The Sun Never Sets: A Strategic Analysis of Colonial Diplomacy

COLONIAL DIPLOMACY (CDP) is a game of grand strategy set during the great age of colonialism in the 19th century when the European powers, bristling with nationalistic fever, sent their forces into Africa, Asia and the Far East to “honorably” carve out their respective empires. It is also a game of intense DIPLOMACY in which the powers negotiate for alliances that will help their military objectives. These alliances come and go as the power balance changes in the colonial world, very reminiscent of the Napoleonic era half a century earlier. The use of DIPLOMACY’s game system is very apt in an era when alliances shifted and major powers bartered over colonies and traded concessions amongst themselves. The end result is an intriguing tactical game set amidst a Machiavellian world of trust and treachery. The great appeal of CDP is the multiplicity of strategy options available. The large board with its diverse geography, more land and sea spaces, more supply centers and more military units (when compared to DIPLOMACY) leads to a more complex game. The average number of units per player in DIP is four to five, whereas in CDP, each power quickly grows to eight or nine; and since the potential number of movement options and interactions between players increases exponentially with the number of units involved, there is an almost limitless number of possibilities each turn which will cause many tactical dilemmas. In addition to the mathematical possibilities, the nature of the geographic set-up leaves many of the major powers with several different grand strategies available (e.g., should Japan attack the mainland possessions of Russia and China or go after the Pacific Colonies using its fleet strength?). Each of these options for the major powers may well be quite sound, but the outcome of each may differ enormously depending on which combination of strategy options the other players have chosen. The Pacific option for Japan works well if the Dutch concentrate on Singapore, the Malay Peninsula and Ceylon, but it might be fruitless if they instead head straight for the Philippines and are aided by the British fleet in Hong Kong. Since this is one of the features of the game, it is worth analyzing the various strategic options available for each major power in an effort to try and come up with a clearer understanding of the relative strengths and weaknesses of each. Be warned however, that just when you think you have found the right game plan for a particular power, a new opponent will do the unexpected, forcing you to rethink your options; or worse, you draw a power you have not played before and the whole dilemma starts over again.


Britain was the most powerful of the colonial powers during the 19th century, and she proudly boasted that the sun never set on her Empire. The British inherits this vast empire which stretches across most of the mapboard from the naval base in Aden, to the great possessions in the Indian sub-continent and on to the island fortress of Singapore and the Crown Colony of Hong Kong. Starting the game with six units when the other major powers have mostly three or four, makes Britain look deceptively strong. Yet, after analyzing the position of these units and her geographical location in the center of the board, you realise that she is not as strong as first thought. The two armies in India (Madras and Delhi) are three provinces apart and thus not able to support each other. They need to move inland to capture further colonies and at the same time block the two main routes into India that lie at both ends of the Himalayan Mountains-which are impassable. This usually means going in different directions and leaving behind the coastal support offered by the fleet starting in Bombay. The Delhi army often heads toward Kashmir and Central Asia while the Madras army tries to take Bengal and some of Burma before the Chinese. This leaves them both widely separated on the board and forces Britain to deploy on two fronts right from game start. Keeping these two units together, although strengthening one front, would mean not only losing a potential build on the other front but also it would expose that front to an undefended attack. Britain ought to negotiate with the Chinese on the early turns, to avoid a standoff in Bengal and Kashmir, then with the resultant builds it can reinforce both fronts and have a good chance of holding on. The fleet in Aden situated at the mouth of the Red Sea is also three moves away from the nearest British unit, and its daunting task is to block Turkish naval expansion from the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. It may be supported by the Bombay fleet but this unit really needs to block the Persian Gulf and prevent the Baghdad fleet from entering the Indian Ocean. The two remaining fleets in Singapore and Hong Kong are isolated fleets situated far from the rest of the empire and their survival depends on tactical maneuvering and astute diplomacy. The intrinsic weakness of the starting locations of the six initial British units often escapes the notice of novice enemy players. The misconceived perception of British strength will be a fact of life for all British players until the game is better understood and may make diplomacy with her neighbors a little difficult. It is important that Britain does not compound her problems by being too aggressive in the early turns by attempting to grab every colony in sight. By the first counting turn, she can expect to pick up anywhere from two to a theoretical maximum of six colonies. Any power that starts strong and then grows alarmingly fast in the early turns is not going to fare too well at the negotiating table. If six colonies were gained-bringing her total to 12-the five major powers that border on the British Empire would have no trouble stripping her bare after a few counting turns. In the early game, Britain should consolidate, not make enemies and not expand aggressively. Otherwise by mid-game, she will find herself in the center of the board surrounded by five unsympathetic enemies. There are four main directions in which Britain can expand-two to the east and two to the west, so the British player is not going to be short on strategic options. Should one option be chosen on each front, or can a good ally be found on one front while an all out attack is made on the other?

Western Options

  1. To the northwest of India lie Kashmir, Kashgar, Karachi and the Persian Gulf oil states of Tabriz, Shiraz and Persia. Moving in this direction leaves the options open for an alliance with either Turkey or Russia who are also involved in this region. If these two are fighting, Britain will hold the balance of power and an alliance can be made with one of them. Be careful not to antagonize both because a solid alliance between Russia and the Ottomans can be disastrous for Britain. Karachi and Kashmir are potential gains in this area but neither are certainties, since both attacks can be stood off by the Turks and the Chinese respectively. The Bombay fleet can move to the Arabian Sea and then to Karachi as long as the Baghdad fleet takes Shiraz or Persia. It could cause a standoff in Karachi but both sides would lose a build, so if Turkey did this it would be an ominous sign that a deal had been struck with Russia and the combined aim was to limit Britain’s gains as much as possible. The Delhi army can move to Punjab and then to Karachi, but once again, a standoff is possible with the Chinese army from Sinkiang but the difference here is that China does not miss out on a build since it would remain in Kashgar (which is a supply center). Ascertaining China’s intentions in this area is important before committing the Delhi unit to an attack on Kashmir in order not to waste its move on a standoff. If China intends keeping Britain out of Kashmir, then it is wiser to use the Delhi unit to support the attack on Karachi by the Bombay fleet and be sure of at least one build in the area. Before giving up on Kashmir, however, China should be made aware that Russia’s natural area of expansion is into Central Asia and it is in the common interest of both China and Britain to have an alliance here and take Tashkent before Russia. China should therefore standoff a Russian attack on Tashkent if it is forthcoming rather than a British move on Kashmir.
  2. If Russia agrees that Turkey is to be attacked immediately, transporting the Madras army via the Bombay fleet to Arabia and combining with the fleet in Aden, enables Sudan, Egypt and then Turkey itself to be taken. Sudan is a sure build for the Fleet in Aden, but standing off a Turkish unit in Egypt may be more beneficial to the overall strategy because it limits Turkey’s builds by one. One less build for Britain is of no consequence at this stage, since there is no shortage of builds elsewhere. Sudan stays neutral but within easy reach for Britain.

Eastern Options

  1. To the east of India lie Bengal, Assam and the three provinces of Burma. The Madras army is not guaranteed Bengal as it can be stood off by China, so the Bombay fleet can be brought around to the Bay of Bengal to support into Bengal, Upper Burma or Rangoon. Negotiations with China and French Indo-China will determine the outcome here.
  2. The Dutch East Indies can be attacked, especially if France agrees to help. The Hong Kong fleet heads for the Sunda Sea and the Bombay fleet for the East Indian Ocean to combine with the Singapore fleet which hopes to capture Malaya. A fleet should be built in Madras and move to the Andaman Sea, making a total of five British units in the area. This should lead to many gains in the far east. Special mention needs to be made of the isolated fleets in Singapore and Hong Kong. To a new player it might look as though these units have no chance of survival isolated as they are in “foreign” territory. However, they are vital units-not only for their ability to capture other colonies, but more importantly, for their enormous potential in the diplomacy phase. What wouldn’t a Chinese or French player do to have the Hong Kong fleet’s assistance for an attack on Tongking or Canton! Similarly, the Singapore fleet is in a position to help both the French and the Dutch. The latter in particular does not want to be held up by fruitless standoffs in the Java Sea. The good will generated by these fleets can earn Britain some favors in Burma and Malaya. Britain will do well if she doesn’t fight a two-front war. She must make an ally out of China, France or Holland in the east and never take on both Russia and Turkey in the west.


China is the second of the centrally located powers on the board and because of its immense size and long frontiers, it can be attacked from the first turn by France. Britain, Russia and Japan. Good diplomacy early in the game is essential until at least two of the four possible invaders are friendly. The notable uniqueness of the Chinese set-up is that it is an entirely land-based power. The absence of a fleet reflects the fact that the Manchu rulers had an arrogant disregard for the rest of the world. Travel and trade were of no importance and the once powerful fleets of the 15th century were not maintained. By the time of the invasion by “Western Barbarians,” China had no fleet. For a land-based power with no fleet, a long coastline can present a problem. China needs to move its army units inland to pick up territory, but this leaves the Pacific coast and three of its starting provinces undefended. However, this can easily be rectified if China wants to adopt a “Pacific front” strategy, since she has no shortage of ports in which to build fleet units (Manchuria, Shanghai and Canton). An opening known as “the fleet maneuver leaves these three port cities open on the first counting turn. With China almost guaranteed at least three builds, she can hope to obtain two, if not three, fleets. Canton is the only one that is really in doubt because it depends on both France and Britain not attacking it on the very first turn. Good diplomacy should stop this and the knowledge that the Shanghai army is moving south to Nanchang to support Canton should convince them that Canton won’t fall easily. This strategy will enable China to go on the offensive in the Pacific and to have a chance of taking an array of provinces (Formosa. Seoul, Fusan, Hong Kong, and the Philippines) which otherwise would be left to Japan, Russia, France, and Holland. It also has defensive advantages as well. If all the Pacific colonies are left to foreign powers to mop up, what then is left to attack but the Chinese mainland? Without any Chinese fleet, the lone Russian fleet in Port Arthur is the only obstacle to the threat posed by Japan with its great fleet strength and it’s only a matter of time before Japan takes control of the Yellow Sea (which borders seven supply centers), and then attacks the Chinese mainland. The same applies to the South China Sea which is another very important strategic space. Attacks from here onto the coast usually result in the loss of Canton and then a domino effect up the coast occurs. Turning now to China’s land options, the northeast is the biggest worry. Japan, Russia and China form a deadly triangle in the intriguing battle for the Korean Peninsula and surrounding provinces. Two of the three will eventually form an alliance. China does not want to be the odd man out or it could be all over very soon. A cautious approach is strongly advised here. Take Mongolia with the Army in Peking, but don’t attack with the Manchurian army unless Russia offers you Seoul or Fusan. Let Russia and Japan fight over Korea and Vladivostok and, when the time is right, come in on the side which offers you the most. It is hard to say which of the two is the more desirable ally. Russia being a land-based power is always a threat, but a Japan that has eliminated Russia’s eastern provinces is equally difficult to stop, particularly with its strong fleet support. In the south, Assam and the provinces in Burma are a rich prize, but France and Britain feel the same way, so a fair split is the best option for China initially. Avoid making enemies on this front until the northeast is sorted out and any possibility of a combined Russian-Japanese attack is gone. This neutral approach in the south may help Canton survive the first turn because it is vulnerable to a supported attack from Tongking and Hong Kong. The loss of Canton is an undesirable start and every effort must be made to keep France and Britain friendly in the early part of the game. Assam and Upper Burma may be taken with France getting Mandalay and Rangoon and Britain getting Bengal. This should keep all parties happy for at least a couple of turns and will buy China valuable time to gain the two allies it needs. The Shanghai army is a very useful defensive unit which can be used both in the north and south. It can support Manchuria, which is vulnerable to a Russian attack from Port Arthur and Vladivostok. This frees-up the Peking Army which can then take Mongolia. If a deal is done with Russia and the Manchurian army takes Seoul (or backstabs Russia and takes Port Arthur or Vladivostok), the Shanghai unit can move to Manchuria and defend it as well as support the Manchurian army in Seoul.
On the other hand, it can be deployed south to Nanchang and support Canton if threatened by Britain and/or France. If the diplomacy has gone well and Canton is safe, this unit can take Chungking as an added bonus. From Nanchang, the Shanghai unit can cover both Canton and Shanghai if either look threatened by a single unit attacking. If neither are in any danger, then leaving both supply centers open allows two fleets to be built- part of the “fleet maneuver” mentioned above. Shanghai is the least likely to be attacked and if Russia’s Port Arthur fleet stands off the Japanese fleet (thus leaving the Yellow Sea empty), then Shanghai is perfectly safe and should be left open for a build. Canton is more at risk since there are two adjacent foreign powers. Good diplomacy here and a modicum of luck may result in a build in Canton, which really strengthens the southern part of China. The army in Sinkiang can move west to Kashgar or south to Assam and from these provinces it can stand off other powers (Russia in Tashkent and Britain in Bengal and Kasmir). This is an extremely useful unit which by attacking is actually defending China’s frontiers and preventing a neighboring power from obtaining a build. Which option it chooses depends on which power China ultimately wants to block: Russia or Britain. If China remains neutral early and picks up its internal builds (Mongolia and Chungking), it will be strong enough by mid-game with a force of eight or nine units to mobilize to whichever front is threatened and beat off any single aggressor.


French Indo-China is the third central power and-as such-should adhere to the doctrine that central powers should not be fighting amongst themselves while open to attack from the periphery. Britain, China and particularly France are in the center of the CDP mapboard and each are vulnerable to attack by two or more outside powers. It would be suicide to be fighting on an inner front and at the same time have to take on one or two powers on an outer front. For France, the outer threat comes from the Dutch and from Japan, but she also has to watch her inner border with China. A trusting alliance with China is essential and neither power can win if an all-out battle occurs early in the game, but the geography makes it extremely difficult to establish this alliance with Tongking and Canton being adjacent. Both powers want to move their units out of these cities toward Burma, but the threat of an immediate stab always hangs over them. There is also the logistical problem of mobilizing these armies, because Mandalay is adjacent to both Canton and Tongking and is the preferred route into Burma for both annies. If conflict is to be avoided, an even split of the available colonies here is the best option: China gets Assam and Upper Burma with France receiving Mandalay and Rangoon. The Tongking army can move to Mandalay, and China still is able to mobilize the Canton army via Yunnan into Upper Burma. This “carve-up” suits France better than other possible combinations, because it leaves its units in adjacent provinces which can support each other and they also make a strong defensive line guarding the western approach into Indo-China. Occupying Mandalay is desirable because it can guard Tongking and, if necessary, support an attack from Tongking into Canton later in the game (if so required). Regardless of what deals are made during the Diplomacy Phase, it takes a bold player to be the first to vacate Canton or Tongking. The Chinese player also has the British fleet in Hong Kong to consider, and is likely not to move on the first turn, so France has to be very trusting to order army Tongking to Mandalay without first establishing an alliance with the Chinese. Moving fleet Annam to guard Tongking is sound, but it is a wasted move if China is trustworthy and it is far better to move this fleet to the South China Sea and on to Formosa or the Philippines or to head for the Gulf of Siam and then Malaya. The importance of capturing Malaya and moving the fleet around into the Andaman Sea cannot be overstated, because this then gives vital support to Rangoon and Bangkok. A deal with the British safeguarding Hong Kong and Singapore, in return for Malaya, is worth trying. In fact, this could be part of an Anglo-French alliance, mobilizing for an attack into the Dutch East Indies. The remaining army in Cochin heads for Bangkok and hopefully takes it unless the Dutch stand it off from the Andaman Sea, which is unlikely because they have two or three other better targets. Assuming Britain and China remain friendly or at least neutral, this opening results in two, if not three, builds by the first counting turn and brings the French total to five or six units, which is a strong start. Some French players propose a very aggressive opening which requires an alliance with the British and an immediate attack on Canton by the Tongking army supported by the British fleet in Hong Kong. The justification to the Chinese for this is that Canton is a “sitting duck” entirely undependable, outnumbered 2 to 1. ..and France wants it. If China accepts this as a quirk of fate and blames the bad geography, a strong reassurance that no more Chinese territory will be taken might be enough to persuade China to join the alliance and all three allies are then free to tend to their outer fronts (and China in particular has plenty to worry about especially in the northeast). Are the Dutch friend or foe? This is the million dollar question for France. They are probably more interested in getting to the Philippines before the Japanese than attacking Indo-China and initially they have to worry about the British fleet in Singapore. For this reason, it is a good idea to propose an alliance which is in fact very strong. France and Holland with their combined fleet strength can beat Japan to the Philippines and block Japan’s southward progress at Formosa. A second possibility for this alliance is to simultaneously mobilize westward and attack India. Dutch fleets in Ceylon, Gulf of Manaar and Bay of Bengal (with the French army attacking out of Burma into Bengal) would be difficult to stop. This is very effective when Britain is facing a Turkish-Russian alliance and has to leave India unguarded. Although an unlikely combination, these two are well suited as allies. If the idea of having the Dutch at your rear leaves you feeling a little uncomfortable (especially if war with China is a possibility), then an attack into the East Indies with British support early in the game will severely weaken the Dutch if not wipe them out. The French fleet can link up with the British fleets from Hong Kong and Singapore. Malaya is guaranteed and Sarawak will soon be threatened. Two fleet builds each for France (Annam and Cochin) and Britain (Madras and Hong Kong-and possibly a third if Singapore is open) and the pressure is really on the Dutch. The prize is the five colonies in the East Indies and then the Philippines. By midgame, conflict with Britain or China is likely, so if the alliance with Britain is going well the time is right to attack China. With fleet support from Hong Kong and South China Sea, Canton should fall to the Tongking army. Moves into Nanchang by the French and into Tibet by the British will soon have China outflanked and in trouble. If Britain is doing too well in the Persian Gulf Area, she may have to be attacked instead of China. A well-timed stab by France mates this quite easy, because the British units in the East Indies are always outnumbered by the French farces there. France can pick up another three or four colonies this way. France’s position on the mapboard demands that she never be fighting with more than one of her three neighbors-China, Britain and Holland, and the other two must be kept as allies well into the midgame at which point she will be able to break out.


The Dutch East Indies, being one of the two real “board-edge” powers (Japan being the other), is situated in an enviable corner of the board with no threat to its rear and no nearby major power which can attack it en masse on the first two turns. French units are at least four turns away from the nearest Dutch starting center as is the British Fleet in Hong Kong or a fleet from Madras (created on the first build by Britain). This appears to give the Dutch a great defensive advantage with four turns in which to grab any available builds and consolidate before an enemy power can strike. However the geography of the East Indies makes the true situation a lot more difficult with the three Dutch supply centers all being separated from each other by the Java Sea. Thus, the three home centers are defensively weak and Holland needs to use the first few turns to consolidate its defensive position before any of its centers come under attack. The isolated British fleet in Singapore is the only unit that can bother the Dutch, but it shouldn’t be underestimated, since it has access to the Java Sea (which is the key to the defense of the East Indies). The Java Sea is of immense strategic importance as it borders six colonies: defensively, it guards all three Dutch home centers and offensively allows attacks into Singapore, Malaya and Sarawak. Once a fleet occupies the Java Sea, the initially weak defensive position is in fact quite strong. The opening moves for Holland fall into two categories. 1. The Defensive Option (which guarantees the Java Sea). This necessitates one fleet supporting the other into the Java Sea in order to stop a standoff by the Singapore fleet. Then, on the second turn there is a 50% chance of taking Singapore or Malaya by out-guessing the British move with the Singapore fleet. If either of these colonies are taken, the British threat is removed because the isolated fleet is no match for four Dutch fleets especially if the British fleet ends up in Singapore. However there is also a 50% chance, if the wrong guess is made, of Britain picking up Malaya and gaining a fleet build in Singapore. (This occurs if the Singapore fleet is ordered to Malaya on turn one and back to Singapore on turn two, but is stood off in Singapore by the Dutch fleet ordered from Java Sea to Singapore.) If this happens, the British may choose to fortify their position on the Malayan Peninsula by reinforcing the area with the Hong Kong fleet and sending a newly built fleet in Madras to the East Indian Ocean or the Andaman Sea. This brings the British fleet strength to four and evens up the odds with the Dutch. Sarawak which can be taken by the army in Borneo is the only sure build, so this opening secures the Java Sea and strengthens the Dutch by one or two colonies. For some players, this is not acceptable and a more aggressive and risky option is chosen. 2. The Offensive Option Renegotiate the “Strait’s Settlement” agreement and give Malaya to Britain in return for not entering the Java Sea. Then fleet Java takes New Guinea and army Borneo takes Sarawak. The fleet in Sumatra can take Ceylon (and risk antagonizing Britain) or move to the Andaman Sea and chance taking Rangoon or Bangkok. This opening can guarantee three builds (if Ceylon is attacked) and gets Holland off to a great start if Britain is good for its word. If Britain does enter the Java Sea on turn one and threatens to take a home colony, it is still better to go for the three builds than to try and guess which of the three home centers the British fleet will attack. A wrong guess loses a home center and the third build. In this situation, the loss of a colony is not too great a disaster since the net gain of two builds brings the number of Dutch units to five which can deal with the two British fleets. If Britain keeps its word and stays out of the Java Sea, this is a much better option than the defensive approach. French intervention on the British side (regardless of which of the above options is chosen) is a real worry and every effort should be made to keep France as an ally. If this fails, China must be encouraged to attack French Indo-China from the north which will cause France to pull back in defense. The three colonies in the Philippines are Holland’s major objective and little time should be lost getting there. Japan, France and Holland are equidistant from the Philippines, but Japan wants Korea before the Russians get it and France can be held up getting into the South China Sea by the British fleet in Hong Kong. Therefore, the Dutch have a good chance of getting there first. It may even be worth foregoing the New Guinea build with the Java fleet and plotting Java Sea to Celebes Sea to Davao then to Cebu [Or Timor Sea to Celebes Sea]. If Japan does head straight south with the Tokyo Fleet and plots Upper Pacific to Middle Pacific then to Cebu. she can be there before the Dutch, so time is of the essence and a fruitless standoff with Britain in the Java Sea must be avoided or Japan will end up with most of the Philippines. At this point, an alliance with either Japan or France is beneficial in order to keep on the offensive. With France, the Japanese can be pushed back to Formosa and all further progress south halted. When the Japanese threat is removed, the Dutch can think about expanding up the Malayan Peninsula or across to India. If Japan is chosen as an ally, French IndoChina, Hong Kong and mainland China can be attacked. This combination may turn out to be the eastern “steam-roller” of the CDP board with the two sweeping westward across the mapboard. The next task for Holland once Japan is no longer a concern (being either bottled up or a confirmed ally) is to take Singapore and the Malayan Peninsula. Control of the Sunda Sea and Andaman Sea are necessary for this. The latter is also important for attacks into Bangkok and Rangoon, so the Dutch must make the Andaman Sea a prorty. Leaving Singapore in British hands may be necessary if an alliance with Britain is required to attack French Indo-China. When the British alliance is no longer needed and Britain’s pleas are ignored, Singapore can be taken followed by an attack on Ceylon and Madras which will end all further Anglo-Dutch negotiations, not that there will be much left of India if a French ally attacks Bengal at the same time. Once India falls, the Dutch can pretty well choose to go wherever they please.


The islands of Japan, tucked away in the northeast corner of the board completely surrounded by water, have an excellent defensive advantage. They can only be attacked by sea, and the nearest fleet is the Russian fleet in Port Arthur, which is two turns away with the next closest being the British fleet in Hong Kong which is four turns away. They have an isolated geographical position which is defensively strong. Even the Port Arthur fleet need not be of any concern because it can be stood off in the Yellow Sea by the Kyushu fleet, so until the foreign powers have mobilized or built enough fleet units, Japan will not be threatened. The most difficult strategic decision for Japan at the start of the game is whether to attack the mainland or the Pacific colonies of Formosa and the Philippines. Some players choose to send one fleet south to the Philippines and the remaining two to attack the mainland. but a half-hearted effort in either area might not reap any results at all, so Japan must be decisive in her early moves.

  1. The Mainland Option. Historically, the Korean Peninsula and Manchuria were viewed as natural spheres of Japanese influence; this knowledge is a good policy for the Japanese player to consider. This will of course, put Japan on a head-on collision course with Russia. whose far east policy is to expand into these very same areas. China as the unfortunate landlord of the hotly contested real-estate in Manchuria is soon going to complete the triangle of powers involved in the intriguing battle that follows. The Yellow Sea is one of the most important spaces on the board. It borders seven colonies and must be taken if Japan is to make rapid progress in Korea. The Kyushu fleet should be ordered there and the Otaru fleet to the Sea of Japan. If the Russian Port Arthur fleet causes a standoff, support from Sea of Japan will guarantee the Yellow Sea on the second turn. Admittedly no builds are achieved with these two units by the first count but owning the Yellow Sea is far more valuable at this stage and will ensure further gains. Not all players are this conservative and by moving the Tokyo fleet to the Okhotsk Sea (instead of south to the Philippines), one or more of the coastal provinces can be picked up. Fleet Sea of Japan can try to outguess the Russians and attack Fusan, Seoul or Vladivostok. It can also support the Okhotsk fleet into Vladivostok. This is a nightmare for the Russian and predicting the exact point of attack is virtually impossible, so if Japan wants to gamble it may come up with one or two builds. On the other side of the coin, however, it may get none and again be stood off in the Yellow Sea. If this happens, you will wish you had taken the conservative approach because your job is now that much harder, especially if Russia has gained a build and you can bet it will be a fleet! Sakhalin is there for the taking but at what price if Russia is able to build a fleet in Vladivostok? Although an easy build is tempting. pressure on Vladivostok is more important. Sakhalin can be picked up later. Although Japan is a major naval power, the army unit in Kyoto is also extremely useful. It can be convoyed to the mainland for attacks on Fusan, Seoul and Vladivostok (which leaves the two fleets in the Yellow Sea and Sea of Japan respectively). This means that subsequent attacks will have two supports instead of one and it will expedite the taking of the Korean Peninsula. To make large territorial gains in Asia, army units have to be built and convoyed across. The sooner this process is started the better. The outcome in this prized part of the board is always going to be determined by alliances and Japan should make an ally very early. A solid alliance between Russia and China can totally block Japan’s expansion onto the mainland and every effort must be made to prevent its occurrence. The choice between China and Russia as the preferred ally is academic, since either can serve Japan’s purposes and the decision may come down to how well they are both doing on their other fronts. The importance of the Yellow Sea can be seen again in this context since it allows attacks onto either enemy. Once an alliance is established, the third party should be taken out as quickly as possible and then Japan will he in a position of strength on the mainland and will not be dislodged easily.
  2. The Pacific Option. By negotiating a non-aggression pact with Russia and taking one province each in Korea, the remaining two fleets can steam south immediately. fleet Tokyo can pick up Formosa and fleet Kyushu can be in Cebu on turn 3 and possibly Davao on turn 4, thus securing all of the Philippines (just get the British to stop Holland’s Java fleet from entering the Java Sea for one turn). By correct maneuvering, the two Japanese fleets can mount a supported attack on Davao by turn 4 and take it regardless of the Dutch move. The situation is slightly more complicated if a British or French fleet is in the Luzon strait and capable of attacking Formosa, Manila or Cebu, but the diplomatic tensions surrounding Canton, Tongking and Hong Kong usually preclude such an early excursion into the areas of the Philippines by these two powers. The army unit in Kyoto has a defensive role in this Pacific option and should not be convoyed away. When the Kyushu fleet steams south toward the Philippines, the Yellow Sea can be entered by the Russian Port Arthur fleet (thus exposing Kyoto and Kyushu to attack). Despite Russian reassurances that there is no threat to Japan by such a move, the risk of a back stab is always there and although the Kyoto unit can only defend one of the two home provinces, it will at least keep the Russian guessing if he intends to break his word. (Kyushu is connected by a “land bridge” to Kyoto so the army can defend either space). Japan has three potential allies in the Pacific region:
  3. CHINA-for an attack into French IndoChina. Hong Kong can be taken on the way.
  4. FRANCE-for attacks into China or the Dutch East Indies.
  5. HOLLAND-for an attack into French Indo-China and then China itself. All three of these are good options and diplomacy will determine which alliances are formed and in which direction the Japanese attack will subsequently go. This Pacific option does not, of course, rule out a mainland attack at a later stage but making enemies on that front has to wait until the Philippines are secured. Regardless of which strategy is chosen, Japan’s natural defensive advantage brought about by being a corner power combined with the offensive power of three fleets, make it a power with which to be reckoned.


Russia’s immense size means that it starts the game in a unique position and must fight a two-front war. The defensive advantage of having no great powers to the north is negated by having four to the south: China and Japan on the eastern front and Turkey and Britain on the western front. The Trans-Siberian Railroad is the key to Russia’s success as it allows for the rapid mobilization of a unit from one front to the other. It helps to quickiy plug a hole in what may appear as a weak defensive line, and its value should not be underestimated. (This advantage does not pass on to other powers which invade Russia since only Russian units may use the railroad.)

  1. The Eastern Front. The two Russian units in Port Arthur and Vladivostok are isolated at game start and are defensively weak, so moving the army in Vladivostok to Seoul where it can support Port Arthur is advised. The Omsk army can be railed east to defend Vladivostok and give Russia three units in the area. The Port Arthur fleet should move to the Yellow Sea and at worst standoff the Japanese; this space is just as crucial for Russia as it is for Japan. If Japan heads south and doesn’t contest the Yellow Sea, many options become available. Pusan or Manchuria can be attacked but the latter should only be done if it appears likely that two builds are possible in the east. In fact this is the challenge for Russia on the Pacific coast, to leave one or both of its home centers open to enable a build because this would bring the number of Russian units in the east to four or five which is enough to not only survive but also to go on the offensive. After the first builds, if another unit can be spared and railed to Jrkutsk, then the immediate threat to Vladivostok will have passed. Then it’s time to establish a good ally and debate over what is better for Russia; an alliance with China that assures that the Japanese never get a foothold on the mainland, or one with Japan that allows the conquest of China and seven of its tempting supply centers (not counting Canton which will be in French hands if China gets into trouble). Many players feel that to invite Japan onto the mainland is inviting trouble and that eventually you will have to contend with your ally! As a result, encouraging Japan to go after the Pacific colonies is often the main thrust of Russian propaganda. Russia starts to sweat when Japan begins building armies. The advocates of an alliance with Japan point out that China is Russia’s natural enemy; they are both land-based powers and share an enormous common border, so why delay the inevitable? If Japan and Russia divide Korea between them, the fruitless Yellow Sea standoffs can be avoided, Russia can attack China, and Japan can take the Philippines (maximizing the builds for both sides). The outcome in the east is always in doubt, so the west appears to be the main theater for Russia but if she can do well early and consolidate in the east, the platform for a Russian win will be laid.
  2. The Western Front. The fleet, which starts in Odessa, must do what all fleets do- SAIL, and where can it sail but south toward Turkey’s home centers Constantinople and Angora? Add to this the fact that Rumania lies tantalizingly between Odessa and Constantinople and the seeds of mistrust are already sewn between Russia and the Ottoman Turks. So what does the Odessa fleet do if war with Turkey is to be avoided? Take Rumania is the obvious answer, but since Turkey will not agree to this, the promise of Tabriz and Shiraz to Turkey should be enough to placate her. If a more aggressive opening is desired, a move to the Black Sea is perfect as it borders all three targets: Rumania, Constantinople and Angora. A trusting Turkey (which has gone south) would then be in a difficult position. The army in Moscow is capable of taking Tabnz, Persia or Tashkent by the first counting turn and the choice depends on how negotiations with the neighboring powers have gone. Taking Tabriz upsets the Turks. Persia is a neutral option, as is Tashkent, but both of these bring Russia closer to conflict with Britain and later China. War with Britain is ill-advised unless a firm alliance with Turkey is formed. It is better to let Turkey annoy Britain first and hopefully Britain’s efforts will be channeled up the Red Sea or the Persian Gulf, thus leaving Russia alone. The fate of all three (Russia, Britain, and Turkey) will ultimately be decided by alliances, so keep out of trouble early. For Russia, taking out Britain or Turkey are equally good options which will therefore keep the other two guessing. The army in Omsk deserves special consideration. To which front does it belong? There are convincing arguments for its use on both fronts. By using the Trans-Siberian railroad, it can quickly strengthen the east and prevent Vladivostok from falling. It can then give support to help take (or hold onto) Manchuria or Seoul. On the other hand, if it heads south and takes Tashkent it strengthens Russia’s “center” against China and Britain; the Moscow army can then take Persia or Tabriz. The two builds (both armies) thus achieved should further strengthen the Russian “center” and enable central Asia (Kashgar, Kashmir, and Karachi) to be attacked. This option also allows the build in Omsk to be railed east on the third turn if the situation on the Pacific coast calls for it. So it can be seen that this is indeed a very versatile unit that has the ability to drastically increase Russia’s strength on either front.


The Ottoman Empire’s location on the western edge of the mapboard appears to have all the advantages of a “corner” power, but this belies the real geographical truth. Just to the north, Russia is poised to attack south toward Turkey and the Persian Gulf oil states. And the British fleet in Aden can take Egypt and the Sudan, thus bottling Turkey up in the Mediterranean Sea and forcing her to fight with Russia. Historically, Russia wanted control of the Balkans and the Black Sea and this is usually what happens in the game. The importance of the Black Sea to both powers is obvious as it borders four supply centers, two of which are Turkey’s home centers. The only way to prevent another “Crimean War” is for intense negotiations with Russia on the first turn, pointing out that there is more to be gained in the Persian Gulf oil states and Central Asia than there is fighting over the Black Sea and Rumania. Unfortunately, even if Russia agrees to keep the Black Sea neutral, the burning question of who gets Rumania remains. If it is to remain neutral, Russia will argue that its Black Sea fleet might as well be in dry-dock as there is nothing left for it to do (Russia generally doesn’t agree that patrolling the Baku coastline is a worthy mission). Some very trusting Turkish players may allow the Russian fleet to sail into the Mediterranean Sea and through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea area to join Turkish forces there and help break through a British blockade of the Red Sea. If Russia can be trusted, at least for the short term, maximum gains can be made on the first two turns. Fleet Constantinople sails to Egypt, army Angora heads for Tabriz and fleet Baghdad enters the Persian Gulf and then has the choice of attacking Karachi, Persia or Shiraz. This gives three builds and makes Turkey not only defensively strong but gives her the ability to then take on Russia or Britain. This raises the question of how to handle Britain, which appears very strong (starting the game with six units). However, only three British units (Delhi, Bombay and Aden) are anywhere near Turkey and even these are fairly remote and do not support each other. The initial urge to “go fight the British” must be restrained since leaving your home centers unguarded while fighting in Persia and the Red Sea could be too much of a temptation for your Russian ally (who can quickly seize Constantinople and Angora). Once again there is a triangle of powers here and the non-aligned power will almost certainly be wiped out if it can’t get assistance from China, France or Holland.

Both Britain and Russia make a perfect ally for Turkey and the choice is arbitrary and will depend on the prevailing game circumstances. A Russo-Turkish alliance would certainly constitute a western “steamroller”, and unless China sends units west to help Britain, they may be difficult to stop. This option works best if Britain has sent the bulk of its force north into Central Asia and Persia, because Russia will have to face the brunt of the British attack as it advances on Tashkent. In this instance, the fleet in Aden and its build obtained from Sudan may be the only units blocking Turkey’s passage down the Red Sea and out into the Indian Ocean. Once the blockade is broken the Indian subcontinent is only two moves away, and if Britain is engaged on its northern frontier, it will have trouble coming back to defend the southern tip of India. Ceylon, Madras, and Bombay may be taken leading to the collapse of the British Empire. The one problem with this alliance is that Russia always remains menacingly close on Turkey’s northern border, and if Turkey fails to make a build on a particular turn and Russia does, Constantinople and Angora are likely to fall in a very effective back-stab, dealing Turkey a death blow. A Russian fleet stationed in the Black Sea will always be tempted to take the Turkish home centers no matter how good the alliance is and the potential for a stab is greater when Russia owns Rumania, thus having two units threatening Constantinople at all times. An alliance between Turkey and Britain (if successful) has a great advantage in that it eliminates the Russian threat to the north, leaving Turkey in control of the entire western edge of the board and with no major powers on three of its fronts. If this option is chosen, a good opening ploy is to suggest to Russia that the Odessa fleet take Rumania and then move fleet Constantinople to the Black Sea and army Angora to Constantinopole. This gives a 2:1 attack onto Rumania and the extra build would give Turkey three units around the Black Sea (which is enough to then take Odessa and perhaps Moscow). The Baghdad fleet can forego its build and stand off the Moscow army attempting to move to Persia. The result is four units to two in Turkey’s favor and if Britain is able to take Tashkent, Russia will soon be eliminated on this front. With Russia gone the only major power to worry about is Britain, and if war with the former ally occurs, Turkey is better placed to win than Britain which has to fight on two other fronts. Either of these options suits Turkey which in fact can be a very strong power.


Of course, success in implementing these options is based on careful diplomacy and planning. Application of these strategies may fail miserably, but don’t discount the few threads of ideas proposed above. Even in a game like CDP, where victory is based on the kindness and cooperation of your allies (and enemies), careful order writing and sending your fleets and armies into the right direction can force issues that may have otherwise rested just below the surface. Weighing the pros and cons of these ideas will take time, but soon you’ll discover the fleet/army move combinations that will bring victory to the throne of your empire. Good luck and don’t let the sun set on your shores!