To start with, many of you provided comments to me throughout the game. More often than not, I couldn't respond because I knew other details on the map or from other players that would have influenced my response. But I wanted to thank all of you who provided insightful comments and tried to keep it unbiased. I hope that when you're all looking at perceived 'problems' with the game, you remember that the vast majority of the causes for the results of the game are the players and their actions. The map and rule changes usually have little to do with it. That's why we see the same players at or near the top of the game come voting time.
I think that the USA overwhelmed Russ at the start. What I saw was him either not having the time to play in all regions, or the foresight to realize how valuable each of his colonies was. As an example, it took him quite some time before he even moved Wiesbaden. But after a few years, it was good to see Russ settle in to playing what amounted to two countries, in North America and in the Pacific. He kept the American influence in the game reasonably strong and that helped the game in the end.
That all said, Russ deserves credit. I knew he would have his hands full with Ling and Fred in Canada and Mexico, respectively. It's also his first run as a big power. There is no comparable situation to playing the USA in NWO. Thousands of emails and hundreds of hours of your time if you want to play it effectively. So good on him for a good showing.
Almost ironically, it's unfortunate that Russ had a bad start because it gave further incentive for Ling to attack him; and it is precisely that attack that made Ling a target to Rob and company. I can only wonder, if Russ had just a bit stronger of a start and Ling's attack had been delayed a year or two, what the result would have been. Canada was stronger in this version than in previous versions and I have no doubt that it was a good thing. Canada had options. We can see by the end of the game that Canada would have had the ability to cross the North Pole and go into Central Asia. That's a pretty important point as it means Canada is no longer limited to being the USA's b!tch all game long. He is strong enough to either be an effective partner or have a say in attacking the USA. I actually knew Ling was going to be stabbed before it happened, so I casually asked him what his thoughts were on Canada and he included the following lines (note: this was post-stab on USA):
If this game continues to go well I suspect many will say you've made Canada too strong, I hope you don't see it that way and weaken it again, I think it would be a mistake. When I got the power and saw the map I was a bit disgruntled. It still looked pretty tough to me and it has taken a lot of dip and a couple moments of good fortune to create the conditions required to actually stab the USA.
This really reflects the reality of the North American dynamic. Tom insisted to me that simply adding a Canadian unit is enough to "force" Canada to attack the USA. I think he is wrong and Ling hit it bang on. One extra unit isn't enough. Ling needed a weakened USA and willing partners in Mexico and the UK before taking on USA.
Side note: I actually liked having the UK presence in the Caribbean. It added a very new dynamic that shook up the rather standard USA domination of the region.
Last thing on the North American region, I thought Fred played a fantastic game right up until the end. He made a grave mistake in letting Randy keep two units on the border with Lima and Bogota. It was just inviting Randy to stab. I know it's not easy making stabs but there was a very interesting finish to this game in which there was almost a limbo between the contenders (more on that later). If Fred and Randy had allied to be the two EE powers in a coalition, I think that would have worked beautifully. However, if Fred had any inkling that was not the reality, he should have stabbed Randy. Given that he ended up throwing nukes at Orang Laut, I am led to believe that he did indeed have an inkling he was on the outside looking in. So I would have preferred to see him make a desperation lunge to stab Randy and hope that either Dario or Zac joined in, rather than split up his nukes and not really do anything effectively.
If you want a master class on how to run a continent, this is it. I haven't seen anyone run over South America this effectively since Zac took Brazil to glory some 8-10 years ago (has it really been that long?!?).
First of all, when someone quite literally dominates a continent, it scares me because I worry that future GMs will severely handcuff that power. It has happened time and time again. Doing that to Argentina would be so incredibly disrespectful to the game Randy played, I would be offended for him. The only mapping change I would want to see is having Chile back in the mix, although that is dependent on the number of players we get.
Brian (Brazil) gave an effort but it wasn't enough to match Randy's efforts. When Randy started getting traction with the other South American powers to take out Brazil, not to mention having a willing partner in the UK, that was the end of the game for Brian and, in effect, all of South America. Sergio (Ecuador) had a pretty good start and should be proud of that. But he really threw his own game in the mid-stages. He just didn't seem to care enough to put in the time needed to excel at NWO.
As an aside, I never had confirmation that Dag was the fake France email sender although it is my strong belief that Dario was right, it was Dag. Quite frankly, I am 100% in favour of people trying to impersonate others. It happened all the time in real life. It is also incredibly hard to do correctly and the risks are enormous. If you get caught, you're in trouble, as Dag found out.