Of the three central powers in Diplomacy – Italy, Germany and Austria-Hungary – Germany is the most successful. Is this because she has an advantage over the other two?
Germany is almost encircled. However, she has an almost guaranteed two SC gain in 1901 and a decent chance at three.
To guarantee two builds Germany has to order F(Kie)-Den, A(Ber)-Kie and A(Mun)-Ruh. However, she also needs France to not orders A(Par)-But as this will make Munich vulnerable. Germany needs to reach an agreement with France over Burgundy – but France also needs an agreement with Germany!
In F01 the fleet in Denmark can hold or move to Sweden (more on that below). The armies in Kiel and Ruhr then support an attack from one upon Holland, say A(Ruh) S Kie-Hol. Assuming Burgundy is free, Germany then gains both Holland and Denmark/Sweden.
However, as you can see, German home SCs are vulnerable from all sides. Munich has Burgundy and Tyrolia bordering it; a French army in Burgundy and an Italian or Austrian army in Tyrolia are threats. Realistically, Tyrolia is likely to be unoccupied in F01 – with Italy and Austria bouncing there – or else the occupying army is unlikely to be heading north. If Austria is in Tyrolia, she won’t usually want to weaken her friendly and non-threatening neighbour. If Italy occupies Tyrolia she is more likely to be heading east than north.
Russia can also cause problems. If A(War) moves east – most likely to Silesia – then both Berlin and Munich are vulnerable. That might just be enough to stop the growingly common orders of F(Kie)-Den in S01 and F(Den)-Swe in A01. Russia needs Sweden, Germany doesn’t; but Germany also doesn’t necessarily want Russia in Sweden. With both Berlin and Munich threatened, Germany may have to reconsider.
Germany has to talk to almost everyone else on the board in 1901. She can minimise discussions with Turkey if she chooses, although she probably wants to target Turkey at Russia if she can. Negotiations with Austria should be simple: neither power wants to disrupt the other at this point. And Italy can be quite easily persuaded that she has more option east or west than north.
But Germany cannot afford to skimp on discussions with France, England or Russia. She will often aim to find an ally from France or England; if with France then she may also want to discuss an Anglo ‘Ammer alliance with Russia, leading to the Sealion opening. If she allies with England, then she may well attempt to form a false Western Triple alliance with France; false because Germany doesn’t want France and England at her back.
Russian discussions will focus on establishing DMZs (demilitarised zones) in Prussia, Silesia and the Baltic Sea. She may even warn Russia to keep out of Galicia to protect Vienna and Budapest; Austria can be that important to Germany. This latter point of negotiation is less common than it was, however. Germany seems now more likely to order F(Den)-Swe in F01 whatever, so Russia has to face that possibility anyway.
Germany became a unified state in 1871. Prior to this, throughout history, Germany was a divided and weak power. Germany states – principalities, free cities, etc – fiercely guarded their independence.
There were unifying trends of limited extent. Germany was supposedly united within the Holy Roman Empire, although her states retained some sovereign power. The Hanseatic League was more a protean European Union then anything else.
Napoleon united parts of western Germany under his Confederation of the Rhine. Post-1815, German states where unified within the Germany Confederacy, under the leadership of Austria (primarily) and Prussia. German nationalist movements erupted in the mid-nineteenth century but failed.
Prussia was the most powerful German state from the mid-nineteenth century. Bismarck brought in modernising policies and sought to build a customs union across Germany. This lead to the North German Union and, ultimately, to victorious wars against the Habsburg Empire and France. Finally, Germany was unified under Prussian leadership.
All this means that there seem to be few lessons from history on how to play Germany in Diplomacy. Germany didn’t exist. Unlike Italy, there is not period of German imperial power from ancient European history.
We could stretch a point and look at how German tribes spread across Europe to establish powerful states – the Franks (France), Angles and Saxons (England), Vandals and Visigoths (Spain). But these where migrations more than anything else.
So we need to look at the limited German success in the post-Dip game period – WWI and WWII. In both these conflicts, Germany had initial success. But this lead to ultimate failure. Perhaps the best lesson from these wars is not to over-stretch yourself as Germany, but to start the game at a charge.
Perhaps the most important lesson from German history is neither in military lessons nor in empire-building, but in the way Bismarck built the European system which meant Germany could grow from a divided and weakened confederacy to the strongest single state in Europe within 40 years.
As I’ve said above, Germany should get a fast start. She should gain Holland (it’s a foolhardy England who seeks to prevent Germany gaining Holland), and Denmark (see comment on Holland) or Sweden. In fact, it isn’t beyond the possibility that she could gain three SCs:
- In F01, she could order F(Den)-Swe and A(Kie)-Den. If Russia gives up on Sweden, Russia may well move F(GOB)-BAL. Russia is able to threaten Berlin, Denmark and Sweden from here. It is rarely a successful plan. However, this would give Germany Holland, Denmark and Sweden.
- She could take Belgium. This is less likely. It would require an army from Burgundy (S01: A(Mun)-But succeeds) moving to Belgium with support from a fleet in Holland – S01: F(Kie)-Hol. If Germany starts with this S01 order, then it puts England and France on alert, however.
- S01: A(Mun)-But, if successful, puts Marseilles and Paris in moving distance, as well as Belgium.
- S01: A(Mun)-Tyl puts Venice, Trieste & Vienna in moving distance.
- S01: A(Mun)-Boh challenges Austria over Vienna.
- An army moving into Silesia (from Munich or Berlin) challenges Warsaw, as does the S01 order A(Ber)-Pru.
Should Germany even attempt to gain three builds? Well, there is an inherent danger in a six unit Germany in 1902 – a danger to other powers and to Germany herself.
France and England could well find common ground when facing a Germany with six units in 1902. It is often enough to push them into an anti-German alliance. Germany could persuade one or the other that there is no threat from her, and forge a strong alliance with that power against the other in the NWT… but why would either England or France accept this?
It is also likely to mean that Germany is the leading power on the board. Russia, starting with four units, is unlikely to have gained two more if Germany has gained three. And the leading power being in the centre of the board makes her a target for any combination of powers around her – because she is a potential threat to any power around her.
Germany needs to start fast and strong because she has the chance to do so. Starting too strongly is possibly more of a problem than a promise. Having said that, if she can get Sweden, Denmark and Holland, then she can dangle support for England against Russia. This is possibly the best outcome from a +3 SC start for Germany.
There is great potential in an Anglo-German alliance. The usual arrangement is that Germany builds armies and England builds fleets. The Anglo-Saxon alliance is aimed principally at France… but Russia is also a target. Should Germany gain three builds in F01, she can even get away with building a fleet in Berlin – probably the only way England would allow a second German fleet as part of a treaty.
It is difficult for Germany to break from this alliance, however. She has two coastal SCs. Assuming Russia is defeated, building fleets in Berlin is of limited advantage. Building a fleet in Kiel is a direct threat to England. Much easier for Germany to break the alliance by antagonising England than to break from it in a way advantageous to herself!
Does she need fleets? Not if she’s allied with England – initially. However, when the time comes to begin to limit England or to break the alliance, she will need fleets. England can’t win on fleets alone, even though she should probably concentrate on fleet building initially; Germany can’t win on armies alone, even though she should probably concentrate on army building initially, especially if allied with England.
The Franco-German alliance (the Rhineland Alliance) is aimed at England. I’ve mentioned it briefly above. Ideally, Russia should be encouraged to join a full-blown Anglo ‘Ammer alliance. England has no hope if the three other powers in the north are moving against her.
Germany will come across a problem with this, though. For the Anglo ‘Ammer to work, the three allies need to build fleets. The three need to establish dominance in the seas, against the most powerful maritime power.
With the Rhineland Alliance, the problem is that Germany is faced with a France which has assumed England’s position on the board or largely so. The argument for France to take Liverpool and London is strong. Germany will be in the North Sea, she should have Edinburgh – France doesn’t want a weak front around the Channel.
And, with all this, the Franco-German border is still as frail as it ever was.
In many ways, Russia is Germany’s best ally. There are, however, problems with Germany establishing a Rapallo Alliance alone. The main problem is that it leaves England and France to do their own thing and potentially found an Entente Cordiale alliance.
Another problem with the Rapallo Alliance is that it is useful against England but, initially at least, completely useless against France. Unless Germany is happy to see Austria fall, she then has to leave Russia to find her own alliance in the south: a Wintergreen Alliance with Italy damages Austria; a Juggernaut Alliance with Turkey could well run through Europe; a Potemkin Alliance with Austria-Hungary is Germany’s best hope – and not the best option, perhaps, for Austria!
However, assuming a successful Rapallo Alliance (or even a Dreikaiserbund between Austria and Russia), Germany can slingshot Russia round Scandinavia against England, possibly establishing German control of Denmark and Sweden while Russia uses Norway to aid this strategy. This could place German units in a position to stab into Russia while Russia is deep in battle with England.
However, if Germany and Russia can move on past England, Russia will have to agree to German predominance against France… and why should she? Alternatively, Germany runs the risk of Russian encirclement.
What about the triples?
Germany has a number of triple alliances which may seem to solve some of the issues with dual alliances. We’ve mentioned some above.
The Anglo ‘Ammer (F/G/R) defeats England… but places Germany in a sandwich between France and Russia. The Fashoda Alliance of France and Russia is one of the most underrated, in my opinion. Following England’s defeat, Germany is almost the natural target for both France and Russia.
The Western Triple (E/F/G) looks great. It allows the NWT to be resolved peacefully but, for Germany, it carries immense problems. Ultimately, England and France are both behind Germany while Germany pushes in another direction. Why not unite against Germany?
The Dreikaiserbund (G/A/R) is great for Germany in that it places friendly powers alone her eastern and southern borders. However, Austria-Hungary should be friendly anyway. The power that gets the best position from the Dreikaiserbund is Russia, ultimately, unless the Dual Alliance (Germany and Austria) moves early against Russia.
The Central Triple (I/G/R) is one I’ve seen attempted a lot but with limited success. It ought to be the strongest triple alliance based on regional unity. It allows Germany and Italy to concentrate on France, Germany and Austria to concentrate on Russia, and Italy and Austria to concentrate on winning the SWQ.
However, for a number of reasons, it fails. Perhaps it is the difficulty in gaining complete trust between Italy and Austria but Italy can be easily tempted away from a CT. Perhaps it is the fact that the three share a small border, meaning that defensively there is little area covered.
For me, its strength is that it allows each power to expand away from the others. And it allows secondary alliances to be built by each power, which can then be thrown away. On the other hand, I suppose these secondary alliances may ultimately be more rewarding than the CT itself.
Germany’s problem is that every alliance she can build has a significant set of problems associated with it. This isn’t particularly surprising: it was realised by Bismarck immediately.
His answer? A web of alliances attempting to place Germany on a friendly footing with every other significant power in Europe. Ultimately fruitless, of course – but as Bismarck’s management had been replaced by that point, he can hardly carry the blame.
So Germany needs a diplomat/strategist. It needs someone who can build relationships everywhere and persuade others that she is no threat to them. No-one really believes this but everyone is usually prepared to get what they can from an alliance before breaking it.
The other aspect of Bismarck’s strategy was to target specific enemies at the right time. Prussia defeated Austria to remove Austrian leadership over Germany. Prussia defeated France to unify Germany and secure her borders from French aggression.
If Germany had put more effort into preventing the formation of the Triple Entente – even the Entente Cordiale – perhaps the diplomatic language of the world would be German rather than English?
In Diplomacy, Germany needs to build successful relationships with everyone she can. She needs to target campaigns carefully. She needs to grow steadily while doing everything she can to prevent a Grand Alliance against her.
Germany is a power that either wins or loses. She can survive, of course, but will rarely be the leading power in a draw. Surviving as Germany is difficult when she is played lackadaisically.