The Ways of the Weasels

In the lead up to WDC, I mentioned often that the local hobby was excited to host the event. As evidence of that excitement, I share this piece that Brian Beck compiled prior to the event. He put it together on a slow day and asked me to share it. I withheld it until now, not wanting to give our out-of-town guests an edge.

Here’s Brian’s analysis of the opening Weasels strategy during the current season.

Of the 22 games of this season (plus the 2015 Weasel Royale and Bar Brawl Championships, which I included), 12 were home games and 12 were pub games.  8 of the weekend games had recorded first moves, as did 7 of the pub games.

Austrian Moves


  • Austrian Weasels are a greedy bunch; 14/15 games featured an opening Tri-Alb headed toward Greece.  12/15 (80%) combined Tri-Alb with Bud-Ser.
  • About half of Austrian Weasels either were scared of Russia or worked out a planned bounce; 8/15 games featured Vie-Gal.
  • The most common set of moves was Tri-Alb, Bud-Ser, Vie-Gal, occurring in 6/15 games.
  • Home game Austrians seemed more concerned about Italy, with 3/8 home games featuring Vie-Tri, and only 1/7 pub games featuring such a move.  Meaning that in pub games, Austria left Trieste open to Italy 6/7 times.

English Moves

  • English Weasels don’t like opening against France.  In 12/15 games, England opened Edi-NWG and Lon-NTH (and to the extent it matters, 8 of those featured Lvp-Edi, 4 featured Lvp-Yor).

French Moves

  • French Weasels had some of the most variety of opening moves, with 9 different combinations of opening moves.
  • French Weasels trust England about as often as England trusts France; 13/15 games featured Brest-MAO.
  • French Weasels also usually trust Germany.  Only 5/15 games featured a move to Burgundy (3 from Paris, 2 from Marseilles).
  • On that note, the strong Maginot opening is rare; only 2 games had Mar S Par-Bur.
  • Only 2 games featured the anti-Italian Marseilles-Piedmont move.
  • About half the time (8/15), Paris went to Picardy.  Also in 8/15 games, Marseilles went to Spain.

German Moves

  • The most popular combination of German moves by far was Kiel-Den, Ber-Kie, Mun-Ruh, with 9/15 games.  The Burgundy DMZ holds surprisingly often.
  • Next most popular is Kiel-Den, Ber-Kie, Mun-Bur.
  • Which leaves two games with unusual moves: (1) Kie-Den, Ber H, Mun-Kie, and (2) Kie-Den, Ber-Sil, Mun-Ruh.  Oddly enough, those were in the two games I played this season.

Italy Moves

  • Italian weasels had as much variation as France, with 9 different combinations.
  • Naples usually goes to Ionian, as expected, 12/15 times.  In the other 3 games–all of which were pub games–it went to Tyrrhenian.
  • 5/15 games featured the immediate anti-French Venice-Piedmont; more than I expected.
  • Only 3/15 games featured the immediate Austrian attack, Nap-Ion, Rom-Ven, Ven-Tyr.  1 game featured Nap-Ion, Rom-Ven, Ven-Tri, which seems anti-Austrian; another featured Nap-Ion, Rom-Apu, Ven-Tri, which looks like a planned bounce.
  • Only 6/15 games featured Rome-Apulia, which again surprised me.  Most Italians aren’t even setting up the possibility of a Lepanto.

Russia Moves

  • Also lots of possibilities, with 9 combinations.
  • But there was a clear most common set of moves, the standard Russian Sev-BLA, StP-GoB, Mos-Ukr, War-Gal, with 6/15 games.
  • For all the North-directed English openings, only 3 games featured Mos-StP.
  • As expected, Sev-BLA was featured in the vast majority of games, 12/15 times.
  • Only one game featured the anti-German War-Sil.
  • Also only one game featured the bizarre StP-Fin.
  • 10/15 times, Russia moved War-Gal (slightly more often than Austria moved Vie-Gal).  I didn’t total up how many times this was a bounce.
  • Only 1 game featured Sev-Arm.

Turkish Moves

  • There are generally only two Turkish moves; 14/15 games featured Ank-BLA and Con-Bul as expected.
  • Of those 14 games, 8 featured Smy-Con, 5 Smy-Arm.  There was a big divide, with home games being about evenly split between those moves and pub games heavily favoring Smy-Con.  Given that pub games are more likely to have novice Turks, the conventional wisdom that experienced players are more likely to try Smy-Arm likely holds.
  • Only one Turk didn’t move to the Black Sea, opening the Russo-Turk anti-Italian Ank-Con, Con-Bul, Smy H.
  • And one Turk played the very bizarre combination Ank-BLA, Con-Bul, Smy-Ank.  I assume a novice.

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 8 Comments

  1. Bryan Pravel

    I love this stuff. Thanks Brian and Jim! The Austrian stuff is the most interesting to me.

  2. The Australian Peter McNamara

    I often play Ank-Bla, Con-Bul, Smy-Ank. It’s my default move as Turkey when not opening Ank-Con or Smy-Arm and I’m always surprised how many people find it bizarre. (I’ll leave it as an exercise to find the advantages/disadvantages compared to Smy-Con).

  3. Bryan Pravel

    Peter I have never seen an experienced player open that way. So I decided to cheat *ahem* I mean research the opening online so I would feel more educated about my response. No joy. All I see online is a brief reference to using that opening to pop the Russian fleet which seems far too specific a use case for this to be a regular opening for you. So that means I have to puzzle this out on my own… and that I am intrigued!

  4. Bryan Pravel

    Ok. Wild guess here because I am in the “find it bizarre” camp.

    1. Odds are you aren’t going to do anything with A CON in fall 1901 besides support BUL or bounce with BUL when BUL bounces in GRE or RUM. So the odds are high you will have an army covering your build in CON.

    2. F CON is more flexible. It can help you force BLA if you need it and can move to AEG just as easily as F SMY. So if you probably aren’t going to get anything by ordering SMY – CON, why not just allow yourself to build F CON? It can do everything the S1902 army can do plus a whole lot more!

    3. On the rare occasion you *do* get into BLA, you have an army ready to convoy *plus* the more flexible fleet (or army!) you need it.

    Downside of course would be if Russia orders F SEV – ARM, but if you are playing the odds with this opening anyway, you have pretty darn good odds that Russia won’t be ordering that!

    Not sure if that is your reasoning but I have convinced myself it at least seems reasonable to try.

  5. Jim O'Kelley

    If you move Smy-Con, then you lose the option of Ank-Con in the fall followed by build F Smy. Smy-Ank gives you that fall flexibility if you want it and has the added benefit of being pretty good if Russia botches his move to the Black Sea.

  6. Brian Beck

    Well, while the master may play Smy-Ank, the Weasels game where it happened was game 280, played by brand-new player David Kodesky.

    The Con-Bul, Ank-Con, Smy H move came in game 281, which I hosted, and also was from a new player. And it somehow ended up being used towards an A/T–which, as the board topper in France, I was very happy with. Turkey’s final centers ended up being Smy, Ank, Con…and Rome and Naples.

  7. Jim O'Kelley

    Another potential advantage of Ank-Bla, Smy-Ank is that, when coupled with Sev-Arm, it allows you to safely blow up the Russian fleet so that Russia can replace that unit with an army. I think the preference is to make that trade in Rumania so that both powers get a build out of the transaction, but doing it in Armenia is an option and requires the opening moves by Turkey to Bla and Ank.

    Holding in Smyrna as Ankara moves to Constantinople is, of course, the smart way to clear your fleet as it allows you to bounce in Ankara in the Fall and build a fleet there if Russia betrays you.

  8. Matt Sundstrom

    Regarding StP-Fin. That’s probably me. I’ve come to favor it given Germany’s tendency to bounce Sweden in our club and Russia getting crushed generally. It can be better to be in Finland come 1902-3 for a Russia under attack in the north. If a move to Swe succeeds in Fall ’01, it doesn’t matter whether the fleet was in GoB or Fin.

    The Russian opening is the trickiest to me. Tsar can’t defend himself against a concerted attack no matter what he does. Austria is in the same boat but the opening options are more limited. Most everyone else can play some kind of safe opening.

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