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Winter 1901: The Three Build Opening

by Scott Morris

You have just started another game of diplomacy. Your fix of lies and deception is on the way. Sure, you can start the game conservatively, slowly make allies, and build your coalition. THE HECK WITH THAT! You want builds and you want them NOW! The population of your country is in the middle of a fascist frenzy and they need new Supply Centers to pay the bill for expansion.

Can you achieve the elusive three build winter of 1901? The first question you ask is, "Can you get three builds?, and the second, what does it do to your chances of victory?

I went back and reviewed 56 games in the Diplomacy archives of American on-line. Of those 56 games 28 games had one or more countries with three builds in 1901. A very nice round 50%. So maybe the three build winter is not so elusive after all! In those 28 games three countries never got three builds (0/28). Lets look at them.

The Have Nots
ENGLAND - Forget it. If you can get three builds for England by the winter of 1901 you are not playing Diplomacy you are working for the CIA! England gets Norway easily enough. Just ship over one of your fleets to the North Sea and then sail on in to Dock. The Prime Minister has a shot at Belgium and Holland via Convoy or with your other fleet but where will the third build come form?

The only way I can see England getting a third build is for England to talk France into putting it's fleet in the English Channel and then forgoing a build to convoy across your Army to Holland. NOT AN EASY TASK!

ITALY - It is possible for Italy to get three builds, but just barely. Tunis is yours, there's one. Italy would then have to take both Marseilles and Trieste to get three builds in the first year stabbing France AND Austria. Even if Italy could pull that off, good luck with negotiations in 1902 with two very agitated neighbors!

TURKEY - The Sultan gets Bulgaria with a flick of his wrist. The second center HAS to be a stab of Russia by your fleet in the Black Sea taking Sevestapol. Russia would probably notice that army in Armenia. The third build has your army in Bulgaria roll either north to Rumania or south to Greece with your army in Smyrna moving Constantinople to Bulgaira. NOPE! I'm sure it has happened but not more that once or twice.

The bottom line here is that if you draw any of these countries you have to have a long term view of the game. It is very hard to set the world on fire in the first year. Two builds is a Major victory for any of the Have-Nots.

The Have's
GERMANY - If you want that three build winter the Kaiser can get it done! He has easy access to Denmark, Holland and Belgium. With some savvy negotiation you are there. Germany had a three build opening in 8 out of the 56 games studied. Unfortunately, of those eight games Germany went on to win BUTKUS! ZIP. NADA. The Kaiser closed the deal zero of eight games after a three build opening. This tells us that Germany, more than any other country on the board, is susceptible to early leader syndrome. When you have five neighbors and you expand quickly your odds of being noticed are greater.

AUSTRIA - Austria got three builds in 4 out of the 56 games. All with Serbia, Greece and Rumania. While Austria was only half as successful as Germany in the first year, Austria went on to victory an impressive two times out of four. One of them that rare jewel a solo win! A victory as Austria is a must have for any Diplomacy player who stakes a claim as "expert".

FRANCE AND RUSSIA - If you want three builds in 1901 you want either of these super starters. Both of them built three times in 10 out of 56 games played. That is nearly 20% Of those 20 three build openings they went on to partake in the win 8 out of 20 games. Russia earning five wins and France three. Most impressive. It is not suprising that these two countries have a higher ratio of wins in much more scientific studies than mine! (see last issues great article by Thaddeus Black) France and Russia clearly win more games than the other countries.

In the final analysis of my sample games (admittedly a small sample) we can learn a few things. First in 50% of the games some country gets three builds in 1901. of the 28 times a country DID get three builds they went on to win or partake in the win 10 out of 31 times. (in a few of the 28 games more than one country got three builds) So if you connive and struggle your way to three builds you now have improved your odds of winning to about 33% Unfortunatly this means the others gang up on you and beat you down the other 67% of the time, However these odds sure look better than the 8-12% percent chance of victory you had in Spring 1901. So get out there and Build!