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:




In Autumn the following moves would set up the powers for a strong push in 1902:




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:




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 all about.

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).

Mark’s Comments

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 vice versa.

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.

Reprinted from Yorkshire Gallant Issue #34, September 1988
(Published by Mark Nelson.)
Originally published in Electronic Protocol #46