by James Leadley

A sour look comes to your face… you were just given Austria in the first round of your Dip Tourney. Life could probably be worse, but nothing comes to mind very quickly. Being a calculating sort, you realise you're down low on the odds scale and no orders have even been written. It's just like that time you walked out of the bar after a long night of drinking. You were unlucky with the ladies all night and heading home after getting drunk to dull the pain. Parking in the alley seemed okay when you arrived, but now everything was dark and there were guys all over the place. How the hell did you survive that night? Let's go back and see what happened…

The first thing you did was say to nobody in specific, "What's up man?" It wasn't a classic line like Clint or Arnie would deliver, but it was a great move. You needed to find out who was doing what, and who was with him. Austria is in the same position opening up in Dip. You can't jump Italy, Russia, or Turkey without knowing what's going to happen at your side or back. Communication is mission critical. Every single word uttered to you should be analyzed several times. Each player — even the distant ones — needs to be contacted and pumped for info.

After seeing that this alley might be your last drinking adventure you did what all super heroes do — you started begging for your life!!! No, you aren't a hero, and you needed to get through this alley alive. There are loved ones in need of your wit and charm! Don't get me wrong, you didn't get down and beg — but you started offering friendships to anyone that could hear your slightly higher-pitched voice. This is exactly what Austria should start doing… before the first move! In your first communications you started to get a feel for who is interested in gutting you and who is looking somewhere else. Now your second communications go out before the first move offering some solid relationships. Remember you're the guy in the alley — it's dark, and you need a friend. Generosity and flattery go a long way.

Then in that alley you did something that would have surprised your mother! After your mouth got tired you viciously attacked the nearest guy! Mom would have been shocked, but Dad would have been proud. You picked a guy that clearly meant you harm and you went after him with all the training you had from watching UFC fighting on TV! The same as Austria should do. Get the upper hand on your worst foe in the beginning… or at least keep him to a draw. If you're after Turkey send the fleet south and fill Serbia. If the Russian Bear growled then fill Galicia and Rumania. You can't let him in Galicia; otherwise you're in trouble. If Italy looked at you the wrong way then battle for Tyrolia or pin him down with your fleet in the Adriatic and army in Trieste. No matter who you picked, you need to pick up a new supply center… probably Serbia if nothing else.

Back to that wild alley scene — your buddy who was standing at a safe distance says after you went berserk you seemed to have an eye in the back of your head. You picked up even the slightest move behind you, and let up on the beating you were giving rather than get jumped from behind. Amazingly enough, Austria must do the same thing! Those early and detailed conversations you had gave you a clear understanding of what you expected from your neighbors. If anyone of them deviates even a hair from what you expected, then you need to adjust your attack to set up a stout defense. You can't risk a smooth talker sliding behind you and ripping you apart. If you see Galicia or Tyrolia occupied when you didn't expressly authorize it, then you're in full retreat mode to cover Trieste and Vienna… with back up! You never see the Hero get a knife in the back. He might get over-powered, but never a silent death!

After that initial memory-losing berserk attack in the alley, your mind came back to you. Even with your fists flying, you remember that your mouth was running like Bruce Lee in Fists of Fury! You were admirably trying to let everyone think you were some martial arts expert and that it wasn't going to be easy to take you down. Just like a great Austrian diplomat! Openly discuss the potential defense you can put up to your attackers. Let everyone know that it will be easier to work with you than face your defenses in a long war. Look for neighbors who may be under pressure from another side and send out peace offers to them. After that first build you'll see if Italy or Russia have their other borders under control.

That brings us to the final heroic act in that dark alley one night way back when you were young and foolish. There was one guy in that alley that just wouldn't leave you alone. His pride wouldn't allow it! Even with your UFC training and Bruce Lee noises that guy just had to take you on till death do you part. In Dip that guy is Turkey. You may start with some successful negotiations with the Turk, but at the end of your opening moves he's plotting your death like Caesar in Roman times. As soon as the Turk gets Sevastopol you're in trouble. Same with Russia gaining any home center in Turkey. However, like Caesar with 20/20 hindsight, you know when the dagger is coming for you — and you simply are not going to let it happen! No matter what, you can't let Russia or Turkey beat each other. You simply have to play them off on each other until you can push in and take one side of the Black Sea yourself. You may think it dishonorable to switch sides, but the winner of the Russian - Turkish battle will turn on you in short order 99.9% of the time. Bargain for improved position with the weaker power and switch sides, gaining advantage for yourself while providing support. There is no chivalry in a back alley!

The great news is that you survived the back alley, way back when (you're reading this!) and you can survive drawing Austria too! Life has given you all the training you need to get Austria through those first few years. Just dim the lights, have a drink or two and let your natural instincts guide you. If you do get jumped by all 3 then take your beating like a man — you'll live to fight another day!

Good Luck!

James Leadley

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