by Steve Arnawoodian
England, according to Trivial Pursuit, is the country most easily defended in the game of Diplomacy. The defensive position also makes it the best country for a novice to play. Unfortunately, as an island nation it is also very difficult for England to get an 18-center win.
As the game begins, you have a few goals to accomplish. First, develop friendly relations with Russia. Let Russia know that if he does not move A Moscow-St. Petersburg (unlikely in any case unless Ken Peel is the Russian player) and contest your right to Norway, you will not convoy your army to Norway. Second, seize control of the North Sea and maintain it throughout the game. Third, establish an alliance with Germany and/or France. Fourth, convince Germany or France–pre-ferably both–that Belgium should become an English center in 1901. Fifth, place an army on the continent no later than 1902.
There are two ways to play each of the seven countries in Diplomacy: aggressively or laid-back. The passive approach to the play of England will see you move F London-North Sea, F Edinburgh-Norwegian Sea, and A Liverpool- Edinburgh.
In Fall 1901 you would move F Norwegian Sea-Norway, F North Sea-Belgium and A Edinburgh-Yorkshire. If all goes well, and it often does for England in 1901, you will have aggravated no one, picked up two centers, and have left all your home centers open so you can place your two builds where you feel they are most advantageous. As with the other six nations, you can only play the “don’t rock the boat” approach for so long, though.
In 1902 it is up to you to decide whether Germany or France will be your best ally. You may even decide to try a triple alliance with both Germany and France. The only positive aspect of this from an English standpoint is that Russia falls quickly. On the negative side, there are only so many centers you can take (Norway, Belgium, Sweden, St. Petersburg, and possibly Moscow). If you opt for the triple do not plan on it for the long term. Sooner or later you will have to stab Germany or France. Luckily, the Western Triple leaves England in the ideal position to do exactly that.
For the aggressive play of England you are going to need a firm alliance with Germany and a Russia who is involved in the south. You might then consider an anti-French opening: A Liverpool-Wales, F London-English Channel, and F Edinburgh-North Sea.
In Fall 1901 your options are many and you can open with anti-French actions by moving F English Channel-Belgium (often a senseless move as France will never trust you again). You might convoy A Wales to Belgium, Picardy or Brest. If you believe France will not cover Brest, then A Wales-Brest convoyed by F English Channel is your best move. If you’re certain France will cover Brest, consider moving F English Channel-Mid Atlantic. You then would have a unit bordering Spain, Portugal and Brest. Remember, France is a tough opponent at any time. But if you can get a jump on him in Spring 1901, your chances of success are much greater.
What happens if Germany and France ally against you? Certainly it will take them a while to beat you. But if you sit back and simply wait you will eventually be wiped out. You’re going to have to write France and Germany. Promise them anything and everything if they’ll leave you alone. Next, plead with Russia, Austria and Italy. Get them to attack Germany and France. Point out that without England around, France will never fall. If you receive the help of Italy and either Russia or Austria, Germany and France will be forced to go on the defensive. You will once again be able to take the offensive.
One final point. As England, do not strangle yourself by constantly building fleets. Fleets can only go so far. Try to keep a balance of armies and fleets. There are many alternative to the play of England; you will have to decide what play works best for you in the context of each game.