Triple Alliances

by Bob Olsen

Since all countries start out roughly equal in strength, and since even after  they have taken their normal complement of neutrals they are still roughly  equal, to get anywhere you must ally with another player against somebody  else. Normally the fight becomes two-against-one, but it doesn’t have to be  that way. If two countries together are much more powerful than one, then  presumably three countries acting in concert would be even better…well,  theoretically. 

A triple alliance can accomplish a lot of good things in short order. In the  most common alliance of this type, the “Western Triple” of France/England/  Germany, England and Germany can gang up on Russia while France pretty much  has his own way with Italy, who generally starts out oriented toward the east.  Fairly quickly, France will grow from 5 (her home centers plus Spain and  Portugal) to 7 or 8, with Tunis and an Italian home dot or two. Meanwhile,  Germany (home centers plus Holland and Denmark) and England (home plus Norway  and–generally ceded by F/G as incentive–Belgium) each grow likewise to 7 or  8 each, picking up Sweden, St. Petersburg, Warsaw and maybe Moscow. Then what? 

When Italy and Russia are crushed, the crisis of the alliance occurs. France  looks to go against dot-rich Austria and defensive giant Turkey; Germany will  be scrounging around the remaining scraps of Russia and worrying about  Austria. And England has nothing whatever to do. Nothing to do, that is, but  stab an ally. 

There’s nothing wrong with a triple alliance in the early game (it certainly  beats being the odd man out of a two-against-one) but success almost always  destabilizes the arrangement, and nobody should pretend to themselves going in  that a triple is a permanent deal. It’s up to you to make sure that when the  stab comes, you aren’t the one who gets it in the back. 

The Western Triple is the most common triple alliance. The eastern analogue  (R/A/T) is much rarer because it is even more unstable. Turkey is in England’s  position of having no new worlds to conquer almost from day one, so unless he  will faithfully build fleets and nothing but fleets – with the few builds he  will garner–there’s little for him to do. Further, the arrangement requires  Austria to do most of the fighting while assuming most of the risk. Most  Austrian players will pass on such an opportunity. If he’s being pressured to  accept the R/A/T, Austria is probably better off allying with Italy and hoping  for the best. 

Other combinations of countries can be picked more or less out of a hat. Later  on in the game, triples of down-and-out countries or desperation stop-the- leader alliances are possible, but they hardly count. 

One other triple is worth mentioning, though: the Austria/France/Russia  alliance. Instead of advancing in a solid wave from one side of the board  toward the other (and stumbling over each other like the Three Stooges), these  three countries most likely to be first to reach 5 or 6 centers work together.  Unless the remaining players coordinate well and move fast, an A/F/R can  quickly sweep the board: Austria and Russia combine to besiege Turkey; Austria  and France menace Italy; Russia and France put the squeeze on Germany and  England. 

About the only thing that can stop this is a strong and well-played E/G  alliance, and even if one forms, they face in France and Russia attacks coming  from opposite sides, making defense extremely difficult. Further, later on in  the game, members of the alliance are more widely separated, and a stab is  less likely. 

It never hurts to discuss the possibilities of a triple alliance with your  neighbors, but nobody should have illusions. If your partners weren’t sneaky,  greedy fiends, they wouldn’t be playing Dip in the first place. If you can’t  trust them, don’t bet the rent money on them. If you think your prospective  allies can be trusted, though, saddle up and charge, and be ready for the  chance to out-sneak and out-greed them all.