by Mark Berch
Stalemate lines form the invisible topography of the Diplomacy map. The beginner sees thick lines and thin ones, dots and coasts. The experienced player sees other relationships. He knows the connection between Por and control of MAO; of the importance of the English and Turkish home centres; when Tunis is vital and when it is worthless. She may do strange things ignore a supply centre or build a plethora of fleets or make great sacrifices to generate a raider. Above all, he sees the hidden terrain with a double vision. His lines are fortresses to reach or fall back to; your lines are obstacles to overcome.
A stalemate line is a linkage of units that cannot be dislodged. It requires that (1) pieces be in the right position and of the proper type (2) support (and, rarely, move) orders be given every season, and (3) except where indicated, the enemy have no units behind the lines, and no capacity to build them there.
Many players mistakenly view a stalemate line as something that doesn’t involve foresight, something that just “happens”, and if the game gets to that point, it’s over. Nothing could be further from the truth. The stalemate line may be the most important strategic factor on the board itself. Long range planning for a win frequently requires figuring out which stalemate lines block your path to 18 centres. Moreover, if the “leader” is really a 2- or 3-way alliance, a stalemate line can shatter the alliance – and the first person to realise this will be in the best position to exploit any falling out. Two players who had sincerely planned to split the board 17-17 must suddenly pick another goal, since the plan has been thwarted by a third player and her stalemate line. That other goal may be a victory – which requires a stab. Even when players are entrenched at their lines, the grisly process of “shortening the draws” (eliminating minor powers) requires a precise knowledge of stalemate lines. Many a player who wasn’t eliminated owes his survival to the fact that he selected key SCs to be his last ones – right on a stalemate line. The construction and prevention of stalemate lines does not have the drama or stabbing allies or relentlessly grabbing SCs, but it can easily determine the game’s outcome.
It is very unlikely that you will be studying in detail the lines that follow. But there are some general principles that you should be familiar with:
1. England and Turkey. With a few exotic exceptions, all stalemate lines require possession of all the English or Turkish home centres (or both). No stalemate line can be assembled with out either all the Turkish home SCs or at least one English home SC. Thus, you must either own them, or become indispensable to someone who does. An alliance between England and Turkey (or those who own the E/T home centres) is thus especially dangerous – no one else is safe. This probably accounts for why these two countries do so well in terms of showing up in postal draws.
2. Switzerland. The great majority of lines actually formed in games use Switzerland, usually passing from one board edge through it to the opposite side. Most stalemate lines can thus be viewed as two somewhat independent half-lines, each going from a board edge and meeting in Switzerland. As a result, the provinces which border Switzerland tend to be more important than those which do not.
3. Gibraltar. This is the most important bottleneck on the board. It is easily barred from either direction (e.g. F(Por) & F(ENG) S F MAO will keep southern fleets hemmed in). Most alliances must either plan in advance to get through it, or cope elsewhere with their inability to do so. France is pivotal here because only she can build on either side of it.
4. St. Petersburg. The other major bottleneck, it’s more of a problem from the south than the north. Norway (or BAR, etc.) S StP will always hold it for the west, unless Russia retains a fleet, and even that eventuality requires only one extra unit. Indeed, in the context of stalemate lines, StP is better considered a Scandinavian centre, as its ownership is more closely linked to who owns Nwy than to who owns Mos. For the western powers, MAO and StP tend to be the crucial anchors in constructing many, many lines. No such comparable generality exists for the east.
5. Fleets. These tend to be more important in making and breaking lines than armies. This is particularly a problem for Austria or Germany (who may not have enough) and Russia (who may have them on the wrong side of the board).
6. Functional Stalemate Line. This is a line that, although not technically a stalemate line, cannot be broken. They might arise when the opposition is short a unit or two, for example, when the player who is entitled to build cannot do so. Or the opposition has the wrong mix of armies and fleets (generally, too few of the latter). Or an army may be available in the British Isles, with no way to convoy it to where it is needed. The circumstances generally arise out of poor planning.
7. Pseudo-Stalemate Lines. This is a line which, while not impregnable, might as well be. It may take so much time and effort to crack that the opposition won’t bother, or don’t want to take the risk that the alliance will fall apart in the process. A player may be unwilling to take the chance of leaving his centres unguarded. On occasion, defenders have even persuaded the dominant alliance that they have a line when they actually don’t.
8. Dynamic Stalemate Lines. Sometimes, you don’t need to quite reach the line to do the job. For example, the mini-line mentioned in 3. above can also be done with e.g. F(ENG) & F(Por) S F(IRI)-MAO. If you can order that move before the opposition actually occupies MAO, then task is done. In a few cases, the line can only be assembled with pieces ordered to move.
9. Removals. In one way, these are generally more important than builds, because there is more flexibility with removals than with builds. This is the time to get the proper mix of armies and fleets, and to assure that superfluous units are jettisoned first. An expanding power, racing to get to a stalemate line, will sometimes pay too much attention to what is need to take a vital centre rather than to what will be needed in the long run to hold the entire line. It does no good to maximise the probability of taking a vital centre by building, say, an army, when you will need to get a fleet into place to hold the whole thing.
10. Planning. Richard Sharp said it best: “Bitter experience has convinced me that ad hoc solutions, devised on the run, simply don’t work.” Indeed, a single misstep – failing to provide a retreat square for a piece in a vital area – can deny you a line. Sometimes your eye will mistakenly be on a supply centre, and not on the adjacent minor province, and your victory drive is stopped dead. “I’ll worry about them when I get there” is too often the prelude to a player who discovers that there is no there there. Other times, the line may be spotted, the pieces arranged, only to discover that X’s army is sitting on Y’s supply centre. While players will sometimes have to deploy pieces far from their own supply centres, if that centre must be occupied to hold the line, only he can do it.
11. Raider. The most important tactical tool in preventing the formation of a stalemate line is the raider. The raider can do one or both of two things: (1) seize a supply centre (or two, or three) which is needed to support a unit vital for the stalemate line, and (2) cut an essential support needed for the stalemate line, or provide a new support for an attack on the stalemate line. But a raider is not necessarily fatal. There are many lines that guard a larger number of SCs than they need units to form it. If you have two extra units, you can afford to let the raider seize one SC, and dispatch one unit to simply follow the raider, attacking the raider’s just captured SC every time he tries to take a second SC, so that the raider can never take more than one SC at a time. Dealing with the raider’s direct disruption of the line is more complicated. This generally requires at least two fronts: one to attack the raider each season to prevent it from giving support, and the other to provide an additional support which may be needed, or to try to block the raider from moving into a vital spot. Unfortunately, there is likely to be more than one vital spot to guard, or more than one supporting unit which could be cut by the raider, so eventually the defenders will guess wrong, and the raider will have accomplished her task.
Once a raider is lodged against the backside of the line, the defenders may be better off trying to squash the raider immediately by diverting a stalemate line unit for that task, even if it means giving the opposition a 50-50 chance of cracking the line, The advantage in this situation may go to the player who knows the stalemate lines best. The raider may head for a part of the line which is not critical, the line is cracked there because the defenders divert line units to squash it, and then the defenders fall back to another line that can still be held, albeit with fewer units. If the stalemate line happens to generate three extra units, the defenders will have an easier time of it, and may be able to corner the raider and snuff it out. Thus the first thing the defenders need to do is see how many extra units they have. If it’s not enough, the next order of business may be to ignore the raider and try to push the line forward to obtain a new line which generates more extra units. In this regard, the fleet raider is a little less dangerous, because it is likely to be further from snatching a SC.
12. Oversized Lines. For the purposes of this article and by long- standing convention, stalemate lines are considered those holding 17 or fewer centres. As such, they are only going to stop alliances, except for the 17 centre stalemate line which can stop a single player. Otherwise, stopping a single player requires holding more than 17 centres. Even more so than regular stalemate lines, these tend to involved two separate lines, converging on Switzerland. But these lines tend to be fairly easy to construct, and they usually require significantly fewer units than the supply centres they guard, so there is much more room for error. Of course, assembling the alliance structure and co-ordination mechanisms for such lines is another story entirely. This essay will stick entirely to lines which hold 17 or fewer centres.
Put the kids away: what follows is not a pretty sight. There is no possible way this material can be made interesting; “Barely digestible” is the best one can hope for. The best single collection of these appears in Diplomacy Digest 10/11. Most (but definitely not all) of the material which appears here comes from there, and that issue includes much more detail than I have included here. A and F designators have been omitted; they are inferable in all cases. Scandinavia = Den, Nwy and Swe; Balkans = Bul, Gre, Rum, Ser. These are generally minimal positions, that is, the lines which hold the least territory but still cannot be overrun. Expansions (to cover additional provinces) are usually possible; I’ve given a few examples of that. I’ve also tried to throw in a few strategic implications where possible
These are North-South lines, defending from the east. The diagrams attached to the text are indicative of the areas being protected, but are not definitive.
1. With StP
The simpler of the two categories of eastern lines requires that you hold all of R, T, Bud, Bul, Rum, Vie, Bar, Nwy and Swe, plus something else. If the something is Den and Germany, your line is StP & SKA S Nwy, Den S HEL, Kie & Mun S Ruh, Boh & Vie S Tyr, Rum S Bud, Con S Bul, EMS S AEG. Your second choice is to hold all of Austria and the Balkans. In that case, you have BAR S Nwy, Swe S SKA, GoB S BAL, Sil S Ber, Gal S Boh, Ser & Vie & Bud S Tri, AEG S Gre, EMS H. Your third choice is Den plus Ser. Then, you have BAR S Nwy, BAL & SKA S Den, Pru S Ber, Sil S Boh, Bud S Vie, Rum & Bul S Ser, EMS S AEG.
It is important to note how many fleets are required for these lines. In the north, you must have 3, 5, and 3 respectively. These will normally be mostly Russian fleets, and that requires some planning, plus either a compliant or a dead England. The only exception to this is in the last one. If you can expand A Pru to Mun, or Rum to Gre, you’ll have an extra SC, allowing you to dispense with F BAR, and defend Nwy with Swe & StP S Nwy. The first position can be varied by exchanging Ser for either Nwy or Mun, but in both cases, you’ll then need 4 northern fleets.
2. Without StP
The other category of eastern lines finds you without StP, which is the usual situation if A or I or T, rather than Russia has dominated the east. You’ll need the rest of Russia, plus T, A, Balkans, and, with one exception, pieces of both Italy and Germany. That’s a tall orders, and it emphasises how important StP is to the east too.
Might as well start with that exception. If you’ve managed to get both Nap and Rom, you don’t need any of Germany – the only eastern line with no need at all for Ber. Apu & Nap S Rom, EMS S ION locks up the south. Then Vie & Tri S Tyr, Gal & Boh S Sil, Ukr S War and Sev S Mos. If, however, the enemy has F Ven, you’ll need F ADR also to pin it down. This is a very handy line for Austria, as it needs only two fleets – what follows all require 3-5.
The other three lines all require Ber and Ven. If you have Nap, then Mos & War S Lvn, Pru & Sil S Ber, Boh S Tyr, Tri & ADR S Ven, Apu S Nap, AEG S ION. Without Nap, you’ll need Mun instead, and there are two different ways of doing it. If you’ve only got 4 southern fleets, the ADR S Apu, AEG & EMS S ION, Tyr & Tri S Ven, Sil & Boh S Mun, Pru S Ber, Mos & War S Lvn, Vie H. If you have 5 southern fleets, you can dispense with Apu (i.e. you can assemble a line without taking Apu): Tyr & Tri & ADR S Ven, Alb & AEG & EMS S ION, Sil & Boh S Mun, Pru S Ber, Mos & War S Lvn, Vie H.
In summary, Eastern lines are a fairly tidy affair. If you have StP, you need Nwy and Swe too, and normally 3-5 northern fleets, two southern fleets, plus most or all of everything east of Italy. If you don’t have StP, all your fleets must be in the south, and you’ll need, with one exception, three SCs of Italy and Germany. Finally, Ber must be held in all but one case.
These are essentially East-West lines, defending from the south. When we left the east, Italy was at most partially held. With all of Italy held, most or all of G/R can be dispensed with, to form the southern lines. One group of lines involve holding just A, I, T, Bul, Ser, Gre, and Tun. NAf & TYS S WMS, Tus S Pie, Vie & Tyr S Boh, Ser S Bud, Arm S BLA, Bul H. If Germany is strong, you will be unlikely to have A Boh, so replace Boh and Tus with Pie S GoL, Tri S Vie, Ven S Tyr, a line which requires at least 7 fleets. Alternatively, if you don’t hold BLA, then: Ank S Arm, Con S Bul, Ser S Bud, Vie & Tyr S Boh, Pie S GoL, NAf S WMS, Bud H. Notice that you must have either Boh or BLA (although if you have both, you don’t need GoL). Finally, if Vie is lost, you can compensate with Rum: Bul & BLA S Rum, Ser S Bud, Ven & Tri S Tyr, Pie S GoL NAf S WMS, Arm & Tyr H.
If you can add Rum and Sev, a fantastic simplification can occur: NAf S WMS, Pie S GoL, Tyr S Boh, Vie S Gal, Sev S Ukr. That’s right – 10 units hold 15 centres! That gives you tremendous flexibility in case you are short of units, need to bottle up or squash a raider, or want some spare units to pursue expansion possibilities. This is my personal favourite for Most Elegant Stalemate Line. It has an easy 6:4 A/F ratio, and only two pieces sit on SCs, making it easy to build. Note, however, that there is no flexibility in unit types – duty requires either an army or fleet in each spot. This is an important line for Italy or I/A because its fairly easy to reach in mid-game, especially if an R-T war breaks out.
A second group of lines allows the east to hold out even without Tunis, which is usually the situation if E/F have swept the rest of the board. Rum & Sev S Ukr, Ser S Bud, Alb S Tri, Ven & Tus S Pie, Nap & ION S Tyr. Note that Vie is not essential, but if you do have it, Sev is not needed: BLA & Ser S Rum, Tri & Bud S Vie, Tus & Ven S Pie, Nap & ION S Tyr, Arm H. But you must have either Vie or Sev if you lack Tun.
Moving further west, we find a final group of lines: those which hold Por and Spa. These show quite some variation. The first is the most bizarre stalemate line I know of; you are unlikely ever to see it: Por & WMS S Spa, NAf, Con & Arm H. This uses only T, Tun, Spa and Por for SCs. And only two support orders are needed for such scattered real estate! As it requires that I, F, A and R be unable to build fleets, it only has meaning if Turkey (or a Turkish alliance) is faced by E/G. If Rom and Nap are owned, add Apu S Rom; with Ven also, then Tus & Apu S Ven. If you also hold Bul, Gre and Ser, then Bul & Alb S Ser, Tus & Apu S Ven, Por & WMS S Spa, Arm H, NAf H. This has a spare unit (12 centres held by 11 pieces). You can cope with a living R in this line by adding Arm S BLA to that line.
Note that the above lines all have Spa & Por — but not Mar. If you also have Mar, life is simpler: Por S Spa, GoL S Mar, Pie S Ven, Alb & Bul S Ser, Arm, WMS & NAf H. This line has some offensive potential, e.g. Spa & NAf S WMS-MAO. Rum and Tri can be added to that line, giving greater offensive potential. If you do manage to take MAO and the rest of A, you can hold it with a unique line: Ank S Smy, Con & Bul(ec) S BLA, Bud S Sev, Vie & Tyr S Boh, NAf & Por S MAO, Mar & Ser H, and either Spa(sc) S MAO (if the enemy has F Gas) or Spa(sc) S Mar (if the enemy has A Gas). This holds 16 SCs with 16 units, but it can actually tolerate an enemy A/F Arm or A Syr. This is the only line that I am aware of which in some way splits Turkey. Alternatively, if you take MAO, you can hold it without all of Austria if instead you have all of France, i.e. F, I, T, Spa, Per, Tri, Gre, Ser, Bul: Bre & Par S MAO, Par S Pic, Gas & Mar S Bur, Ven & Alb S Tri, Bul S Ser, Arm S BLA, Pie H. This is very handy against a German or Russian led alliance. Finally, there is one southern line which needs none of Italy, but holds T, Balkans, Bud, Tri, Tun, Spa, and Por: Por & WMS S Spa, ADR & Alb S Tri, Ser S Bud, Bul S Rum, BLA or Arm S Sev. Extensions are possible to add Vie, or Ven & Rom, or Rom & Nap.
Southern lines are easier to generate than Eastern ones, as they usually require only 13 centres (or fewer). Eastern ones almost always need 16 or 17. This is largely due to all the units that Eastern lines need to either secure StP, or cope with not having it. By contrast, either blockading Gibraltar or securing MAO is much simpler. This is a factor in the Turkish (and to a lesser degree, Austrian) alliance structure. The alliance with Russia has enormous offensive potential, more so than, I/T or A/T. But it needs to go farther to reach the safety of a stalemate line.
The title is somewhat of a misnomer – it refers to countries, not positions. These are the lines which protect the north-east part of the board and depend on control of the MAO from the northern side. These are the most important lines for E, F, and G. They rely either on control of Mar-Per-Spa or Scandinavia-StP, and both sets expand toward the lowlands and/or G in much the same manner. These are the easiest lines to reach, and consequently probably form the most common category
1. Conventional Lines
We begin with the smallest possible stalemate line: F Por & F IRI (or ENG etc.) S F MAO. These three units hold E plus Por – there’s even a spare unit. Of course, F, G and R must all be unable to build against you. While it would be immensely satisfying to thwart a southern alliance with this, I don’t know that it’s ever been done. And because it holds so little real estate, it won’t be able to stop a win if the opposing alliance is at all unbalanced. This can be expanded in two directions.
The first is southward, to hold E, F, Por and Spa: Pic & Par S Bur, Mar & Spa(sc) S GoL, NAf S WMS. If 5 fleets aren’t available, A Gas S A Mar replaces F GoL, F Mar. Several extensions are possible from this. Push Par & Pic to Bel & Ruh for a 9th centre, or forward to Hol S Ruh for 10 SCs with 8 units. With a 9th unit, you can run the line Den-Kie-Ruh-Bur for 12 SCs. If you lack WMS, the E, F, Por, Bel, Hol & Den are held with Ruh S Kie, Par & Pic S Bur, ENG & Per S MAO, Den H. These are extremely common lines for E or F or E/F. Spa can be added to that with Por & Gas S Spa (Par now not needed), and expansions to cover Mar, or Mar & Mun are possible. Alternatively, the line can be expanded into Scandinavia, holding E, F, Scandinavia, Por, Bel, Hol, Kie with Swe S Nwy, Ruh S Kie, Par & Pic S Bur, Por & ENG S MAO, Kie H. Although the line has two spare units, StP cannot be taken against a strong and prepared east, since that requires four units for the assault.
Speaking of StP, the Other major direction of expansion involves those which hold StP (but not Mos). The simplest of these is Por & IRI S MAO, Nwy S StP, Den H, locking up E, Scandinavia, Por & StP. This is an extremely efficient line which has two units to spare. As a result, some opposition behind the lines can be coped with. Units in Fin or BAR can be boxed in (e.g. enemy F BAR with NWG H, Fin S StP). Otherwise, expansions on the continent are possible: NTH & HEL S Hol, or NTH & ENG S Bel, Bel & HEL S Hol, or NTH S Hol, Den & HEL S Kie, etc.– all taking advantage of those two extra units to support footholds. If an army can be pushed into Ruh, then the expansion runs to Den S Kie, NTH S Bel, Hol S Ruh, and from there, expansion to Spain is possible as discussed earlier. With Spa, one can hold Mun and Kie without Ber via: StP & BAL S Lvn, Kie & Ruh & Bur S Mun, Gas S Mar, IRI S MAO, Por S Spa — although slipping that unit into Lvn is going to take some doing, and note that the very common F StP(nc) won’t work in this line. If you need to hold Ber too, Fin S StP, Kie & Ruh S Mun, Bur S Gas, BAL S Ber, ENG & Por S MAO holds E, G, Scandinavia, StP, Bel, Hol, Bre & Par. Expansions to Spa and Mar are straightforward.
One final stalemate line – an oddity which holds MAO without Por. E, F, G, Bel, Hol, Scandinavia & StP can be held with NAf & IRI & ENG S MAO, Gas & Bur S Mar, Kie & Ruh S Mun, BAL S Ber, Nwy S StP. Although no sea space is as closely linked to a SC in stalemate lines as MAO is to Por, there is this exception.
2. Western Lines facing Enemy Fleets
With one minor exception, the previous lines required the absence of fleets outside the Med. But Western lines are so strong that some can even cope with their presence. You need to have E, F, Por, Spa, Bel, Hol, Den, Nwy and 2-4 ether SCs. These are fairly complicated, and generally of two types. If you cannot actually get into the Mediterranean, then all you can cope with is the enemy holding BAR or Ber & Mun. In both cases, you need the rest of G, Swe, and StP. In the enemy-in-Berlin case, you do GoB & Den S BAL, Nwy S StP, Kie & Ruh & Bur S Mun, Gas S Mar, Por S Spa, Bre S MAO. In the other case, Fin & Nwy S StP, SKA S Swe, Den & Ruh S Kie, Gas S Mar, Por S Spa, Bre S MAO, Bur H.
On the other hand, if you’ve got WMS, you can stand the loss of even more in the north-east. For example, if the enemy has Ber & GoB, you must also held the rest of G, Scandinavia & StP. Do the following: StP-Lvn, BAR & Fin S Nwy-StP, Swe & Den S BAL, Ruh & Bur S Mun, Gas S Mar, NAf & Spa(sc) S WMS, and either A Kie S Mun if the enemy has A Ber (and could attack Mun) or Kie-Ber if it’s F Ber (to foil GoB & Ber S Lvn-BAL). Notice that it won’t work if you have F StP(nc). If the enemy holds more than 2 northern centres, expansion to Tun is needed, and if you don’t have F BAR, all of Italy must be overrun, with simplifications available if Russia cannot get StP(nc), etc., etc. These lines can be subject to complicated requirements. But it is important to note that you can cope with an enemy foothold in the north-east by expanding in the south, because those enemy holdings may themselves constitute a stalemate line, so you can’t dislodge them.
All this may strike you as very hypothetical and pointless, but it is not (we’ll get to the truly pointless lines shortly!). Remember, we saw earlier in the eastern stalemate lines that the east must always involve BAR as part of their line, and often have StP as well. If they have been clever enough to retain a fleet up there, you will need to take precautions – but the lines can be assembled.
These are lines to defend the northern half of the board, not requiring control of MAO, and also not very easy to organise, alas.
The first set all have the ENG-IRI-NAf fleet wall and usually require at a minimum E, Hol, Scandinavia, Kie, StP, and with one exception, Bre and Par. This calls for ENG S Bre, Par & Ruh S Bur, Den S Kie, Nwy S StP, IRI & NAO H. This can be varied by trading A Den for BAL & Kie S A Ber. Even the loss of StP can be coped with, as Swe S Nwy will lock it up. Alternatively, Bel can be added by adding Pic S Par, Bel S Ruh and dropping Bur. Next, if you held all of G, a new line is possible: ENG S Bre, Par S Bur, Kie & Ruh S Mun, BAL S Ber, Nwy S StP, IRI & NAf H. From here, expansions are possible into Russia (e.g. Pru H, Lvn S Mos, or Pru & Lvn S War, or both: Pru S War, StP S Mos). Moreover, if you get down as far as Ukr, Mos and Ber can be held via Ber S Sil, Mos & War S Ukr, with units in Pru & StP no longer needed.
This stalemate line hold 16 centres with only 13 units, meaning that you can sustain losses elsewhere. For example, with no Par, you can fall back to ENG & Pic S Bre, Bel & Ruh S Bur, NAf & IRI H. Otherwise, the ENG-Bre-Par-Bur-Mun-Ber line is fine. If you can reach both Gas and Boh, those 16 centres can be held with only 12 units: Bre & Bur S Gas, Mun & Sil S Boh, War & Mos S Ukr, ENG & IRI & NAO H. This can be varied to cope with a vacant ENG to give an extremely active line: Mun & Sil S Boh, Lvn S War, StP S Mos, A Par S A Pic-Bur, A Bur-Gas, Bre-ENG, IRI-ENG, NAO-MAO. Finally, the one exception mentioned at the start: E, G, Bel, Hol, Scandinavia, Mos, StP and War (i.e. no France at all) can be held with IRI & NTH S ENG, NAO H, HEL S Bel, Ruh & Kie S Mun, Bar S Sil, War & Mos S Ukr.
The second set is a complicated series of almost desperate lines in which the enemy actually has a purchase on England proper. There are 7 rather unrelated lines, so only a few will be given as representative. If the enemy has exactly A Wal, A Cly, F Lpl, you can counter with Bre & Bur S Gas, Mun & Sil S Boh, War & Mos S Ukr, Edi S NWG-Cly, ENG & Yor S Lon-Wal, NTH S ENG. These odd manoeuvres are done to prevent the enemy from switching the units in e.g. Cly and Lpl, which would result in the escape of the enemy fleet. If IRI is vacant and there is enemy A Lon, A Yor, F Wal: Cly-NAO, F ENG S NAO-IRI, F NTH S F ENG, A Edi S Lpl is the reply. If there are enemy units in both Lon and Wal, you’ll need F Bre this time: NAO-IRI, ENG-IRI, Bre-MAO, NTH-Lon, Lpl-Wal, Yor-Wal, Par & Bur S Gas, Mun & Sil S Boh, War & Mos S Ukr. With 6 pieces ordered to move, it is the most dynamic line I know of and the only one with two self- stand-offs. Other lines deal with circumstances where there is just an enemy unit in Cly, or just in Wales, or enemy fleets in Wal and Lpl. And most preposterously improbable of all, one line copes with enemy armies in Lon, Wal and Yor, but no fleets anywhere around! These lines don’t seem to be related to any ether lines. So far as I am aware, these lines, composed by John Beshera, were the most recent (1978) set of significant stalemate lines to be discovered (or created if you prefer), and overturned the previous orthodoxy that all stalemate lines required at least all the E or all the T home centres or both.
Except for those of the previous paragraph, all previous lines have been supported by either E or T home centres. The crescent lines are supported by both T and some or all of the E home centres. These can arc either through the north-east or the south-west.
1. North East Crescent Lines
In the former case, start with T, E, Nwy, StP, Swe, and Por: EMS & Con S AEG, Nwy (or BAR, etc.) S StP, Por & IRI S MAO, Swe & Arm H. StP can be exchanged for Den (i.e. Den H, Swe S Nwy). If both are held, you don’t even need AEG, and can instead do Syr S Smy, BLA S Con, Arm H. If you want to add Mos and Sev, then StP S Lvn, Mos & Sev S Ukr is added to that AEG-less line. The same 13 centres can be held with a somewhat different line: Arm S Sev, StP & Lvn S Mos, BAL S Lvn, Con & EMS S AEG, IRI & Por S MAO; Den & Con H — here you have AEG in place of Ukr. But if you have both, BAL can be dispensed with: StP S Lvn, Mos & Sev S Ukr. Alternatively, War can be added, using Lvn & Mos S War, Sev S Ukr. Expansions to Rum and Bul are possible.
2. South West Crescent Lines
The SW lines are much more varied. The barest of these is a freakish line which holds only E, T and Por: Por & IRI S MAO, Con & EMS S AEG, Arm H. Note that a western SC is supporting a southern unit here. No enemy fleets outside the Mediterranean basin can be tolerated. The next expansion from this is a colossal jump: E, T, F, I, Por, Spa, and Tun, as I know of no intermediate lines between those two. Cly S Edi, Lon S ENG, Pic & Mar S Bur, Pie S Ven, Con & Arm S BLA, Ven & NAO H. As this line has a spare unit, the loss of BLA can be coped with by adding a unit in Ank to give Ank S Con, Smy (or Syr) S Arm. Bel can be added in either case with ENG & Pic S Bel. Or, if you are very short of armies, it can be done with NAO S NWG, Edi & Yor S NTH, Lon & ENG S NTH, Bel & Bur S Ruh, Pie S Ven, Con & Arm S BLA; again, the loss of BLA can be coped with.
These lines are basically against an A/G alliance, because no Austrian units can be dealt with, owing to the fact that this has only one spare unit. If Hol can be added, the line contracts to NWG-NTH- HEL-Hol-Ruh, which is so efficient that it has three extra units, so that even F BLA or F Tri could be coped with. The latter is via F ION S A Alb, F ADR H. In addition, there are a few lines available if a piece of England has been lost. Holding F, I, T, Spa, Por, Tun, Lpl and Lon, you can cope with the loss of Edi with NAO S Cly, Lpl S Yor, Lon S ENG, Pic & Mar S Bur, Pie S Ven, Arm & Con S BLA. This is a very hard line to achieve, because every unit except Cly and Ven is locked into a particular A/F type – if you have for example, F Pie, all is lost. Further no southern fleets can be coped with; even enemy F Tri would require adding Gre, Ser and Bul as SCs, and shifting the above units considerably. However, if you have Bel, Gre, Ser and Bul to add, you can cope with the loss of both Lpl and Edi, for this 17-centre line: MAO S IRI, Wal & Lon S Yor, ENG & Pic S Bel, Mar S Bur, Pie S Ven, Alb & Bul S Ser, Arm S BLA, Bul H. Because of its tremendous length, the line cannot be reduced even to 16 centres.
In most cases, the SW crescent lines will be held by an alliance, but at least far the larger ones, Italy alone can possibly construct them, especially if she has been relentless in expanding her fleets. More likely is E or F or both allied with I or T or both. The NE lines are even less likely to be formed by a single power. England normally cannot take a Turkish home centre, let alone all three. Russia could construct such a line, but taking Por would be an extraordinary feat. E/T is the most likely choice.
Finally, credit should be given to the people most responsible for systematising the various types of stalemate lines: John Beshera, Eric Verheiden, and Robert Lipton. Most of the stalemate lines in this essay were first published in Graustark, and nearly all the material appeared in 1972-1975This essay is dedicated to my two children, Joshua and Ezra. May they line to see the day when the word “war” is inevitably followed by the word “game”.Reprinted from Diplomacy Digest No.132 January 1994