Another year with two tournaments for me, and my best year yet.
Back in June I had a mid-table finish at YorkCon - viewtopic.php?f=20&t=2536
- and I missed ManorCon because I was touring the US West Coast for my 40th.
The weekend just gone was MidCon again, and this serves as the UK national championships. This is a lot less grand than it sounds, because this year the total number of entrants was 8 - We had to skip one round because only 6 wanted to play at that time.
But I don't care because I won my first ever ftf game, and ended up in second place overall.
After getting there early, finding the TD and the bar (in roughly the same place) and chatting with him, it was clear that we were unlikely to get more than one table at any time. But that did mean we were able to fit into a room out of the way rather than (as last year) being right in the middle of the way the whole weekend.
I was drawn France, which is a country I do like to play, so long as I get the early game right. This time I did. England was Dave Simpson, who was angling for a good score with a hope to winning the Tour of Britain (of which this is the last stop). Germany was David Wigglesworth, who was also in the running for the ToB. Knowing that Wiggle is usually a strong alliance player, I went to him early to propose a deal. Soon after, we fell into a Western Triple, trying to keep it hidden.
In the East, it was quite confused, resolving by 1902 as IAR v T, and Italy got stuck in, so I was more than happy to see him set up a convoy to Syria. He was not best pleased to see my three fleets in the Med the next turn. While I piled into Italy, England and Germany did a good job against Russia. Turkey saw the pressure come off as the others spotted the triple. And so as they tried to hold us back, Turkey nicked centres back from them, and Italy, Russia and later Austria started to crumble.
Towards the end, I kept a wary eye on England, knowing that he is an able and effective stabber. Because we managed to ensure between us that there was no real benefit in him going for me, in the end he decided to go for Germany. With Italy eliminated at the end of 06, a draw vote was called. England was on 9 and I could see he had about 2-3 dots to grab. I was on 8, and while I had a similar number of easier grabs (the carcass of Italy, basically), and could hold off England, I did not see how I could do both effectively, so agreed to the draw. Turkey was the only other who could have perhaps gained position, but seemed relieved to have got up to 6 centres, so the draw passed.
I was very pleased with second place, and also that I never had to betray my German ally.
Having just seen Italy crushed by France and a resurgent Turkey, I was a bit worried about getting I in the draw. However, it soon became clear that an FG was forming. Austria was under threat from the beginning, but I bided my time, just holding in Venice and getting into position. Then, having reassured him for the fourth turn in a row I would not walk into Trieste, I went for the stab knowing he would hold Russia and Turkey back enough that I could make gains.
The original plan with Russia had been to turn on Turkey next, and I was preparing for just that, when we saw that the FG was being much too successful against England. As France was being played by Dave Simpson, we also knew that if he was in the top two he'd dominate the tournament already. The guy in Germany had won MidCon and the ToB last year, and was also in a strong position over the year. So we instead worked with Turkey, knowing full well it would mean he had a chance to stab us if he wanted, in order to stop FG running away with it.
In fact, as we did work with Turkey, we ended up realising that in order deny FG a convenient 9-9 draw or a 1st-2nd, Turkey was the only member of our alliance who could do it. So we basically told him - if he stabs us, we collapse back on him and throw the game. But if he works with us, he could win the game.
So in S1907 Turkey launched what looked like an amazing 4 centre stab on us, which we had essentially told him to do (and in a way that meant in both our cases he wasn't likely to take more in Fall). And then in the Fall, we pegged a couple from FG (although at the end Russia held in a centre of mine), and so it ended Turkey 10, France 8, Germany & Russia 6. With 4 centres I was the last of the survivors, but given Turkey could have stabbed me about 2 years earlier, I was very happy. I was 3rd in the tourney with a game to play.
As I'd had an edge and a centre power, I was hoping for a corner - preferably Turkey. England came out, and while I don't really like playing England as much, it is my most successful position of late. And as it would turn out, this would continue...
My neighbours were two cautious guys, and so I proposed an initial triple. Germany I had played in several games before, and I proposed to him that we fake East and then go for France. He agreed, but later told me that he didn't trust me at all (when I had every intention of working with him). A few misorders between us (mostly his) and an abundance of caution from him and from France meant that EG v F was not going to happen and we were instead tied to a pretty ineffective Western Triple (two French boats in the Med and a Russian fleet in Norway).
However, I was in the best position to get something out of it. I made a deal with Russia (Dave Simpson), that we would disentangle. I'd pushed his fleet out of Norway by then, and was in StP, but the fleet was in NWG and was tying up my own fleets. As AIR were working Turkey over, he could keep it in play and cause problems, but he only needed a result of 2nd to win the tournament and didn't want to risk that on looking too strong. He pulled back to re-take StP in return for me letting him in and us standing off. As it went, the part where I went StP(nc) - Nwy didn't quite come off for all kinds of reasons until late 1906 (ahem).
In the meantime, I stabbed Germany after he'd insanely stabbed France (allowing Austria into Mun). France needed little persuasion to try and push back and hold the Italian back, so with his back turned I pushed a fleet into Eng.
The rest of the game was very tight, as Germany proved hard to tie down, and Italy was able to press France back. It looked like a 3-way AER would result, with Italy close behind. With Russia, Austria and Italy played by the guys in 1st, 2nd and 4th in the tournament respectively, it really was becoming a showdown. Turkey was unable to do much more than play guerilla with a single fleet around the Black Sea for a couple of years and provide E F and G with ingenious tactical ideas.
I helped Italy into Spain, in return for him keeping back from the rest of France, and went in to the last turn with the four vying for the win. I had only one vulnerable dot, which I could protect if I also ruled out any gains from the rump of Germany (now confined to Bel and facing three Austrian armies in Hol, Ruh & Bur). But I did have one option - I could help Austria in to Belgium if he moved from Ruhr, and he could help me move an army Bre-Par by supporting from Bur. So I proposed that deal and fully intended to keep the second part of it (and also to support the German to hold in Belgium.
The last turn hinged on the actions of others. Austria also reneged on the deal and realised at the last minute that he could ignore me and just take Bel with two supports. However, France and Germany worked on a survival plan based on France tapping Bur from Paris while getting Italy to support Bel - Bur (and so hoping to bounce the lot, on the misconception I might tap Holland).
So what resulted was that Bur-Bel succeeded, and Austria didn't have the time to tell Italy to change orders and bounce Burgundy, so France moved out of Paris and I walked in. Because Italy and Russia decided not to betray Austria, and France had managed to get a fleet all the way to Greece, the game ended with me on 9, AIR on 8 each and France on 1. Had it not been for the Italian and French moves, it would instead have been a 4 way draw on 8.
But a win is a win, and I will take it.
For next year, I am exploring holding a tourney if I can get any interest. The game shop in my town is running a Con nearby, and they have said in principle we can do it there, but the main question is whether we can get 7 or more people to turn up and commit to the whole tournament.
Also next year, the EDC is coming to the UK - it will be at ManorCon (Leicester) in July. Players from Italy and France (and also hopefully Germany, Sweden and beyond) will hopefully draw more Brits as well, and I really want to see what happens at a decently sized tournament.