Austria/Austria-Hungary/Österreich-Ungarn (German)/Osztrák-Magyar Monarchia (Hungarian)
- Leader in 1901: Kaiser Franz Joseph von Habsburg (Hungarian: Ferenc Jozsef);
- Minister of the Imperial and Royal House and of Foreign Affairs of Austria-Hungary: Count Agenor Maria Gołuchowski;
Neighbors: Germany, Russia, Italy, and Turkey
Home supply centers: Trieste, Vienna, Budapest
It takes a skilled negotiator to prosper with Austria in Diplomacy. Austria has four neutral supply centers within reach in the first year and therefore has the capacity for explosive growth, but realistically one or more centers will have to be offered to other players in exchange for alliances. Austria lies in the centre of the board, and must placate or destroy Turkey, Russia, and Italy in order to do well. Germany, Austria's last neighbour, is usually more concerned with more western and northern affairs, and can usually be relied on as an ally for most of the game. Austria has the highest rate of early eliminations among all the seven Great Powers, and so the Archduke's strategy must have as its bedrock foundation early survival; fortunately, Austria is rarely a power that stagnates early. Unlike, say, England, Turkey or Italy -- for whom languishing at four centers the whole game is a real possibility -- Austria, should it survive to 1904, usually does so with a secure 6-7 center power base.
18 Center Goal
The other problem Austria has aside from the very real threat of an elimination by 1903 is converting a strong (10-12) center position into an outright victory. Austria is situated in what is essentially a central plain that stretches from Greece and Bulgaria in the south up to Germany in the northwest and St. Petersburg in the northeast. St. Petersburg and Germany can ultimately be defended by Western opposition against Austria to perfection, but Germany is close enough to be a feasible area of conquest. Germany, Austria, the Balkans, and southern Russia (that is, not St. Petersburg) account for thirteen centers. After that, the remaining centers will have to come from Turkey or Italy/Tunisia.
What this means is simple to say, but difficult to practice: Austria will have to develop some degree of naval power to claim a solo victory. The problem is twofold. For one, Austria has only one port, Trieste, which is often garrisoned against Italian attack and thus infrequently available for building. Furthermore, Trieste is extremely insulated from the sea; while this does make it easier to defend from western incursions, it also makes Austria's already-crippled naval development even more logistically difficult. Austria's fleet builds are as distant from any centers west of Venice as Turkey's are. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Turkey and Italy are just as dependent on control of the Mediterranean. They have more ports with which to raise a navy, as well. The only way Austria can outclass them in naval development is if they choose to devote most of their resources to a land campaign... but Austria is the most immediate target for either power seeking a land campaign.
All this goes to say that Austria's stagnation often comes later in the game and must be prepared for in advance. The most feasible winning centers are Vienna, Budapest, Trieste, Serbia, Greece, Rumania, Bulgaria, Warsaw, Moscow, Sevastopol, Constantinople, Venice, Rome, Naples, Tunisia, Berlin, and Munich, for 17; the eighteenth center will have to come from one of Kiel, St. Petersburg, Ankara, or Smyrna, and sometimes Western intervention will make Germany an impossibility, requiring Austria to look to Marseilles.
Austria's biggest threat is of course the real possibility of being eliminated as early as 1902-1903. The top priority for Austria should be maintaining sovereignty over its home centers and acquiring two or three other supply centers. Austria is rich in options, with eight centers lying within reach in 1901, but a wise Archduke will not allow himself to be tantalized by explosive growth prospects and ignore his security for expansion's sake.
In essentially all cases, Austria should seek a nonaggression pact with Germany, demilitarizing Bohemia and Tyrolia in the process. Neither has anything to gain from early war between the two. If we think of Germany and Austria as the corridors through which the other powers expand -- as they are -- then one of them killing the other only expands them into the whole of the corridor; in short, the initial problem the victor had (being in the middle of everything) is not only not solved but made worse by victory. By the same logic, Austria should avoid early war with Italy. Italy is an odd case; to the Austrian player it is a corridor, because the western side of Italy is very vulnerable to a strong French attack (which will be invited, mind, by Italy doing poorly in a war against Austria), and so the logic against fighting Germany early stands for Italy as well. But Italy's position against Austria is much different, as if peace with France can be maintained then Italy is a fortress, difficult to attack from the Austrian side (Pie S Ven cuts off all land attacks from the east) and yet so easy from which to attack Austria if the opening presents itself. Thus, Austria can't make the same mutual appeal to Italy that it can make to Germany, and yet cannot resort to war because that only extends the corridor. Negotiating a mutual peace is in Austria's best interests, but it may be difficult to do.
This still leaves the other two neighbors, Russia and Turkey. Obviously stirring them up to a fight is best, and while neither alliance is particularly great for Austria, either is certainly preferable to none at all! Austria should on balance prefer an alliance with Russia to an alliance with Turkey, but it is highly recommended that Austria delay the decision to help either as long as possible and, in all circumstances, to ensure that Italy will stay with Austria over Turkey or Russia. Italy is the main problem for Austria here as well. Strictly in terms of the RAT triangle, Austria should prefer allying with Russia, as Austria has better opportunities for later growth, is less prone to being stabbed by Russia than by Turkey, and has better leverage with which to stab Russia than Turkey. But if Italy is actively involved in the destruction of Turkey with the RA alliance, Austria is in grave danger of Russia and Italy allying to destroy Austria next. The ideal blueprint for Austrian domination of the east is to play both sides of the Russia-Turkey conflict, getting them into a scrap over Rumania while Austria gets into position for a powerful sweep east. When the time comes, Austria should take Bulgaria first to ensure Turkey is no longer a threat; then Austria should immediately seize Rumania and Warsaw from Russia. If Russia is also in trouble in Scandinavia, the Russian position will totally collapse. Turkey will still live with its three home centers, but Austria can pick up the remnants of Russia and leave Turkey quarantined until rearguard units can take out the trash. If all of this can be accomplished, then Italy will be wanted in the East, running a Lepanto to harass Turkey and perhaps even assist in crushing Russia (after all, Syr -> Arm -> Sev isn't such a bad idea!).
The note on Scandinavia leads to the final chapter in dealing with the other powers: the West. Austria, like the rest of the East, wants the West to be in turmoil and unresolved. Given the earlier notes about a lack of seapower, it quickly becomes evident that a French triumph in the West is to Austria's detriment; this will open up St. Petersburg to Austria, but at the cost of Tunisia and Italy the tradeoff is certainly undesirable. Yet to see a strong Anglo-German alliance develop does not help Austria either, as France dying quickly most likely leads to Germany breaking the nonaggression pact first -- a most inconvenient turn of events. England is Austria's best match in the West, and perhaps the most ideal setup is an Anglo-German alliance to start. This alliance will force France on the defensive in the north, either giving Italy an opportunity to grab Iberia and Marseilles (and thus be distracted from the East long enough for Austria to ready its defenses) or the chance to Lepanto in peace (also very desirable, as noted above). This alliance will also cause the Russian position in Scandinavia to collapse. A well-timed EG incursion into Scandinavia can be the setup for forcing the total collapse of Russia that Austria needs in order to fill the power vacuum. But that must be the extent of the EG. England must be induced to stab Germany (or, more rarely, vice versa) before England turns to Moscow and Germany to the neutral zone. This event will pull Germany west, away from Austria's land and even away from the vital centers to an Austrian win, Berlin and Munich. By this point we have moved far beyond opening strategy, but a logical continuation from here would be to help England against Germany, grabbing Berlin and Munich and setting up defenses in the process; then, if Turkey has not been finished off, killing Turkey; and, finally, attacking Italy for the win.
Austria's choice of openings can be categorized in three main groups: the Balkan Gambit, which sends the army in Budapest and the fleet in Trieste south to secure Serbia and Greece, respectively, while the army in Vienna remains in the Austrian homeland for defense; the Hedgehog, which usually sends the army in Budapest after a Balkan build while keeping the fleet in Trieste and the army in Vienna within Austrian borders for defense; and miscellaneous openings, which cover attacks on Germany and Italy as well as specific opening systems.
The Balkan Gambit
The main feature of the Balkan Gambit is F Tri -> Alb. A Bud -> Ser is a critical part of the plan as well, but is such a common opening move that it betrays nothing. The Gambit is just that: It puts a lot of faith in Italy's goodwill in order to attain a dominant position on the Balkans. If the Archduke feels he can trust Italy, then the Balkan Gambit puts him in a powerful position after 1901, with a supported attack on Bulgaria or a move to Aegean Sea possible in S1902 as well as ensuring him two builds. If he guesses wrong and Italy attacks, however, the result is usually calamitous: at best, Austria can repel Italy using the whole of its military, but this only delays the inevitable partition of Austria by Turkey and Russia; at worst, Italy can conquer the whole of the Austrian mainland unassisted by 1902, and Austria finds itself eliminated by 1903. The different variations are named for the destination of the army in Vienna.
Pure Balkan Gambit (A Vie H)
The original Balkan Gambit had Vienna hold. This move was popular in the very beginnings of Diplomacy, as it was meant to be a sign of trust in Italy and Russia (as opposed to the Tyrolean, Trieste, or Galician variations), but it has fallen out of favor because it is far too passive if Italy or Russia are actual threats.
Trieste Variation (A Vie -> Tri)
Once the Pure Balkan Gambit fell out of favor, Austrians began to use their Vienna armies actively on defense. The rationale favoring the Trieste Variation made sense on the surface. The most dangerous of the various potential attacks on an Austria running the Gambit in S01 is the Italian move Rome -> Venice, Venice -> Trieste. Support holding Trieste allows Italy either to keep Trieste or retreat to Budapest (if Ser/Alb/Vie dislodge Tri, Bud is open); some Austrias play less defensively, some Italians play more aggressively, and the results can be disastrous, with Austria facing the loss of two home centers in the first year and a 3-build Italy in W01. So, by moving to Trieste, the Austrians shut down this threat. Initially it worked, but Italian players wised up and began ordering what is now known as the Obrieni Attack (Rome -> Venice, Venice -> Tyrolia); this move proves very inconvenient for the Trieste Variation, as now Austria *must* move Tri -> Vie (to cover that potential threat) and Alb -> Tri (Ser S) to cover against any Italian intrusions. Obviously, any interference from Russia or Turkey -- who have a lot to gain from carving up Austria -- proves fatal, and this variant too has fallen out of favor, though many an Austrian, convinced they have a DMZ with Russia in Galicia, order it anyway.
Tyrolean Variation (A Vie -> Tyr)
The Tyrolean Variation was the Austrian response to the Obrieni Attack. Most Italian players, after some experimentation with the Obrieni Attack, found it to be the superior choice of opening regardless of Austrian intentions with the army in Vienna. Given the uncertainty surrounding the Austrian Attack (Ven -> Tri, Rom -> Ven) and the fact that, at the time, the most popular move for Vienna was to Trieste, the Austrian Attack had greater prospects for screwing Italy over if Austria sniffed it out. It also has the advantage of not being 100% anti-Austrian: a trend later developed that saw Italy hold the army in Venice, while the army in Tyrolia went to Munich with support from a French army in Burgundy. Some particularly bold Austrians took advantage of this new trend with the Tyrolean Variation. This is the defensive equivalent of the Austrian Attack: a high-risk, high-reward play. If Austria guessed right and Italy moved Rom -> Ven -> Tyl, Vienna stands in place for defense against a possible Russian attack from Galicia and also defeats the Italian attack utterly. But if Austria guesses wrong, allowing Russia into Galicia while Italy, say, attacks France or runs a Lepanto, he is suddenly in the embarrassing position of appearing hostile to Italy AND Germany, while still being forced to return to cover Vienna from Russia. And if Italy orders the Austrian Attack, Austria is cooked. This move never became overly popular, but if Austria is sure that Italy is opening to Tyrolia *and* is anti-Austrian, then it can be quite the stunning move.
Bohemian Aberration (A Vie -> Boh)
The Bohemian Aberration is named so because the move to Bohemia is, predictably, unusual. Conventional wisdom suggests that an early Austrian-German war is disastrous for both sides, and this particular bit of conventional wisdom holds up. Thus, to even see aggression against Germany in the form of opening to Bohemia is aberrant. Furthermore, the purpose of the army in Vienna changes completely. Whereas in all other permutations of the Gambit the Viennese army is used on defense, the move to Bohemia would only defend against the inconceivably rare move A Mun -> Boh. It is mainly used as a springboard for a joint attack on Germany, in most cases with Russia. Not advised; acquisition of Munich may well come at the cost of Trieste, and if Russia backstabs and orders A War -> Gal instead of Sil (as, in this system, Russia is supposed to open), Austria is in a bind.
Budapest Variation (A Vie -> Bud)
The Budapest Variation is also aberrant in its purpose. Moving Vienna east to start, instead of north to Galicia or south/west to Tyrolia or Trieste, provides nothing in terms of defensive advantages; if neighbors are hostile, then Austria wants to move to those soft spots, not elsewhere. Budapest is an offensive move, used to acquire Rumania with support most of the time and possibly as a springboard to joint Austro-Turkish cooperation in the Balkans and beyond. The flaw lies in that intention, though; Galicia is a far better spot to conduct anti-Russian ventures in, as it also threatens the home center Warsaw and soft spot Ukraine (which border three Russian home centers and one normally-Russian neutral center!). The argument is that one doesn't want to bounce in Galicia, because then the third army isn't arrayed properly against Rumania; but, if Russia is moving to Galicia, and Austria is anti-Russian, it makes no sense to allow Russia a potshot at two home centers. And any ability to defend against Italy is nonexistent.
Galicia Variation (A Vie -> Gal)
The Galicia Variation is a logical extension of the logic behind the Balkan Gambit. If a player is going to move Trieste to Albania in the first place, he must have some kind of nonaggression or alliance arrangement with Italy in the first place. In that case, if Italy is lying, Austria is in trouble no matter what he plays, unless he gets preknowledge of Italy's attack and counters it right. At any rate, even defending against Italy only means a slightly slower death by Russia and Turkey. In short, if Italy attacks an Austria doing the Balkan Gambit, then regardless of how successful the defense against Italy is, Austria will die. Why not go all the way, then, and put total trust in Italy? If Austria is wrong, he is no worse off; he will die faster, but his death was inevitable, and in some eyes dragging out one's demise is not better than a quick exit anyhow. But if Austria is right, then he is suddenly in a very powerful position. If Austria can trust his Italian neighbor not to attack him straight away, then moving to Galicia is the best option: either a hostile Russia will be stood out of Galicia, or a passive Russia will have let Austria into Galicia. Then Austria has all kinds of options: an attack on Warsaw, supported moves to Rumania or Greece, or even a powerful position move into Ukraine (good luck sorting THAT out as the Russian player!) are all available, and even if by some crazy circumstance Austria faces hostilities on the border, it can STILL cover against an Italian attack (Gal -> Vie, Ser S Alb -> Tri -- no worse than the Trieste variation!) or the rare German excursion into Bohemia (Gal -> Vie).
The Hedgehog is a more defensive approach to Austria. In the Hedgehog, Austria moves its fleet in Trieste to Venice. The important part to this series of openings is that the move to Venice is defensive, not offensive: Austria doesn't intend to get into Venice, only to stall an Italian attack. The two most common anti-Austrian Italian openings both involve the move A Rom -> Ven (A Ven going to Tyl or Tri as the case may be). The Hedgehog stops that move, stops A Ven -> Tri, and thus hamstrings if not outright shuts down the Italian offensive. The tradeoff is that Austria loses significant influence on Greece, being at best able to send a single unit at it if anything at all.
(N.B. - There exists a similar thread of openings to the Hedgehog known as the "Roadhog" series of openings. The purpose and function of this thread is the same as the Hedgehog thread; the only difference is that the Roadhog has the fleet in Trieste stand, presumably so as not to offend Italy. This thread will not be covered separately because it is essentially a more passive version of the Hedgehog and all of its permutations.)
Pure Hedgehog: A Vie -> Gal, A Bud -> Rum
The "pure" Hedgehog sends the majority of the land forces Austria has after Russia, with the intention of standing Russia out of Rumania and Galicia. On the plus side, this can hamper the Russian advance significantly, especially with Turkish assistance; it is one of the better openings for dealing with Russia in an Austro-Turkish alliance, as it puts tremendous pressure on Russia (especially when coupled with Turkish F Ank -> BLA, A Smy -> Arm) while still not sacrificing defense against Italy. However, it is very weak to a Turkey with anti-Austrian intentions, as it can very easily lead to no builds in 1901.
Alpine Hedgehog: A Vie -> Tyr, A Bud -> Gal
Much like the "pure" Hedgehog, the Alpine variation sacrifices the guaranteed build in Serbia for the purpose of stopping a hostile opponent completely in its tracks. However, unlike the original, the opponent is Italy, not Russia; and, more importantly, it is guaranteed to stop a hostile opponent in its tracks (whereas Russia with a neutral Turkey can usually handle the pure Hedgehog). Used when Italy seems hostile and Turkish friendship can once again be assured, as the build in Serbia is once again not guaranteed.
Porcupine: A Vie -> Gal, A Bud S A Vie -> Gal, F Tri -> Ven
The Porcupine, despite the misnomer, is in fact a Hedgehog variant. By forcing Galicia, Austria hopes to try for both Rumania and Serbia (both unsupported) while protecting Galicia from Russian attack. It sacrifices the guaranteed build in Serbia for a shot at two builds while securing the Austrian borders from Russian and Italian attack. The "Dead Porcupine" aberration (aptly named) sends Budapest to Galicia with Vienna support, leaving Austria with basically no chance at a build.
Southern Hedgehog: A Vie -> Gal, A Bud -> Ser
The Southern Hedgehog sends the Budapest army south to pick up Serbia instead of east to hit Russia. This opening doesn't put nearly as much pressure on Russia as the move to Rumania does, but it does secure a build against everything but the absurdly rare German incursion into Bohemia. This opening is the quintessential Hedgehog opening; it is the least committal, with enough defensive moves to protect itself from all realistic threats without agitating any neighbors who weren't already committed to attacking Austria in the first place, and it ensures a build to use against whichever neighbor has given Austria most reason for mistrust.
Blue Water Opening: F Tri -> ADR
Austria very rarely sets out to conquer the seas in the early going of a round of Diplomacy; virtually all of its objectives are land-based, as are its potential threats, and while it is true that Austria is more or less required to raise a functioning navy of at least 2-3 fleets to conquer Italy and Turkey and win, such expenditures are rarely affordable early and even more rarely advisable. Nevertheless, in the right diplomatic framework, an opening to the Adriatic Sea can be useful. This most often signals an attack on Italy, especially if done in the "Von Metzke Blitz" opening (named after Conrad von Metzke, an older Diplomacy player reputed for attacking Italy from the start as Austria) which sends Budapest to Trieste and Vienna to Tyrolia. These openings are rarely advised because they either divide Austria's front and make the defense of Austria's gains very difficult or they pull Austria away from the Balkans entirely, sacrificing great gains and putting Austria in peril on the eastern front for relatively sparse gains in Italy.
The most notable exception to the above paragraph is the Blue Water Lepanto, where Austria opens seemingly anti-Italian but actually inserts its fleet into Italy's convoy line. The result of this is to free up Italy's second fleet build for use against France; combined with the army most Italian players leave behind when running the Lepanto and any support from England or Germany, Italy can be a force in the west.