Turkish Strategy

by Don Turnbull

ALLAN CALHAMER called Turkey ‘The Wicked Witch of the South’; some unkind players adopt the title ‘The Sick Man of Europe’. Most Diplomacy fans accept that Turkey has a strong position, particularly in the middle and end games, and that the country’s victory potential is high. Yet players regard Turkey as a dull country to play, and when they are asked to rate the countries in their order of preference, Turkey appears at the lower end of the list. All in all, opinion about Turkey is ambivalent; perhaps I can dispel this, at least in part.

Two things are certain, though. First, Turkey has little flexibility in the opening — perhaps that is why players rate it a dull country. Second, whatever happens in the game, composing press releases for Turkey can be great fun, what with multitudinous wives and all…

Turkey’s lack of initial flexibility is due, more than anything else, to the starting position of the fleet. If the fleet started in Constantinople instead of Ankara, with immediate access to either the Aegean Sea or the Black Sea as a choice, the story might be different. Naval operations from Ankara, however, can only take one of two forms — either assisting in an anti-Russian campaign, or (negatlve but often inevitable) moving into a better position from which to start 1902. On the other hand, though restrictive, the starting position gives Turkey a very good defence, particularly against attack from Russia.

The obvious question is: attack Russia or attack Austria? These two apart, there is little choice.

Austria is certainly not a bad candidate for an attack. Clearing Austria for use by Turkey opens up a handy corridor into central Europe. relieves pressure on the Balkans and gives Turkish naval power chance to assert itself in the Mediterranean. However an invasion of Austria puts the victorious units into a salient, watched on one side by Italy and on the other by Russia. Either or both of these countries could have been a useful ally against Austria; when Austria has fallen, however, both Italy and Russia will be looking for new pickings, and may very well decide that now is the time to attack Turkey and take advantage of the strong corner position for the middle-and end-game. Additionally, but more seriously, it just isn’t possible for Turkey to mount a good speedy offensive against Austria while remaining in control of the situation. The initial position of the fleet is at the root of this.

Turkey usually has to wait until Spring 1902 before bringing a fleet remotely to bear on Austria in the south, by which time Italy and/or Russia will have made most of the major advances and will be in the best position to take their pickings, leaving not a wrack behind. From many points of view, therefore, Austria is perhaps not the best enemy, at least in the opening. Which brings us to Russia.

This huge country is certainly an attractive target. Whatever alliance structure is engineered by Turkey, she should be assured of at least two Russian supply centres—Sevastopol and Moscow — when all the smoke has cleared away. If Austria helps out with the campaign, it’s only logical that Warsaw is captured by Austrian troops. That will cause some trouble with Germany, in all likelihood, but that’s Austria’s problem. Remember if you have an ally in such a venture, it’s far better that he should do the dirty work rather than you. Later, if you decide to attack him, you can always point to the troubles he has caused elsewhere on the board; you could emerge as an innocent peace-maker, reluctant to take arms against your former ally, but compelled to do so for the sake of World Peace. If you believe this sort of rubbish, you shouldn’t be playing Diplomacy….

If England is an ally and has attacked Russia in the north (enlistment of English aid in the north is pretty important) the campaign should end with an English fleet sitting in St. Petersburg. This fleet cannot advance south and cause trouble for Turkey, and it takes a long time to get an English army into northern Russia, which is all to the good as far as Turkey is concerned.

Finally, the conquest of Russia strengthens Turkey’s corner position without exposing more flanks than existed to start with. If. later, advances are made in the south, the northern flank should be relatively secure.

A third candidate for attack is Italy, though this is a long shot. The requirements are very stringent. First, a firm alliance must be struck with Austria; if the Austrian player looks into his crystal ball to the time when Turkish units are in Italy as well as in the Balkans, he may be pardoned for thinking that he would be next on the Turkish menu, and decline to join in the fun. So this proposal to Austria might be tricky to negotiate.

Second, a non-aggression pact with Russia is essential in order to guard the northern flank; Armenia and the Black Sea must be demilitarised. Third, the Turk will have to dream up a method of moving the Turkish fleet into the Aegean Sea early, without interfering with the building of fleets in Smyrna and Constantinople in Winter 1901. When playing Turkey, I have never used an alliance with Austria to attack Italy; nor do I recall having watched a game in which this happened.

Opening moves for Turkey depend on who is going to be the enemy (it’s no use Turkey opening on defensive lines). If Austria is the target, the best moves are A(Con)-Bul, F(Ank)-Con, A(Smy) stands. If Bulgaria and Greece can be captured in 1901, the builds should be A(Con) and F(Smy); this involves moving A(Smy) to an innocent position in Autumn 1901, where it will not arouse the suspicions of Russia — Ank is safe, Syr negative, but perhaps good diplomacy.

If Italy is the target, the same opening moves should be used. The building of two fleets in Winter 1901 becomes of paramount importance, and Austria must be convinced that Turkish capture of Greece, in order to get the second fleet, is essential to the campaign. Somehow, I wonder whether he would believe you…

If Russia is the target, by far the best opening moves are A(Con)-Bul, F(Ank)-BLA, A(Smy)-Arm. This ties Russia up nicely, whether F(Ank)BLA is stood off by F(Sev}-BLA or not. If there is a stand-off, then Russia will be hard put to leave Sevastopol free for the Winter 1901 build of another fleet. If there is no stand-off, Turkish units in Bul, BLA and Arm will give Russia some grey hairs when deciding his Autumn 1901 orders; he will, of course, write to Austria for help —it’s your job to ensure he doesn’t get it,

One final thing. It is absolutely essential for Turkey to enlist the cooperation of either Russia or Turkey. If these two ally against the Sick Man, the prognosis is poor, as they say, and the sickness will be incurable.

This article first appeared in the December 1972 edition of Games & Puzzles magazine
Supplied by Keith Hazelton