11 October 2014

by Jay Be, Paul Bessemer, and Adam Silverman

Adam Silverman’s Commentary

FYI it was one of the stranger games I've ever played — in fact I can say that there was a definite first for me, which is amazing considering I've obviously played several hundreds of games. We played for ~6-7 hours until the end of 1907. At that point the biggest power was at 6 centers (I think there were three 6 center powers) and at NO TIME during the game had anyone ever gone above 6 centers — and not until 1907 did any power go below 4 centers! Amazing. It was C-Diplo to the max, though not intentionally of course. If you looked at the end position (which I'm sure will be posted) you'd think it was 1904. And this didn't happen because of bad play (though some weird things happened because of newbie miscues), it was just incredibly fluid and there was nothing even resembling an alliance that lasted more than two game years ever (except for the Italian consistently propping up Austria against RT).

Quite an amazingly interesting game.

Paul Bessemer’s Play By Play Commentary

Here's my take. It started out in the Balkans with a Russian-Turkish alliance vs. Austria-Hungary, with Italy (that was me) nabbing Trieste. Adam (and Sam), who played A-H, was very realistic about things, and told Italy that he had no problem with them holding on to Trieste, as long as I provided support to his Balkan front line. Worked for me, and thus was the most successful alliance of the game born (we both finished w/ 6 points, the highest anyone had). Turkey was hesitant for much of the game, and Russia was constantly beleaguered by Germany, A-H, and, most effectively, England, which succeeded in taking Norway, Sweden (later) and St. Pete, causing him to shift his resources northward in defense.

Germany pushed east, started to push south to threaten Venice, Vienna, and Trieste, but after being stabbed in the back by France, shifted their attentions westward. Left with no allies and two relatively powerful and aggressive countries on their borders, France soon yielded territory to both Germany and Italy. A-H pushed eastward to Sevastopol, Turkey eventually gave up on its Russian alliance (after a French-supported foray into Tunis which they soon left), and shifted their attentions fully to the Balkans and Black Sea. Italy's "Mare Nostrum"' strategy worked pretty well, due to its A-H alliance, allowing them to expand, first to Trieste and Tunis, and eventually, to Spain and Portugal as well. Does that cover everyone? I think so.

Italy, its Eastern and Southeastern fronts largely freed up, soon locked it up with France (due to Italy's mistrust — probably unfounded — of France's motives). The two powers locked it up the rest of the game, gradually to Italy's advantage. France took the Iberian Peninsula, and did a good job of fending off Italy from both Marseilles and the W. Med until they double-crossed Germany. After that Germany rolled through the Low Countries and Italy took Spain and Portugal.

By the end of the game (turn 12) France was down to 2 bases and not long for the world. Germany had an early agreement with France and focused their attentions against England which pressed them — unsuccessfully — from the North, and Russia. Russia, as mentioned, had problems of their own, and, after jumping out to an early lead with 6 points, ended up with only 3 (Germany held Warsaw; A-H held Sevastopol). England went East and controlled most of the seas and Scandinavia for most of the game, seizing Brest from their passive ally France on the last turn in order to gain their 6th point.

J Be’s Comment on Paul’s Play By Play Commentary

There was also some interesting stuff going on in the north with England, Germany, and Russia.

Adam Silverman’s Comment on Paul’s Play by Play Commentary

Great summary, Paul. One minor correction is that on the last turn, Turkey actually took Sev (AH had taken it in the spring but was pushed out while defending Rum) and AH took War, leaving Russia with 2 dots in Mos and StP (which probably would have been taken in 1908 had the game continued a year).

France (Jay Be) After Action Report (Draft)

Before anything happened the game was already going to be interesting because due to the way it worked out with teaching new players, we ended up pairing people up so that the game started with all the powers except France (myself) having a partner. Later in the game this changed when Italy's partner had to leave.

Beginning: Good negotiations in western triangle, nobody wanted to draw first blood and the openings were very sensible. I used belgium as a bargaining tool to court England and Germany, seeing which one was more on board to ally. So far no indications of which one. I picked up the two iberian centers but made a tactical error by taking portugal with my army instead of my fleet, while also moving my fleet to Spain (south coast). This obviously antagonized Italy, but to try and smooth things over I promised to build an army in marseille, which I did. Meanwhile Italy had opened to trieste, and despite this, to my surprise and dismay, Italy and Austria ended up being solid allies for the remainder of the game, which was bad news for me.

In the west, I was still courting England and Germany, when Germany violated an agreement we had made. I think this was due to miscommunication because of the partner-system nature of the game we were playing. In any case, it pushed me to side with England. England and I had a nice front-line going across the board and I was at 6 centers. I hammered out the strategy with England and I was fairly confident that we could inexorably push our line across the board together from west to east.

Then, everything broke down. Again, it seemed to be due to miscomunication caused by the partner system, and also to some mistakes from the new players, but them's the breaks! What was supposed to be a well-coordinated stab against Germany to push our solid front-line east turned into a misordered disaster that ended in our line being broken and Germany being put on alert.

Meanwhile, Italy's frustratingly strong alliance with Austria caused him Italy to come at me hard in the southwest. Italy played a great game, and after locking horns for several turns, I could no longer fight on two fronts against Germany and Italy (England having completely abandoned me).

In the east, Russia had a tough time with both England and Austria coming at him hard, and eventually even Germany piled on.

Turkey was slow out of the gate and the new player took a while to grow, but eventually ended up being able to spread out a bit, unfortunately it was too late to do anything about the Austria-Italy alliance.

Austria played a great game; despite losing trieste to Italy in Spring 1901, he used his powerful diploming to not only stay alive but grow and become a force to be reckoned with.

Overall, a very fun and unique game! Looking at the supply center chart might leave you scratching your head. Every power made it to 6 centers at some point, and no higher. Additionally, no player was outright eliminated (though the game did have to be called for time before we could finish).

It seemed like everyone had a great time and learned lessons for the next game. I call that a win in my book!

J Be’s Post Game Analysis

Larry brings up some good points about the team thing (What Larry said was: “You know, I've never seen it done, but that doesn't mean much since I was away from FTF for so long. Perhaps you've come up with something new — e.g. team Diplomacy. By that I mean two people playing a country or even three. Imagine if the possibilities if you have one person concentrating on writing orders and another one or two doing negotiations? I think you have something here and it's an idea worth exploring further. You could also divide responsibilities in the teacher/student way, as you did, and I'm sure there are others. Definitely something to think about..”) and actually Adam and I were discussing it before as well. It was certainly a different experience, it had its pros and cons, most of which you covered. It worked well for teaching the beginners, we tried to have it so that each beginner was paired with someone more experienced, and we had the beginners write the orders and do all the stuff so that when they play by themselves they'll have had practice. Then the more experienced partner would answer any questions, observe negotiations, suggest strategies, encourage the new player to talk to people, etc.

The downside occurred when the two partners would go talk to separate people. Things like miscommunication and not being on the same page, etc. Additionally, when something went wrong, it gave people a psychological tendency to blame their partner instead taking responsibility themselves (I think that's just a typical human reaction).

So it was a mixed bag, but I'm definitely glad we tried it. It opens up two possibilities for future games:

  1. If it's a teacher/beginner game, then I think there should be a hard-rule stating that the two partners must physically be next to each other the whole time (maybe exceptions for going to the bathroom). That would eliminate the problems I saw arising.

  2. If it's a game where everyone is experienced, people are allowed to split up and do whatever they want. This would provide for a unique Diplomacy experience. Like you said, you could have one person writing the orders, plus it allows people who work well together to sew seeds of doubt and give their opponents the impression that they're not communicating well, when really it's just an act, and the pair actually are working perfectly together. It's like a whole extra meta-layer of mind games!

Anyway, just food for thought.

Additional Commentary by Adam Silverman

From the Austrian perspective, I was paired with Sam, who had played half a game before, so I ended up taking the lead in a lot of the negotiations and Sam did the order writing with my guidance. As the game went on, I think Sam really started picking up on some of the verbal and non-verbal cues during the negotiations and was well able to translate those into some pretty nice order sets, including one turn near the end where I suggested playing conservatively and Sam suggested more aggressive moves, which we ultimately went with, and turned out to be far superior order to what I had suggested!

Anyway, to the game. Opening negotiations I didn't get a very good feeling from Italy, but I figured we'd deal with him as needed. Turkey was playing his first game and looking to be conservative, and Russia gave the usual niceties with an agreed bounce in Galicia. I wasn't terribly surprised to see an Italian army in Trieste after Spring 1901, but I was at least happy that the Rome army went somewhere other than Venice, so I knew it wasn't an outright assault. I went to Italy immediately after the moves and rather than telling him off, I just told him the move to Trieste was fine — build two fleets and go attack France or Turkey, your choice. Italy readily agreed to this and offered to use the Trieste army to support us — which he did for pretty much the entire game, and this was critical to holding back an RT.

As the game progressed, our negotiations with both Russia and Turkey seemed pretty futile. Both Sam and I agreed that Turkey was the better choice for short-term ally, but we never seemed to be able to get through to him — every turn we thought we had made a reasonable offer or deal, he didn't follow it and usually found some way to cooperate with Russia to attack us - but this continued to prove futile as well because of Italy's support. This continued for some time, where Austria and Russia were jockeying for position but neither was able to get anywhere (thanks to Italy helping Austria and Turkey helping Russia, not to mention one year where Germany for some reason dropped into Boh and Tyl even as France attacked him!). I don't recall exactly what finally turned the tide, but the last few turns Austria was finally able to make some progress and elicit some minimal level of cooperation from Turkey.

If I recall correctly, the final position had Austria in Home+Ser+Rum+War, Turkey in Home+Bul+Gre+Sev (though it was F Sev) and Russia down to 2 home dots. I think the final position was pretty good for Austria, Italy, and Turkey, and it would have been some interesting negotiations to see how it might have played out.

Supply Center Chart 10/11/2013,
DIPLA (Diplomacy Players of Los Angeles), Game #2,
Santa Monica, CA

AustriaAdam Silverman
& Sam Rich
EnglandMong Yang
& Andrew Love
FranceJay Be5556433
GermanyJeff ????
& Jacob Frost
ItalyPaul Bessemer
& Eswin
RussiaJim Meg
& Ryan Lyengar
TurkeyLucas Salzwedel
& Josh Arkin

c/o Adam Silverman

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