Geographical Destiny Revisited

Ole R Tuft



In his excellent article "Geography is Destiny", published in the fall 1999 edition of The Zine, Paul D. Windsor invented the term "fear factor". For an explanation of the term, I refer to his article (and strongly suggest reading it before reading any further). Combining the fear factor with tempo counts and other geographical considerations, he arrives at a number of conclusions, some of which are at odds with conventional wisdom in Diplomacy.

Explaining his rationale behind calculating the fear factors, he says: "I stuck with home SCís to keep analysis reasonably simple. I donít think that trying to introduce "naturals" or other SCís into the fear factor analysis would change the results significantly." Intuitivly, one might agree. After all, if one powerís shortest route to victory does run through another powerís home SCís, the inclusion of other SCís will not change that fact. But at the same time, one has the nagging feeling that something is not right. How is it possible that Austriaís fear of Germany should be greater than his fear of Turkey? How could Germanyís fear of Italy be bigger than his fear of England? Our experience contradicts heavily with some of these findings. The fear factors in "Geography is Destiny" (The row for fear projection has been added by me. England's fear of Russia and Austria's fear of Turkey has been adjusted in accordance with Windsor's own "Swiftest route to victory"):


Power

Fear factor fromÖ

 

Fear perceived

Austria England France Germany Italy Russia Turkey
Austria

-

0

3

11

13

11

8

46

England

0

-

10

6

0

6

0

22

France

3

9

-

11

4

0

2

29

Germany

10

7

10

-

10

11

3

51

Italy

12

0

10

7

-

0

7

36

Russia

11

5

0

10

0

-

11

37

Turkey

8

0

0

0

6

11

-

26

Fear projected


45


21


33


45


33


39


31


-

Does A Bud go to Serbia rather than towards Munich only because we are playing a non-optimal game? Of course not, we send it towards Serbia because Serbia is empty and can be taken with a flick of the wrist. The same cannot be said of Munich, and here we are at the heart of the matter: The fear factors calculated by Windsor are "timeless", assuming that every center is equally easy/difficult to occupy. In S1901, this is hardly the case.

Assuming that it is rational (and not just "conventional wisdom") to go after oneís "naturals", we must investigate the impact of this to get a clearer picture of whatís going on, because it really does makes a difference. While a move such as A Bud-Ser does not change the distance between Austrian and German home centers, it alters the distance between Austrian units and Turkish home centers (and, when including naturals, the distance between Austrian and Turkish (and Russian) centers (Serbia and Bulgaria)), and with this, not only does the swiftest way to victory change, but also the fear factors..

Peeking into the future (1901)

If we are to include "naturals" and other SCís in the analysis, an attempt must be made to construct a map according to how it might look after the respective powers have aquired (or tried to aquire) their naturals (one might think of it as a tiny collection of possible situations after the 1901 builds). Many simplifications and assumptions must be made, some numbers must be taken out of thin air while others are collected from other sources ("A Statistical Look at 1901" by The Scribe, Spring 1998 issue of The Zine).

Of the countless possibilities that is not accounted for in this least, the most glaring omission might be moves to highly important, disputed provinces such as Galicia, The Black Sea, The English Channel etc. Surely one cannot attempt to picture 1901 more or less accuratly without these? What will be attempted is to analyse the impact of powers going after their naturals, not all the various ways of which they may be going after each otherís throats. Moves to such highly DMZ'd provinces fall in the throat-cutting cathegory and generally does not represent attempts by powers to grab neutrals. Besides, the frequency of such moves are much more likely to be affected both by trends and "conventional wisdom" than moves aimed at grabbing empty neutrals, which ought to be guided by nothing but rationality. The postulated presence of an English fleet in the North Sea, and the chance of an Italian fleet in the Ionian are included, because they are highly probable moves that represent steps towards aquiring naturals, steps that causes a significant change in the tempi required to reach other powers' centers (which cannot be said of e.g. moves to Ruhr or Ukraine). Armed with these assumptions and ignoring all other possible moves, we will build a "swiftest route to victory" for each of the powers, following the example of Paul Windsor:

Swiftest route to victory

Power

1 tempo

2 tempi

3 tempi

4 tempi

Austria

Bul, Rum, Ven

Smy, Con, Sev, War, Rom, Nap, Mun, Tun

Ank, Mos, Mar, Ber, Kie

 

England

Stp, Swe, Hol, Den, Bel (75%)

Bre, Mos (50%), Kie, Mun (12.5%), Mar (12.5%), Par (12.5%)

War (50%), Mos (50%) Ber, Mun (87.5%), Par (87.5%), Mar (87.5%), Spa, Por

 

France

Hol (25%)

Lon, Bel (75%), Ven, Mun, Kie (25%)

Kie (75%), Hol (75%), Ber, Lvp, Edi, Nwy, Den, Rom, Nap, Tun, Tri

 

Germany

Bel (75%), Swe

Par, Mar, Bre (25%), Lon, Edi, Nwy, War, Ven, Tri, Vie

Bre (75%), Lvp, Spa, Stp, Mos, Bud, Ser, Rum, Rom

 

Italy

Tri, Gre (50%)

Mar, Spa (50%), Ser, Gre (50%), Smy (50%), Con (50%), Vie, Bud, Mun

Spa (50%), Por (50%), Bre (50%), Smy (50%), Con (50%), Ank (50%), Bul, Rum, Ber, Kie

 

Russia

Nwy, Bul (75%), Ser (38%), Bud (38%), Den (70%)

Ber, Mun, Kie, Vie, Ser (62%), Bud (62%), Tri (38%), Gre (38%), Con, Ank, Smy, Bul (25%), Den (30%)

Hol (70%), Edi, Lon (70%), Bel (70%), Tri (62%), Gre (62%), Ven (38%)

 

Turkey

Rum, Ser, Gre

Bud, Sev, Tri

Mos, War, Vie, Nap, Tun, Ven

StP, Rom, Mun, Ber

Every power has been "alotted" 3 tempi to expand (Though Russia could reach 18 centers  in only 2 tempi, why should it be punished for its flexibility?), Turkey one extra tempo (without which it would not reach 18 centers). The possibility of England taking Sev has been deemed too far-fetched and Sev has not been included in the English list.

Using Windsorís system of assigning values to centers (whereby a center that can be reached in 1 tempo is given a value of 5, 2 tempi is valued at 4 etc), and giving equal weight to home SCís and naturals (a power looking to count up18 centers does not differentiate, and so neither will we), we calculate the fear factors:

 

Power

Fear factor fromÖ


Fear perceived
Austria England France Germany Italy Russia Turkey
Austria

-

0

3

14

21.5

19.5

21

79

England

0

-

13.8

15.9

0

10.6

0

40.3

France

3

17.2

-

15.2

10.5

0.5

0

46.4

Germany

10

21.1

17.3

-

10

19.2

4

78.7

Italy

17

0

13

7

-

1.1

11

49.1

Russia

14.8

13.5

0

15.8

2.3

-

15.8

62.2

Turkey

16

0

0

0

10.5

16.8

-

43.3

Fear projected


60.8


51.8


47.1


67.9


54.8


67.8


51.8


-

Net fear
Projected-
Perceived


-18.8


+11.5


+0.7


-11.1


+5.7


+5.5


+8.5


-

Not surprisingly, the "primal" central powers Austria and Germany fares poorly. While itís a close race in fear perceived, Germany projects more (most, in fact) fear and does better in terms of net fear, but both powers are far behind the rest of the field in this respect, reflecting their difficult strategical situation. While their fear of each other is considerable, it is nonetheless clearly overridden by fear of other neighbours. The inclusion of other SCís reveals England to be power most feared by Germany and Austriaís fear of Turkey is now as great as his fear of Italy.

The two witches obviously doesnít have the same appetite for centers as the central powers (and Russia), but as they are subject to only half the amount of fear, they emerge as the clear winners in terms of net fear. This is as expected, taken their superior strategical position. The struggle for the Balkan SCís brings Turkeyís fear of Austria into light, while complications in Scandinavia drives Englandís fear of Russia up.

Russia has a capacity for destruction as great as Germanyís, and coupled with the fear-shrinking geographical vastness of Russia it results in a markable net "positive" fear. Germany and Turkey is slightly more feared than Austria, but England is not very far behind. Havenít we often seen the rot of the Russian empire start in the north?

The numbers for France may seem surprising. Barely managing to reach a positive net fear, itís projected fear is the least of all the powers. This is partly explained by the fact that while most powers close the distance to their neighbours (and their naturals) in taking their naturals, France does not do so in tying up the Iberian SCís. Thusly, the other powers increases their projected fear more than France does. Likewise, they are subjected to more fear, while France keeps the perceived fear down, almost on the level of the witches. Perhaps the lack of projected fear is one of the keys to French success, with the other powers preferring to concentrate against neighbours that appear more threatening? After all, none of the powers seem to look at France as their biggest threat.

Italy benefits hugely from the inclusion of the neutral SCís, giving it a host of targets beside the easily-reached Austrian centers. Combined with the lack of manouver towards Italy by other powers, Italy ends up with a nice net projected fear. Is this indication of Italian strength nothing but an illusion? Italy is always a special case, but Italy anno 1901 is truly special. With his home SCís like a castle not likely to come under attack, he at most leaves A Ven for defense and engages in whatever endeavor pleases him. Centrally placed, Italy has a long reach, from Turkey to Portugal and deep into Germany. That some of those provinces are very hard to get at is not sufficently accounted for in these numbers, neither is the strategical horrors that may follow if Italy attempts to grab the most accessible centers. For a broader discussion of Italy, see "Geography is Destiny".

Relationships at a glance?

Just how compatible are the various powers? Letís use the information in the table for the swiftest route to victory and try to find out. If one power covets a large number of the centers listed for another power, the percentage of compatability will be low (percentages in "Shortest route to victory" are ignored).

 

Power

Total mutual fear/fear relationship/compatability

Austria England France Germany Italy Russia Turkey


Austria


-

0
(0)
71%

6
(0)
57%

24
(-4)
43%

38.5
(-4.5)
14%

34.3
(-4.7)
19%

37
(-5)
10%


England

0
(0)
68%


-

31
(+3.4)
21%

37
(+5.2)
5%

0
(0)
68%

24.1
(+2.9)
32%

0
(0)
74%


France

6
(0)
55%

31
(-3.4)
30%


-

32.5
(+1.9)
15%

23.5
(+2.5)
40%

0.5
(-0.5)
45%

0
(0)
65%


Germany

24
(+4)
50%

37
(-5.2)
25%

32.5
(-1.9)
29%


-

17
(-3)
50%

35
(-4.4)
25%

4
(-4)
54%


Italy

38.5
(+4.5)
14%

0
(0)
71%

23.5
(-2.5)
43%

17
(+3)
43%


-

3.4
(-1.2)
33%

21.5
(+0.5)
24%


Russia

34.3
(+4.7)
32%

24.1
(-2.9)
48%

0.5
(+0.5)
56%

35
(+4.4)
28%

3.4
(+1.2)
44%


-

32.6
(+1)
32%


Turkey

37
(+5)
5%

0
(0)
75%

0
(0)
65%

4
(+4)
57%

21.5
(-0.5)
20%

32.6
(-1)
15%

-

Austria is a messÖ Not only is it surrounded by neighbours that all have a strategical edge over it, but most of the relationships with those neighbours have a low compatability as well. Accepting the friendship of Germany seems a good choice, as the two have good compatability and this will cut some of the pressure. Russia appears to be the best potential buddy among the three Balkan brawlers. Turkey looks a hopeless choice, it is in fact the most shaky relationship possible in Diplomacy, with a combined compatablity of only 15%. Peace with Italy is a must, but the relationship is unlikely to last, being the second most unstable on the board with a combined compatability of 28%.

England has some pleasant choices. It can accept working short-term with Germany, knowing that the relationship is horribly one-sided strategically (as bas as Turkey/Austria) and that the route to glory goes through Germanyís guts. Or it can side with the more compatible France, still having the strategical edge. Coaxing Italy into attacking one of the two seems a good idea, as Italy is unlikely to get in Englandís way. Ignoring the threats poised by Germany and France while going after Russia early in the game cannot be recommended without serious diplomatic framework and G/F conflict.

France sees England as being the most compatible among the westerners, but may choose the strategically sounder relationship with Germany, altough Germany is likely to reap the biggest harvest from this partnership if France doesnít demand some donations (Germany rating it at 29%, France at 15%). France seems little concerned with Italy as long as the latter stays away from the French centers, seeing Italy almost as compatible as Russia.

Germany, being centrally located, has access to centers that is out of Englandís reach and accordingly, while recognizing its strategical akwardness, has a more optimistic opinion about the compatability of the relationship, putting it on par with one with Russia. From the German view, France is clearly the best bet among the powers in the west/north, being strategically more equal and slightly more compatible. Compared to Austria, even the powers seen as least compatible by Germany have a higher compatability than any of Austria's Balkan neighbours.

Italy should have little doubt about its dream partner: England. Among the eastern triplet, Russia is as expected the most compatible, but at 33% it signals that Italy may encounter some "friendly" competition at some point. Austria is bound to end up on the Italian menu, but whether it will it be breakfast, lunch or dinner is likely to depend on the bigger picture. Italyís strategical edge will dissapate quickly if it goes veering off while leaving a healthy Austria behind. While Turkey seems more likely to come Italyís way than France, France seems more likely to succeed, with its positional edge over Italy.

Russia seems to enjoy an advantage over Germany, who is the power seen as both the most feared and incompatible. Austria and Turkey looks equally compatible, with Austria being the easiest to bring down. Baring the traditionally one-sidedness of a Juggernaut in mind (expressed by Russia rating the relationship at 32%, Turkey at 15%), it is surprising that numbers indicate that Russiaís best bet may be to side with Austria. In the north, war with England seems to be disadvantagous, and England is actually seen as more compatible (but far more dangerous) than Italy, who meanwhile is a good partner in crime for the Balkans. Naturally, France is the most compatible partner.

Turkeyís view of Austria exactly mirrors Englandís view of Germany Ė a power that must be overrun, but a useful short-term partner because it is strategically inferior. Russia is easier to work with, but conflict seems difficult to avoid, and Russia will gain the greater spoils. Italy will probably have to be engaged at some point too, but there seems to be potential for mutual existence, both seeing the relationship as being farely equal.

Looking over these relationships, one is stricken by a similarity between France and Russia that could be another key in understanding the success of these two powers: Their neighbours find it hard to cooperate. In the northwest, both powers borders England and Germany. In the southwest, France has an Italian neighbour that is tied up with Austria, while Russia faces Austria and Turkey in the southeast. Another peculiarity that is to Austrian comfort is that all of its neighbours have some reason to keep Austria alive (at least for a while) Ė Russia and Turkey because Austria seems to be their best partner in an alliance, and Italy because of Turkey (and, to some extent, Russia).

Disputed "truths"

At the end of "Geography is Destiny", Windsor challenges a number of conventional principles, which will be discussed:

Given that grabbing oneís naturals is rational, and not just another piece of conventional wisdom, it would seem that many of these findings supports the latter.

Ole R Tuft
(olertu@hotmail.com)

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