The alliance between Italy and Austria is a very impressive thing once you stop to think about it. Much is said about the natural geopolitical difficulties of Italy allying Turkey, or Germany struggling to keep an English “ally” away from a devastating stab. However, the ‘Weak Sisters’ of Diplomacy manage to remain as an example of a good alliance when sharing a most disturbing hindrance to cooperation: the adjacent home supply centers of Venice and Trieste. Still, that does not stop players from fulfilling the huge potential such a pact offers.
Over the years many daring openings have been made that seek to send this unusual alliance flying over its enemies, ranging from the Lepanto (A ROM-APU, F NAP-ION) to the Key Opening (A VEN-TRI-SER, F NAP-ION-AEG). I would like to add one more opening to this library: the Morean Opening, named after the Greek peninsula once under Venetian control. Here are the Spring 1901 moves:
Italy A Venice-Apulia A Rome-Venice Fleet Naples-Ionian Sea Austria F Trieste-Venice A Vienna-Galicia A Budapest-Serbia
This opening is actually a mixture of two well-known openings: Italy’s Anti-Hedgehog Lepanto, and Austria’s Southern Hedgehog. Usually, the former enables a convoy into Tunis and no immediate danger to Austria’s exposed position, while the latter aims to protect Austria’s borders at any cost. Together, these moves form the basis for a powerful opening where both involved powers can profit – or at the very least, make sure no serious harm is done to either while still keeping strategical alternatives open. The opening causes a bounce in Venice that frees Austria’s F Trieste to safely sail elsewhere, while Italy still has two units on Venice for safekeeping – at the same time, both powers have many options available for the next season. So far in Spring nothing extraordinary has happened, but the magic of the Morean Opening is due in Fall 1901:
Italy A Apulia-Venice A Rome-Venice F Ionian Sea-Greece Austria F Trieste-Albania A Vienna-Galicia (or A Galicia-Rumania) A Serbia S Fleet Ionian Sea-Greece
What does such an opening achieve? First of all, it guarantees that both Venice and Trieste will be safe, without any need of a power blindly trusting the other – the Italian self-bounce in Venice cements it. In second place, both powers position themselves in key spaces – Austria guards Galicia, Albania and Serbia, while Italy holds Greece, the gateway to the east, and Apulia, an important space that guards all three Italian home centers. As far as I am aware, it’s unique among Italo-Austrian openings as it both absolutely guarantees mutual security (from each other) and also puts Austria/Italy in a superb forward position against the neighboring powers of Russia, France and Turkey.
Of course, heavy diplomatic work must be put into it: Austria must make sure to sound as friendly as possible to both Russia and Turkey, ideally arranging a demilitarized zone in Galicia that Austria won’t respect – Austria’s classical excuse of paranoia is easily confirmed by the popular Southern Hedgehog opening. Italy should try to sound as non-committal as possible (thus the Anti-Hedgehog variation of the Lepanto) trying to sound like a
wait-and-see kind of player (another classic excuse). Either way, the best scenario is Russia and Turkey going to war over the Black Sea and Armenia. Austria’s position on Vienna/Galicia may vary, but it’s of secondary importance to the Morean Opening – if Austria does take Galicia, it can either support an army to Rumania or move there itself.
The sharp-eyed will have noticed how Tunis has been put
on ice for 1901 – the center will come in handy later. Germany and England should be involved in containing Russia in the north, providing an important source of distraction. If Austria plays their talking game well, a fake promise of support for Turkey’s A Bulgaria-Rumania (or reversely, Russia’s F Rumania-Bulgaria) may hand Greece to Italy without any explicit show of Austrian involvement, further delaying Russo-Turkish knowledge of the deadly opening.
Support on Rumania/Bulgaria may be given, followed by a convenient leak of information that will ensure the move fails and Russo-Turkish relations remain strained without any gains for either side. The drawback of such a gambit is that Italy may lose their only sure chance of a build, so it’s an issue for both powers to discuss and analyze.
By Spring 1902, the newly-built F Naples and A Budapest can immediately be put into action:
Italy A Apulia H A Rome H F Greece S A Serbia-Bulgaria F Naples-Tyrrhenian Sea Austria F Albania-Ionian Sea A Vienna-Galicia (or A Galicia-Rumania) A Serbia-Bulgaria A Budapest S A Vienna-Galicia (or S A Galicia-Rumania)
The Spring 1902 results can vary wildly (especially regarding Galicia and Rumania), but ideally that’s how Fall 1902 will go:
Italy A Apulia H A Rome-Tunis F Greece S F Ionian Sea-Aegean Sea F Tyrrhenian Sea C A Rome-Tunis Austria F Ionian Sea-Aegean Sea A Vienna-Galicia (or A Galicia/Rumania) A Serbia-Bulgaria (or A Bulgaria S A Galicia-Rumania) A Budapest S A Vienna-Galicia (or S A Galicia-Rumania)
If everything goes well (it rarely goes, but let’s be optimistic) the Italy/Austria alliance will be in an astonishingly good position. Italy would have a fresh build, an army in Tunis and a fleet in Tyrrhenian Sea, enabling a blitzkrieg attack on France in 1903, not to mention control of Greece and thus of the Mediterranean. Austria would make itself master of the Balkans, potentially holding Serbia, Bulgaria, and Rumania, as well as the key space of Aegean Sea. Both countries would be sitting atop five supply centers and with the right units in the right places, the perfect setup for further expansion versus France, Russia, Turkey and beyond.
What if something does not go well? Fortunately the Morean Opening is quite versatile. Italy can change their Fall 1901 orders to convoy A Apulia-Tunis, and follow up with an Illyrian Opening (F NAP-ION, F ION-ADR, A ROM-VEN). Austria can play a late Blue Water Opening (F TRI-ADR) and build A Trieste for a supported attack on Venice that Italy won’t be able to cast off without sacrificing any hopes of initial naval expansion – essential to its success. All the while, both Italy and Austria can use their positioning to convince Russia or Turkey of their true allegiance and earn an extra center on Greece, Rumania or Bulgaria as reward for their efforts.
Either way, the Morean Opening can provide a new, different and dynamic way for both Italy and Austria to achieve their ultimate goals.