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(Dark Ages - Angstskrik)

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Subject:< DC 262: Angstskrik - Anglo Saxon EOG >
Topic:< dc262 >
Category:< Closed Games 
Posted:Dec 20, 2009 at 1:27 am
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Thanks to B for running the game, and to my allies Nigel and Nathan for coming together at the end to set up the defense line. Congrats to Gregory for a well-played game. First I will go over a recap of the game from my perspective, and then my view on the variant.

[quote:3ad02c9f6d][quote:3ad02c9f6d]Game Recap >>>

As for this game, I initially was most concerned about Denmark, due to their past success in the variant, and my initial impression that they were "aimed" in my direction instead of Sweden's. I contacted the Swedes for an attack, and got a favorable response.

However, I needed peace with the Bretons to pursue this plan. Matt negotiated pretty hard, insisting on getting both Mercia and Cornwall. He argued that I should be satisfied with Brittany, and he deserves Cornwall. This potentially could be reasonable, but something about Matt's tone left me worried where I didn't feel comfortable about having a long-term alliance. Once my units were pushed east against the Danes, I would be powerless to do anything about the Breton threats in Cornwall and Mercia. I was very concerned about a Breton opening into Mercia in spring, followed by a move into Middle Anglia in fall with their other army trailing into Mercia. This would be a very low-risk opening by Breton, while I would be entirely defenseless against it if I pushed east.

If I had felt confident moving against the Danes, I would have done a bold move like convoying an army to the continent or trying to sneak into NFC in fall. Instead, I opened by moving my army defensively to Middle Anglia, and moved my fleets to take Austrasia and Brittany. I had tried to woo the Gaels into moving to Cardigan Bay against Breton, but much to my dismay the Gaels and Scots moved very aggressively against each other. I got a little lucky when the Bretons did not open to Mercia, and was then able to bounce him there in fall.

At this point, I was locked into war with Breton, as confirmed by his two army builds. The Gaels and Scots were locked in war as well. I put all of my diplomatic efforts into making peace between the Gaels and Scots, and gaining Nathan as an ally to attack the Bretons. Nathan seemed open to the possibility, but Nigel was not. This left the four of us in two separate evenly matched wars where nobody made progress.

In the east, the Danes and Norse made short work of the Swedes, and eventually they both turned west. Nigel and I would face the brunt of this attack, so we started cooperating together against the Bretons and Gaels. Nigel and I had a slight edge in this war that we could have eventually pressed to total victory, but we were not able to accomplish this before the Danes/Norse sent fleets west.

Death looked imminent for us (Scots and Anglos), but we were saved by the Danish stab of the Norse. I had not held out any real hope that either would stab the other, and was pleasantly surprised by this. I immediately sued for peace with Greg, and he acquiesced, promising to pull back from Neustria to Austrasia. The Gaels had come out the worst in the west, and were down to 3 SCs. I had emerged badly when the Danes stabbed me, and the Bretons had taken advantage to reach 6 SCs while I was down to 4. Tempted by the carrot of the return of his Irish SC that Nigel had taken, Nathan was amenable to joining the Scotch/Anglo alliance and helping us carve up the powerful 6-SC Bretons.

The next phase of the game saw the Norse steadily devoured by the Danes, while the Bretons were killed in the west. One could ask why I never moved against the Danes, but I had little choice. All of my units were consumed in the protracted war against Breton, in particular containing a rogue unit behind my back lines. Nigel couldn't do much to help the Norse, and so his fleets just kinda hung out around Scotland while the Danish armies made their way across Scandinavia.

The final phase saw the 3 of us left in the west, and the Danes in the east. I was most concerned about a Gaelic-Scottish alliance, where they agreed to split me up after the Bretons were dead and then pursued a 3-way draw. I fomented Gaelic-Scottish war as a delay tactic so I could survive long enough to be included in a 4-way draw. Tension and suspicion remained between them until a Scottish stab attempt of the Gaels in 830. Nathan was prepared though, and countered it. Previously, Nigel tried a weak stab of me in 829, but I blocked it.

Unable to make any rapid progress with a sneak attack, and faced with fearsome Danish expansion, Nigel was satisfied to pursue a 4-way draw at that point. Greg tried to pull me away from the alliance (and surely tried with the others), but with Denmark reaching 18 SCs, there was no margin of error for anyone to risk a stab. And thus the game ended in a draw.

[quote:3ad02c9f6d][quote:3ad02c9f6d]Variant View >>>

(I've already shared a lot of this with B, so sorry if this is repetitive for you, but I've added a lot since my early analysis.)

I believe the variant suffers from a fundamental flaw that the board is circular (like a donut). What I mean by this is that each player only is able to attack their two neighbors in the circle, such as I could only attack the Bretons or Danes. Every relationship is binary. There are no good triangles, and no vacant SC areas to keep a player sated for a while without making any enemies.

The problem with this is that it leads to stagnant diplomacy. Players cannot easily attack in both directions, so once they pick a direction, they are pretty much committed to that path for a while. There is not much reason to conduct diplomacy, and I found the diplomatic volume was pretty low in this game.

One could argue that the board isn't circular in that it is possible for some players to "break" the circle - namely, S-A, S-B, S-D, N-A, or D-N The ones diagonal across the North Sea (S-D and N-A) are pretty unlikely. First I will look at S-A and S-B across the isle of Britain, and then later D-N.

For S-A, I found it logistically very hard to attack Scotland. The Bretons should be in Mercia every time, which makes him a gatekeeper for any land attack north. By sea, I could get to Deira, but getting an armada to Mof and Fof would be very tough. It is not a promising path, plus even if successful would leave me in a tactically unsound extended vertical position where I would be very vulnerable to the edge powers in mid-game. From the Scottish perspective, a sneak attack south with a fleet from Deira into East Anglia is possible, but advancement beyond that is limited by the defensive chokepoint of Wfc and the need to convoy any armies into the theater (Scottish home SCs are 5 spaces away from Breton!).

For S-B, this is limited by the Gaels, who serve a similar role as a "naval gatekeeper" to Scotland. It would take a very strong relationship indeed for the Gaels to permit a Breton or Scottish fleet in Gaelic Sea where it would touch 3 Gaelic SCs. That limits the Bretons to moving up via land when it is only 2 provinces wide. Progress is possible in Deira and Strathclyde, but easily defended and dependent upon Gaelic (or maybe Anglo) help. At best, they would be the junior partner in a Gaelic alliance, and the bulk of their forces would presumably be used against the Anglos. From the Scottish view, they are likely to have a fleet in Deira, making an attack on Breton very unwieldy (since an army would be a lot more useful).

For D-N, it's hard to conceive how either could choose to partner with W against the other. If N-W work together, then the Norse can make a gain in Lindholm, but then it gets awkward after that. Even if you give SCs like Jelling or Alvheim to the Norse, it seems like the Swedes would be trapped behind the Norse with no exit except through them. They could ally, but not against D; N would attack S, and W would attack D.

For D-W to work together, this presents the same issues, with the Danes making awkward gains in Rogaland or Vestland. D-W can ally, but not against N; D would go west vs A, and W would go west vs N, and they would agree on how to split the ones between them.

Certain relationships are more likely than others. For example, with only one fleet, B is not well-equipped to attack G. B's armies are best used against A, and (as mentioned before) B has a great low risk opening against A (Pow-Mer, Gwy-Pow; then Mer-Man, Pow-Gwy OR Mer S Pow - Hwi), and thus is more likely to attack A. N and W are more likely to fight due to their interlocked SCs leading to conflict. S and N are less likely to fight due to the distance involved and the relative ease of naval defense (e.g. if Scotland gets a fleet to Rogaland Coast and the Norse hold their 2 SCs there with land support, the Scots will have a hard time breaking it down; similar the other way in Moray Firth).

When all these relationships are analyzed, Denmark clearly has the best position on the board. D is equally well-positioned to move against either A or W, and both A and W are burdened by neighbors pre-disposed to fight them. This means a willing ally for D whichever way they go, plus little risk of a stab from behind.

The Anglo-Saxons have it the worst. B is pre-disposed to attack them, and the D juggernaut is to their east. Not only that, but the relationship with B is asymmetrical, in that B has a much easier path to attack A than vice versa. With 2 armies and more advantageous starting position, B will likely get Mercia and Cornwall, and can take the Mer-Hwi line from there. It is near-impossible for A to later break that line without pressure from behind, but with Cornwall in Breton hands, it is very tough to ever get around the corner there. They can bounce B in Cornwall, but this leaves A down a build too. A needs to get G's help, except S is pre-disposed to attack G (since N is too far away), and so G will need to defend against S.

If one accepts my judgments of what attacks are pre-disposed to occur, then this is likely to happen:

B attacks A
S attacks G
N attacks W
D is left with option of attacking W or A

[quote:3ad02c9f6d][quote:3ad02c9f6d]Ideas for Variant Adjustments>>>

One idea is to collapse the North Sea, and make everyone much closer. What if Ean-Cir-Jel could all reach each other in two turns?

Another is to collapse the waters above North Sea - e.g., get rid of Zetland, and combine Sca/Nwg and Mof/Roc. Now S and N can attack each other easily.

A third would be to reconfigure the Bretons. This could be done by giving them two fleets (so they can attack G), but then making it possible for a fleet to attack the Anglos too. E.g. have Dyfed and Hamptonshire touch Atlantic Ocean, then combine what's left of English Channel and Strait of Dover. Now Breton and Anglo can attack each other navally immediately, plus Anglo/Gael can attack each other more easily too.

A fourth is to reduce the army vertical distance on Britian, such as to make an army attack by any of the 3 on any other of the 3 viable. What if Pow-Cir-Ean all could reach each other in 2 turns by land?

A fifth is to make the Norse/Swede relationship less messy, so that they could more easily ally and move in different directions. I'm ok with messy rels (I love them in Sengoku!), but it seems a bit unfair that these are the only two powers with this type of built-in tension.

This feedback is intended in a purely constructive way. I face a similar dilemma with my Congress of Vienna variant, which also has "circular" issues, and I'm still trying to find a solution there. Thinking through the dilemma here has helped me to see some new possibilities in my own variant. Hope this helps you B. For anyone else who read this far (yeah right!), thanks! - Nick

There are 10 Messages in this Thread:

DC 262: Angstskrik - Anglo Saxon EOG (NickHiggins) Dec 20, 01:27 am

DC 262: Angstskrik - Anglo Saxon EOG (MattKelly) Dec 20, 06:00 pm

DC 262: Angstskrik - Anglo Saxon EOG (Kenshi777) Dec 26, 10:44 pm

DC 262: Angstskrik - Anglo Saxon EOG (Kenshi777) Dec 26, 10:50 pm

DC 262: Angstskrik - Anglo Saxon EOG (NickHiggins) Dec 27, 04:59 pm

DC 262: Angstskrik - Anglo Saxon EOG (packrat) Dec 27, 05:33 pm

DC 262: Angstskrik - Anglo Saxon EOG (FuzzyLogic) Dec 27, 06:14 pm

DC 262: Angstskrik - Anglo Saxon EOG (Kenshi777) Dec 28, 11:46 am

DC 262: Angstskrik - Anglo Saxon EOG (Kenshi777) Dec 28, 11:52 am

DC 262: Angstskrik - Anglo Saxon EOG (Kenshi777) Dec 28, 11:58 am

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