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 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.
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.
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.
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?