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Saturday, June 11, 2011

An Exercise in Diplomacy: 1901

In the vein of my recent return to Diplomacy, I decided to use the option to follow a game of Diplomacy. I found a game which appears to have all players active (one of the unfortunate aspects of the public games appears to be a tendency for some players to join up but then forget about the game, leaving their units sitting without orders. This dramatically changes the dynamics of the game), and I have decided to try following the game. Each turn I will give commentary on the positions, and try to predict what will happen in the future. It is important to note that, while I can view the order history and state of the game, I cannot view the actual messages being transmitted by the players. I additionally do not know any of the players, which means that my predictions will be based solely on board position. Thus, I expect I will be wrong much of the time, but I find it an interesting exercise nonetheless. Hopefully you will, too, and even decide to debate my tactical analysis.

Although I will generally give commentary on only one turn at a time, I’ve decided to wait and combine the first year into a single post.

Spring 1901 Orders (click to enlarge)

Spring 1901
Edinburgh MOVE Norwegian Sea -> resolved
Liverpool MOVE Yorkshire -> resolved
London MOVE North Sea -> resolved

This is a fairly standard British opening. It is a good compromise between being nervous about the Russians (both fleets are available to ensure Norway is an British conquest in the first year) and the French (the army in Yorkshire is available to guard London if France betrays Britain and takes the Channel). The only major drawback is that the army in Yorkshire can only be convoyed by the North Sea, and thus if Britain decides to take a Scandinavian route of advancement she must abdicate any claim on Belgium. Given Russia’s focus on the south, however, I predict that Britain will take Norway with his Norwegian Sea fleet, leaving the North Sea fleet and Yorkshire army available to possibly take Belgium (depending on what France and Germany have to say about that).

Marseilles MOVE Spain -> resolved
Paris MOVE Burgundy -> resolved
Brest MOVE Mid-Atlantic Ocean -> resolved

This is also a fairly common French opening, as it is an excellent compromise between defense (capturing Burgundy or at least preventing a German army from holding it early), and the conquest of Iberia. A French army in Burgundy has the potential to upset Germany, but it can also be used to keep France in the decision for Belgium. Given that every player has a unit facing Belgium, it is very hard to guess what will happen there.

Munich MOVE Ruhr -> resolved
Berlin MOVE Kiel -> resolved
Kiel MOVE Denmark -> resolved

Germany also opened with what is probably the most popular German opening. His fleet in Denmark gives him leverage with Russia over the fate of Sweden, while he can either support himself into Holland to guarantee its acquisition (if he thinks Britain might risk standing him out of it), make a go for both Holland and Belgium, or turn one army around to protect Munich if he thinks France might make a stab for it.

Venice MOVE Tyrolia -> Bounced
Rome MOVE Venice -> Bounced
Naples MOVE Ionian Sea -> resolved

Italy opened aggressively against Austria-Hungary, but was preempted in his attack by an Austro-Hungarian attack on Tyrolia launched from Vienna. Thus, the entire Italian army train has been halted in its tracks. Italy’s fleet is still poised to either argue over Greece or, more likely, snag Tunisia.

Vienna MOVE Tyrolia -> Bounced
Trieste MOVE Albania -> resolved
Budapest MOVE Serbia -> resolved

Austria-Hungary successfully guessed and prevented Italy’s opening attack, but at the cost of preventing a Russian move to Galicia. While Austria-Hungary’s fleet is now in position to be supported into Greece by his army in Serbia, such a move would leave the Viennese army trying to simultaneously defend all three Austro-Hungarian home supply centres (assuming an actual attack by both Russia and Italy). It is very difficult to predict Austria-Hungary’s fate without some knowledge of the messages being passed around, but at this point it looks like he might be facing a dreaded Italo-Russian alliance seeking to carve up his country. He must entreat Turkey and possibly Germany for aid or risk facing an early exit. It might even be worthwhile to risk moving Serbia back to Budapest while covering Trieste from Vienna and make an unsupported attack on Greece with his fleet. Turkey is unlikely to go for Greece given his move to Armenia leaves no other units to cover Bulgaria, and Italy is more likely to go for the sure build of Tunisia rather than risk not getting a supply centre. The main risk with such an approach is missing out on Serbia if Russia doesn’t attack Budapest, but that may be preferable to the early loss of a home centre.

Constantinople MOVE Bulgaria -> resolved
Ankara MOVE Black Sea -> Bounced
Smyrna MOVE Armenia -> resolved

Turkey has opened up with the ‘Russian Attack’ by moving an army to Armenia, an opening which is about as unsubtle as they come. It is unsurprising that Russia has bounced his attack on the Black Sea, but that does limit his ability to do much from Armenia. Turkey should be breathing a sigh of relief, however, since Italy’s spoiled move train this turn prevents an early Lepanto opening, while Austria-Hungary looks to be heavily beleaguered. Turkey will most likely be able to dictate alliance terms to Austria-Hungary, gaining a desperate and grateful ally, or take advantage of the chaos caused by Italy and Russia to gobble up as much of the Balkans as possible, providing much faster Turkish gains than are usually possible.

Moscow MOVE Ukraine -> resolved
St. Petersburg (South Coast) MOVE Gulf of Bothnia -> resolved
Warsaw MOVE Galicia -> resolved
Sevastopol MOVE Black Sea -> Bounced

Russia is off to a fairly aggressive start in the south, though her aggression appears to have paid off with the occupation of Galicia. Russia will be hoping that the diplomatic pull of Austria-Hungary is not enough to convince Germany to stand her out of Sweden, and that her single unit northern opening is not enough to convince Britain to pursue gains in an Anglo-Russian war. In the south, it appears that Russia has an early enemy in Turkey, and her acquisition of Galicia is unlikely to make her any Austro-Hungarian friends. Still, with Italy looking to attack Austria-Hungary from the west, Russia’s best bet is likely to make as many acquisitions as quickly as she can and move to crush Austria-Hungary before he can rally a defense, and batter down Turkey before he can get too strong. The secret to cracking Turkey, though, will likely to come down to the Italian navy.

Fall 1901 Orders (Click to Enlarge)

Fall 1901
Norwegian Sea MOVE Norway -> resolved
Yorkshire MOVE Belgium -> resolved
North Sea CONVOY Yorkshire to Belgium -> resolved

Britain is sitting in a fairly comfortable position, with an expeditionary force supported onto the continent by French forces and Norway safely under British control. Whether this is developing into a full Anglo-French alliance remains to be seen, but Germany is likely to be at least a little nervous.

Spain HOLD -> resolved
Burgundy SUPPORT Yorkshire to Belgium -> resolved
Mid-Atlantic Ocean MOVE Portugal -> resolved

Whether to take Portugal with the fleet or the army is always a dilemma for France. I usually prefer to put the fleet on the south coast of Spain, as that gives the maximum number of future options for the fleet, but it does tend to make Italy nervous and put the army in Portugal well away from the action. Given the hintings of an Anglo-French alliance (particularly since France helped an English army into Belgium rather than just the fleet) but the lack of a French fleet pointed toward the Mediterranean, Germany should be nervous of his French neighbour. Still, if the plan was a quick exit for the Germans, France could easily have made a stab at the empty Munich.

Ruhr SUPPORT Kiel to Holland -> resolved
Kiel MOVE Holland -> resolved
Denmark HOLD -> resolved

Germany chose not to bounce the Russian fleet from Sweden, which suggests at least a decently amicable relationship between the German Empire and the Bear. At the same time, his choice to force Holland rather than try for both Holland and Belgium suggests a poor relationship with Britain. What is interesting, though, is that Germany’s moves suggest a wariness of Britain far beyond that which he feels for France, as he neither protected Munich from a possible French stab nor worried about the fate of Belgium (had the British gone after Holland, Belgium would have gone entirely uncontested to the French). Although France appears to be supporting Britain, Germany’s apparent trust could suggest that France is maintaining amicable relations with both, and could even be arranging a Franco-German alliance to attack a Britain over-extended in a war on Germany. Even though Britain’s army in Belgium gives Britain a toehold on the continent, without French support that army could fairly easily be destroyed.

Venice MOVE Tyrolia -> resolved
Rome MOVE Venice -> resolved
Ionian Sea MOVE Greece -> Bounced

Italy’s actions were interesting. The lack of attack on Trieste was a good guess, and not only provides Russia with Vienna but also puts Italy in a good position to control Trieste by the end of this coming year. However, the attack on Greece was surprising. This was bad for both Italy and Austria-Hungary; both countries are now stuck with only their starting units. Italy will have to work very hard to make sure he does not get left behind by his Russian and Turkish allies when it comes to the spoils of the ailing Dual Monarchy.

Vienna MOVE Trieste -> resolved
Albania MOVE Greece -> Bounced
Serbia SUPPORT Albania to Greece -> Supported unit has failed

Things are not looking good for the Dual Monarchy, with a Russian army controlling his capital and the Turks conspiring with the Italians to keep him out of Greece. Unless the war between Turkey and Russia quickly escalates, Austria-Hungary is looking at an early exit. He had a bad opening (through little fault of his own), and his defensive gambit was unfortunately the wrong choice of moves. Of course, my proposed moves also would have been disastrous, and even the ‘correct’ defense of leaving the Viennese army in place would not have changed the inevitable too greatly; Austria-Hungary is sitting in the worst possible position with an enemy on every side (the only thing that would be worse would be Germany piling on too).

Bulgaria SUPPORT Ionian Sea to Greece -> Supported unit has failed
Ankara MOVE Black Sea -> resolved
Armenia MOVE Sevastopol -> Bounced

Turkey’s moves are inscrutable to me. With his armies heading east around the Black Sea as well as into the Balkans, he is not poised to make gains in the Balkans nearly as quickly as the Russian forces. Therefore, his decision to support Italy into Greece is very surprising to me. The only reason I could think of for such a choice would be to try and curry Italian favour against Russia once Austria-Hungary falls, though I will be surprised if this pays off. Turkey is a much more natural target than Russia for a naval power like Italy, particularly if the Italian player is in control of Greece as well as the Ionian Sea. With the opportunity to either support Austria-Hungary (and thereby delay his demise) or move to prevent Russia’s conquest of Rumania, it seems like there were much better options for Turkey’s Bulgarian army. Still, we will see how things go in the future. Turkey now controls the Black Sea and Russia lacks the capacity to build another southern fleet, so he at least has secured a vital tactical position against Russia.

Ukraine MOVE Rumania -> resolved
Gulf of Bothnia MOVE Sweden -> resolved
Galicia MOVE Vienna -> resolved
Sevastopol SUPPORT Ukraine to Rumania -> Support cut by a arm - sev

Things went pretty well for Russia in the opening year. Poised to get three builds, Russia is emerging as a powerful eastern force. Probably the only unfortunate turn of events is Turkey’s occupancy of the Black Sea. I am fairly surprised that Russia did not use her fleet to block the Black Sea again. Even though that would risk Turkey not making a move for the Black Sea and then walking into Sevastopol, the army in Sevastopol would be entirely cut off and could be forced out with the subsequent Russian builds. Of course, such a tactic would be a gamble, since none of Russia’s secured builds were guaranteed, so Russia’s choice was perhaps safer even if it gives Turkey a decent position despite his smaller force.

Position in Spring 1902, following 1901 Builds

Builds 1901
BUILD fleet London -> resolved
BUILD fleet Edinburgh -> resolved

Britain has managed to leverage his builds into a truly impressive navy. Any future builds should most likely be armies, but a four fleet force puts Britain in a decently secure position. The lack of a fleet in Liverpool is at least a nod in the direction of Anglo-French relations, though Britain could still make a go at the English Channel.

BUILD army Paris -> resolved
BUILD fleet Brest -> resolved

Despite his overwhelming naval superiority, Britain should be at least a little wary of France’s builds. The fleet in Brest has few targets other than the English Channel that could not been more effectively targeted by armies, particularly since the Portuguese fleet has few other movement options other than back into the Mid-Atlantic Ocean (he could move his fleet to one of Spain’s coasts, but then it would have made more sense to simply put his fleet there in the first place).

BUILD army Munich -> resolved
BUILD fleet Kiel -> resolved

Germany’s build choices are probably the least surprising; he has tensions with the British which makes a fleet in Kiel a natural choice, and an army in Munich puts to rest the worry of a French stab from Burgundy.

BUILD army Warsaw -> resolved
BUILD army Moscow -> resolved
BUILD fleet St. Petersburg (South Coast) -> resolved

The only choice Russia had with his builds was what to put in St. Petersburg. The choice of a fleet in the south coast is quite surprising, and should be making Germany very nervous. With Austria-Hungary facing an early elimination and Russia in possession of a powerful army that needs to go somewhere, the potential of a pair of Russian fleets operating around the Baltic Sea can only be bad news for the German Empire.

No builds?

This was perhaps the most surprising development, with Turkey forgetting to build a new unit. If this means that the Turkish player has dropped out of the game, this is bad news for everyone except Russia. Italy and Austria-Hungary may both feel some relief, but the benefit to Russia stands to quickly outweigh their short-term benefits of a Turkish drop-out.