On the Top Board of vWDC 2020

by Mario Huys

This was the Top Board for the very first edition of the Virtual World Diplomacy Classic, a direct consequence of a year in which almost all Face-to-Face tournaments were cancelled or adapted to a virtual format because of the ongoing pandemic.

The Top Board, and in fact the whole tournament, was covered by the Diplomacy Broadcasting Network (or DBN for short). They unfortunately insist that you watch this on YouTube, so click the link in the video and you're set to go. Coverage of the Top Board starts at 1:25:50.

The recap retells the Top Board in the words of the participants, which may give some surprising insights that you may have missed just listening to the commentators. Go on and read what these brilliant minds had to say about their own play and that of their adversaries.

  • All Spring/Fall Maps
  • All Comments on Play
  • All Winter Maps

The Power Selection



Mario Huys Let's kick it off for real. All of you players, what are your thoughts on the power selection process, both at the time and now in hindsight?

Bill Hackenbracht Picked third to last and really thought I would end up picking third. It seemed, however, that everyone wanted to dodge Nicolas and myself, and I ended up picking first - France was an obvious choice, though in hindsight, maybe I would have been better off as Italy. 😉

Matt Crill My reasoning for picking after Bill and Nicolas was to first see what arena they chose. If Farren also chose before me then I would still pick 4th which still provides plenty of choices.
After seeing the top three selections, I wanted to be in the East away from a potential EF alliance. I selected Austria thinking that I could work well with Farren as Russia and whoever selected Italy. At this point, I was already thinking of focusing on Turkey.
In hindsight, I could have picked higher and gone with a safer choice to attempt being in a final draw. Given my second place ranking entering the top board, I should have been considering the 150% point bonus for the final tournament rankings instead of gambling with Austria.

Mario Huys The consensus so far is that picking higher might be preferential. Let's see if this trend continues.

Morgante Pell I didn't have any choice in the matter, but I was actually pleased with being assigned Turkey. It matched how I was planning to approach the top board very well (play fairly defensively at first and bide my time for dynamics to become clear).

Farren Jane I was hoping to get either England or France but also wanted a decent tiebreaker if it came up. (It came up! So in that regard I feel slightly vindicated for not just picking first.) I thought Bill would probably take one of those two, but I didn't think Nicolas would take the other. But I was happy to take Russia as a third pick because I'm comfortable playing the country.

Maxim Popov I was hoping to pick somewhat in the middle and think maybe choosing before Nicolas would have been better for that. I wanted to base my picks off of the few people before me still having a fairly wide choice. I choose Italy out of that and Turkey because Italy is one of my preferred countries and I don't feel like I play Turkey very well.

Peter McNamara I didn't really have a strategy when it came to selecting the order. When it was my choice to pick, I was never going to pick Turkey (too likely to get killed by an AIR early) and the choice between Germany and Italy was tough. I went for Germany because it was a western country and I could directly control the big names already in the west if the need arose, as opposed to needing others to do the work for me.

Spring 1901

Spring Map Comments
Spring 1901


Mario Huys Let's put up the first season. First contact. Who do you talk to, what do you tell them and how does it pan out?

Farren Jane My plan for turn one was pretty simple. I wasn't completely sure whether I wanted to work with Austria or Turkey initially but Austria came to me and told me that Italy was on board with him and we kind of came to an agreement on an AIR to take down Turkey. I spoke with Italy who agreed to do this so I went ahead with that plan. I tried to come to terms with Turkey as well just in case Austria was bluffing and made a pretty standard set of moves so that I wouldn't be in dire straits if Turkey or Austria decided to move against me.

Maxim Popov I had good initial conversations with everyone in the East. Austria and I spoke about me getting Trieste and he was not against it happening in the Fall. France and I agreed not to move against one another. I agreed to work in an AIR to take down Turkey but in reality wasn't really for or against it and wanted to see how things would play out. I planned to work with one of Austria or Turkey against the other at this point and had not yet come to any conclusions, although I was probably pulled towards working with Turkey due to having a good relationship with him from prior games.

Matt Crill I also had good initial discussions with everyone but did focus on arranging an AIR alliance and thought there was good buy-in from all parties. A bounce in Galicia was arranged with Farren and these Spring moves went as expected.
I offered Trieste to Maxim to help provide the important 5th unit to Italy for moving on Turkey but more importantly for him to protect against Bill assuming an EF alliance. I felt this would help solidify an AI alliance which I felt was especially important this game so that Maxim wasn't seen as a weak target for France.
I also had good opening talks with Morgante, but I assumed he would see the AIR forming so we didn't discuss much with the opening moves.

Peter McNamara As you can see from the moves, there are no surprises. There seemed no interest in the west in doing anything out of the ordinary in the opening so I made the standard moves.

Morgante Pell I talked to everyone in the East to start, but only Italy seemed interested/committed to a plan of working together. Austria and Russia were both willing to talk but neither were interested in committing to decisive plans against the other. Therefore I chose a relatively flexible/passive opening to see how diplomacy shaped up for the fall, with an eye towards Italy as my preferred ally.

Mario Huys Morgante - The move Smy-Ank, Ank-Bla is not often seen. It's as if you expect to enter Bla with the aim of destroying the Russian fleet either in Arm or Rum (through convoy) to set up the Steamroller. But in this case you knew that there was a bounce coming, right?

Morgante Pell Correct, Russia had requested the bounce so I knew that move would bounce. I chose this move because it maintains optionality: if Russia did decide on an RT, I could move Ank-Con / Smy - Ank, but I also have the option of Smy-Arm in the fall. I had also considered Smy-Arm but Austria wasn't willing to commit to an AT attack on Russia.

Bill Hackenbracht Peter (G) and I spoke briefly about an early assault on Nicolas (E). But, I was pretty hesitant about opening to the channel and previous experience with Peter has taught me not to get out of position near him. I offered the usual Mediterranean DMZ to Maxim in Italy, and spent the rest of the time getting a feel for the rest of the board.

Fall 1901

Fall Map Comments Winter Map
Fall 1901


Mario Huys Moving on to Fall and Winter 01. All neutrals get taken, but not always by the unit one would expect. Same with the builds, except one was waived (by France). What are the considerations there?

Farren Jane By this point I thought I had a stable alliance with Austria and Italy. Negotiations with Turkey weren't working out very well. Seeing Turkey's move of the army into Armenia, the attempted bounce in Rum, and the fleet into Black Sea I built to be aggressive against Turkey. I thought the move of Italy to Tri was negotiated and so didn't think anything of it.

Mario Huys Farren - The build of army Rome should have raised some red flags though. A hair in the butter?

Farren Jane Army Rome definitely raised red flags but I didn't know about that until the builds went through.

Peter McNamara Bill told me that he would build 1 fleet, 1 army and waive if he took BEL. With that I was willing to allow him into BEL (Nicolas had told me he wasn't interfering in BEL) to try and find a FG alliance, knowing that if instead I wanted to play an EG, BEL would be an easy target. From that point, my moves and builds are very boring. I was very unhappy to see the fleet in MAR and not BRE though.

Maxim Popov I took Tri as arranged with Austria, but instead of convoying to Tun as agreed I moved up to Ven. At this point I decided to attack Austria and see how much I could get. Looking back, Army Rome might not be very good for fighting Austria as it is difficult to move Ven and I expected Austria to expect me to fight them. Towards the end of the Fall negotiations, Bill told me that if I moved to Tyrolia he would not build a fleet in Marseilles, however I was already planning to move to Trieste. I don't recall whether or not I told him that, although if I did not I am not sure why as perhaps I could have convinced him to not build F Mar regardless. That build had me a bit worried. Sev was the other notable build from my perspective. I expected Farren to probably work with Matt as she had said she would, but I didn't expect the fleet there due to forcing the fight with Turkey.

Morgante Pell By the fall, negotiations with Russia had broken down enough that I felt fairly confident she would be likely to attack me. So I decided to move to Arm. The remaining question was over Austria—could I get him on side against Russia or not? I agreed to not bounce him in Greece and suggested he support me to Rum if he wanted the possibility of allying together.
My build was relatively straightforward—fundamentally Turkey needs two fleets, but Con was the optimal location for maximizing my defense against the obvious AR and also provided maximal flexibility moving forward.

Bill Hackenbracht Three build France is easy. Waive one unless Germany is in Burgundy. Of course, if Germany’s in Burgundy, you’re probably not getting three builds, but I digress.
I told England (Nicolas) and Italy (Maxim) “do X and I’ll not build a fleet in Brest/Marseilles.” I wasn’t sure what I’d do if they both kept their word, but fortunately Maxim didn’t. About what, I can’t be certain. Maybe I asked for a convoy to Tunis or him moving into Tyrolia?

Maxim Popov Yeah, you asked me to move to Tyrolia. Did I tell you that I wanted to take Trieste or no?

Bill Hackenbracht You did not, as far as I recall.

Matt Crill Yes, Maxim's move to Trieste was arranged but the agreement was to use it for a second fleet. I was frustrated by the army build but thought the combination of France's fleet build in Mar and Russia's fleet build in Sev were enough to convince Italy to defend against France and work with us against Turkey. I didn't believe that Maxim would press an attack on me for these reasons and had a stable alliance with Farren. At this point, I felt the AIR alliance was working well and started thinking about whether the West was headed toward us since there were no clear EFG conflicts starting.

Bill Hackenbracht So... Matt, a similar scenario played out during the top board at the 2019 WDC. Ruben Sanchez was Austria and I was Italy and he welcomed me in for the extra fleet build (which I did). There was a strong EF in that game, too. It did not turn out well for Ruben, but we’ll have to see how it turns out for you!

Winter 1901

Spring 1902

Spring Map Comments
Spring 1902


Mario Huys Spring 02. Alliances take shape, and an East versus West appears to emerge. Or not? What are the optics here going into the Fall season?

Farren Jane Biggest mistake I (and Austria) made this season was that we thought we had Italy on side. Even after this turn we still thought Italy might be on board for cooperating. We thought Italy was going to help us finish off Austria and then turn west as a united front. Obviously that didn't happen.

Bill Hackenbracht 100% should have done a better job convincing Nicolas to take my support into HOL.
Maxim gave me some song and dance about going to Western as a ruse. I asked him not to, especially since I took POR with the fleet like he asked. I was desperately trying to reach some sort of agreement with him so that I could free my fleets up to go north - and have any kind of options. But he insisted on this and I was in no position to stop him. We’ll see how successful this “ruse” will be moving forward.

Peter McNamara There was a lot of talk this turn about AIR moving into TYR/BOH/SIL. I didn't get to talk to Farren all turn, which was very bad. The moves to SIL and BAL were mostly in response to these two things.
In the west BUR was a negotiated bounce with Bill and given my difficulties elsewhere, I felt I had no choice but to hope that Nicolas was telling the truth. He was.

Matt Crill I agree with Farren that we both thought Italy was still on board to finish off Turkey while moving to Tyr, Pie & W Med. This prompted us to move to Sil & Boh hoping to get an early jump on the West.
Maxim or Morgante, if Peter and others were hearing about Tyr/Boh/Sil moves were you sharing that intel to help the West defend while attacking me?

Maxim Popov I had been planning to continue into Austrian centers since the Fall and did so. I was a little surprised that Matt was willing to trust and work with me and considered going with the AIR, but decided against it seeing more gains in the Balkans than elsewhere. I moved into WES because I worried that Bill would move towards me and wanted to be in a better position if he did. I don't remember what exactly I talked to Bill about but I did state my worry and that I was on edge whether or not to move to WES. I did not tell the West that anyone was moving to Tyr/Boh/Sil as far as I remember, but I may have said (I don't recall) I was working with Austria and Russia which could have resulted in that suspicion, although the suspicions were definitely alive before this turn.

Bill Hackenbracht Maxim talking about WES was a huge tip that there was an AIR that he needed to demonstrate follow through to. I anticipated Tyrolia, Bohemia, and either Pru or Sil, and discussed the matter with Peter.
I found the move to Serbia surprising. Matt - what did Maxim say when you asked him about it?

Matt Crill Thanks Bill for the insight and makes sense if Maxim was talking about WES.
The move to Serbia was a complete surprise and Maxim was obviously attacking. I attempted to get him to pull back by pointing out France's two fleets positioned to enter the Med plus reminding him that France had a waived build. However, that reasoning didn't work and I was out of position to push back against Italy's advances.

Morgante Pell At this point, my priority was survival. That included trying to maintain the position in the Black Sea and highlighting the AIR to western powers with an interest in slowing down the AR. With Maxim, I focused on how powerfully he could attack Austria and that I was ready to play an IT the whole way.

Fall 1902

Fall Map Comments Winter Map
Fall 1902


Mario Huys In Fall 02 we see turmoil in the East and unity in the West. It's a defining moment, the end of the opening phase, as the underlying dynamics come to the surface. How did it happen?

Farren Jane It became clear to me by this point that Italy was firmly on side with Turkey and I had big problems in the north as well. My immediate goal became finding an agreement with either Germany or England to not lose Stp while trying to fight the Italian-Turkish alliance in the south with Austria. Seeing the French fleets move into the Med and the army build in Mar gave me a glimmer of hope that maybe I could still find a way to talk Italy into helping us finish off Turkey and then turning West.
Really, the idea of "surely now I can get Italy on side" dominates my thought process through most of this game and where I made most of my mistakes.
Something something definition of insanity

Peter McNamara I pick up SWE from BAL instead of DEN because E is still in NTH. Even though I get a build, this is not a great position to be in. I have no opening to attack either E or F, and the position of the only two French fleets the wrong side of MAO is not helping.

Matt Crill My positioning at this stage was pathetic so my focus was on trying to have Russia provide support and encouraging France to attack Italy. I wasn't in a position to really help Italy but offered to not attack him if he would pull back to fight France.

Maxim Popov Bill convinced me that he was not headed my way and I was hoping to use that fleet in the East, although with a build I am thinking now that it probably wasn't needed much in the East. I supported Morgante to Bulgaria instead of taking Greece because I didn't want to get too large and draw the attention of more foes, thinking Bill was not headed towards me. If I was in this position again I think I would have held WES or tried to guess on Naf and would have taken Greece. My plan with my build was to cover ION in case Bill let me into Tunis, but in the end I didn't do much with it for a long time and should have probably built in Rome and certainly crawled it somewhere useful.

Bill Hackenbracht Nobody in the west was interested in working with me against a common opponent. So, I only had one direction to go. Had Maxim supported himself to Greece, which I thought he would, I would have snagged Tunis in the next year and really been in a position to impose my will in the north. I needed another build and stability in the south to pivot (was my thinking).

Mario Huys Bill - Mao to Naf instead of the more deliberate support for Spa to Wes is quite a bold move. How confident were you that it would succeed?

Bill Hackenbracht Pretty confident. Between my three neighbors, Maxim (Italy) was the unknown. I thought I could catch him overextended into his attack on Greece. I failed to recognize that Turkey and he would work together, which was ultimately my undoing here.

Mario Huys Bill - Your build is certainly interesting as well. In order to force Tun a fleet in Mar would have been more practical. Instead you choose the army. Please explain.
The same could be said for Peter. Fleet Kie looks a lot more flexible in terms of tactical options up North. Do France and Germany fear each other that much that they're both locking each other down?

Bill Hackenbracht I didn’t want to overcommit to the med. I knew that I would have to negotiate my way out of the situation I placed myself. In hindsight, a fleet might have been a good idea. But in my experience when you you’re France and neither Germany or England talk to you about attacking the other ... there’s a good chance they’re attacking you. An Army has flexibility for defense and could do an end-around into Munich. A fleet would get me Tunis, but then what? Italy was in GREAT shape to lock three of my units down protecting one center. That’s peak inefficiency.

Winter 1902

Spring 1903

Spring Map Comments
Spring 1903


Mario Huys Spring 03 While the battle in the East rages, the West rearranges its forces. IT gains a major victory when AR bounce each other over Rum during retreat. Did Russia betray Austria, or did the tactics simply not work out?

Peter McNamara Winter 02: I probably build an army to preserve EG options, but I forget exactly my thinking at the time.

Farren Jane At this point I, sadly, gave up on Austria being a viable partner. Accepting the support to Bud from Italy and the bounce in Sev was arranged. Rum to Bul, however, was not arranged. I had agreed to disband BLA with Turkey but instead had it retreat to Rum to block Budapest retreating there since that would force disband it anyway. I assumed that Turkey's intention was to kill me regardless so I was still hoping to get Italy on side.

Bill Hackenbracht Maxim can correct me if I'm wrong, but it's here that I began trying to sell him on a trade of Tunis for Munich. I considered this a principled trade - it would benefit him by allowing him to get his fleets into better position against Austria and Turkey and it would cripple Germany to benefit me. Granted, it was a bit of strong-arm diplomacy as well - since I had fleets threatening Tunis directly. But it began the point at which I strongly pushed for a principled solution for us.
I wonder how things would have turned out had we reached this agreement. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that my heavy fleet presence in the south all but forced him to partner with Morgante in Turkey. But, rather than lay out his thought process - I'm confident that Maxim can speak for himself.
It's also at this point that Nicolas and I should have attacked Germany vice continuing to play nice. But it would have required him supporting me into Holland rather than me supporting him into the territory. Also, Peter didn't let me know that he was attacking England. Had he, I probably would have pulled back from the south and worked with him. I needed an outlet for growth, and I just wasn't getting anything anywhere.

Morgante Pell In Winter, Farren was supposed to disband her fleet in Black Sea but instead kept both her fleets around so it was clear to me she had no intention of working together. My priority for this year was eliminating those fleets to give me room to operate and control the Black Sea area. Otherwise most of my diplomacy was focused on keeping Maxim on side and seeing what else I could do to make Farren's life difficult in the north.
Farren I do have to ask why you chose to keep those fleets. I was actually still hoping to work with you until you did and even if you still intended to be hostile I think they left you overextended.

Maxim Popov In the Mediterranean, I didn't coastal crawl Nap anywhere due to worry that I would be let into Tunis while Austria could take the Ionian behind me. I don't recall much of what Bill said about a trade for Munich, but it must have been this turn since in the next he made a slightly different offer. I probably didn't want to do the Munich offer since I didn't think I could hold onto Munich for very long.
In the East, I decided to support Farren to Budapest to hopefully get into some center myself with her help in the Fall.
Overall, this turn didn't see much progress for me and I was working towards some change in East and West to open up opportunities.

Bill Hackenbracht Maxim - what change in the west were you working towards?

Maxim Popov I was hoping to get you to move out of the Med. In hindsight I think I should have taken your next deal, but at the time I wanted to keep Tunis.

Bill Hackenbracht You will have to chime in with that. 😊

Matt Crill At this point, all of the East was moving in like vultures! I was especially disappointed by Farren's betrayal here since I believed there were still good opportunities to help her have the upper hand against IT.
France had started applying pressure and Serbia was vulnerable with the discussed plan being to get the Gal army into Rumania. I was willing to focus on helping Russia grow as my only friend in the East but I understand the change in direction. However, I do believe this was a key turn that mainly helped Italy instead of Russia.
Retreating to Rum was my only choice and the end was clearly near...

Peter McNamara S03: Farren convinces me she's not moving to BAL, so I rearrange pieces to try and make it as hard as possible for EF to get through.

Farren Jane I will say, I didn't actually want that army in Moscow. I thought it was going to bounce against a supported English attack.

Bill Hackenbracht An EF would have been nice at this point.

Mario Huys Nicolas was obviously playing the long game: Securing StP, getting a build, before deciding on the next target. He would however soon get a rude awakening.

Fall 1903

Fall Map Comments Winter Map
Fall 1903


Mario Huys Fall 03, Peter's master stroke. Instead of England capturing StP, he loses Nwy instead without even a fleet in Ska, but with the aid of the Russian army under attack. Elsewhere Turkey convinces Austria to jump start his rise at the detriment of Russia while Italy stands by. What was going on backstage?

Peter McNamara This turn, Nicolas and I agreed that he should get a build. Nicolas wanted to take StP. I wanted him to take BEL. Since Nicolas refused to take BEL, I accepted Farren's offer of support into NWY.

Morgante Pell By this time, relations with Farren had completely fallen apart but I finally had the upper hand. I wanted to make sure I got both Sev and Bul so I asked Austria to support me in. My pitch to him was I would eventually hurt Italy, which was his main goal at this point.

Farren Jane I think as my army builds show at this point I was in just "survive against the Italy/Turkey alliance" mode. I continued to try to talk Italy into flipping on Turkey but Morgante is correct that he and I had very little to discuss at this point.

Mario Huys In other words, credits for planning the attack on Nwy go to Farren. Shame on me for believing too much the commentators on the DBN broadcast. It made Germany the board leader though and in this respect it was a high point for Peter. Plus we now know why Bill was never informed of any such plans. His France was the original target!

Farren Jane I needed a friend in the north and Peter seemed like a good option for that friend.

Bill Hackenbracht My main effort at this point was in trying to work something out with Maxim. There was no way for us to crack into Germany, and Peter's fleets and units were clearly not moving in a friendly direction toward Nicolas. I seem to remember this was when Nicolas and I regretted not attacking Peter earlier.
I would be curious as to what "principled resolution" I was offering Maxim at this juncture. Hindsight will show whether it was truly principled and balanced, or just a negotiated solution that would be to my benefit alone!

Maxim Popov I was stalemated in the Med with an offer from Bill to leave Tunis to him while I force Vienna and Greece. I didn't want to give up Tunis, but I think I probably should have taken the deal. I think I could have taken Tunis back later anyway. At this point, I should have been crawling my fleet in Nap somewhere and have no idea why I didn't. In the East, I could have taken Bud as well even if I had not accepted Bill's offer, which would also have been a great help as I could have stalemated the Med while still getting somewhere elsewhere. This was pretty much a wasted turn of missed opportunities for me.

Bill Hackenbracht This rings true. This wasn’t the turn you agreed to it and then did something different, right? That came later?

Maxim Popov Honestly, I am not sure which one that was. There were a lot of such turns.

Winter 1903

Spring 1904

Spring Map Comments
Spring 1904


Mario Huys Spring 04. Austria suddenly finds he has lots of friends, while England defends as best he can.

Farren Jane I knew I had no chance of holding Bulgaria so I figured I'd just retreat back to Gal. It would also bounce Vie if it for some reason decided to go for Gal. Mos to Sev was intended to bounce a convoyed army if Turkey went for it. In the north my memory is starting to get pretty fuzzy but I believe my moves were coordinated with Germany.

Mario Huys Farren - What about War to Lvn? An argument could be made for War to Ukr instead.

Farren Jane I considered the South lost. I told Turkey I was backing off in hopes that he would go elsewhere when faced with a bunch of armies in the Russian heartland that will be hard to dislodge. It also gave me a unit to support Stp with and to try to convoy over if my fleet move didn't go through.

Peter McNamara The moves in Scandanavia were all coordinated with Farren. The plan is to give up NWY to Russia in order to take NTH and remove the Russian fleet from threatening BAL.

Farren Jane That's right.

Bill Hackenbracht Italy defends Tunis instead of heading East. I continue to attack Tunis instead of heading north. One could say this was not to our benefit. 🙂

Maxim Popov Yeah, the Med was stuck with both of us suffering for it. Again, I should have taken Bill's offer earlier. I don't recall if my purpose for helping Austria was a friendly Austria or easier centers in Vienna and Budapest, but it was probably one of the two. With my wasted turns, Morgante was growing far too fast for my liking and I wanted to see some gains myself.

Fall 1904

Fall Map Comments Winter Map
Fall 1904


Mario Huys Fall and Winter of 04. While England, Austria and Russia get pounded, Italy, Germany and Turkey make significant advances. And France, you ask?

Bill Hackenbracht I was in a bad place. Fortunately, EG were locked in conflict. Otherwise, I might have been eliminated in 2 game years.
I started ramping up the diplomatic pressure on Maxim and positioning myself as Nicolas’ best friend.

Farren Jane My moves were pretty simple. I coordinated with Germany to put me into Norway and I pulled Lvn to Mos to present a stronger front against the Italian/Turkish alliance to the south. I pulled Stp because I didn't want to get rid of the fleet or weaken my position in the south.

Morgante Pell I continued to push hard against Russia while trying to keep my relationship with Italy solid. I also asked Austria to support me into Ionian so he wouldn't tap Bulgaria. I also tried to encourage Bill to do something about Germany's position.

Peter McNamara My moves w.r.t Russia/England were the continuation of the plan hatched in Spring. At some point (I forget exactly which turn, it could've been this one), Bill came to me lobbying for me to order to TYR. My response was that BUR needed to be demilitarised first and that was the end of that discussion.

Maxim Popov I believe I told Bill I would take his deal, giving up Tunis, if he didn't bounce me in Piedmont. I then bounced Tunis but still took 2 centers in the East.

Mario Huys These seem to be pretty intense rounds with all that's going on on the board. But if everyone sticks to their plans, is there really a lot to discuss? How hectic were the negotiations at this point?

Farren Jane Not hectic for me. I was working with Germany and asking Italy to flip on Turkey.

Bill Hackenbracht Maxim had convinced me he was allowing me into Tunis. I was ready to head north as soon as I got that extra fleet in Brest.
Now, I’m not certain if it was Nicolas or Peter whom I would attack. But I would have expansion options that I so desperately needed.
I figured at this point, if Maxim got tussled up with Turkey and I grew off of my neighbors, either Maxim or I would win this thing. We’ll see what happens next, won’t we.

Winter 1904

Spring 1905

Spring Map Comments
Spring 1905


Mario Huys Spring 05. France disengages. Germany is still on a roll, while Austria loses his last unit. Any last thoughts, Matt?

Matt Crill My main parting thought was that I did have plenty of time to spend with my wife on our anniversary that day, lol. I was obviously disappointed with not noticing the IT earlier and tried in the last years to mix things up but Maxim and Morgante did a good job of sticking together!

Peter McNamara I wanted to go NTH-ENG. Nicolas also wanted me to go NTH-ENG. Fortunately he didn't bounce me. I moved the wrong unit to follow up to NTH.

Mario Huys Peter - Luckily it does. You say "Fortunately", but would you really expect a player of Nicolas 's caliber to lie in this situation? Perhaps the man himself can describe the upsides or downsides it has for him?

Bill Hackenbracht I realized I had spent too much time in the Med with no gains and needed to reposition north. Maybe get a piece of England. Maybe find a partner to go against Germany. But prevent them from running in on me.

Morgante Pell My plan here was to get Austria out of the picture so Italy and I would have more freedom to move against Russia and otherwise to consolidate my position. Not too much diplomacy involved besides keeping Italy on side.

Maxim Popov I moved further in the Med to the West. I had a good ally in Turkey who I trusted to continue working with me. I don't recall why I move to Tyrolia, perhaps it was toforce Piedmont.

Farren Jane At this point I was trying to get Italy or Turkey to attack the other but neither was biting. I had offered support to Morgante but he didn't take it. In the north having Germany as a friend was good for me because I was exposed if he and England started cooperating.

Fall 1905

Fall Map Comments Winter Map
Fall 1905


Mario Huys Fall 05. Disintegration of the Italo-Turkish pact, but all eyes are on Russia and the setback suffered by Germany. What the heck?

Maxim Popov Bill managed to convince me that Morgante was my biggest threat this game and I went East. I offered to support Galicia to Rumania, but at the last second she asked for it to be Ukraine instead. I had thought earlier that it needed to be Galicia so Vienna was safe, but for some reason I agreed to it. Bill also convinced me that Peter was another big threat to me and that I should support Bill to Munich. Overall, Bill is far too convincing.

Morgante Pell This was definitely the low moment in the alliance. My focus was on Germany's dominance and trying to get Bill to do something about that. I discussed building a fleet to "attack" Maxim so Bill could be free to attack Germany—obviously this spooked Maxim and led to our alliance dissolving. FWIW, I never had any intention of stabbing him. (Rum S Gal - Bud was discussed beforehand. He was supposed to support Bud.)

Farren Jane I think this moment was when I blew an opportunity. I didn't actually expect Italy to cooperate with me so I hedged my bets and slipped into Vienna. Which, unfortunately, also ruined any trust that might have led to a more stable anti-Turk alliance.
But from this point in the game I was basically all greed due to increasing desperation.

Bill Hackenbracht If I go to TYS, I probably top the board. But, at this point I think Italy’s getting a build and we’re going to be each other’s ride or die.
Hence the build of a fleet in the north.

Peter McNamara This is the turn that everyone wanted to attack me. Obviously given everybody else's moves, my best play is to take BEL and BRE. I didn't play for BEL because my goal here was to drag Bill into a FG alliance and split the English centres. As you can see, Bill had other plans. As mentioned on the DBN broadcast, at least Bill and I managed to demilitarise BUR.

Mario Huys Farren - The stab for Swe appears to be ill-advised, given the retreat to Nwy. Peter must certainly have requested you to support. Did you believe he was going to try something different than what he did?

Farren Jane I can't remember exactly why but I believed that NTH wasn't going to get dislodged. But yes, both of my little one dot grabs this turn against Italy and Germany were poor decisions.

Winter 1905

Spring 1906

Spring Map Comments
Spring 1906


Mario Huys We're at the halfway point. Spring 06. An emboldened France strikes, but meets an Italian doing a U-turn. What's the driving force? Or who?

Morgante Pell Maxim and I had a good chat after his stab in the fall. I convinced him that his stab would give France the win but if he agreed to continue working with me I'd assure that he won.

Farren Jane My moves from here on out are best described as desperate flailing as I had no allies left.

Peter McNamara I'm trying to scramble to defend against the French attack and find someone willing to work with me, without success at either. This is not a good set of orders by me.

Maxim Popov I made peace with Morgante and went back towards Bill after our one season respite and also retook Vienna.

Bill Hackenbracht I’m not sure what the deal was with Nicolas wanting to bounce in ENG. Maybe Nicolas can elaborate.
I saw blood in the water in the Med with Italy and Turkey, so I went for the kill shot. It ... didn’t work out.

Fall 1906

Fall Map Comments Winter Map
Fall 1906


Mario Huys German and Italian defenses crumble as France and Russia make some great, opportunistic moves, even against each other! All par for the course?

Maxim Popov My tactics were terrible here in Austria. I also expected Tuscany to probably hold, but decided that it would be too dangerous to allow for the chance that it does not. In Austria I didn't think my moves through at all. I should have been considering what I would do if I was playing Russia there.

Farren Jane This was my last good turn with Russia I think. I had to find a friend somewhere to help me stabilize but I had burned every bridge. I made some lucky guesses and snuck into Italy's dots while taking one off of Germany but without a friend it couldn't last.
I had no chance of getting Turkey or Italy on side and I spoke with Bill really for the first time all game around this time. But those talks didn't really go anywhere for me. He and I had discussed how to use his unit in Silesia and he had made some promise to me that I never believed anyway.
Which is why I made sure to bounce in Warsaw.

Bill Hackenbracht Shooters shoot. And I took my shot. Now I had to figure out the end game, 'cause we were getting to that transition point, and quickly. Germany was broken and Russia could not withstand against an IT. So, I either work with England or make a go for him. There was an opportunity in LVP that he left open to me ... but let's see if Nicolas covers.

Nicolas Sahuguet It is not that I dont want to comment but I dont really remember the game anymore and don't really feel revisiting that bad game (for me). Until now (the moment I get BEL), I played just badly with the moves that cost me NWY being the worst of the worst. At that point in the game, I was feeling lucky that everyone had turned on Peter and I was trying to survive, get people involved elsewhere and hope to salvage a half-decent result. The bounce in ENG was the result of Peter wanting me to support myself to ENG and Bill wanting me to move east. I thought it was a compromise while my other units were doing a whole bunch of nothing.

Bill Hackenbracht You did get this sweet Best Country ... and the top finisher awards are still in fabrication.

Best Germany Award

Nicolas Sahuguet Nice, but it was not for this game!

Mario Huys No, it was for a game that others would like to forget. (But for some unfathomable reason it's discussed as the last game in the DBN broadcast just before the top board starts. Skip it!)

Winter 1906

Spring 1907

Spring Map Comments
Spring 1907


Mario Huys Spring 07. England finally starts to take part in the action, while Italy allows Turkey to expand and France narrowly escapes from getting trapped in Kiel. Meanwhile discussions are ... cooling down?

Bill Hackenbracht The writing started to appear on the wall of how this was all going to end. I was dealing with an all out assault from Maxim and was unable to do very much other than deny him any gains.
On top boards, I feel that you need to balance alliance play with balance of power play - which can be super hard when you’ve been going toe-to-toe with an aggressive neighbor (me). I tried to pitch this concept to Maxim, through the whole range of negotiation tactics, but I failed to convince him that - in this situation - I could be trusted more than Morgante.

Farren Jane Discussions were very much becoming settled at this point. My big regret is not moving Nwy to Ska to bounce that move but it wouldn't have changed much in the long run I think.

Mario Huys Is Farren's sentiment shared across the board?

Bill Hackenbracht At some point, Maxim made the decision to preserve his overall finish rather than risk losing places. This is a decision I wish I had made on other top boards (Marseilles, for example) and did here at one point. I whipped out a calculator and figured out I needed X and Farren needed to be Y and offered to get Nicolas whatever we could as long as I “got mine.” I think once we’ve reached that point in the narrative, we might have wrapped this up.

Morgante Pell By this point, things seemed pretty locked in. I had a strong ally in Maxim who had accepted he wasn't going to top, so it was mostly a matter of tactically pushing for as many centers as I could to assure myself the top.

Farren Jane Yeah, the only drama left in the game was whether Bill or I would get 3rd overall in the tournament and Bill had Nicolas on his side for that.

Maxim Popov At this point I was still trying for a chance at the top through keeping Morgante happy while hoping to somehow find a way into French dots. I didn't think it was likely but I thought I had a better shot there than anywhere else. It was only after my failed guesses a year or two later that I didn't see a way there and had my goal change to getting as high of a score in the tournament that I could, which was staying on 3+ dots or getting some really high count that I wasn't going to get.

Bill Hackenbracht I think I then publicly announced there was no way that Maxim would get a French dot. It took some clever maneuvering and an uncharacteristic throwing of dots on my part, but I “pulled it off.”

Maxim Popov I think I had a guess on one later on, but I am not certain so I guess we will see later

Bill Hackenbracht Oh, as you'll soon learn, when Nicolas Sahuguet is pulling the strings, there's no guessing to be had!

Fall 1907

Fall Map Comments Winter Map
Fall 1907


Mario Huys Fall 07 and England rises to the fore. With German assistance he nearly doubles in size. Meanwhile France and Russia are getting pushed back. A bipolar world slowly starts to form. Inevitably?

Farren Jane Very much inevitably. I have no ability to defend against Turkey and Italy anymore, France has decided to give dots to England and Italy has decided, seemingly, to give dots to Turkey. I tried to hold out and angle for enough dots in the end for 3rd overall but it wasn't in the cards.

Bill Hackenbracht 👆 Germany gave dots to England. I moved to the channel.

Maxim Popov I go West to try to find something there and I think Morgante and I agreed to split Budapest and Vienna, but I don't really remember that well.

Nicolas Sahuguet The turn of my resurrection as Doug Moore put it. I don't remember exactly my negotiation with Peter. I think that I had planned to take HOL and NWY and was expecting a bounce on SWE. Then, Peter proposed to support me into SWE, I took the support and started thinking whether I should still go for HOL or not. The deadline happened while I was still thinking. Maybe it was a mistake. I could have kept Peter on my side and Morgante may have not reached WAR and MOS in that scenario. But, after such a crappy start of the game, I could not think straight and could not pass up the chance to grab some dots.

Bill Hackenbracht The migraines that you and I were suffering didn't help the thought process much.

Winter 1907

Spring 1908

Spring Map Comments
Spring 1908


Mario Huys The battle between Italy and France is heating up. England moves to take out Germany. Meanwhile Turkey is getting into position for a stab on Italy. Or shouldn't we call it this way?

Bill Hackenbracht I would say that is pretty correct.

Morgante Pell My focus this year was setting myself up to take Moscow and Warsaw. I did not plan to stab Italy, but we did discuss the possibility of me moving a fleet to Ionian in case I needed a final dot and/or to work against France.

Nicolas Sahuguet Pretty correct assessment, Mario. I completely missed UKR S BOH-GAL. Not my best game...

Mario Huys Morgante - At this time, what was your estimation of the number of centers you would need to win?

Morgante Pell At this point, since France wasn't throwing yet I assumed you'd pick up Den, StP, and Kiel. So 11 total.
Which I could get without taking any Italian centers.

Farren Jane From this point on I was basically just trying to scrape by holding onto enough centers to get third overall in the tournament. I worked mostly with Bill and Nicolas until the very end when I realized Bill was going to knock me out of third and I started trying to get some help from Morgante.

Bill Hackenbracht You did take away my 17 center best England with your solo, so all’s fair 😉

Farren Jane I felt really bad about that solo if it's any consolation.

Fall 1908

Fall Map Comments Winter Map
Fall 1908


Mario Huys Fall 08. The once mighty Russian and German empires are both reduced to a single dot. The once puny Turkish and English kingdoms push their vassals forward. It's witchcraft, isn't it?

Farren Jane Savvy work on Morgante's part. Stp was my last holdout and I never grew from here again. If I held onto that dot I would get 3rd overall. If I didn't then I wouldn't. Sadly Bill recognized this fact.

Mario Huys Maxim - Wasn't there a small devil whispering in your ear to slow down the Turkish rise by holding in Ser or something similar?

Maxim Popov Yeah, I wanted to not lose centers to him, but then if I did moves such as holding in Serbia he could have attacked me with everything he had and my units were too far West to stop him. I concluded that I would have a better shot trying for French centers.

Bill Hackenbracht At this point I think I publicly promised Maxim that he would get nothing off of me, so he might have interpreted that as a challenge to meet.

Winter 1908

Spring 1909

Spring Map Comments
Spring 1909


Mario Huys The battle of the choke points. The two camps battle ferociously over the same spaces (Pie, Lvn, Mao), while their drivers slide into position behind them. Who is outpacing who?

Morgante Pell Bouncing the move to Lvn ended up being pretty critical here as it ensured I could take Warsaw and consolidate my control of the Russian centers (besides StP). Unfortunately Maxim didn't make any progress against France, but I also felt confident I could win even if he didn't.

Bill Hackenbracht IMO The move for Maxim was to try to take Spain or Marseilles with an army. Anything else would be indefensible.
I should have moved to Burgundy vice backfilling Tyrolia, but it didn’t matter much.

Maxim Popov I think if I convoy to Spain here I have a guess to keep it or get MAO, but anything else here doesn't get me anywhere with this set of defensive moves.

Farren Jane I'm just trying to cling to my little space of dirt. This turn England was my friend. But I messed up in negotiations and made it obvious that I didn't want to give up Stp, at which point Bill pulled Nicolas off to a separate room from me, so I started talking to Morgante.

Nicolas Sahuguet I was really hoping that Maxim would win his guessing game and be able to take centers in France. But, I could not talk to him without making Bill very suspicious and I needed Bill to work with me in the east. I considered messaging Maxim the moves he should play but did not. Maybe I am playing too clean these days...
I remember the stream in which Ed was saying that Bill was really the leader in our conversations on how to set up the best moves against Maxim. Now you know why!

Bill Hackenbracht Hmmm .... that is interesting to hear.

Nicolas Sahuguet If Maxim gets SPA and builds at home, I might have won the game. But I had not cultivated my relationship with Maxim during the game and I felt that I was not going to convince him with one text message. I should have talked to him every turn after my "resurrection". But I didn't. Lack of energy is my excuse but bad play on my part overall.

Bill Hackenbracht Let's be honest ... if you had been talking with Maxim every turn instead of lock-stepping with me, I would have probably not been as "on side." And, if Morgante saw coordination between you and his "partner," things probably work out differently in the East and he plays more aggressive (which he could have done).

Nicolas Sahuguet At least a bit of talk and maybe some messaging... But yes, that was the problem, how to play it both ways and that's why in the end I did not pick that path. But that was my only hope.
The blocked convoy to LVN finished my hopes to win the race. So I had to play dirty. Messaging Maxim to convoy to SPA may have worked. But most probably not. But you don't win if you don't take all your chances.

Bill Hackenbracht Your only hope was to drive a wedge between Maxim and Morgante.

Nicolas Sahuguet Tbh, I am still not sure what I should have done, but I believe that was not a 0% position.

Bill Hackenbracht I'm not sure a build for Maxim would have done that for you. 😒
But, you're right - it's not a 0%

Nicolas Sahuguet Maybe I could have sold a "I give you a chance to stick it to France, and you give me a chance to top!" But with no talking to Maxim, I did not know if he was more into punishing Bill or rewarding Morgante. Lack of diplomatic talks always hurts. But doing all that without Morgante and Bill knowing is tough...
Anyway, after i saw that he gave up TRI, I was glad that I did not help him against France as he had already decided the endgame. But I believe that my lack of negotiating in 1907-1908 with Maxim cost me the small chances that I had left.

Mario Huys Interesting discussion. Although Bill now understandably argues against it, it seems clear that he might well have been blindsided had such an information leak taken place.

Fall 1909

Fall Map Comments Winter Map
Fall 1909


Mario Huys Fall 09 is when Turkey steams ahead and opens up a gap with England, even while carefully avoiding any open Italian centers. Does he simply feel that secure or is there another purpose?

Nicolas Sahuguet Not much to say. Morgante has the win unless he makes a mistake. I still position myself to grab as many dots as possible hoping for a misorder, a miscalculation or one bad conversation between Maxim and Morgante. But, Morgante made no mistake so congratulations to him.

Farren Jane Anything left of note for me was that I thought about ordering Stp to Livonia to bounce Prussia to Livonia but ended up deciding against it because I'm too trusting. This put Bill and Nicolas in position to force Stp even if Morgante tried to help me hold it in order to deny Nicolas another dot. Which put me out of the top 3 overall for the tournament.

Morgante Pell At this point I felt confident in the win. I didn’t take any Italian centers as I knew they’d still be there later and I didn’t feel any need to have his units pulled or risk disturbing the structure of our relationship.

Maxim Popov The only thing that mattered at this point was staying at 3. Morgante promised to keep me there so I was content to work with him.

Bill Hackenbracht I focused on finishing third. I was not going to make 13 awards and not win one myself!!! 😉

Morgante Pell Bill - The one part I'm still confused about is why did throwing dots to Nicolas help you in that objective?

Bill Hackenbracht Oh, I thought the carebear between you and Maxim was a little BS and I was willing to help Nicolas win if you made a mistake. He was willing to only take from me what would leave me enough to be third and I trusted him.

Morgante Pell Hmm that’s a little BS though. I only had to take Maxim’s dots because you threw. But I suppose it’s not worth litigating if that was your reason, for some reason I thought you had an analytical one.

Maxim Popov As I understand it both sides had the same reasoning.

Bill Hackenbracht Well, there’s always the human. Plus I’ve known Nicolas for years. If I have the dots that can give him a chance to win and I can’t stop him, I’m better off negotiating with him on the “how and when” rather than the “if he should or shouldn’t.”

Nicolas Sahuguet From my perspective: in my discussions with Bill around 1907 we were trying to find a way to give us both chances to top the board. When Maxim decided to send everything at Bill, it was clear that Morgante was the favorite and that Bill could not grow and at the same time defend against me and Maxim. That's when he decided to make sure that I would help him finish 3rd of the tournament. that meant for me not to eliminate him and not to keep Farren alive. Initially, he had told me that 11-6-0 was the way to go (me 2nd and him 3rd and the maths checked out and Farren 4th). But then in 1909, he told me that 14-3 was still good enough for him to pass Farren (I had not checked those numbers). So, I went for the greedy grabs.

Winter 1909

Spring 1910

Spring Map Comments
Spring 1910


Mario Huys Let's move on to the final year. Spring 10. Russia's last unit gets unceremoniously destroyed, along with the French army in Tyrolia, the sole unit across the stalemate line. Which amounts to taking out the disruptive elements ahead of the final season. Were the two camps still talking to each other or only among their own?

Morgante Pell I don't recall talking to anyone besides Maxim at this point. Our only question was how many dots Bill would throw (and therefore how many of Maxim's I would need to take).

Maxim Popov We concluded that Bill would keep 3, which meant 14 satisfied Morgante and as 3 satisfied me I was content with Morgante's plan.

Nicolas Sahuguet Rather than trying to decide who threw what to whom, I was looking back at the board, I just realized that there were moves in S10 that would have led to an interesting position. Here it is recreated in a sandbox. I kept all orders the same but changed a few of my and Bill's orders. Nothing out of the ordinary. Is this a 100% for Morgante in this position? Would Maxim have accepted to finish at 2?

Spring 1910 (alternative)

Nicolas Sahuguet Same position with BEL-POR instead of BEL-RUH also creates an interesting mess.

Morgante Pell Those are closer to the moves I was worried about (especially BEL-Por, actually). My original deal with Maxim was to keep him on 3 and I don't know how it would have gone down if I needed more.

Maxim Popov That would led to a guess with Morgante able to defend 2/3 sets of moves, right? I am not sure what would have happened in that case as I was very set on staying at 3.

Nicolas Sahuguet I am not sure that Bill would have accepted the move to POR as he risks finishing at 2, but I should have tried that. I am more and more realizing that after a few hours in front of the screen my brain really does not work very well. That was not as bad as the DBNI top board, but still...
MUN is at risk so things are not that simple, but yes it looks like this would have given me a chance.

Morgante Pell Yeah, my moves were also clearly not optimal as well. Obviously should have gone to Sev.

Bill Hackenbracht I would not have been as cooperative had you done a move like that.

Nicolas Sahuguet I need your help to convoy to POR, since MAO is your fleet.
I had not considered it at the time, just revisiting the position with fresh eyes. Was there a way? I guess that BUR-RUH with the moves to get guesses around WAR/MOS were the best try. At least I would have made Morgante work for it.

Mario Huys Fascinating alternative. But personal goals aside it does again highlight Turkey's superior position, as he would always have been able to claim more centers than England if their allies simply walked out.

Nicolas Sahuguet When you start growing in 1906, you are not the favorite to outrace the rest of the board. 😆

Fall 1910

Fall Map Comments Winter Map
Fall 1910


Mario Huys The final turn. Shopping time. The top two grab everything on the shelves. Lots of unused units bouncing on Alb, just for fun. When the final tally is made, they both end equal. The tie breaker being the reverse order in which powers were chosen, means Morgante wins the game. Of course, everyone knew that going into this turn. What hopes or anxieties were there?

Morgante Pell I had some minor fear that Maxim might have a last minute change of heart and block me out of one of his centers, but thankfully my anxieties didn’t materialize.

Bill Hackenbracht This really was a well played board by all and I was happy that things, and the tournament in general, had gone so well.

Nicolas Sahuguet I just wanted to end in a tie so I could complain about losing on tie break. 😆

Mario Huys Thank you all for your cooperation. Any final thoughts about the game as a whole?

Nicolas Sahuguet Morgante was just a bit more masterful than Nicolas. 😫

Farren Jane I really regret picking Russia. I hadn't been following the tournament and didn't realize that every Russia was having a horrible day. I had fun though!

Peter McNamara I was very surprised when I heard that Russia had such a bad tournament (especially considering in my three qualifying games they went 0,9,9). I don't think this is relevant for the top board though - I think meta on top boards is often independent of trends within the tounament.
Fall 06: I guess wrong in Scandanavia and for some reason cover DEN from KIE? That's a strange choice because of the French army in RUH, and it ends up costing me dearly.

Mario Huys Why not simply blame Russia for a bad stab that severely backfired and eventually saw you both eliminated?

Bill Hackenbracht This was the culmination of three long days of virtual Diplomacy and while the game was stressful and tempers flared, at the end of the day there were no lingering hard feelings. And while not everyone was happy with their result - I believe that we can all agree that Morgante and Nicolas played masterful games and deserved the split top. For many players, it was their first live top-board. Probably all of us, if given the chance, would do at least one or two things differently but hindsight always has a way of revealing better moves or negotiation tactics. And making the top board in a 100-person tournament is a real accomplishment all in its own. All-in-all, I feel that this game was a fitting end to the largest live event in over a decade and was a watershed for the genre of virtual Diplomacy. Next year's winter event, which will be the Virtual Diplomacy Championship (VDC), will hopefully have 1.5-2 times the number of players. And I hope that in the years to come, VDC top boards deliver entertainment on par with this one.

After Fall 1910

Mario Huys