RANTINGS OF A MAD BACKSTABBER

Lesson one:
If you goad somebody into attacking you,
he likely will

by Matt Johnston


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.

Great King!

I wish to introduce myself as we have not yet had the pleasure of acquaintance… I am Contessa Fiorella de Napoli, oldest daughter of the recently departed Conte Amadeo. Due to the most unexpected circumstances leading to his passing, I have been left in charge of the Italian people during this time of great crisis.

I am first seeking to secure my borders as my nation is already suffering from great turmoil. Therefore, I ask you, would you be willing to leave Piedmont unoccupied for the foreseeable future?

I also see no reason that we cannot be partners — allies per se — deep into the war that that is bound to encompass Europe in the next few years. If this pleases you — as it does me — I would be quite amenable to adding a third to our partnership? I would certainly bow to your judgment here as I am of but 23 years and know little of the other rulers of this land.

I must ask, is Paris as romantic as all the stories tell? My father would never allow me to visit, fearing for my… my… In any case, I would love to visit — I have heard so many delightful stories. Perhaps you would have me? During the winter months, I would welcome you to join me a spell in my summer beach home along the shores of Naples to further discuss political arrangements?

With this post, I have also sent a bouquet of dried roses from my personal garden and one of the great works of Michelangelo — one of the finest artists to ever grace my nation.

I do look forward to hearing back from you.

Most Sincerely,
Countessa Fiorella de Napoli

When there was no response, I followed with this:

My dear Frenchman,

I am saddened that I have not yet received correspondence from you — but that you have taken the opportunity to speak with others… I must say that this does not put me at ease.

If nothing else, I would simply like to confirm that you will be focusing in the north and that we can agree to neutrality in Piedmont.

Countessa Fiorella de Napoli

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:

I'll keep it short:

Peace?
DMZ Piedmont?
I go east, you deal with England and Germany?

Countessa Fiorella

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:

Dear Friend,

I was completely expecting a bounce — as I responded about five minutes after your confirmation.

I will retreat immediately.

My sincerest apologies for the transgression.

Countessa Fiorella de Napoli

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:

My plan is rather bold. I have convinced Germany that you are attacking me, and I must build a fleet in Marseilles. Germany probably won't stab me then because I have two people to deal with, England and yourself. When England moves to the Skagerrack, I will move into the Channel.

The ship in Marseilles will be moved into the Gulf of Lyons, then into Spain when I attack.

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.

And this:

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:

Very well, my friend.

However, I will ask that you tell me about things that affect the location of my units and the sanctity of neutral zones before you do them? It is of vital importance to my troops.

Also, I must ask, what have you heard from Austria, Turkey and Russia? It seems that there were a number of very unexpected movements this turn — much to everybody's surprise.

Countessa Fiorella de Napoli

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.

Dear Emperor,

There were terrible rumors floating about that Marseilles was destined to be a port in which French ships were to be constructed and floated into such sensitive waters as the Gulf of Lyon. This immediately followed a bit of chicanery of one of your generals who lured my army in Piedmont away from Venice, preventing it from properly defending my nation.

I do apologize for the inconvenience.

Countessa Fiorella de Napoli

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.



Matt Johnston
(matthewfjohnston@comcast.net)

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