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Subject: A Strategic Look at England rss

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Aaron Steward
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Reconnaissance

England has the somewhat dubious pleasure of being the lone island power in Diplomacy. Not only does an attack on English soil require an opponent to match or overcome England's starting naval power, but even a relatively basic attack can easily tie up three or more units. This large investment makes any aggressors vulnerable, and if England can hold their ground for just a few seasons, the cavalry will often come running to the rescue. Conversely, England must expend just as much effort to launch an effective attack. This is evidenced by England's only guaranteed first-year build: Nor. In the worst-case scenario, all of England's starting units will be committed to this single task.

To the south lies France; a strong and defensible nation who can be both the most dangerous foe and the most valuable ally. Eliminating France will give England not only the defensive benefit of France's geometry, but will also give England an entire side of the board to itself to allow focusing all its units onto one eastward-facing front. Allying with France will provide England with this same benefit much earlier in the game, though at the cost of not owning any of the 5 SCs in France's usual sphere of influence.

To the southeast is Germany. By virtue of Germany's central board position, England has little to fear from an aggressive Germany acting on his own, as the other nations will be eager to advance into the German homeland and its SC-dense surroundings. Couple this with Germany's difficulty in building a navy able to match England's, and it would seem that a one-on-one matchup between the two is entirely in England's favor. However, a lasting alliance with Germany will require England to stretch quite far in both the Russian and Mediterranean fronts to achieve victory; conversely, driving headlong into Germany will require England to defend his frontlines against opposition from three directions.

Russia begins far to the east, and to newer players, it would seem too far to warrant immediate concern. Despite Russia beginning on the opposite end of the board, the geography of the board edges puts it just a couple territories away. Usually, early negotiations between the two nations involves a cordial but tense agreement on how to divide Scandinavia favorably, though with a quiet southern front, England may decide to push into StP and prepare for a strike south later in the game.

Marshaling for Victory

The route to victory in a game of Diplomacy is long and slow, and doubly so for a nation so far removed from the SC concentrations in central Europe. English victories will at the very least include their home centers, Scandinavia (Den, Nor, Swe), the Lowlands (Bel, Hol), Iberia (Por, Spa), at least two from each of France and Germany for a total of 14. Where the last four SCs come from will depend on in-game developments, and it's fairly common for England to reach into Russia as deep as Mos, or even as far into the Mediterranean as Tun or Nap.

The important thing England must always keep in mind is reaching across the stalemate line by advancing past StP, Ber, Mar, or Tun. In many cases, shoring up a defensive position on the far half of the board will take higher priority than getting the jump on the next target. Once England builds a lead, the window of opportunity for an 18th SC will become increasingly more difficult as the game progresses and the rest of the board bands together.

Endgame tactics and stalemate positions should always be in the back of England's mind, either to make the last grab for victory, or to hold a defensive position and force a draw.

First Strike

England's early game will hinge on the diplomatic climate of the Western Triangle (consisting of itself, Germany, and France), and to a lesser extent the Northern Triangle (made up of England, Germany, and Russia). Nor is easily guaranteed in the first year, though StP and Bel are also fairly common first year acquisitions. Though landing in Scandinavia may seem to determine England's route to expansion, it should not forgo Nor lightly. Taking control of Bel is a great bonus, but more important is to ensure England is on the favorable end of the 2v1 that the west often degenerates into. If England is offered Bel, by all means it should take advantage of the opportunity, but do not press so firmly as to seem greedy, as that is a quick way to ensure a French-German alliance setting sail for England immediately.

For this reason, being content with an unprovocative capture of Nor is very commonly the prudent move. England may even barter support into Bel to buy the friendship of either France or Germany and the added security of not being the odd-man-out in the west. The geography section briefly touched on the direct effects of allying with or against either France or Germany, but to make the most of either situation, England needs to look at the whole board.

Option 1: Allying France and Attacking Germany

To this end, England should hope to control all of Scandinavia (Nor, Swe, Den) as well as Hol, Kie, and Ber. This will ideally put England at 9 SCs and France at 7 (possibly 8, if it's been waging war with Italy at the same time), though Russia will not be content to sit idly by and watch Germany crumble in front of his eyes. Russia, then, can easily take Swe and Ber for himself and England will no longer have an advantage over his southern ally France.

Despite Germany being the first target, England must ask Germany to bounce Russia out of Swe in the first year. This not only gives England some breathing room in the north, but may also draw the attention of Russia, distracting him from any dreams of building fleets in StP(nc) to harass your waters.

Additionally, England should push either or both of Austria and Turkey to attack Russia. Anything that will further distract Russia will assist in England taking the largest shares of Germany for itself, thus solidifying it's position as the dominant half of the alliance with France.

If England is feeling particularly nasty (or more likely, paranoid) requesting Italy to move west against France will widen England's advantage even more. This, however, is unlikely as Italy will not find any easy gains in the west without help from England and/or Germany. The situation is quite convenient if it can be orchestrated, but is hardly necessary to England's success.

Tactically, a DMZ should be agreed upon in ENG, and England should pressure France to not build any fleets in Bre. Of any point to make a firm stand on, this one is crucial to England's security in an alliance with France. Common openings are:

Lon-NTH
Edi-NWG
Lvp-Edi/Yor

The difference in sending the starting army to Edi or Yor is small, but the impact can potentially be quite large. An army in Edi can be convoyed into Nor by either fleet, potentially freeing NTH to provide support for a move into Bel. If France proves to be unfriendly, however, having the army in Yor provides defense for Lon while a fleet can continue on to Nor unhindered. Moving the army to Wal or Cly are rarely seen, as they have much less utility than Edi or Yor, though Cly may still be convoyed to Nor via NWG while Wal is forced to camp out on the island for at least another year.

Option 2: Allying Germany and Attacking France

In this case, England should hope to take Nor, Iberia (Por, Spa), and either two of France's SCs, or Bre and Bel, for a total of 8 SCs. If Germany took Bel initially, it may be hard to convince him to trade it away, but an English fleet in Bel is more convenient to defend than a German army would be. Italy, should he be privy to the England-German alliance, will often be happy to lend a hand in cracking France's defenses provided he is compensated for his efforts. Mar is a fair price, but if England isn't fast enough to Iberia, Italy's eyes may drift to Spa and move to take it for himself.

Unlike the alliance with France, in which England attempts to tie down and hinder each and every one of his neighbors, he must work to provide security for Germany. If Russia takes an opportunity to grab Swe, Ber, or Mun from Germany, England's assault on France will quickly falter as his ally rushes home to maintain defense. A wounded France is still quite dangerous, and one bent on revenge may quickly recover his losses and strike back.

Russia, then, must be persuaded to strike south against Austria or Turkey. He may not be pleased to surrender Swe to Germany, and if he cannot be reasoned with, England must reign in Germany's northern ambitions until after the fall of France.

Tactically, England must coordinate the support of German armies past the defensible Pic/Bur line and prepare for quick convoys into Bre and Iberia. Common openings are:

Edi-NWG
Lon-NTH
Lvp-Yor

The Lvp-Edi variation is still quite usable, but if England's eyes are on France, Yor can be convoyed into Bel with one fleet, while Edi would require the use of both fleets to do so.

Edi-NTH
Lon-ENG
Lvp-Wal/Yor

These openings put the pressure on France immediately, rather than waiting for an extra build beforehand. Yor may be convoyed to either Nor or Bel, freeing ENG to strike at Bel, Bre, or MAO, while Wal is rather unambiguous; aiming to land in Bel or Bre immediately.

Any opening including both Lon-ENG and Edi-NWG should be used with extreme caution. Maintaining control of NTH is not only a launchpad into Scandinavia and the Lowlands, but it defends two of England's home centers. Even with an alliance with Germany in place, leaving NTH open may prove too tempting for Germany and result in a devastating attack against England's home SCs.

Maintaining the Offensive

Regardless of where England's allegiance was in the opening stages of the game, the main decision facing England in either case is the same: to continue the original alliance and attempt to stretch past the stalemate line? or to turn against England's former ally with its new-found strength and take the entire west for itself?

Option 1: Continuing Onward

If continuing on with the original alliance, England will usually find itself now embroiled in a war against Russia (or, rarely, against Italy). If previously allied with France, England must attempt to maneuver a fleet into GoB to facilitate breaking past the stalemate line in StP, either directly or with the help of a convoy into Lvn. If Germany is the ally, that burden is largely out of England's hands, and in most cases will have to wait until War falls out of Russian control. This approach is convenient in that England's diplomatic stance remains largely unchanged, but will lengthen its frontlines and all the dangers that entails.

Option 2: Shifting Allegiance

Turning on England's original ally will provide immediate benefit to national security, in that it both eliminates England's other direct neighbor and will maintain defensible positions along the stalemate line.

2.A: Finishing off France

Turning against France after the fall of Germany requires both speed and diplomatic cunning. England's forces will largely turn their backs to Russia and/or whoever came out on top of the pile in the east. Additionally, it will require even more naval strength, and these builds will often telegraph England's intentions to an observant France.

It is imperative that during the opening stages, England has kept the east in turmoil. If any nation should be given preference, Austria may be England's best bet as a scapegoat for both the middle and end-game stages. England should be liberal in lending out supports with any armies sitting in Germany to prevent any one eastern power from gaining a solid advantage.

2.B: Killing off Germany

Attacking Germany after France's elimination is a more brute-force endeavor. England's back is now solidly defended by the edge of the board and as such will rely less on skillful negotiations for security. Russia, again, will be the main competitor in capturing German SCs, and again, any distractions England can cook up will mean more of the west will be firmly English.

Like the scenario of turning against France, muddling the affairs of the east to prevent a strong leader will be advantageous. It is not as important, since England's security isn't as threatened, but a strong eastern power will have an easier time blocking England's advance past the stalemate line.

Making the Final Push

Once England has built itself up to a dozen SCs or so, endgame tactics should now take the forefront of England's strategy. If a dominant power in the east has matched England's growth, this will probably hinge mainly on shoring up stalemate line positions and waiting for an opportunity to strike. Ideally, the east is still fragmented into three or four powers with none holding a definitive advantage. Should that be the case, strike quickly toward and past the stalemate line with no regard for friendships new or old. Time is of the essence, and should the rest of the board be allowed to collect themselves and ally against England, victory will depend solely on the most honeyed words and silver-tongued cunning ever conceived (barring tactical incompetence).

Parting Shots

Being so far removed from the action, England cannot win quickly and will depend on drawing the game out as long as possible with fairly little change in the status quo, except when it's in England's favor of course. The balance of power must be maintained, and much of England's negotiations (particularly to the eastern powers) should be anchored around this point.

Many times, England is all too aware of its island position and will compensate with an overabundance of fleets. With only one new fleet build (or in the worst case, two), England can achieve all of its early and mid-game goals, and a shortage of armies will find its campaigns stalled along the shoreline.

Happy stabbing, and may the best man win.
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Brian Gee
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Excellent article, thanks!
 
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Alan Richbourg
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This is Kyoshi, our adopted Shiba Inu.
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The only country I've never solo'd with. Last nut to crack on my Dip list.
 
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Aaron Steward
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Thank you both. I've managed two or three wins with England, but it is easily my second-least favorite country to play (Russia wins that contest).
 
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