First, I'd like to thank everyone for playing and Joe for inviting me and for being a great GM in a particularly difficult game.
Second, on the Ling fiasco. I didn't have a problem when it was revealed that Canada was playing under a pseudonym-this is Diplomacy where deceit is all. However, playing two powers is not acceptable-it's taking advantage of the email format of the game and is thus outside the bounds of proper gamesmanship. With that said, I think continuing the game with replacements was the correct approach.
Third, Thanks to Adam (Thailand) for being a great ally. Our alliance allowed us to survive and thrive, becoming among the dominant E powers and basically coming in second in the voting (with Poland).
In terms of play, this was my first game of this variant, although I've played plenty of standard Dip, going back to pen-and-paper, so the basic strategy and tactics were pretty straightforward. As an E power, it was clear that there were really two ways to possibly survive to voting: to come under the protection of a larger power (probably China in this case) or to ally strongly with at least one other E power and take on China. Thus, Thailand and agreed to a binding alliance, initially mainly against China. Since this alliance was mutually profitable for the entire game, neither of us ever took a stab at the other. Also we worked very hard to maintain parity-neither of us ever became significantly stronger than the other. If either of us had stabbed the other, we both would have likely died off.
Still, we couldn't have succeeded as we did if China had managed his diplomacy better. I'm still not sure what he was trying to do, but he certainly didn't reach out to his neighbors to try and get them on his side. His diplomacy to me mostly consisted of trying to convince me to stab Thailand, but without offering anything tangible in return. So, when the USA proposed an alliance against China, basically me, Thailand, Japan, n. Korea, Indonesia, with Kazakhstan later, Marcel didn't have any friends in the neighborhood, except for a non-aggression pact with Russia. That alliance did some damage but fractured pretty quickly when Korea stabbed japan at the behest of Russia (which made complete sense, under the circumstances). It still allowed us to take the critical province of YUN in the South, as I had convinced China that I would attack Thailand due to his taking LAO. We were able to hold YUN by a critical UNTF deployment to defend it. I know that there's been discussion about how useless UNTF is, but we got two very important UNTF supports (YUN and later HO), so I disagree with that.
USA basically pulled out of communication with us after year one, but /the alliance kept up against China. Even after Kazakh came under the Russian hammer, we got India to join up from the West. That was critical. After Russia crippled India, we stabbed India (which we had been planning to do at some point, anyway) and that allowed us to ultimately take China and India and a chunk of Pakistan. I was also surprised that China never built nukes to use against us-that was a serious tactical error. I wanted nukes as soon as possible and we used them effectively for our tactical objectives. We were also very careful not to antagonize Australia/N. Korea. We helped Aus take parts of India (SRI), and he helped us out in Indian subcontinent. We knew that he was becoming a dominant force, but there was nothing to be gained by getting nuked by him.
In terms of global happenings, we had a policy of keeping our heads down as much as possible and concentrating on China. that meant not joining any crusades (against Russia, against Australia, whatever). Because of our position in SE Asia, we could get away with that.
For the voting, I thought we had a shot at a EEE coalition victory , based on the "sympathy" vote. I thought we could be seen as the feel-good coalition and pick up votes based on people not wanting to vote Aus/Chile/Arg, but I was wrong. I underestimated how important it was to explicitly swap for votes and a couple of people who had said they would vote for us did not. To be fair, even those votes wouldn't have allowed us to catch the winners, but we would have at least made our threshold. Congrats to the victors.