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The Peacekeeper (or beyond the Anschluss)


Guy Fraser-Sampson


Spring Offensive #73


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The Peacekeeper is also known as Beyond the Anschluss

The Anschluss – Basic Concept[]

For those who are not familiar with the concept of the Anschluss, as described and developed by Richard Sharp, it is an opening system for Germany, and in particular concerning the use of A(Mun), which recognises that Germany’s long-term fortunes in the game are inextricably linked with Austrian survival. As Richard says in his book, it makes sense for the two countries almost to be played as one wherever possible (and for as long as possible).

The Anschluss runs thus. Germany tells Italy from the off that German and Austrian interests are to be seen as one and the same, and that Germany will respond promptly and violently to any attack on Austria by Italy. To lend substance to this threat, Germany makes it clear that (in the original version) A(Mun) will stand or (in the more aggressive option which I prefer to play as Germany) move to Tyr, to be ready to deal with any incursion into Austrian territory. At the same time, Germany tells Russia that a move to Galicia will result in him being stood out of Sweden in the Autumn.

There are various possible outcomes which fall into two broad categories, which might be labelled (not very surprisingly) “Italy Accepts” and “Italy Refuses”.

Italy Accepts[]

A good Italian player will almost always accept the inevitable, no matter how much it goes against the grain. With a German army sitting in Tyrolia an attack on Italy makes little sense, particularly if a cautious Austria plays the Houseboat (F(Tri) stands) or covers Tri from Vie. Either way, if the Austrian attack proper is played, with A(Rom) going to Ven, there is every possibility of both Italian armies still being stuck embarrassingly in their starting positions and Italy having revealed his hostile intentions with nothing to show for it. (For the contrary argument, see below).

Italy is left with three choices, only two of which are logical possibilities: (1) grab Tunis and sit on the sidelines until things become clearer, (2) attack France or (3) attack Turkey.

The reason that I believe option (1) to be illogical (at least, if prolonged beyond 1901) is that Italy, of all the countries on the board, can least afford to fall behind in its development. Sooner or later (and usually sooner), either Turkey will build a fleet in Smyrna or France will build a fleet in Marseilles. This gives rise to a situation where, at best, Italy can only hope to cling to its four core centres or, at worst, is slowly dismembered. Those who believe Italy should start with two fleets have my sympathies.

Option (2), the French attack, is obviously what, as Germany, you will be hoping for and trying to bend Italy towards. My guess is that it is very rare for Italy to attempt a genuine attack on France as early as 1901. A(Ven)-Pie is probably usually agreed in advance with France and is simply a prelude for a stab into Tyrolia in the Autumn. This will definitely be true if Italy plays the fleet to IOS, since it is impossible for it then to be in a position to menace France in 1902. However, in the more aggressive Anschluss, the presence of a German army in Tyrolia already makes such a stab much less attractive. Even if support is forthcoming from Venice, the German army will simply be pushed back into Munich and the Italian armies will not have done any real damage.

Suppose, however, that the move to Pie is intended as a serious attack? It can actually do more strategic damage to France than might at first be recognised. France will almost certainly move Mar-Spa in the Spring. Unless the A(Par) has moved to either Gas or Bur, he must order Spa-Mar, hoping for a stand-off. But suppose Pie simply stands? Then Spa-Mar succeeds, France is denied a build in Spain and Mar is unavailable for a build!

Even if there is another French unit available for a self-standoff there are still possibilities open to Italy. All he has to do is to choose one of the units to support (obviously the one in Spain) and a similar situation results. If France cannot build in Mar and Italy has convoyed the other army to Tun, then France has the nightmare situation in 1902 where Italy can bring four units to bear against him. Now it is all too possible for Italy to gain Mar, Spa and maybe Por (if England is occupied in the north with Russia) and with it entry to MAO and beyond. Indeed, this is probably Italy’s most realistic chance of winning.

Option (3), the attack on Turkey requires some sort of Lepanto opening convoying an army to Smyrna in Autumn 1902. Its obvious weakness is the length of time which it takes to develop. No realistic gains can be made until 1903 and Turkey has plenty of time to take moves to forestall it. If, however, Turkey is heavily involved fighting Russia, and has been kept out of Greece by Austria, then the Lepanto becomes a viable option because Turkey might not have any units to spare to guard against it, even though he come see it coming with awful clarity.

Italy Refuses[]

At least there is no doubt about Italy’s intentions here. He would only object to a German army in Tyrolia if he had plans to move there (and beyond) himself. This would be a bold move, since it would involve war with Germany as well as with Austria. But is it really such a bad idea?

First, Italy will presumably have secured a promise from Russia to open to Galicia and a promise from France to open to Burgundy. The former lays Vienna and Budapest open to attack, while the latter means that the German army in Tyrolia has to dash home to defend Munich in the autumn, thus playing no further part in the Austrian theatre.

The Burgundy opening is frankly a lot more likely than the Galicia opening. After all, Burgundy is French territory and France can represent it as a simple desire to cover his bases. Yet it is a threat which Germany can hardly ignore. For the Galicia opening to occur, Russia must have given up any hope of taking Sweden in 1901, or maybe ever. This seems too high a price to pay. The chances are that Russia will promise to open to Galicia but move to Ukraine instead, sending expressions of outrage and support to Austria the while.

Yet even in the nightmare scenario that France does not go to Burgundy, Russia does not go to Galicia, and the German army remains in Austria throughout, all is not necessarily lost. If the Austrian fleet has vacated Trieste, then A(Ven)-Tri, A(Rom)-Ven will work unless Austria has covered Trieste from Vienna. Even if Austria and Germany can between them have enough units adjacent to Trieste to dislodge the Italian unit in the Autumn, he can still try to outguess his Austrian opponent by making a move for Serbia or Budapest, and the fact that the Austrian fleet will be otherwise engaged may just give him a chance to slip into Greece.

Obviously if both Trieste and Tyrolia are covered in the Spring then it’s egg on face time, but that is exactly the risk that Italy takes in refusing the Anschluss. Even now, if the German army vacates Tyr in the Autumn, Ven-Tyr and Rom-Ven is a possibility, setting up a further attack in 1902.

Enter the Peacekeeper[]

Players will be quick to point out that the above discussion is somewhat academic. The possibilities for deception and mistrust are too great. Suppose Italy goes to Pie in the Spring, but somehow ends up in Tyrolia in the Autumn anyway? Suppose they agree that F(Tri) goes to Alb and A(Ven) goes to Pie but then one or both of them reneges on the deal?

Having thought though this dilemma I believe that I have come up with a way of resolving this familiar impasse, subject to two caveats: (1) there is still the potential for betrayal, but less because it will be more public and blatant and (2) it will not work with all GMs because it will depend which house rules apply to the particular game.

The Peacekeeper takes the form of a tripartite arrangement between Germany, Italy and Austria along the following lines.

Italy places A(Ven) under German proxy control for the whole of 1901. Austria places F(Tri) under German proxy control for the whole of 1901. Germany moves A(Mun) to Tyrolia in Spring 1901 and promises to attack either country if they renege on the deal by revoking the proxy consent before the end of 1901.

Germany agrees in advance to move F(Tri) to Albania and use it to keep Turkey out of Greece in the Autumn. Similarly, to move A(Ven) to Pie and use it to try to out-guess France in the Autumn as outlined above.

Italy agrees to move the fleet to TYN and convoy A(Rom) to Tunis in the Autumn. Austria would play A(Bud) to Serbia, with A(Vie) going to Budapest – remember, Germany has told Russia that if he goes to Galicia, he won’t get Sweden. In this way Austria achieves the best possible position in the south east, Italy gets a fighting chance of an effective French attack in 1902 (you build F(Rom), of course) and Germany secures his southern flank and the probable long-term survival of his Austrian ally. His A(Tyr) returns to Munich for use in Burgundy or the Ruhr.

Does it work? Um, pass. I’ve just tried it as Germany in Potemkin (GM Tom Tweedy) and found to my surprise that it was bitterly opposed by Austria, even after it had already been rejected out of hand by Italy! Either my reading of Austro-German strategy is completely crazy, or I’m playing with the wrong people (in every game I’ve played as Austria, I’ve spent the whole initial negotiating period begging desperately for Germany to play the Tyrolia variant of the Anschluss). But somewhere, some day, three imaginative players will come together and try it. When you do, please let me know what happens (and make sure I’m not playing France at the time).