You have started your game of diplomacy, and drafted Austria: Congratulations you have drawn the most interesting country on the board, with the highest mortality rate in the first years. Phrased differently: you are up for a challenge!
Austria is one of the central powers on the board, with probably most direct neighbors: Italy in the west, Russia in east, Turkey in the south and Germany in the north. I’ll discuss all of these neighbors, give you some of my preferred opening moves and hope to help you on the way with this challenge.
The most important thing for Austria is gaining supply centers and not getting whiped out early (the latter is probably true for any country, but more relevant for Austria). Austria is one of the countries for which it is almost a necessity to grow +2 supply centers in 1901. Please keep that in mind. Austria cannot make a complete risk-free 1901, it will have to trust some or all of its neighbors. The diplomatic advantage is that Austria is usually considered as a weak country because of its central position, use this to your advantage in 1901.
Austria – Germany relationship
Austria has one obvious friend on the board: his German speaking Kaiser-brother in the north. Germany has plenty of challenges on his own, and is extremely unlikely to attack Austria in the early (or middle) phases of the game. Quickly agree with Germany to keep Bohemia and Tyrolia a DMZ (Demilitarized Zone). Use Germany’s knowledge to your advantage, and make contact. Exchange your ideas and most importantly: if you expect anything but a friendly Russian (why can you expect friendly Russians already in Spring 1901?), then ask Germany to move to Denmark. This is important as the German can hence decide in fall 1901 whether the Russian Czar can move into Sweden.
Austria – Italy relationship
Although Italy is a central power (like Austria and Germany) it has a slightly more peculiar position. Italy will be looking for expansion options and does not have that many choices: west or east. My personal preference, when playing Austria, is to offer the Italian a peace treaty and a joined alliance against Turkey via the Lepanto opening (see article on this opening for more details).
Whatever you get told by Italy, or you tell him, always agree on a bounce or a stand-off in the Triest-Venice situation. Neither can lose this supply center in 1901, and hence you are both better off with a bounce of some sort.
Austria – Russia relationship
Russia and Austria have two territories that are critical in 1901: Rumania and Galicia. Although Rumania might look more important to a novice because of the value (one supply center), it is absolutely critical that the Russian does not move into Galicia as it borders two of your home supply centers. Hence, ensuring a Galicia that is either occupied by yourself, or empty is critical. Spend time talking to the Russian, let him have Rumania. However, if you do not trust this situation completely, please move to Galicia: A (Vienna) – Galicia. In this negotiation around Galicia it could be worthwhile to involve your German friend and the possibility of bouncing Russia out of Sweden in fall 1901. Even if you are not convinced of what Germany will do, the threat to the Russian of not gaining Sweden in 1901 could keep him out of Galicia.
Austria – Turkey relationship
Turkey is cornered and that means he only has a limited number of expansion possibilities. The Balkan and your home supply centers (Vienna, Budapest, Triest) are among those limited options. I find the triangle Russia/Turkey/Austria extremely interesting, but I tend to believe you should not exclude the role of Italy in this, as 8/10 games Italy will move east within the first two years of the game. Turkey will seize Bulgaria in 1901 and might be looking for Rumania, Greece or maybe Sevastopol.
My advice about Russia and Turkey: if any of the two makes a successful move to the Black Sea, try and join forces with the other. You do not want either of them to become too strong, and a successful move to the Black Sea needs significant counterweight.