The Sealion at Rest

Ron Artigues


This is the sequel to The Sealion Opening in Action, written under the nom de guerre of Bif Smithson, and published in the Fall 1997 Retreat issue of The Diplomatic Pouch. At the time the first article was published, the game discussed in the article was still going on. The game, Howells, fought on USIN, is over. It ended in a French solo victory.

The original article was written entirely by myself, although I had asked the German player if he wanted to include any comments and/or insight, which he did at the time. After Howells ended I told the players that I would send in every EoG statement for the follow-up article. What follows here are the EOG statements from myself (France) and the Russian player. Unfortunately, the other players and the Master declined to issue EoG statements.

The French End Of Game Statement

After the Invasion

The last article left off in Winter 1903, with England defeated. In 1904 Germany and I turned east; he attacked Russia, while I continued my assault on the Italians. By the end of 1905 Russia had lost Norway, Sweden and Warsaw to Germany. Prince Myshkin of Russia was not happy, and he told everyone in a great broadcast "that the Russian people will go down fighting. Germany has destroyed the trust that the Russian people afforded them. I understand that this is war and all is fair, but Germany must also realize that we will do all we can to stop you." The center count in Winter 1905 was France 12, Germany 9, Russia 8, Turkey 4, and Austria 1.

With the Germans fighting a Russian bent on carrying out a sorched earth policy, this looked to me like the perfect time to attack Germany. The Pouch published right around the Spring 1906 turn, and Russia immediately broadcast that our game was in the issue. At the time I didn't know if this would hurt or help my cause; Russia was fighting Germany, and I thought I could use this conflict to make my own move. I was in talks with Russia planning to dismember Germany. I thought France would score the breakthrough in 1907.

The SitzKreig

What actually happened in 1907 is that Russia tossed my army out of Tyrolia, where it was attempting to take Munich. Russia and Germany and Turkey had come to terms. It was the start of the Sitzkrieg that would last until 1914. There was no way to break through the GRT wall unless one of them made a mistake. Germany wasn't happy about the stab and told me he would never trust me again and he stopped answering my mail. I had my 15 minutes of fame, in the form of the Pouch article, and in gaining that fame I set everybody against me. A barrage of broadcasts came from Germany, Russia, and Turkey; all calling for a draw. In a broadcast Russia said that my tongue had irreversibly set GRT against me. I decided I would rather be eliminated than vote for any draw (I was on the wrong end of a 13-21 center split at the time, and fully expected to get pushed back). I never responded to any of the draw broadcasts, mainly because I didn't want to antagonize anybody any more than I already had.

Although the front was pretty solid with units, I made a try at an endrun in 1910. St Petersburg, owned by Germany, was open. I sent a fleet to Barents. Russia was bouncing A Livonia and A Moscow in St Petersburg to keep me out. In Fall 1910 I supported A Lvn into St Petersburg. Russia waived his build and Germany broadcast that I was a 'sneaky bastard,' but that I could not break the anti-French alliance. Germany disbanded a unit not on the front lines.

After 5 years of no communication and an inconclusive war on the military front, it was time to try a new tack.

As Edi said in his response to the first Sealion article, diplomacy is the name of the game. I tried again to mend fences with the German.

Attempts at Rapproachment

In Spring 1911 I unilaterally abandoned Ruhr and Edinburgh. To get my army out of Edinburgh I asked the German to help convoy A Edi via his fleet in the North Sea and my fleet in the Channel to Brest. He sent in the requisite order. I still had a fleet in Barents so I also offered to support Germany from Norway to St Petersburg and sent in the orders. I assumed Germany would take Belgium, Edinburgh and St Petersburg in the Fall (I told Germany I would be vacating Belgium). From there, either we could continue our attack, or else GRT would come after me, but the static situation would be broken. Even if I lost 2 or 3 centers I would still be the strongest player in the game. It had worked for me once before when I was Turkey. If Germany got a few centers here but was set upon by T/R, I would be in great shape.

Germany did not take any centers in the Fall. Needless to say, I was non-plussed. I left the centers open and moved on. In 1912, I wrote to Turkey. I offered to help him into the Austrian home centers, now occupied by Russia. I got one reply and but no more and he did not accept my support orders that I was sending in.

That left Russia. Prior to 1910 I had gotten a letter from Russia. He was not thrilled with the first Pouch article, and he said at the time that he would do anything to stop a French solo. Since then I had not sent press to Russia. However, now it was 1913 and Germany and Turkey had refused to deal (to be honest, I expected them to reject me, but I had to try). In the spirit of leaving no stone unturned, I wrote to Russia. I pointed out that with all the German's forces facing me the German back door was open. A Russian attack on Germany would net him 3 or 4 centers, easily.

Russia wrote back, but declined my offer. I wrote several letters, trying to convince him to change his mind. Realistically, I thought that with at least 4 German centers moved to Russian control the game would end with a 3 Power Deadlock (I even sent Russia the URL for a Pouch article on the subject). The lack of diplomatic progress for the past 5 game years was wearing on me, and had Russia stabbed Germany, I probably would've agreed to the 3 way draw. Russia and I traded letters for 2 weeks, but he would not change sides. The whole time we were talking I was sending in support orders for the Russian attack vs Germany. I was hoping that Russia would attack or else Germany would see the orders and make a panic mistake.

Prince Myshkin did give me two pieces of info. First, Russia told me that he had been blackmailing G/T, stating that he would stab them if they took any centers from me. THAT explained to me why Germany never took Edinburgh and Belgium.

The more important info I received was that Russia was sending in phased orders. The Sitzkreig had dragged out over several months and 6 game years, with one center or another changing hands only every 2 or 3 years. Each player's orders WERE mostly the same every year, which made me think that GRT were phasing orders, but now I had actual confirmation. Since I had made 3 attempts to negotiate with my three opponents, and all had failed, I decided it was time to make an attempt at another breakthrough attack. The phasing of orders gave me an idea.

Getting in Phase

I had a fleet in London which I sent to Edinburgh. At the time I had hopes that Russia would stab Germany, so I was moving forces back to England. When I gave up hope of Franco-Russo rapproachment, I ordered F Edi-Nrg. This was Spring 1914. Russia had an army in St Petersburg that held every turn. Russia told me he was using cut and paste to phase his orders, so I had my fingers crossed that St Petersburg would NOT support the Germans in Norway. I still had a fleet in Barents. Germany was using all his fleets to defend North Sea against MY fleets. The German fleet in Norway had no supports.

In 1914 I took Norway using F Bar and F Nrg. The rest of the war was anti-climatic. My build from taking Norway got into the fight, and this, coupled with the German disband meant that Germany could no longer hold me off. I took my 18th Supply Center in 1918.

The Aftermath

I worked very hard on this game, Howells was probably the toughest game I've ever played. Deciding to try a Sealion, actually pulling it off and then getting the Dip Pouch article published was a huge rush. This led to a BIGGER fall when GRT banded up against me. Manus was getting letters from people asking how the game turned out and he would forward them to me. I was so embarrassed at blowing the attack I told Manus there wouldn't be any updates while the game continued. The moral of the story is obvious.

I would like to thank everybody who played in Howells. The game lasted seven months and nobody abandoned. Thanks also to Edi Birsan, for coming up with the Sealion in the first place. It is difficult to draw inferences from one game, but France has a solid, flexible position.

Last but not least, thanks to our GM, Larry Richardson, who ran a very tight game.

-Ron Artigues a.k.a. Inspector Clouseau a.k.a. Bif Smithson

Russian End of Game Statement

Well I made a lot of mistakes in this game. France may have ultimately gotten the win, but I think that it was probably do more in part to our (my) mistakes then to any great tactical skill on his part. That is not to say that he does not deserve the win, he did. But in some games the win goes to the side that makes the least mistakes and I think that is how this game went.

Turkey and I started the game with plans for a juggernaut. We were doing very well against Austria (we had some Italian help) but Turkey seemed so intent of deceiving the Austrians that though we were winning he was not growing very fast. I tried an abortive stab on him, but quickly gave it up after England was eliminated and Germany began heading in my direction.

I was trying to figure out my best plan of attack and I wrote to France to see what three-way he would be most amenable to (FGR or FRT) and he wrote back saying that he didn't want any part of a three way (at that point in the game). This was also about the time that the Pouch article came out. The article meant two things to me:

  1. France was a good player. I assume that you have to be a good level to be able to understand things well enough to write an article articulate enough for The Pouch. (Actually at the time I had delusions that I was playing with a Pitt Crandlemire or Dan Shoam or what have you.)
  2. I had a "bargaining chip" with the other players. For the same reason that the best players don't like to reveal their names in games I tried to use it to align my allies against France, and to an extent it worked.

France was the biggest threat and in my opinion I was in the weakest tactical position so after we eliminated Italy and Austria entirely I was trying to set up for the four way. Had I thought it was possible to get a three way I would have but I didn't think it was possible so I didn't. I'm not sure when we hit the impasse but for years no SC changed hands. This was for at least three years. This was at the same time as the three-year clock discussions were going on in r.g.d. I sent a couple of messages to the Master but never got a response about the appropriateness of their use in our context. There was no clear stalemate lines (none at all) and France would not set draw.

At this point I lost all interest I had in the game. I had phased orders for eight years at one point. I will note that Germany and Turkey clearly did not though. I suggested it to them but they clearly were not phasing because they were late nearly every turn (Germany I think even went abandoned a couple of times). I don't fault them or anything, I just took this to mean that they had lost interest in the game as well.

At some point something happened. I was so uninterested I couldn't even tell you what it was. As a matter of fact until I read France's EOG I couldn't tell you how it happened at all. I thought that Germany had made a mistake with his orders. I finally realized that I should have had another fleet to help Germany and even got my army out of St. Pete, but then my phased build waive trashed me and I lost the opportunity. Then France slowly rolled through Germany getting to 18. I would like to say that we regained interest in this game, but we hadn't. Germany and I never spoke about how best to defend. I don't think that we could have and we didn't. (Note: For the same reason that I didn't take France up on his offer to eliminate Germany for the three way.)

All in all France won this game by mistakes on our part, and a lot of them were mine. But what did it for him ultimately, in my opinion, was the fact that throughout the years when nothing changed he was still interested in the game. He won the war of attrition. I'm not saying that we should have had a draw, but if we had played the endgame with half the enthusiasm that France had, it would have ended much differently.

Good game to everyone,

Eric Vallender - Prince Myshkin as Russia in 'howells'

Ron Artigues

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