What could be Austria's best opening move?
One theory has it that Franz Ferdinand Avenged is 'the card'. This cards gets rid of the Russian Army starting in Serbia and allows Austria to build an Army there. The hitch is that you must discard a card to play it, then discard another one for battling in Rough Terrain in addition to Franz card itself. This consumes 3 of the initial 7 'very good cards' that you selected initially.
If you do not have '7 good cards' perhaps you should have called Mulligan, no?
The need to discard 2 cards makes Ferdinand perhaps the best Turn 3 card available. By then you could have drawn 4 cards and hopefully 1-2 are bad enough to be discarded without regrets. If you did not have the Ferdinand card At Start perhaps you drew it on Turn 1 or 2?
What could be better?
The lowly Build Navy card (2 available) actually is. You build a Navy in the Adriatic next to Italy. What does this do? It puts heavy pressure on France as Italy is about to be taken out of the war on Turn 2 and that is BIG!
Turn 2 sees an Austrian Army in Rome while Turn 3 sees whatever you fancy such as the Serbia Project or an Ottoman Army in Istanbul.
Since there are 2 Build Navy cards you have twice the odds of getting one when compared to Ferdinand's card. Eventually you might even get to play k.u.k. Kriegsmarine card for +1 VP per scoring (1-3 VP).
2. Next Step
Attention should then be given to stopping the Russian Expansion. This could even start on Turn 3 depending on whether the Russians went for Berlin or whether they linked up with Serbia. With the Italians not coming out of Italy the back door is now secure, at least by Land.
The most useful card to keep Russia in check in the Russian Rail Gauge. This is THE card that is the most helpful to your Germany ally, bar none, and to yourself. With that card in play, you knows that Russia cannot sustain any attack past Poland, thus making Prussia and Berlin safe, nor past Romania making Istanbul and the entire South secure provided a single Sustain Defense card is available (and Germany/Austria should always have such a card, yes?). In addition, no attack into the Balkans (this includes Serbia btw) should be attempted without this card being in play. Austria simply does not have any Land Battle card to spare.
3. What could go wrong?
We know the Italians aren't coming if we took Rome.
If Russia went for Berlin to assist the French, they are nowhere near Istanbul. We can seal them up with Germany's assistance.
But ... if Russia went for Serbia they are near Istanbul and that needs fixing now. But at least the pressure is off Berlin. But it can be much, much worse. If Britain goes for Gallipoli with Russia nearby, they can do the 1-2 punch to capture Istanbul and there will be very little Austria can do about it unless they accumulated several Sustain Land Battle (defense) for the Ottoman ... and even then the end is not really in doubt.
But this takes Britain away from Belgium and with the possibility of the 1-2 punch versus them thus removed, Germany should hold France back with little difficulty .
4. Overrated Card
The Spanish Flu card is overrated in my opinion. Played as an Economic Warfare event, it removes 6 Entente cards but also requires the removal of 2 Central Powers cards: a net gain of 4 cards.
Played as Attrition, it nets (only) 3 cards but does not remove any friendly cards and does not cost one action. That is the true cost of this card: it takes one action away from Austria and it can not afford that, nor can any nation for that matter.
One action to remove one additional Entente card? Not even close in my books.
5. The Ottoman
This is the Dark Force. This is usually an untapped resource that should be developed to much better effect, given time to do it. The Ottoman could develop Persia and the Middle East for VPs; or it could assist Austria proper in holding back the Russian hordes.
Which one is better? Don't know ... yet. By the time the Ottoman Power comes to life things are unpredictable, requiring players to grope forward as best they can.
6. Cards worthy of mention
Imperial Austrian Landwehr / Royal Hungarian Honved :: very useful cards with multiple actions with double Sustained Defense to boot. These cards will sustain you in the Late Game.
Caporetto :: if you do not capture Rome, this card may allow you to seal off the Italians in the "Boot". Expensive to play but if you simply must (and you should) seal off Italy, then do it! I have seen the Italians run rampant in Souther Europe and it is not a sight that Austria should ever ant to see.
I Order You to Die :: very useful once Istanbul has been captured, especially if by the British. This is Thor's Hammer striking from above: no need to be adjacent. If the opponent is too busy to build right back in, you have another shot at Istanbul. Thus playing this card is all about 'timing', meaning the UK has something even more important to do than to rebuild into Istanbul.
Bombing of the Black Sea Ports :: one of the most potent threat from Russia is a Navy in the Black Sea. This is the antidote. Call it an insurance policy. You do not want to exercise it but you rest easier knowing that you have it.
Austria takes Rome early or seals the Italians in the Boot. They develop the Ottoman Power to collect as many VP as possible and secure their soft underbelly. Meanwhile, with their 'spare actions' they help Germany to contain the Russian Hordes. Did I mention that they are responsible for generating most Central Powers' VP?
If you start with Franz Ferdinand, you obviously don't keep your 7 best cards. You keep 5 good ones and 2 duds to burn right away.
What about France?
Why there is no article for french/italian player?
New York City
Sometimes to get something done, you have to do it yourself!