Italian Dominance

by Adam Hopkins 

Of the seven Great Powers of Diplomacy, Italy is definitely my favorite. There is something about the boot-shaped peninsula that I am attracted to and, for some reason or another, always wind up playing in face-to-face games where assignments are done randomly. I play Diplomacy online on the Cat23 server, but I mainly play face-to-face games about once a week. Each week, in my f2f games, as in most games, Italy is played by some incompetent player who shivers at the sight of the green piece, which he just drew, in his hand. It always seems to be statistically correct with the German, Russian, or French player winning. Yet, when I play, Italy is a player, and becomes powerful.  I donít mean to toot my own whistle or anything, but I feel that I have become very good at playing Italy. As I see it, Italy is a very strong player on the board. Overlooked? Yes. This often happens because the incompetent Italian player will get Tunis and hover around the peninsula for four years or so with his four pieces, and just sit and watch as the world changes around him wishing he had better luck. Then, eventually, either Turkey or France (or whomever owns that land) will come and knock Italy off the board in a pathetic fight which Italy has no chance. The fact that Italy has gained an image as being a nobody, is an important part of my plan. People begin to think twice about underestimating the Italian when I play as the green guys. 

The key to Italian victory is two-fold.

1. A lasting ally, whom you donít have to worry about stabbing you.

2. A target which can be focused on without worries.

Of course these are keys to winning with any country, but I see them as being extremely important in the Italian case. My strategy will employ both of these. 

Before I dive into the analysis of my strategy, lets look at possible ally choices. 

Austria-Hungary: A Lepanto is not a bad idea if executed right. I have tried it myself but I have never felt the benefits of it. I guess I am not doing it right or something, but I just donít really like this strategy. Often I find myself being stabbed by the Austrian for this simple reason. Due to the nature of Austria, his country is almost always garrisoned, I donít have the  statistics in front of me, but I read somewhere statistics about the most occupied provinces are, and all the Austrian provinces were in the top 10. In execution of a Lepanto, I see Italy as more of the front-runner who gets shafted once his ally stabs him due to his absence from his country. There are many theories etc. on the topic, and is a favorite of many people. If you want to know more about such a strategy, go read another article, because you wont find it here. (Not a true Lepanto I mean, you shall learn more later.) Any way, as I was saying his garrisoned country is filled with armies which can be in two of your home SCs within a year unopposed because all your fleets will be at war with Turkey. As you probably know, having fleets and control of the Mediterranean are key for Italy, meaning many fleets are needed. If in the course of you alliance with Austria, you feel it is time to stab him, you need to get into the Adr, Tyr and be in Ven. Plus, with all you fleets, you cant go too far since Austria has one coastland province. He can easily defend himself with his garrison, and will see the stab coming a year before it can actually be executed. All in all, I am not a fan of the A/I. 

Turkey: The T/I is a stupid alliance. I have never actually seen one played because anyone with common sense can see there is no benefit besides the quick death of Austria. Since it is crucial for each country to control and maintain the Mediterranean, it is near impossible to create a long-term alliance with Turkey as I stated before is needed. I will agree, turkey does make a good ally for the begging part of the game, and will be a good short-term ally because your goals are somewhat the same. You need to get into Austria, He needs to get into the Balkans without Austria being there. 

Russia: Here is a good ally. This is where my analysis of my strategy will begin. These two countries have no common borders, meaning no stabs can be done without a great amount of time, movement and planning. Yet, these countries have three common neighbors (enemies): Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Germany. Russiaís goals should be to settle the Balkans dispute quickly and thoroughly, so he can turn his attention to the North, since a Mediterranean campaign would be stupid, hard, and inefficient. I will talk more of this alliance throughout my paper, since this, is the answer to the #1 requirement, a good ally. Of course, this alliance should be kept secret for the beginning of the game. 

Any Other Country: England has nothing to offer you, donít bother with England. The incompetent 4-Piece Italian will be swooned by England to attack Southern France early so he can take of the German, but there is no point, since you will not grow much. I have only once seen a situation where Italy attacked France from the beginning and had a successful campaign. (Unfortunately, I was the French player. I also seem to remember this is the game where I had A Lon, and got the German to convoy me back to my mainland, and ended up in a German/Italian Convoy Route to Syria! Obviously, I am not a very good French player, but thatís another story.) An alliance with France is like one with Turkey. Eventually the French will build a F Mar, and will need to make a move for the Mediterranean and you will find yourself in a Naval battle. So, there is no benefit in it. I have allied with Germany before in a G/A/I. It was pretty successful, but Germany blew us all away. It is not a bad alliance, but, is not my favorite, so I wonít go into any more detail. (Since I obviously canít use my strategy described below all the time, I advocate for a G/A/I and find it to be pleasant.) 

Now we get to requirement #2, targets. I feel that Italy should attack countries in the following order: Austria, Turkey, then France, after which it depends on the situation. Make sure in any case, you can trust Russia, if you canít well, then you wonít succeed with this strategy. A straight out attack on Austria is OK, it works and I have done it myself. It will fail unless he is seriously pressured from presence in Galicia, Rumania and Serbia. If not, good luck trying to break into Austria, it will take years of annoying bounces. Rather than a Spring 1901 attack, try this. Keep the Russian alliance secret, get him to put pressure on him from Galicia. Form a Lepanto with Austria and move: F Nap-Ion A Rom-Nap as in a Lepanto. F02 should be as follows: F Ion C A Nap-Tun A Nap-Tun. Build F Nap. Now from this point you can go either of two ways. Both version will get you in the same place, but may have different effects on the players and should be chosen depending on the situations and locations of the other players pieces. The first is more spontaneous and surprising, but will take longer. The second is more obvious but is faster for those eager to lunge their knife into the heart of the Austrian and move his green pieces into the Red-Land. 

Variant Alpha: In Spring 1902 move F Ion-Eas Med, F Nap-Ion. In Fall 1902, convoy the army from Tunis to Syria, as dictated by the Lepanto. By this time Turkey will be scared and moving his pieces to counter yours. This means Austria will be in the Balkans, or fighting Russia (more favorable) leaving his homeland un-garrisoned (Tsk tsk tsk.) This is where the twist comes into play, rather than proceeding to move on Turkey, in Spring 1903 convoy Syria to Greece (Albania may also be used as an alternative, but will not allow for another build which is important, but if the chance of getting into Greece is not good, try this.) Then move F Ion-Adr, F Med-Ion, and A Ven-Tyr. Build an army in Venice. Italy should be in the following position after Winter 1903: A Tyr, A Ven, A Gre, F Adr, F Ion. The rest is history and is easy. Austria has nothing left. You should be able to take him quickly. Donít forget about the Turk. He will be either really pissed or in your debt. You can do this by before executing the twist/stab in 1903, talk to Turkey and play up the situation. Tell him how Austria is being very greedy and how you want to get back at him. You will not attack him any more if he joins you etc. If you still worry about him, rather than moving F Eas Med-Ion, consider moving to the Aegean, Smyrna, or holding. 

Variant Beta: This faster version is not a surprising and flexible. But is better protection from Turkish interference and may be a more reliable. In spring 1902 convoy A Tun-Gre, and move F Nap-Apu. In the fall support yourself into the Adriatic, move to Tyrolia and build in Venice as before. You are now in the same position as above, in Winter 1902 rather than Winter 1903.             Once Trieste is taken, Vienna and Budapest will fall quite fast, especially with Russian help. It may be wise to get Russia to attack Turkey at this point, before Turkey attacks you. Also at this point when the final armies are take the Austrian cities, begin shifting the fleets eastward. The R/I alliance may be made known, and will easily roll over Turkey and Austria without either getting in the way of the other. Thats why this is a good alliance. Now comes to the nitty gritty diplomacizing. 

There are 10 SCs for you and Russia to divide. I suggest Italy take: Vie, Tri, Gre, Smy, Ser, Bul/Con. Constantinople is preferable to Bulgaria, because you know Russia cannot break into the Mediterranean for some weird chance. Russia takes: Ank, Bul/Con, rum, and Bud. This 60%-40% split makes both powers equal since Russia will have Sweden, and most Russia will go along with this division. If they donít let them have both Bul and Con. Not that Austria and Turkey are out of the way, time for France. By this time the Western Dispute should be solved. There will be one dominant power, one lesser power (soon to be stabbed,) and one on the brink of death (hopefully France). If France is the dominant, everything will be needed to break through. If at any point during the conquest of Asia Minor, you see French seeping into the Mediterranean, send your fleets over to take care of them and assert your power in the Med, and let France know his presence is unwanted. If you have to evacuate all the new lands, then do so. This may be tempting for Russia, so, get E or G (the survivor) to attack Russia from the north, they will probably go along with you. It is imperative France does not get into the Tyrrhenian Sea, or Tunis. Get into the Wes Med ASAP. Pick off the Iberian Peninsula first. Then convoy the armies over to invade Southern France. Now the Strait of Gibraltar is plugged (hint: having North Africa, Western Mediterranean, and Gulf of Lyon, it is impossible for anyone to break through.) Once you have France, time to take the rest of Turkey, etc. And once again, there is a victory for the Green.



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