One of the most important traits an opening should have is flexibility. Diplomatic relations wax and wane on yearly bases, and if you have committed yourself to a rigid opening, you will find yourself in trouble. This is why I hate the classic Lepanto opening for Italy. Practically all your moves for two years are spelled out for you, you will only get a fifth unit if you are lucky, and Austria does not stab you.
Paul Windsor's article Geography is Destiny points out that an attack on Turkey alone is not a terribly good idea, and rightly so. Unfortunately, he also points out that an attack on Austria may be a good idea. From personal experience, I know this not to be a good idea (see the Pouch Deposits for S2000M). An attack on France is difficult using the obvious route, so what is an Italian to do?
Geography is Destiny points out that Germany and Turkey have the same fear factor when it comes to frightening Italy. I know of MANY games when Turkey has overrun Italy, but NONE where Germany has done the same. Germany's fear factor needs to be reduced in my opinion. This is due to the Tyrolia bottleneck. The first one across will control the region. Since Tyrolia is assumed to be part of the AI region, Germany rarely enters there. Italy can force Tyrolia with armies in Piedmont and Venice, but Germany can only sit in Munich and try to defend. While Italy can slip past Tyrolia into Bohemia and beyond, Italy can defend against German invasion simply by sitting in Piedmont and Venice. That is the key for Italy: don't fear German reprisal. Consider this the door...
Diplomatically, get really friendly to Austria and France (possibly England too). Say hello to Germany, in an attempt to get him to understand you have non-hostile intentions. Don't try too hard though. Germany would get suspicious if the Italy starts talking to him too much, as that is unusual.
|A Ven -> Tyl
A Rom -> Apu
F Nap -> Ion
Lepanto. Tyrolean variant. BORING. But it accomplishes its function in its ubiquity and apparent harmlessness. From this opening it appears that nothing devious is going on in your little Italian head. Advantage: Italy.
You will want to have France in Burgundy, and Germany in Ruhr. Not a lot to ask. This is where you begin kissing up to France as much as possible. You need to make him realise that instead of getting involved in a futile war with EG over Belgium, he can help you into the rear of Germany, causing so much chaos in Germany that France will benefit from the breathing room. Say whatever you can to try and convince him. While you can proceed with this opening without French help, receiving said help practically guarantees that your fall moves will not fail.
A Tyl -> Mun (hopefully supported from Burgundy)
A Apu -> Ven
F Ion -> Tun
You get your two builds, and cover Venice. Nasty German press will be flowing in. Start apologizing, and do so honestly. Tell Germany that when he retakes Munich, you will disband one of your armies in winter, and that the whole purpose of this attack was to trade an army for a fleet. The beauty of angering Germany is that he cannot personally harm you. He will never be able to enter Tyrolia by force, and if he does, you can defend rather easily. He will most likely want to get Munich back, keep one eye one you, and renew his focus on the EFG triangle. Fear not German revenge.
Build F Rom
Build F Nap
Germany will probably be stuck with only one build, but a quick survey of the map will show that he can dislodge A Mun anyway. Let him. From this point the opportunities and flexibility of this opening show themselves based on where you retreat and move in Spring 1902. The places you can possibly retreat to indicate the three powers whom are your next target. Do you now choose to attack Germany, Russia or France?
|Variant One (continue attacking Germany)|
A Ven -> Tyl
A Mun HOLD (*dislodged* retreats to Kiel or Berlin or Ruhr.)
(Fleet movement inconsequential.)
A follow up attack into Germany. Hardly ever works as this is very short sighted. What it accomplishes is paint a large target on yourself. Everyone now wants a piece of your holdings in Germany and/or Italy. You might ask that A Rom should move to Ven in S1901, and Tyrolia in Fall. This would allow you to either hold Munich, or get two armies deep into Germany quick. Unfortunately, this set of moves will get Germany scared of just that, plus it also scares the heck out of your ally Austria (because it puts two units on two home SCs). This variant is not recommended for beginners.
|Variant Two (attack the Juggernaut)|
A Mun HOLD (*dislodged*, retreats to Silesia)
A Ven HOLD
F Tun -> Ion
F Nap -> Apu
F Rom -> Tys
AI alliances against RT focus usually on taking out Turkey, and then turning to attack Russia. Why not attack BOTH using one of your semi-useless armies? Coupled with a strong Austrian alliance, this set up can prove to be just as or almost stronger than the feared Juggernaut you are trying to stop. Warsaw can fall to you if you solicit Austrian help, or you can watch the nasty Russian press flow in if you move Sil -> Pru -> Lvn. You're Italy; time is on your side, so feel free to get the positioning you need. Care not that Germany is still angry that you are waltzing freely over the DMZs he worked so hard to obtain with Russia. I have taken this continuation to a three-way draw with Austria and Germany.
|Variant 3 (attack France)|
A Mun HOLD (*dislodged* retreats to Burgundy.)
A Ven -> Pie
F Tun -> Wes
F Rom -> Tys
F Nap -> Ion
If you are lucky enough to have Burgundy open as a retreat, TAKE IT!
YIKES! France is done. You have a very good shot at taking Marseilles, and Spain shortly after that. The loss of Munich will not even be noticed.
But how often will France leave Burgundy open knowing you could retreat there? This is why you began apologizing to Germany right away. The German army that started in Munich will be in Ruhr or Belgium now. Ask him to SUPPORT Mun - Bur, so he can take Munich without a fight. Convince him that since he can dislodge your army anytime he chooses, (which I why I advise AGAINST A Rom - Ven - Tyl) he might as well take the chance, knowing he could just as easily dislodge you in fall. To those who think this is impossible, know that I have done it before. It took a lot of begging and pleading to Germany (and England, Germany's ally) but it was done. I am close to a solo in that game.
I wonder now, while writing this article, if Germany needs to be kept in the dark on all this. The Blue Water Lepanto inspired a lot of feedback that asked why Italy needed to be kept in the dark on Austria's motives (and, in fact, also inspired an an article found elsewhere in this issue arguing that no secrets need be kept between the BWL's partners). Perhaps an IG alliance could accomplish the same.
|F Kie -> Hol
A Ber -> Kie
A Mun -> Ruh
A Ven -> Tyl
A Rom -> Ven
F Nap -> Ion
Then in fall, with German approval
|A Tyl -> Mun
A Ven -> Pie
F Ion -> Tun
A Kie -> Den
F Hol S A Ruh -> Bel
A Ruh -> Bel
Both Germany and Italy get two builds, and Germany can then help the attack on France in 1902. France dies, you get to blockade the Med, attack the east from a large power base, and not have to worry about watching your back. In return, Germany gets all the lowlands, Munich back, a piece of France and a shot at England/Russia.
During mid or end-game, the strongest power is usually the one who was able to get across Switzerland first. Being on both sides of Swi makes almost all stalemate lines useless. Why not take that initiative in 1901? Head straight north, and figure out the details of your target later.
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