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Archive for the ‘Openings’ Category

Turkey: 1901 Strategies

Turkey is another nation that faces limited, but extremely momentous, decisions- like England, it sits in a corner. While this makes it inherently difficult to conquer, it also makes it difficult to push out past a fairly small perimeter- this is something important to keep in mind as you look at the map and read about various tactics.

Dip_Opening_T
Turkey has only 3 neutral supply centers and 1 enemy home center within its possible reach in 1901, the most limited selection of any power on the board. What’s worse, two of those neutral centers can be only reached by Turkey in the fall, but can be reached by other powers in the Spring. Further narrowing the field of possible orders, Turkey has the one unit on the board (A Con) whose first round move is almost mandatory- Bulgaria, the only neutral SC on the board that is indisputably Turkey’s in 1901. If you manage not to hold that in the first year, something has gone horribly wrong. The other two units, then, are where the interest picks up.  Even more than other nations, Turkish moves in 1901 are dominated by the elephant in the early game of any Diplomacy match- Is there or is there not a Russian-Turkish alliance (the “Juggernaught”) and how much do you want to try to fake people out if so?

Before discussing specific moves, the overall strategy needs discussion. In general, if you can, a R/T alliance is one of the strongest possible on the board- even if it favors Russia slightly more than Turkey because it’s easier for Turkey to get bogged down in the Balkans. The problem is that everyone else competent on the board is well aware of this, and if it’s blatant that an R/T alliance has formed you can be fairly sure Germany, Austria, and Italy are going to start working together- and that’s doubly bad news for Turkey. So your goal is to camouflage a juggernaught for as long as you reasonably can, while still ensuring a build.

  1. Russian Attack Openings
    These openings have the common feature that they involve F Ankara-Black Sea. They can be a smokescreen, especially with a prearranged bounce in the Black Sea; or Russia can move to Rumania by arrangement and then in the fall allow Turkey to take Rumania and disband Russia’s fleet. Understandably this is rare, since Russia gives up hope of a southern build.

    1. Balkan Attack
      This is the order where A Smyrna moves to Constantinople. It is a fairly balanced set of orders, combining apparent threat to Russia and Austria alike, and lets you apply force to Serbia, Greece, and Rumania even with a Black Sea bounce in the Fall.
    2. Crimean Attack
      In this order, A Smyrna moves instead to Armenia. This is the most ostensibly anti-Russian opening possible, giving if Black Sea succeeds two units on Sevastopol in the Fall; but even this can be a stealth R/T with F BLA C A ARM-BLA-BUL or RUM!
  2. Mediterranean Attack Opening
    In these, F Ankara moves into Constantinople instead of the Black Sea. There’s really only one companion to this; A Smyrna H  provides cover on Turkey’s north shore in case Russia attacks the Black Sea anyway because you can self-bounce in Ankara while holding Bulgaria, and then building your build as a new F Ank. Typically the companion to this is trying to bounce in Greece, and being satisfied with one build as you move F Con-Aeg and build another fleet in Smyrna. Two fleets in the Mediterranean in 1902 is a disaster scenario for Italy, who is in very real danger of getting swamped early; however, if Russia cooperates, this is the clearest possible indicator of an R/T alliance.
  3. Turkish Hedgehog
    Properly speaking this is a variant of the Mediterranean push, but is a notable enough opening on its own to merit a separate entry. It goes like this: A Con-Bul, F Ank-Con, A Smy-Arm. You’re attacking in all directions at once; the optimal compliment to this is to persuade Russia to let you have the Black Sea, and then just don’t take it. If he does, you can self bounce in Ankara and hold Bulgaria; if he doesn’t, you can play merry hell with Sevastopol with that army in Armenia while holding Bulgaria or bouncing in Greece and moving into the Mediterranean early. This is a high risk high reward strategy, and signals an A/T more than anything else (an alliance not typically long for this world) as it is hard to ‘pull back’ into an R/T alliance. If you want to convince a wary Austria and Italy you have no desire to steamroll them, though, this is a good move.

Overall, as a matter of personal taste I tend to default towards a Mediterranean push; I almost always try to rope Russia into an alliance and am dubious about any competent player being taken in by a ruse for long enouch to make up for the loss of tempo by moving ‘backwards’ with respect to Italy and Austria, both certain midgame bitter enemies of you.

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England: 1901 Strategies

For the first of the 1901 Opening Strategy posts, I will start off with a nation that has only one or two real decisions to make on the first move, but they are colossal ones- England. First, to visualize the ‘reach’ of England in the first year, I find the following types of maps helpful; colored in blue shading are all sea and land spaces which an English unit can possibly occupy (no matter how outlandish) after Fall 1901.

Dip_Opening_E
What does this map tell us? In this case, that there are 5 supply centers that are potential targets for England in the first year. You need to get at least one of them, or you’re going to get swamped when France, Germany, or both see you as easy meat after a failed first year and build fleets. Belgium, Holland, and Denmark are 3 neutral SCs you can go after on mainland Europe. Holland and Denmark are generally considered in Germany’s sphere of influence, and more importantly start out next to Germany’s home centers. You’ll have to pull off some major trickery to get in either of those in 1901, and you’ll be strongly committing yourself to a E-G war off the bat, which can be suboptimal. Belgium and Norway, then, are the traditional English targets in 1901 and are the 2 neutral SCs most often considered to be in England’s “sphere of influence”- although Russia CAN move to Norway in Fall 1901, it has to completely commit to a northern strategy to do so, and this is rarer than you think.
Aside from the neturals, however, you can also attack Brest in 1901 if France is daft enough to let you into the English Channel and you’re snaketongued enough to make him keep it uncovered in the Fall for you to waltz in. While rare, this is often almost a knockout blow for France in 1901, especially if you also get Norway. Typically this is off the table, however, and Belgium/Norway are the two targets with Norway being the prime candidate for your first build.
So how does this translate to opening moves?

The first thing you need to know is this golden rule for England: Do not under any circumstances lose control of the North Sea sea zone. It borders 6 supply centers- more than any other non-SC space on the board, including two English home centers. For that reason it is absolutely and non-negotiably vital to England’s position. That leaves the question of what to do with your other fleet, and the answer you come up with to this determines your opening. There are two typical answers, and each of those has two generally seen choices for where the army in Liverpool moves, which makes for a total of 4 notable English openings.

  1. Southern Opening
    This is the name given to the openings where you move F London-English Channel and F Edinburgh-North Sea. Imaginatively named, it moves you south, and indicates a focus on making absolutely sure you get Belgium in 1901 more commonly than Norway.

    1. Southern Opening, Welsh Variant
      In this, A Liverpool moves south to Wales. This is what you pick if you’re SURE you will be taking the Channel- if you don’t, you are in trouble, because you have two units unable to attack any SCs in the Fall and everyone on the board knows you’ll be moving F North Sea-Norway, leaving that key space open for Germany to move in if it wants to put the screws to England quickly. But if it works, and you start Fall 1901 with F ENG, NTH and A WAL, you can keep everyone guessing with Fall. You could take Norway and land an army in Picardy, completely discomposing France’s defensive position; you can land in Brest, and make the attempt to take France’s home SC ASAP. Nice job if you can manage it. Or, most commonly, you can launch a supported convoy into Belgium and be sure of a build and a foothold on the Continent.
    2. Southern Opening, Yorkshire Variant
      In this, the army moves to Yorkshire. It’s a bet-hedging opening, and the one typically done if France agrees to a bounce in the English Channel. With it, you can convoy into Norway instead of moving a fleet there, or try your luck in Belgium anyway, without leaving the North Sea open. Another note for both Southern openings if the move to the English Channel succeeds- if France has moved so that it cannot self-bounce in Brest, i.e. neither army moves to Picardy or Gascony, it can often be a better idea to move from the Channel to the Mid Atlantic instead of Brest; MAO is often a key sea zone throughout the game, and occupying it, forcing France to reoccupy Brest (and not incidentally be unable to build a 2nd northern fleet after 1901) can often put the French entirely on the wrong foot in an early E/F war.
  1. Northern Opening
    In these openings, F London moves to the North Sea, and F Edinburgh into the Norwegian Sea. These are the most common English moves, since usually France is quite willing to move to the Mid-Atlantic rather than the Channel and it can absolutely guarantee a build- which is something that can’t be said of the Southern openings.Typically these are seen as anti-Russian openings, and indicating a detente or even a nascent E/F/G Triple Alliance (or at least discussions to that end that England doesn’t wish to ruin!)

    1. Churchill Variant
      Named after everyone’s favorite Prime Minister for his scheme to invade Norway in WW2, this variant includes A Liverpool-Edinburgh. This is the single most popular English opening in my experience, because you have the flexibility to launch a supported attack on Norway if Russia commits north, or to convoy your army with NWG instead of NTH and retain freedom to use your North Sea fleet to interfere in Belgium/Holland/Denmark. Sounds great- but the drawback is if France actually does open to the English Channel, you’re in trouble because you have to try to cover London and can’t set up a mutual bounce, leaving you open to accidentally abandoning the key North Sea sea zone.
    2. Yorkshire Variant
      This variant trades off the flexibility of the Churchill opening for security. Even if France ends up opening to the Channel, you can cover it with your army and still be able to hit Norway with a supported attack- hence, this is the only opening for England where there is no possible combination of enemy moves in 1901 which prevent England from gaining a build in 1901. Every single other possible opening has a foil with sufficient cooperation from other nations. Should the French not open to the Channel, then again you have the choice of a supported convoy into Norway or unsupported attacks into Norway and Belgium both, or some more exotic Fall move into Holland or Denmark as Russian and German moves allow.

One of those four is liable to be the English opening almost every game; all others either leave the North Sea exposed, something which is playing with fire at best, or clearly less flexible than one of the openings presented. In general, think of the Southern openings as anti-French, and the Northern openings as anti-Russian; the opening which commits the least to antagonizing either of those two is probably the Yorkshire variant of the northern opening. Regardless, the overall message is clear; in Spring 1901, England’s job is to pick a center, be it Belgium, Norway, or something less likely to be taken, and move to maximize its chances of taking it and getting that vital build in 1901. The final choice of which opening to pick comes down to the small-d diplomacy England does with France, Germany, and Russia.

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Spring 1901

Contrary to the reactions most people have after they see the results of the very first move of the game, you can’t win the game in the first move. You can lose it there, though, but not through a poor move selection- just by poor small-d diplomacy. The important thing to consider when you’re making your first moves, even moreso than any other, is how everyone else will see what you’ve done.  Always ask yourself: What am I doing, and why? That’s the key question. You have to know what you want- a solo, a 3 way draw, not to be eliminated- and be able to draw a mental pathway from where you are through what you want to do finishing up at that outcome. Spring 1901 is not too early to keep endgames in mind- if you’re Austria, for example, you had better be fully aware that there is virtually no way both you and Turkey are going to be thriving in the endgame, so if you choose to befriend Turkey- be aware of that limitation.

A sequence of smaller articles over the coming days will go into specific openings and strategies that are fairly widely recognized in the Diplomacy community, and what they mean for you and how you may interpret them if you see them being used by others. There are some general rules, however, a few of which overlap on the earlier advice for new players.

  • There are no prizes for occupying Supply Centers in the Spring. Only Fall. If you’re France, and you get the funny feeling that maybe Italy is about to try some funny stuff- keep Marseille in place! You can always move to Spain in the fall. The same goes for France if you want to self-bounce in Burgundy to make sure Germany doesn’t attack you from Munich so soon; if you have an understanding with England, you can still move F Brest-Midatlantic Ocean and then F Midatlantic Ocean-Portugal in the fall, along with A Marseille-Spain, and still get two builds.
  • Don’t get 3 builds. Don’t even try. There is absolutely nothing that will unite potential enemies faster than seeing one nation with 3 builds and maybe one other with 2 and the rest 1. That extra build is almost never worth it, even in no-press games; you’d be shocked how well players can still coordinate their efforts without press.
  • Don’t get zero builds. You need the flexibility a build in Winter ’01 offers you, or you’re again probably out of luck. Keep this in mind while you’re making your Spring moves- put yourself in a position to guarantee (or almost guarantee- few things are certain in Diplomacy) at least one build.
  • Don’t leave your own home centers open to invasion. If you lose a home center in Fall 1901, your game is likely to be over before it properly begins. If you have doubts that your neighbor may be planning an attack on you, be it France to the English Channel, Germany to Burgundy, Venice to Trieste or vice versa, defend your home turf.
  • Talk, talk, talk to everyone, no matter how far away they are. I know this was said verbatim already. It’s that important, and it’s even more important for the first move than any other. Very often the other players will get impressions of you from the first press that will stay unchanged for the entire game. Present a front of competence (no matter if this is your first game, don’t tell anyone that!) and civility, and it will pay off in spades.
  • Know what effect your moves will have on the entire board. If you’re Russia and your first move is A Moscow-St Petersburg, you are either going to suck England into Scandinavia and leave France completely open to dominate western Europe or you are going to completely scare England away and force him to go through France. There is no middle ground. Other nations have similar dilemmas, where their moves may have unexpected consequences around the entire board.
  • Be familiar with opportunity costs. No move in Diplomacy is free, there is always something else a unit could be doing that may be more valuable. In the Russian example above, if you go north, you only have two units to contend against all of Austria and Turkey in Fall. If you’re not confident that you have a solid alliance with at least one of those two, you need that third Moscow army in the south to hold the line. And so on. There’s only one unit on the board where there is only one correct move in Spring 1901, and that’s the Turkish army in Constantinople. Every single other unit has multiple valid options.

One final word of general advice for the Spring 1901 moves: DON’T PANIC. Even if you think you’ve botched it, there are no unrecoverable situations this early in a game, especially if you have kept the lines of communication open like you should be and can keep talking. Remember, there’s always somebody who doesn’t want to see you eliminated early and bloat your neighbor’s supply centers that will be willing to help, be it with a second front or helpful tactical information.

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