The Iberian Indecision

by Gregory M. Ellis

Imagine, if you will, the most impossible of all scenarios: you are playing France with England, Germany, and Italy all wanting your alliance. Furthermore, reports from Turkey and Russia confirm that Italy is not moving to Piedmont, Germany is steering clear of Burgundy, and England prefers to stay out of the Channel. It is possible that you are hearing all of this because the three border countries have formed a triple alliance to your detriment. More than likely, however, the information is valid and none of your neighbours wishes to attack you. Now what do you do? Most of us negotiate through retaliation: by anticipating hostile actions and getting another country’s support against them. When no hostilities are anticipated, a chief diplomatic weapon is removed.

As France you have the option of opening with the Iberian Indecision. The S01 orders are A Par-Gas, A Mar-Spa, F Bre-Mid. By making these moves, you set up a good defense, maximize offensive capabilities, and keep open all diplomatic options.

The single largest objection to this opening is the supposedly weakened defensive position it leaves France in. In fact, quite the opposite is true. From this position any of France’s home centers can be defended easily from any single country’s attack. If England should move to the Channel, then either A Gas or F Mid can cover Brest. It would also be a strong possibility that the English fleet would be used to take Belgium, due to the dismal outlook for taking Brest.

If Italy should move to Piedmont, again two pieces could be used to defend. A Gas or A Spa could be ordered to Marseilles, or both can be used to keep Marseilles open for a build by bouncing.

The most damaging attack would be the German move A Mun-Bur[1]. It is possible to keep the German from taking anything but it would probably cost a supply center to do so. By guessing correctly (i.e., A Gas-Par, A Spa H, where Germany orders A Mar-Par), France can still build two in W01.

If two countries attack, of course the prospects look dimmer. But in many cases, because of the unique capability of A Gas to move to any of the home centers, it is still quite possible to build in 1901.

Should all three neighbours come after you, then you were doomed to begin with. Simply take the Iberian centers and try to get the triple alliance into a squabble diplomatically.

Some would argue that this opening leaves France out of position to attack in any direction. Again I would beg to differ. The moves are neutral enough to convince any ally of your good intentions, and you can swing any direction you wish.

If Germany is to be the target, then the Fall moves would be A Gas-Bur, A Spa H, F Mid-Por. With 2 builds and an army in Burgundy, you are a step up against Germany. Presumably he would be embroiled in a battle with England, Russia, or Italy, any of which would more than welcome your help.

If you would prefer to attack England at this point, then make these moves: A Gas-Spa, A Spa-Por, F Mid-Iri.[2] Again you build two, probably F Bre, F Mar. Even if England is building two, he is out of position to defend. By F02 you can F Eng, F Iri, F Mid, A Bur, A Spa; which gives several options. You have a supported attack on Belgium; you can convoy A Spa-Wal with support; you can move F Mid-NAO with support and use F Eng to support a German or Russian fleet into Nth.

The strongest attack from Iberia is against Italy. The moves would be A Gas-Spa, A Spa-Por, F Mid-WMS. As long as the other neighbours remain co-operative, you build two fleets and effectively take control of the Mediterranean.[3] Italy is normally only +1 (Tunis) and invariably builds a fleet in Naples. France would then have a three to two advantage at sea, providing the deciding factor in the southern theatre. If Italy has taken two centers in F01, you have an instant ally against him. Should he be attempting the ever-popular Lepanto, his army would be stranded in Tunis right up to the point where you take it. The Iberian sets up a good France-Italy battle with France having the decided edge.

Another decided edge France obtains with the Iberian Indecision is in its diplomatic advantage. A perfectly valid, and occasionally highly recommended, follow-up for the Fall would be to have the fleet hold and take Spa and Por with the armies. The builds could also be neutral, delaying the necessity for aggression even further. By sitting back and allowing the rest of the board to commit, France can move in on the most strategic areas virtually unmolested. Should anyone commit himself to an attack on France after 1901, he would be facing a 5-center power in excellent position not only to defend, but to retaliate:

A perennial hot spot in the West is Belgium. Usually each of the three western countries has a good reason why it should own Belgium, and will attempt to talk the other two into giving it up. By acquiescing to both England and Germany through the Iberian Indecision, France completely avoids this touchy issue. England and Germany will eventually come begging for French support, each against the other.

As with any pre-planned opening, the most important factor is the diplomacy during Winter 1900. The best bet is to remain non-committal: promise no support, rule out no attacks. If all three of your neighbors promise to leave you alone, then leave them alone, at least for Spring 1901: open with the Iberian Indecision.

This article appeared in different form in VOICE OF DOOM #80 (Jun 1983) and was re-written by the author for publication in DIPLOMACY WORLD #37 (Spring 1984).

[1] See Bruce Linsey, Burgundy, in VOICE OF DOOM #78, p. 20.

[2] See Allen Wells, Fast Resolution of the Western Triple, DIPLOMACY WORLD #34, p.6.

[3] Steve McLendon, The McKenJo Op ening, DIPLOMACY WORLD #25, p. 6.