Wow, what a wild ride that was.
Looking back, I think I can pinpoint one key spot when this game went downhill for me. Some would say it was my hesitation to stab France in 1901 (can it really be a stab when you haven't established an alliance?), some would say it was when Turkey stabbed me, but I'd argue the biggest contributing factor to my downfall was when I pulled my hand out of the bag and saw a green army clutched in my fingers. :)
I was not at all prepared to play Italy this game. I haven't read jack about italian strategy, I haven't spent any time analysing the italian openings, midgames, local stalemate lines (other than a cursory glance at the global stalemates that hold for anyone who can get to them), or even likely Italy victories. I've played Austria-Hungary and Germany both, and can honestly say that I love the opportunity you get to talk with everyone as a middle country, but that's only fun when you're reasonably assured of two additional centres. Italy gets one, and even that can take some talking if there are difficult neighbors..
But enough of the "if so-and-so is friendly" or "possible situations" crap, this is an EOG, let's talk specifics.
1901 started nicely enough. I found AH and T both agreeable to my getting Greece for my 1901 build (that fact alone suprised me) and F seemed willing for us to ignore one another for the time being. G failed to approach me about the AH question, which sent off a big red flag in my head that, in hindsight, I would have been wise to listen to. Alas, I was too busy formulating plans of solidifying the Medditeranian and sending an ambassador unit (the army from greece) over to the winner of the AH/T dispute I could see simmering.
Then I spoke with E prior to the fall (as in the season, not "... of italy") and mentioned him taking a nice-sized chunk out of F. I wasn't willing to go against my word with F so early in the game and so couldn't take part in the french spoils (having allready promised to not invade that turn), much to my later downfall. I was hoping, though, that if E was willing to start the attack on F that early, he wouldn't mind my taking a more minor role till later on.
In fact, I am inclined to agree with E, that not invading F that turn started my demise -- though this wouldn't come to fruition for 5 game years.
Things went reasonably well for a while there. I was making strides in cleaning up the Med, with a minor nuisance of a somewhat beligerant T continuously building up his fleets in the Eastern waters, but they were dutifully holding and not making moves against me, so I felt he could be moderately trusted. Then F noticed that his battles with me had pulled me rather far from some SCs I had bordering T's area, and those bothersome fleets he had been quietly building up. As soon as this was mentioned this to me, I saw there was nothing I could do to stop the blade, so I decided to just keep pushing my forward lines out in hopes of, if not stoping the stab, at least gaining enough SCs on the front line to cancel the loss in my back.
I managed about one year.
By the time 1906 rolled around, I found myself writing disband orders for the first time this game. Not a good sign. More disbands in 1907 and another round of disbands in 1908 turned my game from one of trying to win into one of trying to not get eliminated before R (who, though he put up a valiant fight, proved himself blind when he turned down my offer to help him hit T at a critical point and instead tried to do a different hit on his own, thus ensuring that we would both fall). I did manage to survive longer than R, but only just. I suspect I shall allways remember the last year, when I had left the room to do some cleaning up in another room and could overhear them (E,T,and F) talking about how they would attack my last few centers. I come back to the board and see they are actually moving my units around, visualising different scenarios and trying to block any chance I had to slip away. quite comical, that one. I suppose I should be honored that they considered my ability a sufficient threat that they had to go about it so carefully -- and that it did take all three of them to do it. :)
All in all, I feel rather happy with my performance as Italy this game. I had no preparation for it (I was honestly rather looking forward to playing Turkey, the other one I had left to experiance), and it's also the poor sap with the fewest percentage of wins overall. It's the most painful to play, and the most difficult to win with. That I managed to put up a reasonable fight and was the last one eliminated (E, F, and T agreed to a three-way tie once I was eliminated) I think speaks volumes. That the first two eliminated were new to the game and the third had taken over in 1902 from someone who messed up in 1901 -- well, this kinda takes away from what might be said positively of my performance.. But I had fun, damnit, and that's what counts!
My head most sorely hurts now, though. This was a frightfully intense game for me. I had to spend almost every minute running from room to room talking with players. I had to make deals left and right, suggest strategy that distracted from me, and fight tooth and nail for every meager gain I could cling to. 10 hours of almost constant stress. I wonder if it wouldn't have been easier had I simply started the stiff mixed drinks when I drew Italy from the start. :)
Seriously, it wouldn't be the first time Italy's passed out by 1904. And now I see why. heh.
But yes, a great thank you to all the players (though some may not even read this), and I'm tremendously happy that of the three who joined us for the first time not a one has said they wouldn't play again. Though two of them aren't particularly thrilled with the game, they agree that it could be more fun if they aren't the first ones eliminated. hopefully they'll get some easier opening countries next time, perhaps England or France can be arranged for them. I look forward to doing this again before too long.
but someone else gets to play Italy. :)