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Strategy Article

Title

A Fight to the Finnish

Author

Tom Hubbard

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The Scandinavian provinces consist of four Supply centres: St. Petersburg, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, as well as one non-centre, Finland. These five spaces form a distinct, separate, and easily-defended block of centres, control of which is virtually essential to the victories of three players, and virtually unobtainable by the other four.

St. Petersburg and Denmark are the only spaces that may be attacked by armies from the outside. A land attack must therefore be channelled through one of these two provinces. And yet, St. Petersburg only borders on two inland provinces, while Denmark only bounds one. A player whose forces will be composed mainly of armies, then, west send them into this area quickly, or he could easily find him approaches blocked.

Fleets, thus, are essential to the capture of this area. Every land province borders on at least one sea space, while Denmark borders four. Moreover, every space in or adjacent to these provinces, with the sole exception of Moscow, say be occupied by a fleet, A player who finds his land approaches blocked might still be able to convoy his armies into position.

Russia is obviously the most disadvantaged player here, He has only one centre in which to build fleets, compared with Germany's two and England's three, He is perhaps most likely to need his units elsewhere, which will in turn necessitate his building armies instead of fleets. He has little cause to ally with either England or Germany, since a pact with the latter would limit his frontier, while an English alliance will require Russia to send armies through the Polish Corridor, dangerously neglecting his Balkan flank, French neutrality is also desired, since a three-way anti-German pact will result in minimal profit and 'much waste of time in sending the victorious armies elsewhere, Russia has potential in the North, but his advantage will decrease with time. Either Germany or England will wax as the other wanes--or they might be co-operating against France, which means they'll probably take the Russians on next.

The standard anti-English opening of F(StP)-GoB, A(Mos)-StP can be expanded upon in the fall with A(StP)-Fin and F(GoB)-Swe. If the English have fallen for the feint and supported their move to Norway, they are left with only one build, which makes them strategically vulnerable to the French or Germans. Even if the English do second guess the move, a fleet built on the North Coast of St. Petersburg can effectively guarantee Norway and can almost ensure no further English progress in Scandinavia, If another player in the south can be induced to prevent English incursions onto the continent, Russia can then concentrate fully on the Balkans, and worry about Denmark when it suits him.

Of course, there is a serious risk here that every Russian player should know about - namely, Turkey and Austria. The Balkans are inevitably a source of contention, with players quick to take advantage of another's weakness, Perhaps the best tactical complement to the above moves would be a pre-arranged bounce in the Black Sea, and Ukraine instead of Galicia, so as not to antagonise the Austrians. Tactics alone, however, can guarantee nothing. This set is fairly risky, though safer than some which have paid off, and should under no circumstances be tried unless the Russian is sure he is secure in the south, and that at least one of the other players will have Italy to contend with. Diplomacy, the name of the game, is far more valuable to a player than any amount of tactical skill.

As far as Scandinavia is concerned, Germany is the second weakest player of the three (or the second strongest, if you're Germany) though you can, if necessary, build two fleets in those centres closest to the action. Your traditional first year centre, Denmark, can be knocked out by a supported attack in 1902 (but then, Russia fears the same). You can better afford to wait, though, if a stalemate can be maintained in the North. If you'd rather soften the French up first, this can be done - and will help your chances in Scandinavia if you remember to build at least one more fleet. You can probably count on English aid for both of these plans. On the other hand, an attack on England is probably the best way to throw these provinces away. Russia will want to get in on the action, and even if he takes your side, he'll still want Norway. He'll be able to hold it, too, while using the extra unit elsewhere, By the time England's been dealt with, you may be too late to knock out the Russian. An English campaign will build up your navy, though. I don't mean to say that it's impossible to take all of Scandinavia if England is attacked first, but I do believe an attack on England to be the German strategy most likely to cost you Scandinavia.

The first year opening most favoured by the German with designs on Scandinavia is the "Baltic Opening." In the spring, you move F(Kie)-BAL and A(Ber)-Kie. The safest southern move is probably A(Mun)-Ruh, as you want, if at all possible, to guarantee yourself a second build. Then, in the fall, mend A(Kie)-Den, F BAL-GoB and A(Ruh)-Hol. This should give you two centres, with at least one of them guaranteed. The army in the Ruh can also drop back to cover Munich - supported from Kiel if absolutely necessary (i.e., if there are unfriendly units in both Burgundy and Tyrolia). Assuming all goes well, though, the armies in Holland and Denmark reassure the English, whose fleet Norway is of obvious value.

The Russians, who have probably opened with F(StP)sc-GoB, are given two poor alternatives for the falls either Sweden or the Baltic. If they try the latter, nothing moves, but the German gets two builds and can guarantee himself Sweden next year. If the Russians try to take Sweden, they get a build but a supported German attack can take it away, while the fleets in Norway and the Gulf of Bothnia can press St. Petersburg. A second German fleet can cover the Baltic and later convoy units east.

England is usually more willing to work with Germany against Russia than vice versa. Germany can also be of help against France, while the conquered German homeland could easily become the setting for a Russian-French stab. Germany can also be more easily kept under control by the English, and if necessary, England and either Austria or Italy can limit German growth once France and/or Russia have been dispatched.

When England looks at Scandinavia, she sees the "exterior," composed of Norway, the Skagerrak, and the North, Norwegian and Barents Seas. These spaces she effectively controls. But the '"interior" spaces, Sweden, Finland, the Gulf of Bothnia and the Baltic Sea, must also be considered. To get from one to the other is often tricky, but there are ways. The three spaces that fleets can pass through, Sweden, Denmark and Kie, are certain to be well protected by their owner. Of these three, Sweden is generally the most susceptible, a gullible German may agree to support the English in (in exchange for Belgium, or some such), not realising that he is eventually going to regret that. An army convoyed to Norway, and then dropped to Finland is another way of getting into Sweden. If the Englishman can time this properly, he can frighten / force the Russians to support St. Petersburg in holding - and not cutting the Finnish support for F(Nwy)-Swe Even a single fleet "inside" Scandinavia is of immense value to the Britons--and a serious threat to both the others, Three coastal centres, two fleets at the game's outset, and an unexposed position give England an overwhelming advantage in Scandinavia; if France and Italy can be persuaded to fight each other, the North is as good as taken. Both Germany and Russia would be far happier to ally with England than with one another. Germany can co-operate with England in two directions, while Russia can mount a land offensive through Poland while England makes an amphibious attack. Thus, neither of them will get in each other's way.

There are actually two different English opening, both of which are known as the "Churchill Opening," The first is F(Lon)-Nth, F(Edi)-NWG, A(Lpl)-Yor; the second sends Liverpool to Edinburgh. There are about a million things that could go wrong, and if you get nailed unexpectedly, this plan could leave you pretty badly exposed (if you'll pardon the expression). If Fall 1901 (everybody read for this?), send F(NWG)-BAR, and convoy A(Yor) or A(Edi)-Nwy. This give you one, count it, one, build, However, it virtually guarantees you ~ Petersburg, and will probably cost the Russians Sweden as well, It also forces the Russians to build in St. Petersburg, which isn't the best thing in the world for England, but which ought to make someone else grateful.

I see the main drawback to this plan as the need for a rock-solid alliance with Germany. If Italy goes for Austria, the Germans will need to put considerable first year pressure on France. A(Ruh) S F(Hol)-Bel in the fall should, at the very least, keep Belgium open and limit the French to one build. If the Germans do get Belgium, there is a neutral centre tucked safely behind the lines for England to take later, plus the added available support into the Channel. One army in Denmark, plus some skilful diplomacy should lull Russian suspicions long enough to swing something up North. Germany can do quite well by this plan, in fact.

The Russians could throw things awry by moving A(Mos)-StP. This would force England to gamble on the supported convoy. Failing to take the Barents Sea early could seriously jeopardise Norway, the only English beachhead. If the Russians have gone to Finland and built another fleet, the English could be in serious trouble, and must of necessity depend on an attack on Warsaw or Sevastopol to distract the Russians. A German move on Warsaw could be a nice ace-in-the-hole, or failing that, the Turks or Austrians wouldn't be likely to miss such an opportunity.

A French move to the Channel could also throw the plan off, but would not injure the English badly. The army in Yorkshire (and hopefully not Edinburgh) could cover London while Belgium and Norway are taken, with Russia forgotten for the moment The English could simply shift strategies and concentrate on France first, while gradually building up in the North, England can afford to wait and take Scandinavia when he and the rest of the board are ready. The German can sometimes do likewise, but must be such more careful as he may not be able to spare the units to make his move when he wants to. The balance can easily be tipped and spoil the German's chances. Russia can do quite well in an early blitz, but if he tries to wait, his chances fade rapidly as the other two become stronger. Still, Russia must tend to his southern flank first and may not be able to spare the units in time. It is possible, especially for Germany and Russia, for a player to win without controlling all four of these centres, but not likely. A great number of tactical options are possible, both at the game's beginning and at any time thereafter, but essentially they all consist of getting as many units into the area as possible, with heavy emphasis on fleets.

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