GenCon 99 (Milwaukee, USA)

by Eric Saunders

The tournament was 63 people (pretty average), 6 boards on Thursday and 3 boards on Friday.  The introduction games seem to be taking off in the third year of running it.  We had 18 people on Thursday, 28 (the max I allowed!) on Friday, and 11 on Saturday (ugly number) – 57 total!  The intro may be bigger than the tournament soon.  Hopefully people will shift from the intro to the tournament in the future. 

The only other Diplomacy being run this year was John Armstrong and his Global Diplomacy variant.  A bit strange – there’s usually a couple other standard, non-tournament games being run. 12 people fit on the Global board, and it seems to draw a good crowd every year now.  I haven’t played in it yet (sorry, John!), but it comes highly recommended by those who have. 

The new Diplomacy game from Hasbro was on display in the exhibit hall.  The board is high quality printing and graphic work, but will probably be a bit bright for some people.  I think I’ll get used to it and like it eventually. SC’s are labelled with stars in circles like capitols on many maps.  The new set also includes square country markers to place on the board denoting ownership (a la Axis & Allies).  Probably a good thing for novices, but I wouldn’t use them – plus they’re too large to conveniently place in some of the territories.  The pieces are metal cannons and battleships.  These aren’t the best.  I’m a big fan of the old wooden sets, and I think it’s difficult to denote supports and retreats with the new pieces.  The cannons will actually sit on one edge, so that could be used for support, but the battleships are either standing up or lying on their side.  Obviously, everyone can decide for themselves after the game’s release – I think I heard February. 

Since this is the first year since I’ve started playing PBEM Dip, I tried to recommend both that format and this newsgroup to anyone who expressed interest – like “I’d play more if I could get 7 people together” and such. There was also an Edi Birsan at the con working on a “Diplomatic Corps” concept – anyone know about this? 

Anyway, if anyone is still reading I guess I can summarize the tournament results.  It was a bad year for the finals.  Somewhere along the line, things crossed over from gaming to being personal:  Russia and Turkey seemed ready to Juggernaut across the board – possibly as a R/A/T as Turkey circled around Austria.  England, Germany, and Italy took down France.  Austria took it’s freebie neutral in the Balkans and turned on an empty Italian peninsula with the Turk.  As the conquering of Italy was finishing, Austria and Turkey turned on the Russian and quickly reached 15 centres in their alliance (Tunis, Italy, Munich, Rumania, and all the other evident SC’s).  The remaining powers turned to oppose A/T. There was a personality conflict between the Russian and Austrian player and neither of A/T seemed to like Russia or England.  The northern alliance accused Turkey of rolling over for the Austrians.  The southern alliance claimed England, Germany, and Russia were effectively “all the same colour” and there was no point in continuing.  After some heated arguments and harsh words from each side, the A/T alliance decided they would rather throw the game to the Germans than play the game out – stating they had “better things to do” that finish the finals.  Oh, by the way, this was after fall 1904!  Trying to salvage the game, I encouraged all players to play to win and just play the game out and see the result.  Austria and Turkey did as threatened and threw the game to Germany while Germany took any SC’s offered (wouldn’t you?).  England and the shards of Russia and Italy played out the best they could, but based on A/T’s insistence that they would continue to give Germany centres, the game was called. 

Afterwards, A/T agreed that it was possible England might stab Germany later, and that it could happen that after that stab either of the two outer powers (England or Turkey) would become the major power on the board.  Since largest power when the game is called is the victory condition to get your name on the plaque listing every year’s “winner” and lets you take a smaller plaque home, you would think they may have wanted to play the game out, but as previously mentioned, personalities overruled reason in this situation. So it is with much regret that I report these poor results. 

I’m strongly considering changing the final to a DIAS-type situation.  I could still put the names of the remaining powers on the plaque, and the smaller plaque to take was ending as a prize anyway (too expensive under the new convention management).  Then, the fewer powers on the board, the larger the type-font your name is in on it.  Anyone with other suggestions for the tournament is encouraged to reply to me.  A Rannestad Convention type of document for the final board would probably be a good addition, too.  One year out of fourteen isn’t horrible for this type of conclusion, but it still wasn’t fun.