What a good game!

Overall Note:
This was my first NWO game! While I am veteran of quite a few Diplomacy games I don’t think I am exaggerating in saying that this was the most challenging, the most frustrating, but also maybe the most fun game I’ve ever played! This is a monumental variant in all senses of the word. Thanks so much to all the players and the GM’s that made this happen; Steve, Rob, and Tom particular. I am deeply appreciative that I was able to participate in this game.
So some of this was written a while ago (and is extremely extremely extremely extremely long!). Hopefully some of it is interesting reading. :)

Commentary year-over-year:

Year One:
- At the outset, I had a bold ambition; I wanted to create a constellation of 2-3 Russia friends who needed my help and then be the last man standing after a large nuclear exchange with my biggest A/B class rival, who I immediately perceived to be the USA after initial conversation. I wanted to position myself as their antagonist BUT try to get the USA’s ire directed at others. My dream was to get 10-12 votes, which I hoped to acquire from eastern Europe (3-4), the Middle East (4-5), East Asia (2-3), and North America / Iceland (3-4). SPOILER: THIS DID NOT COME TO PASS.
- I tried to open a conversation with everyone (man oh man did that take a brutally long time; thank goodness I was on vacation! Haha). I got lots of non-replies, but I did have good conversations with USA, Zambia, Australia, Congo, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Iran, Original North Korea (for the day they were around) and India.
- One of the most important decisions I made happened very early in turn one; China told me that Japan+USA was plotting against me, and after some back and forth with Japan/USA I concluded (perhaps falsely?) that this was not true. I also heard that China was trying to get the (original) North Korea to attack me (this may not have been true), so I decided pretty early on that I would investigate whether I could get an anti-Chinese coalition going. My thinking (similarly with the USA) was that I did not want to commit to a fight unless I was certain I could eliminate them, and that meant I needed help. So sorry Hunter if I was wrong; I just got bad vibes, and all of our subsequent misfortune stemmed from this.
- The first person I talked to was India, followed by a few others. India was already interested in an anti-Chinese coalition (yay!). I had someone (India or Kazakhstan maybe?) create the group chat so it wouldn’t seem like I was spearheading it.
- I also had great vibes with Kazakhstan and decided that he would be appointed to the position of #1 Russia-friend and I would try to help him conquer western China and flourish to the end. I feel like my positive assessment was right, though I did let him down. 
- I also decided almost immediately (once Serbia & Poland were on board) to kill Ukraine. I felt kind of bad about this, as I felt (and still feel) that Ukraine was objectively in the worst position on the board. Nonetheless Momma Russia needed her centres, and that meant someone needed to be cut pronto.
- My first moves went pretty well, with a surprise attack on Ukraine and some considerable growth in all directions. Troublingly, however, were the signs that Pakistan wasn’t on board with my Asia plans.
- I also already felt like the USA was leaking everything I told him and was conspiring with everyone everywhere so I decided to give him a taste of the medicine do my best to encourage plots against the fellow wherever I could.
- Significantly this meant that I made a small change to my original plans. Originally I was thinking of encouraging Turkey & Iran fight to each-other and then betray Turkey to grab Azerbaijan (which someone actually leaked to them!!!) but I was getting good vibes from them so I decided to try to broker an agreement where I ceded my interest in the middle east and offer tech in exchange for them to attack the USA. This worked out… reasonably well, at least initially).

Year 2
- In the west I was able to successfully conclude my first western objective; eliminating Ukraine. At this point I was actually planning anti-Swedish activities with Poland and trying to figure out a way to save Serbia from the German & Italian jackals. NOTE: THIS DID NOT HAPPEN
- I was still encouraging plots against the USA as much as possible. In addition to shifting to agreeing to Japan’s anti-USA idea and brokering the Middle East plot, I tried convincing Ecuador to help out France in the Pacific, I think I bribed Italy not to attack France, I asked North Korea to transfer tech to Cuba and tried to get Cuba to commit to hitting the USA and I did my best to reach out to Mexico & Canada. At this juncture I felt like France was taking the brunt of American opprobrium, so my plan was to see if I could wallop USA in year 3 or 4 after I got my nuke machine running after the USA wasted nukes on France. NOTE: THIS DID NOT HAPPEN 
- Meanwhile Kazakhstan was still being solid & awesome. A+ ally.
- In the east things weren’t going as well. North Korea was replaced by a new player who I thought I had a good vibe with. He was on board for anti-Chinese activities but wanted me to strike China first. I was deeply worried about this, primarily because Japan was getting cold feet on the agreement to kill China, and Pakistan and China were devastating India, who had been my main hope for a partner in Asia. Most importantly Mongolia had not yet been taken so I did not feel like I was in a great position for committing to a conventional attack AND I wanted to ensure China wouldn’t build up defensive nukes right away. After some serious waffling, I told Joe I wanted to build up and take Mongolia before pushing into China but because I was in NIN with a wing I felt confident we could take him out. I did not realize at the time how undermined and betrayed he felt by my waffling.

Year 3
- THE HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE NBR. Yes, the NBR that changed the game was absolutely an error, the result of some busy days and forgetting to send preliminary orders. Building all armies instead of banking meant that my allies were all freaked out, my plans for a nuke machine were ruined, and completely shifted the momentum of the game.
- I decided I needed to come to more of an agreement with Sweden and the Germany-Italy alliance and therefore also felt that my anti-USA plans would have to wait until I could fix my new local problems.
- Adding to this, Canada was going all out on the UK, had violated a dmz, and stopped replying to me. Mexico too, after an earlier nmr, wasn’t responding. At this point I felt very poor about the chances of an anti-USA strike, especially considering my reduced nuclear capacities.
- Kazakhstan & Poland especially were very concerned initially. Poland (correctly) worried I would like I now had to attack him. My heart-to-heart with Kazakhstan was more successful.
- Sensing the risk that North Korea was going to punish me for the failure to attack China right away I did my best to convince him I had already burned all of my bridges with China. Additionally, I worked very hard at rebuffing all of the North Korean attempts to rally an alliance against me.
- THIS DID NOT WORK. In addition to the very annoying destruction of Ulan Bataar, I also lost control of Sea of Japan, after North Koreas managed to convince Japan to (betray me?) (surprise me?). All in all a very unwelcome turn.
- Meanwhile, my invasion of Poland began in earnest.
- All in all, a not-so-good year for Russia, but I was still big and (conventionally) powerful.

Year 4
- A lot of things shifted subtly against me that only became clear later. I was still growing in the west with the elimination of Poland & Serbia, and things were…. weird in the east. China now didn’t trust me and wasn’t keen on anything (understandably) so I felt I needed to make up with North Korea and turn on Japan. Additionally, Vietnam and Thailand declared their intention to invade China, and Pakistan said they were open to it. Round 2 of the anti-China coalition began! NOTE: THIS ALSO FAILED
- Japan’s press was killer here; no apology or explanation for the earlier attack on SOJ, and no clear explanation of their plans in the Pacific.
- Then central Asia became a problem. I spent a long time offering reasons for not attacking Kazakhstan to Iran, and my decision to cede Azerbaijan and be a party to the destruction of Turkey was motivated by my desire to reciprocate Kazakhstan’s help & friendship.
- Unfortunately Pakistan convinced Iran it was the right time, and I grudgingly accepted the decision, though I still intended to keep Kazakhstan alive and deny Pakistan his vote if I could.
- My decision to claim Ankara right away and then the seemingly irrational decision to attack Iran later was in no small part due to this.
- I was also annoyed by Iran deciding to be friendly with the USA but I felt I had to go along with it for fear of having Iran choose to help him stab me.
- Ultimately Japanese chaos, the central Asia, and some long missives from Hunter convinced me to shelve the anti-China ideas for good. I knew he probably still harboured resentment but I did not think he’d try to attack me alone. I felt bad about abusing my promise to Kazakhstan but such is the game.
- In Europe, I was trying my best to cleave the Germany-Italy alliance apart. My #1 goal was getting Germany to turn on Italy due to Italy’s imminent capture of a bunch of North African votes. I knew that if I failed they would attack me. This is the reason for my (at the time) somewhat antagonistic behaviour towards Italy despite our prior friendship. I knew Germany was aligned with the USA but I hoped they would view me long term as the less mercurial partner (wishful thinking, as it turned out).
- I was trying to curry favour elsewhere, and Argentina was willing to send me bb’s and both him and Ecuador were promising to be against the USA coalition long-term if I helped them. I figured it was worth a single bomb (thus the random-seeming Chilean bombing). I got into the mix of some Australian-Brazilian press here, and I also wanted to signal to them not to attack Bolivia/Argentina and instead to attack the US. THIS DID NOT WORK.
- Meeeeeanwhile France was trying very hard to get me to attack the USA. In hindsight I really should have hit Chihuahua instead of Chile and done my best to slow the USA down but I really felt demoralized and unwilling to risk getting hit next year by a bunch of nukes if I could avoid it. EDITOR’S NOTE: HE COULDN’T AVOID IT.

Year 5
- This was the year I made my worst decision and when all the cards fell down at once.
- Firstly, I believed that North Korea & China would be distracted by Japan, and the lack of nukes by China meant I was safe to agree to a dmz (oops).
- In addition to the Kazakh-related issues, I was also great concerned by Iran’s plans to attack Egypt, and was just generally troubled by the fact that he was seemingly more aligned with the USA than with me in terms of press. Perhaps jealousy was at play? ;) (oops)
- Either way, after extensive discussions with Egypt, I felt like they would be a good partner long-term, and tried selling Germany on the idea in order to help convince him to turn on Italy, which I felt would guarantee him a place in the endgame if it succeeded.
- I was also back to working Australia, Brazil and Cuba, because I wanted to reduce the risk of USA targeting me while I consolidated at home. (oops)
- I went back and forth a lot about the idea to stab Iran. It had always been a long term plan, but despite everything I was worried about the risks of opening myself up to a stab.
- For a brief while it looked like Germany was open to hitting Italy that turn, and I was willing to wait on my Middle East plans to make that happen, but at the last minute Germany decided to cancel. I got some reeeeally bad vibes and confronted him (worried he might be planning to attack me) but whatever he said worked and I felt like I was safe for the moment.
- So back to Egypt’s plan. Unfortunately we needed to include Turkey in the planning, and Egypt also felt the USA would be a good addition. I argued against this initially, just out of general suspicion, but agreed with the plan. I did hedge with an ill-thought-out MAD order, but I finally committed to the Iran attack.
- Credit to USA here: I grilled him a LOT about his plans, and he genuinely convinced me that we could work together. I still felt like he was plotting against me, but that he had other uses for his nukes that turn, especially given that Mexico was still fighting.
- Unbeknownst to me, Germany had been planning with China & USA & Sweden to take me down, and they correctly picked this as the right time. Five nukes and a massive Chinese invasion (coupled with Kazakhstan retreating into my heartland and Pakistan following him) caused my game to fall into tatters. Worst of all, my anger at Iran for scheming with the USA and a variety of other misdeeds (I believe) was mostly misplaced. I do think his decision to not tell me about plans was a huge mistake, but I don’t blame him.
- The spring stab was a total success, and though I tried my best to offer everyone everything under sun to stay alive, Germany, Italy, Pakistan, China, Kazakhstan, and the USA all seemed committed against me, North Korea was still untrustworthy (stabbing me again right after this) and now I had pissed off Iran as well. Oh, and after promising to call it quits, China bombed Sakhalin and then claimed it was a misorder. LOL.
- Thus ended my annus horribilis.

Year 6/ 7
- I wasn’t too happy with myself after that but I decided that despite being taken out of the running to *win* I would still try playing out. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to help Iran make it, get revenge on USA, get revenge on Germany, or try to stay alive.
- After Germany expressed interest in rapprochement and and potentially stabbing Italy… I decided to go with plan anti-Kraut.
- Meanwhile I managed to convince Pakistan not to push an attack on me and consider an attack on China. I offered China help against North Korea & territorial concessions, and I made some deal with Sweden. Anyway, somehow I managed to stave off destruction and actual grew and built up my biggest nuclear arsenal of the game (in a way, USA blowing up all of my armies was helpful!)
- Thus began my little Komnenian restoration.
- After some tense moments, Germany took the bait and decided to stab Italy. In the next spring, my plan came to (partial) fruition. I managed to take what would otherwise have been a masterful stab and bombed Germany’s forces advancing into Italy to a pulp. Things were looking okay for my revenge plan. Annoyingly Sweden chose this moment to NMR and Canada did as well, but otherwise I felt like maybe Italy & could do it.
- HOWEVER I only decided to hit him with the minimum number needed to stop his Spring advance, holding back two for an apparent deterrent in the fall so China/USA wouldn’t attack (though I still would have hit him if the MAD orders worked out).
- Unfortunately at this point all of my agreements fell apart and in the fall of 07 I ate six more bombs, despite my two bomb deterrent. This is when Pakistan made (in my opinion) the unfathomable decision to bomb me for…. Unclear reasons while getting obliterated himself. Meanwhile Nigeria successfully started pushing Italy, Sweden NMR’d again and the USA rode in on a white horse to rescue Germany from his mess.

Year 8/9
- At this point I was essentially doomed and facing invasion on all fronts again so I decided to amuse myself with the small fortune of BB’s I had managed to extract through various unfulfilled promises to Argentina, China, and others. (SORRY! I TRIED :()
- You all know the rest! (I died right before the voting. I tried offering my vote to China in exchange for BB's and survival but he... declined)

General country notes!

A lot of this consists of some classic Canadian behaviour- saying sorry! Sorry about that!

- USA. A pretty masterful performance by the great puppetmaster himself. :) I loved our chats, you rogue. Despite breaking my heart I don’t blame you at all. You were absolutely correct about all of my petty conspiracies and my biggest regret (apart from stabbing Iran) is not helping Mexico against you with a well-placed nuke. My only consolation is that I lost to the best. ^^
- Germany. Russel I hope you didn’t take my decision to choose you for my revenge plot personally. I did also think that maybe I could survive if I made you unpalatable enough as a US coalition partner, but also I was just very hurt (temporarily) by your stab in particular. I thought there was a chance we could go all the way but you obviously made a great call in stabbing me.
- Italy. We had a love-hate relationship all game. Italy was not a fan of my strategic choices (and made that clear many times!) whereas I was not at all a fan of his Diplomatic style at times (and made that clear!). I loved our short-term partnership though! Sorry again for not firing all nukes at Germany right away.
- North Korea. Phew Joe, I think I might have stressed you out as much as you stressed me out. As noted above I did genuinely misunderstand how important the BAO bounce was, and if I could go back I absolutely would have done things differently. I hope it’s clear now that I was always being sincere with you. I am glad you survived till the end, and I don’t blame you at all (although I do think that we both would have been better off had you forgiven me!) ;)
- Australia We had a great relationship from the start that was only marred by David’s wise but incredibly frustrating reluctance to part ways with the bad guys (USA & Germany). I felt that you almost immediately managed to get into the kingmaker position and stayed that way throughout the whole game. I don’t want to take away any credit for a game that was truly well played (because it was!) but I do think that for a variety of reasons Australia had perhaps the easiest pathway to success this game of the big-ish countries. Part of that is due to some helpful isolation but also because of the French & British implosions in adjacent areas.
- China. I don’t remember exactly why (apart from my notes above), but we got off to the wrong foot immediately and never truly got back. My inability to get North Korea back on side or heal the rift between us was really damaging to both of us. I was annoyed that you kept attacking me after I ceded all of the votes in the area to you and I remain of the opinion that you would have been better off not spending the resources on me (and instead going for votes in the south), but revenge is a reasonable motivator so… fair enough. You still got reasonably close to a win! I was a bit of a jerk to you so I’m sorry for that.
- Iran. UGH, I am sorry again for that terrible stab, but thanks for not taking personally and being a pretty good ally for a lot of the game. I really wish we could have worked together more successfully and I was sad to see you demolished after I was defeated but I think we still played pretty good games. Next time!
- Cuba. So happy we could orchestrate the nuke trade, a real shame things didn’t work out after that. Still happy some of our schemes worked out!
- Kazakhstan. Thank you for being an awesome ally and helping sniff out early plots against me. I am so sorry I couldn’t protect you from Iran & Pakistan like I hoped. Thanks again for a great game.
- Pakistan. Despite the crazy quadruple stab & you kind of dropping out I think that shouldn’t overshadow what a great game you were having. I was dismayed but impressed by the stab on India and I was gratified when you didn’t push the attack after my annus horibilis.
- Japan. We had a good relationship at first that suffered after you mini-stabbed me with NK. Tou subsequently went kind of jerkish and then silent for a turn, which sealed the deal for me as far as deciding whether to bail you out or attack you (which was a shame, honestly).
- Sweden. I remain of the opinion that siding with Germany over me was a bad decision (and look, I was right!) but you were in a tough spot after the fall of Poland & UK no matter what.
- Canada Despite some initial promise things did not work out, eh? Apart from an initial dmz agreement with me that he subsequently broke, you really made a (IMO) not amazing strategic decision attacking the UK and then essentially played a gunboat, at least from my perspective. That being said I am sorry about my unhappy messages to you.
- Argentina. Nothing from original Argentina but Alex and I have played Diplo before, so I was happy to see him join and dismayed to see plots against him since I hoped to assemble a South American dream team to attack the USA. Sad that this failed, and sorry that I was unable to get revenge of Brazil for you. In fairness I did ask Australia to do it for me. :P
- UK. A disastrous first turn was followed by a partial recovery. We had some good discussions about the long term threat posed by a USA-Germany alliance but the Canadian invasion from the northwest caused a critical vulnerability for you.
- Ukraine. Sorry you didn’t have a chance to play the game. :/
- India. Man, if I had a time machine to go back to the first turn when life was beautiful…. Alas!
- Poland. I genuinely was hoping to work with you until the NBR, when it became impossible to justify doing anything other than attacking. I knew this would help Germany just as much as me, but I held on to the faint hope that I could drive a wedge through Germany & Italy at this point.
- Mexico. Unfortunately I believed you were incommunicado after there were several years I hadn’t heard from you. Crucially this is why Cuba wasn’t fully down with my plot against the USA, which contributed to my fateful decision not to bomb ‘merica’s Mexican invasion.
- France. No doubt, you were right about Chihuahua! I was indeed trying to stop the Yankee monster but the NBR and my reaction to it let him grow unchecked; it was a big shame but you tried admirably.
- Indonesia. Tricky spot. You had a good start but a failure to successfully kill the local UK presence was critical, making you vulnerable to the Aussie stab. My advice to work on an anti-Australian coalition from the beginning in retrospect looks good (though I am not sure whether that would have helped).
- Philippines. Thanks for the great chats and for being my therapist when Iran wasn’t talking to me about his plans and then again in the aftermath of the stab. Too bad we never got to take down China together like I hoped but well done on a truly excellent game. I really wish you had been able to get into the winning coalition.
- Saudi. Wish we could have had a better relationship, but fair enough for blaming me for the Iranian out of control shenanigans.
- Turkey. Our goofy chats were lots of fun, and I also had a good time conspiring with you. Unfortunately I had to go along with your demise but you managed to survive for an IMPRESSIVELY long time, so well done there!
- Mali. Also to you! Well done staying alive all those years after a terrible start! Hahaha
- Nigeria. Thanks for being a good African spy, and happy we could sort of coordinate against China briefly.
- Zambia. Thanks so much for the tips and advice!
- Ecuador. No interest in confronting the USA (fair enough!). Some great talks. We both agreed that we couldn’t figure out Brazil’s strategy.
- Ecuador. Too bad our big plans didn’t work out, but well played! 
- Brazil. Based on your EOG it sounds like you may not have seriously considered my nuke USA plan, but I sincerely hoped all game to get you on side. I do think committing more to Africa would have been better but it’s hard to say.
Thanks also to anyone I missed in my notes! SOOOO many people in the game

Final notes:

- One thing I’d like to comment on is that the MAD system used this game seemed fine. There was the classic first mover problem when it came to orchestrating joint attacks (certainly I was greatly harmed by this phenomenon!) but I had no real issues with it.
- Ukraine is really the only country I think could use a bit of tweaking. I do think Russia has way too much of an easy time killing them, and all it requires is Poland making a single bad call not to help them for one turn. That’s coloured by a single experience though, so no worries if there isn’t agreement.