Or, How I Went From Equal Last to a Potential First

by Chris Burke

After arriving in Coogee on Friday and I had a nap on the beautiful beach. I dutifully turned up on Friday night for the pre-drinks at the venue, the awesome Coogee Bay Hotel. 30 people were there laughing and having a great time. I met Michael ďDocĒ Binder and Craig Purcell and a host of new people, as well as many familiar faces.

I ended up back at the Colemanís suite at the Medina. Werewolf was being played, and Craig wanted to share his single malt with me. Who am I to be ungracious? So with a glass of the good stuff I sat down to play. The GMs were fabulous, and much fun was had. Matt Call was outstanding at running the games, and when I took over later in the evening I tried to live up to his awesomeness.

Sleep for the evening, 4 hours. Position, no play yet.

Saturday came around very quickly, and people filed in for the tournament registration and day 1 of the WDC. After Thorinís inspiring introduction and Robís laconic and masterly TD speech it was found we had to have a few people sit out for the first round. Thorin, Dan Burgess and I volunteered, and so the legend of Team Honourable Bye began!

Some amazing games marked round 1. Doc with a 17 SC France and Liam with a 16 SC Turkey were the highlights. Quentinís Italy, and Grant and Stuart both playing Englands, are also noteworthy. Lots of very good play and some inspired Diplomacy came out in the round. The WDC was off to a great start.

People then went and watched various forms of football for a few hours, and I had the good fortune to hang out with Paraic (pronounced Pour Rick) and Liam (pronounced long-haired lout) for a while. There was drinking and enjoyment of Samoa taking down a poor French side and the joy of Geelong stopping Collingwood from getting a premiership, and defining themselves as a great team.

End of Round 1 position equal last (with Bye people) 0 points.

So the afternoon rolled into the evening, and Round 2 began. I ended up as England with Peter Mc (my nemesis) as Russia, Grant Steel as Turkey, Chris Brand as Austria, Chait as Italy, Greg as Germany, and Gilby as France. With the preponderance of talent in the east a Western Triple or a solid EF or EG were my best hopes.

EFG was written off as Greg was completely against it, but both Greg and Gilby wanted me on their sides. This put me in a bind as both options are ok, particularly if Russia is on board to nail Germany. My read on Peter though was not good (very accurate as it turned out). That said, I waited for 1901 to play out and see where we were. Through being the popular member of the Western Trio I ended up with Norway and Bel, and so gained 2 builds. People were thinking I would build and army and a fleet, and I listened to them rather than build the 2 fleets that is more defensive but more stable in a non-Western triple game.

I looked at the board and saw Chait in Italy still poised to defend against France or attack Turkey in a Lepanto. The RAT I feared had not shown up, but also they were not attacking each other overtly. At this point the Fleet St P (NC) showed me Russia and I were not friends but I still had not chosen between G and F, although Gilby had me on his side as EF is a safe alliance for the most part.

The game played out from here with EF against G while Russia attacked me in Norway. Italy was in no manís land and Germany was in trouble. The RAT stayed non-obvious but there, and so Russia was able to build Fleets and keep me at bay. Germany fell, Italy fell, and France eventually stabbed me, and that was it. The RAT finished with 30-odd SCs, with Gilby surviving as a minor France. Other highlights of Round 2 were Quentinís 13 SC France and Shaneís 11 SC Germany.

I was annoyed at my play, which missed the obvious alliance of talent and so had no chance to diplome with FGI for a large 4 way alliance. I also feard my Dipmojo was a thing of the past. That, and Peter is such a good liar I was irked and tired, and went home to think and rest. Not sure who I gave my player of the board to, maybe Grant or Chris.

End of Round 2: position equal last (with 1 person), last on tiebreaks, 1.25 points.

Sleep did not come early as I chatted and read and Chris Brand passed through my room on the way to his (long story) and we chatted for a while about the game, Dip in general, and the tourney until we were both tired. Sleep 6 hours.

Day 2 of the tourney came up cool and slightly wet. I was feeling I was going in a slump, and I asked the Man of Steel for some advice. His sage words were ďfind the strongest player on the board and be his friend.Ē Good advice I should have listened to from the start. So the players on my board were Quentin as Austria, Matthew Woodburn in his first game of the tourney as England, Me as France, Andrew Goff (Freddie Mercury in disguise) as Germany, Stuart as Italy, Craig as Russia, and my nemesis Peter as Turkey. Well, at least I knew it was not going to be a witches' game.

1901 got off with me wanting an EFG and England being against it, as he thought Goffy was too dangerous to keep alive. I just wanted an ally (or 3) to make sure RAT did not form again. So my moves were solidly anti-German without being too obvious in Spr 01, and then I supported England to Bel.

In 1902 EF was the obvious alliance, but England wanted me to move my Fleets down to Italy and armies against Germany. Stuart is a new but very good player and that seemed a bad choice, but my ally wanted it. I built F Brest and A Paris, so I had options. Spring was kind and we were able to move well against Goffy (Freddie), but Italy was asking questions about my fleets — good questions, as they had nowhere else to go but against him. AI was strong, but Peter was working hard every turn on Stuart. Craig was supposedly going to help us against Germany but kept saying we should do the work ourselves.

Fall 1902 came and Goffy (Freddie) came to me with an awesome set of moves that gave me a massive stab on England, who was going to lose Norway to Russia. But I was fairly, and perhaps unwisely, committed to the EF — particularly as we were going to take Hol and Den. I did say I would think about it and that I wanted to keep talking, which may have been helpful later.

The start of 1903 saw EF make gains but Russia take Norway and AI look menacing, although I had fleets in the right position. Stuart came to me and I said the right things, but he was going to protect against me and ultimately look to move my way, which annoyed me as EF had not locked up Germany, and Russia was playing a very hard to read game. I think he was allied to Turkey, and maybe even Italy; but it was not clear.

Andrew (Freddie) was looking at survival, and anything else was a bonus. But Russia would not help in the killing blow and gain 1 or 2 SCs for himself. Craig was playing a beautiful balance of power position with slight anti-English/Austria moves. Turkey was still spending all of his time talking to Italy, Russia, Austria (in that order I think), so the East was a mess which helped. 1903 saw me in Munchen; but our position was no better off, and Italy/Russia had stabbed Austria, freeing Peter up in Turkey. Suddenly the deadlock in Germany was not helpful, even though we had made some good moves.

1904 and 1905 saw Matthew threaten to move against Russia if he did not help us. I knew that was unhelpful, but could not take the words back. My fleets were in West and Gulf and I had an Army in Piedmont, which is nice, but it was fairly tense all around. Moves happened, Germany held, and I knew it was time to throw Andrew (Freddie) an obvious support and try to build a relationship with him. Suddenly Grantís words made a lot of sense. I supported Andrew into his Home SCs, which he would have retaken with Russia, but he was skeptical.

At the start of 1906 I pulled Matt and Andrew (Freddie) outside and re-pitched the idea of EFG, which suddenly seemed a good idea in the face of I/T[/R?], and we agreed on a plan. Quentin was being nailed by the others at this stage, and with his last unit in Fall 1906 he decided to support me into Ven from Tyr. I also guessed Stuart would move out of Tunis, and so made 2 gains in 1906 to move to 7 and pretty much remove Italy as a threat, especially when Stuart unwisely disbanded his F WMS, which made him less useful to Peter, who had also just stabbed Craig fairly effectively. I thanked Quentin for his help, and watched slightly jealously as he and the others who were going to the Grand Final headed off.

1907 marked the beginning of a unified EFG. We had position and units to really get things happening, if we did not stab each other. We did not. Italy fell, Russia went down to 2, and Peter was at 8 with EFG on 8/7/9. The only thing I am not sure of is whether a draw was taken, or a time draw occurred in 1910. Andrew (Freddie) had gone from 2, maybe 3, SCs and looking at a 1903/4 elimination to an amazing board top.

The game was fluid, well played, and had enough intrigue and turnaround to satisfy everyone involved. Possibly one of my better games, where I diplomed and moved at a fairly high standard as well as pulled off a few unexpected moves. Everyone was pretty happy to have been on the board, and happily talked about what a great game it was. I gave Andrew (Freddie) my player of the board vote. Other results I noticed included: Shane with a solid Turkey, Paraic as Russia, and Thorin as England.

Round 3 was also the team round. My team had done quite well and was fighting it out for first, with Thorinís 9 SC England and Danís 8 SC France making my 7 SC France slightly anaemic. Also I could have fought for another SC in the game, which would have changed the team results as it turned out.

End of Round 3 position, 20th, 11.25 points.

Going into Round 4, I felt like I had some of my mojo back; plus people were happy to have me in an alliance, which is where I shine. Alcohol was the order of the day between rounds, and 5 handed 500, with Doc proving he knows his way around a trick-taking game. There was lots of fun and relaxation before the beginning of the round. Rob continued to be an amazing TD and had round 4 up and running on time and with no fuss.

My board saw me as Austria, Peter (arrghh! Can this guy leave me alone? Please?!) as England, Chait as France, Robert as Germany, Matt (again, after being with him for the amazing last game) as Italy, Doc as Russia and the inestimable Mel as Turkey.

After playing well in a truly great game only hours before, I was wondering what this round would bring. My answer came soon enough in the form of Doc coming up to me, putting his arm around my shoulders and saying ďHey Kit, letís have some fun, letís kill Turkey!Ē Yep, this game was all about joy, something you do not hear many players talk about when describing a tournament Diplomacy experience.

So a Russia/Austria alliance of some sort was there. Turkey was happy to just see what happened in 1901 — which is a strange place for Turkey to be , but I think Mel just had a bad game. Matt was on board for a Lepanto, and did not even want Tri or some assurances; which should have concerned me, but I was in a happy place. Meanwhile Robert seemed to be in a bad place, as it seemed an E/F was going to happen, but not a Western Triple. 1901 played out pretty much based on what people had said.

1902 saw a 4 SC Turkey and a 5 SC Germany in a lot of trouble, and RAI and EF being the alliances. The 5 of us moved against Robert and Mel, and popped units, and took SCís as we wanted. All the while there was a need to get position on the other alliance.

With Robert and Mel in trouble in 1903, both on 2 SCíS, the only question was whether the alliances would form/stab each other. At this point Chait and I were talking, but he seemed scared of Doc and unwilling to talk about knifing Peter, so I took the same position. Doc came up to me and suggested now was our best time to stab Matt. I was against it strategically, but alliance-wise I saw the sense. I stabbed Matt for 2 and Mel and Rob went to 1 SC each. Rob was in Marseilles which was rather funny, but unhelpful as it turned out.

So the game was now EF versus RA, with Turkey wanting survival by helping us, and Italy and Germany wanting survival by helping EF. 1904 was a tough year. We gained some ground and lost some ,and Doc stabbed Mel for her last SC, gaining a vital Northern unit but leaving me completely reliant on convincing Matt to come back on board with us. It was at this point Matt informed me he had intended a RI where they would stab me out of the game, so I felt better about my chances of winning him back.

The meal-break saw us playing cards and drinking. We chatted and Mel and Doc were extremely good company. I also learned that playing Doc at a trick based card game is only for those who like to lose.

1905 saw Chait needing me to help him remove Germany from Marseilles, but again offering me nothing in return. Matt was going to come back on board, but I had to give him back Ven. So Rob being in Piedmont was not a problem for me.

Peter was outmanoeuvring Doc in the North but stalemate lines were starting to form. The end of 1905 saw me telling a blatant lie to Robert, that I would support him into Venice, and Chait and I still not coming to an agreement about a France/Austrian alliance. This was because he wanted me to stab Doc but would not guarantee doing the same thing to Peter. So I just told him the truth, ďno!Ē Sometimes the truth does set you free.

At the end of the year the reformed RIA alliance had 19 SCs (8/4/7) and EF had 15 (8/7). A draw was proposed and everyone agreed. I had a lot of joy in a very hard fought and well played game. A massive thank you to Doc and Mel for making the game so much fun and to the others who were good opponents or otherwise.

I think in hindsight the joy of that game hindered me from making some better moves, but overall the rock solid nature of the RA between Doc and myself gave me the chance to play conservatively and with controlled aggression, all of which was helpful for me feeling confident in my Dip abilities for the first time in a while.

After a massive day of Dip, heading back to the Coleman residence to decompress seemed like a top idea. Good people, games and alcohol are an awesome combination. Werewolf and alcohol drinking were again the games of choice, with the overlap providing many moments of amusement. Just watching Geoff go up in flames every half an hour was worth the price of admission.

Sleep, yeah right!

So after leaving the Coleman residence ridiculously late, and getting up at stupid oíclock, the final round was here. I would be on a plane with memories to last a lifetime in less than half a day. I had a hangover, or sleep deprivation — I always get those confused.

So looking at the seedings I needed a lot to go right to win the tournament, or at least move up into the top half of the rankings. The best plan was to have breakfast. Doug Stewart was seated in the bistro around the corner from where I was staying, and good company was all I needed to sell me on where to eat. We had a great chat and I was vaguely ready to play Dip.

Thorin gave a rousing speech to begin the day, and to see who was awake. The board allocations were given out. The top board was unchanged. Board 2 had Craig on his way back to NZ, so Will Black moved onto that board. I became the first player on board 3 as Germany along with Stuart as France, Mel as Italy, Greg as Russia, and Sean as Turkey. Matt was not able to attend so moving up were Gilby as England and Doug as Austria. This left Chait and the rest of the attendees on board 4.

So what to do? I like Germany, but am not very good at it. I know alliances, talking a lot and not being a target are key to a good result. If I can get 2 of those happening I will be ok, all 3 would be nice. So Gilby and Stuart come up to me early and an EFG is very much a possibility. I know the Western Triple will result in an alliance of the rest of the board and an early draw, but that is not a bad outcome. Meanwhile Doug looks to have his choice of allies, and Mel is playing a very quite opening. Sean is full of advice and not much help, and Greg is saying we can work together. 1901 goes well and I end up with 5 and bounce Greg in Sweden.

No one is saying EFG, and Doug and I are negotiating in apparent good faith towards a solid Anschluss. 1902 sees the EFG making all the classic moves. Doug has committed against Sean in Turkey, so there is no pressure there; and Mel had been looking at a Lepanto but was now moving against a hostile France. As Doug and I have a separate secret alliance, we are doing all we can to look entangled without moving against one another. 1902 results in Gilby and I moving against Russia, and Stuart getting into opposition against Italy.

1903 saw Gilby and I talk about making the Western Triple into an EG alliance. This suited me and my overall plan, so I was keen. I also kept Doug talking, and we were open to an AIG with Mel. As the alliances being discussed included me, I was pretty happy. Not much happened in the Med in 1903 and I was putting no pressure on Mel, so she was in a solid place. Gilby and I also started talking about moving 1 English Fleet around to help in the war in the Med. Stuart was reluctant, which was clever, but agreed.

1904 and 1905 saw Doug making gains in Turkey and Russia, England and I making gains in Russia, and Greg being unhappy about this. Gilby and I were now in a position to strike for the easy SCs against France, and Fall saw us do that. The 2 SC loss saw Stuartís position collapse, and Mel was suddenly in a stronger position. EF suddenly seemed a key alliance, yet no one was commenting on the ridiculously effective Anschluss Doug and I were executing every turn.

1906 saw units being moved into the new hot zones, France and southern Russia. Stuart was negotiating with Gilby and me still, and Greg and Sean where trying to get someone to help against Doug. Gilby was taken with the idea of EGA ,which is when Doug suggested we stab him. I was able to take Mos, get supported into Paris; and only Gilby being told to cover Swe prevented me from gaining 3 and him losing 2.

This was also the point when I had to decide whether or not I could solo. A lot of people after the game were talking about Doug's unopposed run to the solo, but right here I had units and allies and the ability to make one final stab, on my Anschluss partner, and see if a solo could come off. I chose the alliance and actually the 3 way alliance which included Mel, as Doug had already done. In fact Doug and I had a discussion late in the game. I said to him I felt he had played the strongest position while I had had a very strong diplomatic game. He agreed with my assessment, and I am not breaking an alliance at that point for any reason.

The beginning of 1907 saw a disillusioned Gilby (sorry mate but I know you know itís only a game), Sean, Greg, and Stuart in real trouble, and AGI on 10/9/4. We just then had to run to the finish and not attack each other or go for the solo. At this point Doug and I had another heart to heart and just talked about SC divisions, and when ending the game was likely. We decided that Best Country awards were in our grasp, and did rapid calculations about how to achieve that. Mel just wanted to have more than 4 SCís and that was fairly achievable. At this point Stuart and Sean decided to make life difficult by attacking Mel and making gains.

1908 and 1909 saw Doug clean up Greg, and me making some serious gains against Gilby. I was now able to help Mel against Stuart and Doug was doing the same against Sean. With those 3 eliminated and a 13/13/6 split we took the draw in 1910, with Gilby surviving on 2.

We consulted with Rob about tie-breakers, but apparently we were not given quite enough information. I definitely had the best Germany of the tournament, but Doug was sadly pipped by a board top counting more than an equal board top with more SCís. Sad but true.

So at the end of the tournament I had moved from last through to 11th and felt I had not played a bad tournament. The conclusion of the tournament was very positive, with the prizes bringing a lot of smiles to peopleís faces. Goffyís winnerís speech was heartfelt and the closing line is one for the ages. Many photos and drinks later, the crowds departed, and with some fond goodbyes I headed to the airport for an uneventful flight back home.

Looking at the tournament as a whole, I would like to say how professional and well put together it was. Some people will say, based on the limited turnout, it was not a true WDC. To them I say, grow up, this is where the tournament was held this year, and you were invited.

Sadly, the GFC and amazingly strong Aussie dollar made the trip prohibitively expensive for a lot of people. And to the 4 amazing internationals that came, I say thank you for your company, I enjoyed chatting to all of you and playing Dip with you was a bonus.

The limited Australian turnout because of football finals and various other excuses is pretty poor however. Of the 18 players who are Master and Champion rank in DAANZ 6 turned up, where were at least 6 more? There are 80 players in DAANZ of Veteran or Senior rank, 6 turned up. Even with half of the players not active that is pretty poor. The New Zealand turnout was strong, and made some of the state turnouts (hello, Queensland and South Australia) seem pretty pathetic. A turnout that had of been twice the size would have made this tournament legendary.

If Australia were to host again, I would think the following ideas might be helpful:

  • Build the hobby in the area it is being played for 3-5 years beforehand. A player base of 30 to 50+ in the local area is essential to get a reasonable turnout.
  • Hold it on the Australia Day Weekend! In 2018 and 2020 the weekend will be either a Friday or Monday 3 day holiday. This will encourage interstate travel and while accommodation will reflect that, it will be no more expensive than during football finals weekend. Also people from the Northern hemisphere will travel in January to leave the cold for a week, and price will play a reduced role in deciding whether or not to come.

I have been to 2 larger tournaments in Australia, the 1989 ADC ,and the 2002 WDC. This was the best Diplomacy tournament I have played in; the quality of players, the organisation, and the setting were amazing.

Chris Burke

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