A Weekly Threat Assessment of the Diplomacy Community

Dixie Triumphant!

DixieCon 35 has finished, with Karthik Konath raising a mint julep in celebration of victory over his vanquished opponents. He stormed from behind to overtake the tournament frontrunner after game 2 (2nd Fiddle article below), and finished game 3 with a 17-centre Turkey. Congratulations!
In a field of 57 competitors, the top seven were rounded out with Ed Sullivan (2nd), Johnny Gillam (3rd), Tim Crosby (4th), Evan Swihart (5th), Tommy Anderson (6th) and Morgante Pell (7th). Congratulations are also due to the winner of the Speedboat Tournament, Claes de Graaf. Catch up on DBN's coverage of the event, find the full results here, and be sure to check out the DixieCon website for the upcoming Tournament Report. Finally, big thanks to tournament organisers David Hood, Eber Condrell, Michael Lowrey, Dave Maletsky and Peter Sullivan.
The Briefing Giveaway
We had a great response to our Diplomacy set giveaway. Congratulations to Marshall Miller for winning the Deluxe edition. Marshall loves all types of board games having designed his own and teaches a course on game design at Duke University. Check out his Twitter page and website to find out more.
Talking Turkey

Legendary Tactics is back with more fantastic Diplomacy content. With no less than three new videos on Turkish strategy, there's no longer any reason to complain about playing as the 'sick man of Europe'. Hobby legend Edi Birsan discusses his brainchild the Lepanto and Turkish strategy, and strategy expert Matt Sundstrom introduces the Crimean Crusher.

Round 2 of the Tour of Britain (June 12th-13th) is fast approaching. Sign up and test your mettle on the vWDC discord server. Tally ho!
The Champions Corner is where recent tournament winners share a specific move or strategy that they believe helped them to emerge victorious.
For this issue, we welcome the victor of DixieCon, Karthik Konath.

After a failed attempt to stop a solo in Game 1, I knew Game 2 and 3 had to be perfect if I were to have any chance of winning DixieCon. In Game 2, I drew Italy and after early conversations decided Turkey, played by Eber Condrell, would be my best bet for quick growth and a high score as opposed to the more common Italian choices of A/I or A/I/R partnerships. 

We started off with incredible tempo, eliminating Austria by 1903. My standard continuation in I/Ts is to set sail and take out France with help from a partner in the West. However, this plan was dead on arrival as despite my own rapid growth, Ed Sullivan in France was on pace to dominate this board. With Germany, his alliance partner, providing unprecedented levels of assistance, France controlled England plus the North and Norwegian Seas, leaving me no credible partner in the West to work with against France, necessitating a pivot.

This pivot over the next two turns was based on four overarching principles that govern my play: 1) Be gracious and honest, 2) Know how your alliance serves your personal objectives, 3) When board realities change, find ways to adapt to make the changes serve you, and 4) Stab rarely, but when you do stab lethally.

Fall 1903 and Spring 1904 orders determined the fate of the game with Austrian support for my army into Munich changing Ed's perception of Germany's remaining value as an alliance partner and my stab of Turkey cementing my position as the dominant power of the south.

I believe it was the way I handled my diplomatic relations with Hunter Katcher in Austria that led him to offer support into Munich despite me attacking him early as Italy. At no point following my convoy into Greece with Turkish support did I lie to Hunter or make promises to back off I had no intent to keep. In doing so, I bought credibility and goodwill, which a year later manifested itself in a game-defining support he had zero obligation to offer. Without it, the game plays out very differently, likely to my detriment, as it is that weakening of Germany and simultaneous bolstering of my own position that allowed me to credibly offer a 17/17 draw to France and for him to accept.

The Spring 1904 stab on Turkey shows the importance of knowing how alliances serve you. I went into the I/T at the start hoping to get either a solid 2 or 3-way draw and a large center count to maximize my score. When I realized that moving West would result in me bashing my head into the stalemate line ineffectively, foreclosing future growth opportunities, I found a way to adapt my plans to the new board reality by finding a new partner: France. In doing so I found a way to hit 17 centers as Italy in an up-tempo game, whereas had I dug my heels in and refused to adapt I likely would be stuck on 8 or 9 until the game drew.

Crucially, when I committed to this plan I made my attack on Turkey lethal. Turkey's position was such that there was zero chance of survival in the long term, and perhaps most importantly, the way I managed our diplomatic relations and explained the stab led him to make sure I, and not Russia, got his centers, capturing them and the rest of the Balkans a mere two years after the initial stab. After that, it was trivial to lock up my side of the stalemate line, though some clever play by the Russian denied me the 2-way draw I sought, instead giving me a 17 center 3-way draw, which was still a satisfactory result.
In Game 3, I drew Turkey and after early conversations decided Austria was my best bet, while Italy would be a valuable secondary partner in an A/I/T, another relatively infrequent alliance pairing. While I intended for our alliance to be one that would last all game, multiple failed guesses in the A/T attack on Russia had killed our tempo and left the Austrian position incredibly vulnerable to a lethal stab. Recognizing the changing board dynamics, I stabbed Austria, picking up Budapest and Serbia, while putting myself in a great position to secure the rest of the Balkans for myself over the next few turns.
As before, my explanation of the stab, his indefensible position post-stab, and my honesty afterwards convinced him that his best bet was to find survival on the other side of the line, leaving me free to rule the south. Unfortunately my attempts to keep Italy onside after my stab on Austria were less successful as he brought his fleets back instead of going after France. This proved to be only a minor inconvenience, as Russia and Austria were unable to seriously hamper my progress, guaranteeing I would have the available units necessary to whittle Italy out. That set up another draw on 17 centers in a mostly straightforward game.
Our Second Fiddle feature brings us those who came oh so close to victory. Here they relive their moment of agony and share with us what they could have done better to secure the crown.

For this issue, we (again!) welcome Ed Sullivan who finished second in  DixieCon 35.
"Hope is the most dangerous drug in Diplomacy"

--Ed Sullivan

I like quoting myself. I feel like I’m Cicero or something. It gives an air of both authority and historical perspective. The quote above is one I invented about a year ago after I got stabbed by Hunter Katcher. I use it as a mantra to keep me grounded when things look too good to be true. If I had not hoped, I would not have felt so bad.

While I may not have won DixieCon, I am happy to report that you are reading the words of the first person ever to write a second Second Fiddle article.  So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Actually, it’s not so nice. No one likes being second. But, as I near my fiftieth journey round the sun on this planet, I have come to accept that I’m a perennial bridesmaid. The first time I remember finishing second was at a swim meet in Doha in 1981. I don’t recall my dad’s encouraging words, but I will never forget how forlorn he looked saying them. There are many other examples. I was the Salutatorian of my high school class. Many ladies told me I would be their number one in my younger years if they weren’t in love with someone else with a tad more charm. I have a near-perfect record of placing second in chess games. To be fair, however, sometimes being second works out: after all, my first choice for college was Rice University. Goowlsgo does not have the same ring to it.

In Diplomacy, I have quite a few second-place finishes: Season 2 Nexus Finals, Carnage 2020, eCarnage 2021, and now DixieCon. I can accept eliminations and brutal stabs. I understand that, no matter how hard I try, a few players have unionized against me. I find it charming now when I continually mis-order convoys.  

Here’s what I have trouble handling: The Hope. John Cleese summed it up well in Clockwise.

What makes finishing second unique compared to all the other places one could finish is that someone who places second had, at some point, the hope of finishing first. Winners, however, eschew hope. They don’t hope to make the final shot—they know they will make the shot. They are the ones who say, “I’ll make it.
Hope is no substitute for confidence. Unlike my second place at eCarnage 2021, I thought I had this tournament sewed up after my final game concluded in a two-way draw. I knew that absent something extraordinary happening, David Hood would declare me as the tournament’s champion. I pictured the award ceremony like this:

Sadly, within thirty minutes of my Diplomacy dreams coming true at Dixiecon, something extraordinary happened, and I finished second. Karthik Konath convinced Tommy Anderson to vote himself out of a three-way draw, causing Karthik to achieve a higher point total than me. I can’t bring myself to complain. Thirty minutes earlier, I convinced JJ Raymond to do the same thing. Karthik topped my diplomatic coup and took the title.

Oh well. Too bad, so sad. I finished second again. I finished second for the second time in a month after ending my final game as tournament leader.

I have perspective and enough second places in life not to be too down on myself. You see, in the days before Dixiecon, I experienced both significant personal failing and a tremendous professional success. I won’t get into the failing part, but it’s much worse than losing in Diplomacy. As for the professional success part, I got to argue in front of 18 of the most thoughtful judges in the federal judiciary two days before Dixiecon began.

After my highs and lows, I went into DixieCon to distract myself from the real world. David Hood’s magnificent event provided me with me plenty of hours of needed distraction. I did not expect to do well, nor did I care if I did well when the first game started. I’m not just saying that.  All I needed was for the games to go long. I just needed to get my brain working on something other than my life.

Once I started playing and doing well, the dangerous drug of hope took over - what a great first round. Andrew Goff complimented me. Look at me go in that second round! How did I pull that one off? Am I really the tournament leader? Can I win this? Yes, I think I'm going to win this. Hell yeah, I've won this! And then, tragically, Oh wow. I lost this. How is this going to be handled on DBN?

Despite the immense disappointment, the Ed of a year ago would be over the moon at the results (and yes, I realize I just transitioned effortlessly from the first person into the third person). “Happy Go Lucky Ed” is now “Introspective Ed.” Well, I’ve analyzed my DixieCon games, and I don’t believe I could have achieved a higher score in any of my three games.

My failing, you see, was hope. When it comes to Diplomacy, never hope for anything. In Diplomacy, like war (it’s not, but you know what I mean), the other player gets a vote. And I got out-voted fair and square.

Hope leads to stabs, emotional frailty, and heartbreak. Hope leads one to think Tommy Anderson will play rationally. Never give in to hope. Fixate on reality. And the reality of Dixiecon is this: I did my dead-level best, and Karthik Konath, a fellow Longhorn, mensch, and superior Diplomacy player, outplayed me under the rules of the game. He is the worthy champion of Dixiecon 2021. All hail to the player who did not hope to win. He willed himself to make that final shot and earned himself the victory.
June July


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