by Mike Oliveri
The more and more I look at the board, the more I come to the conclusion that it is much smaller than it looks. It doesn’t take long to realize that each country has a direct impact on how your game goes. In regular dip, England and Turkey have an interest in what the other is planning, but the focus of the opening deals more with your immediate neighbors. Your primary concerns are military alliances where you can coordinate attacks and work in partnerships. In Colonial Diplomacy, I am continually being forced to try to figure out what the other players are going to do. There is a real need to know, not because you are going to be able to coordinate orders, as much as what happens has an impact on your options. For Turkey, it is important to know if Japan is going to be pro-Russian, pro-Chinese, or indifferent. Each stance effects Russia, and Russia is one of your immediate concerns. The role of Holland has the same effect on Britain, Turkeys other problem. Because of this, Colonial Diplomacy may be the ultimate “diplomacy” game we have seen to date. It is a game of “spheres of influence”, military influence for sure, but political influence perhaps even more so.
At first glance, as Turkey, you see many open centers and large areas of open space, both land and sea, between yourself and the other players. As your eyes move from the west to the east, things get much more crowded. But for Turkey that is a blessing. There is going to be tension in the east. The question is how does Turkey exploit it? Then, as you begin to formulate a plan, you realize you have some big problems! Specifically, Russia and Britain. They can’t keep their eyes off the open area to the west either. They can’t turn their backs to the east and just move west to take what they can. The eastern tensions are too real for that. Rather, they will want to send a small force to the west, picking up centers as quickly as possible and reinforce their eastern front with those builds. At first, they will want to ally with Turkey, splitting the open centers, and sending the Sultan into a bloody battle in the opposite direction. Then they will realize that even if that does work initially, Turkey will surely turn on them next. Where else will he go? Everything else is just too far away! For them both to come to the conclusion that Turkey is the real problem, and an alliance is the best solution, is not hard to imagine.
That pretty much states Turkey’s opening weakness. He is a little guy, with two of the big guys as neighbors. It is easy for both Russia and Britain to want to just swat at the pesky fly and be done with it. If they do come to that conclusion, forget it! You are swattable. The only conciliation Turkey has is that France is more swattable, and that’s not much conciliation when you are playing Turkey. Another weakness for Turkey is that his support lines are extremely long. Russia has the same problem, but it has the Trans-Siberian Railroad to help shorten that distance. Britain would have the problem except that her power base is the middle of the board. Everything is equidistant for her. For the others, the initial action is right in their backyard. That is a problem, but not one of trying to get units to the front.
Turkey’s strengths are that if he is allowed to, he can build up to a formidable force fairly quickly. In addition, both Russia and Britain are going to be inclined to use Turkey as a buffer from the other. If Turkey can make agreements with both Russia and Britain, he will get his foot in the door. From there, he can sit back and reevaluate the board. The natural tensions in the east should begin exploding soon. Both Russia and Britain will be force to concentrate in that arena. As voids develop, Turkey can move to fill them.
Russia has to be Turkey’s first concern. Russia is the only power that is in the immediate area. The best Britain can do is get to the Persian Gulf in two years. Russia can fall out of bed and wake up in Constantinople or Angora. (note: in our game, each turn represents one year, and adjustments are done in the odd years). The only real solution for Turkey is to negotiate a fair trade with Russia. Turkey can afford to let Russia have Rumania, you just can’t let him have it right away. The Black Sea, on the other hand, must remain neutral for both parties to coexist. The best solution is to convince Russia that Odessa must hold in 1870, and then take Rumania in 1871. It would also be ideal if the agreement for a DMZ would include Constantinople, the Black Sea, and Rumania. A time table needs to be worked out that allows you to build in Constantinople if you get three builds, otherwise you leave it empty. At the same time, Russia should return to Odessa after taking Rumania. The problem is obvious. Can you trust Russia to do it after he says he will? The solution….. if your not sure about Russia, don’t worry about it. Lose one center and try to recover. You can’t afford to be bouncing with Russia the entire game. If you can’t trust Russia at all, negotiate Rumania to Russia anyway. Then try for the Black Sea and move Angora to Constantinople. You give up a chance for Tabriz and Egypt, but you didn’t expect three builds the second year anyway. If it works, you turn the advantage to your side and you have a bloody, bloody war on your hands. If it fails, you have a bloody, bloody war on your hands.
Once you’ve resolved your position with Russia, you have to turn your attention to Britain. Again, negotiating a settlement before there is a fight, is the best alternative. At least with Britain you have a real swap to make. Give her Sudan in return for Egypt. The Red Sea gets all tied up, but that is better than the alternative. You have other centers to negotiate with Britain as well. The fleet in Bombay probably moves to Karachi by 1871, but it is not a freebee. It should be, but if you have a solid alliance with Russia, you can entertain bypassing Shiraz and Persia, and go instead to Karachi. If your agreement with Russia has him in Persia, then he can support you into Karachi after the initial bounce. You may feel that you are over extending your self, but you are not. If you negotiate a deal with both Russia and Britain, you could conceivably get Egypt, Tabriz, and Shiraz by 1871. Russia will get Persia and Rumania, and Britain will get Sudan and Karachi. You add three units to the area and they each add two. But where do you go from there? All that wide open space you saw upon set up is gone. So, going for Karachi is not out of the question. You can pick up Shiraz by 1873. But if you do it, you have to be committed to building a fleet in Baghdad every turn. If you prefer a conservative opening, push for the 3-2-2 split, sit back, and wait for something to happen in the east.
The rest of the countries are “have nots” just like you. China is the largest of the remaining four, and will probably be your strongest political ally in the game when the game begins. Even if Turkey has a strong alliance with Russia, you want China and Japan hitting the centers that Russia is interested in, and you want it right away. Regardless of your relationship with Britain, you want France and Holland to be expanding in areas that Britain covets. The reason is if the other four beat up on each other, Britain and Russia will beat up on Turkey. Sooner or later, Turkey is going to be going at it with at least one of the big two, and the more help you can get the better. Turkey can not afford to just let nature take its course in the east. He must contact all the other players and try to influence their initial moves. As I stated before, what Japan and China do is very important to you. What Holland does is very important to you. As for France, at the very least you can console each other. Just kidding. France can be the key to your fortunes if you can plant a few seeds. Just imagine. How would Turkey fare if China, France and Holland teamed up to take on Britain? And Japan and China decided to take on Russia? And they all tried to split up the remaining centers as evenly as possible? How would Turkey fare? Just imagine!
Reprinted from Diplomacy World 80