Naval Supremacy or The Chopping Block

by Z. Tuscan Chicken

WARNING - This article proposes an opening strategy that is unadvisable except, perhaps, in the most narrow of circumstances with players of a certain forgiving type occupying key positions on the board. This "comedy" that we are calling a "strategy article" was written as if on a dare and by an author hiding behind a pseudonym. Players who are new to the game of Diplomacy should exercise extreme caution.

In Episode 34 of Diplomacy Cast, a well-known French player by the name of Yann Clouet advanced the idea that Italy should occupy Trieste in Fall of 1901, with the consent of Austria, and the agreement that Italy immediately builds two fleets. The theory being that a fleet heavy Italy is committing to Mediterranean expansion and can't (as easily) attack Austria. Based on what was said in the interview, this opening strategy is very popular amongst European players though in America it is rarely, if ever, employed. Having never played in Europe nor having had the pleasure of meeting Yann, I have no way of knowing if he is pulling our leg. Frankly, I find the whole idea very suspicious. After all - once that Italian Army finds itself in Trieste it can do a great deal of mischief in 1902!

But for arguments sake, let us take Mr. Clouet at his word and suppose that Austria is benefited in lending Trieste to the Italian. Yann's position was that it is best for Italy to wait until the Ffall to move into Trieste because doing so in the Spring puts too much pressure on Austria. He described his preferred moves for Spring 1901 as being; A(Ven)-Tyr, A(Rom)-Apu, F(Nap)-Ion. These moves are very sensible, flexible and tactually sound. I like Yann's idea, I really do!

But as Austria, the possibility of an Italian army also being convoyed to Albania is much too harrowing of a possibility for me to ever consider allowing Venice to walk into Trieste in the Fall. I am myself a skittish player - especially when playing Austria. And, considering that I have never seen an Austrian player willingly lend out one his home centers, I would surmise that I am not the only skittish player in America. So if we want to do this alliance, I think Italy may need to offer Austria a bit more in the way of security - even if it comes at the cost of Italian flexibility.

In order to calm everyone's nerves, I suggest that we consider planning a Holiday in Tuscany - complete with a day of sailing and a sampling of the regional cuisine!

A picture of the Tuscan coastline was supposed to be here.

If, as Italy, we wish to demonstrate to Austria, with absolute sincerity, that we only wish to occupy Trieste and are genuine in our desire for an alliance - consider making the following moves in Spring 1901.

A(Ven)-Tus, A(Rom)-Ven, F(Nap)-TYS

Alternatively we could order A(Ven)-HOLD, A(Rom)-Tus, F(Nap)-TYS . But however we get there, we will be traveling to Tuscany in the Spring. Tuscany is a popular vacation spot - so much so that we may even be accused of taking a vacation from the game.

The purpose of this opening is to guarantee that Italy cannot interfere with Austria taking both Greece and Serbia in Fall 1901. Of course Austria must be relied upon to make the appropriate moves in the Spring. These would be F(Tri)-Alb, A(Bud)-Ser, A(Vie)-Gal/Bud. With this assurance made, Austria can now afford to lend Trieste to Italy.

In the Fall, Austria will be at ease and completely in control. It is even possible that he will be able to back out at the last minute if he wants. All he has to do is create a standoff in Trieste. In most situations he can do this and still take Greece. It is for this reason that it is crucial that Italy know the quality of the Austrian player and be certain that he can resist temptation. Austria absolutely must be a player who places the greatest value on establishing a strong alliance with Italy and will choose to do so rather than indulge in the brief thrill of building two units in 1901. If the Austrian is not this kind of player, it is best for Italy to cancel his trip to Tuscany, as well as his Tyrrhenian fishing expedition, and make different travel plans for the Spring!

But let us assume that we have a willing and able Austrian who can make a commitment in the Spring and stick to it in the Fall. Italy will need to turn his attention to France who will likely be very annoyed by the presence of an Italian fleet in the Tyrrhenian Sea. But France will also be very confused that Italy did not also open to Piedmont. Italy must take advantage of that confusion and do his best to convince France that he is not under attack and that the intended target is really Austria.

Ironically, Italy really is planning to walk into Trieste in the Fall. So when telling France that he plans to launch a "surprise attack against Austria" he should be able to say it with a straight face. Regardless, France is still likely to be suspicious. Given the danger that Italy poses to him, France can be expected to spend time working on Austria to prevent Italy from building two units.

But let's continue to assume that Austria will remain faithful. Italy has two options before him for the Fall. He can convoy the army in Tuscany down to Tunis or he can move that same army into Piedmont and take Tunis with the fleet. The first option might offer interesting convoy possibilities in 1902. But I think I like the move to Piedmont best as it allows us to put pressure on Marseilles and on the fleet that France is sure to build.

Yes, Italy will be attacking France in 1902. Instead of serving up Alpine Chicken it is Tuscan Chicken that is on the menu!

A picture of a Kick-Ass Rooster was supposed to be here.

POST SCRIPT: For those of you who think the Tuscan Chicken is just going to get its head chopped off.

You say that "This article makes no mention of Italy's negotiations or dealings with England, Germany, Russia or even Turkey!"

That's right - it doesn't.

You also say, "The author never even considered what to do if Austria opens F(Tri)-Ven."

Damn-straight, I didn't, and neither should you!

Obviously the proposal that Italy take Trieste and use it to build two more fleets must be made during the Spring negotiations. Otherwise how would Austria know that he needs to open to Albania so that he can take Greece.

Some will argue that if Austria opens to Venice it would be better for Italy if he had employed the alternate set of moves that I mentioned above: A(Ven)-HOLD, A(Rom)-Tus. But these critics miss the point entirely. Yes, if Italy wishes to impotently poke at Austria in the Fall for having deceived him in the Spring, then a Spring HOLD order in Venice will allow him to do so. But even considering the options that having an army in Venice gives to Italy, the position is still terrible because of the fleet in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The one supreme advantage that the orders A(Ven)-Tus, A(Rom)-Ven, F(Nap)-TYS have over the other set is that they absolutely require Italy to be right about Austria. Yes, these orders are tactically worse than A(Ven)-HOLD, A(Rom)-Tus, F(Nap)-TYS - and that is the point. Both sets of orders are tactically bad, but the purpose of the Tuscan Opening is to demonstrate absolute confidence in Austria and to completely unburden him of any pressure on his position in the Fall.

If, as Italy, you find yourself writing A(Ven)-HOLD, A(Rom)-Tus, F(Nap)-TYS it is because there remains a lingering shadow of doubt in your mind regarding Austria's willingness to lend you Trieste. If you lack the confidence to write A(Ven)-Tus, A(Rom)-Ven, F(Nap)-TYS then why bother? If there is a chance of failure, rather than preparing for it, you should just play an entirely different opening strategy.

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