The Editor and the Readership
Yes, folks, this is the letters column; your chance to stuff something into The Diplomatic Pouch. Here's the way it works. Each issue, I, using my omnipotent powers as publisher, get to waste as much of your time as I want here in this column talking about some aspect of the game. What I talk about is entirely up to me. If you don't like it, then you volunteer to write your own letters column. I don't see anyone stopping you.
And then, when I'm absolutely sure that my article has put my entire readership to sleep, I finish up the column with a flourish like, "What do you think?" or "Anyone have anything to add?" or "What say?" or "Huh?" or something equally intelligent. The key at this point is for all you snoring readers to realize that this question is not meant to be rhetorical. It's your cue to wake your sorry selves up and send me a piece of mail about that issue's topic. Once you've done that duty, you can pin a gold star on yourself and wait with bated breath to see your letter published in the next issue of your favorite magazine in the whole wide world. (No, I'm not forwarding your messages to TV Guide, stupid.)
And so, with no further introduction, and hoping (just like all of you) that I never again have to explain what this column is all about, let's get busy. Pull up a pillow and prepare to be...well, uh, make it a comfortable pillow.
In keeping with the theme of this premiere issue, the topic this time is going to be Openings. And not just any openings, but openings I think I'd like to try, openings which I have tried and want to try again, and maybe even openings I haven't even thought of yet (it all depends on how long this article turns out to be -- you might want to look for a blanket too). For some unfathomable reason, nobody sent me any letters in response to the topic I wrote on in the previous issue. I believe this may have something to do with the fact that this current issue is the first one, but the sad (for you) result is that all you're going to get here is me running at the mouth...er, pen...er, keyboard. I imagine that when we're through, you'll all be more than motivated enough to do your part to ensure that this never happens again.
And so, here we go. So you say you want to know what openings I'd like to try, huh? Well, thanks for asking. As it happens, I was just about to write about exactly that. Honest. See, I'll prove it to you.
The first opening I want to talk about is Italian. Here's the idea. Italy would cultivate both French and Austrian friendship right off the bat. And not just friendship, but bend-over-backwards stuff. Set up the usual DMZ through PIE/LYO/WES/NAF with France, and then schmooze with Austria but good. The idea being to convince Austria to grant you free passage through Tyrolia, just as if it was an Italian province. Now before you give up on me, let me tell you that I've used this opening already, and I'll discuss the results a little later.
Anyway, this whole time, you're telling Germany that I/A have come to agreement, but that you're going to stab Austria right off the bat. In fact, Venice does indeed go to Tyrolia in the Spring. Austria then acts indignant as all get out, appealing to Germany and the rest of the board for help, etc., etc. Rome moves into Venice, of course (in case the Austrian decides to sail along the coast in the Spring with the knowledge of your plan), and the Italian fleet, of course, sets sail for Tunis.
Now, you may be wondering what the Italo-Turkish relationship is. I believe it can be handled a couple of ways, but telling Turkey that you're invading Austria is probably the best, if you are sure that Russia, as usual, is double-dealing but is truly with Austria.
So you see that the basic idea for Spring is to cement blood relationships with both France and Italy while trying to manage the German (and Turkish) perspective on this.
In the Fall, France supports Tyrolia into Munich from Burgundy. This should come as a complete shock to Germany, given enough of the proper press from everyone on the board. It is also not difficult to convince France to give this support. The tack to take is that France will be getting 2 builds (Spain and Portugal) and, with the loving relationship you have with him, you're sure he'd agree you should get two builds as well.
The second Italian army is best pushed into Tyrolia behind the unit going into Germany, but this depends, of course, on the Austrian position. If the Austrian loves you the way you hope he would by now (or if you just convince him that for safety sake you're holding in Venice), you should be able to send VEN-TYR without bad effect.
One of the two Italian builds is an army in Venice, and the other is up in the air. The important thing is that Italy has not violated the Austrian trust, and in fact, whether that ever happens is something I don't know. If enough press has flown back and forth between Italy and Austria, the Austrian will feel safe enough to leave Trieste during the year and get his customary (when unmolested by Italy) two builds. Sending a lot of press addressed to both France and Austria talking about the plan, and about how all three of you will benefit equally, will assist in calming any early fears of the dual monarch.
That's basically it. Fairly simple opening, not difficult to perform with proper diplomacy, and fun to engineer because it requires a lot of diplomacy. Also, the benefits are fairly good -- an iron-clad I/A and a proven I/F. And free passage through Tyrolia.
Now to find out how this went the one time I tried it. Well, let me say, before I get into that, that I knew beforehand what the Gamer's Guide says about such an opening -- that only an Italian fool would try it. Well, call me a fool, but I feel that no opening is poor if the diplomacy is conducted properly, and the conduct of diplomacy is something in which I egotistically take pride.
So okay. Now the scoop. Everything went as planned in 1901. I was able to end the year in Munich, Tyrolia, and Tunis. I built two armies (Venice and Rome), which calmed France all the more, and spent 1902 extending the thin line north. Munich slid into Silesia while Tyrolia filled in behind, again with French support against the angry German, and the newly built Venice followed into Tyrolia, with Rome moving to Venice.
At this point, I was able to convince Germany that he'd never get me out of Munich, since now France was freed from the need to support me, since I had all the armies I needed to do so myself. But I offered to give Munich back to him voluntarily "soon" if he'd assist with phase 2 of the plan. The upshot of this is that in Fall of 1902, I was able to continue the single file march of the blackshirts. With German support from Prussia, Silesia took Warsaw. Russia and most others, of course, assumed that I was in Silesia for one purpose only: Berlin. Munich went to Silesia, Tyrolia to Munich unopposed (Germany was convinced Tyrolia was supporting Munich holding, so he didn't bother to attack Munich, contenting himself with my promise to return it), and Venice, once again, to Tyrolia.
After these moves, the plan was to build an army in Venice and use the position I had all over the north to run a long broad knife into the trusting Austrian (SIL-BOH, WAR-GAL, TYR S VEN-TRI, etc.). Unfortunately, here's where our happy story ends. It seems that I was a bit too open with Austria about my march, and the other players had gotten to him with all sorts of "Be a man!" stuff. The result was a TRI-VEN move that Fall which really hurt. Austria had beaten me to the stab, though he was tremendously sorry -- for he had only made the move thinking it would bounce but that it would calm his critics. Once in Venice, though, Italy was wide open to him, and he would have been foolish to retreat to Austria. Even I told him so.
But I remain convinced that with only some minor modifications, I could get the opening past 1902. These modifications would be either diplomatic (handle Austria in 1902 just like Germany -- claim to be holding Venice and Munich, but still try to move both), or tactical -- simply don't move one or both. If Austria doesn't enter Venice in 1902 while this march is taking place, everything should be looking like roses for Italy after the 1902 builds. Yes, it's precarious running the supply line so far out like that, and as you can see, it looks more than a bit comical, but it is a position on the verge of some major gains. Germany had been used to gain a center, but then befriended. Russia had been angered, but was so far away from Italy that Warsaw could be safely returned after the use of the unit it builds without any harm to Italy proper (that is, handle Russia just like Germany), and a knockout blow can be dealt to Austria from all the units arrayed to his north.
But I am just as convinced that trying to maintain the tight I/A would be a good idea at that point. Rather than stab Austria, try to extend the line so that it's self-supporting by taking Berlin now that Germany thinks you're his friend, and then hold the armies and concentrate on the waters for a while.
So that you know, the strength of the F/I/A agreement came to my aid in the game. France rushed fleets to Italy and helped me kick Austria out, but all my armies had returned home (or died trying as Rome and Naples fell), so now I was in a mid-game and that's of no use to this discussion. Then France stabbed me by taking Tunis a year before I agreed he could have it as payment for his help), and Austria came to my aid, and then...well, as you can see, it was a good game.
So, as those of you who are still awake can see, this Italian opening is one I enjoyed, and which I tasted limited success with, and so it's one I want to try again. It requires a lot of diplomacy, and this type of play, I think, makes for the best games.
Well, this article is a lot longer than I planned it to be, so I'm going to mercifully stop after discussing only one more opening, and then turn it over to you.
This other opening is German, and involves Berlin ending the year in Denmark, with Kiel out in the Skagerrak. Munich, hopefully, is in Holland. The idea behind this opening is similar to the Italian one I rambled on about up above: run a thin line between two neighboring powers, both of whom you're cultivating. In the Italian opening, it was France and Austria. In the German opening, it's Russia and England.
The differences are that in the Italian opening, I/F/A is an alliance, but in the German opening, the German builds separate E/G and R/G alliances, vaguely promising both of his allies support in Scandinavia against the other.
Both England and Russia need to be kept in the dark about DEN-SKA, but after it happens, both can be convinced that you did it to help them. The easier power to convince is Russia. After all, you didn't bounce him out of Sweden, and you're able to support him into Norway.
The more difficult to convince is England. After all, you didn't bounce Russia out of Sweden, and two units on Sweden can be gotten less offensively to England by DEN-BAL rather than DEN-SKA. However, such uphill diplomatic battles are what I enjoy most, and England can be convinced that SKA was good for him. This is especially true if Russia opens north with MOS-STP. A good case can be made to England that STP-FIN would give enough support to Sweden to keep it Russian unless two German units joined Norway against it, so even if Sweden was bounced, a south coast fleet build, the army in Finland, and the fleet in the Gulf would probably get Sweden anyway, or at the very least clog up the area and make life for the E/G team tough. And only by staying friends with Russia can Germany ensure for E/G that a south coast fleet won't be built (Russia has already committed to the north, so an E/G teamup in Scandinavia would demand a build there). So by playing up the "I'm leading Russia on and not antagonizing him, but I'm really helping you" line, England can accept DEN-SKA.
That's as far as the opening goes. If all is played correctly, Germany ends 1901 with both Russia and England set for a war in Scandinavia, and both tentavily counting on German support for their cause. How 1902 goes is entirely up to you. See which of E/R will support you into the other's holding, and if neither will, choose one and help him. Or you could take matters into your own hands. Stab Russia by taking Sweden in the Spring (with English help?), and then stab England in the Fall, owning all of the Scandinavian pie by the end of 1902. This bold grab would be only contemplated if things are going well for you elsewhere, of course.
Want to know how my one attempt at this opening went? Well, things weren't going well for me elsewhere, darn it. I had spent so much time with the diplomacy with E/G (as described above) that the iron-clad F/G I set up to begin the game got the short shrift and turned out to be anything but when France took Munich in 1901. So I got too busy elsewhere to concentrate on Scandinavia much. C'est la vie. Another opening which showed me great promise, but which requires a safe backside a mere one turn longer than I gave it. Keeping Munich in 1901 is not that impossible a task for Germany -- I just neglected my duties and got unlucky. So, this said, I remain convinced that this German opening can make for an interesting play if France is a friend of Germany. (And, of course, this is not far-fetched at all, especially if you let France in on your plans in Scandinavia -- or at least the anti-English part or version of them.)
Okay, I've talked enough, and you've certainly slept enough. So wake yourself up and click your mouse either on this button or on my e-mail address below, and answer me this non-rhetorical question: "What opening do you most want to try or retry, and why?" If you do answer it (and why wouldn't you?) your musings will appear in the next issue of The Diplomatic Pouch, right above my own ever-so-intelligent discussion on whatever the heck my second topic will be. So click away, and you'll be writing me your contribution to the library of favorite or wannabe-tried openings. Of course, you're also free to write me about anything at all, and you know, if it turns out that you don't write to me about anything, you'll feel pretty darn rotten about yourself.
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