Strategic Diplomacy (Part 5) – England

by Harry Drews

Playing England is not the easy task envisioned by some people. While England intrinsically possesses a good deal of military clout, diplomacy will be required to forestall England’ s neighbours banding together against her. The same principals that governed Great Britain’s course of action throughout history up to the time of the First World War are equally applicable to the game. The three cornerstones of British foreign policy were: 1) England had to maintain control of the seas; 2) trade and banking were the mainstays of Great Britain’s economy (her freedom in these areas in all potential markets had to be maintained); and 3) England throughout the successful periods of her history was able to maintain a balance of power. Of these three, only the second is not successfully incorporated into Diplomacy.

In a nutshell, England’s strategy is to work for a balance of powers in every area of the mapboard. If no pretender to the throne of Europe is allowed to arise then consequently the crown becomes England’s. If England is able to dominate her three neighbours, Russia, Germany and France – then she is allowed this persuasive influence. I do not just mean physical domination, although this will be a part, but what is required is diplomatic domination and endless correspondence, in which the English viewpoint is impressed upon the recipient, either subtly or dramatically. I envision the successful English player as being a strong, unfearing master who is certain that what is best for England is best for Europe. Proper manipulation of her three neighbours will have inevitable and calculated consequences on even the most remote power on the board.

The logical area of conquest is St. Petersburg, Berlin, Munich, Marseilles, Tunis, and the centres between these cities, for a total of eighteen centres. The furthest point of advance in the Mediterranean usually is the Italian mainland. It is unlikely that any Balkan centres or provinces bordering the Black Sea will be attainable. This means that neither Russia nor France can be left as survivors. It is, therefore, inevitable that the same three neighbours must be stabbed in turn. Russia, as an ally of England, will serve little purpose in waging war on France or Germany. There is a lack of access to France and there would be undesirable competition in Germany; also, the Russian bear once fed well, will probably prove to be too fearsome to tame. Russia’s value lies in her great influence upon Turkey and the Balkans. As long as Russia and Turkey are not allied to depose Austria, then Russia should be left alone to act as a balancing force. Logically, it follows that if Russia is left to make its own way, then Germany must survive as a strong presence to counter act Russia. Then, at England’s pleasure she can throw the lot in with whomever she wishes.

Austrian ascendancy – perhaps with Italian assistance – is not to be feared. If hostilities between Italy and France can be provoked, then England should step in with German help and attack Russia. If not, then England should attack France. The idea is to secure one corner of the new British Empire. Austria and Italy can only make limited gains in the other corner, and then to finally secure the centre from Germany. England is in a position to pivot easily, and cannot often be stalemated out of what she plans to acquire. An attack on Germany is always both viable and profitable; because Germany is under the thumb of England it is desirable for England to ally with Germany whenever possible. In the early and middle game, the combination of English naval might and German continental domination can be deadly. Because Germany has no excuse to build fleets, and because she is forever vulnerable to an English stab, she is the perfect long-term ally.

France is only useful as mediocre alliance material. Again, a parallel can be drawn from history. It is impossible to win as England without the French centres, and the longer France survives the harder it will be to defeat her. The decision that must be made on when to stab France is dependant upon the Balkans: What is Italy doing, and more important what should be done with Russia?

England must scramble in the early going to prevent a Franco-German joint attack on her, or perhaps even a three-way attack on her. The lurid consequences which would face Germany if this happened should be pointed out. England should play on the joint France-Russian stab that will surely follow. Emphasise that England is the sole power that can counteract this. If the early massive attack on England does not occur, then England has quite a fair chance of victory. At the same time, write your fingers down to the bone by writing to all the other powers. Massive diplomacy with verve will stave off almost every multi-directional attack, unless your neighbours have entered the game with the pre-conceived notions of doing away with England right away. In this case, use your last resort; defend in such a manner that you are able to oppose the player you dislike the most. England can use the balance of power argument when corresponding with an undecided power. It also does no harm to let Germany get a larger proportion of the supply centres in the early going. As long as a thin line of English fleets is established all along the frontiers, England can take these centres when she wants. In this case there is nothing wrong with being an Indian giver.

A good technique in 1901 is to work to create some incident that will throw Germany into your camp. Get Germany to move the fleet to Kiel in the spring then to Denmark in the fall. Arrange for France to move to Burgundy, or get a squabble over Belgium started. Work towards provoking distrust between Italy and France. The basis for these manoeuvres is to use diplomacy to edge Germany into a position where she can get no immediate assistance against you, or she is moved against another neighbour in irritation. One cardinal rule is to never participate in a joint attack on Germany.

Perhaps the English requirement of free trade has been designed into the game. If England can ply the sea lanes with freedom and obtain scattered supply centres, then at the right time these scattered holdings can be integrated into a solid eighteen centres. As long as England ensures this mobility then she is still calling the piper’s tune.

Reprinted from Paroxysm 7, May 1975.