Learning To Like To Draw A Black Block
by Brad Wilson
few people seem to like playing Germany. In face-to-face games, drawing
the black block often elicits groans exceeded only by picking the dreaded
red block. Postal play preference
lists rarely show Germany at the top.
an extent, this is justified. In 1901-1902 Germany can be attacked by five
countries, with any two usually enough to cause major hassles. In
addition, while Germany can usually
pick up at least two neutrals, occasionally she can
pick up three. The result of this is usually a wail of
"greedy!" from Germany's
neighbors and out of resentment and fear an attack often follows.
can anyone, especially a novice playing Germany, avoid these pitfalls? As
the winner of "Best Germany" at the 1984 Atlanticon tournament
and having directed some very
successful Germanies both FTF and PBM, I will offer a
strategy to make sure that if you play Germany FTF you won't be watching
TV in 1903, or if you're in a postal game, you'll use your whole
book of stamps. I will make no
effort to be all-inclusive; that'd take forever, and I'm sure there are other strategies that are effective for Germany.
But here is mine:
I: Don't Get Greedy.
often, inexperienced German players will be hypnotized by the prospect of
picking up three neutrals by moving F Kiel-Holland, A Munich-Ruhr and A
Berlin-Denmark in Spring 1091, and then F Holland supports A
Ruhr-Belgium, A Ruhr-Belgium, and A
Kiel-Denmark in the Fall. While this looks superficially
attractive, it has two major pitfalls. One is that your immediate
neighbors, England, France and
Russia (Austria and Italy are usually a bit less concerned with Germany) will feel threatened and left out. After all,
those three new units have to go
somewhere, and you will be perceived as a militaristic
threat. Second, should the Russian player launch a sneak attack into
Silesia and Prussia in Spring 1901,
you have no leverage on Sweden, in effect giving
the Russian a free build to use against you.
better to move F Kiel-Denmark, A Munich-Ruhr, A Berlin-Kiel, and then use
Belgium as a negotiating pawn or bribe; it probably is more useful to you
that way. (I might add that this is
dependent on the Spring 1901 situation being
fairly normal, i.e. no one is visibly--in his letters, in the board
position, etc.--out to get you.)
II: Let the Russians Have the Aquavit.
Russia has moved against you in Spring 1901, there is no good reason to
stand him out of Sweden in the Fall. By doing so you only antagonize him
unnecessarily. Usually this course of action is urged upon you by the
English player, professing alliance
with you and pointing out that this could be a
good first step in attacking Russia. That may be true, but if he's lying
you have annoyed a country whose
help may be absolutely essential in fighting off
England. If he's not lying, big deal; you can usually toss the Russians
out of Sweden in Spring 1902 with
English help (from Denmark and Norway). No sense in starting a war earlier than you have to.
the French player is urging you to make the move to Sweden, be extremely
suspicious; an E/F alliance against you is probably forming. In the long
run, the bounce in Sweden usually
benefits not Germany but England. Avoid it.
III: Watch the Alps.
of the recent trends in postal play is Italy ordering A Venice-Tyrolia and
thence to Munich in Fall 1901, often with French support. This is a
difficult move to see even after
Spring 1901, for an Italian A Tyrolia could also be
anti-Austrian. The move, often called "the Byrne opening" after
its foremost and most successful exponent, Kathy Byrne [now Kathy Caruso],
is often followed by a joint F/I
campaign against you in Berlin, Kiel and Holland, and is exceedingly difficult to resist.
opening without the French army in Burgundy to help is considerably weaker
and fairly easy to deal with. Generally, the best course to avoid being
"Byrned" is to: (a) use clever diplomacy to keep France happy,
(b) sacrifice Munich to pick up the
neutrals you will need to build the units necessary to
evict the trespassers, and (c) propose anti-Italian countermeasures to
the Austrian, who may be
interested. Generally, though, the best way to avoid this
is to be aware that it can happen and use diplomacy to prevent it.
IV: The Berlin-London Axis?
your major ally is a big choice and one that will be influenced by
numerous factors that vary from game to game. For instance, if France
never writes, if Russia moves to
Silesia, or if England sends you letters saying
he's out to control world beer production, then your choices are fairly
clear. But usually, such is not the case. It is my contention that
an E/G alliance is the best for
Superficially nice, but hey, let's be real. Chances are that
even if you two knock England out of the box quickly (not likely), you'll
not be able to keep Russia out of
Norway, and France will usually get Liverpool
and London, leaving you with Edinburgh, which you probably can't defend.
Plus, you are now snugly between
France and Russia and they are probably in a better
position to attack you than vice versa. Even if France doesn't stab you,
you are still faced with having to
evict Russia from Scandinavia and northern
waters, a time-consuming task that probably will make your entry into
eastern areas too little, too late.
Good for getting rid of England, but again, France has to be
watched (and Russia can't do much to attack France) and once Russia heads
west to Norway and Edinburgh, it's
easy to stay pointed in that direction and walk
into Berlin, Denmark and Kiel, since your units are likely to be in
England or the Low Countries. No
Triple (E/F/G)? Just look who's between England and France and forget
this idea. While you're attacking Russia, just watch them respectively
sail and march into Holland and
England can betray you too, but it is harder. You can limit builds
of offensive units (your fleets and English armies) that each would need
to attack the other. Russia can be
disposed of by a quick attack and spoils can
be distributed fairly (you: Warsaw & Moscow; him: St. Pete &
Sweden), allowing fast entry into
the eastern areas of much-needed centers. France can be
equally split up as well, though taking her out is tougher. It's best to
encourage a French-Italian war and hit France when her attention and
units are focused southward. You
get Paris, Belgium and Marseilles; England gets Brest, Spain and Portugal. It should be noted that all your centers
are easy to defend from England;
this is also true in reverse, possibly unfortunately, but this does reduce dot-induced stress. Italy can then be
attacked on two fronts- -by you over the Alps and by England through the Med,
while your armies move on Austria.
At this point you and England should be strong enough to secure a two-way draw or you can stab (taking Sweden or Brest, often)
for the win.
make no claim that my four rules are the one way to play Germany well. I do
say that they will usually be successful when accompanied by diligent
diplomacy and competent tactics. So when you draw the black block, don't
groan; remember the above four rules, live long and prosper (and put
Europe under the iron boot...)