From Jonbone

First and foremost, kudos to Turkey and Russia for achieving the 17-17 DIAS. It's quite the unicorn you gentlemen captured. And really a testament to your steady play throughout. (As an aside, I think EOGs are more interesting if written without the benefit of reading other EOGs first -- but I couldn't resist and went ahead and read yours... thank you both by the way for taking the time and effort to write them.) From your EOGs, it appears that you didn't simply stumble into this strong alliance, but had mapped it out early and stayed true to it throughout. Gratz in a big way.

Second, but only by a whisker, is a huge shout-out to George for keeping us on track and seeing this all the way through. It's a selfless thing to be a GM, but somehow George gets just enough personality into the role, but not too much to distract from the play. And week after week after week after week of keeping us to deadlines and following up with almost NMRs and adjudicating the odd complaint here and there... and whatever else goes on behind the scenes that we don't know about... great work, sir. Bravo.

Third, I'll take down Italy in a moment -- but I do think he gets huzzahs for bringing this group together and for selling a few newbies on giving this a try. His passion may be his downfall, but I don't think this would have come together without him.

And, so, to the game:

• For me, the ideal Dip game is predicated on a strong alliance or two. One that you can ride to the end, and that allows for some creativity and fun along the way. It's hard to find that (which, frankly, makes Russia and Turkey's finish all the more impressive in my eyes). As England, I'm sussing out my three neighbors. My preferred alignment was to work with Germany and to focus EITHER on Russia or France. This is partly geography and partly personality. I put "either" in quotes because the last thing I want -- the last thing Germany should want -- is to be fighting Russia and France simultaneously. There's like at least 2 wars that teach this lesson... but unfortunately that's pretty quickly where Germany and I found ourselves.

• I couldn't get much traction in talking with France -- I understand -- when you're France the west is your oyster and all those open centers makes you think you don't need to bargain much. However, that's pennywise and pound foolish in my opinion, because once France gets her easy pickings, if she don't have friends, there's not much to do. France wasn't really open to a broader vision -- but Germany was. It just so happened that I think he was open to Italy's broader vision too.

• By that I mean I wanted to divvy up NOR/SWE/DEN and agree to a non-aggression sphere in the north. I wanted that mostly because I wanted Germany to go all out for France -- an early French exit would have been awesome for us (see, e.g., what the Austria early exit did for R/T). I was reasonably certain Germany had no threat from the south -- and I figured with Austria’s early wobble, Russia would be happy to sew up the south rather than fight two wars. I pushed super hard for Germany to agree to neutrality in the north with Russia -- he was reasonably nervous about STP and MOS -- as every Kaiser has the right to be. But I felt strongly this was the better course.

• Unfortunately, I wasn't the only one who had his ear.

• Italy smartly pushed the "Russian bear" narrative -- and I just couldn't get Germany to believe that Russia would be truly amenable to a northern deal. When Germany moved his fleet east, the die was pretty much cast. I haven't reviewed the moves -- but my recollection is that Germany had SWE locked up if he wanted it but in a last gasp to save myself from being drawn into the north, I offered up Belgium. This was an early turning point. It's possible that Germany and I could have saved tempo against France with some serious concerted effort -- but then Germany built a second fleet and I knew it was over. When Germany builds a second fleet "the book" says it's unavoidably anti-English (George, right?) -- I didn't think he intended it as such, but that fleet does nothing against either Russia or France -- and so both drives stalled. From that point, I pretty much knew it was a matter of time -- particularly since the balkans had stabilized and the I/R/T or I/T was completely evident from the game state -- despite what all of the participants were telling me in their emails. (Cue up another round of "Who are you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?")

• With the north in stasis, I basically grabbed what I could since I didn't see anything coming of sticking with Germany when it was evident that we weren't going to make headway against France and it was only a matter of time before Italy went north...

• Sorry about that Germany...

• And so I went shopping for a new ally.

• As I made the rounds, I still found no common cause with France -- and the full scope of the I/R/T or, in particular, the R/T came into focus. I must admit it was hard to stomach the various claims I heard about the enmity simmering under the surface -- when every opportunity to actually come into conflict was passed up or massaged over or pre-scripted....

• Basically, it was just a matter of time before my ill-gotten BEL/HOL position would be lost and then England itself... and then ... well, I feel vindicated in the choices I made because the outcome we got was about what I expected and what drove my decisions.

• For the middle to end of the game, then, my ONLY goal was to break the R/T. That was it. 100%. I knew that I could not win... that none of us could win as long as Russia and Turkey did not fight. Everything else was window dressing to that strategic aim.

• So, confronted with a solid state alliance, I did all I could to disrupt it. And what would disrupt it the most? To have one of the partners grow at a disproportionate rate. My gamble was that the one who grew might stab the other for the win -- or the one who wasn't growing would get nervous and move against him (with or without his junior partner). I really didn't care HOW it went down. I just needed there to be a break to reset the board state where it wasn't R/T rolling over everyone.

• And the only way I could achieve disproportionate growth was to cede my centers to Russia. I did that mostly deliberately -- France's apparent mishap over LON helped a little -- but it was an intentional strategic decision from start to finish. I can't tell you how many emails I got from Italy and Turkey asking why I wasn't fighting for my precious centers. The answer was the tactical upside of holding 6 vs. 5 vs. 4 centers didn't matter. As long as R/T were in lockstep, the end was inevitable.

• Along the way, I had to get into Russia's good graces so that required me to give him the only thing that Turkey couldn't give him -- a solo. I played that card as long as I could -- but in the end, I'm not about giving away solos in Diplomacy. (For what it's worth, a 17-17 tie might be a unicorn, but a solo ... well... a solo is what we all play for... right, George?) And, in fairness, it's not clear to me that Russia ever really wanted the solo -- there seemed to be a bit of a "to solo, or not to solo" dilemma going on... and it generated way too much uncertainty for me.

• I feel somewhat vindicated in this strategy because the fall of London and Russia's disproportionate growth clearly put pressure on that alliance -- but it wasn't enough -- and I give them all the credit in the world for that.. but I still feel like the strategic decision was the right one... and but for a move or two here or there... and maybe with a more engaged Italy in the later stages, there might have been an opening to break the R/T.

• Also, France and I briefly found common cause -- which made me think that there might have been more of a chance in the opening to work together... but that's water under the bridge. It was pretty much too little too late.

• I wasn't really surprised when Turkey stabbed me at the end ... given how I had hit him earlier in the game... but it pretty much just confirmed what I sussed out turns and turns earlier.... the R/T was strong in this game... and it was played well and to the hilt.

Best to all, and I do hope the first-timers will give the game another try.

I might write another EOG about how I think this game suffered from too much concern about honor -- it's still a game, my friends. And it's more fun as a game, I promise you, than as some sort of referendum on whether you are a good person or not.

With greatest affection and respect,