A Winning Strategy - France
by Dan Stafford
purpose of this article is to guide novice players in the formation and
use of sound strategy in their play of the game of Diplomacy in general
and to present guidelines for
developing the proper strategic options for a French
victory in particular.
basic premises should guide your play. First, fleets are the key to
victory. I believe this to be true for every country on the board, but
especially France. The playing board is designed in such a way--with
relatively small land provinces and relatively large sea zones--that
control of key bodies of water
dictates the flow of the game. A good rule to go by is
that when in doubt, build a fleet. And be in doubt as often as you can!
central powers are your friends... particularly the ones on the other
side of the board. If you are playing an eastern power (Austria, Russia,
Turkey or Italy), then Germany is your buddy. Likewise, if you are
playing a western power you want to
see Austria do well. Why? Simply because Austria has such a difficult time following the first principle of
strategy outlined above. Austria
has only one home center which can be used for building fleets
and that center will often be occupied for one reason or another, which
means that even when Austria is
doing well, she may not be able to build enough
fleets to defend her Balkan empire from eventual seaborne invasion...that
is, eventual French seaborne
ideal situation for France is to have Austria
dominating the Balkans or even all of the east while unable to build
more than one or two fleets.
your primary ally should be the other central power. Since fleets are
the key and you want to win the game, not just draw, wouldn't it be
perfect if your primary ally were
land or army oriented, like Germany, as opposed to
fleet oriented, like England? Yes, it would be. Which brings us to the
I of a French victory begins in 1901 when you choose either a German or
English ally and concludes when the one you didn't choose is out of the
game. (I'll leave a discussion of
an E/F/G triple alliance to someone else. Suffice
it to say that such an alliance is not often in the best interests of
France.) There are those who would
argue that an E/F alliance is tactically stronger
than an F/G. And there are those who would argue that your decision about
which you ally with should be made solely on the merits of the diplomacy
and personality. I contend that the
latter group is partially correct, and the former group is dead wrong!
regard to the E/F alliance, Germany is a tough nut to crack. She will be
able to secure two builds in 1901, even without an ally, putting her at 5
units. France and England will have a very difficult time indeed bringing
more than 4 or 5 of their own units
to bear on her, and progress initially will be
slow or nonexistent. And what about Russia? Any intelligent Russian
player will jump to the aid of
Germany. What a magnificent chance for him to
completely stalemate all the western powers and possibly gain Norway in
the process while firmly
establishing himself as a (naval!) power in the north.
Only a fool in Russia would play into the hands of E/F by attacking
Germany, for surely the foolish
Russian will be the next target of E/F as soon as
Germany is crushed.
the preferred arrangement for France is an alliance with Germany for
a host of both tactical and strategic reasons. Tactically, England is
much easier to take than Germany.
With as few as four fleets between them, F/G can
easily conquer England. The Russian reaction? Few Czars will be able to
resist the temptation of taking
Norway, thereby removing the threat to St.
Petersburg, securing all of Scandinavia, and establishing himself with
multiple fleets in the north. Further, the remaining eastern powers will
not consider the sacking of England
as anything to be immediately concerned about.
They will merely see three powers vying for the spoils from only other
power, with none of them becoming
major problem with the E/F alliance from a strategic standpoint is that it
does not allow France to build Fleets. Your English ally would, quite
properly, be rather distressed if you built them. And yet, after the fall
of Germany, your next target ought
to be either England or Italy. But you would have insufficient fleets to mount an effective attack on
either. However, if England was
your first victim, then you would have several fleets already on
the board and could then proceed to attack, with ease, Italy, Germany or
enhance further your chances of winning, some skillful, yet subtle,
diplomatic efforts should be made to create a desirable situation in the
east. For instance, if Russia and
Turkey happen to attack Austria, you might want to
point out to Italy what will happen to him at the hands of an R/T
alliance if he doesn't act to save
Austria now. A triple R/A/I alliance vs. Turkey is also
a good situation for France.
the Fall of Britain
II of a French victory begins when all of the English home supply
centers are held or about to be taken by F/G forces. At this point you
have two options. One is to stab
Germany immediately, but I believe this would only
be the best course of action under a small set of circumstances. The most prominent circumstance for an early stab of Germany is if
Russia is strong enough to help you
take on Germany--but not too strong--preferably a Russia
who has suggested to you the German Blitz without prompting, and the
existence of a virtual naval
stalemate in the Mediterranean between Italy and Turkey. If
either I or T is gaining dominance over the other or Russia is too weak
or unwilling to move against
Germany, then stabbing Germany is the less
attractive of your two main options. Obviously, if your German ally is
hedging at the suggestion of moving east, then
you might have to lower your criteria for green-lighting a stab. However,
in most cases moving strongly into the Mediterranean will prove more profitable than stabbing Germany.
you have chosen the Mediterranean option for Phase II, then timing is
the key to successful acquisition of the Italian centers. It is rare that
you will have a situation where
both Italy and Turkey are still strong at this
stage of the game; only one of them will still be a going concern,
usually at the expense of the
other. You, of course, have been watching this situation
closely. If Turkey is winning, then at the point - or a little before -
that it becomes clear Italy cannot
stop the golden horde, he will be very susceptible
to your suggestion that you send in a few fleets to help stop the Turks.
And then do it! Move in your
fleets, coordinate with the Italian, and do what you
can to drive Turkey out of Italian waters.
then should you try to grab every
Italian center you can. In the other situation, where Italy is winning against
Turkey, timing is again crucial.
Strike too quickly, while Turkey is still intact, and he will be able
to recover to threaten your Mediterranean domination after Italy is gone.
Wait too long, and Italy will have
already shifted his forces back to the west after having finished off the Turk. Strike at just the right
time, say, when Turkey is down to 2
or 3 centers and while Italian fleets are still heavily
committed to the Eastern Med, and you may be able to overrun a virtually
undefended Italy and face only a broken Turkey afterwards.
conquest of Italy signals the end of Phase II and the beginning of the
final phase. Again, you have only two main options. First is to play for
a two-way draw with your German
ally. By now he has overrun Scandinavia, and his
armies are ringing in around Austria and southern Russia. He is probably
in no position to stab you because
he has only 2 or 3 fleets and can't really
threaten your English holdings.
you can go for the win. This can be done in two ways as well. One is
an immediate stab of Germany after you have secured the Italian peninsula
in its entirety. You can use your
naval superiority to force the German out of Scandinavia and St.
Petersburg. However, you will still have to take Holland
and Denmark for the win and that won't be easy. The other way is to play
it out as allies to the end, as if
you're going for the 17-17 center split, and
then try to grab one of his centers for the win. Certainly, this method
is risky too, as your ally may be able to do the same to you
just a little more quickly.
This article has outlined a blueprint for a French victory. I do not mean to suggest that it is the only way to win with France, merely that in my experience it is the best way. There will, of course, be a hundred different variables in each and every game you will have to address so that no two French wins will ever be exactly the same.