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.
|Tempi from starting
Tunisia on the Diplomacy map
|Tempi from starting
position to |
Tripolitania on the 1900 map
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.
|Initial ownership of Tripolitania||44||22||77||2|
(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.
|Tempi from starting
Tripolitania on the 1900 map
|Tempi from nearest
build center to |
Tripolitania on the 1900 map
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author, and clicking on the envelope above does not work for you, feel free to use the "Dear DP…" mail interface.