by Edi Birsan

Veteran players often argue about the sustainability of certain alliance pairs, amongst which the most common disagreements appear to circle around Turkey with either Austria or Italy. Most of these discussions bring in philosophy of pla, and a perception of what will happen as time progresses, without any reality check. These discussions are often done with large amounts of liquids or smoke of various and sundry non-medicinal purposes, or simply late at night when the fatigue of a good game makes any of those substances unnecessary and usually detracts from the quality of the discussion. The fact is that all alliance combinations are both possible and sometimes a hell of lot of fun when the proper game background turns up. In reality, each game is very much rooted in:

  1. The personalities involved.
  2. The time constraints; either socially, or as forced by (say) a tournament setting.
  3. The achievement goals of the parties, as influenced or controlled/contrived by events in the game or outside of it, such as in a tournament.
  4. A concept that one of the partners wants to try out and is attractive for any number of reasons.

In the recent Dragonflight (2007) games, the background factors of the game all lined up in a rare setting, so that the unusual combination of Austria-Turkey as a rock solid alliance with Austria as a sea power came to me as something rather funny and worth trying. This sort of thing comes up only once or twice in a decade, so when I saw it I jumped on it just because it is such a funny thing. This is the background:

  1. The player for Austria was Nathan Barnes, who is one of the more hyper-active players on the North American scene. He is a walking advertisement for wanting to mainstream a cocktail of Valium and Prozac into the water supply. Our past alliances have been at times very unstable over the course of the game, and his inclination to get squirrelly at the end game is legendary. He is also a fun guy and I like the tension that comes with trying to work with him.

  2. The Russian player was going to be on his own, and the west was a mix up of personalities that were never going to get their act together.

  3. Italy was determined to try to go west, where there was talk of a gang up on France.

  4. The game was time-limited due to social commitments later, so the end game problems could be avoided if the right psychological framework could be built to get the game to an early end (my specialty!).

  5. The game was being played in a draw-biasrf scoring system, so that necessary disparity between Turkey and Austria (in Austria�s) favor could be downplayed. Further, the personality of the Austrian player was such that he was more trustworthy when he had the lead in centers, even at the cost of position.

  6. The game strategy was set for a perpetual commitment of Austrian forces so that there would be less temptation to alter the alliance; further, the amusement factor was so high that it would appeal to the player — who was in a semi-pirate mode most of the time.

It started very simply, with Italy going west and abounce in the Black Sea. However, Austria was in Budapest, so in an unusual opening in the Fall Turkey supported Budapest to Rumania, as did Army Serbia, so that the Austrians would get 3 builds! The deal of course was that Austria had to build a fleet. When this happened the alliance was on and the push into southern Russia was going to be slow but inevitable.

Meanwhile, with two Turkish fleets and two Austrian fleets and the rumor of a major stab by Austria on Turkey putting Italy off its guard — BOOM! Italy was easily vaporized, with another Austrian fleet hitting the shipyards. By 1905 the Austrian fleets were pounding on the Mid Atlantic, while their armies were lined up on Munich, with the Turks integrated into the line with two units in the back field (Fleet Black and Ionian) and Turkish armies knocking on Berlin with every expectation of getting in.

The tactical issues involved are not as important as to remember that in structuring an unusual alliance, the initiator must understand the background dynamics that make the whole thing work; and always think ahead of what comes next, knowing when to call it to a successful conclusion before ugliness spoils the entire effort.

Edi Birsan
([email protected])

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