by Pete Swanson
If you don’ t know what the Lepanto is, you haven’t lived! But for those embryonic players among you, it is basically this: a suggestion from Edi Birsan that Italy can make a surprise direct attack on Turkey by .the following moves:
Spring 1901: A(Rom)-Apu, F(Nap)-Ion, A(Ven) stands.
Autumn 1901: A(Apu)-Tun C by F(ION), A(Ven) stands.
Winter 1901: Builds F(Nap)
Spring 1902: F(ION)-EMS, F(Nap)-ION, A(Tun)stands, A(Ven) stands.
Autumn 1901: A(Tun)-Syr C by F(ION) & F(EMS). A(Ven) stands.
Turkey is now up the creek without a paddle, provided (a) he doesn’t move F(Ank)-Con in Spring 01, and (b) Austria attacks Aegean from Greece in Spring 02.
The Lepanto Opening virtually metamorphosed Italy from being a boring, predictable country, to an exciting, unpredictable one. Now, instead of walking virtually suicidally into Trieste or just hanging around for a few years, watching the other countries having all the fun, bouncing your armies in Venice and Piedmont around for kicks and then jumping in on the side of the player with the most number of units in 1904 or thereabouts, you can play an active part straight from Spring 1901. “Avanti, Luigi – let’s swim to Turkey!”, and pretty soon, most Italian players were! Lepantos cropped up like dandelions; this became pretty boring, since any Turk who had seen the Lepanto before was going to make fairly good efforts at stopping the initial convoy to Syr (or Smy) and then neither Italy or Turkey gets anywhere.
Well, it wasn’t long before some ex-Turk player invented a stab-Austria -variant. Simply fake a Lepanto in Spring 1901, then Turkey tries for Greece, and the Italian convoys to Albania and attempts to slip in the back door into Trieste. With a Russian army floating around Galicia, the only real fighting is between Italy, Russia and Turkey over who gets Serbia, the last Austrian haven in Spring 1903.
The Austrians are sometimes a shrewd people. Stung by this change of direction, they soon were showing the Ita1ians how to switch this switch: “Hey Luigi, you know you probably won’t get a build if you stab me from the Lepanto – I’m just going to move A(Tri)-Alb, keeping you out of both.”
“Why don’t we get Turkey?”
“But me an’ da Sultan, we got dis plan…”
“I know all that,” interrupted the Austrian, “but you want a build don’t you?”
“So I have a better plan in which you’re bound to get a build.”
“Sure. You move A(Ven)-Tri, A(Rom)-Apu, F(Nap)-ION, and I’ll move F(Tri)-Alb, A(Bud)-Ser, A(Vie)-Bud.”
“OK, then what?”
“Well then, you move A(Tri)-Ser, and convoy A(Apu)-Tun, and I get Greece. You can build your second fleet and move to EMS and ION in Spring 1902, and we’ll have Bulgaria beseiged and Turkey scared faece-less.”
This was the Key variant, invented by Jeff Key. Basically, Austria and Italy bluff everyone else on the board into believing that they are at loggerheads, and the suddenly, like magic, they are at Turkey’s doorstep.
I have recently completed a game where we put together an excellent example of a deviant of the Key variant. This was 1974BZ, started in Der Kreg in June 1974. It just so happened that Italy (Pete Cousins) and Austria (me) were at a small Con when this game was announced, and so of course we got to talking, planning, scheming, plotting, etc. – the normal things two Dippy freaks do when they get together. After having agreed that we were the two secret masters of British Diplomacy, we also agreed that we should try a new, fun, but devastating Austro-Italian opening; this is what we came up with.
The initial aims of Diplomacy were clear – we had to get Turkey and Russia at each other’s throats. I made strong “alliances” with each of Russia and Turkey against the other, claiming a non-aggression pact with Italy. We also cultivated something healthy up north in the other corner of the board – like England stabbing France stabbing Germany stabbing England. Since this Russo-Turkish conflict was essential to the plan, as it is in any Lepanto, the wait for the first season’s results was nail-biting.
A: A(Vie)-Gal, A(Bud)-Ser, F(Tri)-ADS!
I: A(Ven)-Tri!, A(Rom)-Ven, F(Nap)-ION
R: F(StP sc)-GoB, F(Sev)-BLA, A(Mos)-Sev, A(War)-Ukr
T: A(Con)-Bul, F(Ank)-BLA, A(Smy)-Arm
E, F, G: Amusing themselves and leaving us alone. All this moved the GM to comment “Pet Balloon Burst!” (Pet Balloon was an unearned nickname I had acquired from John Piggott.) I use Lakofka-esque notation in the moves: “!” means a move of either certain crassness or sheer brilliance.
God knows what Gre Hawes (R) and Mick Bullock (T) thought – hopefully they believed I had stabbed Russia and Italy simultaneously and very badly, and that Italy had stabbed me, and Russia and Turkey had stabbed each other. At least, that’s what I told them had happened!
The diploming became furious now. I managed to throw myself at the mercy of Greg Hawes. “We’re in the same boat now, mate. We both have stabbed and have got stabbed (by the way, heh, sorry about that, ahem). Let’s get it together against Italy and Turkey, OK?” Needless to say, I said roughly the same thing to Mick Bullock, but with greater credulity, it seems, especially since he was the one I had apparently not plunged my dagger into – “I can hold off Italy while we take care of Russia, but I need another centre – how about supporting me into Rumania?”
Now came the crunch:
A: A(Gal)-Rum S by A(Ser)! F(ADS) C Italian A(Tri)Gre! Builds A(Vie) & A(Bud)
I: A(Tri)-Gre C by F(ION)! A(Ven)-Apu. Builds F(Nap)
R: F(Sev)-Rum S by A(Ukr). F(GoB)-Swe. A(Mos)-Sev. Builds: F StP(nc)!
T: A(Bul) S Austrian A(Gal)-Rum. F(Ank)-BLA. A(Arm)-Sev. Builds F(Con).
Suddenly, out of the mess that was Austria, arises Phoenix-like from the ashes. a less-mess. However; Turkey looks decidedly more pale than anyone else, since Italy carries out the usual Lepanto convoy moves, but this time Bulgaria gets immediate bad flak, and Russia shouldn’t like what’s going on either. Of course it helps if you can still keep Russia and Turkey on unfriendly terms, though if they’re smart, they’ll kiss and make up pretty quick. These moves also show the usefulness of stabbing in the Autumn season of a two-season game. Greg builds F StP(nc), which in this case was the most useless unit he could possibly want – however, assuming his plans had gone as expected, he would probably been able to start an anti-English campaign while beating up Turkey with Austria and Italy in the south.
As it was, Greg carried on with his somewhat tenuous Austrian agreement (I suppose as an alternative to a non-existent Turkish one) and Nick tried very hard to pull Greg over to his side, But, to no avail:
A: A(Vie)-Gal, F(ADS0-ION, A(Ser)-Bul S by A(Rum), A(Bud) S A Rum.
I: A(Gre) S Austrian A(Ser)-Bul, F(ION)-EMS, A(Apu)-Rom, F(Nap)-TYS.
R: F(Sev)-BLA, A(Mos)-Sev S by A(Ukr).
T: F(BLA) & A(Bul) S Russian A(Ukr)-Rum, A(Arm)-Smy, F(Con)-AEG
By Autumn 1905, Turkey was out, Russia was left with two supply centres, Liverpool and Edinburgh! (An interesting point: Russia kept these two centres for the rest of the game, and kept a F(BLA) supplied from England to haunt me until Autumn 1911 when the game ended. Until then. I needed four units to keep it penned up and out of my supply centres! Some more funny things about this game: Pete Birks dropped out (not his fault) as England, and then GM’d the game from one game-year later. Austria eventually won; however, I was held to a sixteen centre stalemate line for a while, and voted “yes” to a four-way draw with Germany, France and Russia. But Germany voted “no”, hoping to break me down with French help. He then changed his plan, decided he would like a two-way draw with me, suddenly switched direction just as I was having what I thought was a last-ditch effort to sneak in the other two centres I needed!
Now, I’m certainly not recommending that you all go out and try exactly that opening in your next game. Firstly, anyone else who has read this article will know what’s going on. Secondly, I’m certain that the opening is not tactically ideal. (Why not just convoy A(Apu)-Gre from the standard Lepanto, for example?) However, I hope this opening will show a different attitude to the game than most people subscribe to, i.e. the standard opening can get just a teensy-bit tedious, and make the game stereotyped. A far out play like this one can give more fun and interest, and above, can work!
Reprinted from Rats live on no evil staR No.6 (November 1976)