The Italian Attack Against France

by Michael Adams

While reading issue 35 of Spring Offensive last night I read the article espousing an Italian attack on France (How to Play Italy by Scott Kauzlarich), not Austria. I then tried to think of the best way to pursue such an attack. Moving A(Ven)-Pie; A(Rom)-Ven/Tus; F(Nap)-TYS appears to be rather obvious, and doomed to failure. France knows you are attacking from the start, and can always take measure to defend Marseilles, say from Spain. The only way you will get Marseilles is if you are playing your Mother and you tell her you wont try and take it. (If you order A(Rom)-Ven, something you could try on a gullible player is telling him that moving to Piedmont was only a feint, you really are going to stab Austria by moving to Tyrolia and Trieste in the Autumn.) This opening is not without its uses, however, as you can often stop France getting a build from Spain by not going to Marseilles, or supporting Spa-Mar if the French player is going to try a self-stand-off to protect Marseilles and still gain Spain. 

This opening has its uses, but would make little progress without the help of Germany or England in the French campaign. An opening I thought of last night seems to have better prospects against France, and is more flexible. The opening proceeds as follows: 

Spring 01: A(Rom)Std.; A(Ven)Std.; F(Nap)-TYS

Autumn 01: A(Rom)-Tun; F(TYS) C A(Rom)-Tun; A(Ven)Std.

Build: F Naples 

Spring 02: A(Ven)-Pie; F(TYS)-GoL; A(Tun)Std.; F(Nap)-TYS 

At this stage of the game you should have no enemies, as you have not attacked anyone, and if you have done your diplomacy right everyone should be leaving you alone. If after the first or second turn you discover that someone is attacking you, you are in a position to face them as you have not gone out on a limb. Let France know a fleet build in Marseilles would be an act of war, and an army build in Marseilles where he has another home centre vacant seen as a sign of distrust. Point out to Turkey that you have not moved to the Ionian, and encourage him to attack Russia with Austria’s aid. Make sure Austria knows you are protecting his back against any fleets from the Western Powers. Try and wring an agreement from Turkey to limit himself to say two fleets – if he is going after Russia that is all he will need – and try and get an agreement to declare the Ionian Sea a demilitarised zone. 

If you trust Germany not to spill the beans to France, you might let him know you plan to attack France in 1902, and offer him Paris, Belgium and Brest. If the German helps you and your attack comes by surprise, you should have Marseilles and the Iberian peninsular by the end of 1903. The other thing you could do to divert France’s attention from his border with you is to encourage him to attack England with Germany, but approach Germany about combining against France “some time in the future”. 

If you diplomacy is succeeding Austria should be involved in the East, and France in the north. In Spring 1902 you swoop into the Gulf of Lyon and Piedmont, giving a supported attack on Marseilles in Autumn 1902.

A Reply from Jonathan Dean 

Michael states that the straight forward attack on France is “rather obvious and doomed to failure.” Not necessarily. It does give France warning, but there isn’t a good way around that. In order to defend itself France needs to have Mar occupied by one of its units by the end of W01. Ideally that would be a brand new fleet, but the only way that is to occur is for France to either not go to Mar or bounce A Pie out. If France moves back into Mar, Italy’s best move would be to not try for it, thus “blocking” the southern fleet. On the other hand, if France leaves Mar open (intending on building a southern fleet) then Italy should move into Mar thus sneaking a second build. What this basically means is that France and Italy have to make a guess and who wins obviously has a big edge in the resulting conflict. 

I don’t think you will retain the element of surprise by moving, and keeping a fleet in TYS. Such a fleet is only useful against France, thus a decent French player would be expecting an invasion, but without the worry about losing Mar, thus it is able to safely build a southern fleet. 

Ideally, if you are planning on attacking France you have Austria as an ally, and have keep R/T/A from quickly organising into a two-on-one. To do otherwise is asking for trouble before you are able to deal with it. 

Here is a different approach that may retain the element of surprise: 

Spring 1901: A(Ven)Std.; A(Rom)Std.; F(Nap)-ION

Autumn 1901: F(ION)-Tun; A(Ven)Std.; A(Rom)Std.

Build: F Nap 

Spring 1902: F(Nap)-TYS; F(Tun)-WMS; A(Ven)-Pie; A(Rom)-Ven  

You have put off committing yourself as long as possible, and have minimised the amount of warning that France receives. There is some room for the armies to move about, the limits on that depend on what you can negotiate. The main thing is to make the Fleets move to Tunis seem convincing. The best way to do that is not to have an army available to convoy. A set of “mistake” orders (A(Rom)-Apu; A(Ven)-Apu) in the S01 could pull that off, or an arranged bounce with Austria is also a possibility.