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Austrian Strategy


Don Turnbull


Games & Puzzles, June 1972


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The first question a newcomer to Diplomacy is apt to ask, having surveyed the rules (you all have a new rule book, of course?) is "How do I start?" To throw some light on this question I will deal with each country individually in the next seven articles, trying to outline the main courses of action that are available, and to give a few tips about the relevant diplomacy. Experience in play will, of course, suggest other lines of thought but if you study these articles, you will stand a better chance of avoiding leading your country to ruin in 1902.

Right? You have drawn AUSTRIA in your first game. So what?

Like Germany, Austria lies in the centre of the board, and thus provides a natural East-West corridor for marauders. Any large-scale alliance between the Eastern Powers on the one hand and the Western Powers on the other is likely to gobble up Austria on the way to fighting each other. So Austria must try to negotiate terms - perhaps Russia is the best potential ally in this respect - to prevent this from happening.

On two sides Austria has other Great Powers. Italy is close in the West (and Trieste and Venice are the only two home supply centres adjacent to each other in different countries). Germany looms ominously in the north. In the East lie the Balkans - always a source of trouble, both in the game and in history. In the south is the Mediterranean - yet sea power can rarely be boasted by Austria, which is the only country to have only one coastal supply centre.

Problems, problems! But not insuperable, don’t despair. Look first at the balance between land and sea power. If Austria concentrates on a land campaign (and this is tempting) then Italy and/or Turkey will have no difficulty in gaining absolute control of the Med. So a fine balance between land and sea must be struck, and unless Turkey can be persuaded to move North, and Italy cajoled into making advances towards France, it would seem important to build a fleet in Trieste in Winter 1901. Yet to leave Trieste vacant for the build is dangerous with the Italians in Venice. So come to terms with Italy, at least in the form of a non-aggression pact. The dangerous Venice/Trieste border must be kept inviolate!

That’s all you can do about the sea. What about the North and the East? If Austria starts fighting Germany in 1901 no matter with whose support, defeat is inevitable. Whatever happens between these two countries (and it won’t happen overnight - a German/Austrian war can be a long one) there are Great Powers hanging around on all sides waiting to take their shares of the spoils. That corridor is very useful to Great Powers at either side. So an agreement must be reached with Germany - perhaps an agreement of non-violation of the Munich border with Tyrol and Bohemia. This is mutual protection and most beneficial to both, in most circumstances.

Which leaves Turkey and Russia. And our friend the Balkans. Make no mistake about it, the way Austria, and, indeed, Turkey, plays the Balkan area is the biggest single influence on Austria’s progress. There are two alternatives in the East - with Russia against Turkey, or with Turkey against Russia. If Russia and Turkey are allowed to form an anti-Austrian alliance, then pray to Italy and Germany, order the wreath, write your will and sign up for another game. You must not let these two monsters join forces against you.

Of the two alternatives, the first is more favourable, from a number of viewpoints. In the geographical sense, if Austria and Russia can eat up Turkey between them, they can both advance westwards, Russia in the north and Austria in the south, without interfering with each other’s progress. (See what I mean about sea-power?) If Austria and Turkey join forces to knock out Russia, then their lines of advance later in the game are almost identical, and severe friction could result, probably with Austria being the next to succumb. Additionally, Turkey has a strong position, and cannot be allowed to survive if Austria wants to stand a chance of a win. So Russia appears to be the better ally.

Remember, too, that Russia has interests both in North and South, and would probably welcome a helping hand in the latter area, particularly early in the game when Russian strength is dispersed. Later in the game, you might take advantage of Russia’s broad front to do a bit of well timed backstabbing - but not until Turkey has been eliminated. Don’t expect cakes and ale to result automatically from an alliance with Russian troops against Turkey - Turkey occupies a strong corner position and can’t be easily dislodged. Also, division of the Balkans to mutual agreement isn’t the easiest of matters to negotiate. The opening moves are, of course, extremely important. Austria has a total of over 200 opening moves, taking all possible combinations!


Fortunately, many of these combinations can be forgotten straight away. Anything involving the move Vie-Tri, for instance, will annoy Italy, and particularly if it is combined with the move Tri-ADS. And we don’t want to antagonise Italy. Similarly, occupation of the Tyrol can’t be expected to please either Italy or Germany, unless cute diplomacy has established permission.

In similar vein elsewhere, the Budapest army is best kept away from Russia, unless you want Russians stampeding into Austria in 1902. Also A(Bud)-Rum leaves Greece virtually free for the Turks. So the Budapest army must go to Serbia - this is a neutral move and one which everyone expects, so the other players aren’t going to get suspicious.

So that means A(Bud)-Ser and probably F(Tri)-Alb to aim for Greece, to leave Trieste open for the Winter 1901 build, and to pacify Italy. A(Vie) is perhaps better where it is; if it moves to any northern province, Germany and/or Russia will be annoyed, Russia will be annoyed, and Russia might be suspicious of A(Vie)-Bud which seeks to occupy Rumania in Autumn 1901. In addition, the possibility of an Italian attack on Trieste in Autumn 1901 has to be considered, and to allow the Vienna army to stand is a good way of defending against this. So, perform your negotiations. order A(Vie) stands; A(Bud)-Ser; F(Tri)-ADS and sit back to await the next stage.

By the way, did I mention the most important rule for every country? No? Of course, the name of the game gives it away, but it’s surprising to find many new players who think there is no need to communicate with other players, only to find themselves knocked out early. The most important rule is COMMUNICATE and NEGOTIATE!

This article first appeared in the June 1972 edition of Games & Puzzles magazine Supplied by Keith Hazelton