With 1-2 fleets in the North, my defensive position isn't that spectacular anymore, and I wouldn't have taken the chance with an attack. Also, as commented above, I think you went too far in unbalancing the game. Disbanding only 1-2 units on my front would have jolted Turkey just as well, and gave the two of you a chance to stop me.
You also played well. You are the only one who guessed (publicly) that I was disposed toward stabbing Germany. Unfortunately, for you, it wasn't going to save you. You were allready too far gone at the time, and taking Iberia was a pre-requisite for my stab plans.
Overall, game playing level was good. Not optimal, but certainly not novice. It was a pleasure to be a part of this game. The civility of broadcasts, and the intricate role-playing nature of (nearly?) all broadcasts certainly added alot to the game. I was quickly put to shame when other players - especially the minor powers - could out-Sheakspere me in their sleep (not that it is particularly difficult...). Kudos to all.
Finally, I would like to thank Arne Grimstrup and the University of Manitoba for hosting the judge and mastering the game. In addition to his commitment to run a judge for the public's benefit, Arne has found the time to master some of the games on that judge - including this one. Thanks Arne.