Rationalist Diplomacy, Game Two Post-game Discussion

by Randaly1 min read15th Feb 201128 comments

7

Personal Blog

(A full list of game moves and commentary is available here; the game maps are available here.)

 

Since I was GM, I had a distinctly limited access to private communications, so I've relatively little analysis.

 

A brief review of the game:

Austria was the first player to get eliminated; in contrast to the sort of min-maxing I've usually seen in Diplomacy, they took a lot of big risks in the beginning, in particular leaving Trieste open to Italian attack, in favor of quick expansion to the east. Although they did manage to take Warsaw and Serbia, the Austrian forces wound up overextended and unable to hold onto their gains, and in a weak position diplomatically; the fall of Trieste didn't help matters. Nobody was willing to help Austria, and so Italy seized all of Austria, with Turkey taking the Balkans and Russia taking Rumania. After that, there was a long period of stalemate in the Balkans, as neither of the three powers was willing to divert enough troops to one front to make any offensive progress.

In the west, Germany initially faced a combined Franco-British attack; they held out surprisingly well, aided by cracks in the alliance and occasional Russian attacks on Norway. Britain was actually the first Power to fall in the West, when France piled on after the fall of Norway; the British player was forced to stop participating in the game at around that time. France wound up with all of the British Isles, and Germany was squeezed between it and Russia until it cracked. (The brief Italian occupation of Munich didn't help.) Germany did manage to hold out for most of the rest of the game; there were only a few months of inconclusive war between France and Russia before the draw proposal.

Meanwhile, in the east, Italy gradually fell back before a combined Russian-Turkish attack. After Russia seized Vienna and Budapest, and Turkey seized Trieste, Russia mostly concentrated on attacking England and Germany, leaving Turkey and Italy in a period of stalemate, broken by the advance of Turkish fleets into the Ionian Sea. Soon after, Italy's player had to drop out, and Turkey soon seized control of Italy. Then the game ended.

One thing I'm curious about is how much communication there was between the eastern and western powers. (In-game, beyond Russia fighting on both fronts and a single, chance retreat by Italy, there was little direct interaction.)

7

28 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 8:26 AM
New Comment

Czar Thausler and I know each other in real life. We didn't have a metagame commitment to cooperate (in fact, I stabbed him briefly, to little effect), but it did help us coordinate.

Now, a chronological summary of the game from my perspective. I'm sure I've left out something important, but here goes.

I've played France several times before, and always opened by taking the Iberian centers and pretty much ignoring everything else until 1902. I decided to mix things up a bit and go for Belgium in 1901 instead. However, Kaiserin Tenshiko decided that Belgium should go to Britain, which made any attempt on it by me pretty much impossible, so I reverted to the more usual strategy. Tenshiko then further decided that her opening strategy would be to invade France, and she loudly broadcast this desire. This allowed Prime Minister Kevin to play us off against each other, and made life rather frustrating for me for the first three years, during which I had a continuous standoff against Germany in Burgundy, and Britain kept switching sides between us.

I made the mistake of not building a fleet in 1901 in order to appease Britain. Since I had no further room for expansion, I could not build a fleet, and, since it's pretty much impossible to invade Britain with only one fleet, I had no leverage against Britain until I got into Burgundy in 1904, allowing me to build another fleet and crush Britain. Instead of occasionally switching sides between me and Germany without any gain, Kevin should have allied with Germany and crushed me. This is because Germany actually had a possible path of expansion other than towards Britain, meaning that such an alliance would be stable and they could split my supply centers. I, on the other hand, had no possibility of gaining supply centers from Germany unless Britain conquered a large portion of Germany first and decided to hand me the leftovers. This meant that I had great incentive to stab Britain as soon as I got the chance, which he made the mistake of giving me.

Britain was quickly shut out of the continent by a French-German-Russian coalition. We initially planned to split Britain evenly, with each of us getting one British home supply center, but by the time we got to the taking-over-Britain stage, I had the ability to take two British supply centers on my own, aided by Prime Minister Kevin's resignation. So of course I did so.

At that point, Russia was frighteningly large, and I had started taking steps to slow its growth. Czar Thausler had been consulting me on strategy in the South, and I started leaking information to Sultan Hugh Ristik and Kind Alexandros. Additionally, I started coordinating with Germany against Russia. I convinced her to forgo Edinburgh (which I probably would have given her if she insisted on it) so she would have more units to move against Russia.

Eventually, it became evident that my backing of Germany would ultimately have no effect whatsoever on Russia's expansion, so I stabbed Germany, and divided up her supply centers with Russia. Thausler was concerned that I was gaining supply centers earlier than he was, so he supported Edinburgh hold, which I was not terribly concerned about, given that he could not take Edinburgh without my consent either. Russia and I took down Germany before Turkey took down Italy, so we then started arranging a stalemate while we waited.

Sultan Hugh Ristik and I briefly discussed attempting a two-way draw along the diagonal from North Africa to northern Russia, but I was inclined to try to bring the game to an end with three players. Two-way draws are tough to pull off, and it looked like Turkey would be more likely to be able to stab me and turn it into a win than I would. Additionally, I was in a tedious position because Russia had several fleets in the North, but few in the South, and Turkey had several fleets in the Mediterranean, meaning they could each deploy their fleets against me, but not against each other.

In 1906 I wrote a note to myself to remind me to ask if you had leaked our chat logs from that year to Germany. This was around mid-January.

Info - yes; Logs - no

Okay, here's my version of the story. It is a rather depressing tale of a naive girl who really needs to consume much, much less Axis Powers Hetalia-related works.

At the outset, I made the rather simplistic decision that out of the three available alliances in the West, the Anglo-German one was clearly superior and the most long-term stable. So I told England this... and really could have almost heard the selfish champagne-popping that Richard Sharp describes when, for instance, your Austria proposes a Key Lepanto for you. I have this distinct aversion to unnecessary lying in Diplomacy (in fact, I don't think I really misled significantly anyone in the entire game, that was probably one of my great mistakes) so I was rather open about this with France. Demanded Belgium for England, which was very nice of me and which probably made it much worse for me when things went sour later.

From there England proposed a rather bizaare strategy of making France think that we were fighting each other and make us think we were fighting France and basically it was apparently a very complex justification for claiming to be in an alliance with me and France at the same time. I'm very curious as to which he viewed as his true ally. (Obviously, Alex has stated he thought it was him; I was under the impression it was me at the time, but am leaning towards him given how things turned out.)

Eventually things started to tilt rather inevitably towards England's decline, considering how he was really playing in a rather incompetent, casual matter, having quite significant professional commitment outside of the game. It was around this time that my constant exchange of information with Russia solidified into something of an actual alliance? I liked having him around, anyway, and had a general preference for a plan where he stuck around.

Unfortunately, it was also around this time that some situation I didn't really understand significantly at the time came about in the east which meant Turkey would send frequent whining emails to the Western powers about how we had to ~unite~ to ~stop Russia~. And then I was approached by Italy, who had this strange obsession with ~justice~ and was also kind of a sweet guy. I defended Russia mostly for having been the only person to really help me with a straight face at all in the whole game. The retreat to Munich was coordinated, however, and I reluctantly began to become an actor in Russia's defeat.

...and also around this time I seemed to have run out of chances. I had like two centers and, eventually, France and Russia saw what they needed in each other, however short-term they might need it, and came together against me. Kind of sad, really.

It was around this time that my constant exchange of information with Russia solidified into something of an actual alliance? I liked having him around, anyway, and had a general preference for a plan where he stuck around.

I also had positive experiences with Russian communication, despite him stabbing me at one point. He simply wrote to me the most, and had the most to offer me. Unfortunately, in your case, you got played, and Russia was merely using you for what he could before he simply ate you. As a central power, allowing Russia to encroach was far too dangerous; everyone loves to chomp on a central power in the middle of the game.

You have to watch out for bigger nations when you are in their expansion path. You have to asked yourself where they are going next. By working with him, you were basically gambling that he would attack me next, but that was a bad gamble to make, because Russia attacking me post-1904 could have easily landed him in a big mess. I made clear to him that if he attacked me again, I would turn around and team up with Italy on him.

Unfortunately, it was also around this time that some situation I didn't really understand significantly at the time came about in the east which meant Turkey would send frequent whining emails to the Western powers about how we had to ~unite~ to ~stop Russia~.

See my EoG to explain the situation in the East. Basically, Russia stabbed me with Italy in Spring 1903, then turned around and stabbed Italy in the Fall.

Initially, I was making a lot of noise about Russia out of a self-serving motive in the Spring, but even after Russia started working with me, I continued to make noise.

My stance towards towards the West was that you guys need to put pressure on Russia, or I continue working with him and sweeping the board with the Russia-Turkey "Juggernaught." (Initially, I wanted to stab Russia, but the more noise I made, the less the West moved against Russia, perhaps because they erroneously thought I would stab Russia myself. I didn't, because I didn't want to tickle Russia and distract him while one of you two in the West ate the other. So I decided to work with Russia instead once I realized that the West would fail to stop us.) The Juggernaught is exactly what happened, except that France managed to survive due to the garage sale of England caused by his NMR and resignation.

Now do you see why I was making a big deal about Russia? It wasn't just self-serving. Him arraying a force against you that you couldn't stop was why you got eliminated in the end. France knew that he couldn't save you, so he had to grab what he could. Fall 1905 would have been the right time to take more aggressive anti-Russian moves (e.g. bouncing him out of Sweden), and your position would have been a lot stronger.

The West did need to do something to stop Russia. The West cannot just sit around engaging in infighting while a Juggernaught is sweeping the board (and sitting around while Russia and Italy ate me would have been bad, also). England screwed over both you and himself by attacking you, and letting Russia into Norway in 1904.

I defended Russia mostly for having been the only person to really help me with a straight face at all in the whole game.

Russia managed to capitalize on your difficult relations with the West. I actually did take various pro-German steps throughout the game which may not have been obvious:

  • Around 1904, I suggested that the West pick an alliance structure that would have anti-Russian potential. Since such an alliance would need Germany, I was subtly saying "one of you get together with Germany and smash the other, then I'll be willing to work with you against Russia." Obviously I was too subtle. I really think England should have worked with you, and if he had gotten the support into Burgundy right in 1903, perhaps things would have been different.

  • In Spring 1906, I did leak the strategy I'd given you and France to Russia, though Russia should have poked Denmark either way. But in the Fall, I genuinely wanted to see your convoy succeed. I advised France to support you in the North Sea, yet he went for a build for himself from London instead. Your convoy failed, and Russia walked into Denmark, which basically doomed you and set the stage for a three-way between France, Russia, and I.

  • I tried to get them to keep you alive, because I wanted you sowing discord in the North. But it was too late.

I can't speak for your motivations, but I do know that the main communication we had was you saying "Russia is a rising force and you must unite to defeat him and this is the right thing to do", and I was highly put off about how you seemed to be saying this solely to get us to fight him for you, instead of actually taking action against him yourself. Yes, this had the justification of how you can't just go fighting him right away with no support, but it did leave a very bad taste in my mouth.

What I can say is that by 1904, my main communications were "stab Russia kthx" from France, rare "stab Russia kthx" from you, eloquent "stab Russia kthx" from Italy, and "hi there bb how's it going here's some useful information and discussion" from Russia. Regardless of how he was playing me, it at least felt nicer than when England was playing me (seriously, he needs to get back home and explain himself because what was he even doing) and was actually benefitting him, unlike England's actions.

You WERE trying to defend me at various points, I'll give you that. The thing was that you tried to do this without actually getting properly involved in Western affairs or taking any actions that would directly lead to a specific alliance structure. Granted, given your position this is very hard.

I suppose this is a good place to mention that I totally offered Austria an Anschluss, which he very, very rudely (not to mention foolishly) refused.

You were placed in a hard situation by France's builds, not just by your commitment to attack France. I thought it was similar to how Turkey and Italy's fleet builds in the East made fighting me difficult. There was no way you and France could ally against Britain, so he could pick and choose who to ally with.

I was worried early game that you and Britain would kick me out of the North while I was preoccupied in the South, and then gobble up France, but that never materialized as Britain played around in Denmark and Holland.

I have to agree with Hugh's analysis that war was inevitable, given my strength in Scandinavia, but I had hopes that I could delay attacking you as long as possible. Part of this was so that I could grab Edinburgh, but it was also because I try not to eliminate players as a general principle. It makes it harder to form grand alliances if there are more factions remaining on the board.

Once it became obvious that I couldn't solo, though, and the Grand Alliance formed, it became a race with France for your centers.

I have to say that I enjoyed talking to you the most, along with Italy (before I stabbed him). I was slightly relieved when you stabbed me because it meant that I wouldn't have to go through the drama of me stabbing another ally.

From there England proposed a rather bizaare strategy of making France think that we were fighting each other and make us think we were fighting France and basically it was apparently a very complex justification for claiming to be in an alliance with me and France at the same time. I'm very curious as to which he viewed as his true ally. (Obviously, Alex has stated he thought it was him; I was under the impression it was me at the time, but am leaning towards him given how things turned out.)

Are you referring to when Britain convoyed into Holland and you moved into Belgium? I remember that when I saw that move, first I was just confused, and then I eventually concluded that you wanted 3 fleets adjacent to the English Channel so that you could force your way in even if I build a fleet. If the constant switcharoos in the low countries were supposed to look like actual combat, it wasn't very convincing.

And actually, I think that Britain was allied with you for the most part until he got discouraged by my successful defense in 1903, and switched sides in spring '04. Speaking of said successful defense, why did English Army Ruhr support the wrong unit into Burgundy in spring 1903?

That was coordinated to give me a more advantageous position from which to attack you, which would have been helpful if England had actually been willing to do any damn attacking. I have no idea why he supported the incorrect unit; I don't remember if I told him incorrectly at one point or if his finger slipped, and don't really feel like going back and checking. (...oh my god his comments about the finger slipping make so much more sense now.)

That would be somewhat congruent with his attitudes (generally losing enthusiasm over the alliance between him and me over the course of the game). I'd really like to get him to come out and settle this, though.

Part II

In the South, my general plan had been to ally with Turkey until Italy was reduced to four or five centers and then offer to save him from the Juggernaut by offering him a place as a junior partner in a Russian-Italian alliance.

This was a strategy that I had used often in my high school, where the players are generally of lower caliber and don’t use TDT. Once I have reduced an enemy to the size when he can no-longer fight as an independent power, I offer him survival in return for the use of his units. In our group we call this “puppeting”. This offer is always accompanied by a promise not to eliminate him unless he stabs me, unless I need his center to win. Using this strategy I have, as Austria, fielded a navy out of St Petersburg. I have a perfect record for survival of loyal puppets.

So when I approached Italy, who I had been on good terms with before the stab and to whom I had sent an e-mail after the stab acknowledging my betrayal, I expected to explain to him that I was still open to allying with him in the future. I didn’t expect him to throw himself into his arms, but at least to establish a dialogue again. At the very worst I hoped that by making overtures to Italy I could pressure Turkey into giving me more control in the alliance.

I was mistaken. Italy had no interest in allying with me unless I burned all of my bridges with Turkey, and then would only consider my alliance. I decided that it wouldn’t even be possible to pretend to have an Italian option against Turkey and dropped the idea entirely.

The only option that remained in the South was to loyally support Turkey forward while making sure that I had a strong enough frontier that he couldn’t stab me. Hugh would occasionally make a reference to how he was considering betraying me but didn’t, which I mostly assumed to be him trying to extort concessions from me. We made lip service to demilitarizing the Black Sea and talked about a two-way draw in passing, but I was always doubtful that we would be able to pull it off.

In the North I was worried by England’s deployment to the Norwegian Sea in Fall 1903. Because of this I supported my move from Sweden to Norway in Spring 1905, so that if Denmark tapped me I could still prevent the British from taking Norway.

As I was still ostensibly at peace with Britain, I apologized for the incursion and promised to move out. However, now having a stronger position in the South and with the British stabbing the Germans yet again, I now had enough independent strength that I felt comfortable challenging Britain. I conspired with France to move out to the North Sea, which would make a French attack on Belgium more likely to succeed.

To my surprise, and slight disappointment, I got into the North Sea and as a result didn’t get a build from Norway.

The important work of breaking into the British position had been accomplished, though, and with France’s shiny new fleet and the Germans eager to avenge Denmark and Holland we were able to make pretty quick work of the British supply centers in 1905.

As England quickly fell, however, it became difficult to maintain the Russian-German-French alliance. I suggested that the Germans be given the North Sea and an English supply center, partly to keep them from attacking me and partly as a shield from France’s burgeoning strength. This was rendered a moot point though by the Grand Alliance of 1906.

The strength of the Grand Alliance wasn’t in its operational security. I repeatedly pressed Alex Mennen to discuss his future plans with me, but he coyly avoided the topic and talked about “mopping up the rest of Britain.” Furthermore, I began hearing less details about Hugh’s press to the West, which worried me. When I offered Germany help against France she responded strangely, pointing out for the first time that it would be difficult for her to help me against either France or Italy. Then Hugh sent me an e-mail with the plans he had proposed to the Western players. While I was impressed with the speed with which the alliance formed and the cleverness of the moves (they would have utterly crippled me if I had not tapped Denmark) the element of surprise was not on their side.

What the Grand Alliance did accomplish was the destruction of my hopes of keeping the board divided long enough to pull out a win. If I had been able to stay allied with Germany longer I would have been able to pick up Edinburgh and possibly Liverpool before I activated the Polish front, placing me in an excellent position to solo. Unfortunately, German hostility forced me to rush armies into Poland and cede England to France.

The last touch that finally made the three-way draw inevitable was a phone call that I made to France urging him not to do a two-way draw with Turkey. I pointed out how difficult it would be to precisely balance the fall of my centers so that each player ended up with 17.

From there on, it was merely the formality of completely eliminating Germany and Italy.

I'd like to thank Randaly for being the gamemaster and patiently adjudicating all of the moves.

Hugh would occasionally make a reference to how he was considering betraying me but didn’t, which I mostly assumed to be him trying to extort concessions from me.

While I was trying to create trust with which to get more concessions, my main motive was different. Considering that I had raised a large outcry after you stabbed me with Italy in 1903, I feared that you would fear me stabbing you out of a grudge, and that you might stab me first. So I tried to obviously signal that I was forgoing opportunities to stab you.

The last touch that finally made the three-way draw inevitable was a phone call that I made to France urging him not to do a two-way draw with Turkey. I pointed out how difficult it would be to precisely balance the fall of my centers so that each player ended up with 17.

I think that such a problem was inherent in any two of us attempting a three-way, and we all made the right choice.

For the record, the "strangeness" of my responses around that time was really more my rather frantic recognition that, oh god, oh god, the alliance structure with Russia is falling apart, I have nowhere left to go, who will I be able to call dearest and darling now, France is a sweetheart but it's ~not the same~ not to mention that it would be impossible for him and I to actually work together in any meaningful fashion. So I was trying to... transition into the end of the alliance with you smoothly? I don't even know. As I've mentioned elsewhere, one of my key problems in this game was/is a reluctance to properly lie. So basically I didn't want to say "yeaaaaaah stabbing you now sorry baby" but I wanted to have meaningful conversations about strategy because, really, you were much more pleasant to talk to than almost any other player in the game. England counteracted it with his actions, France was the chatspeaking one (not that I hold this against him! It has its uses in many contexts and I am perfectly prone to slip into it myself), Italy played angry birds and valued getting revenge against alliance-breakers more than supply centers, Turkey was eloquent and nice enough except for the inconvenience that he communicated solely through emails, and Austria never really talked to me except in rejection of the Anschluss.

The Grand Alliance gambit pretty much forced the hand of the RG. I think that you did the right thing in attacking me, given the ranking system. The convoy was in your self-interest and I don't begrudge it too much, in retrospect. If you had succeeded I could see you as being the third party to the draw instead of me.

Small chat played an important part in the my relations with both you and Italy. It formed a bond strong enough that I chose to continue to support Italy for a while longer even after Hugh signaled strongly that he wanted to ally. This was an early handicap of Hugh's in his communication with me early game, but the handicap lessened as I became more comfortable with the medium later in the game.

At the time of our conversation, though, the prospect of a Grand Alliance was quite frightening. I still have the draft of an angry e-mail to Hugh telling him that I wasn't going to stop the Western Alliance and that he'd better stop talking to my enemies and act like a real ally! Fortunately, I saved the draft, slept on it, and woke up the next morning and realized how stupid it was.

Part I

The first half of this post will cover up until Winter 1903, focusing on the East. I will have the rest up by tomorrow night.

As Alex Mennen has noted, he and I know each other in real life. The major effect that this had on the game was the exchange of information early game and my late-game switch to mainly telephone based communication to reduce the credibility of French leaks. We have played Diplomacy against each other among our high school friends, so we both had a good estimate of each others’ strengths and weaknesses. We had no meta-game commitment.

The opening impressions I got of each country greatly influenced my decision to open North. Turkey was pragmatic and polite, and was obviously very familiar with the normal sensitivities that surrounded the Black Sea. He immediately stuck out among the players as someone who had previous experience playing Diplomacy. He took the time to explain his points thoroughly, both before and after he knew that I had Diplomacy experience.

Austria’s first press was a single but beefy paragraph, proposing that we establish a DMZ in Galicia. I had not planned on this, instead expecting to arrange a bounce, so I made a counter-proposal that he accepted that we bounce in Galicia. I later changed my mind when I decided to go North and he agreed to a DMZ again.

My communications with Italy in Spring 1901 were politely stilted, although we hit it off in the Fall. I learned (importantly) that he was opening to Tyrolia, so I figured that Austria would be properly pre-occupied in the South and West and allow me free access to Rumania.

Germany was the most conversational in 1901, and made allusions to Richard Sharp’s “The Game of Diplomacy.” Her decision not to move to Denmark in the Spring earned her major kudos points from a grateful Russia, guaranteeing at least one build (or so I thought).

I initiated communication with Britain, proposing mutual non-aggression. He replied politely, but given what I had heard from France about his ambitions in Belgium, I was a bit worried that an unchecked leviathan would be descending on my in 1902. I decided that the move to St Petersburg would be the most bang for my buck because I anticipated that Italy and Turkey would keep Austria tied up.

Then, out of the blue, Austria moved to Galicia. This put me in a bind because I had to choose between supporting an attack on Rumania and defending Warsaw. I supported myself to Rumania. The gamble did not pay off.

My moves for the rest of 1901 and 1902 were mostly dictated the necessity of recovering Warsaw. This forced me to withdraw from the North and halt any action in the South. During this period Italy and I began cooperating closely.

It was here that our differing strategies became more apparent, with me wanting to offer Austria a position as a puppet/buffer state in the Russia-Italy alliance and Italy wanting to eliminate him and move on to Turkey. My gambit fell through, though, when WrongBot didn’t reply until late on the day of the update. Deciding that WrongBot was unreliable and wouldn’t be useful as an ally, I let Italy take Budapest.

I was also slightly disappointed with the proposed division of centers proposed by Italy. Italy had just picked up all of Austria and wanted to take the easy pickings of Serbia and Greece while promising me the unappetizing prospect of cracking into Turkey for my next build. This made me uneasy about our alliance because I was worried about a Parfit’s Hitchhiker scenario in which I never got my builds.

Despite my military weakness in the South, though, I was negotiating from a position of strength. With Italy and Turkey both maneuvering their fleets in the Mediterranean, their chances of both allying against me plummeted. I had continued to negotiate with Turkey, telling him (correctly) that I was worried about Italy’s size. Turkey responded favorably to my hints that I was interested in building a Juggernaut (R-T alliance).

Here is where I made two mistakes that severely complicated the rest of the game. The first was not articulating clearly enough with Turkey that I was not allying with him in the spring. I had made this decision to delay allying with Turkey until after Serbia fell because I felt his position was so superior to mine that if I allied with him I would be a junior partner. The omission of this fact was a mistake that only made Turkey mad and did nothing else. It was not a ploy to open him up to attack; I did not expect Italy to take Greece.

The second mistake occurred shortly after the spring turn was resolved showing Italy with two extra supply centers. This sudden, unexpected gain by Italy did not fit with the slow, even advance that I had been hoping for against Turkey. I decided that Italy was too big and needed to be stopped. However, I chose to wait for Turkey to contact me that season instead of contacting him early. By the time I was able to convince Turkey that I wasn’t going to stab him again, he had already sent out an e-mail to the West decrying me as untrustworthy.

Amusingly, I heard about this e-mail from multiple sources in the West before I heard from Hugh, tipping me off that I had made a major misstep and needed to mend my fences. As far as I can tell, his e-mails had little effect in the West until 1906, three years later when Britain was dying and I had actually become the dominant player in the North. The only person who I didn’t hear from concerning his e-mail from Turkey was Britain. This was definitely a factor in my final decision to cooperate in his downfall.

In the West I was wary of England’s power in Norway, but without an ally I had no way of stopping him, so I maintained my “good fences, good neighbors” policy of keeping a militarized frontier. Contrary to a rumor I heard, I did not ask Britain to take Denmark. I actually preferred a German Denmark as it made any operation to take Sweden more complicated for my enemies.

That's the game up until and including my stab of Italy. My next post will cover Italy vs the Juggernaut, the fall of Britain, and the three-way draw.

Part II coming soon.

The first was not articulating clearly enough with Turkey that I was not allying with him in the spring. I had made this decision to delay allying with Turkey until after Serbia fell because I felt his position was so superior to mine that if I allied with him I would be a junior partner.

Interesting. Though I'm not sure I agree that you would have been terribly far behind me. You could have moved into Galicia in Spring 1903 and gotten Budapest in 1904.

The omission of this fact was a mistake that only made Turkey mad and did nothing else. It was not a ploy to open him up to attack; I did not expect Italy to take Greece.

It's not just that you didn't articulate that you weren't allying me, it's that you blatantly stabbed me. Supporting Italy into Serbia was a stab. Furthermore, letting Italy think he might get somewhere from attacking me was what caused him to gain centers. Otherwise, he would have played Vienna supports Budapest, and moved Vienna to Trieste. To me, your moves only made sense if you were declaring war on me with Italy, which is why I made such a big deal of it.

If you'd warned me that you were supporting Italy into Serbia to sow confusion, then I wouldn't have been so bothered. But even so, I think you needed to pick sides between Italy and me that season. You looked like you had picked Italy, so I was correct to warn the West about IR.

With Italy and Turkey both maneuvering their fleets in the Mediterranean, their chances of both allying against me plummeted.

I deliberately created this situation by preemptively striking Italy in the Ionian, which would have only succeeded if he went for two Austrian builds without telling me. I deliberately burned diplomatic capital with Italy to make it easier for you to work with me without worrying that I would stab you with Italy.

As far as I can tell, his e-mails had little effect in the West until 1906, three years later when Britain was dying and I had actually become the dominant player in the North.

That's right. I was a bit confused about why my emails didn't move the West. Did they think that I would stab you myself to get revenge, even though I made it very clear that I wouldn't act alone against you? Did I manage to annoy them with my messages? Did they fail to understand the significance of a strong IR (which switched to an RT in 1904)? Or both: they failed to understand the significance of the growing alliance in the East, which led them to interpret me as being a big windbag?

If you'd warned me that you were supporting Italy into Serbia to sow confusion, then I wouldn't have been so bothered. But even so, I think you needed to pick sides between Italy and me that season. You looked like you had picked Italy, so I was correct to warn the West about IR.> quoted text

This sums up my mistake pretty well. My deception had no purpose and I gained nothing from it. I attribute this to the way that I was compartmentalizing negotiations at the time. The agent in charge of Turkish negotiations considered us as already allied, and wanted to signal accordingly. Self-deception is a wonderful signalling tool sometimes, except when you actually succeed in deceiving yourself.

That's right. I was a bit confused about why my emails didn't move the West. Did they think that I would stab you myself to get revenge, even though I made it very clear that I wouldn't act alone against you? Did I manage to annoy them with my messages? Did they fail to understand the significance of a strong IR (which switched to an RT in 1904)? Or both: they failed to understand the significance of the growing alliance in the East, which led them to interpret me as being a big windbag?

I know France and I were pretty closely allied until England resigned, and Germany has talked about her take on your e-mails, but I don't know why England didn't take you up on the offer.

1906-1909

By 1906, Russia was doing a better job of attacking the West, than the West were doing attacking Russia. Yet after England collapsed, I actually got worried about Russia getting blocked in the North, and then stabbing me in Trieste or Serbia. I wanted Russia, Germany, and France to get engaged in war so that either I could stab Russia, or hit France in the back with a large fleet.

I figured out a way that Germany could use a clever convoy in Spring 1906 to attack Sweden in the Fall, and I told the plan to France and Germany. Then I regretted doing so, and leaked their moves to Russia so he covered Denmark. Germany could have pulled off a similar maneuver in the Fall and gained ground against Russia, if France had supported her convoy in the North Sea instead of grabbing London for himself.

I campaigned to France and Russia for Germany's survival, but it was too late. Thausler, Alex and I had realized that a three-way draw was inevitable, so the rest of the game was a formality.

I was the one to propose the draw. But first, I went to France and Russia individually and asked them if they wanted to try to eliminate the other with me for a two-way. I didn't want to seem too eager for a draw too soon, which could have looked like a sign of weakness. Luckily, we achieved a consensus that if any of us attempted a two-way draw, it would be too easy for someone to end up soloing.

Individual comments:

  • Randaly: Thanks for GMing. I really appreciated the wiki updates and maps.

  • England (Kevin): I don't think I ever heard from you after 1901, which was a shame, because we could have cooperated against Russia if we'd had more communication. I was a little confused about what was going in out West.

  • Austria (Wrongbot): Similarly, I wish we'd had more communication. You might have been able to get me to stab Russia in 1902, and hold out against Italy.

  • Germany (tenshiko): I appreciated that you were the main person in the West who actually wrote to me early game. Our ability to cooperate was limited by people screwing you over, and some unfortunate tactical issues. It's a shame I couldn't keep you alive longer.

  • Italy (Alexandros): You played a very strong opening game, that was especially impressive for a beginner. But you got the short end of the stick after Austria was eliminated because you left yourself too vulnerable to Russia by attacking me, and then later you just didn't offer me as a good a deal as Russia.

  • France (AlexMennen): It's a shame we didn't have more coordination early game. There were various times I wished you had another fleet to attack England or Italy with. You were quite correct to recognize the danger of my fleets: they were indeed coming for you, and you made the right choice by going after your own expansion and eliminating Germany to cement a draw.

  • Russia (Thausler): Despite your stab in 1903, you seemed to understand the needs of an ally, and you were consistently communicative. You succeeded in "making up" for the stab by giving me an equitable alliance (and the only reason you ended up with more centers was because the West handed them to you). I was interested in stabbing you, but without help from the West, a good opportunity never arose. (And btw, you DMZing more wouldn't necessarily have guaranteed that I stabbed you.) East side!

I began the game by making overtures of alliances towards both my neighbors, and I arranged a bounce in the Black Sea with Russia. In particular, I told Russia that I would be interested in a Juggernaught, perhaps a disguised one.

1901-1902:

Austria's overextension, combined with a lack of communication from it, made attacking him an easy choice.

Italian King Alexandros moved Tunis to the Ionian, and Naples to Apulia without warning. While this move might seem innocuous, it actually started a dark chapter of Italian-Austrian relations. His fleets were closer to me than to anyone else, and he didn't need them against Austria. Austria failed to retain either Vienna or Trieste, and I knew he was about to lose Budapest to Italy, also, which I hadn't expected because I thought Russia would support it.

I thought ahead to the end of 1902, and I didn't like the idea of Austria being eliminated, with so much Italian units nearby and two Italian builds coming. I feared an Italian-Russian alliance brewing. I regretted attacking Serbia, and wished that I had attacked Russia in Rumania instead.

Not wanting to be the odd man out in the new Southeast triangle, I created a plan for Fall 1902 that would preemptively strike Italy in case he attempted to cut Albania to get two builds without notifying me. Furthermore, by preemptively striking Italy, I sent a costly signal to Czar Thausler that I was interested in working with him, and that I had been willing to sacrifice my options for an Italian alliance by alienating the Italian Monarch. Hitting a neighbor first is always a tough decision, but I didn't just want to wait around and risk them ganging up on me.

1903:

Believing that I had Russian backing, I embarked on a very risky plan to attack Italy (though Russia didn't know the details of my plan). I went for a convoy into Apulia in Spring 1903. Unfortunately, Russia stabbed me and got together with Italy, attempting to support Italy into Serbia. Even though I cut Russia's support, I knew that Italy had only attacked me out of belief in a Russian alliance. Two of my centers fell to Italy.

With the survival of Turkey in danger, I wrote impassioned emails to Russia urging him to attack Italy's open flank. I pointed out that Italy would grow very fast on my centers, and that he would incur a Parfit's Hitchhiker problem getting Italy to give him my centers and allow him to keep them (he was the one who originally brought up Parfit's Hitchhiker earlier in our negotiations). I asked Russia whether he really wanted Italy moving towards him, whereas if he worked with me, I would be moving away from it.

In the background, I emailed the entire Western triple, warning them of Russian expansion, and urged them to attack Russia.

Luckily, I was able to convince Thausler to work with me, and he stabbed Italy in the Fall. I still don't know exactly what Thausler was planning in the Spring. I would be curious to know why he worked with me, instead of dismantling me with Italy.

1904-1905

After Russia switched back to my side, I had to decide whether to continue working with him, or to stab him and work with Italy. The result of his stab was that we were working together, like originally planned... except I had received a disband, and he had snagged Budapest. I genuinely wanted to punish this defection, so I continued agitating towards the West against Russia, telling them that I was only working with him out of convenience, but that I would stab him as soon as they moved against him. I explained that I didn't want to merely tickle Russia, and that I wanted any attack against him to be decisive.

Meanwhile, I told Russia that I might overlook him stabbing me if he was able to give me a mutually-profitable alliance. I explained that if he stabbed me again, it would be war for the rest of the game. I told Thausler that I was agitating against him as a diversion, so that our Juggernaught (aka Russia-Turkey alliance) would be hidden until it was too late. I was telling almost the whole truth to everyone. If the West got on board against Russia, I planned to stab him. If they failed to take him seriously, then I would keep working with Russia in a Juggernaught.

I told the West that I would like to see an alliance structure that would be effective against Russia. However, England stabbed Germany, while letting Russia walk into Norway in Spring 1904. I told Thausler that I was agitating against him as a diversion, so that our Juggernaught (aka Russia-Turkey alliance) would be hidden until it was too late. I was telling almost the whole truth to everyone. If the West got on board against Russia, I planned to stab him. If they failed to take him seriously, then I would keep working with Russia in a Juggernaught.

I told the West that I would like to see an alliance structure that would be effective against Russia. However, England stabbed Germany, while letting Russia walk into Norway in Spring 1904. Thanks to his lack of fleets, France had been toothless against England for far too long.

As for Italy, we were never able to negotiate a deal against Russia. The problem with me working with Italy and attacking Russia is that doing so would have allowed Italy to build fleets behind me, which I considered risky. Italy declared that if I was working with him against Russia, there would be no need for me to worry about him attacking me!

While I found this assurance from Italian Monarch charming, and I believed that he was probably telling the truth, I had to explain to him that I did not want to create a situation where he had the ability and incentive to hit me in the back merely on his assurance that he would not respond to that incentive.

Maybe things would have been different if Italy had been able to show me more of a benefit to working with him, instead of just using costs of attacking him and Russian expansion to try to motivate me. Since I had the stronger military position, I wanted more carrot, and less stick. Italy never attempted to paint me a rosy picture of an Italian-Turkish alliance, nor gave even lip service to attacking France. He would have had a better chance if he had accepted junior partner status in an alliance with me (attempting to stab me later), rather than going out in a blaze of glory. And of course, if the West had actually put any real pressure on Russia, then I might have looked for an ally in Italy against him. In the end, I just couldn't justify working with Italy and suffering the opportunity cost of my alliance with Russia. I can go into more detail about Ottoman-Italian relations if anyone is curious.

Part 2...

Did playing with LW folks seem any different than playing with non-LW folks?

LW folks seem to be almost universally better than my high school diplomacy buddies and worse than Bay Area Diplomacy Association regulars, but this is hardly surprising. Alliances were much more resilient in LW game 1 than they usually are in diplomacy, but game 2 seemed pretty typical.

I play Diplomacy in the same circles that Alex does, and I agree with his analysis. It never ceased to amaze me how long the Turkish-Austrian and British-German alliances lasted in Game 1.

Was there a discussion of the First Game? I was under the impression that a common post is being planned for both games.

There was a separate post for the New York game and nobody mentioned that idea when I said I'd write a discussion post, so I assumed that each game would have its own discussion post.

Thanks, I didn't know about it.

A question on Diplomacy strategy:

I've only ever played one game, and it didn't finish. I was playing Italy. Based on my analysis of the personalities of the players, I decided that my most trustworthy alliance would be with Turkey. What strategies are useful for an Italy/Turkey alliance? (Incidentally, any cooperation with either Britain or Russia is out of the question.)

I'd need to see a map of the game in its current state. Strategy depends highly on current game configuration, so there's not much I can say about how an Italy-Turkey alliance should operate in general, except that it should try to gobble up Austrian supply centers, which is obvious anyway.