The German Northern Suicide Opening

by Edi Birsan

Diplomacy writers have written a lot of articles about opening plans and strategies to accomplish various goals such as the destruction at all costs of Turkey (Lepanto) or England (Sea Lion) or even the torment of Austria (Koniggratz Freakout) and the funny landing of an English army in North Africa (Barbary Coast). However, there is a whole class of openings that rest within a misreading of the diplomacy and strategic background of an opening that leads to the virtual suicide of the initiating country that needs to be discussed as we often learn more from failure than from success.

Suicide is not just a simple matter of poor play; if it was, we would call it poor play! Suicide is a determined set of decisions and actions by an experienced player that results in the destruction of your own position when, if you had thought it out in a rational frame of mind, you would have seen it coming - but you blind sided yourself.

In classic Diplomacy fashion the greatest cases of suicide are usually followed by a rash of rationalization, self-delusion and conjectures to try to avoid the responsibility of life's history...then again that is always a major part of most suicides anyway. In a recent top board game in a face to face tournament (center based system limited to 1907) there was a great example of making just such set of decisions in 1901.

Spring 01

The moves in the west:

Meanwhile, in the east and south:


France makes it clear to everyone he has no idea which way to go.

England expresses interest in Belgium and Germany agrees that he can put an army into it. England makes it clear that he is very paranoid on general lack of principles in a C-Diplo style tournament and especially about the French and the Germans working against him as they are both share a common foreign language. He confesses to the Russian and the French that he has no idea what the German is up to as his offer of Belgium to attack Russia did not make sense to him, but he accepted Belgium.

Germany acknowledges that the A-R-T are somewhat coordinated, and tells the Russian that he can have Sweden. What the German explains to the Russian is that he wants the Russian to take Norway from Sweden in the Spring of 02 so that he, Germany can take Sweden. The Russian is mystified by this approach: Germany expects Russia to attack England in Norway in exchange for giving the Germans Sweden. This while the German is giving the English Belgium, so that the Russian is attacking England alone which now has two builds courtesy of the German.

The Russian scratches his head and accepts Sweden, and plans to take it from there and discusses the situation with the English. The conclusion is that the key is to make sure that the French do not build a fleet in Brest, and that they should move Paris to Burgundy so that Germany can be surrounded.

In the East, the Italian has done everything possible to solidify the Austrians and the Turks against him, leaving the Russian without a direct involvement.

Fall 01

The West:

The East:

The German's moves makes it totally clear that he is moving on Sweden with support and sends the Russians into the steamroller mode. The Germans moves without clear and present support from the English and the French is drawing the knife across his own throat, which he then compounds with the builds of Fleet Kiel and Army Berlin. The English build Army London and Fleet Edinburgh while the Russians put armies in Warsaw and St.Pete.

The German would have been better off if he had played Denmark to Skaggerak, as from that position he had a lot more flexibility towards the English and may have pulled the Russian into building Fleet StP nc. However, with a move to the Baltic there was no way that the Russian was going to go for a fleet build.

The build of a fleet in Kiel also pushes the English over the edge, since if the Germans are building a fleet they probably are going to move it. This means that there is no support for Holland. The temptation to convoy Army London to Holland with Belgium in support is overwhelming. Meanwhile the deal is made that Norway supports Sweden in the north while the Russian armies move on Germany from the other side.

The French, seeing the opportunity and having nothing from the German, agree with the English to move to the Ruhr.

The Germans now draw the blade firmly across their own throat by telling the Russians that they can bounce in Silesia - which means that no one is going to cover Munich. The German refuses to tell the Russian what he is doing with Fleet Kiel, when as a minimum the Russian wanted to hear that it was going to Helgoland. The Russians then talk the Italians into going for an open Munich as the French move on Ruhr.

Spring 02

For the rest of the game Germany was crippled both diplomatically and strategically, and with a few bursts of well played negotiations and tactics managed to survive to die with a pirate fleet in the Baltic 7 years later.

Things to remember:

Edi Birsan

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