The image above shows the position at the end of Spring 1901 in my first game on Backstabbr.
The biggest thing is that Germany was very obviously clueless. This wasn’t a good thing – it meant that, assuming England and France could get their act together, they were going to be unchallenged in the game. With Russia suggesting that they’d support Germany against the Entente Cordiale I’d hoped the E/F alliance might be held back.
Given that I’ve seen this mess a number of times before, there was a better than evens chance that Germany would simply drop into Civil Disorder. The player didn’t know the game (or was being dangerously stupid in not moving to give the impression that they didn’t know the game) and had messed everything up – two impossible orders and a misordered support.
I wrote to Germany, offering to be their adviser throughout the game or, at least, the next turn. “Don’t drop out!” I told them. I didn’t have a lot of hope, not least because they didn’t reply.
I also wanted to start the long process of sowing some seeds of distrust between England and France. I started by telling England that France could now be on 6 SCs and that they should be demanding they get Belgium. I congratulated France on the chance to get 3 SCs and used Italy moving A Ven-Tri (which I said was a mistake on my part for trusting Italy) by asking for a fleet build in Marseille.
This request, that France built F(Mar), was a compromise. I wouldn’t be disappointed with France building the fleet in Brest because it just might make England think twice. But, if France built in Marseille, then that would force Italy to look over there shoulder. If Italy’s attention could be split, then I would have the chance, later in the game, to take advantage of their split forces.
On the other hand, it might mean that Italy wasn’t in a position to go after Turkey at full strength, which might be a problem if Russia wouldn’t come on board. I would therefore need to be particularly flexible: for reasons you’ll see below, I didn’t want to ally with Turkey but I wasn’t going to rule that out.
Italy surprised me. They’d originally wanted to order A Ven-Tri and A Rom-Ven. They’d backed down a little and told me they’d move their Roman army south… and they did! They whole negotiation had smacked of starting with strong negotiation, moving back to a more friendly approach, only to go with the original plan. Always a decent way to keep an ally off-guard.
I was still looking for the Key Lepanto with Italy. However, negotiations meant that we both ended up backtracking on that. Italy said he’d move A Tri-Ven. I suggested that, rather than going into reverse (which would seem very suspicious) it might be better to move A Tri-Tyl, which would allow Italy to support Germany’s army in Munich against French aggression. Italy was the only player I told I expected Germany to drop from the game.
With Russia and Turkey I was able to play the Italian stab card (as I was with France and England, too). With Russia, I said that I’d been stupid to trust Italy when they told me they would Hold in Venice; this was the story I used with England and France. With Turkey, I said I’d been stupid to expect Italy to move A Ven-Pie. Why different stories? I wanted to see which one of these stories Italy was asked about: which, of Russia and Turkey, were in more detailed discussions with Italy?
I offered Russia another bounce in Galicia. This wasn’t because I wanted to do this but because I wanted a limited Russian presence in the south. With the Moscow army moving north (I expected the army to be convoyed to Sweden, frankly) allowing Russia to build a fleet in St Petersburg at the north coast. Discouragingly, Russia didn’t get back to me.
Turkey didn’t believe my story. “I always expect the Key Lepanto,” they told me. Given that Italy hadn’t moved A Rom-Ven, this isn’t surprising. I pointed out that I hadn’t been able to move A Vie-Bud, which would have given a clear Key indication, and insisted that I hadn’t – implying that I never – considered the opening.
I told Turkey that I assumed they didn’t want to take Rumania. Turkey’s short, low-key aggressive messages told me they were more interested in allying with Russia. The really positive element of what Turkey had ordered was the bounce in the Black Sea. As I’d told them that I would only accept a fleet in Greece, and they’d bounced rather than ordering F Ank-Con, to get into the Med immediately (F Con-AEG in F01), I was never in two minds about ordering F Alb-Gre, A Ser S Alb-Gre.
Turkey told me that, if I was truly annoyed by A Ven-Tri, I could kick it out: “He can’t hold it.” I pointed out, again, that of course Italy couldn’t hold Trieste but, if I did dislodge the army, it would simply retreat to Budapest.
I then made it clear that I didn’t need Turkey’s alliance. I told them that, if I had to, I would offer Italy the Modern Borders opening. This is an opening where Austria allows Italy into Trieste and gives Trieste to Italy. The idea is that it cements the Austro-Italian Adriatic Alliance. You can read about this opening in Diplomacy World #139 – look for Andrew Goff’s “The Italian Rennaisance” article (and overlook the misspelling of ‘renaissance’).
The idea here was that Turkey had applied pressure throughout the first year; it was clear that they were talking with Russia; I wanted to make it clear that I had options and that these options weren’t a problem.
My long-term strategies were, then:
- Work on weakening the Anglo-French alliance;
- Work with Italy but keep their attention split;
- Be flexible by keeping the options open between Russia and Turkey;
- Keep Russia as light as possible in the south;
- If suitable, eliminate Turkey.
- England to take Norway and Belgium: A Lon-Bel, F NTH C Lon-Bel, F NWG-Nwy
- France: F MAO-Por, A Bur-Mun (hoping Germany moved out), A Mar-Spa
- Italy: A Tri-Tyl, A Apu-Tun, F ION C Apu-Tun
- Germany: All HOLD – Civil Disorder
- Turkey: F Ank-BLA, A Bul-Ser, A Con-Bul
- Russia: A Lvn-Swe, F GOB C Lvn-Swe, A War-Ukr, F Sev-Rum
My orders were: A Vie-Bud, F Alb-Gre, A Ser S Alb-Gre.