Playing Turkey Without Being A Turkey

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. 

Allahu akhbar!