Pouch Deposits

The Editor and the Readership

Shall We...?

We only have a few deposits to lay before you this issue, so rather than bothering to set up a new topic for future discussion, I'm going to forego that and let you get right to the letters. This doesn't mean that I don't want you to go back and look at the previous issues and send in your contributions in response to the discussion topics offered in earlier Deposits columns. Quite the contrary. I'm hoping that by cutting to the chase this time, you might be all the more encouraged to do just that.

As you'll see, the deposits below cover a wide variety of topics, and they're all well worth reading.

Manus Hand

Mail Received Concerning Brahm Dorst's Challenge
in the S1997R Pouch Deposits

From Simon Szykman:

Brahm had challenged people to come up with the solution to a stalemate line puzzle. According to Brahm, there were between five and seven correct submissions sent to him.

In the last Deposits column, I had said that I found two solutions to the puzzle. Unfortunately, I later found a slight error in one of my solutions, so I only know of one solution. I then confirmed with Brahm that this was the same one he found. For those who were interested, the solution is presented below.

Who knows...maybe there is, indeed, a second solution and some determined strategist might figure it out. If not, my apologies for any frustration incurred by anyone looking for a second solution that wasn't there to be found.

Solution: The setup for Italy is F Wes, F NAf, F GOL, A Tun, A Pie, and the moves are as follows:

A Tun - Wes - Spa
F Wes C A Tun - Spa
F NAf S F Wes
A Pie - Mar

The convoyed attack to Spa and the attack on Mar cut support for an attack into GOL, so GOL is safe. The support of Wes guarantees that Wes is safe. Neither NAf nor Pie can be dislodged.

In this case, GOL is free to support the convoyed attack to Spa. If France plays correctly (by supporting Spa or having a supported attack into Spa using Por and Gas), the supported convoy will fail. However, if France makes a mistake and the convoy succeeds, Italy has destroyed a French fleet. If this happens, the stalemate line is lost, but Italy can again restore it by convoying Spa back to Tun via Wes the following move. Furthermore if Spa was taken in a Fall move, France can't rebuild for another year even if he retakes Spa in the Spring. This may or may not give Italy some room to work against France in the coming year, depending on what other units Italy and France may have.

Also note that using F NAf-MAO instead of F NAf S F Wes does not yield a solution to the puzzle because the convoy to Spa does not cut support for an attack on Wes since that fleet is being used in the convoy. Therefore, with F Naf-MAO, France could get through with F MAO-Wes, F Spa S F MAO-Wes.

Mail Received Concerning the Issue of Stabs and Timing,
Raised in an Earlier Pouch Deposits Article

From Chris Martin (TremewanC@aol.com):

Just catching up on the Pouch articles, and I noticed the discussion about stabs. Something often overlooked, I feel, is a stab for position. A one center stab which opens up your enemies rear, or flank -- especially when he is thouroughly engaged elsewhere -- is, I think, often overlooked as "not being worth it".

I can think of a number of examples, but very recently I stabbed Russia for Sevastopol in the fall, forcing him to disband a unit, after a pretty good R/T alliance. He was heavily engaged in Germany, while France and England were both still around 5/6 units. If he turned to face the threat in the rear, he'd lose his gains in the east. England smelled the Blood in the Water (Diplomacy players are better than Sharks at that!) and came after him as well. As of this writing, the game is still in progress, but so far it's worked out pretty well.

Just my two cents! Love the Zine!

Mail Received Concerning
David Rosen's Diplomacy and Game Theory

From Andy Schwarz (schwarz@haas.berkeley.edu):

I am in the process of reading your article "Diplomacy and Game Theory" from the Spring Retreat issue of Diplomatic Pouch. Since this looks to be an academic paper, I hope you won't mind me asking you some questions and making some suggestion, as one budding game theorist to another.

In the section "What Kind of Game is Diplomacy?" you state (by footnote 10), that all equilibria in two-person zero-sum games are equivalent and interchangeable. Do you mean that the are not pareto rankable? I do not have access (here at work anyway) to the source you cite on this.

By the way, I study Game Theory within an economic context. It looks like you are a political scientist. I wonder if "equivalent and interchangeable" is just Poly Sci jargon for "The Pareto frontier" or non-Pareto rankable, or if we have fundamentally different concepts of ranked equilibria.

Oh, and do you mean this to hold for only static games or dynamic games as well? I think looking at Diplomacy as anything but a long finitely repeated game (or a game with a certainty of ending but with only a small probability of doing so at any given turn, so it acts quasi-infinite) misses the boat.

I notice that in Footnote 12 you mention my little variant called "Hundred." it might please you to know that this game was developed, in part to allow for some experimental game theory work which I have yet to tackle.

Mail Received Concerning Life In General

From Dan Percival (d6nperc@msg.PacBell.COM):

I'll take a wild stab in the dark and assume you remember me. *grin*
Yes, I certainly do. Dan was a player in my very first PBEM game, which I think we all enjoyed very much. He and I talked in e-mail a lot after the game about variant creation.
I'm writing mostly because I'm finally back online and itching to play weird variants again. Any progress on Time Travel/Deja Vu Diplomacy?
(See what I mean?) Sadly, Dan, it just remains an idea in my mind. Maybe by broadcasting my failure to make it anything else, I'll be inundated with questions and forced to take some action. Or maybe not.
I see that Payola has grown and prospered, and I never lost interest in Prime Minister Lynley's Texan variant, I hope you know.
Lynley was one of my roles in the PBEM game I mentioned. A royal personage in the game mistook Paris, France for Paris, Texas, and soon a wild hair got into someone and a variant was created.
Out of my own self-important curiousity, I ran a search for ICFOS on r.g.d. from your incredibly great site, and found that someone was actually pulling together a game around the end of last year -- but the judge that it was forming on crashed. Do you think there might be interest out there if I were to start one up myself?
I bet so. Dan Shoham gave ICFOS a great plug in the his Diplomacy Academy article.
I hope all is going well....from all appearances, you've carved out a pre-emminent niche in the net.diplomacy, and it couldn't happen to a better person.
Aw, shucks (blush).

A Report from AvalonCon
From The Pouch's Own Simon Szykman

I tied for first in the gunboat Diplomacy tournament, as Italy no less. I shared a two-way draw with another person, just as I did at the WDC gunboat tournament in Columbus last year, but unlike there, this time the next best result was a three-way, so we won the tournament. Unfortunately, it was only a demonstration tournament, meaning that there were no awards or plaques given.

Italy is never a great power to play, but at least with press you can negotiate and/or lie your way to a good position. I find Italy hard to play in gunboat games since you can't talk your way into peace with anyone. I decided take a chance and bolt out of the starting gate with an aggressive opening.

I opened with Ven-Tri, Rom-Ven, Nap-Ion. As luck would have it, the gamble paid off and not only did he move out of Tri, but he moved Vie-Bud as well. Since my army in Tri could retreat to Vie if dislodged, this meant that I didn't need to protect Tri, which also meant that I could move Ven-Tyr. That left Ven open for a build (putting three armies on Tri in S1902) and left Austria with no builds in 1901.

Still playing riskily/aggressively, I decided not to take Tun in 1901, since I was getting a build anyway, so that I could use the fleet in Ion to move to Gre and bounce Turkey there. A strong Turkey was my biggest threat, knowing that Austria was already limping in 1901. The bounce left Turkey with only one build in 1901 instead of two. I was hoping that a weak Turkey would be an appealing target for Russia, who would then attack. That didn't happen, but because he only got one build, I was able to keep him bottled up in the Eastern Med for several years. We both built a second fleet in 1902, whereas if he had built two fleets in 1901, he'd have forced his way out before I could stop him.

France waited a bit too long to decide that he had to stop me or the game would be over. In fairness to him, it's risky to abandon one front for another in a gunboat game since you can't tell your enemy that you want to make up to stop the big guy from winning. In this case, it wouldn't have mattered too much. His enemy, instead of realizing that he should back off to let France attack Italy, took advantage of the opening and attacked, making it hard for France to stop me when he otherwise might have had a shot at it.

I fully acknowledge a fair amount of chance was involved in the first couple of years, but I'll take a little credit for playing a pretty good game. I got to 11 SCs before I went a year without a build.

As for the regular tournament, I had two eliminations and a one-center survival. Well, that's an improvement over my three eliminations at WDC. At this rate of improvement, I should be a Diplomacy Champion in four or five decades! Maybe I should stick to gunboat Diplomacy. It was fun, though. Sorry you couldn't make it, and I'm looking forward to WDC VIII in Chapel Hill, which I hopefully will make it to.

AvalonCon was very underrepresented by PBEM people. Actually, there were a lot of PBEM people, but they were all from the CAT23 Diplomacy community and not the r.g.d./judge community. I sort of wish that some of those people would get more involved with the newsgroup. It's two very similar communities of people who don't really talk to each other, and I think it's a pity.

I met our friend from The Pouch, Tim Richardson, who, incidentally, won a best Italy award. I also met Rick Desper, who was a very nice guy. It was nice to finally attach a name to the face, but I had to go and replace the mental image I had invented since he didn't look anything like that (though I have no idea why not). I met a couple of people whose names I recognized but just from browsing Dip-related web pages when I check out the search engines, not from actual correspondence via email or r.g.d. A couple of people recognized my name from The Pouch, but not nearly as many as knew yours. Whenever I mentioned The Pouch, I'd hear "Oh, Manus' site!"

Speaking of which, I wore The Pouch T-shirt for the gunboat tournament. It didn't draw as much attention as I had expected. I had expected to have a few people come up to me and say something about it, but they didn't. I didn't want to wear it for the regular tournament. I figured that if I'm trying to convince somebody to be my friend, the last thing he sees as I walk away should definitely not be the words "Stab you soon!"

Two other reports from AvalonCon can be found elsewhere in this current issue, so you may wonder why Simon's report is here in the Deposits. I put it here because he raised a few points that I thought merited comment. First, the description of his game as Italy is reminiscent of Leif Bergman's, Go Fasta Go Fasta Go Fasta, also located in this issue. Second, Simon mentions the Cat23 group, who just happen to be well-represented in this current issue as well. (I too wonder why the two PBEM communities [judge and non-judge] are not closer to each other, but happily I believe they are coming closer together.) And finally, although I'm proud that my name is known for my humble contributions, I'm a bit unhappy that Simon's isn't equally well known. I couldn't do it without him!

Mail Received Concerning
Payola Diplomacy

From Jeff Serandos (jserandos@pipeline.com):

I had an idea for an interesting Payola variant. Call it the The Incorruptible Man. At the start of the game, each player can secretly tab one admiral or general as unbribeable. As long as the unit survives, it does not accept any bribes and instead moves as ordered by the player. That's essentially it, although there can be plenty of variations on the theme. What do you think? Is there a Payola variant like this?
This is a new one indeed, and I like it. Perhaps, however, each player could select a single Incorruptible Man on each turn, rather than be limited to only one at the start of the game. For some reason (and since the theme seems to be references out of these Deposits to elsewhere in this issue), this idea brings to mind Simon's Arpiesse Diplomacy. Check it out and maybe you'll see why my tired mind made this connection, because at the time of this writing, I am too tired to figure out why.

Mail Received Concerning The Library of Diplomacy Tactics

From Graeme Ackland (gja@ph.ed.ac.uk):

I was just reading through the tactics problems and found the one that Manus calls his favorite -- asking why anyone would ever order thus:
Country1: Unit A SUPPORT <something>.
Country1: Unit B -> A.
The answers so far related to nullifying an unwanted support or trick an enemy. Here's another one: to establish a convoying fleet.
England: F lon
A Edi
F Iri
F nth
France: F eng
F Bre
A pic
F por
Russia: F NWS Germany: F ska
F nwy
England knows that Germany is about to attack Nth, that France will support but at not at the risk of losing Eng. Russia won't help Germany but is likely to try a sneak attack on Edi. Given this, it's not hard to see that the enemy moves will be:

Germany: F ska - nth
F nwy SUPPORT F ska - nth
France: F eng CONVOY A pic - Lon
F bre SUPPORT F eng
A pic - Lon
Russia: F NWS - Edi
What can England do to save Nth and hang onto Edi?

Iri is useless, and Edi cannot risk moving, so the only support for Nth is from London. But this is cut unless Nth is a "convoying fleet." This can (only?) be achieved by:

England: F Lon SUPPORT Nth
A Edi -> nth -> Lon
F nth CONVOY A Edi - Lon
An alternative that maintains position is F nth CONVOY A Edi-Edi; A Edi-Edi (I can't see any rule against this).
I was an observer in game "goofy" on the USEF judge, where it was conclusively proven that Edi-Edi is a valid convoy. In point of fact, the players executing the convoy sent the army completely around the island no less than six times (the judge wouldn't go for more -- it's line length was reached) before landing it back where it started. Actually, the piece de resistance was that the player making the move also ordered Lvp-Edi, so the whole convoy bounced. I don't know when I laughed harder at a Diplomacy move. If you ever have a chance, pull up a history of game "goofy"; I highly recommend it. --Manus

From David Caldwell's e-zine Festina Lente,
an excerpt from his personal history with Diplomacy

Around Christmas, (my family) received our regular dose of family letters from around the world. One such letter from a bunch of friends down in Texas mentioned in a sentence buried within the letter, Diplomacy and the Internet. My family had only recently gotten Internet access within the last month or so, so I went online and in the Alta-Vista web browser, typed in "Diplomacy." Within seconds, hundreds of links appeared pertaining to the game. Choosing one randomly, I chose the "Diplomatic Pouch." Accessing its Online Resources section, I went to the e-zine bank and e-mailed Rich Goranson, who as the GM and publisher of That's Armageddon. That was December 31. On January 1, he e-mailed me back and I got into my first PBEM game (Modern) and later signed up for African and Standard gunboat. As quickly as I had signed up for the games, I showed this newfound treasure to the FTF club and they were fascinated. Almost every night I was online looking at Diplomacy stuff on the Net. I ran across past issues of The Diplomatic Pouch's Zine, past issues of Diplomacy World and the Spring Offensive. Every time I came across a strategy article, I would print it off. So, at the end of January, I took all the articles and made a book out of it, which I donated to the club (it sits in a five-inch D-ring binder) and it is used to teach new players. It holds information from the fundamentals of Diplomacy, three "Openings" articles per country, the Diplomacy Hit Parade, stalemate stuff and the poem Juggernauty. I was even more interested, more like fascinated by, the hundreds of variants catalogued on The Pouch's variants page.

Well, there you have it. Another Deposits column. Yep, it sure is.