1900: AUSTRIA-HUNGARY & SWITZERLAND

Compiled by Chris Dziedzic
Edited by B.M. Powell


EDItorís note: the (1900 Variant) has been played by email for some years now though I believe it has never been played at a face to face tournament. This article by Chris goes with the comments on the play of the game as detailed in a player guide.

The chapter on Switzerland in the Gamers' Guide to 1900 focuses mainly on the interplay of France, Germany, and Italy; and the new diplomatic triangle that they create. The potential role of Austria-Hungary, while noted, is not discussed at length because of the infrequent nature of an initial Austro-Hungarian capture of Switzerland (only 4 times in 136 contests as of this writing).

The fact is, however, that Austria-Hungary is indeed a potential factor in determining the fate of Switzerland and its role in the game. This point was driven home in 1900 050905/Dip 1229 when the Dual Monarchy captured Switzerland in Fall '00 and later used it as a lynchpin in its western campaign against both Italy and France. While the Dual Monarchy did not find itself in the winner's circle in that contest, which ended on the 23rd of March, 2006 in a French-German-Turkish 3-way draw, the novelty of the Austro-Hungarian capture of Switzerland to open the game maintained a hold on the attention of the players.

During the extensive End of Game discussion of 1900 050905/Dip 1229, Peteris Paikens, the Kaiser, posed a question about the implications of an Austro-Hungarian capture of Switzerland in Fall '00. Among those who provided insight and analysis were Rohan Light, the Archduke; Charles Roburn, the President; Chris McInerney, the Sultan; Baron Powell, the designer of 1900; and Chris Dziedzic, the GM. What follows is a compilation of the notes that were exchanged.

Peteris Paikens:

I do have a question for you: In the beginning of the game, Switzerland is usually contested by France, Germany, and Italy. In this game, it went to Austria-Hungary, causing a lot of turmoil around that area. How do you feel? Whom did it actually benefit the most? Rohan, do you feel that this gave you an advantage in this game?

In the general case, I even have a feeling that it could be best (of course, personalities also matter) for Germany to have Austria-Hungary in Switzerland in the opening. Are there significant disadvantages that I am overlooking?

Baron Powell:

In 79 Steamroller games, Austria-Hungary has been the first Power to occupy Switzerland only 2 times. [FYI...France has done so 12 times, Germany 10 times, and Italy 55 times.] Based on my observations, it's very unusual for Austria-Hungary to head west at game-start when relations with Russia are heated, as was apparently the case in this game.

Actually, if I'm Germany, I think I'd prefer to see Italy occupy Switzerland, all other things being equal (which they never are). France and Austria-Hungary, even more so, tend to look at Germany as a source of SCs once they have gained traction and are considering a solo bid. Italy on the other hand tends to focus initially on the Mediterranean and usually goes after Germany only very late in the game when a solo is within reach. Though stabs into Munich do occur, they seldom benefit Italy in the early going like they do France and especially Austria-Hungary.

So no, unless my relations with the Archduke are VERY cordial, Austria-Hungary would not be my first choice to occupy Switzerland if I'm the Kaiser.

Anyone else have comments?

Chris Dziedzic:

Peteris, let me start by suggesting that you read this article. In it, Baron and Stephen Miller describe the interactions caused by Switzerland. Part of their analysis, which I agree with, is that regardless of who takes Switzerland to start, it can only be held when at least two of the involved powers agree. I guess what I'm trying to suggest is that the turmoil seen in this game was not due to the Austro-Hungarian incursion, but the general diplomatic layout. Austria-Hungary was able to take Switzerland because it initially had the support of France and Germany to do so, since both of these powers mistrusted Italy. Once that support was lost, however, it is not surprising that Austria-Hungary had trouble holding on to Switzerland.

I think regardless of who took Switzerland first in this game, the budding Franco-German alliance was going to eventually determine its disposition. Given F/G friendship, I do not think Italy could have held it either.

Like Baron, I see some disadvantages for Germany in allowing Austria-Hungary too much early leverage on Munich. But in this game, it's hard to be dogmatic. So much depends on the developing alliance structure. If a rock solid A/G alliance is in place, I can see times where Germany would welcome Austro-Hungarian forces in Switzerland.

Charles Roburn:

The most important thing is to ensure Switzerland is held by a friendly power. For the Kaiser, I think that friendly power is most likely to be the guy on the other side of the Alps: the Pope. You already have two neighbors in common, so he has reasons to stay on your good side. Even if he turns against you, he should be less able to maintain a trans-Alpine attack. These strike me as two good reasons why Germany should have less to fear from Italian occupation of Switzerland -- all else being equal. Given this, I'm a bit surprised to learn that Peteris supported Rohan into Switzerland even though he didn't really trust him.

There's one mitigating factor that works against this approach, however. The Pope tends to view Switzerland as rightfully Italian and may well see a foreign army there as cause for war. This might lead Germany to support a French or Austro-Hungarian army in, the better to keep that neighbor occupied, and forestall their forming an alliance with Italy... or to bring about a German alliance with Italy later by supporting the Pope in, with the original owner of Switzerland (Austria-Hungary or France) as a mutual target... that's a strategy that any of A, F, or G can try.

If Switzerland is taken by Austria-Hungary, the Archduke is probably going to need some help from either France or Germany to hold it, or at least their benevolent neutrality in the subsequent Austro/Italian struggle. This could give France or Germany extra leverage with Austria-Hungary. I guess that in this case, Germany should be prepared to continue supporting Austria-Hungary in place, lest France take over that role and use it as a step in getting an anti-German A/F alliance.

As I mentioned in my EoG comments, these were all reasons why I was pleased to have Austria-Hungary take Switzerland rather than anyone else: I thought it protected me from Italy and focused the Pope's attention eastward rather than toward me. I think it's fair to say that I was right on both counts. I just didn't expect that Rohan would join forces with Jimmy [Jimmy Ghostine, the Pope] and use Switzerland for a trans-Alpine attack.

This reinforces a point made earlier: Austria-Hungary and France are better able to use Switzerland as a staging point for a successful invasion of Germany than Italy is. Italian fleets can't affect events in Munich or Cologne. If they're in position to hit Kiel or Berlin, Italy is doing too well for anyone's comfort.

One more item: I think that Germany is the nation best able to use the Swiss situation to his advantage. If France/Germany/Italy is a new triangle, it seems to me that Germany is least likely to be the odd power out.

Rohan Light:

I coveted Switzerland, from a unilateral point of view, as a springboard into Munich and bilaterally as the means to paralyze the center of the board on behalf of the A/T alliance that was developing rapidly. I couldn't believe it when I took it and, after miscuing versus Germany, didn't expect to hold it. In 1900, I saw Austria-Hungary and Germany as direct competitors and I wanted to see what would happen. As it turned out, my desired full attack west did not come off as I had to bounce in Galicia, but I wanted every piece moving into Bohemia-Tyrolia-Switzerland. I hope some day a general can pull it off. I liked the way Peteris played power-broker in the center. It was a very efficient use of a unit and was a solid fulcrum off which to make his other moves. I also thing the German-Italian relationship is strong in 1900 and so I wanted to at least avoid one of them sneaking in.

Baron Powell:

Charles raises a good point I should have mentioned earlier. From the very first game of 1900, one thing that has been a virtual certainty is that France and Italy will come to blows. In 117 completed games, France and Italy have shared in a draw only three times. One of those, 1900050215/1900_Skink, was a very lame 6-way draw that saw a 1 SC Italy sneak in and another, 1900 050801/Fritz, was a war-weary, DNF-plagued 5-way draw that saw a 4 SC France hang on. Only 1900041109/Olaridip, an A/F/I 3-way, really stands out.

I had thought that by now I'd see more examples of true F/I cooperation, but that has not been the case so far. I think this dynamic does give Germany an edge in the initial negotiations over Switzerland.

Chris Dziedzic:

Rohan had mentioned the idea of aggressive Austro-Hungarian openings west against Germany; into the Bohemia-Tyrolia-Switzerland theater. According to my records, which may not be as up to date as Baron's, in 63 games with the current map and rules, Austria-Hungary's most aggressive anti-German opening has been Bud-Ser, Vie-Boh and Tri-Tyr in Spring '00. These orders have happened in 2 out of 63 games. In another 17 out of 63 games, Austria-Hungary has moved one unit to Tyrolia in Spring '00. That is well over a quarter of the games where an Austro-Hungarian unit will have some influence over the disposition of Switzerland.

Personally, I think very aggressive moves by Austria-Hungary against Germany that early will be rare. I believe few Archdukes are going to be willing to give up the leverage on Balkan neutrals at game-start. I certainly see few times when three units will move west in Spring '00.

Chris McInerney:

I don't have much to contribute to this line of thinking, but I will say that after Fall '00, I suspected Rohan might have been letting Turkey stalemate against Russia (and vice versa) while he developed the center (Switzerland and its environs). That this was not quite what was going on doesn't mean it might not have been a viable strategy. I agree with Chris Dziedzic that we shouldn't expect Austria-Hungary to open west very frequently, but it might be advisable if he can reasonably expect Russia and Turkey to open against one another (and, more importantly, to stay against one another!). While Austria-Hungary will have to deal with that mess sooner or later, if successful in the west, he can do so from a position of strength, rather than equality or weakness. But if his western adventures turn out poorly, he'll have wasted valuable time.

Unless the sort of situation mentioned above applies, I can't imagine many circumstances where Austria-Hungary would be wise to look west right off the bat.

Charles Roburn:

I think that in the very first Austro-Hungarian solo (pre-Steamroller), Austria-Hungary took Switzerland in '00. I'm not sure.

Rohan Light:

Looking back at my notes, I see that I would have had two on Munich in the first year, which would have kept Denmark open and led to a 2-build Germany, possibly taking one fleet off the board. However, if I had done this, then I would have been cut in two by Russian A Gal. So, in that scenario, Russia would be the big gainer even in the face of a Turkish attack.

Baron Powell:

The very first Austro-Hungarian solo was way back in the Dark Ages (i.e., during the second 1900 play test). The Archduke was John Fitzgerald. John was not the first player in that game to capture Switzerland, however.

The first game in which Austria-Hungary claimed Switzerland first was 1900011026. I was the GM for that game. The Dual Monarchy was played by J.T. Fest. That game initially ended in an A/B/R 3-way (17/6/16 SCs respectively) but the Tsar was later disqualified for cheating and the game became one of the few 2-ways on record.

The next game was 1900 020628/UVAERS3, GMed by John Loizeaux. Austria-Hungary was played by Nick Higgens. The game ended in an A/B/F/G/T 5-way (11/8/6/9/4).

The first Steamroller game where Austria-Hungary captured Switzerland was 1900030903/ 1900S. This game was GMed by Manus Hand and Aki Halme played Austria-Hungary. It ended in an A/I/R 3-way (12/13/14).

Your recently completed game was the fourth and, for now, last game in which Switzerland fell to the K&K army first. As you know, that game didn't end well for the Dual Monarchy, but this is not because it initially took Switzerland. Subsequent actions had a lot more to do with the Habsburg downfall.

So now the question is this: who will be the next Archduke to traverse the Switzerland's Alpine passages in '00 and how will his campaign eventually end? We will all be watching.

For information on 1900, see here.

Chris Dziedzic
(c/o editor@diplom.org)

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