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The Wise Old Weasel Presents! The Anschluss

black and white cartoon weasels drinking champagne

In which the wise old weasel discusses the merits and limitations of the Anschluss alliance

Hroom, hm, gather round my friends. Today we discuss that corresponding combination, that brotherly bond, that parallel partnership that is known by most as… the Anschluss! I hope you find the conversation engaging and will join in the tradition of wise old weasels sharing their hard earned knowledge with fellow weasels. 

This is a series of posts designed to provoke discussion about some of the more common alliances seen in Windy City Weasel club games, online games, and at tournaments. To help focus conversation, a single post has been created for each alliance structure. 

The mechanics of the Anschluss are simple enough: one army must stay in Munich, by whatever tactic, and the fleet must go to Denmark. Italy is told that if he attacks Austria then Germany will move against him; Russia is told that if he moves to Galicia he will not get Sweden. Italy usually and Russia always can be relied on to see the force of these arguments, though they may decide to chance it even so.

Richard Sharp

Overview

The Anschluss! (also known as the “Peacekeper” or the “A/G”) is an alliance between Austria and Germany. This alliance was popularized by hobby legend Richard Sharp, who writes “the essence of the idea is that Germany and Austria play as a single country during the period of their initial vulnerability; and, more specifically, Germany will come to Austria’s assistance if the latter is attacked by Italy and/or Russia.” The alliance can also be expanded to include Italy to form the Central Triple

Wikibooks describes the Anschluss as a “Cadillac Alliance” and says it’s “Probably the most natural alliance on the board, for Germany is the only power Austria can count on, this alliance varies in every game. “

During the early game phase, this is alliance is something of a of a “mutual support agreement” between its members to not attack each other, and perhaps more importantly, for both members (particularly Germany) to make it publicly known to everyone on the board that hostilities against one member of the alliance will result in the other member coming to their aid. This is particularly true of Germany who uses its unit in Munich to help protect their “little brother” Austria during its particularly vulnerable early game. 

In an article titled “The Peacekeeper” Guy Fraser-Sampson provides more actionable advice. He suggests that “Germany tells Italy from the off that German and Austrian interests are to be seen as one and the same, and that Germany will respond promptly and violently to any attack on Austria by Italy. To lend substance to this threat, Germany makes it clear that (in the original version) A(Mun) will stand or (in the more aggressive option which I prefer to play as Germany) move to Tyr, to be ready to deal with any incursion into Austrian territory. At the same time, Germany tells Russia that a move to Galicia will result in him being stood out of Sweden in the Autumn.

Probably the most natural alliance on the board, for Germany is the only power Austria can count on, this alliance varies in every game. Sometimes a full alliance against Russia, sometimes just a non-aggression pact, these two powers must stand back to back in the game. A stab in this alliance spells doom for both, for attacking the most natural ally in the game results in wasting of armies pulled from other fronts.

Author Unknown

Merits

Why should Germany care so much about Austrian success? Richard Sharp answers that question saying “in games where Austria fails, Germany has the worst record of any country; where Austria lasts until 1904 or later, Germany has the best record.” 

Prolific Diplomacy writer, member of the Minnesota Diplomacy Club, and friend of the Weasels Erik van Mechelen agrees with this and provides more reasons why Richard’s statement is true. In his book “Diplomacy: Conversations with Barbosa” he writes “The key is to ensure that Austria has a good early game. A strong Austria, for example, means the Russian is not too strong, and that a middle game offensive into Scandinavia and even northern Russia remains a possibility for the German.” 

For Austria the advantages are obvious.In Spring 1901, more than anything else, Austria needs a friend. If that friend happens to be a German that is actively helps to negotiate an Austrian / Italian alliance and can keep Russia balanced enough to need Austria help against Turkey, Austria’s chances of success just skyrocketed.  

 

The key to the success of the opening is diplomacy: if you are not good enough to entangle England with Russia and France by sheer willpower, forget it - England will do too well if given a free hand. But if you are, like me, a Germany addict, enjoying the sensation of sitting in the middle fiddling while Europe burns, this Anschluss ploy should be a keystone of your strategy.

Richard Sharp

Limitations

No alliance structure exists without some downsides but some alliances have fewer downsides than others. It is this Weasel’s opinion that there is no single alliance in the game of Diplomacy that has more upside for both parties than the Anschluss. This has been true in every club I have been a part of from house games, to play by email, to online, to club play with the Weasels, and at tournaments. 

The only “downside” to this alliance that I see is less about the alliance structure and more about the specific set of prescriptive moves suggested in the articles above. For example, if Austria and Italy are already friendly, there is no need for the German army to sit in Munich playing defense. If it appears that Russia is getting attacked by England, Turkey, and Austria, Germany might want to consider allowing Russia into Sweden. It is more important that the two powers coordinate together in the early game when they are most vulnerable than it is to execute a specific set of pre-arranged orders at the outset of the game. 

It is also worth pointing out that both Austria and Germany usually need each others centers if they are going to solo. According to BrotherBored’s “Solo Win Guides“, both Austria and Germany usually need Munich to solo and they both frequently need Russian centers to solo. This means there is often a strong temptation for Austria and Germany to come into conflict towards the end of the midgame / start of the endgame phase. Beware! The line of Prussia, Silesia, Bohemia, and Tyrolia are dead lands residing along the stalemate line. They offer no economic growth and are easy to defend from either side of the line. It often requires an extremely high volume of units to break through this line. If you have “allies” at your back while you make this move, it becomes extremely tempting for them to stab while your units are over extended in the middle of the board.  

In Weasel club play, there is often little incentive for the alliance members to stab one another, particularly in timed games. Both powers central location on the board makes them able to build units close to the stalemate line in an either offensive or defensive manner. The biggest challenge Weasels will face in club play will be keeping pace with each other for the huge Tribute board top. Austria in particular can be explosive once they reach the midgame. 

if Italy accepts the German ultimatum he will do well, and if he refuses he will do badly. Whatever he does, Germany and Austria do well. Indeed, the main weakness has been that Austria does too well.

Richard Sharp

Summary

The Anschluss is one of Diplomacy’s premier alliance structures. We’ll use Richard Sharp’s excellent summation of his Alliance to close out this post. He states “Germany enjoys more than any ether country the near certainty that no one will attack her in 1901… Austria, on the other hand, enjoys the near certainty that someone will attack in 1901… The rapid demise of Austria that inevitably follows… is extremely bad for Germany.” It is that last point that is crucial. Diplomacy is a balance of power game. When one power weakens, another power grows. For Germany, nothing good comes from a rapid Austrian collapse as this benefits Germany’s rivals more than Germany itself. 

Hrm, Hroom. These are merely the thoughts of one old weasel. What say the rest of you? Can you share advice or regale us with tales of playing the Anschluss alliance? 

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 3 Comments

  1. Wes Ketchum

    I remember reading Sharp’s articles when I was first starting diplomacy, and thought the Anschluss concept made a lot of sense.

    But, now with a lot more games under my belt, let me risk blasphemy and ask: is this a confusion of correlation and causation?

    If the main reason to befriend Austria is to make sure Austria is strong enough to withstand Italy and Russia, who otherwise go after Germany, then isn’t the real thing just to make sure Italy and Russia don’t get too big. And, to go further, Italy doesn’t seem like such a huge early or even mid-game threat to Germany (in fact, a strong Italy giving France trouble would seem to be pretty good for Germany), so … maybe the more direct thing is making sure Russia is under control, and doesn’t resolve the east fast enough to come sweeping across Central Europe and securing the Baltic?

    Sure, a strong and German-friendly Austria will likely do that (especially since the AR alliance — probably what Germany’s nightmares have nightmares of — doesn’t seem that common/popular). But, maybe a nagging England in the north will do that too (being careful to not let England make too many gains). Maybe even better, an aggressive Turkey could do more and in a way that doesn’t ever touch most or any of Germany’s 18.

  2. Chris Kelly

    I fully agree (perhaps unlike Wes) that an early Austrian demise is likely to come back to haunt Germany in some way. But like you, Bryan, I find that the challenge has been defining *how* to help Austria in 1901. In the earlier post on the Germany chapter of Sharp’s book, I commented that while his case against A Mun->Ruhr in S01 was convincing, his alternatives were unimpressive. In particular, I worried that his preferred option of A Mun->Tyrolia could actually “invite the kind of attention/conflict in that area of the board which Sharp claims he wants to deter,” simply because of the potential threat to home centers for both ITA (Venice) and AUS (Trieste/Vienna).

    Which leads me to an apparently unanalyzed option: Why not move A Mun->Bohemia?

    Sure, it may have to slink awkwardly back to Munich in F01 if France opens to Burgundy, or Italy to Tyrolia. But A Mun H or A Mun->Tyrolia (or A Mun->Ruhr, for that matter) could easily lead to the same end result. And it does leave you vulnerable if *both* ITA and FRA decide to threaten Munich, but you’d be in trouble in that case anyway.

    The advantage of A Mun->Bohemia for an Anschluss alliance is that it puts some weight behind Germany’s warning for RUS to stay out of Galicia. The option of A Boh->Vienna in F01 potentially ensures that RUS cannot pick up an Austrian center even if it takes Galicia in S01. (Even if the defensive tactics result in GER occupying Vienna, GER gets an unexpected added build & can let A Vienna become a de facto Austrian unit – so what has RUS gained?) And especially if TUR opens to Armenia, the threat of A Boh->Galicia might disrupt Russia’s attempt to take Romania in the fall.

    I assume the main reason for ignoring A Mun->Bohemia as a serious option in S01 is its lack of offensive potential compared to other moves – but in the right situation, this becomes an advantage for a savvy Dip player! It doesn’t threaten ITA or AUS as A Mun->Tyrolia would, and it doesn’t directly attack RUS as A Mun->Silesia would. It just puts a protective arm around the shoulder of your “little brother” in Austria to deter RUS and others from bullying him… which is exactly the message you want to send.

    One fun possibility opened up by A Mun->Bohemia in S01 is that it doesn’t just have to safeguard an intended DMZ in Galicia by AUS & RUS (which, since it presages an A/R alliance, may not be something Germany really wants anyway, per Wes’s comment). Instead, if GER is willing to tip its hand more against Russia, A Bohemia can support AUS A Vie->Galicia in F01 after a bounce in the spring.

  3. Wes Ketchum

    Very interesting to think about Chris! I too was thinking a lot about MUN – BOH lately since I just saw this in a Boston Massacre game.

    In that game, I do not think the move to BOH was really part of an Anschluss, and Germany did end up moving back to MUN to cover it, but I think it did have quite the domino effect in the game in the west. France was emboldened to go for three builds as part of an idea to (temporarily) work with Germany, which got England and Italy (me) in full on anti-French mode, convincing Germany to go in that direction too (if that wasn’t already her plan).

    It worked out OK (actually, very well!) for Germany given the way the alliance structures went and developed, but it seems very risky. As you say, moving to BOH on its own lacks growth for Germany, and it doesn’t feel like Germany should have a whole unit to spare to Austria. Is Germany really better off using the army to influence the east rather than keep it around to influence in the west? Probably only if Germany is really sure about how the alliances will break down in the west, and maybe has some help from Italy with a move to PIE? And if Germany feels that comfortable moving to BOH and keeping it there, I’d assume the rest of the East may be convinced to see that as a convenient staging ground for a Germany attack on Russia that’s part of a Western Triple…

    Agree that TYR may not be much better than BOH, but two things it does that BOH does not: (1) it ensures you won’t have two armies neighboring MUN in the fall, and (2) it opens up the possibility for you to move to PIE if Italy won’t and you want that pressure on France. It also does the job to be ready to prop up Austria but avoid being asked to help in an Austrian attack on Russia / disrupt the power balance in the east, assuming your goal is to avoid tilting the scales.

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