The Entente Cordiale

by Stephen Agar

In a previous issue of Spring Offensive I printed an article about the Sealion Opening - the combined Franco-German assault on England which has as its main feature the seizure of NTH in A01. In order to provide some balance I thought that I would sketch out my ideas for a workable Anglo-French alliance to see if these two powers can work together in a way to achieve quick results and a degree of mutual security.

In long-term Anglo-French alliances, it is the French player who usually ends up being the most exposed. It is all to easy for an English fleet to slip into the MAO and then take a pot shot at Bre, Spa or Por. If, as part of an alliance strategy, England is sending fleets into the Mediterranean, then English fleets will have to sail past thinly defended French centres for several seasons before reaching the fruits of Italy, which are in all likelihood heavily defended. It is easy to see why English players get tempted, especially if all the French armies are busy fighting in Kiel or Silesia. Indeed, Richard Sharp has gone as far as to advocate France giving England Brest on the basis that this reduces tension as the alliance expands.

The main thought behind this article is an Anglo-French alliance in which England, rather than send fleets the long way round into the Mediterranean, only builds sufficient fleets so as to transport armies in the European heartland. France has a Mediterranean coastal supply centre, so leave the Mediterranean (and the Italians) to the French. Rather than having England going around France, let England have the top half of the board and France the bottom half. A sensible SC split could be England: Nwy, Swe, Den, Kie, Hol; Ber etc. and France: Spa, Por, Tun, Bel, Mun, Ven etc.

The First Year

To jump start this sort of alliance, I believe that the French player has to be willing to commit himself from the first move. I would advocate A(Par)-Pic, A(Mar)-Bur and F(Bre)-MAO. The key to this opening is that England should agree to give Belgium to the French one way or another and with this opening France is guaranteed to take Belgium irrespective of how Germany opens, provided it has the support of an English F(NTH). Indeed, if Germany opens with F(Kie)-Den and not A(Mun)-Bur (as most Germanys do) then a northern opening for France will guarantee Belgium without any English help at all - leaving England free to stand Germany out of Holland. France can use F(MAO) to pick up Portugal, leaving Spain for 1902.

I believe that one feature of a determined Anglo-French alliance is that it only really thrives if Russia can at the very least be kept neutral. Therefore, if you must you may have to order F(NWG)-Nwy; A(Yor)Std. to win Russia’s confidence - and as long as Russia doesn’t launch a northern campaign in 1902 there can be real benefits in doing this (see the example below).

On the assumption that Russia doesn’t open to the north (in which case everything gets very complicated) and Italy doesn’t try the usually suicidal attack on France, it is to be expected that France will pick up two builds (A(Par), F(Mar)) and England one, F(Edi). With luck and a little diplomacy Germany will have opened F(Kie)-Den and will therefore have only one build.

Striking into the Fatherland

The concentration of centres around Germany, Denmark and the Low Countries means that an attack on Germany can often get bogged down by the sheer density of German units. To this end, the quicker you can get in and among the German armies the better. One possibility is to enlist the help of the inevitable Russian F(GoB) to go to BAL in A01 with the aim of stranding a German fleet in Sweden. That’s always good for a laugh and it opens up the possibility of supported attacks on Denmark as well - but remember, if you let Russia have too big a slice of the cake, he’ll only end up building armies in Warsaw which will get in your way. On the other hand, you can always offer Russia Sweden in return for not building another northern unit.

To get into the heart of Germany, England needs to order crack HEL preferably in S02. This can be difficult, though only a brave German would use F(Den) to stand-off over HEL, because of the possibility that F(NTH) could walk into Den. If it looks as though HEL might be hard to force, then F(NTH)-SKA is a reasonable alternative as it puts leverage on Swe and Den. In all this, the attitude of Russia will inevitably be crucial. On balance I would rather offer Russia Sweden (by supporting from Norway), then allow Russia into Denmark, as it is easier to expel units from Sweden (and there’s not many places for them to retreat to) compared to Denmark.

For example, a likely situation at the end of 1901 would be something like:

FRANCE: A(Bel), A(Bur), F(Por), A(Par), F(Mar)

ENGLAND: F(NTH), A(Yor), F(Nwy), F(Edi)

GERMANY: F(Den), A(Kie), A(Ruh), A(Mun)


A standard German defence would be F(Den)-NTH (cuts any support offered from NTH or stands of an unsupported move to NTH), A(Mun) S A(Ruh) (no point in going for Bur), A(Ruh) S A(Kie)-Hol. How the Anglo-French alliance plays their attack, depends on whether England goes for HEL or SKA, which in turn depends on the attitude of the Russians. That said the following would not appear unreasonable:

Spring 1902

FRANCE: A(Bel) S A(Bur)-Ruh, F(Por)-Spa)sc, A(Mar) S A(Par)-Bur

ENGLAND: F(NTH)-HEL, F(Nwy) S F(Edi)-NTH, A(Yor) Std.

GERMANY: F(Den)-NTH, A(Mun) S A(Ruh) S A(Kie)-Hol


Germany takes Holland, however, with units in Belgium, Burgundy and NTH, the alliance can kick the Germans out of Holland and/or (with Russian support) take Denmark.

Autumn 1902

FRANCE: A(Bel) S ENGLISH F(NTH)-Hol, A(Bur)-Ruh, A(Mar)-Pie, A(Par)-Bur, F(Spa)sc Std.

ENGLAND: F(HEL)-Den, F(NTH) C A(Yor)-Hol, F(Nwy)Std.

GERMANY: F(Den)-NTH* [retreats and then probably disbands], A(Mun) S A(Ruh) S A(Hol)* [retreats to Kie]



E: Lon, Lpl, Edi, Nwy, +Hol, +Den, +StP = 7

F: Par, Bre, Mar, Bel, Por, +Spa = 6

G: Mun, Kie, Ber, -Den = 3.

R: -StP, +Swe

Germany is back down to three units (say, A(Mun, A(Ruh), A(Kie)), France has six (time to build F(Mar)?), and England has six or seven (depending on whether he gets the opportunity to stab the Russians). Of course, by now we have probably lost touch with reality, as the potential variations are immense and the attitude of the Russians to all this unpredictable in that it will depend on what is happening in the Balkans. The point I am trying to make is that, with a little luck (and especially Russian help) it is possible to crack the German position apart very quickly indeed. Provided England and France stay together Germany is now domed.

The key to dispatching Germany quickly has to be to get English armies on to the continent - armies are necessary because they can move and cut supports inland. An English F(Hol) or F(Kie) is nowhere near as useful as a A(Hol) or an A(Kie).

Of course, if you don’t have Russian assistance, everything gets a bit harder. Russian neutrality will be enough to ensure Germany’s downfall, though it will take a couple of season’s longer, but active Russian defence of Germany can ruin the alliance’s plans as everything becomes bogged down. On the other hand if the Russians do well in 1901 and build A(War) which they put into Silesia, then Germany is effectively dead.

Scandinavia First?

A few brief words about the move to Skaggerak in 1902. If Russia is weak in the north and Germany has only picked up the one build in 1901, then it is not unreasonable for England to want to secure Scandinavia before taking on the German units at home. However, if the end result is to alienate the Russians and thus drive them into the arms of the Germans, then progress may be very small indeed. For example:

Spring 1902

FRANCE: A(Bel) S A(Bur)-Ruh, F(Por)-Spa)sc, A(Mar) S A(Par)-Bur


GERMANY: F(Den)-NTH, A(Mun) S A(Ruh) S A(Kie)-Hol


Although the Russians are denied Sweden, England lacks the strength to force it in the event that Germany and Russian combine.

Autumn 1902

FRANCE: A(Bel) S ENGLISH F(NTH)-Hol, A(Bur)-Ruh, A(Mar)-Bur, A(Par)-Bur, F(Spa)sc Std.

ENGLAND: F(NWG)-Nwy, F(NTH)-Hol, F(SKA) S A(Nwy)-Swe

GERMANY: F(Den) S RUSSIAN F(GoB)-Swe, A(Mun) S A(Ruh) S A(Hol)* [retreats to Kie]



E: Lon, Lpl, Edi, Nwy, +Hol = 5

F: Par, Bre, Mar, Bel, Por, +Spa = 6

G: Mun, Kie, Ber, Den = 4.

All this means that it is important to keep the Russians on side.

The Mediterranean

Although French involvement is essential to enable England to get his first army on to the mainland, I would have thought that France should be ready to move on the Mediterranean by the beginning of 1903. Any attack on Italy is going to be difficult unless you have overwhelming superiority of numbers in terms of fleets (and have them in the right place), so it is important top back up any assault with an army being sent down the Piedmont corridor. One possibility is to order A(Mar)-Pie in A02 (on the pretext of moving to Tyr the following season to help in the war against Germany by putting leverage on Munich), which leaves Mar free for a build of F(Mar). S03 can then see F(Mar)-GoL, F(Spa)sc-WMS, A(Pie)-Tus or Ven. No doubt there will be some suitable negotiation with Austria and/or Turkey to find an ally for this expedition.

TYS can be a hard space to control. It is almost certain that the French will face two Italian fleets almost straight away, so a shuffle along the lines of F(WMS)-NAf, F(GoL)-WMS to put pressure on Tun is probably a good bet - at the very least try and keep the fleets moving into vacant spaces, don’t allow them to get bogged down. Once France has a third fleet in the Mediterranean then things can really start to move, especially with an army on the Italian mainland to cut supports. If things are going well, England shouldn’t object to the odd build of F(Bre) for a quick move to the WMS via MAO.

Watch Your Back

It may seem a waste of units, but in mid-game I don’t see how any alliance of this nature can enjoy mutual trust without the odd night-watchman at the back minding your home centres. It would seem reasonable for an Anglo-French alliance to agree that no fleets will be built in Brest and Liverpool without the other’s prior agreement. A couple of French armies in Belgium and Picardy could then be left behind to hamper any English stab, while England only really needs an A(Yor) to cover his home centres. In the event of a major stab, that would not be sufficient, as the stabber will undoubtedly wait until he has builds owing, while the victim does not. The aggressor floods fleets into the NAO, MAO and ENG while the erstwhile ally is forced with bring units back from the likes of StP(nc) or Ven. What’s more as the units are withdrawn back to the home front, the victim loses those far flung centres to other players creating a spiral of decline. hence the importance of some units strategically positioned mid-way between the homeland and the front line -a French fleet in Spa(sc) or an English F(Nwy), that sort of thing.

In the long-term the following would seem like reasonable spheres of interest: England: Lon, Lpl, Edi, Nwy, Swe, Den, StP, Hol, Kie, Ber, War, Mos: France: Bre, Par, Mar, Bel, Spa, Por, Tun, Rom, Nap, Ven, Mun, Vie, Tri

The crunch will come when England hits Moscow or France eliminates Italy, as at that point one ally can win by taking out the other. At that stage games are probably decided on personalities and the players attitude towards taking risks as much as anything else.


Home - About this Site  - Diplomacy Rules and Maps - Dip Strategy - Variants - Dip Software - Play Diplomacy - FtF Diplomacy - Postal Diplomacy - Diplomacy Humour - Tournament Scoring - Dip Hobby History - Zines - Con Reports - UK Zine Archive Miscellaneous - FAQ - Links - Recommended Reading