Approximately a year ago, Matthias Görgens, a player in one of the DPJudge games of 1900, wrote to Baron Powell, the variant designer, "I am playing Russia in the DPJudge game 1900 070323/LETSTRYANEW1900. I have noticed that Russia can use the Russian Emergency Measures Rule to lend out one of his home supply centers at no cost. I intend to try out this tactic in further games. Maybe it will be worth an article in the Diplomatic Pouch some time." I am willing to step up to that challenge and write an article about this diplomatic tactic, as it specifically applies to relations between Russia and Turkey and the Juggernaut.
Please raise your hand if you have heard of the Juggernaut? Good, I see lots of hands raised. Of all the recurring alliance patterns we have seen in Diplomacy, this dual alliance of Russia and Turkey may be the most (in-)famous. Despite its notoriety, however, many people think it is a flawed alliance in that it substantially favors Russia over Turkey.
Here are just three samples from the large literature in the hobby concerning this disparity of expansion prospects:
"One question worth asking about Juggernauts is 'What is in it for Turkey?' Good question. Unless the Italian player is an idiot, a Juggernaut is almost certainly going to favour Russia — who will slip the knife in when Turkey is over-stretched and claim an outright win."
"Even a perfect [Juggernaut] creates just one little problem for Turkey. It benefits Russia more than our glorious nation. A smart Russia will know this…"
"I contend that "typical" Juggernauts contain the seed of their own demise in that they often heavily favor the Russian half of the partnership… it is easy to envision a scenario where Russia, over a period of game-years, gets much bigger than Turkey. If this occurs, the alliance is in grave jeopardy."
One of the reasons Russia is perceived to benefit more is the imbalance of growth opportunities. This is based upon the speed in tempi it takes both Russian players and Turkish players to expand as they race westward for dots. Paul Windsor began this Caissic practice of counting the tempi -- or unit moves from province to province -- that it would take each of the seven powers to most quickly and efficiently reach the magical number of eighteen supply centers for a victory from their home supply centers. Comparing Russia and Turkey in the standard game:
As you can see, the differential in tempi is significant -- at fifteen. The Tsar only needs to achieve 65.9% of the tempi of the Sultan to gain a solo victory. Stephen and Dirk are onto something.
Baron Powell, the designer of 1900, has striven successfully to ensure that each of the seven powers was afforded a more equal chance of doing well without sacrificing their individual personalities. One of the accomplishments of the 1900 variant map is to reduce number of tempi required by Turkey to expand. Baron Powell took up Paul Windsor on his challenge to apply Caissic analysis to variants and developed a similar tempi count for the seven powers in his variant, a portion of which is reproduced below:
The differential in tempi for each of Russia and Turkey to gain eighteen supply centers by the swiftest route has been reduced to thirteen. Russia now needs to achieve 69.0% of the tempi of Turkey to gain a solo victory in 1900. It's closer, but many will argue the Juggernaut would still be imbalanced with this starting position. Stephen and Dirk would probably still discourage a Juggernaut as too beneficial to Russia.
However, this is not the end of the story. 1900 also has a special rule, the Russian Emergency Measures Rule. Whenever Russia possesses at least one, but not all four, of its original home supply centers, it is entitled to maintain one extra unit on the map (i.e., one more than the number of supply centers it currently controls). Additionally, while Russia is in this condition, the Tsar may use Siberia as a build site during the adjustment phase, if Siberia is unoccupied. Baron Powell discussed the rationale and justifications for this special rule in the Spring 2007 Retreat issue of The Diplomatic Pouch 'Zine ("1900: Russia").
Of course, Diplomacy players being Diplomacy players, an interesting anomaly was discovered very quickly. With the Russian Emergency Measures Rule, Russia may purposely want to keep one of its home supply centers (e.g. Sevastopol) under occupation by an allied power (e.g. Turkey) in order to exploit the rule for an extra unit for their alliance. Consider for a moment a Juggernaut alliance started early on. Russia begins the game at four supply centers and units and Turkey at three supply centers and units. Russia "trades" or "gifts" Sevastopol to Turkey as part of a pre-arranged deal. Turkey now sits at four supply centers and units, while Russia is reduced to three supply centers, but can still maintain a fourth unit because of the Russian Emergency Measures Rule. While previously their seven combined supply centers supported seven combined units, the special rule allows them to field another unit without gaining any further supply centers. Further, there may actually be little incentive for Russia to regain that lost home supply center as it would not gain Russia a unit. For some Tsars it would make sense for Russia to regain the home supply center in question only to solo or to prevent the former ally from soloing.
We can also look at the impact of the Russian Emergency Measures Rule on the swiftest route to a victorious eighteen supply centers. Should Russia allow Turkey to occupy Sevastopol as part of the improved Juggernaut, it means that new Russian units could only be built in Moscow, Warsaw, St. Petersburg, and Siberia. This increases the number of tempi Russia has to traverse in order to reach eighteen supply centers. That is illustrated in this table:
This is a much more balanced bilateral alliance in terms of growth potential. The differential in tempi between the two powers has shrunk to six! The Tsar now needs to achieve 85.7% of the tempi of the Sultan to gain a solo victory in 1900.
Many wonder while I still include the Russian and Turkish home supply centers in the tempi counts above. Certainly, the Juggernaut allies would hope that the other participant would not stab the other to achieve a solo, since that is not the purpose of any alliance. The reality is that many alliances do break down. The point I am trying to illustrate is that the REM rule slows down Russian growth potential, even directed against Turkey, to the point where the Juggernaut imbalances discussed earlier are no longer an overwhelming hurdle. Part of the analysis is that Russian stabs of Turkey, which would then pass through Sevastopol but not initiate in Sevastopol (until Sevastopol is recovered by Russia for a restored build site), are a little more remote in time and space, giving the Sultan that much more comfort in pursuing an alliance with the Tsar.
So, by using the Russian Emergency Measures Rule in the 1900 variant, players can conceivably achieve an improved Juggernaut. First, they can significantly reduce the tempi advantage Russia otherwise has. Second, they can level the playing field for units in play by allowing Turkey to take Sevastopol before even getting to an equal division of further spoils. At this point, even Stephen Agar and Dirk Fischbach might be willing to consider a Juggernaut when playing the yellow pieces.
In truth, this Russian capability has existed since the introduction of the previous Russian Steamroller Rule in an earlier version of the variant, though only one Tsar took advantage of it. The ability to surrender a home supply center and still get a build has in a sense been rediscovered now that the Russian Emergency Measures Rule is in place. While some believe this gives Russia an edge, Baron Powell, the variant designer, advises caution. In his opinion, surrendering a home supply center to an ally as a general strategy is unsound in the long run (i.e., it make work now and then, but is generally a losing proposition).
Here are some of Baron's concerns and some possible counterarguments for reassurance.
"First, we are talking about giving up a home supply center. Further, by doing so Russia is voluntarily exposing its soft underbelly to a potentially traitorous ally. If the unit that took Sevastopol or St. Petersburg happened to wander into Siberia or move directly into Moscow, Mother Russia might be caught in an embarrassing position. That seems to be a very risky proposition."
The exposure of Russia's soft underbelly can be mitigated by having Turkey take Sevastopol with a fleet, and not an army. That way there are not concerns about a Turkish unit wandering into Siberia or Moscow 'by mistake'. Some will suggest that it still seems too easy for Turkey to turn that into a foothold for a push north into Russia's heartland.
Matthias Görgens, the Russian player in 1900 070323/LETSTRYANEW1900, reminds us that the Turkish acquirer of Sevastopol does not have to be a permanent occupier. Therefore, the increased risk of invasion into the Russian homeland does not have to persist. Actually, he proposes that the Tsar may gain security because the Sultan will have a hard time justifying static defensive units on his northern border when new Russian units popping up in Sevastopol is no longer a fear.
"Continuing the previous point further, why would Russia give up a home supply center and get one build when you can keep the home supply center, get the build, and not be as vulnerable? Because an ally suggested it? Russian players may need to look with circumspection at that particular ally for making such a suggestion."
As mentioned earlier, this strategy allows a bilateral alliance including Russia to play one unit above its joint supply center count. Admittedly, not every player will want to take the risk for the reward. Keep in mind, the proposal could just as easily originate in Moscow, not Constantinople.
Jay Booth, the Russian player in 1900 070521/BODIN, is another person who gives a positive review to the tactic of giving Sevastopol to Turkey to be garrisoned with a fleet that cannot move further inland. Along with a secure border splitting the Balkans, his view is that this tactic certainly adds a level of stability to an R/T dual alliance that might otherwise appear unequal. One of the reasons alliances flounder is the appearance that only one partner is benefiting.
"Another concern is that knowing that Russia has this capability, doesn't it make sense that Austria-Hungary or Turkey might suggest an alliance with Russia against the other, and then use Russia's generosity against itself by advancing further and faster as an A/T than they would otherwise?"
True, but cannot this same caution be raised with so many alliances, strategies and tactical plans? One such example, and often used within the Juggernaut alliance, is the swapping of control over units. This is described in both the Spring 1998 Movement issue of The Diplomatic Pouch 'Zine ("Diversification"), and this issue ("Refining the Juggernaut, Part II"). As useful a tactic as it can prove to be for the Sultan to control the Russian southern fleet, and the Tsar to control one of the most northern Turkish armies, the risk for a mis-order or non-order causing the advance of enemies further and faster is just as possible. We do not automatically dismiss this creative solution because of the inherent risks, however.
"Even if Russia does get the build and an ally, neither of which is a certainty by any measure, that does not at all mean that the world is the Tsar's oyster. It simply means that Russia has a better chance of advancing to mid-game."
Again, this is correct. Remember, however, that a player cannot win unless his or her power advances into the midgame. Fellow 1900 enthusiast Chris McInerney re-emphasized this observation to me recently: Russia is not simply part of an A/R/T Balkan triangle alone. Instead, it must split time and units (both finite resources in a game) between multiple triangles at game start: the A/R/T Balkan triangle, the A/G/R Eastern triangle, and the B/G/R Scandinavian triangle. Part of what a Tsar gains by virtue of giving up a home supply center to an ally under this strategy is minimizing its participation in one of those triangles, allowing Russia to focus its time and units elsewhere, hopefully maximizing its chances of making it to the midgame. Whether this ability to more narrowly focus its energies is really a gain or not remains, of course, a matter of dispute.
So, with all these arguments and counterarguments mustered, where do I come down? Like so many great 'zine submissions, I find this article to be simply the beginning, and not the end of the discussion. While it is clear that the improved Juggernaut does reduce the previous Turkish concerns about being outraced by Russia in their joint westward expansion, I am not certain that Russian players would, or should, accept the vulnerabilities outlined above to form a more balanced Juggernaut. I am committed to considering and discussing this strategem. I am, however, walking away with more questions than answers.
As we finish this article on theme of unanswered questions, there are definitely fields for further study to be explored. I have discussed the impact of the Russian Emergency Measures Rule on the famed Juggernaut. This special rule will also have impacts on Anglo-Russian, Austro-Russian (Baron Powell notes that the only time Russia has used this strategy en route to a solo victory was when it gave Sevastopol to Austria-Hungary, not Turkey, in 1900 070521/BODIN), and German-Russian alliances in 1900. Each of those is worthy of a 'zine article as well. Are you willing to take up the baton?
The author would like to thank Jay Booth, Matthias Görgens, Chris McInerney, Baron Powell and Charles Roburn for their suggestions and contributions.
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