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Subject: Round 4: Maria Theresa (eventually) Triumphant (again) rss

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Justus Pendleton
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Jason Curtis
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and myself are currently 2/3rds of the way through a Maria league: 6 games covering all permutations of players and powers. The first game was described in a session report back in January. I thought our most recent game was wild & crazy enough to warrant another session report.

In this game, I was France, Alex was Prussia/Pragmatics, and Jason was Austria. Jason had just won the previous game as Austria. I was determined to try some bold, aggressive moves as France to prevent that from happening again.

I failed shake

My overall strategy as France was to leave only a meager defense in France against the Pragmatics, pull an extra general across to Austria. An all-out assault would come from the north (instead of the west) paralleling the Prussian advances. The idea was that a) the time necessary to move my forces into place would mean that Prussia would have attacked and weakened Austria; b) I would be able to attack in the same sectors that Prussia did and take further advantage of Austrian weakness; and c) that I would be able to take fortresses before the Prussians and deny them VP that way.

Let's see how that worked out....



I tried to keep from telegraphing my plan on the first turn. Fairly standard stuff, IMHO, for all three sides.



Since France goes first, I don't want to tip my hand in round two either. I want Prussia to be the first to hit Austria. General #1 makes clear that he is shifting to Core Austria. Bavaria is strong in Diamonds and has a Reserve so I feel comfortable pushing forward. Hopefully this leaves Austria unsure about where the axis of my attack will really be. South with Bavaria?

Unfortunately (for me) by the end of the turn Prussia still hasn't attacked. This provides a bit of a dilemma since that was key to my plan. Do I push forward with the Northern Offensive or fall back and come up with Plan B?



The forced marches are, IMHO, one of the best improvements of Maria over Friedrich. It allows more interesting redeployment of forces internally. Here I'm able to use it to quickly get General #1 into the Austrian Theatre of Operations.

It turns out the Pragmatics have created a 16-troop superstack and are pushing back on my 8-troop General #4 that was supposed to be a bulwark against Pragmatic aggression. That big stack is going to be a problem....

After three turns the Prussians still haven't attacked the Austrians. This causes major problems because I'm facing a ton of cards in the Austrian hand. I'm already committed, though. France has pretty strong cards in two suits; if I can engineer battles in those sectors I might be able to pull off a win despite Austria's much bigger hand.

I've also been able to take some traditionally Prussian fortresses deep in Austria that significantly narrow Prussia's ability to capitalise on my collapse if it comes to that.

Austria moves a Supply Train far south, tempting Bavaria. It is clearly bait for a trap. After weighing my options I decided to go for it. In retrospect this was a terrible move -- my worst of the game -- and due in large part because I misremembered the replacement rules for Supply Trains gulp



In the West I'm able to take out the Austrian Supply Train which effectively takes Austria out of the game there. The Pragmatics' big stack continues to advance and I continue to fall back. My plan is, now that Austria has been neutralised, to swing General #5 up north to threaten the Pragmatic Supply lines and slow/stop their conquest of France proper.

In the East I realise my mistake regarding the replacement of Supply Trains. For some unknown reason, when I made the move I thought it would be gone until Winter. Instead it respawns instantly in Linz. The Austrians are able to Force March straight into the heart of Bavaria.

Things are looking dire for France. Prussia still hasn't attacked -- four turns of peace from Frederick! Unheard of! -- and I will be forced into a decisive battle that will either result in French victory or...well, the alternative is too grim to contemplate.

Prussia throws its votes behind France for in the Imperial Election. Clearly he is more threatened by Austria than France after seeing my rash and foolhardly offensive on the verge of destruction.

It is beginning to look like this will be over quickly....



French diplomacy forces an Austrian general to be sent to Italy but it has no practical effect: the Austrians send Arenberg, who had been neutered in the West anyway.

In the West, the Pragmatic advance stops due to the threat from French General #5, which is good for me. It gives me some breathing room to deal with the Austrian Menace.

Austria makes a deal with Prussia, giving up the two Austrian fortresses in Silesia in exchange for peace this turn and an agreement to cede Silesia next turn. This allows Austria to focus entirely on France for the next two turns.

Things go...poorly in the East. zombie Despite having battle in my two most favorable suits I simply don't have the quantity of cards to overwhelm the Austrians. I felt like ONE MORE DIAMOND would have been enough but that is probably just wishful thinking

France and Bavaria lose everywhere. The Bavarians are forced to retreat far east past Pressburg. The Austrians conquer Munchen and set it ablaze. The French have Brunn but it won't last.

What's worse is that given the state of the board, all the French generals are now Out of Supply with no hope of fixing the situation. The Austrians will destroy the only French Supply Train on their next move.

On the positive side: my reckless Northern Offensive almost worked despite everything. France gets all the way down to two VP before being turned back by Austria.



Fairly uneventful compared to the previous several turns. Austria cedes Silesia. Three French generals and one Bavarian go Out of Supply and will almost certainly die. Austria has enslaved all of Bavaria. Two Austrian generals are marching West toward France itself.

If I can somehow get a general in supply and into position then liberating Bavaria will provide easy VP and secure a French victory...no idea how to make that happen, though.

Arenberg escapes from Italy. Just what I need. France uses some diplomatic treachery to turn Saxony neutral. Given all of the cards that Austria and I have burned, I don't want things too easy for Prussia. Hopefully the Saxon threat will keep him from overwhelming the meager Austrian forces nearby.

The Pragmatics appear to be redeploying to deal with the threat to their supply lines.



During the Winter, France added some troops to the Out of Supply Moritz which will give him enough to (hopefully) keep him alive until he makes it back to France.

The Bavarian general has died, two French generals are on their way out: reinforcing them would be pointless given they are losing 2 troops a turn. The only reason Moritz has a chance is because he had 8 troops when he went Out of Supply.

This was another turn of consolidation. Austria creates a double stack. Pragmatics create a double stack. Both get ready to smash France. Prussia eagerly waits for the Silesian peace to end. Their 4th general is released from East Prussia, which will provide a nice counterweight to the treacherous Saxons.



I think this was the first Prussian combat of the game. I'm not positive about that. Two full years of pacifism from Frederick certainly threw a wrench in Louis' plans! The Prussians begin to move south but with 5 VP in the pool they have their work cut out for them. What's worse the Saxons switch from being merely neutral to allying with Austria. Apparently the Austrian invasion of France has convinced them to join the winning side. Berlin sits undefended!

The Pragmatics and France come to a kind of uneasy truce given the threat presented by the Austrians. The Pragmatics pass on a card, forgoing Pragmatic reinforcements and letting France claim them instead with the promise they will be used again Austria.

Moritz prepares to Force March along the main road West and hopes to arrive in the Nick Of Time. The -2 troop every turn attrition is really hurting, even with Winter reinforcements.

Austria is down to 3 VP in the pool with lots of French fortresses nearby.



A Political card gives France some troops allowing General #4 to be reborn. Moritz Force Marches up behind the Austrians. General #5 conducts a fighting withdrawal that protects Strasbourg from falling into Austrian hands and probably prevents an Austrian victory then and there.

A wave of Prussia blue drips south but is contested every step of the way by Austrians.



The third Winter and then turn 10. Moritz's herculean march back from Austria helps to put the Austrians in France Out of Supply. A lot of Winter recruitment builds up the much depleted French armies.

At this point France is no longer worried about Austria inside of France. There is some mopping up to do but I've got a stack of 16 troops that will make short work of that.

Sadly, Moritz sacrifices himself to put the Austrians Out of Supply and will die the next turn.

Saxony takes Berlin, which makes up for the Austrian set backs in France.

At this point the VP pools were:

Austria - 2
Prussia - 2
Pragmatics - 3
France - 4

4 VP for France seems impossible, though. While my generals could maybe force march somewhere I have no Supply Trains anywhere remotely useful. The generals would be immediately Out of Supply and unable to capture anything.

I don't think the Pragmatics had lost a single troop in the game to this point: that plus their large hand size meant they were a threat for a sudden victory. If I could trick them into fighting against me in a strong sector I could hold them off, though.



French General #2 manages a brilliant victory. He started with 1 Troop and faced off against two Pragmatic generals. The French had proved too much for the Pragmatics, despite the use of two Reserves.

The Pragmatics retreat, effectively ending their hopes for the game. France is down to 2 VP thanks to Battle Victories but they are fairly empty victories. There is no way for France to win. The most France could do at this point was deny the Pragmatics victory.

And then wait and see what happens in the East....



Turn 12. The last turn.

France passes since any battles would have been pointless and taken up PBEM time.

Prussia attacks the Austrian general sitting on Dresden. If Prussia can win by 3 then the retreat will give them Bautzen and the Battle Victory will empty the pool, giving Frederick victory.

Otherwise, the Saxons will rampage through Prussia, taking Magdeburg and Halberstadt, giving Austria the win.

(Not that it mattered but Austria would have won on points if it came to that.)

The final battle comes and....Austria is able to maintain discipline and retreat in good form.

The treacherous Saxons clench victory for Austria!

The rebuilt French forces wish there had been two or three more turns to liberate Bavaria.

A very close game: 2 VP in the pool for France, 2 for Prussia, 3 for the Pragmatics.

Closing Thoughts

In my seven plays of Maria this was the first time I've seen the Year 4 events. Maria, like many other games with multiple decks, has the problem of seeing some events every game and some events never. (e.g. I've never seen the late war deck in Path of Glory being used because I always lose long before then .)

This was also the first game where I've seen Austria cede Silesia.

While my Northern Invasion failed catastrophically and contributed to the Austrian victory I still feel like it came close to succeeding even without the Prussians applying pressure as I expected them to.

I still think my biggest mistake was chasing after the Austrian Supply Train with Bavaria in the far south. In my defense, it was mostly a rules mistake; I didn't expect it to pop back up again until after Winter. I've played enough that there's no excuse for that! I was trying to nullify the threat of an invasion of Bavaria and ended up making it more likely! whistle

One potential problem with "single scenario" games like Maria is that there is always a fear that the game's replayability suffers. That you get into a rut, moves becomes robotic, etc. And I think that kind of thing is always going to happen with some groups even with a game as great as Maria. Sometimes games just don't click with people.

A session like this shows how flexible Maria can be. It has enough randomization, hidden information, and "location density" on its map that allows this kind of maneuver and variability in play.
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richard sivel
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Thank you for this very nice report! So much effort with all the screenshots! Wow! And what a wild and swingy game! -- I think that Prussia made a big mistake in not heading back with one general in order to defend Berlin, Brandenburg, Magdeburg. -- It can also be argued whether it was a good idea to make peace with Austria in this game, since it was more France hanging in the ropes (and not Austria).

Richard

EDIT: Delete two questions/hints regarding typos in the original posting.
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Justus Pendleton
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Correct. I have updated the text with those amendments.
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Jim F
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Thanks for the great AAR. I played this for the first time a couple of weeks ago and it was love at first play. Such a simple game to play (rules wise) but with incredible depth. We had a very despondant Austria getting badly beaten up by a very aggressive Prussia and France.
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J. R. Tracy
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Thanks for the write-up. Prussia's canny play certainly hindered your bold strategy; I was surprised to see Frederick was still in the running at game's end so I guess it was a sound approach, just not very Prussian! I especially enjoyed the screen shots, which really made your report come alive.

JR

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Knock knock open up the door it's Riel
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Great session report! I love all the screenshots.

One thing, though: in screenshots 3-5 there's a Pragmatic victory marker on a fortress in the Austrian Netherlands (Tournai). Is that correct? From the rules:
Quote:
(...)In all other cases the fortress is NOT marked with a victory
marker. (The conquest is a re-conquest of a friendly major
power home country fortress. Such a fortress, if not controlled
by an enemy, is controlled by the major power that
owns the teritory, and the territory's colour indicates control.
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Justus Pendleton
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No, it was a mistake that we corrected shortly thereafter.
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Jason Curtis
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I had a lot of fun in this game (as Austria). To summarize my plans and what worked I
1. Went for French/Bavarian supply lines.
2. Peace with Prussia as a delay tactic
3. All out into Southern France's attractive close together cities (this failed, but the attack was enough to make France defend rather than attack out.
4. Use my supply train as bait and bring it in to help my attack.
5. Delay! I know I techincally won on the last turn, but I was winning winter scoring, so I just needed the game to not end.

In the end being able to declare peace with Prussia; France going after my supply train allowing me to redeploy it in a more advantagous spot; and cutting off the French/Bavarian supplies were what did it for me.

Talking about the Prussian general going back north to defend from the Saxons wouldn't've worked to win the game. It might've turned the game into a scoring victory for Austria rather than an actual victory.

Oh, there was one other point...on turn 11 when Austria lost to the Prussians, they retreated them in a direction so they could defend Saxony and prevent a last-turn Prussian win. This game probably should've been Prussia's as his assault in the last few turns on Saxony caught me off guard and should've worked.
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Justus Pendleton
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Dexsting wrote:

4. Use my supply train as bait and bring it in to help my attack.
5. Delay! I know I techincally won on the last turn, but I was winning winter scoring, so I just needed the game to not end.


Even if the supply train elimination had worked the way I thought it did (i.e. out until Winter) it was still a good move for Austria. Sure, it means you can't invade Bavaria but it puts my Bavarian army out of position for a turn or two, which makes the internal defense a lot easier and it almost certainly worth the 4 TC it would cost to rebuild the Supply Train.

Dexsting wrote:

Talking about the Prussian general going back north to defend from the Saxons wouldn't've worked to win the game. It might've turned the game into a scoring victory for Austria rather than an actual victory.


I agree. I think Prussia was better off giving up Berlin and attacking instead. As you say, defending the Prussian homeland would have just meant it came down to Winter scoring and an Austrian victory that way. I think Austria ended up being >3 VP ahead of Prussia in Winter scoring -- due to the conquest of Bavaria -- so keeping those 3 VP from Austria would have still resulted in an Austrian win on points.

Dexsting wrote:

This game probably should've been Prussia's as his assault in the last few turns on Saxony caught me off guard and should've worked.


One thing I like about Maria is that both the Saxon defection and the Austrian invasion of Bavaria have almost as many negatives as positives, because they offer up new ways for your opponents to get VP.

My move to pry Saxony from the Prussian orbit ended up having ALMOST the effect I wanted -- forcing Prussia and Austria to fight far up north, leaving the south with few defenses -- but it came far too late and I was in no position to take advantage of it.
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Alex H.
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It was a pretty tense game. My strategy was to wait for France to make the first move and then attack a weakened Austria. In the meantime, my Pragmatics who got the better initial card draw would try to push into France. The Pragmatics had 3 Reserves by turn 2 and most other cards were 8s, 9s or 10s. Prussia was strong in clubs and weak in almost everything else. Then, seeing France push into Austria proper, I became reluctant to support their attack by also invading Austria. Over most of the game, I felt like the Pragmatics were my best chance of winning. Only in the last year did this change and, as Jason kindly pointed out, Prussia almost made it. Retreating the Austrian general into a position where he could deny my 2 Saxon fortresses in the very last turn was incredibly stupid but it was one of those "push out a quick move files". It could still have worked out but Jason is very good in keeping a hand that denies significant victories.
Leaving the Saxon general ravage Prussia was well calculated. I knew that Saxony was strong mostly in Diamonds so militarily he was not a huge threat. With winter scoring imminent and thus a Austrian victory I decided to not send a general out after the Saxons but use all I had in the pursuit of another VP. Would have been neat...

Justus, thank you very much for puttint this report together.
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Brian Evans
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A really nice session report. Thanks for sharing! Now go post another one
 
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