I’ve recently gotten into playing competitive A&A1914 (with the help of fellow user @Slip-Capone, who has helped me playtest extensively). After playing several games and doing research, we’ve noticed that the Entente is heavily favored by most players. We are not here to dispute this assessment, and we are also not here to disagree with the typical Entente strategy of “UK kills Ottomans, Russia defends, Italy fights Austria, France fights Germany, USA goes where it’s needed”. This Entente strategy works well because, if everything goes well, the resulting endgame will see the Ottomans bleeding IPCs, Russia being battered but still holding on, and Italy/France/USA winning the game for the Entente in Italy/Germany/Austria.
What we do disagree with, however, is the typical Central Powers strategies that we have observed. From what we’ve seen, there are only two approaches typically taken for the Central Powers: “Kill Russia first” (where Austria/Germany/Ottomans gang up on Russia and go for a quick knockout before pivoting to France) and “Kill France first” (where Germany aggressively attacks France while Austria and Ottomans defend). After working together with @Slip Capone, we have refined a third Central Powers strategy that has viability, which is the point of this thread. As the thread title says, we are dubbing this strategy “Kill Italy First”. It should be self-explanatory at a high level, but further discussion is needed to make our point.
What is Kill Italy First (“KIF”)? As the name implies, you direct the Central Powers to defeat Italy first. Italy is by-far the weakest member of the Entente, only boasting 14 IPCs of starting income, and having a very small standing army on the first turn of the game. Additionally, if you are playing under LHTR, Italy also boasts a pathetically low threshold for collapsing (7 Economic/9 Political). However, Italy’s geographic position, coupled with their powerful starting navy, makes them a serious threat to the Central Powers if the game drags on into the later rounds. Left alone, Italy can bridge units into the Middle East (mostly Smyrna/Trans-Jordan), and can even make a run on Constantinople if the Ottoman player makes a mistake. Furthermore, Italy’s meager economy is just enough to be an annoyance to the Austrians, especially once you consider that Tyrolia and Trieste, both worth 4 IPCs, are directly adjacent to Italian territory (Venice). Rome is also a mere 4 tiles away from Vienna (Rome -> Tuscany -> Venice -> Trieste/Tyrolia -> Vienna), making it a source of Entente units that’s extremely close to the front lines.
I went through such lengths to describe Italy’s position above because I’ve found that most players regard Italy as an afterthought, dismissing their role in the game with claims along the lines of “they’re weak and have to harass Austria”. My point here is that, if the Central Powers, specifically Austria and Germany, can take advantage of Italy’s weak starting position and politically-collapse them early, the Central Powers can seize 13 IPCs (not 14, since the last pesky IPC is in Libya) of Victory Points and income, which almost makes up for the 20 extra income USA will bring to the table starting turn 3 (turn 4 OOB). Defeating Italy (under LHTR) also has the added benefit of removing the Italian Navy from the game, which takes a large amount of pressure off of the Ottomans and also opens up the possibility of the Central Powers gaining control of the Mediterranean (more on that later).
Hopefully, my ranting and raving has given you an idea of why I’m advocating this approach. Next, I’d like to talk about what steps you can take as the Central Powers to achieve this. This is something resembling a recommended build order/opening move guide for Austria and Germany. I won’t be discussing the Ottomans here, since their only role in this plan is to survive the onslaught that Russia/U.K. will try to throw their way.
Bid: Assuming you get a bid, throw it in SZ18 (Adriatic Sea, where the Austrian Navy is). Ideally, you want a 12 bid so you can get a Battleship there (mostly for the 2HP, but the extra bombardment helps your consistency in the opening as well). A 9-11 bid (to get a Cruiser in SZ18) is also acceptable, but not really recommended. You really should try for a 12 bid.
This bid will enable you to keep the AH fleet alive, barring good dice by the Entente. This may seem a bit odd, but ensuring you can continuously amphib into Tuscany will cut off the Italian supply line to Piedmont and Venice, two territories that are mission-critical. Maintaining a strong navy in SZ18 will also protect Trieste from amphibious assaults by Italy/France/UK, and will also give you the opportunity to break out of the Adriatic and into the Mediterranean in the mid-late game, which will prevent the Americans/French from sending their fleets to harass the Ottomans or liberate Italy. This can make the difference between winning and losing in a tournament setting.
AH1: Buy: 4 INF/2 ART/1 TT for 26 IPC. The extra TT is for SZ18, which will become important AH2 for ferrying as many units as you can into Tuscany. Everything else is going to head towards Russia to defend against whatever trick they try R1.
AH1: Move: 2 INF from Trieste get on the TT in SZ18 and land in Tuscany. As stated earlier, the idea here is to cut off Italy’s main army in Rome from reaching Venice, guaranteeing its fall. Everything else from Trieste + everything from Tyrolia goes into Venice. If you’re lucky, you can kill Venice in one battle, but if you don’t it’s fine. Germany will pick up the slack.
Meanwhile, send everything from Vienna and Bohemia + 1 INF/2 ART from Galacia into Trieste in particular. Trieste is within two spaces of several important territories in this part of the board (Venice, Piedmont, Tuscany, the TTs in SZ18, Serbia, Galacia) which is why you want a stack there.
Finally, send 4 INF from Budapest to Galacia to hold the lines, but everything else into Serbia (the game rules demand you attack Serbia AH1).
These moves accomplish the following:
A: Clearly and definitively reposition Austria’s starting forces into a posture where Italy is being relentlessly attacked. Italy’s starting forces are no match for this force, meaning you can send most of your buys towards Russia to make up for the units you took away from that front.
B: Fortifies Galacia against Russia. The hope here is that Russia overextends and attacks you, which will allow Germany to send its starting forces to attack G1. This, plus an about-face from the Austrian stacks in Trieste and Vienna, will totally destroy that Russian army. If Russia doesn’t take this bait, you can commit the Trieste stack to destroying Italy as-planned while playing out the Russian front based on what the Entente does.
G1: Buy: 5 INF/2 ART/2 FTR. Germany is going to be buying the FTRs for the Central Powers. Air Superiority is absolutely critical to obtain in this game, due to it allowing your ART to roll @ 4 while also DENYING this benefit to your opponent. The latter is just as important as the former, if not more so.
G1: Move: Everything from Munich + Alsace attack Switzerland. Yes, Switzerland. Switzerland is adjacent to Burgundy, Alsace, Piedmont and Venice. This positioning disrupts France’s first turn, as they now have to properly position their forces to prevent Germany from moving a large stack into Burgundy (which is adjacent to Paris), and also puts Germany within striking distance of Italy’s high-value territories (Piedmont, Venice, Tuscany).
The troops from Ruhr will move in a strange direction. 1 INF goes to Alsace to prevent a walk-in by France. The rest go to Tyrolia. Yes, Tyrolia. Tyrolia is similar to how I described Trieste in my section on Austria. Tyrolia is within 2-spaces of Tuscany/Piedmont/Venice/Alsace/Ruhr/Galacia/Silesia/Budapest, all extremely high-value or strategically important territories.
Silesia and Prussia leave one INF behind each and move everything else into Galacia to join the Austrians. Everything from Hanover goes there as well. We’re trying to hold the line against Russia with just enough to put up a fight while the bulk of the troops go towards Italy.
Last but not least, everything from Berlin and Kiel move down to Munich. Munich, like Tyrolia and Trieste, is a good central location that covers all of your options for the second round.
What you do in Africa is up to you. It’s not relevant to the overall strategy.
NOTE: A lot of this goes out the window if Russia attacks Germany, Silesia or Galcia R1. If Russia makes such a move, which is an over-extension, you should absolutely abandon the “KIF” strategy and crush Russia as quickly as possible.
Now, with those very-specific first moves covered, I will give a general overview for how the rest of the game should play out. No specific moves this time, as you’ll mostly be reacting to what your opponent does at this point.
AH2: Finish off Venice (if you couldn’t break it AH1), defend yourself against Russia as best you can. Build all land units, leaning towards ART (Germany will give Air Support).
G2: Push into Piedmont and Tuscany (2-move from Tyrolia -> Venice -> Tuscany). Defend yourself against France and Russia appropriately. Build at least 1-2 FTRs to maintain Air Superiority across the board.
If you got lucky, or if France played poorly, Italy will Economic-Collapse after their turn. If you’ve accomplished this, you’re on your way to a win.
AH3: Push into Rome if possible. If not-possible, move the Tuscany guys into Naples/Piedmont as appropriate. Don’t press combat in Piedmont, you want to minimize France’s chances of saving Italy from Political-Collapse. Continue building land units and sending them towards Russia.
G3: Push into Rome/Naples if Austria couldn’t manage it. Most of your attention should be on stopping France from saving Italy/defending the Ruhr/Munich line from France’s assault. Keep buying FTRs.
At this point, Italy should Political-Collapse. If you got Italy to die this quickly, you’ve basically won. If you didn’t manage it yet, you still have one last chance in round 4 to finish them before the Americans start really giving you trouble.
AH4: You may want to build navy at this point, if your fleet is still alive. You should mostly be focused on attacking Russia at this point. Hopefully after 3 rounds of buys from Germany/Austria Russia will be on the defensive.
G4: Same advice as G3. If you didn’t finish off Italy yet this is your last chance.
After this point, Italy is dead (hopefully), and the Americans have arrived. Your objective at this point changes dramatically. Austria should start buying navy and attempt to dislodge the Entente from SZ17 in particular. Taking this critical Sea Zone will prevent the Americans from making any last-minute plays into the Middle East or Italy, securing the IPCs you’ve gained there. Meanwhile, do your best to evacuate the German/Austrian armies from the Italian peninsula and reposition them to beat the French out of Germany before the game ends. Between whatever gains you made in Russia while all this was going on, and the gains you secured in Italy, you should have done more than enough to offset whatever IPCs you lost in the Ottoman-U.K. front and win the game.