German Variations

by Geoff Challinger

I guess most Diplomacy players have their own favourite country and I have for a long time enjoyed playing Germany more than any other nation on the Diplomacy board.  In general, I like my Diplomacy games to be fast, violent affairs with compressed action and eventful play.  And as Germany I often get the chance to make things happen in a way which is not open to, say Turkey or Italy. 

Like most other countries, Germany has its selection of stock openings which are fairly obvious to even the inexperienced player.  the mainly consist of the following: 

F(Kie)-Den / Hol

A(Ber)-Kie (or perhaps Mun)

A(Mun)-Ruh (or perhaps Bur or Stand) 

Perm these all ways and you will have covered the vast majority of German openings in completed UK games.  The orthodox German player really has only two decisions to consider during the whole of 1901.  Does he want to keep the Russians out of Sweden and to what extent does he want to influence events in Belgium?  The majority of players ultimately plump for keeping Russia out of Sweden and merely trying to angle things to Germany’s advantage in Belgium with an A(Ruh). 

But this is all very mundane.  As I’ve said, I like to play Germany for its potential variety.  Let’s look at some of the juggling you can get up to. Unsurprisingly, the main avenues of opportunity lie to the East.  It isn’t unheard of for Germany to send a unit East to meddle in things.  This is commonly A(Mun)-Boh/Sil or A(Ber)-Sil/Pru. I once attempted a combination of both of these by opening F(Kie)-Den, A(Mun)-Sil, A(Ber)-Pru.  But I failed to gain Warsaw and my offensive collapsed when England saw this as an opportunity to convoy into Holland. The game “India” in 1901 aat was ultimately won by Roger Blewitt as Turkey in 1908.

More recently we had the opening which later went on to become a zine in its own right.  The Bohemian Rhapsody; A(Mun)-Boh, A(Kie)-Ber, F(Kie)-HEL looks quite pretty when it is set out on the board.  But in reality it doesn’t deserve serious consideration, although A(Mun)-Boh when combined with slightly more orthodox moves can be interesting and useful. 

But to find the really interesting openings, you have to look at what Germany is aiming for in the shorter term outlook of the opening.  Germany craves a corner position from which she can develop.  And that can be achieved either by taking out England and establishing the North West corner or by taking out Russia and controlling the North east.  Whichever the desired target is, the one important area which Germany has to dominate is Scandinavia.  The usual way to achieve this depends on the opponent.  With England it is usually to crack the North Sea before turning your attention to Norway.  With Russia the policy is to stand Russia out of Sweden, with a build F(Kie) to take it in Autumn 1902. 

It’s my opinion that both these methods are turgid in the extreme and what is more, they telegraph Germany’s intentions early on.  It’s important to preserve options until as late as possible.  The most tasteful way to achieve this is the Jutland Gambit. This consists of the following:

Spring 1901Autumn 1901
A(Ber)-Kie  A(Kie)-Den
A(Mun)-Ruh A(Ruh)-Hol 

Builds: F(Kie), A(Mun/Ber) 

The principal advantage of this opening is the degree to which your options remain unrestricted.  The Spring moves appear totally orthodox and even after the startling moves of Autumn there are still a great many options, either against Russia or against England.  You will have the following options to consider: 

(A)   F(SKA) C A(Den)-Nwy S by RUSSIAN F(Swe), F(Kie)-Den

(B)   F(SKA) S RUSSIAN F(Swe)-Nwy, F(Kie)-HEL

(C)      F(SKA)-Swe S by A(Den) [and ENGLISH F(Nwy)?], F(Kie)-BAL

(D)   F(SKA) S ENGLISH F(Nwy)-Swe, F(Kie)-BAL. 

Option A is aesthetically the most pleasing and gains you Norway, but option B will ensure that there are three fleets bordering the North Sea after Spring 1902, with Germany the power likely to occupy it.  I think option C is perhaps the best and it is enormously powerful if the Russian player has not ordered a build in StP. Autumn 1902 can see either F(BAL)-GoB S by F(Swe) or A(Den)/A(Ber)-Lvn C by F(BAL). Option D is included for the sake of completeness and should really only be used where Germany is getting a modest quid pro quo for the domination of Scandinavia by England – say London and Liverpool! 

And the beauty of the manoeuvre is that it allows diplomatic flexibility up until Autumn 1902. Such a delay in jumping off the fence can only be to Germany’s advantage. 

Of course if you are not in any doubt about your intent and do not mind advertising the fact, you can always go for a Baltic Opening. This is:

Spring 1901Autumn 1901
F(Kie)-BAL   F(BAL)-Swe/GoB
A(Ber)-Kie  A(Kie)-Den
A(Mun)-Ruh A(Ruh)-Hol 

Builds: F(Kie), A(Ber), A(Mun). 

Here there is no messing about.  Russia is the target and he finds out in Spring 1901.  Such an opening should only be attempted with the support of England as an Autumn 1901 convoy to Hol/Den would cause a great deal of damage to the opening.  But with that co-operation, look at the advantages.  Germany will have a 50/50 chance of ending up with a F(GoB) and a 50/50 chance of gaining Swe and Den. Indeed this opening would be very popular if Holland were not such an easy German supply centre. 

The missing factor in things so far is France.  He is presented with an opportunity early on which some players would be only too quick to take advantage of.  Thus it may be necessary to mislead France initially so that his units are not in so good a position from which to launch an opportunist attack on the unprotected German rear. 

This article (in common with most articles of a tactical nature) makes no mention of Diplomatic activities or strategic planning and clearly such considerations must also be considered. With these two so-called novelty-openings, it is very possible to lose sight of the actual aim of the openings and to attempt them despite their obvious diplomatic unsuitability.  If these two openings are attempted without the proper diplomatic effort to establish their viability, they amount to little better than suicide.  These are options open to hard-working Germans only.  But if you have a non-aggressive France and a pliable Russia and/or England then why not try a little variety for a change? 

First published in Home of the Brave No.19 (November 1982)