The Swiss Axle
In the game of Diplomacy there are several impassable or neutral zones. Most of these happen to be small islands in the various seas (Corsica, Sardinia, Crete, Cyprus, Ireland and the Balearic Islands). These zones are simply for keeping with the map of Europe and are of no significance to the game. But there is one neutral which is not an island: Switzerland. Switzerland is located dead center of the map. Breaking up all of the other countries around it, Switzerland takes the center of the board and it cannot be passed through or over by any unit. It is the proverbial axle and Europe is the wheel.
If it wasn’t there
If Switzerland wasn’t there, what would that change in Europe? What would this mean for the strategy and tactical makeup of the countries?
The Western Triangle
France: With Switzerland gone the border with Germany and Italy suddenly become much more fluid. Germany is now capable of extending the Western Front from three potential German territories to four. And any stalemate with Italy over Marseille would end. Because, hey now Italy can lever two armies against Marseille instead of one. Germany could threaten Marseille and keep France from taking Spain in the fall of 01. In terms of diplomatic relations, France would have to try to convince Italy that this is not an opportunity and convince Germany that moving into Switzerland is not a good idea. France could also take an opportunistic stance on the matter and use Switzerland to its advantage when attacking. Especially since if it occupies Switzerland then it keeps the Western Front at 3 territories to 3 territories instead of the original 3 German territories to 2 French territories.
England: England has the unique position of not being next to Switzerland but being affected by how the balance of power shifts between Germany and France. If Germany uses Switzerland to its advantage and France declines. Then instead of jumping on the band wagon to kill France England should keep France in the game and use him to help knock out a strong Germany or in the reverse of this case help Germany knock out a strong France. All the while picking up a supply center here and there. With Switzerland gone, England also is no longer necessarily the object of attacks from both Germany and France. Because, now that Germany and France have more room to spread out they may just fight a fiercer war among themselves and not cast a glance at England.
Germany: Germany in many ways like France may benefit by the extended border with France. However while Switzerland was in place as a neutral Germany had the advantage on France of being able to throw more units against the Western Front. So while it could be an advantage to go after the French on an even longer Front it is a two edged sword. Also, without Switzerland the possibility of a previously nearly impossible Italian invasion suddenly becomes a slight possibility now that there are two routes into Munich from the south instead of just Tyrolia.
Italy: Italy is Right below Switzerland. Without Switzerland it would have no solid rock wall from which is could guard its back. Italy would become a very open country. It would have access to parts of Europe that were previously not a possibility. Italy could now put more weight into the diplomacy going on in the Western triangle. It could potentially have more say and could in the result of a war between Germany and France result in a key ally for France or Germany instead of being merely a passing thought.
The Eastern Triangle
The Eastern Triangle is not as greatly affected by what goes on with Switzerland. Switzerland is not as central and only touches Austria (the Balkans are more central). The only thing that really affects the East is: what is the outcome of a quick Western Triangle fight? And what impact will the victor of that fight have on the development in the East.
Turkey: With Switzerland gone Turkey is barely fazed. It doesn’t affect it. Its openings are still the same. Its friendly relations with Russia or Austria or neither are not affected at all. The merest influence it may have on Turkey is that England may have more time (while France and Germany are distracted) to look towards Scandinavia with more attention. This may keep Russia back a little and promote a Turkish war against Russia.
Austria: Austria is right next to Switzerland and with it gone it could loosen up its border and also make its relationship with France a more prominent object of diplomacy, but not really. With Switzerland gone it does not really help Austria keep from getting wiped out early in the game. So while it could mean now relationships opening up it doesn’t help Austria with its initial stages of panic for survival.
Russia: Russia also like Turkey is unlikely to be affected by the non-neutrality of Switzerland. However as I said earlier on Turkey England may be able to put more effort into Scandinavia. Thereby causing a problem for Russia.
Since it’s there
But since Switzerland is on the board as a neutral then there is no change whatsoever in tactics and openings.
Keep in mind that I only just thought of this and that there are probably some pretty glaringly obvious problems with the tactics and diplomatic procedures for different countries. I just did this as a fun exercise and it would be interesting to watch it play out in a real game. Feel free to correct me on anything.