or how we won a totally lost game through dogged determination.
By Jeff Wiewel and George Dannenberg
Most people would think that a team in partners anonymous World War that lost both of its home majors by turn six would have no long term chances. That logical conclusion has been strangely and fully disproven and this article relates what happened to bring victory over nine other partnerships after such a disastrous start.
The war in Europe (turns 3-7)
In the beginning we had to decide whether to fight, and if so then who to fight. Anyone who chooses to fight at the start almost guarantees that at least one (and often both) of the partnerships involved in the war will soon be eliminated. Launching an early attack is a risky proposition that could have a very substantial payoff if you win quickly enough.
On the other hand, if you can avoid an early war you almost immediately guarantee that you will not be in the bottom tier, and you will be better able to choose wars that are advantageous for you. Of course, whenever you attempt peace with your apparently natural enemies then you risk being blindsided if they jump you. We had the Aragon/Lyon position and unsuccessfully attempted early peace with our closest rivals, Poland and Baltic States. In our previous two partnership anonymous games, this strategy had worked once (with two African pairs ending tied right behind the winning pair, who also avoided early wars by virtue of having no natural enemies), and failed once. Even when the strategy didn't work, we were still able to take out the other partnership to get into the top half. So we made the attempt with our eyes wide open in case it didn't work.
In this game, the Poland/Baltic States pair launched an all-out attack and we quickly saw that the politics of the game did not favor even a virtually untouched winner. Of the other natural enemy pairs, the two African pairs were fighting, the Central American and South American pairs were embattled, and the other two North American pairs were closely engaged, so our western and southern fronts were temporarily safe. The big problem was that the Manchuria/Yakutsk pair had an easy walk over the Burma/Bengal position (who only played one turn) and would be able to roll over the winner in Europe if they so chose.
What made our chances worse was the tactical skill of Poland/Baltic States. They were a little better positioned for the war. We thought our eyes were wide open, but they demonstrated that we had overlooked some considerations, and we could see that they had the skill to show us a world of pain. After looking over the situation, we decided that we could either use our forces to defend our home majors and concede the initiative, or we could ruthlessly virtually abandon our home majors and do an end run for the opposing majors.
We decided that, in defensive play, even if we did hold on to our majors we would end up fighting for so many turns that we had no long-term chances to win, while if we did an end run we might be lucky enough to win the war quickly and maybe even still keep our own majors. We took the end run option, a decision that meant that some of our moves which would have been unsound in a defensive strategy were now called for. Since our opponents directed their attentions toward facing a defense, we could take advantage of otherwise good moves on their part that now became slight errors. Poland took Lyon on turn 5 and Aragon on turn 6 in almost the absolute minimum time. (We didn't have a reasonable alternative to conceding Lyon, but with some better guessing we might have held Aragon). However, turn 6 also saw Aragon take Baltic States and Lyon take Poland. Worse for them, we were in position to retake our home majors while they were not in a position to recapture theirs. This apparently demoralized them to the extent that they dropped prior to turn 7.
The first peaceful interval (turns 8-9)
We had exhausted ourselves in this battle and wanted a little bit of a breather to recover. Since the Asians had picked up a huge number of minors with no opposition, our only hope was for a game long enough for us to rebuild, always allowing for the vagaries of chance to give the Asians enough of a setback to be catchable.
In the other wars, the northwest Americans had prevailed (with difficulty) over the northeast Americans, the Central Americans had fairly easily forced the South Americans to drop, and the situation in Africa was interesting. The east Africans apparently made what was arguably the most influential decision of the game. They foresaw, correctly, that the Asians were more interested in hitting Africa from the water than in trying to fight the trench warfare needed to conquer Europe. Thus the east Africans ceded their starting position to the west Africans in the hopes that a united Africa could discourage the Asians.
Europe and east Africa simultaneously sent out messages trying to form a coalition to face Asia. East Africa started falling slowly to west Africa. Europe started sending every navy and air force on a journey to the Indian Ocean. We not only sent everything including the kitchen sink, we started ripping out the plumbing and sending that too. Our decision was that we could bend a little on our eastern front and defend with whatever units could be built, but if we were to have any chance at all we had to make sure that the Africans remained fighting in the game. There was already some border skirmishing going on between Asia and east Africa, so we saw that our breather was going to be limited to just a quick gasp.
The first Asian war (turns 10-18)
Asia moved into the Indian on the same turn that our forces finally arrived and we declared them enemies. What should have been an overwhelming sea battle victory for them was thus turned into an even exchange. As the battle continued, the Kenyan half of the east African partnership was eliminated, but Somalia played like a man possessed. Overwhelmingly outgunned, he was still a major pain in the neck to the Asians. (They may even have had a lower opinion of him). The West Africans missed a couple of turns, but were shielded enough that they still had considerable forces and territory. (We took only Egypt from them and that was because they had never given us passage through the canal, we needed a quicker route to the Indian, and we didn't know if they were still playing). It seemed to dash some of the Asians hopes when they rejoined the battle.
Most of the gains on the African front were made by the Manchurian half of the Asian pair, while any gains Yakutsk was making were on the Eurasian continent. The Asians were keeping a significant reserve force, which came in handy when the northwest Americans jumped on Australia and diverted some Asian attention to their East. Amazingly enough, Asia still had more forces and more industry than all the people that were fighting them, but had settled into a primarily defensive war with their most successful front being the fluid battle they were waging against Somalia in the Middle East. Perhaps their biggest error was in thinking that it would be insane for Europe to send more than an expeditionary force to aid the Africans and that Europe had to have a larger force for the European front. We were so totally outgunned on our eastern front that it was ridiculous, but we ended up actually grabbing the entire Eurasian portion of the ice cap and taking most of Yakutsk's territory. When we were able to successfully organize the revolution of Yakutsk itself this demoralized him so much that he dropped, even though the Central Americans had by then jumped the northwest Americans and removed one menace to Asia.
The second peaceful interval (turns 19-20)
The dropping of Yakutsk induced Manchuria to sue for peace. The Africans accepted, and we could only guess at their reasons, at least two of which would have been persuasive. Any Asian naval forces would first face Africa, so they were more likely to be hurt in a continued war, and the embroiled Central Americans could have been both a tempting target and dangerous to leave alone allowing an unimpeded build-up. With the African pullout, we decided that it would be suicide to do anything other than accept the breather and try to finally finish building up our industry. At the time Manchuria sued for peace he still had more forces and industry than the AfroEuropean alliance.
During our breather Africa launched an attack on the Central Americans, in the process taking some of the many territories that were still owned by the South Americans, who had dropped more than 10 turns earlier. Manchuria remained quiet and the Central Americans were in a very defensive posture.
The first American war (turns 21-24)
We thought our best chances in the endgame were to keep Africa fairly strong for the eventual war with Manchuria, so the moment we were close to finishing our industrial buildup we attacked the Central Americans in the hope of giving them a quick knockout and then being able to join Africa in a final assault on Asia. Our position on the cap allowed us to simultaneously invade from the Bering Sea and the Baffin Bay, so the Central Americans were in difficult straits. Just as they were ready to be cracked between Europe in the north and Africa in the south, Manchuria ruthlessly attacked Africa. The bulk of the AfroEuropean forces were sitting around America. We decided that it would be best to quickly crush the Central Americans and then push Manchuria back. Unfortunately, the Africans had had enough and stopped playing. We'd seen them miss a couple of turns at the start of the first Asian war, so we sent messages to them and continued to try to knock the Americans out. After a few turns, the Americans had their backs to the wall and were suing for peace. It was fortuitous timing for them, since we had reached the conclusion that once we had knocked the Americans out we would fall to Manchuria. We accepted their offer, and used the messages to try to organize a push against Manchuria while we started taking territories from the dropped Africans.
The third peaceful interval (turns 25-30)
Although the longest in the game, the breather appeared to be short (Europe and America weren't really fighting, but left each other on the enemies list and realigned the border while the terms were being worked out via messages). The highlight was the discovery that the Africans had not actually dropped. They hit Manchuria with everything they didn't transfer to us and then finally dropped out. It turned out that for each unit that we lost defending the Africans in the first Asian war, we ended up receiving 20 to 30 back as they exited the game, bringing us up to near material parity with Manchuria for the first time since turn one. It was a spectacular example of the possibilities when somebody is grateful for you coming to their aid in their time of need.
The second Asian war (turns 31-33)
Europe and Manchuria launched simultaneous attacks against each other. The tactical damage to both sides was slightly in Manchuria's favor while the strategic damage was in Europe's favor. Central America also intervened against them to a small amount. After only two turns of fighting, Manchuria stopped moving, leaving relatively undefended land routes to a mother lode of territories and significant numbers of missiles and antimissiles waiting to be captured.
The final peaceful interval (turn 34)
We started gobbling up the Manchurian territories and building up our new industrial base as fast as we possibly could. We were now significantly larger than the Central Americans. We still had to slog through huge Manchurian forces in the sea and we wanted to take care of them before having to fight the Central Americans. We also had much lower multipliers than might have been expected, due to heavy propaganda spending previously. We were hoping for a fairly long breather.
The second American war (turns 35-36)
In the event, we only received a minimal breather. Manchuria still owned a healthy chunk of territory when simultaneous attacks were launched by Europe and Central America. The Americans seemed to have placed all their hopes on a crushing surprise missile attack, and when the damage was proportionally equal they simply surrendered all initiative and went totally on the defense. It took a while for the game to finally end in our victory because either Manchuria actually was still playing, the Central Americans were waiting for Manchuria to be totally eliminated, or they didn't realize that you can make a drop from the game conditional on achieving at least your requested place. (All they had to do was request a drop for at least a tie for second, and they would quickly have finished tied with Lyon.) As it turned out they waited so long that we finally got fed up and Lyon no longer put in a conditional drop. That left Central America tied for third instead of tied for second.
There were four major decisions and a number of significant lesser decisions that allowed us to recover after such a disastrous start. The major decisions were: the east Africans, particularly Somalia, deciding they had to break off their war with the west Africans to fight the Asians, and continuing the battle long after losing their home countries; the Europeans sending everything they had to defend the Africans in the first Asian war; the west Africans spending their final turns transferring their units to the Europeans as a gesture of thanks for the earlier European aid to them and of defiance to Manchuria for attacking them again; and Manchuria finally giving up once he realized he was in for another long painful war. Some other significant decisions were: the northwest Americans opening a new theatre against the Asians; the Central Americans taking forever to actually take the South American territories; the Asians apparently thinking nobody playing in Europe would be crazy enough to send everything they had to the defense of another continent, leaving Europe denuded; Yakutsk dropping while he and his partner were by far the largest force in the game; Poland/Baltic States dropping when they lost their home countries; and our continually choosing dicey strategies that gave (admittedly low) chances of winning without risking immediate elimination.
Note from moderator: unfortunately, people choosing to drop out often make a huge difference in this game. It really makes the game more interesting for everyone if you either (1) play it to the bitter end or (2) at least spend your last turn putting the guy who "stabbed" you on your enemy list, and giving moveable forces to someone else who will be fighting the guy!
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