5

Russia, which gets an extra piece, is in some ways the most powerful country in Diplomacy. It is also one of the most vulnerable, insofar as it is surrounded by four potentially hostile countries. (Only Germany and Austria-Hungary is in such bad shape in this regard, an important fact for this question.)

The Three Emperors' Alliance between Russia, Germany and Austria was originally started by GERMANY's Bismarck (in real life). But as the strongest of the three, perhaps Russia could be the greatest beneficiary?

The idea is to use the weaker Teutonic powers to knock out the stronger enemies, England and Turkey. Russia gets Norway and Edinburgh in the north, Rumania and two, maybe three Turkish supply centers in the south. And in any event, secures both flanks.

Then Russia might ally with one Teutonic power against the other, or possibly with France and Italy against the two Teutonics. If they were playing a "short" game, where any three countries with a total of 18+ supply centers can declare themselves co-winners, they'd have the game won right there.

How would this compare with more "traditional" strategies, like the "juggernaut" of allying with Turkey?

I've never played Russia "on my own" but once "inherited" a Russian game from someone who had to leave early and had an alliance with Turkey.

4

An ARG alliance would seem to heavily favor Russia, so you might offend Austria and Germany even asking for it. The main reason is that such an alliance requires both Germany and Austria to turn their backs on Russia and move their forces away from him. On the other hand, Russia's forces and builds remain in positions that could quite easily be turned against his allies when the time is right.

There are also limited opportunities for the three to apply joint pressure. Italy is unlikely to work with Austria and Russia knowing that he is probably next, and Turkey can be a tough nut to crack without Italy's help. Similarly, Germany can't provide much help to Russia in breaking into England.

The best way to pull it off is probably to try to keep the alliance hidden. Have Germany focus on working with France against England, and portray a neutral stance against Russia. Similarly, have Austria focus on the good old Juggernaut threat and get Italy to commit against Turkey while making a show of aggression against Russia. Don't let the alliance become obvious until you've been able to weaken the corners. Even then, it would seem much harder for Germany to now turn on France rather than just continuing with his "false" ally and moving against Russia instead.

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  • So "execution" is the key, right? Good point. – Tom Au Jul 18 '11 at 13:07
4

This alliance can work long-term if Russia is comfortable with a northern expansion vector.

Short-term, Austria and Russia can conquer Turkey, divide the spoils and fortify. Park fleets in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean seas and you're done. Russia keeps only enough hardware in the south to prevent a stab, in parity with Austria. If Austria gets in trouble he will ask you to build Fleet Sevastopol to reinforce.

In the north, conquer England and go from there. Make sure Germany is OK with a Fleet St. Petersburg South Coast, or Army Warsaw, build on an as-needed basis. Russia must own Sweden. I usually try to get Denmark, Sweden, Skagerrak and Baltic Sea to be an agreed DMZ (except with cause).

Without some arrangement like this, the deal can't work long-term because Russia has no viable expansion vector except through his allies.

And as usual, never leave your homeland empty unless you also have armies parked near your neighbors' centers. No matter how loyal your ally seems, don't give him that temptation.

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1

The main issue with this alliance is its impracticality at the start of the game.

The board can be divided into two spheres: the West, and the East. The West sphere encompasses England, Germany, and France. And the East sphere encompasses Russia, Turkey, and Austria-Hungary. (Italy is not part of either sphere by default.)

At the beginning of the game, each Great Power must control its sphere. That in mind, this is where the problem of this alliance arises . . . It involves Powers in different spheres! That might not seem like an issue, but it is.

Powers in different spheres cannot effectively cooperate, making alliances unworkable at the start. To illustrate, imagine England and Turkey trying to coordinate their units in 1901. Nothing would ever be jointly accomplished by them because they are too far apart to interact. The same is true of this alliance. The Powers involved are so far part, that they can never jointly cooperate.

Even if this alliance was formed at the start of the game, its consequences would far outweigh its rewards. Think about it like this: the more Powers there are in an alliance, the fewer resources each obtains. (More allies means that each Power must settle for a smaller share of the earnings.)

All in all, three-way alliances do not work.

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  • I feel like these are just generalities. Neighbors in different spheres absolutely can cooperate, and the idea that three-way alliances do not work in any case is ridiculous. – bwarner Jun 7 '17 at 13:42
  • This answer is factually inaccurate. Powers in different spheres absolutely can cooperate to mutual benefit in the early game, including limited to Russia invading England with France and/or Germany, as well as Russia and France co-invading Germany. – Zags 2 days ago
  • England and Turkey do not usually ally or coordinate early game because they have only a single mutual neighbor (Russia) and it is challenging for England to take an overly aggressive stance against Russia since they are one of the slowest powers in the opening. That said, England and Turkey can still ally in the opening, and if they do successfully, they will deprive Russia of any first year builds. – Zags 2 days ago
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There are elements of this alliance that can work short-term. Neither Austria nor Russia has much interest in invading Germany in the early game due to the wall of empty territories in between (Prussia, Silesia, Bohemia, Tyrollia). Thus, mutual non-aggression between the three largely reduces to mutual non-agreession between Russia and Austria-Hungary.

The issue with the alliance is long term. Russia needs a place to go. If Russia and Austria-Hungary have defeated the Ottomans, the south is a challenging expansion front for Russia as the Mediterranean deadlocks easily and Austria-Hungary will be in the way. Thus, Russia has only three viable expansion routes left: going North through Scandinavia, or betraying one of it's allies. Both Germany and Austria-Hungary should be wary of Russia mid-game, as it's much easier for Russia to attack through one of them rather to commit all of their builds to northern fleets. This has the additional positional challenge of Russia having the backing of the Eastern edge of the map, making it fairly defensible compared to the central powers if it came down to a fight.

I would say it's rare in general to have a mutually adjacent trio of countries have a viable long-term alliance, as they all eventually run into this problem where one (if not two) country's best route of expansion ends up being through one of their allies. Turkey + Austria-Hungary + Italy: Turkey will have strong incentive to invade Austria-Hungary. England + France + Germany: England (if not also France) will have strong incentive to cut Germany out. England + Russia + Germany is probably the most stable mutually adjacent trio, but only because England and Russia have pretty weak adjacency; even then, Germany will have to expand very carefully to not cut off either Russia or England.

That is not to say this alliance (or any one of these alliances) is impossible; with sufficient trust and coordination, any alliance can work. However, the alliances that formed in actual history during W.W. I (England + France + Russia, or Germany + Austria-Hungary + Turkey) are far more realistic trios in Diplomacy as well.

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