by Richard Hucknall
Austria is by far the most vulnerable country on the board. All too often it is subject to attacks from Italy, Russia and Turkey and therefore is regularly eliminated in 1902/03. Consequently the prime requisite for the Austrian player at the gamestart is to get a genuine alliance with at least one of these countries which will enable him to get a share of the Balkan supply centres.
In my view, the ideal Austrian opening is F(Tri)-Alb, A(Bud)-Ser and A(Vie) to either Tri or Bud. This requires sure fire certainty that he will not be attacked by Russia or Italy. For working purposes an attack by Germany can be disregarded. Assuming Italy and Russia don’t attack then Austria should have Serbia and Greece for two builds in the autumn and will thus be able to wield a strong influence on the Balkans. Furthermore, he does not need to antagonise Russia or Turkey until 1902. Unfortunately both Russia and Turkey usually view Austria as very easy meat and so this ideal opening is often difficult to arrange.
If an attack from Italy is feared, Austria has several methods of defence. F(Tri)-Ven (or stands) will halt any direct move from yen to Tri but will almost certainly mean that Gre will not be taken in the autumn. The other defence is A(Vie)-Tyr (or Tri) while the fleet moves to Alb. Here the Austrian player is using guesswork as to whether Italy will order A(Ven)-Tyr or Tri. If he guesses correctly then Italy is stopped dead in his tracks but if he, is wrong then he is in dire trouble. If Russia is to attack then this will invariably be through Galicia, and though he can easily be stood off by either of the Austrian armies it means that Austria may have to settle for only one build in the autumn. Should both Italy and Russia attack then Austria has real problems.
However, no problem is unsurmountable and with clever diplomacy an Austria can wriggle out of an intended Italy/Russia attack. Italy can be bribed with the promise of Gre in 1902 on the understanding that he doesn’t go for Tn or Tyr in 1901. Whether the Austrian player keeps this promise is up to him. Another ploy is to offer the Italian the facility of playing the Key Lepanto (A(Ven)-Tri in Spring followed by A(Tri)-Ser in Autumn> and if the offer is accepted, then at least the Austrian knows where A(Ven) is going and has two choices. He can grit his teeth and hope that Italy plays the white man and vacates Tri in the autumn, or he can simply order A(Vie)-Tri in Spring 1901 thus safeguarding his position and keeping the Italians out! Russia is a different proposition though and perhaps the best way of keeping him out is to ask the Germans for help. Since Germany will not want a strong Russia due to a weak Austria he can be asked to warn Russia that if he moves A(War)-Gal in Spring 1901 then Germany will stand his fleet out of Swe in autumn. Dare Russia risk a 50% chance of a gain from Austria against the loss of gaining Sweden in the autumn and angering Germany in the process?
Should Austria be in the fortunate position of being wooed by both Russia and Turkey for an alliance against the other, he has a difficult decision. An alliance with Russia will usually be successful but once Turkey is dead, the Austrian may find himself surrounded by Russian units. The ability to restrict Russian fleets from passing through the Con/Bul area by diplomacy is necessary. An alliance with Turkey against Russia can also be successful but here the problem is that once Russia has been defeated in the south, Austria will have to move north leaving his back exposed for a tempting stab by Turkey.
The standard Lepanto opening – Italy convoying A(Tun) to either Smy or Syr via F(ION) & F(EMS) – is of course good from the Austrian point of view. It ties up all of Italy’s units except the army guarding Ven ~nd enables Austria to keep his Options open regarding alliances with Italy or Turkey until 1902. Should Italy want to use the Key Lepanto, this requires nerves of steel and it is not recommended unless the Austrian is absolutely SURE that Italy will not double-cross him. Austria’s crucial year is 1901. After these two seasons he knows whether he is in for an early bath.