My original idea was for people to come up with openings for pairs of powers; at the time I hadn't been thinking about trios. But recently, in doing some updating to the strategy articles pages in the Online Resources section of The Pouch, I happened to see a couple of articles about Western Triples (E/F/G alliances), and my thoughts drifted back to my idea of a shotgun opening. While the Western Triples described were effective, they weren't particularly exciting or interesting and had relatively little to say about the actual openings. If you think about it, pretty much any three powers can do pretty well if they work together; I was after a way to suddenly work together from the start of the game in some perhaps unorthodox way.
So I thought about Western Triples and shotgun openings and tried to come up with something different... a new idea for a shotgun opening, and a more interesting opening for an E/F/G alliance than the traditional Western Triple (which often is no more specific or coordinated than "Hey, let's the three of us ally and work together"... "Sounds good to me" ... "Count me in too").
England, France, and Germany are not traditionally a trio that works together. Much more often, two of the three will gang up on the third, either right off the bat or after a year or so spent picking up nearby neutral supply centers. Because a Western Triple is not a traditional approach taken by these three powers, getting the three partners on board for this opening may take a bit of effort. However, if pulled off, the payoff in terms of resulting position and tactical advantage is significant.
Above, I mentioned the Sealion as being among the more popular shotgun openings. While it is effective, its recent increase in popularity has in fact hurt its effectiveness. One advantage of what I propose in this article is that not only is it not a common opening, it is a distinctly different approach from any of several approaches that are usually taken by these powers. As such, it is bound to be unexpected, and the element of surprise that results makes it unlikely that anyone will fully comprehend what is happening until it is well underway.
Most importantly, the opening is relatively safe for the participants. That is not to say that one partner can't throw a wrench in the works, or that two partners couldn't get together to gang up on the third. What it does mean is that the partners do not have to take huge risks with their home supply centers early in the game, and while there is some risk and exposure, it is no greater than what E/F/G face early on in a game in which this alliance is not pursued. If you accept the fact that what risk there is in trying it is no greater than the risk England or France or Germany take that they will be the one of the three who gets attacked by the other two in a typical game, then the only thing that may, at first glance, be perceived as a drawback is that the 1901 growth for the trio is low. However, as you will see, this is completely compensated for in 1902. So let me get down to the details.
There are several neutral supply centers that E/F/G always end up with, either by agreement or through fighting over them. These are Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, and Norway (which is occasionally lost to Russia after 1901). Six neutral SC's, three powers, so the logical division is two for each of E/F/G. What is atypical about the opening I am about to describe is that -- in contrast to the average game -- each of the three partners gets only one build in 1901. But the flip side is an excellent offensive position that catches neighbors off-guard, and the fact that the three partners get their second builds in 1902 effortlessly, without having to fight over them.
Here is the opening I propose. In the pre-Spring negotiations, France sets up the usual DMZ with Italy in Piedmont, and Germany sets up the usual Russian DMZ (Prussia, Silesia, perhaps the Baltic). The Spring moves go like this:
It is nearly certain that every single one of those moves will succeed. It is very rare for Italy to move to Piedmont or Russia to move to Silesia or Prussia in 1901, especially if France and Germany have done a good job at agreeing to the DMZ's. Italy will undoubtedly be unhappy about the move to Piedmont, and Russia will be unhappy about the German moves as well. This is a classical anti-Russian opening by Germany, and there's nothing Russia can do about it after the fact.
I mentioned above that E/F/G are relatively safe from one another... here's why: If one of the three powers agrees to the plan and then moves aggressively towards another, from this position any one of the powers can cover their home supply centers. And yes, it's possible for two of the powers to collude and gang up on the third, but that could happen anyway so that risk should not be an inhibitor to exploring this opening. But the beauty of it is that if E/F/G agree to the plan and actually follow through with the plan outlined above for Spring 1901, things get much better for the Fall.
F NTH C A Yor-Nwy
A Pie-Tus (or Ven)
If Russia has two units adjacent to Warsaw:
A Sil S A Pru-War
Now take a look at what has happened. Germany bounces Russia in Sweden, which means that in all likelihood Russia will be limited to one build in 1901. There is the potential for things to be even better than that. If Russia moved Moscow to Sevastopol and not to Ukraine in the Spring (meaning Russia can't stop Germany's attack on Warsaw), or if Austria and Turkey prevent Russia from taking Rumania, Russia might not even get the one build. But even if Russia gets his one, Germany is in an excellent offensive position. The English moves to Norway and the Barents are guaranteed to succeed. Russia is in huge trouble next year. Not only is he not going to get Sweden, but both St. Pete and Warsaw are threatened by supported attacks by Germany and England (assuming Russia hasn't already lost Warsaw), and he's going to have serious trouble defending himself in 1902.
As for the Winter, here are the builds:
(depending on what Italy and, to
some extent, Austria have done)
Note that each of the partners gets only one build in 1901, but look at the position they have achieved. By moving offensively in 1901, they have acted at a time when nearly every single move ordered is guaranteed to succeed. And they are in a far better position to attack Russia and Italy than they would be using any of the standard openings. The position is extremely powerful.
Also note that their next builds are just waiting for them in 1902 unopposed, whereas ordinarily, none of the three would be guaranteed builds in 1902. In Spring 1902, France moves Spain to Portugal, and he is guaranteed his next build. England moves the North Sea fleet to the Skagerrak or the Norwegian Sea and Edinburgh to the North Sea in Spring 1902, while Germany moves Munich to Ruhr or Denmark to Kiel in the Spring. In the Fall, Germany and England agree on who gets Belgium and who gets Holland, and they are both guaranteed their next builds for 1902.
Again, there is low risk. Nobody can stop France from taking Portugal. And Germany and England can't stab each other without hurting themselves. For example, say Germany moves Munich to Ruhr and E/G agree that England takes Belgium and Germany takes Holland. If either one tries to bounce the other's move, by doing so that power forfeits its own build, thereby eliminating any gain (i.e., its entire incentive) in doing so.
It is hard to plan out specific moves for 1902 ahead of time, because too much depends on what everyone else has done in 1901. But with this plan, the setup for 1902 is excellent. First, all three of the partners have an excellent offensive position... both Russia and Italy start out 1902 immediately in trouble. Second, assuming they've gotten this far, E/F/G are not at war. Third, they all have guaranteed builds coming for 1902. And in addition to the guaranteed builds (Por/Bel/Hol), they have good prospects for additional ones. Chances are very good that additional gains will come in 1902, such as Sweden, Warsaw (if Russia even still owns it), and (less likely) but still possibly St. Petersburg for England and Tunis or an Italian SC for France.
So, there's the concept. Because of the powers I've played recently (and because I've been keeping my game load low) I have not yet had the opportunity to try it, although I intend to do so. I'd therefore be very interested in hearing the outcome of anyone who does give it a shot.
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