School of War Summer 2019

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dargorygel
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School of War Summer 2019

#1 Post by dargorygel » Thu Jun 27, 2019 6:55 pm

This is where Professors will lecture, beginning after 2 pm est on Friday, 28 June, 2019.

ALL are welcome, of course, to read this thread. However, unless you are an assigned Professor, please refrain from lecturing, pontificating, predicting, or making stuff up.

You are welcome to ask Professors questions relating to their lectures.

Be warned... if you try to act like a professor, in MY opinion... I'll delete your post. Respect the profs, the players, the mentors (TA's) and the site by allowing this school to run the way it is meant to run.

Thanks!

Our professors are Balki Bartokomous, Captain Meme, and JMO1121109.

This promises to be a grand episode in the saga of Schools of War! Thanks to all who are taking part.

Game Link: https://webdiplomacy.net/board.php?gameID=243130
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Balki Bartokomous
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Re: School of War Summer 2019

#2 Post by Balki Bartokomous » Fri Jun 28, 2019 8:00 pm

* Straightens bow tie.
* Makes finger guns at himself in the backstage mirror.
* Strides confidently on stage.

Class, I'm here to speak with you about war. Not the inane real-world stuff that politicians use to puff out their chests and act presidential. The serious stuff that plays out on a game board and decides who is actually better than everyone else.

I'm sure I'll have things to say when I can see moves on the board, but let me begin with a few preliminary suggestions about what you should be doing now:

(1) You are about to play a game with six strangers, in which you all basically decide together who should win. Be likeable. Be entertaining. Be direct. Be considerate. Be flexible. Act like you are speed dating. That's basically what you are doing.

(2) You win if you can get all the other pieces on the board to move away from you and towards someone else. Much more important than getting 3 builds, or 2 builds, is getting other people embroiled in wars that will require them to send their units away from you. If you do that, the centers just kind of wash over you like a romance novel waterfall. So, get them embroiled in wars that will do that.

(3) My animating principle in opening press (and most press) is this: make other people feel like their game will go better if your game goes better. That means that I often talk about how much I love the alliance of [insert my country here] and [insert their country here]. That means I show concern when I hear that someone else might be coming for them because "the last thing I want is for [insert their country here] to be overrun by [insert direction I want them to go]." And that means that I am very interested to hear any ideas that they have.

I apologize if I am too verbose. If you feel overwhelmed by the length of my press, I suggest that you skip over all of the drivel that comes from the "Non-Balki" Professors. None of them know anything useful unless they too are reading my posts.
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Re: School of War Summer 2019

#3 Post by dargorygel » Fri Jun 28, 2019 8:14 pm

Thanks Prof Balki
Remember... players do NOT post here.
Observers can discuss lecture but NOT the actual game... nor can they lecture themselves.

The School of War Game Has Begun!
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Re: School of War Summer 2019

#4 Post by dargorygel » Fri Jun 28, 2019 9:01 pm

(and be sure to +1 our Profs... other than the 'checks that are in the mail,' THAT is how they are paid...)
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Re: School of War Summer 2019

#5 Post by Percy Williams » Fri Jun 28, 2019 10:48 pm

dargorygel wrote:
Fri Jun 28, 2019 9:01 pm
(and be sure to +1 our Profs... other than the 'checks that are in the mail,' THAT is how they are paid...)
[click-click]
Perhaps "checks that are in the mail" is a euphemism for... Checks that are in the mail.
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Re: School of War Summer 2019

#6 Post by Carl Tuckerson » Fri Jun 28, 2019 11:38 pm

Balki Bartokomous wrote:
Fri Jun 28, 2019 8:00 pm
(2) You win if you can get all the other pieces on the board to move away from you and towards someone else. Much more important than getting 3 builds, or 2 builds, is getting other people embroiled in wars that will require them to send their units away from you. If you do that, the centers just kind of wash over you like a romance novel waterfall. So, get them embroiled in wars that will do that.
Love this. Such a simple heuristic--where are the units and what direction is each player's force moving?--that tells you so much about how the game is developing and how you can make it develop. Great stuff.

My background is in gunboat. In gunboat games, there are a few contentious spaces on the first turn--English Channel, Burgundy, Piedmont, Tyrolia, Galicia, Black Sea--that multiple players either try to take themselves, or must consider the ramifications of another player moving there. Of course, in gunboat you can't talk through the contentious nature of those spaces...

...but here you can. If you're a country for whom one of those spaces matter, what are you looking for in the press of other countries for whom those spaces matter to inform how you approach those spaces?



[p.s. apologies in advance if my questions/posts toe the line toward commentary, I frequently tend toward overexplaining things]
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Re: School of War Summer 2019

#7 Post by jmo1121109 » Sat Jun 29, 2019 12:09 am

Ladies and Gentleman, so begins the 2019 Summer School of War. Thank you all for attending our school, and for entering a very different game experience from what you're used too. Our commentary will most likely impact the outcome of this game, we will critique your moves, and you will come out the better player for it.

Syllabus:
  1. Intro
  2. Opening Orders
  3. Public Press
  4. Private Press
  5. Board Awareness
  6. Conclusion
Intro:
A bit about us as professors, Balki is one of the top ranked players here, he's ranked number 1 I believe over on Playdip, and has made it to the final board at the World Diplomacy Championship's for Face to Face Players. He is known for his smooth press, which frequently includes raps and poetry. On webip Balki has win/draw percentage of 30/40 for a total positive outcome of 70% in classic press games.

Captainmeme is known across various sites as one of the better analyzers of games. His commentary on various final tables is fantastic and thoughtful. He has an amazing grasp of tactics on the classic map, as well as multiple variants over on vDip where he admin'ed for a number of years making him skilled at answering questions varying from complex to basic from their member base. On webdip captain has a win/draw percentage of 3/67 for a total positive outcome of 70% in classic press games.

I have broken the top 5 in webdiplomacy's GhostRating system and have one of the highest win/draw percentages in classic games you'll find, winning over a third of my games. My press is self admittedly my weakest area of my game but I make up for it in tactics. I've professor'ed in several School of War's in the past, and have recently mentored several skilled players to wins in their games. On webdip I have a win/draw percentage of 33/37 for a total positive outcome of 70% in classic press games.

Our tying net positive scores of 70% win/draw in classic press are some of the highest you will find among players in any community, and our goal during this game is to give you the tools and strategies you need to get your ratio far above the absolutely max of 14% wins that average would be if every game ended in a solo.

Opening Orders:
There are a couple of key points that I want to make in regards to the opening turn. The first point is simple. Do not enter orders until you have spoken to everyone on the board. You should not be choosing a move set based on how you like to play a country, and if you're playing on a site that does not hide order indicators or if you're playing face to face, entering orders early is a sign to everyone else that future press with you that turn may not impact your moves.

It's critical that everyone on the board believe that you are going to take what they say seriously and consider their offers, especially on this opening turn as you work to make your first impression. So I strongly urge the 2 of you who had orders entered within 30 minutes of the game starting to break that habit!

You may not realize it, but selecting those initial moves can bias you towards making the right alliances for you based on the press you get back.

Public Press
Secondly, use the global chat! At the very least, wish everyone luck, make the game feel lighthearted at first, this can be your first impression to everyone so utilize this tool you have available in the game. Public press can be an extremely powerful tool, and while you might not fully utilize it until further in the game, it's something you should at least use for opening greetings to your fellow players.

Private Press
Third, talk to every single person. England and Turkey should be exchanging messages this opening turn. And your press should be crafted to what you're looking for in return. You can be intentionally vague or intentionally detailed in what you'd like to see in a relationship with each country on the board. If you're opening press with someone who isn't neighboring you, you can at least agree to keep an information line going with that person. Some games you'll never get anything useful as Turkey from England, but in other games you might get a life saving tip if you've been friendly and Russia has rubbed them the wrong way.

Now, what do I mean about intentionally vague or detailed. Examples of this would be:
Hey England, France here, I really love E/F alliances, would you be interested in working together?
vs
Hey England, France here, I think if we kick off this game allied closely we can get you Belgium this spring, in return you can support me into Munich the following turn and we can go from there.
(obviously this is not a good default strategy because German would have to really mess up for Munich to be vulnerable to this, but you get the point).

You may not have to worry about this now, but as you get more experienced you'll find that altering the level of detail you go into can be key to disguising your own skill level in anonymous games. Starting off slightly vague can give you more flexibility in replying once you have a better read of the player.

I strongly encourage all the players in this game to share their opening press with their mentors so your mentor can help you understand some of the subtleties of the press and look for some common warning signs from other countries.

Board Awareness
The last point I want to make is you should not be focusing on only your neighbors. One of the most critical factors in a diplomacy game is understanding that the board has several different key zones for a player to watch. The first key zone is your immediate area. For Turkey this includes what Austria, Italy, and Russia are going to do. For France this includes England, Germany and Italy. Every country has a localized set of awareness that they need to focus on. And this is the area that most new players are decent at understanding. The other critical area of awareness is awareness of the entire board and it's key spots. In year 1 these are:

1. Is Germany going to let Russia into Sweden?
2. Will Turkey and Russia bounce in the black sea, if so was the bounce planned?
3. Will Italy or France take Piedmont?
4. Will England or France take the English Channel, and if they bounce, was it planned?
5. Does France or Germany or England position 2 units on Belgium?

Asking these questions (and you ideally want to know the answers before the phase turns) will help you understand the entire flow of the board. You need to be aware of how different openings on the opposite side of the board can change your plans and how to adapt. If Turkey and Russia plan on allying, but England opens North and Germany opens to Prussia then those plans probably need to be reconsidered. Awareness of the entire board is critical. You should always be aiming to not be surprised by the moves of a single player on the board.

Conclusion
That concludes my opening lecture. If at any point you have questions on slang or abbreviations used by us professors ask your mentor's and if they don't know they can privately pm us.

Best of luck to you all (though luck shouldn't play any role in this game).
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Re: School of War Summer 2019

#8 Post by jmo1121109 » Sat Jun 29, 2019 12:19 am

Balki Bartokomous wrote:
Fri Jun 28, 2019 8:00 pm
* Straightens bow tie.
* Makes finger guns at himself in the backstage mirror.
* Strides confidently on stage.

I apologize if I am too verbose. If you feel overwhelmed by the length of my press, I suggest that you skip over all of the drivel that comes from the "Non-Balki" Professors. None of them know anything useful unless they too are reading my posts.
Maybe if you spent as much time practicing your press as you did your wit your win percentage would beat mine :smirk:

Friendly taunting aside everyone, you've got a good combination of professors here, and a great group of mentors too. So please please please invest your time in the game because you don't get opportunities to learn from a group like this often!
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Re: School of War Summer 2019

#9 Post by jmo1121109 » Sat Jun 29, 2019 12:33 am

Quick Note: announcing where you live, if outside of the US can go a long way towards letting people figure out who you are and go right to your profile to see your favorite opening moves. Strongly consider masking that until after year 01 in anon games
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Re: School of War Summer 2019

#10 Post by Balki Bartokomous » Sat Jun 29, 2019 12:50 am

* glances down at watch.
* conveys general state of unimpressedness with his eyes and jawline.
* sneaks a caress of his own chiseled forearm.

Students, I understand that transforming my general comments into action may be difficult, especially when there is a reasonable chance that your competitors may read this text as well. For that reason, I am going to provide some specific advice for each power.

I do not intend, by this, to provide a chapter on opening moves. For that, of course, read the immortal Richard Sharp. Nobody could do better, and I won't try. I still find myself frequently going back to read Sharp, even though I am now a handsome professor with chiseled forearms.

I will organize this advice, for each power, into one thing to consider, and one thing to avoid.

AUSTRIA
One thing to consider: So much depends on that pesky green boot. If he is the kind of neighbor who throws a monthly soiree, to which you're not invited, with loud music and obnoxious guests who mill about into the late hours (fuck you, Drezner family), your game becomes quite difficult, even if you're a master tactician. I like to keep Italy tame by pushing a central alliance. Get Germany involved in team building. Make Italy feel that, if he stabs you, he stabs the whole team.
One thing to avoid: Wait until the last moment to decide the Galicia question with Russia. It happens too often that Austria asks for his DMZ, Russia says "okay, fine," Italy casually asks Russia what he thinks of Austria, Russia casually says "he seems fine -- really nice looking forearms -- oh, also, he and I have a DMZ in Galicia..." * record scratch * screams of horror. NOOOOOOO! Now Italy moves to Trieste, confident it will be clear, and you're in for a difficult game.

ENGLAND
One thing to consider: For England, the game is so often won or lost based on the builds at the end of the first year. Here is your challenge: do everything you can to keep the number of fleets built in Brest, Kiel, Berlin, and the north coast of St. Petersburg to a minimum. Try for zero if you can. I'll even give you a shout out if you do! Make those deals now, while you have some leverage. If those guys don't build fleets, they cannot come get you later even if they want to.
One thing to avoid: Don't attack France out of the gates unless Germany and Italy are on board too. France is easily defended against an attack from two neighbors, and he can hang in okay against all three if he's smart. The name of the game is attacking people when they don't see it coming and are not in position to defend. An early attack on France rarely qualifies.

FRANCE
One thing to consider: Occupy England. That's it. Get him occupied. He's like the annoying law school roommate who likes to tag along with you to parties, even though he doesn't necessarily add anything. Occupy him! Anywhere but hanging over your shoulder! He has three choices, go after France, go after Germany, go after Russia. If you can get him to go in any other direction, you're going to have a very good game. Be generous with England. Give him carrots. Once he points in a different direction, it's very hard for him to turn around, and very easy to take back your carrots.
One thing to avoid: Drama. You're winning. You already have a corner. You already have two neutrals, with a solid shot at a third. You don't need to be breaking DMZs, forwarding messages, or stirring the pot. The final lyrics of La Marseillaise are literally "I figure we just grab our easy neutrals and see how things stand in 1902."

I'll provide my thoughts on Germany, Italy, Russia, and Turkey in a bit.
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Re: School of War Summer 2019

#11 Post by dargorygel » Sat Jun 29, 2019 12:57 am

Great start, Profs... and I am sure we'll hear from the Cap'n soon.
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Balki Bartokomous
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Re: School of War Summer 2019

#12 Post by Balki Bartokomous » Sat Jun 29, 2019 12:57 am

* Pats JMO on the head.
* Displays genuine sympathy

STATISTICS

Apologies, it is so rare that I have to introduce myself or recite my own accomplishments at these things any more.

* Waits patiently for Darg do it
* Rolls eyes
* Texts assistant to take this dump off the lecture circuit

I'm not sure where this JMO character is cherry picking his statistics. I have played most of my games at Playdiplomacy, and my statistics are here:
Rating:2557
Rank: 1
43 finished games
24 solo wins (55.81% solo rate)
11 draws (25.58% draw rate)
Feel free to ridicule them if you have authority to do so.
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Re: School of War Summer 2019

#13 Post by Durga » Sat Jun 29, 2019 1:12 am

Let's keep the egos out of the thread ;) you're all lovely and accomplished ok? Great stuff so far
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Balki Bartokomous
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Re: School of War Summer 2019

#14 Post by Balki Bartokomous » Sat Jun 29, 2019 1:31 am

Durga wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 1:12 am
Let's keep the egos out of the thread ;) you're all lovely and accomplished ok? Great stuff so far
* Pauses from task of distributing autographed headshots.
* Stares defiantly.
* Resolves to provide ever-so-suboptimal advice to Durga’s mentee.
* Smiles with satisfaction
* Resumes distributing autographed headshots.
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Re: School of War Summer 2019

#15 Post by Percy Williams » Sat Jun 29, 2019 3:02 am

Balki Bartokomous wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 1:31 am
Durga wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 1:12 am
Let's keep the egos out of the thread ;) you're all lovely and accomplished ok? Great stuff so far
* Pauses from task of distributing autographed headshots.
* Stares defiantly.
* Resolves to provide ever-so-suboptimal advice to Durga’s mentee.
* Smiles with satisfaction
* Resumes distributing autographed headshots.
[Click-Click]

(Well I need something for him to sign)
Also though, I'm very interested in JMO's statement that you use rap an poetry in your press. Can you elaborate on that at some point? (Specifically, how to use it well)
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Re: School of War Summer 2019

#16 Post by captainmeme » Sat Jun 29, 2019 3:24 am

Mornin' class!

Today we're going to be discussing openings. Not going into detail on opening press so much - I think my fellow professors have covered that for the most part - but specifically on what you should be thinking about when choosing your orderset for the season.

The Opening is the part of the game that's received the most analysis by far in terms of articles - in fact, if you go to the Diplomatic Pouch's Openings Library and enter pretty much any strategically viable moveset, you'll find that it's been named by someone out there and probably has an article or two if you google that name.

A mini-lesson inside the lecture here - don't be afraid to do this! If you're unsure of the pros and cons of a particular opening you want to try, look it up; I can guarantee every good player has at some point read up on strategy articles to improve their game.

That said, don't take everything they say as absolute truth. Always think about what's being said and think about whether it applies well to your preferred playstyle. Richard Sharp, the man who literally wrote the book on Diplomacy Strategy, considered the Austrian Hedgehog (F Tri-Ven, A Vie-Gal, A Bud-Ser or A Bud-Rum) to be the only consistently good Austria opening, but that was very specifically based around his lack of trust of other players. If you ask other high level players their opinion on the Hedgehog, you'll often hear opinions that if you have to play the Hedgehog, you've failed in your opening negotiations with the powers around you.

That applies to these lectures as well. Everything you see here is high level advice, but from time to time you might see pieces of advice that don't fit with your playstyle or your situation in the game. It's always worth strongly considering whether you'd benefit from adapting your playstyle to fit the advice, but occasionally you might come to the conclusion that it's not a piece of advice you should follow, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Experimentation is a huge part of growing as a player, and even if things turn out badly, as long as you learn from those mistakes it will have been worthwhile.

Anyway, on to the main part of the lecture:

What should I be thinking about in an opening?

Every power is fairly unique in the way it approaches an opening, but they all have one thing in common - how each power opens will telegraph something of its intentions to the other players. Even if your intention is to not commit to anything immediately, the other players will be seeing that and making judgements based on it. In this sense, you need to have an idea of how you're wanting to play the game right from the moment you enter your orders.

Let's take the English Channel as an example. Unlike the fleets on the coast of the Black Sea, which rarely have anything better to do than arranged bounce, both England and France benefit significantly from their fleets being available to go to the North Sea and the Mid Atlantic Ocean respectively, so you'll almost never see an arranged bounce here in 1901. 99% of the time, these two powers will agree to a demilitarized zone (DMZ) in this province.

But does it benefit both to stick to this DMZ? If you know your opponent is leaving it open, could it benefit you more to get the jump on them in S01? And if the answer to that last question is yes, why do we see so many empty Channels in 1901 in games?

The answer lies in what you want your moves to telegraph, and what position you want to be in negotiation-wise going into 1902. As England or France, jumping into the channel in S01 will usually give you a huge advantage in a war against them - if you can get support against them. Oftentimes the fact that you've made an aggressive opening will assist in getting that support, because you'll be going all in on a certain alliance and that certain ally will see that and (hopefully) like it - but not always. Because of the way support works, with defenders holding a province in an equal strength fight, it's incredibly difficult to win a 1 on 1 war with equal forces, even if you get the jump on your opponent. If you end up in a 1 on 2 war, with Germany joining your opponent, you'll be in a horrible spot - and by making the move into the channel, you've given Germany the power to decide who comes out on top.

Let's take this scenario a step further and say France has moved to English Channel and Picardy, ready to convoy into Wales to set up for the perfect attack on England. England mistakenly trusted France with the DMZ, so opened to North Sea, Norwegian Sea, and most importantly, Edinburgh, leaving him without a unit to block said convoy. Germany has played the standard Ruh/Den/Kie opening, and Russia has sent her Mos army south, so while England is in a bad spot, he's not facing an attack from the Russkie.

Now say you're given the opportunity to jump into this game as any of the three western powers. Which one do you pick?

England's obviously out unless you're deliberately looking for a challenge. Picking England is choosing the worst of both worlds - they're obviously in a bad tactical position, and unless they can convince France to abandon what would be an extremely effective attack against them, they don't have a choice on who to side with either.

Despite France appearing to have the better offensive position and the easier job pushing into England, the vast majority of high level players would choose Germany here. That's because Germany is in the position everyone wants to be in in the earlygame - having both neighbours wanting to make that alliance with Germany outweighs any tactical advantage France has, because he is both relatively safe since France and England aren't allying, and can dictate the course of the earlygame to best fit what's best for himself going forward.

That's why the Channel is successfully demilitarised so often. Being aggressive right off the bat can work; it can work extremely well if you get that alliance you're looking for - but you need to be sure you can get that alliance, and be aware that you're giving a lot of power to the player you're trying to ally with. Keeping to a DMZ is a good way to build trust with a player more slowly while not alienating your other potential ally - and the majority of the time, this will be the better decision. The rewards are lower, as you'll likely be slower taking out the player you decide to go against, but the risks are also lower, and if you want to consistently do well you shouldn't be taking risks hugely often - or at least, not until you've learned how to read into opening press to the degree that you can be confident someone will ally with you.

Before I close the lecture, I'm going to quickly mention that it helps to not be too non-committal. Keeping DMZs is a good way to build trust, but playing an opening like the French one that sends every unit towards Spain is a good way to tell your opponents that you really don't want to make a choice, which in turn tells them you aren't that serious about wanting to be their ally. If you play something like this, you need to be explicit about what your intentions are for working with them looking further ahead - make sure you strongly present the opening as part of a longer-term strategy that involves siding with them. This is obviously useful regardless of whether you're playing a non-committal opening or not, but it's essential if you're not doing anything that will outright show them you want to work with them in the first year.

In summary, for lazy students who need a tl;dr:
  • Don't be afraid to use online resources for help on strategy.
  • Don't be afraid to go against what the professors are telling you at times, as long as you're prepared to learn from it if it goes badly.
  • Aggressive openings are risky and give the player you want to ally a huge amount of power. Don't play them unless you're absolutely sure said player will work with you.
  • It helps to present other players with a longer term strategy than just opening moves, and it's essential to do so if you're not actively making moves in the first year that show you want to work with them.
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Re: School of War Summer 2019

#17 Post by peterwiggin » Sat Jun 29, 2019 3:30 am

Balki Bartokomous wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 1:31 am

* Pauses from task of distributing autographed headshots.
* Stares defiantly.
* Resolves to provide ever-so-suboptimal advice to Durga’s mentee.
* Smiles with satisfaction
* Resumes distributing autographed headshots.
I didn't get an autographed headshot :cry:
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Re: School of War Summer 2019

#18 Post by jmo1121109 » Sat Jun 29, 2019 3:32 am

On the topic of Captainmeme's post, I have compiled a rather lengthy and diverse list of various resources available to new players. I recommend perusing it when you some spare time.

viewtopic.php?f=6&t=37
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Re: School of War Summer 2019

#19 Post by captainmeme » Sat Jun 29, 2019 3:49 am

Carl Tuckerson wrote:
Fri Jun 28, 2019 11:38 pm
My background is in gunboat. In gunboat games, there are a few contentious spaces on the first turn--English Channel, Burgundy, Piedmont, Tyrolia, Galicia, Black Sea--that multiple players either try to take themselves, or must consider the ramifications of another player moving there. Of course, in gunboat you can't talk through the contentious nature of those spaces...

...but here you can. If you're a country for whom one of those spaces matter, what are you looking for in the press of other countries for whom those spaces matter to inform how you approach those spaces?

There are a few things to take into consideration here. Each of the mentioned spaces are very different in terms of the metagame and how likely players actually are to enter them, and I'd have different approaches to deciding what to do about most of them.

Common to all though is that your best source of information is always going to be other players. If Italy is going to Tyrolia, they've probably told Russia at the very least, maybe even Turkey too. If Germany is going to Burgundy, they've told England. If Austria or Russia is going to Galicia, they've probably told Turkey and potentially Italy as well. These kind of DMZ breaks are most effective as starting points for alliances, so the information will be out there - and if a person with that information thinks that working with you is a good option, they'll give you it and save you. In the end, it boils down to trying to make as many people as possible feel as good about you as possible - if you've succeeded in doing this, you can tell which spaces are likely safe by what you're not hearing from other players.

Being able to tell when someone's feeling good about you is something that comes with just playing enough games. Oftentimes someone who's not feeling great about you will be giving you colder or less detailed messages, but recognising these isn't a skill I can teach (maybe my fellow profs have a different opinion on that).
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captainmeme
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Re: School of War Summer 2019

#20 Post by captainmeme » Sat Jun 29, 2019 3:52 am

This is a big part of why it's important to talk to everyone on the board. The more people you have effective communication lines with, the more information you're going to hear, and some of that is going to be immediately useful to you.
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