by Melinda Holley
Playing Russia in Diplomacy is a little like the old joke of “good news/bad news.” The good news is that you start out with one more unit than anyone else. The bad news is that you can’t concentrate all four units on one target. More good news is that you, as Russia, have a golden opportunity to affect every other country on the board in a direct manner. More bad news is that the converse is also true. In short, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time in the trenches on actual diplomatic work.
Russia has the ability to open up a two-front war and grab centers before anybody else knows what’s happening. There are several alternatives (E/T, E/A, G/T and G/A) for dividing your forces equally. Of course, Russia can ally with someone both in the north and south (or east and west, if you prefer); but I’m talking about an active campaign in both areas. The one that I prefer is to open against Germany and Turkey. If you ally with Turkey from the beginning, you will (with two game years at most) hear rumors about the “stop the R/T steamroller” movement. This will hamper your operations in the north and west.
One thing which is an absolute necessity is to forge an immediate working alliance with your allies. By splitting your forces equally and committing yourself to a two-front war, you leave yourself wide open and vulnerable to an early stab. In the case of opening against Germany and Turkey, Russia is vulnerable to stabs by Austria (from the very beginning) and England (within a couple of turns). If you do opt for a two-front war, you must negotiate with your allies quickly. One thing to remember is that you need to give them more of a reason to ally with you than against you.
In opening against Germany, you must have a working alliance with both England and France. France opens to Burgundy while Russia opens to Selesia. (You must have convinced Germany not to open to Denmark. If he has, he will bounce you from Sweden when he realizes what’s going on.) One extra advantage is that if Germany has made traditional moves, Berlin is also open. Russia and France can get tricky and try to grab both Berlin and Munich. This, however, is a true gamble and can backfire easily. Russia must have a good relationship with England and this time because Germany is going to do everything she can to convince England to help. But while you must keep both England and France interested in working with you, you must also be careful to prevent the development of an E/F alliance.
Turkey, a very defensively placed country, is not all that hard to defeat if you do it quickly. If the Turk is permitted to grow too large, he is virtually impossible to defeat. Here, you must ally with Austria. (An extra incentive for you to keep Austria on your side is to prevent an A/G alliance from being formed.) You must also try to convince Italy to help you and not attack Austria. If Italy is reluctant to do this, you need to convince your good ally France to stir up a little trouble for Italy.
Control of the Black Sea is imperative to crack Turkey. It virtually cannot be done in the early moves without it. Therefore, you must lie through your teeth to Turkey promising him anything in order for you to open to the Black Sea. Once there, you cannot be moved from it by Turk in 1901 and you can build a second fleet in Sevastapol in W. ’01. In the Fall your unit in the Black Sea can support you to Rumania. (Again, depending on how well you’ve snockered Turkey–or how gullible Turkey is–you may have a chance to grab Ankara as well).
If you have done your job well convincing Turkey not to open to the Black Sea and convincing Germany not to open to Denmark, you’re assured of gaining Rumania and Sweden for two builds in 1901. By gambling, you could try for Ankara. By really gambling, you could also try for Berlin. Your best bet is to use Silesia to support France to Munich, which will further good Russian- French relations, and take Sweden and Rumania for yourself.
So, theoretically, you could have these moves for 1901: Spring: A Moscow-Ukraine; A Warsaw-Silesia; F Sevastapol-Black Sea; F St. Petersburg(sc)-Gulf of Bothnia. Fall: A Silesia supports French A Burgundy-Munich; A Ukraine-Rumania; F Black Sea supports A Ukraine-Rumania; F Gulf of Bothnia-Sweden.
Your builds for Winter 1901 will depend upon whether you feel the alliances you made in 1901 are holding. For argument’s sake, let’s assume they are. You need to build a fleet in Sevastapol to use against Turkey. You can either build an army in Warsaw to use against Germany (although you should make Austria feels safe about this) or a fleet in St. Petersburg(sc) to gain control of the Baltic (a better choice).
If England shows signs of being hostile, a build in St. Pete will gain you some time. If France shows signs of breaking off the alliance, you need to promise England everything under the sun (and more if necessary) to prevent an E/F alliance from being formed. If Austria shows signs of being nervous, talk smoothly to him. And talk fast to Italy.
However, if things are going your way, France should be able to support you to Berlin in Spring 1902 and one of you should gain Kiel in the Fall. Your fleet in Sweden can continue to hit Denmark in order to cut support, or it can stay in Sweden if England is looking greedy. Your newly built northern unit (whether army or fleet) can be maneuvered into position for use in 1903.
In the south, your fleet in Sevastapol can be supported to Armenia to set up an attack on Ankara in the Fall. Your alliance with Austria is not vital. While you are moving your fleet from Sevastapol to Armenia, your army in Rumania can support an Austrian unit to Bulgaria. Assuming Austria has taken Greece in 1901, he can use that unit to support the move to Bulgaria, and you will be free in Fall 1902 to use your F Black Sea to convoy Rumania to Ankara with Armenia providing support. If Austria is not in a position to support his holding of Bulgaria in the Fall, it can only help Austrian-Russian relations for you to use Rumania to support Austria in Bulgaria while attacking Ankara with your two fleets. If Italy is helping you, Turkey is going to be too busy to defend everything and you stand an excellent chance of obtaining Ankara in 1902. If Italy is not helping, take heart that he can’t reach you directly and is probably bothering France, Austria, or Germany.
Moves for 1902 should look something like this: Spring: A Rumania supports Austrian A Ser-Bul (better than Gre-Bul); A Silesia-Berlin (supported by France); F St. Pete(sc)-Gulf of Bothnia; F Sevastapol-Armenia; F Sweden holds (or Swe-Den, which will probably fail); F Black Sea supports F Sev-Arm. Fall: A Rumania-Ankara (or supports Austria in Bulgaria); A Berlin supports French A Munich-Kiel; F Gulf of Bothnia-Baltic Sea; F Armenia supports A Mum- Ank (or Armenia-Ankara); F Sweden-Denmark (again, it will probably fail); F Black Sea convoys A Rum-Ank (or supports Arm-Ank).
Again, you will probably have two builds (Ankara and Berlin). You might possibly pick up Denmark as a third build, although that is more likely to happen in 1903. Your builds in Winter 1902 will have to depend on whether you will now attack England or France in the north and whether you will attack Austria or Italy in the south.
Germany, for all practical purposes, is defeated. If you’ve been smart, you’ve been sounding out both France and England about the possibility of a joint attack on the other. Whichever player offers you the best opportunity will decide your builds. If you decide to ally with England against France, a build of an army in Warsaw is needed to protect what you’ve gained. If you decide to ally with France against England, a fleet in St. P(nc) is vital to ensure your control of the Barents and to set up an attack on Norway.
Your builds in the south will also be dictated by the situation. Turkey, while not in the desperate straits that Germany is in, is nonetheless on the ropes. You can support yourself to Constantinople or support Austria there in 1903. (As a personal preference, I believe Russian control of Constantinople is vital if you intend to break into the Aegean/Ionian area). If you decide to attack Austria along with Italy, then an army in Warsaw is needed. If you decide to attack Italy alongside Austria, then a fleet in Sevastapol is necessary for successfully challenging Italian sea power. One thing to remember: if you decide to ally with Austria against Italy, you must keep Austria satisfied with you. Italy is bound to point out that if he falls, Austria is almost completely surrounded by Russia and a likely target after the Italian falls.
All in all, the option of playing Russia as an aggressive country and immediately open with a two-front war gives the player an excellent chance to try not only his diplomatic skills but his skills to detect whether he’s being sandbagged or not. Continual communication with your allies is vital. It is a dangerous plan of attack in the early years, but one that an aggressive player is surely tempted to try.