by Robert Slossar, Jr.
France enjoys a unique strategic position because it can occupy two neutral supply centers–Spain and Portugal–in 1901 without interference from any other power. The only thing that might delay the 1901 French occupation of Iberia is an attack by England or Italy against the French homeland.
Therefore, France should make a concerted effort to ensure that neither England nor Italy attack her in 1901. Usually Italy will have no interest in attacking France early on. England may require some convincing; France should be willing to promise England almost anything in exchange for England’s promise not to attack France and not to enter the English Channel. Even if France intends to attack England in 1902 she should be friendly towards England in 1901. France should also communicate positively with Germany, especially if England is the intended victim. Of course, it is always a good idea to at least introduce yourself to all of the players in the game.
No matter how hard France tries, there will be times when England and Germany both attack her. This does not mean that the game is over or that the French player should give up hope. It does mean that the French player has a lot of work ahead to turn the situation around. The French player should not be proud; he should ask everyone for help, including England and Germany. Remember that during WWII Churchill indicated that if Germany had invaded Hell he would have made a couple of favorable references to the Devil before the House of Commons.
The French player should try to break up the attack alliance any way he can. One suggestion is to tell the English how untrustworthy the German is and tell the German how the English plan to do in Germany. France should also ask Austria and Italy to attack Germany and push Russia to attack both England and Germany. Austria, Italy, Russia and Turkey should be convinced that England and Germany must be stopped before they become too strong, i.e. before they defeat France. With some work and luck France will be able to withstand an early attack by her neighbors and will even be able to prosper as the game progresses.
An opening in Diplomacy is a matter of personal style and choice, but that will not stop me or anyone else from telling you which opening is best. France’s best opening is F Brest-Mid Atlantic, A Paris-Burgundy, and A Marseilles supports A Paris-Burgundy. This allows France to defend against possible German treachery and it also gives France at least a say in who will get Belgium. When the French player is sure that the English are going to try for the Channel, he should order F Brest-English Channel. France can still pick up Iberia by ordering A Marseilles-Spain and A Paris-Gascony, but that puts an awful lot of trust in the Germans, and it may prove to be more temptation than even an ally can resist. It is better to lose a build in 1901, though, than to have German troops on French soil.
The question arises: how long should France stay with an ally? Generally, you should stay with an alliance as long as it is beneficial to do so, but it is important to remember that in Diplomacy one should do unto others before they do unto you.
It is important to remember that France’s position is unique because she is a traditional land power between two traditional sea powers, namely England and Italy. Because of her position, France must build enough fleets to compete with England and Italy, but must also build enough armies to compete with Germany. Clearly, the French player must walk a tightrope between land and sea power, with each game and player’s style calling for a different mix.