Russia : Double Your Pleasure

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.