I enter every game knowing that I am going to attack somebody (preferably several somebodies) and hopefully by surprise. I never know who is going to get it or when, but it generally does not take long for somebody to beg me to plunge my dagger into his back. As Italy in a recent game, I really did not want to attack France as I had some serious concerns in the eastern theater, but… letís see how the press unfolded.
When there was no response, I followed with this:
To which there will still no response — yet I had intelligence that he was active in negotiations across the board. Meanwhile, Austria was not talking to me and I had the distinct impression that a juggernaut was forming. He responded to my third attempt at opening diplomatic relations with:
I don't like reading long messages. That's all.
Really? Thatís it? He didnít even bother signing it. I do get it — not everybody likes the storylines and I likely laid it on a little thick for an introductory press. Still, however, if he had never responded, I would have been forced to order VEN-PIE. Unfortunately, the east was showing significant unrest and there seemed to be a legitimate threat of an alliance between Russia and Turkey, so I could not risk an immediate war with France. But, boy was he begging for one. So, with a last desperate attempt I wrote:
Fortunately, this opened up a dialogue through which we agreed to an alliance and to demilitarize Piedmont. Why he had to ignore my first two requests for communication, I do not know. I could certainly alter my style and start using short, choppy sentences to suit him. Of course, my mind had been made up: This was not going to be an alliance worth keeping if at all possible. However the drama was not over…
Through the course of our conversations, and in reaction to nasty rumors spreading around the board, we agreed to a bounce in Piedmont — it would allow me to protect Venice from a potentially erratic Austrian, allowed us to keep Piedmont effectively demilitarized and would free him to move into Spain in the fall. It seemed like a win-win agreement. My spring 1901 orders were: NAP-ION; ROM-APU; VEN-PIE. I had agreements from both Austria and Turkey to allow me to convoy an army into Greece (I was going to have to decide whether to support SER-BUL or BUL-SER in the spring). My press to the nameless Frenchman at the very beginning of the fall turn tells the story:
Once again the Frenchman and I started an interesting exchange in which he swore friendship with me, declared war on me through public press and came up with this fascinating explanation to his non-move:
And when responding to my concern about French fleets in the Gulf of Lyon, he had this to say:
Well you see, I'm supposed to convince everyone I'm attacking you. England is my worst enemy and he must be eliminated. I want Germany to make the first few moves, so England moves his ships closer to Scandinavia to attack Germany. The reason I am build in Marseilles is to keep tempo. I need Germany weakened before I attack him.
Germany won't attack me if I have others to deal with. Germany has England to deal with too, to control Scandinavia and make sure there are no more English ships to bother him before moving on to Russia or myself. I will be ready for Germany if he attacks me because I am actually not fighting you, and my ships in the South can move North in short notice. Germany and England have cooperated so far, so I strongly doubt that they will pull anything. My plans may change if Germany betrays me.
At this point, I had absolutely no idea what his plans really were, but they struck me as being very unfriendly. However, if he planned to attack me, why would he say all of this? Perhaps he thought I was a fool? Perhaps he was a fool? Perhaps he was just insane? The one thing that was certain was that I did not want him to build any fleets in Marseilles. Frankly, I would prefer he not build at all. My response then was this:
I promptly changed subjects and my orders: PIE-MAR: ION-TUN; APU-VEN. Despite my fears in the east, this Frenchman was a bigger problem and I certainly hoped that my budding triple alliance with England and Germany was going to hold. At the very least, either I would capture Marseilles, or his army was going to stay put — both of which prevent the building of a French fleet. Moreover, if the alliance between Germany and England would hold, France would not attain Belgium and would not build more than one. Should this be the case, I would have strong prospects for gains in France that would allow me to help the Austrian hold back the impending juggernaut.
Yes, after all of that, France ordered MAR-SPA and I had control of Marseilles. Thankfully, Germany supported a convoyed English army into Belgium, so Franceís ability to retaliate would be very minimal, allowing me a secure western flank while pushing east.
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