Alright, here's my take on the game as far as I can remember it (written over the course of several days...). First of all, donsig calls me experienced, but that's hardly correct. This game was the third standard diplomacy game I ever played. Granted, I won the two first (links in my sig, DipNES 2 and 3), as well as a third one that was a non-standard map (BlaDipNES), but the opposition there was not overwhelming (far below the Council standards ). So I knew the basic ins and outs of the game, and had a decent idea of the various strategies of different nations, but that's still a far cry from experienced. Getting (or choosing) Austria was very much a challenge for me. In both the games I had played before, Austria was dead after two years. Bordering four hungry powers, you really have to be active in the diplomacy early on. And that's what I planned to be. My starting strategy correlated very well with donsig's. Austria and Italy share a border right from the start, a very tempting attack for less experienced players. I realized it would only be a death sentence for both teams if so much effort was spent fighting there, so my first step was to ally with Italy. That donsig was by far the most experienced player was another reason for an alliance. At that point I truly intended that alliance to last to the end (unless I could steal a solo win of course ). And I think it would have been a very different game if donsig hadn't done that silly first error move (which I now actually believe was an error, but didn't at the time). From that point I had a hard time fully trusting Italy. My second goal was to make sure there would be no fighting with Germany. I was glad to find sirdanilot approaching me with a DMZ proposal for Boh and Tyr, which was exactly what I wanted. That allowed me to focus on the east, the biggest threat. The way I see it, it's impossible for Austria to stay friendly with both Russia and Turkey. It may work for the first year, but after that both you and the Turks in particular run out of expansion room. Allying with Turkey against Italy at that point may work, but probably more to Turkey's advantage than Austria's. And that's assuming that Russia will be occupied elsewhere. I figured I would rather have my back against a wall, so either Russia or Turkey would be my first target. Thus my first real diplomatic effort went into fomenting trouble in the Black Sea. I believe Russia and Turkey early on decided on a DMZ for the Black Sea, and that didn't suit me at all. I urged Peter to move into the Black Sea, pointing out what a bad position he would be in if Russia didn't keep its word. I also approached him about the Armenia gambit, that a fleet in the Black Sea and an army in Armenia could catch Russia off guard. At the same time I approached Russia, asking him if he really trusted the Sultan regarding the Black Sea. I didn't make any specific suggestions though, since at that point I was leaning towards supporting Turkey in the war, as I (perhaps wrongly) feared Russia more in the long run. After the first turn, it was clear that Russia wouldn't be caught off guard. Some quick calculations showed me that if I could trick Turkey into a particular series of moves, I could be off to a really strong start. Potentially three taken SCs in the balkans, an enemy (Turkey) that wouldn't get a single SC, and an ally (Russia) that would have to defend itself the first turn, thus not outpacing me in expansion. The only tricky point was to get Peter to do the right moves. I was actually helped by the deadline there - I sent him a suggestion for moves he should take, where I would support him into Romania, and telling him that since it was so close to the deadline I had to send orders and go to bed. He would have wanted to do differently, but since I never replied to that (having gone to bed ) he had no choice but to either bite the bait or stand alone. He chose the former... Then came the Trieste crisis. Having started out so strong, I felt more confident, and so I violated the agreement I had with Italy over not building fleets in Venice or Trieste. I did tell donsig that I would do it, and also told him I was sure he wouldn't begrudge me that. Of course I wasn't so sure in reality, but I didn't much care at that point. Italy couldn't build a fleet in Venice anyway (had an army there) and France was off to a somewhat weak start, so it would still be better for Italy to stay allied with me (and I also had that "erroneous" first move in mind still). donsig didn't like it one bit, but his obvious opposition to my expansion only made me trust him even less. Our "alliance" was clearly never more than in name... At any rate I got that second fleet, and could put a lot of pressure on Turkey from all sides. At that point something interesting happened. Peter approched me, asking what he could possibly do to convince me to let him stay in the game. I was impressed, IMO that's the mark of a strong player to do whatever possible to hang in there even when defeat seems inevitable. I quickly reassessed the situation, and realized that with Turkish aid I could do a very nice backstab on Russia, taking another three SCs that turn while Russia would be forced to two disbands. So I told Peter I would let him live if he agreed to a certain sequence of moves. I fully expected him to jump on it, what did he have to lose? I had nothing to gain from tricking him again since me and Russia could beat him down no matter what he did. But for some reason he started 'tricksying', hinting that he was considering an even better offer from Russia (which I realized wasn't possible, but I couldn't be sure if Peter and/or Paul also realized that...). I realized I couldn't trust Peter to do what I asked of him even if he were to accept my proposal, so I abandoned the idea. But a tiny shard of suspicion had festered in my mind, so I moved into Galicia (agreed DMZ) to make sure Russia wasn't trying something stupid. Of course he wasn't, and I paid for that suspicious move later in the game... After Turkey's demise, I had three options. Attacking Italy still seemed like the least tempting, for purely tactical reasons, and I still hoped that we could continue our alliance to the end of the game. Russia wanted us to move on Germany, so I had to choose between that and a backstab on Russia. But with the concentration of Russian troops in the south, and the total lack of German units in the east, made the choice for me. I debated telling donsig about it, but I couldn't know just how close he was to the Kaiser at that point, so I didn't. I agree though that it could have been a different game if we had known of the Italo-German plans to invade England. The early campaign against Germany was a success, but we quickly stalled after Berlin and Munich. Then followed a long period of diplomatic maneuvering with Italy, where we tried to make him strike the Anglo-German lock from behind. When Italy was stalling I tried to get Paul to move his fleet into the Med, but he wanted to wait and hope that donsig would still choose our side. Instead donsig moved east, taking Smyrna, urging me to attack Russia. The interesting point here was that I was already planning to attack Russia. When the German campaign started, my main objective was to make the Tzar move as many of his troops away from me as possible. I urged him to build fleets in Stp/nc since I knew they would be harmless against me. If Italy hadn't attacked Smyrna at that point, I would have attacked Russia on the year after, with most of the Russian forces locked up in or near Scandinavia. But donsig's attack suddenly made Paul aware of his weakness in the south, and Russian troops that had been idle in Prussia and Livonia started rolling south. I had to make a quick choice there and then: Attack Russia at an inopportune time, potentially throwing away the only ally I could actually rely on; or bite the bullet and attack Italy. I really wanted to do the second, especially after those conversations that donsig refers to. But I still hesitated, since attacking Italy from Austria is far from easy. The decision was to try deceit once again. I pretended to turn on Russia, and sent lots of diplomatic notes in all directions to that effect. In particular I was trying to accomplish three things, of which two succeeded. First, I wanted to ensure I could take the Ionian. On the turns prior to this I had bounced with Italy there, but for this turn I asked the King to stay out so I would be free to move my unit east. That succeeded, and I managed to claim both the Ionian and Tyrolia (both agreed DMZs), giving me the superior tactical position I needed in order to attack Italy. Second, I wanted to break the Anglo-German lock. I told the Prime Minister that I would only attack Russia if he also attacked Germany, since otherwise I would be totally without an ally. I wasn't entirely truthful there, but I didn't outright lie either. I still envisioned a potential future where I could ally with England against Russia. That never happened though, thanks to later events. In any case this also succeeded - England attacked Germany, breaking the stalemate and allowing the Austro-Russian juggernaut to start moving again. The third thing was an attempt to fool Germany into losing Kiel. But sirdanilot smelled the rat and chose to do the only possible move that would block us there. Well done. Still, with the Anglo-German lock broken, that was a temporary setback only. My biggest worry regarding this turn was that Russia wouldn't believe that I was actually siding with him. I did all I could, successfully it would turn out, to assuage his worries and make him choose to trust me. A few turns later saw Austria and Russia in a clearly dominant position, with 2/3 of the total SCs between us. The only thing to note during this time is that I totally screwed up my tactical advantage, severely and stupidly underestimating donsig. He could see my coming move from miles away, and managed to force-disband my navy that might have been able to give him trouble in the west. I would have been so much better off if I had chosen the unconventional approach there. I later managed to reclaim the advantage, thanks to the armies coming around north of Switzerland. At this point I decided to myself that I wouldn't go for a solo win after all. Me and Paul had cooperated so well, and had been so successful, that sharing the win actually seemed more appealing to me than to steal a solo win, regardless of how prestigious that would be in this company. I meant to bring this up with Paul, but I kept putting it off (I blame COTM43)... And then he attacked me. No, the Russian attack on Bulgaria was not another constructed ruse. I totally didn't see that coming, I was beyond suspicion at that point. Suddenly what had seemed like a cruise to an easy 2-way win now looked like a death struggle for survival and revenge. But I still realized my best (only!) chance to actually still win was to convince Paul that we should still cooperate. I tried a combination of some guilt-tripping, and a dose of (sincere) threat thrown in, and it worked! I still wasn't sure that he wasn't just fooling me, but I had little to lose so I made no threatening moves against him on that turn after. I'm relieved to see it worked. Had Russia persisted in its attack on me, I would (like I told Paul) have done everything in my power to make Italy win the game. It may not have worked, but I would have tried, abandoning everything in the west to block Paul in the east until donsig had recovered. I'm glad I didn't have to try it though. And I'm glad I seem to have made such a scary impression on Paul that he didn't think he could beat me. When donsig brought up the idea to end the game in a 2-way draw, I was mostly relieved. At that point it would have been very very hard for me to make any kind of comeback against Russia, so a 2-way draw was my best hope. After the backstab I no longer felt I truly wanted to share the win, but I took what I could get. All in all I had a lot of fun with this game. It's a pity it moved so slow at times, but overall it was a very enjoyable experience. The challenge was much greater than in the games I played before, you lot are much better players overall. Now who's up for a rematch...? Btw, I this posted after the first turn, and promised I would spell it out after the game ended: Perfect = Germany, who got DMZ agreements with Austria and Russia, and was helped by England and France fighting so it could get three SCs on the first turn. Strong defense = Russia, Futile offense = Turkey, see my discussion above. Attempted deceit = Italy, already then I didn't trust him. Weak = France and England. France and England fighting on the first turn is almost as bad for them as Italy and Austria fighting would be.