In my previous two installments, I’ve discussed what Gal means for Austria and Russia, the two powers who will engage in a knife fight over Gal. However, the winner of this wrestling match also has further repercussions across the board. However, for the finale of this series, we will focus on the other power in the Eastern Triangle: Turkey. Who occupies Gal, and how they do so, can have a strong influence over decisions the Sultan might make regarding alliances, and avenues of expansion.
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In my last post I discussed how important control of Gal is for Austria, with some discussion of what happens if Russia occupies or doesn’t occupy Gal in Spring 1901. The flip side of this coin, obviously, is what it all means for Russia. So let’s look at a few of the same scenarios as discussed in that previous post.
Russian occupation of Gal is a clear diplomatic signal to all powers that Russia is moving south and he is moving against Austria. The other possibility is that Russia greatly fears Austrian aggression, and in an effort to keep Austria out, the Russian attempts to bounce Austria. We’ll break these scenarios down, and what they mean for the Russian position against Austria.
Let’s look at the Russian aggression scenario first. As Russia, you have decided that you and one of either Italy or Turkey (or both!) are going to dismantle the Austrian. The only Russian army readily available to attack Austria is the army in War, as the army in Mos has to travel to Ukr first, and the fleet in Sev is useless for anything but occupying Rum in the case of a war with Austria. You have no choice in the matter, you have to get into Gal.
Assuming Austria sees this coming, which is entirely likely, the map for Fall 1901 might look something like this:
The fleet in Tri may or may not have moved to Alb, but this is relatively inconsequential. You may think you are in a very strong position, but the interesting thing about Gal is its asymmetric tactical importance: for Austria, an empty Gal is the same as one occupied by Austria; for Russia, an empty Gal is a giant wall that requires a great deal to get past. Austria will pull out one build this year, possibly two if he had moved Tri-Alb and he and Italy aren’t fighting. Vie can happily move Vie-Gal, which means that if Germany has made an anti-Russian move in the first turn, the army in War is tied down and can’t do anything useful about it if your primary goal is to occupy Gal. A first turn bounce in Gal, or any unoccupied Gal at the end of Spring 1901, sets Austria up for a very pleasant Fall 1901, filled with relatively straightforward choices.
The alternative scenario is as follows. Let’s suppose Austria opens Vie-Bud Bud-Ser and Russia opens War-Gal. The strategic situation here is totally different. Austria has to choose between a sacrifice a home supply center or clearing out of Ser. This also leads to an interesting decision by Russia, and it could lead to multiple interesting outcomes. Russia must gamble between Austria deciding to cover Bud and Vie, or holding Ser. If the Russian thinks Austria will cover his home SCs, then he should do nothing, hold Gal, and let Austria lose control of Ser in an attempt to cover both his home SCs. If he thinks Austria will continue to stab south against Turkey, he should move for either Bud or Vie, which gives him a 50% chance of picking up an Austrian SC. This is clearly a truly terrible Austrian opening in the face of anything but assured Russian friendship.
A more likely scenario is as follows: Austria moves Bud-Ser, and leaves Gal unbounced. This is a slightly easier defensive position for Austria, but it is still a poor position to be in.
Austria can self-bounce, and assuming he has moved his fleet to Alb, can still expect to bounce any Turkish advance on Greece, or pick up a second build. However, the occupation of Greece is no longer a guaranteed thing, as Austria must self-bounce in Bud to prevent Russian occupation. This is an aggressive first position, and leaves Austria in an awkward position, but it does not spell his demise, particularly if he has gotten into Gre.
The early Austrian position is surprisingly difficult to crack, even if Russia occupies Gal and has Turkish support. Austria gaining one build and filling in Bud with an army is all it takes to create a very hard nut to crack, one that will require Turkey to gain a build in Greece (assuming Turkey is your only ally in this). However, Russian occupation of Gal changes the dynamic of the war. As we have seen, if the Russian army does not occupy Gal in the Spring of 1901, Austria has a much freer hand to pick up two builds, assuming Italian neutrality. Paradoxically, despite seizing the early initiative with the occupation of Gal, Russia’s hands are still tied in attacking Austria until either Turkey gets an army in Greece (which then causes big trouble for Serbia) or Russia gets an army in Rum.
Because of the diplomatic troubles inherent in inflating Turkey quickly while Italy is left with only Tun, there is a good chance the Austrian player could have a very firm rear flank, trading aid in keeping Greece out of Turkish hands for future builds. There are alternative openings, such as bouncing in Gal, moving into Ukr, and having the fleet hold in Sev, so that you can get an army into Rum in the Fall, but even this only goes so far, particularly if Austria manages two builds.
As Russia, the door to Austria is Gal, but unfortunately the occupation of Gal is only the first step. It affords no overwhelming tactical advantage like a German occupation of Nth or a French occupation of Bel offers. The Eastern side of the board tends to develop slower because of the absence of these tactically critical supply centers. Whoever occupies Gal, be it Russia or Austria, gets to dictate who has to play defensive, but it by no means knocks the door open to the other side’s SCs.
For my final installment on the importance of Gal, I will look at the impact the Galician Question has on Turkish strategy and tactics.
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.