A Statistical Look at 1901

An Analysis of Played Openings

"The Scribe"

with charts by Thomas Kuhlmann

Before we begin, a note on the byline: I asked Manus to avoid using my name. It's not like I'm a fugitive from justice or anything so trivial as that, its just that I'd rather not have my name known too well in Diplomatic circles. Not that I'm a player to be overly feared, in my opinion, but I don't wish to find myself in a game as, say, Austria, with the Russian agonizing over his choice for an ally. Our Russian protagonist then runs a "whogame" and discovers that the Dual Monarch is indeed the author of a scholarly-sounding article (and surely only scholars of Diplomacy are fit to be authors of 'Pouch contributions, he thinks). As the Tsar sees it, the Austrian must be either working on my Masters Degree in Diplomatic Tactics, or a tenured professor at the Harvard College of Treachery & Deceit. I find neither conclusion particulary conducive towards my goal of heartlessly crushing Russia for a solo victory, or for that matter even for a paltry share in a draw. So, I'm choosing to write under the simple pseudonym of "The Scribe," and away we go....
Just how does the typical 1901 game-year unfold in a game of Diplomacy? Well, funny you should ask. As part of a new Openings Library that I've been creating (to be combined into The Pouch's Library of Diplomacy Openings), I've documented several statistics, in addition to openings, from the first year in our favorite game of treachery and deceit. And while the game is a matter of, well, diplomacy, a knowledge of the frequency of certain occurrances can be quite helpful.

Perhaps you're the newly anointed Dual Monarch and you're wondering how likely you are to lose a home center to start the game. And which center that is most likely to be. Or how likely you are to find a five (or, heaven forbid, six) center Turkey as you enter 1902. And just how often does the marauding Tsar manage to seize an Austrian home center in the first year? How many neutral supply centers will still be unclaimed? And just how likely is the Italian to move to Tyrolia in the spring? Well, let's take a look, shall we?

The following numbers were compiled from no less than 600 games run on various Internet judges between 1993 and 1997. All games were Standard Diplomacy and featured partial press, either white, grey, or both. No variants of any kind were used, even those as minor as, for example, Fleet Rome. However, some consider "gunboat" (i.e., anonymous) to be a variant and a number of these games are included in this sample. Every effort was made to exclude those games from which Hall Of Fame points were withheld as a result of some impropriety, or suspected impropriety, though a few of these may have slipped through given the sheer number of games analyzed here.

The Library itself will hopefully be debuting with an upcoming issue of the Pouch. A breakdown of sample games by the year in which the games were started follows:

year 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997
games sampled 1 5 41 237 316

Statistic 1: Number of Centers Owned in Winter of 1901, By Power and Frequency

Note: Due to rounding, percentages will not always add up to 100.0%

Pop-Up Chart
2 3 4 5 6 7
Austria-Hungary 1.2% 9.2% 30.3% 55.3% 4.0% -
England - 4.3% 69.2% 26.5% - -
France 0.5% 2.2% 19.8% 61.5% 16.0% -
Germany - 1.7% 18.0% 66.7% 13.7% -
Italy 0.2% 5.5% 75.2% 18.3% 0.8% -
Russia - 1.5% 9.7% 33.2% 50.3% 5.3%
Turkey - 1.8% 79.5% 18.0% 0.7% -

France and Germany are by far the most likely powers to gain three builds in 1901. Meanwhile, Austria and Russia have a chance, though less so. Three builds by Italy or Turkey in 1901 is a true rarity while for England the feat is nearly impossible, depending upon a convoy by France just to have a chance at the magic three. If you can even convince France to do such a thing I would nominate you for Diplomat of the Year! Russia's chance for four builds is likewise virtually non-existent. Such a conquest would necessarily include either the taking of Norway, Bulgaria, or a Turkish home center, all rare occurrences in and of themselves. And then you still have to seize three other centers.

On the other hand we see that Germany is the power least likely to be held without a build (a mere 1.7% of the time, just ahead of Turkey). Meanwhile, Russia suffers that fate 11.2% of the time, and actually enters 1902 with only 3 centers a relatively whopping 1.5% of the time.

Statistic 2: Average Centers Owned in Winter 1901, By Power

Pop-Up Chart
PowerAverage PowerAverage
Austria-Hungary4.52 England 4.22
France 4.90 Germany 4.92
Italy 4.14 Russia 5.48
Turkey 4.18 

Of course, Russia leads the pack here, courtesy of beginning the game with an extra home center. But, surprisingly, it is Germany in second place and leading Europe in builds gained in 1901, just ahead of the vaunted French. England and Turkey rank low due to their corner positions which limit their potential in the early years. But the defensibility of those positions in the years to come more than offset the disadvantage of their slow starts. Italy's renowned weakness is clearly illustrated. Without the defensive benefit of a corner position they in fact gain fewer average centers than either of the two witches.

Statistic 3: Centers Gained in 1901, By Power and Frequency

Pop-Up Charts for Each Power -- Click on the Power Name
PowerGained CenterFrequency PowerGained CenterFrequency
England Norway91.2 % Austria Serbia91.7 %
Belgium23.3 % Greece72.5 %
Denmark3.7 % Rumania5.8 %
Brest3.5 % Warsaw2.5 %
Holland1.8 % Venice1.5 %
France Spain82.8 % Bulgaria0.7 %
Portugal80.5 % Munich0.5 %
Belgium28.5 % Germany Holland89.0 %
Munich4.5 % Denmark82.5 %
London1.3 % Belgium25.8 %
Italy Tunis87.7 % Sweden2.8 %
Trieste12.0 % Warsaw0.8 %
Munich3.3 % Marseilles0.7 %
Vienna3.3 % Paris0.5 %
Greece3.2 % Vienna0.2 %
Marseilles2.7 % Russia Rumania76.2 %
Serbia2.5 % Sweden69.3 %
Budapest1.0 % Vienna4.7 %
Turkey Bulgaria93.8 % Budapest2.3 %
Greece10.2 % Constantinople1.3 %
Rumania8.2 % Norway1.3 %
Sevastopol7.2 % Ankara1.2 %
Serbia0.7 % Berlin0.8 %
  Bulgaria0.8 %
Munich0.8 %

Note that all neutral centers that a power can take without the assistance of a convoy by a foreign power have been documented as taken by the power in question in this sample. However, not all foreign centers were so taken. Sevastopol was never taken by Austria-Hungary nor was Venice ever taken by France. And neither Trieste nor Venice was taken by Germany. No cases of a power taking any center that required a foreign convoy (i.e., Austria-Hungary taking Tunis or Germany taking St. Petersburg) occurred.

Statistic 5: Centers Lost in 1901, By Power and Frequency

Pop-Up Chart
PowerLost CenterFrequency
Austria-Hungary Trieste 12.0 %
Vienna 8.2 %
Budapest 3.3 %
England London 1.3 %
France Brest 3.5 %
Marseilles3.3 %
Paris 0.5 %
Germany Munich9.2 %
Berlin0.8 %
Italy Venice1.5 %
Russia Sevastopol7.2 %
Warsaw 3.3 %
Turkey Constantinople1.3 %
Ankara 1.2 %

The vulnerability of certain centers in 1901 is revealed. Trieste, Munich and Vienna are the three home supply centers most likely to fall in the first year of a game, clearly illustrating why 1901 is considered such a perilous year for the Dual Monarch.

Statistic 6: Unowned Neutral Centers in Winter 1901, By Number and Frequency

Pop-Up Chart
Unowned Centers 012 345 6
Frequency 14.5 %33.7 %32.3 %14.5 % 3.5 %1.3 %0.2 %
average: 1.64

Statistic 7: Ownership of Neutral Centers in Winter 1901

Center Ownership Frequency
AustriaEnglandFranceGermany ItalyRussiaTurkeyunowned
Belgium  23.3 %28.5 % 25.8 %    22.3 %
Bulgaria0.7 %      0.8 %93.8 % 4.7 %
Denmark  3.7 % 82.5 %    13.8 %
Greece72.5 %    3.2 %  10.2 %14.2 %
Holland  1.8 % 89.0 %    9.2 %
Norway  91.2 %    1.3 % 7.5 %
Portugal   80.5 %     19.5 %
Rumania5.8 %      76.2 %8.2 % 9.8 %
Serbia91.7 %    2.5 %  0.7 %5.2 %
Spain   82.8 %     17.2 %
Sweden    2.8 %  69.3 % 27.8 %
Tunis     87.7 %   12.3 %

(Pop-Up Chart for Each Neutral Center -- Click on the Center Name Below)

Of all the neutral supply centers, only Belgium does not lie firmly in the sphere of influence of one particular power. And it is no wonder. Though no power can reach the center in the spring, in the fall of 1901 France can have three units bordering the province, while Germany and England can each have two such units. The balanced influence in Belgium is another of the remarkable facets of Diplomacy that make it such a wonderful game.

At the opposite end of the spectrum from Belgium is Bulgaria, which may as well be a Turkish home supply center. Austrian or Russian control of this center in 1901 is as often a fluke as the result of an concerted attempt to take it. Bulgaria is the least likely neutral center to remain unowned in the winter of 1901.

The "unowned" frequency of Denmark is somewhat misleading as often the Germany fleet there will attempt to bounce the Russian fleet out of Sweden while the Russian player, foreseeing this, instead moves to the Baltic Sea in the fall. But Germany still takes a center (Sweden) as a result. And a good portion of England's successful moves to Denmark likely occur when the English player informs the Russian of Germany's intended bounce, whereupon the Russian fleet is sent to the Baltic, allowing England to slip into the vacated Denmark behind the vacating German fleet.

If Austria opens with a Balkan Gambit (A Bud-Ser, F Tri-Alb), as 82.0% of Austrians do, Greece is virtually assured in the fall if so desired. Of course, Austria's attention is often diverted elsewhere if an Italian or Russian attack has been launched in the spring. Italy rarely attempts to take Greece as it requires foregoing the automatic build in Tunis. Turkey can occasionally slip into Greece if Italy threatens Austria with her spring moves.

Even if the German fleet doesn't sail to Holland in the spring, if there are German armies in Kiel and the Ruhr (as there are two times out of three), then the Lowlands can be guaranteed. Thus, this is Germany's most likely gain in the first year.

Norway - Usually, England's only build in 1901. Even if Russia threatens Norway by moving an army to St.Peterburg in the spring England is usually in position to support itself into the province. And the Russian army often opts to move to Finland rather than attack Norway.

As only France can take Portugal in 1901 (barring some pretty improbable convoy -- a major diplomatic feat by England or Germany), there is little suspense over its fate. It's seizure rate would be far higher if not for the abundance of centers available to France at the beginning of the game.

Despite being the only neutral center that can be contested in the Spring of 1901, Rumania rarely sees such conflict, as the Austrian army in Budapest is much better off taking Serbia. Thus, Rumania remains Russia's most likely conquest in 1901, though the Turkish player often has a say in this matter.

Serbia lies solidly in Austria's sphere of influence. When the Italian takes it, it is usually with Austrian permission, the Italian army having to cross the Austrian home center of Trieste in the process. It is curious that though Turkey opens with an army in Bulgaria 99.8% of the time, that army almost never makes it to bordering Serbia in the fall.

Another center that only France can seize in 1901, Spain is taken slightly more often in 1901 than Portugal because the French army in Marseilles can perform some useful function in the spring before proceeding to Spain, whereas Portugal takes two moves to reach.

The most likely center to remain unowned after 1901, Sweden is often the scene of a bounce between Germany and Russia in the fall. Occasionally, Russia will move to the Baltic Sea, knowing that Germany will not permit the Tsar to establish a presence in Scandinavia, and the German fleet will slip in.

Another boring front in the opening year, Italy rarely passes up this guaranteed build. However, as no other power is likely to threaten Tunis even in 1902, Italy succumbs to temptation in one of every eight games and diverts his fleet to Greece or even the Aegean Sea.

(mail to be forwarded through dippouch@diplom.org)

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