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Strategy Article




Richard Sharp


Dolchstoss #49


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My contribution to greater knowledge of opening theory this month should be less controversial than the last two, as it is more concerned with strategy than with those nasty tactics that Roy Taylor finds so difficult.

The theory is that in the early stages Germany and Austria should be played as much as possible like a single country.

Germany enjoys more than any ether country the near certainty that no one will attack her in 1901. Attacks do happen - weird alliance attacks by France and Italy, reckless mole assaults by Russia - but they are extremely rare.

Austria, on the other hand, enjoys the near certainty that someone will attack in 1901 - Russia or Italy or both, often aided and abetted by Turkey. The rapid demise of Austria that inevitably follows (except when he plays the Hedgehog, of course) is extremely bad for Germany. I did do some analysis which showed that Germany did much worse than usual in games where Austria was eliminated early; now I’ve lost the analysis, so you’ll have to take my word for it. And, since Germany is in the enviable position of being virtually certain of two builds without the assistance of A(Mun), it is only common sense to place this army at the disposal of Austria.

The common-sense plan is to move it to Tyr. However, this may be open to misconstruction, e.g. if Roy is playing Austria. Unless you can come to a sufficiently good arrangement with Austria about this, a good enough alternative is to leave the army where it is. This can be done in a variety of ways - a stand-off in Burgundy is my own preference, but France sometimes doesn’t like this, reckoning with some reason that it could lead to a position where only England has a unit adjacent to Belgium in Autumn 1901. Other exotic ploys include a stand-off in Silesia or even Prussia; or the prosaic A(Mun) stands.

But even more important than the move is the threat of it. I always start my games as Germany by talking to Italy and Austria together, telling both of them that I don’t want any fighting between them, and that if either of them moves to Tyr I will put my army under the orders of the other. Austria generally offers to buy me a drink; it is from Italy that resistance is to be expected.

Personally, if I as Italy am confronted with this ultimatum, I am likely to accept it with as good a grace as possible. The fact is that this one extra army makes an immense difference to Italy’s attacking chances. And Germany has another shot to fire as well.

Germany informs Russia that he will be opening to Denmark (again, I invariably do this; the move to Holland is bad for several reasons). Germany further says that he will make no trouble over Sweden unless Russia moves to Gal (or tries to). This again is a powerful threat: Russia needs Sweden badly nowadays, when an attack by Turkey is so common. If I, as Italy, am convinced that Germany will stand in Munich and Russia will not go to Galicia, then I shall not attack Austria. It’s as simple as that.

They try, of course. In BDC 41I Nicky Palmer (Italy) told me to get stuffed and attacked Austria anyway: he was forced to call it off after a short, sharp struggle. (At one point, by the way, Austria ordered his German mercenary into Burgundy, which annoyed France considerably, but that’s by the way.) In this year’s FtF final at MidCon Pete Cousins (Italy) also went through with the attack, having agreed not to, and this time the counter-attack worked so well that it got out of hand, and Mike Ingham (Austria) very nearly won.

But the usual result of the plan is a three-way alliance: A & G v R, A & I v T, G & I v F, with Germany taking responsibility for playing off England, France and Russia against each other. Remarkable things happen: in BD3 (Bellicus), a 2-way G-I draw after Austria dropped out, Germany had units in ENG, Pic and Bur with French permission. In BDC 55 Austria won in 1905, Germany (me) being wrecked by the abject performance of Russia, who let Austria walk all over him before I was ready.

The key to the success of the opening is diplomacy: if you are not good enough to entangle England with Russia and France by sheer willpower, forget it - England will do too well if given a free hand. But if you are, like me, a Germany addict, enjoying the sensation of sitting in the middle fiddling while Europe burns, this Anschluss ploy should be a keystone of your strategy.

See also Richard's follow-up article - Was I Right?