[This has been posted on behalf of RuffHaus]

Thank you for a very professionally run game, George. You're a fantastic GM. I appreciate the invitation to play from exile. Likewise thanks to all of the players who participated. It's always a pleasure having a board full of legitimate threats to win the game. The downside of that is that you know a few very good players are going to go down, but that only serves to make it exciting. I think that we were all a little rusty in this one, but the old instincts kick in, and the scheming and planning across the map forces you to adapt quickly. I thought that I was a goner for sure after 1901, with a western triple alliance sending both Uhtar and Fred against me. If EFG wasn't bad enough the game also opened with FI and IA. And while Barry and I were talking RT we never got it moving effectively, something that I still regret now, but probably saved my bacon in the end. I'll offer a few thoughts to each of you (nations listed alphabetically so that no one thinks that I do not love them properly).

Austria-Hungary - Thanks to Jonbone for filling in after Monte left. While I was pleased to see the IA collapse, I cannot help but rue that it occurred immediately upon the player change. Sadly player turnover always results in new relationships and frequently in alliance dynamics. Monte and I got off to a good start because I wanted a DMZ in Galicia (particularly after the pre-Spring 1901 tea leaves were screaming EFG), and we both observed it. I had originally considered breaking it immediately in coordination with Turkey, but Uhtar and Fred's diplomacy with me told me that they were both up to something. I couldn't afford to piss of Monte if I was facing England and Germany and locked out of a build in the north. But then in the fall I did just that by moving to Galicia because, well, I had to. The only way to discourage the Germany advance was to make it so painful for him to attack that he'd return to the bargaining table. Moving to Galicia in Fall 1901 allowed me to cover Warsaw more effectively while threatening the German flank simultaneously. The strategy worked, but Monte was having none of it, even after I followed through on my stated objectives. For this reason I asked Monte to dislodge Galicia (after a planned bounce in Warsaw), which would give me a forward retreat to Silesia or Bohemia, or an OTB retreat for a build. This managed to sate Monte's bloodlust a little, but all he was interested in was killing Turkey. I didn't want a war with Barry under any circumstances, but certainly not while facing down E+G, and A+I at the same time. Monte laid out a good plan to attack Turkey, but never one that made it worth me stabbing the only cooperative partner I had in the game. Turkey had four supply centers and A+I was offering me one of them (presumably Ankara). I made it clear to both Monte and Steve that I wanted a minimum of two of the Turkish centers or I was not in. This infuriated both of them, but i refused to budge, and things with Barry were just plain more fun. When Jonbone took over the same conversations ensued, but there was more potential for compromise, just not immediately. While I benefited from it I didn't care for the stab of Italy immediately after coming on as a replacement. I thought Steve got a bad deal there, but such is life with replacements, who see the game differently. I will say that Jon played the Austria position well though. He was good enough to take it over in a frustrating situation, and engaged regularly in diplomacy. We never came to terms on a specific plan, but not for a lack of trying. That's all you can ask for sometimes. Monte, I hope all is well with you. Sounds like a chaotic experience at work for you. That's never fun. Hopefully it starts getting better now. It's always a pleasure to watch you play, and I was looking forward to the experience being on the same board.

England - Greg manages to write less convincing EOG statements than his turn to turn diplomacy. I'm not buying the botched orders fable. I know that we all make mistakes. I wrote some goofed ordered too, but we all know that Uhtar smells the difference between Yak dung and caviar. I really should have opened with my army to St. Petersburg, but I chose to trust the barbarian. As usual he stabbed on the very first year. I'm not sure how that big axe he carries goes unnoticed, but I fall for it every time. It became clear that I would lose St. Petersburg to England regardless, so early on I set in motion a plan to offer it to him if he agreed to take it with a fleet and not his army. I knew the western triple would never last, and told him that he'd be better off with me as a friend than an enemy once the knives came out. I mean who seriously thinks that an Uhtar+Ling+Fred alliance lasts more than three seasons? I didn't want to lose a home supply center, but I needed to stop the bleeding or I was going to lose Turkey as an ally also. By the time England actually moved to take St. Petersburg, France had already stabbed, and it was arranged as a loan of sorts, with Greg thanking me intensely. I had the option of crawfishing on the deal with Uhtar, but chose not to as a long term investment. I think it saved my game, even though the cries from Italy were that I'd thrown the game to England. In the end my read on the dynamics between England, France, and Germany was accurate, and my gamble paid off. Of course I expected to see St. Petersburg under attack from England again, but only after he'd overcome Germany and France. That never panned out, but Greg put in a serious effort to try to survive the encounter. Dave and Fred were just that good in remaining united, and outguessing him every time. I'd say I feel sorry for you, buddy, but that would be a lie! Still it's always great to get those emails from Uhtar the Terrible!

France - Contrary to a late barrage of emails from Frenchy, I actually enjoy playing with Dave. We set up regular conversations, and made all the convenient plans to find ourselves in an France+Russia alliance in the mid/endgame. This actually turned out to be a good thing as we needed a platform to balance each other and the dangers of a German solo run. I though Dave played the cleverest opening of us all, simultaneously entering in England+France+Germany and France+Italy alliances. I noted this to various players, but got blank stares form everyone. I think that this more than anything doomed England. Ling navigates stabs by England and Germany and fended them off with aplomb. Of course it helped having a secure back door with Italy. This was all fantastic until the endgame when it game time to deal with the one supply center straggling Italy. I think Dave wanted to reward his old ally with a draw, but he was saying that one minute, and negotiating Italy's elimination in return for a board top in the next. I can sympathize that taking out an ally is no fun, but then again why not just play to a seven play draw so no one has to get blood on their hands? I'm not sure where I stand with the Ling now, but in my opinion he makes every game he's in that much more challenging and fun.

Germany - I had the typical opening conversations with Fred about the German/Russian border, including DMZs in Prussia and Silesia, and not getting bounced at Sweden. And then Fred promptly opened with his fleet to Denmark. That's not a guarantee of pending anti-Russian aggression, but it's a fairly deliberate move. Compounding things were the nature of specific diplomacy with players across the map, the spring 1901 opening that screamed western triple, and Fred's evasive response to the question of Sweden. I gambled and moved to Baltic Sea to delay his follow up attacks. It cost me a chance at Sweden, but I was 95% sure that Germany was attacking. I made a late appeal to England to convoy into Denmark rather than Norway, but Greg refused it. That's a wild move, but it might have worked out better for England. After Germany attacked (with England) I had to give up any notions of moving on Austria or Turkey to the annoyance of both players. I protected Warsaw while counter attacking, hoping to buy enough time of Germany getting no builds to convince him to back off. Somehow I pulled it off, and Fred retreated from Warsaw as part of the deal with England on St. Petersburg. Germany and England stabbed France, and I was off the hook. Sorry Ling, but it all worked out okay in the end. From here Germany became a solid ally against Austria, who threatened both me and Fred by building more armies and no more fleets. We made effective plans to move forward together, but ultimately Fred wanted me to stab Barry. I felt that he should have to discard France once England was done if I shed Turkey. That never played out though, which is fine because I wasn't keen on stabbing Turkey anyway. We were both dancing on a fine line, but Fred had some leverage on me with me still weak northern position. I had to do something drastic soon. In the end I stabbed Turkey for reasons I'll detail below, and took a risk on Fred not stabbing me post-Uhtar because of the danger of Dave on his flank. Knowing that Dave would not move to the Mediterranean because of his game long alliance to Italy, made this an easier decision as Fred would always have to worry about France. I think Germany could possibly have soloed if he made all the right moves at one certain opportunity, but he probably chose wisely because if anything wnet wrong, it could be over for him. This was a tough board of top players, and I think we would have put together a grand alliance to stop him, and in doing so, eliminating him.

Italy - I love conversations about the game with Steve. He's got a great perspective, which is worth listening to and considering even when you don't agree with it. This game was no exceptions. We made nice small talk about Italy+Russian, but as with Austria that all started with me doing the dirty work and stabbing Turkey, which Italy and Austria played kissy face together. And likewise with Austria, Steve wanted two of the four supply centers that Turkey had after 1901. I couldn't agree to these terms even if I was struggling with Turkey, but Barry was the most reasonable player on the map. Still we kept exploring things, and Steve was tiring of Austria. There was hope. But when I made a deal for St. Petersburg to an English fleet to save my game with Uhtar *and* Fred, Steve flipped out. I really don't understand why because Dave (as the most affected party) never once complained at me giving Uhtar a build that derailed his stab. So why did Italy care so much? Steve went bonkers, and fed me all kinds of Diplomacy logic about this being an idiot's move, and how England would run away with the game. I don't really like to crow about things, but I liked the move then and I love it after the fact. The reality is that I had the best read on the relationships across the board and correctly predicted the reactions to come. I needed relief from England+Germany, a frustrated and stagnant Germany, and the temptations that Turkey was having to stab me (very likely at Italy's invitation). I had to take pause from conversations with Steve for a while, but I knew that he'd recover, and that his real objection was that it hurt his French ally, who might be forced to stab if frustrated long enough in the north. I do feel terrible for Steve in spite of our quibbles. When Monte left the game, he left his Italian ally in a perilous spot to a replacement placer. Jon saw an opportunity to seize the game, breaking the deadlock, and jumping into a commanding position. It had to be tempting. Italy was crippled and the fallen Italy+Alliance alliance opened up huge opportunities for Russia+Turkey, which looked to everyone else to be over. Kudos to Steve for playing out the game in a hopeless position. I admire your late appeal for a survival, but there was no real interest in it even from your main man, Ling, who was willing to sell your last dot to board top in a non-tourney DIAS. You nearly succeeded in finding a necessary position that put you in the DIAS, and that is commendable even though it ultimately failed.

Turkey - Saving the best for last because Barry was simply the most fun to play with in a very long time. We opened up talking about Russia+Turkey and finally making one of these alliances work. I was all set to comply completely, but I wasn't getting good vibes from England or Germany. Both were nice enough, but I was uneasy opening as aggressively as Barry wanted to (mainly with me violating the DMZ in Galicia). I was concerned that if I did this and got double teamed by England+Germany, that I'd regret lying to Monte for no gain more than I'd already feel about it. Still Knew that if Russia Turkey is going to get rolling a quick foothold in Galicia is a big help. Barry and I disagreed about my desire to slow roll it, and I can understand his perspective. Turkey's bore to play and an stubborn cautious Russia makes it worse. I was easing back into Diplomacy after a year or so away and felt like opening with a cheesy stab was poor form. Barry invited me to the Black Sea, where my fleet spent most of the game. We talked about planed to dislodge and destroy it, but never got around to it. After not invading Galicia Turkey moved to Armenia in Fall 1901, making my predicament with England and Germany detailed above even worse. I was under attack from three nations, and had just irritated a fourth with my ironic move to Galicia that triggered the Turkish stab. However, as I alluded to previously Barry was extremely fun to play with and we went about having plenty of it. We clung to pour flimsy position against Italy and Austria while I wheeled and dealt in the north with England and Germany, who miraculously backed off to go fight the French. Immediately after Barry convinced Jonbone to stab Italy, Russia+Turkey exploded on both of them with a late variant of the slingshot juggernaut. Steve was furious and crippled, and Austria while strong, got shattered by the Turkish betrayal. We were cruising now. I was almost able to open a northern front again, when disaster struck. Out of nowhere Barry invited Jon into the alliance. I couldn't fathom the value in it even though the terms of him forging ahead as a point man Janissary seemed somewhat favorable to me. Still it asked me to accept a risk in Warsaw that I was very uncomfortable with after finally recovering from the earlier threats. The army also offered dubious value in attacking the west. Compounding things was the entire scripted three nation set of orders was reliant upon Jon passing false intelligence to German, France, and even Italy to set up their moves. I suppose that *if* everyone wen exactly as planned it might have worked, but we'd have a three nation alliance, having to barter with either England or France, and it looked like a fast way to a four/five player draw. It certainly did noting for Russia's chances to win. Furthermore, it set Turkey up as the savior of Austria with Austria armies to control/stab me at any moment. I hated it for all the above reasons. I hated it because after shattering Italy Austria, and screwing Steve, we were now throwing Jonbone a lifeline - needlessly in my view. At the same time Fred was pressing me to stab Turkey. I knew that I had to pick one or the other, and I owed a great deal of my recovery to both players. I was struggling with a decision, and knew that stabbing neither might get me hit by both of them the next year. I went with Fred because his plan carried less risk, and less surprise. I could have stabbed harder and done more initial damage, but my heart wasn't in it. I just lacked the killer instinct to stab Barry, who I'd had so much fun with. I wanted a way to walk it all back if possible since he and I had already done that twice in the game. Barry taunted me and mocked my stab, correctly so because it wasn't half as effective as it could have been. Of course Barry stabbed me subtly on the same turn, quietly reversing his orders for Bulgaria, leaving me extremely vulnerable to him had I followed his three nation script. Barry swears up and down that it was only precaution and not a stab, but I did not buy it and still do not. Many apologies if there was no ill intent on this, Barry. but the temptation to exploit me might have been too much. It was a game changing opportunity for you, and I just couldn't take that risk, not after being forced to take on a dying and desperate Austria as your lackey state and my partner at the last minute. I guess what really irked me was the way the three party email came to me out of the blue when the two of you had already agreed to the terms. You might have invited me to the table initially. I still would have disliked the idea, but had I been an equal partner in Austria's devotion, I probable would have taken it up. From here on Barry was inflexible. no negotiations. No talk. Just leave Ankara, and we can talk. I though it was a bad deal, as there was still hope for us to cooperate. Still I can see not wanting to play Charlie Brown football, and the die was cast. With each turn I grew closer to Germany, and chipped away at Turkey. My strategy was to occupy his home supply centers and force him to fight for them, limiting his ability to build a second fleet on the Black Sea. With my fleet positioned there I could move in so many ways and always find a move to defeat his defenses. I got worried about my invading Ankara army one year, and thought it was lost actually before finding the move to save it by attacking rather than defending. Sorry Barry. I hated to do it. I don;t usually feel too bad about eliminating players because I know they'd do it me in an instant. But I did not enjoy this one. Part of my disinterest in a DIAS with Italy was out of respect for you. It made no sense to just kill Uhtar, Jon, and you and then draw.

Summary - I know that some are disappointed that we drew the game without anyone going for a serious run. Part of that I think is just being rusty and out of practice, and part of it was the flaring tempers, and some external factors kicked in for a few of us. Those are lame answers, but they have real effects on the stomach to carry on a game another nine/ten game years. Also I think that all three of us (Dave, Fred, and I) knew that if one of us made a move for a solo, the other two would drop all prior bickering and kill him. Whether that would result in a 17-17 or a race for solo is difficult to say, but I think that this draw was forge in the end by pretty well achieved balance on and off the board. I know for my part that after 1901 I was sure that I was the first player to be eliminated. To crawl back to 11 centers after that opening year was just too much to put at risk. Sorry for the lack of blood from the condemned looking for more company!

Thanks again to George. Stellar GMing. Such comments are trite in EOG, offered merely for politeness, but your work was outstanding example for all GMs and players to see. Thanks to all of you again too for being part of this. It's games like this that really challenge me, and that I recall years and years on into the future. I still fondly recall Uhtar wiping me all over the map in Olympians, and putting aside turn after turn of frustration with Ling to stop him. I remember how shocked I was to see highly skilled players like Freelance, Frost, and Riaz turned to dust as if by a whim. Likewise, Uhtar, Steve, Barry, and Monte/Jon were tossed around like rag dolls here. It could be any one of us on any given day, and that fear is what makes for a blast of a game. As a final thought I'll say that these are merely my perspectives from my seat. You may not agree with them, but I hope it explains why I played the game the way I did.