Forza Italia

Italy in the Modern Variant

Vincent Mous-Harboesgaard


Welcome to the sixth article in my continuing series about the Modern variant. In the first article you got an introduction to the modern variant, as well as info on how to get started playing it. In the other four articles I discussed the opening strategies for Britain, Egypt, France and Germany. Yes, that means we are half way through the series!

This time we are looking at an old empire builder, and what many consider the most powerful power in the Modern variant, Italy. With a central position and yet no natural enemies, Italy has access to the many neutral supply centers of the Balkans and central Europe, as well as those in North Africa. This means that Italy is not the weakling that it is in the standard variant but a power that has good growth potential in the opening, midgame and endgame.

First things first though. Since last issue, the Modern Variant Home Page has seen the light of day on the web. It includes such things as the Modern Hall of Fame with player and power rankings and results of all finished modern games. Ten of the top 10 players of 1996 are also facing each other off in modhof96, the 1996 Modern Hall of Fame Game. It started in early January on USEF, so check it out!

The Modern variant has also gone off judge and into a zine for the first time! The email zine, That's Armageddon ([email protected]) has just processed the first phase of the Modern game, Asterix le Gaulois. Richard Goranson, who runs that zine, also plans on running a Modern game in his postal zine, Forlorn Hope. [That's Armageddon has temporarily suspended publication. -Ed.]

In keeping with tradition, here's the take on modern games finished since the last article. First, Eric Person won a quite amazing solo-victory as Poland in Spartiku, a NoNMR game with Gray, Partial and Fake press. His win in 2004 was the fastest solo-victory in Modern - only 10 years. If you consider that Poland is a 3-center power and that Eric averaged a gain of 3 centers per year, it is truly incredible! Next, James Gemmill, Chris Fridrich and Chet Melted shared the honors in Izmir (partial press, NoNMR) as Egypt, Italy and Spain - their game-long 3-way alliance easily swept the board.

In the second 4-way draw in Modern, Marc Friedman, Gordon Aickin, Alexander K. Woo and Ross Robin split the victory in Lyon (no press, NoNMR) as Britain, Poland, Spain and Turkey. In a strange coincidence, Poland, Spain and Turkey were also among the powers in the only other 4-way draw in Modern. Finally, in the last game to finish in 1996, yours truly managed to wrack his first Modern HOF points. It was a 3-way draw as a 5-center Iberian France in Dickens (no press, NoNMR) caught between a huge Germany played by Dave Kleiman and an equally huge Egypt played by Rick Desper. This was also the first time Germany scored points in a Modern game, and only the second time for France (but the first in a NoNMR game).

For more about player and power rankings, as well as the Modern Hall of Fame Challenge, see the Modern Hall of Fame.

"Marks out of 10 for potential (no-press)
Italy - 10
Britain - 9
Egypt - 8
Germany - 3
France - 2"
- Toby Tyrrell

List of Openings for Italy

What follows is a list of the different openings used for Italy in the Modern games that have been played until now, as well as a few more that may be of interest. As I am the GM of many Modern games, and an observer in many more, I asked players for their opinions on strategies for the various powers in the Modern variant, but also to propose some openings and to suggest a name for them - the winning name and the name of the person suggesting appear along with every opening.

BTW, I am still looking for comments about strategy and opening names for the remaining countries (everything except Britain, Egypt, France, Germany and Italy), so feel free to send your thoughts and suggestions to [email protected]. The next article will be on Poland, so I am especially interested in your thoughts on it.

Before listing the various openings, here is a summary table of the openings, giving the expected relationships with neighbouring powers, as well as whether the opening is intended to secure Austria and/or convoy an army to Africa. The openings are then listed alphabetically.

OpeningConvoy to Africa?Take Austria? EgyptFranceGermanySpain Turkey
Adagio OvertureYes YesNeutralNeutralNeutralNeutral Neutral
All You Can EatNoMaybe ProAntiProNeutralNeutral
Balkan BulldozerNo YesProNeutralNeutralNeutral Anti
Balkan PowerhouseNo YesProNeutralNeutral NeutralNeutral
DeutschNoMaybe NeutralAntiProNeutral Neutral
Dolce VitaNoNo NeutralNeutralNeutralNeutral Neutral
Double DeutschNoNo (Yes if Anti-German) NeutralAnti (Fall can be Pro)Pro (Fall can be Anti) NeutralNeutral
Frog LegsNoYes ProAntiNeutralProPro
Italian SpreadYes NoNeutralAntiNeutralPro Neutral
Libyan OffensiveYes YesAntiNeutralNeutralNeutral Pro
Lingua FrancaNoMaybe NeutralProNeutralNeutral Neutral
Maltese CrossNoMaybe NeutralProNeutralNeutral Neutral
Misic AttackYesYes AntiNeutralNeutralNeutral Pro
Northern LeagueNo NoNeutralProProNeutral Neutral
OctopusNoYes NeutralNeutralNeutralNeutral Neutral
Tuscan AllianceNo YesProAntiProNeutral Pro
Vienna GambitNoNo NeutralNeutralProNeutral Neutral

Here then is an alphabetical list of the various openings:

Adagio Overture

Italy: Army Rome HOLD.
Italy: Army Milan -> Austria.
Italy: Fleet Naples -> Tyrrhenian Sea.
Italy: Fleet Venice -> Croatia.

An untraditional opening for Italy. Italy holds in Rome, from where it can either defend Milan if things go badly in the north, or be convoyed to Tunisia in the fall. This opening gives away the chance of getting four neutral SCs in 1995 for the possible strategical advantage of getting an army to North Africa. The Adagio Overture will most likely be viewed neutrally by all neighbouring powers.

All You Can Eat (Chris Fridrich)

Italy: Army Rome -> Venice.
Italy: Army Milan SUPPORT German Army Munich -> Switzerland.
Italy: Fleet Naples -> Tyrrhenian Sea.
Italy: Fleet Venice -> Adriatic Sea. (Adriatic Variant).
Italy: Fleet Venice -> Croatia. (Croatia Variant).

By helping Germany into Switzerland right off the bat, Italy is clearly taking sides and hoping that Germany attack France, yet is not giving up his claims on Austria. In the south, Italy avoids annoying Egypt by moving to the Maltese Sea, a small gesture that can go a long way. Italy will presumably be active in the western theatre, and thus would like Egypt and Turkey to keep each other busy. This opening has been somewhat successful, the Adriatic Variant giving Italy a share of a 3-way draw.

"Nap-tys leads to the capture of Tunisia and promotes friendship with Egypt by not threatening Libya (nap-mal). Ven-adr leads to the capture of Serbia. Rom-ven leads to the capture of Croatia or to support Milan should France and/or Germany appear hostile. Personally, I like the idea of supporting Germany into Switzerland in the Spring in exchange for Austria in the Fall in an anti-France campaign. This becomes even more feasible if Italy has formed an alliance with Spain which obviously encourages a feeding frenzy on French holdings. Obviously, mil-aus or mil-swi in the fall is preferable but this army may be needed to hold or offer support to France or Germany." - Chris Fridrich

Balkan Bulldozer (Pitt Crandlemire)

Italy: Army Rome -> Venice.
Italy: Army Milan -> Austria.
Italy: Fleet Naples -> Ionian Sea.
Italy: Fleet Venice -> Croatia.

Italy goes all out to take as many Balkan centers as possible in 1995. The Ionian Sea fleet can perhaps bounce Turkey in Greece, and take it if very lucky or diplomatically skilled. Croatia and Serbia are obvious targets. Perhaps Austria will move on to Hungary in the fall?

Balkan Powerhouse (Toby Tyrrell)

Army Rome -> Venice.
Army Milan -> Austria.
Fleet Naples -> Tyrrhenian Sea.
Fleet Venice -> Adriatic Sea. (Adriatic Variant)
Fleet Venice -> Croatia. (Croatian Variant)

Like the Balkan Bulldozer, it positions Italy for a strong push into the Balkans while Egypt is hopefully fighting Turkey, not committing Italy to a war with Turkey.

To date, the Balkan Powerhouse, Adriatic Variant, has been the most successful opening for Italy, producing its only solo-win.

"Signals possible willingness to forego Serbia due to possibilty of southern aggression using Adriatic-Ionian in the fall. Slightly pro-Ukraine, fairly anti-Turkey. Signals strong pro-Egypt position" - Pitt Crandlemire

"If Germany bounces in Austria in the spring then the presence of an extra army in Venice will probably persuade them to try elsewhere in the fall. Venice is then free to go for Croatia. If Austria succeeds in the spring then it can be pushed even further forwards in the fall into Hungary, giving a very strong presence in the Balkans by the end of 1901. The fleet in the Adriatic can also try for Serbia in the Fall. This has the best chance of working if Ukraine goes for Rumania and Bulgaria in 1901. The fleet originally in Naples has to go for the Tyrrhenian Sea and then for the uncontested centre in Tunisia (author's note: Tunisia is not uncontested as Spain can reach it in 1995).

In the game Seville at least this worked out fine. At the end of 1901, I had taken Croatia, Hungary, Serbia and Tunisia for 4 builds. Austria was empty and easy to take next year with the two armies being built in Milan and Venice. France and Germany were fighting each other and I had two fleet builds with which to keep Egypt at bay and to support attacks into Monaco/ Marseilles." - Toby Tyrrell

Deutsch (Pitt Crandlemire)

Italy: Army Rome -> Venice.
Italy: Army Milan SUPPORT German Army Munich -> Switzerland.
Italy: Fleet Naples -> Maltese Sea.
Italy: Fleet Venice -> Adriatic Sea.

Like All You Can Eat, invites Germany to attack France, where Italy can hopefully get piece of the pie. However, Italy moves the the Maltese Sea, keeping Egypt on his toes. If Egypt moved all-out against Turkey and did not move to take Libya, Italy can claim Libya in 1995 and keep Tunisia for 1996, getting an added bonus.

"Ensures France doesn't get Switzerland" - Pitt Crandlemire

Dolce Vita

Italy: Army Rome, No Order Processed.
Italy: Army Milan, No Order Processed.
Italy: Fleet Naples, No Order Processed.
Italy: Fleet Venice, No Order Processed.

La Dolce Vita is an Italian way of life combining relaxation, enjoyment and patience. Italy is not in danger, life is good, why hurry?

Another name for this opening is Partitocrazia, a testament to the effectiveness, or lack of it, of Italy's Party Democracy or Bureaucracy, which has seen more than 1 government a year since World War II.

Double Deutsch (Pitt Crandlemire)

Italy: Army Rome -> Venice.
Italy: Army Milan -> Switzerland.
Italy: Fleet Naples -> Maltese Sea.
Italy: Fleet Venice -> Adriatic Sea.

Similar to the Deutsch opening, but this time Italy gets Switzerland or tries to keep France out of it. This seldom used opening offers many interesting possibilities for Italy in the fall of 1995, including attacks on Germany in Munich, or an attempt to capture both Switzerland and Austria. Trying for both Switzerland and Austria may however prompt the formation of a Franco-German alliance, which is anathema to Italy.

This opening was used only once and the result was a 4-way draw for Italy.

"Is done presumably with support from Munich. It ensures that France doesn't get Switzerland but has the added advantage of putting Italy in a position to stab Germany in Fall 1995 by Swi S Als-Mun or Als S Swi-Mun (if France moved Lyo-Als in the spring)." - Pitt Crandlemire

Frog Legs (Pitt Crandlemire)

Italy: Army Rome -> Venice.
Italy: Army Milan -> Piedmont.
Italy: Fleet Naples -> Tyrrhenian Sea.
Italy: Fleet Venice -> Croatia.

An early move against France in Monaco and Marseilles rather than in Switzerland. Depending on German moves, this could cause considerable damage to France, but if France makes it to Switzerland, Milan will be in danger. This might also indicate an alliance with Spain, as a combined supported attack on Marseilles could be made.

"Assumes a friendly Germany poised to ally against France, yet ensures Italy gets a 3rd build via Venice-Austria in the fall." - Pitt Crandlemire

Italian Spread (Michael Gates)

Italy: Army Rome HOLD.
Italy: Army Milan -> Piedmont.
Italy: Fleet Naples -> Tyrrhenian Sea.
Italy: Fleet Venice -> Croatia.

Like the Frog Legs opening, this is possibly Pro-Spain and anti-France as Italy could take Marseilles with Spain in the First year. However Italy gives up all chance of taking Austria in the first year. Rome can defend Milan if needed or be convoyed to Africa.

"Establish a quick and strong foothold in Africa. Have good relations with Turkey (seems very natural) and offer to split the Balkans and Egypt with him. Piedmont borders 4 supply centers, so it gives lots of options in the fall. Another reason for leaving the North unguarded is that the northern neighbors have lots of other neighbors to worry about and cannot commit to an all out assault on Italy." - Michael Gates

Libyan Offensive

Italy: Army Rome -> Naples.
Italy: Army Milan -> Austria.
Italy: Fleet Naples -> Maltese Sea.
Italy: Fleet Venice -> Adriatic Sea.

Similar to the Misic Attack, this opening aims to convoy to Tunisia in the fall of 1995 and take Libya from Egypt in the spring of 1996. The fleet move to the Adriatic indicates that Italy may pass up taking Croatia or Serbia in 1995 and move on south to the Ionian for better positioning against Egypt. Croatia, and possibly Serbia should be taken in 1995. This is probably the most anti-Egyptian opening Italy can make.

Lingua Franca

Italy: Army Rome -> Venice.
Italy: Army Milan SUPPORT French Army Lyon -> Switzerland.
Italy: Fleet Naples -> Tyrrhenian Sea.
Italy: Fleet Venice -> Adriatic Sea.

This opening indicates a clear Franco-Italian alliance. Italy certainly expects French help into Austria in the fall, and might be able to move Venice to Croatia while taking Serbia from the Adriatic. The fleet in the Tyrrhenian will probably go to Tunisia, but could move quickly against Spain instead to help France down there.

Maltese Cross

Italy: Army Rome -> Venice.
Italy: Army Milan SUPPORT French Army Lyon -> Switzerland.
Italy: Fleet Naples -> Maltese Sea.
Italy: Fleet Venice -> Croatia.

Like the Lingua Franca, this opening indicates an alliance with France. Italy, however, will definitely not send the Naples fleet west to Spain, at least not in 1995, and is set to take Libya if Egypt does not move for it. The of the other fleet to Croatia can indicate that Italy is not sure about Austria and Serbia. Croatia can move to Serbia even if Italy is not sure of getting it, keeping everyone out of it and being sure of taking an SC with the fleet, whether it is Croatia or Serbia. Meanwhile, the Roman army, now in Venice, might also support the move to Austria without giving up a shot at Croatia. Remember that if Germany is in Austria, he can retreat to Croatia, so it is perhaps wise to even arrange a bounce in Serbia with Turkey or Ukraine.

Misic Attack (Milos Rancic)

Italy: Army Rome -> Naples.
Italy: Army Milan -> Austria.
Italy: Fleet Naples -> Maltese Sea.
Italy: Fleet Venice -> Croatia.

Like the Libyan Offensive, this indicates that Italy is going all out for North Africa. The Naples army will be convoyed to Tunisia, and Libya can usually be taken from Egypt in the spring of 1996. The move of the Venice fleet to Croatia is the best way of ensuring that Serbia and Croatia are Italian by the end of 1996 without sending an army that way in 1995.

"Named after a Serbian Duke (or Vojvoda) who fought the Germans in WWII, and whose tactics are studied at West Point." - Milos Rancic

"You will probably get 2 or 3 builds. Build 2 armies up north and if possible the 3rd build would be a Fleet in Naples. Strengthen your northern border and in the south take Libya in the Spring." - Stephen Breininger

Northern League

Italy: Army Rome -> Venice.
Italy: Army Milan HOLD.
Italy: Fleet Naples -> Tyrrhenian Sea.
Italy: Fleet Venice -> Croatia.

A seldom used opening. Italy moves her armies to her northern border, but not beyond, ready to move on Austria, Switzerland or into the Balkans.

Octopus (Rick Desper)

Italy: Army Rome -> Venice.
Italy: Army Milan -> Austria.
Italy: Fleet Naples -> Maltese Sea.
Italy: Fleet Venice -> Adriatic Sea. (Adriatic Variant)
Italy: Fleet Venice -> Croatia. (Croatian Variant)

The Octopus has been until now the most popular opening for Italy in Modern, with the Croatian Variant being used 2/3 of the time and giving one 3-way draw.

"Gives a good shot at 4 builds as well as protection against quick attack. Venice - Adriatic Sea is better than Venice - Croatia because, if bounced out of Serbia, an army in Croatia is more useful than a fleet. Given Milan - Austria, only Poland can block you out of Croatia in 1995, and that's not particularly likely." - Alexander K. Woo

"You will probably get 3 builds (from Austria, Tunisia and Serbia), giving you 2 armies up north and 1 fleet in Naples. Next year focus on getting Croatia and maybe Hungary. Or maybe moving an army into Serbia so that your fleet can head south. You might be able to sneak into Libya." - Stephen Breininger

"This requires an agreement with Germany for AUS. The other key move is to MAL, which is your most important sea space for protection from the Turks/Egyptians." - James Gemmill

"In the fall, Croatia goes to Serbia, Austria supports France or Germany into or to hold in Switzerland or moves to Czech Republic if Poland is asleep at the switch or moves to Hungary if Ukraine is exposed. Venice goes to Croatia or to Milan if France entered Piedmont, and Naples takes Tunisia if pro-Egypt or Libya if neutral or anti-Egypt." - Pitt Crandlemire

"Milan - Austria seems obvious. Milan - Switzerland will likely fail. Milan - Piedmont is just silly.

Venice - Croatia is good. Venice - Adriatic is very interesting. Either way, the fleet should probably head for Serbia in the fall, if only to bounce the Turks. The advantage of Ven - Adr is that the army in Rome can move through Venice to Croatia. An army in Croatia is much more useful than a fleet.

Rome - Venice is obligatory. Nothing else really makes sense. Is suppose you could convoy to Africa, but I consider it much more important to get two armies into the Balkans in the first year.

Naples - Maltese Sea is better than Naples - Tyrrhenian Sea.

Either variant can take 4 neutrals in the first year. While this may at first seem hoggish, Italy really needs all of these builds." - Rick Desper

Tuscan Alliance

Italy: Army Rome -> Tuscany.
Italy: Army Milan SUPPORT German Army Munich -> Switzerland.
Italy: Fleet Naples -> Tyrrhenian Sea.
Italy: Fleet Venice -> Croatia.

Another rarely used opening. The Tuscan alliance aims to get Germany and France fighting by helping Germany into Switzerland - which might result in a bounce. Meanwhile, it is the understanding that Italy will get Austria. The move to Tuscany allows Italy to move to Piedmont in the fall and put more pressure on France.

Vienna Gambit

Italy: Army Rome -> Venice.
Italy: Army Milan SUPPORT German Army Munich -> Austria.
Italy: Fleet Naples -> Maltese Sea.
Italy: Fleet Venice -> Croatia.

Italy sacrifices Austria by giving it to Germany, hopefully for the promise of an alliance. The rest of Italy's moves indicate a move eastwards, so this will usually be an alliance where Germany attacks France alone, only getting help from the army in Milan, which must stay there to block a retreat of the French Swiss army, though Italy might conceivably be supported into Switzerland. The Gambit can backfire, with Germany supporting France in Switzerland into Milan in the fall, but it could also give Germany the necessary leverage to attack France successfully.

Statistics on the Use of Openings for Italy

Modern Games in Progress

GameOpening UsedYear# SCs Placement
KatrasBalkan Powerhouse (Adriatic V)2011 201st
Euro96Octopus (Adriatic V)1999 141st
RostovOctopus (Croatian V)2012 181st tied
ModernFrog Legs 19979 1st tied
HamburgAdagio Overture19967 1st tied
OdessaOctopus (Adriatic V)2011 142nd
ThisthatTuscan Alliance200013 2nd
GdanskFrog Legs 200312 2nd
Gun1994Maltese Cross200011 2nd
PerotOctopus (Croatian V)19999 2nd tied
Izmir2All You Can Eat (Croatian V)1996 62nd tied
Asterix Le GauloisOctopus (Croatian V)1995 42nd tied
HryvnaNorthern League19954 2nd tied
Norm7Balkan Powerhouse (Croatian V)1995 42nd tied
MilanOctopus (Croatian V)200610 3rd tied
NatoAll You Can Eat (Croatian V)2002 104th
OoLingua Franca199764th tied
Academy4Balkan Powerhouse (Adriatic V)2000 75th
FrontlinBalkan Powerhouse (Croatian V)1996 65th tied
AuroraMaltese Cross19976 6th tied
SpadesOctopus (Croatian V)1997 66th tied
SardOctopus (Adriatic V)20015 8th
BuchananBalkan Powerhouse (Adriatic V)2020 -elim.
DesireOctopus (Croatian V)2008 -elim.
DetailsMisic Attack 2001- elim.
MinskVienna Gambit2005- elim.
ModsquadBalkan Powerhouse (Croatian V)2004 -elim.

Finished Games (some have links to game summaries, or game summaries and EOG reports)

GameOpening UsedResultYear# SCs Placement
SevilleBalkan Powerhouse (Adriatic V)I2014 331st
IzmirAll You Can Eat (Adriatic V)EIS2005 221st tied
DespairOctopus (Croatian V)FIR2012 212nd
CairoDouble DeutschSPIT201012 3rd
DeleriumMaltese CrossE200823 2nd
Day2dayOctopus (Croatian V)R2007 73rd
BlitzzOctopus (Croatian V)BEP2017 -elim.
DickensLibyan OffensiveEFG2015 -elim.
Euro95Dolce VitaERT2023- elim.
LiarliarAll You Can Eat (Croatian V)T2007 -elim.
Lie2meDeutschT2007- elim.
LyonOctopus (Croatian V)BPST2011 -elim.
SpartikuItalian SpreadP2004- elim.

Strategy for Italy in Modern Games

Italy is considered by many to be the strongest power in the Modern variant, and indeed, Italy has many advantages. Italy's initial position is quite secure, and she has access to many neutral supply centers, mostly in the Balkans, but also in North Africa and Central Europe. Instead of being a hindrance, Italy's central position is even a plus, because it means that Italy is not limited to growing in one direction. Indeed, Italy can win both by going west, east or both.

Even if Italy looks strong at first glance, is it really invicible? Italy has been eliminated in more than half of all 15 finished Modern games, and only won one of them, so it certainly is not... At the time I am writing this, it stands only 4th out of 10 Modern powers, behind Turkey, Egypt and Poland...

So why does Italy not live up to its billing? Two of the main reasons can be seen from the HoF ranking: Turkey and Egypt. Italy is not a corner power, and can be extremely vulnerable to a two or three front war. This usually happens around the midgame, so Italy must prepare its defenses before this happens, and occupy the necessary sea spaces to defend itself, or even better, to launch a successfull offensive.

Italy's main threat usually comes from the east. This can be an early Turko-Egyptian alliance, which can easily spell doom, or a rapidly expanding Turkey or Egypt which has recently taken the other out. Whatever the case, it seems obvious that a major goal of Italy is to keep Turkey and Egypt fighting each other, and to have this war go on as long as possible. As long as this happens, Italy can nibble away at these two powers in North Africa and the Balkans, or growing in the west, against France or Spain.

Italy should only let one of these powers win if Italy is prepared to help in the attack and share in the spoils, usually following through with an attack on her former ally. Only in rare cases should Italy maintain the alliance with Turkey or Egypt moving north into the Ukraine and Russia. This is usually most easily done with Turkey, which has Black Sea ports, but Egypt can move north through the Caucasus and Kazakhstan...

For more thoughts on Italy and the Eastern Med, click here.

The second area of importance for Italy is the Western Med area, which includes Switzerland and by extension Austria, because this is where Italy will first interact with France and Germany. An early threat to Italy from this area can come from an aggressive France, with a neutral or - worse - allied Germany. France is usually more worried about Spain than Italy, but it is hard for France and Spain to fight in the first few years, and France may decide to gain a few units from Italy. Germany doesn't usually gain much from an attack on Italy either, except for control of Austria and a friendly France. Still, Austria can be tempting for Germany, as it is important for German defense or for an attack on Poland, and it is her door to the Balkans.

Italy must therefore also strive to have Germany and France fight each other or at least be busy with Britain and Spain, respectively. Italy can join one of them against the other, or against Poland or Spain, but the important thing here, as with Egypt and Turkey, is to keep the balance between them while Italy is the one that grows.

Of lesser importance to Italy is the battle between Britain and Spain. If Italy can keep this war waging for a long time, so much the better. This area is less crucial though because a secondary conflict can keep Spain or Britain in check should they win. Spain can usually be maneuvered to attack France after Britain is gone from the area, and perhaps even move north against Britain after this. Old wounds can easily be reopened, so make sure that the early British-Spanish conflict is as acrimonious as possible.

The matter is even simpler if Britain is the one that wins. Three of Britain's four home centers are in the north, just a short convoy away from the Lowlands and Scandinavia. Any of Germany, Poland or Russia can pose a serious threat to the British Isles, so Britain will seldom come after Italy. If she does, Spain is usually more assailable on British rule than Spanish rule, because the Iberian peninsula must be defended with armies to be held from a strong Italy, and Britain will usually have fewer armies.

For more thoughts about Italy and the Western Med in Modern, click here.

To sum up Italy's main diplomatic strategy must be one of balance. She must keep the balance between Turkey and Egypt, France and Germany, and Spain and Britain. If she manages all three, she will be able to join these fights at a time of her choosing, and on the side of her choosing. Italy can win by taking over two of these regions, or by taking one of them over and keeping on going to an area further away from home, such as the Ukraine and Poland, or Britain.

On the other hand, if Italy only manages to keep the peace in two of the areas, she can still come out ahead of she involves herself on the winning side, but things will be more difficult. Should a victor emerge in two or three of these conflicts early in the game, Italy will have a very hard time proceeding.

For more thoughts on winning with Italy in Modern click here.

Initial Tactics for Italy in Modern Games

While the winning strategy for Italy is reasonably clear, it is still another matter to carry it out successfully. What is nice about Italy is that even if things go bad in one area, she can build up a good defense and expand in other directions. If this happens too early though, Italy wont be able to grow at all, and must essentially wait until some other power comes to change the balance, at which point it is usually too late to strive for more than a three-way draw in the game.

So what is the best way to open for Italy to open and to gain tactical superiority? Italy is lucky because it can open in a neutral way and still end up with 3 or 4 centers. Italy should only overtly support or attack another power in its opening if it is necessary to get one of Italy's pairs of neighbours fighting. Otherwise, Italy should just open neutrally and wait until the end of the first year to see if her intervention is needed anywhere.

There are a number of neutral openings, including the two most popular, the Octopus and the Balkan Bulldozer. A lot of openings are only mildly for another power though, and it might be wise to consider these, as it is always to have an ally, even if one has no enemies.

Three or four neutral supply centers are usually considered Italian and will not be contested by other powers. Thus, Italy can easily grow to double her size by taking these centers, though some negotiation may be required. The first of these centers is Croatia. Italy must decide whether to take it with a fleet or an army. A fleet poses less threat to neighbours, but severely limits Italy's expansion capabilities into the Balkans, and even makes it impossible to support Austria. It should only be taken by a fleet if an army cannot, and it should be replaced at the first opportunity.

The second natural Italian neutral, only seldom contested by Spain, is Tunisia. If moving against Egypt or Spain in North Africa, Italy should consider convoying an army there in 1995 to get a jump on them. Otherwise, taking it with the fleet in Naples should be sufficient, as this lets the Roman army move north to defend Milan and Venice, and possibly take a fourth center as well.

For more thoughts about North Africa and Italy in Modern, click here.

The other two most natural Italian neutrals, Austria and Serbia, might require a bit of negotiation. Austria is a vital center for Italy, as it borders two Italian home centers. Italy may face opposition from Germany for this center, but should be able to convince him to leave it alone. Perhaps it will be necessary to offer Germany of France help into Switzerland, but that will likely get France and Germany fighting, which is a good thing. If the support is not necessary, then so much the better, as Italy gets to remain neutral while France and Germany fight.

For more thoughts about Austria and Switzerland and Italy in Modern, click here.

Serbia is a more difficult center to bargain for, as both Ukraine and Turkey can reach it in the first year. There are six centers in the Balkans though, and it seems reasonable to divide them with two goign to each power. If that argument is accepted, Italy will get Serbia without any problem. If not, then Serbia will probably have to wait until the second year. In this case, it is usually better to have opened to the Adriatic Sea from Venice and to have moved an army to Croatia, which is an option for many openings. Serbia will then be a sure thing in the spring of 1996 unless Turkey and Ukraine cooperate.

Where should Italy expand after the first year? And what balance of armies and fleets is necessary? If there are no fires to put out, then Italy really has the choice to go east, west, south or even north. An enduring principle of Diplomacy applies here: you can sometimes be forgiven for taking a neutral SC from a power, but seldom for taking a home SC.

Italy can put this principle into practice in several ways. One choice is to go for the Balkans, where most of these neutrals lie. The Balkans are a good choice because they allow Italy to build up a power base from which to work. If Italy is going for the Balkans, she will need 2 or 3 fleets and a large number of armies. The fleets are there to insure naval defense and to give a bit of support from the Adriatic and Ionian. Armies are necessary and will be the striking force though, as half the Balkan centers, Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria, do not border the Mediterranean.

For more thoughts about the Balkans and Italy in Modern, click here.

Another choice for Italy is North Africa. Italy can limit herself to Libya, or go on west to take Morocco as well. Capturing Libya is good tactically, because it gives Italy a side of the board to work from. Morocco expands on this by giving Italy a corner and perhaps even access to the Atlantic. It will almost definitely bring Italy into conflict with Spain though, so care must be taken. Either way, a larger number of fleets will be needed to keep Spain and/or Egypt at bay in the Mediterranean.

Italy can also try expanding into central Europe - Switzerland, Monaco and the Czech Republic. This is usually best done after taking control of the Balkans or the western Med, but it is possible for Italy to expand in this direction first, if she has decided to take out France or Germany first with help form the other. In either case, Italy should concentrate on armies, keeping only enough fleets to deter Egypt, Turkey and Spain from attacking by sea.

For more thoughts on the Land Power/Naval Power Question, click here. For more thoughts on General Strategy for Italy in Modern, click here.

Whichever way Italy goes, if she manages to gain enough neutral SCs, she will soon have enough SCs to easily join ongoing conflicts on her periphery and emerge the victor. The only thing remaining to do is to keep a Europe-wide anti-Italian alliance from forming and Italy will be well on her way to victory!

Allies for Italy in Modern

Italy is lucky in that she has no natural enemies and can realistically ally with all her neighbours and even every power on the boards. Let's take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of allying with different powers.

In the east, Italy can ally with Egypt or Turkey. Getting control of the Balkans is easier when allying with Egypt, but Egypt is a very tough nut to crack, so Italy has to play the alliance carefully if she has any intentions of moving further east. If Italy manages to get Egypt to give her Libya, the alliance can work, and Egypt can keep on moving north into Ukraine and Russia while Italy moves west or north, but Italy should be on her guard, as Egypt might turn west instead.

For more thoughts on Egypt and Italy in Modern, click here.

Allying with Turkey is another good option. Italy will get less of the Balkans, but should gain a fair share of Egypt, perhaps all of it, in exchange for the Middle East. It is easier for Italy to stab Turkey than Egypt, but Italy is also more vulnerable to Turkey, because it is difficult to justify keeping many units in Egypt if Italy is not at war with Turkey. Still, Turkey can more easily move north against Ukraine and into Russia than Egypt can, so even though Italy would be more vulnerable if she continues the alliance with Turkey at this point, there is still a good possibility that Turkey will keep its word and move north.

Another good ally for Italy is France. France is a good ally, because she can help against both Spain and Germany, and yet always remains vulnerable to an attack from Italy and another northern power. When allied with France, Italy should insist that France keep its navy out of the Med, though it may be necessary to agree to a token presence. When taking out Spain, Italy should try to get Gibraltar and Morocco as a minimum. This will allow her to both block access to the Med and gain entry into the Atlantic should she desire it.

For more thoughts on France and Italy in Modern, click here.

Britain is a similar ally to France, but will cooperate against Spain, France and Germany. Unfortunately, she will seldom give up Gibraltar, and can become a naval threat in the west and take back any gains made by Italy in Spain. Still, Italy can equally well push Britain out of Spain - especially if Britian has no land units in the area - so perhaps the gamble is worth it.

For more thoughts on Britain and Italy in Modern, click here.

Germany is a popular ally for Italy, because Germany will almost never compete for control of the seas with Italy, and yet can cooperate both east and west with her. Also, since Germany is also a central power like Italy, she remains vulnerable even if she grows quite big, and Italy can often launch a successfull surprise attack against Germany by land. Meanwhile, Italy is only somewhat vulnerable vis-a-vis Germany, because it is hard to take the boot by land alone. The usual target of a Italo-German alliance is France, which can usually not resist the attack. Italy and Germany can then follow-up by attacking Spain, to the greatest benefit of Italy, or Poland, to the greatest benefit of Germany. Needless to say, Spain should be the preferred target...

An alliance with Spain is another possibility, usually involving the gain of Marseilles, Monaco, Switzerland and Lyon from France. If the alliance is only one against Britain, Italy can only gain by maintaining the balance of power. If Spain wins against Britain, remember that Britain is far away and southern France and then Italy may look more tempting then moving north. If Spain does move north though, the alliance can be fruitful, with an eventual joint attack against Germany once Spain deals with Britain.

For more thoughts on Spain and Italy in Modern, click here.

The Slavic powers are quite far away, but can all help Italy in their own way. Ukraine can counterbalance a strong Turkey, and to a lesser extent a strong Egypt. The alliance can be instrumental in getting control of the whole Eastern Med area. Italy should take care that Ukraine does not have any Mediterranean ambitions, though she can usually be blocked by holding Istanbul.

Poland can be a good ally against Germany, if Germany becomes aggressive or if Germany has taken out France and is becoming too strong. Poland is similar to Germany as an ally, but Italy and Poland are less vulnerable to each other because they are not so close geographically. Finally, Russia by dint of its position can function either as a Ukrainian ally, or as a Polish ally, or both. Still, as with the other two slavic allies, Russia should probably be a secondary ally, to be used if needed to maintain the balance of power in other areas, but to be kept in check otherwise.

For more thoughts on Ukraine and Italy in Modern, here. For more thoughts on early allies for Italy in Modern, click here. For more thoughts on stalemates and bottlenecks for Italy in Modern, click here.

To recap, Italy is dealt one of the most interesting hands in Modern. She can play her diplomatic cards in many ways and it how she plays these, rather than pure military might that will determine how far she gets in the game. Winning still requires great skill and good dose of luck as well, but unlike some other powers, Italy can still make a few mistakes and get reasonably far in the game. If you are playing Modern for the first time and want to really get a feel for the variant and stick around a while, Italy definitely ranks up there with Britain as a good power to choose.

Vincent Mous-Harboesgaard
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