by a Diplomacy Genius
('Bad' Bob Skynner)

Hello fellow boardgamers! Have you ever thought whether the move: F StP/sc-GoB is actually the best possible opening for that particular Russian unit? Well, being a genius, I can think of three excellent reasons why the move: F StP/sc-Fin is actually the better move. Each of these reasons will now be considered in turn; so sit back, listen, and learn from an absolute genius, the subtleties of Diplomacy in my very own Diplomacy masterclass.

Okay, so firstly, if you're really confident of taking Sweden in August 1901, why then should the means to the end really matter? Well, most of the numbskulls in the British Telecom and Post Office Board Games Club who I play against would say no; but a real genius such as myself would point out that by going to Sweden via Finland you demonstrate your trust towards Germany, by completely avoiding the Baltic Sea. So this move into Finland is a fantastic way of demonstrating your complete undying support towards Germany; however, it's only likely to work with a novice or an incompetent player. For the more experienced and capable players are likely to see through this, and might even regard such a move as a sign of weakness. So I certainly wouldn't recommend your telling the German player in advance that you will open this way, as it might encourage the move F Kiel-Denmark.

Now my second reason for opting for the F StP/sc-Fin move is tactical, specifically that a fleet in Finland can do something which a poor old fleet stranded in the Gulf of Bothnia can't do. So let's suppose that in the year 1902 you face a combined German–English alliance, with a German F Den and an English A Nwy facing you. Now a fleet which is situated in Finland could drastically slow down the allied advance by physically blocking the landward advance towards St. Petersburg. And if you were wise enough to build either an army or fleet on the south coast in the Winter of 1901 in St Petersburg, then by supporting your fleet in Finland, the alliance won't be able to dislodge it by attacking Finland (with a force of three units) for quite some time. So if you deduce that an English-German alliance might want to move A Nwy-Fin, F Den-Swe in the spring of 1902, which is a reasonable expression of the E/G alliance, then a Russian fleet stuck in Finland is your best defensive option.

Finally, my dear friends, if Sweden has been pried from your greedy clutches in 1901, then you're likely to view this as an act of war against you by Germany. Now while this might indeed be the case, to quote the famous old song, 'it ain't necessarily so.' Germany could, for instance, be ordering F Den-Swe simply as a favour to England, or to limit Russian growth to two instead of three units in 1901 as a favour to Austria. And so it could be the case that Germany doesn't necessarily want to fight Russia; he's just leaning on him! As I see it, Germany's problem is that a fleet in the Gulf of Bothnia is extremely threatening to the Baltic Sea. Now Russia will of course be urging Germany to go to war against England; but while Germany might be interested, moving his fleet from Denmark to the Heligoland Bight or attacking the North Sea is going to be far too risky whilst a Russian fleet in the Gulf of Bothnia is threatening. This is why a fleet in Finland makes a long term Russian-German alliance so much easier, as it minimises the potential aggression towards Germany, thereby making it easier for Germany to turn westward, consequently making him far less dependent upon England as a long-term ally. So if you really do feel you should to keep a lower profile in Scandinavia after an Autumn 1901 clash with Germany over Sweden, then plan for this potential in advance with the move F StP/sc-Fin.

After three years, Robert Skynner, Diplomacy Genius, is still undefeated in 'Western Front,' an Australian Boardgaming club.
Robert Skynner,
Editor of The Tory Bleeder

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