by Charles Roburn

No big modern war has been won without preponderant sea power; and, conversely, very few rebellions of maritime provinces have succeeded without acquiring sea power.
— Samuel Eliot Morrison


One of the most important issues in Diplomacy is the dichotomy between sea power and land power. Both are necessary in order to win; but it can be difficult to strike the right balance between them at the right time. Each time they have a build, players must decide which type of unit it will be. Sometimes the choice is obvious, but that isn't always the case.

For some Powers, geography necessarily determines the choices they make early on in a game. It's a truism that the island Power of England must build a preponderance of fleets; and at the other extreme, landlocked Austria must focus mainly on armies. Other countries may also tend more to one type of unit than the other, though the other five Powers generally have more leeway in their choices.

So how can you decide? Each unit represents (hopefully!) a long-term investment. Once built, it can't be easily swapped for one of the other type; and if you choose poorly, that can even have a detrimental effect on your diplomatic situation. It's important to get your builds right!

Well, as with anything else in Diplomacy, the diplomatic situation trumps everything else. However, by taking a closer look at the board, maybe we can get some more insight into the factors that should drive your building decisions, and maybe even some clues on the best ways to deploy those units once they're built.

The Geography of Europe: A Bird's Eye View

From a first glance at the map, it seems that Morrison and Mahan are right: fleets should be much more useful than armies! Consider:

From these facts, it may look like everybody should build as many fleets as they can! However, there are a few mitigating factors that make armies more useful than they might seem from this analysis.

First, there's the convoy order. Any space that's accessible to a fleet is also therefore accessible to an army. While the ability to convoy does add to the power of fleets, you do need armies to convoy in the first place. And there is no comparable order for armies; in the standard game, there's no "portage" order that will let your armies carry a fleet across land from one sea space to another.

Also, while there may only be fourteen inland provinces compared to nineteen sea spaces (plus the eight land provinces approachable only by sea), it's important to remember that forty-two of the spaces on the board are coastal — and can therefore be occupied by an army or a fleet. And it's also important to keep track of not just the spaces, but also the borders between them:

From this analysis, it seems that the supply centers on the board are about equally vulnerable to armies and fleets: even if my count is off by a bit (and I invite and encourage you to check it yourself!), the numbers are close.

However, that only considers the total. What about more specific information for each Great Power?

Province by Province

While the board may be evenly balanced overall, the local view in any one area of the board can be very different. The spaces around the north, west, and south edges of the map tend to be much more vulnerable to sea power, while the provinces on the eastern edge and in the center of the board tend to be more heavily weighted toward land forces.

In evaluating each Great Power's natural tendency in the army/fleet divide, it seems logical to examine their home territories and nearby provinces. In the sections below, we'll look at the geographical situation of each Power, taking stock of the following:

*Note that the power projected by a fleet or army is also a good measure of the space's vulnerability to a purely sea-borne or landward attack, since it also represents the number of neighbouring provinces from which that type of unit could invade or support an invasion.

As an example, let's analyze the province of Trieste:

Looking at the map, we can see that the province has the following borders:

Adding these values together:

From these values it's clear that, despite being Austria's only port and only coastal province, Trieste is still very much a land-oriented space.

By looking at the other provinces on the board, we should be able to classify them this way. Of course, numbers can't account for everything; and it's rare for any province to be surrounded completely by hostile units, so they're only a guideline. Still, this seems like a good place to start from.


Even the most cursory look at Austria shows how very heavily the country is weighted toward armies:

Province Borders Units Weight

As all players of Diplomacy know, Austria is primarily a land power. Its non-supply center territories are completely landlocked, and even its sole coastal province is more vulnerable to attack from land than from sea.


As the only island nation in the game, England has strong incentives to pursue sea power. However, the home territories of England do have some inland borders between them.

Province Borders Units Weight

Compared to Austria, England seems far more balanced than you might expect! There is a slight preponderance toward sea power, but only two of the country's home provinces have no inland borders and are thus overwhelmingly weighted toward the sea. The other four are more equally split, and Yorkshire even has a slight weighting toward land forces.

Of course, what the numbers here fail to indicate is that there is no way for a foreign army to land on English soil, nor for an English army to land on the main Continent, without first crossing the sea. That alone is more than enough to make sea power a requirement for England to prosper.

However, it's worth noting that for action on the island itself, armies can be quite useful. An attacker can find it very useful to convoy one or two onto British soil.


France is generally regarded as being very flexible in balancing the two types of units.

Province Borders Units Weight

From these numbers, France appears to be much more heavily weighted toward land than sea. This has a lot to do with the country's non-supply center provinces, which all have a majority of army-accessible borders.


Germany is generally considered more of a land power than a sea power, although more balanced than Austria.

Province Borders Units Weight

These numbers seem to support the idea that Germany is a natural land power. With three completely landlocked provinces, this isn't surprising. Moreover, almost all the inland borders that Germany shares with foreign Powers border on provinces that are themselves completely landlocked: Burgundy, Tyrolia, Bohemia, Galicia, and Warsaw.

The one area where German fleets are particularly useful is Scandinavia. Although there is a land route from Kiel to Denmark to Sweden, the Kaiser will almost certainly need naval power in order to establish and maintain a presence there.


Italy is a peninsula, so its home territories should lean more toward sea power than land power.

Province Borders Units Weight

From these numbers, Italy appears to be well balanced! However, it's worth noting that the northern part of the country is more inclined toward land and the south more toward sea — not at all surprising, considering that the north represents the only land approaches to the country.


Although Russia has two coastal home centers, it's generally regarded as a strong land power. This undoubtedly has something to do with the country's proximity to Austria and Germany, which are themselves primarily land powers; and also with Russia's two landlocked home supply centers.

Province Borders Units Weight
St. Petersburg21343(sc)/2(nc)*AMBIGUOUS

*Note: The bicoastal nature of St Petersburg means that there are two separate scores for a fleet in that space, depending on the coast occupied.

It's clear that Russia's reputation as a land power is well deserved. Three of its territories are completely landlocked, and even its ports are marginally more vulnerable to land than to sea. However, in the north the weighting toward land forces is a little less pronounced.

The bicoastal space of StPetersburg displays an interesting problem. The province itself appears more vulnerable to fleets than armies, because the total of its sea borders and coastal borders is greater than the total of its inland borders and coastal borders. However, a fleet in StPetersburg can move to fewer spaces than an army, because no matter what coast it's on, it cannot cross all of the space's sea and coastal borders. As a result, its weighting can be considered ambiguous.


Like France, Turkey is generally viewed as being able to strike a good balance between fleets and armies.

Province Borders Units Weight

From these numbers, Turkey seems to be the best balanced Power of them all! Not only are its Army and Fleet totals within a single point of each other, but three of its territories are perfectly balanced.


It's all very well to look at the Great Powers' home territories, but that alone can't tell the whole story. It's also important to look at the land provinces that are neutral at the start of the game!

Province Borders Units Weight
North Africa20113SEA

So the neutral territories seem to be more oriented toward sea power than land power overall. However, not all groupings of neutral provinces are weighted this way:

Like StPetersburg, Bulgaria's weighting can be considered ambiguous; it can be attacked by fleets from five different spaces, but a fleet in Bulgaria itself only threatens three spaces. A similar argument could be made that Spain's weight is ambiguous; but since a fleet on Spain's north coast is still as effective as an army, and since a fleet moving into Spain from either Portugal or MAO can choose which coast to use, it seems more appropriate to mark it as sea-oriented.

In the general analysis of how sea and land affect each Great Power, it's particularly important to consider how each Power's natural gains during 1901 and beyond will affect their strategy. Spain and Portugal, which fall naturally into France's sphere of influence, are both weighted toward the sea; so are Holland and Denmark, which normally go to Germany. The need to keep these centers secure can lead these Powers to build at least one fleet in the first year, even though their home territories are more weighted toward land forces.

Summary of Province Analysis

All provinces

(Click for a full-size view in a separate window)

When we summarize the results, we get the following table:

Country Sea (Sea) Balanced/
(Land) Land
Austria         6
England 2 2 1 1  
France   1   2 3
Germany     1 2 3
Italy 1 2   2 1
Russia     3 1 3
Turkey 1   3 1  
(neutrals) 7 3 2   2
TOTALS: 11 8 9 9 18

From these numbers, it seems that the board overall has a slight tendency toward land forces, although the three balanced or almost-balanced columns in the middle add up to more than either the Sea or Land columns. However, this analysis leaves out the nineteen sea spaces, which by definition belong in the Sea column, giving it a total value of thirty—making it seem that there's a tendency toward sea forces instead.

However, the sea spaces and empty provinces don't interest us so much for their own sake; they're significant only to the extent that they can be used to launch attacks on supply centers. If we only look at the supply centers, we get:

Supply centers

(Click for a full-size view in a separate window)

Country Sea (Sea) Balanced/
(Land) Land
Austria         3
England 1 1 1    
France   1   1 1
Germany     1 1 1
Italy 1     1 1
Russia     1 1 2
Turkey 1   2    
(neutrals) 6 2 2   2
TOTALS: 9 4 7 4 10

So this looks far more balanced overall. However, both maps show that the balance isn't uniform across the board. Clearly, the north-west half of the main stalemate line is far more susceptible to fleet power than to armies, while provinces bordering on the Mediterranean are often more vulnerable to land power.

Swiftest Route to Victory

Of course, there's more to winning a game than just securing your home centers and 1901 gains. What about the long term? How do sea and land power affect the centers within your reach? How should they guide your long-term strategy?

As I've said in many other articles, I think that Paul Windsor's idea of finding the swiftest route to victory (as first described in his Geography is Destiny article) is a useful exercise. That is, the supply centers which are closest to a Power's home centers are generally the most accessible ones, and are more likely to be in the list of a winning Power's eighteen than more distant centers.

The default count assumes that both armies and fleets are available to all powers:

Swiftest Route to Victory
Using Both Armies and Fleets
(0 Moves)
Centers Reachable In...Total
1 Move2 Moves3 Moves4 Moves
Austria Vie, Bud, Tri Ser, Rum, Ven Rom, Mun, War, Sev, Bul, Gre (6 of 7) Tun, Mar, Kie, Ber, Mos, Nap, Con   33
England Lon, Edi, Lvp (None) Bre, Bel, Hol, Den, Nwy Swe, StP, Kie, Par, Spa, Por (4 of 5) Mar, Mun, Ber, Mos, Tun 44
France Bre, Par, Mar Spa Lon, Bel, Mun, Ven, Por (9 of 12) Lvp, Edi, Nwy, Den, Hol, Kie, Rom, Nap, Tun, Tri, Ber, Vie   38
Germany Kie, Ber, Mun Hol, Den Mar, Par, Bel, Swe, War, Vie, Tri, Ven (5 of 11) Spa, Bre, Lon, Edi, Nwy, StP, Mos, Rum, Ser, Rom, Bud   33
Italy Ven, Rom, Nap Tri Mar, Tun, Mun, Vie, Bud, Ser, Gre Spa, Kie, Ber, Rum, Bul, Con, Smy Por, Bre, Par, Bel, Hol, Den, War, Sev, Ank 36
Russia StP, Mos, War, Sev Rum, Nwy Swe, Ber, Mun, Vie, Bud, Ser, Bul, Con, Ank, Smy (2 of 8) Gre, Tri, Kie, Den, Edi, Lon, Hol, Bel   28
Turkey Con, Ank, Smy Bul Sev, Rum, Ser, Gre Tun, Nap, Tri, Bud, Mos War, Vie, Rom, Ven, StP 44
Cells starting with "(x of n)" indicate that if the Power already holds all closer centers, it only needs x of the n supply centers listed in the cell to reach eighteen. Italics indicate that the italicized center is not needed at all, except as an alternative to a closer center.

In his article, Paul goes on to adjust some of the numbers based on the idea that a Power is more likely to secure all the centers on its own side of the main stalemate line — adding three or four moves each to Austria, Germany, and Italy.

For the purposes of evaluating land vs sea power, however, how do these counts change if each Power can only use armies? What about fleets? Since Europe is a peninsula with many smaller peninsulas, the route between two spaces is often faster by land than by sea. How much does this affect each Great Power's swiftest route to eighteen centers?

Land Component

First, let's see how the Powers are affected if they only use armies:

Swiftest Route to Victory
Using Only Armies
(0 Moves)
Centers Reachable In...Total
1 Move2 Moves3 Moves4 Moves5 Moves
Austria Vie, Bud, Tri Ser, Rum, Ven Rom, Mun, War, Sev, Bul, Gre Mar, Kie, Ber, Mos, Nap, Con     33
France Bre, Par, Mar Spa Bel, Mun, Ven, Por Hol, Kie, Rom, Tun, Tri, Ber, Vie (3 of 4) Bud, Ser, Nap, Den   42
Germany Kie, Ber, Mun Hol, Den Mar, Par, Bel, Swe, War, Vie, Tri, Ven (5 of 9) Spa, Bre, Nwy, StP, Mos, Rum, Ser, Rom, Bud     33
Italy Ven, Rom, Nap Tri Mar, Mun, Vie, Bud, Ser Gre, Spa, Kie, Ber, Rum, Bul, (3 of 9)Por, Bre, Par, Bel, Hol, Den, War, Sev, Con   41
Russia StP, Mos, War, Sev Rum, Nwy Swe, Ber, Mun, Vie, Bud, Ser, Bul, Ank, Smy (3 of 5) Con, Gre, Tri, Kie, Den,     29
Turkey Con, Ank, Smy Bul Sev, Rum, Ser, Gre Tri, Bud, Mos War, Vie, Ven, StP (3 of 4) Nwy, Rom, Mun, Ber 49

Since England has no overland routes to other centers, it doesn't appear in the table.

The remaining six Powers don't seem too badly affected by the absence of fleets. Austria and Germany aren't affected at all, while Russia's count increases by only one. France's required moves increase by four, while Italy and Turkey each increase their counts by five.

Of course, it's important to remember that even the closest centers by land may not actually be available if the attacker doesn't have sea power. The three Turkish centers can be secured from purely landward attacks by one unit in Constantinople and another in Armenia; Rome and Naples can be held with A Apu S U Rom; three units in Scandinavia can hold four centers with U Den H, U Nwy/Fin S U StP. These and many other positions require at least one fleet to break; so the speed that this table seems to indicate is somewhat deceiving.

But then, sea power alone isn't enough either…

Sea Component

For comparison, let's see how the swiftest route to victory is affected when armies are taken out:

Swiftest Route to Victory
Using Only Fleets
(0 Moves)
Centers Reachable In...Total
1 Move2 Moves3 Moves4 Moves5 Moves6 Moves7 Moves
Austria Vie, Bud, Tri Ven Gre Nap, Tun, Bul Con, Smy, Rom Mar, Spa, Ank, Por, Rum, Sev, Bre   63
England Lon, Edi, Lvp (None) Bre, Bel, Hol, Den, Nwy Swe, StP, Kie, Spa, Por Mar, Ber, Tun Rom, Nap     47
France Bre, Par, Mar Spa Bel, Por, Lon Hol, Rom, Nap, Tun, Edi, Lvp, Nwy, Den (3 of 4) Swe, StP, Kie, Gre       43
Germany Kie, Ber, Mun Hol, Den Bel, Swe Nwy, StP, Edi, Lon Bre Lvp, Por, Spa Tun, Mar (1 of 2) Rom, Nap 57
Italy Ven, Rom, Nap Tri Tun, Gre Mar, Spa, Bul, Con, Smy Por, Bre, Ank (4 of 5) Rum, Sev, Bel, Lon, Lvp     52
Russia StP, Mos, War, Sev Rum, Nwy Swe, Bul, Ank, Con Smy, Ber, Kie, Den, Edi, Lon, Hol, Bel         34
Turkey Con, Ank, Smy Bul Sev, Rum, Gre Nap, Tun Ven, Tri, Rom, Spa, Mar Bre, Por (2 of 3) Lvp, Lon, Bel 71

Here, the effect is far more dramatic. Each Power has at least two inland supply centers among its closest eighteen; so when those centers can't be counted, all the Powers have to go further afield to make up for it. For England, France, and Russia, this effect is minimal; for Austria and Germany, a purely sea-oriented strategy effectively doubles the distance they must travel to get to eighteen. Turkey and Italy don't fare so well either.

Of course, the caveats mentioned in the armies-only analysis also apply here; there are plenty of minor stalemate lines that can be held against a fleet-only force. However, I think these results do illustrate some of the problems that certain Powers face when it comes to expanding their navies.

Summary of Province Analysis

Let's compare the totals from the three different Swiftest Route to Victory tables:

Country SRTV:
All Units
Only Armies
Only Fleets
Austria 33 33 63 LAND
England 44 N/A 47 SEA
France 38 42 43 BALANCED
Germany 33 33 57 LAND
Italy 36 41 52 (LAND)
Russia 28 29 34 BALANCED
Turkey 44 49 71 LAND

The weightings I've assigned here are based on a judgement call rather than a mathematical formula. I've just compared the three columns, and tried to interpret what they mean for each Great Power.

Note that these conclusions are slightly different from those in the province-by-province analysis. It does yield the same results for Austria, England, and Germany — land, sea, and land respectively — but does shift the other Powers. France and Russia, which both seemed very land-oriented, move more toward balance from the swiftest route view. Turkey and Italy, which both seemed very well balanced, both shift more toward land-based action.

Putting it Together

Well, that's a lot of analysis. But what does it really tell us?

As always, the diplomatic situation is always the most important factor in any game, and anything is possible: "always" and "never" are words that simply don't apply. However, a good tactical and strategic analysis can help determine what your best diplomatic course may be. It can also help you time a shift in build policy; the building strategy you pursue when you're securing neutrals and deciding on a first victim may not serve you as well once it's time to sprint across the main stalemate line for the win. And it can also give you an idea of what you'd like to see others build.

So let's consider the elements that we've analyzed so far:

With all this in mind, how do these issues affect each Great Power overall?


By every criterion we've looked at, it's very clear that Austria is the quintessential land power. Its home territories are all weighted toward land forces — all six of them. All the neutral and foreign centers bordering on Austria's home territories are also heavily weighted toward land forces. Greece, which is generally considered a natural gain for Austria, is oriented slightly more toward sea than land; but since it's normally taken by the lone Austrian fleet in 1901, this presents less of a problem. It's only at the periphery of the country's natural sphere of influence that sea power becomes significant.

Austria's swiftest routes to victory are also strongly biased toward land, and the vast majority of centers on those routes are more vulnerable to armies than to fleets. As Josh Burton noted in his article "The Statistician: Solo Victories", a successful Austria is more likely to include Berlin than the overseas province of Tunis, even though Tunis is on the same side of the main stalemate line.

Considering this tremendous bias in favour of land-based forces, you might conclude that Austria is better off not building any fleets at all during the game — the one fleet the country starts with is already too much naval power! However, there is one factor which provides a powerful incentive for Austria to build up a navy at some point; the need to defeat Turkey and/or Italy. These two countries simply cannot be defeated with armies alone. Against competent opposition, Austria will need at least a few fleets to get behind the Italian and/or Turkish lines.

Depending on the order of events, those could be allied fleets rather than Austria's own. Also, Turkey and Italy can each be attacked from two different sides; even one Russian fleet in the Black Sea or French fleet in the Tyrrhenian puts tremendous pressure on the target. Still, it seems unlikely that any Archduke who wants to win will be able to avoid fleets altogether.

Overall, it seems that while Austria will probably need to build fleets eventually, the country is unlikely to prosper by building them early. Once the nearest centers are taken and secured, a moderate naval build-up becomes possible; but until then, each new fleet takes away forces that are needed to secure the homeland and generate growth. Austria's naval opportunities — both short-term and long-term — are limited, and the country's build strategy should reflect that.


England is well-known as a sea power, and it's easy to see why. Since England is an island, fleets are necessarily the country's first line of defence. Nor does the country only need fleets for defence; England's most natural gains in the early years are also heavily weighted toward sea power. Scandinavia in particular is vulnerable to naval attack; but other likely targets such as StPetersburg, Holland, Brest, Belgium, and Kiel are also at least balanced, or show a slight vulnerability to fleets. Further away, Spain, Portugal, and Tunis are also more vulnerable by sea than by land. This last is particularly important, since Tunis is England's most accessible center on the far side of the main stalemate line if not allied with France.

From the SWTV results, England is also the one Power best suited to a game-long naval strategy. All but two of the supply centers on England's side of the main stalemate line are coastal. A few of these centers are more vulnerable by land than by sea, but the majority are not.

Of England's neighbours, Germany and Russia are primarily land powers. They are both more balanced than Austria, and can better afford to build northern fleets; but that's less true early in the game. France is the neighbour who is most likely to pursue a naval strategy early on, and who thus deserves careful watching.

Overall, I think that England can manage a land-based strategy, but can't start it too early. The Home Islands have to be secured first, by eliminating threats either militarily, or through diplomacy. An army or two can be helpful against many of England's early targets; but unless England's strategy is to push beyond StPetersburg into the heartland of Russia, or beyond Munich into Central Europe, these armies are best used in a secondary role as support for naval activities. The Prime Minister may also want to build a significant number of armies earlier rather than later if there's a chance to secure Munich, since this crucial inland center is on the main stalemate line. Still, all else being equal, a strong navy is the key to English success. Rarely if ever should the number of England's armies exceed (or even match!) the number of Royal Navy fleets.


France itself seems fairly well balanced between land power and sea power. The country's home territory is best secured with armies, but its natural first-year gains are more oriented toward sea power. The centers France needs to reach the midgame also offer a range of choices: England, Belgium, Munich, Venice, Tunis — whatever France builds, there's a natural target for it.

France also enjoys a choice of paths to glory. The country's fleets and armies can both be deployed swiftly, often against the same centers. It's also important to remember that when it comes to sea power, France is able to transfer fleets around Spain from the northern seas to the Mediterranean, or vice-versa. So not only can France build fleets on either coast like Russia, but once they're built can move those fleets to the other theatre. This is a huge advantage, and gives France an additional reason why fleets can be a good long-term investment.

When it comes to neighbours, the balance is more or less maintained. England is a sea power; Germany is a land power. Italy is more balanced; it can attack or be attacked by sea through LYO, WES, and TYS, or by land through Piedmont and around Switzerland through Munich.

In the long term, I think the country needs a strong navy to win; according to Josh's results, France's most common winning positions include the same centers as England's — the north west part of the main stalemate line, plus Tunis — with the Italian home centers often included. However, France as a whole seems to enjoy an unparalleled flexibility between land and sea. The country cannot afford to ignore either type of unit completely, but can afford to concentrate on one type predominantly, and to shift building strategy at any point as needed. No wonder France tends to perform so well!


Germany's home territories are strongly oriented toward land forces. However, the closest neutrals tend the opposite way; Denmark, Sweden, and Holland are all more vulnerable by sea than by land. As a result, the Kaiser may want to build up his navy somewhat in the first few years of the game, even though Germany doesn't need fleets to secure centers in 1901. An extra fleet or two can be very useful in Scandinavia.

In the long term, however, fleets are of limited use to Germany. German naval power can basically be concentrated against StP, Scandinavia, and the English home centers. Other coastal centers are closer to Germany by land than by sea; a German army can reach even Brest and Spain within three moves, as oppose to the four or five a German fleet requires. While these provinces are more vulnerable by land than by sea, there are many other centers that Germany can take far more conveniently by attacking inland. So England is likely to see any large German naval build-up as a direct threat.

It's also important to remember that Germany's three other neighbours are strong land powers. France is balanced, but must go through England to use fleets against the Kaiser. Russia can send fleets through the Baltic, but the country's most likely route of attack leads inland through Silesia to Munich and Berlin. Austria is less likely to attack early in the game; but once the Archduke has secured his other fronts, an invasion of Munich becomes entirely possible — and sooner than you might expect. In the longer term, a strong Italy too may launch land-based attacks northward.

So it seems that Germany is best served by building more armies than fleets. Early on, a more even division between fleets and armies can be profitable; but too many fleets can leave Germany's landward defences weak, and invite an attack. A two-fleet build in 1901 generally looks like an open declaration of war against England, even if the Kaiser really intends to use those fleets in the Baltic; and unless Germany got a third build it leaves Munich extremely vulnerable to a sudden attack from other neighbours. Taking a longer-term strategic view, it's also important to remember that each new fleet can't move overland to the nearest centers that Germany will eventually need to win. Germany does need at least some sea power to secure its side of the main stalemate line, but it can only afford a large naval build-up when its other fronts are secure.


Italy's territories and natural paths for expansion seem well balanced. The country's home provinces are evenly split; its natural gain of Tunis can only be taken by sea, but other nearby centers seem to even out this bias: when you add Trieste, Marseilles, and Greece to the list, the balance is restored.

However, time seems to favour an army build-up for Italy. Fleet power is useful for taking Marseilles and Spain, the closest centers on the far side of the main stalemate line; but the majority of the centers closest to Italy are in the Balkans, and most accessible by land. If Italy is strongly allied with another Power that's occupying some of them, Italian forces will have to go much further away to make up the difference.

Among Italy's neighbours: Austria is a strong land power, well able to take Venice and Rome with land forces. Fortunately, Austria has to worry about Russia and Turkey too, so it's unlikely the Archduke will look southwest for growth early on. While Italy can get an early start on landward expansion by attacking Austria himself, that course is dangerous; he'll have to hold Trieste and other land-based centers against attacks from Turkey and/or Russia, while still defending against possible seaborne attacks from Turkey or France. While both or countries are balanced overall, any attack they launch on Italy — or that Italy launches on them — is bound to rely heavily on fleets.

So it looks like a balanced or slightly sea-oriented strategy is best for Italy early on. Such an approach can serve the country well throughout the midgame; but toward the end, Italy may need more armies to force supply centers in the Balkans and other inland centers like Munich and Warsaw. Italian leaders may find it worthwhile to start that build-up as soon as their naval position is secure — after one end of the Mediterranean has been conquered, for example.


The Russian homeland is strongly weighted toward armies, as are most of the centers within two moves of Russia's borders. However, the territories on Russia's flanks are more susceptible to fleet power. In particular, any country trying to dominate Scandinavia will probably need a stronger navy than its rivals if the matter has to be decided by brute force. Russian fleets in the south can help decisively against Turkey, though they become less useful once that's accomplished.

Looking at the Swiftest Route to Victory, Russia should be able to do well with either type of unit. The country's SRTV by sea takes slightly longer than the equivalent by land or with both types of units, but the difference is minimal. However, it's important to note that most centers in the sea-only SRTV list are in the North, and four of them pass through the North Sea. It's also important to remember that any fleet Russia builds can't be transferred to the other coast, and can only defend one of Russia's four home centers.

This last is a crucial point when you consider Russia's neighbours. As we've already established, Austria and Germany are primarily land powers, and they can both reach Warsaw with ease. Turkey is balanced, but in any fight with Russia the Sultan must depend on armies to carry the fight northward. It's also worth remembering that from Turkey's point of view, St Petersburg is the closest supply center on the far side of the main stalemate line.

So overall, Russia can't afford a large naval build-up until other fronts are secured through diplomacy or conquest. Even then, a moderate approach seems best. The only time Russia is likely to need a large number of fleets is if the Tsar is fighting another Power for Scandinavia. All of the country's other nearby targets are primarily vulnerable to armies. Of course, I may be a little biased; I've already gone on record saying that an early Anglo-Russian war is generally not a good idea for either party. Still, there's nothing in this analysis that makes me think I was wrong!


At first glance, Turkey seems to be as favoured as France or Italy when it comes to unit balance. Its home territories are balanced, and the centers within two moves are also pretty evenly divided. However, beyond those two moves the tendency shifts decisively toward land. In order to capture Serbia, Rumania, and the Russian and Austrian home centers, the Sultan requires significant army power. If he instead leaves most of them to a Russian or Austrian ally, he has to go very far away indeed to keep up with his partner.

Still, the Sultan cannot afford to ignore naval power if he wants to win. First, naval power is crucial for Turkey's defence. Foreign fleets in the Black Sea or on Turkey's Mediterranean coast are the precursor to an invasion; they cannot be allowed into these vital areas. And in the long run it's all but impossible for Turkey to get to eighteen without plowing through Italy, and that means forcing a way through the Ionian — preferably before France is able to grab and hold Tunis from the west. And since Turkey's fleets have farther to go if they're to breach the main stalemate line, that's another argument for starting a naval drive earlier rather than later.

Overall, it seems that balance should be Turkey's watchword. Most of a successful Turkey's nearest eighteen centers are more accessible by land than by sea; and I do think that Turkey can win with mostly land-based forces, in a configuration similar to a successful Austria's. However, the arguments in favour of fleets are also compelling, and Turkey is better able to balance the two types of units.


It's hardly a shocking revelation to find that Austria is fundamentally a land power, or that France balances both types of unit well. Most of the factors we've looked at simply confirm lessons that experience and common sense have already taught us.

However, I hope that this article has provided a bit more insight into why the various Powers' tendencies are what they are. Understanding that can help you decide when to follow conventional thinking, and when to try something new. Can Austria be a sea power? Can Italy come to dominate Europe by building mostly armies? Under the right circumstances, perhaps so.

More importantly, the fact remains that all of the Powers must exercise land and sea power at different times if they are to win. Understanding the dynamics that drive those choices can help you plan your build strategy, compensate for potential problems along your path to victory, and ensure that you get the forces you need to the right place at the right time.

Charles Roburn

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