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Subject: (As usual) Prussian Victory at the end of 1742 rss

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jbrier
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Maria has been a real hit with everyone I've introduced it to. Despite the game hitting the table 6-7 times already this year, my friend Neil hadn't had the chance to play it yet. So today we finally made it happen. We were joined by fellow Maria veteran Luis.

As usual I wanted to play Austria to see if I could finally win as Maria Theresa. As it turns out, I've played the game 10 times now and have never seen an Austrian victory. Then again in all but 2 of those games I've been Austria, so maybe I'm just terrible at this game. What has also been a recent trend is Prussia winning; I think Prussia at this point has actually won the last 4-5 games.

Neil was France, and Luis was Prussia/Pragmatic Army. Neil got off to a shaky start due to inexperience. It always seems that first time French players experience a rude awakening when they realize they only have 2 supply trains, and their initial plan of attack has to be altered. As a result I managed to pick up a French fortress with Arnberg and had a relatively easy time dealing with the French and Bavarian attack in Bohemia, which was slow to get going (although maybe he was also holding back in Bohemia because he lacked the right suits, who knows...)

On the other hand life was also being made easier for Pragmatic Army, which made an advance into Northern France and captured a few fortresses the first year. At the end of 1741 the Pragmatic Army had 5 fortresses in its pool, Austria and Prussia had 6, and France had 8.

What gave me hope that this would finally be the game I would win as Austria was when I attacked and decisively beat the Saxon general, causing Saxony to become neutral. This had never happened for me before and I was very excited (I think this happened the last turn of 1741) Unfortunately the very next turn in the political phase France activated a card that moved the Italy marker two spaces in the direction that hurts Austria, causing me to not only get one less TC each turn but also have to remove one of my generals from the board.

In hindsight, my first big mistake was to remove a general from the Bohemia map; I should have removed Arnberg, and let the Prags worry about holding back France in Flanders. The main reason I didn't do so was because Arnberg was defending the aforementioned conquest he made early on. Also since the three Pragmatic generals were all bunched up in the northwest corner of the map, I felt that removing Arnberg would give France too easy pickings of fortresses in Austrian Flanders. But realistically it would have only taken a turn or two for a Pragmatic general to attend to that region.

Having to remove a general from the Bohemia map felt like it negated my progress in having made Saxony neutral, as that general I removed was going to be used to wrap around the Prussian front and give him trouble from behind.

Although I was managing to slow Prussia's advance by losing battles by only 1 or 2, the problem is that Prussia never really spent many cards so his hand just kept growing to a monstrous size.

The mistake that cost me the game was being suckered into spending a lot of cards in a battle against France. He made a move that surrounded one of my generals, so that I needed to win or else the general would be destroyed. In hindsight, I should have just let that general go- France didn't even stand to gain any fortresses with this move, and I had another general close by that could still defend that area.

But in an attempt to save that general (still reeling from having had to remove a general already from the map) I played ALL of the clubs from my hand, stupidly forgetting that the two generals defending against Prussia were BOTH in clubs. You might ask how I could be so stupid- I'm still trying to figure it out myself.

Miraculously I was able to survive the Prussian attack later that turn because his generals had more armies than mine- he never had a chance to play cards as I was immediately forced to retreat.

At this point it became apparent that Prussia was very close to victory, and with the Pragmatics not too far behind either I decided to cut a deal with France. Rather than him have to remove half of his victory markers in Bohemia by declaring reduced objectives, I agreed that if he left the Bohemia map he could keep all three of his conquered fortresses and we would simply be at peace for the rest of the game. This agreement allowed me to focus solely on Prussia and him to focus solely on the Pragmatics. At that point my hope for winning was going to be to get Saxony to be my ally and try to take fortresses in Silesia and/or Prussia.

Sadly, the peace treaty was too little too late, as Prussia cruised to victory by crushing me in battle the next turn. That was the last turn of 1742. I turned over the top two political events of 1743 and one of them was the card that immediately makes Saxony an Austrian ally!!!

Oh, if I could have just held on a little longer!

This was an interesting game both in that I finally managed to make Saxony neutral through combat and also in that I made a permanent peace treaty with France.

But once again Austria didn't win and to add insult to injury once again Prussia did! I can SEE how Austria COULD win, but it just never actually HAPPENS due to mistakes on my part or perhaps just not having the right strategy. I do find that Prussia's initial hand size of 9, which only grows as the game continues is a major obstacle to Austria's chances of success. The problem is that Prussia WILL use those cards in combat against Austria, so Austria has to absorb them one way or the other. I've been pretty good about the "art of retreat" in my games as Austria and losing battles by only 1-2, but what this means is that Prussia's hand just keeps getting bigger and bigger, so that when finally decisive battles happen the Austrian forces get decimated.

Comments welcome!








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R Larsen
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Afraid I have no major comments.

Have only played a single Maria, and actually Austria won a narrow victory, with both France and Prussia having one or two markers in their pool.

I played Prussia, and was probably playing conservatively. With more aggressive play I might have won.

The austrian victory was kind of peculiar. As far as I rememeber, the main reason for the victory was that the Arnberg (the Austrain general in the Flanders map) kind of abandoned his own region, and went on a rampage in France. The French generals were mainly occupied with the Pragmatic and the Austrian on the Bohemia map, by accident letting Arnberg slip around and south of the French armies.

This was one of those strange situations where a general is not punished for running away from his home region (did we play this wrong).

Anyway, it was a great great game.

Thanks for the interesting session report. I need to play this more.
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Jim Marshall
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What would your Austrian card hand have looked like if you hadn't chased down and destroyed the Saxon army?

To me the Austrian needs to be very careful about preserving his hand. As Prussian, I would be quite relaxed if the Austrian focussed effort against the Saxons rather than Prussians. There's a good chance that Saxony will turn neutral then switch to the Austrian side, so handing over a spent Saxon hand and army has some appeal, plus each card played against the Saxons is one less available to be played against the Prussians.

Lots of tricky balancing to be done in this game!
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The root of all evil... but you can call me cookie.
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I really do feel I handed the game over. I made some pretty big mistakes straight out the gate that simply won't happen next time. The Bohemian front was stupid for me. I thought the French army could resupply using the Bavarian train so I kept those grouped and that's stupid in hindsight...now that I know they can't resupply like that well...it'll not happen like that. So really at least 2 turns with tha tone French general on the bohemian board were null.

My missuse of the train on the other board led to me fumbling about to keep it alive! So I floundered there after you took that one point in trying to keep you at bay and then allowing the Prags to come in and rape me.

Not complaining mind you...I made the mistakes and got taught a lesson by them. Can't wait to play this thing again.
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Steve Bishop
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Nice report.

I've only played this once against two other newbies so can't really comment on any long term biases, in our game I managed to win with France.

Prussia struggled to make headway against the Austrians and those Hussars really seemed to give him problems; he ended up placing all of his generals and supply train adjacent to stop the rampaging cavalrymen draining his resources.

After reading your report I think you have already identified several mistakes that you made so your own experience should stand you in good stead next time.
Why not try a different side next game, sometimes looking from the 'opposite' view gives you an idea of the weaknesses of that position.





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jbrier
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Jim Marshall wrote:
What would your Austrian card hand have looked like if you hadn't chased down and destroyed the Saxon army?


In fairness, I didn't expend that much effort against Saxony. I had a bunch of high diamonds in my hand so I seized the opportunity to knock Saxony into neutrality. All in all I think I had to expend 3-4 cards (~20 in TC) in that one battle.

I think it was worth it because (a) I didn't need diamonds against Prussia for the foreseeable future, and (b) a neutral Saxony would allow me to flank Prussia from the west.

I agree that playing Austria is tricky, and requires conserving one's hand. I'm not sure that simply slowly retreating and trying to run out the clock is sufficient, however. I think as Austria you have to capitalize on the fact that you have more generals available and use some of them offensively to cause problems for you enemy, such as for example going behind their enemy lines as I planned this game.

In this particular game I made some particularly egregious mistakes, such as allowing one of my generals to be surrounded and then draining a suit from my hand that I desperately needed the same turn. These were just lapses in concentration really. I still have a considerable amount of faith that Austria can win because it seems that every game AT SOME POINT I make some obvious error. I think what makes Austria harder to play than the other powers is that it is more unforgiving. If you make a mistake as Austria it is more likely going to cost you the game.
 
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Dvonn Yinsh
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For whatever it's worth, here is a thread that has logged winners:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/479925/log-your-winning-...

The role of Maria (Austria) has won approximately 17% of games; whereas the other 2 roles have won 41.5% each.

It would seem that most players are having a hard time finding a way for Austria to win its proportionate share of games.
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jbrier
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It's possible that Austria isn't winning its fair share of games from overall player inexperience.

If another power makes a mistake that causes its forces to be crushed in battle, the game goes on and that power has a chance to recover. Also this will lessen pressure on Austria who can keep the third player in check.

If Austria makes a mistake that causes its forces to be crushed in battle the game usually ends as Austria's disintegration, even if temporary, generally opens the door for another power to claim victory.

Thus, as players of Maria everywhere gain more experience and generally make fewer mistakes (at least obvious ones), I think Austria will start to win more often. But this is just a theory. It's entirely possible that Austria is just harder to win with period. It sure feels like it right now!

 
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Mark Luta
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One thing I have figured out the Austria player needs to look at very carefully is which side to surrender Prague to, if he lacks the proper cards for a defense of Bohemia. Normally the preference would be Prussia (Saxony), giving them a third vote in the 1742 election, as this seems to leave Austria with 4 votes (3 Rhine Electorates plus Hannover) and France with 2 (Mannheim and Munich). Thus, if Saxony can be made neutral before the election, Austria will have the 5 votes necessary to win, or if France enjoys some success with gaining additional votes (e.g., if the Pragmatic Army is doing exceptionally well and Austria needs to cede a Rhine Electorate vote to France to deny that VP to the Pragmatic Army), it should still be difficult for France to actually gain 5 votes for Charles-Albert, meaning worse case that negotiations with Prussia will be needed to get the election VP. So even if Austria loses, France is probably weakened by giving up something to Prussia.

However, if Prussia is doing very well and likely to continue in this vein, something Austria can tell by looking at their own hand, Austria ought to be certain France takes Prague, so to deny the VP to Prussia. In fact, if Prussia is doing entirely too well, it is possible for France to go sit on another objective or two in Bohemia, and deny these to Prussia, even if they will not be able to take them. France is only allied to Prussia for convenience, after all, no actual help was ever promised...Of course, Austria needs to be certain doing so will not hand the game to France instead, this is definitely a tightrope!
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jbrier
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Thought I'd give an update on how games are going in our group. Although Austria STILL hasn't won any games, the last few games have been much more competiive and as a result have also lasted longer. The days of someone winning automatically in 1742 are over; the last two games have gone all the way to the last turn of the game and have been very close. One of those games in particular Austria came very close to winning and if the game had lasted another turn might have actually won. Needless to say my estimation of the game has only gone up; indeed Maria is now my favorite boardgame- just an epic, tense and dynamic experience every time.

As far as insights regarding how to play Austria, I think using some of your generals to outflank the enemy and potentially capture fortresses is key- remember you have those supply trains in Bohemia for a reason! Just last game I came very close to winning as Austria by capturing fortresses in Saxony and Bavaria
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Kanalja
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'In Russia all roads lead to Moscow. One chooses the road one wishes. Charles XII chose the road through Poltava.'
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verandi wrote:
As far as insights regarding how to play Austria, I think using some of your generals to outflank the enemy and potentially capture fortresses is key- remember you have those supply trains in Bohemia for a reason!


I believe you are right on this one. Protecting your own fortresses is not the key to victory when playing Maria Theresa. That just makes it harder for her enemies to win. When Maria Theresa has done well in our games she has been conquering fortresses from France. Otflanking, however, is very difficult if Louis XV is not interested in reducing his military objectives and Frederick does not annex Silesia.
 
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