Be the Little Guy

Chris Martin

On the trip down to World DipCon VIII, excellently run by David Hood and the Carolina Amateur Diplomats (hooray!). There was much speculation as to how one would be able to get to the final round. Surely anyone who had a "name" in the hobby, and there were a bunch of 'em there, believe you me!, would be at a disadvantage, as well as anyone who did really well in the first or second round. So it was my intention from the beginning to play a strong-but-unspectacular first game, take a few chances the second game, and to play all-out the third and fourth rounds.

This proved to be a pretty solid strategy. I pulled Turkey in the opening game, and had Larry Peery as Russia to the north. We struck a deal that would let us fight our own fights, without doing a traditional Juggernaut. He went north and east; I fought for the Balkans. And this brings me to the first virtue of Being the Little Guy:

1) Patience Pays Off

The big problem with Turkey without a strong Russian ally is that A/I can slowly chew away at you. But, in my experience, something will usually happen, around 1904 or so, that will cause one of them to falter, If I am still alive and kicking then, I thought, I should be in good shape. Especially since, to my good fortune, no one was coming out as a strong winner on the other side of the board. Eventually, I got "out of the box," and was up to 12 centers when the board voted a two-way R/T. It was late on the first night, and I felt pretty good about the round. Solid performance, and while the game was really by no means over, I decided that a two-way would probably stand up in the final accounting as a "good board." There weren't many two-way draws, and a lot of three- and four-ways.

In Round 2, I drew Germany, and was the victim of the dreaded Western Triple. Yes, I meant that. In tournaments, the W3 rarely works out for Germany, but I figured this was my round to be bold, and it wasn't impossible that it could work! So, I supported France through Munich, worked England into St. Pete, and was on the verge of Warsaw when England stabbed me...for Belgium. That was it, a one center stab, but in the end, it forced France to choose between me and England, and heck, he already had Munich! However, I learned virtue #2 of Being the Little Guy:

2) Bold, Honorable Play Pays Off

France and I were tight in this game, and if England hadn't stabbed (badly -- no I'm not bitter, I just hate to see a bad stab) we almost certainly would have had a three-way. Nonetheless, word got around the boards that I could be trusted, and having only a two center (one center? I forget) survival, this was clearly the game to drop.

So to Round 3. I draw England, and Vincent Mous, inventor of the Modern Variant, is France. A fellow named Steve Mauritas (sp?) is Germany, and I find myself forced to decide on my strategy for the game in 1901. On the one had, Vincent, will make an excellent ally, his tactics will be sound, and in the end, he can almost certainly out-play me given a chance. On the Other Hand, Steve is (As far as I could tell, I had met him at PrezCon previously) a solid player, without much feel for the endgame, who, as Germany, would almost certainly have bigger problems than me! I convince Steve to work with me for Vincent's demise. And So it goes. A Relentless assault on our part, and Italian intervention in Iberia, seal Vince's fate. No one can fight three at a time, but he holds on until 1904, when he goes from four centers to zero. (ouch!)

And, just when things are looking pretty rosy for the E/G alliance, Russia springs west, and captures Munich. A long fight ensues, wherein the R/A/I alliance scrambles to get to the Stalemate line. And here I learned virtues 3 and 4:

3) Alliances Pay Off

Steve was brilliant as Germany. At one point he had 5 centers, four units and only one home center, With his other three behind our lines in France. (I'm pretty sure he had a fleet in Portugal!) As hard as R/A tried, they couldn't break past him. I held the North in an Iron Hand, but Italy, in the process of taking down France, had gotten the West Med locked up. For four years I had to wait and not stab Germany. I mean, those four centers were mine, whenever I wanted them -- but as England, I couldn't project the power onto the continent, to take His position, and prevent R/A from getting past Switzerland. Four years went by, and at that point, John Quarto (austria) approached me. He also had a two-way draw in round one. We both agreed that a four- or five-way draw was no good for anyone. I said "As soon as you stab Italy, I'll stab Germany", and I encouraged Russia to look to Austrian centers for growth as I put full-court-press on the Med. Virtue #4?

4) Patience Pays Off

Sure enough, Austria stabs Italy. Russia stabs Austria. Italy abandons the Med, and heads home to take down the Archduke. My fleets scream into the Med, getting to Tunis and threatening the Italian home centers. Russia and Austria spar at seven centers each for two years, exchanging something like eight SC's in the process. And I get a little bigger each year. Russia invites me into Warsaw to help him against Austria, and at this point Steve, my erstwhile ally says "Y'know something, Chris? There are 18 SC's behind our lines. I wouldn't be too upset if you stab me for the solo. Just give me credit in The Diplomatic Pouch. (Okay, he didn't say the part about the credit in The Pouch, but it sounds nice.) So I did, and a mis-written order takes me to seventeen (I wrote Picardy instead of Paris), and the board votes me the solo so we can get some sleep!

In the end, a solo and a two-way were just barely enough to get me the win. As the Little Guy, the one who no one had really heard of, and who certainly didn't appear capable of taking the whole shebang, I was, I think, a little underestimated -- if only as someone not to "key onto." Many of the veterans, like Simon, Manus, and Edi, had such strong reputations going in that they probably fared less well than if they had equal abilities and no reputation. [I hope not. I intend to win someday, despite any notoriety I might have. --MH] My last thought on the matter is one about tournaments, and something I learned while competing in Ballroom Dancing:

Win the Tournament, Not The Event

If you focus too hard on getting the solo win in every game at a tournament, odds are against it happening. Have fun, play boldly, with solid tactics and reasonable diplomacy. That was my formula, and it worked for me!

See ya in Belgium!

Chris Martin

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