Eggs in One Basket,
Or Tsarting Out Right
by Chris Warren
One of the most unique things about playing the Russian in Diplomacy is that
not only do you have an opportunity to effect the West or the East, you have no
say in the manner of how you do. The dual fleets -- one in the Baltic, on in the
Black -- lead to intervention that's as often harmful as helpful. So, the
question rests -- how do you dispose of your armies to account for your dual
I contend that its best to pick one theater -- and hit it with all available
force while securing the other with Diplomacy. This allows actual expansion
opportunities instead of a slow tug of war on both sides of the board. And, in
most every case, both armies are almost immediately useful. Let's examine the
possibilities, depending on your target.
Austria: Probably the favorite first meal for a Russian bear
coming out of hibernation, the Austrian attack can be carried out with either an
Italian or Turkish ally. In either case, A Mos-Ukr and A War-Gal are almost
automatics. F Sev-Rum is usually the move for the southern fleet, but I prefer F
Sev-H for a couple of reasons.
First of all, an army in Rumania is extremely useful, much more so than a
fleet. In a war with the Hapsburg would you rather control Bla or Ukr/Gal/Bud/Ser?
I thought so. By leaving the fleet in Sev, you could still support A Ukr-Rum
while allowing A Gal to try some fun stuff. But the Austrian always moves A
Vie-Gal, you say? Try this tactic with the Italian: Get Italy to approach the
Austrian suggesting this:
Austria: A Vie-Bud, A Bud-Ser, F Tri-Alb
Italy: A Ven-Trl, A Rom-Apu, F Nap-Ion
The plan being to pressure Rumania while covering all bases with Trl-Vie,
Bud-Gal, should the evil Russian (you!) try something than this will happen in
Austria: A Bud-Vie
Italy: A Trl-Tri
Russia: A Gal-Bud, A Ukr-Rum, F Sev S A Ukr-Rum
Extremely nasty, isn't it? It also gets your armies next to each other and
isolates the A Vie.
This is a is a lesson I learned, unfortunately, as the Austrian player. Kudos
to Ken Kohn and Eric Aldridge for zinging me with it in conventional play.
Playing off a strong R/T will make the Austrian more likely to band together for
the Italian, as well as keeping the Black Sea clear. A Serbian or Viennese
attack in 1902 suddenly becomes automatically successful, banning Turkish
Turkey: Russo-Turkish wars are difficult and usually net you
little early on because the booty is split 2-3 ways. But if you have other
reasons, you had better commit full-force. Objective one is to hold and keep the
Black Sea, which means building F Sev in Winter 1901 if at all possible. So what
needs to happen for that?
I prefer F Sev-Bla, A Mos-Sev, A War-Ukr. Here is the thinking: if F Sev-Bla
goes, chances are that Armenia is clear as well. You can either try A Sev-Arm, F
Bla S A Sev-Arm. Terribly effective. Or play it safe: A Sev-Rum, A Ukr S A Sev-Rum,
F Bla S A Sev-Rum. Then build F Sev as soon as possible, and fill the gap with
the Ukrainian or a newly-build A Mos, if you're lucky enough to get Sweden.
Actually luck has little to do with it. You need some pretty severe diplomacy
to hold your northern position. But that's the second part to this strategy --
keep things in the west as confused as possible until you clear the east (it
works exactly the same if you go north/west first). The way to slow things down
is to get 2 players in the theater to go at it (I/A vs T or F/G vs E) while
offering a little help or, especially against the Turk, non-intervention.
Nobody said this would be easy, but it's better to plead your case on one
half of the board and over run the other half militarily than doing both verbal
and tactical fencing in each. Now let's look at the northern attacks:
Germany: Attacks on Germany can be quick and devastating
because you'll usually get a lot of help. The problem with this is, that more
people who know, the better the chances someone will bet on. The spearhead of
your attack is A War, fighting it out for either Pru or Sil. I say it all
depends on what you think the German will do. If you believe your attack is a
surprise, I prefer A War-Sil, A Mos-StP. If the British forbid StP, Lvn is an
inferior substitute. Here is why:
If Germany opens F Kie-Den, their obvious fall move is F Den-Swe. If you move
F Bot-Bal and A StP-Fin, he still gets only one Scandinavian build, you none,
but now instead of threatening Swe was a unit or two, you have units on Swe,
Den, Kie and Ber. Add a little pressure in the West and it is too much for the
Kaiser to handle. If he moves F Kie-Hol, you have the option of convoying any
army (as you could from Lvn) or moving F Bot-Swe, A StP-Fin. From there the
Baltic is yours, or, with Detente with the Germans, a three unit attack on
Norway in the Spring 1902 is possible. The advantage Lvn has over StP, besides
not scaring the English, is moving A Lvn-Pru in Fall 1901, but since you'll
build A War there isn't much point to the move.
What if the Germans are expecting an attack? Let the fleet go StP-Bot-Bal and
use the armies in the spring as follows: A War-Pru, A Mos- War, and in the fall,
A Pru S A War-Sil, A War-Sil. A sparring match, true, but how long will the
British and French ignore an exposed German backside.
England: The English attack is really the only one that does
not require both armies, with only one English territory (Nwy) handy. But don't
let A War stray to far. A move to StP as a F StP(nc) vacates in Spring 1902 may
As with the southern strategy, you need a two on one on one of your neighbors
to keep you safe, either A/I versus T or I/T versus A. Shoot for the former,
since a retreating Austrian in Galicia or (heaven forbid) the Ukraine can cause
all sorts of trouble. In addition the Turks take longer to kill, thus giving you
more time to consolidate your position.
So in summary, no matter who is your target:
1. Put all of your eggs in one basket (north or south) and go for fast gains
so you can defend yourself.
2. Negotiate furiously in the theater you're largely ignoring.
3. Try to get your bored neighbors to attack a witch (England or Turkey).
Good luck to you and may your next game start be your borscht ever.
Reprinted from Diplomacy World No.73