Italy is the country that I like the most to play. Italy's role in Europe is hard to define in the game of Diplomacy, and this is the greatness of Italy. All the other countries have their normal openings and strategies, but Italy alone is a sort of wildcard.
In the eastern part of the board, we have Russia, Turkey, and Austria-Hungary. Together the three of them create a formidable balance of power. In a normal game of Diplomacy you can count on certain moves and ideas from these powers, influencing the east together and separately. They will often take care of the situation themselves.
The situation in the west is the same: France, England, and Germany all have to focus their attention on the western part of the map. We often see two of the three in the west and two of the three in the east gang up on the third.
Your task as Italy, then, in the early stages of the game, is to make up the alliances. If you want to win with Italy you must use this uniquely Italian quality to decide what is to happen all around the map. So, what is it that you want to happen?
Turkey cannot build fleets; allow him a maximum of one new fleet -- preferably zero. He only needs armies to take Austrian centers for himself. If he builds fleets, he is up to no good, and you should cancel your eastern attack as quickly as you can. The idea to present to the Turk is that after the death of Austria, you will help him fight Russia with some of your armies and that the rest of your units will swing north towards Germany. In the same manner, tell him your fleet will swing west and go fishing in Marseilles. For his part, the Turk should swing against Russia, with Moscow as his object.
This will, of course, not happen; instead, use the armies you have in the east to take both the Turkish and the Russian centers. While you work towards your main goal in the Balkans -- to be bigger than the Turk and the Russian player together -- you have to talk, talk, and talk. You will help the Turk to Rumania "next year" -- no problem. And yes, you tell the Turk, "Greece will be yours next year, or perhaps you want to have Serbia so you can take Rumania by yourself."
The thing is that you, as Italy, always have the upper hand. Remind the Turk that if you take the center now, and give it to him later, Austria will die even faster and that is the main goal of the alliance. "After the elimination of Austria," you promise, "we can arrange the borders, but right now he has to die."
Around 1903 or 1904, Austria is dead and you have around seven to nine centers. Turkey has six or so and Russia is under hard pressure from you and Turkey. This is the time when your hammer falls. Your ally in the east becomes Russia, and in the west Germany. You have the force to help them both: Germany against France and Russia against Turkey.
You should help the Russian for about one move and then start the war against him. Take Bulgaria, Rumania, Galicia, and preferably the Aegean. Then keep the momentum and battle your way into Ukraine, the Eastern Mediterranean, and Silesia. Grab Warsaw and Constantinople, get units behind the line, and get Russia worried about your units in Livonia and Armenia so that you can establish a line that will take one or two centers a year until 1908 when you take Ankara and Moscow. The builds that you get produce new fleets for your quest for Iberia.
The war you wage with Germany against France will give you the last needed centers to get 18 and a solo win. When you have established a stronghold on the Balkans and the Mediterranean, and a beachhead in France it becomes a strategic exercise; there simply isn't much that the other players can do to stop you from grabbing at least 14 centers and making a stalemate line yourself. Use this fact and you shall see that on the next turn they won't worry about you extending beyond the stalemate line you point out to them, and that one turn is all you need.
The talking goes as follows.
Your Fall moves are:
In 1903, you pick up Tunis and fight for Budapest, Vienna, and perhaps Bulgaria. Your next build is an army, which should keep both Turkey and France nice and unworried. You now have Greece, Serbia, Budapest, Trieste, Vienna, Tunis, and your home centers. And it's time to begin the war with Turkey as discussed above.
In my game at World DipCon VI in Columbus, Ohio, my supply center gains were as follows:
|Bulgaria, Rumania, Tunis
|(Here the push for Iberia came)
|Smyrna, Sevastopol, Spain
|Munich, Warsaw, Moscow
(losing Bulgaria to the Turk)
This is one of the ways you can give Italy the glory that it deserves in Europe.
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