How to Play Austria
The Habsburg EmpireEdit
When you draw Austria in a game your first thought should be: "How can I survive the first two or three years of this game?" Sometimes Austria doesn't last two or three turns let alone two or three years, so simple survival should be the first order of business.
For obvious reasons, Austria is the easiest country to eliminate. She is surrounded at the start of the game, and sitting atop the area of the board with the densest concentration of supply centers, the Balkans. Russia and Turkey both covet this region, and most Italian players will make the mistake of stabbing you to get a piece of the action when you start to falter. So the Austrian position is a precarious one. You are going to be at the center of the action from the start of the game, and you are going to have to play your tail off to make something happen for your country. Austria, as much as any country on the board, requires a great deal of hard work. It takes a GOOD player to win with Austria. It is going to take a tremendous diplomatic effort. Position and tactics mean less with Austria than with most countries. Everything hinges on whether or not you can make the right friends at the right moment.
If you slip up, even a little bit--kiss your butt goodbye because some hotshot Turkey or Russian is going to gobble you up.
Having said all that, understand that if you can orchestrate a victory or two, your chances of winning the game zoom way up. As mentioned, Austria is sitting right on top of the Balkans, a powerful base to draw upon for a mid-game victory drive.
The archduke's neighborsEdit
Germany is rarely discussed when talking about Austria, which I think is a big mistake. 99 percent of the diplomacy players realize that Germany and Austria shouldn't be fighting each other. But that really isn't going far enough. Asutria and Germany need to work together for their mutal benefit. Simply staying out of each other's hair isn't enough--you might accidentally screw each up. So your first order of affairs is to get on good terms with the German. He won't be thinking of attacking you--but he might not be thinking of you at all, which isn't much better.
Okay, so now you've got Germany seeing the light...he should keep you abreast of any pertinent information, and anything that threatens you is a blow to him. Usually, this means encouraging him to open with fleet Kiel to Denmark. You want Kiel to move to Den in order to bounce Russia out of Sweden if need be. I have always been able to convince Germany of how vital I am to his survival. And don't forget--he is vital to you, although less so--just don't let the Russian get any ground in Germany. This shouldn't be a problem since you are convincing the Russian to go along with you in an attack on the Sultan
Now we come to the key for Austria. In the east, Russia-Austria-Turkey form a tense triangle. You need to get one of them on your side against the other. Getting Russia on your side against Turkey should be a little easier than getting Turkey to come to your side against Russia. Dividing up the Balkans and Turkey with Russia is a real headache, but things rearely get that far before open war breaks out between you two. If you can, negotiate hard for Bulgaria. Offer Russia all of Turkey in exchange for Bulgaria--Because if you get it, you'll be able to really stab the Russian in Rumania and then shoot for Sevastopol. But timing is important--if you stab russia too soon, he and a still breathing Turkey will wipe you out. If you stab too late, he might have the units built to fend you off.
Offer Russia things like a de-militarized Turkey once the alliance is over. Make all your offers aound believable--but keep in mind the real object: Russia is to be the rock with which you bludgeon Turkey. Don't get tripped up by how well things may go. You will have gained little by actually splitting up the south with Russia--what is to be gained is a weak and ineffective Turkey and a greatly committed Russia overextending himself to get at the straits.
I think Russia is the best chance Austria has to take out the Turk (we'll get to Italy later) and really explode. An alliance with Russia will give you a great deal of Security and will allow you to control the Balkans better than a pact with the Turk will.
Everything said about Russia also applies in many ways to Turkey. Your principle motive for alliance here is to give yourself some security and to beat Russia senseless while waiting for the opportunity to back-stab your partner.
As I said, I think it is harder to swing this alliance. So many people assume (rightly, in general) that Austria and Turkey are mortal enemies that getting together is hard to do. But it can be done, and is done all the time. But like Russia, your alliance here is a short-term one. Always be looking for the right moment, when you can safely and effectively knock out the Turk. Usually, this will be when the Turk has captured Sevastopol (hopefully during a spring turn). This is a good time to stab him. By taking a center from him now you deny him the Sev. build, Russia will fight to take it back, further weakening him, and the unit is far from home (unless he convoyed an army there). As a benchmark, look for his capture of Sevastopol to be the signal to switch sides and hit him.
Your Turkish alliance will again, be hard to divide in terms of centers. You both will want to have Greece, for instance. I would not advise giving Greece to Turkey. Saying you will give it to him--that's another story. Better to offer him Rumania and Sevastopol.
Keep your eye on what Turkey builds--encourage him to build fleets and power out into the Med after Italy. You will head North, you assure him, once you two have knocked out Russia and given St. Pete to some friendly western power. Whaterver tactic you use--the goal is to get Turkish units into the water, where they are no threat to you and of no use to the Turk in defending himself from you. (with regards to Russia as well--although, if you can get the russian to build up a bunch of navies in the south he or she is probably your little brother or your mom and in that case you should roll no matter what you do.)
Russia and TurkeyEdit
It's clear what you have to do with these two. Some people concentrate on getting Russia and Turkey to go to war with each other. This is fine, but you won't be able to do it without getting involved in the fight yourself. If you simply try to instigate a war with them you will be found out and shown to be kind of weak. Choose one to ally with against the other--then it's a matter of timing--when do you stab your ally? Do it when the original foe is weak, of course and when it looks as though another power might be able to help you (England against Russia for example, or Italy agaisnt Turkey). But be ready to do it.
As stated at the start, Austria must first concern herself with survival. So don't just throw in with Russia or Turkey and hope for the best. They will be trying to ally and attack you in many cases. Analyze their mailings to you carefully, and don't be afraid to be a little bristly at first--if they think you will be a pushover they might try pushing you. Remind them of your friendship with the German, and his promises to come to your aid (especailly agaisnt Russia). Hopefully this will be more than just a threat--and Germany will confirm your alliance. Remind Turkey that Italy has been wanting to try out Lepanto for some time--an attack on you will only bring green fleets sailing into the Eastern Med. and so forth.
Now here is the trick. If you do all of this won't you encourage Turkey and Russia to ally? Possibly, if you aren't doing much talking with the two of them. But if you use these threats and hints of threats with lots of serious talk about alliance and how there really is no future in an alliance with the Turk/Russian, human nature being what it is, many will throw in with you rather than risk a bloody nose.
There are a whole series of openings that seek to present as tough a posture as possible for Austria, called, appropriately, "Hedgehog" openings. The most important part of any Hedgehog is to diplome in a similar manner. It's pointless to start a game with some bristly tactical opening when the same could have been accomplished through diplomacy. So don't be afraid to be thin-skinned early on as Austria. You are, after all, rather thin-skinned in terms of defense early on.
You must offer Italy a neutrality pact. I'm not even going to go into attacks of Italy because I think they are as foolish as attacks on Germany. If you turn your back on turkey and russia you will get crushed. Pulling it off would require utterly incompetent Russia and Turkish players (see also Mom and little brother billy play Russia and Turkey)
But keeping Italy from attacking YOU is harder. You must show him that to attack you is folly. You have one secret weapon in this debate: You are right. Italian openings against Austria invariably end up with Turkey and Russia rolling all over everyone, including Italy. Make sure that Italy realizes you are the only thing between him and total destruction at the hands of Turkey and Russia. Having accomplished this, try to get him to outright attack Turkey in a Lepanto. If the R-T alliance forms, he will need to do this for sheer self defense. If not, sell him on the riches of Turkey--when he finally gets there you will be strong enough to muscule him out of there. But be careful that the Italian doesn't link up with Russia after Turkey is reduced. This is the greatest danger to you in going to bed with the Italian. So make sure Russia and Italy don't communicate too much.
My preferred Austrian strategy is to get everyone going after the Turk. Then I can stab the Russian without really saving Turkey, and then conquer my grateful Turkish friend, denying italy his hard-fought gains.
What, are you nuts?
see "Anti-German openings."
I think your only real choice is to open up against Turkey or Russia. But with Austria, who gets eliminated so fast so often, the opening must be considered carefully. Most of us try to open as flexibly as possible and with real chances to grab a couple of centers. Fine. but before we do that, let's look at an opening that puts safety ahead of treasure, which might be the secret to Austria.
F Tri-Ven A Vie-Gal A Bud-Ser
This is called the "Double-Hedgehog" or something like that. Don't worry about what it's called. IT does one thing very well--It protects you from a Russian move into Galicia and an Italian Tyrolian attack while at the same time securing Serbia. The down side to this is that it leaves Greece at risk to the Turk, and will often royally piss off the Italian, especially if the move is a surprise. Which, if you like, it doesn't have to be. What will the Italian say when you inform him that you will be going to Venice? What will happen when you tell Russia you are going to Galicia? Explore these options. A friend of mine is particularly fond of these arranged double-bounces as a way of gaining security and fostering confusion.
If you want a totally safe opeing that still gives you a shot at a build in 1901, this is it.
Let's go for GreeceEdit
Going after Greece is probably the most popular Austrian opening--you can get Greece just by going to Albania with your fleet then supporting yourself in from Serbia. But you leave yourself open to Italy. It's a gamble, and you can go to Trieste from Vienna to protect yourself. But you might as well go to Tyrolia--that's where the Italian will go if he is coming after you. MAybe you can get Germany to bounce you in Tyrolia--that is better yet because you will stay in vienna--incase the russian attacks you.
Maybe you should go to galicia with Vienna. that will protect you from the russian. I like this opening:
A Vie-Gal A Bud-Ser F Tri-Alb
If you want to gamble on getting Greece and Serbia and take your chances with italy than this is a good opening. Maybe you can arrange a bounce in Gal or Tyrolia or something.
If you go after Greece you will have to leave yourself open to the Russian or the Italian. You might be able to guard against one or the other but not both.
To me, the essential anti-russian opening is when Bud supports Vienna into Galicia. Obviously, you not paying any care to what Turkey is doing and you just want to throw everything at the Russian.
I think going all-out for Greece is basically anti-Turkish, but this isn't really true in many cases. Other overtly anti-turkish moves would include something moving into Bulgaria in the fall, which might involve Russian support from Rumania. Going against Turkey without help from anyone is hard to do, tactically, because, like I said, the most anti-Turkish thing you can really do is go after Serbia and Greece which everyone accepts that you will generally do anyway. Use this to your advantage. Believe it or not, it is possible to sneak up on the turk, simply because your moves against him are so obvious that they seem rather harmless in a strange way. Going after greece is what Austrian is SUPPOSED to do, after all.
Anyone ever thought of opening to Rumania? I suppose not. After all, if Turkey sees you do this he's only going to help russia back into it while taking greece in the process.
Okay, so if you get Austria, and you aren't confident enough to try the double-hedgehog-attack-everyone-and-cover-your-ass-later opening, then you should try for greece. Use the army in Vienna to bounce a Russia n or Italian attack if you think it might come.
The "I'm friendly" openingEdit
For a lot of powers, a neutral opening is the way to go. Why make everyone hate you right off the bat? With Big Red, this usually means not moving Vienna, or Trieste. And it is bad news. Don't even think you're going to be able to pussy-foot around in the Balkans and live to see the end of the game. Gamble for Greece in your opening or try the tough opening that is designed to keep you alive at all costs. Austrai can't take the high road. She has to get down and dirty and start stabbing and slashing, fighting out of the surrounded condition she finds herself in.
A must if you want to win easily. It is also a luxury only the true diplomacy all-stars can arrange. The rest of us struggle just to grow and hang on, building armies like mad. At some point, do your best to slip in another fleet . It might make the difference in a close game. You will need it to really get at Italy in most cases, and it might help against Turkey as well.
It's hard for Austria to build fleets--they are awkward and stick out like a sore thumb, let's face it. But if you can manage--do it. Don't think you can win simply by building a large army. If you have a crack, slip through it and build a fleet or two.
Having avoided an early exit at the hands of your close neighbors, you find yourself prospering---Keep an eye on the West. It is to your gain to maintain the balance of power over there. Austria can get to double-digits in centers quickly--but you can also get stuck on the right side of the stalemate line, loaded down with armies and with no hope of breaking through for the win. It is important than, to keep Germany, France and England somewhat balanced--so they will have a hard time allying against you. England is the key here. If England is gone--Germany and France will have no trouble blocking your growth. But if England is still around, they will not be able to totally come your way.
Keeping England viable is an integral part of Austria's game-winning strategy in this case. But whatever happens, keeping the west in turmoil is your goal. So keep an ear to the ground and leak secrets that help western underdogs. Your friendship with Germany notwithstanding.