The Wise Old Weasel — England


To fleet… or not to fleet? That is the question.
Whether ‘tis nobler on the land to plunder
The twists and turns of uncertain theatre
Or to bide time amidst a storm of others
And by waiting end them.



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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Jake Trotta

    First off, if Clockwork Chris doesn’t come in with a comment entitled “England for Ditherers,” I’m going to be bitterly disappointed. Chris tops an astonishing [b][i][u]53%[/u][/i][/b] of his boards as England according to WEASTATS/ worldiplomacydatabase, so I defer to whatever advice he has.

    I’ve really come to enjoy England. Though the early game can be treacherous, an established England is damn hard to kill and has numerous stab opportunities. Some guidelines I’ve found.
    • [b]Buy yourself enough time to be flexible.[/b] It is ok to go slow and be small. If you do not have a buddy, be conservative, play good D, and one will probably arrive for you. Keep that army at home, bounce in the channel if you’re not getting the warm fuzzies. A four dot England that controls north, channel, Norwegian, and Norway is a bitch to kill. Even a three dot England with north, channel, and wales is a bitch to kill. Once you have a buddy, you can be much more creative.
    • [b]Position>tempo.[/b] The only way you get eliminated is spreading yourself too thin. Unless you get hit by three people, in which case it takes a lot of follow through. But for the most part, if you don’t end up in Moscow for no reason or diving into Germany while leaving Liverpool open like an idiot, England can get to the dance with great regularity. Position>tempo for England, even more so than other powers.
    • [b]Fleets are for safety, armies are for victory.[/b] If you have position and are safe, then army up and do fun convoys into Denmark and Holland Norway and Gascony and Tuscany if you’re a true champion. If you don’t, yeah go build a fleet buddy. Can’t go wrong there.
    • [b]Any alliance will work.[/b] EF, EG, and ER all can lead to board tops and solid results, so keep an open mind.
    • Don’t lose the North Sea. Ever. Don’t do it. It’s like Ion for Italy, Black for Turkey. There is no path to English victory that involves a non-English unit in the north sea.
    • [b]If you let France convoy onto the island, you deserve to lose.[/b] Also congrats on handing France a big board top. I also see a lot of England’s janissary for France after doing this- that’s a big diplomacy pet peeve of mine.
    • [b]If you’re hitting channel, then think hard about Wales.[/b] Getting into the channel is awesome, and Brest is open A LOT. But a fleet in brest isn’t that valuable. An army is super useful. Worst case, convoy it to Belgium… then you’re still in channel.
    • [b]I’m not a big fan of convoying to Norway in 1901[/b]. This might spook Russia, who you want to be your good buddy if FG look like they’re getting along. It also ties up half your units against the power that is your smallest threat in the early game. That unit is better served in Belgium or defending LVP.
    • [b]But if Russia is getting bounced out of Sweden, I LOVE the Denmark convoy. [/b]First, if you do this, build an army with one of your two builds so you can cover Liverpool. But convoying to Denmark while Russia moves on Baltic is amazing because you get great tempo on Germany, establish a mutually beneficial ER, and bury both the Russian AND German fleets away from North Sea.
    • [b]If you can get rid of opposing fleets on North, you probably win.[/b] If Russia and Germany don’t have relevant northern fleets, and you find yourself in channel, you’ve got an easy path to Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and STP. Plus home, that equals 9 dots, which will get you a board top more often than not.
    • [b]Know what you want out of R-T. [/b]Logically, it would seem that England wants Turkey to go to Arm. But England may need Russia viable in the west, particularly against a hostile Germany. Russian destruction and dots should wait until you’ve got a clear ally and path to victory in the west. Moving on Russia too soon just hands the game to whoever wins the east (or, worse, Germany).
    • [b]Dream big on stabs.[/b] England is a bit of a schemer’s paradise. North has access to just a stupid amount of dots. This means that if you plan a season ahead, it is easy to find those +2, +3 stabs. I’ve played England before where I’ve stabbed FGR all in one year and gotten away with it. Keep an eye out for all the possibilities and take them if it can lead to more growth… if you’re two dots bigger than all your neighbors, they’re not going to knock you down anyways.
    • [b]Seriously, don’t be France’s lap dog. [/b]I kinda get why so many Englands do this – Germany is super fun to attack. But if France is just eating you up, why help him? France is evil and terrible. Don’t do that. English janissaries die WAY more often than they really should. Convoy back, play good D, and you might get an opening.

    1. Chris Kelly

      [quote name=”Jake Trotta”]… if Clockwork Chris doesn’t come in with a comment entitled “England for Ditherers,” I’m going to be bitterly disappointed.[/quote]
      Harrumph. 😐 To the extent I’ve earned a reputation like that, my relative success with England underscores your point that it has a comparatively straightforward path to success (and hence less cause to be screwed up by second-guessing oneself).

      Without looking too closely, I’d wager that most of my English board-tops have involved securing an initial peace (or alliance) with France, moving strongly north to secure Scandinavia, & then dropping those units down on Germany. As long as France doesn’t open to the Channel, there’s not much to keep this strategy from succeeding like… um, clockwork. (The main impediment would be seamless cooperation between Germany and Russia from the beginning, which isn’t exactly common.)

      That isn’t to say that I’m opposed to an English/German alliance — I had a [url=]board top at this year’s Moot[/url] that way, with Ali Adib as GER just 1 center behind me. It’s just more complicated.

      [quote]… you’ve got an easy path to Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and STP. Plus home, that equals 9 dots, which will get you a board top more often than not.[/quote]
      In line with the simple strategy outlined above, you can also take Kiel & Berlin for a possible 11 centers without really invading the continent or stabbing France.

      [quote]I’m not a big fan of convoying to Norway in 1901. This might spook Russia, who you want to be your good buddy if FG look like they’re getting along. It also ties up half your units against the power that is your smallest threat in the early game. That unit is better served in Belgium or defending LVP.[/quote]
      I’d like to see what others have to say about this. The convoy itself aside, it seems to me like Scandinavia for ENG is like the Baltics for AUS & TUR – the easiest source of quick dots to build units for success elsewhere. In contrast, it seems to me like Belgium is often where British armies go to die. Even if you’re tentatively allied with FRA or GER, neither one really likes you having an army there.

      (Besides, if F/G are allied against you, I’m not sure what favors you can expect from Russia. Has anyone here ever had Russia rescue them from an F/G attack, as opposed to seeing what dots it could pick up for itself?)

      On a broader level, though, one of the things I admire about Dip’s board design is its balance. Opening too hard north (e.g., A Lvp->Edi, F Lon-Nth) does leave you vulnerable to France, just as opening to the Channel risks an aggressive Russia denying you Norway. I think opening A Liv->Yor & then deciding if/where to convoy is a safe & balanced approach, but perhaps others know better.

      [quote]Don’t lose the North Sea. Ever. [/quote]
      This gets back to the complicated nature of an E/G alliance. How well can Germany hope to work with England when the latter has a fleet in the North Sea, able to stab for Holland/Denmark (or Belgium) at any time? But England can’t afford to lose Nth either, so it seems to me you’d have to negotiate a DMZ where GER fleets would have to stay 2 moves away (e.g., Baltic/Sweden… even Kiel might be suspicious).

      That said, [url=]this article[/url] lays out some possible E/G opening tactics vs. France that seem promising. One intriguing angle here is that England *doesn’t* have to move to the Channel right away – instead, GER has to commit to the alliance first by supporting a British convoy to Belgium (after which ENG – hopefully! – builds F Liv & F Lon).

      As Brandon can testify from recent experience, opening to the Channel can leave ENG vulnerable to a German player who opens neutrally, then hangs ENG out to dry by using the latter’s attack as the basis for a G/F alliance.

  2. Jim O'Kelley

    I’ll share some wisdom, starting with a nice article by Stan Johnson, an old postal nemesis of mine, that first appeared in a 1993 issue of[i] Diplomacy World[/i]: [url][/url].

    Stan writes that England’s greatest strength is that it takes fleets to knock her out and there are only four foreign fleet-building ports in the North: Brest, St. Pete, Kiel and Berlin. The first two are major threats; the other two, minor, Stan writes. He goes on to argue that the focal point of British strategy should be to neutralize those threats:

    “There are two ways to neutralize these enemy ports,” Stan writes. “One way is to take them and hold them, which is a temporary solution in that it works only as long as you keep the original owner from retaking them. The second way is to eliminate the owner, by yourself or in concert with others (hopefully allies). This permanently removes the threat. As you can imagine, I prefer the second option.”

    Regardless of whether you agree with Stan, here are a few technical things that are helpful for new players to know.

    1) St. Pete can be held indefinitely against attack from the South with just two units: U StP, U Bar/Bot/Fin/Nwy S StP.

    2) Assuming no hostile fleets in the North, Gibraltar can be blockaded with just three units: F Mid, F Por S Mid, F NAt/Iri/Eng S Mid.

    3) If the North is free of foreign fleets, England can use those above two positions along with a unit in Denmark to control eight centers with six units, leaving two pieces free to poke at your foes.

  3. Bryan Pravel

    [quote]Position>tempo. [/quote]

    I have struggled with England in face-to-face games in this club. It was not until *very* recently that I learned this lesson. It is so tempting to feel confident in an alliance, put the petal to the metal, and start launching armies into Scandinavia and Moscow as quickly as possible. Particularly with an E/F one can blow past the stalemate line and if you can get Turkey to join in, create a really quick 3 way draw. I did this for years in draw based games. Even if I got pushed back it was easy to force my way into a 3 way draw because England can be painful to break through.

    Unfortunately it isn’t as good a strategy for SoS, particularly in timed games. In SoS, I started playing more patiently. Taking inspiration from Turkey, I think the smarter way to play England is to make yourself the less attractive partner and then wait for either France or Germany to make a move or get attacked. You are behind them both with easy access to dots that can feed your economy for rapid growth. I wouldn’t attack either alone, but with help from a neighbor or cross bord partner, you can afford to be patient.

    Just don’t give up position, keep an eye out on the other side of the board, encourage balance of power, and make sure attacking you is less attractive than attacking the other guy. As a defensive power, that isn’t as difficult for England as it is for other powers.

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