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Thursday, June 16, 2011

An Exercise in Diplomacy: Spring 1902

The first two turns left Russia with a lot of forward momentum into the Balkans and Austria-Hungary, but with Turkey aimed at her underbelly. Despite Turkey’s strategic position, he did not utilize his secured build from the conquest of Bulgaria, making me think that Turkey’s player has possibly even dropped the game. Austria-Hungary and Italy were both held at three builds, although Austria-Hungary was in a distinctly worse position with his capital of Vienna under control by a Russian army. Germany, France, and England all managed to secure two builds, and what remains to be seen is who in the west will be the odd man out.

Spring 1902 Orders

Spring 1902
Norway MOVE Skagerrack -> resolved
Edinburgh MOVE North Sea -> Bounced
London HOLD -> resolved
Belgium SUPPORT Burgundy to Ruhr -> Dislodged by A Ruh - Bel
North Sea MOVE North Sea -> Illegal order replaced with Hold order

Dislodged Army in Belgium destroyed.

Britain faces a French back-stab, which she probably should have seen coming given the French fleet built in Brest. France clearly convinced Britain he would be making an attack on Ruhr, leaving Britain supporting a non-existent attack. In addition to the French stab, Britain somehow managed to foul up two of her own orders, disrupting her fleet movements. Despite her almost overwhelming force of fleets, leaving three of them just sitting in place puts Britain in a bad place. Now that France has thrown his lot in with Germany, Britain will most likely swing her fleet from Edinburgh around to Clyde to either cover Liverpool if France sends a fleet into the Irish Sea or North Atlantic, or to help mount a future attack on France.

Brest MOVE English Channel -> resolved
Paris MOVE Picardy -> resolved
Portugal MOVE Mid-Atlantic Ocean -> resolved
Spain MOVE Gascony -> resolved
Burgundy SUPPORT Ruhr to Belgium -> resolved

France was left in an excellent position at the end of the last year, with an Italy clearly occupied in the east and a war brewing between Germany and Britain, he virtually had the pick of his allies. Now that he is in possession of the English Channel, France faces a conundrum. Unless Germany can quickly take control of the North Sea (which is unlikely given that their hand has been tipped and Russia has two fleets bearing down on the Baltic Sea), France cannot hold the Channel without tying up both his fleets. However, any delay just gives Britain more time to get into defensive position and possibly even rally support in the south. I would recommend France either makes sure his fleets stay in position by supporting from the Mid Atlantic this turn and convoys an army into Wales (or London, if he thinks Britain will gamble and try to stop a move to Wales with her fleet), or France should gamble that Britain won’t force his fleet out of the Channel and send his fleet from the Mid Atlantic to the North Atlantic. Once in the Mid Atlantic, France can threaten Liverpool or move to the Norwegian Sea, where he can threaten both Edinburgh and Norway, forcing Britain’s fleets into a chasing game. Either outcome (a French army on British soil or a French fleet in the northern waters) will work wonders in disrupting Britain’s defense and counterattack. Without accomplishing either, however, Britain’s superior naval power (with Russian help) will be able to push France and Germany back and punish them. Even without Russian help, Britain can force France and Germany into a long and slow grind.

Munich MOVE Silesia -> resolved
Kiel SUPPORT Holland to hold -> resolved
Holland SUPPORT Ruhr to Belgium -> resolved
Ruhr MOVE Belgium -> resolved
Denmark HOLD -> resolved

Germany has managed to drive Britain into the sea and seize Belgium for the Kaiser, but his prospects remain far from certain. Britain’s bungled moves have saved Germany the fearful prospect of a British fleet in the Heligoland Bight, North Sea, and Skaagerak, but he still lacks possession of the North Sea. I find his lack of fleet use surprising, although his support of Holland from Kiel suggests that he did not yet fully trust his French ally. Even so, the order of Denmark to the North Sea would, more than likely, have served him well. If Britain had successfully exited the North Sea, such a move would prevent Edinburgh from moving in to take its place and leave Denmark still safely in place.

More confusing is Germany’s developing relationship with Russia, but that will be discussed in more detail when Russia’s moves are dealt with. Munich remains dangerously exposed, with a Russian, Italian, and French army all sitting around its perimeter.

Ionian Sea MOVE Greece -> resolved
Venice MOVE Trieste -> resolved
Tyrolia SUPPORT Trieste to Vienna -> resolved

Italy finally moved into his first neutral supply centre, but was forced to do it with his fleet. That means his fleet will have to stay in place next turn to gain control, and it will be at least another year before Italy takes possession of Tunisia. If he is not careful, France may manage to sneak a fleet around the Iberian horn (or build one in Marseilles) and steal Tunisia out from under him. Even more in Italy’s favour, however, is that he now has an army in Trieste. Combined with his an army in Tyrolia, Italy has the potential to break out of the peninsular shell that show many Italians find themselves stuck in. However, by working with the Austro-Hungarians, Italy has likely alienated his erstwhile Russian ally, and must continue to build his forces. Altogether, however, I think Italy had a good year.

Serbia MOVE Budapest -> Bounced
Albania SUPPORT Ionian Sea to Greece -> resolved
Trieste MOVE Vienna -> resolved

Austria-Hungary had an interesting turn. In many ways, he appeared to pick Italy as the lesser evil, sacrificing Trieste to the Italians in order to get Vienna back. If Greece and Trieste are truly enough to satisfy Italy, then Austria-Hungary may have actually bought himself some time, and even the prospect of a resurgence. As long as Trieste remains in the hands of the Italians, however, Austria-Hungary’s fleet will remain lonely and cut off from the prospect of naval support. With a possible alliance with Italy, however, the fleet becomes almost a hindrance, and Austria-Hungary may even try to coordinate its demise with Italy’s help. If not, Austria-Hungary may actually try a stab of his own, and oust Italy from Greece next turn given Turkey’s distraction with Russia. Regardless, Austria-Hungary remains in a troubled position, and the actions of a desperate player are hard to telegraph. I think the player deserves some credit for continuing to play the game. Too many players simply drop a game in the face of initial setbacks.

Black Sea SUPPORT Armenia to Sevastopol -> Supported unit has failed
Armenia MOVE Sevastopol -> Bounced
Bulgaria MOVE Rumania -> Bounced

Turkey had two attack patterns to choose from: although Bulgaria and Armenia are directed to attack Rumania and Sevastopol, respectively, Turkey must choose whether his fleet supports the attack on Rumania or Sevastopol. Russia has a counter to each move (if Turkey focuses on Rumania, Russia can cut support from the Black Sea with her fleet. If Turkey focuses on Sevastopol, Russia can do what she did: sit in Sevastopol and support from Moscow), but if she guesses incorrectly Turkey will take his target. It should be noted that Turkey did have one option that would have guaranteed him Rumania (at least without Austro-Hungarian intervention): attack Rumania with his fleet and support from Bulgaria. The main reason not to do this, however, would be that if Russia did attack the Black Sea from Sevastopol in the same turn, she would gain control of the Black Sea while Turkey would have a largely useless fleet sitting in Rumania. Turkey’s lack of a build last turn now becomes incredibly important; Russia was much more likely to be able to guess which of the two attacks Turkey would make because, without an army having been built in Constantinople, advancing out of Bulgaria leaves him incredibly exposed. Russia thus made the correct guess, and now Turkey has wasted his momentum. Without Austro-Hungarian help, Turkey cannot break Russia’s current position. Even more worrisome, an Austro-Hungarian and Italian alliance could potentially walk into Bulgaria (and could even do so unstoppably if Russia happens to cut Turkish support in the Black Sea or provides support from Rumania). Despite the presence of a Russian army in Galicia now (which could allow Russia to completely shut down Turkey’s attack without having to guess), the Galician army is likely to be busy dealing with Austria-Hungary and Turkey probably still has a shot next turn. His best tactic, I believe, would be to attack Rumania from the Black Sea and support from Bulgaria (while attacking Sevastopol from Armenia). Even if Russia takes the Black Sea, Turkey will now have two builds and will be able to completely encircle the Russian southern fleet, destroying it in the Spring. Russia will be unlikely to get the necessary builds to put a second fleet in Sevastopol (even though it will likely be vacant from a bounce between Armenia and Moscow) because she will have lost Rumania (and possibly Vienna).

Moscow SUPPORT Rumania to Sevastopol -> Supported unit has failed
Warsaw MOVE Galicia -> resolved
Sevastopol MOVE Black Sea -> Bounced
Rumania MOVE Sevastopol -> Bounced
Sweden HOLD -> resolved
Vienna MOVE Budapest -> Dislodged by A Tri - Vie
St. Petersburg (South Coast) MOVE Gulf of Bothnia -> resolved

Dislodged Army in Vienna retreats to Bohemia

The Great Russian Bear appears to have run into some slight trouble (most likely owing to the entirely reasonable fear of her swift growth in the first turn) but she still remains in a strong position. Although her army was forced out of Vienna, it was able to retreat to Bohemia. Since Budapest remains vacant, unless Italy and Austria-Hungary are fully allied now such that Italy supports Austria-Hungary in Vienna, she can force her way back in next turn. She successfully guessed the correct defense against Turkey, so she has managed to maintain her position in Rumania and Sevastopol.

Russia’s relationship with Germany has gotten quite complicated. The German army in Silesia threatens Warsaw, while the Russian army in Bohemia potentially threatens Munich. Likewise, Russia has the potential to force herself into the Baltic Sea, particularly since Germany’s fleets are sure to be tied up defending a British onslaught. Despite all of this, however, Russia’s fleet in Sweden held last turn (as did Germany’s fleet in Denmark) rather than try any sort of hostile movement against each other, which at least suggests the possibility of an understanding. Russia may be playing Britain and Germany against each other, promising aid (or at least mutual non-aggression in the case of Germany) to both of them. Given Britain’s poor bargaining position, I would not be surprised if Russia left Germany alone and waltzed into Norway. It is a gutsy move diplomatically to build a fleet on the anti-German coast of St. Petersburg to actually go after the British, but sometimes those are the most effective forms of subterfuge (as long as they don’t incite your pretend enemy to launch a preemptive attack). It is a tough call to make in the long run; the elimination of Britain greatly strengthens France and Germany, but of the three western powers Britain generally causes Russia the most headaches (at least in the early game), and Russia can always try appealing to French greed to carve Germany up once Britain is gone (depending on how enticing a target Italy appears to be). Unless the ground-work of a Franco-Russian alliance has already been started, though, Russia should not rely too heavily on the prospect of French help in the future. A Franco-German alliance without a British enemy beind them can remain incredibly strong, and Russia is already a powerful enough single entity that any other power should think twice before aiding her.