Powers: Italy / Germany
Stage: (Early Game) Mid-game
Primary target(s): France; Austria-Hungary
Also known as… ???
Associated 3-way alliances: Central Triple; Guillotine; Sublime Triple; The Viennese Waltz
The fact that there are no other known names for this alliance tells us that this is not a usual Early Game alliance, although there is an opening associated with it that is, if played, unpredictable. (If you do know any other names for this one, please let me know in the comments.)
I don’t usually start with a note about naming an alliance but, as it breaks my usual rules for naming things (isn’t that what rules are for?), I’m going to do so here.
I’ve named this alliance after the WWII alliance between Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. This is simply because there is no other historic alignment between the two countries (outside of multi-national ones). I might have gone for something Roman but, frankly, Rome didn’t expand very much into Germania, so that’s a little useless.
Anyway, let’s quickly look at the one aspect of the I/G alliance that is actually useful in the Early Game: the opening that I call the Munich Muddle. Here are the relevant moves (non-key orders in square brackets]:
SPRING 1901 – Germany: A Mun-Ruh, A Ber-Kie, [F Kie-Den]; Italy: A Ven-Tyl, A Rom-Ven, F Nap-ION
FALL 1901 – Germany: A Ruh S Kie-Hol, [F Den-Swe]; Italy: A Tyl-Mun, F ION-Tun, A Ven-Pie
WINTER 1901 – Germany: A(Ber); Italy: F(Rom), A(Ven)
From here, Germany works to get Italy into Burgundy, and Italy attacks France.
Germany is giving Italy Munich with the agreement that Italy will then vacate as soon as possible. Italy’s fleets attack the western Med spaces and France finds themselves having to hurriedly defend. There is an element of surprise with this, especially if France can be persuaded to support Italy into Munich via a false Savoy alliance, but this is lost when Italy moves to Piedmont in F01 and builds a fleet in Rome.
In truth, though, this opening needs to isolate France (England either joins a Guillotine alliance or is persuaded to not interfere) AND Austria-Hungary is aware of what Italy is doing, either within a Central Triple or an Adriatic alliance; after all, the Italian S01 moves look very much like a typical F01 attack on Trieste. At the very least, Austria needs to be persuaded to not order F Tri-Ven in S01.
It’s easy for the Munich Muddle to stall. France can block A Mun-Bur pretty easily, even with a supporting German army in Ruhr. And, if England isn’t along for the ride via the Guillotine, they’re not going to want to see Germany and Italy causing a French collapse without getting some piece of the Garlic bread.
Another possible Early Game alliance between Germany and Italy could see them cooperating to attack Austria-Hungary, of course. Given that the prevailing wisdom is that Germany should stay out of Austria in the Early Game this is unlikely. Austria-Hungary protects Germany from incursion from the other side of the Neutral Zone (the line of non-SC spaces diagonally stretching from the south-west to the north-east of the board that separates the West/North from the East/South).
While the Pact of Steel might form in the Early Game, then, it really doesn’t come into its own until the Mid-game, when Germany and Italy can more effectively tell where they want to work together. This allows Italy to secure themselves from French attack, and Germany builds the northern alliance they want to utilise. The usual Early Game aspect would see Germany not interfering with Italy going after Austria, preferably with Turkey’s help rather than Russia’s, and Italy not threatening Germany from Tyrolia.
In the Mid-game, France is still often the main target. If France has made typical growth in the Early Game, they could well be looking to push fleets into the Med. Given that this brings these fleets too close for Italian comfort, cooperation with Germany seems to be the solution. And, if France isn’t doing this, Italy might well want to take advantage of it!
Given how big a threat France is in the game anyway, Italy should have plans to deal with that, and the Pact of Steel is the most useful solution alongside the Kraken (I/T alliance). The Kraken alliance, though, will almost certainly involve Turkish fleets pushing west at this point and, well, that seems to replace the French threat with a Turkish one. Compared to this, Italy and Germany are somewhat insulated from each other.
Again, Austria-Hungary could be the target Mid-game. If Italy has prospered through an alliance with Austria, then the chances are that the two are fairly well-balanced. If Italy has ambitions beyond being stuck in the high single-digit SC count, then they’ll need to attack Austria at some point. And, if Germany wants to cross the Neutral Zone, Italy is the easiest power to work with (possibly alongside Turkey if Russia is Germany’s target).
All this being said, the Pact of Steel is probably better as a defensive alliance. The two powers, forming a vertical line from north to south across the board, can work together to protect themselves from defeat via an attack from the west or the east. This suggests that the Pact of Steel is best as a way of preventing a loss – surviving – in a game where a Leviathan or Juggernaut is threatening to sweep the board.