Well then I wouldn't have to play against you... silver tongued devil
Maybe. I agree it's a great variant.
Subject: Re: DC386: Initial Archduke's EoG Comments
Date: Thu, 24 Nov 2011 01:32:40 -0500
CC: arandia.t(at)gmail.com; sun.chung(at)gmail.com; wmysonski(at)gmail.com; smileyrob68(at)gmail.com; alwayshunted(at)hotmail.com; Raybrucea(at)aol.com; psychosis(at)sky.com; aislattery(at)aol.com; josiah.henderson(at)gmail.com; nick.s.powell(at)gmail.com; aldous(at)xtra.co.nz; jeffreykase(at)yahoo.com; dipping_chris(at)yahoo.com; dc386(at)diplomaticcorp.com
In appreciation of Baron's support of his variants, and fulfilling my promise to Robert to GM an advanced variant for him, I have just posted a new game of Ambition and Empire on DC that I shall be GM'ing. I hope to see many of you there!
On Nov 24, 2011, at 12:24 AM, VonPowell(at)aol.com wrote:
A very entertaining read.
I don't disagree at all that Denmark-Norway and Poland & Saxony
are challenging (to put it kindly) to play. They are, indeed,
extremely challenging. The key question is are they viable. By
viable I mean that the a DN or PS player should have a "reasonable
expectation" of success if he or she plays well. I think this is the
case. The proof is that I've seen both positions enjoy tremendous
success. Of course I've also seen plenty of spectacular failure. The
true weakness in these positions, in my opinion, is that they have virtually no
margin for error in the early going. Most of the other nations have
at least some wiggle room to work with should they guess incorrectly or be on
the wrong side of a coalition. This wiggle room might not be enough to
overcome a poor start and early elimination, but there is a "chance" to
recover. DN and PS cannot really afford a misstep until they have gained
some traction. They MUST start the game with at least one and preferably
more reliable allies so that they can initially leave a flank unprotected while
focusing their forces on the first objective. Good diplomacy should see DN
and PS as integral parts of coalitions that win the DP battle each
turn and isolate their enemies. If DN and PS can avoid the early
elimination and gain a SC or two, then their prospects start to look
You are correct. Austria often gets to 8 SCs with little trouble at
all. Getting to 15 SCs is another matter. No power suffers from ELS
more than the Habsburg Empire. Easy early growth frequently turns into
mid-game stagnation. Decline and elimination often follow. I'm not
convinced that trying to avoid looking big is the answer to the Austrian
conundrum. Instead, I think the key for Austrian success
is to be a member in good standing of a successful coalition. This
can be achieved through active diplomacy (no surprise there), largesse with
DPs, open military support to a partner fighting a common or potential
enemy, and judicious sharing of the spoils of victory. Growth within the
coalition does not necessarily need to be equal, however. Austria has
no interest in creating a powerful rival. Instead, growth simply needs to
be "fair enough" that partners believe they benefit from being Austria's
friend. Austrian math should go as follows: one for ally A and one
for ally B and two for me. Austria can probably keep its allies happy
in this manner without too much difficulty until it reaches 11 or 12
SCs. At that point, the dynamics get trickier. Unless Austria
wishes to hold hands with its partners all the way to a draw, it will need to be
ruthless to get those last few SCs. Setting up and timing the rush to
victory is a challenge, but that is what makes the game interesting.
I do believe a correction is in order... I think the article
about A&E's Austria that mentions the Sultan Slayer was written by our
friend Nick Higgens rather than Chris. If I'm mistaken Chris, please
I'm looking forward to the next A&E game. Until then...
In a message dated 11/21/2011 11:00:44 P.M. Pacific Standard Time,
Austria post-game - Adriaan (1763-1766):
It has been many turns since I passed control of the Hapsburg Empire to the
capable hands of Sun Chung. Since inheriting control, he has brought Austria
to new heights of glory and accomplished many great things. But as I sit here
writing my memoirs, I hope you can spare a thought for Austria before
she was great. Indeed, there was a time when there were ten kingdoms
seeking to dominate Europe, and Austria was but one of them...
Anyways, so to cut the crap - well, it appears that I am totally incapable
of completing anything if I don't have a looming deadline to pressure me.
Believe it or not, I actually started writing this EOG before the game even
finished! Well, look where I ended up with that... better late than
First off - Robert. A great deal of thanks to you for running such an
organized and professional game. I have previously played a few games with
lackluster GMs, and it makes a huge difference - it is a lot of work for
modest reward, and I hope I can someday repay the favour.
Secondly, congratulations to Dirk, on a well-deserved victory. It is a sign
of a game well-played that even in the last few years, as you approached that
magic number, your allies still saw it as in their interest to work with you
rather than against you. This is no easy feat against what is clearly a strong
Strategy. Well, we may as well begin at the beginning: power selections. As
Robert mentioned in that initial email, the two counties to receive the
highest bids (by a large margin!) were Turkey and Spain. I must own up to
contributing my fair share to those two averages, as I only saved a measly '2'
for Austria. I suppose that, all things considered, there are worse countries
to start with than Austria - I consider it good fortune that I didn't end up
with Saxony or Norway. That is, of course, not to say that there is anything
with either of those countries (Baron), merely that they force a
play style that I don't personally enjoy.
I had done a little reading on A&E prior to this game, and from what I
could tell, Austria tends to suffer from the curse of being the early leader.
Not only does she start with four units, but she is square in the middle of
the most SC-rich part of the board. Austria expands almost involuntarily, at
least at first. Of course, the trade-off for this early success seems to be
middle-game stagnation. Perhaps Baron could shed some light/numbers on this,
but I hoped to try and take a different course in this game. My initial
expansion in Italy was deliberately slower than it could have been (at times
requiring great amounts of willpower), in an attempt to follow this path.
However, beyond this rough outline, I had relatively little in the way of a
long-term plan - too much depends, of course, on the other players
Chris Dziedzic, in his article on A&E in Diplomacy World, suggests that
Austria's relationship with Turkey is her defining feature; that the Archduke
must play either the Sultan-slayer or the Sultan's best friend. I'm not
convinced that those are the only two options available, but it seemed like as
decent a place as any to start. My initial negotiations with Aidan had been
mostly positive, and I certainly didn't want to commit to an early and
potentially costly war that could limit my other choices. Thus I figured I
would try to work with him, and see if he wouldn't be more interested sailing
ships to Spain than marching armies to Vienna. Over the course of the four
years in which I played, Aidan and I managed to develop a very good rapport.
He struck me as being a very capable and resourceful diplomat, and he was one
of the players I had on my personal short-list if and when it came down to
figuring out who to include in a draw. Perhaps we'll never know just how
I was in this (unless Aidan cares to share in *his* EOG),
but at least I think
that I left the game with an ally to the south. I
only hope that I wasn't merely playing the sucker who escaped a stabbing,
through an abdication in the nick of time...
Speaking of Nick: early-game Germany. In my initial view, the only real
short-term threat to Austria in the opening year comes from an allied Prussia
and Poland/Saxony. I therefore did what I could to create tensions between
them, with the view to also picking up a few extra cities beyond Austria's
traditional 8-centre Alpine plateau. As it happened, tensions weren't too hard
to achieve - both Nick and Ray seemed to distrust each other from the start.
Overtly I sided with Nick, but as things got more complicated in Germany I'll
admit to ending up with a few mixed motives of my own. While I never directly
attacked Nick, I will admit to not being the best possible ally, either. For
instance, those "crossed wires" in 1764 that resulted in the western Saxon
army surviving a four-unit attack were completely
accidental, and the
fact that the surviving Saxon army proceeded to stymie French growth in the
Alps was most unfortunate, and totally coincidental. Nick, given how fluid
things were at the beginning of the game, I only hope that you can forgive
Nick is obviously a very good player, because he managed to scare everyone
else into a stampede into Germany in short order; that's the most logical
conclusion I can come to. What began as a Prussian-Russian war to the east
took on more ominous tones for Nick once Dirk leveraged Ray to gain the upper
hand. And, of course, nothing brings further attacks like a perceived
weakness. Soon France and Britain were snapping at the Kaiser's heels. Nick
and I had always gotten along very well, but when push came to shove I
realized that I couldn't keep him afloat by myself - I had little choice but
to try and find other players to work with.
My relationship with Dirk is perhaps proof of the old Diplomacy maxim that
if you talk enough, it almost doesn't matter what you're saying. After an
initial slow start, my alliance with Dirk developed into what as probably my
closest in the game. Of course, this belies the fact that our first diplomatic
conversation of much substance was a *colossal* disagreement (something on the
subject of Germany, it went on for pages and caused a few headaches for him
too, I'm sure)! He has since sung me some very high praises in his EOG, so I
imagine that that has been forgiven and forgotten. I'm very glad that I was
able to convince Dirk to not push through central Europe; even if this was
rather self-serving at first, it clearly worked to Dirk's interest as well.
Overall, I found Dirk to be a very reasonable and very canny player, with whom
it was a pleasure to work, and who played the board very well. At one point, I
think he was juggling two, maybe even three vassals - not an easy feat.
Congratulations again, Dirk, on a game well-played.
Mixed in between Nick, Dirk and myself, there was Ray. Now I know there may
be a numerical argument somewhere saying that Poland and Saxony isn't really
all that bad, but I think that it has to be, at the very least, the most
position on the board (whether or not it does decently in
the long run). I found my interactions with Ray to be a little clipped, but
all the same constructive and not unreasonable. Perhaps the brevity can be
excused by the game of 1900 he was also involved in. In a critique of his play
style, I really can't say too much; I initially chose to work with Nick
against Ray mostly on the basis of starting position and rumour (cheering for
the same team as Nick in the Stanly Cup finals probably influenced my position
more than I'd care to admit). Ray, let me assure you - I never intended to
execute the stab that befell you.
I've always felt that Diplomacy is best played when the map does not force
the players into any particular course of action. Thus, I prefer 1900 over
Standard partly because in 1900, Turkey need not fight Austria. In A&E, I
think that the relationship between Austria and France may not approach the
same level of predestination, but it is definitely not a stress-free border.
That is not to say, of course, that France and Austria *need* to fight; merely
that it is easy. I tried to structure my relationship with Warren on the basis
that most of the other players would expect some hostility between the two of
us, and that we could therefore both have an advantage if our borders stayed
unexpectedly calm. Of course, aiding this was the fact that Warren was a good
player and a reasonable person, with whom I saw a fair bit of common interest
(is it ever possible to have a good player that is not
found our relationship to be cordial, if perhaps a little wary - though
perhaps wariness was warranted, given what happened during my last move. Rest
assured, Warren, I never intended on continuing my cooperation with Ray beyond
that one turn that saw the Saxons march to Burgundy.
Michael, Josiah, Richard, and Wladimir - it was good to meet you all. Some
time I hope to meet you in another game, where we might be located somewhat
closer together, and have somewhat greater interactions. As it was, I hope
that you all got as much enjoyment out of this game as I did.
Finally, the highly-appreciated replacement, Sun Chung. Many thanks, of
course, for taking over my position on such short notice; real life can be
such a pesky thing to have to deal with. The rest of you probably know him
better than I do, as we only had a few short emails between us at the tail end
of my tenure. Nevertheless, as he mentions we did have a few discussions of
some weight - in particular one concerning whether Austria should make a break
for a solo, or risk enmeshed borders with Saxony. Sun has said that I provided
him with council on this; I will admit to sending him a detailed
multi-page discussion and risk assessment outlining how an Archduke
strike for a solo from eight centres few
, but in my defense
I also made it clear that I had made
no decision whether or not I would actually go about implementing this plan.
All said, I was actually rather glad when Sun agreed to be my replacement, as
he signed on just in time to save me from having to make this very
choice. From an outside perspective, I think that there was likely very little
that Sun could have done differently to convert his inherited position into a
solo - changing players is always going to make your neighbours rather wary. I
think he handled the chaos following his run admirably, and he certainly kept
Austria abreast the future of Europe. Well-played Sun, and thanks
In closing, I have to thank you all for what was a tremendously fun game. I
hope to get an opportunity to play with you all again sometime; it is always a
pleasure to find a group of players who are not only committed to playing
Diplomacy, but who play it well. I hope to see you all in future games.
P.S. I've uploaded photos of a few of my reasons for abdication, for your
On 7 October 2011 15:21, Sun Chung <sun.chung(at)gmail.com> wrote:
Thanks Robert for GMing - it's a pleasure playing in a
game that you run.
Also, thanks to everyone on the board for a
good game. And for Adriaan for his thoughts/guidance/recommendations
early on in the game. Kudos to him for getting Austria to a great
stage in the game. My big regret is that I was unable to fulfill
Austria's opportunity that Adriaan set up.
For me, the mark of a good
game is when the players are committed and are willing to accept the game
for what it is - a shifting swirl of deals, broken deals, and new deals
being created. It was interesting to see how the dynamics of the game
were able to shift, although I probably contributed to less of that towards
the end of the game. I appreciated that most on the board were open to
thinking about shifting their alliance and at least listened to new
I missed the early stages of the game, so I can't really
comment much on how the armed neutrals dynamic shaped the early portion of
the game. When Robert asked me to replace Adriaan, I came into the
game thinking 1) what a great opportunity - this power is strong and has a
good lead but 2) Austria's completely surrounded I don't have enough armies
to plug in all the gaps - the lead can fall really quickly.
focus on the game was the complex relationship Austria had with Saxony.
There wasn't a good defensive line set up, and our armies were all
intermixed together. Not a situation I liked. Elsewhere on the
map, it didn't seem like there was strong cooperation between
France/Britain/Spain. Russia was friendly and was trying to build upon
the work that Adriaan had done. Unfortunately for me, I didn't have
much contact with Turkey at the start.
The first order of business
was how to get involved in the game and unwind the tie-up of Austria and
Saxony. I did not feel comfortable with the situation (esp since it
wasn't of my doing!). As Dirk mentioned in his EOG statement, I
typically like strong stable borders. It really bothered me that I
couldn't count on a stable front in any direction. Plus, Saxony was
looking to regain his strength and was pushing to recover some of his home
centers. Adriaan and I agreed that a re-emergence of Saxony would be a
threat to Austria. So my first major decision was that I would not
support Saxony and stab him. That would prevent a rebirth of Saxony
and give me a stable front to work from.
But this created another
problem. It would undoubtedly raise solo alarm bells across the board.
And mark a significant shift in the Austrian' strategy at this point.
Now, my natural desire was to start out slowly, play defensively, and
get my feet wet in the game. I didn't want to be viewed as a loose
cannon coming in brand new. However, being able to discuss strategy
and tactics with Adriaan eased the transition quite a bit. I know that
Ray probably views my stab as a direct consequence of a new replacement
player dropping old agreements, but I was able to get Adriaan's consul on my
first initial moves.
From there, once I determined that Saxony would
be stabbed, and I knew that it would cause alarms on the board, I pushed
full ahead on going for the solo. I probably shouldn't speak for
Adriaan as this is my EOG statement, and not his, but the push for an early
Austrian solo was not created in a vacuum.
My first mistake in
the game was not securing my relationship with Turkey. I think had I
been able to pickup four builds in the first season (that I played) I may
have been able to get enough push to really threaten for a solo. But
for either nervousness with a new player, or I rubbed him the wrong way,
something lead to Turkey taking a center from me, and I only got 3 plus
centers in the first turn.
I didn't think it was the end of the game,
and in some ways, I liked this position much better. I was able to get
a nice stable line against France, I thought I could secure a line against
Turkey and was hoping that Russia wouldn't view me as a long term
threat. But my dreams of an Austria solo were crushed. I tried
my best to say that my push was really only to secure myself against Saxony
and not reach for a solo. It probably fell on deaf ears, but I thought
I would have a chance since it was at least partially true.
there, the game switched to survival. I thought I built an okay line
of communication with France (I told him I had to take Savoy since it was
there for the taking in the first year, but I didn't want it to set in stone
the Austrian/French relationship), thought that I could get Turkey to lay
off by letting him keep what he took (Turkey had a good relationship with
the prior Austria), and I thought I could convince Russia that my swing for
a solo was a one and done deal and that I could be a reasonable partner.
All three powers attacked me.
Once Turkey got into the Adriatic
Sea, I was at his mercy. Side note observation - this map creates a
lot of defensive issues for Austria, in particular the way I was set up when
I entered the game. Austria is a land power, but with a home center in
Milan and the host of supply centers in Italy, Austria's sphere of influence
gravitates around the Adriatic. With the Turkish fleet there, I was
forced to keep units bottled up on my southern front. That one fleet
tied up a huge number of my armies. This drove me crazy.
course of action was to work on France and/or Russia into attack Turkey.
While trying to cut a deal with Aiden in any fashion as long as he
left ADR. Deals with Turkey fell apart multiple times, but I fared
better on the diplomatic front. Getting Russia to favor me, while
getting France to cooperate for awhile and attack Turkey.
game stage really boiled down to trying to figure out a way to end the game
without it being a DIAS. I tried really hard to make it a France -
Austria - Russia triple, but neither France nor Russia seemed to trust the
other. What may have worked against me was that I also played up the
potential solo threat that they both presented. Russia could (and did)
have the numbers to sweep across northern Germany and get a solo.
France for a while was a couple of centers lower, but if Turkey got
crippled (and I had a bear of a time trying to get a deal done where we
trusted each other), and Britain got stabbed by France, then no one could
really threaten the French navy. I felt that Austria was the only
credible counter to either solo threats.
For awhile, it worked.
France agreed to not aid Turkey any more, and Russia allowed me to
rush my armies to the west and defend against France's superior land
position over me. Eventually it boiled down to keeping what I had,
while trying diplomatically getting into the three way draw.
point, Russia had the necessary centers at his reach where he could easily
have gone for the solo. I panicked and hedged myself and move some
units, but not all, to cover the open centers. Dirk was surprised but
took it rather well that I tactically split myself. Since he didn't
stab me nor went for a solo directly, I was lulled into thinking that maybe
Russia wasn't in it for a solo at this stage. I had even asked Sweden
(given how close Wladimir was coordinating with Dirk for the bulk of the
game) for advice to get his read on Russia's plans. Whether Wladimir
was equally convinced of Dirk not attempting a solo or was part of the
Russian PR campaign I don't know.
From a tactical stand point,
I was then doomed. I didn't have enough armies to cover all of my
holes, I was at the mercy of Russia not pushing for a solo. And I felt
that I couldn't react too strong or else I would push Russia into thinking I
was an untrustworthy ally and by my preventative action, get Dirk to order
to secure a solo.
In hind-sight, I should've committed one way or the
other. I felt that I was constantly moving my armies east and then
west. I could never build a fleet, which crippled me against Turkey.
And at some point, I should've made a more tactical retreat to shore
up my defensive line against Turkey/France/or Russia.
This has been a
long winded rambling, so apologies for that. And apologies for any
typos in this - trying to do this quickly, across small breaks during my
Thoughts on the players:
job. Played skillfully, and got me suckered into thinking you'd be
committed to the draw. Not much I could've done about it even if I
knew about your intentions though. Always enjoyed our conversations
and your willingness to work out deals. Your solo was well
Enjoyed our conversations, and the
fact that we were able to keep up a dialogue even with disagreements.
I wonder if we could've set up a different outcome had we had a chance to
work together from the beginning. Your warning bells should've been
heeded more in Vienna. I blame the Turks for drowning out your
We got off on the wrong foot
and then continued to break our agreements. I wish we could've some
out untangled the complex tactical mess we were in, but alas, I think our
in-fighting created the biggest opportunity for Russia to solo. You
had me in a difficult spot the entire game, and I don't really blame you for
keeping that dang fleet parked in the Adriatic. Makes sense, but
created all sorts of issues for me. If we cross paths again, I promise
to try harder to get diplomacy working between us.
I do apologize for starting out the game with a
stab. I really felt uncomfortable with the way our units/centers were
intertwined. This is one of those, it's all business, message. I
appreciate your attempts to get back into the game and your willingness to
stick with the game and not drop off.
have a lot of interaction - another hindsight thing where I should've tried
harder. Perhaps the make up of the game would've been
I don't have a lot of comments. I came in at a time where I think your
fates may have already been decided.
All in all, thank you for
giving me this opportunity to play Ambition and Empire. I've been
interested in playing this variant for awhile and would love another
opportunity to play (esp from the beginning). It's been a pleasure
playing with you