However, although I had played casually with friends for years (though never finishing a game), I was in for a rude awakening when it came to competitive play: tactics will only get you so far.
In previous games, I only sought short-term alliances and relied on stronger tactics to establish a dominant position on the board. When playing with casual friends (some of whom might not even fully understand the rules), this was more than enough—but against stronger opponents, I found myself quickly coming up short. Enemies would counter my attacks while allies saw obvious stabs coming. To succeed, I quickly learned I actually have to be less ruthless in competitive play than I would be in a casual game. The core of my strategy since realizing this has been to forge strong alliances by always considering the best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA). Repeatedly cultivating this over the following months eventually led to my victory in the vWDC championship game as Turkey.
In my early game strategy, striking a strong alliance is all about presenting a concrete plan of attack for both partners—and comparing that to the BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement). From early negotiations with Italy, it quickly became clear that he was my best alliance partner: my alternatives in Russia and Austria only offered a junior role or slow gains respectively. To Italy, I presented how his best alternative (allying with Austria in a traditional AI) would lead to him making very slow gains while leaving his back exposed to the formidable Bill Hackenbracht in France. It was clear to both of us that a strong IT was the best option.
Coming into the midgame, it’s important to continually assess your BATNA to estimate stab opportunities—and to ensure your ally continues to stick with your alliance. In Fall 1905, I stumbled on the second part by spooking Italy into thinking working with me would lead to a 2-front war. This was the darkest moment for our alliance, with Italian fleets breaching the Eastern Mediterranean.