5. Germany

For some reason Germany never came my way during my first few months as a Diplomacy addict; and it was, in fact, the last country I played. By this time I faced the prospect with some alarm, having had a letter from a friend who had just been eliminated from a postal game as Germany in 1903 and could see no redeeming features to the country at all. How wrong he was! In postal play, at least, I would rather play Germany than any other country on the board. In terms of outright wins in British postal games, Germany ranks second behind Russia; but in expert games I would expect Germany to win more often even than Russia, the success of which country seems to me to be due partly to factors unconnected with real playing strength. A good player as Germany can dominate the board, sitting tight in the centre and making things happen all around him. It is my view, widely shared among experienced players of my acquaintance, that playing Germany in a good-class postal game is the most enjoyable experience Diplomacy has to offer.

In the hurly-burly of face-to-face play, Germany is more difficult to manage — as with all the central powers, the disadvantages seem to come to the fore in this form of the game. The notes that follow relate more to postal play, then; but there is no reason why, with familiarity, the methods described should not be applied in face-to-face play as well.


At first sight, Germany’s position does not look reassuring. The black centre of the board is dwarfed by the vast purple mass to the east, while Austria thrusts up from the south into the heart of the country, and France and England wait in the west. It is apparent that a four-power attack on Germany would be as swift and crushing as the three-power onslaught that sometimes destroys Austria. But in the case of Germany, it never happens. Austria would have to be insane and Russia really desperate to move against Germany early on; England may attack, but can muster no real impetus; France is the likeliest source of real danger, but strategic considerations are more likely to turn France against England first.

When it comes to neutrals, Germany is better off than any other country on the board. There are no less than four that Germany’s units can reach in 1901 and two can be gained by force during that year against any defence, something that only France can match. Denmark and Holland are normally accepted by all players as being Germany’s by right; again only France has such clear-cut claims to two neutral centres.

Germany also controls two very important sea spaces: the Baltic is a massively strong placing for a defensive fleet, which can support all Germany’s northern edge with virtual immunity from attack; and the Heligoland Bight protects Kiel from the attentions of the Royal Navy. (This particular sea space has always seemed to me to typify the amount of thought and care that went into the designing of the game — try playing a game without it, and see how long you can stop England winning!) In short, Germany’s position has tremendous potential for both attack and defence; it is up to the player to cash in on it.


One does not need to be specific: Germany’s central position, astride the stalemate line, gives great flexibility. Everything except, perhaps, Turkey and the farther Balkans is within reach and can form part of a winning German empire. Perhaps the most popular line is to play for the seventeen centres north of the line Paris—Munich—Warsaw—Moscow, plus a random one from below the line, usually Marseilles or Vienna. But Germany’s great advantage is easily seen here: if England puts up a tough resistance and clings to Liverpool, or if Turkey moves in from the south in time to hold Moscow, there are plenty more fish in the sea and there will surely be a weak spot somewhere. Apart from the obvious benefits there is a strategic advantage here too: Germany will often be able to win without taking territory from an ally, and the ally will be aware of it and so less likely to change sides once his own winning chances have gone.


The number of possible openings for Germany is over a thousand! Fortunately, a mere thirty-three have so far been tried in practice, and of these only four have a frequency of more than about one game in fifty, accounting for over eighty per cent of all games between them. I’ll consider these four, in order of popularity, and then look very briefly at some alternative ideas.

The Blitzkrieg Opening (Denmark Variation) is the most popular of all openings played by all the countries put together, occurring in over forty per cent of all games. The moves are F(Kie)—Den, A(Ber)—Kie and A(Mun)— Ruh. The virtues of the opening are clear enough: it makes sure of Denmark, and the strategically vital threat to Sweden; and it ensures that Holland can be forced against any defence, with an option of keeping a finger in the Belgian pie if(as is usual) Holland can safely be left to a single unit. The opening thus gives the certainty of two neutral gains, and two chances of three: either F(Den)—Swe, A(Kie)—Den, A(Ruh)—Hol/Bel; or F(Den)—Swe/stands, A(Kie)—Hol, A(Ruh)—Bel.

All too often, though, one sees the Munich army making an undignified return home in the autumn, to guard against a French army in Burgundy (or, more rarely, a threat from Tyrolia or Silesia). This is safe enough, but does rather defeat the object of going to Ruh in the first place. Again, how wise was that object? Most players would agree that for Germany to get three builds in 1901 is to court hostility, especially from England, who might reasonably have claimed Belgium for herself!

The other components of the opening are obviously sound. The point of the move to Denmark rather than Holland is the threat to Russian ambitions in Sweden. Germany cannot afford not to play this valuable card. Although he cannot himself make any early use of Sweden, he can possibly cause Russia serious inconvenience by standing him off there in 1901. It is a commonplace of Diplomacy that threats are useless: ‘If you stab me I’ll destroy you’ is merely an incentive to make 2ure the stab is good and hard. But ‘if you do anything to annoy me I’ll keep you out of Sweden’ is a threat to which there is no answer—Germany can do it, and Russia knows he can. Hence the rarity of a Russian opening to Prussia or Silesia. (To the Russian counter-threat ‘if you stand me off I’ll invade you next year’ the standard reply is: ‘What with ?‘) For the most potent use of this German weapon, see the Anschluss opening, below.

The Blitzkrieg Opening (Holland Variation) is, surprisingly, the second most popular start for Germany, with a frequency of some twenty per cent. The moves are as above, but with F(Kie) now going to Holland. The difference is greater than would at first appear. First, Germany is no longer able to dictate terms to Russia — this is by far the greatest disadvantage. Also, it is no longer possible to be certain of gaining two neutrals, though admittedly it would take an unlikely set of circumstances to prevent it. Tactically, it’s clear that the fleet is less handily placed in Holland, and the army ditto in Denmark. I really cannot see that this variation has anything to commend it except the certainty of being able to control the Belgian question, a very small advantage compared to that which has been squandered. The opening can be construed as violently pro-Russian and mildly anti-English; as such it would be a fair choice if Russia is known to be a very weak player, or if you are sure Turkey is going to attack Russia from the start … and Russia doesn’t suspect it. The argument usually advanced is that this set of moves gives Germany the chance to play off England and France against each other from the beginning, thus tying down the two biggest threats; and this is certainly desirable, but there are better ways of doing it.

The Burgundy Attack, in which A(Mun) is ordered to Burgundy and the fleet goes to Holland, is the third most popular German opening, accounting for some twelve per cent of games. The published statistics show a ‘Denmark Variation’ of this opening as the fourth in popularity; but there is little doubt that in this case A(Mun) is normally expected to stand off in Burgundy, which makes this effectively the same opening as the Anschluss (see below). When the fleet goes to Holland, on the other hand, it seems likely that Germany expects, or at least hopes, that the move to Burgundy will succeed.

The opening seems to me a great deal better than the ‘Holland Blitzkrieg’. In Burgundy, the southern German army can do everything it could do in Ruhr, and more; it threatens Paris and Marseilles while not relinquishing its influence on Belgium. In combination with an English move to the Channel it constitutes a devastating attack on France: if the latter opens with such standard negative orders as F(Bre)—MAO, A(Par)—Pic, A(Mar)— Spa he is already in terrible trouble.

If A(Mun) is stood off in Burgundy, the opening has once again worked well and Germany is a great deal better off than he would be if he had opened to Ruhr, for instance. It is worth noting that the stand-off may be prearranged, as an anti-English maneuvre; the key here is whether France has moved to ENG, in which case the stand-off is almost certainly rigged; if France is really hostile to Germany, he is likely to order F(Bre)—MAO, A(Mar) S A(Par)—Bur.

In general, the Burgundy Attack works well enough, and is certainly the best of the traditional-style openings, whereby Germany conceives his role in the early game as being a member of a ‘western triangle’, ignoring Russia. This approach assumes that Russia would concentrate entirely on his own triangle with Turkey and Austria, with just the one fleet in the north which normally became part of Germany’s forces. Nowadays Russia does not so often play in this fashion, and consequently the Burgundy Attack has become a luxury, only sound when Russia is known to be weak or passive.

The Anschluss is to my mind by far the best approach for Germany in a strong game. I would go so far as to say that it is obligatory. The key move (or rather non-move) is the leaving of an army in Munich until autumn 1901, and often much later. This can be done in various ways: the unit can stand, or can participate in a pre-arranged stand-off in any of several places, most commonly Burgundy. The same effect can even be achieved by moving A(Ber)—Mun while A(Mun) goes to Ruhr. If we count all these as being essentially part of the same opening, the total frequency is probably between five per cent and ten per cent.

Historically, the Anschluss was the annexation of Austria by Germany on 11 March 1938; as such, it may seem an odd name for a pro-Austrian opening! However, the German word doesn’t necessarily (or even usually) imply rape the union may be voluntary on both sides, and in this context will be. The essence of the idea is that Germany and Austria play as a single country during the period of their initial vulnerability; and, more specifically, Germany will come to Austria’s assistance if the latter is attacked by Italy and! or Russia.

I think I can claim to have discovered the Anschluss, or at least to have been the first to formulate the idea clearly. What first put it into my mind was a random check on the many disasters that have overtaken Austria in Diplomacy: clearly, if Italy and Russia decide to take Austria apart, with or without Turkish assistance, only Germany can do anything to prevent it. Austria’s record is horrific : in the first 230 completed British postal games, Austria failed forty-three times to achieve the modest performance of surviving until 1904! What is revealing is Germany’s performance in those games: one win, four draws, one second, two equal seconds, seven thirds, one equal third, eight fourths, one equal fourth, six fifths, four equal fifths, seven sixths, and one magnificent seventh, when Germany managed to go out in 1902, a year before Austria. So in the forty-three Austrian disaster games, Germany won 2.3 per cent and drew 9.3 per cent; in the other 187 games Germany won 14.4 per cent and drew 12.3 per cent. To put it more simply, in games where Austria fails, Germany has the worst record of any country; where Austria lasts until 1904 or later, Germany has the best record. Yes, I know the dangers of drawing conclusions from small samples, but I cannot believe that this is all coincidence.

If you accept that it is desirable for Germany to take Austria under his wing, threatening Italy with reprisals if he moves east, how effective is the idea in averting disaster? This is more difficult to demonstrate, but I am personally convinced of the results. I have used the idea — or the threat of it, which is almost as good — against Italy in every game I have played as Germany. I don’t keep records of most of the face-to-face ones, but I am certain that Austria has never been knocked out before 1905 in any game in which I have played Germany. The games ofwhich I have records show the following results

1973—IS (postal). Italy accepted the terms and attacked France. Austria won in 1905! (Very poor play by Russia unbalanced this game.)

1973—GB (postal). Italy again accepted. Result was a two-way draw between Italy and Germany, with Austria third.

1975—IE (postal). Italy accepted yet again. Unfortunately Austria stopped sending in orders. Result was a Germany—Turkey—Russia draw, with Italy fourth.

1974—N (postal). Italy ignored the threat, and attacked Austria. Italy came sixth; Austria fifth; Germany is still surviving in 1922. (Germany should have won, but blew it!)

1974—DB (postal). Italy accepted. Austria won in 1911, with Germany third, but the game should have been drawn (tactical error by Germany, dammit).

1975 NGC Championship, Qualifying Round (face-to-face). Italy refused. Germany won in 1907, with Austria second and Italy sixth.

1976 NGC Championship, Final (face-to-face). Italy refused. Germany and Austria both came very close to winning; Italy didn’t; result was a six-way draw.

So far as they prove anything, these figures suggest that if Italy accepts the German ultimatum he will do well, and if he refuses he will do badly. Whatever he does, Germany and Austria do well. Indeed, the main weakness has been that Austria does too well.

Well, I hope I’ve convinced you; I’ve certainly convinced me.

The mechanics of the Anschluss are simple enough: one army must stay in Munich, by whatever tactic, and the fleet must go to Denmark. Italy is told that if he attacks Austria then Germany will move against him; Russia is told that if he moves to Galicia he will not get Sweden. Italy usually and Russia always can be relied on to see the force of these arguments, though they may decide to chance it even so.

An even more potent version of the idea might be devised whereby Germany moves to Tyrolia in spring 1901. This has several advantages, though a nervous Austria might object. Surprisingly, the move has been tried more often in conjunction with F(Kie)—Hol, which seems to be entirely illogical. There is a lot to be said for A(Mun)—Tyr, especially now that Italy quite often uses Tyrolia as a stepping-stone for an attack on Germany, and this could be the German opening of the future.

Rarely seen German openings include the hair-raising Barbarossa: F(Kie)— Den, A(Ber)—Pru, A(Mun)—Sil. This is a spectacular form of suicide which will quite often succeed in taking Warsaw but will allow England an unopposed landing in Holland in autumn 1901. If your hatred of Russia is stronger than your desire to win, fine. The move to Silesia has been tried in other contexts too, but seems even more pointless when played as an isolated thrust. The many other openings have been played once or twice each, and variety is all they have going for them.


More than any other country, Germany should communicate with all the other players. Sometimes one hears it said that there is nothing Germany can say to Turkey, but this is nonsense: Turkey should be encouraged to attack Russia (and vice versa) ; Turkey may even be offered help in his efforts, though under no circumstances should such help ever be actually forthcoming. When Turkey wins, Austria does badly; so it is not surprising that in games won by Turkey in postal play there is no recorded case of Germany finishing second. What Germany wants for Turkey, and should try to arrange, is modest success at the expense of Russia rather than Austria.

Austria is the best friend Germany has. For either to attack the other is simply unthinkable — on the very rare occasions I’ve seen Germany try it, it’s been catastrophic for both countries; I’ve never seen Austria attack Germany early on. In the opening stages the two should stand firmly back to back, unless Germany actually has to help Austria fight off Italy. Later it may be desirable to combine operations against Russia. It is true of Austria and Germany as of no two other countries that the stalemate line that bisects the board runs along their common frontier; thus either can hope to win without attacking the other at any stage. In all my games with Germany and Austria I have never attacked Germany from Austria; and the reverse attack I have attempted only once, in extremely odd circumstances and with disastrous results. Offer him your assistance and give it freely; it’s the best investment you can make.

England can be a friend too, but a dangerous one. The drawback of the Anglo-German alliance is that it works too well, and England gets the better of it. If England once gets a grip on the coastline from St Petersburg to Brest, you can say goodbye to any idea of winning. Your best policy is to agree to an alliance against Russia (preferably) or France (if England insists) but not both. Try to get him involved in a Scandinavian war which will delay him until France can stab him hard in the back; then, when it’s too late, support him against France.

Remember, England has what you want: the North Sea, and the strong corner position it controls. If you can take the North Sea without fear of losing it again, you’ve got him. It’s no exaggeration to say that control of this sea space is Germany’s most important goal, and attaining it is halfway to victory. My favourite game, 1974—N, provided a good example; the position before the autumn 1902 moves is shown in Diagram 8. England has so far been the victim of some (carefully arranged) bad luck, but things seem to be going his way at last; he has managed to take Norway, and his German ally is moving purposefully against Russian-occupied Sweden, while also keeping France out of Belgium. With the promise of Belgium for his own, provided only that he takes it with a fleet, England hopes to get two builds to make up for the disappointment of getting none in 1901. Germany has promised to attack Sweden too, so the likely Russian attack on Norway will have its support cut.

When the adjudication comes along, England sees with relief that Germany has done all he promised; after a while he notices that Germany has done a bit more too:

ENGLAND    F(NTH)—Bel, F(Nor) stands*, A(Yor) stands

GERMANY    A(Hol) S ENGLISH F(NTH)—Bel, F(Den)-Swe, A(Kie)-Den … F(SKA)-NTH

RUSSIA    A(StP) S F(Swe)—Nor

FRANCE    A(Bur)—Bel, A(Gas)—Bre, F( MAO)—ENG, F(Spa)(sc)—MAO

England is a bit puzzled by the presence of a German fleet in the North Sea, but Germany’s moves seem friendly enough otherwise, so he decides to support it. After all, he has got one build. But, come spring 1903:

ENGLAND    F(Bel) S GERMAN F(NTH)*, A(Yor)-Wal, F(BAR)-StP(nc), F(Edi)—NWG

GERMANY  A(Hol)-Bel, F(NTH) C A(Den)-Edi, F(Kie)-HEL, F(Swe)-SKA…

FRANCE    A(Bur) S GERMAN A(Hol)-Bel, F(ENG) C A(Bre)-Wal, F(MAO)-IRS

Diagram 8

With these moves England sent a plaintive press release (‘Will someone please tell me what the hell is coming off round here?’) and received the terse reply from the gamesmaster, Conrad von Metzke, ‘You are.’

By autumn 1903 England is down to two units (it would have been one, but by this time Germany had stabbed France by keeping him out of Liverpool !). Germany has the North Sea locked up for good, and a fine all-round game. Indeed, looking at that posi~on now, over three real years later, I can’t believe that I failed to win it. Still, it’s not over yet.

After that lengthy digression, we can return to study the relationships of Germany and France. Germany can sustain an alliance with France on the same terms as with England, i.e., slightly unfavourable ones. On the one hand Germany may expect rather quicker territorial gains when allied to France; on the other, France has easy land access to Germany and can stab him faster and harder than England can. The ideal pattern is the familiar one: support France against England, then at the moment of his success smash into him from the side, preferably with Italy helping down in the south. I remember writing somewhere that the ideal position for Germany in about 1905 is to see the English in St Petersburg, the French in Liverpool, the Italians in Marseilles and the Germans everywhere else. Keep this pleasing picture in mind; frame it and hang it above your bed; it works.

The initial approach to France should contain proposals for a delayed attack on England. Suggest France goes quietly about the business of collecting his Iberian centres; this will give you time to sort out the Italy—Austria problem (if there is one) and to embroil England in Scandinavia beyond hope of extrication. If France does impetuously insist on going to ENG in spring 1901, encourage him enthusiastically, and tell England about it. Early French successes are bad for you. Above all, do not be greedy about Belgium — disclaim all interest and try to make England and France fight over it. You’ll get it in the end anyway.

In the last analysis there is little future for Germany until both England and France have been seriously weakened, and at least one of them preferably eliminated. With three English centres, three home ones, five northern neutrals, Brest and Paris, Germany has a fine power base for an attack against Russia or a push further south into French territory: eliminate England, occupy the North Sea and Mid Atlantic, and the game is yours.

Russia can become the biggest long-term threat to Germany. Only Russia wins more games; and in those games it is naturally rare for Germany to do at all well. The danger signs are a Russo—Turkish alliance, or Russian control of the Black Sea. Either of these means Russia is going to have an easy time in the south, and will be looking for new areas of expansion: this means you. This is why Sweden is such a vital area. If Russia, for instance, opens to Rumania, Ukraine, St Petersburg while Turkey opens with A(Con)— Bul, F(Ank)—Con, you have already seen enough to deny Russia control of Sweden, certainly for 1901, preferably for good. Fortunately you will find no shortage of allies; the Russo-Turkish alliance is rightly feared by everyone, and quite often provokes a five-country union in opposition to it. (France wins these !) England should be delighted to assist you in suppressing Russia in the north, but even so you will have a tough struggle to emerge on top. However, the dreaded juggernaut is seen less often nowadays, since players of Turkey have begun to tire of second place.

Provided there are signs of a clash between Russia and Turkey, Germany can look with favour on the St Petersburg opening. The Russian army will normally be stuck in St Petersburg after the autumn, preventing his building a second northern fleet (this build is very bad news for Germany when it happens). The time to worry here is when England has attacked France flat out from the start; though this is nice for you in one way, it does mean that Russia may be allowed to take Norway, and that he will not meet any serious opposition from England; if things seem to be going reasonably well for him in the south he might risk building a fleet on the south coast of St Petersburg. So here is another occasion when he must be denied Sweden: you will have to handle Russia alone, so you build F(Ber), A(Kie) and in spring 1902 you order F(Den)-SKA, A(Kie)—Den, F(Ber)—BAL; now you can block Russia out of Sweden for as long as you like.

As part of the terms of the Anschluss you should insist that Russia doesn’t move to Galicia. He is likely to accept this demand, which virtually restricts him to two choices in the opening: A(Mos)—StP, A(War)—Ukr, F(Sev)—Rum, or A(Mos)—Sev, A(War)—Ukr, F(Sev)—BLA. Obviously you prefer the second, and your early diplomatic efforts should be aimed at persuading Russia to open this way. If he does, you have nothing to fear from him during the early years.

Finally there is Italy. Here is another potential ally of the greatest value. Once Italy understands that you will not tolerate any mucking about in the direction of Austria, he is likely to become rather despondent — he has so few choices open in the first place. Recently, there has been a trend for Italy to attack Germany through Tyrolia, assisted by the French moving to Burgundy, so Germany should make it clear that he is going to play for an arranged stand-off in Burgundy (or even a stand-off with Austria in Tyrolia). It is vital for Germany’s interests to leave Italy only two effective choices: attack France, or attack Turkey. Both of these are highly favourable to Germany.

An irresistibly strong three-way alliance can arise when Italy accepts the positive as well as the negative aspects of the Anschluss. I have worked this one with great success in both postal and face-to-face play: Germany and Italy against France, Germany and Austria against Russia, Italy and Austria against Turkey. As for England, it must be Germany’s responsibility to involve England in the Scandinavian area, and to induce France to stab him in the back. If all this works, the consequences can be really devastating, with the three ‘weak’ centre powers rapidly growing to dominate the board. The most likely way for this threesome to split is for Germany and Italy to stab Austria; but a cunning Germany will be able to retain an ambivalent position in this conflict for long enough to confuse the issue. The two things Germany must watch for are Italian fleets west of Gibraltar and Austrian armies north of Sevastopol — either of these is a clear danger-signal that someone is doing too well, and vigorous action will be needed.

A German—Italian alliance against France, whether or not combined with alliances with Austria, must be handled carefully. Germany does not want Italy to move against France before the latter is committed against England. He should persuade Italy to open to 105 rather than the more obvious TYS, take Tunis with an army, and build F(Nap). A(Ven) can stand, or feint against Austria. Now if France has agreed to take on England in 1902 Italy can be unleashed against him with A(Ven)—Pie, F(IOS)—Tun, A(Tun)—NAf, F(Nap)—TYS, and by the end of 1902 Italy will have a strong position against southern France. Timing, always important, is particularly so in this attack: if Italy goes in prematurely, experience shows that France copes easily; and if the stab is too good, there is danger that Italy will do too well, and get more out of the attack than Germany does. Perish the thought!

Playing Germany is not easy: it requires skill and subtlety. But the time will come when you savour the marvellous sensation of being allied to everyone, dominating the play, knowing in almost every detail what each season’s moves will be before they happen. This is the way to play Germany, and there’s nothing else quite like it.