1900: TURKEY

by B.M. Powell

Editor's Note: We have been featuring articles from Baron's Gamer's Guide to 1900 for some time now. We originally started way back in 2002 with a general introduction to 1900, and recently resumed the series with the chapter on Italy. In case you've missed the previous chapters, here's a quick series of links to them (in the order they appeared in the DP Zine):

  1. Introduction to 1900
  2. Switzerland
  3. Austria
  4. Britain
  5. France
  6. Germany
  7. Italy
  8. Russia

Now, at long last, we are happy to bring you the final installment of Baron's Gamer's Guide to 1900!!!

We hope and trust that you will find his analysis of Turkey, and the changes made to it in 1900 to be as interesting and instructive as the previous discussions.

Much to my surprise, the Ottoman Empire proved to be a most vexing Power to develop. Each time I thought I had it about right, I discovered another adjustment needed to be made. As a result, Turkey underwent more transformations than any other Power. I'll begin this chapter by looking at how Turkey evolved over time and explaining the rationale behind the changes. I'll then address Turkish options as the game begins.

As I've said before, two objectives were paramount in the design of 1900.The first was improving play balance. In Diplomacy, France and Russia are superpowers, while Austria-Hungary and Italy are underachievers. I felt the playing field needed leveling. The second was “improving” the map. Diplomacy starts in 1901, yet the map represents Europe in 1913. I wanted to use a map of Europe at the turn of the century and I wanted the map to include the entire northern coast of Africa. I felt that these revisions would contribute to play balance and enhance the “historical feel” of the game by giving each Great Power a unique personality in keeping with its historical strengths and weaknesses.

A "problem" surfaced immediately. Given my desire to capture the period's historical feel, how was I to reconcile Turkey's reputation as the "Sick Man of Europe" with my goal of ensuring each player had an "equal" chance of winning?

I felt part of the solution to this conundrum could be found by adjusting the at-start forces of each Great Power. In 1900, the weaker Powers, Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Turkey, were kept at three units each at game-start, albeit with changes to unit starting locations and composition. The Powers considered strongest at the turn of the century, Britain, France, and Germany, joined Russia in having four units each at game-start. Though this might seem to give Britain, France, Germany, and Russia an edge over their neighbors, I didn't feel this would be the case. 1900, like Diplomacy, is a game of alliances. Instances of a three-unit Power fighting a four-unit Power one-on-one would be rare. Far more often, coalitions would fight either single Powers or other coalitions. As long as a three-unit Power had an ally at game-start, it was probably going to be successful.

The other part of solving the "Sick Man" problem was realizing that the Ottoman Empire, while no longer feared throughout Europe, was not dead yet. Though not on par militarily with the major European Powers, perhaps excepting Italy, Turkey was, in the words of Lord Kinross from The Ottoman Centuries, "by far and away the most powerful, efficient, and enlightened Moslem state in existence." In truth, its performance on the battlefield was actually impressive at times. Turkey's accomplishments during WWI are best described by David Nicolle in The Ottoman Army: 1914-1918: "Over the four years of the 'Great War', the Ottoman Army, Navy, and two tiny air services fought on five major fronts (Gallipoli, Sinai- Palestine, Arabia, Iraq, and the Caucasus). Ottoman troops also served in many other war zones (Romania, Galicia, on the Eastern front, the Salonika front, Libya, Arabia, Yemen, and Iran). In addition, Ottoman agents stirred up trouble for the Allies much further afield, in the French Saharan territories, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Oman, Afghanistan, Russian Central Asia and even the East Indies — no small feat for an Empire which had been called the 'Sick Man of Europe' for almost a hundred years!"

Without question, Turkey's reputation suffers from having lost the Great War. Had the Central Powers prevailed, history books might not speak so disparagingly of the Ottoman Empire's military prowess

So how does the Sick Man fare in Diplomacy? To answer this question, let's look at the game results shown in the introduction. These results show that Turkey is a solid performer. Its 325 solos place it third overall, its 644 draws are third best, and its 2701 losses are third fewest. Sick Man indeed! Compared to pathetic Italy, Turkey is the very picture of health.

While the numbers tell us that Turkey is stronger in Diplomacy than it was historically, there is nothing in them to suggest radical changes needed to be made to Turkey to improve play balance. In fact, just the opposite is true. The numbers imply that Turkey needed very little, if any, "fixing."

Unfortunately, the map changes I wanted impacted on Turkey significantly. Consider that in 1899:

These historical realities were reflected in the original Concept Map (V1.0) for 1900 that first appeared in issue #81 of Diplomacy World. While Turkey had the same three home SCs (Constantinople, Ankara, and Smyrna) and two buffer spaces (Armenia and Syria), the world around it looked very different.

In addition to these map changes, I made two other significant changes to the basic game that affected Turkey directly. One was that Britain started with a fleet in Egypt. The other was a series of rules, the Suez Canal Rules, that addressed movement between Egypt and the Mid-Atlantic Ocean. The intent behind these decisions was twofold. First, I wanted to weaken Turkey's strong defensive position. I felt placing an enemy unit in Turkey's backyard and giving potential opponents the ability to reinforce the eastern Mediterranean would accomplish this. In truth, I considered increased Turkish vulnerability a fair tradeoff for what I believed were vastly improved Turkish offensive possibilities. Second, I wanted to increase interaction between Turkey and the western Powers. With British and Turkish SCs next to each other, I was sure that negotiations between Constantinople and London, as well as Constantinople and Paris, would be much more intimate in 1900 than they are in Diplomacy.

I thought all of these changes taken together would suffice to accomplish my objectives. <Sigh> It was not to be. In fact, the changes were just starting.

Even before the first 1900 game was played, I altered Turkey's appearance. The version of the map used during the initial playtest, V1.1, saw the restoration of eastern Thrace to the Constantinople space. I did this because I feared that life might become too difficult for the Sultan if he was not allowed to move his army directly into Bulgaria from Constantinople.

A number of significant map changes came about as a result of the first playtest. These changes were incorporated into V2.4 of the map, the version used during the second playtest. Not surprisingly, Turkey was affected in several areas.

The publication of the V2.5 map after the second playtest saw another change to Turkey's boundaries. This one, however, had nothing to do with play balance. Instead, I wanted to rectify an error in the map's historical accuracy. I noticed that most, though not all, maps of the Ottoman Empire implied that Turkey didn't exercise active control over the interior of the Arabian Peninsula. Based on this, the Arabia space was split into two spaces: Hejaz, the Turkish-controlled strip of land along the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, and Arabia, a neutral space surrounded by Turkish territory on three sides.

Not everyone was enamoured with what I had done to Turkey. Several people offered the opinion that Turkey was much weaker in 1900. One person flatly stated that Turkey was reduced to a minor power and had virtually no chance of winning. Despite Turkey's poor showings in the two playtests, I felt such comments were mistaken. Turkey's crushing victory in 1900 980601 under the able leadership of Scott Morris seemed to vindicate my position. This win was followed in quick succession by two more Turkish victories. As a result, I began hearing whispers that Turkey had been transformed into an unstoppable monster. I felt that these comments were off the mark as well. Turkey's victories in 1900 981101 and 1900 981201 resulted from a combination of factors, most notably superior diplomacy by the Sultan. In each case, Turkey might have been stopped had the other surviving players not thrown in the towel.

This is not to say that I felt comfortable with how things were shaping up. Indeed, something was off and whatever it was affected play balance in Turkey's favor. As I studied the map, it seemed to me that I had created a situation where Turkey had become the ally of choice in the east. Turkey had started every game played with either the Dual Monarchy or Russian Empire standing by its side. Not once had an A/R formed to crush the Ottomans. Clearly, if Turkey had a better than 67% chance of finding an ally at the game-start, the Sultan had a huge advantage over his eastern rivals in the long run. In examining why Turkey had seemingly become the most attractive partner in the east, two obvious explanations emerged:

This last point, possible conflict between Austria-Hungary and Russia over Rumania, led me to what I thought was the true source of Turkey's newfound diplomatic power. Turkey could move in such a way that it was assured of claiming Bulgaria in '00 regardless of what Austria-Hungary or Russia did. Even more important, Turkey could determine which rival Power, Austria-Hungary or Russia, got Rumania. Taken together, these results gave Turkey a tremendous bargaining chip to use at game-start. If Austria- Hungary allied with Russia, it would only get Serbia. If, on the other hand, Austria-Hungary allied with Turkey, it was virtually assured of claiming both Serbia and Rumania in '00. Given this, whom would you want on your side at game-start if you were the Archduke, Russia or Turkey? Further, if you were the Tsar, would you spend lots of time trying to convince the Archduke that getting only one build was to his advantage in the long run or would you concentrate your efforts on winning over the Sultan? It seemed to me that the Sultan was left in the enviable position of being able to choose his ally.

But was this really a problem? The scenario described above was predicated on the traditional Turkish opening of A Constantinople to Bulgaria. However, given the new boundaries in the Balkans and elsewhere, A Constantinople to Bulgaria no longer seemed optimal. Different openings gave Turkey the chance to acquire two (or three!) builds in '00 instead of one. If the Sultan wanted to maximize his gains, it clearly made more sense for him to order A Constantinople to Macedonia. This opening allowed Turkey to try for Greece in the Fall. Only an Italian attack into Greece would prevent Turkey from being successful in this regard. While such an attack could not be ruled out entirely, it was unlikely to occur if Tripolitania was open for Italian occupation. In the meantime, either F Ankara or A Smyrna could go after Bulgaria.

Going for the gold did involve some risk for Turkey, though. If Turkey opened with A Constantinople to Macedonia, Austria-Hungary and Russia could work together to ensure Austria-Hungary claimed Bulgaria and Serbia, while Russia got Rumania. If Italy could be convinced to bounce the Ottomans out of Greece, it was possible that Turkey could be kept from building in''00. Obviously, such a result would make an A/R alliance quite attractive to both parties. Unfortunately, for A/R to achieve such spectacular results, Turkey would have to forego the traditional A Con-Bul opening. If A/R gambled on the Sultan's opening and failed, they would have limited their own growth and gotten themselves into a slogging match with a well armed and relatively secure Turkey. The big question in my mind was this: would Archdukes and Tsars be willing to take this gamble to cooperate against Turkey? After giving the matter some thought, I felt the answer to this question was going to be "no" more often than not, especially when simply siding with Turkey in the first place seemed like such a sure bet.

Something else bothered me as well. Turkey's "best" opening moves given the new map presented Turkey with an excellent chance of capturing two neutral SCs in '00 and provided a solid defensive position in the event Turkey faced an A/R. If successful, however, these moves would most likely result in two Turkish armies sitting in the Balkans, one in Bulgaria and one in Greece. If Turkey were allied with Austria-Hungary, these two armies would be completely hemmed in. The Sultan would have to exercise patience while maneuvering them into battle against Italy or Russia. On the other hand, if Turkey were allied with Russia, Turkish units would be superbly positioned to take on the Dual Monarchy. I thought this situation might predispose Sultans towards an agreement with Russia.

I felt something needed to be done to facilitate the formation of anti-Turk alliances and ensure Turkey could work equally well with either of its eastern neighbors. At the same time, I didn't want to do anything that would cripple Turkey or unfairly limit the Sultan's options. After a few false starts, I finally hit upon something. I moved the SC in Smyrna to Syria and then renamed each space. Smyrna became Konya, while Syria became Damascus. I also restored Palestine to the map so there would be a buffer between Damascus and Egypt. I had always disliked eliminating a space that had so much historical significance and was the site of such heated fighting between Britain and Turkey during WWI, so I was happy when the opportunity surfaced to return Palestine to the map.

These changes allowed the Sultan to pursue a two or three build opening in '00. If Turkey did claim both Bulgaria and Greece in '00, its units would be positioned in a way that allowed it to work equally well with Austria-Hungary or Russia. Further, Turkey's ability to develop its position in the eastern Mediterranean was slightly, though not significantly, impaired. This would help Italy in a small way. Finally, Austria-Hungary and Russia, if they worked together, could ensure that they captured Bulgaria, Rumania, and Serbia in '00 regardless of what Turkey did. This would hopefully facilitate the formation of A/Rs. Even in the face of a determined A/R, however, the Sultan still had the ability to obtain one or two builds in '00.

When I published the V2.6.1. map with Konya, Damascus, and Palestine on it, I hoped I was done tinkering with Turkey. As it turned out, one more change was in the works. The two games played using the new map seemed to verify that the changes would have the desired effects as described above, but they also confirmed a disturbing trend. Basically, if Turkey took Egypt, it became a true Wicked Witch. Given Turkey's proximity to Egypt and Britain's commitments elsewhere, such a conquest seemed likely to occur in many games. I wanted to give western Powers the chance to regain a foothold in the eastern Mediterranean should Turkey occupy Egypt. The simple answer was to tweak the Suez Canal Rules so that a fleet or convoyed army could move directly from the Mid-Atlantic Ocean to Hejaz, as well as to Egypt. A British or French army appearing in Hejaz would be sure to make life interesting for the Sultan. The Sultan could defend his southern front easily enough, but doing so would mean one less Turkish unit was available to terrorize Turkey's neighbors. Turkey's spectacular performance in the games played to that date suggested that this small change was probably good for play balance purposes.

That's how we got to the current configuration of the Ottoman Empire. The question to be asked now is this: what's a Sultan do to in this brave new world? The answer is many of the same things he has always done.

First, the Sultan does not want to see an A/R. The two Christian Powers can make short work of Turkey if they cooperate. The good news for the Sultan is that Russia should no longer be the ally of choice in the east, as it is in Diplomacy and was when the Russian Steamroller Rule was in place. This means that Turkey should have an ally about two thirds of the time. Also, A/T is more effective in 1900 than it is in Diplomacy for the reasons discussed earlier. This gives the Sultan more options. The task the Sultan has to accomplish at game-start is "simply" to get the Archduke and Tsar to clash over their respective spheres of influence, just as they did historically. Rumania provides the perfect bait for both of Turke''s neighbors to go after in Spring '00. If Austro-Hungarian and Russian troops are both rushing into Rumania in Spring '00, the Sultan can relax a bit since the odds of preventing an A/R from forming are probably good.

Next, the Sultan wants to see Italian forces heading west instead of east (unless, of course, Italy is going to distract a hostile Austria-Hungary). Fortunately from a Turkish point of view, Italy's orientation in 1900 appears to be westward. It might not take much effort on the Sultan's part to get the Third Republic and Kingdom of Italy to come to blows. If Italy does get involved in a war with France, the Sultan should have ample time to establish a strong position in the eastern Mediterranean before Italy can become a threat. This is not to suggest that Italy and Turkey are automatically doomed to fight. On the contrary, I believe the 1900 map and the Suez Canal Rules make Italian-Turkish cooperation slightly more feasible than it is in Diplomacy, though it is still a difficult proposition. The two Powers will almost certainly need to help each other should a B/F manifest itself early in the game.

Finally, the Sultan generally wants to cultivate good relationships with France and Germany. Both of these Powers could prove to be Turkey's salvation should one of its immediate neighbors turn bellicose. What needs to be examined is Turkey's relationship with Britain. In Diplomacy, these two Powers usually have little interaction until the game is well along. This situation changes in 1900. British and Turkish units start the game on top of each other. Additionally, the Suez Canal Rules mean that Britain may participate actively in Middle Eastern and African affairs. The presence of British units in the eastern Mediterranean is not necessarily a bad thing for Turkey, but I question whether Turkey can win when surrounded by the Royal Navy. Turkey can make its corner of the map more secure by taking Egypt, but doing so early may be problematic and doing so later will likely invite British hostility. Since Britain can be a powerful ally against both Italy and Russia, it might not make sense for the Sultan to upset the Prime Minister. It's a tough call. My gut feeling is that Turkey must take Egypt eventually if it hopes to claim a solo and it should do so before Britain starts pumping units through the Canal.

Tactically, the Sultan needs to reexamine his game-start options.

As stated earlier, opening with A Constantinople to Bulgaria is probably not the best option any longer. This opening limits the number of SCs Turkey can potentially capture in '00 since Greece cannot be taken. It also places Turkey at risk of getting no builds. Should Austria-Hungary order A Budapest to Rumania, A Vienna to Budapest, and A Trieste to Serbia, while Russia orders F Sevastapol to Black Sea, A Warsaw to Galicia, and A Moscow to Ukraine, the allies can take Bulgaria and the Sultan gets nothing. If, however, A Constantinople opens to Macedonia, the Sultan can try for Greece even as A/R is grabbing the rest of the Balkans.

Even if Turkey has an ally in the east, there is another disadvantage to ordering A Constantinople to Bulgaria in Spring '00: Italy may get a unit into Greece in the Fall. Once the Pope has Greece, it may be hard for the Sultan to take it from him. I think it's better to dampen Italian enthusiasm for Balkan intervention by opening to Macedonia in the Spring and making it absolutely clear that the army will continue on to Greece in the Fall. The Pope is sure to think twice about a bounce in Greece, especially if Tripolitania is open.

Whether the Sultan actually orders A Macedonia to Greece or uses A Macedonia to support the Turkish fleet into Bulgaria will depend on the situation at the start of Fall '00. I feel A Macedonia should move to Greece if Turkey is allied with Austria-Hungary. If Turkey is allied with Russia, I feel A Macedonia should support the Turkish fleet into Bulgaria. Turkey can send a newly built fleet sailing to the Aegean Sea in '01, while A Macedonia is available to support a Greece invasion or attack the Dual Monarchy.

The Sultan has two familiar options regarding F Ankara: move to Constantinople or move to Black Sea. The good news for Turkey is that either opening has a good chance of succeeding. Austria-Hungary's ability to contest Russian control of Rumania in '00 means the Tsar is less likely to open to Black Sea than he might be in Diplomacy. The Russian fleet probably won't sail into the Black Sea unless the Tsar is either allied with the Archduke or absolutely convinced that an A/T exists. Generally, moving F Ankara to Constantinople signals an alliance with Russia, while moving F Ankara to Black Sea indicates an alliance with Austria-Hungary, but these conclusions might not be valid.

A Damascus probably provides a better indicator of Turkish intentions.

In summary, the key differences between Turkey in Diplomacy and in 1900 are as follows:

The bottom line is that Turkey in 1900 is potentially stronger, but at the same time it is more vulnerable. While its diplomatic options are similar to those exercised in Diplomacy, except as regards Britain, its tactical options at game-start are significantly different.

B.M. Powell

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