LAST MAN STANDING: OPERATION ANKARA

by Mario Huys


Last Man Standing is a puzzle on the Diplomacy board, whereby the whole board gets reduced to a single unit. This unit must reach its final destination in a mere four game years, without any power capturing any neutral centers and with all powers still possessing at least one unit at the end of the second year. Your goal is to reconstruct the complete game history from the map given. For more details, read the LMS Roll Call.

Mission: Father of Turks

Army Liverpool to Ankara, After Winter 1903
Army Liverpool to Ankara, After Winter 1903
Austria (1/4) F Con / Bud Con Tri Vie        
England (1/4) A Sev / Lon Lvp Sev Stp        
France  (1/6) A Arm / Bre Edi Mar Par Smy Ven
Germany (0/5)         Ber Kie Mos Mun War    
Italy   (0/2)         Nap Rom                
Turkey  (1/1) F Bla / Ank                    

Army Liverpool reaches the end of his journey that brought him to all the great capitals on the Old Continent. The last one is not actually in Europe proper, nor did it become a capital until after the Great War. But it's a remarkable feat nonetheless. And for the first time Britain loses a home center. A fitting prelude to our next issue, where we'll explore the conquest of Britain. Oh yes, there's more to come. Rejoice.

Mission: The Great Fire

Fleet Sevastopol To Smyrna, After Winter 1904
Fleet Sevastopol To Smyrna, After Winter 1904
Austria (0/2)         Ank Tri                    
England (0/1)         Lvp                        
France  (0/6)         Bre Edi Lon Mar Par Ven    
Germany (0/7)         Ber Con Kie Mos Mun Vie War
Italy   (0/4)         Bud Nap Rom Sev            
Russia  (1/2) F Smy / Stp Smy                    

As anyone who read the story knows, Smyrna is the city that sparks – no, not a fire – a flash of genius in the greatest detective that ever graced these pages. It's only fitting that we should target it here with the help of a Russian refugee owning the bare minimum of centers of any Last Man Standing – two.

Report: City of Lights — Army Liverpool to Paris

Army Liverpool To Paris, After Winter 1903
Army Liverpool To Paris, After Winter 1903

What's up with the Turk? It's not so strange that there is a yellow unit in the final year. After all, Turkey is furthest away from France and those nations tend to survive. But as it's an army, you might have expected it to be in Munich, not in Brest. Traveling by land it can be in Sevastopol in W01, Warsaw in W02, Munich in W03. Instead it's A Lvp occupying Munich, the same army that landed in Brest in the first year in the Sherlock Holmes LMS riddle. It's the world upside down.

You could say: "Well, it has to be so, otherwise A Lvp wouldn't become the Last Man Standing." But that would be wrong. The French army in Gascony can just as well attack Burgundy as support an attack on Burgundy. No, the reason is quite simply that this was the direction in which a solution was first sought. Can Turkey be convoyed to France? How many fleets would be involved? When could they be in place?

As it happens, the earliest convoy straight from Turkey into France can occur in Spring 1902, involving 5 fleets in order to cross 5 sea spaces. Actually 4 might suffice if you aim for Spain and move into France in Fall. Or you could convoy to Tunis in Spring and then use a second convoy to get to the French Atlantic or Mediterranean coast. This too would require a total of 4 fleets, but spread over two seasons. The important thing is to do it early, so that there are still enough fleets in the game, before they start killing each other off. That means in 1902.

The 5 fleets involved in the Spring 1902 convoy are F Ank in the Aegean, F Tri in the Ionian, F Nap in the Tyrrhenian, F Bre in the Western Mediterranean and F Lon in the Mid-Atlantic. All different nationalities, which bodes well for later dislodgements. We will need to raise at least one more French fleet to deal with the Turkish fleet, as neither Turkey nor Italy can be turned into sniper countries.

Looking at the home centers that have changed hands, the most significant one is Warsaw which became German, even though Germany lost all its home centers and no German unit remains on the After W03 map. We can surmise that Germany was a sniper in the first two years and lost its last unit through dislodgement in the third year. Even if Munich still had been German during 1903, its loss would not lead to a German disband, as there would still need to be one German left on account of Warsaw. Munich therefore is more useful if it's captured by France, the only true sniper power on this map. This allows for a French fleet build in W01 and the removal of an obsolete French unit in W03.

Adding to that, we see that Sevastopol became Turkish and Constantinople remained Turkish. It's easy to see then that as Russia lost two home centers it would be forced to disband F Sev and one more unit. F Stp would be the natural choice, as the greater fleet action is in the Med, leaving few fleets in the North to deal with it later on. A further condition for this double removal is that Berlin only gets taken in 1902, otherwise Russia would still have 3 centers. If likewise Kiel's capture gets postponed to the second year, Germany can field two armies in the East to deal with two raiders in the area, one being the Turkish army that took Sevastopol (A Smy moving through Armenia or, why not, A Con convoyed through the Black Sea from Bulgaria!), the other either a Russian or Austrian army. Given that an Austrian moving to Galicia in S01 can already be sandwiched between a Russian and German army, the choice is clear.

The path of the Austrian army that we see on the W03 map is pretty straightforward. First to Venice, then to Marseilles and finally to Burgundy. But how to handle the remaining Northern fleets, one German, two English? Remember that the two German armies were used as snipers, so F Kie must survive into 03, preferably close to the French coast. An extra French fleet in the area would be advantageous, but France took only one center so far (Munich), and pledged it to build a fleet in Marseilles. That shouldn't be a hindrance though. We can dislodge A Mar in Piedmont by converging the two Italian armies there. As long as Venice is cleared before the Austrian arrives, we can then still disband one Italian army and build that second French fleet in Brest. The rest is a question of putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

Army Liverpool to Paris, After Winter 1901
Army Liverpool to Paris, After Winter 1901
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Season:

1901. The fleets glide into position. Like a piece of ballet, everyone knows its moves.

Army Liverpool to Paris, After Winter 1902
Army Liverpool to Paris, After Winter 1902
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Season:

1902. A grand écart from Smyrna to Brest, followed by a pirouette surprising both English sister fleets. Sissies.

Army Liverpool to Paris, After Winter 1903
Army Liverpool to Paris, After Winter 1903
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Season:

1903. Coupez, coupez. Like scissors the French snipers snap away at the board, with some help from Austrians and Turks.

Army Liverpool to Paris, After Winter 1904
Army Liverpool to Paris, After Winter 1904
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Season:

1904. Tournez, pliez et pointez. The final applause. The curtain closes.

Click here for the complete solution.

Report: The Cliff — Austrian Army to Brest

Austrian Army To Brest, After Winter 1904
Austrian Army To Brest, After Winter 1904

Apart from the Austrian army in Brest and the colors of the dots, we are told that there's a fleet in the Mid-Atlantic Ocean in every [movement] season, except the first and the last. Which means that of the 3 or 4 (more likely) units remaining at the start of the last year, one will be a fleet in the Mid-Atlantic. It could be a French fleet or foreign.

Now, take a look at the centers closest to Brest. There's Paris of course, which is colored red and therefore the starting place of the Austrian army. There's London, which sits across the Channel. A fleet there could only move to the Channel, from where it can attack Brest, but not be attacked by the Austrian dude, as armies are useless against fleets in the water. And if it would have been an army in London, either it would have to be convoyed, which would require the French fleet to be in the Channel instead of the Mid-Atlantic (no fourth unit would be allowed) or it would need to get dislodged by the French sniper fleet with the help of an enemy fleet in the Channel, getting us in the same situation as before. So London is not an option. Munich is too far, being three moves removed from Brest.

That leaves us Marseilles, a green dot. In Spring the Italian army in Marseilles attacks some unit in Gascony, supported by a French fleet in Mid-Atlantic, while the Austrian army moves to Brest. In Fall Austria supports France against Italy. France loses its last center, disbands the fleet and the case is closed. Well, we only need to figure out the first three years and the mystery guy in Gascony. There is of course a distant possibility that no second center needed to be captured, but in the previous solutions we've learned that more is better, as every dot allows for more snipers to be around in 1903 and thus also more raiders.

Let's turn to the starting board now and work our way forward. We see that different from before it's now Russia taking a Turkish center. With assistance from F Nap, F Sev could attack Smyrna in S02 and take care of both Turkish armies. That would preempt the need for a convoy. The question is whether the French fleets (indeed, plural again) can get close enough to finish off all Southern fleets. Fortunately they can by converging on the Ionian Sea at the end of 1903. Since this will leave two French fleets floating in the Med, two French centers should change hands, justifying the capture of Marseilles. And since there still should be a French fleet in the Mid-Atlantic, we'd better make sure to build two in W01 again.

Munich is again a French target in 1901, as Austria will capture it in 1902 before heading to Paris. But can we take out A Mar? Do we need to? Indeed, there's this remarkable fact that Vienna became Italian. This can only be achieved by A Ven in 1901. This army can return to Venice in 1902 and move on to Marseilles to become a part of the final battle. Which means Venice might as well be temporarily captured by France to provide for the second fleet build.

The pieces are falling into place. But we didn't talk about the North yet. Germany is again down to one center, but this time it's Kiel, which did not become English. Indeed, England took no center whatsoever. Berlin became Russian again. But because Russia already targets Constantinople in 1901, we might as well take Berlin in the same year. Which allows us to disband two German units out of the gate. Which two? Donnerwetter, F Kie and A Ber of course, who can practice a routine not seen since the days of the Devonshire riddle, attacking and dislodging F Stp in Livonia. That takes care of two fleets, leaving only England to worry about. It also allows us to send A Mun to France to assist in the disposal of England. In fact A Mun could well be the mysterious fourth man in 1904. Let's play it out.

Army Vienna to Brest, After Winter 1901
Army Vienna to Brest, After Winter 1901
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Season:

1901. France slashes out in all directions in an audacious center grab not seen since the days of Napoleon Bonaparte. En avant les enfants de la patrie.

Army Vienna to Brest, After Winter 1902
Army Vienna to Brest, After Winter 1902
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Season:

1902. England steers full tilt towards France, but gets beaten back. Admiral Nelson is having a bad day.

Army Vienna to Brest, After Winter 1903
Army Vienna to Brest, After Winter 1903
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Season:

1903. France gets attacked from all sides by a motley combination of former allies and enemies. Napoleon readies himself to make a final stand on the rock of Brest.

Army Vienna to Brest, After Winter 1904
Army Vienna to Brest, After Winter 1904
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Season:

1904. It's not Waterloo, but the French are defeated anyway. It's the end of La Révolution and of L'Empire Français. The king returns. Vive le Roi. Not for very long though. The wheels of History will inexorably roll on towards the reestablishment of La République.

Click here for the complete solution.

More detective work

Last time I gave you some extra homework: What if Turkey takes Warsaw in 1903 instead of 1902? How can this be done without changing the final map?

A Turkish army in Warsaw means no Italian army in Trieste, since there still needs to be a French army in Vienna. At the same time it's now Warsaw that needs to be German (or Austrian), but we'd still like Russia to be at 3 centers after 1901. The easiest way to do this is by keeping Sevastopol Russian one year longer. So speed up Trieste, slow down Sevastopol, both of which are captured in 1902. Here's how the map looks like after the first year:

Army Marseilles to Budapest, After Winter 1901
Army Marseilles to Budapest, After Winter 1901

France already took Venice, while other armies moved about to position themselves better for the upcoming slugfest. Note the Russian army in Silesia instead of Galicia. The continuation from here is fairly straightforward. You can check the complete game history here.

I did change one thing on the final map. The French army there is the one from Marseilles, not Paris. This makes it possible to distinguish the two solutions by game name, as that is typically composed of the start and end destination of the surviving unit. But don't fret, it's entirely possible to get A Par to Vienna and get rid of A Mar even after it moved to Venice. I won't bother going into details, as it's all quite trivial. On to something else.

This issue features the final installment of The Costly Case of the Last Man Standing, the Sherlock Holmes story that launched this column. If you haven't read it yet, I encourage you to do so now. It's literally an unfolding story. At the very end a new challenge is given. If you don't like to click to it all again, use the link given here. The solution(s) will be in the next issue.



Email writer thumbnail Mario Huys
(woelpad@gmail.com)

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