Crouching in the south-eastern corner of the board sits the Wicked Witch of the East: Turkey.
Turkey, in the guise of the Ottoman Empire, was a major power in the Middle Ages. For much of this period, it controlled the Balkans and, on more than one occasion, was knocking on the doors of Vienna.
It isn’t surprising that the Hapsburg Empire, based in Austria, was never on friendly terms with what I’m going to call Turkey, simply because that is what the power is called in Dip. Controlling the Balkans meant controlling the house next door.
There is nothing to suggest Turkey was ever a major maritime power. At their strongest, though, Venice was the major maritime power. The Italian city controlled trading fleets – fleets which traded with the only Islamic state in Europe, too.
It’s difficult to understand why Turkey never became a stronger power without understanding the balancing effect of the Russian Empire to the north. Rather than the Austrians, it was Russia that checked Turkey’s power.
Neither Russia nor Turkey achieved their potential. If only they could have worked together…
As a true corner power, Turkey is difficult to get at. There are three sea spaces and two land spaces that neighbour Turkey. One sea space is really only accessible to Turkey and Russia – the Black Sea. The Sevastopol/Armenia border is also only accessible to these two powers. The other land space is Constantinople/Bulgaria – and Bulgaria is a space that Turkey occupies from Spring 1901.
This leaves only the Aegean and East Mediterranean seas as the spaces open to other powers. The Aegean Sea should be readily controlled by Turkey. Of the other powers, it is Italy or Austria that can easily access them – and usually Italy, given that she has a reason to become a sea power, whereas Austria is more likely to concentrate on armies.
Turkey doesn’t directly compare with England, the Wicked Witch of the West. Turkey can be invaded by land… and she can’t focus on naval units comfortably – she needs armies to access the Balkans and to launch a successful attack against Russia.
However, geography tells us one thing: Turkey is difficult to defeat. Unfortunately for her, the opposite is also true: Turkey is difficult to win with… and also because of geography.
History and geography give us some idea about playing Turkey. Start with the Balkans (history); be land-led (geography).
It is true that Turkey can’t afford to ignore the seas. Allowing Italy (or Austria) to approach through the Aegean or EMS is going to mean Turkey won’t win. However, two fleets should be enough, even if one of those fleets sits in the Black Sea or surrounding areas. I’ll talk more about the Black Sea below and elsewhere. For now, though, it is worth considering what a fleet in Black Sea means for Turkey.
Turkey has to worry about the Black Sea from the very start. Should Russia occupy the space, she has a unit neighbouring both Constantinople and Ankara. If Turkey occupies the space, she neighbours Sevastopol… from where it is difficult to progress further into Russia.
That’s a little simplistic. Rumania also neighbours the Black Sea. If Turkey is to successfully attack Russia, Rumania and the Black Sea are the starting points.
However, it is difficult to have a fleet in the Black Sea be very useful in any other circumstances for Turkey. It is a year away from any other sea space. A Turkish fleet in the Black Sea has to move through the Straits to get to the Aegean… which means, in Dip, Constantinople. If Turkey moves F(BLA)-Con, everyone knows where the fleet is going.
So why would Turkey open F(Ank)-BLA? Simply because she is attacking Russia or because she doesn’t trust Russia. Turkey doesn’t want a Russian fleet neighbouring Ankara and Constantinople. If she allows Russia to order F(Sev)-BLA, then, there are two possibilities:
- Russia has fooled/betrayed her, so the two are likely to be at war; or
- Russia is moving on Rumania and Turkey is OK with it.
Let’s have a look at Fall 1901 where Turkey has allowed Russia into the Black Sea:
Everything depends on where the two missing armies are. Russia could well have a second army in Galicia (the space directly left of Ukraine, where the Russian army is) or Sevastopol. The former means Russia is moving on Rumania; the latter that she could be worried about Turkey but also could signal an attack on Rumania.
Turkey, in this situation, has an army in either Ankara or Armenia. Ankara is defensive: Turkey is concerned about a possible Russian attack on her Black Sea coastal SCs; Armenia is offensive – she is threatening Sevastopol.
Turkey can confidently allow Russia into the Black Sea if she is prepared to play slowly at the start. She has two, similar, order sets that will allow this:
- A(Con)-Bul, A(Smy)-Arm, F(Ank) HOLD;
- A(Con)-Bul, A(Smy)-Ank, F(Ank)-Arm.
Having a unit in Armenia applies pressure on Sevastopol. If Russia has moved F(Sev)-BLA, she either has to reverse that order or use an army to defend Sevastopol. This means that she is likely to leave one or two armies to attempt to capture Rumania.
The difference is in what Turkey’s fleet does. Does she stay in Ankara? Or move to Armenia? Either way she can move into Black Sea after Russia’s fleet has vacated it… which Turkey will allow. However, this is the aim of the fleet in Armenia, rather than in Ankara because the unit in Ankara is going to defend Constantinople.
Constantinople is defended by two units. Whichever unit is in Ankara is ordered to Con… and so is the army in Bulgaria. The two units bounce and, should Russia order F(BLA)-Con, it fails; should she order F(BLA)-Ank, it fails.
But what about Turkey moving to Black Sea? If it is combined with a successful A(Smy)-Arm then Turkey has two units potentially threatening Sevastopol. The likelihood is, in this situation, that Russia will have her fleet sat in Rumania already. It is also likely that Russia has moved her Moscow army north: for Russia to occupy Rumania in S01, she is usually moving north – A(Mos)-StP – therefore leaving just two units to take Rumania. In short, she needs to be in Rum as early as she can.
With Turkey sitting with her fleet in Black Sea and an army in Armenia, Russia has huge problems. Assuming Austria having an army in Serbia, Turkey has simply to persuade her to help in attacking Rumania; Turkey should probably offer to support Austria there. In the meantime, she orders a supported attack on Sevastopol, usually A(Arm) S BLA-Sev. It’s better to have the army in Sevastopol but that can wait; better to have the support not cut: should Turkey order F(BLA) S Arm-Sev, Russia can order F(Rum)-BLA, cutting the support from the Turkish fleet; Russia will lose Rumania in the described scenario but, if she has an army bordering Sevastopol, can defend it.
Having said that, it might be better for Russia to give up on Sevastopol and hold onto Rumania. But let’s leave that to a discussion on Russia!
There’s no doubt that Turkey can afford to let Russia into the Black Sea. She can defend her home SCs simply enough. However, if she does this, she is settling for Bulgaria and she will need to build a fleet in Constantinople or Smyrna. More on that below.
And, if Turkey successfully moves to Black Sea, she needs to use that fleet aggressively. She needs to attack Russia with it. Russia will know it – and so will everyone else on the board. As a defensive move, to attempt a bounce with Russia’s F(Sev)-BLA, it is pretty pointless. Russia can almost force Turkey into this move if Turkey is a weak player. Once more, Turkey will have no fleet bordering the Aegean Sea unless she builds one.
The Aegean Sea
If Turkey can confidently gamble on Black Sea being left open, or on an alliance with Russia, she needs to have a fleet in or bordering the Aegean. This is a key space and Turkey really needs to control it, with or without a fleet occupying it.
Four SCs border the Aegean Sea; two of them are Turkish home SCs. If Turkey has a fleet there, she is in control of Bulgaria and on the way to capturing Greece. Should Turkey have armies in Greece and Bulgaria, Austria is going to sweat.
On the other hand, what happens if another power – usually Italy – gains the Aegean? Constantinople, Smyrna and Bulgaria – Turkish SCs – are under threat and Turkey has limited ability to take (or hold) Greece.
What this means is that Turkey needs a fleet in the Aegean or bordering it. If she can occupy the Aegean, one fleet will do; if she is bordering it, two are nearly always necessary.
What this means is that Turkey needs to consider very carefully whether her Ankaran fleet should be involved in the Black Sea or heading for the Aegean. If the former, she needs to use her build from Bulgaria to build a fleet… or does she?
Well, the immediate threat to the Aegean is from Italy. Italy will often open with F(Nap)-ION. This borders the Aegean – but Italy isn’t thinking of moving there just yet unless she and Austria are working on a version of the Lepanto.
Why not? Because Italy needs Tunis and that fleet in the Ionian will be used to capture Tunis (just off the west side of the above map). Italy will either move F(ION)-Tun or F(ION) C Nap/Apu-Tun.
What Turkey wants to see is the Italian fleet in Tunis. This gives Turkey some breathing room. There is no immediate threat to the Aegean. It will be F02 before Italy can threaten the Aegean.
However, should Italy convoy an army to Tunis, she has a fleet sat in the Ionian. The Aegean is threatened in S02. This isn’t necessarily an immediate threat, though: Italy may be more interested in Greece or she may look west towards France. But, unless Turkey is prepared to offer Greece to Italy, she has to worry about the Aegean.
In any analysis, Turkey needs to control the Aegean – defensively or offensively. Without the Aegean, Turkey isn’t going to head west. And she’ll need to push west if she is to win. It is also important to see the Aegean as the key that can open up the Balkans.
History tells us that, in Europe, Turkey is strongest when she dominates the Balkan Sphere.
It isn’t difficult to see why Turkey obtaining hegemony in the Balkans is going to give her a chance at winning. Four SCs; opening up Trieste, Budapest and Sevastopol, as well as the Ionian Sea with the additional SCs of Tunis (south-west of this map) and Naples. Nine potential SCs – and, if Turkey gets Trieste and Budapest, she’ll also get Vienna, making ten – taking a successful Turkey to twelve or thirteen units. This should also lead to Rome and Venice, making fifteen. Yes, still three short but well on the way. Moscow and Warsaw should be accessible… only one more. Marseilles? Spain? Munich? St Petersburg?
Well, it isn’t easy for Turkey, but the worst case scenario if Turkey takes the Balkans is a place in the draw. And the win is very possible.
This should be Turkey’s aim – and she really needs to act quickly. Bulgaria is hers. Greece should be hers. Sevastopol is an important target to help access Rumania. If she gains Greece, Bulgaria and Rumania then Serbia is a soft target. Really, by 1905 at the latest, if Turkey is to win, the Balkans should be yellow.
Turkey is certainly difficult to eliminate. It will take two and probably three powers to achieve. But this defensive strength is an offensive weakness. It is easy to fence Turkey in and once she’s baulked she can only hope for a draw. If she faces a dual alliance of any two from Russia, Austria and Italy she’ll find the game incredibly difficult.
Turkey, then, needs to work with as many of these neighbours as possible. And she definitely needs to keep them divided.
And she needs the Balkans quickly.
I can’t leave a discussion on Turkey without mentioning the most infamous alliance in Diplomacy – the Juggernaut. This is the Russo-Turkish alliance, something that would never happen in history but which could be massively successful in Diplomacy.
The Juggernaut allows Turkey to concentrate on the south, while Russia concentrates on the north. Turkey sweeps the Balkans and throws fleets at the Mediterranean seas. Russia holds Rumania (although she may need to give it up in the interests of balance). They split Austria, Turkey often getting Trieste, allowing her access to Italy, Russia gets Budapest and Vienna. Turkey moves on to Italy.
This sounds great – and it can be. If Turkey reaches her potential in the south she gets 13-15 SCs.
BUT… Russia has a reason to hold on to Rumania – it’s important defensively. Without it, the Russian southern line of Vienna, Budapest, Rumania, Sevastopol is broken. And Russia – free to concentrate north of that line – can add Scandinavia (Sweden, Norway and Denmark), Germany (Berlin, Kiel and Munich), England (London, Liverpool and Edinburgh) and – with this mass – the Low Countries (Holland and Belgium).
Yep, Russia hits 18 SCs without challenging Turkey at all.
The Russian Solo outcome of the Jug is quite easily prevented by Turkey. She needs to take one or two Russian SCs in the south. Rumania is most likely; possibly Sevastopol. The Juggernaut should break down to Russia or Turkey attempting the solo. However, this is most likely to end in a multi-power draw.
The problem is that the Juggernaut is the alliance most feared and therefore most looked for in Dip. The Black Sea is neutralised in 1901? Jug! Armenia is left unoccupied? Jug! Russia moves A(Mos) north? Jug! Turkey goes after Greece? JUG!!!
In fact, the Juggernaut is sought out so diligently by other powers that Russia and Turkey are likely to actively avoid forming it, at least in the early game. Combine this with the better probability of a Russian win following the Jug and Turkey should probably only enter into it with great caution.