Turkey Should Never Win

by Stephen Agar

The geography of the Diplomacy board can make it particularly difficult for the Turkish player to turn a strong mid-game position (about 10-14 centres) into a win. The most likely centres to make up a Turkish win are Turkey (3 SCs), Austria (3 SCs), the Balkans (4 SCs), Italy (3 SCs), Tun, Sev, Mos, War = 17. To make the 18th the Turk needs Spa, Mar, Mun, Ber or StP. But expansion past 17 is difficult, if not impossible against competent opposition.

First, StP is usually out of the question because it can only be attacked by two Turkish units, so is defended with a single support from Fin, Nwy or BAR. Berlin and Munich can be denied by five units: A(Bur) & A(Ruh) S A(Mun); F(BAL) or U(Kie) S U(Ber) (where U = an army or a fleet). Marseilles and Spain are held by A(Gas) S U(Mar); U(Por) S U(Spa); F(NAO) S F(MAO). That’s 13 units to prevent a Turkish victory! And given that Austria is going after basically the same set of centres for the Austrian win, this all holds good against Austria as well.

This means that Turkey is particularly vulnerable to a Stop the Leader alliance which is put together by the other players. If Turkey want to win outright a bee-line must be made for StP, a German home centre or the MAO. Of course, there are many reasons why Turkey does win Diplomacy games – though it’s usually on of three things (1) one or more dropouts, (2) refusal by one or more remaining powers to set up the stalemate, or (3) crap play by the others.

Two games that I GM’d in Spring Offensive leap to mind: in 93DX (Xerxes) Patrick Finglass got to 17 and then had victory conceded when it became inevitable that he could take MAO (though Patrick was helped by French and Italian dropouts). Had Graham Tunnicliffe (Germany) had one more fleet in the right place he could have held Patrick, despite the fact that Por, Spa and Mar were occupied by anarchic units. In 93BR (Pydna) Peter Berlin was held to a 3-way draw as Turkey – he got to 17 and then realised that StP, Ber, Mun, Mar and Spa were unassailable.

So what do you do if you are playing Turkey against quality opposition and you’re not content with a draw? In Diplomacy Digest No. 99 Mark Berch put forward four possible strategies:

(1) Push for an A/T alliance, with Austria going all out to break through in Russia and then Germany, while Turkey concentrates on the Western Med – thus breaking down the northern and the southern doors at once. You then stab your Austrian ally at a fairly late stage in the game, when some of the crucial centres are available to you – assuming of course that the western powers are too weak at this late stage to get their act together.

(2) The second approach is to get a western power to open the door for you. It doesn’t take a great deal of help to do this – just a German support into StP or French help into Mun. Often the western power won’t realise the strategic significance of what they are doing, especially if by so doing they are settling an old score against one of the other players.

(3) Another tactic is to go all out with fleets in the Med, a single-minded attempt to take MAO, using whoever is around to help. This sort of tactic is often linked to an alliance with Russia (you can go after the Russian centres later). Of course, this tactic is likely to work best if Germany has come out ahead in the west, reducing the naval power of France and England.

(4) Perhaps the least practical strategy is to try and breakthrough into Scandinavia – especially if it is left sparsely defended by England who is attacking France.

The lessons to be learnt by Turkey are these. Pay attention to what is happening in the west and try from the outset to have an ally there. Unless you benefit from a dropout you may need a friend on the other side of the board to break through. Secondly, recognise the limitations of the geography and always think ahead. You have to accept that it is far easier to draw with Turkey than to win

[Acknowledgements to The Turkish 18 by Howard Mahler (published in Hoosier Archives No.123) and Mark Berch’s comments in Diplomacy Digest No.99]