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Have the 1900 variant balancing changes hurt Austria?

PostPosted: 06 Sep 2020, 07:30
by MasterGR
I'll start by saying that I've only played 1900 once, and as it happens I drew Austria. I managed to solo the game, but I found that on the road to a solo Austria is more handicapped than it may even be in the standard map, and I'd be curious to hear the opinion of others on this who have played more than I have. Here's why:

The REM rule and Siberia
According to the creator's notes, the REM rule was created to reign in Germany, which turns out to be too strong in this variant (even with the REM rule). However, it really ends up hurting Austria, and here's why:
1) Even in the standard map, invading Russia from the south is pretty hard beyond Sevastopol
2) With the REM rule, even if you invade Russia and say destroy one of its units, it gets to be rebuilt
3) With the addition of Siberia, now it's even harder to invade/hold onto Sev
4) With the addition of Siberia, picking up Moscow from the south is now even harder

Of course, someone invading Russia from the north (say Germany) only has to deal with the REM. StP is a little less vulnerable thanks to Siberia, but still is bound to fall. I am wondering if the game would be more balanced if the REM rule only applied to Germany, as after all that's what it is designed for.

Germany and Italy are significantly stronger
This is pretty much self-explanatory. Judging from the map's game stats though, it appears that 1900 has made central triples more viable, so I'd be curious to hear the point of view of someone who has actually tried that.

Greece is impenetrable without fleets
Greece has become pretty much a fortress in this variant when one attacks from the north. The only way to get it is having at least one Ionian fleet. With that being said, now there are two areas adjacent to Con which means it's easier to grab it by land, so perhaps that balances out the Greece fortress.

These are the three main points, but I think the Russian point is really strong. I also found the addition of Bosnia somewhat unnecessary, but perhaps that's just because I didn't have to defend my homeland.

Advantages to Austria
I do of course also see some advantages to Austria:
1) ATs are much more viable now, as Turkey has an African path, so it doesn't have to roll over Austria to grow
2) Thanks to Switzerland, a successful Austria in the mid/late game can grab an additional center before getting bogged down at Munich
3) Austria now has more of an advanced notice before an Italian stab happens thanks to Venice not being a home center (well known)
4) The other well known advantages regarding Galicia, and Austria's 3 starting armies
5) Austria can potentially grab some African centers, although tough given its single port and no fleets to start with

Despite the above points, I think that Austria is even weaker in this variant than it is in vanilla thanks mostly to the changes made to Russia, and its relative solo rates seem to confirm that. But I'd be curious to hear the opinion of others who have played it more than I have.

Re: Have the 1900 variant balancing changes hurt Austria?

PostPosted: 06 Sep 2020, 14:13
by Groo
Marking, as someone who never played 1900 I'm also interested to hear the feedback.

Wasn't even aware of the REM rule? :shock:
Is it Michael Stipe defending Russia from the corner because they had lost their religion? :mrgreen:

Re: Have the 1900 variant balancing changes hurt Austria?

PostPosted: 06 Sep 2020, 17:31
by Custer
Big disadvantage to both Austria and Turkey.


Re: Have the 1900 variant balancing changes hurt Austria?

PostPosted: 06 Sep 2020, 19:50
by SelhurstPark
Personally I have found Turkey to be in a far worse position - little real scope for growth and can easily be held in check by A/R from the very start of the game. Of course, diplomacy might be able to minimise the impact but from my limited experience it really is an uphill struggle.

Re: Have the 1900 variant balancing changes hurt Austria?

PostPosted: 06 Sep 2020, 20:15
by BigBert
Interesting discussion! To start with a disclaimer: I was Russia in the 1900 game MasterGR refers to, so I may be not be entirely neutral. ;)

If I recall correctly Baron von Powell's (the designer of this variant) guide on 1900, he created the REM not so much because Germany was too strong, but because he found Russia too weak. Of course the two are flip-sides of the same coin, but I think Russia' weakness is more general than just against Germany.

I would say Russia is particularly vulnerable in the early game. Like in the classic game, Russia has no guaranteed neutrals in the first year.* Rumania can be contested by Austria, and given the latter's three armies this is probably more likely than in the classic game. In the classic game Russia is compensated for this lack of guaranteed builds by being the only guy with 4, not 3, starting units, but in 1900 this is the case for three other powers too. On top of that, Germany is in a position to attack Russia right off the bat, which is atypical in the classic game.

So that's where the REM kicks in: without it, Russia will have a hard time staying alive if its neighbours are hostile in the opening years. The REM therefore also works as a deterrent to such hostility. I think removing the REM would make Russia to fragile in the opening years.

That said, I can see why in the end game, the REM can work as an impediment to others' solo ambitions, and Austria's in particular. Perhaps a point could be made that the REM is only warranted up until 1904 or so? Then again, that added level of complexity may not be desirable. Perhaps one can think of changes to the map that make conquering/keeping Sevastopol easier for Austria (or Turkey) whilst preserving the REM? Perhaps Siberia can be removed if Ukraine and/or Livonia is made Russia's REM-build site?

I definitely agree with the point on Greece: it is very hard to conquer for someone who doesn't have both land ánd water units around it.

*) Side note: the first year should be called 1900, not 1901, in this variant.

Re: Have the 1900 variant balancing changes hurt Austria?

PostPosted: 07 Sep 2020, 10:28
by ColonelApricot
Nopun has some results stats that indicate all 1900 powers to be of similar strength, except Germany that is a bit stronger, and Turkey that is a bit weaker. Austria is definitely stronger than in standard because it has a buffer with Italy, and its units are better able to cooperate with each other. It is really tough to break Austria down.

Russia would be too vulnerable without the REM as was discovered in early playtests before the REM was added. With both Germany and Austria being stronger than in standard, Russia needed to be strengthened defensively.

The REM helps Russia in two ways:

1. Losing a home SC to an attacker does not deprive Russia of a build center in a vital defensive position (Siberia).
2. By deliberately allowing an ally to take a Russian home center the alliance gains a bonus supply! If the foreign unit is a fleet then there is no danger to the inland home centers. So the REM provides Russia with a valuable bargaining chip, to reward a neighbor entering an alliance. That also helps Russia's defence, at least, while the alliance lasts.