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Tournament Diplomacy, Part 3
Diplomacy Openings by Country
by Edi Birsan
with help from the hobby

Here's the portion of this series that you've all been waiting for -- the most common conservative openings for each country, regardless of venue.

Spring '01
England: F Edinburgh to Norwegian Sea, F London to North Sea, A Liverpool to Yorkshire
France: F Brest to Mid Atlantic, A Marseilles to Spain, A Paris to Burgundy
Germany: F Kiel to Denmark, A Munich to Ruhr, A Berlin to Kiel
Italy: F Naples to Ionian, A Rome to Apulia, A Venice holds
Austria: F Trieste to Albania, A Budapest to Serbia, A Vienna to Trieste
Russia: F St. Petersburg to Gulf of Bothnia, A Moscow to Ukraine, A Warsaw hold, F Sevastopol to Black Sea
Turkey: A Constantinople to Bulgaria, A Smyrna to Constantinople, F Ankara to Black Sea

The English have slowly trended toward A Liverpool to Edinburgh and the Italians toward A Venice to Tyrolia, but for conservatism you cannot beat the above moves.

Tournament play, however, brings out a sense of bravado and dash in many players. It is, therefore, very common to see slashing openings in tournaments. The shorter the time allotted for play in the tournament, the greater the tendency will be to plot a slashing opening. Here are some:

The Sea Lion

In the case of a French and German alliance against England, it is critical that France get a fleet into the Channel in Spring 01. This play works best if the German move in Fall 01 is unexpected. It can be enhanced by having the Russians move A Moscow to St. Petersburg in Spring 01 in order to put pressure on Norway.

Spring '01
France: F Brest to English Channel, A Paris to Picardy
Germany: A Berlin to Kiel, A Munich to Ruhr, F Kiel to Denmark

Fall '01
France: F English Channel S German F Denmark to North Sea, A Picardy to Belgium
Germany: F Denmark to North Sea, A Kiel to Denmark, A Ruhr to Holland

Winter '01
Both France and Germany build one Fleet and one Army.

Spring '02
France: A Belgium to Wales (via convoy through English Channel)
Germany: A Holland to York (via convoy through North Sea)

The critical factor is taking the North Sea from the English in 1901, thereby opening up tremendous convoy leverage for the Franco-German combination. The double convoy should grab something in the Lowlands and set the stage for 100% offense against England. Plenty of chances exist for a double cross in St Petersburg in '02, which will give the game some tension. There's also a strong chance for rapid growth for Germany and France.

The French Rollover

France is not often the target of a slashing opening attack but when it is, it is generally a double stab by England and Germany after agreeing with the French to stay out of Burgundy and the Channel. The situation can be made worse if Italy moves to Piedmont. That's rarely the Italian's play in a tournament, however.

Spring '01
England: A Liverpool to Wales, F London to English Channel
Germany: A Munich to Burgundy, F Kiel to Holland, A Berlin to Kiel
Italy: A Venice to Piedmont

Fall '01
England: A Wales to Belgium or A Wales to Brest (both via convoy, with German support)
Germany: A Burgundy to Paris or A Burgundy S Italian A Piedmont to Marseilles
Italy: A Piedmont to Marseilles or, if fearing a standoff, can order A Piedmont S French A Spain to Marseilles

Note that Italy can make this situation really obnoxious by using the Western Lepanto opening wherein he also moves A Rome to Tuscany and F Naples to Tyrhenian Sea. Then in the Fall, Italy convoys A Rome to Tunis, leaving F Tyrhenian in place to move against the Gulf of Lyon or the Western Mediterranean in Spring '02.

The Munich Fall Oktoberfest

Everyone wants to be in Munich. This opening works best with a traditional, conservative German opening toward Ruhr/Kiel/Denmark. If Germany makes it clear to Russia that he intends to stand him off in Sweden in the Fall, then this often results in a mass gang-up on Germany as follows:

Spring '01
France: A Paris to Burgundy (S with Marseilles if you're paranoid)
Italy: A Venice to Tyrolia
Russia: A Warsaw to Silesia, F St. Petersburg (sc) to Gulf of Bothnia

Fall '01
All sorts of things can go down at this stage. Given the above, the most common result is:
France: A Burgundy to Belgium
Italy: A Tyrolia to Munich
Russia: A Silesia to Berlin, F Bothnia to Baltic

The combination of attacks against both Munich and Berlin generally means the German is reduced to one build and often receives none. The Russian fleet in the Baltic cements the 1902 offensive to take the rest of Germany if the three allies stay together and the English decide to play vulture and make a grab for Holland and Denmark.

The Baltic Opening

In tournament play with short deadlines, the Germans are often tempted to make a play for all three nearby centers of Holland, Belgium, and Denmark. Taking all three centers is dangerous because it makes Germany a target. Taking only two centers at the start might prevent that. The Baltic Opening is designed to be used by a Western triple alliance in which France moves south, putting both armies into Iberia and shifting F Brest through Mid Atlantic and into Western Med in Fall '01. England goes to Norway with an army and then shifts F Norwegian Sea into the Barents. Germany agrees not to take Belgium and to support England into Sweden in Spring/Fall '02 so that all three Western allies each have five centers. Germany's opening moves develop as follows:

Spring '01
F Kiel to Baltic, A Berlin to Kiel, A Munich to Ruhr

Fall '01
F Baltic to Sweden, A Kiel to Denmark, A Ruhr to Holland

Winter '01
build A Munch, A Berlin

Spring '02
A Denmark to Livonia (convoyed by F Baltic), A Berlin to Prussia, A Munich to Silesia

The above sequence assumes that the Germans will be stood off in Sweden by Russia. If Russia moves to the Baltic instead of Sweden in Fall '01, then Germany gets three builds which can include a fleet to force the Russians out of the Baltic in the Spring. Also note that Denmark is vacated in favor of the move to Livonia; this is a gamble that the Russian will not go for Sweden in the Spring, letting the English have Denmark. Less experienced players have probably never seen the convoy into Livonia, which sets the stage for a massive German invasion of Russia.

The Austrian Bloodbath

No country has a worse reputation than Austria for being the first one eliminated. The following combination of moves is why Austria is eliminated early more than any other country. This attack works even when countries agree to stand off in the Black Sea. It rings the Austrians with hostile armies in 1902 and, with a little luck, will keep them down to four or maybe even three units in the first year.

Spring '01
Italy: A Venice to Tyrolia, A Rome to Venice
Turkey: A Constantinople to Bulgaria, A Smyrna to Constantinople
Russia: A Warsaw to Galicia, A Moscow to Ukraine

Fall '01
Italy: A Venice to Trieste, A Tyrolia S A Venice to Trieste
Turkey: A Bulgaria to Greece, A Constantinople to Bulgaria
Russia: A Galicia to Budapest, A Ukraine to Rumania

The Austrian Hedgehog

Paranoia is the normal state for a Diplomacy Player. Combine paranoia with playing Austria and it's easy to see why Austrian players sometimes go for the Hedgehog Opening. Barring a German entry into Bohemia, this opening guarantees that Austria gets at least one build in '01. With Italian support, it also allows the option of destroying the Austrian fleet and replacing it with an army.

Spring '01: A Vienna to Galicia, F Trieste to Venice, A Budapest to Serbia

In the fall, the Austrians can cover both Vienna and Trieste while keeping Serbia, so they are assured of a build. The Austrians can have the Italians -- who played to Tyrolia and Apulia -- dislodge F Trieste, and by refusing to retreat, the Austrians can build two armies. In the south, A Serbia can advance to Bulgaria or Greece to curtail the Turks or even to support the Turks into Rumania for more fun in the Balkans.

The danger of this opening is that in the face of a Russian-Turkish alliance, the Eastern Steamroller has a jump on Greece and the central Balkans. Also, Italy might not forgive the intrusion into Venice.

The Russian Revolution

Russia is the only country that can reliably attract four powers to attack it in 1901-02. The dogpile on Russia is often driven by personality factors as much as the simple desire to crush someone early. In the south, Russia is hurt critically if it fails to bounce the Turks out of the Black Sea. The same thing can be said if Russia allows the Austrians into Galicia. When Russia dies early in a game, it usually happens from this sort of opening:

Spring '01
Turkey: A Smyrna to Armenia, F Ankara to Black Sea, A Constantinople to Bulgaria
Austria: A Vienna to Galicia, A Budapest to Serbia
Germany: F Kiel to Denmark
England: A Liverpool to Edinburgh, F Edinburgh to Norwegian

Fall '01
Turkey: A Armenia to Sevastopol, F Black Sea S A Armenia to Sevastopol, A Bulgaria to Rumania (or supports Austrians into Rumania)
Austria: A Galicia to Rumania or Ukraine, A Serbia S Turkish A Bulgaria to Rumania
Germany: F Denmark to Sweden
England: Convoy A Edinburgh to Norway, F Norwegian to Barents Sea

These moves should keep the Russians from having any builds in the first year, and they may even draw the vulture out of the English. In Spring '02, the "Ring of Doom" is assembled: the English slip an army into St. Petersburg and back it up with a fleet in the Barents Sea, the Germans move armies to Silesia and Prussia, and the Turks and Austrians should have Rumania and Sevastapol. The only question is who gets Moscow. It's a sad fate for the Russians but a common one.

Ionian Gambit

Players in tournaments rarely open with mad slashing and dashing moves against the Italians in 1901 because, other than bringing three armies against Venice in the Spring, not much can be done. One possibility is the Ionian Gambit. It depends on Italy being persuaded to move its fleet into Tunis in Fall 1901. Austria plays a conservative opening to Albania, Serbia, and covering Trieste. In the Fall of 01, Austria slides both armies south, taking Greece from Serbia, and then moves F Albania to Ionian Sea. From there, the Austrians can convoy into Apulia or Naples, threaten the Turks, or get themselves into mischief in any number of places.

Turkish Toe Stuffing/Lepanto

The country that's hardest to attack in the opening is Turkey. The biggest opening advantage comes from a successful Russian move into the Black Sea. This doesn't happen often in tournament play. More common is the Russo-Turkish bounce in the Black Sea. If, however, Russia has a fleet in either the Black Sea or Rumania, there exists the possibility of an Austro-Russian combination moving on Bulgaria in Fall '01 to cripple the Turks. This move is sometimes done when the Turks have been terrorized by the prospect of an Italian Lepanto opening and are countering with F Ankara to Constantinople for the move to the Aegean in Fall '01. This leaves Bulgaria open to a supported attack. If successful, it also gives Russia a shot at controlling the Black Sea and threatening Armenia in Spring '01.

The Lepanto

The Lepanto system is one in which the Italians open with

Spring '01
F Naples to Ionian, A Rome to Apulia

Fall '01:
A Apulia to Tunis (via convoy)

Winter '01:
build F Naples

Spring '02:
F Ionian to Eastern Mediterranean, F Naples to Ionian Sea

This final shuffle sets up Italy to convoy A Tunis to either Syria or Smyrna, depending on the opportunities. As an opening in tournament play, the Lepanto is rarely pulled off completely because it develops slowly -- opponents can see it coming if they're paying attention. However, it has flexibility. In Spring '02, A Tunis can be convoyed to Albania to kick off a Balkan campaign, or back to Apulia to take on a defensive role.

A variation called the Key Lepanto sends A Venice to Trieste and then to Serbia (with the Austrian's consent). Alternatively, the Italians can give up on going to Tunis and instead, in Fall '01, shift F Ionian directly to the Aegean or the Eastern Mediterranean, letting the Austrians fill in Greece and the Ionian behind them. This is a very tense situation for the Italians, who must have loads of trust in the Austrians (as a complement to the loads of trust the Austrians gave the Italians in letting them walk through Trieste in Spring '01). It's also a fast road to Turkey, if that is what you are up to.

French Sling Shot

Single country slashing, like the Lepanto above, is uncommon. Most slashing attacks rely on delicate diplomatic balances for success. One exception is also one of the most overlooked French openings. In the Sling Shot, the French yield Belgium to be haggled over by England and Germany while making an alliance with the German. The goal is to keep the French fleet in the Mid Atlantic and then move it to the North Atlantic or Irish Sea in a stab move on England. The fleet move can be followed up by convoying an army into England while protecting Brest against the inevitable English attack from the Channel. This opening also allows movement into the Western Mediterranean, if necessary, to face off the Italians. A possible dream sequence might look like this:

Spring '01
F Brest to Mid Atlantic, A Paris to Gascony, A Marseilles hold or move to one of the more unusual standoffs with Germany in Burgundy

Fall '01:
A Gascony to Portugal (via convoy), F Mid Atlantic convoys A Gascony to Portugal, A Marseilles to Spain

Winter '01:
Build F Brest and either A Paris or F Marseilles

Spring '02:
F Mid Atlantic to North Atlantic, F Brest to Mid Atlantic, A Spain to Gascony, A Portugal to Spain

Fall '02:
A Spain to Clyde/Liverpool/Wales (via convoy), depending on your options

Don't miss any of Edi Birsan's series on tournament Diplomacy.

Part 1: What Makes Tournament Play Different
Part 2: Tournament Systems and Scouting for Results
Part 3: Tried and True Opening Moves
Part 4: Grand Strategy and Small Mistakes

Edi BirsanEdi Birsan is considered the first Diplomacy world champion for his win in 1971BC, the first championship invitational game. He has won numerous championship games since then in North America and worldwide and is universally considered one of the game's top players. More importantly, he has striven tirelessly for over three decades to promote Diplomacy play in all its forms, at all levels, all around the world.

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