Editor's Note: Regular readers may have noticed how we reprinted an article from Diplomacy World issue #50 in our last issue (with the kind permission of DW Editor Douglas Kent, of course!). This issue, we continue this practice with an article from DW #51, which was originally published twenty years ago!
There was a time in my life when I loved Diplomacy, so long as I got to play England or France. Russia and Turkey had possibilities. However, Italy, Austria and Germany were countries that would send me scrambling for the TV Guide. A few years ago Ron Spitzer showed me the power inherent in the Austro-Italian alliance and forever changed my opinion about playing either of them separately. Still, Germany was the kiss of death. Now, I love to play it and will even trade for it in face-to-face games.
There have been many strategy and tactics articles written about Germany over the years. Most of them tends to take a rather negative overall outlook on Germany's chances. "How to Win With Germany" by Doug Beyerlein in Diplomacy World #2 gives Germany "one chance in 10" to win. He says that the German player must have "the right strategy… flawless tactics… a lot of luck" and "unceasing diplomacy" in order to win. In my opinion, you don't need luck, and your chances are as good, and if not better, than anyone else's. There is one quality that a good German player must have: aggressiveness, almost to the point of recklessness. The German must seize every opportunity. If there is none, you must create one.
If this sounds like an ad for Charles Atlas ("…tired of getting sand kicked in your face? Are you a 98 pound weakling?…"), it's no accident. Players perceive Germany as a 'weak' country, because of its central position. As I discovered under the tutelage of Randy Goldring, this is Germany's key advantage; this is what sets it above all the other countries, with the possible exception of England. Consider this: Napoleon made a career out of winning from the interior (Central) position; he lost only when he failed to fully capitalize on this advantage.
My preferred opening will not come as a surprise: Army Munich to Ruhr, Fleet Kiel to Denmark, Army Berlin to Kiel. There are two exceptions to this: Army Munich to Burgundy or Army Munich to Tyrolia. The first I use if I'm sure France won't move there and I can't work with him as an ally. I move to Tyrolia only if I'm sure France is forcing Burgundy and Italy is moving to Tyrolia with an eye toward Munich. I negotiate hard to avoid either of the above situations. This is the major requisite being successful as Germany; YOU must work harder than anyone else on the board.
There are several reasons I prefer the listed opening moves. The first is that they provide an excellent defense versus an English-French alliance. The second is that they provide some awesome possibilities. Many players use this opening for its obvious try at three centers: Belgium, Holland, and Denmark. There are times when that may be appropriate. However, as I will outline in the discussion of negotiation below, it is not the strongest possibility.
What frequently happens is that the English player will throw me out of the North Sea with his fleet in Norway. Meanwhile, the French player gets fleets into the Irish Sea and English Channel (with a newly built fleet from Brest). Hopefully, I've talked the Russian into moving into Norway ("to cut support of Fleet North in repayment for generously not contesting Sweden"); which he will get as I'm sliding into Sweden moving Fleet Kiel to Denmark (or Baltic, if I'm not sure of Russia getting Norway), retreating Fleet North to Norwegian, and maybe moving Army Munich to Silesia. If all goes well, I'm off and running at seven centers (at least!), and my back is fairly secure as England and France are usually too entangled to do anything but fight each other.
Now, I must decide whether to take more than St. Petersburg from the Russian, or turn on my French ally. There are no ironclad rules here. The key is to decide which is the best opportunity. Is Burgundy open? Can I get into Belgium and/or at least the English Channel? Is England still a viable Power (i.e., with at least two fleets)? If so, it's probably best to look elsewhere. Can I go further than the Warsaw/Moscow line? If so, maintaining the alliance may guarantee me a win. Just as important as these conditions are the relative abilities and attitudes of the French and Russian players. If one is a putz or ready to quit, that may give me the edge I need to quickly gain the upper hand.
In conclusion, playing Germany need not be a few hours spent staving off elimination. Admittedly, the strategy I've outlined will not always work, but it's been pretty successful for me. There are other alliances that have worked for me. Russia and Englad can work nicely, but require a greater risk on Germany's part. In your next face-to-face game, when an opponent starts moaning about drawing Germany, offer him or her Turkey in exchange. Nice work! You've just increased your chances of winning and having fun.
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