1900: RUSSIA

by B.M. Powell

Last issue we resumed Baron Powell's discussions of powers in his 1900 variant, which had begun with a general introduction to 1900 in the S2002M issue. In the S2007M issue, we continued the series with Baron's observations on Italy.

This time he looks at Russia, discussing the aspects that make it such a powerhouse in standard Diplomacy and the steps taken in 1900 to mitigate the Tsar's power to even out the contest. As with previous articles in the series, we're sure you'll find his remarks interesting whether you play 1900 or not!

In most of the previous chapters, the chapter on France being the exception, I argued that I made the subject Great Powers stronger than they are in Diplomacy. Further, I stated that this newfound muscle translated directly into a more balanced game. I won’t make this same claim for Russia. In fact, I’ll state up front that I worked to make Russia weaker in 1900: Russia 1900 than it is in Diplomacy. What I intend to do in this chapter is explain why I felt it was necessary to weaken Russia, describe all of the actions taken to make Russia an "average" Great Power, and demonstrate that the Russia of 1900 is still a formidable opponent.

Why would I attempt to curb Russian strength? For starters, there are historical reasons for doing so.

Paul Kennedy, in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, provides interesting commentary on Russia at the turn of the century. To begin with, Russia had the most men under arms (1,162,000) of any European Power. This figure put it well ahead of second place France (715,000). Next, Russia had the third largest navy in terms of tonnage behind Britain and France. Russia’s population was larger than that of Austria-Hungary and Germany combined (136,000,000 to 103,000,000). Also, several key economic indicators showed that Russia was enjoying incredible economic growth. Given all of these numbers, it’s not surprising that Russian power was feared in Berlin, Constantinople, London, and Vienna.

These impressive figures do not tell the whole story, however. Despite its advances, Russia was still a comparatively backward nation with a predominantly agrarian economy, an inadequate transportation network, and an illiterate population. Russia’s small industrial capability, 48% of Britain’s and 67% of Germany’s, could not keep pace with the shock and strain of a major war of more than a few weeks duration. Though the army was large, it was under-equipped and poorly supplied. Worse still, officers and NCOs generally lacked adequate training. Internal cohesiveness in society at large and in the military in particular was weakened by the many non-Russian nationalities (e.g., Finns, Poles, Tartars, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Armenians, Latvians, Georgians, Estonians, etc.) that chaffed under St. Petersburg’s "Russification" policies. The appalling conditions the average peasant or worker dealt with every day contributed directly to ever increasing social unrest. Kennedy reports that troops were needed on over 114, 000 (!!!) separate occasions in 1908 to keep the peace.

An indicator of Russia’s war readiness was provided in the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War. All of Europe anticipated a quick and decisive Russian victory over the stereotypical "inept oriental." Such was not to be the case. The Japanese army handily defeated its Russian counterpart in Manchuria and the Japanese navy destroyed Russia’s Baltic squadron at Tsushima, though the fact that the ill-fated Baltic squadron made it all the way to Tsushima in the first place was somewhat miraculous. Even as the reality of complete defeat in the Far East sank in, open rebellion broke out in the European portion of the Empire.

For a brief period, it looked like the Tsar’s rule might come to end. Though the government’s authority was eventually restored, Russian society remained a powder keg. WWI proved to be the match that set off the explosion. It should not be surprising to anyone upon reflection that the first Power to drop out of the conflict was Russia and not one of its supposedly weaker neighbors.

Historical considerations aside, there is another important reason to bring Russia back to the pack: Russia, like France, appears to be too strong in Diplomacy. Looking at the numbers in the introductory article, Russia ranks as the strongest of the Great Powers by a comfortable margin. Its 449 solos out of 3723 games played easily outdistance the 364 solos accumulated by second place France and are more than twice the paltry 221 solos that pathetic Italy has managed to scrape together. The one seeming dark spot on Russia’s otherwise bright record is that it either wins outright or it loses. Russia participated in fewer draws (531) than any other Great Power. By comparison, Italy has the next lowest draw total with 534, while France has the highest draw total with 751. Certainly, these figures suggest that Russia’s "Do or Die" reputation is very much deserved. Still, on the strength of its solos alone, Russia is clearly a Great Power to be reckoned with.

Why is this so? To answer this question, I think we have to look at the game dynamics that exist in Diplomacy. Where these dynamics appear to work against Italy, they seem to generally work in Russia’s favor.

Let’s start by stating the obvious: Russia is part of the eastern triangle (A/R/T). If we assume the A/R/T triangle is balanced, Russia should have an ally in the east, either Austria-Hungary or Turkey, approximately two thirds of the time. An eastern ally allows Russia to compete for a Bear’s share of the Balkan supply centers (SCs) and also gives it access to a portion of the SCs controlled by the "odd Power out" (OPO), the Power that doesn’t have an ally within its triangle at game-start. "So what?" you say. "This situation is hardly unique to Russia." Yes, this is true. All of the Great Powers except Italy are members of a triangle and can theoretically follow this same formula to success. Russia’s record is superior because it enjoys advantages within its triangle that the other Powers don’t enjoy within theirs.


Given all of these advantages, why does Russia draw so infrequently? Good question. I think there are two answers. The first is because Russia wins so often. Its offensive potential is so vast that it either crushes its early allies outright or leaves them in its wake. The second is that Russia, as much as any other Great Power, is extremely vulnerable at game-start. None of the advantages I describe above are decisive or guarantee Russian success. Despite its position on the edge of the map, Russia has no shortage of neighbors. Unless Italy intervenes on Russia’s behalf, an A/T should quickly eliminate Russia as a factor in the eastern triangle. Likewise, if an E/G forms in the west, the Tsar’s dreams of a Scandinavian empire will probably go unfulfilled. Worse still, northern Russia itself may soon have to deal with an Anglo-German assault. Good diplomacy, sound tactics, and some luck are absolutely necessary or the Bear’s head will be mounted on someone’s wall. Over a large number of games, however, a competently played Russia should do well. The data available seem to confirm this supposition.

The Great Power that appears to suffer most from Russia’s success is Austria-Hungary. Russia’s three other neighbors all perform about where we would expect "average" Powers to perform, but the Dual Monarchy clearly has an inferior record. One of my challenges while designing 1900 was to figure out how to level the playing field between Austria-Hungary and Russia without ruining balance elsewhere. Let’s take a look now at how I attempted to accomplish this objective (and recount the missteps along the way!).

Russia itself underwent only one change, but that change is generally considered significant. The Moscow space is now split into two spaces: Moscow, which remains a Russian SC, and Siberia, a new space to the east that touches St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Sevastopol. I borrowed this idea from Stephen Agar who discussed it in his article "New Improved Diplomacy?" in issue #80 of Diplomacy World. The primary reason Stephen championed this change to Russia’s internal organization was to help defeat the traditional stalemate lines that exist in Diplomacy. Since elimination of stalemate lines has always struck me as a worthy goal, Siberia made its appearance on the 1900 map.

The addition of Siberia by itself, however, was unlikely to alter play balance between Russia and Austria- Hungary. To accomplish this, I looked elsewhere.

For starters, I worked to ensure Russia lost its "Most Favored Nation" status by removing or minimizing the sources of friction that make A/T cooperation so awkward in Diplomacy. I’ll address this aspect of the variant design further in the chapter on Turkey. Suffice it to say here that the goal was to make A/T just as workable as A/R or R/T and, therefore, just as likely. Initial game results suggested that the A/R/T triangle was fairly well balanced. This meant that the question of which eastern monarch didn’t have a chair to sit on when the music stopped playing was settled primarily by their respective diplomatic skills, which is as it should be

Next, as mentioned in the chapter on Austria-Hungary, two changes were made to the Dual Monarchy that impacted directly on Austro-Russian relations. The first was that A Trieste replaced F Trieste. The second was that Galicia no longer touched Vienna. Together, these two changes significantly alter the balance of power between the Dual Monarchy and Russia. Every Archduke and Tsar will almost certainly notice that A Trieste makes the competition for Rumania far more intense than it is in Diplomacy. This is because the Dual Monarchy can now arrange to capture Serbia and attack Rumania with support in Fall ’00 without any difficulty. At the same time, a Russian invasion of Galicia, a major concern of Archdukes in Diplomacy, is easily shrugged off in 1900. As a result, A Vienna, a unit frequently used purely for defensive purposes at game-start in Diplomacy, is now available to do other things in 1900. Because Austria-Hungary can bring more firepower into the fight against Russia, the Tsar may find that his opening options have become more limited. Both A Moscow and A Warsaw will probably be required in the battle for Rumania and to discourage an all-out blitz on Russia itself.

Another design change intended to help Austria-Hungary and slow down Russia involved the strengthening of Germany. Germany has relatively little to do with the Dual Monarchy early on in a typical Diplomacy game, but normally interacts with Russia in Scandinavia right away. As I’ve explained before, I felt that a more powerful Germany might distract Russia enough to compensate for the Dual Monarchy’s inferior position vis-à-vis its eastern neighbor. In the chapter on Germany, I pointed out how the Reich is much more muscular in 1900 than it is in Diplomacy. With an expectation of three builds in ’00 and a total of seven units on the board when ’01 begins, the Kaiser is unlikely to lose much sleep over Russia’s reaction to a bounce in Sweden. In fact, if the Tsar protests too loudly, the Kaiser may respond by sending his army and navy eastward to teach the Tsar manners. Then again, the Kaiser may send his army and navy eastward in any case. This is particularly likely to occur if Britain and France are at odds in the west.

Clearly, if even a few German units are sent to the eastern front in ’01, they could prove decisive in an Austro-Russian war. Should the Archduke and Kaiser decide to go Bear hunting right away, things could get ugly for Russia in a hurry. If the Archduke successfully orders A Budapest to Galicia, A Vienna to Budapest, and A Trieste to Serbia, while the Kaiser orders A Berlin to Prussia and A Munich to Silesia (the Connor-Greneoux Gambit), A/G has three units on both Warsaw and Rumania. The Tsar can be forgiven for breaking out in a cold sweat at the mere thought of such a scenario. In fact, the original Connor-Greneoux Gambit was so potent that it was the driving factor in the decision to separate Vienna from Galicia by enlarging Bohemia. This historically justifiable change, while making a Russian invasion of Galicia far less threatening to Austria-Hungary, also works to prevent the Archduke from forcing his way into Galicia against Russian resistance by ordering A Vienna to Galicia supported by A Budapest.

Of course, A/G is not the only alliance involving Germany that the Tsar needs to be concerned with. If Britain and Germany work together, the implications for Russia are potentially serious. While the dispersion of British units at game-start (i.e., only F London and F Edinburgh begin the game in Britain itself) probably means that Britain’s northern position will take slightly longer to develop, increased German strength more than compensates for any British weakness. Once B/G has France under control, the two western allies are likely to turn their full attention to Mother Russia. Unless the Tsar has enjoyed considerable success against Austria-Hungary or Turkey, he may have a difficult time stemming the B/G tide in the north.

Something I had not intended, but which proved to be the case, was that the Tsar could not count on Italy distracting a hostile Austria-Hungary or Turkey at game-start. While Italian intervention in the east early in the game remains a possibility, the tense nature of F/I relations usually results in France and Italy getting caught up in a war soon after the game starts. If Russia is the OPO in the east, the Pope is unlikely to be the white knight the Tsar needs.

When commenting on how to play Russia early in the life of the variant, one 1900 player stated, "This looks real hard!" Game results over time seemed to justify his pessimism. Diplomacy’s Great Bear had been seemingly rendered toothless. After forty-six games had been played to completion, Russia was limping along with a horrific Great Power Rating (GPR) of 8.74 (an average GPR is 25.71) and was the only Great Power that had not soloed. Meanwhile, Austria-Hungary (GPR of 29.09 and four solos), Germany (GPR of 34.43 and four solos), and Turkey (GPR of 33.00 and six solos), were all playing at a level well above average. In those forty-six games, Russia reached thirteen or more SCs only four times, the worst showing of any Great Power, while it had been held to seven SCs or less thirty times, which put it next to last. Ugh! While forty-six games represented too small a sample size from which to draw any firm statistical conclusions, enough games were in the books for me to start worrying that I had shifted the balance of power in the east too far against Russia.

So what went wrong? At first, I blamed Russia’s poor record on "uninspired" play by many Tsars and something I called the "Diplomacy Hangover." It was clear that many players new to 1900 relied on their understanding of a "typical" Diplomacy game to determine how they were going to proceed. For Tsars, this frequently meant trying to play 1900’s Russia using strategies that are generally successful in Diplomacy and discovering that those strategies don’t work as well against 1900’s stronger Austria- Hungary and Germany. Archdukes and Kaisers often looked at Russia, saw the bully that dominates Diplomacy, and figured it was their turn to get even. They quickly found clever ways to use their new units and exploit the 1900 map to make the Tsar’s life short and miserable. Initially, I was confident that game results would even out and Russia would end up somewhere in the middle of the pack. Some strong showings by Russia in the first few 1900 games played encouraged such thinking. As more game results came in, however, I increasingly came to believe that my confidence had been misplaced. Far from getting better, Russia’s record went from bad to worse. Though Russia did enjoy some truly excellent campaigns, such performances were the exception to the rule. Clearly, some serious study of the situation was in order.

When defending Russia from its critics, I had taken solace in the fact that Russia managed to keep pace with the other Great Powers after the first game year. The table below shows how frequently, in terms of percentages, a Great Power had five or six units at its disposal after the Winter ‘00 builds:

  Percentage of games
that Great Power has
  5 or more
units in ‘01
6 or more
units in ‘01
Austria-Hungary 59.6% 7.0%
Britain 92.9% 77.2%
France 75.5% 52.7%
Germany 100.0% 100.0%
Italy 49.1% 10.5%
Russia 73.7% 31.6%
Turkey 33.4% 5.3%
Based on 57 games

Based on the numbers above, I thought is was hard to argue that Russia was at a disadvantage relative to the other Great Powers. Indeed, when compared to the other members of the traditional eastern triangle, Austria-Hungary and Turkey, Russia appeared comparatively well off. Unfortunately, this quick analysis ignored a few important considerations.

While Russia was indeed more likely to have five or six units entering ’01 than Austria-Hungary, Italy, or Turkey were, this did not mean that it enjoyed good growth prospects. After all, Russia started the game with four units so getting to five or six units should not have been nearly as great a feat for the Tsar as it was for the Archduke, Pope, or Sultan. Based on fifty-seven games, Russia averaged the worst first year growth of any Great Power (Germany 2.84, Britain 2.00, Austria-Hungary 1.63, Italy 1.51, France 1.42, Turkey 1.12, and Russia 1.02). In those same fifty-seven games, Russia was kept to zero builds or actually lost ground in 24.6% of the time. Clearly these numbers suggested that Russia had trouble getting out of the blocks.

Even as Russia was mobilizing slowly, its greatest enemy, Germany, always got off to fast starts. Germany never failed to get at least two builds in ’00. The Reich started ’01 with three builds a staggering 75.9% of the time and four builds 7.4% of the time. Unless Germany was facing an Anglo- French alliance in the west, something we would expect to occur about one third of the time, those "extra" black units were likely to head east as the Kaiser searched for new worlds to conquer. For several reasons, Kaisers almost universally chose to open the second front against Russia instead of Austria- Hungary. Those reasons included the extremely high level of friction between Germany and Russia, the belief that more SCs and a superior position were available if Russia was taken down, the "Diplomacy Hangover" mentioned earlier, and the reluctance to help the edge Powers by attacking a fellow center Power. Perhaps most significant, however, was the fact that Russia was generally unable to put up an effective defense against a German invasion while heavily engaged in the south.

This last point is key. Despite bordering the map’s edge, Russia still has abundant neighbors, a lot of ground to cover, and too few units with which to accomplish everything. As mentioned earlier in this chapter, these are not great problems in Diplomacy where Russia often faces a weak and distracted Austria-Hungary, and a four or five unit Reich that is normally preoccupied with events in the west. In 1900, where Italy tends to look west, Austria-Hungary frequently has five armies at its disposal after Winter ’00 builds, and Germany is typically bristling with weapons of war entering Spring ‘01, Russia’s far flung frontiers and paucity of units created a dangerous situation for the Tsar.

In most 1900 contests, Tsars sent both A Moscow and A Warsaw south in Spring ‘00. Moving A Moscow north or A Warsaw west at game-start, though not unheard of, was generally considered risky since doing so raised the potential of the southern campaign being stopped dead in its tracks. Of course, when A Moscow and A Warsaw were sent south, F St. Petersburg was left all alone to champion the Tsar’s claims in Scandinavia. After Winter ’00 builds, Russia was likely to have only this fleet and one other unit available to campaign in the north and center. Even if Russia was fortunate enough to get two builds in ‘00, its troops were often divided evenly between the north and south, and little was left to defend the middle. Not surprisingly, opportunistic neighbors frequently exploited any weaknesses in Russia’s position. Given its troop dispositions, Russia was often forced to give ground somewhere critical. Quite regularly, any success enjoyed on one front was offset by setbacks on another front. As a result, Russia had a tough time getting beyond the five to seven SC range over the course of a game.

For me, the most obvious indicator that Russia’s poor record might be a design flaw was that Russia took Rumania first in thirty-five of fifty-one games, almost exactly the ratio we would expect, but had considerable trouble holding on to it. Russia lost Rumania within two years in fifteen contests or in 43% of those thirty-five games. Because Russia is unlikely to get Rumania at all if it is the OPO in the eastern triangle, the implication was clear: the Tsar’s game-start ally was likely to stab Russia extremely early in the contest. In most instances, it is rare for a game-start alliance to break down so quickly since the initial OPO is usually still viable and, theoretically, available to work with the stabbed party against the openly perfidious ally. Clearly, however, this was not too much of a concern for the Archduke (nine quick stabs) or the Sultan (six quick stabs) in 1900. Why was this so? I believe two key factors were involved.

Naturally, once Rumania was taken, Sevastopol was just a short march away. With Germans pushing east, a traitorous ally moving up from the south, and, quite often, the British laying claim to St. Petersburg, it is small wonder that Tsars often felt the world was against them.

Having identified a possible problem, the question then became what to do about it. Finding a solution involved a lot of thought and numerous discussions with 1900 veterans. Several interesting proposals were put forward, but the idea that appealed to me most was one submitted by Aki Halme. With only slight modifications, Aki’s idea became the Russian Steamroller Rule (hereafter simply Steamroller). Basically, the Steamroller allowed Russia to have “n+1” units as long as it controlled “n” SCs and one of those SCs was a home SC. The extra unit needed to be built following normal build rules (i.e., during a Winter turn in an open home SC). If, after a Fall turn, Russia lost all four home SCs, it could only maintain one unit for each controlled SC. If an extra unit was on the map, the Tsar had to disband something to meet this provision. Russia was entitled to an extra unit once again if it reclaimed a home SC, but the extra unit had to be built.

I liked this proposal for several reasons:

Shortly after I introduced the Steamroller, I got a message from a veteran 1900 player, Bill Leake. He agreed that Russia needed a boost, but he would have preferred that the fix didn’t involve strengthening Russia’s offensive capability. Results since the Steamroller was introduced show that Bill was on to something. In the seventy-one Steamroller games that have been completed as of this writing, Russia’s GPR was a smashing 42.21. Yowza! Where Russia had not soloed at all prior to the Steamroller, it suddenly boasted twelve solos. Perhaps most remarkable, when Russia captured two SCs in ’00, as it did 39.4% of the time (more on this in a bit), it had a GPR of 80.04.

Honestly, as I watched this trend develop, I found myself astounded. Initially, I was at a loss to explain things. How could a Power that couldn’t gain traction prior to the Steamroller become so fearsome? One unit couldn’t make that much difference, could it? It turns out it could. But how?

The key to solving the mystery revealed itself when I looked at Sweden. Prior to the Steamroller, Russia captured Sweden first in 54.4% of the fifty-seven games started, while Germany, as befitting an arch nemesis, captured Sweden in 42.1% of those games. The Steamroller dramatically changed this ratio. Russia took Sweden first in 73.2% of eighty-two games, while Germany only claimed Sweden 17.1% of the time. Hmmmmm... Since the extra Russian unit wasn’t on the map yet, why would the situation in Sweden change so drastically? The answer was that Kaisers took one look at Steamroller Russia, saw a potential monster in the making, and regularly decided it wasn’t worth the hassle of taking on. This meant that Russia frequently captured both Sweden and Rumania in Fall ’00. With three builds that Winter, Russia was usually off to the races.

Naturally, this had implications on both sides of the map. In the east, the lack of German pressure allowed the Tsar to easily hold out against A/Ts. Most Archdukes and Sultans perceived this possibility because A/T became scarce. Russia was once again the ally of choice on that side of the board. As a result, Austria-Hungary’s overall performance declined from a GPR of 29.09 to 24.55, while Turkey took a huge hit, dropping from a GPR of 33.00 to a measly 16.69. In the west, all those German units that had previously been used to attack Russia had to go somewhere and most of them ended up in France or Italy. Contrary to all of my expectations, a stronger Russia actually led to a less effective France and Italy. France’s GPR dropped from 27.78 to 18.55, while Italy’s GPR declined from 21.98 to 17.28. Curiously, both Britain and Germany performed much the same as they had prior to the Steamroller. These were not satisfactory results at all and I decided that something had to be done. After soliciting comments from Chris Dziedzic, Aki Halme, and Christopher McInerney, all of whom took interest in Russia’s performance, it seemed obvious that the solution involved following Bill Leake’s advice. A change was made that helped Russia defensively, but did not give it the considerable offensive boost the Steamroller did. After much dithering, I decided to call the new rule the Russian Emergency Measures (REM) Rule.

As described in the first chapter, the REM Rule assumes that Russia reacts with desperation in the face of a crisis (much like it actually did in 1916 after the catastrophes of 1915) by better managing its resources and industrial capacity. In this case, the crisis is the loss of a home supply center. Whenever Russia possesses at least one, but not all four, of its original home supply centers, it is entitled to maintain one extra unit on the map (i.e., one more than the number of supply centers it currently controls). Additionally, while Russia is in this condition, the Tsar may use Siberia as a build site during the adjustment phase, if Siberia is unoccupied. Should Russia fail to possess at least one home supply center or should it regain possession of all four of its home supply centers, the ability to maintain an extra unit is lost and any excess units must be disbanded during the subsequent adjustment phase. Further, Siberia reverts to its normal status (i.e., it is no longer a build site). Note that Siberia, while it may become a build site, never attains supply center status.

Now that we’ve covered how and why Russia got to its current state, it’s time to show what the Tsar can do to ensure Russia doesn’t follow down the path of its historical counterpart and bow out of the war early.

To begin with, the Tsar must realize that Russia is extremely vulnerable at game-start. Though Russia begins the game with four units just like Britain, France, and Germany all do; the Bear is a mere cub when compared to the “Big 3.” In fact, the Tsar will probably feel that his four units are totally inadequate for the tasks required of them. Even with an additional unit or two due to conquests in ‘00, the Tsar probably cannot expect all gaps to be filled by an influx of new units. To compensate for Russia’s military shortcomings, the Tsar must be active diplomatically. More than anything else, Russia needs friends and it needs them in both the east and the west. It is absolutely critical that the Tsar talks with everybody, not just with the Archduke and Sultan. Only by communicating with everyone will the Tsar be able to determine what is most likely to happen and what areas he needs to focus on. He can then allot his units accordingly.

Naturally, the Tsar’s first priority should be to secure an alliance with one of his neighbors. If he fails to accomplish this, he might as well board the next train to Siberia.

Not surprisingly, an alliance with Turkey works well for Russia in 1900, just as it does in Diplomacy. With Russia’s eastern flank against the map edge and its southern flank secured by treaty, the Tsar can concentrate on pushing his forces westward as quickly as possible. Any builds obtained by Russia as the Juggernaut rolls over the Balkans and Dual Monarchy can be used to reinforce the center or strengthen the north depending on the situation in the west. The appropriate Russian moves in alliance with Turkey appear to be A Warsaw to Galicia, A Moscow to Ukraine, and F Sevastopol to Rumania. [In almost every situation, it is probably best to open with F St. Petersburg (sc) to Gulf of Bothnia.] This opening gives Russia its best chance of securing Rumania in Fall ’00 regardless of what the Austro-Hungarian enemy or the Turkish ally do.

If the Dual Monarchy is fighting on its own or German intervention in the east is only half-hearted, R/T should be well on its way. If, however, the Archduke and Kaiser work together closely in the east right from the start, the situation for Russia becomes far more difficult. The Russian moves listed above will slow down the aggressive Connor-Greneoux Gambit discussed earlier, but Russia will struggle to do much more than hold its own against A/G. Most likely, a Western Power will break any deadlock between A/G and R/T. This means that the Tsar must strive to ensure any intervention in eastern affairs by the Western Powers works to Russia’s benefit. This is an extremely complex proposition, but in general the Tsar wants the following:

What if, instead of fighting the Dual Monarchy, Russia enters into an alliance with Austria-Hungary? Such an alliance has a lot going in its favor. In particular, A/R is well positioned to conduct operations against the overbearing Prussians to the west. This is something an alliance with Turkey doesn’t offer.

If the Germans are preoccupied in the west, A/R can safely adopt a “Turkey First” policy. If they do so, the advantage of Austria-Hungary’s A Trieste becomes apparent. The optimal Russian moves (from St. Petersburg’s perspective) are probably F Sevastopol to Black Sea, A Moscow to Ukraine, and A Warsaw to Galicia, while Austria-Hungary moves A Budapest to Rumania, A Vienna to Budapest, and A Trieste to Serbia. Regardless of what Turkey does, Russia should take Rumania in the Fall for one build, while Austria-Hungary gets Serbia and Bulgaria for two builds. Since the most logical division of SCs places Bulgaria and Rumania under the Dual Monarchy’s control while Constantinople and Ankara go to Russia, the two allies will need to work out when and how to transfer SCs between themselves. There are two potential problems with the moves suggested above:

When allied with Austria-Hungary, the Tsar needs to be especially mindful of the possibility of treachery. The temptation to grab Rumania while Russia is engaged with the Turks, and possibly the Germans too, may simply be too much for the Archduke to resist. To mitigate against Habsburg perfidy, I like the idea of a more aggressive approach for A/R. If the situation appears to be shaping up favorably, Austria- Hungary and Russia should seriously consider taking on Germany and Turkey at the same time. Under this scenario, Russia orders F Sevastopol to Black Sea, A Moscow to Ukraine, and A Warsaw to Silesia or Prussia while Austria-Hungary moves its three armies to Tyrolia, Bohemia, and Serbia respectively. As a minimum, each ally should get one build apiece. If the Kaiser is caught by surprise, the Dual Monarchy should be able to take Munich in the Fall and eliminate any concerns in St. Petersburg of a German invasion. Such a bold opening is risky, but probably not as perilous as it may appear at first glance. Turkey should be isolated, and Britain and/or France should be quite willing to join the anti-German crusade. Even better from St. Petersburg’s point of view, the Austro-Hungarians are unlikely to cast covetous glances toward Russian SCs while engaged hammer and tong with the Germans.

What about alliance with Germany? Since Germany is very much a part of the eastern equation, it makes sense that the Tsar should explore this option. Friendship between Germany and Russia actually does offer both parties quite a lot. From the Tsar’s perspective, a G/R probably ensures that Russia will capture Sweden and get at least one build in Winter ’00. Next, if an A/T is in place, any Austro-Turkish advance northward is likely to move along at a snail’s pace, if that fast. The Archduke and Sultan are probably not going to make any real progress into Russia itself unless Britain intervenes in the north. By that time, however, the Tsar may be able to exploit his attackers’ frustrations and get them to turn on each other in alliance with Russia. Finally, if the units can be spared from the south, Russia can work with Germany to solidify the Tsar’s grip on Scandinavia and then take the war to Britain. Then again, instead of attacking Britain, the Tsar might decide to work with Britain against the Reich.

This last point underlines the difficulty of a G/R. There is a great deal of inherent friction between the two Powers, second only to the friction between Britain and France. However, while Britain and France can and do cooperate quite successfully, true G/R cooperation is rare. The simple truth is that Germany and Russia find themselves competing for many of the same SCs and growth for one usually comes at the expense of the other. As each Power expands, the Kaiser is likely to feel increasingly surrounded by his Russian ally, while the Tsar may get more and more uncomfortable with the powerful German mailed fist pointed at Russia’s vulnerable middle (i.e., Warsaw and Moscow). While determined and skillful diplomats can make peace between Teuton and Slav last and I’ve seen contests where Germany and Russia have worked together successfully to their mutual benefit, games results suggest that in most cases the two empires will be foes sooner or later.

In this entire chapter, I’ve barely mentioned France. This is somewhat ironic considering that the Franco- Russian Entente was the historical counterweight to German power. The sad truth, however, is that France and Russia can do little for each other at game-start except exchange information. This should not be too surprising, however, given historical events. Militarily, France could do little for Russia during WWI either, though the French expected the Russians to do a lot for them by distracting the Reich. This does not mean the Tsar should ignore France as the game gets underway. Like Italy, France makes an outstanding mid-game ally. Cultivating friendly relations with Paris early in the game may pay handsome dividends later as both Powers work together to bring down an enemy located in-between.

In summary, the key differences between Russia in Diplomacy and in 1900 are as follows:

The bottom line is that Russia is less formidable than its counterpart in Diplomacy, but still quite capable of being a contender. The latest iteration of Russia, REM Russia, has more defensive power than pre- Steamroller Russia, but less offensive capability than Steamroller Russia. The end result of all this tinkering should be that Russia’s chances of winning are now on par with the chances of the other Great Powers.

B.M. Powell

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