Classic Games – 1979JD – FOE 29

One of the Greatest Recoveries Of All Time?

Game: FOE 29.
GM: Richard Hucknall. Started: FoE 39 (December 1979). Finished: FoE 84 (August 1983)

Supply Centre Chart


Power Graph


The German recovery. This chart puts the seven powers in order of relative size as the game continued. As you can see the game had three distinct phases: Russian dominance (1901-1907), the rise of the French (1908-15) and the German dash for victory (1916-21)

Imagine this. You are a relative novice playing Germany – indeed, you are so inexperienced that you forget to order any builds in 1901 and are thus not able to build the two units due to you! By the end of 1902 you’re down to four centres and by the end of 1904 only two units remain. You stay on two centres until 1909, but you’ve nowhere to build, so you don’t get back up to three units until 1910. Would you have written this game off? Signed your units over to someone else? Dropped out, disillusioned? Bob Kendrick didn’t – he took a two centre Germany in 1908 and turned it into an 18 centre winner by 1921, and this is the story of how he did it. 

The Players

Austria: Malcolm Whytock (dro A04, out A08, 7th);
England: George Foot (3rd);
France: Shaun Derrick (4th);
Germany: Bob Kendrick (Won);
Italy: Barry Ibbeson (out A19 – 5th);
Russia: John Jackson (out A18 – 6th);
Turkey: John Clarke (2nd). 

A. Early-Game: The Juggernaut

Autumn 1901 

John Clarke (Turkey) 

As everyone all too quickly worked out, Russia and I embarked upon the “Steam-roller” strategy from year one. Well, I was planning to run the steamroller, and Russia said he was keen too, but the way he split his forces and sent more troops than was really necessary towards the Balkans made me more than a little suspicious of his real intent. Anyway, we did persevere with a semblance of a deal but I don’t think either of us trusted the other sufficiently to let the machine really rip through Europe as it should have done. 

Of course, I was trying to convince Austria and Italy that I hated Russia and it was merely a question of timing: Looking at Austria’s excellent opening moves you will realise that Austria had not bought this at all – but I thought he had. First mistake! So, very early on I had a pretty bad position. I had a suspicious half-alliance with Russia, which obviously wasn’t working; a north-western neighbour who was clearly in a superior position; and no real chance of much help from Italy, whom I had tried the same trick I had laid on Austria. The only glimmer of hope was that whilst Austria too, was playing a double game with myself and Russia, she looked very threatening when looked at from inside Russia. Eventually, and with not a little help from other “friends” this proved to be Austria’s “undoing” and before too long Russia and I engineered the destruction of the Austrian army in Rum. 

By 1903, things were looking decidedly brighter for Turkey. Nobody really had any firm alliances at this time, the occasional unilateral deal could be struck, and I found that Austria wanted to help me move to Ukr and simultaneously Russia wanted my BLA fleet to dock in Rum. Both suggestions were gratefully accepted, but down the line screw- ups in communications to my field commanders saw my forces move elsewhere, and a gain of two bases in 1904. 

At this stage I fancied my chances early though it was. Russia and I still had something of an understanding despite local skirmishes; Italy and Austria looked decidedly shaky and England and Germany (in particular) were making a total pigs ear of things in NW Europe and France was nowhere near the point of thinking about the Med. So Russia was totally confident. He even wrote me a letter in S05 which began…”Well, we have won!” What say you now, JJ? Russia was my only problem at that time – and I decided to try for the soft underbelly whilst Russia was distracted by gains and glory in the north and west! By 1905 I had got Sev and Russia had promised total bloodshed, unless a good. reason (i.e. a throat from else-where) indicated we should to friends again. Yes, by 1905 I fancied my chances. 

Bob Kendrick (Germany) 

The opening year was marked by myself and France agreeing to the Sealion plan suggested by Russia. I was a novice in those far off days and I welcomed anything that provided a framework for German orders; not only did I have Sealion in the north but there was also an Axis agreement with Austria and Italy. Thus in 1901 the game seemed simple – this was quickly to change due to my failure to order builds in the Autumn of that year. I had allowed Russia to become powerful, antagonised England in the process, and now did not have sufficient units to fight off their advance. The expected Russian attack arrived and I spent the next few years desperately defending, and watching the minor powers squabbling amongst themselves whilst they ignored the growth of Russia and Turkey. The only bright spots were Russia continually ordering non-existent fleets but the optimism generated by this was dampened by the Austrian anarchy in l904. Throughout these early years I continually wrote to England pointing out the utter folly of his alliance with Russia – the few replies that I did receive were very bitter as he placed the whole blame for the Sealion upon my shoulders and blindly ignored the part played by Russia. It was only when Russia actually landed in Edi in 505 that England finally saw the truth of my warnings. In the Autumn of that year England and I actually started to co-operate and with his help I was able to avoid the disaster of being reduced to one centre. 

Shaun Derrick (France) 

I recall that pre S01 was fairly active diplomatically, with Russia putting forward the suggestion to me and Germany that we should form a three-way alliance against England. I found this a reasonable suggestion, but I don’t know about Bob even though he carried it through. Why did I go to Pie in S01? Perhaps just to be different, giving me the option of standing Italy out, attacking Italy, or moving to Tyr to further my options such as a back-door into Germany or even the chance to pick up an Austrian centre. Spain and Por could be left until l902 as it is difficult for any other country to gain them before 1903 unless England has a lucky break or Italy starts anti-French. 

The game was almost abandoned in, 1901 due to John Clarke, flying off to Manila, but he was persuaded to continue. Autumn 1901 saw Germany in the NTH, Russia in Nwy, and Germany not submitting any builds. I was in Tyr – this was to be a weird and wonderful game. England hung on despite the pressure, but Russia was getting well ahead having allied with Turkey. Italy didn’t take too kindly to my initial move to Pie so began turning .his forces against me. In l904 Austria resigned as he was going to America and wasn’t sure where he would be living, this enhanced Russia’s chances no end, and with us western powers bickering over morsels he plunged into Germany leaving him on two centres. 

Barry Ibbeson (Italy) 

In the beginning my general strategy was to maintain peace with France and Turkey, and ally with Russia and wipe out Austria. Well, post-FOE 12 feelings stopped that. John J would play with me and Shaun quite clearly didn’t trust me and it took me a further 5 seasons to establish a rather uneasy peace with him. 

A rather interesting picture emerged in 1902. France was attacking on three fronts, Austria was attacking on three fronts, and only the home territories of England and Turkey were not under attack. The situation in the Balkans altered almost daily. Rum belonged to Russia in 1901, Austria in 1902, and Turkey in 1903. 

During 1903/04 I made peace with Shaun but was attacked by both Austria and Turkey and was still only on 3 units in 1905 but by that time Austria was in anarchy and Germany down to 2 and my friendship with Russia developing. Russia probably encouraged by the ill feeling between England and France ,and England and Germany, attacked England when he should have protected his eastern front and concentrated on taking out Germany and obtaining Austrian territory. 

 Autumn 1904 

B. Mid-Game – France Prospers 

Shaun Derrick (France) 

1905-6 was a turning point as Italy wrote to us all bringing our attention to the fact that if we didn’t do something then Russia would win, so I also wrote pledging support for England and Germany against the bear, at about the same time Turkey and Russia started to squabble enhancing our chances that our little minnow alliance would work. 

I realised that I was now in a strong position behind the front lines, but just as I was to take advantage of my situation Italy supported Russia into Mun against me, this began my war with Italy which was helped by a timely Russian NMR and the fact that Turkey was also Italy’s enemy. Because of my war with Italy I allowed my generous heart to run wild watching England (once without a centre in a Spring season) and Germany grow at the expense of Russia, this is where my fatal mistake occurred. I was winning the Italian war so wondered who out of England or Germany should I stab? In Autumn 1912 my golden opportunity was there, I ordered A(Sil)-Ber and A(Mun)-Kie, this would have seriously weakened Germany and allowed Russia to stay alive ,and hold England, but for some uncanny ridiculous reason of faithfulness I changed my orders at the last minute, I didn’t stab Germany. I knew I should have done it when I received the next copy of FOE

Italy was destined to fall with Turkey coming back from the Russo-Italian onslaught helping me to divide the spoils, so with England and Germany together matching me in strength, but having a strategically better position against me I tried to get one to ally against the other, well both actually. They both declined, as ever since the demise of Russia I was the centre of attention as being the strongest country on the board. 

John Clarke (Turkey) 

Then it all became very complex. France suddenly got lucky in Mun and elsewhere and used the extra pieces to come steaming into the Med instead of mopping up England with Russia as I would much have preferred him to do. Italy got it right, again, and whilst not a major threat, was certainly not looking as moribund as in 1904/5. And of course, I had just let my “‘steamroller” ally know my real plan. So, no friends, a bit of bad luck in the Med. and suddenly I was faced with a hostile Russia and French and Italian connivance (I don’t think it was ever a true alliance) in the Med. Nevertheless I managed, and by pure force of numbers gained control of the Balkans by 1907 despite a very worrying combination of alliances being struck without my participation. If I am right, the links went something like Italy and Russia vs. Turkey and France, France and Italy vs. Turkey, England and France vs. Russia and Germany. But that set-up did not last long – thank goodness. 

l908-l9l0 saw Turkey’s fortunes change again. France was finally, in 1908, persuaded to rat on Italy; Russia stretched herself way too far into ENG, with no serious support, and then missed with an NMR. France turned (briefly) to Germany for support and with Russia’s NMR gained four centres. So, some good, some bad news. My strong neighbour had been cut down nicely, I had the beginnings of a solid alliance with France and was looking to expand both west and north and what did I do? NMR! I lost 3 bases and could no longer direct traffic to my own advantage. Italy and Russia seized their opportunity to repay old scores, and whilst France was friendly, she was not providing help and was happily building power bases throughout Europe and then Med. But slowly, through the Turkey / France alliance I was able to recover to 8 bases by 1915. 

Meantime France had prospered to 11 bases in 1912 (from 3 in 1905!). Fortunately Russia and a resurgent Italy managed to slow and finally stop France by 1915, but Italy’s efforts allowed me back into the Balkans and my recovery was able to continue. France and I were still allies at this stage but as the English / German duo got rolling France had to divert more and more attention to the problem and was less useful to me. However, our combined efforts were just enough to achieve the final break-through into Italy – or so I thought. 

Bob Kendrick (Germany) 

The second stage of the game began in Spring 1906 when I sent the same letter to England, France and Italy in a final attempt to organise resistance to Turkey and Russia, I suggested a detailed plan which gave all parties some prospect for growth and the suggestions were followed with pleasing results. During the next few years we gradually pushed back Russia and Turkey; this improvement being high­lighted by the growth of France. I was able to develop a good alliance with France but this did mean that there were French units camped in my homeland as this was the only way to evict the Russians. My balancing act with France was further complicated by the ever-present embers of France/English suspicion and I was continually having to defuse the situation as the Eastern threat was still too strong for open warfare to break out in the west. Fortunately the growth of Italy up to 1911 always posed a threat to France and this factor enabled myself and England to convince France that he must concentrate upon the south. By the close of 1912 all three of us had benefited from the alliance, France had reached his peak whilst myself and England had returned to respectable positions. The situation in the east was also much more favourable with Russia being on the way out and Turkey still trying to recover from his disastrous NMR of 1910. 

Barry Ibbeson (Italy) 

In 1906/07 it all changed as England and France, England and Germany, kissed and made up and Russia was far too stretched defending a front stretching from corner to corner. This, by the way, was back in April 1981. England was down to one fleet in 1908 ad France turned to German ad English centres for rapid gains. Italy stabbed France and accelerated the deteriorating situation. I stabbed far too early although Shaun was going to go after me anyway but I should have concentrated on crushing Turkey.

Russia rather stupidly NMR’ d in 1909 and oust of the blue rang me up and offered his units so it was now me against the rest as France was helping Germany and then when others would have taken all English soil with him still only on one unit, made peace and allowed George back into the game. Also the situation between me and Turkey was almost irreparable although I attempted. I was therefore the meat in then sandwich. 

Now ordering two countries units is not a easy as you may think. You have the fear that if you advance your ally quickly he might come back and take over, he can also pass the units onto someone else and it is not always possible or desirable to arrange to change centres from him to you. Bob managed to run two countries successfully in FOE 39 but he didn’t have any opposition. 

During 1910/11/12 both France and I were relatively strong but blinkered ourselves to what was happening elsewhere and concentrated on fighting each other. I should have tried to secure my frontier and finish off Turkey key whilst he should have done likewise and wiped out England and Germany. But as France swarmed over me an England/German alliance developed and moved on France. By 1914 France occupied all Italy but had lost all his gains in England and Germany. Turkey advanced in the Balkans.

 Autumn 1912 

C. End-Game – German Dash for Victory 

Bob Kendrick (Germany) 

1913 marked the start of the final stage of the game for me and communications really buzzed in the spring of that year. I had been hoping to postpone my stab on France until at least the autumn but Shaun was insisting that I support his attack upon England. My lack of naval power meant that such an attack would have seriously damaged my expansion and so the timing of the stab was set by Shaun himself. Even though the decision had been made it was still obvious that I was about to embark upon a very risky enterprise, but unexpected help was at hand. Italy informed me that he had been ordering the Russian units for some years and he agreed ton my plan for the attack on France. The stab worked perfectly and the end of the year saw the French growth checked and the Anglo/German alliance still quietly expanding. During the next few years our alliance continued to flourish though it must be admitted that this process was greatly added by the continuation of the Franco/Italian hostilities. Italy was having a rather hard time as he was being squeezed by France and Turkey, thus allowing me to offer my assistance and pick up some of the pieces. This does bring me into conflict with Turkey bye 1916 but that was inevitable, and not particularly daunting in view of then static Turkish play. Following my stab on France I had two possible game endings in mind i.e. an Anglo/German draw or an outright German win. In normal circumstances I would not have considered the former but the fact that England and myself had together risen from the dead did tend to cloud the issue. From 1913 up to the close of 1918 England had never attacked as vigorously as I would have wished and he seemed to be continually looking over his shoulder at my expansion. He started to seek greater safeguards and the crunch came at the end of 1918 when, following the return of Italy to my clutches after his brief flirtation with Turkey, I managed to make three quick gains. England was now lagging three centres behind and, even though I built all armies as I had promised, he demanded that he must occupy NTH and Bel. I believe that the English aim was defensive but with only one fleet I could not take the gamble. I stabbed England the following season. The stab was very successful, I also stabbed. Italy at the same time, and the closing years were merely taken up by my ensuring that I gained that final vital centre. 

That is the story of the German victory but what of my opponents? I have a great deal of respect, and a certain amount of sympathy, for Shaun. Possibly his only real mistake was in not negotiating peace with Italy, had he done so he could have used the corridor that he had already made into Austria, Russia etc. and still have been able to attack England. Had there been no Italian pressure upon France then there would have been little that I could have done to prevent Shaun gaining victory. George is so rigid and defensive that his fate in this game must be his usual reward. Once he has made a decision, to ally or to punish a stab (real or imaginary!) he allows the feelings generated to cloud his tactical judgement. Barry flattered to deceive, perhaps lack of application was the main cause of his downfall but he also tends to throw in a totally unexpected twist on occasions; fine in an opponent but not very reassuring in an ally! That just leaves the two Johns in the east and I deliberately lump them together because of the number of errors that they both committed. J.J. reached 12 centres in 1905 and somehow managed to leave himself no room to make three builds, mitigating circumstances perhaps that year but he then compounded the error by repeating the situation in the following year. I do not know when he actually handed control of his units to Italy (an act I fail to understand in such an interesting game) but it seems likely that his interest started to wane following those disasters. What of J.C.? Well he made the effort to stay in the game when he went abroad and he did not shirk his diplomatic duties After those plus points it is down hill all of the way as he made tactical blunder upon tactical blunder and seemed to learn nothing from our four year course in the do’s and don’ts of Diplomacy. I lost count of the number of units that he was forced to disband due to a lack of retreat orders and his orders in then last couple of years, when he could have ensured a draw, must have driven Shaun and George to distraction. 

Oh! I nearly forgot Malcolm who played Austria. He got off to a good start, sent perhaps the most interesting letters of all my opponents in this games and I was sorry to see him depart our midst. What would have happened if he had stayed the course -: would we be anticipating the start of the fifth year? 

John Clarke (Turkey) 

1915 was a perfect year for Turkey. France lost bases to what was looking an irresistible England / German alliance; I “misorder” in the Med. and both Italy and France lost influence; Russia was now virtually out and only England and Germany looked dangerous and I thought they couldn’t stay friends for much longer! In 1915 I again felt the future outlook was good! So my strategy was clear. Mop-up and expansion against Italy and Russia, with even now, some French help, and split the England / German alliance. Then a shock. Who is ordering the Russian pieces? Germany tells me France is. Italy says he is. Who cares? I didn’t and regretted it immediately. Italy and Russia combine or were one – who knows – and I lose Sev. I tried and tried, as did France to break the England / German alliance to no avail. Russia And Italy became spent forces And no one except England could stop Germany. l9l8 saw a German breakthrough and still the English stab didn’t come. 1920, and England realised he had waited too long as the German knife slipped smoothly in. A few weak moves from me and the end soon became inevitable. 

So, well done Germany. An amazing recovery, Did R. Sharp aid your renaissance or was that claim a hoax? Did Italy or France play the Russian pieces? Who sent me the forged letter purportedly from Germany? Great stuff, all the way through! I obviously would have enjoyed it mere had I been able to make a few telephone calls and really know who was lying to whom. There were some brilliant moves – England and France’s rapid decimation of Russia in England; Austria’s opening sequence as well as Germany’s efficient ending. There were also some spectacular cock-ups and NMR’s but on balance it ranks as the most fascinating game I have ever been involved in. 

My best regards to Italy for never giving up and being remarkably inventive (dammit) just when I thought he was down and out, Also to Austria who was totally professional in his double-handed moves and to Russia who’s early advance; north & west was probably one of the most rapid I have ever seen. Many thanks to France for being a good ally at a crucial point for Turkey, the game would have been a shadow of what it was without it. England? What. can I say? I only wish you had been my ally. Why did you not heed our advice and get Germany when you had the chance? Congratulations Germany – you well deserved your win. Richard, many thanks for doing your normal totally excellent job as GM and thanks to everyone for putting up with my moves around the Far East and correspondence complexities.

Autumn 1916

Shaun Derrick (France) 

From then on they started wearing me down and Turkey joined in half-heartedly. Desperately I wrote to all in an attempt to stop the plunder, I said I would “throw the game” to Turkey, but I couldn’t even if I wanted to, he was too incompetent to take advantage. of such gifts, and German letters to him must have had the desired effect. I even sent some signed sheets of paper to England hoping that he blundered his moves by falsely handing my units over to him, it helped but he was not to be the danger. Germany slowly encompassed Russia and Austria, pushing the Turks back and inevitably stabbed England. I had warned him it would happen – so George then handed his units over to me. I was very sceptical at first thinking he was trying to give me a taste of my own medicine, so I cautiously sent in both sets of orders, it was no hoax! It was far too late though, even Turkey realised that something had to be done, but again his incompetence or inexperience let the side down, I moved into Swe hoping to establish an elongated front against Germany but only succeeded in holding up the inevitable win for a year. 

Congratulations to Bob, you rat, despite not, building in A01 and NMRing three times. This I feel is a very good example of how Diplomacy should. be played and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks also to Richard whom I’m sure also enjoyed the game, even believing the game to be a hoax at one stage. 

Barry Ibbeson (Italy) 

During the next few seasons a pink / black line moved down the board and I attempted to organise Shaun but ;the mutual mistrust aspect was against this. By 1916/17 I attempted to hang on to Germany’s shirt tails in hope of survival whilst encouraging England to move east though he really had too many fleets. I disappeared in ignominy in 1919. 

This was an absolutely fascinating game. Each country in its turn appeared to be in a strong position and several picked themselves off the floor after being down and out (or let off the hook). Many thanks to you all for the game. Many thanks to our GM for his excellence – you will be sadly missed. Sorry for all the errors and bad play – FOE 29 has convinced me that Diplomacy is just not my game so I’m joining my son in the computer game field. Congratulations to Bob, a worthy winner who proves the point that you can only win if you communicate. A special word for John C. who survived and came 2nd (if there is such a thing) although he travelled the world. Hope business picks ups Shaun. John J.- you’re weird and shouldn’t be playing; and to George – your one and only letter will live in my memory for over!

 Autumn 1921 

Richard Hucknall (GM) 

I confess that it is games like this that I shall miss GMing when FOE finally folds. As Bob points out, there were many mistakes but these did not detract from the most enjoyable aspect of the game – the fluidity. One only has to look at the supply centre chart to see just how many changes there were in the game. At one stage England was down to one centre (and in fact was at one point without any units!) but still recovered to a peak of 9 centres before the German stab. France climbed from 3 centres in 1905 to 11 in 1912 and then fell to 3 again before finishing on 4. Italy struggled for the early years barely getting above 3 centres, but he in turn reached 9 centres in 1911 before the rot set in and elimination arrived in 1919. Russia got away and was on 12 by 1905, an incredible performance, but he was the second player to be eliminated reaching his end in 1918. Turkey grew steadily and was on a respectable 9 by 1907. before he was cut down to 4 in 1911, ending of 7 units. 

The German story was just as remarkable. Off to a good start he failed to order any builds and so was cut down to 2 centres from 1904 until 1909. His recovery to win this game ranks alongside past great wins in FOE such as Bob Tucker’s win as Russia when he didn’t got his first build until 1903, and Robin Wilkins’ feat in taking his Turkey from 2 centres to win. 

I don’t intend running through. the events of the game as these have been fully documented in the previous reports. However, there are one or two points which need clarification. It was Italy that was ordering Russia’s units for about half the game, and I felt that Barry did not use them to the most useful effect. Towards the end of the game the English units were ordered by France. I never believed this game to be a hoax although Shaun tried to make it out as one in the later stages. 

So it’s goodbye to this long-running game. I make no apologies for saying that I’m sorry it has finished as I have really enjoyed running it. I hoped it would be the final FOE game to end but that was probably a little hopeful. Congratulations to Bob on his win, and grateful thanks to all the other players for such an enjoyable game.

This article first appeared in The Tangled Web We Weave No.1

Bob Kendrick

It is with great sadness that I have to pass on the news that Bob Kendrick died on 26th February 1997. Bob was a great character and a hardened Diplomacy player. You will recall that it was Bob who in his first postal game back in 70’s took a 2 centre Germany to an 18 centre win, a feat I chronicled in T2W3 No.1 because I wanted to make sure that Bob was still with us to enjoy the memory. But he wasn’t just a great postal player, he also won the National Diplomacy Championship, not once but twice. The sight of Bob hunched over the Diplomacy board, waving his cigar wildly, was a sight that intimidated many a novice. I’m not sure how old Bob was, but late 30’s I’d guess. I had known that he was dying for some time, ever since he told me at MidCon 95 that he didn’t expect to be around for MidCon 96. That fact that he did make it was a testament to his tenacity. Bob didn’t suffer fools gladly, and his definition of fools was a very broad one, but I always found him very personable indeed on the occasions when we met. When the call came a couple of days after he had died to tell me that he was dead, it wasn’t a surprise. But although I didn’t know him well, the pang of loss was unmistakable. (Stephen Agar)