The Pole Position

Poland in the Modern Variant

Vincent Mous

Brief Introduction

Welcome to the eighth article in my continuing series about the Modern variant. In the first article, you got an introduction to the modern variant, as well as some information on how to get started playing it. In the next five articles I discussed the opening strategies for Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, and Italy. Then I took a break and conducted a review of those six articles.

In this article, I return to examining the openings for powers in Modern. In the pole position of the second half of powers -- alphabetically, at least -- is a small power that recently emerged from the Warsaw Pact, a power caught between the larger powers of Germany and Russia, a power trying to assert itself: Poland.

Though Poland is small and centrally located, these weaknesses can be turned into strengths by the skilled diplomat, and I believe Poland is one of the most interesting powers to play in Modern.

"Marks out of 10 for potential (no-press)
Italy - 10
Britain - 9
Egypt - 8"
Poland - 5"
     -- Toby Tyrell

Recently Finished Modern Games

As always, I'll take a look at recently finished Modern games. Don't forget, however, that you can get the latest on the variant at the Modern Variant Homepage. Check it out if you haven't already! For some games finished in 1997, you can see a graphical summary of each game. Let me know what you think. If the feedback is positive, I might do the same for other games too.

An incredible eight games finished since my last article was written. If I had to pick a common theme, it would be German solos, and draws figuring Egypt and Spain. In the first of those, Academy4 (USEF, nopress), Egypt, Italy and Spain (Kevin Chin, Jody McCullough and Wes Hansen) settled for a three-way draw and continued their strong showings in the power rankings. Egypt and Spain (Kent Liljegren and Stephen Breininger) repeated their success in the next game, Milan (USEF, nopress), sharing a draw with Britain (Klas Forsberg).

The next game to finish, Thisthat (USEF, press), saw a new star appearing among the powers. Germany (Morten Wolf) took its first solo win in Modern, quickly followed by a four-way draw in Nato (USIN, press) and another solo win in Gun1994 (USEF, nopress). The draw in Nato was shared by Egypt, Germany, Russia and Spain (Doug Gray, Vincent Mous, Andre Verweij and Gilad Greenberg) after a long battle between a Russo-Egyptian alliance on the one side, and a triple alliance between Spain, Italy and Germany on the other. It is interesting to note that the German solo in Gun1994 (Ian York) was a land victory, with Germany taking all the SC's to its east, reaching Kazakhstan and the borders of Greece, but not taking any British SC's nor more than half of France. In Thisthat, on the other hand, Germany reached Portugal, but did not manage to capture all of Ukraine, Russia or the Balkans. These first two German wins in Modern proved its flexibility, and catapulted it to the top of the rankings for powers in 1997.

Odessa (USEF, nopress) ended next with another 3-way draw involving Egypt and Spain (Rick Desper and Mike Linakis). This time Poland (Doug Gray) shared the honors in what was perhaps the longest lasting Modern game to date, ending as it did in 2022. This momentarily put Rick Desper at the top of the overall standings in the Modern Hall of Fame, but the very next day Eric Person took his second Modern victory, this time as Russia in aurora (YUBG, press), to claim the spot for himself. Finally, breaking Egypt and Spain's combined draw streak were Germany, Turkey and Ukraine (Simon Withers, Petar Mimica and Michael North) in Minsk (USEF, press). This was another strong showing by Germany, which reached 29 SC's before being stopped by the strong U/T alliance.

Anyhow, on to the subject at hand. I'll be looking at Polish openings and strategies, and will then, as usual, include a section of player comments on Poland in Modern.

List of Openings for Poland

Teschen (Earle Ratcliffe)
Fleet Gdansk -> Lithuania.
Army Warsaw -> Bielorussia.
Army Krakow -> Czech Republic.
Earl Ratcliffe, who gave the opening its name, says it was "named after the minor war Between Poland and Czechoslovakia over the Teschen coalfields after WWI," and notes that it is "probably to become the standard Polish opening. It allows for a possible three builds without offending anyone."

Polish Horse
Fleet Gdansk -> Lithuania.
Army Warsaw -> Bielorussia.
Army Krakow SUPPORT Army Warsaw -> Bielorussia.
This is the most popular choice for opening. I got many name suggestions for it as well. Since Eric Person won using this opening, I used his name for this one, and used the other names for openings that did not receive any suggestions.

Says Murray Grelis: "Ideally on the next turn you can order A Krakow-Czech Republic and gain three builds."

"The opening guarantees Bielorussia in the spring," says Toby Tyrrell, "and it moves the fleet to Lithuania, ready for a move on Russia in 1996. Krakow should still be able to take Czechoslovakia in the Fall, since it is "obviously" a Polish centre. Perhaps most importantly, the moves are inoffensive to all your neighbours (except perhaps Russia), and will hopefully keep you free of enemies and free to choose your own target (probably Russia) in 1996. They give a good chance of getting three centres in 1995."

Jeff Zahnen "used this and was able to take Czech in the fall, and double in size very quickly." He says that although it was a no-press game, Germany and Poland respected the Pru-Sil area and left each other alone, which allowed him to quickly eliminate Russia.

Derek Carlson advises that "in a no-press game, I would certainly consider going for the Balkan SC's, because Poland could secure its back with diplomacy. In a no-press game though, Poland cannot afford to let its guard down with Ukraine or Russia, as they could easily turn on an exposed back. This opening is a safe route in a no-press game and sets up a front with Russia while still being in position against Ukraine."

Eric Person thinks "that the best opening for Poland is easily this one. Nobody can touch Lithuania in the first year except for Poland (well, actually Russia can reach it by fall, but I can't ever imagine Russia moving Moscow-Latvia in the first spring...). Thus, taking Lithuania _could_ wait 'til fall if Poland wants to flex muscle in the Baltic Sea. But there's no good reason for Poland to potentially make enemies early. In press games I can see other openings having merit, but in a no-press I think the above opening is the only smart choice. I like to call it the "Polish Horse." Why? Well, for one, I used it when I had the pseudonym "the Horse of Poland" in one game. But that's a bad reason. I also like the nickname because the opening reminds me of a horse's kick: A strong kick to the rear (Bielorussia) in the spring, followed by a weaker front-hoof stretch (Czech Republic) in the fall. Did wild horses used to roam in Poland? I believe this is true." Chris Barnes makes a number of points about the opening. "Russia and Ukraine will need a strong alliance to keep Bielorussia from Poland. Working together, they could keep both Lit and Bie from Poland, but they would each have to commit two units for a full year to do so. That should not be feasible in any game. The Czech Republic remains a possiblity for Poland given the right diplomacy. Or, Poland can play kingmaker in the Czech Republic (more likely in a press game, I think) in return for a useful alliance with Germany or Italy. The opening should make no particular enemies. The Lithuania/Bielorussia units are defensively strong, but poorly coordinated to move further East. And even with three builds, Poland need not worry about being branded an early leader, so grabbing Cze won't start trouble unless it was coming anyway. Since Germany starts out with two fleets, the German border is the natural one to leave open. Good Polish diplomacy will include discouraging an army build in Berlin in 1995 and will also include either a strong alliance with Germany or with France against Germany."

Richard Horton calls the Horse "one of the few safe moves the Polish player has to begin with. As long as Ukraine and Russia are not allied together (which should be pretty rare), this will result in a gain of at least two centers in 1995. There is the possibility that Krakow could move into the Czech Republic if Bielorussia is not under immediate pressure, thus netting three centers right off the bat. Once again a German incursion into Prussia would be a grave problem but it wouldn't destroy the Polish positions. The diplomatic position after this move is also very open. It isn't necessarily hostile to any one power, and gives Poland some leverage in its dealings with Russia and Ukraine."

Balkan Rush (Earle Ratcliffe)
Fleet Gdansk -> Lithuania.
Army Warsaw -> Krakow.
Army Krakow -> Slovakia.
Earl Ratcliffe calls this opening "Anti-Italian, pro Urkaine. The Slovakia army can move on to Hungary, while Kra goes to Cze or supports Krakow into Cze for an attack into Austria in 1996. Another strong Polish opening."

John Paul II (Murray Grelis)
Fleet Gdansk -> Lithuania.
Army Warsaw -> Krakow.
Army Krakow -> Czech Republic.
Murray Grelis call this "How to get a Pole into Rome. You then move A Krakow-Slovakia and try for as many of the Balkan centres as possible. Very messy and risky in a no-press game, though."

Breadbasket (Earle Ratcliffe)
Fleet Gdansk -> Lithuania.
Army Warsaw -> Bielorussia.
Army Krakow -> Podolia.
Earl Ratcliffe says, "This puts immediate pressure on Ukraine. Bielorussia is probably a bounce, but you can support War-Bie in the Fall. If War-Bie is successful in the spring, then Podolia can attack any of Hungary, Rumania, Odessa, or Kiev. If Krakow doesn't make it to Podolia, then you can usually take Czech in the Fall."

Silesian Adventure
Fleet Gdansk -> Lithuania.
Army Warsaw -> Silesia.
Army Krakow -> Czech Republic.
Poland turns his back on Russia and Ukraine, letting them fight over Bielorussia, and probably hoping that they bounce there in the spring of 1995. Instead, Poland moves west against Germany, with the Czech Republic guaranteed P{olish and with pressure put on Berlin.

Vodka Tonic (Earle Ratcliffe)
Fleet Gdansk -> Baltic Sea.
Army Warsaw -> Bielorussia.
Army Krakow -> Czech Republic.
The Vodka Tonic is identical to the Teschen opening, except that the fleet is moved to the Baltic Sea. This may provide extra diplomatic leverage with Russia, providing a tonic to its strong power, while still allowing Poland to take Lithuania in the fall.

Russian Crush (Derek Carlson)
Fleet Gdansk -> Baltic Sea.
Army Warsaw -> Bielorussia.
Army Krakow SUPPORT Army Warsaw -> Bielorussia.
Similar to the popular Polish Horse opening, the Russian Crush instead moves the fleet to the Baltic Sea in the Spring of 1995. Poland could conceivably move Warsaw to Lithuania and Krakow to Bielorussia in the Fall and take a shot at Sweden, perhaps with German help. Otherwise, Lithuania and Czech are still there for the taking.

Hungarian Gambit
Fleet Gdansk -> Baltic Sea.
Army Warsaw -> Lithuania.
Army Krakow -> Slovakia.
Poland gives up Bielorussia to Ukraine or Russia, as well as the security that goes with occupying it, in exchange for a shot at Hungary. That shot is tenuous at best, but probably works best if Bielorussia goes to Ukraine, as that should mean only Italy could stop Poland from taking Hungary. This is a poor cousin to the Balkan Rush.

King of the Slavs (Richard Horton)
Fleet Gdansk -> Baltic Sea.
Army Warsaw -> Krakow.
Army Krakow -> Slovakia.
Richard Horton likes this opening. "As a general strategy, this seems to be the strongest Polish move. It offers a lot of room for maneuver, both diplomatically and militarily. The opening allows Poland to have at least a say in Scandanavian affairs, and does leave the option of picking up Lithuania in the first year. Any division in the entire area, including the Balkans, will have Polish influence. If Poland can reach an accommodation with Italy this could be especially lucrative. A solid move."

Bear Hunt (Murray Grelis)
Fleet Gdansk -> Baltic Sea.
Army Warsaw -> Lithuania.
Army Krakow HOLD.
Instead of making a play for Bielorussia in the spring of 1995, Poland stands firm, moving his fleet to the Baltic, and an army to Lithuania. Bielorussia or Czech could still be taken in the fall, but if Russia or Ukraine is in Bielorussia, it is probably best to do a self-bounce in Warsaw. The opening could potentially be used to launch a strong anti-Russian move in the fall of 1995.

White Russian (Earle Ratcliffe)
Fleet Gdansk -> Baltic Sea.
Army Warsaw -> Lithuania.
Army Krakow -> Bielorussia.
Richard Horton calls this "the most anti-Russian move. It requires that Germany and Ukraine are at least neutral to Poland. If Ukraine is allied with Poland this can be a devestating opening to Russia. On the downside, it assures Poland of only one build, although two are possible. It also leaves the Czech center open to invasion. Hard to recommend."

Earl Ratcliffe, however, finds this opening attractive. "The Baltic fleet can help Germany take Sweden, and the armies take a strong position into Russia. Alternatively, Bielorussia can try to move on to Moscow. I prefer to open strongly against Russia, either to finish him quickly, or to push him into an alliance against Ukraine. If you support Germany into Sweden in the fall of '95, Cze should remain uncontested in '96."

Fleet Gdansk -> Baltic Sea.
Army Warsaw -> Lithuania.
Army Krakow -> Czech Republic.
To Earl Ratcliffe, this is "an option with a strong German alliance. Now you can influence the fate of Bie, Swe and Aus in the very first turn! Fall 1995 should prove to be very fun as everyone clamors for your favours to support them in the various different regions."

Podolian Offensive
Fleet Gdansk -> Baltic Sea.
Army Warsaw -> Lithuania.
Army Krakow -> Podolia.
A seldom used, but potentially strong opening for Poland. Poland has not yet finished with less than a seventeen SC five-way draw using it. The Czech Republic is given up for an early attack on Ukraine, from which Hungary, Rumania, Kiev, Kharkov and Bielorussia are threatened if Poland makes it in. If not, the Czech Republic and Bielorussia are still available to take and Ukraine might not make it into Hungary in 1995, leaving a possible extra SC open for Poland in 1996.

Great Eastern Push
Fleet Gdansk -> Lithuania.
Army Warsaw -> Bielorussia.
Army Krakow -> Podolia.
Moving all Poland's units eastwards, the Great Eastern Push is probably an attack against Ukraine, though a bounce could have been arranged in Podolia. Though this opening has not been used, this is probably a better option than the Podolian Offensive, unless Russia was promised Bielorussia, as it does not give up claims to that important neutral SC.

Polish Strongpoint (Chris Barnes)
Fleet Gdansk -> Baltic Sea.
Army Warsaw HOLD.
Army Krakow -> Czech Republic.
Poland takes a sure SC in the Czech Republic, but otherwise makes no move towards either Lithuania or Bielorussia. This opening will therefore seldomly be used, but does allow Poland to support himself into Lithuania in the fall of 1995, and so is not as bad as it first appears. If Russia or Ukraine manages to take Bielorussia in the spring however, Poland will be vulnerable. Keeps Poland's options towards Ukraine and Russia open though.

Snowshoes (Richard Horton)
Fleet Gdansk -> Baltic Sea.
Army Warsaw -> Gdansk.
Army Krakow -> Bielorussia.
Richard Horton says, "I would love to see this opening tried, but I do not think it likely to occur. It would seem that any posturing towards getting involved in Scandanavia will be dependent on a friendly Germany or possibly Russia. Krakow could move to Warsaw instead, and then on to Lithuania."

Retribution (Richard Horton)
Fleet Gdansk SUPPORT Army Warsaw -> Prussia.
Army Warsaw -> Prussia.
Army Krakow HOLD.
A weak opening against Germany, probably only to be used if Germany has been making anti-Polish noises. This would effectively counter any early German strike, while not appearing too hostile and not letting all defenses down against Russia and Ukraine. Two of Bielorussia, Lithuania and Czech are still possible.

Das Schutzenfest (Earle Ratcliffe)
Fleet Gdansk -> Prussia.
Army Warsaw -> Silesia.
Army Krakow -> Czech Republic.
Unused as of yet, Earle Ratcliffe calls this opening "decidedly anti-German. It leaves Poland's back open to Russia. A strong alliance with Russia is a must, as you will need to pick up Lith in 1996. Probably only one build in 1995."

Minsk Alliance
Fleet Gdansk -> Lithuania.
Army Warsaw SUPPORT Ukrainian Army Kiev -> Bielorussia.
Army Krakow -> Czech Republic.
Poland gives up Bielorussia to Ukraine in exchange for a strong alliance against Russia. If Ukraine also opened Kiev to CRP, it could support itself into Moscow, while Poland moves in behind to take Bielorussia anyhow.

Statistics on the Use of Openings for Poland

Table 1. Ongoing Games
GameOpening UsedYearSC CountStanding
hamburgWhite Russian2009221st
euro97Vodka Tonic1999131st
sardTeschen2012121st (tied)
modt97cRussian Crush2000101st (tied)
euro96Polish Horse2011172nd
detailsPolish Horse2019152nd
norm11Polish Horse200283rd
ericPolish Horse199773rd (tied)
modt97dPolish Horse199873rd (tied)
dip158Silesian Adventure200164th
therockPolish Horse199774th (tied)
bogardanJohn Paul II199764th (tied)
naderMinsk Alliance200795th
izmir2Balkan Rush200475th
milosPolish Horse200265th
modt97eTeschen199665th (tied)
ooJohn Paul II199965th (tied)
modt97aPolish Horse200635th (tied)
spring96Vodka Tonic200276th
sedanMinsk Alliance199766th (tied)
modt97bPolish Horse200526th (tied)
modgameBear Hunt200357th
norm7Polish Horse200057th
spadesHungarian Gambit200337th
taunt3Polish Horse200637th
ableMinsk Alliance199858th (tied)
hryvnaPolish Horse199538th (tied)
renardPolish Horse199959th
crazyKing of the Slavs199659th (tied)
frontlinPolish Horse20070elim.
gdanskPolish Horse20130elim.
marinettHungarian Gambit20000elim.
modhof96John Paul II20000elim.
modsquadMinsk Alliance20070elim.
norwayPolish Horse20050elim.

Table 2. Polish Wins and Draws
GameOpening UsedYearSC CountStanding
spartikuPolish Horse2004381st
odessaBalkan Rush2022251st (tied)
blitzzPodolian Offensive2017222nd
buchananPodolian Offensive2022173rd
cairoPolish Horse2009104th
lyonPolish Horse201164th

Table 3. Polish Losses
GameOpening UsedYearSC CountStanding
liarliarPolish Horse200792nd
sevillePolish Horse201425th
thisthatPolish Horse200416th
academy4Teschen2009 0elim.
desirePolish Horse2008 0elim.
despairPolish Horse2012 0elim.
natoTeschen2007 0elim.
day2dayTeschen2009 0elim.
dickensPolish Horse2015 0elim.
gun1994Polish Horse2009 0elim.
milanPolish Horse2014 0elim.
rostovPolish Horse2015 0elim.
minskSnowshoes2019 0elim.
izmirRetribution2005 0elim.
euro95Breadbasket2023 0elim.
lie2meWhite Russian2007 0elim.

Strategy for Poland in Modern Games

Of the three three-center powers in Modern, only Poland does not hold a corner position on the map. What's more, it has Russia for neighbours the only five-center power (Russia) as well as three other four-center powers. Despite this, Poland has not been the least successful power in Modern. It holds the record for the fastest win (38 SC's by 2004), and has drawn a respectable number of times, placing it in the top half of powers to date.

Why is this? Poland does have some advantages. It has access, though not immediate, to the large supply of SC's in Central Europe and the Balkans as well as to the North Sea area and the neutral SC's in the Lowlands and Scandinavia. In the immediate vicinity, it has access to Lithuania, Bielorussia and the Czech Republic, allowing it to grow to a respectable size by the end of 1995. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, because of its small size, Poland does not seem as formidable as its neighbours, and will less likely be the target of an initial assault, allowing it, more often than not, to choose its allies.

So, what should Poland's initial considerations be? The first question you must ask yourself is probably what to do about Russian and the Ukraine. Which should you ally with and which should you attack? Or should you perhaps leave them to their own devices and head in another direction? As Lithuania and Bielorussia, both of which can probably be considered natural Polish neutrals (though Bielorussia will be more hotly contested) are in the direction of Russia and the Ukraine, Poland will probably want to get involved. Not to do so would involve giving up too much - the neutral SC's as well as the security they grant.

What are the advantages to attacking Russia instead of Ukraine? For one thing, Ukraine doesn't have a port in the north, and will not be able to threaten Poland that way once Russia is gone. For another, Ukraine doesn't hold a corner position, and will be easier to handle when large, hopefully with Turkey's help. Finally, splitting Russia with Ukraine will naturally lead Poland to a position from which it can stake a claim on Scandinavia.

What then of the opposite choice, attacking Ukraine with Russia? This is a trickier deal to pull off, as it will put Poland in a potentially dangerous position, with an ally at its back. Still, as Poland and Ukraine seem like more likely allies, Russia may be willing to give enough to Poland to make an alliance worthwhile. This could include agreeing to concentrate its efforts to the south (Ukraine and Turkey), and helping Poland into Scandinavia. This could alleviate many of Poland's traditional concerns. Furthermore, with Ukraine gone, the door to the Balkans will be open for Poland, which could easily take Hungary and Rumania, and perhaps move down to Serbia and Croatia. This is a strong position from which to take Austria and move on towards Germany. Finally, unlike Ukraine, Russia can keep moving its forces in the same direction - south - once Ukraine is gone. Ukraine would have to turn them back out of Russia and away from Poland, making a stab quite likely at that point. Therefore, while an alliance with Russia is not for everybody, it is still quite a viable option.

No matter which target Poland chooses, Bielorussia and Lithuania are vital for Poland's defense. Lithuania is a given, and Bielorussia can be taken with support, unless Russia and Ukraine cooperate. This opening (the Polish Horse) will probably not be seen as aggressive by either Ukraine or Russia. The fleet in Lithuania does pose a severe threat to Russia, as it cannot move inland. An army, on the other hand, if pushed into Latvia, would threaten both St. Petersburg and Moscow (as in the White Russian). Similarly, a Polish army in Bielorussia, while a nuisance, does not pose a serious threat to Ukraine, while an army in Podolia (see the Podolian Offensive or the Great Eastern Push), bordering Kharkov, Kiev, Rumania and Hungary, would.

Poland must therefore strike a balance between the advantages of an early attack on its chosen enemy and of biding its time by opening in a neutral fashion and letting the natural animosity between its neighbours play itself out at the risk of pushing them into cooperating with each other. As the neutral openings keep Poland's options open, I would tend to opt for one of them unless an ally needs to be reassured by a more aggressive opening. An interesting option is the possibility of sending Poland's fleet to the Baltic Sea instead of Lithuania in the spring of 1995. Lithuania should still be Poland's especially if it supported itself into Bielorussia (see the Russian Crush) as Russia will only seldomly open Moscow to Latvia. The Baltic Sea position can then be used to buy favors by influencing the fate of Sweden, or can take Lithuania anyhow if that is deemed more worthwhile.

What about Poland's relationship with Germany? Separated by three neutral provinces, Prussia, Silesia and Saxony, it seems natural for the two powers to declare them as DMZs. An offensive by one on the other seems hard to launch by land or sea only, and therefore without control of Sweden and Austria. Poland must therefore tread carefully if Germany gains control of both of these -- though an attack need by no means be imminent, Poland should not be caught unawares. Austria and Sweden are also the gates through which contact with Italy and Britain are made, so if it is not possible for Poland to control one of these, it can probably be arranged that Germany not control both of them.

How should one try to win as Poland? Winning in Modern is no little accomplishment, but it is easier with some powers than others. How does Poland fare? While Poland does have direct access to Central Europe and the former East Bloc, as well as secondary access to the Balkans, it is unrealistic to think that Poland will get into Turkey, Iran or beyond, though it has been done on occasion. Poland must therefore break out into the North Sea if it is to have a chance of winning. That is a difficult thing to achieve, as Poland, unlike all other powers, can only build one fleet a year. Furthermore, just on the other side of Denmark and Norway, and sometimes in them, is the strongest naval power in the game -- Britain -- which can easily lock up the North Sea and mount of blockade of the continent. Just ask any German player. There is no specific formula on how to break out of the Baltic Sea, and the solution is probably different in every game, but it seems likely to be easier if Britain is distracted by a large Mediterranean power trying to break out into the Atlantic, and if achieved by surprise, meaning without too many fleets built.

Almost all games with successful Polands have ended with a strong Spain or Italy as well as a strong Egypt or Turkey. These are the most distant powers to Poland, and perhaps this seems like a natural result of a strong Poland. It is impossible to tell if this is the case however, or if they are the cause of a strong Poland. Perhaps, as one last word of advice, a Polish player should attempt to strengthen these powers from afar, and so, help himself?

Player Comments about Poland

Chris Barnes says that "with only one ally among Italy, Russia and Ukraine Poland will have trouble. Any two of these will be sufficient for a very safe opening that should allow Poland to catch up with the four-center powers."

Derek Carlson thinks that "Poland sits in a position similar to Austria in the standard game. Germany is separated by neutral territories and I think is obvious for both countries to look elsewhere. The knot of Balkan centers beckon in the south and Poland has two obvious allies to choose from (Ukraine and Russia) as Austria has Turkey and Russia. The danger of course is that Ukraine and Russia ally and walk all over Poland, its SC's and gateway to the Balkans. However, I do not think Ukraine can hope for as many gains or easy ones against Poland, so Poland is the natural ally."

From another player: "The environment is really difficult: Poland has 6 neighbors is has to worry about -- Germany, Britain, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and Italy. She can, if she keeps her wits about, build three very quickly; but the next set of SC's is difficult; faraway. It takes a year just to get in their vicinity. The CRP Complex (CRP borders on Moscow, Kiev and Kharkov, and Bielorussia, which is the gateway to Poland) is a nightmare. I thought playing Italy and Austria in plain vanilla was hell because of the Trie/Ven complex; but this...! This is pure devilry! You knew what you were doing, did you not?"

Comments on the Importance of Bielorussia to Poland

Tom Potocki advises that the Polish policy should be that "nobody is allowed into Bielorussia. Threaten and promise anything to make sure nobody else gets there."

Paul Rosenzweig agrees. "Bielorussia is the absolute key for Poland. How he handles it is intricately tied up to his diplomacy with Russia and Ukraine. If Poland cannot answer the Bie question before the first turn, he is in poor shape."

Eric Person is of the same opinion: "To me, Bielorussia is absolutely vital to Poland, easily the most important territory on the board (aside from home centers, of course). Also, in my limited experience with the Modern variant, one clear victor from the RPU triad always seems to emerge as a competitor in the endgame. Bielorussia is the crown jewel of the R/P/U victor's crown. It borders home centers for all three of these powers (two home centers for Poland), and so its importance cannot be overstated. As long as at least two of R/P/U are alive, Poland should defend Bielorussia well if he owns it and attack it ruthlessly with total abandon if he doesn't."

Chuck Carroll also prefers a Polish Bielorussia. "This is likely to be a point of contention in the P/R/U triangle, but Poland should push strongly for it, as it borders two Polish home centers (and only one each of Russia and Ukraine). Most likely Poland will have to agree to DMZ it eventually."

"Whether I go after Russia or Ukraine," says Derek Carlson, "Bielorussia is a key staging ground and I feel the support into it is necessary since either Russia or Ukraine could bounce out an unsupported unit."

John Pitre calls Bielorussia "your big decision. If you are going for a corner position, then you take it. But you are going to have to trust Germany (probably not a problem) and you should have Ukrainian support."

Earle Ratcliffe says that "with Poland starting out the smallest of the three nations bordering Bielorussia, it seems more likely to be a natural Polish center. Any assault on Russia must include Polish control of Bie, as it's the shortest overland route between Russia and Poland. Only give it up to gain concessions elsewhere, such as in the Balkans or Scandinavia."

Comments on Polish Handling of Lithuania

About Lithuania, Earle Ratcliffe advises, "Take it in the first year. I prefer to take it with the Warsaw army (than fleet Gdansk), as it's much easier to move on to Latvia, which threatens Moscow and St. Petersburg, while a fleet threatens neither."

Tom Potocki says, "Offer it to Russia in exchange for Bie, if you have to, but best of all grab it yourself."

Eric Person says that since "it's essentially impossible for other powers to reach Lithuania in the first year, even the worst clod of a ruler can trip into Lithuania with that Gdansk fleet. Tactically, Lithuania is an excellent place of support for Bielorussia, although if the heat is off then Krakow/Warsaw can do an adequate job and Lithuania could then be emptied or fleeted--although an ideally placed Polish fleet should be in the Baltic, both for excellent defense and excellent aggressive potential."

Writes John Pitre: "It surrenders Scandinavia, but...."

Comments on Poland and Central Europe

John Pitre says, "My first priority - now - would be to head west and try to 'squeak' into Central Europe (Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary)..."

Eric Person, however, says that "Central Europe is not as important as securing Bielorussia and the Baltic Sea. To become a great power, Poland needs either to overrun Russia or take a healthy bite out of Central Europe, but this scenario only comes into play once Poland is defensively stabilized. The Czech Republic should by all rights be Polish territory, but losing it due to a taxing Russian/Ukrainian campaign or an aggressive Germany does not spell doom. What's interesting about the Czech Republic is that I think it's a good barometer for the relationship between Germany and Poland. I think Germany is vital as a Polish ally -- Poland needs the Prussia/Silesia DMZ in order to be able to adequately handle the threats in the east. If Germany is an ally, then CZE will almost certainly be Polish; if Germany is an enemy, then CZE will likely be lost."

According to Chris Barnes, even if Poland doesn't move to the Czech Republic in the Spring of 1995, "note in particular that Italy gains no centers by Aus-Cze in Fall of 1995. Italy's only motivation for this move is to put the screws on Poland. Similarly, Germany can expect to find better uses for her armies than fra/mun-sax-cze (*bounce*)."

Paul Rosenzweig's advice to the Polish policymaker is "Czech is yours. The rest is negotiable."

Murray Gelis believes that "the Czech Republic isn't worth going to war with Germany for, unless Ukraine and Russia are fighting each other."

Earl Ratcliffe says, "Poland obviously should get Cze, and Hun is not out of the question by '96. By moving to Cze, you can determine who gains control of Austria in 95."

Tom Potocki'sadvice is to "move in right before Russia is killed. There's that moment when she is almost dead, and will be dead no question. That's when you stab Ukraine and grab for C/E. I am guessing that this is going to be simultaneous, because if the P/U is killing Russia successfully, that probably means that Ukraine has the time and energy and units to get strong in CE as well."

About Chuck Carroll's only game as Poland, he reports: "I took the Czech Republic in 1995, but now I think this might have been a mistake. Since Poland's first target is probably Russia or Ukraine, sparing the forces necessary to defend Cze is really hyper-extending oneself. I now think it would be better to offer Cze to Germany (if he wants it, although his attention may be occupied elsewhere) or possibly Italy in exchange for peace."

Comments on Poland and the Balkans

Says Eric Person "Poland will only get to the Balkans if Ukraine is trounced in some way. With Ukraine out of the way (or at least weakened), then the Balkans will normally fall to Turkey or Poland. (Russia and Italy can get to 'em too, but only if they're monstrous in power). If Turkey threatens to take the Balkans, Poland needs to step up & keep it from happening--otherwise, Turkey's going to be a guaranteed endgame threat."

Earle Ratcliffe says that "it depends on the relations with Italy and Ukraine. I'd rather shore up my defenses closer to home before rushing off to the Balkans. There's enough centers nearby to grow before straying too far from home. Perhaps you could negotiate Hungary in 96, but otherwise leave the Balkans alone until you've eliminated either Ukraine, Russia or Germany."

John Pitre says to move into the Balkans only "after one of Russia or Ukraine is gone...."

Tom Potocki says that the "east is more important. Grab what you can there. In the Balkans, try to play off U/I/T to make sure nobody gets upper hand. If you can spare a unit or two to support one side, then the other, all the better. You can't easily grab it, but you should make sure that you are the king-maker there. Of course, if the other guys in the Balkans (Italy, Ukraine, Turkey) are woosies, take what you can fast."

Comments on Poland and Scandinavia

Earle Ratcliffe thinks Scandinavia should be handled "same as the Balkans. Use your small naval presence in the Baltic to gain friends by supporting them into Scandinavian centers. Make sure no one comes to dominate them, or you'll never get a piece. Poland's naval potential is too small to take on a powerful opposition in Scandinavia, so play balance of power until you're ready."

According to Tom Potocki, "it's difficult for Poland to take Scandinavia quickly. The objective here should be to make sure that there's a war in Scandinavia (a three-way war: E/G/R) for as long as possible. As long as those guys are busy in Scandinavia they will not spend their time sailing up and down Polish coast."

Paul Rosenzweig calls Scandinavia "secondary to the Eastern question. It should follow along as soon as Poland has resolved that issue."

Eric Person writes: "Poland's great vulnerability is on its landward sides -- control of the Baltic Sea can easily stifle waterborne predators. Scandinavia only becomes an issue if Poland is at war with Germany and/or Russia. I think a war with Germany is doom for Poland unless it occurs late. A war with Russia is an excellent idea early in that Poland can hollow out a corner position and then begin to assail Scandinavia. But in general, Scandinavia seems a secondary objective, and should only occur once Poland is strong and secure on its landward borders. An attack there is likely fruitful if the area is owned but lightly defended by Germany or else inhabited by a dying exiled Russia. If Britain has Scandinavia, forget it. It's hard for Poland to hurt Britain, and there are way too many avenues of growth on the landward sides already."

Comments on a Polish Navy

John Pitre says that "Poland needs a strong navy -- not necessarily that many units, but enough to keep the Baltic (all of it) free of threats. If Poland loses Gdansk, they are sunk (no pun intended)."

Earle Ratcliffe notes that "Poland is mainly a land power, so fleets are not as vital as they are for most other powers. It doesn't need much of a navy at all. The only real centers Poland can take with fleets ar the Scandinavian ones. By endgame, you'll probably only need three or four at the most, enough to take Scandinavia, and maybe one or two more to try to break out of the Baltic. Poland is a land power, perhaps more than any other country in the game of Modern. It's the only country with only one port, and the vast majority of centers lie inland from the Polish home centers."

Chuck Carroll says, "Poland is like Austria in standard, in that it is the only power which can build only one fleet per turn. But there is one important difference: Austria's one coastal center is along a little-used waterway -- about the only time you'll see a fleet in the Adriatic is in an Austrian attack on Italy or vice versa. The Baltic Sea in Modern, however, is quite important, and cannot be neglected in the same way in which Austria can neglect the Adriatic. If Poland tries to take an almost-exclusively land-based strategy (such as Austria is likely to in standard), it will not be long before he finds either Russian fleets moving westward, or British or German fleets moving eastward. I haven't played enough to figure out how Poland should handle this; I'm just aware of the problem. Perhaps Poland should try to maintain a balance of power (but not an alliance!) between Britain and Germany, so their fleets are occupied there."

Tom Potocki advises that "Poland must make sure that there are no other navies in the Baltic. This should be her goal from day one. It is difficult to achieve early, but should be a very important principle. It's like Germany in the standard game: once England gets into the Baltic, Germany's dead. In Modern substitute Poland for Germany...."

Eric Person counsels against a large navy. "A very small navy can do just fine. In Spartiku [author's note: Eric achieved Poland's only solo victory to date in Spartiku], I didn't build my second fleet for years. With a Polish fleet in the Baltic, Poland is safe from the North. With an enemy fleet in the Baltic, Poland is dead in the water, so to speak. So Poland should build only enough fleets to maintain control of the Baltic Sea and no more. Again, there's just way too much real estate by land that needs to be reckoned with. Poland generally needs as many armies as possible. Only the Baltic is an important water position -- too many fleets means a certain death by land."

Comments on Initial Polish Strategy

Derek Carlson says, "The first thing I want as Poland is non-agression with Germany."

Eric Person orders his priorities as follows: "1) Secure Bielorussia 2) Secure the Baltic Sea 3) Do just about anything to become allies with Germany 4) Make sure that Russia and Ukraine don't become fast friends. Those are the Big 4, in that order."

John Pitre's opening "advice would be go after Russia...."

Earle Ratcliffe says, "gain an ally, and fast. By gaining an ally, try not to anger anyone else until you're a little stronger. By being a three-center power, without a map edge nearby, you start in a precarious position. The most favourable scenario would be to make peace with all but one of your neighbors, and then hit that one hard and fast."

Murray Grelis notes that "Poland's major limitation is dictated by Russia's major limitation; that is, for Russia to expand she must go through either Poland or Ukraine. Poland can't ignore this and should therefore take Bielorussia and Lithuania at once."

Paul Rosenzweig would have you "make one of Russia or the Ukraine a friend, with a slight preference for the Ukraine. Do anything humanly possible to prevent a Russo-Ukrainian alliance."a

Tom Potocki counsels for a big start. "Poland should grab Lit, Bie and Cze in 1995. She must use whatever diplomacy and opening which will achieve this purpose. Poland has only three SC's, so her ability to build later in the game are limited. She is also a central power, so she must get big and tough qickly or she will be lunch. Three builds right off the bat are essential."

Comments on Winning as Poland

To win, Tom Potocki says, a Pole should "take out Russia and Ukraine. Then turn west."

Eric Person's ideal strategy to win as Poland is as follows:

  1. Make Germany your closest ally of the game. A big fight between B & G is great for Poland, and a lot of beautiful cooperation is possible in Central Europe. Offer Austria to Germany in exchange for Hungary a year later.
  2. Split Russia and Ukraine. Promise them both the moon--do whatever it takes to get 'em after each other. Once they've committed to a war, first side with Ukraine, then get in cahoots with Turkey and take out Ukraine. The true challenge here is not to let Ukraine take too much of Russia and not to let Turkey take too much of Ukraine. To me, this challenge is the most difficult one of the game.
  3. Always be buddies with Britain and hope that they follow Modern tradition and fizzle in growth during the middle game.
  4. Take out Turkey and fight to attain Izmir/Adana/Iran.
  5. Expand West, either into Italy or into Germany (stabs). Only stab Germany when you think you have a real shot at the solo."
Says John Pitre, "Go after Russia, then Germany (if weakened) or Ukraine.... From a strong corner position, break out to Britain and France...."

Earle Ratcliffe says the Pole can win only "with great difficulty. You need to play balance of power. Make sure no one grows faster than you, and that you don't grow too much faster than anyone else (which means be prepared to be a bit smaller than anyone else). Don't be afraid to take risks, or you'll be going nowhere fast."

Comments on Poland's Starting Position

Tom Potocki warns that Poland is "a center power -- surrounded! and a perfect morsel over which Ukraine and Russia can do a deal. The possible R/U deal is the most deadly thing that can happen. A R/U war is a sine qua non."

According to Earle Ratcliffe, Poland's starts in "a precarious position that can turned into an advantage. It has access to the Balkans, as well as a port in the north, which gives it access to Scandinavia. There are several natural allies, and most of your neighbors probably aren't going to see you as much of a threat (at least compared to their other neighbors). This means that you can often choose your allies, something no other country can do regularly."

John Pitre comments that "Poland is central, so it's position isn't great, but it has a couple of pretty certain builds.... If it can cut down the number of enemies surrounding it, has a strong position."

Eric Person's analysis is as follows: "Poland is truly a land power, and thus it's vulnerable early and often. Poland is small and surrounded, and so in the early game Poland doesn't scare anybody. So, in my mind we have an interesting situation: Poland's early position is so weak that it's actually a strength. You see, other powers have more dangerous enemies to worry about than Poland, and so Poland is rarely a big target early on. For example, Russia and Ukraine are more dangerous to each other than is Poland, and so more often than not Poland is the deciding factor over who comes out on top between R/U. And, as long as the Baltic is secured and Bielorussia well defended, Poland is a reasonably tough nut to crack. Poland's big Achilles heel is Germany. If Germany attacks early, Poland dies, one way or another. If attacked from the west, Poland won't have the resources to defend Bielorussia, which then becomes easy pickings for R/U, who can launch quick strikes from home territory. Thus, Poland's relationship with Germany is the big key to how it can fare in its position."

Players Choose the Three Most Important Spaces for Poland

To Eric Person, the choices are easy: "1) Bielorussia, 2) Baltic Sea, 3) Prussia/Silesia (consider it one territory)."

Paul Rosenzweig lists them as "Bielorussia, Podolia, and Silesia."

John Pitre's list is "Gdansk Gdansk Gdansk -- you have to have fleets. Fourth would be Bielorussia -- if you lose it or Silesia, you are can start writing your EOG. Fifth would be Silesia."

Earle Ratcliffe takes a "home sweet home" attitude and lists the three as "Gdansk, Warsaw, and Krakow obviously. Aside from those? Hard to say. I'd say Bielorussia for sure. It borders on two Polish home centers, as well as the natural neutral of Lithuania. Slovakia would be next, as it's the gateway to the Balkans, which you need to come to dominate in the mid/end game to have a chance at winning. It also borders on the home center of Krakow, and the natural neutral of Czech. The last important space would be the Baltic Sea. It borders on two Polish centers (Lith is naturally Polish), and is the linchpin of any northern moves. A fleet Baltic can move to Bhm to attack Germany, or to GOB to attack Russia. It's also the shortest route into Scandinavia."

Comments on Poland's Relationship with Russia

Eric Person calls Russia Poland's "best candidate for an early aggressive attack."

About Poland and Russia, John Pitre says that he "cannot see them getting along. Very much like Russia/Austria in standard Dip. Poland's first move has to be to cripple Russia. If they can survive to the midgame together they can be valuable allies, but early on they are going to be at odds."

Tom Potocki says, "Kill Russia ASAP."

Earle Ratcliffe says the relationship is "Strained at best. If this alliance is successful, it becomes problematic, as Russia has nowhere else to go. It usually means cooperation against Ukraine and Germany. Look at the map. From Ukraine, Poland will probably get Hun, Rum and Ode. From Germany, Berlin and maybe Fra and/or Ham. Russia would get Sev, Kie and Kha from Ukraine, and Den from Germany. The new Polish empire extends from the Baltic to the Black, leaving Russia nowhere else to grow. Turkey is a possiblilty, but is either very strong, with its own share of Ukraine, or it's been eliminated by Egypt, who will seal off the Med from any Russian fleets. Either way, any further growth by Russia will be slow, so he'll look the the path of least resistance, the Pole. Of course, from a Polish standpoint, R/P is much preferable to R/U."

Toby Tyrrell calls Russia "the weakest nation in the game and is all that stands between Poland and an edge of the board. It must be a natural target."

Comments on the Polish Relationship with Ukraine Earle Ratcliffe likes the alliance. "Poland-Ukraine is strong, and Russia seems to be Poland's natural enemy."

Eric Person calls Ukraine a "Good candidate for early friendship, but also for an early stab."

Tom Potocki's advice is to "make sure that Russia and Ukraine do not do a deal. Use Ukraine to kill Russia. Then kill Ukraine."

John Pitre agrees. "If Ukraine is supporting Russia you have a problem. You have to work to make sure that the two of them are fighting. If not..."

To Earle Ratcliffe, Ukraine is "probably a better alliance choice than Russia. There isn't as much overlap, as Ukraine has no northern fleets. Ukraine can more easily turn south after Russia is done with, as Ukraine has two ports on the Black, as well as access to the Balkans for further growth. In this case, Bielorussia should definitely be Polish, as it would be very awkward for Polish armies to march around it into Russia."

Chuck Carroll "tends to prefer the P/U alliance over P/R, at least in part because of the naval problem -- since Ukraine can't build fleets in the north, that's one less northern naval power Poland has to worry about. Also, in a P/U alliance, after Russia is defeated Ukraine still has Turkey and Italy to worry about, while if Poland and Russia take out Ukraine, Poland will look very tempting to Russia."

Comments on the Polish Relationship with Germany

John Pitre calls the Polish-German relationship "tricky. You have got to get germany on your side and get the GP frontier declared a DMZ. If they are attacking you, you have a big problem. At the same time, you dont want them in the Baltic."

Eric Person finds the relationship essential: "Friendship with Germany or death for Poland. A German ally can also help pave the way for growth into Hungary and beyond."

Derek Carlson considers "going after the German foolhardy, similar to Germany and Austria's standing in the standard game. The gains just aren't there are you are giving up key SC's to Russia or Ukraine and then you would have a formidable enemy on your back."

According to Earle Ratcliffe, "Poland should never go to war with Germany in the early years. Neutralize Prussia and Silesia (and Saxony if you can), and go east."

Tom Potocki says: "Ally with Germany. Direct German military ambitions West. Put together an anti-German F/B alliance in the West to keep Germany busy, then offer Germany whatever he may need as she is your ticket into the Balkans and Scandinavia! Just make sure she stays busy in the West."

"Attacking Germany in the homeland does not look too attractive" to Chris Barnes. "Poland would have to maintain a unit in Silesia for survival's sake until Berlin falls, and even without Berlin Germany still has plenty of fight left in her. Most likely Poland would need so much help that the other powers would get most of the German centers. What could be very attractive, though, is to provoke German-French problems. Anything that assures that Germany will stay out of silesia is good."

Comments on the Polish Relationship with Italy

"Italy can't hurt Poland much," says Eric Person. "It's great for Poland if Germany & Italy are at war, and in order to promote this war as well as cultivate friendship with Germany, Poland should do everything possible to help Germany in an anti-Italian campaign."

Tom Potocki calls for "peace over Cze/Aus. Just don't let Italy win Central Europe or dominate it. If he gets too strong there, aid his enemies. If he is taking a drubbing, aid him."

John Pitre says that Italy can be helpful. "If the two of you can be friendly then Italy may throw a center or two in Central Europe your way...."

Earle Ratcliffe says that "Italy makes a good ally, as it can help against two of Poland's enemies: Germany and Ukraine. But it really depends on your ally. If allied with Ukraine, you want Italy to build fleets and head off to the Eastern Mediterranean to distract Egypt/Turkey. If allied with Germany, you want the same thing, but maybe for him to head west instead. Make sure he doesn't try to bounce you in Cze if you didn't go for it in Spring of '95. Any war between Italy and Poland is going to be long, probably more of a border skirmish, due to the distance of home centers."

Comments on the Polish Relationship with Britain

John Pitre says the relationship with Britain is one of "long range distrust: he has fleets; he will be in scandinavia - that can't be good."

Eric Person characterizes it as "distant friendship. Promote a B/G war, but make sure you do nothing to annoy Germany. Britain can be a great ally against Russia."

Earle Ratcliffe says that "like Italy, Britain makes a good ally, and can help against two of Poland's enemies: Germany and Russia. Britain isn't a great threat to Poland, as fleets can only take two Polish centers (Gdansk and Lithuania). Once he gets a few armies on the continent, he's trouble. By then, his position will be unassailable, and he'll be very difficult to stop. At any rate, he probably won't make it very far inland against you, as there are easier gains elsewhere. Make sure he doesn't come to dominate Scandinavia, perhaps more than anyone else, because if he does, you're not getting one little bit."

Comments on the Polish Relationship with France

Eric Person hopes for distant friendship with France. "It would be nice to make sure that France and Germany don't become too cozy together -- that could spell a German explosion eastward."

John Pitre would like the French "to keep Britain busy."

Says Earle Ratcliffe: "It depends on your relations with Germany. If Germany's hostile, then France makes a great ally. If Germany's friendly, you want him to head off into Spain, while Germany takes on Britain."

Comments on the Polish Relationship with Turkey

Eric Person's advice is to look for "dormant friendship early, then a strong active one to take on Ukraine. A T/E war is nice."

Says Earle Ratcliffe: "Turkey makes a good long-term partner for Poland. You can both benefit from a long Ukrainian/Russian war, perhaps one taking one side and the other taking the other side. Information exchange is vital, to maximize both Turkey's and Poland's gain, and when Russia and Ukraine have sufficiently weakened one another, Poland and Turkey can pick up the pieces."

John Pitre notes that "you would like them to put pressure on Ukraine, but until you get into the Balkans, Turkey is only your enemies' enemy."

Comments on the Polish Relationship with Egypt

Eric Person says, "promote an Egpytian war with Turkey, not Italy. Italy will hopefully have its hands full with Germany/France."

Earle Ratcliffe wonders, "what relationship?? Well, if Italy is hostile, he can open a second front, but it will take a year at least to do any real damage. You want Egypt to leave your Turkish ally alone as much as possible."

Comments on the Polish Relationship with Spain

Eric Person says the Pole should "hope that Spain, Britain, and France all keep each other busy and achieve only stagnant growth. Spain, Britain, and Egypt are all nice for information sharing purposes, as Poland can't really touch any of 'em until the endgame. This distance often promotes mutually beneficial info sharing."

Earle Ratcliffe refers to his own advice on Egypt. "Basically, it's all the same, just replace 'Turkish' with 'French.'"

Vincent Mous
([email protected])

If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author, click on the letter above. If that does not work, feel free to use the "Dear DP..." mail interface.