The Mediterranean

by Derek Caws

The sea spaces of the Mediterranean are of importance to most countries in a Diplomacy game, and vital to many. Hence, control of this area should be of high priority to most players. There are three main features to the Med as set out on the Diplomacy board: the Straits of Gibraltar, the Stalemate Line, and the Ionian Sea. I plan to discuss each of these in the context of controlling the Med. 

The Straits of Gibraltar can be a major hurdle to the naval ambitions of many countries due to the ease with which they can be blocked. The countries most severely affected by this are England, Italy, and Turkey. Of the remaining countries, Austria and Germany usually have little or no naval presence, and Russia has the ability to avoid the problem by building fleets on both sides of the Straits. The remaining country, France, can gain great advantage from Gibraltar as it controls the Straits from the start and, like Russia, has the ability to build on both sides of them. 

The Straits are very easy to block. From the west, only three fleets are necessary, in Portugal, the Mid-Atlantic, and the North Atlantic; the orders being F Por & F Nat S F Mao, F Mao holds. This is unbreakable, and the prevention of exit from the Med can make the eventual occupation of France much more difficult, or even impossible. Even from the east, only four fleets are required, in Portugal, Spain, the Western Med, and North Africa, with orders F Por & F Wme S F SPA(sc), F Spa(sc) & F Naf hold. This combination can effectively block any futher English progress. 

Moving east, the next critical point is the stalemate line which passes down the west coast of Italy. There are numerous variations on it, but typically the line passes between Marseilles and Piedmont, through Sardinia and Corsica, and between North Africa and Tunis. 

The line can be held indefinitely from both sides and, when set up, is unbreakable. Obviously the stalemate line can be a major hurdle to a country’s expansion through the Med and thus, great importance should be attached to passing beyond it or, if this proves impossible, to establish a position from which the line can be held. 

The remaining major feature of the Med area is the central and controlling position of the Ionian Sea. This is, in my opinion, the most important space in the Med. A fleet here can control access to Austrian waters, is crucial to the expansion or restriction of Turkey, opens access to the Italian centers, and is an important component of the stalemate line. The country which places a fleet here can usually dominate proceedings in the Med, a critical ability for Italy and to a lesser extent, Austria and Turkey. 

Those three countries cannot realistically hope to win without control of the Ionian, and their defensive prospects are greatly increased with possession of the space. For these countries the Ionian is of paramount importance, but it can also be a major asset to England, France, or Russia in breaking, or maintaining, the stalemate line.

To conclude, them, the Med is a vitally important area on the Diplomacy board, especially for the four southernmost countries. Control of the Sea depends on the advantageous use of its three main features. With competing interests, absolute control is difficult and made more so by the fact that its features make it easier to defend than to attack. So control of the Med is a major goal, but once it is attained, a country should be well on its way to victory.