Ignominious Defeats
Randall Bart
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Winnetka
California
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For a competition to have a winner, there has to be a loser. Usually it's the cleverness (or dumb luck) of the victor we remember, but other times the most memorable part of the game is how the loser lost.

So here are stories which aren't about heroic victory, but about antiheroic loss.
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1. Board Game: Diplomacy [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:499]
Randall Bart
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Winnetka
California
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Thirty years ago, we had a big Diplomacy group. It was easy for us to get seven together for a game; so easy that we got together 10 players one day for the Youngstown variant.

The Youngstown map covers all of Eurasia, with the standard seven Diplomacy powers plus China, Japan. and India. (History? We don't need no steenking history.) There are 72 supply centers, and victory is achieved by having 37 units on the board, not just having 37 supply centers. Though this distinction in the rules didn't impact this particular game, the events that transpired illustrate the distinction.

Jonathan was a very experienced player, and an excellent tactician. His ally had played a few times, but was not very experienced. This ally's strategy was to do everything Jonathan said. He was Jonathan's lap dog, his puppet. I forget the guy's name, but we always remember him as the Patsy.

Jonathan and the Patsy were doing quite well. Their mutual possessions were growing each turn. Jonathan had reached 16 units, and the Patsy had 12. That's a total of 28. Unless all the other players ganged up on them (which they wouldn't and couldn't), this alliance had an excellent shot at victory. That assumes of course that this alliance stayed together, which was not the case.

Every turn Jonathan dictated orders to the Patsy, who wrote them without question. Frequently Jonathan moved units through the Patsy's supply centers, because the Patsy trusted Jonathan to move them out in the Fall. Then one turn, Jonathan was writing his Fall orders, and he became a scorpion. He had some units already in the Patsy's supply centers, and he could take more. Jonathan made sure the Patsy moved his units out of the way, and then Jonathan perpetrated the deepest stab in history of Diplomacy. In a single year, Jonathan took ten supply centers from his loyal ally.

Jonathan now had 26 supply centers (maybe one or two more), but he could only build four units a year, so he only had 20 units on the board. Furthermore, it takes a long time to get units to the front. Also, the Patsy ended up with three supply centers, and though he was no great player he wasn't an idiot either. The Patsy knew to keep the three units closest to Jonathan's homeland and bring Jonathan down with him. Jonathan had to defend his home supply centers, so he only built one unit the following year. 21 units was his high watermark, because Jonathan's empire soon collapsed.

Recently when I mentioned this incident to Jonathan, he commented that he learned a lot form that experience.
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2. Board Game: Backgammon [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:1085]
Randall Bart
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In backgammon, when you get behind in the race aspect of the game, a frequent catch up tool is the back game. A back game is where you deliberately get some of your stones hit so that you can hit the opponents stones, and then get them caught. In fact the reason that a gammon (no stones off) counts double and a backgammon (a gammon with a stone in your opponent's inner court or on the bar) counts triple is to punish a player whose back game goes bad.

So I was playing against Jonathan (yup, same guy), and I had gotten behind and started a back game. My back game was going all wrong. He kept getting on and over my defense. I kept splitting inside points to keep the back game going, and Jonathan kept hitting them. Eventually I had seven stones on my six point, two each on the seven and eight points, two guys somewhere far back, and two on the bar. I kept rolling whatever points Jonathan had covered, and Jonathan moved all his stones around. Then I rolled 56 which put me over all of his stones. The race was on, and all I was trying to do was avoid a gammon.

Since it was now just a race, I had no need to make points, so I didn't. When I rolled a 1, I moved a stone from the seven to the six point. When I rolled a 2, I moved a stone from the eight to the six point. I was being very efficient, because I needed to get all my stones to my inner court.

Then Jonathan rolled doubles and it was looking grim. Eventually Jonathan had one stone on his one point and one on his three point; if he didn't roll 12, he was off. I had 14 stones on my six point and one stone on my twelve point. I repeated the mantra "Double three or better. Double three or better." (Years latter I was telling this story and realized 55 would have been bad.) I rolled 22. I picked up the stone on my twelve point, tapped in on the ten point, tapped it on the eight point, tapped it on the huge mass on the six point and held it there while Jonathan commented that we had witnessed 15 stones on one point, then deposited the stone on the four point. Jonathan rolled something small but adequate (maybe 14 ) to score the gammon.
 
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3. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.92 Overall Rank:28]
Randall Bart
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Winnetka
California
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This was a three way Power Grid game with Michelle, Mike, and myself. We were playing the eastern US, so it was a pretty cheap map. Mike had played about a dozen times and had determined that the key to the game is getting the right plants. This is when he learned about a plant too far.

In the third plant phase some juicy five city plants came up. I took one, Mike took one, and I think Michelle ended up with something smaller. Then on the next round another big plant came up. Mike insisted on buying it. I said, "But Mike, you only have two cities." "It's all about the plants," he replied.

Michelle built out to nine cities to trigger Step 2 and collect €98. On the next turn Michelle didn't buy a plant, which seemed mighty strange to us. We understood when she built 8 more cities to end the game. In the end, I could power 10 cities, but I only had 7, Mike could power 12 cities, but he had only 5, and Michelle could power 9 cities, owned 17 cities and won the game.
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