AvalonCon Musings

Ray Setzer

AvalonCon has come and gone again. While it may not be the biggest or best known Diplomacy tournmant, It has become the yearly FTF gathering for a number of the players who call CAT23 their Internet Diplomacy home. I go as much to play Diplomacy as I do to socialize once a year with people with whom I only communicate via email.

In brief, CAT23 is an Internet Diplomacy organization or club which currently counts approximately 200 players worldwide in the open general membership and another 60 in the invitation-only CAT23 Academy of Diplomacy. More detail can be found at the CAT23 front page.

Before the reader gets the impression that this article is a trumpet for my success at AvalonCon, let me shoot that particular horse right in the rump. I did not do well. I never do well at AvalonCon in fact. I think I'm a pretty decent player but in FTF games I fill the room with as much glory as a dead skunk. This is not to say that I did not distinguish myself however. I did receive an award and a rather distinctive and unique one at that. I received the "Hammered" Award.

The Hammered award is an interesting thing. It is given to the player who got clobbered worst, the quickest. As the recipent of this rather dubious award I had the distinction of losing six centers in one year. How one acquires this honor must be first prefaced with a bit of background.

As in any tournament, the goal of winning the game is secondary to fullfilling the goals required by the tournament rules. At AvalonCon, the tournament structure was set up so that it was best two out of three rounds. 30 points for a solo victory, 10 for a two-way draw, six for a three-way draw and I forget how many for other results but it was insignificant.

Now thirty points is a great deal and could very well determine a winner. Thirty points plus a three way would probably win. But a large two-way with a three- or two-way is a great deal easier to accomplish and affords enough points to beat a solo win that does not share in any three-ways. Such was the case at this Con in fact.

I point this out to illustrate the that overall style of play is predisposed to try and gain as many points through the safest method of play. This, of course, is the draw.

The normal course of events in a tournament round was for two or three players to form a strong alliance. To illustrate: in round one I played England and allied with France all game long; we participated in a nice three-way with Turkey.

As far as I know, on all other boards, this was the trend for the whole Con. Free-for-alls do not normally exist. Stabs, while not absent, are not a common event. Even when they do happen, they are often less a stab than a slow shift of power. Most games only go to about 1908 after eight hours of play. With drastic action being rare, most games tend to be a stately progress of alliance politics. As the deadline approaches, the surviving players sort things out and decisions on "who's in the draw" are made.

Now this has no direct bearing on the Hammered Award, but when I examine just how I played my rounds, it does shed considerable light on how this acheivement was made. In round one, I allied with France and stayed allied all game. I had chances to stab, but did not and got a three-way. In a game two I was Turkey. I allied with Austria of all people. I attacked Russia with some success (Rum and Sev) right off the bat, but I stabbed Austria about 1904 when our offensive bogged down a bit. By the end of the game I was reduced to five and excluded from the three-way. In round three I drew Sandy Wibble (last year's winner) as a neighbor and my Germany and his France attacked England. We did not gain spectacular success but neither were we failing. But again, as things looked like they were stalling, I up and stabbed Sandy. I got to eight centers but by 1906, as I was pushing German fleets into the Mediterranean to keep things from stalemating, my English ally clobbered me for four SC's and Sandy's raiders grabbed two. Can you say "decapitate"?!

So anyway, I'm sitting there thinking ('cause it seems I have some spare time to do it). "Why did I do so crappy again this year?" I did well in round one by playing a conservative, uninspired, by the book game. But in games two and three, I did not have any patience. I grew bored with the game as soon as the excitement of the opening moves turned to the early mid-game and it's "sit around and wait and see" phase. Without even thinking I, engaged in a bold move figuring that if someone moves first, someone else surely will make a move themselves. But no one ever did. And I should have known they would not. I've been to AvalonCon three times now. I know how things flow. Bold moves are only made towards the end, when one alliance is ended and three players have negotiated a three-way game.

So, in retrospect I should not at all be surprised to have received the "Hammered" award. My style of play was in direct contrast with the norm being used in the tournament. By stirring things up early I only called attention to myself, a bit of a sin on a board full of experienced players. It was really only a matter of time before I got truly clobbered.

Am I disapointed in the way the tournament went for me? Perhaps a little, but really only in that I needed to be hit over the head 99 times to realize the real game being played. I will display my "Hammered" plaque prominently, and next year I will sit at the tournament tables and be rather bored in the mid-game. But I probably won't get clobbered and in fact I'll probably do pretty well. Perhaps even a top ten finish.

Ray Setzer

If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author, click on the letter above. If that does not work, feel free to use the "Dear DP..." mail interface.