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Actually, the countries are very balanced, despite having their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Yes, Italy is at a tactical disadvantage early on. But makes up for that by being in the center of the board, thereby able to wield a great deal of diplomatic influence on the other powers.

Positioned in the corners, Enlgand and Turkey are indeed easier to defend. But it is also much more difficult for them to build their empires as quickly as other powers.

Every country has its own set of problems to deal with, and to win, you'll have to talk your way past yours. Understanding the concerns of the other powers and manipulating them to your own advantage is often a key to winning.

The unlimited combinations of a country's geography and its ruler's personality (times seven) are what make this game a joy to play over and over again.
 
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