There are a few very pivotal non-SC spaces on the Diplomacy map. Bel is the lynchpin for any war between France and Germany. Eng is always a point of serious contention between England and France, even when they are on good terms. Ion is frequently a source of friction for Italy and Turkey, and usually determines who gets to control the Mediterranean.
For this article, we look at the importance of controlling Gal. This little province borders four supply centers, three of them home supply centers (Bud and Vie for Austria, and War for Russia). Any war between Russia and Austria is determined by who gains early control of Gal, and for Austria in particular. This article will focus on the Austrian perspective, particularly the early game.
Gal is the big opening that leads to any invasion of Austria, and has the effect of freezing Austria’s progress to protect his home supply centers. A Russian army in Gal is a serious problem for any Archduke, as it borders two home supply centers, and is readily accessible by Russia. For starters, it is relatively easy to hold Gal once taken. Russia in Rum and War, two centers he is likely to occupy anyway, and by supporting Gal from War, and keeping an Austrian army out of Rum, can hold on to it indefinitely. Any Austrian invasion invariably must go through Gal, as it is the only direct land access to any of the Russian home SCs.
Let’s first look at what happens if Russia occupies Gal in Spring 1901, along with some otherwise fairly standard opening moves. Here, Russia has A Gal F Rum, and Austria has A Vie A Ser F Alb. Turkey has A Bul, and it doesn’t really matter what’s coming up behind it.
In this situation, say Austria is in precariously good relations with Turkey and Russia, and being the end of Spring 1901, no hostilities are likely to have flared. Russia in Gal causes serious troubles, though. If Austria were interested in occupying Gre, he could have unquestioning leverage over Turkey with his support from Ser. With a Russian army in Gal, however, the safe early move absolutely requires that Austria order A Vie-Bud A Ser-Bud for a self-bounce to protect, and the realistic scenario here is for one Austrian build. If Turkey and Russia are allied against Austria, this is a bad turn of events, as a Turkish move of F Con-Aeg in the Fall will lead to almost certain loss of Gre in the long run, particularly with Austria facing Russian aggression.
Furthermore, Austria has lost some serious negotiating leverage. Russia is in Gal, which means he gets to dictate the flow of action for Austria until he is removed. The consideration of Vie and Bud being constantly under threat pins two armies down with only one, and at best wastes a turn just removing Russia from Gal. Russia’s presence in Gal also causes trouble even if Turkey and Austria are allies. If the Turkish fleet is in Con rather than Bla, there is no way to leverage Russia out of Rum, the first step of an Austro-Turkish alliance against Russia. Overall, this leads to a protracted conflict that leaves Austria exposed to Italian intervention.
Now let’s look at the case of Austria bouncing Russia in Gal by moving A Vie-Gal to counter Russia’s A War-Gal. This is a much more tenable position for Austria. In the case of non-cooperation with Turkey, Austria is now free to occupy Gre unopposed with his army in Alb.
The army in Vie is free to move Vie-Gal again, which will bounce Russia again, but with two builds leading to two armies, by Spring 1902 Austria will have overwhelming forces to walk into Gal unopposed. This swing is huge, as it affords Austria free hand in containing Turkish aggression, if it happens, as well as keeping Russia out of Austrian territory.
If Austria and Turkey are allied, all’s the better. Rum is sitting alone, with zero support, and Turkey can move A Bul-Rum while Austria moves F Alb-Gre. This puts Russia on his back heels, and leaves him in serious trouble for Spring 1902.
To count the tally, Austria keeping Russia out of Gal affords him one extra build if Turkey is a non-combatant or a hostile, for a net gain of +1. If there is an AT alliance, this nets Austria one extra build, one extra build for Turkey, and a lost build for Russia, for a net gain of +3 for an AT alliance. These overwhelming numbers spell the end for Russia, and a quick victory for the AT alliance.
So clearly, Gal can be the difference between an extra build for Austria, with all the leverage that four Austrian armies affords. For the next part, we will look at the same situation with Russia, and for the final part, a look at how who controls Gal changes prospects for Turkey.