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Adjutant
 
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Post 15 Jul 2015, 8:44 pm

Sassenach wrote:What you're saying is that if the right diplomatic circumstances occur then anything can happen. I get that, but it could apply to any nation. It doesn't automatically follow that the game is correctly balanced as a result.


This is a very important point. Pointing at a variety of results doesn't mean that the tactical positions are balanced.

(I also suspect the sample size here is quite small, but that's a separate point.)
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Post 17 Jul 2015, 8:40 am

A few quick thoughts, which are sort of related. I think, for proper "balance," the game demands a few more players. I played (quick elimination) as Chile. This power adds parity to South America and diversity to the Pacific. I also played (and won!) as Mongolia. I played off Russia and China, eventually siding with Russia and coordinating with India to control a lot of the Chinese inland SCs.

I know it is hard to fill seats and more players means more eliminations, but these are two spots - and there are certainly others - that benefit the entire game simply by being played as powers.
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Post 17 Jul 2015, 12:44 pm

Ukraine is another big loss. In this game just gone we were also missing Kazakhstan, which changed things quite a lot from last time. Hopefully with the influx of new players we've seen we may be able to fill a few more form the next game. It would help if we can get a quicker turnaround between games. It's been one game per year of late, which is far too infrequent. I appreciate that it's a huge job to GM one of these games and not to be lightly undertaken, but we're bleeding players by having such long gaps.
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Post 17 Jul 2015, 1:40 pm

Sassenach wrote:Ukraine is another big loss. In this game just gone we were also missing Kazakhstan, which changed things quite a lot from last time. Hopefully with the influx of new players we've seen we may be able to fill a few more form the next game. It would help if we can get a quicker turnaround between games. It's been one game per year of late, which is far too infrequent. I appreciate that it's a huge job to GM one of these games and not to be lightly undertaken, but we're bleeding players by having such long gaps.


One of the problems I ran into while recruiting was that people didn't want to commit to such a time-intensive game having "just" played one. I'm with you in terms of playing more often but based on my experience there's little chance we could get the numbers.
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Post 17 Jul 2015, 1:47 pm

Faster games? I know, less time to communicate... but for me, week-long deadlines burn me out more than 3 days or shorter. Maybe the first few years can use one week deadlines, and speed up after that.

This is a huge variant though. Even getting enough for once a year must be challenging.
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Post 17 Jul 2015, 2:27 pm

A turn a year works well for most of the game. As a large country I tried for most of the game to communicate with as many people as I could. As America if possible I sent an email to all the people once a game year. Of course I did not succeed every time but I tried. With shorter turns it would have been impossible and still have a live.


For balance I do think that Kazakhstan would have been nice. I did not like the Ukraine position it felt like Russia should just take him out the first year. Perhaps if Russia could not get to Crimea that first year or maybe give Ukraine "gasp" a nuke but not the ability to make any more. (just a thought)


Morocco would be cool and I also like Spain but spain makes it so France needs to be adjusted some.
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Post 17 Jul 2015, 3:19 pm

One of the problems I ran into while recruiting was that people didn't want to commit to such a time-intensive game having "just" played one. I'm with you in terms of playing more often but based on my experience there's little chance we could get the numbers.


You may be right. I think it would be worth giving it a go though. For all that people grumble about it, I reckon that if we just set a deadline of say September some time and actively recruited in the interim we'd find that the game would probably fill up.

Having too many veterans in the game is a potential negative anyway. Obviously I like playing with people I know, but at the same time it's not always healthy to have a game largely filled up with guys who have pre-conceived notions.
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Post 17 Jul 2015, 3:41 pm

I don't have any big problems with the map, but I do have one rules issue.

Once a player has zero supply center after the fall, they should be eliminated. Just my opinion, but the situation with Sri Lanka was silly. It was especially goofy that Kenya couldn't gain control of Sri Lanka proper because someone kept nuking Brunei. My impression, perhaps incorrect, was that saying you're not eliminated if you still control stars but no supply centers was a result of a literal reading of rules that perhaps weren't written with this in mind.

Is there any problem with just reverting the nuked stars to "neutral" status once the owner drops to zero centers? That just seems much simpler and cleaner and, well, less goofy.
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Post 17 Jul 2015, 3:56 pm

Kenya didn't care about getting control of Sri Lanka because he knew he could count on that vote anyway because Randy was more pissed with China than he was with the Africans. It's definitely a flaw with the game dynamics. It has to be stopped because if it isn't it'll totally screw up the balance of the game. Everybody now realises that you can guarantee the support of a vassal power who would otherwise have died simply by nuking his voting centres to prevent them being lost. Having been profitably used once this tactic will be used again and again,and it'll only make things even harder for the bigger powers than they already are.
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Post 17 Jul 2015, 7:44 pm

Sassenach wrote:Having been profitably used once this tactic will be used again and again,and it'll only make things even harder for the bigger powers than they already are.


A number of people, myself included, have been using this tactic for years over multiple games :grin: it's finally getting some attention, which may or may not be needed.

I'd be interested to hear the commentary of some designers like Sendric and SuperAnt who have run games, and whether they intended this to be a tactic. I can say with complete certainty that Dave knew of this tactic well before this game, going back to before he ran the last game. I think that this tactic is a result of the important rule that a nation with votes is - and must be - allowed to vote.

In a broader sense, I don't see a problem with most rules that are difficult to contend with. Nukes are one easy example. There are a lot of tactics in this game that seem overly powerful because they're used so effectively by a subset of players, but the key is knowing what tools are available, and either preparing ahead of time to counter them or to utilize them yourself.

Case in point, nuking Brunei and Jakarta to keep Sri Lanka alive with those 3 votes. You think it's easy to ensure that there are two nukes available every Fall to hit Bru and Jak? It took tons of coordination, and there was a group thread between the Africans, Americans and Sri Lanka every year to make sure that there was a surplus of nukes available to hit those territories, even if China and others used all of their nukes on our own nukes in the Spring.

Everything that I've ever seen people bring up as an overpowered tactic (again, including nukes - you need to be extremely efficient to get them to work well for you) is very difficult to employ. That needs to be considered in these discussions.

Dave S. is likely going to chime in here at some point, and give you a list of counters for everything you (the royal you) thinks is overpowered. It's up to players to figure out these tactics, or open their eyes and uncover new tactics being employed, and figure out how to counter them. There's always a counter.
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Post 17 Jul 2015, 8:53 pm

Admiral Corncob wrote:It took tons of coordination, and there was a group thread between the Africans, Americans and Sri Lanka every year


That's the real endgame story here. Was there even another alliance out there towards the end? Even 2 years before the end, those 7 powers of Africa and North America controlled almost half the cities (and 40% of the votes, or 32).

At game end, it took about half the existing votes to force an EEE win.

I'm thinking if the game hadn't been 6 months old at that point, maybe some of those 7 would have felt like going for more personal glory.
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Post 18 Jul 2015, 12:28 am

Zac, the point surely is that once you have zero supply centres you're dead and out of the game. This is a fundamental principle that we ought to be upholding. I don't doubt that this is a clever tactic and requires a lot of good coordination etc, but that doesn't mean that it should be allowed.
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Post 18 Jul 2015, 6:48 am

I feel like people are assuming that this sort of thing is going to happen every single game from here on out, and that's why they're pushing for a change in the nuke/voting rules. As Zac said, this situation happened in this game because of a TON of legwork beforehand. Quite frankly, this was a perfect storm situation. There were essentially 7 allied powers between the Americans/Africans. All 7 agreed that it was worth saving Sri Lanka. Due to machinations earlier in the game, there wasn't a counter-force capable of preventing us from doing that. If anything had gone wrong earlier in the game, this wouldn't have happened. If the Americans/Africans didn't agree on Sri Lanka, saving him would have been much harder. If the Americans/Africans hadn't teamed up in 2015-ish, this situation would not have come up ever. Even something as simple as if I (Zambia) and Mabbas (Mexico) hadn't built up our nuke range enough early on, we wouldn't have been able to pull this off. Sure, in the future, a power could probably pull off "saving" another power once by nuking their votes in the fall. But the situation we had here, where we were able to keep Sri Lanka alive in perpetuity? That only happened because as an alliance, we were dominating the board *anyways*. There was no one who could match our nukes, and nothing was going to change that. This was a case of a game that was played really damn good, and as a result, saving Sri Lanka in perpetuity was something we could pull off.

If we change the rule to revert votes to neutral, you end up with a completely different problem. Just looking at the previous game, Turkey held 6 votes with 4 SCs, Russia held 2 votes with 5 SCs, and Australia held 2 votes with 4 SCs. So, with 13 nukes the Africans/Americans could have completely removed 10 votes from the board. Considering we held 42 of 78 votes, that would have meant we held 42 of 68 votes instead. What you end up with then is that it would have been literally impossible for any coalition to win without us, and even impossible with only 1 or 2 of us on board until the other 10 votes were recaptured. What I would see happening in the future is that big powers use this ability to eliminate powers halfway around the board at strategic times in order to cripple their enemies' voting ability by all of a sudden cutting out a handful of votes from their team. Imagine if I (Zambia) had been eliminated via nukes. Due to game long alliances and working together tactically, the areas around many of my scs and votes were essentially abandoned. How many years would it have taken for my team to recapture my votes? Is that a path we want to go down?


________________________________________________________________________________

Moving on to something Zurn mentioned: phase length. Please, please, PLEASE, do not shorten phase length. I have played many games on webdip/vdip with shorter phase lengths (1-2 days typically per phase), and the quality of the game drops dramatically when the phases get shorter. Obviously that's not the only reason (the quality of players on those games tends to be lower as well), but I suspect it's a very important one. Can anyone imagine being an A or B power and trying to work with 3-4 days phases? YIKES!! Playing UK in the game before this one, it was bad enough with 7 day phases, I can't even imagine playing with 4 day phases. Simply put, this map is far too complicated and intense to shorten the phases, especially for the larger powers. They simply NEED the time. We need to consider that even if I, as the US, send out 40 messages a day, I won't necessarily hear back from everyone that day. The fact that people have lives (Yes, I know, shocking for Diplomacy players to actually have a real life sometimes isn't it? Sometimes I'm convinced we're all secretly college kids sitting in our dorms :p ), and that people are typically way less active on the weekends means shorter turns would absolutely cripple the game. It could certainly be done, but does anyone really want to play a game where the people playing are only putting in half effort because they just don't have enough time because of short phase lengths? I personally can say that I've spent the entire 7 days talking over plans before, and sometimes it still doesn't feel like enough time.Shortening it would only serve to begin the decline of the quality of the game to webdip/vdip quality, and that's something I don't think anyone here wants. One of the biggest draws of a site like this is that the quality of the games are far, far, superior to other sites. I personally can't even play on webdip/vdip anymore after only a mere 4 games on here. It's that big of a deal.

As an addendum to that, we need to consider that the GM usually sets the deadline on a day/time that is convenient to them, when they can afford to spend 1-3 hours adjudicating the turn. With shortened phases, that day will continue to change. The GM is already doing enough by volunteering their time and effort for a game they aren't even playing (and by listening to all our player complaints :) ), do we really want to f*ck them over even more by changing what day of the week they have to do work for us? Doesn't seem like you'd get many people willing to do that.

Jumping off of phase length and on to how often we play the map, I have to agree with keeping the pace either similar to what we are doing now (about 1 game/year), or even slowing it down. NWO is an extremely intense map. It causes a lot of dip burnout, at least in myself and the people I've talked to about it. It's not easy to drudge up the willpower to put your all into every game when you play for 6 months, and then only have a 1-2 month break. To put it in perspective, I have 2941 emails in my GotWD folder on gmail. Assuming I sent approximately half of those, that means I sent about 1470 emails as an E power. That's not even counting the countless hours I spent on gchat talking to my allies about strategy. There is absolutely no way that I would be able to muster up the willpower to do this more than once a year. Again, if we want people top put their all into the game to make it a quality game, we need to give them some time off after a game.
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Post 18 Jul 2015, 8:18 am

drano019 wrote:That only happened because as an alliance, we were dominating the board *anyways*.


Exactly.

drano019 wrote:If we change the rule to revert votes to neutral, you end up with a completely different problem. ...


Well, except, that's just a problem with nukes in general, isn't it? The longer the game goes, the less units there are (on the same size map), and the more it becomes about nukes (which is maybe an interesting thing anyways). Having 0 SC powers retain their votes is a weird quirk that maybe freezes up the game when it perhaps needs to since it's about to become a pure nuke-fest and has gone on for 6 months, but the root cause is the nukes.

drano019 wrote:So, with 13 nukes the Africans/Americans could have completely removed 10 votes from the board. Considering we held 42 of 78 votes, that would have meant we held 42 of 68 votes instead. What you end up with then is that it would have been literally impossible for any coalition to win without us, and even impossible with only 1 or 2 of us on board until the other 10 votes were recaptured.


That might have been interesting, though. Perhaps the coalition would have fallen apart, turned on itself, as the situation changed. I think when alliances shift is the most interesting part of Diplomacy. However, the real problem is the units trying to capture those orphaned votes would probably get nuked before they got there, or their owners eliminated by nukes and the units disbanded anyways; as the map becomes hard to manage for the dwindling number of units, perhaps the game breaks anyways and needs to end.

drano019 wrote:What I would see happening in the future is that big powers use this ability to eliminate powers halfway around the board at strategic times in order to cripple their enemies' voting ability by all of a sudden cutting out a handful of votes from their team. Imagine if I (Zambia) had been eliminated via nukes. Due to game long alliances and working together tactically, the areas around many of my scs and votes were essentially abandoned. How many years would it have taken for my team to recapture my votes? Is that a path we want to go down?


Again, that actually might have been interesting, since it would have been a way to deal with your mega-alliance. And again, perhaps the game just breaks at that point and needs to end.

The only way to make it long-term stable is probably to have nuke effects on SCs be temporary. But maybe that kills the charm of the variant.

drano019 wrote:Please, please, PLEASE, do not shorten phase length.


Alright I'll stop bringing it up. :) It is no doubt a lot for the GM to handle manually (well done Tom).

I'd argue that maybe not *all* those emails were critical... ;) Deadlines force decisions.

But given that the game might break/freeze anyways if it goes longer, maybe having shorter deadlines doesn't gain anything from allowing the game to go longer without player exhaustion.
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Post 20 Jul 2015, 12:08 pm

Good analysis. I guess I can sort of see both sides of this.

In my perfect world, coalitions would need a percentage of non-neutral votes to pass, not a fixed number, and that would help deal with the issue of a 10 center power being vaporized with nobody nearby to pick up the stars. But that's not realistic. It would significantly complicate the GM's job. I guess it's not the end of the world to leave them alive - it's just feels very inelegant.

I agree on not shortening the game. There were some rounds late where I was bored, but really I think you need the whole week. Plus if the deadline falls on different days all the time, it'll get confusing to remember when the deadline is and you'll get a lot more NMRs. And I imagine the structure of same day every week is much easier for the GM.