How to Play France

by Scott Kauzlarich and Ryan Sprau

General Thoughts

France is always one of the first two countries picked when our Dip games get going. And it is generally considered to be the best country to have. Which is both good and bad. ITs good because they’re right–France is a great country to have–my personal favorite and in ryan’s top three. But everyone knows that France wins a lot, so it is tough to get along with your neighbors sometimes. France is so flexible. You can launch a quick attack on your neighbors, you can puff up and play solid “D”, and you have a number of alliances to play around with. France is fun.

Life in the West

Unless you are going to have a triple alliance (F,E,G) the three “western powers” of France, england, and germany are going to have to settle who is the boss on the left side of the board. As France, Your most vital negotiations should be with Germany and England. You will Always always have to deal with these two.
Just as a rule of thumb, remember that ENGLAND IS MORE DANGEROUS THAN GERMANY to you. I hope this is clear. The reason for this is primarily tactical. If you look at the board you’ll notice that France’s border with Germany hinges on two spaces, Burgundy and Picardy (Sometimes Belgium). The reason that Germany is less of a threat to you than England is that very often, a German assault against France boggs down here. Many Germany’s have tried and failed to break into France via the Ruhr-Burgundy corridor. It just doesn’t work. Three armies can hold out forever against germany. The German player alone can never beat France. This is true with most countries, of course, but it is especially true here, and since Germn players constantly try to ram into France, it should be pointed out to them repeatedly when you play the light blue pieces.

England, if she gets strong, hangs over your head like the Sword of Damocles. A big England can never be trusted, because she can fall upon you with lighting speed and lethality. this is partly because often times France is army-heavy and unable to deal with fleet-rich England’s sweeping thrusts into the Mid-Atlantic and English Channel.

It is true, of course, that England and France make a powerful alliance–happily chopping up German pieces and growing fat early. DONT DO IT! An alliance with England must be approached with caution. Obviously there are no absolutes, but if you had to pick, take a German alliance over an English one. English-French alliances are profitable early, but eventually, England must stab you in order to go for the win–and all too often, a careless France turns her back on England–inviting the knife! You have too. You can’t ally with England and keep fleets in the waters you need to protect yourself. England simply bides her time and waits for you to sally off against the italians or whoever and then pow! Hammer time.

A triple alliance between the three western countries is likewise not very profitable in the long run. For the same reasons, only this time, maybe england will strike Germny instead of you.

How to get at those guys

The way to win in the west is to control England. This is easier said than done England is really a defensible country. not as tough as Turkey in my mind, but tough still. The key here is Russia. Technically not a western poer, Russia will often play the key role here. you must discourage all Russian/English alliances. If not, it will be all you and Germny can do to stay afloat. And if Russia also allies with Turkey…Well, the game will be short. Hold out Norway to the Czar. Convince Germany that the two of you can get Norway back to him easily enough Covince Russia that if he takes Norway, Germany’s denmark will soon be his and then ooh-la-la who know what! We’re really coming to the secret as France, I feel. Balancing Russia. Getting Russia to get involved in the west always helps you–she will rub Germany and England wrong, causeing them to turn their backs to you. No matter what happens, if Russia gets involved in the north, you are going to be able to throw your wieght around against Germany or England. but be careful! It is a balancing act, because you don’t want Russia to get too strong. What you want is for Russia to come into play in the north, but NOT TO HAVE A TURKISH ALLY. If russia is allied with a western power and turkey she can grow so fast that she can get 18 centers while you are still getting your gym shoes tied. Russia is hardly ever a threat to knock you out, but she is a threat to win the game well ahead of you.

I think this is the key–Russia. Attaking germany or England without her means allying with one of the other, which is fine, but be careful because once you take out germany or england the ally your trusting might stab you. Or the power vaccuum left by the dying western power might be filled by a powerful eastern influence. Always be thinking ahead about how you can stab your partner, try to stay on good relations with another power that might be able to help you here. Again–Russia seems to workd the best for this.

But what about Italy?

We have found that Italy isn’t involved in the west as much as he is in the east. This is what you want, for a number of reasons. Obviously, if Italy attacks you, the shit is hitting the fan. Now you have to turn your back to your two rivals in the west. They have probably put Italy up to the attack on you anyway. Any combination of attacking nations on France that includes Italy is going to lead to the quick French exit from the game. Clearly, you can’t have italy coming after you or your’e dead meat. Englan’s and Germany’ willbe sitting over ther e going “ch-ching! ch-ching!” as soon as that army invades Piedmont. You also want ITaly in the east becase of how it affects the power situation over there. Getting Italy involved in teh east makes it a 2-on-2 affair, usually Austria-Italy versus Turkey-Russia but sometimes A-R vs. I-T, the latter being the MOST DESIREABLE by FAR. Count yourself lucky if a R-A vs. I-T develops or the Italian-Russian vs. Austrian-Turkish war is started. This last one is rare, because A-T hate each other. What you want is to get Italy over there so a Russian/Turkish steamroller doesn’t get going. Like I said earlier, this is bad in the long run for France. R/T will gobble up Austria in a year and Italy in a couple more, with Germny as a mere appetizer. Russai will win nine times out of ten and you will be congratulated for coming in third. Big deal. Promise ITaly the moon–do whatever it takes to get him moving east. If that is accomplished, go whew! and then try to steer him away from attacking ?Austria in favor of Turkey, which will most likely create a big mess in the east, leaving you free to win in the west (usually with help from one or two quickly expendable russian units) and then maul one or two of the warring eastern powers if they don’t wake up in time to stop you.

Key spaces

Belgium. Everyone wants its. Having it means you are one up on your rivals. Let Germany have it before England if you must. Be patient. If things go well, Belgium will come your way sooner if not later. It is more important for England to get into Belgium than Germny or you, so you might be able to hold it out as a carrot while you ready your very big stick. How many times does France send this message to England: “go ahead and try for Belgium I hope you get it,” followed by this to Germany: “That English bastard is hell-bent on taking your center in Belgium!” When the smoke clears, you end up with Belgium. English Channel. You lose it, you die. You get it, chances are things will go well–London and Belgium are a step away now, and you can support action into the Irish Sea and North Sea. Don’t let cry-baby Englands talk you out of it. And don’t take it for granted that England won’t try to grab it from you. A fleet built in London might go there, you know.


Geez, where to start? There are a lot. A Par-Bur, A MAr S A PAr-Bur, F Brest-MAO: The most conservative opening, it really protects you from Germny. But it is a bit of an over kill. How many times does Germany go to Burgundy right away? 1 out of 100? You then go to Port and Spain and get your two free builds, but kiss Belgium goodbaye (but only for Now!)

A PAr-Bur, A Mar-Spa, F Bre-MAO: This one says: I’m a little looser, and usually means an Italian campaign is about to be waged. IT might tip the board off that a triple is forming too. Because it is usually always followed by MAO-Spa (SC) and A Spa-Port. Now, France can build a fleet in Mars. and race after Italy (While getting her ass royally kicked by England and/or Germany). If you go after Italy you know something I don’t. It’s suicide. But this is how you might try to slyly to it. Anyting gong to Piedmont in an opeing is also basically the same deal.

A PAr-Bur, F Brest-English Channel (or Picardy), A MAr hold (or support PAr-Bur or go to Spain): The key here is that the fleet in Brest makes a play for Belgium right off the bat. Obvoiusly, if you put two units on Belgium in your opeing you are forfeiting the automatic two builds for one, in exchange for a real say in Belgium. Not a bad idea, a bit antagonistic, but the reality is that France sometimes is better off keeping a build for the second year. It has save my ass a couple of times, because then you can put that build exactly where you really need itin the Fall of ’02, something alot of players overlook. Two builds in ‘)1 is nice, but sometimes the situation will change in that year and you wish you had a build in ’02 for say, a fleet in Brest or an army or whatever you should have built but didn’t . Now you can build what you should have because you never built it wrong in the first place. If you want to carry this logic out to the extreme, order Bre-EC, Par-Pic, Mar-Bur. Now you have three on Belgium. You won’t necessarily get it though, and then you ave 0 builds in the fall and no place to hide.

One I will mention because it is a personal favorite of ours is the Gascony series of openings–you order Par-Gas and usually Bre-MAO, and Mar-Spa or hold, or to Bur. This is designed to convoy a unit to port or spain (almost always Port) and keep the fleet in the MAO for a quick strike into the North Atlantic or Irish sea against England. It is a tough sell to England, because a good player will see the convoy as a bell signalling a French assault. New player soften fall for it. If you go to spain and get the two builds, consider building fleets on both coasts–it might confuse the English. Having a fleet in MAO and BREST is a big move on England–and strong too, just hope the German isn’t too aggressive. Maybe you can try this when your mom is playing Germany. But think about it. I really am a pro-German style of French player. I’ve never been taken out by Germany and I’ve tried it myself plenty and failed miserably. Enjoy!