Pouch Deposits

The Editor and the Readership

First, A Quick Announcement

The new judgekeeper of the TWUT judge, Solomon Chen, has asked that we announce on these pages that the judge is once again alive and well, just living at a new address. Here it is: judge@emwave.ee.ntu.edu.tw. Thanks for the update, Solomon!

And now....

Mail Time, Mail Time, Mail Time!

(How many of you get the children's television program reference?)

Mail Received Concerning Last Issue's
About The Pouch

From Viktor Haag (viktor@peergroup.com):

I blush at the credit Manus gave me for my work on the Fall 1998 Movement issue.

I must admit to a certain amount of pleasure being labelled as the hero of someone so reknowned in the hobby (and me practically a Diplomacy neophyte).

As some of you know, I'm a writer by trade, and so the editing and HTMLifying of some articles, here and there, is well within my capabilities and expertise.

However, it would be a shame to allow Manus to get away with his claim that I "completely took over the editing duties last time and this time." You're too modest, Manus.

While I did lend a hand to edit some of the articles for the 'zine, everyone should know that you and Simon did the lion's share of the work. I'm happy to continue to help out, but I think the Dip world should know (they likely already do) about the amount of time and effort that you put in every issue (and Simon as well).

Still, thanks for the kudos: I remain ready to do my part for the hobby at large--in the vain hope that it'll improve my game play .

Publisher's response: Aw, shucks. Well, I'll publish it, but I'll modestly stuff the praise back on you (where it belongs).
Hahahahah! Perhaps we can string this into a running joke! How long do you think we can get away with kicking our heels with our toes, and nodding at one another before the Pouch's readers write in to tell us to shut the heck up?
Publisher's rejoinder: I bet we can get that question answered right now. Anyone?

Mail Received Concerning
Confession of a Cheater

From dhemke@hotmail.com:

While I agree that using multiple email accounts to play as several powers cheapens the game, I certainly would not support banning 'free' email accounts. There are quite a few people who use free accounts as their primary non-work email addresses. To ban them would be to punish a moral majority for the crimes of the immoral minority.

Mail Lamenting the Loss of
The Diplomacy Academy Article Series

From Viktor Haag (viktor@peergroup.com):

What has happened to Dan Shoham? Quite frankly, one of the things that got me so interested in the hobby was his fascinating articles in the early history of The Pouch. I'd really like to see Dan return with his in-depth technical analyses of games.

And if not him, then somebody who could do that kind of job. (I'm nowhere near good enough a player to do it myself, and I think Dan's gift was that he was a very good player, and a reasonably good writer, and I wonder how many of those there are out there.)

Publisher's response: I don't know what happened to him. Let's ask him. Dan, what happened to you?

Mail Received Concerning
Chainsaw Diplomacy

From Thaddeus Black (tblack@reagan.tkblack.com):

In your article, you wrote, "The goal was to eliminate Russia and have A/I/T stalemate F/G. The AIT alliance sounded good on paper, but things weren't working out the way I thought they should." In my opinion, this is what the Austrian and the Italian deserve, for agreeing to try for a useless draw, instead of playing to win. Do you disagree?
Author's response: You're missing the point of the strategy on several levels.

First, and it seems almost tautological to point it out, neither Austria nor Italy could win if France or Germany wins first. Since F/G had a combined 17 dots to five for Austria and four for Italy, and Germany was playing and diploming like a genuine carebear, it would be pure fantasy to suppose that even the most legendary of Dippers could play Austria or Italy and beat France or Germany to 18 dots in a pure race without defending against them. "Playing for the win," in this case, absolutely dictates, first, arresting the progress of the F/G alliance. Imagine this exchange:

Turkey to Italy and Austria: "Why didn't you stop all of those French fleets and German armies from crossing the stalemate lines and attacking your home centers in 1905 when you had the chance?"

Italy and Austria reply to Turkey: "Because we were playing for the win."

Turkey: "!?!?"

Second, who said anything about a draw? I said the goal was to stop the F/G alliance's progress with an AIT defense of the stalemate line. I did not say the goal was a five way draw. Once F/G is stalemated by AIT, the most likely continuation is that a new phase of diplomacy begins--one which will feature shifting alliances, as each of the remaining powers seeks to cut a deal with someone on the other side of the stalemate line in order to break the stasis and seek a new route to expansion and, ultimately, victory. So we see that this is an excellent strategy for someone "playing for victory." Referring back to my first point, the only other option was to continue useless infighting while F/G units poured across the stalemate lines in the upcoming year. How likely would A/I chances for victory be in that scenario?

Third, discarding the notion of playing defense in the name of "playing for the win" is misguided pedantery masquerading as philosophy. There is an old addage in sports that "offense wins fans, but defense wins championships." No strategy game in the world worthy of play, including Diplomacy, has a path to victory which affords you the luxury of ignoring the notion of defending against the other players. If you're falling behind, there comes a point in any strategy contest where the only sensible strategy, if you are to have any hope of winning, is to give your greatest effort to playing defense.

Finally, and related to the third point, there comes a point when victory is simply reasonably impossible. I'm not saying that the game was at that point for Austria and Italy, but to choose an extreme example, persisting in the notion that one must "play for victory" while a power several times one's own size is gobbling up one's home centers is simply ludicrous. At some point, a secondary goal to personal victory has to come into play in order for the game to have any meaning. The most sensible secondary goal I'm aware of is playing for a draw.

At another point, you wrote how "Austria was throwing himself into the battle against Russia, but he would not discuss a split of SCs north of Sevastopol and he stubbornly refused all of my attempts to discuss moving his army away from Bulgaria." The Austrian was in a tough spot, Paul. I'd have done the same as he did.
Author's response: Really? Austria quit negotiating with me. When the going gets tough you quit negotiating with your own allies? Somehow, I don't think that's quite what you meant.

Perhaps you meant that you wouldn't take the tactical pressure off of the Turk. Well, let's review the threat assessment from a tactical view. South of you, a five SC Turkey is splitting his forces between three armies heading into Russia and two fleets sitting bottled up in his home centers because Italy won't let them go anywhere. North of you, an, eight center Germany (with six armies) is slicing into Russia and preparing to rain black armies on your head through the barren zone. Which of these powers has the greatest potential to ruin your day?

A Dipper in a tough spot has to make tough choices. Committing units to harrassing the borders of a weaker power trying to ally with you, while a much more powerful threat grows virtully unchecked is not my vision of a wise choice in the situation. I certainly don't see how allowing Germany's unrestrained expansion into the barren zone is consistent with "playing for the win". When mistrusting Turkey leads to certain distruction at the hands of the German, then it's time to start trusting the Turk. That doesn't seem like a difficult formulation to me.

Finally, you said that the Italian's "modus operandi was going to be to stab first and ask for negotiations later. I find this very, very interesting. And he won, eh?
Author's response: Indeed he did. It really was an interesting display. Italy seemed to have a knack for, first, inciting a neighboring power to attack himself then, second, inviting the power on the back side of the attacking power to strike at the undefended flank of the attacking power. His positon was teetering on the brink on more than one occasion when a (from Italy's point of view) well-timed stab of Italy's enemy from across the board saved the day. Italy was quite adept at arranging that sort of thing.

From Jonathan Dean (nshade@psn.net):

I liked your article. Very entertaining. I have two stories where I used "Chainsaw Diplomacy."

The first I was playing Austria, and late in the game France decided to breach our agreed DMZ. It wasn't a serious violation, but I knew he was itching to make a dash to 18. I was busy fighting Germany at the time and didn't really want to deal with France. So I sent him a letter, detailing how, earlier in the game, Italy had stabbed me by surprise, got nowhere and was destroyed by me. I pointed out that I knew he was coming, and there was no way he was going to breach my defenses with the units I thought he was deploying against me.

He meekly retreated back to his territory.

The second example I have came when I was playing France in an EFI vs. RT game. We had locked up Turkey tight, and had an active defense against Russia. Though it took a while, we finally convinced Russia to go with a draw. We concentrated on him first as he had the position which could possibly breach the wall we had if he fully committed himself to the task. I felt that Turkey would be a shoo-in to accept an offer of a part of a draw, once Russia was on board especially, as he had no options. Boy, I was wrong about Turkey. His response to our first inquiry was that he had never been in a draw, and never would be. He would rather let Russia win. He sent that to everybody. Russia took him up on the offer, as with no need to guard against his ally he did have the units to breach our line.

Unfortunately, his "chainsaw" message backfired. We (EFI) were livid that Turkey forced a draw into what looked to be a very long game. As Russia gained momentum, Turkey complained to me that we were not defending the Juggernaut equally, while our line against Russia was collapsing, our line against Turkey was rock solid. I politely (barely) pointed out that Russia didn't piss off everybody, and made it very clear that as France my last units would be standing on the line against Turkey and by the time he could make any gains at all, Russia would indeed win as he seemed more than willing to allow.

He evidently didn't want to simply hand the game to Russia as he tried to stay even (grabbing one of Russia's SCs). I broadcast to everyone just how profoundly upset I was that he had stabbed Russia. I pointed out that Turkey had said he was willing to give the game to Russia, and I had no problem with that. However, Turkey needed to stop pretending to be an even partner, step down and accept the loss with at least some dignity. This really ticked off Russia and Turkey (mostly at each other), and the whole Juggernaut collapsed the following season. With barely a message, England, Italy, and I agreed that Turkey simply had to go.

Unfortunately, the judge (USCA) crashed, never to return, so we never actually got to take our revenge out on Turkey.

Author's response: Excellent stories! The second one is a good illustration of why chainsaw press had better have a specific purpose. If all it does is alienate your fellow players, you would have been better off not negotiating at all.

Mail Received Concerning
The Lack of Opening Theory in Diplomacy

From Somebody Named Kos (nshade@psn.net):

You are right, up to the fact that people tend to keep their own behaviour (either cooperative, aggressive, simplifying or cautious). This makes the weighing of the dice even more interesting, since they are a function of the number of moves.

Mail Received In Response to Either
Your Publisher's Wit or His Profundity (I Can't Decide Which)

From Jim Burgess (burgess@world.std.com):

Manus, you wrote: "I don't know if there is life after Diplomacy. All I know is that I hope I never find out."

Indeed! And all that from someone who is a relative babe in the Diplomacy woods. Just wait until you've been running The Pouch for more than 15 years, like I have with my szine. It really starts to feel a part of you....

Publisher's response: I can't even imagine doing what we do for fifteen years! Then again, I can't imagine not doing it for the next fifteen years, either! I salute you, Jim-Bob.

Well, there you have it. Another Deposits column. Yep, it sure is.