Winning as Russia in Gunboat

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swordsman3003
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Winning as Russia in Gunboat

#1 Post by swordsman3003 » Wed May 20, 2020 11:56 pm

My friends, I've published a new article today. It is part 1 of a two-part series. In these articles, I discuss how I was able to get a solo win as Russia in a high level gunboat match.

This is maybe 30% my musings on Russian strategy in gunboat, and 70% After Action Report. Not as thorough as my journals, but more detailed than your typical AAR.

A Winning Strategy for Russia in Gunboat Diplomacy
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mhsmith0
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Re: Winning as Russia in Gunboat

#2 Post by mhsmith0 » Thu May 21, 2020 1:50 am

Great read, thanks!

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Re: Winning as Russia in Gunboat

#3 Post by AnimalsCS » Thu May 21, 2020 2:30 am

Great article, can't wait for the part 2! Was wondering if this game changes your thoughts on the solo win plan for Russia in any way?

For example, I noticed that you didn't conquer Norway but did conquer Venice. It seems to me that for Russia to succeed in the south an Italian ally is usually necessary. Ultimately those Italian gains would need to be captured so perhaps Venice is a probable target for Russia to get to 18? In the north, on the other hand, one of the three western powers likely builds enough fleets to hold most of England and Scandinavia. Perhaps it is a more infrequent scenario that Russia can successfully capture the northern SCs vs the southern ones?
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Re: Winning as Russia in Gunboat

#4 Post by Doug7878 » Thu May 21, 2020 10:01 am

Nice job of taking maximum advantage of a good situation *

* Italy attacks Austria while Turkey is looking for an RT alliance
* England attacks, you, France and Germany in succession and ends up fighting everyone

Great finish for the solo.

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Re: Winning as Russia in Gunboat

#5 Post by PiC » Thu May 21, 2020 10:16 pm

I am surprised you dislike Russia so much, I personally like playing Russia and think Austria and Turkey are the worst draws in gunboat. It used to be that Austria was triple teamed nearly every game by Italy, Russia, and Turkey... Now it is only about 50% of the games which means that the other 50% Turkey is being attacked by Italy and Austria and can't get out of that corner. However, I will say that if you are in the 50% where you aren't being triple teamed they are fun to play.

I would personally take England and Russia over Austria and Turkey any day of the week. Which makes me think it would be a cool option when creating a game to "choose country" when you join because if no one likes those countries I would be happy to play them.

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Re: Winning as Russia in Gunboat

#6 Post by Claesar » Fri May 22, 2020 9:38 am

PiC wrote:
Thu May 21, 2020 10:16 pm
... Which makes me think it would be a cool option when creating a game to "choose country" when you join because if no one likes those countries I would be happy to play them.
Chris Martin has developed software (for FTF games) that allows each player to submit a country preference (i.e. FTIGREA) and then assigns each player the country highest on their list that's still available in their game. Priority goes to players lowest in the current standings.

I doubt we will ever have a similar thing though. We want you to practice with all countries. You clearly need more practive with Austria. I don't get teamed in 50% of my games.

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Re: Winning as Russia in Gunboat

#7 Post by PiC » Fri May 22, 2020 11:27 am

Claesar wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 9:38 am
I don't get teamed in 50% of my games.
I was saying more in general than personal. I would say that in about 98% of gunboat games (that don't get drawn early) either Turkey or Austria is eliminated or left with a unit or two. I think it is extremely rare that both countries thrive in a gunboat game. Maybe you have a very different experience as this is just what I have observed.

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Re: Winning as Russia in Gunboat

#8 Post by swordsman3003 » Fri May 22, 2020 2:04 pm

PiC wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 11:27 am
I think it is extremely rare that both countries thrive in a gunboat game. Maybe you have a very different experience as this is just what I have observed.
What’s confusing here is not your point that Austria and Turkey rarely both do very well in a gunboat game. That is 100% a fact for (in my opinion) rather obvious reasons.

What’s unclear is what inference you are drawing from this well-known fact. It’s also rare for Russia and Austria to both do well in the same gunboat match. By degrees most neighboring powers do well by consuming their neighbors, even in press diplomacy (although this is intensified in gunboat to be sure).

I never said I don’t like getting assigned Russia. I said that Russia very rarely wins in high-level gunboat (this is fact you can’t refute by reference to your personal preferences or experiences), to the point where some (including myself) questioned whether a Russian solo win is even possible in a well-played match between strong players. The distinction between “I like to play Russia” and “Russia has a better chance of a solo or a draw than Austria and Turkey” is huge (and not subtle either!).

I wrote all about this in another article on my blog.

This is a tier list, not a personal preference list (Italy is my favorite, followed by Germany, neither of which I listed at the top).

The last two times I played Austria. I got solo wins doing basically the same strategy. If you know what you are doing and have a decent early game, Austria is actually pretty damn good at getting solo wins.

If you want to know why I say Turkey is strong, read my article.

I would never, ever expect Austria or Turkey to do well in the same match. That doesn’t bother me at all. Having a natural enemy like that is something you can just play around.

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Re: Winning as Russia in Gunboat

#9 Post by RoganJosh » Fri May 22, 2020 2:29 pm

A lot can be said about Russia's position in gunboat.

In low level games, France and Turkey are the strongest powers. To counter that, it's very common to see EG and/or AI in high level games.

Russia doesn't appear in this - very sketchy - description of current meta. And Russia is, in my view, the loser-loser-loser. EG's anti-French alliance is also anti-Russian. AI's anti-Turkish alliance is also anti-Russian. But Russia does not have the benefit of the strong original positions of France and Turkey.

On top of this, a competent AI is stronger than the standard RT. So AI doesn't really have any incentives to change the meta. T, on the other hand, has incentives to try something different. What is that different? It's to stage an early attack on R in order to entice the AI alliance to break.

What can Russia do? I don't know. I think that one of Russia's problems, in terms of turning the meta around, is that its position has a lot of potential. What I mean is, if one of the other powers give more space to Russia, then it's a very viable option for Russia to refuse the alliance and instead take advantage of the given space. Turkey gives you Black Sea? Convoy to Ankara and you'll have a very nice game. Austria gives you Galicia? Then take Vienna and you have a shot at all of Austria. England puts a lonely fleet in Norway? Build a fleet on the north coast of St. Petersburg.

It's a kind of paradox. Russia, in the meta, needs more options and alliances. But in any separate game, if a power offers an alliance, Russia can gain more from refusing it. I guess I just can't see the meta change in Russia's favor anytime soon.
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Re: Winning as Russia in Gunboat

#10 Post by AnimalsCS » Fri May 22, 2020 5:38 pm

RoganJosh wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 2:29 pm
EG's anti-French alliance is also anti-Russian. AI's anti-Turkish alliance is also anti-Russian. But Russia does not have the benefit of the strong original positions of France and Turkey.
I think there is a bit more nuance here that you skip over. In the EG alliance against France, England is indeed anti-Russian, but a good German player in my opinion should be pro-Russian, as Russia's gains in Scandinavia are usually not threatening to Germany, a weaker England means an easier conquest for Germany should the conquest of France be successful, Russia cannot easily contest Germany for England if France has been dealt with. Germany is only anti-Russian in the late game where control of Scandinavia is important.

Similarly, in the AI alliance against Turkey, Austria should be anti-Russian as they are neighbors, but Italy in my opinion should be pro-Russian. A strong Austria can attack Italy after Turkey is dealt with, but a strong Russia cannot. Italy can also capture Turkish centers controlled by Russia relatively easily once both Austria and Turkey are dealt with.

So in the late game, a large Russia has no allies, but in gunboat this should be true for any large power.
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Re: Winning as Russia in Gunboat

#11 Post by Claesar » Fri May 22, 2020 9:25 pm

PiC wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 11:27 am
I was saying more in general than personal. I would say that in about 98% of gunboat games (that don't get drawn early) either Turkey or Austria is eliminated or left with a unit or two. I think it is extremely rare that both countries thrive in a gunboat game. Maybe you have a very different experience as this is just what I have observed.
http://www.webdiplomacy.net/board.php?gameID=284017
http://www.webdiplomacy.net/board.php?gameID=282393
http://www.webdiplomacy.net/board.php?gameID=276042
http://www.webdiplomacy.net/board.php?gameID=275562
http://www.webdiplomacy.net/board.php?gameID=251515
http://www.webdiplomacy.net/board.php?gameID=251514
http://www.webdiplomacy.net/board.php?gameID=245064
http://www.webdiplomacy.net/board.php?gameID=245036
http://www.webdiplomacy.net/board.php?gameID=242538
http://www.webdiplomacy.net/board.php?gameID=242535

I checked my last 60 GBs. 16.7% successful A/Ts. My experience is different. Though I do notice that in most of these, I'm either A or T.
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Re: Winning as Russia in Gunboat

#12 Post by Tom Bombadil » Sun May 24, 2020 11:42 am

Great insight as always swordsman.

swordsman3003
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Re: Winning as Russia in Gunboat

#13 Post by swordsman3003 » Sat May 30, 2020 2:58 am

Okay I finished the second part. I hope you all enjoy!

A Winning Strategy for Russia in Gunboat Diplomacy, Part 2
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Re: Winning as Russia in Gunboat

#14 Post by AnimalsCS » Sat May 30, 2020 4:33 am

Very interesting read once again and congrats on the well-deserved win. Do you mind elaborating more on what led you to believe Italy would move to Adriatic Sea on that one turn instead of Eastern Mediterranean?

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Re: Winning as Russia in Gunboat

#15 Post by swordsman3003 » Sun May 31, 2020 2:16 am

Please bear in mind that this conversation has been edited down for focus and readability. However, the included statements are copy-pasted from the conversation I had with my student (other than the square bracketed clarifying addition).

BrotherBored: "I don’t have my draw vote up
Italy always moves in one direction
And I’m the only player that hasn’t entered orders. Italy entered quickly.
Quick orders =everything one direction
What do I think ION is going to do
What if I think ION is moving to ADR
I think what I want here is a really solid guess on what ION will do"

Student: "why?"

BrotherBored: "Because i can can outmaneuver the unit
Move or hold my pieces correctly"

Student: "if I peeked his orders and knew he put in ION -> ADR, then I'd order AEG -> ION and Gre -> Alb
as far as gambling on Ion -> Adr, if I'm in Ion ad Alb, then I can protect Trieste, and prod Adr and Venice falls
while lightly threatening Nap/Tun and protecting Greece
this fails spectacularly if he goes to EMS"

BrotherBored: "Whatever I just have to guess
And that Italy will think it is better to defend than to send a raider
And try to get ION into a defensive position or maybe even just hold"

Student: "I would totally send a raider"

BrotherBored: "This Italian player is nothing like you at all"

Student: "yeah
so I'd say back your reads?"

------------------
Then the turn happened
------------------

Student: "[You] read Italy perfectly"

BrotherBored: "How do you feel about my read on the Italian"

Student: "I'm very impressed"

BrotherBored: "Does my reasoning process make sense to you though? in the past we've had a lot of moments where you were baffled by how I read someone as making poor moves that I countered"

Student: "I don't get it (I also haven't been watching as closely as you)
I don't see how you read Italy
I do see how you read that Italy would turn around
the timing on his quick orders makes sense
but I don't see how you read Adriatic vs EMS"

BrotherBored: "This Italian is a simpleton.
Great alliance player. But a simpleton.
Just moves everything in one direction"

Student: "ah
ok, that I get
but EMS is that direction
he was willing to overextend to WMS but not EMS when it is correct?"

BrotherBored: "Okay but this turn, the direction is "defend myself" "

Student: "AHHH
moves with 1 purpose"

BrotherBored: "yeah maybe that's the better way of describing my read, thank you"

Student: "got it, he sets a goal "my ally" "my enemy" "attack" "defend"
and does it"
single-mindedness"

BrotherBored: "Yeah that's right
yes.
my Italian hat, for this game, is that he has one single thought and directs all pieces towards that thought
which I was describing as "one direction" but I guess that was throwing you off, because literally yes that would be east"

Student: "ok, that's not an accent (hat) I've tried out before (at least not with that thought to it)"

BrotherBored: "here the direction is "into a ball" or something like that
I'm really hoping you can learn something here
because I was really confident of my reads (I was wrong on stp)"
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Re: Winning as Russia in Gunboat

#16 Post by AnimalsCS » Sun May 31, 2020 3:18 am

Ah okay that helps to explain your reasoning. I like the way your student summed up the reasoning. I haven't thought about putting players into psychological profiles based on their moves before but now that you've brought up the "one purpose" psychology I can imagine a number of other profiles as well.

That's a nice level-up for both Gunboat and Press diplomacy I think. I'll be keeping this in mind from now on.
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swordsman3003
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Re: Winning as Russia in Gunboat

#17 Post by swordsman3003 » Sun May 31, 2020 3:12 pm

@AnimalCS

Probably >50% of my gunboat training with this student has been about how to form a psychological profile of a given player based on their moves. Once you have an accurate profile, you can often predict nearly all of a player's moves.

That's why I keep track of whether I'm guessing a player's moves right or not. If I'm getting them right 90% of the time, I probably have the right profile. If I'm failing, then I don't have a good mental model for how that player thinks (and I create a new one based on what I have actually seen).

In our training, we've called the ability of articulating another player's hidden thoughts as "speaking in their accent" or "trying on their hat." Specifically, we use the technique of imagining the words that opponents are saying to themselves in their heads as they're making up their mind on what to do.

This can be a very effective technique for ANY game or competition, but especially in gunboat.

I suppose I should sit down and write an post about this in my blog, or maybe a series of posts about common psychological profiles.
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Re: Winning as Russia in Gunboat

#18 Post by Nikola Maric Eto » Sun May 31, 2020 3:25 pm

"I suppose I should sit down and write an post about this in my blog, or maybe a series of posts about common psychological profiles."

That would be interesting to read!
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Tom Bombadil
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Re: Winning as Russia in Gunboat

#19 Post by Tom Bombadil » Wed Jun 03, 2020 4:43 pm

You're site is great swordsman. Reading though lots of articles.
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Re: Winning as Russia in Gunboat

#20 Post by BunnyGo » Thu Jun 04, 2020 3:18 am

Claesar wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 9:38 am
PiC wrote:
Thu May 21, 2020 10:16 pm
... Which makes me think it would be a cool option when creating a game to "choose country" when you join because if no one likes those countries I would be happy to play them.
Chris Martin has developed software (for FTF games) that allows each player to submit a country preference (i.e. FTIGREA) and then assigns each player the country highest on their list that's still available in their game. Priority goes to players lowest in the current standings.

I doubt we will ever have a similar thing though. We want you to practice with all countries. You clearly need more practive with Austria. I don't get teamed in 50% of my games.
*IF* you ever get around to it, combining it with the method for weighting the bets with a fixed total would be interesting. It's possible to ask the players some questions, and then assign buy-in value to each country so that at those prices, every player has their preferred country.

To see how this is done, check out:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/201 ... lator.html

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