Will keep this fairly brief, rather overdue as well. First off, thanks to Joe for hosting the game, what great job in difficult circumstances.

Other players were constantly surprised by the closeness of the alliance between Peter (Vietnam) and myself but, if I'm being completely honest I didn't plan an alliance with Peter from the very start. My initial plan was to simply get my army into LAO which would give me the upper hand and buy me time to weigh up my options. These were essentially ally with Peter against Marcel or vice versa. And in Fall 2001 I kept my options open again by arranging a bounce with Peter in HAN to try and gain the trust of both players. Likewise I was keen to curry favour with the Philippines in case I wanted to call him against China and/or Vietnam. While this never happened it was all about keeping options open.

What was critical though is that Marcel's diplomatic approach was to repeatedly try to tell Peter and I that the only way one of us could survive in the game was by allying with him and attacking the other. But when I did discuss plans to hit Vietnam with Marcel, his offers of SCs were too mean to really consider. I'd be effectively knocking myself out of the game for the benefit of one SC over the short run. It just didn't make sense on any level.

That's not to say that I always trusted Peter 100%. I'd never played with him before and at one point I was convinced that he was going to stab me. I think it was Fall 2002 and from Marcel I'd gathered that Peter had told him every detail of our conversation including our pre-arranged bounce over HAN in Fall 2001. I never really got an explanation for this but it did kill the trust between Marcel and myself - which in turn meant I had to ally with Peter as Marcel's attitude to me rapidly cooled! However, the uncertainty at the time meant I was essentially forced to make defensive moves and missed out on gaining an SC (MDL) which at that stage of the game was a big deal.

However, from that point on (after Peter didn't stab me!) we remained firmly allied and, after a critical UN vote, managed to turn the tide on China. And the bullying messages from Marcel about how we could never beat him eventually dried up! Ultimately we knocked him out of the game pretty much by ourselves (with a little help from India/Pakistan).

Global geopolitics really aided our cause. India taking those Russian nukes was a massive boost for us while Rob D stuck to his word and stayed out SE Asia. It was always a worry though, especially after he so clinically dispatched his ally Philippines. We were vulnerable too - our armies were engaged elsewhere.

Everyone kept telling me India was coming for SE Asia but I'm now not convinced it was totally the case. While I was only playing in my little region Rob G was involved in a global game and following Tom and Rob D ducking out of the stab on Russia, I think he only had his eyes on retribution rather than taking any of my provinces (then again if Russia hadn't been so dominant I think he probbaly would have come my way!). That's why he was so annoyed when Peter and I stabbed him as it prevented India from firing any nukes at Australia the next turn. I do feel bad about that, mostly because it effectively handed Rob D a winning position in the game - he never looked back after that turn. But Peter and I were just looking out for own (short-term) interests and the SCs we gained were valuable - but ultimately in vain.... still I ended the game with 12 SCs and Peter 10 which I feel was impressive for two E powers.

As for my other neighbours I had good relations with the UK, helping him back into Singapore after Indonesia had taken it early on. Indonesia in his EOG said he could never work that one out so I'll try and explain my logic at the time. It was partly because Jimmy had let me take KUA and none of his territorial ambitions clashed with mine in the region and partly because Australia appeared to like having the UK as a buffer between myself and him - those two had good relations all game and Jimmy voted for Australia to win.... Also Rob D also had his eyes firmly set on taking out Indonesia from the very start and would not have liked me to have helped him in any way during the early stages. I did snatch an SC off Jimmy later in the game which damaged relations. I did this mostly because I thought the UK was going to get knocked out in Europe but this never happened, even 4 turns or so later! We finished the game again on good terms.

As for other players I had fairly limited contact with Japan (who really made some self-defeating moves), Kazakhstan (who was an ally against China), Pakistan, the US (we spoke quite a lot at first but this dried up quickly), Sri Lanka, Israel and the odd message with more far flung powers. This meant that the Ling scandal didn't really affect me as I was playing a very regional focused game. Still it was a real shame and it did leave a black mark on the game - and it must have been very frustrating for the larger powers and Canada and Israel's neighbours. That said I really enjoyed the game it was rather rewarding to knock out China and India - Pakistan and the Russian SCs/votes near us were next if we'd kept playing! Thanks again Joe!