MidCon – The National Diplomacy Championship 1994

by Shaun Derrick

I was hoping to keep the report quite short, just cutting out the superfluous banter, but maybe I enjoyed it too much to limit the lines! Same hotel, same old faces, in fact so familiar we all take it for granted these days! 

On arrival I discovered that I hadn’t been booked a room. Luckily there were some available and got a room right on the 2nd floor, the same as the convention. 

On Friday I played ‘History of the World’ and actually persuaded John Miller to sit down and play a game instead of wandering the suites cracking witticisms as he goes. Joanne ? won that one. Even though it was late I summed up enough energy to play Mark Stretch in the first round of the ID tournament, I now know why Germany is never chosen as a first option, I lost to Marks France. 

Saturday is usually taken up by my annual fix of playing in the Diplomacy, and this year was no exception. I drew Austria again! I had been best Austria the previous two years, could I do it again? Not with Bart Huby playing Italy and moving into Tri in Spring 1901! Mark Stretch(F) and Nick Parish(G) made an interesting Oxford pairing while the rest of the field were Andy Halliwell(E), Peter Shortall(R) and Martin Burgdorf(T). I know Martin is a competent player and Peter is relatively inexperienced, but what mattered to me was how I could extricate myself from the grip of Italy so early on. Bart allowed me to fend off the Russians and Turks in order to preserve centres, he obviously feared the likely juggernaut. In the end I had a full blown alliance with Italy and we eliminated Turkey and Russia with help in the north. There was still very little trust over our borders which maintained a solid presence from both sides, this prevented us really getting a good board-sweeping alliance for the big push. In the north the Franco-German alliance finally got going after a few hiccups, and the result of this tight game was A7, F9, G9, I9. Not a good result for me as I was 4th on the board and a lot of better Austria’s. 

As our game finished mid-afternoon I joined a game of ‘Airlines’ and then ‘Favourite’, I think it was called ‘Favourite’, I never saw the box and it didn’t have the name of the game on the board. This was the first time I had played either game and enjoyed them both. The Hobby Development discussion was not very interesting this year, it only reconfirmed Neil Duncan as the new editor of ‘Mission from God’ and the rest was not very constructive. 

After dinner with Steve Cox I decided to play his ‘Americana Latina’, a Diplomacy variant published recently in Spring Offensive. Usual rules except that mountains can only be crossed in Spring and fleets can sail up the large rivers. I drew Argentina and attacked Brazil (Paul Dowden) straight away, I didn’t get very far as there is a bottleneck at Rio de Janiero that is easy to block, I also grabbed a centre off Peru (Steve Cox) just to make things interesting. As I found my way blocked in Brazil I sent a fleet out to capture the Falklands from Britain which I did successfully, but again hindered by my lack of fleets, my third attack in the game was on Chile (Dave Wreathall), very unsuccessfully! When you play variants of this type you can see how wonderfully balanced the ‘real’ game really is, although familiarity over lots of games would eventually decide the better strategies for each country. 

Sunday dawned, I had got little sleep over the last two nights so needed to wake myself up. I went and shifted the car out of the car park at 7.00 am as much to bring me round as to avoid the car park charge. After the usual sumptuous breakfast sitting with Steve Thomas in exactly the same places we sat yesterday, I was ready for round 2 of the Diplomacy. I drew England on a mediocre board which included Chris Robinson(F), Paul Dowden(G), Chris Courtier(R), Duncan Adams(T), John Boocock(A) and Mark Stretch(I) again. I knew Chris(F) was a good alliance player so decided to ally with him, though Paul(G) had to be free to stand Russia out of Sweden so the first year we had a FEG alliance. I took Bel due to the agreed stand off between France and Germany over Bur. The FEG alliance collapsed in 1902 as I took Hol and Swe allowing France to take Bel in return for him moving south and building F(Mar), which he duly did. Austria and Turkey were allied against Russia so I saw the necessity to keep Russia in the game to prevent the southern alliance expanding. Italy had opened with a Lepanto but obviously needed to double back to defend against France. Russia helped me finish off Germany in return for me not attacking StP, this gained the confidence of Russia and I was able to move Nwy-StP-Lvn without taking anything off Russia but allowing me to get armies into the central part of the board for use later in the game. By now I had to make a decision to stab France or Russia, the latter had outguessed Austria completely in one move which saw him take Rum and have an army in Gal adjacent to the undefended Vie and Bud, this actually created the beginning of the end for Austria as Turkey swooped to take what he could from the remnants. In the Western Med’ France had taken Tun but allowed a Turkish fleet to slip into the MAO, losing Tun and the option of Ven too. Italy played ‘piggy in the middle’ and waited for developments. I offered Austria Munich, French-owned at the time, but he went and told all the other players, gathering them together to warn them of my intentions, only Turkey seemed willing to co-operate with me now so I took Ber and StP from Russia and Bel from France, Turkey helped out by taking Bre with his rogue fleet. 

All the other players were pressurising Turkey to turn on me and ally with them, but he stuck by me and paid for it by being prevented from expanding. Rather than turn on me they all decided to halt Turkey in the hope that he would eventually give in. He didn’t, despite the fact that they impressed on him that I was in a winning position. I had 13 centres in 1907 with the potential for a lot more, so Turkey said that he needs to see my orders and hand them in himself so that I cannot change them. It was Spring 1909 and I was helping Turkey into Spa and Mar, I considered stabbing him but still had time to win with a year to go. The orders were read out and indeed Turkey did get Mar and Spa, but he failed to order to WMS which effectively allowed me to move directly into Spa and Mar in the autumn giving me my eighteenth centre. I had all of France, Germany, Scandinavia, the Low countries and StP and War to finish with 18. Apparently this was the first outright win at MidCon for 9 years the last one was in 1985 when I also had an 18 centre England and Martin Clifford-King had a 19 centre Germany. 

As I had won my game everyone was congratulating me on winning the tournament, they had, like myself, forgotten that there is no bonus for winning outright. It’s ironic that my outburst after WDC to ban outright wins should backfire on me. Of course I know that there should be something extra for an outright win, but I do not think the MidCon scoring system is unjust, it has been used for many years with little alteration, but there must be a flaw if I would still have been in 5th place if I had been top of the board with a 12 centre England! The counter argument is that because all the games are played simultaneously there is no way of knowing how good or bad your score is going to be, so just play the game to your best ability. Even if I had known I would be 5th with 12 centres going for the win is just the ‘icing on the cake’, it gives you a wonderful sense of achievement. 

Results of the National Diplomacy Championship 1994 

1st Bob Kendrick; 2nd Toby Harris; 3rd John Colledge; 4th Jim Mills; 5th Shaun Derrick; 6th Dave Wreathall; 7th Rob Lozynskyj 

Best Austria: Mike Jordan; Best England: Shaun Derrick; Best France: Jim Mills; Best Germany: Bob Kendrick / Simon Bouton; Best Italy : Vic Hall; Best Russia : Guy Thomas; Best Turkey : Bob Kendrick

Reprinted from Spring Offensive 30