So, Why Italy?
The majority of
experienced players can perform well whichever country they choose to play.
However, all players have their favourites and it is no secret that Italy is
mine. Why? There arc two main contributory factors to this:
1. Italy is the most
unpopular country. The reason being that most players can only see as far as the
4th centre in Tunis, the drawn out Lepanto or the unsuccessful middle game after
stabbing Austria. Given this, few players view Italy as any great threat. So, if
you do get a reasonably good start as Italy, you are less likely to be noticed
and, thus, ganged up on.
2. Italy is second
only to Russia when it comes to winning potential. It is my belief that all
countries stand an equal chance of reaching, say, 15 centres. Getting 18 is
By going through each
country’s potential of winning, the situation gets clearer. I shall start with
Russia; being on both sides of the natural stalemate lines, Russia rarely (if
ever) gets held to a draw unless she wants one; you either win or lose with this
country and everyone should be able to see this after watching successful
Russian play. This makes Russia a very attractive country to play but, unlike
Italy, it doesn’t benefit from the ‘unfeared’ factor and makes an easy
Italy needs the
following Centres to win - Home, Tun, Austrian, Turkish, Balkans, Sev and three
out of Mun, Por, Spa, Mar, Mos. War. The latter two, with good play, should fall
to Italy in time (or at least one of them) leaving only Mar (and possibly Spa)
as the required 18th. If the timing is right, these won’t he held from the
north early enough. Turkey & Austria • both need exactly (the same centres
as Italy except that they have further to travel in order to take Mar/Spa/Por!
OK, so they are nearer to the Russian ones but the thing is that the Russian
ones cannot be held so easily - whereas Mar, Spa and Por will be sealed by the
time you get there in most games.
England suffers a
similar problem, along with France and Germany they all need centres south of
(or on) the stalemate line, such as Tunis; a key Italian centre which goes
further in Italy’s case to say that she often holds the key to the end of the
game. Hence, in my opinion, only Russia and Italy stand any real chance of
gaining an outright win against competent opposition. Coupled with this, Italy
has a wonderful central starting position which also gains the benefit of a
degree of safety, bettered only by the corner countries which win games only on
With all this going
for the country, it is only fair that she should only have one open build to her
in the first game year.
However, one shouldn’t he resigned to the fact that one build is the
only option; indeed, last year I convinced Simon Devereux of the country’s
potential and he put his name down for Italy in another zine. We wrote the
initial correspondence together and discussed strategies. The result was 3
builds in 1901 and 3 more builds in 1902. 1 have lost track of the game since
then (and understand Simon to be under pressure) but 9 centres after two years
is some going. Incidentally, there were no NMRs and there were some rated
players in the game, namely the Turk and Russian. Needless to say, Austria
wasn’t that strong, but that shouldn’t ruin any of the glory.
No matter what your intended opening, there are certain things which I
ALWAYS say to the other players at the start of the game. Clearly, for example,
if you intend to attack Austria in the first move, you don’t want him to know
it (or any of the other players for that matter).
So, here are my (summarised) recommended opening lines to the other
countries (the waffly extra bits should be down to the individual). The lines
printed in capitals are very important for a solid opening, as they have hidden
meanings (in italics).
- I won’t attack you in the first move.
- We should work together against Turkey and I will be
looking to move to AEG/EMS in Spring 1902.
- I WOULD VERY MUCH LIKE TO SEE YOU FLEET IN GREECE IN
THE AUTUMN OF 1901, SO THAT IT CAN SUPPORT MY F(ION)-AEG IN 1902. Vacate
I WOULD HATE TO SEE YOU LET RUSSIA INTO GAL IN THE FIRST
MOVE. Move A(Vie)-Gal, thus ensuring that it doesn’t Cover Trieste!
WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN OPENING TO THE CHANNEL IF I WERE TO OPEN TO PIE? Whether
you actually open to Pie or not, if England opens to the Channel then (1) it
will take France’s attentions off you and (2) it will strengthen Russia - your
best friend and ally in the early stage of the game.
I would like to propose the usual DMZ in the arena Pie, GoL, WMS, NAf &TYS.
I will not build F(Rom)
I would find it easier to trust you if your fleet didn’t move to Spa sc in the
Please don’t build F(Mar)
Have you considered opening to the Channel - I understand England is thinking of
I will be moving against either Austria or Turkey and feel you would get on well
allying with either Germany or England against the other.
It is in both our interests that Russia gets a good start - so we should both
ask Germany not to stand him out of Sweden.
won’t open to Tyrolia.
is in both our interests that Russia gets Sweden in Autumn 1901; I am sure he
would be willing to build F(StP)nc if you asked him nicely.
It is in both our interests that we both do well in this game. Therefore I have
asked Germany not to keep you out of Sweden in the Autumn. (Usually brings him
around to your way of thinking with the first line)
There are ten centres between us. I don’t care who gets which but how does 5
each sound? Always works a treat!
For us to be able to work together, it is imperative that you don’t let
Austria into Galicia or Turkey into the Black Sea. Implies they both intend
to move there!
I would recommend that you don’t let Russia into the Black Sea
How about moving A(Smy)-Arm with a view at aiming for Sev?
what openings are there to choose from? In my opinion there are no less than
SEVEN good openings, each with their own pros & cons.
A(Ven)-Tri, A(Rom)-Ven, F(Nap)-ION
favourite. Well, let’s face it, if you are going to stick the knife in then
you may as well give it a twist! The advantage of this opening is, quite simply,
it is Italy’s best - but only if the moves succeed. Presuming they do then you
are 99% certain of two builds and, if you have a pretty gullible Austria, there
is every chance of three!
the Autumn moves should be for the fleet to take Tunis, A(Tri) S A(Ven)-Tyr (if
necessary, retreat to any vacant Austrian supply centre). The builds are also
straight forward: A(Ven), F(Nap) which will put you in good stead to gain mote
centres off Austria next year. The bad thing about this move is if it doesn’t
work you are up shit creek. Clearly Austria will not trust you for the rest of
the game and your fleet must take Tunis, leaving you unable to make the Lepanto
(convoy to Syria) in 1902. Hence, you are not much use as an ally to Austira.
the simple lesson here is if you are certain of Trieste being vacant then take
it. Otherwise forget this option.
A(Ven)-Tri, A(Rom)-Apu, F(Nap)-ION
most Austria’s do cover Trieste in the first move (well, they sure as hell do
when I play Italy). Therefore, if you feel there is a good chance of taking
Trieste in the first move (but don’t favour putting all of your eggs in one
basket) then this is not a bad option. If the move fails you can fob Austria off
with “well, we wouldn’t want everyone thinking we were allied right from the
start, would we?”
it works, you have suddenly become the player everyone wants to talk to - Turkey
may well want support to Serbia, Russia (if he is in Galicia) will want support
to Bud or Vie. However you play it, there are plenty of options. The lovely
thing about it is that even Austria could be your friend; he may offer you to
move A(Tri) - Ser whilst he uses F(Alb) to support A(Ser) - Gre!
move, the key Lepanto, is perhaps a dodgy one these days - too many people know
about it and it only takes Turkey to order A(Bul)-Ser to bugger it all up. Well,
bugger it all up for Austria that is - imagine going along with Austria’s plan
and being stuck in one of his centres; it would certainly be useful for 1902.
options include convoying A(Apu) - Alb; giving up Tunis for later and building
A(Ven) will place you in a commanding position for 1902.
A(Ven) Stand, A(Rom)-Apu, F(Nap)-ION
is the Lepanto opening, which normally leads on to allying, with Austria,
convoying A(Apu)-Tun, building F(Nap), moving the fleets to ION and EMS and
finally the convoy from Tunis to Syria.
some love it, some loathe it. Personally, I loathe it. Basically, I find it
difficult to find enough trust in Austria not to order A(Vie)-Tyr (and support
himself to Venice) in 1902; after all, if I was Austria, that is what I would be
if you can trust Austria then this is a good early strategy for Italy. It does
mean that the 5th supply centre will take until 1903 to get, but after that the
Turkish centres tend to fall quickly. Of course, no Italian opening is
completely rigid and this one does allow for a convoy of A(Tun)-Alb in Spring
A(Ven)-Apu, A(Rom)-Ven, F(Nap)-ION
is a novel variation of the Lepanto, opening and one that I am very fond of.
have never seen it done before and only recently tried it. The beauty of it is
that these days it is very difficult to find an Austrian who will trust me. In
this case, Austria’s opening line was: “I am opening with F(Tri)-Ven and
nothing you say will change my mind, Harris.” Well, then appears to be no
pleasing some folk; but the above moves were just the ticket.
result is that Venice remains vacant after Spring l901, leaving the paranoid
AUSTRIA to move F(Tri)-Alb in the Autumn. Obviously, A(Rom) moves to Venice
again - and Austria is forewarned of this so that his fleet is not tempted to
attack Venice again. Your other Autumn moves should be to convoy A(Apu) - Tun.
One thing this achieves is gaining Austria’s trust - without putting yourself
out on a limb. For 1902, the same strategy as the Lepanto applies in that you
can move in either direction against Austria or Turkey.
is one final twist, however, which made the opening appeal to me greatly; if
Austria moves F(Tri)-Ven in the Autumn as well, then the choice of build should
be F(Ven)! Now, how often do we see quality builds like these? Not often, I
know, and not surprisingly either. But, on this occasion, it’s a beauty. In
spring 1902, you have two options:
Ven, F(ION) S F(Ven)-ADS, or, if you can persuade Austria that you will be
forcing ADS as indicated above (and you believe he won’t bother moving F(Tri)
there on that basis) then:
A(Rom)-Ven, A(Tun)-Alb, F(ION) C A(Tun)-Alb. A very powerful combination of
moves which should gain you a build of Trieste (with the possibility of Greece
as an added bonus) for 1902.
A(Ven)-Tyr, A(Rom)-Ven, F(Nap)-ION
all you disbelievers, I say to all and sundry that I don’t like this move; for
starters, Austria believes you are going to attack him in the Autumn and will
defend himself accordingly. OK, so you may get a build from it but Turkey and/or
Russia will probably benefit more from the situation. However, a bad move in
Diplomacy is only bad if it doesn’t achieve what you want it to achieve; I
mean, Robin Levy opened with one game and gained three builds in 1901. So, it
does have its pluses.
option worth considering by opening with this (which becomes a must if Austria
stood off your A(Rom) by opening with F(Tri)-Ven is asking the French (if he is
in Bur) for support to Munich. I would say that the majority of French players
would be willing to oblige if you promise them support, in Spring 1902, for
their A(Bur) Ruh. However, and funnily enough it was Robin again (as France this
time) where I last saw this happen, not many France’s will be keen on the idea
if they feel the Italian may repay this kindness by building two fleets and
attack France with them.
if France is not willing to oblige with the support (or is not in a position to)
then it could still be worthwhile having a pop at Munich anyway.
with this opening, if it looks as though there is little chance of either an
Austrian or a German centre then it could be worth considering the Autumn moves
of F(ION)-Tun, A(Ven)-Tyr, A(Tyr)-Boh and builds third army in Venice. Sooner or
later, an Austrian centre (with good chances of a second one in the following
season) will fall your way.
A(Ven)-Pie, A(Rom)-Ven, F(Nap)-ION
course, you must make an enemy sooner or later, so why not “do it to them
before they can do it to you”? The thing I like about this opening (albeit not
one I would like to try too often) is that it is flexible. A(Pie) will annoy
France right from the start and it is important to either make up quickly (by
moving A(Ven) S A(Pie)-Tyr) and heading against Austria or ensure France never
stands a chance of gaining revenge.
opening that involves moving to Pie should be backed up with an English move to
ENC - this gives France greater worries to think about. Therefore, I would have
to trust England from the off in order to make the move. Having said that, why
should England lie if he agrees to move to ENG? Well, it would keep France
occupied for one, although most of the time I would tend to accept what England
France is to be the target then the autumn move poses a dilemma - do you go for
Marseilles? No matter who the player, if France has armies in Bur & Spa then
I would order A(Pie) S French A(Spa)-Mar, in the hope of seeing the French
attempt a self stand-off there. Not only does this deny him one build (Spain)
but it also ensures the angered French can not build their greatly needed F(Mar).
case is when France has A(Pic), A(Mar) (the latter having just had a stand off
in Bur with Germany). In this case you have nothing to lose by moving to Mar; If
France moves to Spain (to gains build) then you have Mar, if he doesn’t then
he has forfeited a build and, either way, Marseilles is covered so that a fleet
cannot be constructed.
are many other combinations that could occur, but the best thing to bear in mind
is that you want Marseilles to be covered after the Autumn move, so that a fleet
cannot be built there.
A(Ven)-Pie, A(Rom)-Ven, F(Nap)-TYS
to the above, with the same dilemma over Pie/Mar for the Autumn. One bonus here
is that, if you can agree with Austria to move F(Tri)-Ven then you can use F(TYS)
to convoy A(Rom) - Tun in the Autumn. This leaves your fleet one move away from
GOL, so that Mar becomes an easier target for 1902.
should be taken so that the embarrassment of losing Venice to Austria in the
first year does not take place! Simply by telling him that A(Rom) will be trying
for Venice again should do the trick in justifying your reasons for wanting him
to put the fleet in Albania.
often than not, builds come in the form of F(Nap). Rather boring, but one has to
agree that Italy does need a second fleet. Most of the time this would be my
first choice of build, with the exceptions outlined in the above opening
strategies. However, where I feel many players slip up is with their belief that
Italy is a naval power and subsequently make their second build (if and when
they get one) another fleet. This is the same problem England his; it is armies
which, will make the difference between a win and a draw.
would go as far as to say that I- would build fleets as my 1st, 4th, 7th builds
etc. That is a ratio of two armies per fleet. If you always think “fleet,
army, army” (with little deviation) then you won’t go far wrong. To win the
game, you will need to push through Austria and into Russia. This will take
heaps of armies. On the fleet side of things, the most you should need is two
against Turkey (and into BLA) and three against France. Of course, if you take
MAO it is a different story!
it’s 1903 and you are up to six or seven centres, right? No? In that case,
something has gone drastically wrong and I suspect you will never want to play
this wretched country again. Perhaps there was something you missed? Did you use
all of the opening lines to the other countries? You did? Ah, I know your
problem - your name is Toby Harris and everyone has decided to stuff you!
presuming you actually are on six (or seven) centres, then you should be in
control of your home centres, Tunis and a combination similar to one of the
three categories below:
Mar, Spa (Por)
Tri, Vie/Bud/Ser (Vie/Bud/Ser)
Smy, Con, (Gre/Ank)
do you do now? Firstly, you will note that you haven’t quite finished
polishing off one of your neighbours. Therefore it is very important that you
let it be known to all of the other players that your sole intention is to
ensure your victim is eliminated this season/year. Apart from the fact this
nobody will have any cause to doubt you, it will strengthen your chances in a
surprise attack on your second victim. Of course, you should still go through
with eliminating your first victim, but you won’t need all 6 or 7 units to do
it, leaving you with some spare ones to mount a new assault. Let’s take the
three cases above and see what the best options are:
Mar, Spa (Por)
so you went for France and did reasonably well out of it. You should now be in
control of (n.b.) THREE fleets, three (or four) armies. Who should the next
victim be? This is actually a difficult one.
Russia is going reasonably well (hopefully better than you at this stage) you
should agree with England that MAO is to be declared a DMZ leaving him to go for
Russia and you to head against Turkey or Austria. If he falls for it then TAKE
MAO. Once you have control of it, if you align your forces well enough you will
be able to hold it. If the worst comes to the worst, losing MAO is as far as
England can ever get. If the move works then it is so a bad idea to push further
north into one of England’s three sea spaces.
the better option is to move on which ever is the weaker out of Turkey or
Austria. As all of your forces are in the western half of the board, the attack
you make will basically be of the same strategy as one of the opening moves
above. As I say, the weaker country is likely to be the better target but your
choice should be decided mainly on whichever move you think will succeed.
Tri, Vie/Bud/Ser (Vie/Bud/Ser)
you should be looking at whichever of the above centres you don’t own. If they
are owned by Russia or Turkey then you will need to decide whether or not you
can overpower them. If the answer is no then you have little choice but to try
to tempt them against the other, with the lure that this is the direction you
intend to go in. Making Turkey your next target should be no problem if Russia
is willing to help. Simply restate your earlier sentence about each controlling
five of the ten centres between you. This should ensure Greece falls fairly
easily - support from Serbia (move A(Tri)-Alb to provide extra support if
necessary) and take the centre with a fleet from ION, backing the sea space up
with another fleet. It is all fairly simple from there; one fleet supports the
other to AEG, then Bul sc etc.
the time, it is important to remember that you will, at some point, want ALL of
the Austrian, Balkan AND Turkish centres. Clearly, Russia should never know of
your greed, but by keeping at least two armies on Austrian soil at all times you
should soon find your opening.
only has to be down to two units for you to strike at Russia’s share of
Austria - he won’t be suspecting it until Turkey is actually out, making the
move that much more powerful. Most of the time you will find that, at this
point, Russia’s forces are fairly weak around Austria because he has had to
use them in the North or against Turkey. This will make your quest that much
simpler. Following through is also important; don’t just stick with Vie and
Bud support yourself to Gal in the following turn, with crucial areas (like Sil
and Ukr) being the targets after that. The chances of Turkey and Russia allying
to slop you are not too worrying after all, Russia was attacking Turkey himself!
soon as you have taken two builds at your second victim’s expense, head for
Marseilles with your builds - A(Ven) - Pie, F(Nap)- TYS.
Smy, Con (Gre/Ank)
position doesn’t necessarily require you to actually stab another player.
Ideally, you should be looking for Austria to be in battle with Russia. If he is
then you should not have too much difficulty in ensuring you have A(Smy) and
the fleet to Ank and stick another fleet in Con (with Austrian support from Bul).
Two fleets there should have little difficulty in breaking into BLA (from the
fleet in Ank) the following turn, followed up with A(Smy) - Arm. You now have
Sev by the balls and are in a position to stab Austria. Of course, Austria may
be well guarded but persuading him to move more forces against Russia should do
same attack as the opening moves will have a stronger effect If you can get an
army convoyed to Greece. Better than attacking Ser or Bul, it can provide
support for another army landing in Alb.
game strategies are always difficult to comment on, because of the infinite
number of strategies. The end game, however, is simple. The centres listed on
the first page of this article are your goal and it is no good walking towards
them; you are now up against the clock. Everyone will be fully aware of the
potential of a 12 - 14 centre Italy.
theory, you will now have everyone against you and desperately trying to stop
you. It you haven’t then you are up against fools and have nothing to be proud
about for getting this far in the first place!
remember that Marseilles is easier to hold by your opponents than Moscow and
Warsaw. Of course, they can all be held, but Marseilles requires less thought
and coordination. There is also the bonus that if you take Marseilles then you
stand a reasonable chance of taking Spain also, leaving only one of Mos/War as
the 18th centre. Therefore, as soon as you have the spare units (certainly
before you have taken the lead) it is advisable to head for Marseilles as hard
as possible. More often than not it is the key to the game and your ticket to
Reprinted from Smodnoc No.50