This week saw the first move of the EVAC Diplomacy game I'm running by email, it's shaping up to be a lot of fun, with a lot of promising hi-jinks right out of the gate. This is part of the joy of playing a game with new players, you see them do weird and wonderful things instead of the more standard openings that more experienced players might employ, and the game is all the more unpredictable and fun for it.
It's too early to talk much about alliance structures, of course, as even if the players have some idea who their friends are (for now, at least), I certainly don't. This week I'd like to dwell a little bit on the opening moves, as there's plenty of fun stuff happening here. My conjectures are just that, having not been at all involved in the deliberations, but it's fun to speculate.
Spring 1901 Orders
Germany: F Kie > Den, A Ber > Kie, A Mun > Bur
As expected from the most experienced player at the board, Germany's moves are pretty standard. The fleet in Denmark means he can choose whether or not to curry favour with the Russian or bounce him out of Sweden, and the army in Kiel can be expected to snag Holland in the autumn, giving Germany a very good chance of at least two builds, especially if the English aren't interested in opposing him. The army in Burgundy makes a mean threat to two French home centres, and pretty much assures that the French will have their hands full in the autumn, but the lack of an obvious ally (as England has committed North and Italy have opened neutrally) means that even though he has the jump on France, any progress will be relatively slow-going.
France: F Bre > ENG, A Par > Pic, A Mar > Swi
Aggressively anti-English from the outset, the French have abandoned a sure build somewhere in the Iberian in exchange for an army in Picardy that could potentially be convoyed to somewhere in the British Isles. You'd normally only see this kind of opening from a France who had an alliance or at least a fairly reliable non-aggression pact with Germany, as the move to Burgundy might see him being forced to abandon another build in order to cover his home centres. The move to Switzerland is just to vex me, this Frenchman hates being told something is out of bounds.
England: F Edi > NWG, F Lon > NTH, A Lvp Edi
This is a pretty standard opening for an England that has an agreement for a demilitarised channel, all it's missing is the demilitarised channel: it's distinctly anti-Russian, as it assures the English of a supported convoy to Norway, and the army is then directly threatening St. Petersburg and Sweden, traditionally Russian territory. It's still pretty versatile, though, as it can be translated into a convoy to Belgium or Holland while Norway is secured by the more Northern fleet, and it can easily be made to point at the Germans instead of the Russians. However, French fleets in the channel may leave the King wishing that army was a bit more central so that it could help cover London instead of being left hanging out north.
Russia: F StP > BOT, A Mos > StP, A War > Swe, F Sev > BLA (Bounce)
This is an aggressively Northern strategy that declares the Russian's intention to claim a fair wodge of Scandinavia, at the cost of any claim on the Balkans, and I've never seen anything quite like it. It appears to be working as a bargaining tool in the South, with none of Austria, Germany or Turkey looking aggressive in the East, but it relies heavily on German not bouncing in Sweden, where the Russian fleet, or maybe even a convoy from Livonia if Russia, is going to get a build, but if it works one can only assume that a Russian/German Northern alliance will have a lot of force behind it.
Austria: A Vie > Bud, A Bud > Ser, F Tri > Alb
Unusally Southern moves for Austria suggest an Austria/Russian and or Austrian/German pact of some kind, which can't spell good news for Turkey, but that they stay a little bit watchful, but the placidity of this suggests that any Austrian/Italian alliance isn't a completely trusting one and there's room to move. Austria could go pretty much anywhere with this, and with no obvious threats all of her neighbours should be wary.
Italy: A Ven Holds, A Rom > Apu, F Nap > ION
Italy will be the real play-maker here, it's not often that I get to say that, and my fondness for playing Italy might be getting the better of me here. Plenty of choices ahead for the Pope. Either he convoys the army out to Tunis and looks for an Austrian anti-Turkish Lepanto alliance, or swings his attack West to Iberia and Marseilles in the light of the slow French expansion, or makes a stab for Trieste and makes friends with the Turks, because that is what Popes do best.
Turkey: F Ank > BLA (Bounce), A Con - Bul, A Smy H
Can't read much from the obligatory bounce in the Black Sea, but if there's a Russian/Turkish juggernaut, then this will most likely see the Turkish fleet on its way through Constantinople to the Mediterranean while the Russian makes a play for Rumania. If not, pretty much anything could happen from this point, and it just might. With Serbia and soon Greece in Austrian hands, and no aggressive move into France or Austria from the Pope, Turkey should be expecting a stern fight on his hands over the Balkans and the Aegean.
So, in summary. Germany wants to kill France, who wants to kill England, who wants to kill Russia, who wants to kill pretty much anyone north of Moscow. With no obvious alliances in play in the West at all, the next few turns are going to be hectic, and the Northern powers can probably expect only moderate growth while they cover their own backs. Italy, Austria and Turkey are gathering their neutrals without bothering anyone and waiting for the time to strike, the conspiracy nut in me is wishing for some kind of hideous Frankenstein's monster of an IAT alliance to sweep north and west and drive the other powers into the sea, but I can't imagine it actually happening.
Hopefully by next week we'll know a little more.
In other diplomacy news, another episode of Diplomacycast came out a couple of weeks back, and I missed it. Three Dip tragics talk about the recent World Championships, the Grantland article that was written about the championships, and show both an obvious love of the game as well as some useful advice for new and old players throughout. If you've got two spare hours while driving or gardening or something, and like hearing people really get into talking about games, check it out. Even if you've only got a little bit of time, the first half-an-hour is particularly good.