The Keystone to North Africa

by Chris Dziedzic

One of the first things I was taught about critical and analytical thinking as a freshman at my old alma mater was to recognize and identify the biases and latent preconceptions that any and every author brings to a piece of writing. With that in mind I think it only fair to lay my cards on the table before we get into the substance below.

First, I have a strong attachment to 1900. In my years in the hobby, I have come to love this variant designed by Baron Powell. It does live up to its attempts to improve play balance, to increase player interaction, and to be more historically accurate. I relish that players assigned to play neither Austria-Hungary nor Italy are resigned to a quick elimination. I love playing Britain and hearing more from the Sultan than initial pleasantries. I appreciate the historically accurate alterations… All these things have led me to become a pretty strong proponent of 1900. In fact, I hope strategy articles like this encourage more people to take a turn playing a game of this variant.

Second, I have developed a passion for utilizing the Caissic analysis promoted by Paul Windsor. I still remember the first time I read Paul’s articles on the Diplomatic Pouch. It was a true epiphany in my recreational life. It was similar to one I had years ago. When I was a younger baseball fan, I was first exposed to Bill James’ writings and the sabermetric analysis of baseball. It had the same impact as my introduction to Paul Windsor’s writings and Caissic analysis for Diplomacy. In both cases, the writings and the ideas they contained threw back the curtains and revealed a more thoughtful — and a more beautiful — game than I had seen before. Paul Windsor went on to ask “Indeed, why stop with the standard map? There are many popular map variants out there.” I would like to in part take up the idea of applying Caissic analysis to 1900. Therefore, you will notice sprinklings of Caissic analysis in this article.


One of the lessons I have learned from playing, GMing and observing games in the hobby, is the danger that comes from an over-reliance on supposed conventional wisdom. What can be just as risky is when a player enters a game of 1900 with the intellectual baggage of conventional wisdom from standard Diplomacy. Baron Powell termed it the “Diplomacy Hangover.” Specifically, many players of 1900 have relied on their conventional wisdom from numerous experiences of Diplomacy games and drew upon those experiences to determine strategy and tactics on the new field of play. While there are many affinities between Diplomacy and 1900, making it less alien to new players than some other variants, there are significant differences. The alteration of the North African portion of the map is one of those changes.

Let us start by comparing and contrasting the status of the Tunis supply center in Diplomacy with the Tripolitania supply center in 1900 in the larger North African geography. On the Diplomacy map, there are two land spaces at this southern edge of the board, the neutral supply center named Tunis and the large province to its west called North Africa. On the 1900 map, Baron Powell has extended the map further allowing the coastline of the continent of Africa to extend all the way to the eastern side of the board. This larger land area is divided into seven land spaces. From east to west along the seacoast, those spaces are: the supply center Egypt, the province Cyrenaica, the supply center Tripolitania, the province Tunisia, the supply center Algeria, the supply center Morocco and lastly the landlocked province Southern Algeria.

Some suggest Tunis is a backwater on the standard Diplomacy map. Tunis is the only neutral supply center that is not adjacent to any other supply center, being the only supply center in North Africa. With only this single supply center, this portion of the map only contains 5.56% of the eighteen supply center total needed to win a game of Diplomacy. Why invest multiple units and great time in convoys or redirection from other operations when the rewards are so meager? This isolation certainly reduces the strategic priority of Tunis for every power other than Italy at the start of the game. Neither Britain nor France will be highly concerned with the disposition of Tunis until a mid-game Mediterranean campaign is afloat – until then there are greater priorities. At first glance, only Italy will give significant immediate consideration to Tunis in Diplomacy because this is the one uncontested neutral for guaranteed first year Italian growth.

Even Italy, however, may make the acquisition of Tunis a secondary consideration. In fact, one could argue that the continued availability of Tunis could reduce its priority for some Italian players. Tunis’ isolation requires the use of extra tempi in the conquest and then the redeployment of the unit(s) used in the conquest. If one uses a fleet to take Tunis in Diplomacy, it leaves the Ionian Sea unoccupied for a season and thus loses influence over the Adriatic Sea, Albania, Greece, the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean Sea until the fleet returns. If one uses a convoyed army to take Tunis, it requires the commitment of a precious second unit early in the game, when units are at a premium. Since the further uses of that army in Tunis are negligible, another season is needed to convoy that army to another theater of operations, like the Balkans. While it can be argued that this situation supports the rapid conquest of Tunis as early as possible to speed the redeployment, there are some Italian players who will treat their units and their tempi preciously, especially in the early going. Those players will prefer to project their limited force to points of conflict on the board, much as some French players in a game of Diplomacy will prefer to send their first units to the battle lines against England or Germany, leaving uncontested neutrals in Spain in Portugal for latter built units. As one example, Leif Bergman relegated Tunis to a third year conquest in his strategy for successful Italy play in the Fall 1997 Movement issue of The Diplomatic Pouch ‘Zine Go Fasta, Go Fasta: Winning with Italy the Fast Way.

In stark contrast, Tripolitania in 1900 is the avenue for three powers, Britain, France and Italy, to dominate North Africa. This sliver of Africa is not a backwater on Baron Powell’s redrawn map. North Africa is no longer synonymous with a single neutral, but instead is the home of four supply centers. That represents 22.2% of the centers needed to achieve an eighteen center solo victory in 1900. No longer are we viewing a negligible part of the board. This is a pocket of supply centers, like the Balkans or Scandinavia, that is worth investing both time and forces to subdue early on.

There is another difference between Tunis in Diplomacy and Tripolitania in 1900. Tunis is exclusively within Italy’s orbit at game start in Diplomacy. By design, this was an assured conquest for the green units. This is a double-edged sword, however. It does ensure Italy of an early build, but it takes away a bargaining chip that Italy badly needs to jumpstart significant negotiations with other powers. This feeds the well-known, but unwelcome, diplomatic situation where Italy finds itself outside of both of the two great triangles of eastern and western powers. This is not the case for 1900’s Tripolitania. As elsewhere on the map, formerly safe neutrals from Diplomacy have been largely replaced by hotly contested battle fronts. With the location of a British fleet in Egypt and a French army in Algeria at the start of the game, along with the Italian fleet in Naples, all three powers can reach Tripolitania by the fall of the first game year.

Next to Switzerland, Tripolitania might be the most highly contested neutral out of the starting gate in 1900. Three powers have a strong interest and voice in the ownership of Tripolitania in this first game year. As discussed above, each of Britain, France and Italy can move a unit to stake a claim to this patch of North Africa. Though Turkey has managed to claim Tripolitania first on rare occasions, it is really not a threat to control this neutral supply center at game start.

(Statistics as of May 2007)

These statistics show a couple of welcome correlations between the game play of 1900 and historical realism. In the time period that is being recreated, Tripolitania was still a Turkish province. The Ottomans did not leave until the Treaty of Lausanne in 1912. This is reflected in the thin, nominal yellow border around the Tripolitania space on the 1900 map. The fact that Turkey still occasionally, if infrequently, has initial control of Tripolitania is a comforting alignment of game play and historical realism. A second such instance is the high percentage of Italian ownership, just over 50% in the games tracked. In another parallel to the true course of history, Italy most often obtains Tripolitania by default, in large part because the other protagonists, Britain and France, have more pressing concerns.

Tripolitania, along with Sweden and Portugal, is often one of the last neutrals to be occupied in 1900. Often this is because of a bounce that develops in Fall ’00 since none of the three interested powers can put a second unit on Tripolitania in the first year, making the disposition of this neutral a diplomat’s dream. It is not unheard of for Tripolitania to go unclaimed in Fall ’01 and even in Fall ’02. As mentioned earlier, Italy often ends up with Tripolitania because both Britain and France have more urgent needs for their units and simply allow Italy to have it, just as happened in our own time line.

Should ownership of Tripolitania remain contested, as time progresses it is easiest for Italy to maintain the military pressure and bring further units in after an initial bounce. First, both Britain and France will have other pressing issues to address. Second, Italy has the closest build center of the three to generate new units. That gives it an advantage over its competitors in any war of attrition that may develop.

One of the most important impacts of the new North African geography in 1900 is that the contention over Tripolitania leads to extensive and substantial diplomacy among the three interested powers: Britain, France and Italy. Another diplomatic triangle is formed by these three powers. This new diplomatic triangle (which I’ll term the North African Triangle) supplements the traditional diplomatic arrangement of the two great triangles — Britain / France / Germany and Austria-Hungary / Russia / Turkey — that most players are familiar with from Diplomacy. This increase in player interaction that Baron Powell instilled in the variant encourages players to think outside of the box and consider new strategic possibilities. This leads to increases in each power’s diplomatic clout as a variety of new combinations among the seven great powers emerge.


So, what are the three powers in question to make of this new diplomatic triangle? How will each one navigate the new political landscape? Each power is going to have different priorities regarding the initial acquisition of Tripolitania to fuel first year growth. Each power also has different abilities and options to take place units adjacent to Tripolitania to affect its allocation.


How does Britain maneuver within the new diplomatic North African Triangle as the three powers jockey for ownership of Tripolitania?

Britain may not have the highest priority to occupy Tripolitania to stimulate growth, given that there are seven other neutral supply centers within its reach in the first game year (Belgium, Denmark, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and Spain). However, Britain has reasons to consider Tripolitania for a first year acquisition. Some Prime Ministers believe Egypt to be untenable. They see that the Sultan can produce and develop attacking units more quickly than Britain can produce and develop defenders in that Middle Eastern theater of conflict. Turkey can field newly built units at Damascus, which is only two tempi distant from Egypt, while Britain’s nearest build centers at Liverpool and London are each three tempi away and further require the use of the Suez Canal rules and half strength movement from the Mid-Atlantic Ocean. Given this, the idea of trading away one non-build supply center for another in North Africa — thereby shortening supply lines and consolidating scattered forces into supportive positions — could be appealing. Baron Powell has already discussed the strengths of a pair of fleets should Britain choose to order F Gibraltar to the Mid-Atlantic Ocean and then into Egypt in the Fall 2002 Movement issue of The Diplomatic Pouch ‘Zine 1900: Britain. I would urge British players to also analyze the strength of a British position in the central Mediterranean when the initial fleet Egypt works westward and the initial fleet Gibraltar works eastward into a mutually supportive position in the central Mediterranean as Britain continues to survey the diplomatic landscape. This is a strategy that a Prime Minister should consider.

Taking this consolidation approach one step further, reflect for a minute on the Caissic analysis of Paul Windsor. He wrote eloquently about the power of a forward unit in his submission to the Summer 1998 Retreat issue of The Diplomatic Pouch ‘Zine Caissa At The Diplomacy Table. One Mediterranean fleet can be a useful weapon for Britain in a war against either France or Italy (or both in succession for Prime Ministers who are committed to striving for eighteen centers). Most Presidents and Popes will expect to wage a war with Britain around the entrance of the Atlantic into the Mediterranean. The British have an opportunity, by placing a fleet in Tripolitania, to have a unit situated in the middle of the opponent’s Mediterranean holding with little work. In a tactical struggle that follows, Britain’s opponent will have to expend several tempi surrounding and destroying that unit, instead of making tactical advances westward towards the Pillars of Hercules. This crippling influence on the adversary’s position will be greatly magnified if Britain consolidates its two Mediterranean fleets in Egypt and Gibraltar to give it a double-barrelled forward unit in the middle of the Mediterranean theater. Picture two British fleets working in tandem against Algeria… or against Naples… it is enough to excite the First Lord of the Admiralty.

All that theory discussed, few Prime Ministers move F Egypt to Cyrenaica in conjunction with F Gibraltar moving eastward in a larger neutralist strategy of consolidation. Current play trends in 1900 games tell us that a British Spring ’00 order of F Egypt to Cyrenaica is almost always anti-Italian and pro-French. This is based on a couple of factors. First, Italy is going to view Tripolitania as its fair share of the neutrals on the board. Unless the Prime Minister has reached an understanding with the Pope in which some very lucrative sweeteners have been offered, it is unlikely that a move towards Tripolitania could be cast as “neutralist.” Second, recognize what Britain cannot do when it chooses to open F Egypt to Cyrenaica. A British move of F Egypt to Cyrenaica to challenge the ownership of Tripolitania, and forgoing an order of F Egypt to the Mid-Atlantic Ocean to challenge the French for ownership of the crucial sea spaces in practice most often signals the early formation of an Entente Cordiale and thus spells trouble for Italy. The alterations from standard Diplomacy give Italy a westward lean, bringing it into conflict with France more frequently. Prime Ministers often get to choose which side of the war it will take to maximize his own options for expansion and conquest. Therefore, from Rome it is going to be hard to sell a move in the direction of Tripolitania as anything other than anti-Italian and pro-French, as much for what the British move does as for what it precludes.

With that play history in mind, British players need to tread carefully when discussing novel approaches to moving F Egypt towards Tripolitania. Certainly, it could be neutralist consolidation as described above in depth. True, the British fleet positioned in Cyrenaica could be used simply as a way to cover Egypt with a fall bounce against a Turkish advance through Palestine, since the Suez Canal rules preclude such a defensive bounce at half strength from the Mid-Atlantic Ocean, and ordering to the Eastern Mediterranean or to Palestine appears aggressively anti-Turkish. Yes, the British fleet in Cyrenaica could be used to support the Italians into Tripolitania in the face of French opposition in the form of an army posted in Tunisia or Southern Algeria. However, many Italian players are going to find those arguments unconvincing. They will see that British fleet in Cyrenaica as too close for comfort and an unwelcome complication for their own desires for expansion. In fact, given the statistics posed in the first half of this article, London will often be viewed by Rome as the main rival for Tripolitania, adding a level of mistrust in Anglo-Italian relations if the British start suggesting they move to Cyrenaica. Prime Ministers are best served by allowing their counterparts in Rome to suggest a move to Cyrenaica for one of these novel approaches, as opposed to making the suggestion themselves, so as not to undermine otherwise benign intentions.

Britain and France can certainly reach an accommodation, along the lines of the Entente Cordiale. This alignment will also have impacts on the disposition of Tripolitania. On one hand, an easy division of the North African supply centers along an east/west fault line presents itself, with Morocco and Algeria falling in the French sphere and Tripolitania and Egypt falling in the British orbit. If expecting early conflict with Italy, those two powers can order a devastating combination of A Algeria to Southern Algeria and F Egypt to Cyrenaica. This ensures the capture of Tripolitania in the fall against any Italian opposition. In fact, the prospect of loosing an autumn battle for Tripolitania by a 2:1 force ratio may encourage the Italian player to instead use its fleet in the Ionian Sea to make an attempt at Greece. Taking advantage of the psychological impacts of game theory, the Pope may prefer a small chance at gaining Greece as opposed to no chance of gaining Tripolitania. The next layer of diplomatic manipulation is that Italy may strive to make enough noise about the prospect of an order of F Ionian Sea to Greece so as to discourage Turkey from wasting a season going for the same neutral but instead causing it to consider Bulgaria as its initial Balkan prize. This set of developments not only definitely denies Tripolitania to Italy, but has the added bonus of also souring Italo-Turkish relations by diverting Italian expansion towards Greece. Such diplomatic discord in the East will be greatly welcome by British and French leaders working in common.

The other important option for Britain to consider is bargaining away Tripolitania to either France or Italy as a way of cementing a bilateral alliance. Given the larger number of neutral supply centers that Britain can reach in the first game year, eight as opposed to France’s six or Italy’s three, such a magnanimous gesture does not cripple Britain’s prospects for growth. A superb way to finalize a potential Anglo-Italian alliance, especially directed against France, if for Britain to recognize Italian claims to Tripolitania and to agree to a DMZ covering Cyrenaica. This gives the Pope the peace of mind he needs to gain a first year build without British interference and also frees up the British fleet in Egypt for adventures in the Mid-Atlantic Ocean. On the other hand, the Prime Minister could offer to his French colleague to support his claims to Tripolitania, even offering to move the Egyptian fleet into Cyrenaica to be able to support the French army into the neutral in the fall in the face of the likely attempted Italian landing. Such an opening not only gives direct aid to French expansion, but removes the fear that most Presidents have of a British fleet poised in the Mid-Atlantic Ocean like a sword at the Third Republic’s vitals.


How can France best serve its interests in the new diplomatic triangle that is formed by Tripolitania?

Returning to a moment to the concept of “Diplomacy Hangover” discussed at the beginning of the article, many players come into 1900 games have the perception that France is sitting on top of a gold mine of supply centers in Iberia and North Africa. They see Spain and Portugal as the natural French gains that they are in Diplomacy, forgetting the British fleet in Gibraltar that will contest France for those supply centers. They see Belgium and consider it in play for France, oblivious to the fact that it is now a safe German build. They see a new neighboring supply center in Switzerland, but may not consider German and Italian counterclaims. They spot the abundance in North Africa within striking distance of Army Algeria, but fail to see the power Britain and Italy can project into the region. France suffers from a combination of its fearsome reputation from Diplomacy and the further perceived advantages conveyed by the alterations in 1900. As with other avenues for expansion, France must carefully lay the diplomatic groundwork before any military strike at Tripolitania.

France can take Tripolitania, but the benefits of doing so are rather limited. The North African theater is difficult for France to reinforce, especially in the early game. Its units are most frequently needed n metropolitan France for home defense. L'Armée d'Afrique can only hold one supply center at a time. It is arguable that the French starting unit Army Algeria is the weakest unit on the board. Generally, a French successful campaign to conquer North Africa, including Tripolitania, will not occur until the mid-game.

Taking all of this into account, I believe that it may be in France’s best interest to use Tripolitania primarily as a carrot for the British or Italian player and not primarily as an opportunity for growth for itself. Because so many Popes consider this neutral should be Italian property, a French move toward it can often be tantamount to an act of war towards Rome. France should shy away from Tripolitania so as to avoid instigating a conflict in the first year with Italy. No President should want a Pope looking to spill French blood early on. France would have to trust Britain significantly for such an aggressive and anti-Italian effort, and in Spring ‘00 such a secure relationship is not an automatic.

To affect the disposition of Tripolitania, France can move its Army Algeria into either Southern Algeria or Tunisia in Spring ‘00. Given that choice, the French player should always choose a move to Southern Algeria over a move to Tunisia. As Baron Powell points out in the Fall 2002 Retreat issue of The Diplomatic Pouch ‘Zine 1900: France, the move to Southern Algeria is the better alternative because it still allows the French player the flexibility to influence events in neighboring Morocco. Both moves allow for a defensive covering of Algeria in the fall as well as influence over Tripolitania. Moving to Tunisia, however, relinquishes any voice over the fall disposition of Morocco. Especially early in the game, as players have to figure out whom they can trust and build working relationships, a little precaution is excusable. For France to protect itself in this very subtle way from British perfidy shows prudence, and it keeps options open for the fall. When things are as uncertain as they always are in Spring ’00, it can be a disaster if France surrenders any influence over Morocco only to have the British slide the knife in.


And what of Italy and its position towards Tripolitania and within the new North African Triangle?

Italy is going to view Tripolitania as part of its fair share of the neutrals on the 1900 map. Of the three powers in question, it has the fewest neutrals available in the first year to generate builds. The only other neutrals that Popes can reach in the first year are Switzerland, which can be contested by both France and Germany, and Greece, which can be contested by Turkey. True, this is more than the measly Tunis available in standard Diplomacy. In contrast, however, both Britain and France have access to more neutrals and assured builds. Britain’s four dispersed fleets can make plays for a variety of coastal neutrals: Belgium, Denmark, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and Spain. Likewise, France’s corner position offers a variety of options: Belgium, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland. Those in command of the green units will be suspicious of “greedy” attempts by either Britain or France to add Tripolitania to their domain instead.

Italy has a couple of ways in which it can take Tripolitania. It can choose to act with either with a fleet or with a convoyed army. I submit that it is better for Italy to take Tripolitania with an army. To draw upon the Caissic principles espoused by Paul Windsor, the use of a fleet in the Ionian to take Tripolitania directly wastes a valuable tempo. The movement of the fleet into and then out of the supply center to reoccupy the Ionian Sea uses two tempi. In the meantime, the use of the fleet to take the supply center relinquishes control over a key sea space. The temporary evacuation of the Ionian, even for a single season, costs influence over Macedonia, Greece, the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. That could be decisive should Turkey take immediately to Mediterranean expansion. At bare minimum, keeping that fleet posted in the Ionian Sea will give the Sultan pause about Greece. Can Turkey waste a season bouncing with Italy in Greece or should it instead look to greener pastures in Bulgaria, Rumania and Serbia? The Pope is best served by subtly directing Turkish expansion northwards in the Balkans, in collision with Austro-Hungarian and Russian interests. Evacuating the Ionian Sea to take Tripolitania effectively relegates the Greek neutral to the Turkish sphere of influence.

Furthermore, by using a convoyed army, Italy immediately has a second unit at the point of attack for an effective campaign to conquer all of the North African supply centers. Since neither Algeria nor Egypt can be used as build sites by France or Britain, those powers do not have an option of fielding new units directly in North Africa, but instead but have them travel multiple tempi from their European possessions. In the critical race for Mediterranean supremacy, that single turn might make a big difference. A pair of Italian units early in the game, working in tandem along the North African coast, can make significant headway against isolated, single units fielded by France or Britain in defense. Consider the prospects: F Ionian Sea and A Tripolitania forcing Cyrenaica in Spring ’01 and then advancing against Egypt, or forcing Tunisia in Spring ‘01 and then moving on Algeria and Morocco. As long as conditions along the Alpine frontier permit, the Italian player should consider using a convoyed army as opposed to a fleet.

When the Pope is setting up the convoy to Tripolitania, I submit that a Spring ‘00 order of A Rome to Apulia is superior to A Rome to Naples. In case of a Fall ‘00 bounce, which as discussed previously is not infrequent in Tripolitania, Naples should be kept open for a potential Winter ‘00 build. Having an army clog up one’s own home supply center during the winter adjustment phase drastically reduces the Italian player’s freedom of action. Developments elsewhere in the Mediterranean may prioritize a fleet build in this most southern Italian home supply center to exert further influence on either the Ionian or the Tyrrhenian Seas starting as early as Spring ’01.

One of the best opportunities for Italy to gain Tripolitania is for hostilities to erupt between the Prime Minister and the President. This occurs regularly and follows the historical path of having British and French priorities shifted away from Tripolitania, allowing Italian conquest to go unchallenged. Should relations across the Channel be strained, the British are likely to open with F Egypt to the Mid-Atlantic Ocean supported by its F Gibraltar, while France uses its A Algeria to contest Morocco in the Spring ’00. Each of these openings takes the military units of other powers further away from Tripolitania, allowing the Italians an uncontested landing in the Fall ‘00.

Should Italy be faced with a French army in Tunisia or Southern Algeria or a British fleet in Cyrenaica going into the Fall ’00 turn, all is not lost.

One gambit that Italian players can consider if faced with the prospect of a bounce in Fall ‘00 against a British fleet in Cyrenaica is a flank landing. Instead of a convoy bouncing in Tripolitania, a convoy could be made into Cyrenaica or Tunisia, allowing Britain to successfully order F Cyrenaica to Tripolitania. Such a tactic would temporarily cede control of the neutral to Britain. This may not be as significant a reverse, however, as it first appears. With two units in adjacent provinces opposed by a single British defending unit in Tripolitania, the supply center is certain to fall to a Spring ’00 attack. Furthermore, the Winter ’00 build Britain would gain from the conquest of Tripolitania can only be fielded in the three home supply centers in the British Isles. Such a unit is multiple tempi from the North African theater, and a much greater threat to be used against nearer neighbors such as France or Germany. In fact, Italy may be able to use the increasing strength of Britain as an argument in finalizing an alliance with one of those two powers. This gambit not only lands Tripolitania a mere season later for Italy, but tags Britain as a threat to France and Germany with the extra British unit popping up in the northwest corner of the map, increasing the palatability of an alliance with Italy against Britain for either of those powers. The Pope therefore has turned a single short term British victory into a double longer term reverse. Of note is that a choice to affect the gambit by convoying to Cyrenaica could well lead to an Italian occupied Egypt early on. Chances are the British will usually need the rest of their naval might in the various Atlantic sea zones for a conflict with France and/or Germany While the Prime Minister could commit multiple units to a Middle Eastern offensive, as Baron Powell notes in the Fall 2002 Movement issue of The Diplomatic Pouch ‘Zine 1900: Britain it is statistically rare in the opening. Furthermore, if Turkey has not opened south in Spring with A Damascus to Palestine, again a less common opening, the Sultan is probably not in a position to challenge Italy for control of Egypt.

This gambit is not the best tool to work with if Italy is faced with a French unit in Tunisia or Southern Algeria. Yes, a spring counteroffensive by two Italian units against a single French unit is still a viable option. The resulting French build, however, will be made much closer to Italy and can be brought into action against the Pope more quickly. That new French unit is not going to scare the British or Germans nearly as exclusively as the new British unit that must be built in the Prime Minister’s three home supply centers. Instead of cementing a larger anti-British alliance, using this gambit against France will likely only feed the French war machine for when it wants to cross the Alps in thirst for Napoleonic glory.

Of the three powers, Italy has the least difficulty in moving a unit in the spring to contest for the ownership of Tripolitania in the fall. Italy’s most natural opening order for F Naples is to move to the Ionian Sea. This is one of the very few orders in 1900 that is nearly automatic. As of May 2007, the opening order of F Naples to the Ionian Sea occurred in 138 out of 142 games, which works out to 97.2%. The extremely infrequent exceptions have been aggressive anti-French openings where the Italian players opened F Naples to the Tyrrhenian Sea to make a direct first year threat to Algeria.

Italy will perceive a large threat when it sees another power owning Tripolitania, because that supply center most effectively serves as its bridgehead to North Africa. A French army moving eastward from Algeria, or a British fleet moving westward from Egypt threatens to close Italy entirely out of the North African theater. On a larger scale, Italy will always want to have a predominant voice in the Mediterranean, the Mare Nostra. Failure to establish a beachhead in North Africa, and instead seeing France, Britain or even Turkey consolidate a position there will only mean limited horizons for growth and headaches in the mid-game.


The longer term disposition of Tripolitania is different from that discussed by Baron Powell and Stephen Miller in the Spring 2002 Movement issue of The Diplomatic Pouch ‘Zine Switzerland in the 1900 Variant. Unlike Switzerland, which is contiguous to the home supply centers of three powers, Tripolitania and the North African theater is not the same immediate security concern. It is possible that after a decisive campaign in North Africa, that one of the powers can advance units to the next theater of conflict, de-prioritizing North Africa. The “odd power out” syndrome discussed by Powell and Miller is less likely to take effect. It is not as certain that a game moving through mid-game and into endgame is going to witness a significant build-up of forces around Tripolitania.

As we conclude, what does all this mean for the British, French and Italian players in 1900? First and most obviously, each should navigate the new North African Triangle cautiously. Tripolitania is an important neutral supply center especially in the early going, as discussed at length. The ownership of this single supply center, however, is not as important as the successful maneuvering within the new diplomatic layout Tripolitania offers. A player should use the discussions over the disposition of Tripolitania to gauge the other great powers within the North African Triangle, while keeping in mind that those same powers are likely using the same opportunity to size him up. With a little diplomatic skill, a player should be able to find out a lot about the diplomatic style and strategic plans of the other members of the North African Triangle. This can not only give a player early warning of a hostile neighbor or alliance, but also enable him to determine just how trustworthy each of the other two is.

The author would like to thank Aki Halme, Jonas Lehtonen, Baron Powell and Charles Roburn for their suggestions and contributions.

Chris Dziedzic

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