The Wise Old Weasel– Russia


A gray sky surrounds the grayer plains… or is it snow? There is nothing around except a few bare trees, no one to talk to, no place for respite. It is cold, damn cold. There is no more Ritz to be Putin on. You inhale, reeking of friends lost and hopelessness, but the only showers here are (allegedly) used to blackmail other, more important players.

Do you have what it takes to survive the winter? This, weasels, is where we share our Wisdom.



“Why does this club hate Russia?” ponders club founder and Soviet sweetheart Jim O’Kelly. Verily, Russia is the most difficult country to play in this club, as it is the least likely to top or split a top.

Perhaps it is because of this club’s proclivity to the Sundstrom/ Armenia opening. Perhaps it is because Germany tends to bounce Sweden. Perhaps it is because two units are often bounced in S01. Perhaps it is the lack of guaranteed builds. Perhaps it is because Russia always happens to look big. Perhaps it is because Germany is too eager to move east. Perhaps it is because it neighbors nearly every nation and has the most number of “strategically imperative” diplomatic conversations early in the game. Perhaps Weasels are just fulfilling their patriotic duty.

Much like matryoshka doll, each Russian problem just opens up into another Russian problem. Playing Russia can be a real bear.


I debated putting the “Miracle on Ice” here, but found this more appropriate. For context, you are the bear. 

Quit Stalin and drop by the comments to leave your motherland musings.

Hit the JUMP for Russia stats, correlations, and the part where Jake posts links he knows are broken and reminds himself to correct them later.

{jcomments on}


Now for some good news-this season has been relatively kind to Russia. While only two Czar’s have topped (tied for 5th least), only two have been eliminated (tie for 3rd.) Russia’s average score this season is 12.91, good for 5th. Perhaps the most promising note- Turkey is currently the most eliminated nation with 7.

Historically, Russia is dead last in number of board tops and split tops, coming in just under 10%. The greatest Russian result since the switch to Sum of Squares was a SOLO by Peter Yeargin in game 112. However, since sum of squares the best Russian performance was a 16-dot Kevin O’Kelly effort in game 193. Interestingly, Kevin went from 6 to 10 in 1902-then stayed at 10 for four years! Maybe Kevin remembers this game and can fill us in?

Correlation stats will be coming, but you’d like to see F and I do well. 


These links will work at some point, like once I finish updating the Turkey links. Anyways, here’s some of my fave Russia strat articles.

Powell on the Jug Part 1:

Powell on the Jug Part 2:

Hood on the North: on AIR:

Goff on Sweden:

Dipcast site is down, will add link when it’s back up.

Join the discussion!

Find out more about an upcoming event or article, talk smack before a game, brag about your board top, or most likely, ask what on earth your fellow Weasels were thinking!

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Jake Trotta

    Okay, I’ll kick us off, but let me start with a caveat-I’m very not good at Russia. In fact, the stats show that it is my WORST country. I’ve never topped with it. I’ve been eliminated on 43% of the boards I’ve played as Russia. It’s a no fun zone.
    For that reason, I won’t give you any “do this” pieces of advice. I’ll throw down some “don’ts” I’ve learned along the way, and give a few reasons that even though it’s super hard, playing the Rusky is a blast.
    [b]DON’T (and by don’t I mean probably don’t, because what the hell do I know)[/b]
    -Play a tactics heavy, dot-grabby game. I mean, if they’re there and you can get away with it, whatever. But my running joke is I’m the world’s greatest Russian player until 1904, where I turn into the world’s worst Russia player.
    -Think you can go boom without a buddy. It’s relatively easy to get to 7, especially if you get into Galicia in 01. The problem is you look big at 7-and everyone knows you can out-tempo them once you get going. If you find yourself at 7, 8, or 9 and a couple ahead of your ally (if you have one), don’t be surprised for them to cut you down a dot or two. Tempo comes at a higher diplomatic cost for Russia.
    -Attack Germany before you have to. I start every game as G or R with the exact same negotiation- if we fight before 04, we both lose. Your north is tricky tricky tricky to defend, particularly if Germany convoys into Livonia, so even if you get bounced, don’t panic and fling units his direction.
    -Goof around in Scandinavia with no real plan (unless it benefits you). One of the easiest ways for EGR to lose their shit (and tempo) is if they don’t come to any conclusions about Scandinavia. Now, that could be useful for you if you have good things in the south, but if you’re counting on having one of those dots and they’re in jeopardy because things are too fluid up there, you’re in trouble.
    -Get too spread out. You’re already too spread out. I had one game where I was in Ankara, Tyrolia, Galicia, and GOB. Spoilers: I got eliminated. (I mean, sure, that’s always a bad idea. Don’t give me that judgey look. That’s rude.)
    -Panic. If you panic or overcommit or janissary too early, you lose the opportunity to watch the board mess itself up and take advantage. Russia is weirdly fluid and can suddenly find itself back in the game. Don’t throw in the towel unless you’re down to like two non-adjacent centers.
    –If you do get down to two non-adjacent centers, do everything you can to be a northern and southern pirate. Bonus points if you can make them meet in MAO.
    -It’s a weirdly fluid country. Like there are infinite openings that are relatively viable. You can play in either theatre, or both theatres, or no theatres if you’re me and went boom without a buddy. Also, even though it may seem like you gon’ die, somehow board dynamics can change and Russia’s flexibility allows you a chance to get back in it (or even surge back in).
    -Tempo galore. You can have all of Scandinavia, or all of the Balkans, or all of Germany, or all of the above, if you do it right. If you find a way to get past 8, you’re going to have a super fun game.
    -So many opportunities for LOLs. Like suddenly becoming a southern power because England swiped STP. Or knowing you’re about to get bounced… and convincing England to take Denmark. Or building a second southern fleet in 01. Or open to Silesia and take Munich. Or put Austria into Bulgaria in F01. Something I’ve always wanted to do is agree to a Sea Lion, but convoy the army into Sweden instead, while simultaneously doing a Con-Sev swap in the south. Why? Because wouldn’t it be cool to play as a northeastern power? I think it would be cool.
    -It’s a real diplomatic challenge. You need to make at least 2 solid friends in 01 or your game won’t be fun. You never really have time to sit down, you’ve always got to be influencing both theaters. Plus you have not one, but two crossboard amigos in France and Italy that you can coordinate with.
    -Because it’s freaking hard. Russia is played on a razor’s edge- one good move can land you in brilliant position, one tiny mistake can ruin a great game. Succeeding as Russia does have a heightened sense of accomplishment for that reason.

  2. Jim O'Kelley

    From the endgame thread from Game No. 88.

    [b]A Tsar’s Survival Guide[/b]
    by Jim O’Kelley

    1) You need a reasonable German player. (Unfortunately, you can’t necessarily check off each of these items on your own. For this one, you need some help.) A reasonable German player may position himself to bounce you, but he’ll do so only if it aligns with his strategic interests and/or he thinks you’re having your way in the south. If the German thinks it’s his job to deny you Sweden (meaning he’s unreasonable), then you could be headed for trouble. Germany (Peter Yeargin) actually bounced me in this game, but his decision was based on the facts he had gathered about Rumania. I can live with that. And my fault for not swearing Austria (Amanda Baumgartner) to secrecy about her support for my move to Rum.

    2) Discourage E/G cooperation. I didn’t need to be too active here, as the West was a clusterf$#!. But I did conspire with England (Pete McNamara) in Spring 1902 to allow Germany to move his fleets to Swe and Den while simultaneously moving the British fleets in such a manner that would allow us to take Swe (me with his support) and Den (him on his own) in the Fall. Short-term interest: A dot for me. Long-term interest: It was now going to be more difficult for E/G to cooperate. Even though the dot-hungry P-Mac stole Sweden from me in 1903, I still had accomplished my long-term objective.

    3) Keep the Turks out of Armenia. I’ll discuss my opening in a separate post. It’s best to do this through Diplomacy, but if necessary, don’t be afraid to open with Sev-Arm.

    4) Don’t lock yourself into bouncing in Galicia. Sometimes you’ll find an Austrian who would prefer to move elsewhere. If you think you can trust him (or her, as was the case in this game), let him. And don’t go blasting into Galicia just because you think you can get there. Your biggest problem is likely to be Turkey, so until you’re certain of his friendship, or at least his neutrality, you don’t need to tick off Austria.

    Hopefully, these four points will help you toward a better result the next time you pluck the white block.

    Link to the original thread: ([url][/url])

  3. Jim O'Kelley

    And an addendum from Game No. 90:

    [b]A Tsar’s Survival Game, Addendum 1[/b]

    For the second straight game, I drew Russia. I felt better about the draw for not only having read my Tsar’s Survival Game from Game No. 88 but for having written it as well.

    (I’m watching the Biathalon right now, by the way. Cool as hell.)

    Flexibility is important, and for that reason, I was happy to again agree to a straight-up DMZ of Galicia. And I was again grateful to Amanda Baumgartner, the Arch Duchess, for holding up her end.

    Free to play around with one of my armies, I was inclined to split my forces and send one of them north. I normally prefer to put all my eggs in the southern basket, but again, flexibility is key.

    I was keen to move Mos-StP, but I couldn’t get Gary Przybocki, playing France, to commit to a move to the Channel. Without an accompanying threat to London, Mos-StP is an invitation for a convoy to Norway. Peter Yeargin, playing England, made it clear he’d readily accept that invitation. So, I chose to move to Livonia instead while Warsaw moved to Ukraine.

    Moscow to Sevastopol was out of the question. Bert Schoose was playing Turkey, and I knew him to be a wonderful ally from having observed some of his games at the first CODCon and Weasel Moot tournaments. He wanted to get his fleet into the Mediterranean, and he invited me into the Black Sea. But he made it clear that he’d view an army in Sev as an act of war. I didn’t want to provoke a potential ally so early in the game.

    And that’s another reason why I wanted to split my forces. Both Austria and Turkey seemed eager to work with me. Splitting my units gave me a more plausible reason to delay a decision.

    So, I moved A Mos to Livonia, and in the Fall, I convoyed it to Sweden. That move was guaranteed to succeed because Germany had opened with Kiel to Holland, a move I encouraged but that he embraced without any arm twisting by me.

    So, the takeaway here is maintain flexibility for as long as possible. Bouncing in Gal and Bla may give you security, but is it worth it to have security at the expense of flexibility? I don’t think so. In my past two games as Russia, I’ve chosen flexibility over security, and I’ve been rewarded both times.

    Link to the original thread: [url][/url]

  4. David Maletsky

    Wanted to expand on Jim’s point about Galicia. If you go there, you either get in, in which case in the fall you can make a guess to get a dot you can’t hold, or you much more likely get bounced. Either way you annoy Austria. If you don’t go there and Austria does, so what? It doesn’t hurt you at all; if Turkey is working with Austria you were already going to lose Rum and Sev eventually, and if Turkey isn’t working with Austria, Austria can’t do anything to you from Galicia.

    A key component of getting good results with Russia I find is not being aggressive out of the gate, unless you have the rare opportunity to do so against England. Russia can sit at 5-7 centers for years and remain a threat to explode; the important thing is to get the flow of the board moving away from you, and not stagnating in the east.

    I strongly disagree with the advice of attacking Germany earlier rather than later. All you will end up doing is either feeding England or France dots, or in the best case scenario, you get the lion’s share and have exponentially expanded your front and potential enemies without getting fair value in additional strength. Better to secure a corner and knock out a witch, or to go slowly and negotiate for the occasional dot from allies who are farther forward than you.

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