This is the second part of a two-part article: the first part was featured last issue.
Part Two: Tactical Openings
Tactical openings relate to the 1901-02 period with a focus on the movement of the pieces. Ever since the penning of The Lepanto Opening* in the late 60's early 70's there has been a rush to try to give fancy names to the more mundane openings in the game. I will dispense with most of those names except where a certain compulsion to recognition of achievement or egotism (or both) brings me to use a named opening that is associated with that title to such an extent that it is a short hand notation amongst experienced players to describe what you are proposing. When encountered there will be a * to a footnote at the end to explain the opening.
Additionally, players should understand that tactical openings do not exist in a bubble removed from the strategic or diplomatic situations as detailed in the first part of this treatise. In the course of explaining the opening some of these aspects may be pointed out. A respect for brevity has left some of the more obvious reasons for a particular opening to be played.
The Standard/Default Opening:
Spring 01: Army Munich-Ruhr, Army Berlin to Kiel, Fleet Kiel to Denmark
This opening is used about 40% of the time in all sorts of games — Face to Face, PBeM, social, tournament — and is even the most popular of all German openings in all large-scale anonymous Gunboat games. This opening allows for the Germans to make a play to grab Belgium and Holland, as well as already taking Denmark. Denmark can be used as a base to bounce the Russians out of Sweden in the Fall. It also allows for the return of an Army to cover Munich if threatened by anyone moving to Burgundy/Tyrolia/Silesia, and the coverage of Berlin if there is a threat from Prussia or Silesia. There is also the possibility of using Armies Ruhr and Kiel in a supported defense of Munich if there is fear of a French/Italian/Russian possible combined attack on it.
The placement of the Fleet in Denmark still allows for a threat to move to the North Sea and the possibility of a shift north with something like: Army Kiel-Denmark, Army Ruhr-Holland, Fleet Denmark to Skaggerak/North Sea/Baltic. From a tactical support of strategic options, if the Germans are going to preserve options in the north and they accept going for only two builds, then the move to Skaggerak is better than a shift to Baltic since from Skag they can attack Norway with the Russians, or make a supported attack on Sweden while a newly built Fleet in Kiel covers the Baltic Sea. However, Skaggerak can be a treacherous grave if the Swedish and English Fleets combine against it in the Spring of 02. Remember that historically in Diplomacy, more Fleets are killed in Skaggerak than any other sea provinces on the board.
The classic opening has a nice potential to use Army Ruhr to support Army Kiel to Holland if there is fear of an English move to keep the Germans down to only one build. Or if the German feels safe enough with moving Army Kiel to Holland, then Army Ruhr can take any action in regard to Belgium either as a mover or a supporter of England/French action there based on the diplomatic scene.
The movement of Fleet Denmark to the North Sea with the Support of a French Fleet that is successful in moving to the English Channel in Spring 1901 is part of an opening called The Sealion Opening**. It is associated with the French making a move to Belgium with an Army in the Fall of 01, and in the Spring of 02 the potential of double convoys into England or a supported convoy into London by the French and the Germans to clear out the lo lands and make a maximum pressure attack on the British.
All this flexibility is why this is the most popular German opening, and when you review that it threatens no one in particular more than anyone else, it is easy to see why this is sometimes seen as the most boring of all German openings in Spring 1901. However, if you are unsure of your strategic and diplomatic plans, boring can be very safe and very good.
The Fleet Holland Openings
Typically the opening is F Kiel to Holland, Army Berlin to Kiel, Army Munich to Ruhr.
This is the second most popular German opening. It has the advantage of putting two units on Belgium so that if France has moved to Picardy with the idea of taking Belgium the Germans can be sure that the French are kept out even with English support from the North Sea.
The weakness of this is that it automatically allows Russia to take Sweden, so that the Germans have no early say in bouncing in Sweden to slow down a Russian-Turkish alliance or an Austrian-Italian-Russian (AIR) early threat. The other disadvantage of this opening is that this is generally perceived as anti-French by the French.
The final weakness of this is that it gives the Germans the opportunity to take Denmark only with an Army, which leads to less flexibility in the North. If the English bounce the Germans in Denmark, then the Army in Kiel is blocked from moving out and the Germans do not have a convenient place to build a fleet to answer the rudeness of the English.
The strength of this opening is that it makes sure that the Germans have a serious say on what is to happen in Belgium, as Fleet Holland can make a move there if Army Ruhr is called away to defend Munich.
The opening can also be used in combination with a successful French move to the Channel, with Army Ruhr going to Holland and Army Kiel to Denmark in the Fall, while Fleet Holland makes an unexpected sortie to the North Sea with support from the French.
In the anti-French positioning, the Fleet in Holland allows for a cross shift of Army Ruhr and Fleet Holland so that in the Fall, Fleet Holland goes to Belgium and Ruhr goes to Holland. This will allow the Germans to have a fleet bordering on the English Channel either to jump out there to outflank the French, or to support the English from London into the Channel to start the destruction of France from the sea. It also has the interesting duplicitous tactical option of working with the French to force the English Channel; and since Fleet Belgium is no threat to Burgundy, it can duplicate the sort of relationship in the west that a Russian Fleet in Rumania has within a Russian-Austrian alliance. This is again an example of a tactical move that gives diplomatic options and can disguise intent.
Fleet Kiel-Holland is also a good combination in an opening where Army Munich is sent to Tyrolia or even directly to Burgundy. The reason for this is that the Fleet can move to Belgium to keep France or England out except with mutual support. The movement of Fleet Kiel to Holland in combination with Army Munich to Silesia is also done, but rarely. This combination has a very confusing effect on the Russian player, since the Germans are NOT in Denmark — and thus the Russians can walk into Sweden unopposed — but the move to Silesia is seen as anti Russian (it does after all only border on Warsaw as a possible German build). This opens up the diplomatic discussion between Germany and Russia, where the German tries to sell the move to Silesia as a defensive move and uses the lack of movement to Denmark as his support that he is really just being paranoid. This takes a lot of Bismarckian skills to sell. However it does offer the possibility of allowing the Germans to sneak into Warsaw and then still build three, while keeping the possibility of the Russians going to the Baltic from Bothnia to near nil possibilities.
The Eastern Push
F Kiel-Denmark, A Munich-Ruhr, A Berlin-Silesia
This is the common attack on the Russians. Sometimes the roles of Munich and Berlin are reversed, with Berlin going to Kiel. There is more flexibility with the Germans in Ruhr than there is with the Germans in Kiel, which is why this is the preferred opening if you want to go for the Russians. When doing this, the German wants to see the Austrians in Galicia by hook or by crook, and if the Russians are moving Army Moscow to St. Petersburg in the common enough Two North Two South Opening***, the results can be devastating to the Russians.
Sometimes people get overly excited in their Eastern Push and order both German armies East, hitting both Prussia and Silesia. This opens up both Holland and Belgium to the west, and bringing the British into Holland is a very bad survival technique for Germany. However, you see the full Eastern Push on occasion driven not by the strategic or tactical options, but by an overwhelming psychological need to make a diplomatic statement to the Russians. The full Eastern Push is also often sold to novice players by more experienced Western Powers as an idea of a Western Triple that totally exposes the German player to great danger in the 1902-3 period, while presenting the Russians with a massive in-your-face opening.
A Mun-Tyr, F Kie-Hol, A Ber-Kie
This is combined with the Italians moving Army Venice to Piedmont and Army Rome to Venice. The French are thus threatened in Marseilles, and the Germans are in Holland to make things a little dicey with Belgium.
The key to the Freak Out is in the Fall 1901 orders, when the Italians swing East with Army Piedmont to Tyrolia supported by Army Venice as the Germans simply stand in place or go to Piedmont so that the Austrians cannot support the Germans to hold in Tyrolia. The reasons you do not want that is so that the German Army Tyrolia is dislodged and can retreat to either Vienna or Trieste! The Austrians may sometimes cover one of the centers, but this retreat takes the guess work out of the decision. The Italians and the Germans are then firmly in Austria with three armies in Tyrolia/Venice as well as Trieste/Vienna. The Germans can get three builds by taking Holland and Denmark and staying out of the Belgium guessing games. Furthermore, if the French have gone to Burgundy and take Munich while for some reason the Austrians cover both Vienna and Trieste, the Germans could elect to take the unit off the board and rebuild armies in Berlin and Kiel to toss the French out of Munich.
The Koningratz Freakout is a lot of fun at times (unless you are the Austrians), and can be used as part of a Western Triple or other strategic plans where Belgium is not a major concern of Herr Bismarck and he wants to cause a little chaos with Army Munich. The Germans should not follow up in 1902 with another army in the south normally, since this opening is best as a means to keep France off-balance, gaining time to form a western or northern strategy while making chaos the main goal of the southern army.
The Burgundy Opening
A Munich -Burgundy, Army Berlin -Kiel, F Kiel-Holland
The direct attack on France is done best with movement on the French by England and Italy and when the French are going south or to Picardy with Army Paris. If the Italians are in Piedmont and the English in the Channel, it does not take much imagination to put a big hurt on the French. The biggest advice here is to know your French player to guess which way to go. Most often veteran players in tournament will leave their home centers open and go for broke when caught off guard. So when you see that make sure you all hit the three home centers with the idea being that maybe one or two will work. Going from Burgundy to Gascony in the Fall looks better than it is in reality if there is a mass gang up on France since France building two under these circumstances often leads to a morale collapse of the triple alliance against France as the French are strong enough to frustrate one of the partners in the attack leading to them backing out.
However, remember that you have the Fleet in Holland. This allows you the diplomatic and tactical option of backing out of the attack on France and ordering Army Burgundy-Belgium supported by Holland.
This will give the Germans a chance at three builds, keep France in your debt after a rather scary display of duplicity, and hopefully leave the English and the Italians holding the diplomatic angst bag.
The Berlin-Munich Opening
Army Berlin-Munich, Army Munich-Ruhr, Fleet Kiel-Holland
This opening yields any claim on Denmark. It is most safe when the English are pulled into the anti-French effort by going to the Channel. When this is done, then the odds are that the English will go to Norway and Denmark will remain empty till 1902 when the Germans can pick it up with a little diplomacy. The double armies on the French border allow for Ruhr to go to Belgium with support from Holland while at the same time Army Munich can follow up into Burgundy or try to make a dangerous shift to Ruhr allowing for Munich to be open for a build. This will give the Germans three armies facing Burgundy in Spring 1901.
The big risk in this is always that the English will not go to the Channel, and of course they will not resist going to an open Denmark. This diplomatic error by the Germans gives the English a strong possibility of putting an army in Denmark that is more of a danger to Germany than it is to Russia.
The Baltic OpeningFleet Kiel-Baltic, Army Berlin-Kiel, Army Munich-Ruhr Follow up is Baltic-Sweden, Ruhr-Holland, Kiel-Denmark
This allows the Germans to communicate immediately to the English that they are not a threat ,since their fleet does not border on the North Sea. The move is also anti-Russian since it allows for the Germans to play Fleet Baltic to Sweden in the Fall with the idea of keeping the Russians out, and starting 1902 with a Fleet in the Baltic and an Army in Denmark. When followed with builds of armies, the Germans can pull a Livonian convoy in Spring 02 with Army Kiel(or Berlin) to Livonia convoyed by Fleet Baltic while the other German armies make a move on Silesia/Prussia/Denmark etc. If the Russians played Bothnia to Baltic in the Fall of 1901, the odds are the Germans will be building three. This gives the Germans the excuse to build a second fleet and force the Russians out of the Baltic, while advancing their northern agenda a turn early.
The Baltic Opening also allows for the Germans to shift out of the Baltic and go Baltic to Denmark in the Fall — possibly with the support of Army Kiel if an English stab to Denmark is expected. The Army in Kiel remains, and if all hell breaks lose and the French are also in Munich, the Germans can respond with a build in Berlin and kick the French out of Munich in Spring 1902 while mending fences with the Russians.
The Baltic Opening is a favorite of the Western Triple since it does give the English some large measure of comfort, allowing England to put an army in Norway and shift to Barents in Fall 1901. However, veteran players will often see this and call out for an Eastern Triple to stop the West early. In the case of chaos or great distractions in the East (either diplomatically, or personality clashes), the Baltic Opening can be an excellent start of an Eastern Blitz by an English-German alliance.
The Baltic Opening can also be combined with the movement of Army Berlin to Prussia with the flexibility of convoying Army Prussia to Denmark in the Fall. This is generally a poor adjustment to the opening, since it preserves the threat to Sweden and gives the English massive temptation to make a run at Holland or Denmark themselves.
The Helgoland Opening
Fleet Kiel-Helgoland, Army Munich-Ruhr, Army Berlin-Kiel
This is one of the rare openings and requires a lot of diplomatic preconditions and strategic self-confidence, so it is clearly in the realm of Bismarck not Der Kaiser. The idea is to present England with an ultimatum of Germany moving Helgoland to either Denmark or Holland, and if the English stand them off then what happens is that the Germans are in an advance attack position against England. Likewise, it allows the Germans to move on either of those provinces with support meaning that the English are in a guessing situation if they wanted to take the Germans on. The Germans can stay in Helgoland and support an army into either Denmark or Holland however that would be hostile to England so be prepared to build a fleet in Kiel.
The position still allows for a Sealion**-style attack on the North Sea if the French are in the Channel. It communicates to the Russians that the Germans are interested in going west and gives the Russians Sweden, which can be used by the Germans to petition for a build of Fleet StPetersburg North Coast if it is the direction he wants to go.
Army Munich to Bohemia
The often scorned move of Army Munich to Bohemia as an opening is well deserved. The move allows for an attack on Vienna with or without support from other powers in Galicia and Tyrolia. The move to Bohemia when done with the Italians going to Tyrolia leaves Munich open for a stab by the Italians or a direct attack by France via Burgundy.
The move to Bohemia is often done as a psyche-out by the German player to chide the Austrians, or as a matter of a dare. Some of the more interesting follow up moves for Army Bohemia is to slip into Galicia and create a wandering Army of Chaos. New players are also often targeted with the concept of making the move to Bohemia as nothing more than an abuse by other players to pull the Germans into a poor position.
No discussion of the German tactical openings can be complete without a tactical review of the value and considerations of moving first to Denmark, and then using Fleet Denmark to stand the Russians out of Sweden in the Fall of 1901. The decision to go to Sweden is settled in strategic and diplomatic issues. However from a tactical side the following points are to be considered:
The position at the start of the Fall is often Armies in Kiel and Ruhr as well as Fleet Denmark; the decision to go to Denmark tactically must be seen as what to do with the other two units. If the Germans expect to be bounced, then Army Kiel is generally sent to Holland with the support of Army Ruhr or Army Ruhr is used to go to Belgium or cover Munich. The danger to the German move to Sweden is that the Russians play down to Baltic in anticipation of the German move. This can be made doubly painful by the deployment of a Russian army from the East to the German front. For example, if the Russians and the Austrians had agreed to a friendly bounce in Galicia, the Russians could express their sincere displeasure at their perception that the Germans will move to Sweden by ordering Fleet Bothnia to Baltic and Army Warsaw to Silesia.
Additionally, if the Russians are in Galicia and wish to make amends to the Austrians for the rude intrusion to their territory, the Russians could also order Army Galicia to Silesia, thus putting pressure on all of the German supply centers.
If the Germans are going only for Holland and hoping to bounce in Sweden, then Germans are building two but have their homeland all threatened, and the temptation to the French and the English to turn vulture and fall on Germany in 02 may be too much to resist.
However, the single biggest threat to the Germans in the bounce in Sweden comes from a combined Russian-English combo move, where the Russians order to Baltic and Silesia while at the same time the English take the opportunity to convoy the English Army to Denmark and take Norway with a fleet. What this does is to surround the German Fleet in Sweden, giving the English and the Russians supported attacks on Kiel-Berlin-Sweden, and puts the Germans in a weak position.
The suggestion then to avoid the counter move is for the Germans to take the tactical option of moving Army Kiel to Denmark and Army Ruhr to Holland, with the hope that in the event that the Russians get a sense of the move and wish to counter by going to the Baltic, the Germans could get a chance at three builds while allowing France and England to fight over Belgium. It also prevents the the English from landing an army in Denmark, which is a sword over the German's head.
German role in the Italian Three Fleet Opening/Munich Gambit
Tactically there are issues for the Germans when they want to make a deal with the Italians to yield Munich so that the Italians can build two fleets. The idea in this opening is for the Germans and the Italians to pile into France in 1902, with the Germans using Army Belgium to support the Italians to Burgundy in Fall 02 while taking back Munich from Berlin. The moves look like this:
The builds are then German Armies in Kiel and Berlin, and Italian Fleets in Rome and Naples. In 1902 the Italians go to Western Med, Tyn, and Tus with the fleets and Piedmont and Burgundy with the armies. The Germans support the attack on Burgundy and move Kiel-Ruhr and Berlin to Munich.
One of the problems in this is that the Italians may not be up for the switch; and then of course the French could be in Burgundy and frustrate the moves to Munich, or the British could be working with the French and have a go at Denmark, thus backing up the entire concept.
Tactically one of the biggest errors that the Germans make in this situation is to get over-confident and build a Fleet and an Army in the Fall of 01. This immediately tells the board that the Italian move to Munich was probably with consent, and the entire surprise attack on Burgundy is lost. So if you are going to try this opening, make sure you do not make a Fleet build.
Tactical Choices over Munich in Fall 01
The Germans are usually faced with a choice over what to do about Munich in the Fall of 1901: generally as a courtesy of the French being in Burgundy, less so with the Italians in Tyrolia, and on occasion with the Russians in Silesia. In isolation these are the tactical considerations that tie into some diplomatic issues assuming a Standard/Classical German opening:
France in Burgundy
As the Germans are in Ruhr the choice are to cover Munich or make a go for Belgium/shift on Holland. (The option of going Ruhr to Burgundy is cute, but takes an elite player grasp of the diplomatic and strategic conditions to pull off, or several shots of Schnapps to seriously consider.) If the French were originally supposed to be in Picardy and the English are potentially hostile, then the Germans are better off making a move to cover Munich and to see what happens with Belgium and the builds.
If, on the other hand, the English are favorable to the Germans or tied up with facing down a Russian move of Army Moscow to St. Petersburg, then the Germans may risk Munich being open and make a play for Belgium. The tactical idea here is that the Germans can still build two Armies and force the French out of Munich in the Spring, and pull Army Belgium or Army Holland into Ruhr to force the French back to Burgundy — or more commonly to Silesia/Tyrolia.
Italy in Tyrolia
With the Italians in Tyrolia and no other threats to Munich, the Germans have to see where the other Italian Army is and what the Italian relations are with Austria-Russia-Turkey. Armies in Tyrolia and Venice generally are a good indication of an attack on Austria. This can be sidetracked very quickly if there is a Russian-Turkish love fest in the Black Sea, with neither of them going there and the Turks going Fleet Ankara to Constantinople. Under those circumstances the Italians may make a diplomatic about-face relative to the Austrians, and simply take a jump at Munich with follow up of Army Venice to Tyrolia so he can build two fleets in the south to confront the Turks. In those circumstances the best bet is to cover Munich and then figure out what the status is in the West.
If the Italians are in Tyrolia and not in Venice, then they are in a wild card position and you need all the skills of Bismarck to figure out the intent; or you can often simply rely on the Kaiser to take a military option of covering Munich.
Russia in Silesia
A lone Russian attack on Germany is very rare, and may be a result of being double-crossed by France and Italy. The tactical choice is then complicated by the facts that the Russians can go to Berlin or Munich and can play Bothnia down to the Baltic. The more common situation is for the Germans to toss a coin if they elect to make an attempt at covering one of the centers. However, if the Germans feel they have a clear shot at three new centers, they often will ignore the Russians and go for the three centers, planning on building two units to toss the Russians out in Spring 02 while hoping to pull England East into a Russian punishment program.
Combined French and Italian threats to Munich
In about 10% of the openings, the Germans are faced with France in Burgundy and the Italians in Tyrolia. Here the Germans need to put Bismarck in charge, since there is no simple military solution. If both France and Italy have lied to you about their moves, then the key is what is England doing about Belgium? The Germans can recover from a supported attack on Munich if England is on your side and the Germans get two builds. However, it is more common that the French and the Italians do not support themselves in the attack on Munich, but rather that France goes to Belgium and Italy makes the move on Munich. Here the diplomatic instinct is most important. Tactically the best play then is to cover Munich from Ruhr, bounce, and let the French into Belgium (if you do not have the Fleet in Holland to keep him out). This allows the Germans to build an Army in Munich and protect it through 1902, while at the same time the Germans will have units in Ruhr and Holland to kick the French out of Belgium, guaranteed as long as the English are not involved.
England's involvement with the French and the Italians greatly complicates the equation. If the English are telling you that they are going for Belgium with their Army, then you have to consider that the French and the Italians are cooperating on Munich. Here you have a choice to play super Kaiser and move Kiel to Munich with support from Ruhr, as this blocks a French attempt to slip into Ruhr and blocks the Italians from taking the center with or without French support. Germany is guaranteed a single build, and lives in a strong enough position to see if it can peel off the Italians from the attack and turn the English into a anti-French campaign in 1902 with an English build of Fleet Liverpool. Make sure that you talk to the English about this option, so that he has it in his head to do so once he sees that the French and the Italians have been stopped.
Combined French/Italian/Russian threats to Munich
This is a real break down in the diplomatic front since you are now facing units in Burgundy, Tyrolia, and Silesia. In this case the tactical plans include a cover for Berlin and Denmark, since a strong Russia is more of a threat to Germany than a two-center building Italy. Tactically if the French see that they can get Belgium, they will most often go for that. If Italy and Russia are supporting one another it is rare so if France can be distracted by Belgium then covering both Berlin and Munich could give the Germans a tactical edge going into 1902.
Combined French/Italian/Russian/Austrian threats to Munich
The great Oktoberfest **** Opening is a great compliment to the German player, since everyone and his brother is attacking you. Tactically the best choices still remain to cover Berlin, take Denmark and toss a coin on whether to go to Belgium/Holland or Munich with the remaining Army. There is no Kaiser way out of this mess, and it is strictly a matter of whether your diplomatic skill as Bismarck can get your ass out of this shooting gallery.
Tactical Choices in Builds
The Winter 1901 adjustments provide the Germans usually with a wide range of responses to the situation at the end of 1901, depending on the number of builds. A single build probably means that things have not gone very well for the Germans, and an Army is usually the best choice unless a downright feud is being called on England. The common choice is with two builds. Tactically if there is to be a Fleet built, it should be built in Kiel for maximum flexibility. A Fleet build in Berlin is telling the board that you are going to the Baltic and is generally an invitation to the Russians to move to Prussia and/or Silesia to get a jump on the war that the Fleet Berlin option often preshadows. A Fleet in Kiel can be shifted to Holland, Denmark or moved into Baltic/Helgoland with support by a Fleet in Denmark to work on forcing Sweden or the North Sea in the Fall of 1902. This is a good example of some tactical flexibility to support strategic and diplomatic options.
The option of building a Fleet and an Army also gives Germany tactical choices to support strategic moves on Russia or England. Making a second fleet early is often more forgiven by the British than later on, thus allowing the Germans to have a little bit of a force cushion from a naval war in the mid game. If the Germans build Armies early on then the building of a second Fleet later on is broadcasting a move against the English that is less likely to be successful.
Where to build the Army in the case of a Fleet and an Army build is generally not a problem as the overwhelming response for tactical flexibility is Munich if it is open. A Fleet Kiel Army Berlin combination is very pro French but again is announcing the intent to the board.
Building two fleets when there are only two builds is always seen as anti English and has the same problem of any build of Fleet Berlin: that unit is seen as going to only one place: the Baltic though shuttles through Kiel to Holland are seen and should be sold by a true Bismarck even if the intent is to go to Baltic. However, the big danger to Germany of a double fleet move is that the East can see this as a perfect time to flood 'The Wall' (Tyrolia/Bohemia/Silesia/Prussia) and take a shot at Munich and central Germany crippling the Germans from the start.
If we look at the Germans building three, then the max flexibility is a Fleet and two Armies with the Fleet in Kiel. However with tactical flexibility can come diplomatic problems, as all of Germany's neighbors may suddenly feel threatened. If the builds are all Armies, then while England may not feel threatened, the French and the East will certainly take a keen diplomatic check of intents since the Germans are announcing to the board some sort of agreement with England.
Remember that tactical play is where you push your pieces. These moves do not exist in a vacuum, and that often the greater the tactical options you have the better off you will be. However there are circumstances where you may want to reduce your own tactical choices to force a position that would otherwise be diplomatically unjustifiable if it was the result of a choice… but then that is another article of discussion all together.
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