by Chris Warren
I hate playing Austria.
OK, so I’m not alone in that regard, but I have the double pleasure of an almost uncanny knack to draw it. In the four games I’ve played since starting tournament play, I’ve played the Austrians three times.
So, here’s some advice for the weary Kaiser in the south.
1. Don’t Panic. Experience shows that either you’ll do well, or you’ll suddenly find yourself with some free time on your hands.
2. Never give up (well, almost.) In one game, I faced the following unpleasantness for Spring 1901:
Austria: A Vie-Bud, F Tri-Aib, A Bud-Ser
Italy: A Ven-Tyl, A Rom-Ven
Russia: A War-Gal, A Mos-Ukr
In Fall 1901,1 moved back Bud-Tri with support, bouncing the Italian, but the Russian went A Gal-Vie and A Ukr-Gal. At this point, it looks like a typical 1903 Austrian death, but I ended with an outright win. Fortunes can certainly change.
3. Keep close track of all the alliances on the board. In the above game, I discovered an EG alliance against Russia and used that to convince France to move at all speed to Italy, removing one of my early-game worries.
4. Do everything to get your neighbors attacked. Pres sure on any of your close-by powers is to your advantage:
Italy – make sure this is done by France, not Turkey. The last thing you need is the Crescent navy in the Adriatic or Greece. Trying to get Italy to attack Turkey is optimal, but if he doesn’t, you will have the pressure you need to keep him out of Trieste. Just remember that French fleets are no better, so help prop up the Italian against the onslaught you initiated.
Russia – An attack on Russia can help you in a number of ways, depending on your other alliance arrangements. In an AI vs Turkey, Russia will have little to offer but its fleet.. The fleet would be useful for harassing the Turk, but not enough to justify cutting him into the spoils. An attack on Russia could also make your own invasion of that country easier, and hopefully set you up for a later attack against Germany. Finally, in the unusual case of AR against Turkey, Russia can use its already committed units to help get you in good position while using his other units to fend off the attack, preventing him from steamrolling you once the Wicked Witch of the East has been eliminated.
Turkey – help against the Witch needs to come from Italy with little to no Russian involvement. If France has taken an interest in Italy, it should easy to convince Russia that EG are unfriendly to him (and work to make that true.)
All of this should convince you of another important fact.
5. Negotiate in the West as much as the East. Getting Russia and Italy attacked is good, but so is taking a small part in setting up an interminable situation with no one eliminated. Getting an Italian A Pie if an EF alliance is forming, or an army into Tyrolia from you or Italy if the EG is attacking France can be effective. An FG alliance is fine, as it’s usually slow to get at England (although if you haven’t accomplished your goals in the East, pressure can be placed as a defensive measure.)
6. Don’t be afraid to enter Bohemia first. A lot of the Midgame and Endgame fighting occurs in the “neutral zone” of Tri/Boh/Sil/Gal. Unless there’s been a solid draw commitment between you and Germany (or whomever controls the German dots), they will go into the zone and seize the upper hand when ready. It might tick off the German a bit, but it’s very unlikely to cause a war, and may even prevent one until he can call in more troops.
Of course, the most basic instruction for Austrians is:
7. Don’t attack Italy! I won’t say never, as after Turkey is dead it’s not a bad idea. And, it can be considered if Jed Hatfield is Russia and some McCoy is playing Turkey. In the first turns, Italy can defend itself, unless you use all forces (not a good idea), and seeing the Turks behind .your exposed back with a scimitar will be enough to put you off croissants for a while. And, finally:
8. Seize the Balkans as a group ASAP. This means your home centers, as well as Ser, Rum, Gre and Bul. By keeping everyone out, you’ll reduce your stabability by about 99%. Do any amount of negotiation or dot-swapping it takes to achieve this.
That’s the real key – negotiation. If all your neighbors attack, you have few resources but your voice (or pen) and your ears. When applied correctly, they can lead to happy years of little red armies dancing through Europe.
Of course, I still hate playing Austria.
Reprinted from Diplomacy World No.71 (1993)