How To Make Love In Western Europe:
The Triple Alliance
by Andrew England
History paints a delightful picture of
relations between the three great powers of western Europe: England, France, and
Germany. To say that love has been in the air would be no more than a hideous
lie. In 1066, the Normans from France invaded and conquered England. The Third
Crusade was ruined by petty squabbling between Richard the Lionheart and
Phillipe of France. During the Seven Years War, France was at war with England
and Germany and in 1815 the two again combined to destroy the hopes of France's
greatest leader. In 1871, the Germans burned Paris and in the Great War England
and France fought the "Hun" in a struggle which was repeated just twenty years
later. In a game of Diplomacy one could be forgiven for expecting finger-nails
to be left uncut and fangs to be sharpened for a tooth and nail struggle between
some combination of these great powers. For what you are about to receive may
you be truly grateful. Rejoice! England, France and Germany need not fight
amongst themselves. They may instead conquer Europe.
In 1901 each of the three powers can move in concert to limit the expansion
of potential enemies while at the same time gaining two neutral supply centres
each. Obviously Russia and Italy must be the primary targets. In Spring 1901 the
following moves should optimise the options for later turns:
ENGLAND: F EDI-NWG, F LON-NTHS, A LVP-EDI
FRANCE: F BRE-MAO, A PAR-BUR, A MAR-SPA
GERMANY: F KIE-DEN, A MUN-RUH, A BER-SIL
In Autumn the following moves would set up the powers for a strong push in
ENGLAND: A EDI-NWY, F NTH-BEL, F NWG C A EDI-NWY,
FRANCE: A SPA-POR, F MAO-SPA(sc), F BUR HOLD (or to MAR)
GERMANY: F DEN-SWE, A RUH-HOL, A SIL-WAR(?)
The English moves are quite obvious. The Germans must move to Sweden to block
any Russian move there while army Silesia can be used in any fashion to
interdict or disrupt Russian operations. The French fleet move to Spain (sc) is
essential for a quick assault on Italy. Army Burgundy is an insurance policy
against an Italian move to Piedmont in Spring. But if at all possible,
Marseilles should be left open in Autumn for a fleet to be built there. In order
to facilitate this, every effort should be made to lull the Italians into a
false sense of security in the pre-Spring mediations.
Following these 1901 moves the Winter builds should be along these lines:
ENGLAND: F EDI, A LON
FRANCE: F MAR, F BRE
GERMANY: A BER, A MUN
The French fleet build in Brest may be a sore point with the English but
obviously in the context of this alliance it is to be used against Italy. This
is where negotiation and trust will come into play, after all that's what it's
Given the average situation, Russia will have gained only one build and it is
likely that it will be an army thus leaving the northern seas free for English
fleets. Of course, the location will depend on how Russia is fairing elsewhere.
In any case England and Germany can combine in 1902 to take Sweden and threaten
both St Petersburg and Warsaw. An important move for the English to consider in
1902 is A Nwy-Fin followed up by A Lon-Nwy. This will give the English a strong
attack on St Petersburg in 1903 particularly if the Barents Sea has been taken.
In the Mediterranean, France should move her fleets with all possible haste
towards a strong set up. Position should be gained in 1902 to be followed in
1903 by strong threats to Tunis and the Italian home centres.
Once the primary objectives, the destruction of Russia and Italy, have been
achieved (generally by 1905), the problem will arise of "what next?" It is at
this point that one partner will inevitably fall by the wayside. The problem
arises from England whose prospects for further expansion within the triple
alliance will die with Russia. From her point of view, England must decide where
she will want to go. With her major power based around fleets, it would seem
that an attack on France would provide an easier road. But this will depend on
England's position in Russia and Scandinavia and ultimately on the personalities
and relationships between the players involved. The player(s) who communicates
the most and inspires trust in his partners will be the one to survive.
Both the French and the German will be in a sound position to continue on
their way through Europe. This, however, must be upset by the inevitable
break-up of the triple alliance. If both decide to combine to attack England
they will be forced to back-track somewhat and will likely be badly placed with
the necessary fleet power to destroy England. If either sides with England the
road will probably be easier in the short term depending on the position of the
respective units. But once again the main consideration will be the state of
play between the allies as people.
So there we have it. This is not intended to be a blueprint for success; how
could it be? Diplomacy is too complex a game for any pre-set plan to be assured
of success. Flexibility and careful negotiation are essential requirements for
any player. What this triple alliance will provide is a strong start for all
three powers and the two bastards that emerge from the middle game stab should
go on to dominate the game in the later stages.
"When on of the factions is extinguished, the remaining subdivideth..." (Sir
Francis Bacon, 1612).
A problem with three-way alliances in the west is that they favour England
(no problem if you're England!). With English units behind the French and German
lines it is always very tempting for England to stab France or Germany. It is
also hard to see how England can win from such an opening. Of course, in a
tournament setting any alliance which brings centres must be considered since
games rarely go above 1908-10 and so you aren't playing for a win.
Other possible three way alliances include E-F-R where Germany is regarded as
the filling. Of course three-way alliances occur more often at the end of a
game, when players either decide to play for the three-way draw or three players
play to prevent a fourth winning, the result is a four-way draw. Remarkable few
articles have been written on a three-way alliance at the end of a game, most
writers stick to the alliance at the start of a game when such alliances are
(I'd say) less likely to work for more than a year or so.
Looking at the 3-way draws in the UK in the 1980's brings the following
line-ups which occur more than once:
A-F-R 2 times. Resulting from a strong A-R alliance in the east being met by
a dominant France in the west. It being easy for France to take England out and
E-F-R 2 times. F-G-I 2 times. F-G-T 2 times. F-I-R 4 times.
G-R-T 2 times.
It is interesting to see that the French-German combination occurring four
times. This reflects the solid nature of such an alliance. Whilst it may be hard
to win from such an alliance it is hard to be defeated. With both powers sitting
on the major stalemate lines it is always easy to build the units required to
prevent a breakthrough. This is why in postal play I am uneasy about setting up
the three way E-F-G alliance, feeling the F&G would be better off eliminating
England and then moving east.
France's flexibility in being able to build fleets so near to both sides of
the stalemate accounts for France's excellent ability to draw games.
from Yorkshire Gallant Issue #34, September 1988
(Published by Mark Nelson.)
Originally published in Electronic Protocol #46