A fleet, a fleet, my kingdom for a fleet

Matt Sundstrom and Tony Prokes have started an interesting, and familiar, discussion in the recap of Game No. 131. The question beneath the surface–how does Austria stab an Italian ally on whom he’s relying to keep the West at bay–is one that has plagued me often when I’ve managed to do well as Austria.

Here’s my typical "good result" as Austria:
I have eight to 12 centers, there’s play left in the game, although the stalemate lines are congealing, but  I settle for a draw because I fear that stabbing my Italian ally will result in British or French fleets flooding the Mediterranean and threatening my flank. Sound familiar?

Certainly the opening presents larger problems for Austria to worry about than fleet building. Namely, survival. Any fleet you do build likely will be viewed by Italy as a serious provocation. Is he the guy you want to provoke in the early game?

So, what do you do? How do you reduce your reliance on Italy’s navy so that when the midgame arrives, you have the flexibility to attack whomever your want?

Diplomatically, and to the extent you can, militarily, you probably want to promote Germany in the West. That means an early push on Munich is probably not in your long-term interests. It also means you probably need Italy to do well in the west, or at least well enough so that the fight is over Iberia and not Tunis. If you can orchestrate this, then you may be able to stab Italy and have time to build the additional fleets you’ll need to counter a Western invasion.

But hey, if I had the answers, I wouldn’t be asking what you think…

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