An Introduction to Russian Opening Strategy
By Richard Hucknall
This is the country with the best win record and consequently is the most popular to play. Although I have won both my games as Russia I still rate is second to Austria on my personal preference list.
If you draw Russia and want to do well, you must be prepared to diplome harder than you would with any other country. The reason for this is that Russia occupies about one third of the board (in area) and has four neighbours in direct opposition, not to mention having one more unit than anyone else at the start. Furthermore, the opening moves of France and Italy can have repercussions on Russian strategy. Although he starts the game with an extra unit, this is not such an advantage as Russia can be crushed easily by concerted action from his neighbours. My belief is that Russia’s best policy at the start is to fan the sparks of mistrust that exist between other countries until they flare up into war. He can then grind slowly westwards, picking up centres as the rest fight amongst themselves.
The first decision to make is whether to send the A(Mos) to StP or to be content with a lone fleet operating in the north. Should A(Mos) go north, this is usually an anti-English move and threatens to keep him out of Norway. To do this, Russia must be fairly sure that he will not be attacked in the south and that Rum will not be contested. He will also need some understanding with Germany that Sweden will not be a stand-off in the autumn. Given these circumstances then a move to StP can be beneficial - but if he has miscalculated then the results, especially if he fails to take Rum and/or Swe, will leave him very weak. Goodwill towards Germany in 1901 is essential otherwise he can be stood out of Sweden as Germany often uses this ploy as a lever in his negotiations with Russia.
Norway is often looked upon as England’s automatic gain in Autumn 1901. Russia doesn’t have to contest this but the manner in which it is taken is important. An English fleet in Norway cannot be construed as dangerous unless accompanied by a fleet in BAR, but an army convoyed to Norway can be very dangerous. The fleet, should it attack in 1902, cannot get any further than StP, but the army has the chance to roam southwards through Liv, Fin, Mos. In both my postal games as Russia, I persuaded England to let me have Norway in return for assistance against Germany. This proved to be a good strategy as it gave me a solid base in Scandinavia and the bonus of an undefended Berlin later in the game. It also enabled me to concentrate more in the south.
Naturally, Russia is usually more interested in the south than in the north in 1901 and the key area here must be BLA. The most fearful thing that can happen is for Turkey to move into BLA and Arm and this must be avoided if Russia is to prosper. Unless he can be certain (and that is rare in Diplomacy) that Turkey will not go to BLA, he must defend by ordering there himself. A good policy is to arrange a stand-off in BLA in Spring 1901 and then to order F(Sev)-Rum in the Autumn with support from Ukr or Gal if necessary. Conditional builds can then be made on the basis that if Turkey has gone to BLA a fleet is raised in Sev. This can be effective if Turkey is told about the conditional builds.
Unlike all other powers, Russia has involvement in both north and south in 1901. The south is initially more important but gains in the area can be used to build units and bolster the weaker positions in the north. To be successful in the south an ally is needed and Russia has at her disposal two of the best alliances on the board, Turkey and Italy. The Turkish alliance is ideal - the Balkans and Austria can be swiftly divided, followed by Turkey moving against Italy and Russia concentrating in the north against England or Germany. The Italian alliance has the advantage that the two countries do not come into contact until the end (or middle) game so only minimal trust is required. Yet again it is Austria that is first for the chop, then the Balkans, and finally a surrounded and outnumbered Turkey. The third alternative - the Austrian alliance - can quickly snuff out Turkey but leaves Russia open to a stab by Austria.
In the North, Russia has to tread warily until he is strong enough to mount a land war against Germany or a sea war against England. Perhaps the worst thing for Russia is an England/Germany alliance. Not only will this hamper him in Scandinavia but will hinder the growth of Russia’s natural ally in the north - France.
Enjoy yourself playing Russia - statistics are on your side.
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