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Post 14 Jul 2015, 1:40 pm

First off, thanks to everyone for playing. I really enjoyed GM'ing it. Yes, it's a lot of work, but I found it to be far less stressful than playing in it. For those wondering, I'm perfectly happy to do it again, though I know there are a couple other people who have also offered. I'm sure we'll work something out.

Here are some observations. These observations are based strictly on how I saw the game develop. I do not have much information regarding personal relationships between various countries, so some observations may be "wrong" in the eyes of the players because certain relationships required these decisions to be made. I'm observing from the vacuum of space, as it were.

Africa
I'm going to start with Africa because if I don't, I may explode. From the very beginning, it was apparent to me that there was a collection of African nations who had allied. In particular, Congo and Kenya were actively cooperating while Zambia concentrated elsewhere. For a while, it appeared Mali was part of the group as well, but he was never able to really get going so I think the core group decided to just cut bait. For reasons that will baffle me until the end of time, no one seemed to really take notice of this group throughout the game until it was too late. They grew, largely unchecked throughout Africa, then turned their sites on South America when they had nothing left to conquer in their homeland. Zambia made excellent use of his terrorist unit to pave the way for his invasion, accomplishing the feat far more quickly than he otherwise would have. It didn't hurt that South America was in disarray, but more on that later. If the game did not require voting, I have no doubt this force would have continued to dominate the board. As a unit, they were the most dominant "super-power" I've seen in a NWO game in a while. Unfortunately for Congo, he was unable to get into the winning coalition, but that was mostly because Cuba had better connection, and as such was a better resource for votes.

North America
Welcome to North America, the most boring place on Earth. Seriously. I think 1% of my adjudication time took place in North America, and even that was mostly just coloring in supply centers. Canada, USA, Mexico, and Cuba were allied one way or another. To an extent, this made sense. It's been written more than once that Canada attacking the USA offers little reward. However, I would argue that the votes in Central America (Mexico and the Caribbean) are valuable and should be considered for conquest by the USA. In the end, Mexico, USA, and to an extent Canada paid for their decision to allow Cuba to prosper by not being part of the winning coalition.

I can't find which season it was, but at some point USA briefly switched sides from France to UK. The attack on France significantly hampered France's ability to grow from that point on, which presumably was the point. However, I thought it was a mistake at the time. Prior to that point, I had felt that there were two high-powered alliances forming, one between USA and France, and the other between Russia and China. Had Dario seen things the way I did, he might have reconsidered his attack on France so that he could have a strong ally to go against those two later. He was able to provide heavy strikes against China largely on his own, but he also took quite a bit, and I would say that in the end China got the better of USA in those back-and-forth lobs. Had France been stronger and an ally of the USA, I believe they could have knocked China down to the point where he would no longer pose a threat. In addition, he would have that strong, large ally to take on any small-nation coalitions that had formed. In my opinion, one AB nation has little chance to win on their own. They must have an alliance with one of the other AB nations to have a chance, even if they later stab them. To me, it seemed obvious that France should be USA's ally, but he decided to try to keep France and UK down rather than pick one definitively over the other.

South America
As I touched on earlier, South America seemed to be in disarray throughout the game. There was no cohesion amongst any of the nations as far as I could tell. Then, at some point, the original Brazil player dropped out and was replaced. This further mucked things up, and in the end, not a single nation survived in the region. This reminded me of what happened in Africa in the last game. If a couple of the nations here could have found some common ground things might have played out differently, but alas.

Europe
Europe is my least favorite place, and that was before the hassle of having to move units around in such tiny spaces. The UK clearly made a mess of things early on, and alienated just about everyone, including those in areas outside of Europe. This ultimately allowed Canada to come riding in on his white horse to save the day....and then take over the British Isles and Scandanavia. Had Germany been less resilient, I suspect Canada would have gained even more. Poland showed some resiliency as well, though I'm not sure even he knew whose side he was on most of the time.

Late in the game, Germany and Turkey stabbed Italy. This was another stab that didn't make a ton of sense to me. It seemed over and over again, I watched the African alliance of Congo, Kenya, and Zambia get over-looked as a threat while others repeatedly stabbed their allies. I'm pretty sure there's a lesson in there somewhere.

Middle East
An early mistake by Iran cost him a BB, and a concentrated effort by those around them forced Iran and Israel out pretty quickly. Iran did cleverly airlift a unit from Tehran to Azerbaijan in Fall of 2013 to delay the inevitable. I enjoyed that, but unfortunately, the end was already in sight for him. Turkey played well, but much like last game, Fred seemed to go lonewolf at the end and it ended up costing him a whole bunch of nukes up the ol' keester. For a while there, it appeared he would be a major factor in the outcome, but his focus on Europe was short-sighted I think. Had the Europeans and Turkey focused their attenion on the behemoth growing in Africa things could have been different.

As an aside, Iran, Israel, and Egypt all start with just one unit that can be used for growth. This may have to change. Early growth is such a key to longevity, that to hamper these nations this way seems an unfair burden.

Asia and the South Pacific
It was apparent early on that Russia and China had agreed to work together, an alliance I tried desperately to nurture in the last game, with little success. In this game, it worked well for a while. Both nations grew well, and then Russia stabbed Poland and the wheels started to fall off. Suddenly, instead of advancing into Europe with the aid of an insider (Poland), he was now faced with have to fight all of Europe plus Canada. In 2016, Russia got hit hard, and from that point on he wasn't much of a factor. China, meanwhile, was actually able to continue churning out nukes at a high rate in spite of getting hit hard more than once. Again, though, an ill-fated stab may have doomed him. In 2014, China decided to turn on his Indian ally. I didn't really understand this at the time. He and India were working well together, and advancing into Pakistan. Central Asia contains a number of voting centers they could easily have shared. They then could have culled southeast Asia together where Sri Lanka and Vietnam seemed to be working together, and then perhaps set their sights on Africa. I personally think this would have been a better strategy. China was really struggling in Africa, and could really have used a significant ally there, but he seemed content not to grow much there.

There's plenty more I could comment on, but I think those are the highlights. Thanks again to everyone who played.
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Post 14 Jul 2015, 1:41 pm

Hidden Units

So, before I get into the role the Hidden Units played in this game, let me start off with a little background. In the last game (Fire and Blood) we had pirate nations, which were nations that started off with a single unit but no colony. There were three of them and they were played very well, with one of them ultimately ending up in the winning coalition. I thought this was an interesting take on the introduction of pirates, but overall it was not especially well received. If memory serves, I believe a previous incarnation of the game also attempted to introduce terrorist units in some fashion, but I can't remember the details right now. Anyway, GMTom and I, who happened to be neighbors in Fire and Blood anyway, discussed some ideas during the game on other ways to introduce such units, the most prevalent of which was to introduce pirates and terrorist as separate players playing under different victory conditions. This means, we would have additional players whose identities would be anonymous, and it would be their jobs to cause havoc around the board. At the end of the game, one or more of them could be declared a winner in addition to the normal winning coalition. I thought this was an interesting idea, but in the end decided it would be too complicated to implement and getting players to fill the map was hard enough as it was.

So, then I came up with the idea of Hidden Units. I laid out a set of rules, discussed them with various people, and tweaked them right up until game start. In fact, I even changed one of the rules one or two years in just before the units were placed on the map. Superant was especially helpful with nailing down the rules, but I believe there was plenty of input from Sassenach and others as well. Special thanks to all who contributed.

I set the rules to allow 4-8 small nations a Hidden Unit. I selected 4 for this game because I wanted to see how it would work and how much of an impact it would really have. I also have to admit that it was semi-random who got them. It was random in the sense that I selected a group of players who had (I thought) played the variant before. I guess Vietnam slipped in under the radar, but I think we can safely classify him as a veteran on Redscape at this point so it worked out ok. I did this because I didn't want new players who could be overwhelmed with what the variant normally requires and then having the additional nuisance of having these units to deal with. I won't use this restriction in the future, but since this was essentially a trial run I have to admit I wanted to stack the deck in my favor as much as possible.

In the end, I think it worked out fairly well. Here are some thoughts on the individual units:

Terrorists
Two nations received terrorist units: Bolivia and Zambia.

Bolivia was hard-pressed early on, and when it came time to select a location to place his unit, he chose something close to his home-front so he could use it to help damage nearby enemies (most notably Ecuador). This strategy worked out ok, in my opinion, but not great. Many people before the game said they would use this unit for defense, which is not what they were really designed for. I think this became apparent pretty quickly. Ecuador was eventually eliminated, but the terrorist unit being used against him was a small part of that effort. By the time Cuba took over the space, he was too large for the loss of an SC or two to terrorist bombs to really slow him down, so the unit was no longer effective and Bolivia was eliminated eventually as well.

Zambia chose to place his unit in South America as well. In this case, he used it to prepare the landscape for his arrival. Again, this was not quite what I designed the unit for, but it was a brilliant strategy. At the same time that he convoyed an army into Patagonia, he set off two bombs effectively removing three units from Argentina for the coming year. This crippled Argentina, and left him nearly defenseless. I firmly believe Zambia would have succeeded without these units, but it would have taken longer and perhaps that would have made the difference in the end. Hard to say. Either way, it was a lot of fun to watch.

Pirates
Two nations received pirate units: Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

Both nations used them with the same strategy in mind. They spawned them nearby and used them (sometimes in tandem) to dislodge enemy fleets in the area, paving the way for their traditional units to move in. I must confess to making a mistake with Sri Lanka's unit. The rules stated that pirate units were only allowed one special action per year, but I allowed Sri Lanka to attack more than once in a year two or three times. This was a bad oversight on my part which allowed the unit to be more powerful than it should have been. This is something that should be closely monitored for next time. Both nations enjoyed some success, but in the end Sri Lanka was reduced to a 0-SC nation with a few votes while Vietnam actually lost his pirate in a nuke strike. After an early tweak to change their attack on a fleet from destroying the target to dislodging it, it did not appear as though they were too over-powered. Having two such units in the same area may have been a bit much for poor Philippines, though.

CTUs
Woof. Ok, so clearly they don't have enough going on. Only one nation built any (thank you, Mexico), and they were essentially useless. I am thinking they need "Special Abilities" akin to what the pirates and terrorists have, one of which should be a method to discover the location of terrorist and pirate units. Once I have the new rules ready, I will make them available to everyone for comment.

In the end, I think these units worked out pretty well. They didn't cause the controlling nations to become ridiculously over-powered. Bolivia was eliminated, Sri Lanka and Vietnam were nearly so, and Zambia was well on his way to victory before his really came into play. It clearly helped him, but it was not the sole reason for his success by any means. The fact that few people have even brought them up in their EOG's is probably a good thing. They were meant to add some flavor to the game without being the primary focus. To that end, I'd say mission accomplished.
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Post 20 Jul 2015, 7:00 am

Added my thoughts on the hidden units. Sorry it took so long. Feel free to post any thoughts you have on them here if you like.
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Post 20 Jul 2015, 7:55 am

Lol, didn't realize how over-represented South America was with terrorists; I thought there were more. Obviously I would have preferred if Bolivia used it on Argentina to start; didn't Bolivia also use it on me later on? Or was that Zambia? Or was that centre captured by Cuba just as it went off?

Amusingly enough, both countries with terrorists revealed that fact to me, and mostly how they would be used, so there was never much mystery.

I agree that it made things a little easier for Zambia but not in a critical way. It was a very entertaining turn though.

No surprise CTUs weren't used given there were so few terrorists/pirates. And terrorists are most effective against small to medium powers, whereas the only people who will likely bother building CTUs are large or safe powers. Even after Bolivia and I started fighting, when I knew he had a terrorist unit, I never felt it was worth an entire build just to try and outguess that one unit.

Why not give CTUs the same "search" power as Wing units? That's the other issue, CTUs are best used with Ws, another somewhat less useful unit, and requiring even more resources just to deal with a terrorist unit. And I guess Ws have anti-terrorist powers themselves, making CTUs even less attractive. I was hoping one of my Ws would detect a terrorist sometime.
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Post 20 Jul 2015, 12:27 pm

zurn wrote:No surprise CTUs weren't used given there were so few terrorists/pirates. And terrorists are most effective against small to medium powers, whereas the only people who will likely bother building CTUs are large or safe powers. Even after Bolivia and I started fighting, when I knew he had a terrorist unit, I never felt it was worth an entire build just to try and outguess that one unit.


Yup, this seems like the thing to me. Spending an entire build on a CTU doesn't seem worth it unless I'm pretty sure there's a terrorist/pirate nearby. So I'm not going to do it until those units reveal themselves. Combine that with at least some of the terrorists doing what Zambia did, which involves them largely not revealing themselves until half way through the game, and it's almost too late to bother. And if I'm in Ecuador's position, even when I know I'm getting attacked by a terrorist, I'd probably still rather just have another army. To me it's only the biggest powers who can afford to build CTUs cause they can live with giving up the build as a purely defensive measure.

I'd be tempted to just give the CTU's power to wings and not even have that unit. It would make wings pretty good at rooting out terrorists/pirates, but then they are pretty weak units anyway, so I'm not sure that's a bad thing.
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Post 20 Jul 2015, 1:54 pm

Personally I'm sceptical about the value of continuing with this experiment. It's far from clear that this actually added anything significant to the game. Pirates were all used in the Indonesia region and had a marginal impact at best. Terrorists were a bit more in play in South America, but it was an irrelevance to 90% of the players. Of more significance was the extra votes that accrued to the other minors by way of compensation. Seven E class powers survived till voting season, five of whom had a bonus vote. I'm not sure how Vietnam ended up voting but I'm willing to bet that all of the other bonus votes went to the winning coalition, which when you consider it was an EEE meant that they only actually needed 36 to get over the winning line. In my opinion this unbalances the endgame a bit too much.

edit: Vietnam actually wouldn't have had an extra vote, so that's moot.Those who did were Cuba, Saudi, Kenya Congo and Poland, so actually it was a probably a +5 advantage for those little guys. Is it any wonder they won at the very first attempt ?
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Post 20 Jul 2015, 2:11 pm

Sassenach wrote:Personally I'm sceptical about the value of continuing with this experiment. It's far from clear that this actually added anything significant to the game. Pirates were all used in the Indonesia region and had a marginal impact at best. Terrorists were a bit more in play in South America, but it was an irrelevance to 90% of the players. Of more significance was the extra votes that accrued to the other minors by way of compensation. Seven E class powers survived till voting season, five of whom had a bonus vote. I'm not sure how Vietnam ended up voting but I'm willing to bet that all of the other bonus votes went to the winning coalition, which when you consider it was an EEE meant that they only actually needed 36 to get over the winning line. In my opinion this unbalances the endgame a bit too much.

edit: Vietnam actually wouldn't have had an extra vote, so that's moot.Those who did were Cuba, Saudi, Kenya Congo and Poland, so actually it was a probably a +5 advantage for those little guys. Is it any wonder they won at the very first attempt ?


The extra votes were not available in the first year of voting so they actually had no impact on the outcome.

Also, these units were not intended to have a major impact. The fact that the pirates were clustered was caused by who owned them and not by anything inherent in the rules.
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Post 21 Jul 2015, 11:47 am

I think what I'd like to see with the terrorists is a wholly different dynamic. I'm just thinking off the top of my head here and no doubt it could be improved upon a lot, but what I have in mind is less an idea of having certain small powers start out in control of a terrorist/pirate with the rest getting a bonus vote (which is too unbalancing) and more that terrorism is something that springs up in response to player elimination. We could have it so that once a power has been totally eliminated from the game they have the option of returning as a terrorist unit (or possibly that they have a certain percentage chance of this happening, these details can be worked out). This would then put them in charge of a hidden unit, which would operate in the usual way. I also quite like the idea of a 'sponsoring terrorism' option. The way I see it working is that if a normal power has BBs in the bank they could secretly send an order to the GM that one of those BBs is to be set aside and used in the same way as a supply centre would, giving a chosen terrorist faction an extra unit to use. Support could obviously be withdrawn at any time by spending that BB. I think this would be fun because it opens all kind of interesting strategic options. Players could act against rivals anonymously by sponsoring terrorism,and nobody would be certain who was actually responsible since it's quite common for people to keep multiple BBs in the bank.

Like I said, this is random musings at this point, but I do like the idea better than the way things work atm,not least because it allows a way for eliminated players to stay in the game and have a little fun. Thoughts ?
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Post 23 Jul 2015, 6:36 am

Sassenach wrote:I think what I'd like to see with the terrorists is a wholly different dynamic. I'm just thinking off the top of my head here and no doubt it could be improved upon a lot, but what I have in mind is less an idea of having certain small powers start out in control of a terrorist/pirate with the rest getting a bonus vote (which is too unbalancing) and more that terrorism is something that springs up in response to player elimination. We could have it so that once a power has been totally eliminated from the game they have the option of returning as a terrorist unit (or possibly that they have a certain percentage chance of this happening, these details can be worked out). This would then put them in charge of a hidden unit, which would operate in the usual way. I also quite like the idea of a 'sponsoring terrorism' option. The way I see it working is that if a normal power has BBs in the bank they could secretly send an order to the GM that one of those BBs is to be set aside and used in the same way as a supply centre would, giving a chosen terrorist faction an extra unit to use. Support could obviously be withdrawn at any time by spending that BB. I think this would be fun because it opens all kind of interesting strategic options. Players could act against rivals anonymously by sponsoring terrorism,and nobody would be certain who was actually responsible since it's quite common for people to keep multiple BBs in the bank.

Like I said, this is random musings at this point, but I do like the idea better than the way things work atm,not least because it allows a way for eliminated players to stay in the game and have a little fun. Thoughts ?


After reading your description of this in the Variant Discussion forum, I understand better what you are talking about. I like the premise you are proposing, but I think it introduces a potential problem. What happens if every country who gets eliminated gains one of these units? By 2020, we could have had 20 such units roaming the planet. I understand that's a lot of BB's dedicated to the cause that are more likely to be used elsewhere, but we do have to consider all possibilities. Even if there are just half that, say 10 such units. It does not seem unreasonable to think that could happen. What's the effect of having that many units in the game? One of the things I did was to limit these units to no more than 8 so that the effect was limited. Maybe two more isn't a big deal. Or maybe we can put a cap on it, but that seems like it would be unfair to those players who took longer to get eliminated.

Anyway, I'm not trying to say we shouldn't do this. I just think it needs to be more fleshed out. I would encourage you to pursue this idea and see if you can really flesh it out.

As for the extra votes given to non-controlling nations, the more I think about it, the more I think the impact will be limited. By the time voting comes around, most of the E nations are eliminated. By moving the availability of these extra votes to the third year of voting (the same time abstentions become yes votes) we are giving the large nations plenty of opportunity to secure the votes they need. One option we could consider though is to reduce the extra vote to a "half vote" meaning that coalitions would need at least two to increase their vote total.
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Post 23 Jul 2015, 3:33 pm

I don't at all like the idea of eliminated nations having the ability to return as terrorists. This would make elimination of a nation much more troublesome than it is, to the point of tedium. I really would not want to worry that every nation I eliminate, or help eliminate, is now going to have a free unit with which they have nothing to do except harass me.

Though I did think of a counter to this idea, I'm going to keep it to myself in case this rule is instated and I some day need to deal with it :grin:
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Post 24 Jul 2015, 2:40 am

The CTUs looked pretty useless to me at the start. The terrorists looked interesting/fun but not very powerful unless you were going to use them against another small guy, and the pirates looked overpowered.

I think thats exactly as it played out. The Pirates are the strongest units and I think they are too big an advantage to give to a power - unless all E powers are to get units? Sass you're wrong if you think they weren't an influence around Indonesia, they were a huge problem/benefit.

This was the first game I've played in where I actually thought being in E power looked fairly attractive, especially if you got a free unit. The bonus votes were a big deal as well (they weren't even needed this game and an EEE coalition still won).

Some E powers are way worse than others of course but I think I'd be pretty pissed off if as an E power another E power managed to beat me because he had a free unit he could use that I didn't - I think you need to keep it consistent. Either they all get one or none of them do.

On eliminated nations - it's tough. I didn't really mind the rule as it is. It was hardly a big surprise/clever tactic being used. Everyone knew about it. I actually dislike the idea that any nation can simply be nuked out of the game - that always seemed harsh to me.

Maybe there could be a rule where capital centres are not allowed to be nuked (call it honour among despots if you like). Everything else is fair game and once the player has no more units they are dead. So you need to make sure they lose their capital to kill them, but once they do you can finish it with nukes.
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Post 24 Jul 2015, 8:00 am

I'm not sure that would make a lot of difference. Most capitals are fairly accessible to enemies. Washington is probably the most difficult to capture, but even this can be gotten at.
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Post 24 Jul 2015, 2:05 pm

Lingfish wrote:Maybe there could be a rule where capital centres are not allowed to be nuked


SDI, Strategic Defense Initiative. It could be permanent: the capital can't be nuked, or perhaps you can make it local each season as an order: SDI <territory name> to protect it from nukes.