by Mark Fassio
Okay, the game has begun. You, the new Diplomacy player, have reached into the box and picked your random country. The choice comes out; the yellow block of Turkey stares you in the face. Now what? Do you instinctively cringe, thinking of yourself as the “sick man of Europe?” Or do you grin like the famed Cheshire Cat and rub your hands together, eager for the glories that await you?
I’m here to argue in favor of latter scenario. All you need to know is the strengths and weaknesses of your country. Of course, I speak from bias: I volunteered to write the Turkey article because most of my wins have come from sole Turk victories, or from an alliance involving Turkey–very few defeats occur with Turkey if you know the ins and outs of the country. Right, sez you, what’s so great about this wretched country? I mean, it looks so isolated, so pushed back into the corner, so surrounded by neighbors. Yup. Those are strengths of the place, believe it or not.
First of all, Turkey is sort of like England; there are countries all around you, but they are not exactly “near” you. Having yourself wedged into a diagonal corner is a blessing in disguise, as no enemy can threaten your southern flank initially.
How about being surrounded by neighbors? Again, this is a good point. True, the chance exists that they will gang up on you, but this is doubtful. Few R/A or I/A alliances work well, and when they do, it takes a while to “dig the Turk out of the corner.” Your position on the board gives you an extremely well-defended country, and those alliances that do go after you take game- years to beat up on you. Basically, you can go R/T and hit Austria on a connected front line; you can ally with Austria and keep Russia out of the Balkans; you can even ally with Italy and try to secure south Balkan centers and rub out Austria! The choices are many, the dangers few.
Okay, so the country is strongly defendable, and provides chances for exploitation; what about its weak points? There are few. One of them is built into the system and can’t be corrected: the fleet in Ankara. It would really benefit the Turkish player to have it in Constantinople instead. This way, it could still threaten the black Sea, or could sortie into the Aegean (its natural waterway) on turn 1. But that’s something you have to compensate for by diplomacy.
Another problem is that isolation of the country does make it hard to grab many centers quickly in the early stages. Generally, Bulgaria is regarded as “Turkish property,” but that’s about it. Again, diplomacy with your neighbors (which is what the game is all about) will help you solve that. A good alliance for the Turk will see him/her get Greece within a game year, too.
Yeah, but what’s a “good” alliance? Actually, a good alliance is what you make it. If you have some doubts as to the honesty of your Russian neighbor, then you should sound out the Austrian or the Italian for an initial alliance. It goes without saying that you write the Russian if you want a westward advance (i.e., against A or I), as he can help you and stay out of the way at the same time. How you want to play your game plan will determine how you play your diplomatic initiatives, too.
I have found that R/T alliances really work well, either short- or long-term. You can easily declare the Black Sea and Armenia to be DMZs. From there, the Russian can have Rumania (with or without your support) and you get Bulgaria and the southern Balkan states, while the Czar gets the Austrian territories, by and large. Of course, in the one T/A alliance I played, my Austrian partner was in Belgium by 1906! So don’t play the same game plan every game. Variety is the spice of life, and the options are so many for the Turk that it would be a crime not to experiment.
Here are some tips: if you have an anti-Russian strategy, get in good with Austria. Declare the Black Sea and Armenia to be DMZs, and move into them whenever it is the best possible time to do so; you’ll see when that time is as the game progresses. Allow Austria to have Rumania (you could support him there from Bulgaria or Black Sea) in return for you getting Greece. From there you play it by ear. Get total sea control of the Black, and make sure the Russian can’t get into Armenia, and you are set. Write Germany and England and offer them alliances if they go after Russia. Remember: if Russia is occupied by other enemies on his borders, he can’t concentrate all his forces on you.
Against Austria, follow the reverse strategy. Get in good with the Russian and let him have Rumania in return for supporting you to Serbia or somewhere. Make some sort of deal with Italy, if possible, and offer him centers too (remember this is Diplomacy; you don’t have to be sincere when you do this!). Going against Austria–or at least being allied with Russia – gives the Turk a lot of room in good geography to maneuver, and the chances for growth are good.
Like I stated above, Turkey is a good country to have. You’re not too surrounded by enemies, you have a number of options to shoot for, and the other regional powers tend to support you rather than try to invade you–it’s much easier for them that way.
The biggest thing to remember is the name of the game: Diplomacy. Don’t use all military moves. Try to be a soldier-statesman, and wheel-and-deal a little. Write to people! If you play the game by mail, the whole thing revolves around writing. I can show you a whole printout full of people who were blown away in games because they didn’t understand the need to write. You don’t make friends through silence – only enemies.