It's 1902 in old Europe, and the alliance structure is becoming a little clearer. Russia and France are scrambling to make up ground after their slow progress in 1901, and early leader Germany is trying to look unthreatening. It's that fun time around the board when things really begin to start happening.
ENGLAND (F Lvp - Wal, F Lon S F Lvp - Wal, A Yor S F Lon, F Nwy S A Fin - Swe)
After a safe build, King Maximillian continues on his defensive route, ensuring that the French are repelled and buying a Russian ally by offering support into Sweden. The English aren't getting a build this turn, but with the Germans all over France they can at least be reassured that they're not even close to doing the worst in the theatre, and while Germany continues building armies the English will be content to sit back and pick up a centre or two where they can.
FRANCE (F ENG C A Wal-Pic, A Wal - Pic, A Spa - Mar)
The French saw the writing on the wall and chose to save the army for the autumn at the cost of doing anything particularly useful with their fleet. With hostiles of the Germans in Gascony and Burgundy, and Italians in Piedmont, whatever the French try to do in the autumn will be taking a big chance of losing even more home centres. Just goes to show how important an early-game ally as one of your neighbours can be.
GERMANY (A Par - Gas, A Mun - Bur, A Hol - Bel, F Den - Ska, F Kie - Den, A Ber - Sil)
The problem with being so far in the lead after 1901 is trying to preserve that lead when all your neighbours suddenly get spooked. The Kaiser (Fuhrer?) has apparently decided to deal with this issue by moving quickly to eliminate the French while gearing up for a protracted war against potential Russian aggression. If the Austrians are friendly, it could work really well, but if that army in Bohemia has hostile intentions, we could be looking at a new game leader very soon.
AUSTRIA (A Vie - Boh, A Bud - Gal, A Tri - Bud, A Ser - Bul, F Gre S A Ser - Bul)
That's the wonderful thing about Austria. Often you'll see them sandwiched between the Turks, Russians and Italians and squished in a couple of years, but when they find an ally or two they have an incredible ability to explode and be suddenly everywhere. If the move to Bohemia is a feint, then Austro-German co-operation could assure Moscow and give the Austrians a chance at Rumania or Bulgaria too, and if it's not, a Russian alliance could result in quick expansion into Germany.
ITALY (A Pie - Mar, A Tun H, F ION H, F Nap - Tys)
Not quite sure what Italy is doing, but I guess that biding his time before deciding if his opponent is France or Turkey is a nice option for a cautious Italy. I worry that whatever booty might be gained from an alliance from Austria or Germany might be reduced by taking the extra time, but at least there's the advantage of still not really having any enemies. Except for France, of course, but one wonders if France is going to remain a factor for long.
TURKEY (A Bul H, F Con S A Bul H, F Smy - Aeg, A Syr - Smy)
Things might look kind of dismal, but they are going about as well as the Sultan could hope at the moment, as with the Russians barely involved in the theatre it was always going to be an uphill battle for Turkey. It will all come down to which way the Italians fall. Either way, the Turks are prepared for a long protracted battle and winkling the wicked witch of the East out of her home will be a difficult task.
RUSSIA (A Fin - Swe, F Bot - Lvn, A Lvn - War, F Sev - Rum)
These moves are pretty confusing to me, to be honest. Gaining Sweden is great, but with the fleet back in Livonia the Tsar is beholden to the English to allow him to hold it. Warsaw is in danger too if Germany and Austria are friends, and when the Russians are already in conflict with the Germans in Scandinavia and the Austrians in the Balkans, that's a disturbing possibility. Still, given how poorly things seemed to be starting out, I'm not discounting the Russian just yet.
And that was the week that was in Europe. By this time next week the powers will be shaping up for the Spring moves in 1903, and who knows what the board might look like. See you then.
EXTRA:I've had a request to let everyone know what games were played each Thursday Board games night, so here we are. Apparently it was actually Thursday Card Games night, but I guess that happens. I sat out the first couple as is my custom when the lasagne is in the oven, and Stephen and Daniel swept the night.
Game 1:Samurai Sword
Loyals (Laura and Stephen ) defeated the Ronin (Rochelle ) and the Ninjas (Matthew, Callum and Daniel ).
Game 2: Samurai Sword
Ninjas (Laura, Callum and Daniel ) defeated Loyals (Matthew and Stephen ) and the Ronin (Rochelle )
Game 3: San Juan
Stephen and Daniel  defeated Callum  and Matthew , and drew on cards as well.
Game 4: 500
Daniel  defeated Matthew , Stephen , Callum  and Thom [-20].
Game 5: 500
Stephen  defeated Daniel , Callum [-10], Matthew [-250] and Thom [-580].
Why is it that the first night that we record results I do so terribly?